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

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    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (right) meet at the presidential palace in Manila, Philippines on Aug. 7. Photo by Erik De Castro/Reuters

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (right) meet at the presidential palace in Manila, Philippines on Aug. 7. Photo by Erik De Castro/Reuters

    MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte met Monday with America’s top diplomat, where he voiced solidarity with the U.S. amid global concerns over North Korea’s nuclear program and angrily dismissed media questions about human rights abuses by his government.

    Duterte and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met in Manila at a regional Asia gathering. It was the highest-level interaction to date between a member of President Donald Trump’s administration and Duterte, accused by human rights groups of flagrant abuses in his bloody war against illegal drugs.

    If the two leaders discussed those or other U.S. concerns about Duterte’s government, they didn’t do so in public. Instead, the two focused on the alliance between the two countries and on the North Korea issue as reporters were allowed in briefly for the start of their meeting.

    Entering an ornate, wood-paneled hall in the Philippine leader’s palace, Tillerson was introduced to members of Duterte’s Cabinet, shaking hands with each. Duterte welcomed the American and said he said he knew the U.S. was concerned about Pyongyang’s missile program.

    “You come at a time when I think the world is not so good, especially in the Korean Peninsula,” Duterte said.

    Earlier, as they shook hands, the two ignored a shouted question about whether they’d discuss human rights. And at a news conference after their meeting, Duterte bristled but didn’t answer directly when asked whether human rights had come up.

    “Human rights, son of a bitch,” Duterte said, arguing he shouldn’t be questioned about alleged violations given the challenges he’s facing. “Policemen and soldiers have died on me. The war now in Marawi, what caused it but drugs? So human rights, don’t go there.”

    But ahead of the meeting, Duterte’s presidential spokesman, Ernesto Bella, said the topic would indeed come up, along with other pressing matters such as global terrorism threats, economic cooperation and security in Marawi, the city that has been under siege by pro-Islamic State group militants for more than two months.

    “We also welcome the opportunity to address concerns such as human rights if and when raised,” Bella said in a statement. “We have always included this issue in our discussions and engagements with foreign governments, particularly Western democracies.”

    The U.S., too, said ahead of the meeting that human rights would be among the topics on the agenda.

    READ MORE: Tillerson to address the Philippines’ deadly drug crackdown

    Human rights groups have questioned the Trump administration’s willingness to engage with Duterte. But Tillerson argued there’s no contradiction presented by the U.S. decision to help his country fight the militants, whose insurgency in the Philippines has stoked global fears about the Islamic State group exporting violence into Southeast Asia and beyond.

    Nearly 700 people have died in the intense fighting, including 528 militants and 122 soldiers and policemen, since hundreds of black flag waving gunmen stormed into buildings and homes in the business district and outlying communities of mosque-studded Marawi, a center of Islamic faith in the southern third of the predominantly Roman Catholic nation.

    “I see no conflict – no conflict at all in our helping them with that situation and our views of the human rights concerns we have with respect to how they carry out their counter narcotics activities,” Tillerson told reporters before the meeting. He added that it appeared the Philippines was “beginning to get that situation under control.”

    To that end, Tillerson said the U.S. has been providing the Philippines with surveillance capabilities, training, information and aircraft to help it fight the militants. He said the equipment includes a few Cessna aircraft and a few drones.

    “The real challenge is going to come with once they have the fighting brought to an end how to deal with the conditions on the ground to ensure it does not re-emerge.”


    Associated Press writer Jim Gomez contributed to this report.

    The post When asked about human rights, Philippine president Duterte says ‘don’t go there’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    File photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    File photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is trying to shore up faltering confidence in forensic science and how its experts describe their findings in court, a push that comes months after similar efforts dating to the Obama administration were derailed.

    The department said Monday it is reviving work on federal standards for forensic expert testimony, an effort initiated following revelations in 2015 that FBI experts had overstated the strength of evidence involving microscopic hair analysis in hundreds of cases dating back decades.

    Longstanding concerns remain about the reliability of certain forensics evidence in criminal cases across the country, as research increasingly shows that techniques such as comparisons of hair found at crime scenes, handwriting analyses, bite-mark evidence and certain ballistics tests are scientifically flawed.

    Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said he is forming a “forensic science working group” whose top missions will be setting uniform standards for how experts testify about such evidence and creating a program to monitor the accuracy of forensic testimony. It will also conduct a broad look at the personnel and equipment needs of the nation’s overburdened crime labs, among other aims. He made the announcement during a private gathering of forensics professionals in Atlanta.

    “We must use forensic analysis carefully, but we must continue to use it,” he said, according to prepared remarks. “We should not exclude reliable forensic analysis — or any reliable expert testimony — simply because it is based on human judgment.”

    “We must use forensic analysis carefully. But we must continue to use it.” — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

    The working group takes the place of an Obama-era commission of independent scientists that aimed to improve the reliability of forensic science and advise the attorney general on the use of scientific evidence in the criminal justice process.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions allowed the National Commission on Forensic Science to expire in April, raising concerns among defense attorneys and other advocates about the future of the Justice Department’s work in that arena. They believed the commission and its array of voices offered a better chance for an independent look at questionable techniques that have long been used in American courtrooms than would an internal Justice Department committee.

    Peter Neufeld, a former member of the national commission and a co-founder of the Innocence Project, praised the effort to set guidelines for forensic testimony but said keeping the working group within the Justice Department is misguided.

    “What is most unfortunate is that they want to make the entire effort to improve forensic science an in-house working group, as opposed to an independent, transparent and science-driven, proactive entity,” he said. “It misses the point that forensic science is not simply about public safety, it’s about achieving justice.”

    Report: FBI investigators overstated evidence against criminal defendants

    Rosenstein said the working group would consider the more than 250 comments and suggestions the department received in response to the commission’s disbanding.

    The new group will be led by Ted Hunt, a longtime prosecutor from Missouri whose online biography says he has worked on more than 100 felony trials, most of which have involved DNA or other forensic evidence. He was also involved with the commission.

    A 2015 Justice Department review of lab examiners’ testimony found errors relating to hair analysis in at least 90 percent of trial transcripts and covered a period before 2000. The FBI says it has improved its practices since the late 1990s by using more reliable mitochondrial DNA hair analysis in addition to microscopic hair analysis. But following the discovery of flawed forensics, the department last year issued draft standards for examining and reporting forensic evidence in court.

    The draft guidance covered seven forensic science disciplines, including drug and chemical analysis, body fluid testing, latent fingerprints and toxicology. And it was slated to apply to Justice Department personnel at component agencies including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

    Officials sought and received public comment on the drafts, but the new administration halted work on them so Rosenstein could weigh in on the best course of action.

    The post Justice Department considers revamp of federal standards for forensic evidence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    White House Chief Photographer Shealah Craighead photographs President Donald J. Trump during a tour of the Sistine Chapel, Wednesday, May 24, 2017, in Vatican City.

    Chief Official White House Photographer Shealah Craighead photographs President Donald J. Trump during a tour of the Sistine Chapel, Wednesday, May 24, 2017, in Vatican City. Photo by Andrea Hanks

    From the start of the Trump presidency, it’s been photos not snapped by the official White House photographer that have gotten the most attention. There were the press images that confirmed his inauguration crowd size was smaller than the first Obama inauguration, that showed the president’s tie held in place with Scotch tape, and that revealed a stone-faced Pope Francis in his meeting with Trump at the Vatican. As the weeks passed, media reports began to suggest that Trump was actually avoiding Shealah Craighead, his new photographer, as many pictures posted to social media by the White House were taken by other members of staff. And after day 50 of the presidency, when Craighead released her first real set of photos, photography websites declared her a rigid, boring photographer, unable or willing to take candid or unguarded photos of the president.

    But critics really had little to assess, with Craighead and her staff releasing far fewer photos to the White House Flickr account or other social media than her predecessor, Pete Souza, who had photographed two administrations and been granted extraordinary access to Barack Obama. (Since leaving his position, Souza had kept posting photos of the former president, often in an attempt to show Obama in a better light than Trump). Craighead herself also gave almost no interviews — just one short talk with a Catholic television network. In recent months, however, the Flickr page has slowly begun to fill up. With more to go on, we spoke to Craighead, who has previously photographed a slew of Republican politicians, about her background, approach and the side of the president she’s gotten to see up close. In a second conversation, she also answered criticisms about her lack of access. This conversation has been edited and condensed slightly for length and clarity.

    Shealah Craighead, President Donald Trump's Chief Official White House Photographer, is seen working during UK Prime Minister May's visit to the White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

    Shealah Craighead, President Donald Trump’s Chief Official White House Photographer, is seen working during UK Prime Minister May’s visit to the White House on January 27, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

    ELIZABETH FLOCK: Tell me a little bit about your background. How did you first get interested in photography?

    SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD: My background started out in the family business, because my family owned a photo lab in Connecticut where I grew up. As I went through college and life I also realized I had always wanted to do something that involved traveling the world and living in hotels. And that involved photography.

    After college I freelanced with the Boston Globe, AP, and Getty Images. That’s where I earned my chops. And then, through friends and colleagues, asking around if anyone knew of job openings in D.C. area, I ended up in D.C.

    ELIZABETH FLOCK: And from there you began photographing politicians, almost all of them Republican. How did that happen?

    SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD: In 2005, I was working under David Bohrer, Vice President Dick Cheney’s photographer. Four months into that, another photographer went on maternity leave and decided not to come back. So I put my resume in, and under Bush’s photographer Eric Draper, I became the photographer assigned to Mrs. [Laura] Bush. It was a huge change for me — I didn’t know what to expect. I grew exponentially as a photographer and person in that position.

    “In the White House, you’re not just documenting history, you’re also putting other caps on,” like being an event photographer, a family photographer, an operations director, she said.

    But in my early stages of photography I shot weddings, sports, events, news, portraits, spot news, the whole gamut. And all of that comes into play in a position like this. In the White House, you’re not just documenting history, you’re also putting other caps on. You’re an event photographer, an operations director — establishing where the team should be to get all the angles. You’re a documentary photographer, you’re a family photographer, you shoot portraits. If the president is athletic, or doing sports, you’re a sports photographer too.

    After Mrs. Bush, I was asked to be Alaska governor and then vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s photographer, and then after that for Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who was running against Rick Perry for governor in 2010. Then I became Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s photographer, through his Senate career and into his campaign for president. I don’t know that I specifically set out to make that my niche or genre, Republican clients, but being in the White House in a Republican administration offers that foundation as colleagues branch out and network.

    In addition to that, I also did corporate work because I had colleagues that went into the private sector. I had Fortune 500 clients and clients that were private families in the top executive world. When people see that you can photograph presidents, and kings and queens around the world — that you can navigate an environment that is more high society — then your clients trust you. They know I won’t ever exploit their images. They know I keep a very tight hold on the archives of photos I take of them.

    President-elect Donald Trump walks to take his seat for the inaugural swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

    President-elect Donald Trump walks to take his seat for the inaugural swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

    ELIZABETH FLOCK: Has that trust been key to working with President Trump? Some have said your photos suggest you don’t have much access to the president. Do you think he trusts you?

    SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD: For both of us, it’s getting to know your client, as much as they’re getting to know you as a photographer and a person. There’s a level of trust we have to establish with each other. That in time will unfold into a level of comfort and access. Then once that’s established the comfort level comes.

    And with this particular situation, with the president and myself not having known him before, not having a relationship on the campaign, or a working relationship, it takes a lot longer to have someone comfortable in your personal space. I would say, for the first month or so he’d say, “Why are you here?” Or: “What are you doing?” Or, “You have more golf photos of me than [anything else].”

