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

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    FILE PHOTO: White House Senior Advisor Steve Bannon attends a roundtable discussion held by U.S. President Donald Trump with auto industry leaders at the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan, U.S., March 15, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo - RTX348IY

    White House Senior Advisor Steve Bannon. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

    WASHINGTON — The Campaign Legal Center is complaining in a letter to the White House that a top adviser to President Donald Trump may be illegally accepting outside professional services.

    Steve Bannon has worked with publicist Alexandra Preate since he was head of Breitbart News. Preate has continued to work with reporters on Bannon’s behalf even though she is not a government employee. A recent article by the Center for Public Integrity quotes an associate of Preate’s saying she doesn’t receive pay from Bannon.

    The Campaign Legal Center says that appears to be a violation of what’s called the Antideficiency Act. The law says government employees “may not accept voluntary services for (the) government or employ personal services exceeding that authorized by law.”

    The White House and Preate did not immediately comment.

    In a letter to new White House chief of staff John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Office of Government Ethics, the Campaign Legal Center seeks an investigation of the situation and notes that violations of the Antideficiency Act can be punished with fines and prison time.

    “This particular situation appears to be unprecedented,” said Brendan Fischer, director for federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center. “The concern here is that there may be some secret set of donors who have interests before the government, who are paying for government services.”

    The Campaign Legal Center is a Washington-based nonprofit that recently hired Walter Shaub, the former Office of Government Ethics director who has been intensely critical of the Trump administration’s handling of conflict of interest rules.

    The reporter referenced in the complaint letter says that Preate spoke with her 18 times off the record when she was inquiring about Bannon’s personal financial disclosure, a document he filed with the government. The reporter says she contacted the White House press office and then heard from Preate, who in addition to speaking with her also put her in touch with a White House lawyer.

    The post Complaint: Trump strategist may have improper PR arrangement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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     U.S. President Donald Trump attends a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) briefing on hurricane season at FEMA Headquarters in Washington, U.S., August 4, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTS1AE50

    President Donald Trump attends a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) briefing on hurricane season at FEMA Headquarters in Washington, U.S., August 4, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday that states can count on his administration to dispense U.S. emergency funds efficiently.

    “We do it quickly. We do it effectively,” Trump told reporters at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where he and members of his Cabinet were getting a briefing on the summer’s hurricane season. “We are very strong with respect to FEMA. FEMA is something I’ve been very much involved in already.”

    The president spoke a few hours before embarking on his own summer vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

    At FEMA, Trump got a tour of the command center, the hub where the agency coordinates during emergencies. Video maps line the walls to help officials monitor storms, weather conditions and more.

    Federal officials predicted in May that the U.S. could face 11 to 17 named storms, including five to nine hurricanes.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast predicted two to four “major” hurricanes with sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

    Forecasters expect warmer-than-average waters across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea this summer.

    Tropical Storm Emily drenched parts of Florida earlier this week with rain, but no hurricanes have formed so far.

    Trump was at FEMA headquarters accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

    Also attending was White House chief of staff John Kelly, formerly Trump’s secretary of homeland security.

    The post Trump says states can count on federal cash in emergencies appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People surround a tanker of water to fill their jerry cans during Yemen's cholera outbreak. Photo by Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters

    People surround a tanker of water to fill their jerry cans during Yemen’s cholera outbreak. Photo by Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters

    As Yemen struggles to contain a cholera outbreak that has taken nearly 2,000 lives since last fall, doctors and nurses are working around the clock to treat the sick, and community volunteers are going door to door telling people what they can do to protect themselves.

    How widespread is the outbreak? Yemen’s Health Ministry has reported about 408,600 suspected cases of cholera and 1,885 deaths in the current outbreak, which began in October 2016. The country has seen a surge since April of 5,000 cases reported each day.

    U.N. agency leaders who recently visited the Arab country are calling it the “world’s worst cholera outbreak in the midst of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.”

    “At one hospital, we visited children who can barely gather the strength to breathe,” they said in a joint statement.

    READ MORE: In Yemen conflict, preventable diseases are a deadly side effect for children

    What is cholera? Cholera is an infectious disease that causes diarrhea that can lead to dehydration and death if untreated. It comes from water or food contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholera, and most often is spread through contact with the feces of someone who has the disease. Mild cases can be treated with rehydration drinks, and more severe cases need immediate intravenous fluids and antibiotics.

    Boys load jerry cans of drinking water onto a donkey in Bajil in western Yemen. Photo by Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters

    Boys load jerry cans of drinking water onto a donkey in Bajil in western Yemen. Photo by Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters

    What’s exacerbating the problem? An ongoing civil war, where people don’t have access to clean water and food, and can’t leave their towns to get medical care because they’re worried about safety, and trash left in streets, are some of the contributing factors.

    What is being done? Whenever possible, health workers travel to places that have reported suspected cases of cholera. They check on and treat the patient, and educate and reassure the community, which is usually in a “state of panic” at that point. Organizations such as the National Foundation for Development and Humanitarian Response also talk to people about cleaning trash from the streets and hand out chlorine tablets for whatever water sources are available.

    The World Health Organization, partner aid groups and the Yemen Health Ministry have set up 47 diarrhea treatment centers and 278 oral dehydration centers in 16 governorates. A two-dose vaccination campaign is expected to launch next year in high-risk areas.

    In Yemen, health workers advise communities to clean up the trash in streets and sewage channels. Photo by Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

    In Yemen, health workers advise communities to clean up the trash in streets and sewage channels. Photo by Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

    A boy lies in a hospital in Yemen's capital Sanaa on July 27. There are more than 400,000 suspected cases of cholera in the country, according to the Health Ministry. Photo by Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Reuters

    A boy lies in a hospital in Yemen’s capital Sanaa on July 27. There are more than 400,000 suspected cases of cholera in the country, according to the Health Ministry. Photo by Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Reuters

    A woman holds her son, who is suspected of being infected with cholera, at a treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen in May. Photo by Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

    A woman holds her son, who is suspected of being infected with cholera, at a treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen in May. Photo by Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

    A sink is seen outside a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen. The World Health Organization has helped the government set up 47 diarrhea treatment facilities and 278 oral dehydration centers in the country. Photo by Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

    A sink is seen outside a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen. The World Health Organization has helped the government set up 47 diarrhea treatment facilities and 278 oral dehydration centers in the country. Photo by Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

    A volunteer carries hygiene kits provided by UNICEF in Sanaa, Yemen. Aid groups also are distributing chlorine tablets to clean water sources. Photo by Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

    A volunteer carries hygiene kits provided by UNICEF in Sanaa, Yemen. Aid groups also are distributing chlorine tablets to clean water sources. Photo by Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

    Watch a PBS NewsHour report on the food crisis and cholera outbreak in Yemen.

    READ MORE: Attacks in Syria and Yemen are turning disease into weapon of war

    The post PHOTOS: How aid groups are tackling Yemen’s cholera outbreak appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Final - Men's 200m Final - Olympic Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 18/08/2016. Usain Bolt (JAM) of Jamaica tears off his number tags from his shorts and throws them to the ground after winning the gold.    REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson  TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.   - RTX2LYCQ

    Usain Bolt of Jamaica tears off his number tags from his shorts and throws them to the ground after winning the gold in the 200M final at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. File Photo by REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

    The world’s fastest man alive will sprint for the last time at the World Athletics Championships in London.

    Usain Bolt, 31, will compete in the 100 meter final Saturday, and the 4×100 relay race on August 12.

    After competing in three Summer Olympics, Bolt will end his career the only way he knows how – by putting on a show. In his last conference on Tuesday, Bolt said his legacy would be “unbeatable.”

    The six-foot-five sprinter was asked if he expects his records to be broken.

    “I don’t want to see it go,” Bolt said. “I want my kids to see my records when they’re 15 and 20 and I can say ‘you see, I’m still the best.”

    The Jamaican track star first captivated the world when he broke three world records at the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008.

    Bolt set the new world and Olympic record with a 9.69-second first-place finish the 100-meter race. He then went on to set another world and Olympic record at the 2008 games in the 200-meter race, with a time of 19.30 seconds.

    He also helped set the new world and Olympic record for the 4×100 meter race, which the Jamaican team finished in 37.10 seconds.

    The feats made Bolt the first man to set world records in all three races at a single Olympics.

    But he wasn’t done there.

    In the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Bolt shattered his own record in the 100-meter race by taking gold for a second time in just 9.63 seconds.

    Soon after he took gold in the 200-meter race, and then helped the Jamaican team win gold yet again in the 4×100 relay.

    Bolt returned to the Olympic spotlight for the last time at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. He took gold once more while smiling for the camera during the 100-meter race, which he finished in 9.81 seconds.

    In the process, Bolt became the first athlete to win three consecutive gold medals in two events, an accomplishment known as a ‘triple double.’ He also took gold in Rio in both the 200-meter race and the 4×100 relay with the Jamaican team.

    Bolt finished his Olympic career with eight gold medals.

    Toward the end of the conference Tuesday, Bolt was asked if he would change his mind about retiring.

    “I’m looking forward to the next race without me,” Bolt said. “The next championship should be fun, it’s about seeing who can hold their nerve.”

    Bolt will race at 9:45 p.m. Saturday in the same stadium where he broke world records five years ago. Here is the list of his Olympic gold medals:

    • 2008 – Gold in 100m (9.69s)
    • 2008 – Gold in 200m (19.30s)
    • 2008 – Gold in 4x100m (37.10s)*
    • 2012 – Gold in 100m (9.63s)
    • 2012 – Gold in 200m (19.32s)
    • 2012 – Gold in 4x100m (36.84s)
    • 2016 – Gold in 100m (9.81s)
    • 2016 – Gold in 200m (19.78s)
    • 2016 – Gold in 4x100m (37.27s)

    *Revoked in 2017, after one of Bolt’s teammates failed a drug test.

    The post The last race for Usain Bolt, the fastest man alive appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The West Coast is burning up. Death Valley’s average temperature in July –107.4 degrees Fahrenheit — was the hottest on record, and cities like Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City, Palm Springs and Phoenix have reached record scorching temps over the past few weeks, too. Meanwhile, wildfires are raging north of the border in British Columbia and Cascade Mountains.

    Here’s why things are so toasty right now.

    Climate change might be tipping records. “A few of our temperature records would not have been broken with this heat wave,” Philip Mote, a climate scientist at Oregon State University, said. “If you took this specific meteorological condition and then dialed back the greenhouse gases to what they were 50 years ago, it would be a little bit cooler. Portland instead of being 103 yesterday might’ve only been 101.” Weather experts shared the sentiment that climate change’s contribution to an event like this “might be a degree or two.” Without global warming, there would still be a heat wave, just probably not a record-setting one.

