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

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    An ambulance waits outside the emergency department at St Thomas' Hospital in central London, Britain May 12, 2017. Photo by Stefan Wermuth/REUTERS

    Acid is an appealing alternative to guns and knives for gang violence because it is an unrestricted substance: It is easy to get, and can be carried legally in large quantities without a license. Photo by Stefan Wermuth/REUTERS

    Acid attacks are a particularly disturbing type of violence in which an attacker throws corrosive liquid onto a victim. And they’re on the rise in London in recent years — so much so that medical professionals are now issuing guidance for how bystanders can intervene to limit victims’ suffering.

    That guidance, published Wednesday in the BMJ, reflects medial professionals’ increasing alarm over the attacks.

    According to the Metropolitan Police in London, there were 261 acid attacks in 2015 and 454 in 2016, and the number is on pace to be even higher in 2017.

    According to Dr. Johann Grundlingh, a consultant in emergency medicine at Barts Health NHS Trust in London who co-authored the editorial, acid is an appealing alternative to guns and knives for gang violence because it is an unrestricted substance: It is easy to get, and can be carried legally in large quantities without a license.

    “[Gangs] have picked up on the fact that they can carry around these very devastating weapons without any threat of law enforcement catching up with them unless they’re caught in the act,” Grundlingh said.

    READ MORE: Before EMTs arrive: training civilians to treat injuries after mass attacks

    Grundlingh said that the emergency department where he works sees at least one acid attack case per day.

    Grundlingh suspects the acid, often hydrochloric or sulfuric, is purchased online or made at home using online instructions. In a typical attack, the acid is carried in an acid-resistant squeeze bottle, and sprayed onto the victim’s face at close range. It immediately begins burning the skin and eyes, and the burns, similar to those that occur in a fire, can cause severe scarring or blindness.

    Victims who are gang members have told him that “the purpose is not to kill the other person, but to scar him, to disfigure him,” Grundlingh said — “so that he’ll always carry that very visual image of the fact that he’s been targeted, almost like a badge of shame.”

    The guidelines he and two other physicians wrote stress the need for urgent treatment with copious amounts of water. Grundlingh said bystanders mistakenly think that pouring a half-liter bottle of water over the burn is enough, when in fact it often takes over 10 gallons to sufficiently dilute the acid.

    How quickly and how thoroughly the acid is rinsed off makes an enormous difference.

    “We’ve seen people who have had highly concentrated acids thrown at them but they washed it off so quickly with a lot of water, that they only really end up with what looks like a bad sunburn,” Grundlingh said. “And then you get other people who have had a weaker acid on them, but they didn’t take it that seriously, they didn’t really wash it off effectively, and then they end up with quite severe scarring.”

    Once a victim is transported to the emergency department, doctors will continue to rinse the skin and eyes with large amounts of water until the acid has been neutralized, while administering pain medications and intravenous fluids to combat dehydration. A plastic surgeon may use skin grafts to minimize scarring in badly burned areas, and an ophthalmologist will attempt to prevent or reverse eye damage, though Grundlingh emphasized that “once the damage is done, it’s very, very difficult to repair.”

    And while Grundlingh and other medical professionals are working to educate the public about how to respond to an acid attack, the U.K. government is also weighing its options. The House of Commons met in July to begin discussing legislation around acid attacks, including whether purchasing and carrying acid without a license should be illegal, and how to create an action plan for reducing such attacks.

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on August 2, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post Acid attacks lead London emergency doctors to call for public awareness appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) departs from the Capitol Building for a briefing on North Korea at the White House, in Washington, U.S., April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTS1427I

    Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., introduced a bill Thursday along with Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s job. File photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

    Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Chris Coons, D-Del., introduced legislation Thursday that would protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s job, making it harder for him to be removed from the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible ties to the Trump campaign.

    What’s in the bill? Called the “Special Counsel Integrity Act,” the bipartisan legislation would allow a special counsel who gets fired to appeal the decision before a panel of federal judges. If the panel decides the removal was unwarranted, the special counsel would get reinstated.

    Why it matters: Senators from both sides of the aisle have expressed concern about reports that President Donald Trump had considered removing Mueller. Under current regulations, if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein fired Mueller at Mr. Trump’s request, the special counsel would have no legal pathway to challenge the removal. Rosenstein has said he would not fire Mueller without good cause, but a top Justice Department official under Rosenstein could choose to carry out Trump’s order. The bill would retroactively take effect May 17, the day Rosenstein appointed Mueller special counsel.

    A throwback to Watergate? Congress passed a law after the Watergate scandal that created the special prosecutor role, and gave the position significant independence from the executive branch. Under the law, a special prosecutor could not be removed by the Department of Justice at the president’s request. Congress allowed the law to lapse in the late 1990s, however, and it has not been reauthorized. Today, the special counsel role falls under federal regulations and has less independence. The Tillis-Coons bill would bring the investigation more in line with the post-Watergate system.

    Bipartisan warning to Trump: The bill sends a strong message to Trump from Republicans and Democrats alike: Don’t remove Mueller. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey are also working on a similar bill.

    Tillis says: “It is critical that special counsels have the independence and resources they need to lead investigations.”

    Coons says: “Our constitutional order depends on a system of checks and balances, grounded in the fundamental premise that no one is above the law. Ensuring that the special counsel cannot be removed improperly is critical to the integrity of his investigation.”

    Will it pass? It’s too early to tell. The Senate and House would both need to pass a version of the legislation, and Trump would have to sign it into law. Even if this doesn’t reach the floor, it increases pressure on Trump not to interfere with Mueller’s investigation.

    The post Can Congress protect special counsel Mueller from being fired? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A woman leaves the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in New York on Aug. 15, 2012. File photo by Keith Bedford/Reuters

    A woman leaves the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in New York on Aug. 15, 2012. File photo by Keith Bedford/Reuters

    Editor’s note: Yesterday, President Donald Trump announced his support for the RAISE Act, a bill that, if passed, would radically change the U.S. immigration system to favor skilled workers over those seeking family reunification. It’s a “points” system of the sort currently used by Canada and Australia. Jennifer Hunt, a professor of economics at Rutgers and former chief economist at the Department of Labor, has studied the U.S. immigration system and its effects on the U.S. economy extensively. We are publishing her memo on a points-based system in collaboration with EconoFact, a nonpartisan economic publication to which she regularly contributes.

    — Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e editor

    The issue

    President Trump has praised the immigration systems of Australia and Canada, which prioritize skilled immigrants through a system of points, referring to them as “merit”-based systems. According to President Trump, replacing the American system with a points system would increase wages of natives and earlier immigrants and provide great savings to the taxpayer. Proponents of a points system promote it as a technocratic approach to choosing immigrants that enhances a country’s economy in a way that systems with less direct government involvement in the selection of immigrants do not.

    Could the U.S. benefit from adopting such a system? And which immigrants benefit the United States?

    Graph courtesy EconoFact

    The Facts

    • Under the current U.S. immigration system, approximately 1 million foreign-born people are granted legal permanent residence, also known as “green cards,” each year. There are four main avenues for obtaining a green card: family sponsorship, a job offer from a U.S. employer, humanitarian reasons and selection via a green-card lottery (see this report for details). The vast majority of annual green cards are awarded on the basis of family ties with U.S. residents, with only 140,000, about 14 percent, awarded on the basis of employment (that is, a job offer).
    • It is important to consider people who enter the country on temporary visas as well. At any given point, there are many people on temporary visas influencing the economy. About half of new green card recipients are people who are already present in the United States who transition from temporary visas to permanent resident status (see the graph above). This matters because the selection process for temporary visas is different from that of permanent residents. Unlike green cards, few temporary visas go to relatives of U.S. residents. Among temporary visas in 2016, the large categories were for students (513,000 F and M visas); workers with a job offer and their dependents (700,000 H and L visas); and exchange visitors, many of whom work (380,000 J visas). (See here for a complete rundown.) Many of the work-related temporary visas are issued to unskilled workers, such as the 134,000people with agricultural H-2A visas. Temporary visa holders may transition to a family-based green card if they marry a U.S. permanent resident or citizen, which blurs the distinction between foreign-born individuals qualifying to live in the United States on the basis of education, employment or family.
    • The U.S. government influences the skill mix of immigrants through the design of visa categories, but does not choose the individuals entering within those categories. Employers tend to play a more direct role in the selection process for individual applicants. For example, companies submit applications for 85,000 H-1B temporary work visas reserved for workers with at least college degree, and a lottery is used when there are excess applications.
    • The core of a points system is that the government draws up a set of desirable characteristics for immigrants, weights the characteristics by assigning differing numbers of points to each, and chooses a threshold number of total points. It then admits or prioritizes prospective immigrants with points higher than the threshold. (See here for a detailed description of how a points system works in practice). Australia, New Zealand and Canada have long used some form of points system to favor immigrants with more education and experience, while other countries such as the United Kingdom have established one more recently. There is some evidence that skilled immigration is more popular among Americans than unskilled immigration, hence a points system favoring skilled immigration might be viewed more positively in the United States.
    • No country admits immigrants exclusively through the points system. In addition to the economic class of immigrants admitted through the points system, Canada also admits immigrants on the basis of family ties and for humanitarian reasons. The impact of a points system depends on its scope in addition to the criteria used for points. For example, if the United States were to introduce a points system, it would have a much smaller impact if applied only to those green cards and temporary visas that are already employment-based than if the share that are employment-based were also greatly expanded.
    • One advantage of a points system is that it can select immigrants who will earn more and make higher net contributions to the government. Evidence from Canada indeed shows that immigrants arriving through the points system have higher education, employment rates and earnings than immigrants admitted through other channels and are therefore likely to make higher net contributions to the government (though there is no direct evidence linking immigration selection criteria and government contributions).
    • However, there is some evidence that immigrants selected on the points system perform less well in the labor market than one would expect. College-educated immigrants to Canada earn only high-school level wages and do not innovate more than natives, unlike college-educated immigrants to the United States. The reasons why highly educated immigrants perform comparatively less well in Canada than in the United States are not well understood. It is possible that the role that employers play in selecting immigrants to the United States could be a factor. There is some evidence that U.S. employers do a good job in selecting foreign workers. In my research on college graduates, I have found that those entering the United States on temporary work visas earn much more than natives and produce a higher number of patents; they also outperform those who enter on green cards, who are presumably mostly sponsored by relatives. Recognizing that employer involvement may be important for selecting the most productive immigrants, New Zealand, Australia and Canada have amended their points systems to prioritize immigrants who both pass a threshold of points and are selected by employers.
    • Furthermore, the effect of immigration on the host economy is not limited to innovation and the budgetary impact of immigrants. The United States can also benefit from unskilled immigration. The greatest benefits accrue to natives when the immigrants are most different from natives, and the labor market becomes more efficient as workers specialize increasingly in the tasks they do best. Thus, both flows of extremely skilled and extremely unskilled immigrants should benefit the United States.
    • But theory does not predict that everyone in the host economy gains. A consensus report published by the National Academies in 2017 found that while data evidence shows U.S. immigration does not affect average wages of the native-born, it does reduce wages of the shrinking group of native high-school dropouts. While there is no direct evidence on how a points system affects the impact of immigration, if the system favors skilled immigrants, the impact on native high-school dropouts should be reduced, albeit possibly at the cost of reducing the wages of skilled natives.

