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

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    A bald eagle sits in a tree in the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve near Haines, Alaska

    A bald eagle sits in a tree in the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve near Haines, Alaska October 8, 2014. Photo by Bob Strong/Reuters

    Plastic surgeon Dr. Coleen Stice’s operating schedule Friday will look a bit different than normal: Instead of a sterile surgical suite, she’ll be working at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb. Instead of shaving away hair, she’ll have to deal with feathers. Oh, and the patient will be a bald eagle.

    This unlikely doctor-patient relationship made headlines after Stice, who lives in Omaha, performed a mid-July surgery to save the bird’s life. Fishermen had brought the eagle to Nebraska’s Fontenelle Forest’s Raptor Recovery center with an injury on its head that had resulted in a mysterious large black scab. The eagle arrived weak, underfed, and clinging to life.

    Stice, a volunteer at Fontenelle Forest, was able to use her medical expertise to pinpoint the cause. “It looked like an electrical burn to me — the soft tissues, the feathers, the scalp, and the first two layers of bone had just been seared off,” said Stice. “The only thing that would do that would be an electrical burn. It looks the same as a human.”

    On July 16, Stice removed the dead tissue, and on Friday she will perform a skin graft to cover the wound so that the eagle can be released into the wild.

    But the surgery won’t be too out of the ordinary.

    “Well, of course, to have an eagle as a patient is something I don’t do every day. But the reconstructive principles are the same,” Stice said.

    ‘It’ll look like he’s wearing a toupee’

    Friday’s surgery on the eagle — appropriately named Bolt — will look a lot like a human plastic surgery, with a few exceptions.

    One issue is the risk of infection, as it’s impossible to perform a sterile operation on a wild animal.

    “We’re dealing with a pretty dirty animal,” said Stice. “If it were a human, we’d be dealing with a pretty clean … operating room. And the field itself that I’d be operating in would be sterile.”

    Sedating an animal is also a bit more challenging. A person would typically first get general anesthesia through an IV and later through a mask. But trying to stick a needle into a fully awake bald eagle didn’t seem like a good idea, so Stice and zoo officials opted to go straight to anesthesia delivered by mask.

    Stice plans to cut away skin from the bird’s groin and graft it onto its head. If all goes well, the procedure will last 90 minutes, and the eagle will spend another couple weeks at the zoo recuperating.

    And, ultimately, that’ll leave the eagle with a quite distinctive look.

    “If this [graft] survives and heals — and I expect it will — he’ll be released with a brown head with white around the fringes,” said Stice. “It’ll look like he’s wearing a toupee.”

    Operating on dogs, pigs, and cats

    While this has been Stice’s most challenging animal case, it is not her first. She’s fixed cleft palates on dogs, and done minor reconstructive surgery on pigs and cats.

    But for Stice, these cases aren’t all that different from her normal work — and it’s evidence, she said, that plastic surgery isn’t limited to the typical “nip and tuck” cosmetic procedures people think of.

    “Plastic surgeons get credit for all the face lifts and boob jobs we do, but, for the most part, what we do is reconstructive surgery,” said Stice.

    Stice said that she won’t hesitate to help with future cases if the zoo comes calling.

    “I’ve seen eagles up close … as a child growing up in Montana. But I’ve never had an opportunity to see and hold an animal like this,” said Stice. “It makes you think differently when you see them up in the air. You know their anatomy better. You know their personalities better.”

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on August 4, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post Meet the plastic surgeon who moonlights as an animal doctor appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A break in the border fence at the United States-Mexico border is seen outside of Brownsville, Texas

    A break in the border fence at the United States-Mexico border is seen outside of Brownsville, Texas, on August 5, 2014. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    McALLEN, Texas — A group of Texas Democratic congressmen are questioning preliminary plans to build a section of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall through a federal wildlife refuge.

    Federal officials have told landowners and local officials that they intend to build on about 3 miles (nearly 5 kilometers) of the river levee that runs through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.

    According to The Monitor newspaper, the congressmen say cutting through the refuge “could do serious environmental and economic damage,” and are calling for transparency.

    The congressmen are Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Lloyd Doggett of Austin, Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen, Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, and Filemon Vela of Brownsville.

    Photos: What migrants leave behind on their journeys through the desert

    The U.S. House passed a budget proposal authorizing 60 miles of construction in South Texas.

    The post Congressmen oppose Texas wildlife refuge as border wall site appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GettyImages-503847901

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Scholar Richard Reeves believes the United States is in need of some self-reflection about income inequality.

    RICHARD REEVES: I think America doesn’t want to have a conversation about class because it is uncomfortable with it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Reeves is a co-director of the Brookings Institution’s Center on Children and Families. His new book, “Dream Hoarders,” argues that while the top one percent of america’s wealthy receive so much attention, the more significant divide is between the top 20 percent and everyone else struggling to achieve the American dream.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Reeves suggests the advantages of those at the top are gained simply by being part of the right socioeconomic group. By supporting certain policies and behavior they protect their status and keep others out.

    RICHARD REEVES: A dream hoarder is someone that’s a member of the American upper middle class. So on the top rung in terms of income. But is then using that position to rig certain systems or certain markets so that they succeed and that their kids succeed. So rig the housing market. Rig the education market. Some say rig the labor market. And so it’s basically like a cartel in business, if you like, but you’re using your power in an anti-competitive way rather than in a competitive way.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: We all want to think of ourselves as middle, middle class, but we’re not.

    RICHARD REEVES: I think nine in 10 Americans define themselves as middle class in one form or another. And it’s obviously an attractive thing to say we’re all the same class. We’re all in the same boat. You’re stretching the definition of middle now to include people with very healthy six figure incomes right at the top of the distribution at some point the word middle ceases to mean very much.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Reeves defines the upper middle class, the top 20 percent, as families making $117,000 or more a year.

    To illustrate the difference between them and everyone else, Reeves points to this statistic: between 1979 and 2013, the total pre-tax income income for the bottom 80 percent of Americans grew by $3 trillion. The much smaller group that makes up the top 20 percent, their income grew by $4 trillion. A $1 trillion more.

    Reeves says the upper middle class income gains mean a greater benefit from the government’s home mortgage interest tax deduction and more power to insulate themselves in better schools and neighborhoods.

    RICHARD REEVES: If you’re in the upper middle class you get to buy an expensive house more expensive than most people can afford. You then get a deduction from the Treasury for doing that so you’re helped by the government to buy this expensive house. You can then use local zoning ordinances or land use regulations to ensure that only people like you can live in your neighborhood. And then you can organize your school admissions policies based on neighborhoods which means that even public schools can actually be predominately affluent and high quality because of the way we’ve organized it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Reeves calculates almost 40 percent of the upper middle class live near public schools with the best test scores, according to the data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the nonprofit, Great Schools.

    RICHARD REEVES: It’s like an X-Ray that exposes class fracture when schools get involved and when you think about kind of integration.

    Take this elementary school in New York City’s affluent Brooklyn Heights neighborhood. P.S. 8 is predominantly white, with test scores considerably above average.

    When the city’s education department rezoned the area two years ago to ease overcrowding in P.S. 8 and assigned children to nearby P.S. 307, some P.S. 8 parents rebelled. P.S. 307 had served predominantly low-income, minority students with lower test scores.

    It’s not that anyone sat down and said look let’s do some devilish scheme Let’s let’s find a way to rig the system and design tax and education housing like in this way. But it is the result of the interaction of those different kinds of systems which many of us benefit from, and candidly we’ll support those sorts of exclusionary mechanisms, because it’s in our short term immediate self-interest to do that.

    In the end, the Brooklyn Heights school rezoning went through. But Reeves says the class gap in education continues right on through college.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You also talk a little about the idea of legacies and giving you a leg up if your parents went to the same college. How does that play out because most of the Ivy League schools say “No, no no, we don’t really do that.” Not to a great extent, anyway.

    RICHARD REEVES: There is something deeply troubling about the idea that my kid should get preferential treatment getting into a particular college, because I happened to go or my wife did. Whereas the kid of an immigrant by definition can’t benefit from that or a kid who was born poor, first in their generation to go to college. So that’s something symbolically, deeply unfair about that system.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Besides that idea, slightly more public example might be internships, who gets them, how diverse that actually is.

    RICHARD REEVES: One survey suggests that three in five graduating college seniors have done some sort of internship. Many employers will give a job to someone who’s done an internship.They’ll certainly value someone who’s done it. So it’s become quite an important transition institution in the last 20 years. And what you find is that first of all, many of them are unpaid, which means almost by definition that they’re biased in favor of those who are from affluent backgrounds. But also an even more egregiously, in some ways that are often handed out on the basis of who you know or as a favor. Well that’s just cheating in terms of an open labor market and the kind of social norm we need to shift.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Some critics of Reeves’ work argue that laying the blame for lack of upward mobility on the upper middle class is misguided.

    In a recent Washington Post op-ed, economist Robert Samuelson wrote: “Though economic opportunities abound, the capacity to take advantage of them does not. That, not hoarding, is our real problem…As for parents, why make them feel guilty for wanting to help their children? What are parents for, after all? …Let’s not blame the struggle of the lower middle class and poor on the success of the upper middle class. The two are only loosely connected, if at all.”

    But Reeves says being a successful parent shouldn’t mean rigging the playing field.

    RICHARD REEVES: The question then is where’s the line when the sort of good parenting become some form of hoarding or kind of cheating, because we’re all so in favor of a fair society. How do we manage schools, how do we vote on a local zoning bill? Do we play the legacy card or the donation card? How do we operate in our own institutions? It’s not quite good enough just to say, ‘Well, everyone’s doing it,” because that’s the moral reasoning of a sixth grader. If my kid comes home and said, ‘I cheated in maths today, but everyone was cheating,’ do I say, ‘Well, that’s ok. As long as everyone’s cheating, it’s fine.’ At some point we have to do better than that, I think.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the controversial things you point out is that for someone to move up, another person might have to move down. And that runs counter to everything we have ever grown up with: “Oh, there is plenty of room at the top. We can all get there.”