    So then it becomes explaining and showing why you’re doing it. You’re earning the trust of your subject, so that they’re confident that you’re not going to send out a photo that’s not going to make them look bad. Sometimes I’m invited into a space, sometimes I move in quietly, and sometimes I’m disinvited.

    “What you see on TV is exactly what you get off camera. I appreciate that. He likes photos, that’s no secret.”

    But the president’s personality is gregarious. What you see on TV is exactly what you get off camera. I appreciate that. He likes photos, that’s no secret. I’m happy to engage in that. Both for him and the administration and the country, and his private archives later on down the road. You learn what they like or don’t like, preferences in terms of space or lighting.

    ELIZABETH FLOCK: One media story said you carry a stool to photograph President Trump, because it makes him look better.

    SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD: I’ve used a stool for years. I’m short, so when I was with Mrs. Bush, to get a better angle I brought in the stool that I carry, to be a little higher up. So that I’m not photographing from the ground up but sky down. I’ve brought that into the White House as well, because the president is six-foot, and I’m five-two. I carry that in order to be at least at eye level advantage. Plus the air up there is a lot nicer. (Laughs)

    First lady Laura Bush (3rd R) hosts a coffee for first lady Mehriban Aliyeva (3rd L) of Azerbaijan, in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House December 7, 2006 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Shealah Craighead/White House via Getty Images)

    ELIZABETH FLOCK: How is photographing President Trump different than photographing Mrs. Bush?

    SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD: He’s a different person for many reasons. With Mrs. Bush it also took some time, but she would invite me to her private residence to take photos regularly of teas and lunches or residence with friends and colleagues, in her personal space. And sometimes I photographed and sometimes I didn’t. I remember once, there were eight of us on an airplane, and she was telling us about first date with the president. I was sitting there with a camera, but that was a moment I chose to not to photograph. I didn’t really want to photograph that.

    Here with the president, my relationship is more professional, casual, comfortable. He’s comfortable with me, he certainly looks around, he makes sure I’m there, he looks for me when he’s ready to take a photo. We have candid conversations now and again, but in terms of telling me about his first date with Mrs. Trump, I’m sure that’s not a conversation we’re going to have anytime soon.

    “I didn’t come in cameras and gun blazing, saying, ‘this is my job and I’m entitled to do this or that.’ I came in with the expectation that I’m going to need to gain the trust of a … person who I have not worked with before.

    I think it’s slowly been worked into over time, my style is different, and I didn’t come in cameras and gun blazing, saying, “this is my job and I’m entitled to do this or that.” I came in with the expectation that I’m going to need to gain the trust of a client and person who I have not worked with before, who’s thinking, why am I following him around 16 hours a day with a camera? Once we got through that part, he was able to see my style and gain the trust that I’m very protective over the images that go out for both of our sakes. His failure is my failure, if he gets flak for that that’s on me. I err on the side of caution.

    President Donald Trump receives a briefing, Thursday, April 6, 2017, on a military strike on Syria from his National Security team, including a video teleconference with Secretary of Defense, Gen. James Mattis, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, in a secured location at Mar-a-Largo in Palm Beach, Florida. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead) Editor’s Note: Items in this image have been altered for security purposes.

    ELIZABETH FLOCK: You’ve been criticized for not releasing as many photos as previous administration have.

    SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD: There are a lot of photos taken in private moments that the president would just like to have for his archives, like any family photo. Or family events, you’re just taking photos for the family. Or someone he’s golfed with, it’s his private time, it’s his personal time. Sometimes I’ll ask him, “Hey, can I release this to our website?” And I’ll show him, if I’m hesitant. He’ll say, “Yeah, that’s fine,” or no for whatever reason. But nine times out of 10 now I don’t run it by him.

    ELIZABETH FLOCK: Can you tell me a story about working with President Trump? What’s your relationship like now that you’ve built some trust?

    SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD: I see him as a person, not as a president, first. One thing he likes is to bring people into the Oval Office. He’ll give the history and the tour, and then make sure it’s documented for them. So he’ll call me up to take photos while they’re in the Oval Office.

    I remember on the day of the health care vote [to repeal Obamacare], it was May 4th, and it was my birthday. This was not on the schedule, but he’ll say: “Everyone come into the Oval, let’s take photos.” And that day I got swamped and engulfed by everyone trying to get in the door at the same time. And so he said: “Where’s Shea, let’s get Shea, make way for Shea, she’s getting trampled.” I thought: he’s trying to make sure I’m in there for the moment. It’s endearing. He’ll come out with some really endearing comments. And he compliments me on the job I’m doing.

    ELIZABETH FLOCK: Does the president see the photos you take before you put them out there?

    SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD: Often times I’ll show him photos. At the beginning, I did a lot more hands-on work with the photos. He likes to see them. He likes to see what I do.

    Now we have four photographers in total including myself. It’s a really strong team that incorporates a fashion background, a military background and an administration background. The fashion background I thought would be good for the first family.

    It’s more a family environment than in past administrations. There are more lighthearted moments, family dinners, and the president’s grand kids are running around with bare feet on state floor, which is phenomenal for hide-and-go-seek. (Laughs)

    ELIZABETH FLOCK: What’s it been like to photograph him on foreign trips? How is the president different there than he is at home?

    “One thing I really like about this administration is that they’re doing it their way. It’s not always a popular approach. But I see them genuinely try to work from their heart. That’s something that I’d like to show more of.”

    SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD: When we were on the Saudi Arabia trip, I remember how incredibly busy it was. They packed in a lot of face-to-face time with foreign leaders. I think it’s best when you meet people in person, and I think that he finds that as well. He’d rather do a lot of negotiating and conversing in person. The days are long — it’s such a concentrated period of time — and you’re trying to fit everything in. But in terms of his presence there, I noticed as a close observer that his time with the king in Saudi Arabia was the most personable. They really connected not only as leaders but really as people.

    It’s also great to see Mrs. Trump unfolding in her role. That trip was her first coming out. I’ve watched her sort of slowly come out at her own pace. One thing I really like about this administration is that they’re doing it their way. It’s not always a popular approach. But I see them genuinely try to work from their heart. That’s something that I’d like to show more of. That unfolding — as a strength.

    President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive to the Murabba Palace, escorted by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, Saturday evening, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to attend a banquet in their honor. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

    ELIZABETH FLOCK: There has been so much negative news about the president, though, from his policies to his inability to get things done. Do you feel like it’s your job to try to counteract that perception through photos?

    SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD: People are going to love or hate no matter what. I just try to grab the moments as light and as endearing or as serious or profound as the moment is. And it’s still going to be taken however anyone wants to take the image and run with it. At the end of the day it’s about him. His image is going to captured in the images I take. I want to show him in the best light as a person.

    What I’ve also learned in this business, is, unless you’re in the room, do you really know what happened? It’s all sort of projected. I’m just a documentary photographer. I just try to show him and what happened in the most honest light.

    ELIZABETH FLOCK: In that way, it seems like you’re very different from your predecessor, Pete Souza, who really tried to capture the intimate, private moments of being president, and who also maybe tried to get across a certain perception of the president. People have criticized you as only documenting Trump’s public face, in a rigid way —

    SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD: I am a fan of Pete Souza’s photography. I think the job he did is amazing for our country. I think Pete and I approach this situation differently. I’m defining my role as a documentary photographer, as a historian… I guess the way I’m doing it is with neutrality. I feel like the moments are going to unfold no matter what I do, and if I see them I’m going to capture them. If I can see something happening, and think that’s a great moment for history.

    WATCH: The Obama White House, from the man behind the lens

    President Barack Obama reflects during a budget meeting in the Roosevelt Room 1/29/09. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

    President Barack Obama reflects during a budget meeting in the Roosevelt Room on January 29, 2009.
    Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

    Pete developed a different relationship with his subject than I will have with mine or Eric Draper did with Bush 43. In terms of private space, that definition can be so wide. Does that mean the president’s private office, or private time in the Oval Office, or his residence? Are there meetings more sensitive than others? And am I in those? Sometimes, sometimes not. I’m certainly not going to go in and take photos while he’s privately eating lunch. Nobody likes to be photographed while they’re eating.

    President Donald Trump reviews his remarks backstage at the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., Thursday, February 2, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

    ELIZABETH FLOCK: In a previous interview you gave, you said never talked politics or religion with people you worked with, when you were photographing Sarah Palin —

    “I’m very set on making sure my career is very neutral. If you’re able to separate yourself from your issue, then you can make an image that is strong and compelling and informative, strong and honest in the moment.”

    SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD: That’s not my job, my job is to document, job is to keep it simple. I’m not hired to be a policy adviser. This goes back to journalism days. A professor in photojournalism said you should always be neutral, talking about when you let personal beliefs in you sway the eye. So I decided I would make a conscious effort to keep my personal beliefs separate. I’m very set on making sure my career is very neutral. If you’re able to separate yourself from your issue, then you can make an image that is strong and compelling and informative, strong and honest in the moment.

    ELIZABETH FLOCK: How much sleep do you get? Do you get any days off, free time?

    SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD: I’m on my fourth day off right now since January when I started. The hours start in the morning and go very late.

    The weekend I had off after we got back from Paris I slept from 5:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. the next day, pretty much solid. That was supposed to be 30 minute nap. (Laughs) I do yoga, try to stay in shape. It’s a physically demanding job, because sometimes I’m carrying 10, 20 pounds in a backpack, and you’re on your feet 16 hours a day. I also ride a motorcycle, which is the most calming space for me, because you can’t do anything on it, you just have to focus and drive.

    This is the toughest job I’ve ever been in. You’re not only making photos every day, you’re managing a team, from the ground up, like a startup. I think everything tends to take six months in this world, until you get comfortable. You get your foot in the door, there’s shock and awe, then it’s: “Oh crap, how do I sustain this?” Then finally you get to that stage of sustainability, and the air is a little bit sweeter, and the sleep is more than four hours a night.

    Below, see more of Craighead’s photos and her stories behind them.

    Credit: Shealah Craighead

    Post the traditional inaugural tea and coffee reception, President-elect Donald Trump looks out of the Red Room window onto the South Portico of the White House grounds on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, prior to departing the White House for the Presidential Inaugural ceremony. Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

    This was my second day photographing President Trump. What was leading up to that was pure jumping in with both feet, going in a thousand miles an hour, figuring out where you’re supposed to be. I was sort of trying to observe him and Mrs. Trump at the same time, and find quiet moments in between. I knew inauguration was going to be pure chaos….At one point, I thought, “I don’t see him in the room, where did they go?” They were in the Blue Room having tea with the Obamas, and I stepped back because there’s only so many interaction photos you can take. Stepping back while taking photos gives you a better perspective. But all the sudden he was gone, and I found him in the Red Room.

    Holding her youngest son Theodore, Ivanka Trump talks on the phone in the East Colonnade of the White House, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

    Holding her youngest son Theodore, Ivanka Trump talks on the phone in the East Colonnade of the White House, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

    This was also one of the first few weekends the president was in the White House. We were waiting for him to come to the movie theater to watch a family movie, and I went to scope out who was there, to get bearings on the space. And I saw Ivanka there with her son, and I just love the light in that room. I was observing a little before I took that to see how she moves. I was taken with the grace [she shows], and she’s slender and tall and in heels and carrying a baby and on the phone. I thought “who can do that, amazing.”

    President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump join King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, and the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, Sunday, May 21, 2017, to participate in the inaugural opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

    To be honest, I don’t watch the news, and I’m not on social media anymore — let alone sort of follow what’s going on, [so I didn’t know the image of Trump with other foreign leaders gathered around a globe had gone viral]. I figured out that staying off social media was the best way to keep my head down and do my job. If people are going to make fun, you can take the sweetest photo and somebody is going to find a way to criticize you. I just remember it being incredibly crowded in that moment, getting elbowed.

