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

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    Bottles of prescription painkiller OxyContin, 40mg pills, made by Purdue Pharma L.D. sit on a shelf at a local pharmacy, in Provo, Utah, U.S., April 25, 2017. Photo by George Frey/REUTERS

    To get a handle on the nation’s drug problem, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration surveyed 51,200 individuals from 50 states and the District of Columbia. Photo by George Frey/REUTERS

    More than half of adults who misused opioids did not have a prescription, and many obtained drugs for free from friends or relatives, according to a national survey of more than 50,000 adults.

    Although many people need medical narcotics for legitimate reasons, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported Monday that regular access to prescription opioids can facilitate misuse. The results, outlined in the Annals of Internal Medicine, indicate when the medical community overprescribes opioids, unused drugs are then available for abuse.

    Out of adults who reported misusing opioids, 60 percent did not have a prescription.

    “We need to improve our approaches to evaluating, treating and providing services to people who suffer from pain,” Wilson Compton, deputy director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the study’s lead author, told NewsHour.

    To get a handle on the nation’s drug problem, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration surveyed 51,200 individuals from 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each participant completed computer-based surveys at home, was a non-institutionalized civilian over age 12, provided informed consent and received $30 on completion.

    Researchers conduct the survey annually, but 2015 was the first time the survey included information about the overall use of prescription opioids. Previously, the survey only asked respondents about rates of misuse or addiction to various substances. This change revealed the proportion of opioid misuse among the general population was tied to doctor’s prescriptions.

    The researchers expected opioid prescribing to be commonplace. But, the numbers — 38 percent of U.S. adults used opioid medication in 2015 — were still shocking. “In any one group, every third person or more is using at some point,” Compton said.

    The major culprit behind the misuse is excessive prescriptions, the survey found, with doctors providing patients with too many pills for too long. After delivering a baby, for example, women typically use half of what they’re given, said Stephen Patrick, a Vanderbilt University neonatologist who was not involved in the study.

    Physicians worry the road to overprescribing has been paved with good intentions. Concern about undertreating patient pain among physicians was roughly on-par with attention to a patient’s heart rate, said Karen Lasser, a general internist at Boston Medical Center who was not involved in the study.

    Bottles of prescription painkiller Oxycodone Hydrochloride, 30mg pills, made by Mallinckrodt sit on a shelf at a local pharmacy, in Provo, Utah, U.S., April 25, 2017. Photo by George Frey/REUTERS

    Nearly two-thirds of respondents who used opioids inappropriately said they misused them to relieve physical pain. Photo by George Frey/REUTERS

    Patrick agreed, saying, “It started in the ‘80s, thinking about how we take care of untreated pain. We had some science that was wrong about the risk of addiction potential if you treat inappropriately.”

    But, medical professionals aren’t the only factor driving the epidemic. Hopelessness and despair also likely fuel this problem, she said. Studies have shown people often self-medicate their anxiety and depression with opioids. Lasser has seen this pattern in the clinic.

    “When [my patients] come in complaining of physical pain, I can tell it’s more than just physical pain,” Lasser said. “It’s almost like it’s suffering or psychosocial issues going on that are manifesting as pain.”

    Nearly two-thirds of respondents who used opioids inappropriately said they misused them to relieve physical pain. They used the drugs for their own treatment or to cope with pain. Yet, more and more research shows these narcotics are not effective for chronic pain, Patrick said.

    One quick and fast solution is to write fewer, smaller prescriptions for opioids…

    The results of the survey agree that the nation’s pain problem extends beyond the physical body. People with opioid use disorder were more likely to have a psychiatric diagnosis and poor health. Misuse was more prevalent among those with major depressive episodes or suicidal ideation than those without.

    Limited access to treatment may compound drug abuse pervasiveness. More people who reported misusing prescription opioids were uninsured, unemployed, had low income or had behavioral health problems.

    It may be easier for the uninsured to treat their pain, whether truly physical or not, by skipping the doctor and getting it from other sources instead, Lasser said.

    Out of adults who reported misusing opioids, 60 percent did not have a prescription. Nearly half of these individuals — 41 percent — obtained non-prescribed drugs for free from friends or relatives.

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    This information changes physicians’ roles. They’re not just caring for the person directly in front of them, but also the patient’s social network — their family members, friends and neighbors among others. “That’s a really big shift in the role for medical professionals,” Compton said.

    On the national level, the Department of Health and Human Services brought together experts from the National Institutes of Health, NIDA and other agencies to create the National Pain Strategy to develop new approaches to treating pain. The strategy includes measures to standardize pain assessments, which could help physicians determine underlying causes of chronic pain and when opioid prescriptions are appropriate. It also calls for more comprehensive approaches to pain evaluation that include physical, psychological, emotional and social aspects.

    One quick and fast solution is to write fewer, smaller prescriptions for opioids because “there are way too many leftover medications that end up being diverted or misused,” Compton said.

    Along with that, pharmacies now have authority to dispense partial prescriptions. Prescription drug monitoring programs can identify over prescribing doctors and patients who are doctor shopping, Patrick said.

    The post Almost half of all opioid misuse starts with a friend or family member’s prescription appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A blacklegged tick, the carrier of lyme disease, teeters on a blade of grass. Photo by CDC

    A blacklegged tick, the carrier of lyme disease, teeters on a blade of grass. Photo by CDC.

    Tick season is in full swing, and with it comes Lyme disease.

    More than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease, a bacteria spread by a family of hard-bodied ticks such as the deer tick, are reported to the Centers for Disease Control every year, though two recent studies put the actual number of cases closer to 300,000.

    Many have raised concerns about an increase in ticks this summer, as ticks move into new territories.

    NewsHour spoke about those concerns with Dr. John Aucott, director of the John Hopkins Lyme disease Clinical Research Center, who studies a chronic forms of the condition called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. He fielded general questions about the malady during a Facebook Live interview. Here are four of the biggest takeaways he gave us.

    There isn’t a vaccine for humans, but you can protect yourself from Lyme disease.

    Even though there isn’t a vaccine for humans, a few simple steps will narrow your chances of contracting Lyme disease. Because ticks like moisture, you can make your yard a less inviting place for the bugs by removing damp leaves and brush.

    Even in this summer heat, it is a good idea to wear long pants while hiking outdoors. Stay on the trail and avoid areas with dense brush or tall grass, then do a thorough body scan to check for ticks once your hike is done. Ticks can be tiny, about the size of a poppy seed. So don’t just look during your check; feel for ticks.

    “Don’t mess around with wives tales about smothering with bacon or touching it with a match,” Aucott said. “Remove it as soon as possible.” Once you’ve removed the tick’s body, it can no longer transmit the disease.

    The bullseye rash is not the most telling symptom of Lyme disease.

    A lot of people try to identify Lyme disease by a distinctive bullseye rash. But Dr. Aucott said that it isn’t the most reliable indicator. Even a tick bite that doesn’t transmit Lyme disease can leave a red mark, but it’s the size that counts. Look out for red marks that become larger than a few inches, he said.

    Not all tick bites result in the iconic bullseye rash (left), many can leave a large red mark instead. Photos by: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

    Not all tick bites result in the iconic bullseye rash (left), many can leave a large red mark instead. Photos by: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

    “They are usually just round and red. People often mistake them for spider bites,” Aucott said, adding that the iconic bullseye appearance only occurs about 20 to 30 percent of the time. Other symptoms include fever, chills and that “achy all over” feeling. Aucott warns if you feel like you’re getting the flu in the summer, don’t be fooled. It could be Lyme disease.