    RICHARD REEVES: It is a zero sum game. You know the top 20 percent can only ever contain 20 percent; that’s that’s just a math statement. And so to that extent if you want more people moving it back up 20 percent, you do need some more people coming out of it, falling down. But downward mobility, while mathematically necessary, is also deeply unpopular both on a personal and a political level, and I think that’s true for all of us. Very few of us are willing to decide which of our kids are going to be nominated to go down in order to create more room for poor kids to rise up. But it is a necessary, necessary part of the story.

    The post How the upper middle class keeps keeps everyone else out appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. State of Secretary Rex Tillerson boards a plane at the airport in Beijing

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Today, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson began a five-day trip that includes stops in the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia. Among the issues on the agenda: the extra-judicial killings that have taken place in the Philippines during President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on the drug trade. It’s estimated that police have killed more than 2,500 alleged drug offenders since Duterte took office a little over a year ago.

    For more on Mr. Tillerson’s trip, I’m joined from Washington, D.C. by Lindsey Ford, the director of political security affairs for the Asia Society.

    So, how does Rex Tillerson broach this fairly uncomfortable topic?

    LINDSEY FORD, DIRECTOR OF POLITICAL SECURITY AFFAIRS, ASIA SOCIETY: You know, I think he’s going to be direct, and I suspect the message is going to be, look, we understand that you have problems domestically in terms of the situation with drugs flowing through the country, but you’re creating an issue that’s becoming a bilateral problem because you’re going to see people in the U.S. Congress and the administration more broadly, it’s going to make it challenging for us to cooperate in really important areas that we need to, like dealing with ISIS in the south, maritime security at the South China Sea, and a number of other issues.

    So, I suspect they’re going to deal with this quietly but very directly in the conversation.

    SREENIVASAN: Let’s talk a little bit about that. The South China Sea issue, for example. At times, President Duterte has distanced himself from the United States and really said he doesn’t need the type of security arrangement that we have now.

    FORD: He has. You know, it’s been a challenge, I think, in the South China Sea trying to figure out how to calibrate the relationship with the Philippines over the last year. At times, President Duterte has seemed like he, obviously, wants to take a much more conciliatory approach towards China. Most recently, he’s discussed things like joint exploration again, in some of the areas like Reed Bank.

    But he actually faces some domestic challenges at home taking this approach at times. You’ve seen parts of the Philippine congress, as well as other parts of the Philippine government, including the ministry of defense really saying they’re not OK with that approach. And he’s had to walk that — he’s had to walk that back at times. So, he’s trying to toe a fine line between wanting to be more open toward China but also recognizing at the same time that a lot of people in the Philippines have real concerns about, you know, Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea.

    SREENIVASAN: What about the fight on ISIS? What’s the role that the Philippines is in now?

    FORD: There’s a real concern right now that we’re facing a situation in the southern Philippines where potentially, you’re going to have a new sort of haven for violent extremists that will become something that is attracting extremists, not just within the Philippines but elsewhere in the region, potentially foreign fighters from other regions as well. We’ve already seen some growing connectivity between ISIS in Syria and the rebel groups in the southern Philippines. And I think this is a growing concern.

    And so, even though it looks like the siege right now in Marawi is hopefully drawing to an end in the near term, I think the United States and the Philippine government, as well as other governments in Southeast Asia, need to have some really careful conversations about how do we actually enhance our intelligence coordination, counter-intelligence coordination so that we don’t see a growing ISIS safe haven occurring in Southeast Asia.

    SREENIVASAN: And this all comes in the context of U.S. military support in the Philippines over the last several years. And President Trump is supposed to have a trip there in November.

    FORD: And imagine that will be another topic that — that you’ll see Secretary Tillerson want to discuss because this will be the president’s first trip, and they’re going to want to tee up some positive deliverables in the relationship. So, I think on the Philippine side, they’ll probably be very interested in, without a TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement, what kinds of economic priorities does the Trump administration have for countries like the Philippines in Southeast Asia?

    And on the U.S. side, I think in particular, they’re going to want to see that that some of the concerns more recently with scaling back defense cooperation and, you know, President Duterte talking about he’s not sure exactly whether they’ll follow through with the enhanced defense cooperation agreement that gives the United States more access to Philippine bases. They’re going to want to see some assurance that that — we’re making progress on the implementation of that agreement.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Lindsey Ford of the Asia Society, thanks so much.

    FORD: Thanks very much.

    The post Tillerson to address the Philippines’ deadly drug crackdown appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    World Athletics Championships

    Usain Bolt of Jamaica gestures to the fans after his final race on Aug. 5, 2017. Photo by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

    Usain Bolt, the global track superstar from Jamaica, ran the last race of his career on Saturday at the 2017 World Championships in London, placing third. The race punctuates a record-breaking career spanning three Olympic Games.

    Bolt, 30, ends his reign with nearly every award a runner can win. He holds world records in the 100- and 200-meter sprints. His fastest 100-meter time – 9.58 seconds in Berlin in 2009 – was a full tenth of a second ahead of the second-place finisher. He has set records with Jamaica’s 4×100-meter relay team, and is the only individual to win both the 100 and 200 in three consecutive Olympic Games. In total, he has placed first at 11 world championships.

    Bolt’s final 100-meter race, which he finished in 9.96 seconds, was several tenths off his personal record. He placed behind Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman, only the second time in his career that he has lost a championship race (the other was in 2011, when he was disqualified after a false start).

    The runner has endured scoliosis and back problems throughout his career. On Friday, he ran the preliminary sprint in 10.07 seconds. Though he placed first in that race, he called his performance “very bad.”

    While it was his running that first attracted attention, it’s his persona – free-wheeling, joyful, celebratory – that locked the world’s attention for nearly a decade, elevating the runner to a level of global stardom reached by few athletes. After races, and sometimes even in the middle of them, he was known to look directly into the camera and grin.

    But with his diminishing performance came diminishing enjoyment in the spectacle of the race. In the 2016 documentary “I Am Bolt,” he said, “It’s not as fun as it used to be. The older I get, the less fun it is.”

    Whether Bolt commits to retirement–world class athletes have been known to renege on the decision, like Michael Phelps before the Rio Olympics–his legacy is expected to endure.

    “What most impresses me about Usain Bolt is that he won the 100 meters and the 200 meters three times,” Olympic historian and author David Wallechinsky told ESPN. “It’s great that Michael Phelps won the 200-meter medley at the Olympics four times, but how many people in the world have ever attempted this event? For Bolt to be the best at such a universal event for so long is amazing.”

    The post Usain Bolt, beloved star of track and field, runs final race appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    World Athletics Championships

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The last 100-meter race of his career did not go as planned for Usain Bolt. He came in third place at the world championships in London, losing to two Americans, Justin Gatlin who took the gold and Chris Coleman who took the silver. Bolt, still the world record holder, said this would be his last competition.

    For more context about the Bolt effect, earlier I spoke with Christopher Clarey of “The New York Times” who joined me via Skype from London.

    Chris, is it possible to overestimate the as a matter of impact of Usain Bolt on track and field and sports?

    CHRISTOPHER CLAREY, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: You know, he has been the face and the soul of the sport for almost a decade now, and it’s extraordinary. It really is. He has been the one global figure that they’ve had, and also he’s been pretty good news for the sport, instead of a lot of bad news. So, definitely, a seminal figure.

    SREENIVASAN: It’s a bit like Michael Phelps is to swimming, or Tiger Woods as to golf. When you think of track and field, you have that, you know, million watts smile and the guy doing the lightning bolt dance at the end of his races.

    CLAREY: No, it’s true. He and Phelps are a good comparison. I mean, they’ve just been the kings of their sports in the same period of time. They kind of broke through in Beijing and dominated that Olympics at the same time. Very similar. Dominant figures, huge appetite for success, and really enduring.

    SREENIVASAN: You know, even if track and field — as track and field had these sort of repeated, high-profile doping incidents, Usain Bolt was able to just kind of glide above it all, winning match — or meet after meet.

    CLAREY: In a way, that’s been maybe his greatest accomplishment in some way, greatest act he’s pulled up in a sense that he’s been able to really remain above that fray. It’s been quite a fray. A lot of scandals in track and field, a lot of credibility crises, and Bolt really has been able to stay above that.

    There have been things that have affected him. He’s lost a medal in the relay because one of his teammates was involved in a doping infraction. There have been, you know, fellow Jamaicans who tested positive for banned substances as well, including Asafa Powell. But Usain has never tested positive, never been sanctioned. So, that’s a bit of good news for the sport.

    SREENIVASAN: Is there a reason he chose to retire now? I mean, you can see that his times have been slowing, and — but this is a guy who loves the competition, who loves to get in there and win. I mean, I don’t think, at least in the interviews that I’ve read, I don’t think he particularly likes to train and put the work in, but he does it because he loves to win.

    CLAREY: I think that’s it. I think that’s — you put your finger on it. I mean, he’s had injury problems throughout his career. He’s got to come in to major championships for the last five years fighting injuries almost every time. So, I think he’s tired of that.

    And, really, I mean, he did a great documentary last year which was a lot of fun to watch called “I Am Bolt,” and you can see him complaining about the training in almost every scene. I mean, I think he really enjoys the competition, enjoys that magnetic moment when he’s out there and the crowd is communing with him and racing and beating everybody.

    But when it comes to the day-to-day drudgery of being a sprinter, I think he would be happy to leave that behind, and I think, also, he’s really done all there is to do in this sport.