    President Donald J. Trump signs a series of Executive Orders and Presidential Memoranda around the approval of pipelines in the Oval Office, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

    I try to show a signing that’s not the same photo you can do every time, which is a redundant image. But it’s not a redundant event. The signing is important every time, but the visual works the same — and it’s not the same. This was the executive order around the pipeline, and I think I moved around the room on my stool. I bring the stool everywhere, lose all pride. (Laughs)

    President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump participate in the Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday, April 17, 2017, in Washington, D.C. This was the first Easter Egg Roll of the Trump Administration. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

    That moment was spontaneous. Each time Mrs. Trump goes out in public, she becomes more comfortable. Being in that space, it was a nice moment of watching her and the child she was sitting next to.

    President Donald Trump talks to members of the press in his office aboard Air Force One during a flight from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, January 26, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

    The president was eating and then the flight was landing. It was a very, very short flight. And the press wanted to photograph him in office on the first flight. The press was rushed in there, so I thought the moment was more about press documenting his first flight in office, than just a portrait of him on Air Force One.

    It’s often easy to get caught up in the press pool — they have such a short amount of access and time. When they come into a space, it’s so easy to get swept up in the high energy. So it’s a challenge to pull yourself out and pause. You think: what does the moment look like from this side of the room. You step out of the scrum, which is sometimes not possible because you’re packed in so tightly. But what I love about working with the press pool it it’s seasoned vets, they challenge me, and sometimes I think: “How did I miss that?”

    The post What it’s like to be President Trump’s White House photographer appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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  • 08/07/17--07:51: What are economic sanctions?
  • File photo by Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

    File photo by Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

    For many foreign policymakers, economic sanctions have become the tool of choice to respond to major geopolitical challenges, from counterterrorism to conflict resolution.


    Governments and multinational bodies impose economic sanctions to try to alter the strategic decisions of state and nonstate actors that threaten their interests or violate international norms of behavior. Critics say sanctions are often poorly conceived and rarely successful in changing a target’s conduct, while supporters contend they have become more effective in recent years and remain an essential foreign policy tool. Sanctions have become the defining feature of the Western response to several geopolitical challenges, including North Korea’s nuclear program and Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

    What are economic sanctions?

    Economic sanctions are defined as the withdrawal of customary trade and financial relations for foreign and security policy purposes. They may be comprehensive, prohibiting commercial activity with regard to an entire country, like the long-standing U.S. embargo of Cuba, or they may be targeted, blocking transactions of and with particular businesses, groups, or individuals.

    Since 9/11, there has been a pronounced shift toward targeted or so-called “smart” sanctions, which aim to minimize the suffering of innocent civilians. Sanctions take a variety of forms, including travel bans, asset freezes, arms embargoes, capital restraints, foreign aid reductions, and trade restrictions. (General export controls, which are not punitive, are often excluded from sanctions discussions.)

    When are sanctions used?

    National governments and international bodies like the United Nations and European Union have imposed economic sanctions to coerce, deter, punish, or shame entities that endanger their interests or violate international norms of behavior. They have been used to advance a range of foreign policy goals, including counterterrorism, counternarcotics, nonproliferation, democracy and human rights promotion, conflict resolution, and cybersecurity.

    Sanctions, while a form of intervention, are generally viewed as a lower-cost, lower-risk, middle course of action between diplomacy and war. Policymakers may consider sanctions a response to foreign crises in which the national interest is less than vital or where military action is not feasible. Leaders can on occasion issue sanctions while they evaluate more punitive action. For example, the UN Security Council imposed comprehensive sanctions against Iraq just four days after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. The Council did not authorize the use of military force until months later.

    What is the sanctions process at the UN?

    As the UN’s principal crisis-management body, the Security Council may respond to global threats by cutting economic ties with state and nonstate groups. Sanctions resolutions must pass the 15-member Council by a majority vote and without a veto from any of the five permanent members: the United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom. The most common types of UN sanctions, which are binding on all member states, are asset freezes, travel bans and arms embargoes.

    UN sanctions regimes are typically managed by a special committee and a monitoring group. The global police agency Interpol assists some sanctions committees, particularly those concerning al-Qaida and the Taliban, but the UN has no independent means of enforcement and relies on member states, many of which have limited resources and little political incentive. Anecdotal evidence suggests that enforcement is often weak.

    Prior to 1990, the Council imposed sanctions against just two states: Southern Rhodesia (1966) and South Africa (1977). However, since the end of the Cold War, the body has used sanctions more than twenty times, most often targeting parties to an intrastate conflict, as in Somalia, Liberia, and Yugoslavia in the 1990s. But despite this cooperation, sanctions are often divisive, reflecting the competing interests of world powers. For instance, since 2011, Russia and China have vetoed several Security Council resolutions concerning the conflict in Syria, some of which could have led to sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

    CFR chart

    What is the sanctions process in the EU?

    The European Union imposes sanctions (known more commonly in the 28-member bloc as restrictive measures) as part of its Common Foreign and Security Policy. Because the EU lacks a joint military force, many European leaders consider sanctions the bloc’s most powerful foreign policy tool. Sanctions policies must receive unanimous consent from member states in the Council of the European Union, the body that represents EU leaders.

    Since its inception in 1992, the EU has levied sanctions more than thirty times (in addition to those mandated by the UN). Analysts say the comprehensive sanctions imposed on Iran in 2012 marked a turning point for the bloc, which had previously sought to limit sanctions to specific individuals or companies. Individual states may impose harsher sanctions independently within their national jurisdiction.

    What is the sanctions process in the United States?

    The United States uses economic and financial sanctions more than any other country. Sanctions policy may originate in either the executive or legislative branches. Presidents typically launch the process by issuing an executive order (EO) that declares a national emergency in response to an “unusual and extraordinary” foreign threat, such as “the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons” (EO 12938) or “the actions and policies of the Government of the Russian Federation with respect to Ukraine” (EO 13661). This affords the president special powers (pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act) to regulate commerce with regard to that threat for a period of one year, unless extended by him/her or terminated by a joint resolution of Congress. (Executive orders may also modify sanctions.)

    Notably, most of the more than fifty states of emergency declared since Congress placed limits on their duration in 1976 remain in effect today, including the first, ordered by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 with respect to Iran.

    Congress, for its part, may pass legislation imposing new sanctions or modifying existing ones, which it has done in many cases. In instances where there are multiple legal authorities, as with Cuba and Iran, congressional and executive action may be required to alter or lift the restrictions. In July 2017, Congress passed and President Donald Trump reluctantly signed a bill adding to the list of sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The bill is noteworthy in that it requires the president to justify to the legislature any termination of the sanctions.

    For the most part, the twenty-six existing U.S. sanctions programs are administered by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), while other departments, including State, Commerce, Homeland Security, and Justice, may also play an integral role. For instance, the secretary of state can designate a group a Foreign Terrorist Organization, or label a country a State Sponsor of Terrorism, both of which have sanctions implications. (Travel bans are handled by the State Department as well.) State and local authorities, particularly in New York, may also contribute to enforcement efforts.

    In 2017, the United States had comprehensive sanctions regimes on Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria, as well as more than a dozen other programs targeting individuals and entities pertaining to certain political crises or suspected of certain types of criminal behavior, such as narcotics trafficking. OFAC routinely adds (or deletes) entries on its blacklist of more than six thousand individuals, businesses, and groups (known as Specially Designated Nationals.) The assets of those listed are blocked, and U.S. persons, including U.S. businesses and their foreign branches, are forbidden from transacting with them.

    CFR chart

    How did the 9/11 attacks change sanctions policy?

    In concert with its allies, the U.S. government launched an all-out effort to disrupt the financial infrastructure supporting terrorists and international criminals. This campaign focused on the gateways of the global financial system—international banks—and relied on a handful of new authorities granted to U.S. agents in the days after the attacks.

    On Sept. 23, President George W. Bush signed EO 13224that provided Treasury Department officials with far-reaching authority to freeze the assets and financial transactions of individuals and other entities suspected of supporting terrorism. Weeks later, Bush gave the Treasury broad powers (under Section 311 of the USA Patriot Act) to designate foreign jurisdictions and financial institutions as “primary money laundering concerns.” (Notably, Treasury needs only a reasonable suspicion — not necessarily any evidence — to target entities under these laws.)

    Experts say that these measures fundamentally reshaped the financial regulatory environment, greatly raising the risks for banks and other institutions engaged in suspicious activity, even unwittingly. The centrality of New York and the dollar to the global financial system mean these U.S. policies are felt globally.

    Penalties for sanctions violations can be huge in terms of fines, loss of business, and reputational damage. Federal and state authorities have been particularly rigorous in prosecuting banks in recent years, settling at least fifteen cases with fines over $100 million since 2009. In a record settlement, France’s largest lender, BNP Paribas, pleaded guilty in 2014 to processing billions of dollars for blacklisted Cuban, Iranian, and Sudanese entities. The bank was fined nearly $9 billion—by far the largest such penalty in history — and lost the right to convert foreign currency into dollars for certain types of transactions for one year.

    CFR chart

    Similarly, those tainted by a U.S. money-laundering designation may suffer crippling losses. In September 2005, Treasury officials labeled Banco Delta Asia a primary money laundering concern, alleging that the Macau-based bank was a “willing pawn for the North Korean government.” Within a week, customers withdrew $133 million, or 34 percent of BDA’s deposits. The financial shock rippled across the globe, inducing other international banks to sever ties with Pyongyang.

    “This new approach worked by focusing squarely on the behavior of financial institutions rather than on the classic sanctions framework of the past,” wrote Juan Zarate, a top Bush administration official involved in counterterrorism efforts, in his book Treasury’s War (2013). “In this new approach, the policy decisions of government are not nearly as persuasive as the risk-based compliance calculus of financial institutions.”

    What are extraterritorial sanctions?

    Traditionally, sanctions prohibit only a home country’s or region’s corporations and citizens from doing business with a blacklisted entity. (Unlike UN sanctions, which are global by nature.) However, extraterritorial sanctions (sometimes called secondary sanctions or a secondary boycott) are designed to restrict the economic activity of governments, businesses, and nationals of third countries. As a result, many governments consider these sanctions a violation of their sovereignty and international law.

    In recent years, the reach of U.S. sanctions continued to draw the ire of some close allies. France’s leadership criticized the U.S. prosecution of BNP Paribas as “unfair” and indicated there would be “negative consequences” on bilateral as well as U.S.-EU relations. “The extraterritoriality of American standards, linked to the use of the dollar, should drive Europe to mobilize itself to advance the use of the euro as a currency for international trade,” said French Finance Minister Michel Sapin.

    Do sanctions work?

    Many scholars and practitioners say that sanctions, particularly targeted sanctions, can be at least partly successful and should remain in the tool kits of foreign policymakers. Evaluations of sanctions should consider the following:

    • The dynamics of each historical case vary immensely. Sanctions effective in one setting may fail in another, depending on countless factors. Sanctions programs with relatively limited objectives are generally more likely to succeed than those with major political ambitions. Furthermore, sanctions may achieve their desired economic effect, but they may fail to change behavior. UN sanctions on Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001 exacted a heavy toll but failed to move the Taliban regime to surrender Osama bin Laden.
    • Sanctions often evolve over time. A classic illustration of this is the U.S. regime on Iran. Except for a brief period in the 1980s, Washington has had sanctions on Tehran since U.S. hostages were taken in 1979. However, the scope of these measures and the logic behind them have changed dramatically.
    • Only correlations, not causal relationships, can be determined. For example, many believe UN sanctions imposed on Liberia in 2003 helped bring about the collapse of the Charles Taylor regime, but any number of domestic and international factors could have played more decisive roles.
    • The comparative utility of sanctions is what matters and not simply whether they achieve their objective. U.S.-EU sanctions against Russia may not stem the crisis in Ukraine, but other courses of action, including inaction, may have fared worse (and cost more). In some cases, sanctions may simply be intended as an expression of opprobrium.