    Wildfire haze might be…a good thing? Wildfires in British Columbia and the Cascade mountains could be lowering temps, slightly. Wildfire haze has drifted into Seattle and Portland. The haze likely cools temperatures by reflecting sunlight back into the atmosphere, David Bishop, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland, Oregon, said. That keeps the city from taking on additional heat. But haze’s contribution to the heat wave in the northwest is likely minimal, Mote noted.

    Weather is weird. “Every extreme weather event is something the atmosphere does every once in awhile,” Mote said. Clifford Mass, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington, agreed. For any heat wave, most of it has to be natural because it’s associated with changes in the circulation of the atmosphere, he said.

    Also, it’s summer. Even in Death Valley and the Pacific Northwest, summertime means warmer temps. “Typically when high pressure moves over an area that warms up temps on the surface, so that’s not an unusual event to happen,” Bishop said. “What’s happening in this case, it’s staying over the area.” Along with minimal rainfall, the high pressure itself increases the potential for extremely high temperatures, Bishop said.

    But, things will only get hotter and hotter. “There’s pretty clear evidence that if you pick any extreme temperature, it’s been exceeded more often in recent years,” Mote said. This is particularly true for nighttime lows, which have become much hotter in the last few decades, according to a recent study. The simple addition of heat to the system helps it get hotter more often, Mote said.

    The post Why Death Valley and the Pacific Northwest are so hot right now appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An employee of GN, the world’s fourth largest maker of hearing aids, demonstrates the use of a hearing aid at an industry forum in Vienna on November 22, 2013. File photo by REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

    The Senate passed a bill Thursday allowing people to purchase hearing aids without a doctor’s prescription. Advocates of the change say it will make hearing aids more accessible and significantly reduce costs by increasing competition in the marketplace.

    The measure was part of the larger Food and Drug Administration Reauthorization Act, which will revise and extend the user-fee programs for prescription drugs, medical devices, and generic drugs. The House passed the FDA reauthorization bill last month. It now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk.

    Approximately 48 million Americans live with hearing loss, and 80 percent of people who could benefit from the devices do not wear them, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America.

    The average cost of a single hearing aid is $2,300, and the devices are not covered by Medicare and most insurance companies. The industry group estimates that 86 percent of people who need hearing aids don’t buy them because of the cost.

    Current law requires consumers to buy hearing aids through certified audiologists who are trained to treat hearing problems, which drives up the price. The new proposal would allow people to bypass the licensed audiologist.

    The move could open up the market to a number of tech companies, including Apple, that have already begun to develop hearing assistance devices.

    The proposed change represents “an unprecedented opportunity for audiologists to provide valuable services to more of the 80 percent of American adults with hearing loss who don’t currently seek treatment,” the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, an advocacy group, said in a statement.

    The Hearing Loss Association of America also issued a statement praising the bill. “Finally there will be affordable options for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss, especially those who are not seeking help now,” the group said.

    The bill faced opposition from the world’s top six hearing aid manufacturers, which combined control roughly 90 percent of the hearing aid market.

    But the Senate passed the bill with overwhelming bipartisan support. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who had advocated for allowing medical drugs to be imported from other countries, was the sole vote against the broader Food and Drug Administration Reauthorization Act, which included the provision on hearing aids.

    Under the bill, the agency would have three years to create a new regulatory category for over-the-counter hearing aid products. The department would then be authorized to ensure products meet the designated safety, consumer labeling and manufacturing standards.

    The post Senate approves bill that would allow over-the-counter sale of hearing aids appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A waitress serves a steak and fried shrimp combo plate to a customer at Norms Diner on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles, California May 20, 2015. The diner, celebrated as a classic example of mid-20th century Space Age-style Googie architecture, was granted historic monument status by city officials on Wednesday, protecting it from the threat of demolition. The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously with three people absent to designate the 1956 Norms restaurant as a "historic-cultural monument," citing the need to preserve distinctive buildings of the city. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon - RTX1DVSE

    Growth in the service industry and food and beverages, “suggests the demand is for a lot of the low-income workers who are now getting jobs,” Mathur said. Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters

    Employers added 209,000 jobs in July, continuing a long trend of substantial job growth and pushing the unemployment rate down to 4.3 percent.

    Economists had a hard time finding anything bad in July’s jobs report.

    “Nothing much to complain about,” economist Aparna Mathur at the conservative American Enterprise Institute said, noting that job gains beat expectations.

    “Everyone expects [job growth] to slow, but it hasn’t slowed much,” Dean Baker, co-director of the left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research, said.

    And on Twitter, economist Justin Wolfers warned against listening to anyone disappointed by this jobs report:

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

    Did we close the jobs gap?

    Since 2010, the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution has calculated the jobs gap, defined as “the number of jobs that the U.S. economy needs to create in order to return to pre-recession employment levels while also absorbing the people who enter the potential labor force each month.”

    With this jobs report, the economy has closed the jobs gap, said Ryan Nunn, the policy director at the Hamilton Project.

    With this jobs report, the economy has closed the jobs gap.

    If you’re skeptical, you’re not the only one. Baker questions whether the economy’s health is where it was in 2006 and 2007, pointing to how many workers between the ages of  25 and 54 are not in the workforce. “The employment rate for prime-age workers is still below the recession level,” he said.

    And to be sure, the Hamilton Project also notes that the fact that the jobs gap closed “does not mean that the labor market scars of the Great Recession are entirely healed.”

    “We think of the jobs gap as one important measure of labor market health, but it’s just one measure. There are other economic indicators that suggest there still may be slack,” Nunn added. He also pointed to a report released today that shows how uneven the recovery has been by state, gender, education and race.

    Courtesy the Hamilton Project

    Where was job growth?

    Job growth was mostly in food services, professional and business services and health care, while construction and manufacturing saw little growth. It’s a trend that we’ve been seeing for years.

    Growth in the service industry and food and beverages “suggests the demand is for a lot of the low-income workers who are now getting jobs,” Mathur said.

    In an email to the PBS NewsHour, economist Jed Kolko of Indeed.com noted that the low-wage industry job growth is “helping the least-educated Americans get back to work. The recovery is now strong and long enough to lift many of the people hurt most by the recession — except in manufacturing, which continues to lag overall jobs growth.”

    That’s one way to look at it. Another, says our economics correspondent Paul Solman, is that the “hourglass economy” trend of the past 30 years or so shows no signs of slowing, with jobs being added disproportionately at the top and bottom of the economy, not in the middle.

    The “hourglass economy” trend of the past 30 years or so shows no signs of slowing, with jobs being added disproportionately at the top and bottom of the economy, not in the middle.

    The “death of retail” narrative would appear to jibe with that analysis. General merchandise stores may have gained 4,600 jobs in the past month, but they’ve lost 36,000 in the past year. And “clothing and clothing accessories stores” seem to have dropped 10,000 jobs in July. We never put too much stock in one month’s numbers, but clothing retail jobs are down over the past year as well.

    So are we finally witnessing the death of bricks-and-mortar retailing? Or is there more of a transformation in progress? Two upcoming Making Sen$e stories will explore the issue, starting in a couple of weeks. And who works these often low-wage jobs? People already at a disadvantage in the workforce: Women make up 60 percent of department store jobs, while people of color make up 36 percent.

    Economist Betsey Stevenson looked at the sectors with job growth through a gendered lens, commenting on Twitter, “The problem isn’t that we aren’t creating jobs, it’s that job growth is almost all in services … Men want manufacturing jobs.”

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

    Making Sen$e has reported on this disconnect, looking at the growth of jobs in education and health care and exploring why men aren’t pursuing jobs in those sectors. Stigma, Stevenson wrote in a Bloomberg op-ed, “Manly Men Need to Do More Girly Jobs,” on which she elaborated for us. But economist Teresa Ghilarducci said low pay is the main reason.

    Was there wage growth in July?

    Speaking of pay, average hourly earnings rose 9 cents in July. Over the year, wages have risen 2.5 percent, while inflation has been 2.38 percent over the last 12 months.

    “We are see wage gains rising faster than inflation for all workers,” conservative Aparna Mathur said. “That tells me that demand for workers at the bottom of the income distribution is going up, and if you combine it with the good GDP numbers coming out, I think all of that suggests that employers are ready to hire again.”

    Dean Baker, on the other hand, isn’t so optimistic about wage growth of .12 percent per year.

    “I like to take the three-month average — so May, June and July — and that growth is just 2.2 percent, annualized rate,” Baker said. “That’s not accelerating.”

    Ideally, he added, wage gains would be a full percentage point above the Federal Reserve’s inflation target, meaning wage gains around 3.2 percent.

    But for wages to rise, we need to keep “the Fed from slamming on the brakes too soon,” Baker said. “No more [interest rate] hikes for the year.”

    What does the Solman Scale U-7 say?

    Our Solman Scale U-7, the broadest measure of underemployment and unemployment, which includes the officially unemployed, involuntary part-time workers and anyone who wants a job no matter how long it’s been since they last looked, also ticked down from 10.7 percent to 10.6 percent. To put this in perspective, when we first began calculating the U-7 in August of 2011, it was 18.3 percent.

    “I think there are a lot of people out there who want to work who aren’t in the labor force at the moment.”

    The decline in the U-7 can be explained in part by the decline in the number of people working part time for economic reasons, down by almost 1 million in the past year alone.

    Aparna Mathur sees this as a very positive development: “There’s a decline in involuntary part-time workers, which suggests to me they are finding full-time jobs or finding jobs more satisfying on the wage front so they don’t classify themselves as involuntary part time workers.”

    More workers are coming back into the workforce as well.

    “There is a lot more optimism about being able to match with an employer,” Mathur said.

    But Baker, pointing to the low labor force participation rate for both men and women, disagrees. “I think there are a lot of people out there who want to work who aren’t in the labor force at the moment.”

    The post July jobs report closes the near decade-long jobs gap appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Attorneys for former Blackwater guard Nicholas Slatten walk away from the U.S. District Court in Washington, October 22, 2014. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Friday overturned the first-degree murder conviction of a former Blackwater security contractor, ordering a new trial for the man prosecutors say fired the first shots in the 2007 slayings of 14 Iraqi civilians at a crowded traffic circle in Baghdad.