    Climate change could affect the spread of Lyme disease, but not how you might think.

    Ticks don’t like dry, arid climates. But as cold climates — upper New England and Canada or Nova Scotia — grow warmer, they may become more hospitable to mice, expanding the animals’ geographic range. Given mice are a common carrier of the bacteria behind Lyme disease — they infect most of the ticks in the Northeast with the disease — experts expect cases of the disease to expand, too.

    Mice are a common host to ticks. Here a tiny tick is found on the ear of a mouse. Photo by: Dave Timko

    Mice are a common host to ticks. Here a tiny tick is found on the ear of a mouse. Photo by: Dave Timko

    This not only means the threat could enter new regions, it could also cross into new seasons. The recent warm winter lengthened the front end of tick season, Aucott said, with signs of adolescent ticks emerging in the spring.

    “We saw tick bites in February because the temperature was over 40 degrees,” Aucott said.

    Sometimes your own body can perpetuate Lyme disease symptoms.

    The human immune system is designed to fight off infections like Lyme disease. But Aucott and his team are finding more evidence that the immune system may actually perpetuate symptoms in the long-term. In a small number of cases, the body launches an immune response against its own healthy cells, a process called autoimmunity. This prolonged Lyme disease, commonly known as chronic Lyme disease, affects about 10 percent of patients, who don’t recover fully with initial treatment.

    “We don’t know the exact cause so we don’t really have a perfect treatment for those patients yet,” Aucott said.

    For more facts on Lyme disease, watch NewsHour’s full interview with Aucott below.

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    The post 4 things you should know about ticks and Lyme disease this summer appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, U.S. July 10, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTX3AWF0

    White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration started its public push Monday to overhaul taxes but, just as with health care, the White House lacks a detailed plan to promote to voters.

    What it has, instead, is an aggressive deadline.

    The White House hopes to have the House pass a tax overhaul in October that the Senate could then approve in November, said Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs. Under this plan, President Donald Trump would travel the country to rally support for the intended tax cuts, while conservative activists and business groups act as valuable allies to encourage and pressure Congress into clearing the first major tax code rewrite since 1986.

    READ MORE: Trump proposes dramatic cuts in corporate and personal taxes

    Short said the strategy comes from lessons learned in the troubled attempts to repeal and replace the 2010 health insurance law signed by President Barack Obama, an ongoing frustration for Trump.

    “In the health care battle, there was not an organized effort to bring on board a lot of the conservative grass-roots organizations in support,” he said at a panel at the Newseum. “But there has been in tax reform.”

    The panel was sponsored by Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, two conservative groups supported by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. Americans for Prosperity is having its state chapters call lawmakers this summer to encourage support for the overhaul. Separately, the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs, is sponsoring a multimillion-dollar radio and TV ad campaign.

    The outreach is occurring even though key elements of the tax overhaul are still unknown. Trump and Republican lawmakers agree on broad contours such as the importance of a simpler tax code, a lower corporate rate and financial relief for the middle class, but the details of an overhaul remain murky.

    The outreach is occurring even though key elements of the tax overhaul are still unknown. Trump and Republican lawmakers agree on broad contours such as the importance of a simpler tax code, a lower corporate rate and financial relief for the middle class, but the details of an overhaul remain murky.

    The Trump administration released a one-page set of goals in April, followed by a joint statement last week with congressional leaders.

    As of now, the administration can’t say for sure if the tax cuts would increase the budget deficit. It can’t say how large of a break a typical taxpayer would receive. It can’t say how it would prevent wealthy individuals from setting up tax shelters to take advantage of a reduced corporate rate. And while the White House has pushed to reduce the top corporate tax rate to 15 percent from 35 percent, officials can’t say if the rate will end up being that low in the plan.

    Each of these unknowns could thwart a tax overhaul. The Trump administration has said it would remove deductions in order to lower rates, but those deductions generally have supporters who will fight to preserve them. House Republicans already dropped plans for an import-based tax system to help lower national rates after pushback by retailers and groups such as Americans for Prosperity.

    Despite those uncertainties, the administration says the effort has universal support from Republican lawmakers.

    MORE: An argument for how Trump’s tax plan could exacerbate inequality

    “We are now in what I would say is a 100 percent coherent place,” Gary Cohn, the president’s top economics aide,said Monday at a White House meeting. “We have total agreement on major, major issues.”

    White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at Monday’s news briefing that the administration is “working hand and glove” with congressional committees on tax overhaul, but she did not say whether the White House would support whatever measure comes out of the committees.

    Tax experts say the administration has raised expectations of a tax overhaul without providing much of a roadmap for how it can happen, possibly setting voters and companies up for disappointment if the tax cuts prove to be modest or the overhaul leads to higher taxes for some.

    William Gale, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an economist in George H.W. Bush’s White House, said it appears that little progress has been made since the administration unveiled its tax goals in April.

    “They have agreement on tax principles at the same level that they had agreement on repealing and replacing Obamacare, which is no real agreement at all,” Gale said.

    The post Trump’s tax plan has aggressive deadline, but few details appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Police officers laugh at a line by President Donald Trump as he delivers remarks about his proposed U.S. government effort against the street gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, to a gathering of federal, state and local law enforcement officials at the Long Island University campus in Brentwood, New York. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Police officers laugh at a line by President Donald Trump as he delivers remarks about his proposed U.S. government effort against the street gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, to a gathering of federal, state and local law enforcement officials at the Long Island University campus in Brentwood, New York. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    The White House defended President Donald Trump’s recent remarks that police shouldn’t be too nice when transporting suspects, saying Monday that the president was “making a joke.”

    On a visit to Long Island, New York, last week, Trump implored police officers, “Please don’t be too nice.” He said some officers are too courteous to suspected criminals when arresting them.

    “Like when you guys put somebody in the car, and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put your hand over” their head, he said, putting his hand above his head for emphasis. “I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?”

    His remarks prompted critics to accuse the president of encouraging police brutality.

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday, “I believe he was making a joke at the time.”

    Trump touts himself as a president who is “strong on law enforcement” and tough on crime. His ongoing efforts to tackle illegal immigration and crack down on gangs operating within the U.S. were key campaign platforms that his administration is now pushing to implement.

    Sharpton: Trump comments encourage police violence

    But his efforts have been overshadowed recently by his falling out with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump has repeatedly expressed disappointment since Sessions recused himself from the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and into contacts Russian officials may have had with Trump campaign associates.

    Sessions, who attended a Cabinet meeting at the White House Monday, is slated to speak Tuesday to a group of black law enforcement leaders in Atlanta about his efforts to support police as part of his tough-on-crime agenda. He has so far been silent on the president’s remarks, and the Justice Department did not immediately say whether he would mention them during the speech.

    Sessions has said far-reaching federal civil rights investigations of police departments can malign entire agencies and make officers less effective on the streets, but he has promised to prosecute individual officers who break the law. Still, he believes low officer morale can contribute to spikes in violence.

    The post Trump was ‘making a joke’ in don’t-be-too-nice police speech, White House says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), accompanied by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaks with reporters following the weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTX39C1B

    Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), seen here in June on Capitol Hill, says it’s time to move on from health care. Photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein.

    WASHINGTON — Republican, Democratic and even bipartisan plans for reshaping parts of the Obama health care law are proliferating in Congress. But they have iffy prospects at best, and there were no signs Monday that GOP leaders have chosen a fresh pathway after last week’s collapse of their struggle to repeal and rewrite the statute.