    Meanwhile, experts cite several best practices in developing sanctions policy:

    • Develop a well-rounded approach. An effective strategy often links punitive measures, like sanctions and the threat of military action, with positive inducements, like financial aid. Some point to the Libya strategy adopted by the United States and its allies in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
    • Set attainable goals. Sanctions aimed at regime change or that offer the target little recourse except what it believes would be political suicide are likely to fail. Many cite the U.S. embargo on the Castro regime as a cautionary tale.
    • Build multilateral support. The more governments that sign on to (and enforce) sanctions the better, especially in cases where the target is economically diversified. Sanctions against South Africa’s apartheid regime in the 1980s, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1990s, or on Iran and Russia today would not be nearly as powerful without multilateral support.
    • Be credible and flexible. The target must believe that sanctions will be increased or reduced based on its behavior. In 2012, the Obama administration responded to major political reforms in Myanmar by easing some financial and investment restrictions. It ended the sanctions program in 2016.

    This backgrounder first appeared on Aug. 7 on the Council on Foreign Relations’ website.

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    Lynn Graham sits on his porch in Redwater, Texas, after returning from an appointment at the closest U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs medical center, which is 85 miles from his home. The VA is testing new programs to ensure that veterans in rural areas get health care. © The Pew Charitable Trusts

    Lynn Graham sits on his porch in Redwater, Texas, after returning from an appointment at the closest U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs medical center, which is 85 miles from his home. The VA is testing new programs to ensure that veterans in rural areas get health care.
    © The Pew Charitable Trusts

    REDWATER, Texas — On this long drive, across two state lines and endless fields of corn and cattle, Lynn Graham thinks about how it may be the quality of life, not the quantity, that matters.

    Graham, 55, has stage 4 liver and colon cancer. It is an 85-mile drive, cutting through Arkansas on mostly country roads, to the closest U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs medical center in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he is being treated. For this appointment, the Air Force veteran borrowed his mother’s car and is driving himself. But his second round of chemotherapy is supposed to start next week, and he doesn’t know how he will get there. He’s starting to think, since the chemo may not work anyway, it’s not worth the stress.

    Graham has struggled to find rides to his appointments since June, when a temporary program funded by the VA and run by Volunteers of America North Louisiana ended. For the last two years, the program picked up a handful of veterans at a time from all across rural Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana and shuttled them in a van to medical appointments. Demand was high, and now the veterans are calling Congress to let them know they want it back.

    “Everything was going along perfectly,” Graham said. “It was like the answer to my prayers. And then I found out they were ending it. I was devastated.”

    While long drives and limited access to health care are familiar burdens for many rural residents, the problem is particularly acute for veterans in those areas. They are far older than other rural residents, and far more likely to be disabled, meaning more of them are in need of medical care. And there are a lot of them—one in four veterans lives in rural areas, compared to one in five adults in the general population, according to 2015 census data.

    For decades, officials who work with veterans have sympathized with rural residents like Graham, but have had little to offer. Now, by testing new ideas through pilot programs like the van rides provided by Volunteers of America North Louisiana, the VA is developing models and spreading them across the country to get more rural veterans the health care they need.

    VA expansion

    Just 20 miles from where the dirt road to Graham’s driveway begins, in Texarkana, there’s a VA outpatient clinic. But the clinic doesn’t provide chemotherapy. It, like many local clinics for veterans, provides basic physical and mental health care, but not emergency care or some specialized services.

    While there is a general lack of doctors and hospitals in rural areas, the situation is even worse for veterans who rely on the VA, said John Hoellwarth, a spokesperson for American Veterans, the nation’s largest veterans’ organization. In recent years, the VA has set up more community-based clinics, and the Obama administration created a program, called Choice, that allows non-VA clinicians to serve rural veterans and receive reimbursement from the VA. But the problem persists.

    Many rural veterans rely on a combination of VA health insurance and other forms of insurance, such as private insurance, Medicaid (the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled), or Medicare (federal health program for the elderly), according to census data. The number of veterans enrolled in Medicaid increased by about 340,000 under the Affordable Care Act, according to an analysis by Families USA, a nonprofit that advocates for high-quality, affordable health care.

    For veterans in rural areas, “Medicaid could mean the difference between them getting care, and them not getting care,” said Andrea Callow, Families USA associate director of Medicaid initiatives.

    To improve care for rural veterans, the VA needs to expand both the services it provides and the services it pays others to provide, said Margaret Puccinelli, chairwoman of the Veterans Rural Health Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin.

    “Because of the geographic isolation for many vets that are eligible, you have to approach it as creatively as possible,” Puccinelli said.

    The U.S. House of Representatives last week voted to fund the Choice program for another six months, which would allow lawmakers more time to agree on changes to the program. The bill now goes to the Senate. The program, which is open to veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA clinic or hospital or who face long wait times, has been plagued with problems from the start, including difficulty for veterans trying to make appointments, and long wait times for reimbursement.

    “Medicaid could mean the difference between them getting care, and them not getting care”

    New approaches

    The Volunteers of America North Louisiana program was one of five to receive $2 million from 2014 to 2016 from the VA Office of Rural Health, which develops models for care that can be replicated nationwide.

    The idea of shuttling veterans to and from their appointments is not new. The VA has had a transportation program for decades, under which Disabled American Veterans donates vans to the VA that volunteers use to take veterans to medical appointments.

    But the Volunteers of America North Louisiana program was different: It used paid drivers, picked rural veterans up at their homes, and transported veterans in wheelchairs, which the other program does not do.

    Graham tried using the Disabled American Veterans program in his area. But the pickup location is in Texarkana, and Graham said rides weren’t available at the times he needed them.

    Volunteers of America North Louisiana knew there was a need, but it was overwhelmed by the response, said Gary Jaynes, the organization’s director of veteran services. In the two years the program was running, it provided 2,229 rides to veterans, logging nearly 300,000 miles and saving veterans nearly $400,000 in travel expenditures, Jaynes said.

    Most of the Office of Rural Health’s $250 million budget for programs goes to rolling out promising models in local VA clinics. A few approaches that have stuck include using home-based rehabilitation for veterans who have heart attacks, and using telehealth for patients with HIV or multiple sclerosis.

    Like Volunteers of America North Louisiana, the Nebraska Association of Local Health Directors received a $2 million grant. The Nebraska nonprofit used its money to place 10 coordinators in local health departments to spread the word about services available to veterans and teach health workers how to find veterans in need of help. The Nebraska program ended up referring about 600 veterans to services in and out of the VA, and created a statewide network of people working toward the same purpose, said Teri Clark, the project’s director.

    “We didn’t reach just a couple veterans,” Clark said. “Instead, we changed the system.”

    Telehealth expansion

    On the way to the VA, just before crossing into Louisiana, Graham gets the hiccups. His cancer exhausts him, and makes it hard for him to digest food. He rubs his chest, recalling a time he had to drive himself home from chemotherapy.

    “I got the cold sweats,” he said, as Texas ranches flew by outside the car window. “I got sick as soon as I pulled up in the yard.”

    The VA knows that providing telehealth to rural veterans makes many long trips unnecessary. Telehealth makes veterans healthier, reducing hospital admissions by 35 percent, and saves them money — about $2,000 per patient each year, according to a 2014 VA study.

    In addition to driving veterans to appointments, the Volunteers of America bought a telehealth van equipped with communications equipment and broadband internet, which is used to see patients across state lines.

    Graham now feels too sick and tired to work, but he used to be a chef. He cooked at the convention center and a cafe in Shreveport. Then he was kitchen manager at a seafood restaurant in Texarkana. He laughs remembering all the energy he had at opening day in 2013, as he ran around trying to feed a hundred guests at once, with food orders stuffed in his shirt pocket.

    A couple years later, he was raking leaves and he got dizzy. When he got to the hospital, they found his cancer. He quit his job, sold his truck and signed up for Medicaid.

    On his rides with Volunteers of America North Louisiana, Graham bonded with his drivers and fellow riders. Veterans appreciated the program so much that they started calling their representatives in Congress. Now, clinic officials plan to meet with Jaynes and congressmen to discuss ways to keep the services in operation.

    Thomas Klobucar, acting director of the Office of Rural Health, said his office is still evaluating the results of the Volunteers of America North Louisiana program, and will report to Congress by October on its findings.

     This story was produced by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts. You can view the original report on its website.

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    Rachel Maddow appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on May 22. Photo by Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images

    Rachel Maddow appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on May 22. Photo by Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images

    NEW YORK — For the first month since CNN’s Larry King owned cable news in October 2001, the most popular personality in prime-time doesn’t work for Fox News Channel. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC is the new champ.

    Her network achieved other milestones in July, including its closest finish to Fox since 2000 and largest margin of victory over CNN ever. The numbers illustrate a surge in popularity at MSNBC, where politics has become prime-time entertainment. Like late-night comic Stephen Colbert can attest, having President Donald Trump as a regular punching bag is great for business.

    “I thought there would be a lot of interest in news,” said MSNBC President Phil Griffin. “I had no idea this would happen.”

    It’s especially noteworthy because the year after an election traditionally signals a slump in cable news ratings. During prime-time weekday hours in July, Fox News averaged 2.36 million viewers — still more than any other cable network, news or entertainment. MSNBC was at 2.13 million and CNN and 961,000, according to the Nielsen company.

    A wider view illustrates how things have changed. Earlier this year, Fox routinely had more viewers than MSNBC and CNN combined. Those two networks frequently duke it out for second place; last November CNN averaged 1.83 million viewers to MSNBC’s 1.64 million, Nielsen said. MSNBC took over second earlier this year and the gap continues to widen.

    READ MORE: President Trump trashes media, cheers GOP wins at $10 million fundraiser

    MSNBC’s Maddow, Chris Hayes and Lawrence O’Donnell follow Trump with a critical eye each evening. The rapid pace of new developments, often aided by the fierce competition for scoops between The New York Times, Washington Post and other outlets, gives MSNBC a fresh helping of outrage every night for Trump critics eager to lap it up.

    “They’re not interested in someone looking to be impartial,” said Rick Kaplan, former president of both MSNBC and CNN. “They want the same kind of red meat that a lot of conservatives wanted from Fox 10 years ago.”

    Griffin believes a key to MSNBC’s success is that its hosts aren’t just spouting talking points, that their programs contain solid reporting. Maddow’s ability to make connections and tell stories is beloved by fans who want to get absorbed by the issues, even if they can be frustratingly slow for the non-believers.

    “People want depth,” he said. “This is a complicated time.”

    CNN believes that MSNBC’s success doesn’t come at its expense. The network is on pace to have its second-highest prime-time viewership since 2008 and best ever in full-day ratings, Nielsen said. CNN also is comfortably profitable, with more advertising revenue at this point in the year than ever before, the network said.

    Essentially, MSNBC’s surge is fueled by newbies, people who weren’t regular cable news viewers. So the question remains of why these people are primarily going to MSNBC instead of CNN.

    CNN’s prime-time is panel-based, with a stream of people talking about the news. Unlike MSNBC, CNN regularly includes Trump supporters in the mix and some of those — think Jeffrey Lord — infuriate the president’s opponents. CNN’s immediate announcement that it wasn’t interested in outgoing White House press secretary Sean Spicer as a contributor was understandable given the administration’s biting attacks on the network, but Spicer is likely to be more skilled than Lord.