    In a split opinion, the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit ruled a lower court erred by not allowing Nicholas Slatten to be tried separately from his three co-defendants in 2014. The 33-year-old contractor from Tennessee is serving a life sentence for his role in the killings, which strained international relations and drew intense scrutiny of the role of American contractors in the Iraq War.

    The court also ordered new sentences for the three other contractors, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Herd. They were each found guilty of manslaughter and firearms charges carrying mandatory 30-year terms.

    The judges determined those sentences violated the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment because prosecutors charged them with using military firearms while committing another felony. That statute, typically employed against gang members or bank robbers, had never before been used against overseas security contractors working for the U.S. government.

    The lawyers for the defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.

    At the weekslong trial held in 2014, federal prosecutors and defense lawyer presented very different versions of what triggered the September 2007 massacre in Nisour Square.

    The government described the killings as a one-sided ambush of unarmed civilians, while the defense said the guards opened fire only after a white Kia sedan seen as a potential suicide car bomb began moving quickly toward their convoy. After the shooting stopped, no evidence of a bomb found.

    In issuing their ruling benefiting the defendants, the judges said they were in no way excusing the horror of events they said “defies civilized description.”

    “In reaching this conclusion, we by no means intend to minimize the carnage attributable to Slough, Heard and Liberty’s actions,” said U.S. Circuit Judge Karen L. Henderson, writing for the court. “Their poor judgments resulted in the deaths of many innocent people.”

    The post U.S. court upends murder conviction of Blackwater contractor appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz has used data from Google to measure all sorts of human traits, from racism, to depression and insecurity.

    He has written a book called “Everybody Lies.” And, tonight, he shares his Humble Opinion on how what we see posted on social media often has nothing to do with the real picture.

    Have a listen.

    SETH STEPHENS-DAVIDOWITZ, Author, “Everybody Lies”: I have spent five years studying human beings’ darkest and weirdest thoughts. And it actually made me feel better.

    I have analyzed Google search data to learn who we really are, and I frequently found out the world doesn’t work like I thought it did.

    We consistently lie to friends, family members, doctors, and surveys. But we are remarkably honest with Google. Google serves as digital truth serum, as a modern-day confessional.

    So, where do you think anxiety is highest in the United States? Cities with overeducated, overthinking intellectuals? Not true. Google searches show us anxiety and panic attacks are highest in rural areas with more people with fewer years of schooling.

    How about this one? Where do you think racism is most prevalent in the United States? I thought it would be the Deep South. Again, not true. The most common racist searches are for jokes mocking African-Americans. These searches are made the most in Upstate New York, Western Pennsylvania, and industrial Michigan.

    What percent of Web site visits look for ways to change one’s body are done by women? What’s your guess? Ninety percent? In fact, men are almost as likely to visit sites looking for weight loss or plastic surgery.

    Here’s one that you will never guess. What is the most common search in India that begins “my husband wants”? Got your guess ready? It is, “My husband wants me to breast-feed him.”

    Of course, you would never see this on someone’s Instagram feed. On social media, people try to make themselves look good. “The National Enquirer” sells more copies than “The Atlantic Monthly,” but “The Atlantic Monthly” is 45 times more popular on Facebook.

    I guess people want their friends to think they’re more intellectual than they are.

    When you study enough Google search data, it’s hard to take the cultivated selves we see on social media too seriously. Sometimes, it’s interesting to compare people’s Google searches to social media posts.

    Consider how people complete the phrase “my husband is.” First, on social media posts, when people are presenting an image to their friends, the top five ways to complete this phrase are “the best,” “my best friend,” “awesome,” “amazing,” and “so cute.”

    Now, on Google, where people are anonymous, one of the top five is also “awesome,” so that checks out. The other four, “mean,” “a jerk,” “gay,” and “annoying.”

    There’s a popular saying in Alcoholics Anonymous: Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.

    As we move our lives online, I propose a new mantra: Don’t compare your Google searches to other people’s Facebook posts.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz.

    The post Why Google is like truth serum for our most personal thoughts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Newport Folk Festival, it’s the place where Bob Dylan famously went electric in 1965, and so much music history was made since its founding in 1959.

    These days, summer festivals are everywhere, dominating the music scene.

    But, as Jeffrey Brown found out this past weekend, Newport not only survives, but once again thrives.

    JEFFREY BROWN: There were big names on stage, younger stars like the band Fleet Foxes, and old masters like John Prine. There was also a bit of this from comedian Megan Mullally and her musical partner, Stephanie Hunt.

    What do you call it?

    MEGAN MULLALLY, Entertainer: Punk Vaudeville, maybe? They don’t have like the Newport punk Vaudeville festival yet.

    STEPHANIE HUNT, Musician: It’s not a genre just yet.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For the most part, though, traditions were upheld.

    MAN: We’re playing folk music with a capital F.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And parents pleased.

    WOMAN: I have certainly made my dad proud. He’s like, I never thought my daughter would sing in Newport.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Newport Folk Festival was three days of sun and wind, sailboats and seagulls, held in a 19th century fort named for President John Adams, on a gorgeous setting on a spit of land in Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay. It’s a place that cultivates its history.

    Executive producer Jay Sweet:

    JAY SWEET, Executive Producer, Newport Folk Festival: The one thing, if you will notice, about this festival when you walk around is, there’s nothing but music. We don’t have ferris wheels. It’s nothing but music. And we jam quite a bit of music into a very small spot.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And everyone wants to play here, even though the pay is far less than for other, bigger festivals.

    JAY SWEET: Remarkably less.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Remarkably less.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JAY SWEET: Yes, to the point where it’s almost embarrassing. And to the artists’ credit, they completely understand. We’re about as transparent as you can get.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What do you say?

    JAY SWEET: Well, no, what I’m saying is, most of these artists play for 10 times what we pay them, and they still come.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And the audience does, too, drawn in part by the intimacy. Relatively small, some 10,000 people spread out over four stages, this festival sells out before anyone knows who’s performing.

    Music promoter George Wein founded the festival in 1959, five years after starting the Newport Jazz Festival.

    GEORGE WEIN, Founder, Newport Folk Festival: It’s like a time warp. When I see the people coming in, the same faces, the same people, different generations. It’s the same feeling, the same peace and love feeling, without saying peace and love. They don’t dress alike, because the dress is different, but they respond alike. And that’s a fascinating thing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: At 91, Wein gets around these days on his lean green Wein machine golf cart, and serves as chairman of the Newport Festivals Foundation, now set up as a nonprofit.

    GEORGE WEIN: I don’t want to leave. And I love it. It keeps my head going. My mind is as clear as ever. I can’t walk, but that’s — who cares? Who has to walk?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Pete Seeger, who helped Wein start the festival, is honored at an indoor stage series titled For Pete’s Sake.

    The spirit of ’60s protest music is all around. The late greats commemorate some of Newport’s legendary performers now gone. The folk festival itself almost died several times, but today, the audience skews young, attracted by a new generation of musicians who gladly stretch any remaining bonds of folk music.

    What do you call what you’re doing?

    NIKKI LANE, Singer-Songwriter: Something between a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. My favorite compliment is that people always say, I don’t like country music, but I like you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Thirty-four-year-old, Nashville-based Nikki Lane is an up-and-coming singer/songwriter working hard to make it on the festival scene throughout the year.

    NIKKI LANE: I know, like at festivals like Coachella, they’re doing 150,000 people a weekend. If you aren’t playing something that can necessarily be played on radio, and you’re — how do you market yourself? How do you reach the masses? These festivals are kind of serving you up, and it’s kind of survival of the fittest.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This one, compared to a — those 150,000 …

    NIKKI LANE: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This is like a little boutique sort of place, I suppose.

    NIKKI LANE: Yes, but that’s — I imagine where — if you look at the people that are coming here, I would imagine that almost all of the bookers for festivals have spent time here, if anything, figuring out what to book next. This is, to me, the biggest taste-maker.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Even if you’re now a headliner here, like Fleet Foxes, you know the feeling.

    Leader singer Robin Pecknold:

    ROBIN PECKNOLD, Singer-Songwriter: The first time we played here in 2009, they can’t have paid us that much. But I remember the experience was great and the — I’m not even sure they paid us, like, what we deserve to be paid.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Whatever minimal …

    (CROSSTALK)

    ROBIN PECKNOLD: Sure. But the experience was amazing, and it was a great show. And you do get put in front of an audience that maybe doesn’t know who you are, or — when you’re on your way up. And I’m sure that half the people out there probably don’t know who we are tonight.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Oh, yes, but you’re back here as a headliner now.

    ROBIN PECKNOLD: I would come here not knowing — I would buy a ticket to this without knowing who anybody was playing, before they had even announced the lineup.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Thirty-year-old British musician Michael Kiwanuka calls his music psychedelic folk soul. He came here on the heels of major new exposure through the soundtrack of the hit TV series “Big Little Lies.”

    And at Newport, he was a clear favorite of fans and other musicians.

    MICHAEL KIWANUKA, Singer-Songwriter: I’m working on my career and want to be around for a while, like other singers that inspire me.

    And so I’m not like a mega pop star, but I do my thing. But I think that’s really important here that is good is that it’s music lovers that come and, like, music lovers that play it.

    So, if you get to play at Newport, it means that there’s something in your music that is honest or raw or has come from the heart. And I think ever since a young age, that’s what I have been trying to do or been inspired by.

    JEFFREY BROWN: There was one old-time rock star here, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. He made a surprise acoustic appearance to help honor the great American folk singer John Prine.

    Waters, as much as anyone here, felt Newport’s past and present spirit.

    ROGER WATERS, Singer-Songwriter: It’s about music, but it’s also about love. But it’s also about protest, because there’s a strong tradition in American music.

    And get them, get musicians started. Enough with Kim Kardashian’s bum, and Katy Perry or whoever, and all that bubblegum nonsense. Yes, and there are — there are a lot of young committed musicians who are desperate to find a platform.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Once again, Newport provided that kind of platform, continuing its long and storied history.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown at the Newport Folk Festival.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can watch more performances from the Newport Folk Festival, including one from British singer/songwriter Michael Kiwanuka.

    That’s on our Facebook page, facebook.com/newshour.

    The post Why musicians and fans still flock to Newport Folk Festival appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Today marks the close of week one on the job for President Trump’s new chief of staff, a week that kicked off with the firing of a outspoken communications director and ends with word of a new grand jury in the Russia investigation.

    It’s a perfect time for the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome to you both.

    MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, some good numbers on the economy out today, jobs numbers impressive. President Trump is saying it’s all due to him.