    What this means

    There are pros and cons to a points system favoring skilled workers. It is likely that immigrants’ economic contribution to the United States is greater under a system with a major role for employers, and it is not clear on either theoretical or empirical grounds that this is best done through a points system. The U.S. economy will gain most from immigration if low-skilled immigrants continue to be admitted, with or without a points system. However, this has less desirable distributional consequences than a system focusing on skilled immigration, which is less likely to have a negative impact on the wages of less-skilled native workers.

    The post Analysis: Would the U.S. benefit from a merit-based immigration system? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Weeknight meals get an unfair rap of being dull and boring. But in our interview last month, Ina Garten said her mustard roasted fish proves you can have a simple but delicious meal any day of the week. This recipe will get dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes. Watch the recipe and read instructions below.



    Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

    Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. (You can also use an ovenproof baking dish.) Place the fish fillets skin side down on the sheet pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

    Combine the creme fraiche, both mustards, shallots, capers, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Spoon the sauce evenly over the fish fillets, making sure the fish is completely covered. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until it’s barely done. (The fish will flake easily at the thickest part when it’s done.) Be sure not to overcook it! Serve hot or at room temperature with the sauce from the pan spooned over the top.

    Reprinted from Cooking for Jeffrey. Copyright © 2016 by Ina Garten. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers,  an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.


    The post WATCH: Why Ina Garten says this easy mustard roasted fish is the perfect weeknight meal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Illustration by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

    Illustration by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

    Asteroids are more than just dinosaur missiles. They’re the remaining clues to the birth of the solar system.

    The solar system’s origins have been a point of controversy among planetary scientists. But, an international team tipped the debate Thursday in Science with the discovery of one of the oldest known asteroid families. Their work uncovers how some of the first asteroids formed 4 billion years ago and point to how planets like Earth came to be.

    “This family is like a big missing piece of a puzzle that we found,” Marco Delbo, a planetary scientist at the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur in Nice, France, and the study’s lead investigator, said.

    In 2012, Delbo and his team launched an asteroid belt treasure hunt. They wanted to learn as much as possible about dark asteroid families — fragments from asteroid collisions that tend to orbit as a collection — in the region of the belt closest to Earth and Mars. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission will visit this region, when it stops at the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and collects a sample. Bennu is almost certainly a member of one of these dark asteroid families, Delbo said.

    Because smaller chunks of asteroids drift from the point of collision faster than larger pieces do, these asteroid families become shaped like the letter “V.” Smaller pieces spread out far and wide from the original impact site, while larger fragments remain condensed at the point. The legs of the V can resemble the straight wings of a swift or the narrow angle of a vulture in flight.

    Older asteroid families are harder to find, but this V signature can expose the age of these clusters. The longer it’s been since the initial collision, the more time smaller pieces have had to spread out into the belt. But this pattern also makes it more difficult to know which pieces belong to a certain family.

    Delbo and his team focused on the inner side of the asteroid belt, the one closer to Mars. Then, rather than looking at all of the asteroids in this region, they narrowed their search to dark, carbon-rich asteroids, which are not as common as bright asteroids in this part of the belt.

    Using this specific homing method, Delbo and his team identified a collection of asteroids with a unique V-shape, a new family. Given the angle of this family’s V-shaped leg, they estimate this primordial asteroid family is 4 billion years old.

    “We discovered this family that is more ancient than anything we know,” Delbo said.

    The OSIRIS-REx probe is headed to Bennu, a roughly spherical asteroid measuring about 1,614 feet (492 meters) in diameter. Photo by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

    The OSIRIS-REx probe is headed to Bennu, a roughly spherical asteroid measuring about 1,614 feet (492 meters) in diameter. Photo by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

    They double checked their discovery by paging through old science papers. Members of an asteroid family, which originate from a single asteroid, have similar traits, like how dark or bright they are. Their curation found every astral body in the new family looked alike.

    Beyond the edge of the newly identified family, however, is a void. A few orphan asteroids populate this area.

    “This is the holy grail of the asteroids,” Delbo said. These orphans must have formed in different manner than those that belong to the new family. The orphans are the original settlers, the report found, they existed in the inner belt before anything else.

    These orphan asteroids are large, ranging from 21 to around 93 miles across. Their size matches up with predictions from theoretical models of how large original asteroids might have been 4 billion years ago, when they initially formed.

    Their size suggests the solar system was likely formed by gravitational collapse, according to a recent proposal from the Max Planck Institute. This hypothesis posits that the solar system began 4.5 billion years ago with grains of space dust that pooled into eddies. After half a billion years, gravity had rapidly pulled them together into large objects, around 62 miles in diameter. In the past, people thought this space dust had aggregated over a much longer period of time to create the myriad-sized objects in the solar system.

    Delbo’s study provides evidence for the Max Planck Institute’s gravitational collapse hypothesis by suggesting the oldest asteroids started out large, and then became smaller through collisions and other destructive forces happening in the ancient solar system. Planetary scientists have been debating this hypothesis for nearly a decade.

    “It’s strong evidence, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle,” Francesca DeMeo, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was not involved in the study, said. “It’s probably not the final say in asteroid sizes.”

    In particular, DeMeo points out that Delbo and his team were looking at one type of asteroid family — the dark asteroids on the inner side of the belt. Whether their results can also apply to bright asteroids or dark asteroids found in other regions of the asteroid belt remains to be seen.

    For Delbo’s part, he dreams of tying his discoveries of the asteroid belt to the piece of Bennu due to be delivered by OSIRIS-REx. He is also grateful for the scientists who came before him and without whom his discovery would not have been possible.

    The post This ancient asteroid family reveals clues about the birth of the solar system appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is surrounded by reporters as he departs a Senate Republican caucus meeting about an expected unveiling of Senate Republicans' revamped proposal to replace Obamacare health care legislation at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. July 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX3BCQ6

    U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., sponsoerd legislation Thursday that would suspend U.S. financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority until it ends what lawmakers said is a long-standing practice of rewarding Palestinians who kill Americans and Israelis. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

    WASHINGTON — A Senate committee approved legislation Thursday that would suspend U.S. financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority until it ends what lawmakers said is a long-standing practice of rewarding Palestinians who kill Americans and Israelis.

    Members of the Republican-led Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 17-4 to pass the measure, sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and the committee chairman, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

    Corker said the Palestinian Authority has “enshrined in law” a system that creates a monetary incentive for acts of terrorism by paying monthly stipends of as much as $3,500 to Palestinians who commit acts of violence and to their families. The amount of the payment depends on the length of the jail sentence they receive for the crime, he said.

    “This is sick,” Corker said.

    Husam Zomlot, chief representative of the Palestinian General Delegation to the U.S., called the legislation “misinformed and counterproductive.” He disputed Corker’s assessment of what he described as a 52-year old program “to support families who lost their breadwinners to the atrocities of the occupation, the vast majority of whom are unduly arrested or killed by Israel.”

    Palestinians have argued that ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem — lands Palestinians seek for their state — is key to defeating terrorism.

    “The program has served a social and security need to provide for our people, guarantee a better future for the children and protect the needy from the many radical groups around us,” Zomlot said in an emailed statement.

    The bill is named for Taylor Force, an MBA student at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and a West Point graduate who was visiting Israel in March 2016 when he was stabbed to death by a Palestinian. Force was from Lubbock, Texas. His parents live in South Carolina.

    Graham said the Palestinian Authority praised Force’s killer as a “heroic martyr” and he’s termed the payments “pay to slay.” He estimated that the Palestinian Authority has made $144 million in what he described as “martyr payments.”

    MORE: 50 years later, a reporter recalls the 6-Day War – and the Israeli-Palestinian tensions that remain

    “So if you’re a young Palestinian the best thing maybe you can do for your family in terms of income streams is to be terrorist,” Graham said. “That’s inconsistent with peace.”