    SREENIVASAN: And this is a guy, when you look at him, he doesn’t look like a sprinter that has been the archetype that we’ve had, especially in the 100 meters. This short, super, stocky, muscular guys that explode out of the blocks. He’s literally, at times a foot taller than his competition.

    CLAREY: Yes, it’s true. When he lines up to race and get in a set position, you can see he’s already higher than everybody else even with his head down. He’s a much taller person, about 6’5″.

    You look back in the past of track and field, Carl Lewis obviously wasn’t as tall as Usain, but he was the same sort of — same sort of lines. You know, a tall — a tall sprinter by those standards of that day. And I think now what Bolt has really done is being able to combine the two of being a tall sprinter but he also has a very quick turnover, able to explode off the track and really produce tremendous power in each of his strides. And also, he has long strides so he’s able to cover the whole race, 100 meters in about 41 strides whereas a lot of his competitors are 44, 45, 46. So, that’s all been a big factor and many will try to replicate it in the years to come.

    SREENIVASAN: Do you ever wonder what that world record time could have been in Beijing or other places where it almost seemed like in the last 10 meters, he’s looking up at the big screen, and he’s almost coasting in? I mean, there wasn’t anybody just kind of breathing down his neck, and if he’d just given us that last extra 10 percent.

    CLAREY: Yes, you’re right. I mean, that was the first breakthrough globally at the Beijing Olympics when he did let up in the 100 when he got to the finish line.

    But a year later in Berlin, when he set the world record that still exist, 9.58 seconds, he ran through the tape, and you saw what happened, a world record. But he’s been unable to touch, maybe nobody will touch for many, many years to come. And he himself was quite young at the time, we figured he’d be able to go on, maybe get into the 9.4s, never did for a variety of reasons, but he did run through the tape and that record is there to prove it.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Christopher Clarey of “The New York Times,” thanks so much for joining us.

    CLAREY: My pleasure.

    The post Usain Bolt, the fastest man in history, runs his last 100m dash appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    kcna

    Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Hwasong-14 is pictured during its second test-fire in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 29, 2017. Photo by KCNA/Reuters

    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster is stressing that it is “impossible to overstate the danger” posed by North Korea.

    In an interview with MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt that aired Saturday, McMaster said Trump has been “deeply briefed” on the strategy on North Korea. Tensions have mounted with Pyongyang’s two recent successful tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

    McMaster reiterated the administration’s position that all options, including a targeted military strike, are on the table. Still, he acknowledged this “would be a very costly war, in terms of —in terms of the suffering of mainly the South Korean people.”

    McMaster continued: “So what we have to do is — is everything we can to — to pressure this regime, to pressure Kim Jong Un and those around him such that they conclude it is in their interest to denuclearize.”

    The comments came as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in the Philippines for a regional summit that is expected to focus heavily on concerns with North Korea. Tillerson has no plans to sit down with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho at the event.

    Tillerson’s reluctance to sit down with his North Korean counterpart is despite his growing push for Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table with the U.S. Tillerson said this week that such talks would have to be predicated on the North giving up its nuclear weapons aspirations and that the conditions for such talks haven’t yet been met by North Korea’s government.

    The U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously approved new sanctions on North Korea, including banning exports worth over $1 billion. The U.S.-drafted measure, negotiated with North Korea’s neighbor and ally China, is aimed at increasing economic pressure on Pyongyang to return to negotiations on its nuclear and missile programs.

    The Security Council has already imposed six rounds of sanctions that have failed to halt North Korea’s drive to improve its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons capabilities.

    The post Trump national security adviser stresses North Korea threat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Participants in the Climate Justice Youth Summit appear in New York City on Aug. 3, 2017. Photo by Jenna Gray

    On Thursday morning, hundreds of young people of color received an urgent message: they couldn’t afford not to be leaders in the fight against climate change.

    “We are descendants of colonization and slavery. You are the children of extraction. Extraction is now taking over the planet,” Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE, said. “I want to see those fists up!’”

    At the Climate Justice Youth Summit on Aug. 3 in New York City, speakers focused on the impact of climate change on people of color and called on youth of color to lead the fight against climate crises in their communities. The daylong event was the sixth of its kind hosted by UPROSE, a Brooklyn-based organization that promotes sustainability and cultural expression.

    A series of workshops about urban gardening, gentrification, climate refugees and policing featured throughout the day. A fashion show titled “Culture, Not Consumption” promoted sustainability and the expression of cultural identity within the fashion industry.

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    The Climate Justice Youth Summit on Aug. 3 in New York City featured a fashion show titled “Culture, Not Consumption,” promoting sustainability and the expression of cultural identity. Photo by Jenna Gray

    “People of color have always had a history of being one with the land and finding the solutions that they needed in the land,” Samuel Blackwood, a student at Fordham University and summit organizer, said.

    Actor and activist Danny Glover, the summit’s keynote speaker, spoke of the need for radical and immediate approaches to promoting environmental sustainability while emphasizing the role of youth in leading such efforts.

    “We have to change the soul of this country. We have to change the soul of the world,” Glover said. “Those most affected by climate change are not people who are the main perpetrators of climate change.”

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    Actor and activist Danny Glover appears at the Climate Justice Youth Summit in New York City on Aug. 3, 2017. Photo by Jenna Gray

    This year, the summit expanded its focus from local to national, partnering with the Climate Justice Alliance to welcome youth from regions across the country who have been on the frontlines of climate justice efforts. The summit organizers also sought to counter misconceptions about climate change and highlight its disproportionate impact on people of color.

    Toxic waste sites and power plants, which produce gases that contribute to climate change, are more likely to be located in low-income communities of color, subjecting these populations to health hazards and to air pollution at higher rates, according to the NAACP.

    After floods, hurricanes and other extreme weather events, people of color are less likely to be able to relocate safely. Some summit attendees spoke about the effects of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which put a spotlight on the economic inequalities between different communities coping with the storm’s damage.

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    People attending the Climate Justice Youth Summit participated in workshops on urban gardening, gentrification, climate refugees and policing. Photo by Jenna Gray

    Other environmental hazards also put people of color at risk. Black children experience higher rates of lead poisoning, according to the National Center for Environmental Health. A study published by the American Journal of Public Health in 2011 found that people of color have less access to clean water than their white counterparts. In addition, they have diminished access to healthcare services and are insured at lower rates, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

    The disproportionate impact of climate change on poor communities and communities of color is a global phenomenon. According to Germanwatch, an environmental analytics organization based in Germany, the 10 countries most affected by climate change — in terms of deaths and economic losses between 1994 and 2013 — were predominantly developing and nonwhite countries.

    Organizers at the summit said the issue has become even more urgent under President Donald Trump’s administration, which has expressed resistance to climate science. On Friday, he formally notified the United Nations that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, though his letter carries no legal weight and U.S. representatives are still scheduled to participate in international climate talks later this year. The Trump administration has also rolled back environmental regulations put in place during the prior administration.

    IMG_9902_edited

    The Climate Justice Youth Summit on Aug. 3 in New York City featured a fashion show titled “Culture, Not Consumption.” Photo by Jenna Gray

    “Community-based grassroots solutions are incredibly important because right now we have a federal government that denies that climate change is a reality and seeks to cut programs that would help us combat that,” Blackwood said. “We have to organize now at the local and state level in order to address this issue because we can’t wait around for federal government to come and help us … It’s happening right now, and we feel the impact in our communities right now.”

    PBS NewsHour spoke to summit attendees about how belonging to communities of color affects their involvement in climate justice.

    Annaleisa Benally, 22, Kirtland, New Mexico

    Today it’s just exciting to see different colored youth — Dominican, Puerto Rican, Asian American, African American — where I’m from, there’s only Hispanics, Natives and Anglo-white people so it’s really nice to see different kinds of races all have the same motive and the same excitement about climate justice.

    It’s all about community, my indigenous community. We work together. I really want everyone to feel the community across the nation stand up for the climate.

    Joseph Hernandez, 15, Sunset Park, Brooklyn

    Climate justice is standing up for lower income communities who contribute the least but are impacted the most by global warming.

    antoinette_martinez_edited

    Antoinette Martinez, 30, left, and Melissa Gomez, right, attended the Climate Justice Youth Summit on Aug. 3 in New York City. Photo by Jenna Gray

    Antoinette Martinez, 30, Brooklyn

    I didn’t understand how everything was connected until I became a part of UPROSE … I’m from Sunset Park in Brooklyn and climate change had a direct effect on gentrification that’s happening there. After Superstorm Sandy happened along the waterfront in Bush Terminal, a lot of those factory buildings got flooded, the property values dropped … there are people who have lived in that neighborhood their whole lives who are so disconnected from what’s going on there.

    Mikayla Comas, 20, Brooklyn

    I’m a climate justice youth summit organizer for UPROSE. I spent the last two months helping UPROSE organize this event with four or five other people and the rest of the UPROSE staff.

    I think I was really excited about having and seeing hundreds of young people of color be in this space and feeling this power. When I was their age I was very into the environmental movement and I decided I wanted to dedicate my life to environmentalism. Looking back, going down the path that I have, I wish I had an event that helped me connect social justice to environmentalism and to climate change. I think that there’s something powerful about seeing people of color, older people of color, in the movement that you’re in. I think it tells you that you can do this and I didn’t exactly have that as a young person.

    Joshua Otero, 27, Far Rockaway, Queens

    I’ve been in a process of rediscovery with the Latino community. I’m Puerto Rican. … I’m finding that within this movement for me, becoming more active as far as eco-awareness and climate justice goes, I’ve also been able to rediscover my roots, find power in that rediscovery, and it’s led me to become more educated and better-intentioned within an intersectional aspect of my growth.