    Does he deserve this much credit?

    MARK SHIELDS: Of course he does — but because we learned from candidate Trump that these numbers are totally bogus, that we live in this big ugly bubble, that unemployment is actually 42 percent at the time of President Obama.

    No, Judy, I mean, the economic news is phenomenal. It isn’t just good, setting new records in the stock market to 22000. You have got the lowest unemployment rate in 16 years. You have got economic confidence.

    Today, Mazda and Toyota announced they’re building a $1.3 billion plant in the United States, Amazon 50,000 jobs hiring. And if Donald Trump would get out of the way, if he was silent Cal Coolidge and just let the good news take over, they would say, wow, isn’t that something?

    But motormouth Don just has to keep changing the subject, intruding, and making unhelpful news himself. So — but, at the same time, I mean, does the president — does a president get credit? David has a very strongly, well-developed thesis that presidents really don’t shape the economy, and except over longer periods than their administrations.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that right?

    DAVID BROOKS: I agree with Mark’s version of …

    (CROSSTALK)

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    No, I do think that. They can have a very negative effect if they do something terrible, and maybe over the long run, the investments they make in one decade can lead to the gains next. But on a quarter-by-quarter basis, let alone month to month, no, no effect at all.

    What puzzles me is, as Mark said, the economy is doing great. This is such a long recovery. And timing wise, we should be like dipping down again, and yet the public spirit is so bad. People have some faith in the economy. They do not think the country is headed in the right direction. You’re not getting any spillover in the rest oft way people view the country, the way they view politics.

    And I do think the cynicism has just gotten self-perpetuating. And so, no matter what happens in the country, people still somehow are cynical and distrustful about the country.

    And so my message to America is cheer up a little.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I don’t know how much of it — and we all need to remember that, right?

    But I don’t know how much of this is due to anything going on in Washington. But, Mark, this does, as we said, end the first week on the job for the president’s new Cosby, General Kelly. Does anything feel different to you?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, Judy, two weeks ago tonight, I sat here and announced that — what a breath of fresh air Anthony Scaramucci brought to the press briefing.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: So, my prophet’s credentials are severely tarnished.

    I think that General Kelly had a very good first week, first by getting rid of the aforementioned Anthony Scaramucci. But the difference between a preschool center and the White House staff under Donald Trump has been that the preschool center has adult supervision.

    And I think it’s fair to say that General Kelly has brought to it adult supervision. He is an adult. And he did something, I thought, very shrewd, and, at the same time, decent. He called Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, who had been cyber-bullied by the president rather openly and repeatedly, and assured him that his job was safe.

    That sent a message, not simply to Jeff Sessions, but to everybody else in the White House, where anxiety and nervousness and looking over your shoulder had become endemic.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Cyber-bullied and said it directly in a couple of interviews about — so, there is the new sheriff in town, David, but is it making any difference?

    DAVID BROOKS: I think you would have to say it has.

    There were a number of things he did that I thought were shrewd, one, getting control of schedules, so even family members have to go through him to get to the president. Two, I like the fact that he didn’t want to take the job and that he resisted for weeks and weeks and weeks.

    And that shows some realism about what he’s walking into.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    DAVID BROOKS: Third, he’s just — firing Scaramucci.

    There’s been a purging within the National Security Council, so H.R. McMaster clearly feels a little more empowered to get the people he wants in control, establishing chain of command. So, all of those things, maybe we will have a little less day-to-day melodrama than we have had over the last six months.

    And, personally, I think that would be good for all of us. There are limitations. He’s — another shrewd thing is, he said I’m not going to try to control the president. I’m just going to try to control the staff. And that’s a realistic thing to understand.

    But the president will be the president, center of chaos. And let’s face it. This staff is not exactly the 1929 Yankees.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: He is not dealing with a group of people who are highly competent at their jobs. There are a lot of people, not all, but a lot, who are highly promoted from where they should be.

    And so there’s still going to be a lot of self-inflected wounds.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I would like to tell you I knew about the 1929 Yankees, but I’m glad you explained.

    MARK SHIELDS: He means the ’27 Yankees.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: Not quite as good as the …

    (CROSSTALK)

    MARK SHIELDS: Kelly will be in good shape until he’s widely given credit for righting the sinking ship and saving the presidency, at which point Donald Trump will become upset with him, and he will become expendable.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the president is still — Mark and David, he is still going after — it’s interesting — this week members of Congress, Republicans in Congress.

    He’s tweeted. He’s remarked several times Republicans let him down on health care. He seems angry that they passed this Russia sanctions legislation, which he wasn’t happy to sign. They seem to be standing up a little bit more to him. Do you see that?

    MARK SHIELDS: Standing up, yes, Judy. I think he blamed the — Russian-American relations at an all-time low, he blamed it on the Congress.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    MARK SHIELDS: Nothing that the Russians have done, or nothing that had happened, that 17 American intelligence agencies had found they’re interfering in the American political process and presidential election.

    But I think that they’re — first of all, Jeff Flake, the senator from Arizona, really broke with the president, wrote his own book. David wrote a very good column about it. And it was almost a call to conscience for Republicans.

    And I think — I compare this almost to Gene McCarthy in 1967 standing up to the Democrats, Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War. And one man did make a difference then. And people galvanized around him.

    I think some Republicans obviously see it in their self-interest, their self-preservation. Donald Trump’s numbers are sinking badly. Republicans’ numbers in the Quinnipiac poll, Judy, are 80 to 14 negative on their handling of health care among American voters.

    It’s just — they’re beyond the basement. So, I think there is some courage. But, at the same time, I think there’s a large dose of self-preservation involved.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David, I talked to Jeff Flake this week. And he — it was interesting. He said at one point there are so many things to criticize about this president, we hardly know — we hardly know where to begin.

    But it does look as if the president doesn’t have the clout or the — that Republicans on the Hill don’t seem quite as afraid of him, maybe, as they once were.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right.

    Yes, I think Jeff Flake is still going to be relatively lonely in direct opposition. There are a few, Ben Sasse from Nebraska, Lindsey Graham, I think, Susan Collins, maybe Mike Lee, who are pretty much against Donald Trump. But the rest are just sort of going along.

    But the going along used to be going along close, and now going along, let’s do it without this guy.

    One, during the health care thing, they saw not only how — what a loser he was, but how destructive his presence was to try to get anything done. Second, nothing offends members of your — of the Senate Republicans, nothing would offend them more than being attacked by the president of their own party, because it does feel like an act of disloyalty.

    And so incompetence and disloyalty, that suggests, let’s just go do our own thing, this guy is hopeless.

    And I do think that mentality has begun to slip in to a lot of the Senate Republicans. But it doesn’t mean they are going to try to counter what I think of as cultural rock and the political rock and the institutional rock that is happening in the Trump administration. They are not going to be standing out to that degree.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, meantime, Mark, we were talking about Russia.

    We learned yesterday that Bob Mueller, the special counsel, apparently, he was working with at least one grand jury already, but now there’s another one, a newer one that has been set up here in Washington, which spells, according to all the experts, a really serious investigation that isn’t going to end any time soon.

    MARK SHIELDS: No, it suggests that we’re in for some duration, that don’t plan Thanksgiving or Christmas, that it’s going to be of long standing.

    I would say this, that, Judy, first of all, a grand jury just is impaneled. Its purpose is to hear evidence, to make an indictment, but also to investigate. And I think it becomes quite serious.

    I mean, you don’t have to be Henry Steele Commager to remember that President Bill Clinton got in trouble and faced impeachment because of lying before a grand jury about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. I mean, so, that’s what people all over town are facing right now. So, there’s a sense of gravity and really a seriousness about this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And yet the president, David, goes out on the trail, as he did last night in West Virginia, and talks — says it’s all a witch-hunt, this is the Democrats still mad about losing.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right.

    I think he sort of believes that. It seems to be the obsessive thing on his mind, more than probably anything else in the country today. And he seems to believe he’s just the persecuted person.

    I think the grand jury, as far as we have been told, that it means there is some actual evidence of a crime, that you can’t just launch a grand jury unless you have don’t some substantive evidence. Doesn’t mean there will be indictments, but there is evidence.

    Secondly, you can take hostile witnesses and put them before the grand jury, in a way you can’t with some of the other procedures, apparently. So, it’s a ratcheting up.

    I still — I confess I remain bearish on the idea of the collusion thing is the meat of the thing here. But we know this from special counsels and special prosecutors. Once they get in the tax returns, once they look at the Russian investments, the — whatever the ancillary business relationships are, it seems to me that’s where the — that’s where Mueller is more likely to go than simply the campaign collusion.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lastly …

    MARK SHIELDS: And, Judy …

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

    MARK SHIELDS: What is it? What is it that, I mean, every time the president — I mean, he really is obsessed with this.

    I mean, just — he keeps — he won’t let it go in any way. I mean — so, I mean, that just raises curiosity, suspicion, whatever you want to call it, interest, in what actually is going on.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just last quick thing in only a minute.

    David, these telephone conversations the president had months ago, early in the administration, with the president of Mexico, the prime minister of Australia, just fascinating that he was pushing President Pena Nieto on the wall and saying, you have got to say that Mexico is going to pay for it.

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, shocking that it’s leaked. We should never admit that — that should not be leaked.

    But Donald Trump is a guy we know. I think we’re full up of Donald Trump. He’s petulant. He cares about his own image. He’s not always pleasant. And he is certainly not deep in policy knowledge.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fifteen seconds.

    MARK SHIELDS: Fifteen seconds.

    What you see is what you get. Donald Trump in private conversation turns out to be Donald Trump in public, I mean, concerned primarily about himself, how he’s seen, and with a large dollop of self-pity in dealing with other leaders.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, meantime, as you started out saying, the economy is doing well.

    MARK SHIELDS: It is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Which is what a lot of people are focused on.

    Mark Shields, great to see you both.

    MARK SHIELDS: Great.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, thank you.

    MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

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    Find all of our stories in this series, Stopping Superbugs

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to our series on the hunt for new antibiotics, as superbugs and bacteria are building more resistance to the current line of drugs.

    It is a joint project from our correspondents Paul Solman and Miles O’Brien.

    Last night, Paul looked at why the market for developing new drugs is simply no longer working. But, as one expert warned, antibiotics are a class of drugs that could be lost for treatment if there’s no new investment.

    As part of his series Making Sense, Paul looks at some new options for solving that problem.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Northeastern University biologist Slava Epstein has traveled the world on the hunt for hitherto undiscovered microbes. Some trips are shorter than others.