    The Trump administration’s budget request for fiscal 2018 includes roughly $260 million for economic development and law enforcement programs in the West Bank and Gaza. The internationally backed Palestinian Authority has tightened its grip in the West Bank since losing control of the Gaza Strip to the Islamic militant group Hamas a decade ago.

    “Assistance in the West Bank and Gaza remains critical to advancing the United States’ long-standing national security priority of achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace,” according to a State Department budget documents.

    A December report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said that since the mid-1990s the U.S. has committed more than $5 billion in economic and nonlethal security assistance to the Palestinians. The United States has, since 2015, cut foreign aid to the Palestinians by the same amount its government has spent on the payments for acts of terrorism.

    But the legislation cleared by the committee would go a step further, a move that concerned several Democrats. They said they agreed with the intent of the bill, but feared withholding critically needed foreign aid would accelerate the problems in the West Bank and Gaza.

    “There’s poverty, there are a lot of checkpoints, there’s hopelessness,” said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.

    Before foreign aid can resume, the State Department would be required to certify to Congress that the Palestinian Authority has terminated the payments for acts of terrorism and has revoked any law or decree that allows a compensation system for imprisoned Palestinians, according to the bill.

    The committee agreed to adjust the legislation so that the aid payments would go into an escrow account that could be accessed once the laws establishing the prisoner payments are revoked. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., had argued the Palestinian Authority would have greater motivation to change if it knew the money had not been cut off completely.

    The post Senate committee moves to suspend U.S. aid to Palestinians appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Mary Bok, Camden, Maine.
    Mary Bok, Camden, Maine.

    On New Years’ Eve 2010, as Tanja Hollander wrote a letter to a friend deployed to Afghanistan while also instant messaging with a friend in Jakarta, she marveled at the different kinds of connections available in the digital age. She also began to wonder, she told NewsHour recently, “what Facebook had done to corporatize friendship but also bring friends together.”

    So Hollander, who is a photographer, decided to explore what friendship means in the age of social media by meeting and photographing every one of her 626 Facebook friends. It’s an experiment that took her around the world, and has raised as many questions for her as answers.

    Among her Facebook connections were close friends, loose acquaintances, and people she had never actually met in real life. In meeting them, she said, “I had wonderful experiences with people I was not really close to, and not-so-great experiences with people I was really close to” — evidence that digital and physical friendships differ.

    Hollander decided to photograph every person inside his or her home, surrounded by the people and objects they lived with every day.

    “Photographing people in their homes … that was me trying to understand what a friend was,” she said. “Because to me, the home is as important to defining who you are as any kind of emotional definition. You were introduced to their friends and their families. You saw what books or art they had, or lack of books or art. The little objects they surround themselves with.”

    Hollander’s photographs are now on display at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, along with physical ephemera from her travels, including boarding passes, maps people drew to send her to coffee shops, tickets, printouts of emails, and notes people left behind.

    “I wanted to say: Pay attention to these objects you get and pay attention to these friends,” she said.

    As the project progressed, and Hollander continued to travel around the world, she also began asking people to tell her their definition of a real friend. Responses, which she collected on Post-Its, ranged from the expected (“trustworthy” and “there for me”) to the very specific (a person who buys a flight home the moment they learn of a death in your family).

    A Post-It note response to Hollander's question: What is a real friend to you?

    A Post-It note response to Hollander’s question: What is a real friend to you?

    In the end, Hollander said, she decided that “alarmist headlines” about social media degrading friendships were overblown and that Facebook was just another way to connect. But when asked about her definition of friendship, she says it’s one that exists very much in the physical realm.

    “I decided what a real friend to me was someone you could share a meal with and drink too much red wine and argue with art or politics,” she said, “and still be friends in the morning.”

    See more of Hollander’s photos below, or at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MOCA), where they are on display until January. NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown recently visited the museum to take a look at Hollander’s art and other exhibits. His report airs on NewsHour tonight.


    Derek Jackson, Portland, Maine.

    Colin Dusenbury & Thaddeus Herrick, Los Angeles, California.
    Colin Dusenbury & Thaddeus Herrick, Los Angeles, California.

    Jonas Minh Leon and Shanti Anya, Auckland, New_Zealand.

    Jonas Minh Leon and Shanti Anya, Auckland, New_Zealand.

    All photos courtesy of Tanja Hollander.

    The post This photographer took pictures of every one of her Facebook friends to understand friendship in the digital age appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Donald Trump gave a rallying cry at a campaign event Thursday night in Huntington, West Virginia, as the state’s Democratic governor, Jim Justice, announecd he was joining the GOP.

    Democrats “can continue their obsession with the Russian hoax or they can serve the interests of the American people,” Trump said after Justice’s announcement. “Try winning at the voting booth.”

    In the small city along the banks of the Ohio River, whose 49,000 residents have been hard-hit by the opioid crisis and job losses, Trump blasted the investigations into possible ties between Russia and his 2016 campaign, “fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most of all demeaning to our country and demeaning to our Constitution.”

    Earlier in that day, news broke that special counsel Robert Mueller had convened a grand jury as part of the federal probe into Russia.

    What we know ― and what we don’t ― about Mueller’s grand jury

    Huntington has captured national attention in recent years for its staggering number of opioid overdoses — in one case, 26 overdoses in a few hours. As the opioid epidemic unfolds, the region has dealt with deep job cuts in the coal industry and many residents are struggling to find work. Nearly 68 percent of the state supported Trump in the 2016 election; in Cabell County, where Huntington is located, 59 percent of voters supported him.

    The New York Times, in breaking the news about Justice’s possible party switch, notes that the governor has previously been a registered member of both parties and also an independent.

    Earlier this week, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which Trump established by executive order in March and is chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, asked that the president declare a national state of emergency to usher in a more urgent response to the country’s fight against this public health crisis. In 2016, an estimated 59,000 people died after overdosing from opioids, according to data analysis from a New York Times.

    The post WATCH: Trump blasts Democrats, Russia investigations at campaign rally in Huntington, West Virginia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

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

    Tonight, we hear from Christopher Ategeka. The Ugandan-born entrepreneur founded Health Access Corps. It’s a nonprofit that aims to combat the shortage of health care professionals in sub-Saharan Africa.

    CHRISTOPHER ATEGEKA, Health Access Corps: If you look at the United States, the doctor-patient ratio is about one doctor for every 390 people.

    But if you look at a country like Uganda, my home country, the doctor-patient ratio is one doctor for every 24,000 people. I see myself in these people all the time, because, at one point, I was them.

    I was raised by a deaf-mute grandmother. My father and mother both died of HIV and AIDS. And my brother died of malaria before his fifth birthday.

    I got an opportunity, through one of those send-an-orphan-to-school programs. You have seen a lot of programs around the world where you send a couple dollars across the globe to help an orphan. They go to school, and, you know, for you on the other side, you hope their life is somehow better.

    And, for me, my program that supported me, it offered a little more than just sending me to a local school. It said, we will send you to college.

    Being born in the rural parts of Uganda, and raised there, and seeing the devastating effects of not having health care access, there was no better place for me to apply my engineering talent than help individuals access quality health care.

    We are a nonprofit organization that recruits newly graduated doctors, nurses, and midwives, and places them to work in underserved regions. It all started with the problem of brain drain of health care professionals on the African continent.

    What we have learned is, no one wants to leave their food, their culture, their language, their family to go work elsewhere if they can find a job with the same conditions locally.

    And if you look at the global health systems, they spend a lot of time and money and resources sending medical volunteers to go work in developing countries on short-term missions. And they have good intentions.

    But if we could spend a small amount of that money and those resources, and empower the locally trained professionals to serve their own communities, in their own countries, we could have, you know, an exponential impact.

    I grew up in that environment. I know what it means not to have. You know, I wore my first pair of shoes when I was in my late teens. Being in the position that I’m in now of privilege to come back and help, there’s no better place to be for me.

    My name is Christopher Ategeka. And this is my Brief But Spectacular take on providing health care access for all.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can watch more of our Brief But Spectacular episodes online at pbs.org/newshour/brief.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The recent expansion of an art museum in Western Massachusetts has made it one of the nation’s largest museums for contemporary art. The exhibition space has grown to more than 250,000 square feet, a huge showcase for modern creativity.

    As Jeffrey Brown reports, it is also a case study in reviving old industrial towns.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In James Turrell’s work, as the title promises, you can literally walk into the light.

    Tanja Hollander presents nearly 6,000 images exploring friendship in the age of Facebook.

    Laurie Anderson’s large-scale charcoal drawings fill a gallery.

    The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, known as MASS MoCA, is a big space for big art. It first opened in 1999 in an old industrial factory in North Adams, a small town in the Berkshire Mountains, and made a name for itself by commissioning and exhibiting works by many leading modern masters, including the sculptor Nick Cave, who filled this enormous with, among much else, 12,000 spinners suspended from wire cables.

    JOE THOMPSON, Director, MASS MoCa: It’s grand. It’s a football field in length.

    MASS MoCA’s director, Joe Thompson walked me through it.

    JOE THOMPSON: It’s a challenging space. It’s a lovely, beautifully proportioned space. We love the fact that it has light streaming in from both sides.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You pick the artist, but then you don’t know what that artist is going to do with the space?

    JOE THOMPSON: I think that’s — and that’s the joy of this space.

    We pick our collaborators, then give the artist a lot of rope, a lot of latitude, a lot of time, and the help that they ask for.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The exhibitions here can be long-term, really long-term, 25 years in the case of this gallery dedicated to the wall drawings of Sol LeWitt.