    Frances Roberts-Gregory

    Frances Roberts-Gregory, 27, from Oakland, California, attended the Climate Justice Youth Summit on Aug. 3 in New York City. Photo by Jenna Gray

    Frances Roberts-Gregory, 27, Oakland, California

    I’m a student myself, a graduate student, but I was really interested to learn more about youth engagement in these issues because we often talk about how women and children and youth are on the forefront but we don’t necessarily always hear their voices. As a person who’s studying climate justice activism from an indigenous and black perspective, I really wanted to understand how youth in this area as well as across the country are coming together and learning from each other.

    Annecia Steiniter, 21, Staten Island

    I’m here with the organization that I work for, the Staten Island Urban Center, and we all decided to come to the summit as a group. We’re looking at the redevelopment of the waterfront in Staten Island on the North Shore. Staten Island was really badly impacted by Hurricane Sandy. They’re building a seawall to try and protect the East Shore from the effects of other superstorms. Environmental justice intersects with our work there because we’re looking at how climate change is going to affect our community and we’re trying to advocate and raise awareness about that and get our local government to [enact] policy that’s going to build resiliency, storm resiliency and environmental resiliency on the island.

    The post These youth of color are organizing to address climate change appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un reacts during the test-fire of intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, July, 4 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. - RTX39YID

    North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un reacts during the test-fire of intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, July, 4 2017. KCNA/via Reuters

    MANILA, Philippines — A global pressure campaign on North Korea propelled by sharp new U.N. sanctions received a welcome boost Sunday from China, the North’s economic lifeline, as Beijing called on its neighbor to halt its missile and nuclear tests.

    The Trump administration cautiously embraced China’s apparent newfound cooperation, while putting it on notice that the U.S. would be watching closely to ensure it didn’t ease up on Pyongyang if and when the world’s attention is diverted elsewhere. But there were no signs the U.S. would acquiesce to China’s call for a quick return to negotiations.

    The diplomatic wrangling sought to build on the sweeping new North Korea sanctions passed by the U.N. Security Council a day earlier — the strongest in a generation, the U.S. said. As diplomats gathered in the Philippines for an annual regional meeting, President Donald Trump was cheering the move from afar. He touted the “very big financial impact” of the sanctions and noted optimistically that both China and Russia had joined in the unanimous vote.

    “It was a good outcome,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in characteristically understated fashion as he met with South Korea’s top diplomat.

    For the U.S., it was a long-awaited sign of progress for Trump’s strategy of trying to enlist Beijing’s help to squeeze Pyongyang diplomatically and economically. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, meeting with North Korea’s top diplomat during the gathering in Manila, urged the North to “maintain calm” despite the U.N. vote.

    “Do not violate the U.N.’s decision or provoke international society’s goodwill by conducting missile launching or nuclear tests,” Wang said, in an unusually direct admonition.

    [Watch Video]

    Though Beijing repeated its call for the United States and North Korea to resume talks, the U.S. said that was still premature, and rejected yet again a Chinese call for the U.S. to freeze joint military exercises with South Korea in exchange for the North halting nuclear development. Pyongyang views the military exercises as rehearsals for an invasion.

    The U.S. also warned it planned to rigorously monitor China’s compliance with the new penalties. Susan Thornton, the top U.S. diplomat for Asia, said Beijing had historically cooperated with sanctions after flagrant North Korean violations but then slipped back over time.

    “We want to make sure China is continuing to implement fully the sanctions regime,” Thornton told reporters in Manila. “Not this kind of episodic back and forth that we’ve seen.”

    Infusing the diplomatic gathering with dramatic intrigue was the presence of Ri Yong Ho, North Korea’s foreign minister, the odd man out at a meeting dominated by concerns about his nation’s nuclear proliferation. Indeed, the U.S. was floating a proposal to temporarily kick North Korea out of the 27-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum, although other member nations are divided about that idea.

    Would Tillerson trade pleasantries with his North Korean counterpart as they cross paths at the regional gathering, or potentially even sit for a meeting? It was a question driving the hallway chatter at the gathering, but the U.S. summarily shot down the prospect.

    Though Tillerson has emphasized the Trump administration’s willingness to sit down with North Korea for negotiations, he’s said that won’t happen until the North agrees to abandon its nuclear aspirations. Even with new U.N. sanctions in place intended to drive Pyongyang back to the table, conditions still aren’t ripe for talks, U.S. diplomats said.

    But Wang, the Chinese envoy, cast the North Korean foreign minister’s presence in Manila as a positive, enabling him to “hear the voices from other sides.” Speaking in Chinese, Wang said that Ri “also has the right to share his opinions.”

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

    The North Korean envoy hasn’t spoken publicly since arriving in the Philippines. But a commentary in the ruling party’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Washington had disregarded the warning the North sent with its intercontinental ballistic missile tests and was pursuing “desperate efforts” in the form of stepped-up sanctions.

    “Now the U.S. mainland is on the crossroads of life and death,” the commentary warned.

    The new sanctions could cut off roughly one-third of North Korea’s estimated $3 billion in annual exports, ostensibly denying the nation of funds for its weapons programs. All countries are now banned from importing North Korean coal, iron, lead and seafood products, and from letting in more North Korean laborers whose remittances help fund Kim Jong Un’s regime.

    The U.S. drafted the sanctions resolution and negotiated it with China following North Korea’s unprecedented test of an ICBM in July and a follow-up test weeks later. Those tests sharply escalated U.S. fears that Pyongyang is a key step closer to mastering the technology needed to strike American soil with a nuclear-tipped missile.

    Yet despite deeming North Korea a top security threat, the young Trump administration has struggled to find a strategy that differs significantly from what the U.S. has tried in the past. Aside from calling for more sanctions, Trump’s approach has centered on enlisting China — the North’s biggest trading partner — and others to lessen ties to Pyongyang.

    Trump’s initial optimism about China’s willingness to help gave way to public exasperation, with Trump saying Chinese President Xi Jinping had “tried” but that it “has not worked out.” Trump’s administration began floating potential plans to punish China for its trade practices in what was widely perceived as a reaction to China’s inaction on North Korea.

    But in recent days, the two powers have started to paper over some of those differences. Beijing praised Tillerson for declaring the U.S. wasn’t seeking regime change in North Korea. Trump has held off, for now, on the trade actions. And China joined the 15-0 vote in the Security Council on Saturday on the new sanctions.

    “Who has been carrying out the U.N. Security Council resolutions concerning North Korea? It is China,” Wang, the Chinese foreign minister, said Sunday. “Who bore the cost? It is also China.”

    Associated Press writers Jim Gomez and Teresa Cerojano contributed to this report.

    The post Welcome boost from China to global pressure on North Korea appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Wind turbines stand above the plains north of Amarillo, Texas

    Wind turbines stand above the plains north of Amarillo, Texas, U.S., March 14, 2017. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    There are high hopes for renewable energy to help society by providing a more stable climate, better energy security and less pollution. Government actions reflect these hopes through policies to promote renewable energy. In the U.S. since 1992 there’s been a federal subsidy to promote wind energy, and many states require electricity utilities to use some renewable energy.

    But when is the right time to stop government support for an energy technology?

    This is a timely question: Rick Perry’s Department of Energy is currently working on a grid reliability report that many expect to argue that wind and solar cause reliability problems because they don’t supply power continually. A conclusion like this can be used to justify removal of government subsidies or regulations favoring other sources of energy.

    Subsidies need not last forever – there can come a time when its objective has been achieved or experience suggests the subsidy is not working as intended.

    Is it time to end subsidies for wind? A big part of the answer to this question lies in whether subsidies are actually making wind cheaper.

    Why subsidize energy technology

    The justification for subsidizing a given technology is that it delivers public benefits that outweigh the subsidy cost. If a technology shows promise to become cheap enough, the subsidy can be viewed as a temporary stimulus to bring it a point where it can stand on its own.

    For example, in the early days of the semiconductor industry, integrated circuits were too expensive for consumer markets. Government demand for military applications provided a critical bridge to bring down costs and activate broader markets.

    On the other hand, subsidizing an emerging technology that has trouble bringing down costs may be inefficient. For decades, the U.S. government has subsidized or mandated production of corn ethanol. Yet ethanol is still not market-competitive, at least not with recent crude oil prices.

    Wind power’s ‘learning curve’

    The price for wind power has gone down over the years, but how cheap is it getting? There is a surprisingly diverse set of answers to this question. There are over 100 existing studies of wind cost trends, with results ranging from wind power becoming more expensive over time to becoming cheaper so quickly that it will soon be cheaper than fossil fuels. Curiously enough, while researchers have recently started to note disparities between studies, no one has yet grappled with explaining and reducing such variability. This is, unfortunately, a common situation in many research domains: Various groups get conflicting results from similar analyses, but no one works on understanding why these differences arise.

    In a recent paper, we sought to better understand cost reductions in wind power by finding patterns in historical trends.

    Wind costs follow what economists call a learning curve: For every doubling of wind production, the cost goes down by a fixed percentage. For example, if the price of electricity from wind is 10 cents per kilowatt-hour with a given number of wind farms, a 10 percent “learning rate” means that wind electricity would cost 10 percent less, or 9 cents per kilowatt-hour, if one doubles the number of wind farms.

    Our main finding was that the learning rate for wind power is in the range of 7.7 percent to 11 percent. That means if more wind power is installed and the cost of energy continues to decline as it has in recent years, the cost of generating electricity with wind will fall from 5.5 cents/kilowatt-hour today to 4.1–4.5 cents/kilowatt-hour in 2030.

    Previous studies obtained learning rates from -3 percent to +33 percent, the minus sign indicating wind becoming more, rather than less, expensive over time. Why are the results so different? We showed that one can get very different outcomes depending on the method and data range used.