    While Trump has ripped CNN relentlessly, MSNBC has gotten off easily — with the prominent exception of “Morning Joe” hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. It’s hard to tell whether those attacks have undermined CNN with potential viewers, or if most people receptive to them would be watching Fox, anyway.

    READ MORE: President Trump takes swipe at CNN following resignations

    Maddow’s ratings victory comes with one asterisk: she no longer has Fox’s Bill O’Reilly to compete with. O’Reilly’s ouster in April after harassment charges, coupled with Megyn Kelly’s departure for MSNBC, leaves Sean Hannity as the one constant in Fox’s prime-time lineup. The network’s 2.36 million viewers in July compares to 3.82 million in February.

    Fox’s revamped lineup may not be as appealing. Fox’s hosts also strongly back a president who has been buffeted with bad news and is supported by one-third of the public. Time will reveal the determining factor in the network’s loss of strength.

    MSNBC recently moved to shore up a weak spot in its lineup, replacing Greta Van Susteren with Ari Melber at 6 p.m. ET. The weekend — glutted with prison lock-up shows — is another test. Will MSNBC’s leaders spend the money necessary for more live news programming on Saturday and Sunday to make the network more competitive then?

    Griffin, who has been with MSNBC since its 1996 launch, understands the relentlessly cyclical nature of his business enough to enjoy this run.

    “As someone who has been here, loves this place, believes in it,” he said, “I’ve never seen it like this.”

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    File photo of sage grouse by Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management handout via Reuters

    File photo of sage grouse by Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management handout via Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Interior Department on Monday unveiled a plan to protect the threatened sage grouse that gives Western states where the bird lives flexibility for economic development. Miners, ranchers and some Western governors had argued Obama-era policies jeopardized logging and other businesses.

    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the new strategy for the ground-dwelling bird that has suffered a dramatic population decline across its 11-state range. Zinke insisted that the federal government and the states can work together to protect the sage grouse and its habitat while not slowing economic growth and job creation.

    While the federal government has a responsibility under the Endangered Species Act to protect the bird, officials also have an obligation “to be a good neighbor and a good partner,” Zinke said.

    Zinke ordered a review in June of a 2015 plan imposed by the Obama administration. The plan set land-use policies across the popular game-bird’s 11-state range intended to keep it off the federal endangered species list.

    Mining companies, ranchers and governors in some Western states — especially Utah, Idaho and Nevada — said the Obama-era plan would impede oil and gas drilling and other economic activity.

    Environmental groups said the Obama-era plan did not do enough to protect the sage grouse from extinction.

    READ MORE: Proposed downsizing of Bears Ears National Monument draws mixed reactions

    The ground-dwelling sage grouse, long associated with the American West, has long pointed tail feathers and is known for the male’s elaborate courtship display in which air sacs in the neck are inflated to make a popping sound.

    Millions of sage grouse once roamed the West but development, livestock grazing and an invasive grass that encourages wildfires has reduced the bird’s population to fewer than 500,000 across 11 states from California to the Dakotas.

    Zinke said in June that “state agencies are really at the forefront of efforts to maintain healthy fish and wildlife populations” across the country, adding that the Trump administration is committed to ensuring that state voices are heard in decisions affecting land use and wildlife management.

    In particular, Zinke said he has received complaints from several Western governors that the Obama administration ignored or minimized their concerns as the 2015 sage-grouse plan was developed. Republican governors in Idaho, Utah and Nevada all want more flexibility and say the conservation efforts should rely less on land-use restrictions “and more on numbers” of birds in a particular state, Zinke said.

    The new plan is intended to provide flexibility to states instead of a “one-size-fits-all solution” ordered by former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Zinke said.

    On the other side, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Republican Gov. Matt Mead of Wyoming told Zinke earlier this year they opposed any changes that would move “from a habitat-management model to one that sets population objectives for the states.”

    Hickenlooper and Mead co-chair a federal-state sage grouse task force that worked to develop the 2015 plan, which was backed by more than $750 million in commitments from the government and outside groups to conserve land and restore the bird’s historic range.

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    A screen displays trading information for German insurance firm Allianz on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid - RTX3C38E

    Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    Editor’s note: Vikram Mansharamani, for years a professor at Yale and who now teaches at Harvard, is an investment consultant, public speaker on economic trends and author of the book “Boombustology” about how to spot economic bubbles, the subject of a course he taught at Yale. Typically, Mansharamani writes confidently for Making Sen$e. But at the moment he’s bewildered. Here’s why.

    — Paul Solman, economics correspondent

    The world seems very fragile right now. In the past week, North Korea claimed its missiles could reach the United States, spurring some in Congress to run through the calculus of striking the rogue nation before it attacks us. Pakistani courts ruled against Nawaz Sharif, the sitting prime minister, thereby forcing him to resign; Venezuela created an authoritarian regime that started cracking down on opposition leaders; Polish citizens were marching in the streets to protest proposed changes to the judiciary; HBO announced it had been the victim of a cyberattack that had stolen proprietary information; Russia began seizing American property and evicting U.S. diplomats; and White House turnover has continued unabated.

    Oh, and Australian authorities stated they had thwarted a terrorist attempt to bring down a passenger aircraft. Last, but definitely not least, India and China flirted with military conflict over an unpaved road in a mountain pass in disputed territory in the Himalayan mountains.

    And that was just in the past two weeks!

    Despite these facts, financial markets have marched forward.

    Earlier in July, Brazil threw it’s ex-president Lula de Silva in prison, Saudi Arabia “reorganized” and installed the young and ambitious Mohammed bin Salman as Crown Prince, and Qatar’s airline was banned from flying in Egyptian, Saudi Arabian or Emirati airspace. Protests threatened instability in Morocco, Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari has been absent for months, and South African president Jacob Zuma is facing a secret-ballot no-confidence vote tomorrow.

    Meanwhile, there are early warning signs that the world’s largest economies may be slowing. GM reported a 15 percent drop in U.S. auto sales (with Ford and Chrysler also disappointing), and Fitch noted that credit card losses have been rising and recently hit a four-year high. In an effort to address unemployment, Canada announced it’s experimenting with basic income programs. And China’s most recent manufacturing purchasing managers’ index came in below expectations, hinting at the possibility that China may be slowing down (although the country did just open a cinema on a disputed island in the South China Sea).

    Despite these facts, financial markets have marched forward, with the Dow closing above 22,000 for the first time last week. Sure, corporate profits have been generally quite good, but does that justify today’s nonchalant attitude toward these risks? Just look at the CBOE Volatility Index (known among financial types as the “VIX”) hitting new lows. Believed by many to be a measure of fear among investors, the VIX recently fell below 10, a level rarely seen in the past few decades. The implication: investors are not generally worried… which makes me worry!


    Further, the investment community appears more willing to pay handsomely for the profits companies produce. Consider the cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio, also known as the CAPE ratio, which is an admittedly imperfect, but useful, measure of valuation. The CAPE ratio recently crossed 30, a level it rarely reaches. To put this in perspective, the CAPE hit 33 in 1929 before the Great Depression and 45 in 2000 as the dotcom bubble burst.

    Courtesy Richard Shiller

    Courtesy Robert Shiller

    The hope that many investors have is that corporate taxes in the United States, currently among the highest in the developed world, are likely to fall. The result: higher earnings, which with all else equal, means lower price-to-earnings ratios. But the beauty of economist Robert Shiller’s CAPE ratio is that he uses 10 years of average earnings. So one would have to believe that taxes are going to be reduced immediately and stay lower indefinitely, with corporate earnings thereby rising and staying higher for longer. The key phrase of everything I just discussed is “all else equal.” And I simply have trouble believing that all else will remain given the dynamics that I described above.

    And lastly, we have notable exuberance driving a formidable cryptocurrency bubble, eloquently and persuasively documented by Laura Shin in a recent Forbes piece titled “The Emperor’s New Coins.” Further, according to market data provider Coincap, there are currently more than 600 digital coins that in aggregate are supposedly worth more than $100 billion. And while blockchain technology will likely disrupt many businesses in the years to come, Shin’s article sheds light on the alarming speculative instincts that are thriving in the cryptocoin domain. If you haven’t read her article, I encourage you to do so.

    READ MORE: Column: Is the boom of bitcoin a bubble that’s about to burst?

    Regular readers of my columns may note that my concern about crypto-exuberance seems a contradiction from the piece I penned earlier this year on these very same electronic pages, in which I noted that bitcoin specifically did not exhibit the characteristics of a bubble. Well, since that piece was published, bitcoin has risen more than 300 percent and ether almost 2,000 percent. So yes, I’m changing my mind. As the saying goes, “when the facts change, I change my opinion… what do you do?” This is not to say that bitcoin and the cryptocurrency complex (it is indeed now a complex) won’t continue their ascent; they may. In fact, I still believe in the long-term potential of cryptocurrencies and am confident they have a role to play. It’s just that they are exhibiting the kind of speculative behavior that demands caution.

    So what am I missing?

    The world seems to be precariously balanced on the edge, with instability lurking in almost every region of the globe, but financial markets seem not to care.

    The world seems to be precariously balanced on the edge, with instability lurking in almost every region of the globe, but financial markets seem not to care. (Or they’re hoping that our current administration will lower taxes, that the world will stay identical to its current state, that profits will surge, etc). Speculative instincts are running high, and valuations today leave little margin of safety. It reminds me of the 1980s song “It’s The End of The World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” by REM.

    But surely there is a reason for the seeming disconnect, no? Might it be the devout faith in market efficiency? Could it be that the developments I’ve mentioned are fully factored in to market prices? Might it be the powerful and undying love of passive investing that has led to a world in which more and more money is doing less and less analysis? Or does the explanation lie with the famed 20th century British economist John Maynard Keynes, who wrote that, “Worldly wisdom teaches that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally”? In other words, is the risk-averse, career-driven decision-making of those controlling financial assets the reason for the continuation of this rally? Or perhaps, to use four words that makes anyone who thinks of bubbles shudder, it’s different this time?

    What do you think? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

    The post Column: How can the stock market rally possibly continue? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A man walks along a street in Marrakesh March 28, 2008. REUTERS/Thomas White (MOROCCO) - RTR1Z0MH

    A man walks along a street in Marrakesh on March 28, 2008. Credit: REUTERS/Thomas White

    Charif Shanahan is the son of an Irish-American father and a Moroccan mother. Growing up black and Arab in America was an experience full of “instability,” he said, and he’s using his new book of poetry, “Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing,” as a way to start conversations around that.

    “Instability is the word because there are different ways my body will be read and interpreted depending on who’s looking,” he said. “This creates all sorts of interesting tensions and moments, in a very personal kind of way, of folks being confused, thinking they understand and not understanding.”

    Shanahan’s explorations of identity in the book cross borders, from Marrakesh to London to St. Tropez. He also skips through time, from North Africa’s colonial past to the dissonances around race that exist today.

    Credit:  Southern Illinois University Press

    Credit: Southern Illinois University Press

    Time and again, his poems reveal how complex identity can be — and the ways in which sharp divisions of race are man-made.

    “Part of the violence of race is we’re taught to think about it as hard and fast and fixed and true and clear — that you look at someone and you can tell what they are,” Shanahan said. “It’s much more complex than that.”

    Shanahan also explores the more physical violence of race, often through powerful, specific scenes. In one poem, set at a French bistro, Shanahan’s white father kisses his black mother and then calls the waiter a racial slur. In another, he sets us on stage at the auction of an Arab slave.

    “[The book] is about the ways we’ve divided ourselves in all these lunatic, violent, dangerous and counterproductive ways,” he said, “when really we’re a single family, and certainly a single species.”