    A big part of the story here is the art, of course. But the walls, the paint, the architecture, well, they tell a different story too, one about American industry, a changing culture, and historic preservation.

    MASS MoCA was created from a shuttered network of 26 19th century brick buildings, at the confluence of two branches of the Hoosic River. It was an industrial powerhouse in a region known since colonial times for its manufacturing, everything from shoes to machinery.

    From 1860 to 1942, the plant housed the Arnold Print Works, a textile manufacturer. That was followed by Sprague Electric Company, which built components for televisions, weapons and more, and was by far the largest employer in town, some 5,000 jobs in a total population of 20,000.

    JOHN SPRAGUE, Former President, Sprague Electric: People used to call it Sprague Town, because if you wanted to get a job in North Adams, you went to work for Sprague or someone who was a local contractor for Sprague, so absolutely dominated the local economy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: John Sprague, the company’s last CEO, says he and his family closed the factory in 1985 due to labor disputes and competition from abroad.

    Today, he walks through his old plant with a bit of wonder.

    JOHN SPRAGUE: This building was falling apart, and if something hadn’t gone in, it would eventually have been — just fallen apart, have been absolutely devastating.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Signs of the old are everywhere, most notably in the Boiler House. Rusting away, with a soundtrack added, it’s a kind of artwork in itself.

    Museum director Thompson worked with the design firm Bruner/Cott.

    JOE THOMPSON: Layers of paint, worn floors.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And you kept it?

    JOE THOMPSON: We kept it. It’s beautiful, for one. Where are you going to get something that beautiful? And, on one hand, it marks time. There’s no designer willfulness in it. It’s what came with the building.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Some of the artists here play directly to this idea of making something new from the old.

    Lonnie Holley, who uses everyday found materials, is paired with Dawn DeDeaux, who features a wrecking ball, in an exhibit that tapes into the MASS MoCA concept, all the way to the idea of renewing earth itself.

    DAWN DEDEAUX, Artist: The work, I think you find in Lonnie’s work and mine, there’s a lot of destruction, reconstruction, considering those types of possible inevitable losses.

    LONNIE HOLLEY, Artist: We are taking all of these things and we are turning them into glamorous works of art. This is beautiful. This is like heaven. We called it…

    JEFFREY BROWN: This building, this museum.

    LONNIE HOLLEY: We called it Holy MoCA for a minute, didn’t we? We called it Holy MoCA.



    JEFFREY BROWN: The museum might be a new kind of shrine, but can it be more? The original promise of MASS MoCA was ambitious: to anchor a new local economy around culture and tourism.

    One local we met has seen the transition up close and personal. Missy Parisien heads security at the museum.

    Long ago, her mother, Dolores, worked for Sprague Electric.

    Do people in your family, people in the town kind of get that this can be an economic engine? Do they see it that way?

    MISSY PARISIEN, MASS MoCA: My family? Yes. My family, yes. They’re all about new things and bringing new things to the city, yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But other people were a little skeptical.

    MISSY PARISIEN: Not so much, yes.

    Even now, it’s still — it’s difficult to get through to the people of North Adams what exactly it is we have here. And I used to be one of those people, too, until I started working here seven years ago.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Many years in, MASS MoCA director Joe Thompson believes the economy here has finally turned upward. But it’s been a slow process, beginning at the most basic level of jobs.

    JOE THOMPSON: So, you’re talking about, you know, maybe 500 vs. 5,000, a 10th of the labor pool. On the other hand lots of people visit.

    I think we will have probably something like 200,000 people visit this year. And they obviously stay and spend time and money, and that generates a lot of economic activity. But it’s a completely different economic reality now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: At 87, John Sprague has seen it all in this area, and he’s written a book about its history, with the subtitle “Creation, Disruption, and Renewal in the Northern Berkshires.”

    JOHN SPRAGUE: MASS MoCA is certainly the prime example of renewal. And without MASS MoCA, believe me, there’d be nothing. I don’t think there’d be anything left of North Adams. That’s — the question is, is that enough? And that’s the story all over the United States.

    It’s not just the story of Sprague Electric or Arnold Print Works or — that’s a manufacturing in the United States problem.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And another question, whether art, culture and tourism can be a solution.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There is no question health care has commanded the spotlight recently on Capitol Hill, but waiting in the wings, an issue equally important to Republicans. And that one is arguably even harder to solve. It’s tax reform.

    Our Lisa Desjardins is here to walk us through where efforts stand.

    Lisa, you have been spending a lot of time looking at this. Who has been pushing this, who is working on it, and what do they want to accomplish?

    LISA DESJARDINS: First point, Judy. This is a process very different than health reform, than health care.

    First of all, let’s look at who Republicans are using right now, who is determining this. It is the big six leaders. That means two leaders from the White House, the treasury secretary and also the president’s national economic adviser, then Leader McConnell in the Senate, as well as the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and then Speaker Ryan himself and his tax-writing chairman.

    Here is what they came out with in the last week, an idea that they say they want to lower rates for individuals and businesses. And they also want to simplify our large tax code. We hear that a lot, fewer brackets, but also fewer deductions.

    So, it’s not clear who wins or loses yet, but the White House has come up with a little bit more specifics. They have said they want to cut the corporate rate from 35 percent to 15 percent.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it’s not clear, you’re saying, yet who the winner — who is a winner and who is a loser, what income brackets stand to gain or lose?


    And I think that’s why we’re talking about it tonight. It is very important that people start paying attention now, because they are starting to make these decisions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So this is a massive undertaking. I happen to remember tax reform back in 1986, a long time ago. It takes a long time. It’s complicated. Do they really hope to get this done by the end of the year?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Well, as you remember, in 1986, it took almost a year for President Reagan to do that. And that was with the help of Democrats.

    They only have a few months left. And they want to get this done by the end of 2017. Let’s whip out the calender and see how that could possibly happen. Here is what Republicans are hoping happens. In September, they’re hoping the House can pass a tax reform bill.

    Then, sometime in October or in November, they would hand it over to the Senate. They are hoping that is when the Senate would pass its tax reform bill. You see that there.

    Now, here is another problem, though, Judy. Look back at September. At the end of September, they have got to fund all of government, also have to pass a debt ceiling increase, and, oh, by the way there is still talk of passing a health care stabilization bill or Affordable Care Act bill.

    That is an incredibly crowded calender. And on top of all of that, Judy, to even get to tax reform, they have to pass a budget. And so far, the House Republicans have not found the votes for that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And none of that is simple, as you suggest.

    So let’s talk about the money. I believe you were telling me they want this to be revenue-neutral. They don’t want it to raise the deficit. But there was income — there is money they were counting on this year that hasn’t materialized.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right. They thought they would get money perhaps from an idea from House Republicans, which was to increase an import tax, a border adjustment tax. That is off the table because it ended up being too unpopular.

    Also thought they would get nearly a trillion dollars from health care reform. That doesn’t look like it will happen. That was all money they were going to use to cut taxes. So, without that money, where do they find the tax cut money so that they don’t raise the deficit?

    It’s a big question. And one consideration right now is perhaps to cut mandatory programs, like Social Security and Medicare.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, just backing off of this a little, for Republicans, why is this important? Do they know what they want to accomplish here at the core? And what are Democrats saying about all this?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Republicans see this as about the economy and jobs.

    I think a good sound bite to listen to is this Senator John Thune, who is leadership on the Senate side. He said this on Tuesday.

    SEN. JOHN THUNE, R-S.D.: We think that tax reform really needs to be built around the idea of economic growth. We get greater growth in our economy, it creates better-paying jobs, higher wages, provide tax relief for middle-class families in country, simplify the code.

    LISA DESJARDINS: It’s interesting. Democrats don’t dispute that. They also want economic growth. They want people’s taxes lower.

    They say they are willing to work on this, but they have some requirements, Judy. They don’t want a tax cut for the wealthy. They also say no cuts to Medicare or Social Security in tax reform. Those are areas where they clearly seem to disagree.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, again, looking at the calendar, today is August the 3rd.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: When should people start paying serious attention to all this?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Well, I think already we have seen this week the Koch brothers and their organization have rolled out their effort to push for tax reform, also seen Speaker Ryan. Next week, we will see an important speech by the Ways and Means chairman, Kevin Brady, in California.

    But, Judy, my advice is, I think, September is the time to really pay attention. If the House can get something moving in September, then this is a real effort. If they get sort of stuck on the rocks, then they have got a real timeline problem. So, there’s three weeks of September.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins following it all at the Capitol for us, thank you.

    LISA DESJARDINS: My pleasure.

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    On the right plate, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae is able to grow even in the presence of antibiotics. Photo by CDC

    On the right plate, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae is able to grow even in the presence of antibiotics. Photo by CDC.

    Editor’s note: Last night on the PBS NewsHour, science correspondent Miles O’Brien kicked off NewsHour’s special, and especially scary, series on the advent of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This evening, in part two of the series, economics correspondent Paul Solman explores the economic impediments to creating new drugs.

    One of the researchers Paul spoke with for the series is John Rex, a former executive at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, in charge of developing new antibiotics. Dr. Rex talked about the growing concerns around antibacterial resistance and why so many companies, like his erstwhile employer, have stopped trying to create new drugs. Tune in to tonight’s Making Sen$e report for the full story of market failure. On Friday, we’ll continue the special series with a Making Sen$e NewsHour report on alternative ways to finance antibiotic development. And Paul and Miles will be back on the air next week to report on the antibiotic-resistance problem down on the farm.

    The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

    PAUL SOLMAN: How worried are you?