    MILES O’BRIEN: We are five minutes from your lab, right in the heart of Boston, and this soil is as good as any?

    DR. SLAVA EPSTEIN, Co-founder, Novobiotic Pharmaceuticals: This soil is as good as any.

    PAUL SOLMAN: As Professor Epstein told my NewsHour counterpart on the science beat, Miles O’Brien, just about any handful of soil contains tens of thousands of different microbial species, 99 percent of which remain utterly unexamined, in part because they refuse to grow in petri dishes.

    Epstein’s breakthrough was figuring out how to cultivate them, inventing a gizmo that isolates individual bacteria, then grows them back into teeming colonies.

    So, you can kind of see through them there.

    AMY SPOERING, Research Director, NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals: That’s right. So, in each one of those individual holes, in theory, there is a single cell. And by capturing single cells and putting them back out into the environment that they came from, you can cultivate microorganisms no one has ever cultured before.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Amy Spoering is research director at NovoBiotic, the company Slava Epstein co-founded to study newfound bacteria, now up to 60,000 strains, and counting, as potential sources of new antibiotics. And how does that work?

    SLAVA EPSTEIN: Antibiotics are produced by microorganisms to kill their neighbors, so the enemies, the competitors. This is an exercise that the microorganisms have been going through for the past four billion years.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And that humans have exploited for the past century or so, with chemicals from microorganisms like penicillium, the mold that makes penicillin.

    The trick is finding chemicals that kill infections in people without killing the people too.

    So, I don’t mind interviewing movers and shakers, but it’s actually making me slightly dizzy, so I’m just going to look at you.

    AMY SPOERING: Just look at me. That’s fine.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, what is this?

    AMY SPOERING: So, what this is, is, this is where we grow all of the novel microorganisms that we cultivate. They need a large amount of air in order to grow well, in order to produce the antibiotics.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So you’re aerating them?

    AMY SPOERING: That’s right. That’s why they’re shaking.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So far, they have identified 33 novel compounds here, one of which may be a breakthrough: a new antibiotic that kills bacteria in two completely different ways, making resistance much less likely.

    AMY SPOERING: So, this is making our lead compound, teixobactin.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And the cost, if all goes well, of eventually getting it to market?

    AMY SPOERING: That’s big money.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Big money that investors would be tripping over one another to provide, right, to get in on the ground floor of the next Z-Pak.

    AMY SPOERING: The payout will be huge, if we are successful.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But it’s a long lug, says Spoering, between bug and drug.

    AMY SPOERING: This is 30 liters of it growing to produce the compound that we need to do the next set of pre-clinical tests.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And then, after you have done those animal trials, the toxicology trials…

    AMY SPOERING: Yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: … then, and only then, do you do trials on humans?

    AMY SPOERING: First, an initial set of studies that is just for safety, and then you move on to the efficacy studies, which is phase two, and then much larger efficacy studies, which are phase three, clinical trials.

    DALLAS HUGHES, President, NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals: Drug discovery is a very long process.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Dallas Hughes is NovoBiotic’s president.

    DALLAS HUGHES: We are talking with venture capitalists now, but venture capitalists aren’t going to become interested until we discover a compound like teixobactin and move it forward a bit farther than it is now. And we’re hoping to raise some financing soon.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But, for now, they’re relying on government and foundation grants.

    SLAVA EPSTEIN: Promising something that may or may not happen 10 years from now doesn’t make people as excited as if you were promising the results like here.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But, hey, every drug costs a fortune to bring to market. That can’t be the reason antibiotic firms like this one have such a tough time raising private capital.

    So, what’s the story? As we explained in a prior report, there just isn’t enough profit soon enough. You buy a week’s worth of an antibiotic, not three months, say, of Harvoni for hepatitis C.

    NARRATOR: That’s one pill, once a day, for 12 weeks.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And it costs about $30,000 a month.

    Moreover, when a company comes up with a new superbug slayer, the medical community wants to keep it off the market as long as possible to delay toxic microorganisms developing resistance to it. Meanwhile, the patent runs out. Small wonder that even big pharma has said no mas.

    DR. JOHN REX, Former Pharmaceutical Industry Executive: Most of the companies that were really doing the large-scale development work backed away from the area.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Like AstraZeneca, where infectious disease Dr. John Rex used to head antibiotic development. What did he learn from his tenure?

    DR. JOHN REX: It’s a good way to destroy $50 million to $100 million worth of net present value after 30 years of really hard work.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But ever-hopeful startups like this one, Tetraphase, outside Boston, have popped up. And a new public-private partnership called CARB-X has stepped in to help fund their trek from test tube to clinical trials.

    KEVIN OUTTERSON, Executive Director, CARB-X: We have, at CARB-X, $455 million over the next five years, but what we need globally across all countries is about $2 billion per year for antibiotic R&D, supported by public and charitable funds.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, says executive director Kevin Outterson.

    KEVIN OUTTERSON: This is an infrastructure investment that has to be made in order to keep this drug class alive. I think antibiotics is the most valuable drug class in human history. It’s done more to save lives than any other drug class. It’s incredibly powerful. But it’s the only one that, if you don’t keep investing, you lose it.

    Every other invention of modern medical science is still going to work in 100 years. Antibiotics, we know they won’t.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Because bugs resistant to the antibiotic will evolve. But what cure can economics possibly come up with, when the market itself fails?

    KEVIN OUTTERSON: The model that people are coalescing around is some sort of a significant prize, a significant billion-dollar payment, that rewards them for the innovation, and then we can still use that antibiotic sparingly for the next 10 or 20 years.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Rich prizes, they have motivated everything from discovering a way to determine longitude at sea, to Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic solo flight in 1927, to private space flight today.

    DR. PETER DIAMANDIS, XPRIZE Foundation: We have got $50 million of prizes on the table right now, and $200 million of prizes in development at different stages in the pipeline.

    DANIEL BERMAN, Longitude Prize: Prizes can be the answer when you’re trying to motivate people beyond the normal suspects.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Daniel Berman is in charge of today’s so-called longitude prize, 10 million British pounds for a quickie test to see if you need antibiotics at all.

    NARRATOR: One of the main reasons why drug resistant infections occur is that antibiotics are used inappropriately, such as people taking the wrong ones or not needing them in the first place.

    DANIEL BERMAN: We need a rapid diagnostic test because we need to make sure that we don’t burn through the few antibiotics that are left. And when new antibiotics come on, we have to make sure that we dramatically use them in a more rational way.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Without such a test, doctors are under constant pressure to prescribe.

    DR. LINDSEY BADEN, Brigham and Women’s Hospital: Often, acute infections are viral, and without the ability to specifically diagnose you at the point that you’re in the office, it’s very hard to know that an antibiotic won’t help.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Boston infectious disease expert Lindsey Baden.

    But to just distinguish between a virus and a bacterium, that would be a big deal.

    DR. LINDSEY BADEN: A virus and bacterium would be very important.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And even more so in developing nations.

    DANIEL BERMAN: For example, in India, you can still purchase antibiotics without a prescription in a lot of places. And people are dying because, for some pathologies, there are simply no antibiotics that work anymore.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But look, says Slava Epstein:

    SLAVA EPSTEIN: Can you use antibiotics smarter? Absolutely. But that will not prevent antimicrobial resistance. It will delay it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: That’s why, he says, we must ramp up the efforts and investments in new ones.

    This is economics correspondent Paul Solman, reporting for the PBS NewsHour.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I’m still dizzy from the shaking.

    Join us next week as Paul and Miles continue their series.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to a problem that knows no party and has caused pain in every modern American presidency. We are talking about unauthorized leaks to the press.

    The Obama administration brought more leak-related charges than all other presidencies combined. As we heard, today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to triple the number of investigations.

    It follows the rare disclosure this week of the full transcripts of President Trump’s early calls with world leaders.

    Hari Sreenivasan has a look at the debate over freedom of information and national security concerns.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For that, we are joined by James Risen, investigative reporter for The New York Times and author of the book “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War.” He fought a protracted legal battle that spanned two administrations over whether he could be forced to identify his confidential sources. And Jeffrey Smith, he served as general counsel of the CIA in the Clinton administration. He is currently a lawyer in private practice.

    James, let me start with you.

    Your reaction to what Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice said this morning?

    JAMES RISEN, The New York Times: I think it was — they didn’t have much in the way of specifics. There were no specific cases that they announced that they were bringing against either reporters or whistle-blowers.

    And I think that their press conference was mainly in reaction to Donald Trump’s continued pressure on Sessions and on Dan Coats, the — and the intelligence community to get tough on leaks. But they lacked any real policy depth to what they were saying. They just talked about how they were going to get tough.

    And so it sounded a lot like what previous administrations, both the Bush and the Obama administrations, have said. And it really is — we’re going to have to wait and see whether they really have specific cases that they plan to bring or not.

    They talked about how they have tripled the number of investigations, but that really leaves a lot to — a lot of questions, because the intelligence community, for years, has made many, many referrals to the Justice Department that never get prosecuted. And so the fact that they have more referrals doesn’t really mean that we’re going to see more criminal cases.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Jeffrey Smith, is this any different than what every administration tries to do when they come in?

    JEFFREY SMITH, Former CIA General Counsel: No, I don’t think so.

    Leaks are a real problem. They can cause real harm, but I think one has to distinguish between leaks of information that is genuinely classified and truly does cause harm and leaks of information that people regard as sensitive, but is more political in nature.

    So it’s important to concentrate on those leaks that really do cause harm to national security, and not just on those that are inconvenient for leadership.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: James Risen, given that sort of definition that Jeffrey Smith gave us of what constitutes a leak and what doesn’t, should The Washington Post have published the transcripts of the president’s conversations with the Mexican president and the Australian leader?

    JAMES RISEN: Well, in my opinion, yes. I think it’s in the real public interest, because it showed — for one thing, it showed what Donald Trump really thinks of his wall idea and how political of an issue it was for him.

    I think Jeff is absolutely right that there is a distinction between national security reporting and political reporting. And I think Donald Trump is going to be very disappointed, because the kind of leaks that he rages about are just what Jeff just described as political in nature. And they don’t really fall under the kind of cases that can be prosecuted in any meaningful way.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: James, staying with you for a second, given that there was a substantive difference that we all learned about in terms of President Trump’s policy from that transcript, given that, should there be an expectation a president has that he can have a conversation with another world leader and it be private?