    Despite a weekend of tweets from President Donald Trump insisting that the Senate revisit the issue, Republican prospects for garnering 50 votes to push something through the chamber seemed to worsen after Sen. John McCain returned to Arizona for brain cancer treatments. He was among three GOP senators who joined Democrats in opposing a bare-bones bill rolling back a few pieces of President Barack Obama’s statute, dealing it a stunning 51-49 defeat, and his absence probably denies leaders their best chance of turning that vote around.

    “If the question is do I think we should stay on health care until we get it done, I think it’s time to move on to something else,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a member of the GOP leadership team.

    Rather than resuming its health care debate, the Senate began considering a judicial nomination Monday.

    READ MORE: White House to Senate: Pass health bill now or else

    In the House, 43 Democratic and Republican moderates proposed a plan that includes continuing federal payments that help insurers contain expenses for lower-earning customers and limiting Obama’s requirement that larger employers offer coverage to workers. But movements by House centrists seldom bear fruit in the House, where the rules give the majority party ironclad control, and Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., offered little encouragement.

    “While the speaker appreciates members coming together to promote ideas, he remains focused on repealing and replacing Obamacare,” said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong.

    The House approved its health care overhaul in May after barely overcoming its own GOP divisions.

    Trump has threatened anew in recent days to cut off the payments to insurers, which total $7 billion this year and are helping trim out-of-pocket costs for 7 million people. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said Trump will decide this week whether to pay them in August, and insurers have cited the monthly uncertainty as a factor in rising premiums.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said GOP leaders should “follow the example of their members releasing some proposals with Democrats today” and engage in “serious bipartisan conversations,” but she didn’t specifically endorse the bipartisan proposals.

    White House says Trump to decide soon on ending health payments

    The group was led by Reps. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., and Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. One proposal would require companies with at least 500 workers to offer coverage, up from the Obama law’s cutoff of 50 workers.

    Hoping to find some way forward, health secretary Tom Price met with some governors and Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy. Among those attending was Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who’s been trying to defend his state’s expansion of Medicaid, the health insurance program for poor people, against proposed GOP cuts.

    Cassidy said they discussed ideas that could be next steps. “I will continue to discuss these ideas with the administration, governors and folks back home, because the American people need relief,” he said.

    Price said last week that the administration would advance its health care goals using regulations that Congress does not have to approve.

    Cassidy and Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., have proposed converting the $110 billion they estimate Obama’s law spends yearly for health insurance into grants states could use for health programs as they see fit.

    Shortly after the Senate rejected his last-ditch bill Friday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., invited Democrats to present their ideas on the issue. But he quickly constructed an obstacle for one top Democratic desire: continuing the payments to insurers.

    “Bailing out insurance companies with no thought of any kind of reform is not something I want to be part of,” McConnell said.

    “Bailing out insurance companies with no thought of any kind of reform is not something I want to be part of,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

    Obama’s statute requires that insurers reduce those costs for low-earning customers. Kristine Grow, spokeswoman for the insurance industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans, said Monday that halting the federal payments would boost premiums for people buying individual policies by 20 percent.

    Besides continuing those payments, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has pushed two other Democratic proposals.

    Under one by Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Tom Carper of Delaware, the federal government would help pay larger than expected claims for insurers providing coverage on the federal and state online marketplaces established by Obama’s law.

    Another by Sen. Clare McCaskill of Missouri would let people in counties where no insurers offer policies on exchanges buy the same coverage that members of Congress purchase. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated last week that exchanges would offer no coverage next year in 40 of the country’s roughly 3,000 counties.

    Tennessee’s two GOP senators — Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker — have suggested legislation that would let people in counties without available coverage on their exchanges to use the Obama law’s tax credits to buy individual policies outside of those marketplaces.

    Associated Press writer Bob Christie in Phoenix, Arizona, contributed to this report.

    The post After failed Senate vote, will Congress give these new health care ideas a chance? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO --  Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey takes part in the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis in Washington, U.S., June 16, 2017.   REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

    FILE PHOTO — Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey takes part in the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis in Washington, U.S., June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

    President Donald Trump needs to declare a national state of emergency for the opioid epidemic, said the commission he created to combat the public health crisis.

    Such a declaration was the “first and most urgent recommendation” in an interim report that detailed how the nation’s leaders could fight the pandemic that the New York Times says killed an estimated 59,000 people last year, said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who chairs the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

    With 142 Americans killed by opioids every day, “America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks.”

    Opioids “now kill more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined,” the commission wrote in its report, saying that with nearly 150 Americans dying every day, “America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks.”

    “By declaring state of emergency, the president would put the full weight of his office behind this emergency,” Christie said as he read from the report during a call Monday afternoon to release the report.

    The commission also recommended opening up more treatment beds in all 50 states with waiver approvals under Medicaid’s federal Institutes for Mental Diseases exclusion. With the waivers, facilities with more than 16 beds could accept patients seeking inpatient mental health treatment, including substance use disorders, and Medicaid would reimburse providers for the care.

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

    “This is the single fastest way to increase treatment availability across the nation,” the commission’s draft interim report said.

    Fellow commission member and former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy said insurance companies and the Department of Labor need to ensure more access to treatment. They should also provide greater transparency and accountability for individuals with substance use disorder, who often shoulder the burden of “unfair denials” for coverage, Kennedy said.

    “If this were any other public health issue, our response as a nation would be dramatically different than it is simply because these diseases are shunned and shamed by society,” Kennedy said.

    Under current “well-intentioned” patient privacy laws, the commission said physicians and families alike face great difficulty in coordinating care or even knowing if an individual is struggling with substance use disorders, “restraining physicians’ ability to make informed healthcare decisions,” the report said.

    Other recommendations from the commission included:

    • Establish mandatory opioid prescriber education at medical and dental schools across the country to spread awareness about safe prescription practices.
    • Create and fund a federal effort to offer all three forms of approved medication-assisted treatment — methadone, naltrexone and buprenorphine — at each facility licensed to distribute them and to ensure treatment “decisions are based on what is best for the patient” (the report says only roughly one out of every 10 U.S. drug treatment facilities offer medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder).
    • Craft model legislation to encourage states to make naloxone — an antidote used to prevent fatal opioid overdoses — more readily available.
    • Enhance border control and law enforcement efforts to screen and catch fentanyl entering the United States, including through packages shipped through the U.S. Postal Service.
    • Improve prescription drug monitoring programs to better track patients who have been blocked from accessing prescription opioids but clearly still need help.
    • Make sure insurance companies do not offer worse coverage to people for mental health and substance use diagnoses than for physical health issues.

    The interim report’s recommendations are not intended to be comprehensive; the commission is scheduled to release its final report in October. Christie said the upcoming report will explore how to use big data to develop a national prevention strategy, ways that federal agencies can make medication-assisted treatment and more non-opioid pain therapies more accessible, how to reduce the nation’s supply of heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, and more.

    “We should be tracking those supplies in the same way we track infectious diseases in our country.”

    Commissioners voted 4-0 to pass the interim report and pass it onto President Donald Trump’s office for executive approval.

    One of those commission members, Bertha Madras, served on the White House Office of Drug Control Policy under the President George W. Bush administration and is now a psychobiologist at Harvard Medical School. In remarks delivered during Monday’s call, Madras said while U.S. prescription opioid use subsides, an unmistakable rise in heroin, fentanyl, fentanyl analogs and counterfeit pills presents a clear-and-present danger to public health nationwide.

    READ MORE: In the war on heroin, Baltimore drug programs face an uncertain future

    “We should be tracking those supplies in the same way we track infectious diseases in our country,” Madras said.