    JOHN REX: I am actually quite terrified by the problem of any antibacterial resistance. There are things out there even now for which we don’t really have anything. If one of those got loose, and it was a food-borne infection, we could see chaos.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Really? When you say chaos, you mean hundreds of deaths?

    JOHN REX: It could be. You can easily imagine the scenario in which some milk gets contaminated or a vegetable is contaminated with a bacterium that is highly resistant and difficult to get rid of, and it could spread to tens of thousands of cases. The way our food chain works these days, it’s entirely possible, and little outbreaks like that occur regularly. You may recall a few years ago there was a story about bean sprouts in Europe where there were people dying of internal hemorrhagic renal failure due to a bacterium. Imagine if that had been one for which there wasn’t a drug. So it’s that kind of thing that is really quite spooky. Then there are common bacteria like E. coli that routinely cause infections, and we expect to be able to treat them reasonably efficiently. Were we to have an outbreak of one of those, we would really be struggling.

    “Infections are spooky, because they kill you … Most adults today have never seen someone die from an untreatable infection.”

    PAUL SOLMAN: This may sound like an outlandish question, but I’m going to ask it anyway. In the next five years, what odds would you give that a truly terrible outbreak of a drug-resistant bacterium would occur?

    JOHN REX: Relatively low odds of a major outbreak, but were it to occur, it would have a very significant impact. And I think you also have to put it into context with the scare factor that occurs around something like this. You may recall the anthrax episodes [15] years ago. There were far more people who were worried than were sick. But the worried also jam up the system and create a case in which people need to be taken care of or need to at least be seen. So it’s both the primary and secondary effects of the threat of infections. You know infections are spooky, because they kill you. And we’re just not used to having that sort of thing occur. Most adults today have never seen someone die from an untreatable infection. That’s a good thing. It used to be a pretty common occurrence, but we just don’t see it, and we don’t want to see it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And we panic if we do see it.

    JOHN REX: I think we do.

    PAUL SOLMAN: What’s happening in the pharmaceutical world with regard to developing antibiotics?

    JOHN REX:The pharmaceutical industry has really gone through a long period of low productivity in this area. There are a lot of causes which we could talk about, but the net effect was that most of the companies that were really doing the large-scale development work backed away, and the amount of effort going into finding really new kinds of antibiotics really fell off dramatically. The total number of companies that were actively working in this area in 2014 and 2015 was about the same as in 1960. It went up, and then it went down.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Why did it go up?

    JOHN REX: Well, it went up because there was a period of time when it was possible to invent the next antibiotic reasonably efficiently. There was still chemical space to be explored. For example, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillins in the ’30s, really 1929, but in the ’30s and ’40s, and we spent 40 or 50 years mining the penicillins. There’s always the next better one to make. But you reach a point with most chemical series where it’s not that you can’t make another molecule, but the likelihood that you make one that’s meaningfully different goes down steadily.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In economics, this is diminishing returns.

    JOHN REX: Yeah, sort of. You’ve dug deeply, and it’s just the kinds of resistance you are seeing now don’t seem to be amenable to yet another tweak to this particular class of molecule, so it’s been hard to find new, interesting chemicals. And it’s worth emphasizing this. It’s actually pretty easy to kill bacteria. Steam, fire, bleach — they all work great.

    But those aren’t drugs, right? I’m not going to treat your pneumonia with steam or fire or bleach. I have to treat your pneumonia with a very special chemical. It’s a chemical that isn’t harmful to you, that goes through your blood, it hits the lung in the right concentrations, and at that point, it succeeds in doing one thing and that is killing the bacteria without doing any damage to you. And that’s actually kind of tricky. Bacteria are living things, just like we are, and they have a lot of defenses against being killed and dying, and it’s just really tough to find a chemical that has the properties of behaving like a drug and killing bacteria and not harming you, and the ones that we do have are kind of like precious gems. I mean in some sense, it’s surprising you can do it at all.

    “It’s going to be hard to find a drug, and it is going to be hard to develop it, and you weren’t going to get paid for it. So why would you do that?”

    PAUL SOLMAN: When did the disenchantment set in?

    JOHN REX: It was in the ’90s that it began to really fall off. The law of diminishing returns was setting in, in terms of being able to find new and interesting things. We’ve actually got quite a good collection of drugs for most of the bacteria that are out there, so if you’re going to invent something new it’s gotta be really special in that regard, so the bar goes up. So our technical understanding of what it took to demonstrate the value of antibiotics deepened over time as with pretty much every area of pharmaceuticals. So the hurdle for bringing something onto the market, where people say, “Yes, I’d like to use that,” went up steadily as well. And it’s entirely appropriate that that occurred. You hit a point in the 2000s where it was really hard to find new drugs, and the development pathways were tough and in some senses not well-defined. Development pathways actually underwent a big review in the mid 2000s. We actually sharpened up our understanding of how you describe what a new antibiotic does. And then you layer onto that the economic problem of antibiotics, and you really had just had a situation where it didn’t really make a lot of sense to invest in the area. It’s going to be hard to find a drug, and it is going to be hard to develop it, and you weren’t going to get paid for it. So why would you do that?

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    Watch Part I: We are running out of effective antibiotics fast

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: our series on antibiotics and the dangerous so-called superbugs building resistance to them.

    It’s a joint project from our science correspondent, Miles O’Brien, and our economics correspondent, Paul Solman.

    Last night, Miles looked at the clear and present dangers for patients.

    Tonight, we start tackling the hunt for new drugs, and why the market for creating them has just about collapsed.

    Here’s Paul’s report. It’s part of our weekly series Making Sense.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, Russian emigre, 1989, came here speaking no English. How do you like capitalism?

    DR. SLAVA EPSTEIN, Northeastern University: I embrace it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Slava Epstein has been embracing novelty his entire life. Told he’d never make it as an astrophysicist in the former Soviet Union, he swapped telescope for microscope and became a biologist instead. Then, unable to find an academic job upon emigrating to the U.S., he volunteered at university labs while doing odd jobs to survive.

    DR. SLAVA EPSTEIN: Painting houses takes no English. Repairing roofs doesn’t take very much English. Paving driveways with bricks can be a silent job.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And nearly 30 years later, Epstein is still getting his hands dirty, looking for new antibiotics.

    DR. SLAVA EPSTEIN: One gram of dirt like this contains roughly, give or take, 10 billion cells.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And as he told my colleague Miles O’Brien:

    DR. SLAVA EPSTEIN: One percent has been more or less explored. The remaining 9.9 billion cells per gram have not.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Now, digging up dirt is actually a grand old tradition in antibiotics research.

    NARRATOR: One hundred samples of soil to be scientifically searched for a lifesaving organism.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A project made that much more urgent by the onset of World War II, and the wounded soldiers who filled England’s hospitals.

    MARIE-LOUISE KERR, Oxford Museum of the History of Science: Chambers of horror seemed the best way to describe those septic wards.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Marie-Louise Kerr of the History of Science Museum in Oxford, where penicillin was developed into a drug.

    But, by the end of World War II, penicillin is a key factor in the Allies winning the war, right?

    MARIE-LOUISE KERR: Definitely. America was able to produce penicillin on a much larger scale. And, yes, by 1944 to’ 45, there was enough penicillin to treat every soldier involved in D-Day and also civilians as well.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But just two years after that, penicillin-resistant staph infections were already being reported, a pattern that’s been repeated for every antibiotic since.

    DR. SLAVA EPSTEIN: Resistance arises very quickly to antibiotics. Really, in clinical use, it takes just a few years.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Now this wasn’t much of a problem during the so-called golden age of antibiotic discovery and development, but that age has been over for decades.

    KEVIN OUTTERSON, Boston University School of Law: The last time that we had a new class of gram-negative antibiotics, approved for human use, that drug was discovered the year that I was born, 1962. So we have had no new classes discovered in my entire lifetime.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Boston University law Professor Kevin Outterson specializes in health law.

    KEVIN OUTTERSON: So, these drugs worked well for our parents and grandparents’ generation, but they won’t work that way forever. Resistance will undermine them. We have to replace them.

    PAUL SOLMAN: OK, clear enough: As today’s antibiotics begin to lose their oomph, a clear and present danger lurks. But here’s where prudent medicine runs into the hard truths of economics.

    DR. JOHN REX, Former Senior Vice President, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals: Early on, if you bring in a new drug that goes one bacterium further, so to speak, you would say, I really need that, I need it today. I’m going to start using that today.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Dr. John Rex is a former pharmaceutical industry executive.

    DR. JOHN REX: But now you invent a new antibiotic that hits the very most resistant bacteria in the world, what we as a community want you to do with it is sit on it, OK, and save it for just that rainy day.

    PAUL SOLMAN: That’s because the last thing we want to do, as a society, is use a new superdrug too soon, spurring the evolution of superdrug-resistant bugs that will eventually render the new drug worthless.

    So then the increasing awareness of the overuse, potential overuse of an antibiotic because it will create resistance makes the economics worse?

    DR. JOHN REX: It does. And also our awareness of how hard it is to find them, so once we have found this precious jewel, we need to protect it, because every use of an antibiotic, even a correct use, drives resistance.

    KEVIN OUTTERSON: This is not a question of if this is a problem. It’s when.

    PAUL SOLMAN: John Rex and Kevin Outterson are both working on a new project called CARB-X, a public-private partnership to spur development of new antibiotics, because the market just can’t do the job by itself.

    After all, why would a drug company spend a fortune developing a new antibiotic, when no responsible doctor will prescribe it until there’s no alternative?

    KEVIN OUTTERSON: From the company perspective, it’s a disaster, because their novel, cutting-edge, exciting product doesn’t sell.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And it’s a product in which they have presumably invested a huge amount of capital.