    In the book’s opening poem, “Gnawa Boy, Marrakesh, 1968,” Shanahan writes about a black Gnawa boy — an ethnic minority in Morocco indigenous to North and West Africa — who is marked to die. Read the poem, and listen to Shanahan read it, below.

    Charif Shanahan. Credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

    Charif Shanahan. Credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

    By Charif Shanahan

    The maker has marked another boy to die:
    His thin body between two sheets,
    Black legs jutting out onto the stone floor,
    The tips of his toenails translucent as an eye.
    Gray clumps of skin, powder-light,
    Like dust on the curve of his unwashed heel
    And the face, swollen, expanding like a lung.
    At its center, the sheet lifts and curves:
    His body’s strangeness, even there.
    One palm faces down to show the black
    Surface of hand, the other facing up
    White as his desert’s sky.
               As if underwater,
    He passes from that room into the blue
    Porcelain silence of the hall, where the lightSkinned
    women have gathered in waiting:
    No song of final parting, no wailing
    Ripped holy from their throats:
    The women do not walk into the sun,
    They hide their bodies from it
    (those pale wrists, those pale temples):
    They do not walk the streets,
    They do not clutch their own bodies,
    They do not hit themselves in grief—

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

    Charif Shanahan is the author of Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing (SIU Press, 2017), winner of the 2015 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. The son of an Irish-American father and a Moroccan mother, he was raised in the Bronx and educated at Princeton University, Dartmouth College, and New York University, where he earned an MFA in poetry. His poems and translations have appeared in numerous publications, including Baffler, Boston Review, Callaloo, Literary Hub, New Republic, Poetry International, Prairie Schooner, and A Public Space. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Cave Canem Foundation, the Frost Place, the Fulbright Program/IIE, Millay Colony for the Arts, and Stanford University, where he is the Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry.

    The post What does it mean to be multiracial in America? This poet explores how it’s complicated appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    File photo of Brett McGurk, U.S. special envoy to the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, by Hadi Mizban/Pool via Reuters

    File photo of Brett McGurk, U.S. special envoy to the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, by Hadi Mizban/Pool via Reuters

    President Donald Trump’s decision to delegate tactical decision-making authority to commanders in the field is helping the battle against Islamic State militants in Syria, said Brett McGurk, U.S. special envoy for the coalition against the Islamic State group.

    “The rapid turn in decision-making is something that is new and is actually causing us to act with great efficiency and seizing some key opportunities,” McGurk told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff on Monday. It’s a key difference that has enabled forces to catch the Islamic State group by surprise, he said.

    The decision is a significant departure from the White House’s relationship with the military under the Obama administration; the former president was “heavily involved in strategic and tactical decisions,” Roll Call pointed out when Trump announced the shift in April, to mixed reaction.

    But McGurk said Monday that he thinks it’s making a difference; it’s enabled U.S.-backed forces to move more quickly on the Islamic State group’s self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa, in Northern Syria.

    The Islamic State group was an expanding movement in 2014 – capturing vast territory in Syria and Iraq, culminating with its lightning seizure of mosul in June of that year. Now, it is “radically shrinking,” with U.S. forces supporting Iraqi and Syrian democratic forces doing the actual fighting, he said in Monday’s interview. McGurk estimates the group has lost about one-third of territory it held in just the last six months.

    The Syrian Democratic Forces are engaged in a grueling house-to-house battle for Raqqa that began in early June. Nearly half of the city has been retaken so far, McGurk said, progress that would not have been possible without Trump’s decision.

    Watch McGurk’s full interview with Judy Woodruff on Monday’s PBS NewsHour.

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    Free Syrian Army fighters fly a remote-controlled miniature aircraft with a camera attached -- a device the fighters say is used to spy on forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in the rebel-controlled Mleha in the suburb of Damascus April 11, 2014. Picture taken April 11, 2014. REUTERS/Yaseen al-Bushy (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT) - RTR3KYZH

    The Pentagon has sent new guidance to the armed services that lays out the military’s authority to disable or shoot down any drone that violates airspace restrictions over a U.S. base and is deemed a security risk. Photo by REUTERS/Yaseen al-Bushy.

    The Pentagon has sent new guidance to the armed services that lays out the military’s authority to disable or shoot down any drone that violates airspace restrictions over a U.S. base and is deemed a security risk.

    Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told Pentagon reporters Monday that a classified policy was approved in July. On Friday, additional public information was sent to military bases around the country so officials can alert their communities about the restrictions and the actions the military can take.

    He said the new policy provides details about the actions the military can take to stop any threat, including destroying or seizing any unmanned aircraft — including the smaller ones that the general public can easily buy — that is flown over a base.

    He said part of the effort to release the new guidance was to insure that commanders distribute information to the communities surrounding their bases so that the public knows what could happen if someone flies a drone over a military installation.

    “The increase of commercial and private drones in the U.S. has raised our concerns with regards to safety and security of our installations,” Davis said. “Protecting our force remains a top priority, and that’s why DoD issued this very specific but classified policy, developed with the FAA and our interagency partners, that details how DoD personnel may counter the unmanned aircraft threat.”

    He said that the actions taken by military officials at the bases to address a threat posed by a drone could include “incapacitating or destroying them. And they could also be seized as well for part of investigations.”

    Davis said the military has always had the authority to defend the bases and troops, “but this I think makes it a little more solidified with what we’re able to do, and it’s been completely coordinated with the FAA.”

    He said part of the effort to release the new guidance was to insure that commanders distribute information to the communities surrounding their bases so that the public knows what could happen if someone flies a drone over a military installation.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we kick off a week of books with a unique take on the conflicting loyalties and violence that define one of the most dangerous parts of today’s Middle East.

    Jeffrey Brown has this new addition to the NewsHour Bookshelf.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The setting is the border zone between Turkey and Syria, the upheavals and horrors of the Syrian civil war as they play out for a group of individuals, the stuff of today’s headlines given fictional life in the new novel “Dark at the Crossing.”

    Author Elliot Ackerman lives in Istanbul and has reported from this area. He’s a former Marine who served in Iraq and in Afghanistan, the setting of his first novel, “Green on Blue.”

    And welcome to you.

    ELLIOT ACKERMAN, Author, “Dark at the Crossing”: Thanks for having me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I mentioned that this is an area that you have come to know, but where does the idea for a novel come in? And which came first, the novel or getting to know this world?

    ELLIOT ACKERMAN: I think something I’m interested in my writing is often political themes.

    But when we look at a lot of these political issues, whether it’s what’s going on in Afghanistan or the wars in Syria, the wars in Iraq, I mean, they’re incredibly complex, and in some ways almost impenetrable.

    And I think one of the great things you can do with story, and particularly with a novel and character, is you can take a lot of these themes that are central to what’s going on in the world, but really distill them down into a single narrative. And so that’s what I try to do in my fiction.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You got the obvious in-your-face drama of war, and you have got the geopolitical themes, right, but you have to give it a personal face. So, how do you do that?

    ELLIOT ACKERMAN: I think you do it with character.

    You start know — this novel is really about three characters. The first is a man named Haris Abadi, who is an Iraqi American. He’s really sort of someone of two identities, born in Iraq, but naturalized American, who, for a variety of reasons, wants to go fight in Syria.

    And his efforts are stymied, and he meets up with a couple of Syrian refugees, a man and wife named Amir and Daphne. And you sort of learn their stories and the stories of their loss. They lost a daughter in the revolution.

    And so what you see is a lot of these geopolitical themes kind of orbiting around these characters who are engaged, you know, in a pretty intimate narrative amongst the three of them.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Are these based on people that you met in some ways? Are you taking notes from your work and thinking, oh, here’s where I can build a character or a story?

    ELLIOT ACKERMAN: When you’re having an experience, there’s sort of questions that come up and themes that come up. And then, once you sort of have bored down on the themes of the story, you start building out characters who are wrestling with those themselves.

    I work kind of in a tradition that used to be more predominant — and maybe it’s less so now — which is of novelists who were journalists.


    ELLIOT ACKERMAN: In the 20th century, we had a lot of that. We don’t have that as much now, largely probably due to changes in how journalism works.

    But, oftentimes, when I’m out there, you know, these do seem like great places to set stories.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The main character you talked about, Haris, he served as an interpreter of the U.S. forces in Iraq. And he decides to come back. Why?

    ELLIOT ACKERMAN: You know, I think what’s interesting about war in general is, it can be — on the one hand, it can be a — almost a redemptive act. People will go to fight seeking some sort of redemption.

    But it could also be sort of a very dark, nihilistic act. And sort of those two threads are kind of really splitting Haris. He doesn’t know why he’s necessarily going to fight. He just knows he’s drawn back to the war. And part of that also comes from the fact that he’s this man of two identities. He was an Iraqi who collaborated with the Americans during the war and then became an American citizen, but he feels conflicted between his American identity and his identity as an Iraqi.

    And so he’s someone who resettles in the U.S., doesn’t necessarily find the life he wants there, but now that he’s left Iraq, he can’t go back. And so he is seeking, in some ways, and we don’t know, whether it’s redemption or almost a sort of self-destruction.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You’re giving voices to people that we don’t often hear from, that we only kind of know about through the news, including ISIS fighters, the kind of hard-line voice we know is out there, but we don’t usually see represented in fiction.

    You’re humanizing them in some way.

    ELLIOT ACKERMAN: Heaven forbid, right, you humanize these people.


    ELLIOT ACKERMAN: And I think that’s what — just because you’re trying to humanize someone, or you’re trying to understand them, I think, is very different. We often conflate that with agreeing with somebody.

    And I think that’s one of the great things fiction has the power to do. You know, it allows you to create a character, a character you might find despicable or with whom you might not agree, but then give them the power to basically make their cases as though they were making it before God.

    And so, you know, specific to some of the journalism that I did, I met ISIS fighters and spoke with them and listened to them explain their beliefs. And some of their beliefs and some of the reasons they’re fighting makes sense.

    I mean, if you’re a Sunni in that part of the world right now, you know, you’re under threat politically from a whole bunch of various actors. So talking to those people, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I agreed with everything, but I could definitely start to understand at least their viewpoint.

    And then, as a novelist, I wanted to take what I had learned and, you know, put it into a story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And once you start the story, do you set all that aside, or do you keep your eye — one eye on the kind of ongoing events?

    ELLIOT ACKERMAN: Well, I think, by the nature of the work I do as a journalist, I’m still following these events as they’re ongoing.

    But the story is set at a very specific time in Syria’s war. It’s the time when really, in late 2013, when the revolution has at this point almost — it’s becoming very evident that it’s failed. As one of the characters in the book says, the revolution is over, so the war can begin.

    And so it’s that sort of moment where it’s all fallen apart. So other events don’t necessarily affect it as much.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The book is “Dark at the Crossing.”

    Elliot Ackerman, thanks very much.

    ELLIOT ACKERMAN: Thanks for having me.

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    Digital addictions are not official mental disorders. But researchers see the same patterns in digital addictions as in other substance abuse. Photo by Kar Tr via Adobe

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: how our increasingly wireless world is affecting our social behavior, especially among the generation that has grown up with smartphones.

    William Brangham has that.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The promise of social media, as the name implies, is that it connects us to each other, helps up become more social.

    But according to a recent story in The Atlantic magazine, an increasing body of evidence shows that, for many teenagers, greater use of social media means a far greater sense of isolation.

    According to the piece, teenagers now spend less time in the company of their friends, they date less, have less sex, and get less sleep than earlier generations.

    And with this growing isolation comes a rise in cyber-bullying, feelings of being left out, and higher rates of depression and suicide.

    The piece is called, “Has the Smartphone Destroyed a Generation?” And its written by author and professor of psychology Jean Twenge.

    She joins me now from San Diego.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Welcome to the NewsHour.