    Trump signed an executive order to establish the commission, chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in March. Since then, the commission met and received more than 8,000 comments from the public. That was why the commission missed initial deadlines for the report it unveiled Monday, Christie said.

    In November, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released a historic report called “Facing Addiction in America” that assessed a series of recommendations called “Turn the Tide Rx,” designed to curb the opioid crisis.

    “How we respond to this crisis is a moral test for America. Are we a nation willing to take on an epidemic that is causing great human suffering and economic loss? Are we able to live up to that most fundamental obligation we have as human beings: to care for one another?” it read.

    The post Trump needs to declare national emergency for opioid crisis, commission says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker speak about North Korea’s nuclear program to NewsHour via Skype from his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

    As the Trump administration struggles with its response to North Korea’s recent missile tests, many have wondered how close the country actually is to being able to launching a nuclear attack.

    Siegfried Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, told PBS NewsHour on Monday that he believes North Korea is “quite a ways away” — four or five years — from doing that.

    North Korea must successfully put a nuclear warhead on a rocket and deliver it. The nuclear warhead must be able to withstand extreme conditions of launch, flight and re-entry, he said, so what North Korea’s recent launches have done is “try to measure as much as possible those extreme conditions,” Hecker said.

    The administration should remind the public that the United States has the conventional firepower to deter North Korea from attacking the U.S., to ease the public’s fears, he said.

    His greater concern: “The North Koreans have brought their nuclear program far enough and with the current tension between North Korea and the United States, that we may stumble into a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula.”

    “I believe the North Koreans have already developed the capabilities to reach all of South Korea, all of Japan, and those nuclear weapons are in the hands of a leader and in the hands of a military about whom we know nothing,” Hecker said.

    While looking at worst-case scenarios, however, “we’ve scared the daylights out of the American public,” Hecker continued. The administration should remind the public that the United States has the conventional firepower to deter North Korea from attacking the U.S., to ease the public’s fears, he said.

    READ MORE: Analysis: 64 years after the Korean War, the world’s coldest and most dangerous peace

    The post How close is North Korea to launching a nuclear missile? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The tumult at the White House continues to churn at a pace unprecedented for an American president.

    Anthony Scaramucci, just 10 days on the job of communications director, is out. The move comes on John Kelly’s first day as President Trump’s chief of staff.

    Our own Lisa Desjardins is here to walk us through these shakeups at the top.

    Welcome, Lisa.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Thank you.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Pretty dizzying set of days here. Walk us through the timeline of how we got here.

    LISA DESJARDINS: All right, to do that, let’s go way back to 10 days ago.

    That’s when we saw Anthony Scaramucci be hired as the communications director, the same day Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned. Then, five days later, July 26, he that call to The New Yorker, to a New Yorker reporter, in which Scaramucci used a series of profane words to openly attack Chief of Staff Priebus.

    Then, the next one to go, July 28, Friday, Reince Priebus resigned. That brings us to today, when we’re told by the White House that Anthony Scaramucci will no longer be communications director or have any other role in the White House at all.

    Now, for Scaramucci, this comes as the sale of his company is still an open question. That’s still working through a regulatory process, and it’s not clear what is going to happen with him and that.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, what is the — there’s been a lot of reporting as to what actually drove this. Was this Chief of Staff Kelly on day one of the job pushing him out? Was it the president saying enough is enough? What do we know about how we got here?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Well, let’s start with the words of the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, herself. Here’s what she said today.

    SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, White House Press Secretary: The president certainly felt that Anthony’s comments were inappropriate for a person in that position, and he didn’t want to burden General Kelly, also, with that line of succession.

    As I think we have made clear a few times over the course of the last couple of days to several of you individually, but General Kelly has the full authority to operate within the White House and all staff will report to him.

    LISA DESJARDINS: In other words, it was both.

    And that last line was really important, William. She is saying all staff will report to Kelly. That includes Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon. All the advisers, she said, now report to him.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In your sense, does this really matter? How important is this kind of a shakeup?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right, clearly a tempest, a tempest that is going to last and be important.

    I think the takeaway here for me, as I look at this White House, is the four key positions that you have year in, year out at the White House, chief of staff, press secretary, communications director, and your national security adviser, those are the positions that keep changing at this White House. They are not stable.

    What is stable? These advisers like Jared Kushner or Steve Bannon, whose jobs, it’s not really clear what they are. Now, that might work for this president. It seems to. But it’s a real problem for his Cabinet officials and for agencies in Washington.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Lisa Desjardins, thanks so much.

    The post Another top Trump official is gone. Here’s how we got here appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 31:  Gracey Peatrowsky, 11, left, and her friend Shannon Nash, 10, both of Orange, get a closer view of the peristyle end of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on July 31, 2017.  Los Angeles has reached an agreement with Olympic leaders on terms that will pave the way for hosting the Summer Games of 2028 instead of 2024, according to a source close to the negotiation.  The deal will bring the Olympics back to Southern California for a third time, after Los Angeles hosted the games in 1932 and 1984.  (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

    Los Angeles has reached an agreement with Olympic leaders on terms that will pave the way for hosting the Summer Games of 2028 instead of 2024. Photo by Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

    The Summer Olympics are coming back to Los Angeles for a third time.

    Los Angeles will host the 2028 Summer Olympics and Paris will have 2024, the International Olympic Committee announced Monday.

    Los Angeles previously hosted the Olympics in 1984 and 1932. The United States last hosted the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996.

    The International Olympic Committee had already indicated Paris and L.A. would host the Olympics in 2024 and 2028, but it wasn’t clear which games would be hosted by each city. In an interview last week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told Buzzfeed’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, that they were unlikely to host the 2024 Games.

    “Twenty-four is not probably most going to happen, even though the Olympics would be smart to pick us for ’24,” Garcetti said, adding that the committee was making an offer “financially so attractive, we’d be stupid not to take it.”

    READ MORE: Paris and Los Angeles vie for next Summer Games

    The IOC said in a statement that “Los Angeles presented an excellent candidature that embraces the Olympic Agenda 2020 sustainability priorities by maximising the use of existing facilities and encouraging the engagement of more youth in the Olympic Movement.”

    Bach also mentioned in the statement that the IOC will increase youth access to sports programs as well as encourage a healthy lifestyle for all Angelenos over the next 11 years — likely part of the additional negotiations Garcetti said he couldn’t refuse.

    Throughout the bidding process, Garcetti mentioned that his goal was much bigger than just bringing the Olympics to Los Angeles.

    “My dream with the Olympics is not just to hold the Olympics, but to make sports free for every kid here starting in a year or two starting through our cities rec and sports program,” Garcetti told Buzzfeed.

    The agreement made Monday will be presented to the IOC Session for a final confirmation Sept. 13 in Lima.

    “We are very confident that we can reach a tripartite agreement under the leadership of the IOC with L.A. and Paris in August, creating a win-win-win situation for all three partners,” the IOC said in the statement.

    Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti will make a public announcement during a news conference at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PST).

    The post Los Angeles will host 2028 Summer Olympics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    North Carolina's Electoral College representatives sign the Certificates of Vote after affirming their votes, all for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, at a ceremony in the State Capitol building in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S., December 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake - RTX2VPL2

    North Carolina’s Electoral College representatives sign the Certificates of Vote after affirming their 2016 votes. Federal judges on Monday rejected a request by North Carolina voters who sued over General Assembly district boundaries to hold special elections next March in new districts once lines are redrawn to eliminate illegal racial gerrymandering. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Drake.