    KEVIN OUTTERSON: Hundreds of millions of dollars.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Meanwhile, the patent that keeps any other company from making and selling a generic version runs out after only 14 years.

    KEVIN OUTTERSON: Two of the most highly used antibiotics in the United States, last-ditch antibiotics, are Colistin and Vancomycin. And both of them have been off patent for decades.

    At the time that they entered the market, we had better drugs. Now we need them, right? So this is a classic example of, if it’s useful, it’s saved for the future, which makes the commercial prospects very difficult.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Another problem: For a relatively rare infection, a company might have to charge tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a return on its investment.

    KEVIN OUTTERSON: You see that for cancer.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Right.

    KEVIN OUTTERSON: It’s impossible to do that for antibiotics.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Why not?

    KEVIN OUTTERSON: We lack the diagnostics that would tell the doctor immediately that this antibiotic is the one that would save this person’s life.

    PAUL SOLMAN: As if all that weren’t enough of an economic disincentive for investing in new antibiotics, infectious disease specialist Lindsey Baden points out yet another one: length of treatment.

    DR. LINDSEY BADEN, Brigham and Women’s Hospital: Often, the treatments are short, a week or two, and intermittent. And that’s very different than for hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterol, where it’s a treatment every day for the rest of your life.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So does that mean that the market as currently constructed can’t come up with new antibiotics; there just won’t be the investment to making them?

    KEVIN OUTTERSON: We won’t get the sort of antibiotics we really need. What about the antibiotic that saves the life and returns you to full health of somebody who’s 20 or 30 or 40? That antibiotic is worth, truthfully, millions of dollars.

    In any other field, there would be venture capitalists running around funding these pre-clinical ideas. For antibiotics, because there’s no big payday at the end, the business model is broken, there’s very little private capital.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So how does society change the economics to solve a problem that could be as important to the future of humanity as any?

    DR. SLAVA EPSTEIN: Well, I happen to be an optimist.

    PAUL SOLMAN: That’s where Slava Epstein comes in.

    DR. SLAVA EPSTEIN: An incurable optimist.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Yes, still dancing to his own beat. And while it still takes two to tango, Epstein’s eternal optimism is all his own.

    DR. SLAVA EPSTEIN: The probability of overwhelming success is over 100 percent.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Well, 100 percent seemed a tad high to both me and Miles O’Brien.

    Is Slava Epstein a piece of work or not? And I use that phrase in the best possible sense.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Absolutely. And he wouldn’t be offended.

    But his optimism, I wonder about. Now, you’re the expert on the invisible hand, though I have a certain amount of expertise on this myself. But let’s put that aside.

    Everybody I have spoken to along the way about this says this just cries out for some government intervention.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Yes, and that’s where we’re going with the next story. How does government get involved when the market can’t seem to solve a problem, as is the case here?

    For the PBS NewsHour I’m economics correspondent Paul Solman.

    MILES O’BRIEN: And I’m science correspondent Miles O’Brien.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The NAACP has issued a warning, what they’re calling a travel advisory, for women, minorities, and LGBT people traveling to the state of Missouri. It is asking those travelers to use — quote — “extreme caution” when visiting.

    Our Hari Sreenivasan has this conversation, recorded earlier this evening.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It’s the first time the NAACP has issued a travel warning for an entire state. It followed a new state law that makes it harder for fired employees to prove racial discrimination.

    Joining us to discuss all this is attorney Rod Chapel. He’s the president of the Missouri NAACP.

    For the record, we invited Missouri’s governor to join, but he declined our invitation.

    Mr. Chapel, what prompted this action now? I know that this was approved statewide in June, and this was a vote that still has to be ratified, but why now?

    ROD CHAPEL JR., President, Missouri NAACP: What led to the travel advisory are a couple of things, one, the recognition that there were widespread civil rights violations that were occurring in the state of Missouri, and that those were not properly being addressed by local or state authorities.

    And that was compounded by the fact that Senate Bill 43 was signed into law. It will affect people in the workplace, people searching for housing, as well as just in the general public experience.

    It changes the standard that discrimination must be proved to, as well as gives immunity to individuals who discriminate and harass against others.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, some of the language in your text here, it says this travel advisory, travel with extreme caution, that you may not be safe while in Missouri.

    You say this is not a boycott, but what are you trying to accomplish?

    ROD CHAPEL JR.: Well, honestly, we have done about everything that we can to try to talk with state and local officials about the ways that laws are being enforced, asking that they have appropriate or better laws that allow people to live with dignity.

    That has not succeeded. So, at this point, we didn’t have much of an option. We had to warn people, so that they knew what they are coming into in the state of Missouri or what conditions they’re living under if they are already here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, what about the notion that this is just trying to cut back on frivolous lawsuits? That was one of the rationale given when this was proposed.

    ROD CHAPEL JR.: Well, unfortunately, we have heard that argument before.

    And so when I talk with the members of the Chamber of Commerce about it or people close to them, when I talk with the governor, one of the questions that we at the NAACP had is, how do you quantity that? And did you try?

    There are no numbers that they have for what they say are these frivolous lawsuits. They have a hard time trying to identify businesses that will come forward and say that they had them.

    What they do have is a senator who got sued for discrimination in one of his rent-to-own stores in Southeast Missouri who introduced this legislation, and he talked about frivolous lawsuits. But other than one person who would like to keep himself or his stores from being sued for discriminatory conduct, we haven’t heard from a single individual or business that has advocated for Senate Bill 43.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, the governor says that the standards that you are referencing, the standards would try to align Missouri with 38 other states with the laws on the books, moving what is called a contributing factor to a motivating factor, whether racism was a contributing factor in discrimination or whether it was the motivating factor.

    What is the response?

    ROD CHAPEL JR.: You know, unfortunately, I feel like the Missouri Chamber of Commerce has done a poor job of informing the governor on this issue.

    Unfortunately, what has been adopted in Missouri is not the federal standard. What this standard is, is the motivating factor. That means that it is the — and I can tell you, my mother is a professor. She would tell you that “a” and “the” do not mean the same thing. There are some jurisdictions that have adopted a motivating factor.

    But my third grader would also tell you “a” and “the” are two separate words, and you can’t interchange them however you want to. I challenge those that have said that, that if you had 38 other states that Missouri will be joining and having the same law, show them to me. Point that word out. Show where it says the motivating factor, on top of the fact that I’m not aware that the federal standard would prevent people from being sued for discriminatory conduct.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally, what about other states? I know you are responsible for the NAACP in Missouri, but what is the bar for the NAACP to put out a travel advisory like this?

    ROD CHAPEL JR.: Well, this is the first time that it’s been done. Missouri is leading the way in this way, and regretfully so.

    We wouldn’t have issued if it wasn’t ultimately necessary to ensure that people in the state and traveling through the state were safe. And I think that other states are going to have to make those same determinations.

    At the point, though, that you have people readopting what we have consider to be Jim Crow laws, where you say that entire segments of society cannot have access to the courts to address grievances, and, worse than that, legalize what I can consider to be immoral conduct, discrimination and harassment of other people based on God-given characteristics.

    Then I think that the states really do have to decide whether or not they have got an obligation to the people there in the state and people who may be traveling through to let them know the conditions that are happening.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Rod Chapel, thanks so much for joining us.

    ROD CHAPEL JR.: Hey, thank you. I appreciate it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we have this development to add.

    Late today, the Saint Louis County NAACP released a statement calling on the national organization to revoke the advisory for Missouri.

    And I’m quoting. The statement says: “We suggest that, if the NAACP doesn’t rescind their advisory immediately, then they should add to it the other 38 states with similar laws as well.”

    They claim that the advisory will hurt many of their members locally, especially those employed in hospitality.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. war in Afghanistan has been under way for almost 16 years, and now a third president is facing a policy decision on how to handle America’s longest war.

    With at least 10 more American deaths on the ground there this year and more than 2,400 since the war began, the Trump administration’s next moves are in the spotlight.

    P.J. Tobia begins our coverage.

    P.J. TOBIA: Helicopters raced across the Afghan sky, transporting wounded from yesterday’s Taliban attack near Kandahar City in Southern Afghanistan.

    On the ground, the charred husk of an American armored vehicle destroyed by a suicide bomber. Two U.S. service members were killed, four others wounded. For months, a new Afghan strategy has been the subject of divisive debate among the president and his national security team.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to be getting some ideas, because we have been there. It’s our longest war. We have been there for many years. We have been there for now close to 17 years, and I want to find out why we have been there for 17 years, how it’s going, and what we should do in terms of additional ideas.

    P.J. TOBIA: Progress has been slow, and Mr. Trump has apparently grown frustrated with his advisers.

    NBC News reported yesterday, Mr. Trump suggested that Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine General Joe Dunford fire the top commander in Afghanistan, Army General John Nicholson. Nicholson assumed command more than a year ago. The Pentagon was reportedly considering extending his term.

    General H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, dismissed the charge in an interview yesterday with MSNBC host Hugh Hewitt.

    HUGH HEWITT, MSNBC: Do you have confidence yourself in General Nicholson, the combatant commander in Afghanistan?

    H.R. MCMASTER, U.S. National Security Adviser: Of course. I have known him for many years. I can’t imagine a more capable commander on any mission.

    HUGH HEWITT: Does — Secretary Mattis, does the president?

    H.R. MCMASTER: Absolutely.

    P.J. TOBIA: Today, Republican senators came to Nicholson’s defense, and cautioned Mr. Trump against ignoring his advice.

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: If you don’t listen to the generals and you try to make this up as you go, as Obama and Biden did, you’re going to wind up losing Afghanistan like we did Iraq, and the consequences to America are worse.