    First, we believe it is important to account for wind power costs in terms of the total cost to generate electricity. Many prior studies measured wind cost as the price to build the capacity to make electricity at peak wind times. But this is a poor measure because much of the progress in wind technology in recent years has been to generate more power when the wind is weaker.

    Secondly, it is important to treat wind power as a global industry. The adoption of wind in one country helps the industry develop and grow so that wind becomes cheaper in other countries. Modeling wind adoption in only one nation can skew results.

    Finally, results depend strongly on the date range of data used. Even with an identical method, the estimated learning rate can change up to 10 percent depending on which years of data you use.

    To subsidize or not to subsidize?

    So if wind costs will fall to 4.1–4.5 cents/kilowatt-hour in 2030, as we found, what does this mean for wind subsidies? The U.S. Energy Information Agency projects the cost of natural gas and coal power in 2030 will be 4.5 and 5 cents per kilowatt-hour respectively. Taking these numbers at face value, wind is on track to become cheaper than fossil fuels as a source of electricity.

    One must be cautious, however, in feeling too sure of forecasts. Technologies and fuel prices can go in unpredictable directions. Also, wind is an intermittent resource, meaning it can’t provide round-the-clock power as fossil fuels can. There is an additional cost to this intermittency, which is very difficult to predict.

    Also, being cheap doesn’t mean we will soon be able to switch to 100 percent wind. To meet electricity demand continually, we will need a combination of energy storage, lowering power consumption at certain times (known as demand response) and traditional “firm” power production.

    This said, the past suggests a trajectory in which wind becomes economically competitive with fossil fuels. Our study shows that support policies, such as the current Production Tax Credit, are contributing to lowering wind costs. As such, continued subsidies are expected to enable a smoother and cheaper transition to a sustainable energy system.

    The Conversation
    Eric Williams is an Associate Professor of Sustainability at Rochester Institute of Technology. Eric Hittinger is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Rochester Institute of Technology. Both receive funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

    The post If we keep subsidizing wind, will the cost of wind energy go down? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rosenstein testifies at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington

    Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (L) testifies as Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats listens at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 7, 2017. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Prosecutors don’t intend to go after reporters for doing their jobs but could more forcefully try to get them to reveal their sources, a Justice Department official said Sunday.

    “We’re after the leaker, not the journalist. We’re after people who are committing crimes,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told “Fox News Sunday.” His comments come two days after officials pledged to clamp down on government leaks they believe undermine American security.

    Still, Rosenstein left open the possibility that reporters could be investigated for breaking other, unspecified laws.

    He declined to comment Friday when asked whether prosecutors would seek to jail journalists.

    [Watch Video]

    Officials are reviewing guidelines that make it difficult for prosecutors to subpoena journalists about their sources, Rosenstein reiterated Sunday. He said some of the “procedural hurdles” may be delaying leak investigations. Without providing specifics, Rosenstein said the number of criminal leak probes had more than tripled in the early months of the Trump administration.

    Meanwhile, an Obama administration official echoed Rosenstein’s concerns.

    “The leaks right now are really bad. I’ve never seen it this bad,” former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” But he cautioned the Justice Department that going after reporters for their sources could have unintended consequences.

    “Before you decide to take on journalists, reporters, and perhaps subpoena their sources, be aware that the courts are going to get involved, and that has the potential for making bad law in this area,” Johnson said.

    READ NEXT: The difference between illegal leaks and inconvenient leaks

    The post Deputy AG: Prosecutors don’t intend to go after reporters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The White House is seen with the Washington Monument (L) behind it and the Jefferson Memorial (R) in Washington, May 1, 2011. Photo by Gary Hershorn/ Reuters

    The White House is seen with the Washington Monument behind it and the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., on May 1, 2011. Photo by Gary Hershorn/Reuters

    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — White House counselor Kellyanne Conway says President Donald Trump is “not discussing” firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

    Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Conway says the White House has made clear it will cooperate with Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    The Associated Press reported last week that Mueller was now using a grand jury in Washington as part of that probe.

    Conway says Trump believes the Russia investigation is a “complete false and fabricated lie.” But she says the president “has not even discussed” nor is “discussing” firing Mueller.

    Senators introduced bipartisan bills last week creating judicial review procedures that could shield Mueller from firing by Trump.

    READ NEXT: Senators craft bill to prevent Robert Mueller from being fired

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    Russia's Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a meeting with the ASEAN foreign ministers and their representatives as they take part in the ASEAN-U.S. Ministerial meeting in Manila

    Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a meeting with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers and their representatives as they take part in the ASEAN-US Ministerial meeting during the 50th ASEAN regional security forum in suburban Manila, Philippines August 6, 2017. Photo by Noel Celis/Reuters

    MANILA, Philippines — Russia’s top diplomat said Sunday his country was ready for more engagement with the United States on North Korea, Syria, Ukraine and other pressing matters, even as Moscow braced for new sanctions from the Trump administration.

    Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for the first since the U.S. imposed the additional penalties, said Russian and the U.S. had agreed to resume a suspended high-level diplomatic channel and Washington would send its Ukraine envoy to Moscow for negotiations.

    Lavrov’s upbeat assessment came amid what the U.S. has called a diplomatic low point unseen since the end of the Cold War.

    It wasn’t immediately clear whether the U.S. shared Lavrov’s rosy view of the meeting. The U.S. offered no comment about what the diplomats discussed, and Tillerson didn’t respond to shouted questions from journalists allowed in briefly for the start of the hour-plus meeting in the Philippines.

    “We felt that our American counterparts need to keep the dialogue open,” Lavrov said. “There’s no alternative to that.”

    Lavrov said Tillerson had asked him for details about Moscow’s recent move to expel American diplomats and shutter a U.S. recreational facility on the outskirts of Moscow. Lavrov said he explained to Tillerson how Russia will carry out its response, but did not publicly disclose details.

    Last month, the Kremlin said the U.S. must cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755 people, a move that echoed former President Barack Obama’s action last year to kick out Russian diplomats in punishment for Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 American election. The Russian announcement has caused confusion because the U.S. is believed to have far fewer than 755 American employees in the country.

    Word that U.S. special representative Kurt Volker plans to visit the Russian capital was the latest sign that Washington is giving fresh attention to resolving the Ukraine conflict. The U.S. cut military ties to Russia over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and accuses the Kremlin of fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine by arming, supporting and even directing pro-Russian separatists there who are fighting the Kiev government.

    In recent days, the Trump administration has been considering providing lethal weaponry to Ukraine to help defend itself against Russian aggression.

    Lavrov didn’t say when Volker, a former NATO ambassador, would go to Moscow.

    In their meeting, Lavrov said, Tillerson agreed to continue a dialogue between U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov. That channel was created to address what the U.S. calls “irritants” preventing the two countries from pursuing better ties. Russia had suspended the talks after the U.S. tightened existing sanctions on Russia related to its actions in Ukraine.

    Lavrov and Tillerson met on the sidelines of an Asian regional gathering in the Philippines. It was their first face-to-face conversation since Congress passed new legislation in July that makes it harder for Trump to ever ease penalties on Russia. Trump signed the bill last week, but called it “seriously flawed.”

    [Watch Video]

    The White House said Trump’s opposition stemmed from the bill’s failure to grant the president sufficient flexibility on when to lift sanctions. Trump’s critics saw his objections as one more sign that he is too eager to pursue closer ties to Russia, or to protect the former Cold War foe from penalties designed to punish Moscow for its actions in Ukraine, election meddling and other troublesome behavior.

    A U.S. Justice Department investigation is moving ahead into Russia’s election interference and potential Trump campaign collusion. Trump denies any collusion and has repeatedly questioned U.S. intelligence about Moscow’s involvement.

    At the same time, Trump’s administration has argued there’s good reason for the U.S. to seek a more productive relationship. Tillerson has cited modest signs of progress in Syria, where the U.S. and Russia recently brokered a cease-fire in the war-torn country’s southwest, as a sign there’s fertile ground for cooperation.

    The Syrian cease-fire reflected a return of U.S.-Russia cooperation to lower violence there. The U.S. had looked warily at a series of safe zones in Syria that Russia had negotiated along with Turkey and Iran – but not the U.S.

    Lavrov cited upcoming talks involving Russia, Iran and Turkey about how to ensure the truce in the last safe zone to be established, around the north-western city of Idlib. He predicted “it will be difficult” to hammer out the details but that compromise can be reached if all parties – including the U.S. – use their influence in Syria to persuade armed groups there to comply.

    Associated Press writer Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.

    The post Russia ready for more engagement with U.S., despite sanctions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    rose-ringed parakeet

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    By Megan Thompson and Mori Rothman

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Every evening on the south side of the Hawaiian island of Kauai … just as the sun is about to set … a curious noise cuts through the tropical breeze. That’s the sound of parakeets. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of parakeets. They come to the same tall royal palms and pine trees every night to sleep, before taking off at dawn to roam the island.

    As the story goes, back in the 1960’s, a few rose-ringed parakeets were kept as pets at a local bed and breakfast. They escaped, multiplied, and now there are an estimated 5,000 parakeets living here on Kauai. There’s something charming about these beautiful, bright green birds fluttering in the trees. But it turns out, they’ve become quite a nuisance.

    BILL LUCEY: It’s the most complicated wildlife problem I’ve ever dealt with.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Bill Lucey is a biologist and the former manager of Kauai’s invasive species committee, which monitors the birds.

    BILL LUCEY: What we’re seeing is this, it’s called a slow invasion. So they’re around for a long time. And then they hit some sort of peak and they’ll start breeding more rapidly. And the population, from what we’re observing, is really startin’ to grow fast.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Rose-ringed – or ring-necked – parakeets are native to parts of Africa and Asia and are often kept as pets. They have spread in the wild around the world, from Great Britain to Japan and now Hawaii. Kauai is known as the garden island because of its lush landscape and many farms, and that’s where the birds cause the most trouble.