    Doesn’t it change the equation? Every president that’s going to call or every leader that’s going to have a conversation with President Trump might speak differently to him knowing now that those conversations might be published in The Washington Post the next day.

    JAMES RISEN: Well, you know, that wasn’t even the first phone call that was published. The Intercept published one between Trump and Duterte, the leader of the Philippines, a few weeks ago.

    I think if you — you have to understand the context in which leaks happen. Leaks happen when people are unhappy with the government.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Jeffrey Smith, according to even to your own definition, would the publishing of those transcripts by The Washington Post, would that constitute a leak? Should it be prosecuted?

    JEFFREY SMITH: Yes, I think it could.

    Undoubtedly, those transcripts were classified. I don’t know what level. But I spent many years in the Department of State. And conversations between heads of state or secretaries of state and foreign ministers are extraordinarily sensitive.

    And the leak of that will undoubtedly chill any future conversations between the president and others, because they will wonder whether or not what they said to him can remain confidential. So, yes, it will cause harm.

    JAMES RISEN: A lot of these cases, you have got to remember there’s sides to conversations. Some of these may be coming out from foreign governments who don’t like Trump.

    I think you have to remember the reason there’s been this cascade of leaks about Donald Trump is because he’s gone out of his way to insult and ridicule virtually everyone that he deals with.

    JEFFREY SMITH: Jim, I’m not disagreeing at all with you on why they occur.

    I’m just saying that, in the particular case of heads of state conversations, damage to U.S. relations with that country and other countries will occur.

    JAMES RISEN: I’m saying that those leaks may have happened from the other government wanting to get it out.

    JEFFREY SMITH: That is certainly possible.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Jeffrey Smith, I just want to ask you, also, how do we balance out the needs for national security with the needs of an informed public?

    You know, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said today: “What the attorney general is suggesting is a dangerous threat to the American people to know and understand what their leaders are doing and why.”

    JEFFREY SMITH: It is always a delicate balance. And there is no perfect answer here.

    One thing I do want to comment on is the previous administration had come up with guidelines for the subpoenaing of reporters. And I think those guidelines strike the right balance, and I hope that the new administration will not change them.

    That said, it is important that we do protect things that truly are harmful. And my impression is, over the years, that most news organizations check with the executive branch before they publish. And the executive branch has the obligation to try to tell them why harm would occur, but leave it in the journalistic judgment of the news media to decide what to do.

    Unfortunately, in my view, they publish more than they should, but striking this balance is difficult.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Jeffrey Smith, James Risen, thank you both.

    JAMES RISEN: Thanks.

    The post The difference between illegal leaks and inconvenient leaks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the day’s other news: The Justice Department announced a new crackdown on leaks to the press of classified government information.

    Since January, the department has tripled the number of investigations into leaks compared with when President Obama left office. And four people have been charged with unlawful disclosures or concealing contacts with foreign officers.

    Alongside top intelligence officials, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the crackdown a top priority.

    JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. Attorney General: This nation must end this culture of leaks. We will investigate and seek to bring criminals to justice. We will not allow rogue anonymous sources with security clearances to sell out our country.

    These cases to investigate and prosecute are never easy, but cases will be made, and leakers will be held accountable.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just yesterday, The Washington Post published transcripts of President Trump’s phone calls with the leaders of Australia and Mexico coming from the first days of his presidency. The leaked exchanges revealed at times contentious conversations, at odds with the White House’s description to the press.

    Today, the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, issued a warning to any would-be leakers.

    DAN COATS, U.S. National Intelligence Director: Anyone who engages in these criminal acts is betraying the intelligence community and the American people. We feel the pain of those betrayals intensely. And I can assure you that I will do everything in my power as the director of national intelligence to hold these individuals accountable.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We will have more on his department’s efforts right after the news summary.

    President Trump kicked off his 17-day working vacation today. He left Washington this afternoon, en route to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. It is his first extended vacation as president. While Mr. Trump is gone, the West Wing of the White House will undergo a series of renovations.

    In Venezuela, the country’s new Constitutional Assembly convened for the first time today. The body has sweeping powers, which opponents fear will be used to impose a dictatorship for President Nicolas Maduro. Pro-government demonstrators took to the streets in Caracas, as the assembly picked its head, an ex-foreign minister, and a Maduro loyalist, who took aim at President Trump.

    DELCY RODRIGUEZ, President of the Venezuelan Constituent Assembly (through interpreter): To the head of the empire, we say, and we will repeat as many times as necessary, don’t mess with Venezuela. From here, from this powerful chamber surrounded by our liberators, we say, savage and barbarous empire, don’t mess with Venezuela, because Venezuela will never faint, nor surrender.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The results of the election for the assembly have faced mounting scrutiny, after the company that provided Venezuela’s electronic voting machines said that turnout numbers were manipulated.

    A federal appeals court in Washington has thrown out the murder conviction of a former Blackwater security guard in the 2007 massacre of 14 Iraqi civilians. Nicholas Slatten will now get a new trial, after the court said that he should have been tried separately from his three co-defendants. The court also ordered new sentences for those men.

    Prosecutors have added a key witness in the two corruption cases against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli police say that Netanyahu’s former chief of staff has agreed to testify against him. The investigations involve improper gifts and attempts to influence media coverage. Netanyahu has dismissed the news as — quote — “background noise.”

    Back in this country, former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli, who gained notoriety for hiking the price of anti-infection medicine, was convicted today in an unrelated case. Federal prosecutors accused Shkreli of misleading investors and stealing money from one of his companies to pay them back. Shkreli, however, was found not guilty today on five of eight charges, and he praised that outcome.

    MARTIN SHKRELI, Former Pharmaceutical Executive: I’m delighted the jury did their job. They saw the facts as they were. This was a witch-hunt of epic proportions, and maybe they found one or two broomsticks, but at the end of the day, we have been acquitted of the most important charges of this case. And I’m delighted to report that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Shkreli could face up to 20 years in prison, but legal experts expect he will get a lighter sentence.

    And the British security researcher credited with stopping a global cyber-attack back in May was due in court today on unrelated hacking charges; 22-year-old Marcus Hutchins was arrested in Las Vegas this week for allegedly distributing software years ago to collect bank account passwords. Hutchins helped control the so-called WannaCry attack that crippled thousands of computers.

    The post News Wrap: Venezuela’s controversial new assembly convenes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A street sign for Wall Street is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City. Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: July was the second straight month of solid job gains in the United States.

    The Labor Department says employers added 209,000 jobs last month. That dropped the unemployment rate down to 4.3 percent, tying a 16-year-low. The good report pushed stocks higher on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 66 points to close at 22092. That is its eighth straight record high.

    Let’s get an assessment about the job market and the stock market and what it means for millions of Americans.

    I’m joined by Mark Vitner, managing director and senior economist at Wells Fargo.

    Mark Vitner, welcome to the program.

    So, just how good a jobs report is this?

    MARK VITNER, Wells Fargo: Well, it’s a pretty solid report, pretty much top to bottom; 209,000 jobs exceeded what folks were looking for. We had a small upward revision of the prior data.

    And we saw that a very wide majority of industries added jobs. Over 60 percent of the industries that make up the employment survey added jobs during the month of July.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why is it doing so well? What’s the driver behind this?

    MARK VITNER: Well, I think that, after eight years of economic growth, things are finally beginning to broaden a little bit.

    Previously, most of the growth that we saw in the economy, most of the improvement was coming from either the tech sector or the energy sector. Then energy faltered a little bit, oil prices came down, and things slowed a little bit in 2015 and 2016.

    In this past year, we have seen that global growth picked up, oil prices have rebounded a little bit. And so, really, for the first time since the recession, it seems like we’re firing on all cylinders. The strength we have in the economy is broadening. It’s reaching not only more industries, but more parts of the country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, when you say it’s firing on all cylinders, you mean literally everywhere in every kind of industry?

    MARK VITNER: Well, I wish it was literally everywhere, but it’s in more places than it used to be.

    And there are a lot of places. And you look within a state. You go to Tennessee, for example, and Nashville’s been booming for a long time, but Memphis really hasn’t been doing that well. Memphis is finally beginning to see some stronger economic growth.

    And some of that is that we have had so much growth in a handful of areas, that their unemployment rates have gotten low enough that companies are now searching for other places where they can find workers, find office space, find industrial space. And so the strength to have the economy seems to be reaching more parts of the country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So now let’s talk about the stock market.

    It also seems to be roaring. And we said a minute ago apparently it eighth straight record. What’s going on there?

    MARK VITNER: Well, recently, a lot of that has been in the tech sector, where we have had very good earnings.

    And the stock market and the economy are somewhat reflecting the same thing. We had a slowdown in the global economy in 2015 and 2016, and the U.S. economy was outgrowing the rest of the world, and the dollar shot up in value.

    That made it very tough for companies to boost their profit margins. Within the last year, we have seen that global demand picked up. And more than half of the earnings of the Fortune — of the S&P 500 come from overseas. And that stronger growth is translating into stronger profits, and that’s what’s taken the market up.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we see that wages are finally beginning to pick up a little as well.

    But what about — Mark Vitner, what about ordinary Americans? You still get the sense that many people say they don’t feel they’re part of this great boom, this recovery that’s taking place.

    MARK VITNER: Well, America is a vast country, and you have got people of all walks of life.

    And so it’s not surprising that a lot of people, and I would say most people, aren’t really tied into the stock market, at least not directly. But I can tell you that companies are more likely to add workers and boost salaries and expand their operations when stock prices are going up than when they’re going down.

    When the stock market is going down and we’re talking about eight straight losing sessions, actually longer than that, when we have a pullback that persists, there is a lot of pressure on corporate managers to find cost savings. And that’s when — so a weaker stock market may show up to ordinary Americans a lot more directly than a stronger one shows up.

    But ordinary Americans do benefit from a stronger stock market. Whether they do so directly, maybe not — even if they don’t do so directly, they do benefit indirectly.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And it sounds as if you’re saying, if they haven’t felt it already, maybe they will feel it soon.

    MARK VITNER: Well, I would certainly hope so.

    I think that the improvement in the stock market — when the stock market goes up for odd reasons, then it probably doesn’t mean that much. But when it goes up because the economy is improving, and we’re seeing a broadening in the strength of the economy and earnings have improved, that’s something that should benefit everyone.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Final question.

    President Trump has said on a number of occasions that he deserves a lot of credit for this. How much does any president — how much credit does any president deserve when the economy booms?

    MARK VITNER: My philosophy has always been give them credit when it’s good and blame when it’s bad, because they get all the blame when it goes bad.