    P.J. TOBIA: The president’s own position on Afghanistan is unclear. In June, he authorized Mattis and the Pentagon to dictate troop levels in Afghanistan. Nicholson said earlier this year he need several thousand more troops to assist the roughly 8,500 Americans and 5,000 NATO personnel already on the ground.

    On Capitol Hill in June, Mattis added:

    JAMES MATTIS, U.S. Secretary of Defense: I understand the urgency, and I understand it’s my responsibility. We are not winning in Afghanistan right now, and we will correct this.

    P.J. TOBIA: But so far, there’s been no formal announcement about adding troops. Adding to the uncertainty, The Wall Street Journal reports the administration is now also exploring the possibility of withdrawing forces.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m P.J. Tobia.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on all of this, we turn to retired Army General Jack Keane. He was vice chief of staff of the Army from 1999 to 2003. He was an influential advocate for the surge of troops in Iraq 10 years and now has his own consulting company.

    General Keane, thank you very much. It’s good to see you again.

    What is the Trump administration policy toward Afghanistan?

    GEN. JACK KEANE (RET.), U.S. Army: Well, right now, they’re just maintaining the status quo.

    The commander in the field has requested some additional troops, to be sure. The president has asked for a strategic review of what is happening in Afghanistan. I think the questions you just heard him ask are the appropriate ones. Why are we there for 16 years?

    And I can just tell, from you my own perspective, when I had the opportunity to talk to President Bush about why the strategy was failing in Iraq and what we should do about it, that is the place to begin, Judy: Why? Why 16 years and no enduring victory?

    The reason for that is simply this. A lack of political will and commitment to achieve an enduring victory and the lack of capacity and resources in support of that. And that began almost immediately after the Taliban were defeated in 2001, when Secretary Rumsfeld, in charge of the Pentagon, denied us the opportunity to put in the kind of trainers to build a security force that would keep the Taliban down.

    We didn’t do that. And then from 2003 to 2008, the United States was preoccupied with the war in Iraq, and Afghanistan, Judy, was put on a diet. And then, in 2009, President Obama added more troops, but he didn’t give Generals McChrystal and Petraeus what they wanted. They told him the minimal force required to win in Afghanistan is 40,000. He cut that number by 25 percent and then pulled it out 15 months later.

    That doomed Afghanistan to the protracted war that we have right today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So you are talking about a lack of will, a failure of will, a lack of resources.

    Is there agreement at least on what the goal is in Afghanistan? What is it the United States wants the outcome to be there?

    GEN. JACK KEANE: Well, I think they’re probably is some agreement there.

    Look, let me give it a try. Number one, a fifth of all the terrorist organizations in the world reside in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So, what we want to do, because of our painful experience of 9/11, we want to deny a safe haven and target terrorists in Afghanistan.

    We want to stop the Taliban from overthrowing the Afghan government, which is a duly elected government. We want to stop Pakistan from supporting and providing safe haven to the Afghanistan Taliban. And we also want to continue international community support.

    We need to assist the government of Afghanistan in providing more effectiveness, the rule of law, and also assisting it with the incredible mineral capacity that they have.

    And, finally, we want to seek a political reconciliation to the war. That is kind of how I would shape what our strategy would be.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, is the advice that President Trump is getting, as far as we know it, going to lead to that outcome?

    GEN. JACK KEANE: I’m not convinced.

    The pathway to some kind of resolution favorable to the United States and the government of Afghanistan has got to be through Pakistan, Judy. There has never been insurgency ever that was defeated when it had a bona fide safe haven outside of the combat zone.

    And the Afghan Taliban have two in Pakistan. Not only that, the Pakistan military provide them with intelligence and support for their operations, which is quite outrageous, considering they’re supposed to be an ally. That has to stop.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How much of a split is there among the people around the president, secretary of defense, secretary of state, General Nicholson an others?

    GEN. JACK KEANE: I don’t know the specifics on that. I do know that I think, instinctively, the president would like to resolve this favorably, but he doesn’t want to get mired down in a long, protracted war that his predecessors have done.

    But the reality is this, Judy. Afghanistan, if we do not stabilize that country, it will become a breeding ground for terrorists that will threaten Europe and the United States. And we cannot do that. So I think we have got a tough decision in front of us here. And it means more involvement in Afghanistan, not less.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, who is the most influential at this point in terms of who the president listens to?

    GEN. JACK KEANE: I think the president certainly listens to H.R. McMaster and also General Mattis and the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. Those are the three major players here when it comes to Afghanistan.

    He will always get certainly advice from Jared Kushner and also from Steve Bannon on any subject. But in terms of whose lane is this, that is the lane. And there is — I take it from — because he’s been briefed by these key figures, that he doesn’t like the answers he’s been given.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, if General McMaster is saying that General Nicholson is safe, who is in charge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, but the president is expressing frustration, how is that going to turn out?

    GEN. JACK KEANE: Well, if I was one of those three people, I would just flat tell the president, I would say, Mr. President, the problem in Afghanistan has never been our field generals. The problem in Afghanistan has been the commander in chief, in not providing the resources and the political will to win this war. It is not the field commanders.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And do you think the president is prepared to do that?

    GEN. JACK KEANE: I honestly do not know, Judy, where he is going to come out on this. I don’t want to try to speculate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, a lot of questions, I think more questions than answers tonight.

    General Jack …

    GEN. JACK KEANE: Yes, I agree with you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: General Jack Keane, we thank you very much.

    GEN. JACK KEANE: You’re welcome, Judy.

    The post Trump administration weighs best path forward on Afghanistan war appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news, The Washington Post today published the transcripts of conversations President Trump had with the leaders of Mexico and Australia during his first days in office. Their contentious nature is at odds with the official White House report of the exchanges at the time.

    An excerpt from the call between Mr. Trump and Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto showed a significant focus on the president’s campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Here’s the exchange read by our NewsHour producers.

    President Trump: “The fact is, we are both in a little bit of a political bind, because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall. I have to. I have been talking about it for a two year-period. If you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that.”

    President Enrique Pena Nieto: “You have a very big mark on our back, Mr. President, regarding who pays for the wall. But my position has been and will continue to be very firm, saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall.”

    President Trump: “But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that, and I cannot live with that.”

    President Enrique Pena Nieto: “This is an issue related to the dignity of Mexico and goes to the national pride of my country. Let us for now stop talking about the wall.”

    President Trump: “OK, Enrique, that is fine, and I think it is fair. I do not bring up the wall. But when the press brings up the wall, I will say, let us see how it is going, let us see how it is working out with Mexico.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A second phone call, this one with Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, centered on an Obama-era deal for the U.S. to screen and take in refugees who had been imprisoned after trying to enter Australia by boat. The 24-minute exchange came just one day after the president had signed his original travel ban, barring people from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

    Again, the voices of NewsHour producers.

    President Trump: “This is a stupid deal. This deal will make me look terrible.”

    Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: “Mr. President, I think this will make you look like a man who stands by the commitments of the United States. It shows that you are a committed…”

    President Trump: “OK, this shows me to be a dope. I am not like this, but if I have to do it, I will do it. But I do not like this at all. I will be honest with you, not even a little bit. I think it is ridiculous and Obama should have never signed it. I am going to get killed on this thing.”

    Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: “You will not.”

    President Trump: “Yes, I will be seen as a weak and ineffective leader in my first week by these people. This is a killer.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Earlier in the conversation, the president referred to himself as the world’s greatest person, and close to the end of the conversation, he told Turnbull it was his — quote — “most unpleasant call” of the day.

    He has met with both world leaders in person since both those phone calls.

    Separately, today, President Trump kept up his criticism of Congress, after reluctantly signing into law new sanctions against Russia.

    He tweeted this morning: “Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time and very dangerous low. You can thank Congress.”

    The Republican chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, later retorted, and defended the sanctions, which lawmakers approved overwhelmingly.

    SEN. BOB CORKER, R-Tenn.: The relationship that we have with Russia is solely because of Putin. What he’s done is an affront to the American people to try to have an effect on the election outcomes here. It had to be spoken to. I think we did it in a very appropriate manner. I’m proud of the legislation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke on the phone today with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. The two men agreed to discuss U.S.-Russia relations in person at a meeting in the Philippines next week.

    In Brazil, embattled President Michel Temer has narrowly avoided suspension from office for a bribery charge. The Lower House of Brazil’s Congress voted last night against sending Temer to trial before the country’s highest court. Still, Brazil’s attorney general may bring additional charges in the case, which involves allegations that Temer took bribes from a meatpacker.

    China is welcoming some recent comments from the U.S. about North Korea. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the administration is not looking for regime change in Pyongyang.

    Speaking to reporters in Beijing, the Chinese foreign minister urged all parties to find a peaceful solution.

    WANG YI, Foreign Minister, China (through interpreter): We attach importance to State Secretary Tillerson’s remarks on the Korean Peninsula. China hopes that all relevant parties move forward together, and through equal dialogue, find fundamental solutions that address everyone’s reasonable concerns over security.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump has expressed growing frustration over what he says is China’s reluctance to rein in North Korea.

    One soldier from the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan has died in a suicide attack north of Kabul. Five other troops and an interpreter were wounded.

    And a sad update to a story we brought you recently. A man who died in an attack in Western Afghanistan this week has been identified as the father of a girl on the country’s now famous robotics team. The all-girls team won a silver medal in a U.S. competition last month, after being denied visas to the United States two times.