    JEAN TWENGE, The Atlantic: Thank you.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, briefly, would you just please lay out the case that you’re making in this piece that smartphones and social media have had this very detrimental effect on a younger generation.

    JEAN TWENGE: Well, I have done work on the generational differences for a long time.

    And right around 2011, 2012, I started to see some negative signs in the data, more depression, more anxiety. The suicide rate was starting to go up again. And I have realized that these are some sudden big changes.

    Very rare to see such sudden changes in this type of work. I realized 2012, according to the data, is the year when the majority of Americans had a smartphone. So, that made me wonder if that might have something to do with it.

    So, I looked at the same big data sets of teenagers and found that those who spent more time online or social media or on electronic devices also were more likely to be depressed and anxious and have risk factors for suicide.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You write in the piece that rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011.

    What is the evidence that these things are caused by access or heavy use of these devices?

    JEAN TWENGE: Well, that’s always the question.

    So, the research that I did was correlational, so, that there’s a link between the two. So, proving causation, really, you need a different type of method. But, fortunately, there have been other researchers who have used those types of methods.

    There’s two studies that have looked at adults over time and seeing that, when they use social media more, then their psychological well-being goes down and mental health problems increase.

    There was another study called The Facebook Experiment, where people, by a flip of the coin, either continued their normal Facebook use or they gave up Facebook for a week. And those who gave up Facebook for a week at the end of the week were less lonely, less depressed and happier.

    So those studies really point very strongly in that direction that the causal arrow moves from social media and screen time to lowered psychological well-being.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And you feel they confident that this effect could not be caused by other factors in society, the economy, employment, access to health care, so many other things that could drive our sense of well-being?

    JEAN TWENGE: Yes, so I looked at the economy, because I wondered about that, too, because, of course, the great recession had a big effect on people. Unemployment really went up.

    But if you look at the pattern for unemployment, for example, a good indicator of the strength of the economy, unemployment really peaked out at about 2010, and then went down, and is now quite low.

    But the data for mental health goes in the other direction. It doesn’t do a whole lot until about 2011 or 2012. Then it really shoots upward. So, unemployment doesn’t seem to be the answer, at least economic factors.

    And then other factors, it’s hard to nail those down, but access to health care probably went the other direction as well at that time. It’s difficult to identify any other big social change that happened around 2011 or 2012 that might be linked to mental health, other than smartphones.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: What about this reaction that I have seen some people making online that this is just yet another generational freak-out, that this is like we did with violent video games or helicopter parenting or marijuana or rock ‘n’ roll, that we are just flipping out because we as an older generation don’t appreciate what this technology really is?


    Well, as a generations researcher, I have of course heard this argument before: Oh, it’s just old people complaining about the young generation. Doesn’t that always happen?

    I have always found that argument confusing, because I don’t care what older people say. I’m more interested in what young people say now compared to what young people said 10 or 20 years ago, so comparing the generations at the same age and really listening to young people and what they’re experiencing and what they’re feeling.

    So I’m not really sure that argument is relevant.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Some of the things that you do cite, driving less, drinking less, not getting killed as often in cars, not getting as pregnant as often, those don’t sound like necessarily terribly bad things to me as a parent.

    JEAN TWENGE: Yes. They’re not.

    So this trend is going up slowly, the things you mentioned about driving, also working less, less likely to have sex and get pregnant as teenagers, less likely to drive. These are tradeoffs. So, 18-year-olds now look more look like 15-year-olds did just five to 10 years ago.

    So, teens are growing up more slowly. The activities that adults do and children don’t, they’re just less likely to do those things. Some of those, people might identify as being a really good trend, like fewer teenagers having sex and getting pregnant.

    Others are, I don’t know, either one. Driving less, working less, it’s not really a matter of, is this good or is this bad? It’s that all of these trends come together with them growing up more slowly, taking longer to take on the roles, both the responsibilities and the pleasures, of adulthood.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Your piece also says that some of the more negative effects fall harder on girls than on boys. And I’m curious why you think that is.

    JEAN TWENGE: Yes, so a lot of the mental health trends are more acute for girls than boys.

    The increases have been much larger for girls than for boys. And my best guess is, that’s because girls spend more time with their smartphones and more time on social media, and their interactions on social media are often more negative. So that might be one of the reasons why that mental health trend is more negative for girls.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Last question. If you were advising a parent who is trying to figure out a good mix of allowing their child to have this technology, but try to moderate it in some way, what kind of advice would you give them?

    JEAN TWENGE: Well, I think, first, put off getting teen a smartphone as long as you can.

    Sixth grade is really common now, even fourth grade. I have a fourth grader becoming a fifth grader. She said half of the kids in her class have a phone. The mental health effects are stronger for the younger kids. So, put that off.

    And if you feel like they need it for taking the bus, get them a flip phone. Once they have that smartphone, there are apps where you can regulate how many hours a day they use that phone and if they’re using it at night, because we want them to get a good night’s sleep.

    And we found that an hour, even an hour-and-a-half a day of use doesn’t seem to have any negative mental health effects, but two hours and beyond, that’s where we start to see the effects. And most teens are on their phones a lot more than two hours a day.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Jean Twenge, a really, really provocative piece in The Atlantic magazine.

    Thank you so much for being here.

    JEAN TWENGE: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: President Trump and Congress may be away from Washington, but there is still plenty of politics to consider.

    Here to discuss for this Politics Monday, our regulars are Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    And welcome to both of you. It is Politics Monday.

    Not only that. As we know, it is the 200th day of the Donald Trump presidency.

    Tam, the president today tweeting up a storm while he’s on vacation in New Jersey about the senator from Connecticut, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who did, when he ran for office, later admitted he was misleading about having served in Vietnam. He was in the military, but not in Vietnam.

    The president today: “Never in U.S. history has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Senator Richard Blumenthal. He told stories about his Vietnam battles and conquests, how brave he was, and it was all a lie.”

    He said: “He cried like a baby, begged for forgiveness like a child. Now he judges collusion?”

    All this because Blumenthal said something about the Russia investigation. How do we read this?

    TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: Yes. And just to be clear, this is a working vacation that the president is on.

    And part of working is tweeting at Senator Blumenthal. What Senator Blumenthal is doing is, he’s part of a bipartisan piece of legislation. He’s one of the co-sponsors of a bill that would protect the special counsel, Robert Mueller, from being fired by President Trump.

    Now, the Trump administration now says that the president doesn’t intend to fire Mueller, but President Trump, it seems, was watching CNN this morning when Senator Blumenthal was on CNN talking about this legislation, talking about the Russia investigation. And it prompted this tweetstorm.

    And then Senator Blumenthal was on CNN later, and there was another tweet about Senator Blumenthal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And it continued this afternoon, Amy. He said that, “He should take a nice long vacation in Vietnam, where he lied about his service, so he can at least say he was there.”

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Right.

    And this tells us much about the president’s viewing habits as it does about anything else, but that, as he watches cable television, he reacts in real time and tweets these out.

    And, again, when it’s about Russia, the president likes to tweet about this, and defending himself against people he believes are attacking him unfairly and promoting this what he calls a hoax about the Russia investigation.

    But it just goes to show that his Twitter account, as we have discussed many, many times, instead of being used as a vehicle to push a positive message, which he tried to do a couple of times, to be fair, this weekend about the economy and about what the administration is doing, it also gets overshadowed by these personal attacks on other individuals.

    TAMARA KEITH: Yes, President Trump loves a good feud. And he — this is not the first time he’s gone after Senator Blumenthal on Twitter.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And if it hadn’t been for the Blumenthal tweets, we might have first spoken, Amy, about the other tweets this weekend about how strong his political base is.

    He said it’s far stronger, bigger and stronger than ever before. He cited — he said, look at the rallies in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio.

    He says the late polls that have been lately — are phony, they’re fake. But there have been a couple of polls lately showing that among white voters, his support is slipping just a little.

    AMY WALTER: The president is probably responding to the fact that poll after poll, including polls that have in the past shown the president doing well, are all showing him at historic lows for his presidency, right, around day 200.

    As you said, he’s somewhere around 37 percent, 38 percent as an average. That is not a good place to be as president. Now, he is right that Republican voters haven’t abandoned him. In fact, if you talk to strategists and you look at what candidates are doing, they are tying themselves as closely as they can to the president.

    There is a special election in Alabama to replace Jeff Sessions and his Senate seat. All the Republicans running there, if you watch their ads, they’re doing everything to out-Trump each other. Who is as close to him as possible?

    So he hasn’t lost his base. The question, I think, is, what does it matter that he has only his base? What is it getting him? And in this case, it has not gotten him much legislatively, certainly not on repealing Obamacare.

    And on other big pieces of legislation, it’s going to be really critical to see if his support among his base is going to be able to deliver a debt ceiling increase, which we will get to in September, tax cues, and a budget.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All of which, Tam, members are talking about, thinking about as they go home for their vacations.

    But I do want to raise another issue that came up in a New York Times story yesterday, Jonathan Martin writing about this in The Times,” that there are Republicans out there who are already looking to the next presidential election.

    We are, as we said, 200 days into this administration, and they’re already — including none other than Vice President Mike Pence. Now, they’re saying that he spent time with donors, he’s been out to go to GOP dinners, but the impression the article gave is that there’s a lot of serious interest.

    TAMARA KEITH: Well, and Mike Pence, the vice president, has a political action committee of his own, which is very unusual, and very unusual at this point.

    Now, the pushback that came from Pence through the official White House channels was strong and fervent. He doesn’t deny any of the sort of facts of the case, that he has this political action committee, that he’s met with donors, that he’s been to Iowa.

    But they’re saying he’s just getting ready for 2020 as the vice presidential candidate. Now, this is not — this is unusual. There are a lot of Republicans out there who are doing things that look like people who are potentially raising their profile, people who are running for president if there is an opportunity to run for president. But they’re all being very careful, because there is a Republican president right now.

    AMY WALTER: So, that’s the question.

    I think there are two categories. There’s one. Will Trump one run in 2020 and who is going to position themselves if he’s not on the ballot in 2020?

    But then there’s the other piece, which is, will somebody primary Donald Trump? And it’s been a while since we have had a sitting president primaries, but in — not so long ago, it wasn’t that rare to see, whether it was Jimmy Carter getting primaried or Gerald Ford getting primaried or George H.W. Bush getting primaried.

    What all three of those have in common, of course, is, they didn’t lose their primaries, but it led to defeat in the general election. Clearly, it showed that the party was divided.

    So, the’s what I’m fascinated by, continued to be fascinated by, a president who is not of the Republican Party, but they have rallied around him. Will they continue to rally around him, especially if the 2018 elections don’t go particularly well?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It just feels really early for this to be happening.


    AMY WALTER: That is very early.

    TAMARA KEITH: It’s incredibly early.

    AMY WALTER: You’re not wrong, Judy.


    But, also, you have a president, and we have talked about this before, who talks about the Republican Party, calling them “they,” which doesn’t necessarily breed closeness.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And he’s been going after Republican senators, saying — criticizing them for not coming after — not producing on health care and passing Russia sanctions, which he didn’t like.

    AMY WALTER: Right. Right.

    And that’s something we haven’t seen before either. We see members of a party trying to distance themselves from an unpopular president of their own party. What we haven’t seen is a president who’s in control — whose party is in control of both branches of government going after his own party.

    Remember, they need to run for reelection in 2018. If the president is attacking them, and they’re getting hammered for not doing certain things, that’s a tough place to be.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.

    TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

    AMY WALTER: Thanks, Judy.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It was almost two months ago that President Trump announced he was closing down some of the opening to Cuba begun in 2014 by President Obama.

    Mr. Trump’s restrictions are expected to be spelled out next month. But many Cubans are already concerned that their hopes for better relations with the U.S., and greater economic opportunity, will now be set back.