    RALEIGH, N.C. — Federal judges on Monday rejected a request by North Carolina voters who sued over General Assembly district boundaries to hold special elections next March in new districts once lines are redrawn to eliminate illegal racial gerrymandering.

    The unanimous order by the three-judge panel means the next legislative elections won’t occur until November 2018. But the judges did tell Republican lawmakers that they’ll have to approve new House and Senate boundaries by this September — at least two months earlier than GOP leaders sought.

    The three judges told lawmakers to draw the new maps by Sept. 1 but wrote that they would extend the deadline to Sept. 15 if lawmakers make enough progress on new boundaries in the next few weeks.

    The panel ruled in August 2016 that 28 state House and Senate districts were illegally drawn based on racial considerations. After Republicans took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices upheld the lower court decision to throw out those boundaries. Democrats hope the new boundaries could help them erode the GOP’s veto-proof majorities in both legislative chambers.

    READ MORE: Supreme Court strikes down 2 redrawn districts in N.C. over racial bias

    Although the three judges said they would explain their decision against a special election in a forthcoming opinion, lawyers for GOP legislative leaders have said having one would be too complicated and would overlap with the November 2018 election schedule.

    In oral arguments last week in Greensboro federal court, two of the judges expressed concerns that North Carolina legislative leaders had taken few steps to draw new election maps.

    The judges reaffirmed those worries in Monday’s order, writing that it appears “the General Assembly does not appreciate the need to move promptly to cure the unconstitutional racial gerrymanders” in plans first approved in 2011.

    Setting the Sept. 1 deadline, the judges wrote, gives lawmakers time to hold public hearings while moving the process along.

    “Constitutionally adequate districts should be enacted as quickly as possible to protect the rights of North Carolina citizens and to minimize any chilling effect on political participation attributable” to the lack of a lawful plan, the order said.

    The post No special elections for redrawn districts in North Carolina, judges say appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican Rep. Trent Franks speaks to the media after a closed meeting of the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in May. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    Republican Rep. Trent Franks speaks to the media after a closed meeting of the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in May. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A conservative House Republican is calling on special counsel Robert Mueller to resign, citing what he says is a conflict of interest because of Mueller’s “close friendship” with fired FBI Director James Comey.

    The argument from Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, a member of the Judiciary Committee, echoes that of President Donald Trump in an effort to question Mueller’s credentials for the job. Mueller, appointed after Trump abruptly fired Comey, is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties to Trump’s campaign.

    Franks said in a statement that Mueller “must resign to maintain the integrity of the investigation into alleged Russian ties.”

    A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

    Mueller and Comey, both known for their integrity and self-assuredness, served closely alongside each other in the Bush administration’s Justice Department, and Comey has described Mueller as “one of the finest people I’ve ever met.” But there’s little evidence that they are close friends.

    David Kelley, who succeeded Comey as U.S. attorney in Manhattan and has known Comey and Mueller for years, told The Associated Press in June that the two men have had a handful of meals together but their relationship is professional.

    “Jim has never been to Bob’s house. Bob has never been to Jim’s house,” Kelley said.

    As president, Trump could demand that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein fire Mueller by citing a conflict of interest, but Rosenstein has said he wouldn’t follow any order that he didn’t think was lawful or appropriate and that he had seen no legitimate basis to dismiss the special counsel. Rosenstein, who has also known both men for years, appointed Mueller after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe.

    Comey was selected by President Barack Obama in 2013 to succeed Mueller as FBI director. At a White House ceremony, Mueller praised Comey as a man of “honesty, dedication and integrity,” and Comey repaid the favor minutes later by joking that he “must be out of my mind to be following Bob Mueller.”

    Years earlier, Comey was acting attorney general and Mueller the FBI director when both were on the same side of a tense faceoff over the renewal of a sweeping domestic surveillance program.

    Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.

    WATCH: Putin’s retaliation for sanctions echoes Cold War tit-for-tat

    The post House conservative calls for Mueller to resign as special counsel appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Healthcare activists get a police warning during a protest to stop the Republican health care bill at Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., in July. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    Healthcare activists get a police warning during a protest to stop the Republican health care bill at Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., in July. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Top Senate Republicans think it’s time to leave their derailed drive to scrap the Obama health care law behind them. And they’re tired of the White House prodding them to keep voting until they succeed.

    Several GOP leaders said Monday that at least for now, they saw no clear route to the 50 votes they’d need to get something — anything — recasting President Barack Obama’s health care statute through the Senate. Their drive crashed with three disastrous Senate votes last week, and their mood didn’t improve after a weekend of tweets by President Donald Trump saying they “look like fools” and White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney using TV appearances to say they should continue voting.

    Mulvaney has “got a big job, he ought to do that job and let us do our jobs,” No. 2 Senate GOP John Cornyn of Texas said. He also said of the former House member, “I don’t think he’s got much experience in the Senate, as I recall.”

    “It’s time to move onto something else, come back to health care when we’ve had more time to get beyond the moment we’re in,” said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, another member of the GOP leadership. Asked about threats by conservative groups to attack GOP lawmakers who abandon the fight, Blunt said, “Lots of threats.”

    While the leaders stopped short of saying they were surrendering on an issue that’s guided the party for seven years, their remarks underscored that Republicans have hit a wall when it comes to resolving internal battles over what their stance should be.

    Yet even the White House’s focus turned Monday to a new horizon: revamping the tax code.

    White House legislative director Marc Short set an October goal for House passage of a tax overhaul that the Senate could approve the following month. Plans envision Trump barnstorming the country to rally support for the tax drive, buttressed by conservative activists and business groups heaping pressure on Congress to act.

    On health care last week, Republican defections led to the Senate decisively rejecting one proposal to simply erase much of Obama’s statute. A second amendment was defeated that would have scrapped it and substituted relaxed coverage rules for insurers, less generous tax subsidies for consumers and Medicaid cuts.

    Finally, a bare-bones plan by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rolling back a few pieces of Obama’s law failed in a nail-biting 51-49 roll call. Three GOP senators joined all Democrats in rejecting McConnell’s proposal, capped by a thumbs down by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

    Republican, Democratic and even bipartisan plans for reshaping parts of the Obama health care law are proliferating in Congress. They have iffy prospects at best.

    Republicans can push something through the Senate with 50 votes because Vice President Mike Pence can cast a tie-breaking vote. But rather than resuming its health care debate, the Senate on Monday began considering a judicial nomination.

    In the House, 43 Democratic and Republican moderates proposed a plan that includes continuing federal payments that help insurers contain expenses for lower-earning customers. It would also limit Obama’s requirement that employers offer coverage to workers to companies with at least 500 workers, not just 50.

    But movements by House centrists seldom bear fruit in the House, where the rules give the majority party ironclad control, and Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., offered little encouragement.

    “While the speaker appreciates members coming together to promote ideas, he remains focused on repealing and replacing Obamacare,” said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong.

    Senate Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare repeal suffered a stunning defeat overnight, prompting renewed calls for bipartisanship in the aftermath. The historic drama unfolded as Sen. John McCain cast a decisive vote against the “skinny” bill unveiled just hours earlier. Lisa Desjardins offers a recap, then joins Judy Woodruff and Sarah Kliff of Vox to look at what happens now.

    Trump has threatened anew in recent days to cut off the payments to insurers, which total $7 billion this year and are helping trim out-of-pocket costs for 7 million people.

    Those payments to insurers have some bipartisan support because many experts say failing to continue them — or even the threat of doing so — is prompting insurers to raise prices and abandon some markets.