    We will have more on the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan later in the program.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now says that it won’t delay rules on reducing carbon emissions. EPA head Scott Pruitt originally said that he’d hold off on enforcing an October 1 deadline for states to start meeting new ozone pollution standards. But after 16 Democratic state attorneys general sued Pruitt over the change, he reversed course.

    The Pacific Northwest is enduring one of its most prolonged heat waves in years. The temperature was expected to hit 106 degrees in Portland, Oregon, which would be just shy of a record.

    Meanwhile, smoke from wildfires burning in British Columbia, Canada, has snaked into Washington and Oregon, causing breathing problems for people with asthma.

    There are new questions about President Trump’s plan to hire 15,000 more Border Patrol agents and immigration officers. That’s according to a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general. It said that officials are — quote — “facing significant challenges in identifying, recruiting, hiring, and fielding the number of law enforcement officers that the president mandated.”

    Canada, meantime, is making space for hundreds of asylum seekers who have crossed the border from the U.S. in recent weeks. Montreal opened the doors of its Olympic stadium to hundreds of Haitian newcomers to the country, as temporary housing options filled up. In the first half of this year, some 4,300 asylum seekers have arrived in Canada from the U.S. Many are unsure of their status under the Trump administration.

    On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 10 points to close at 22026. The Nasdaq fell 22. And the S&P 500 dropped five.

    The post News Wrap: Trump asked Pena Nieto not to tell press Mexico wouldn’t pay for border wall, transcript shows appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on his investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTS183ZX

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Russia probe ramps up.

    Late today, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller is using a grand jury in Washington, D.C., marking a new phase in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    Joining me now to walk us this could mean is Steve Bunnell. He is the former chief of the Criminal Division at the U.S. Attorney’s Office here in Washington.

    Steve Bunnell, welcome to the program.

    First of all, explain to us, remind us of is a grand jury, what does it do?

    STEVE BUNNELL, Former Federal Prosecutor: Well, thank you, Judy, for having me.

    A grand jury is 23 citizens who sit to review proposed charges and vote indictments. And in the federal system, they typically are involved in long-term investigations as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what is it — I mean, we don’t have all the information here, but based on what we know, what is the significance of this news?

    STEVE BUNNELL: Well, it appears that the investigation is getting more intensified, it’s getting more serious.

    It could be a consolidation of grand jury investigations which have been reported in other districts, but certainly a grand jury is used for collecting financial information and for doing long-term, deep-dive investigations.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There had been reports that Robert Mueller was using a grand jury in Virginia, perhaps using one in New York City. What would this new grand jury permit him to do that he couldn’t do before?

    STEVE BUNNELL: It wouldn’t expand the authorities that he has. It may be a little more convenient for him, if he doesn’t have to travel so far to actually present evidence or to present witnesses. So, it doesn’t expand his ability to collect evidence. It may just make it more convenient.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Does it say anything about the seriousness of what he is doing?

    STEVE BUNNELL: Well, it suggests that the investigation is not ramping down. It suggests that it is at an early stage of ramping up.

    And the fact that there is a new prosecutor that recently joined the team that we have learned about, that suggests that this investigation will be a serious, intensive investigation that will go on for some time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There — again, there have been reports that Mr. Mueller is not only looking at, of course, the Russian activity, but he is looking at financial transactions, possibly financial transactions on the part of President Trump. Can one read anything along those lines into this?

    STEVE BUNNELL: Well, Bob Mueller is a very experienced prosecutor and law enforcement individual.

    And he knows that you investigate potential crimes. You don’t investigate people. And so I think what he’s doing is investigating a set of allegations, a set of potential crimes. And whatever individuals may be involved in that will be sort of part of that investigation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How does something like this get out into the public realm? It is supposed to be secret, am I right? So how does it — what happens?

    STEVE BUNNELL: Well, the federal rules of criminal procedure impose secrecy obligations on the prosecutors, on the grand jurors themselves, on the agents that work with the prosecutors.

    But the witnesses who appear before a grand jury or people who receive subpoenas are free to talk about what — you know, what the grand jury ha asked them. And so it’s not uncommon for grand jury investigations to get out into the public domain through witnesses or people who receive subpoenas.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And final question, what does this say about how long this could take? I mean, are we looking at weeks, months, longer?

    STEVE BUNNELL: I would say longer, certainly not weeks. I would guess several, many months.

    Federal grand juries are impaneled for 18 months and can be extended another six months. And financial investigations take a long time, especially if you are trying to obtain records from overseas locations.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Steve Bunnell, attorney here in Washington, former prosecutor, thank you very much.

    STEVE BUNNELL: Thank you very much.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All this as two separate pieces of bipartisan legislation emerged in the U.S. Senate designed to protect special counsel Mueller if President Trump were to decide to fire him.

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    West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice . Photo by Perry Bennett via Wikimedia Commons.

    West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said at a Thursday campaign rally for President Donald Trump he had become disillusioned with the Democratic Party and was planning to join the GOP. Photo by Perry Bennett via Wikimedia Commons.

    West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said at a Thursday campaign rally for President Donald Trump he had become disillusioned with the Democratic Party and was planning to join the GOP.

    “I can’t help you anymore being a Democratic governor,” Justice said at the rally in Huntington, West Virginia.

    Justice, a billionaire who made his fortune from the coal industry, became governor in November.

    Justice’s announcement makes him the 34th Republican governor in the country, NPR reported, “tying a record set nearly a century ago in 1922.”

    Democrats “can continue their obsession with the Russian hoax or they can serve the interests of the American people,” Trump said after Justice’s announcement. “Try winning at the voting booth.”

    WATCH: Trump speaks at West Virginia rally

    The post At Trump rally, West Virginia’s Democratic governor says he’s becoming a Republican appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on his investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2017.   REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTS183ZX

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller departs after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on his investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill on June 21, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election and possible ties to President Donald Trump’s campaign, has called on a grand jury, the Wall Street Journal reported — a sign that his probe could be expanding.

    The Journal, which broke the news Thursday, said the news indicated a lengthy road ahead for the investigation.

    What are grand juries? A grand jury is called when prosecutors want to review evidence — including calling witnesses — to determine whether there’s probable cause to pursue criminal charges; it doesn’t necessarily mean charges will follow. (In a regular jury, jurors are weighing the facts in an individual case that has already come to trial). MSNBC goes into further detail here.

    This isn’t all that surprising, says Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who now defends trading firms and individuals in federal cases in Chicago. A grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia is reportedly already looking at former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s relationship with Russia, Mariotti said.

    What it means: “Mueller has made an independent determination that there is reason to believe that a crime has been committed and should be investigated – it’s why you would want to open a grand jury,” Mariotti said.

    This is an early step, not a late step in the investigations, Mariotti said: Calling a grand jury is “a prosecutorial tool to issue subpoenas, or require people to testify under oath unless they take the fifth.” In the grand jury that looked at what led to the 2003 public identification of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA officer, prosecutors called more than 20 witnesses, Mariotti said.

    READ MORE: Can Congress protect special counsel Mueller from being fired?

    Why it matters: Reports late last month suggested the president was considering removing Mueller from the investigation. Trump told the New York Times that Mueller would cross a red line if he began looking at the finances of the president and his family. Bloomberg reported that week that Mueller was “examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates.”

    Trump’s remarks to the Times worried some lawmakers, some of whom introduced legislation on Thursday that would protect the special counsel role and reaffirm its independence from the executive branch.

    Trump signed new sanctions against Russia earlier this week, but called the legislation “seriously flawed,” adding that it “makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people.”

    Meanwhile, at the White House: White House Special counsel Ty Cobb told the NewsHour he wasn’t aware of a grand jury, but “… Comey said three times the President is not under investigation and we have no reason to believe that has changed.” He said the White House “is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller” and “favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly.”

    What’s next? The next few months will bring grand jury subpoenas and some testimony, Mariotti says. It’s important to note a grand jury “is a necessary step to an indictment … but that doesn’t necessarily tell us whether in this case there’ll be an indictment sought,” Mariotti says.

    NewsHour’s Ellis Kim reported for this story.

    The post What we know ― and what we don’t ― about Mueller’s grand jury appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    At a Thursday campaign rally in Huntington, West Virginia, President Donald Trump praised Democratic Gov. Jim Justice for deciding to switch parties and become a Republican.

    Democrats “can continue their obsession with the Russian hoax or they can serve the interests of the American people,” Trump said after Justice’s announcement. “Try winning at the voting booth.”

    But Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, said “labels don’t matter.” What does matter is working together to get the job done, Williams said.

    “What’s important is for us to identify a willingness to work together, to make West Virginia a better place to live, work and raise a family,” Williams said.

    “What’s important is for us to identify a willingness to work together, to make West Virginia a better place to live, work and raise a family,” said Williams, who did not attend Trump’s rally but said he planned to watch the rally on television while taking care of other business at Huntington’s city hall.

    Last year, 1,475 people overdosed on drugs in Huntington, West Virginia, a city of 49,000 residents along the Ohio River, according to local health data. In August 2016, 26 people overdosed in four hours, shocking the nation.

    When Williams was elected as mayor in 2013, the opioid crisis was already taking hold of the city, with overdoses and drug-related deaths on the rise. In 2014, former drug czar Michael Botticelli visited Huntington to talk to first responders, city leaders and community members and assess what was happening.

    Botticelli’s visit inspired Williams to create the Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, which brings together community leaders from law enforcement, public health, social welfare, education, local businesses and more gather to figure out how to help their city recover and rebuild and “to prevent initial drug use and mitigate the public health risks associated with the opioid crisis.”

    Watch Williams’ full remarks in the player above.

    The post Why this West Virginia mayor says Trump should set aside party politics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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