    But President Trump’s policies are pro-growth. The problem is, is that none of those policies have really been enacted. The one area where the president has made progress has been lessening the load of regulation, and we see that in some of our surveys of small business, where the number of businesses that say that their number one problem is regulation has fallen substantially over the last six months.

    And I think that has contributed to a little bit of the pickup that we’re seeing in business-fixed investment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Vitner of Wells Fargo, it’s nice to have a good report on the economy for a change. Thank you.

    MARK VITNER: Glad we could help.

    The post After years of slow recovery, U.S. economy boasts solid gains appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Healthcare activists with Planned Parenthood and the Center for American Progress protest in opposition to the Senate Republican healthcare bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 28, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTS191DY

    Healthcare activists with Planned Parenthood and the Center for American Progress protest in opposition to the Senate Republican healthcare bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 28, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    The proposal seemed modest in today’s polarized political climate: The head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee suggested his group might help fund candidates who didn’t share the party’s support for abortion rights.

    The backlash from abortion-rights activists and organizations was quick and harsh. The basic message: Don’t go there.

    A coalition of progressive groups, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, issued a “statement of principles” challenging the party to be unwavering in its support for abortion rights. Scores of women who have had abortions made the same point in an open letter to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a staunch abortion-rights supporter who nonetheless says there’s room in the party for opposing views.

    “The DCCC should not be supporting any politician who does not respect a woman’s right to control her body,” said Karin Roland, of the women’s rights group Ultraviolet. “There is no future of the Democratic Party without women — so stop betraying them for a misguided idea of what’s needed to win elections.”

    The latest brush fires were sparked this week by the DCCC chairman, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, when he told The Hill newspaper that the committee is willing to aid candidates who oppose abortion rights. His core argument: Democrats — after a series of dismaying losses in national and state elections — will only reclaim power by winning in GOP-leaning districts and states where the liberal base can’t deliver victories on its own.

    A DCCC official, Meredith Kelly, said Lujan isn’t looking specifically for abortion-rights opponents, even in conservative districts. But, she added, “We are working right now to recruit candidates who represent Democratic values and who also fit the districts they are running in.”

    READ NEXT: In Texas, legal battle over abortion law hangs over special legislative session

    The current Congress is almost monolithic when it comes to abortion. Only a small handful of Republicans vote in favor of abortion rights; a similarly small number of Democrats support restrictions on abortion.

    Some Democratic officials suggest the argument over Lujan’s remarks is overblown — a handful of outliers won’t change the agenda if Democrats reclaim congressional majorities.

    Abortion-rights leaders have a different view.

    “Every time the Democrats lose an election, they start casting about in ways that are deeply damaging to the base,” NARAL president Ilyse Hogue said. “If they go out and start recruiting anti-choice candidates under the Democratic brand, the message is, ‘We’re willing to sell out women to win,’ and politically that’s just suicide.”

    Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, said politicians who personally object to abortion should be welcome in the Democratic Party — as long as they don’t vote to impose that view on others.

    Supporting candidates who voted that way, said Laguens, would be comparable to supporting candidates who voted against LGBT-rights.

    “These are fundamental issues that Democrats have staked their world view around,” she said.

    Stephen Schneck, a longtime political science professor at Catholic University and board member with Democrats for Life of America, contends that the Democratic leadership would benefit from more diverse views on abortion.

    “Internal tensions are really good for a party,” he said, citing polls showing that more than 20 percent of Democratic voters oppose abortion in most cases.

    However, Schneck acknowledged that it’s hard to find common ground on any abortion-related policies, with the possible exception of boosting support for women who carry babies to term. Advocacy groups on each side of the abortion debate tend to scorn the concept of compromise and to base their fundraising campaigns on vows to be unyielding.

    READ NEXT: How states are fighting over women’s access to health care

    A prominent anti-abortion leader, Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that supports anti-abortion candidates, said she and her allies were proud of working to weaken the influence of abortion-rights supporters in Republican ranks.

    “When the roles were reversed 10 years ago, and some within the Republican Party were advocating for a ‘big tent’ on abortion, we worked very hard at the time to keep the GOP pro-life from the top down,” she said in an email.

    In some respects, Lujan’s remarks don’t represent a new stance for the Democrats’ campaign apparatus. The Democratic Governors Association in 2015 helped John Bel Edwards, an anti-abortion Catholic, win the Louisiana governors’ race, an upset in a Republican-dominated state.

    The governors’ group is now eyeing the 2018 race for governor in Kansas. The Democratic field includes former legislator and agriculture commissioner Joshua Svaty, who had an anti-abortion record in the Kansas House.

    Laura McQuade, who runs Planned Parenthood Great Plains, warns that anti-abortion governors play a very different role from rank-and-file members of Congress — getting a chance to weigh in on bills that would restrict abortion access.

    McQuade, who is critical of Svaty’s candidacy, notes that Kansas’ last two-term Democratic governor, Kathleen Sebelius, supported abortion rights and went on to serve as President Barack Obama’s health secretary. Democrats don’t have to abandon support for “full gender equity” to win, she said.

    Svaty has not made his abortion stance a feature of his campaign, telling journalists it wouldn’t be a defining issue of his administration.

    Kansas Democratic Chairman Josh Gibson has avoided taking a side, saying, “It’s up to primary voters to decide where they want to place their emphasis.”

    In Louisiana, Democrats embraced Edwards’ candidacy, even as he featured his abortion opposition in campaign ads. The heavily Catholic state is accustomed to Democrats who oppose abortion rights, and the Democratic Governors Association had no qualms embracing Edwards over his GOP opponent, then-Sen. David Vitter.

    As governor, Edwards has left it to the Republican attorney general to defend previously adopted abortion restrictions in court. He has signed new abortion regulations, though he did not champion the proposals. Among them: a three-day waiting period for women seeking abortions.

    “The issue is personal for him,” explains Edwards aide Richard Carbo. Edwards and his wife rejected medical advice to abort a baby of theirs who’d been diagnosed with spina bifida. She’s now a healthy adult.

    Carbo said Edwards called Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez earlier this year when Perez declared it is “not negotiable” that “every Democrat … should support a woman’s right” to abortion services.

    “He wants this to be a big tent party on this issue,” Carbo said.

    The post Idea of Democrats funding anti-abortion candidates draws ire appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    marijuana

    A Cannabis plant is pictured at the “Weed the People” event in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Steve Dipaola/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The betting was that law-and-order Attorney General Jeff Sessions would come out against the legalized marijuana industry with guns blazing. But the task force Sessions assembled to find the best legal strategy is giving him no ammunition, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

    The Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, a group of prosecutors and federal law enforcement officials, has come up with no new policy recommendations to advance the attorney general’s aggressively anti-marijuana views. The group’s report largely reiterates the current Justice Department policy on marijuana.

    It encourages officials to keep studying whether to change or rescind the Obama administration’s more hands-off approach to enforcement — a stance that has allowed the nation’s experiment with legal pot to flourish. The report was not slated to be released publicly, but portions were obtained by the AP.

    Sessions, who has assailed marijuana as comparable to heroin and blamed it for spikes in violence, has been promising to reconsider existing pot policy since he took office six months ago. His statements have sparked both support and worry across the political spectrum as a growing number of states have worked to legalize the drug.

    Threats of a federal crackdown have united liberals, who object to the human costs of a war on pot, and some conservatives, who see it as a states’ rights issue. Some advocates and members of Congress had feared the task force’s recommendations would give Sessions the green light to begin dismantling what has become a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar pot industry that helps fund schools, educational programs and law enforcement.

    But the tepid nature of the recommendations signals just how difficult it would be to change course on pot.

    READ NEXT: In a first, marijuana substance reduces seizures for some epilepsy patients in clinical trial

    Some in law enforcement support a tougher approach, but a bipartisan group of senators in March urged Sessions to uphold existing marijuana policy. Others in Congress are seeking ways to protect and promote pot businesses.

    The vague recommendations may be intentional, reflecting an understanding that shutting down the entire industry is neither palatable nor possible, said John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies marijuana law and was interviewed by members of the task force.

    “If they come out with a more progressive, liberal policy, the attorney general is just going to reject it. They need to convince the attorney general that the recommendations are the best they can do without embarrassing the entire department by implementing a policy that fails,” he said.

    The task force suggestions are not final, and Sessions is in no way bound by them. The government still has plenty of ways it can punish weed-tolerant states, including raiding pot businesses and suing states where the drug is legal, a rare but quick path to compliance. The only one who could override a drastic move by Sessions is President Donald Trump, whose personal views on marijuana remain mostly unknown.

    The Justice Department declined to comment.

    Rather than urging federal agents to shut down dispensaries and make mass arrests, the task force puts forth a more familiar approach.

    Its report says officials should continue to oppose rules that block the Justice Department from interfering with medical marijuana programs in states where it is allowed. Sessions wrote to members of Congress in May asking them — unsuccessfully so far — to undo those protections. The Obama administration also unsuccessfully opposed those rules.

    READ NEXT: Scientists say most marijuana strains act basically the same

    The report suggests teaming the Justice Department with Treasury officials to offer guidance to financial institutions, telling them to implement robust anti-money laundering programs and report suspicious transactions involving businesses in states where pot is legal. That is already required by federal law.

    And it tells officials to develop “centralized guidance, tools and data related to marijuana enforcement,” two years after the Government Accountability Office told the Justice Department it needs to better document how it’s tracking the effect of marijuana legalization in the states.

    Most critically, and without offering direction, it says officials “should evaluate whether to maintain, revise or rescind” a set of Obama-era memos that allowed states to legalize marijuana on the condition that officials act to keep it from migrating to places where it is still outlawed and out of the hands of criminal cartels and children. Any changes to the policy could impact the way pot-legal states operate.

    The recommendations are not surprising because “there’s as much evidence that Sessions intends to maintain the system and help improve upon it as there is that he intends to roll it back,” said Mason Tvert, who ran Colorado’s legalization campaign. He pointed to Sessions’ comment during his Senate confirmation hearing that while he opposed legalization, he understood the scarcity of federal resources and “echoed” the position of his Democratic predecessors.

    But in July, he sent letters to Colorado and Washington that stirred concern, asking how they would address reports they were not adequately regulating the drug.

    It remains unclear how much weight Sessions might give the recommendations. He said he has been relying on them to enact policy in other areas. Apart from pot, the task force is studying a list of criminal justice issues. The overall report’s executive summary says its work continues and its recommendations “do not comprehensively address every effort that the Department is planning or currently undertaking to reduce violent crime.”