    Obama’s statute requires that insurers reduce those costs for low-earning customers. Kristine Grow, spokeswoman for the insurance industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans, said Monday that halting the federal payments would boost premiums for people buying individual policies by 20 percent.

    “I’m hopeful the administration, president will keep making them,” said No. 3 Senate Republican leader John Thune of South Dakota. “And if he doesn’t, then I guess we’ll have to figure out from a congressional standpoint what we do.”

    Senate health committee chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said his panel will hold hearings in coming weeks about how to steady roiled health insurance markets.

    Hoping to find some way forward, health secretary Tom Price met with governors and Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy. Among those attending was Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who’s been trying to defend his state’s expansion of Medicaid, the health insurance program for poor people, against proposed GOP cuts.

    Cassidy and Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., have proposed converting the $110 billion they estimate Obama’s law spends yearly for health insurance into broad grants to states.

    Associated Press writer Bob Christie in Phoenix, Arizona, contributed to this report.

    READ MORE: White House says Trump to decide soon on ending health payments

    The post Despite Trump’s prods, Senate GOP sees no path on health care appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senate Democrats gather on the Senate steps with health care protesters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters

    Senate Democrats gather on the Senate steps with health care protesters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Most Senate Democrats and independents said Tuesday that upcoming legislation to rewrite the tax code should make sure the middle class doesn’t pay more.

    They won’t support any upcoming GOP effort to overhaul the U.S. tax code that delivers tax cuts to “the top 1 percent” or adds to the government’s $20 trillion debt.

    That’s the word in a letter signed by 45 of the 48 Senate Democratic caucus members. Republicans controlling Congress are gearing up to advance their tax measure this fall, promising to lower rates on businesses and individuals, while clearing out many tax breaks and deductions.

    The letter says that Democrats hope to work with Republicans to promote investment and modernize the outdated tax code, but the terms laid out by Democrats are unlikely to tempt Republicans, who are planning to use a filibuster-proof Senate procedure to advance the legislation without their help.

    Any tax reform effort should not benefit the wealthiest individuals, who have already seen outsized benefits from recent economic gains,” said the letter, authored by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and others and provided to the media. “Tax reform cannot be a cover story for delivering tax cuts to the wealthiest.”

    The contours of the GOP tax plan are fuzzy at best, but House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., says he’s not pressing for a large, deficit-financed tax measure. But keeping GOP promises for large rate cuts won’t be easy under those conditions, given the difficulty in eliminating popular deductions and tax breaks.

    The most recent successful tax reform effort was in 1986 and required a bipartisan push to overcome opposition from powerful interest groups.

    GOP leaders also intend to reject another Democratic demand: advancing the measure under regular legislative procedures instead of through the planned fast-track path.

    Three Democrats from states easily carried by President Donald Trump — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — did not sign the letter. Each of the three is up for re-election.

    READ MORE: Why Republicans are struggling mightily to overhaul tax code

    The post Senate Democrats say ‘no’ to GOP tax plan, cuts for ‘top 1 percent’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A healthcare activist stands on crutches outside the office of Arkansas Republican Senator John Boozman to protest the healthcare bill at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    A healthcare activist stands on crutches outside the office of Arkansas Republican Senator John Boozman to protest the healthcare bill at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s threat to stop billions of dollars in government payments to insurers and force the collapse of “Obamacare” could put the government in a tricky legal situation.

    Legal experts say he’d be handing insurers a solid court case, while undermining his own leverage to compel Democrats to negotiate, especially if premiums jump by 20 percent as expected after such a move.

    “Trump thinks he’s holding all the cards. But Democrats know what’s in his hand, and he’s got a pair of twos,” said University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley. Democrats “aren’t about to agree to dismantle the Affordable Care Act just because Trump makes a reckless bet.”

    For months, the president has been threatening to stop payments that reimburse insurers for providing required financial assistance to low-income consumers, reducing their copays and deductibles.

    Administration officials say the decision could come any day.

    The “cost-sharing” subsidies are under a legal cloud because of a dispute over whether the Obama health care law properly approved the payments. Other parts of the health care law, however, clearly direct the government to reimburse insurers.

    With the issue unresolved, the Trump administration has been paying insurers each month, as the Obama administration had done previously.

    Trump returned to the question last week after the GOP drive to repeal the health care law fell apart in the Senate, tweeting, “As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!”

    He elaborated in another tweet, “If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies…will end very soon!”

    It’s not accurate to call the cost-sharing subsidies a bailout, said Tim Jost, a professor emeritus at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia.

    “They are no more a bailout than payments made by the government to a private company for building a bomber,” he said.

    That’s at the root of the Trump administration’s potential legal problem if the president makes good on this threat.

    The health law clearly requires insurers to help low-income consumers with their copays and deductibles. Nearly 3 in 5 HealthCare.gov customers qualify for the assistance, which can reduce a deductible of $3,500 to several hundred dollars. The cost to the government is about $7 billion a year.

    The law also specifies that government “shall make periodic and timely payments” to reimburse insurers for the cost-sharing assistance that they provide.

    Nonetheless, the payments remain under a cloud because of a disagreement over whether they were properly approved in the language of the health law, by providing an “appropriation.”

    Senate Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare repeal suffered a stunning defeat overnight, prompting renewed calls for bipartisanship in the aftermath. The historic drama unfolded as Sen. John McCain cast a decisive vote against the “skinny” bill unveiled just hours earlier. Lisa Desjardins offers a recap, then joins Judy Woodruff and Sarah Kliff of Vox to look at what happens now.

    The Constitution says the government shall not spend money without a congressional appropriation.

    Think of an appropriation as an electronic instruction to your bank to pay a recurring monthly bill. You fully intend to pay, and the money you’ve budgeted is in your account. But the payment will not go out unless you specifically direct your bank to send it.

    House Republicans trying to thwart the ACA sued the Obama administration in federal district court in Washington, arguing that the law lacked specific language appropriating the cost-sharing subsidies.

    The district court judge agreed with House Republicans, and now the case is on hold before the U.S. appeals court in Washington. A group of state attorneys general are asking the appeals court to join in the case, in defense of the subsidies.

    Both Bagley and Jost have followed the matter closely, and they disagree on whether the health law properly approved the payments to insurers. Bagley says it did not; while Jost says it did.

    However, the two experts agree that insurers would have a solid lawsuit against the administration if Trump stops the payments. Insurers could sue in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which hears claims for money against the government.

    “The ACA promised to make these payments — that could not be clearer — and Congress has done nothing to limit that promise,” said Bagley.

    “I think there would very likely be litigation if the Trump administration tries to cut off the payments,” said Jost.

    Another way to resolve it: Congress could appropriate the money, even if temporarily, for a couple of years.

    “Simply letting Obamacare collapse will cause even more pain,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said recently.

    If the president makes good on his threat, experts estimate that premiums for a standard “silver” plan would increase by about 19 percent. Insurers could recover the cost-sharing money by raising premiums, since those are also subsidized by the ACA, and there’s no question about their appropriation.

    But millions of people who buy individual health care policies without any financial assistance from the government would face prohibitive cost increases.

    And more insurers might decide to leave already shaky markets.

    California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says Trump’s tweets will bolster arguments from him and his counterparts in other states to intervene in the case.

    “We need somebody who will stand up in court and defend the subsidies against the erratic nature of President Trump,” said Becerra.