    Parakeets love the sweet tropical fruit grown on Kauai, like papaya, lychee and passion fruit. They can do a lot of damage in a short period of time.

    JERRY ORNELLAS: You can see there’s some damage here

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Jerry Ornellas grows lychee and other fruit on a 15-acre farm on Kauai’s east side.

    JERRY ORNELLAS: About four years ago we started seeing the first individuals. There were maybe two or three of them. And this year I’m seeing flocks of about 20 or 30.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Ornellas is retired and aims to break even with the farm, which has been in his family since the 60’s.

    JERRY ORNELLAS: Last year I lost about 30 percent of my crop which five or six thousand dollars loss on lychee.

    Fact is I don’t hate these birds. You know they’re trying to make a living. Just like I am. And times are tough. I know for them as well as the farmers. But let me put it this way. How would you feel if Friday came along and you checked out your paycheck and birds and eaten half of your paycheck. I mean that’s basically what we’re looking at as farmers.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Farmer Gary Ueunten has started experimenting with ways to keep the birds off his lychee trees.

    GARY UENTEN: I read on the internet that. In japan they use waxed paper bags to cover fruit. So I ordered a whole bunch of bags they started covering fruit. It worked for a little while. And then the birds figured out where we can eat right through the bag. So that was end of the bags.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Now Ueunten is putting huge nets over his trees to keep the birds away. He figures he’s spent about $1200 so far.

    GARY UENTEN: Oh yeah that’s a huge expense for a small farmer to go out and spend 1200 dollars. It’s a big expense.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: On Kauai’s west side, some of the largest agricultural companies in the world are also battling the birds in the fields where they develop genetically modified corn seed.

    PETER WIEDERODER: That’s the first sign we see. When we see that, we know we need to move into action right away

    MEGAN THOMPSON: These massive nets are stretched across a field owned by Dow Agrosciences. Peter Wiederoder works for Dow and is a member of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, which represents Dow, Monsanto, Dupont, Pioneer and Syngenta.

    PETER WIEDERODER: The difference between the parakeets and the other animals, is the parakeets have that ability to totally wipe out the entire field in a short time period. Our scouts came in on a Friday– to check the field out. The field was looking great, in good condition. We came back on Monday and every ear of corn had been totally eaten. It was down to just the cob.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The companies also hire people to scare the birds away. Wiederoder estimates all of it costs the four seed companies hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

    PETER WIEDERODER: This is one more thing that increases our price, and makes it less and less attractive for us to be here– in Hawaii

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Bill Lucey says the birds are hard to control because they’re so smart. They seem to be able to recognize farmers who’ve threatened them before.

    BILL LUCEY: They recognize their jackets, the trucks they drive. What they’ll do is send in two birds to scout the fields. They’ll look for danger. If they see someone else’s truck, that doesn’t mean they’re gonna fly away. But if they see a certain truck and they recognize it, they’ll give out an alarm call. And the birds won’t come in.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Wow.

    BILL LUCEY: So people are changing their baseball hat colors. And changing their clothing.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: They’re literally in disguise.

    BILL LUCEY: Yeah.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Wow.

    BILL LUCEY: ‘Cause these birds are, I mean, you could teach parakeets and parrots to talk.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The parakeets aren’t just destroying farms.

    JACK BARNARD: We have droppings on our walkway all the way back through here.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The noise – and the big mess they make – are nuisances for tourists and residents who live beneath those trees they return to sleep in every night. And the local authorities suspect they might be stripping seeds from native plants in Kauai’s mountains, like the Koa tree.

    And that gets to a larger issue facing the state of Hawaii. It’s one of the most isolated island chains in the world. And that means native plants and animals here didn’t evolve to compete with foreign threats.

    JOSH ATWOOD: When species from other parts of the world come to Hawaii, they tend to be much more competitive than some of the native species. And that delicate unique balance we have– here in Hawaii can be upset really easily.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Joshua Atwood is the invasive species coordinator for Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. The state spends about $57 million a year battling invasive plants, animals and insects, like the ornamental plant Miconia that now threatens Hawaii’s forests … the coffee berry borer that damages coffee plants…and invasive algae that smother coral reefs.

    JOSH ATWOOD: The invasion of Hawaii by invasive species is the single greatest threat to not only Hawaii’s natural resources, but to its economy, agriculture, and to the health and lifestyle of Hawaii’s people.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Last spring, the Hawaii state legislature allocated $75,000 to start to figure out what to do about the parakeets on Kauai. Bill Lucey says if they can catch the birds, they could sell them to pet stores.

    BILL LUCEY: One option is to stretch nets– off the top so the buildings where the parakeets are roosting. And then we could catch them live. There’s another option which has been used in the past. When the birds are sleeping, you can soak the tree with soapy water and they can’t fly. So they’ll fall down.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: But Lucey says if catching them isn’t enough, the state may have to resort to killing the birds. And that does not sit well with Cathy Goeggel, President of Animal Rights Hawaii, she objects to the idea the parakeets are invasive.

    CATHY GOEGGEL: These birds have been here for 50 years. They are an established population. They are loved by a lot of people and I think it’s kind of pie in the sky to think that they can trap them and then send them back into the pet trade where they’ll probably go someplace else where they’re not wanted.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Goeggel says, in no circumstances should they be killed. She’d prefer the state look at ways to slip birth control into their food, a technique used on pigeons in other parts of the US.

    CATHY GOEGGEL: They are not responsible for having come to Hawaii on their own. They were brought here as a pet trade and released. And to kill them just because they’re not native doesn’t seem fair to me.

    BILL LUCEY: You know, humane treatment of animals, we’re all about that. But as resource managers, we look at the system. We don’t look at the individual animal. We look at the ecosystem and how it functions. Is it healthy? Is it productive? Is it making space for all the native species?

    MEGAN THOMPSON: And so until the authorities figure something out the residents of the south side of Kauai will fall asleep and wake up to this bird song for months, or maybe years, to come.

    The post How a Hawaiian island is fighting invasive parakeets appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A picture of Victor L. Martin, when he was in the Marines. Photo by Kamala Kelkar

    A picture of Victor L. Martin, a leading author of urban literature, when he was in the Marines. Photo by Kamala Kelkar

    Victor L. Martin is on the verge of leaving his North Carolina prison cell as a leader in a culture of expression that was born behind bars and is now flourishing on the outside, especially among young, black girls.

    Eighteen years after he led police on a chase in a stolen car and then tried to escape prison, Martin is a month away from releasing his 13th book, “Pretty Boy Huslterz,” in a bustling genre called urban literature. This genre was resurfaced by self-made entrepreneurs, often black women and many from prison. While North Carolina and other state prisons have tried to suppress this type of writing, Martin fought for it in federal court.

    Now the books, which were initially sold by street vendors and in grocery stores, can be found in libraries, schools and bookstores, read by younger audiences who might not know how the genre — which is sometimes called “urban fiction” or “street literature” — emerged.

    “I write about things I long for,” said Martin, whose sentence was based on a questionable claim by police. “In one book, ‘Nude Awakening 3,’ the main character finally meets his real father. I never met mine.”

    In 2008, prison guards confiscated his only copy of a 310-page, handwritten manuscript — what was supposed to be his fourth book — and put him in solitary confinement for a year.

    “I found out that it’s true that the pen is mightier than the sword.” – Victor L. Martin, urban literature author

    The local American Civil Liberties Union took up his case and accused state corrections of violating the First Amendment in federal court, alleging guards were punishing inmates for writing. The lawsuit led to a settlement that saw 10 disciplinary infractions against Martin overturned.

    North Carolina also agreed to protect written expression in its prisons – including drawings, lyrics, poetry and books.

    “I just wanted to make it so everybody could be able to write without getting punished,” Martin said. “I didn’t cross any lines. I didn’t do no stupid stuff. I found out that it’s true that the pen is mightier than the sword.”

    Martin said writing has become his mental escape, saving him from joining a gang or getting into more trouble in the countdown to his release on September 14, 2018, four days before his mom’s birthday.

    Book Cover of Victor L. Martin's book

    Cover of Victor L. Martin’s book to be released next month. Book cover courtesy of Wahida Clark Publishing

    And since his first book was published in 2004, urban literature has “grown up,” said Wahida Clark, one of the most prominent authors within the genre who is publishing Martin’s next book.

    Initially known for its lurid takes on street life, with scenes of hustlers, blood, fast money, drugs and sex saturated with profanity, the books were alarming to some parents when they reached kids whose reading interests were overlooked by teachers.

    Clark wrote her first book, “Thugs, and the Women who Love Them,” on a legal pad from a federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky, and published it in 2003. It was not meant for teens. But Clark remembers one of the first times she heard teenagers were reading her work.

    “I remember this specifically, I was downtown in Trenton, New Jersey. A mother came up with her daughter and she thanked me because [my book] was the only thing her daughter would read,” Clark said. “I also remember receiving an article of a teacher who was upset because my content is so raw, the students were reading it and he said, ‘This is just outrageous’.”

    One academic writing a dissertation for the University of Maryland Graduate School studied this new resonance and found that some young black girls were reading these books because they helped them explore constructs of beauty and gender roles, relationships, and sex.

    After discussing three books with six 10th graders at a public charter school on the East Coast, Simone Cade Gibson found in 2009 that the books helped them break away from one-dimensional portrayals of black women in mass media.

    “Those portrayals have an impact on their perceptions of African American life and their conceptions of beauty for African American women, specifically,” Gibson wrote.

    She also found that they were not relating to the characters so much as learning from their mistakes or moral decisions.

    Librarian K.C. Boyd in Chicago, a prominent advocate for the genre within the education system, said it helped change the reading culture at one of Chicago’s most troubled schools.