    The post Task force on marijuana law offers little on new policies appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO: Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the U.S., arrives at Dulles International Airport in Chantilly

    Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, arrives at Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, on May 18, 2012. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    MOSCOW — The former Russian ambassador to the United States on Saturday strongly denied the accusations of meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

    Sergei Kislyak, who has just returned from Washington, said on Russian state Rossiya 24 television that he was merely doing his job as a diplomat when he met with members of President Donald Trump’s team. He said he also had met with representatives of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but didn’t give any names.

    Kislyak described the U.S. accusations against him as absurd and “shameful” for the U.S., adding that the official acknowledgement that his phone conversations were bugged was “unhealthy.”

    “Any diplomat, Russian or not, works to better understand the policy of a country he’s posted to, figure out what the new administration’s course is and understand where cooperation is possible,” Kislyak said.

    Kislyak’s contacts with members of Trump’s team have been part of congressional and FBI investigations into possible collusion between Trump campaign and Russia. Moscow has denied any interference in the U.S. election.

    Asked about his contacts with Michael Flynn, who served briefly as Trump’s national security adviser before being fired in February, Kislyak said that they didn’t discuss any secrets.

    “We talked about very basic things,” he said. “There are a few subjects important for Russia-U.S. cooperation, primarily terrorism, and it was one of the subjects we talked about. Our conversations were legitimate, calm and absolutely transparent.”

    [Watch Video]

    Flynn was fired after officials said he misled U.S. Vice President Mike Pence about whether he and the ambassador had discussed Washington’s sanctions against Russia in a phone call.

    Kislyak insisted that they hadn’t talked about sanctions, adding that he had specific orders from Moscow not to chat the restrictive measures.

    “I had instructions not to discuss sanctions,” he said. “We haven’t been involved in any discussions or bargaining over sanctions, because we believe that they have been introduced unlawfully.”

    The post Russia’s ex-ambassador to U.S. rejects accusations of meddling appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 09: Shadow of a woman on a frosted glass pane, Symbolic photo to the topics: anonymity, fear, uncertainty, unsteadiness, personal secrets etc. (Photo by Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images)

    Photo by Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images

    Survivors of sexual assault who come forward often confront doubt on the part of others. Did you fight back? they are asked. Did you scream? Just as painful for them, if not more so, can be a sense of guilt and shame. Why did I not resist? they may ask themselves. Is it my fault? And to make matters worse, although the laws are in flux in various jurisdictions, active resistance can be seen as necessary for a legal or even “common sense” definition of rape. Unless it is clearly too dangerous, as when the rapist is armed, resisting is generally thought to be the “normal” reaction to sexual assault.

    But new research adds to the evidence debunking this common belief. According to a recent study, a majority of female rape survivors who visited the Emergency Clinic for Rape Victims in Stockholm reported they did not fight back. Many also did not yell for help. During the assault they experienced a kind of temporary paralysis called tonic immobility. And those who experienced extreme tonic immobility were twice as likely to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and three times more likely to suffer severe depression in the months after the attack than women who did not have this response.

    Tonic immobility (TI) describes a state of involuntary paralysis in which individuals cannot move or, in many cases, even speak. In animals this reaction is considered an evolutionary adaptive defense to an attack by a predator when other forms of defense are not possible. Much less is known about this phenomenon in humans, although it has been observed in soldiers in battle as well as in survivors of sexual assault. A study from 2005, for example, found 52 percent of female undergraduates who reported childhood sexual abuse said they experienced this paralysis.

    The new study, published in Acta Obstetrecia et Gynecologica Scandinavica,reports that of nearly 300 women who visited the rape clinic, 70 percent experienced at least “significant” tonic immobility and 48 percent met the criteria for “extreme” tonic immobility during the rape. (The condition’s severity was assessed using a scale that measured feelings of being frozen, mute, numb and so on.)

    This latest research is important because of its large sample size (298 women reporting, 189 of whom returned for a follow-up assessment after six months) and because they related their experience within 30 days of the assault, thus reducing the possibility of faulty recall. These findings strongly support previous research that links this involuntary paralysis with greater psychological harm following the assault. The 2005 study, for example, found an association between having experienced tonic immobility and significant psychological impairment.

    The connection between this paralysis response and suffering greater PTSD and depression makes sense at the intuitive level, clinicians say. Women, men and children who are sexually assaulted and think they should have resisted but did not may also be prone to feeling guilt and shame. The correlation is strong although it does not prove causality. “I am not surprised that tonic immobility is common,” says University of Sydney psychiatrist Kasia Kozlowska, who has recently published, with her colleagues, a study in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry about the brain’s involuntary defense mechanisms in humans and other animals. “After all,” she wrote in an e-mail, “tonic immobility is designed to activate when there is contact with a predator (akin to the sexual abuse situation). Theoretically, one could expect it to activate when there is physical contact, high arousal and fear, and no possibility of running away.”

    This “rape-induced paralysis,” she explains, is one of six automatically activated defense behaviors in animals and humans that make up the “defense cascade.” Typically, nonhuman animals are programmed to go through each of the states as the proximity of the danger escalates. The stages are: arousal (alertness to possible danger); freezing (momentarily putting flight or fight on hold while assessing danger); “flight or fight”; tonic immobility; collapsed immobility (fainting in fear); and quiescent immobility (a subsequent state of rest that promotes healing). People who experience sexual assault may go through several of these stages, or skip straight to tonic immobility.

    Each of the defense reactions, she explains, involves activation of motor and arousal centers in the brain and changes in pain and sensory processing. When flight or fight is possible, motor programs for running or fighting are activated, the arousal system is switched to a high-energy setting and nonopioid analgesia is switched on. This helps the victim either run away or fight the predator. When flight or fight is not possible, immobility motor programs are activated, causing the paralysis. At the same time, the arousal system is switched to a low-energy setting, and the brain is flooded with “opioid analgesia” to reduce the intensity of the fear and pain.

    Humans and other animals cannot control these defense mechanisms. In humans who are being raped, tonic immobility may be immediately triggered when their sensory inputs (touch, smell and so on) reach a critical threshold and they feel there is no escape.

    The implications for rape survivors in the legal system are immense, experts say. If courts demand these people prove they resisted, says Kozlowska, “these courts are actually causing psychological harm to the women and failing to recognize the body’s innate response to serious attack.” Police and soldiers, she adds, also experience tonic immobility in traumatic situations and similarly suffer from unnecessary guilt.

    The phenomenon of tonic immobility during an attack is not well known within the legal and judicial system, but people working with sexual assault survivors have long been aware of it, says James Hopper, a psychological trauma expert and teaching associate at Harvard Medical School. Since 2012 Hopper has been training civilian and military investigators and prosecutors around the country, and has found them very receptive.

    It is critical, says Karolinska Institute gynecologist Anna Möller, the current study’s lead author, for rape survivors themselves to understand that their ability to fight was out of their conscious control. Education could be instrumental in altering their interpretations of their behavior after the fact, reducing their shame and guilt. It could provide them, the study authors say, “with evidence that they do not choose the path their bodies ultimately went down.”

    For more on the prevalence of tonic immobility during sexual assault, go to this site. For more on the relationship between tonic immobility and PTSD, see this site. For more on the protective function of tonic immobility, see here. This article is reproduced with permission from Scientific American. It was first published on Aug. 4, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post Sexual assault may trigger involuntary paralysis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) looks on during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee

    Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) looks on during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on March 9, 2017. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Sen. Luther Strange got his appointment to Congress earlier this year from a governor who later resigned under the cloud of an ethics scandal.

    The appointment by then-Gov. Robert Bentley gave Strange the advantage of incumbency in the race to replace Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate. It also became his chief liability since Strange, as state attorney general, oversaw the investigation of Bentley.

    “He’s got too many Bentley cooties on him. He can’t wash them off,” said Kevin Spriggs, a Baldwin County voter.

    The sex-tainted scandal that ended Bentley’s political career is dragging into the U.S. Senate race as rivals try to capitalize on what they see as Strange’s Achilles heel.

    “Luther Strange, Mr. Corruption himself,” Dr. Randy Brinson, a Montgomery doctor, who is running in the crowded GOP field, said during a recent press conference. Brinson is the former head of the state Christian Coalition.

    Strange calls the criticisms unmerited and said he opened the investigation that eventually led to Bentley resigning and taking a plea deal.

    “I asked the team I put together to follow the truth wherever it led. They did. So the governor resigned,” Strange told The Associated Press

    Bentley, a mild-manner dermatologist, spent the last year bogged down in an unlikely sex-tainted scandal after recordings surfaced of him making provocative comments to a close female aide. Legislators launched an impeachment probe over whether state resources were misused and complaints were filed to the state ethics commission.

    Strange said he opened an investigation into what he called the “dueling allegations” between Bentley and his former law enforcement secretary Spencer Collier, who exposed Bentley’s relationship. Bentley accused Collier of misusing state funds. Strange’s office later cleared Collier.

    But some people had misgivings about Strange’s dealings with Bentley.

    Strange on Nov. 3 asked lawmakers to pause the impeachment investigation while his office did “related work.” Strange contends it was not a favor to Bentley, but was done because there was concern the impeachment investigation could interfere with what his office was doing. Strange argues that, at that point, there was no indication that Trump would win or appoint Sessions to create a Senate opening.

    “That was before the election so there was no politics even conceivable at that point,” Strange said.

    Strange interviewed with Bentley for the position, but Strange said the status of the investigation was not discussed.

    In February, Bentley appointed Strange to Sessions’ seat and said he would hold the seat until 2018. The move irked some lawmakers who revived the impeachment push. The state’s new governor moved up the election to 2017 where Strange faces a crowded field of challengers including U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and state Sen. Trip Pittman.

    Pittman said Strange should not have sought a favor from Bentley when his office was investigating him.

    Bentley appeared to have some consternation about appointing Strange, rolling out lists of finalists and semi-finalists before finally naming Strange.

    Bentley announced his resignation in April on the same day that lawmakers began impeachment hearings. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor campaign finance violations in order to end the state probe. The governor told The Associated Press that he wanted to relieve himself, and the state, from the drumbeat of the scandal.

    “If I had thought he would appoint some crony or friend (as attorney general) I certainly wouldn’t have taken it. … The only bad result would have been if someone came in and tried to interfere with the investigation, which they didn’t,” Strange said.

    The post Controversial appointment clouds U.S. Senate race in Alabama appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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