    READ MORE: Despite Trump’s prods, Senate GOP sees no path on health care

    The post President Trump on tricky legal ground with ‘Obamacare’ threat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Illinois Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner speaks to the media after a meeting with then-President Barack Obama from seven U.S. states at the White House in Washington, D.C. in 2014. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    Illinois Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner speaks to the media after a meeting with then-President Barack Obama from seven U.S. states at the White House in Washington, D.C. in 2014. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner used his veto power Tuesday to strip millions of dollars for Chicago Public Schools from a school funding overhaul, a move that could mean no districts get state money before classes begin.

    The Republican removed help for Chicago Public Schools’ pensions along with money the district formerly received in the form of a block grant, along with other rewrites.

    “With my changes, Illinois can achieve historic education funding reform that is fair and equitable to all of Illinois’ children,” Rauner said at a Capitol news conference.

    The bill now returns to the Democrat-controlled Legislature, where three-fifths of lawmakers in both chambers must either approve or override Rauner’s changes. Both options will be difficult. If neither chamber can muster the votes, the legislation dies.

    Democratic Senate President John Cullerton had urged Rauner a day earlier to “do the right thing” and sign the legislation.

    “Students, parents, teachers and taxpayers have waited long enough,” he said. “This is a chance to make a huge, meaningful change for Illinois.”

    Rauner accused Democrats of sitting on the bill to force a crisis.

    A new school formula is required as part of a budget deal that legislators approved earlier this month over Rauner’s veto. Without new legislation, schools won’t get paid. The first payment to schools is due Aug. 10.

    While schools are expected to open on time even without state funding, many districts have said they’ll have to make cuts or even close their doors if lawmakers can’t agree on a plan by fall.

    A bipartisan group of lawmakers met during the weekend and again Monday to try to reach a compromise, including the bill’s sponsor state Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat. Ahead of Rauner’s news conference, he said any veto would undo decades of work and urged Rauner not to engage in a “veto showdown.”

    Democrats involved in the talks described the closed-door meetings Monday afternoon as “friendly” and positive, and said they asked Republicans to continue to try to reach a compromise.

    But Republican state Sen. Jason Barickman ripped the talks as “a charade” and accused his Democratic counterparts of playing political games.

    Democrats then lifted a hold on the legislation they passed in May and sent it to Rauner.

    Lawmakers from both parties agree the 20-year-old calculation currently used to fund public schools in Illinois is unfair and forces school districts to rely heavily on property taxes, creating huge disparities in per-student funding. But lawmakers have clashed over how to fix it.

    The proposed formula channels money to the neediest districts first after ensuring that no district receives less money than last school year. It also includes pension help for Chicago.

    Democrats insist the pending proposal is fair since Chicago is the only Illinois district that pays the employer portion of teacher pension costs. Republicans say the new formula means Chicago will continue to get money that it previously received as a block grant. Rauner has called it a “bailout.”

    Tareen contributed from Chicago.

    READ MORE: Illinois approves spending plan, ending nation’s longest budget stalemate

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    The logos of Fox News Channel are seen engraved on the glass of one of their booths at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    The logos of Fox News Channel are seen engraved on the glass of one of their booths at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    NEW YORK — An investigator who worked on the Seth Rich case claims Fox News fabricated quotes implicating the murdered Democratic National Committee staffer in the WikiLeaks scandal and coordinated with the Trump administration as it worked on the story.

    The investigator, Rod Wheeler, sued Fox for defamation. His lawsuit, filed Tuesday in New York, lays out an explosive tale of Trump allies conspiring to push a false story to take the pressure of the Russian collusion investigation off the president, and a news organization willing to show the president its story before it was published.

    Fox called the accusation that reporter Malia Zimmerman’s story was published to detract from the Russian investigation “completely erroneous.” Jay Wallace, Fox’s news president, said the story is still being investigated and that Fox has no evidence that Wheeler was misquoted.

    The White House had no immediate comment.

    Wheeler, a Fox contributor who looked into Rich’s July 2016 murder for the family, was brought into the case by Ed Butowsky, a Texas man and Trump supporter who appeared frequently on Fox, the lawsuit said. Butowsky was intent on establishing a link between Rich, who was killed in July 2016 in what Washington police believe was a botched robbery, and the WikiLeaks scandal.

    Wheeler was quoted in the May 16 story on Fox’s web site saying there had been contact between Rich and WikiLeaks, whose dump of DNC emails proved a major detriment to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He also said he was quoted falsely saying that someone — possibly Democrats or Clinton campaign officials — was blocking an investigation into Rich’s murder.

    Two days before the Fox article was published, Butowsky told Wheeler in a phone conversation that Trump had read the article and wanted it published immediately, the lawsuit said.

    Butowsky had no immediate comment.

    The story of Seth Rich’s death, and the baseless conspiracy that grew from it, is a story of how fake news spreads. From websites and online forums like Reddit to primetime cable TV, people claimed he was the source of the DNC emails about the Clinton campaign that WikiLeaks released last summer, giving Trump supporters fuel to discredit the investigation into Russian meddling. John Yang reports.

    Wheeler also claimed that he was told that his false comments were put in the story because Trump wanted it that way. Wheeler also said that he and Butowsky had met with former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and showed Spicer notes on Wheeler’s investigation. Spicer asked to be kept informed of the probe, the lawsuit said.

    Fox removed the story from its website a week after it was published, saying that “it was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all of our reporting.” That forced Fox News’ most high-profile host, Sean Hannity, to back away from aggressively pushing the story on the air.

    Wheeler, who is black and has been a Fox contributor since 2005, is also suing Fox for racial discrimination. He said similar law enforcement experts who are white were given higher pay and more opportunities. Wallace denied the accusations.

    WATCH: How a baseless conspiracy theory grew around Seth Rich’s murder

    The post Fox News coordinated with White House on false story, lawsuit says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Identity theft computer. Photo by Getty Images

    I would never surrender tax documents, my Social Security number or my passport until I have a bona fide offer in hand, advises Nick Corcodilos. Photo by Getty Images

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

    In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


    Question: I interviewed with a staffing company in March 2017. I was asked to fill out all the employment documents including an application, and I had to provide tax information. I gave them copies of my driver’s license and passport. I did the whole employment package. I was told I had been chosen for the position and that they were just waiting on confirmation and a face-to-face interview with the “right arm person” of the firm, whose place I would be taking.

    Now, four months have gone by, and every time I email the president of the staffing firm, he once again assures me that they want to hire me and are very interested. My last contact with him was a month ago. I have not heard anything else.

    READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: Why recruiters aren’t always good for the economy

    Should I contact them and tell them I’m no longer interested and to destroy my paperwork? I was extremely interested in the position to begin with. Now, after waiting all these months, I’m not so sure. However, they have all my paperwork. Thanks for any advice.

    Nick Corcodilos: People too easily confuse their “extreme interest” in a job with the real odds of getting it — which are small. That extreme interest often leads people to discount their reasonable doubts and to fall for possible scams. I’m not saying this is a scam, but it doesn’t smell good.

    Getting all this information from you in advance is their way of getting a big commitment from you, without one from them. I think that’s unethical, and frankly, it’s dangerous for you.

    There are two big problems (among many) with staffing firms. First, they want too much private information before they place you. I would never surrender tax documents, my Social Security number or my passport until I have a bona fide offer in hand. That means in writing with a firm start date. (See “How employers help scammers steal your Social Security number.”) They just don’t need such documentation until you are actually hired. Getting all this information from you in advance is their way of getting a big commitment from you, without one from them. I think that’s unethical, and frankly, it’s dangerous for you. Recruiting has become a popular vector for identity theft.