    Within a year of putting titles such as “Keysha’s Drama” by Earl Sewell on the shelves of Wendell Phillips Academy High School’s library, the school jumped from one of the lowest-ranking in Chicago’s public school system to high-performing.

    Boyd, who was the school’s librarian at the time, said urban literature continues to be one of the most popular genres in the libraries she oversees.

    “The impression is that people in the black community don’t read and that’s the exact opposite; they do,” Boyd said. “I’ve watched kids blossom, their grades improve, their dealing with problems at home through this genre.”

    Out of prison since 2007, Clark is now a New York Times best-selling author with more than a dozen books, and an upcoming stage production. Her publishing company also has a line for young adults.

    Critics of the genre say it reinforces stereotypes about black people, lacks sustenance or writing technique. One of the most outspoken has been Nick Chiles, an author and journalist who used to be the editor-in-chief of Odyssey Couleur.

    An opinion piece he wrote in 2006 for The New York Times, “Their Eyes Were Reading Smut,” set the tone for that criticism. In 2009, he said in an interview that “it doesn’t appear that writers approach the work with a desire to say anything remotely profound.”

    Other people also spoke out in a 2011 documentary, “Behind These Books.”

    But Porscha Burke, a publishing manager at Random House, likened this type of attention to the kind that hip-hop received when it emerged in the 1980s and 1990s.

    “As a girl who was kind of raised in the hip-hop industry, yeah, my stance on that
    is, ‘Get a grip,’” she said. “The content is the same, the audience is certainly the same. They’re coming from very similar neighborhoods using the power of words and the creativity of predominately black art.”

    While Martin puts pieces of himself into all of his books, the story of why he is in prison is the hardest one to tell.

    He takes responsibility for stealing a 1993 Acura and the police chase to Dead End Road in Craven County on October 7, 1999. He also admits to Tasing a guard while trying to escape prison on January 10, 2000. But nearly half of his sentence was for a crime he denies.

    He said that a Craven County Sheriff’s deputy hit his car during the chase. That deputy claimed the opposite in court after his attempted prison escape, saying that Martin hit him. The original Department of Motor Vehicles report from the incident does not document any injuries and states that Martin “attempted to pass” the patrol car before the collision.

    Afraid of a longer sentence in a trial, Martin took a plea deal.

    The same person was later discharged for stealing a weed wacker from the Sheriff’s
    Office. The NewsHour Weekend was unable to reach him, and the Craven County Courthouse destroys minutes from inside the courtroom 10 years after a case is closed.

    Victor L. Martin’s mother Sandra Martin points to where she is mentioned in the book in her Brooklyn house. Photo by Kamala Kelkar

    His former boss, Sheriff Jerry Monette, who has led the Craven County Sheriff’s office for 23 years, vouched for the former deputy’s character, saying he didn’t think of him as someone who would lie, but, “Hey, anything’s possible. His credibility at this point would probably be not good at all.”

    “This injustice was ignored since the day I was convicted in 2000,” Martin said in a
    six-page letter describing the circumstances. “Now here I still stand, at the age of 41, no kids and with 18-years of prison on my shoulders. I’ve carried this bitter pill.”

    Martin’s mother, Sandra Martin, talked about his circumstance while sitting in her kitchen in Brooklyn, with his books, drawings, pictures and cards he had sent sprawled on the dining table. Sad that he missed the birth of his niece, who is now 13, and the passing of his grandfather, Martin said she “cried and cried and cried” the day he was sentenced.

    “I cry every time I see my son. Most the time I try not to,” she said. “He know what he do fall back on me.”

    She calls him her baby boy, he’s her only son, and she is mentioned in the dedications of his books — the only part she reads.

    “I’m religious,” she said. “I can’t read all that.”

    The post Born behind bars, this literary genre has ‘grown up’ to resonate with young adults appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The NewsHour Weekend’s Hari Sreenivasan spoke with Erica Joy Baker of Project Include about the memo.

    An internal memo criticizing Google’s attempts to promote women in engineering was made public on Saturday, sparking a debate within the tech community about the values it defends. In the memo, a 10-page manifesto first reported on by Motherboard and published in full by Gizmodo, an unnamed employee argued that Google’s diversity efforts are doomed to fail due to biological differences between genders that render women less suited to engineering.

    In the memo, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” the author said that the company’s push for gender diversity should be swapped for “ideological diversity.”

    The document, which ricocheted across the internet over the weekend, was swiftly denounced by some Google employees who expressed support for their female colleagues and frustration with the realities of working in tech — a sector not removed from the polarized politics of the nation.

    Some within the company defended the memo, writing in an internal thread that it “took serious guts to post that,” Motherboard reported. One Google employee wrote, “We need more people standing up against the insanity. Otherwise ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ which is essentially a pipeline from Women’s and African Studies into Google, will ruin the company.”

    In response, Danielle Brown, Google’s newly-named vice president of diversity, integrity, and governance, wrote in a statement that the memo’s contents do not represent values that Google “endorses, promotes or encourages.”

    “We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul,” she wrote.

    Brown went on to defend the open expression of beliefs.

    “Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions,” she said, before drawing a line at views that conflict with equal employment and anti-discrimination laws.

    Google was one of the first companies to make their workforce diversity data public. Among workers in tech roles, the company remains 80 percent male and majority white.

    In April, the U.S. Department of Labor found “systemic compensation disparities” between men and women throughout the company, whose parent company, Alphabet, employs more than 60,000 people worldwide.

    Yonatun Zunger, who was a Distinguished Engineer at Google until about one week ago, wrote in a Medium post that the memo’s author, besides presenting an unsubstantiated case for the biological differences between genders, misunderstands what it means to be an engineer.

    “Essentially, engineering is all about cooperation, collaboration, and empathy for both your colleagues and your customers … All of these traits which the manifesto described as ‘female’ are the core traits which make someone successful at engineering,” he wrote.

    Zunger went on to lambast the author for disregarding the human costs of publishing his memo.

    “You just put out a manifesto inside the company arguing that some large fraction of your colleagues are at root not good enough to do their jobs, and that they’re only being kept in their jobs because of some political ideas,” he wrote.

    Erica Joy Baker, a former Google employee and a founder of Project Include, an initiative that works to make tech companies more diverse, called the memo “bigotry dressed up as science” and said that she worries it will contribute to hostility toward women at Google.

    In an interview with the PBS NewsHour Weekend, Joy said she was troubled by the level of open disregard for diversity initiatives that the memo reveals. Though she faced instances of racism and sexism while at Google, she said she would not have expected any of her former coworkers to feel secure enough to broadly share a manifesto like this one.

    What’s now unfolding in plain view at Google, she said, mirrors conversations being had on far-right online forums.

    “It’s the same sort of stuff that you see on alt-right websites … but distilled into an engineer-y, scientific format to make it seem like it’s well researched,” she said.

    Joy urged tech leaders to look closely at the work environments that allow employees to “feel safe and protected now to go ahead and say that women can’t be engineers.”

    This memo, she said, speaks to the culture at Google in particular, but of tech at large. “It’s an isolated incident, but I feel like it’s a canary in a coal mine,” she said.

    The post Google employee’s leaked anti-diversity memo sparks evaluation of tech culture appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Elected officials, including Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and state Rep. Ilhan Omar, visited the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, on Sunday, the day after it was attacked with an explosive.

    The center was attacked early on Saturday as people gathered for morning prayers. No one sustained injuries, but the attack broke a window and damaged the imam’s office inside the center.

    Police and fire departments were called onto the scene at 5:05 a.m. local time and found a portion of the center damaged from the blast. In a press conference Saturday, FBI special agent Rick Thornton said an “improvised explosive device” was used in the attack.

    Investigators are still searching for a suspect and determining motivation for the attack, which has not yet been officially designated a hate crime or act of terrorism.

    The center, which primarily serves Somali residents, is located near Minneapolis and St. Paul, which in recent years have hosted the largest Somali population in the United States. In 2013, Somalis constituted the second-largest foreign-born population in Minnesota, and in 2015, more Somali refugees went to Minnesota than any other state.

    “Every place of worship, for all Minnesotans of every faith and culture, must be sacred and safe,” Dayton said in a statement. On Sunday, he called the attack, “A criminal act of terrorism.”

    The White House has not released an official statement on the attack. The Department of Homeland Security responded to the attack with a statement Saturday, saying, “The Department of Homeland Security fully supports the rights of all to freely and safely worship the faith of their choosing and we vigorously condemn such attacks on any religious institution. We are thankful that there were no injuries, but that does not diminish the serious nature of this act.”

    In May, a white supremacist killed two men after they defended two Muslim women at whom he verbally assaulted. The Muslim community was also shook in June, when a motorist left his vehicle to assault and kill 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen as she was walking with friends. Hassanen’s murder was not investigated as a hate crime, though the memorial in her honor was later set on fire.

    A report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) found that between 2014 and 2016, hate crimes against Muslims increased by 584 percent. CAIR has also recorded 134 hate crimes between January and June of this year and reports that 2017 is pacing to become the worst year for hate crimes against Muslims since the organization began collecting such data in 2013.

    “In the larger context, this unfortunately has become rather common,” Corey Saylor, Director of the CAIR department monitoring Islamophobia, told the NewsHour Weekend. CAIR advises mosques to increase security by using video cameras and clearing out bushes where people could hide. They advise individuals not to live in fear. “Go about your life but be vigilant,” Saylor said.

    He also said asked for President Donald Trump, who has expressed anti-Muslim and Islamophobic sentiments and talked about closing mosques in the United States as well as establishing a registry of Muslims, to denounce the act.

    “It’s incumbent on the Trump administration to send an extremely clear message that Americans turning on other Americans is totally unacceptable,” Saylor said.

    The bombing follows other recent acts of discrimination, harassment or violence that have targeted Muslims in Minnesota. The Star Tribune reports that an unprecedented number of “anti-Muslim incidents” took place in 2016 — 14, with nearly half inflicting physical harm. The Star Tribune also reports that mosques in Minnesota have experienced decreased attendance in recent months, with some Muslims praying at home out of fear for their safety.

    In a survey from the Pew Research Center, 49 percent of Muslims reported experiencing some form of discrimination. Three-quarters of American Muslims said there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims in the U.S., while half said being Muslim in the U.S. has become more difficult.

    Both the Muslim American Society of Minnesota and The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations have offered $10,000 rewards “for information leading to to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who reportedly bombed” the center on Saturday.

    CAIR-Minnesota Civil Rights Director Amir Malik told the NewsHour Weekend after the attack, he saw people, including representatives from churches and synagogues, holding signs that read “I love my neighbor.”

    “I’ve been happy to see different parts of the local community together to the support of the Muslims,” Malik said. “The majority of people have been very supportive.”

    The post Minnesota officials visit Islamic center hit with explosive attack appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO - An Afghan flag flutters next to a U.S. flag as a U.S Chinook helicopter flies during a security handover ceremony in Panjshir province

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: We’re now in the 16th year of U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan.  The numbers are less than they were, and it is reported that the Trump administration is looking at political and military options there.  The president has also reportedly weighed personnel changes overseeing the American effort, and is frustrated by what he sees as a losing position in the war.

    And, as “The New York Times” reported this weekend, Iran has gained influence in Afghanistan, conducting covert activities and supporting their one-time enemy, the Taliban.  According to “The Times” report, quote: As the NATO mission in Afghanistan expanded, the Iranians quietly began supporting the Taliban, to bleed the Americans and their allies by raising the cost of the intervention so that they would leave.

    Joining me now via Skype from Istanbul, Turkey, is Carlotta Gall, who wrote the story.

    Carlotta, Iranians and the Taliban are on opposite sides of the Sunni/Shia divide.  Why are they working together here?

    CARLOTTA GALL, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  That’s what amazes me, and this is where we found last year when the Taliban leader Mullah Mansour was killed, he was actually returning from a very high-level visit in Iran.  And it wasn’t his first.  He’d done at least three trips.

    They’re calculating that the American drawdown is going to continue, and that they want to have proxies that they can influence, on, along their — especially along their border.  And so, the Taliban were the ones who were in play.  And so, they reached out to them, and amazingly, they even connected them with Russia and helped get weapons to the Taliban.

    So, it’s a turnabout from when the Taliban was really, almost at war with Iran.  Now, they seem to think, you know, a lesser enemy would be each other, and get to work.

    SREENIVASAN:  What’s financing all this?

    GALL:  The Taliban, as you probably know, have always been financed by Pakistan and the Gulf Arab states really as a Sunni force.  And they are, actually, have been just trying to diversify under Mansour.  He was keen to reach out to Iran for money, but also weapons, training.  And he also gets a lot of money from the drugs, but it seems that also how he had connections with Iran, because a lot of narcotics that are grown in Afghanistan go out through Iran.

    SREENIVASAN:  And you’re saying that there’s evidence of Iranian involvement even in some of the Taliban raids that are happening in Afghanistan?

    GALL:  We went down to Farah, which is a very remote province on the — western — Afghanistan’s western border, with Iran.  And they had a very big assault last year, last October.  They had big air strikes.  And they have discovered that through Iranian commanders, who’d been killed in that operation.  So, Iranians had been involved on a high level.

    SREENIVASAN:  So, is the goal then for Iran to sow instability in the region, or just specifically in Afghanistan, knowing that, even if they don’t particularly control it, this is an opportunity for them to get the Americans out?

    GALL:  They really don’t want American troops and influence in Afghanistan.  They see it as their backyard.  But they are also calculating, they want proxy forces that are loyal to them or at least controlled by them, that they have some leverage over.  So, that’s the calculation to help some of the Taliban that are local along their area.

    They also really want to hurt America, and that’s their ultimate aim — to bleed them, as we wrote, and to push them out eventually.

    SREENIVASAN:  All right.  Carlotta Gall of “The New York Times” joining us via Skype from Istanbul, thanks so much.

    The post Iran gains influence in Afghanistan as war continues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:  As President Trump begins his working vacation, some of the news for the administration might appear grim.  There are the declining poll numbers, a legislative failure on healthcare, the convening of a grand jury in an ongoing investigation, and the report in today’s “New York Times” about a shadow campaign of would-be 2020 GOP presidential candidates.  But those headlines may be distracting us from significant changes the Trump administration is making.

    “NewsHour Weekend” special correspondent Jeff Greenfield is here with me now.

    Before we get started with some of these changes, let’s talk about this “Times” article here.  Kellyanne Conway dismissed it this morning on ABC.

    Too soon for these folks to be doing this?

    JEFF GREENFIELD, NEWSHOUR WEEKEND SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it just shows you the unique nature of the Trump presidency, and that’s six months into his term.  There are Republicans who say, well, he may not be around.  I happen to think that trying to figure out 2020 from 2017 is a fool’s errand, and when you see that some people speculated, well, maybe this is about 2024, you really want to say to the political press, get a grip.

    SREENIVASAN:  Yes.

    GREENFIELD:  But I do think — I just think it’s just one small piece of evidence that this is a presidency unlike any other we have seen, that there’d even be thought, well, we don’t know if he’ll be around.

    SREENIVASAN: Even that considered, there are the legislative defeats, the health care was the kind of the most spectacular one.  But there’s kind of changes that are happening underneath that Congress doesn’t necessarily have to approve.

    GREENFIELD:  Yes, and I think all of the daily OMG stories, breaking news, breaking news, is kind of distracting us from the following.

    The federal bench is being totally remade.  Dozens of new appointments with no traditional filibuster, they are going to get through this Congress at the district court level and significantly the court of appeals level, right below the court, where the great majorities of decisions are made.  Trump has outsourced judges to the Federalist Society and other very conservative groups.  So, this judiciary is going to move to the right, and those people are lifetime appointments.

    Then you get the changes on things like environmental policy, the Paris accord, climate accord obviously, but all across the line — new rules, old rules being brought back, all to the benefit of drillers, of coal mines, of the auto industry, a 180 turn.

    Consumer protection, you know, the Dodd-Frank bill that was supposed to protect us from banking excesses after the meltdown, that’s being eroded away.  The Volcker rule so-called, to stop banks from speculating, may be eroded.

    On race and crime, what the attorney general was doing on everything from how the local police departments are being policed, to the whole notion now that affirmative action may be under threat.  You know, they’re going to after schools that may be discriminated against whites.

    These are huge changes but they don’t get spotlight of the latest Marx Brothers’ White House impression, but it’s significant stuff.

    SREENIVASAN:  Yes, and all of these shifts are to the political right.

    GREENFIELD:  That’s really interesting.  There were people who thought, you know, Donald Trump is essentially a third party candidate.  He did a hostile takeover of the party.

    And some of what he said was a great variance with the Republican conservative catechism.  Maybe we’ll tax rich, maybe single payer works in some places.  He’d been pro-choice.  He’d been pro-gun control.

    But I think — I think that he has either decided or instinctively decided — it’s hard to know with the president — that I’m losing support.  There are signs even among my base that they are becoming a little less enthusiastic.

    SREENIVASAN:  Yes.

    GREENFIELD:  So, every — every decision that he has made, whether it’s social policy that the transgender troops no longer are going to be allowed in the military — I mean, he tweeted that, it’s not a policy.  Everything has been just to shore up a conservative base, both socially and economically, and I think that’s significant.

    SREENIVASAN:  All right.  Jeff Greenfield, thanks so much.

    The post Can Trump pursue a conservative agenda? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of Vice President Mike Pence by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

    File photo of Vice President Mike Pence by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — Vice President Mike Pence has pushed back against a news report suggesting he is laying groundwork for a possible presidential bid in 2020 if President Donald Trump does not run.

    In a statement released by the White House, Pence said Sunday’s story in The New York Times “is disgraceful and offensive to me, my family, and our entire team.” He added that “the allegations in this article are categorically false.”

    The formal rebuttal of a news report by the vice president was an unusual move. In it, Pence also said his team will “focus all our efforts to advance the president’s agenda and see him re-elected in 2020.”

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

    The report details efforts of several Republicans looking ahead to 2020, calling it a “shadow campaign.” It notes Pence’s political schedule and active fundraising, though it also says unnamed advisers have signaled that he’d only run if Trump doesn’t.

    Trump, meanwhile, insisted his support is stronger than ever. In a flurry of early morning tweets Monday, Trump says “the Trump base far bigger & stronger than ever before (despite some phony Fake News polling).” He specifically criticized the “failing @nytimes.”

    The New York Times article noted Pence has set up a fundraising committee. Called the Great America Committee, it can accept checks of up to $5,000 from individual donors. Pence raised about $1 million at a Washington fundraiser last month, attended by dozens of lawmakers and featuring remarks from White House adviser Ivanka Trump.

    Trump has not suggested he won’t seek a second term. But his first six months in office have been turbulent, marked by staff infighting, legislative struggles and a series of investigations.

    White House counselor Kellyanne Conway also dismissed the report and said Pence is readying to run in 2020 “for re-election as vice president.”

    “Vice President Pence is a very loyal, very dutiful, but also incredibly effective vice president, and active vice president, with this president,” said Conway on ABC’s “This Week.” ”He is a peer to the president in the West Wing.”

    New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha said in an emailed statement: “We are confident in the accuracy of our reporting and will let the story speak for itself.”

    The post Pence: Story on possible 2020 presidential run ‘disgraceful’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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