    Second, I’m always skeptical of any firm that starts a hiring process then keeps making excuses about how “we want to hire you,” but “it’s going to take longer.” It’s been four months. Do you really think these guys are serious? You have had no meetings with the actual employer, so you really know nothing about the company. (See “I’m still waiting for the job offer!”)

    I’d send the staffing firm a very strong letter demanding they destroy all your information, because you have no idea how they will use it. Did you research these guys? I’d check your credit card and bank accounts for possible problems, just to make sure. I’m not trying to scare you, but this just smells bad. Err on the side of caution.

    If you really get worried, it may be worth a small attorney’s fee to have a formal demand and warning letter sent to them.

    READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: 5 tips for avoiding terrible employers

    I know you want the job, but unfortunately, that’s not what determines the likelihood of getting it. What I’d do now is focus on your next opportunity. I would forget about these people unless and until they offer you something concrete.

    Please be careful. Use your good judgment. I wish you the best.

    Dear Readers: How would you advise this job seeker? How much private information do you tender before you’re hired? Has it worked out alright, or have you had any nightmarish experiences?


    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

    The post Ask the Headhunter: Did I give this staffing firm too much private information? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Different covers of Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” over time, which was originally published in 1955. Credit: From the book “Cover” by Peter Mendelsund, published by PowerHouse Books.

    “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins…”

    Since those provocative opening lines and its publication in 1955, Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” has shocked and captivated readers with its perversely brilliant tale of a middle-aged literature professor, Humbert Humbert, who becomes sexually involved with 12-year-old “Lolita” after seducing and marrying her widowed mother.

    Stories of the entanglements of older men and prepubescent girls have long found their way into literature and mythology, and yet “Lolita” is considered an utterly original work. For years, scholars have looked for Nabokov’s antecedents, and in 2005 German literary critic Michael Maar startled the literary world by arguing that Nabokov may have read and even stolen the plot of “Lolita” from an obscure 1916 German short story, also called “Lolita.”

    Despite a similar storyline, the German “Lolita” contained little of the beauty or inventiveness of Nabokov’s, and there is little proof that Nabokov, who did not speak German, could have known about the story. Nabokov scholar Brian Boyd said the comparison was widely considered “totally spurious.”

    Now, though, a comparative literature professor at Harvard University argues a closer, more interesting and plausible connection — that Nabokov may have been inspired by two works by surrealist painter Salvador Dali in the writing of “Lolita.”

    Delia Ungureanu is assistant director of the Institute for World Literature at Harvard University. While doing research on “dream literature,” she stumbled across a forgotten short story of Dali’s called “Reverie: An Erotic Daydream.” Published in 1931, a decade and a half before “Lolita,” “Reverie” traces the extended fantasy of a middle-aged painter (instead of a professor, like Humbert Humbert) who plans to seduce and violate a prepubescent girl after getting her middle-aged mother to fall in love with him. The girl is named, of all things, “Dullita.”

    Vladimir Nabokov, a Russian-American novelist and short story writer, who published “Lolita” in 1955. Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

    Ungureanu’s argument, which will be published in a forthcoming book, “From Paris to Tlön: Surrealism as World Literature,” does not stop with “Reverie.” While she posits that a plot similar to Nabokov’s “Lolita” is vulgarly sketched in “Reverie,” she sees the actual character of Lolita as inspired by Dali’s Dullita when she appears a second time, in a more poetic and realized form, in the surrealist’s memoir “The Secret Life of Salvador Dali.”

    Neither work is an entirely convincing parallel on its own, Ungureanu said, but seeing the two Dali writings beside “Lolita” is striking. Unlike Maar, Ungureanu is not making the case of theft, but instead of “creative exchange” between contemporaries.

    “Nabokov combines the bare plot of the old Dullita story with the poetic emotion of Dali’s mature account of Dullita, and this becomes his Lolita,” she said. “It’s an act of creative borrowing, reuse, and creative reimagination.”

    Ungureanu said that “detective criticism” like this can help people better understand the wider range of an author’s influences, because it starts with the the suspicion that a writer does not always “serve you on a tray their true sources.”

    Nabokov himself never suggested that he owed a debt to Dali, but some of his works contain a kind of surrealism (Humbert Humbert’s hallucinations in “Lolita,” or the dreamscape setting of his novel “Invitation to a Beheading.”) And Nabokov was certainly aware of Dali, whom he mentions by name in his novel “Pnin.”

    As additional evidence, Ungureanu notes that, unlike the obscure German short story, it is far more likely Nabokov would have actually read “Reverie” and “The Secret Life,” because the latter book was widely read, and because Nabokov ran in the same circles as Dali and other surrealists.

    (When Nabokov spent a few years in Paris, from 1937-1939, for example, he published in a world literature magazine called “Mesures,” for which surrealists such as Andre Breton and Paul Euard also wrote.)

    Dali’s “Reverie” was also originally published in another literary magazine called “Le surrealisme au service de la revolution,” which Ungureanu argues could be easily found in Paris bookstores at the time Nabokov was living there. And “The Secret Life” was reviewed by the New Yorker at the same time Nabokov was writing for the magazine.

    Boyd, the Nabokov scholar, and a professor of literature at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said he finds the connection plausible in part because it’s likely that Nabokov would have actually read Dali, but also because the Russian writer loved to take inspiration from many different places.

    “Nabokov used to say he liked to gather bits of straw and fluff for years before built his nest,” Boyd said. “And this could be an example of that.”

    There is one more convincing piece of evidence Ungureanu points to. It is a well-remembered scene from “Lolita,” in which Lolita shows Humbert Humbert a photo from a popular American magazine while sitting on his lap. The photo is described as showing a surrealist painter beside a plaster replica of a half-submerged bust of Venus de Milo. In the course of her research, Ungureanu discovered a photo of Dali, who once famously created an altered plaster of Venus de Milo, standing beside a half-submerged mannikin. The photo ran in LIFE Magazine in 1941:


    Credit: Eric Schaal / Getty Images

    Boyd said he had always assumed that the painter in the photo was meant to be Dali, though he added that no one had found a photo to match it until now.

    And Nabokov enjoyed leaving such “easter eggs” in his text for people to find, according to Tom Roberts, a professor of Russian studies at Smith College in Massachusetts. “He liked putting in extremely oblique references that people could be sent to track down in libraries,” he said.

    There is perhaps no way to definitively know if “Reverie” and “Secret Life,” influenced Nabokov. Little documentation survives of those few years Nabokov spent in Paris, and what he was reading at the time.

    But Ungureanu said she has no doubt Dali was an inspiration for “Lolita.”

    “Great writers belong to no national literature, they belong to the world,” she said. “Smart people are going to pick up smart things that speak to them.”

    Ungureanu’s “From Paris to Tlön: Surrealism as World Literature,” which tracks the hidden influence of surrealism on literature, will be published by Bloomsbury in November.

    The post Was Nabokov’s Lolita inspired by a little-known story by Salvador Dali? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    MOSCOW — Amid a major diplomatic retaliation unseen since the Cold War era, Russia urged the United States earlier this week to show the “political will” to repair ties.

    White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders may address the U.S. sanctions bill against Russia. Watch her remarks in the player above.

    President Vladimir Putin’s move to cut hundreds of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia underlines his readiness to raise the ante in the face of new sanctions approved by the U.S. Congress. The Russian leader warned that he has more tricks up his sleeve to hurt the U.S., but he voiced hope that he wouldn’t need to use them.

    WATCH: Putin’s retaliation for sanctions echoes Cold War tit-for-tat

    The post WATCH LIVE: Sanders may address U.S. relations with Russia in news briefing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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