    From Havana, Miles O’Brien reports on this latest phase of the Cuban evolution.

    MILES O’BRIEN: There’s a building boom under way at the Bay of Pigs, not far from the scene of the failed CIA-backed attack to topple Fidel Castro in 1961. Cubans are making room for an American invasion they have long yearned for, of tourists.

    ANA MARGARITA PEREZ DE CORCHO, Manager, Casa Particular: We thought there were a lot of people coming. And many people buy houses. Many people made their business bigger.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Ana Margarita Perez de Corcho is manager of a busy beachside casa particular, or private house, that rents rooms to tourists. About 80 percent come from Europe. Business is good already, but when former President Obama loosened restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba in 2014, she and her neighbors were optimistic.

    ANA MARGARITA PEREZ DE CORCHO: We thought everything is going to be changed. We are going to earn a lot of money because Americans are really good customers.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But Mr. Obama’s detente with Cuba infuriated the Cuban American lobby in Florida, and Senator Marco Rubio in particular.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The previous administration’s easing of restrictions on travel and trade doesn’t help the Cuban people. They only enrich the Cuban regime.

    MILES O’BRIEN: So, in June, President Trump undid some key aspects of the Obama-Cuba thaw.

    WATCH: Trump unveils new Cuba policy

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We will enforce the ban on tourism. We will enforce the embargo. We will take concrete steps to ensure that investments flow directly to the people.

    MILES O’BRIEN: So-called people-to-people educational visits will still be allowed, so long as they are group tours, but this was bad news for many U.S. travel and tourism companies that see tremendous opportunity here.

    DAN ADAMS, Tour Operator, Rico Tours: Havana is the oldest metropolis in all the Americas, first settled in the early 1500s.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Dan Adams is a Texas-based high end tour operator specializing in Latin America. When the Obama administration opened up diplomatic relations with Cuba, he got to Havana as fast as he could.

    DAN ADAMS: The business was just going crazy. I mean, it was phenomenal what we were doing.

    MILES O’BRIEN: We met in front of the newly opened five-star Gran Hotel Manzana, operated by the Swiss hotel chain Kempinski.

    DAN ADAMS: This place will be severely affected. We have had about 25 clients stay here. And should the executive order proceed as it’s been submitted, we will not be permitted to have clients stay here.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Big hotels like this are typically 51 percent owned by the Cuban military. And under the new Trump rules, Americans are prohibited from patronizing businesses owned by the regime. Indeed, the lunch that Dan Adams and I shared beside the swanky rooftop pool at the Manzana will soon be illegal, punishable by a big fine.

    DAN ADAMS: Within two weeks of the announcement that President Trump gave in Miami, we lost over $250,000 in bookings. We have had corporations that have wanted to have meetings here. Their legal departments have come back and said, look, we just can’t touch Cuba right now.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Adams and I hired a ’57 Chevy for ride down the famous Malecon, in all its faded splendor, a trip back in time. Cuba is an alluring destination, and yet it will be once again off-limits to American tourists, with one key exception.

    DAN ADAMS: The cruise lines are protected, so you will have several hundred people get off the ship, as they can today. And when the changes are made, they will be able to continue to do this exact same thing.

    MILES O’BRIEN: The Miami-based cruise lines have a lot of political influence in Florida, and will not be affected by the Trump travel ban. But their customers will be limited to short guided tours of Havana.

    Nicholas and Rita Crittenden are from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

    NICHOLAS CRITTENDEN, Tourist: I have been here when I was in the military. I was on Guantanamo Bay. So I could never come out to visit the countryside. We’re always restricted in the base. Now I’m not.

    MILES O’BRIEN: What do you think of the place, first of all?


    MILES O’BRIEN: The tourists we met were dismayed by the Trump policy.

    Ellie and Harvey Diamond are from Chatham, New Jersey.

    ELLIE DIAMOND, Tourist: It’s really said because the country needs a lot of work.

    HARVEY DIAMOND, Tourist: If we wanted the Cubans to change and like us, the best way to do it is trade, tourism.

    MILES O’BRIEN: To see if that’s true, I paid a visit to one of Cuba’s 500,000 private entrepreneurs. Marta Deus runs three businesses, an accounting firm, a messenger service and a magazine focused on Cuba’s burgeoning private sector. It took root after the Raul Castro succeeded his brother Fidel 10 years ago.

    MARTA DEUS, Businesswoman: I believe the isolation is not good. I believe that we need to be open to United States, because it’s good for our businesses.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Many Cuban entrepreneurs are women. Deus and others wrote a letter to Ivanka Trump, a self-proclaimed champion of women entrepreneurs in emerging nations.

    IVANKA TRUMP, Senior Adviser to the President: Across the globe, you hear the same thing from female entrepreneurs, which is that they have a unique challenge accessing capital.

    MILES O’BRIEN: They said: “The restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States has been key to the success of the sector. A setback in the relationship would bring with it the fall of many of our businesses and, with this, the suffering of all those families that depend on them.”

    They got no response. The Trump policy claims to target the oppressive Cuban military dictatorship, but:

    MARTA DEUS: If you are trying to punish them, you are punishing us also. So, sometimes, I think they don’t see that, but we are the most affected.

    MILES O’BRIEN: So the time for punishment is over?

    MARTA DEUS: Yes, please. It’s over.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Back at the Bay of Pigs especially, you might expect to find lingering animosity aimed at Americans, but, to the contrary, they are anxious to turn the page.

    ANA MARGARITA PEREZ DE CORCHO: It’s the time to move to a new era. That is my opinion to move to a new era and to forget things — not to forget, but to live without that in the future.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Fifty-eight years after the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power, Cubans are enjoying new economic freedom, and they want more.

    There is no turning back to the old ways, at least on this side of the Florida Straits.

    For the PBS NewsHour I’m Miles O’Brien in Havana.

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    Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) speaks to the media after Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's classified briefing for the full U.S. Senate on President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey in Washington U.S., May 18, 2017. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert - RTX36I4G

    President Donald Trump called Sen. Richard Blumenthal, seen above outside the Senate, a “phony Vietnam con artist” after the lawmaker expressed strong support for a special counsel’s probe of Russia meddling in the election and possible collusion with Trump campaign officials. Photo by REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert.

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday lashed out at Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, calling him a “phony Vietnam con artist” after the lawmaker expressed strong support for a special counsel’s probe of Russia meddling in the election and possible collusion with Trump campaign officials.

    In a series of tweets from his vacation in New Jersey, Trump dismissed the “hoax Russian collusion” and revived a 2010 embarrassment for Blumenthal. The Connecticut lawmaker, a Marine Corps reservist during Vietnam, had to apologize for saying he had served in the war.

    “Interesting to watch Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking about hoax Russian collusion when he was a phony Vietnam con artist!” Trump tweeted.

    “Never in U.S. history has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Senator Richard Blumenthal. He told stories about his Vietnam battles and…….conquests, how brave he was, and it was all a lie. He cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness like a child. Now he judges collusion?”

    Blumenthal later responded to Trump on Twitter, saying: “Mr. President: Your bullying hasn’t worked before and it won’t work now. No one is above the law.” He added, “This issue isn’t about me – it’s about the Special Counsel’s independence and integrity.”

    Nine hours after the tweetstorm, Trump was back at it again, with a new broadside against Blumenthal via Twitter: “I think Senator Blumenthal should take a nice long vacation in Vietnam, where he lied about his service, so he can at least say he was there.”

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

    Trump’s initial criticism Monday morning came shortly after Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was interviewed on CNN. The senator discussed several topics, including the Justice Department’s crackdown on leakers, new sanctions on North Korea and reports that special counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in his inquiry into Russia meddling and potential ties to the Trump campaign.

    “I’m very concerned that the Department of Justice is weaponizing these laws for its personal and political ends, and specifically for the White House’s purposes,” Blumenthal said. He warned of a “chilling effect on the press and whistleblowers.”

    The two-term Connecticut senator and former state attorney general credited the media for its reporting on the Trump administration. He said Mueller’s investigation must be pursued.

    “The impanelment of the grand jury shows that Bob Mueller is pursuing this potential wrongdoing by the Russians, the attack on our democracy, seriously and diligently. There is no minimizing … that attack by the Russians,” Blumenthal said, before pointing out the “potential collusion by the Trump campaign and then obstruction of justice.”

    He said “that investigation must be pursued.”

    It wasn’t the first time that Trump had raised the issue of Blumenthal and Vietnam. Earlier this year, Trump accused Blumenthal of misrepresenting Neil Gorsuch’s comments from a private meeting. Blumenthal said Gorsuch, who was confirmed to the Supreme Court, had told him that he found the president’s attacks on the judiciary “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

    In response, Trump said during a luncheon with senators that Blumenthal had misrepresented Gorsuch. “His comments were misrepresented. And what you should do is ask Senator Blumenthal about his Vietnam record that didn’t exist after years of saying it did,” he said.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

    Last month, Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition finally retook Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, after a brutal nine-month campaign. And the fight to retake Raqqa, the ISIS makeshift capital, is ongoing now, with Syrian militia pressing the fight, again with U.S. support.

    For more on where the battle against is stands, I spoke just a short time ago with Brett McGurk. He is the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS. It’s a post he held under the Obama administration as well.

    I began by asking him how big a footprint is has right now.

    BRETT MCGURK, Special Presidential Envoy: Well, what’s really more important is the trajectory.

    So, if you go back to 2014, they were dramatically expanding movement. Since then, they have lost about 70,000 square kilometers. And in the last six months alone, they have lost about 20 square kilometers. So one-third of their losses in Iraq and Syria have taken place over the last six months.

    So, it’s radically shrinking, the people that are under their domain, less and less every day. Our operations enabled by coalitions forces, with Iraqi forces doing the fighting, Syrian Democratic Forces doing the fighting, about five million people that used to be living under ISIS are no longer living under ISIS.

    And, more importantly, if you think about where we were back in 2014, the refugee and migrant low, remember the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing out of Iraq and Syria, we have actually now reversed that. So, in Iraq, two million Iraqis are now back in their homes in areas that used to be controlled by ISIS.

    And even in Syria now, the first six months of this year, we have actually seen, according to U.N. statistics, Syrians beginning to return to their homes. That’s a remarkable trend line that we want to continue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why has this progress sped up? Why has this happened this way in the last six months?

    BRETT MCGURK: Well, we have a couple of important changes.

    When President Trump came into office, about three really key changes. Number one and probably most importantly was the decision to delegate tactical decision-making authority to the commanders in the field, and that has made a key difference.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, this is part of a new initiative under President Trump? It’s not part of a plan that was handed over by the Obama administration?

    BRETT MCGURK: Well, the rapid turn in decision-making is something that’s new and it’s actually causing us to act with great efficiency, and seizing some key opportunities.

    It makes it different if decisions can be made immediately to seize those types of opportunities as they emerge.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I saw a story today in BuzzFeed which says that the U.S. is much more deeply involved in Syria in terms of supporting those local forces than most people realize. Is that a fair assessment?

    BRETT MCGURK: I think we have been pretty transparent. We’re supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces. It’s a force that really has grown from way back in the battle of Kobani a few years ago, now 50,000 Syrians under this force, about of them half Kurd, about of them half Arab.

    And we are supporting them, enabling them, special forces, advisers. We also have some diplomats on the ground. That is something that Secretary Tillerson spoke to here at the State Department a week ago. We have a small team of diplomats that help with humanitarian assistance, stabilization assistance.

    And this is very important, because we’re not there to reconstruct cities, we’re not there to nation-building-type exercises, but we are focused on basic humanitarian support. About 300,000 Syrians have now been displaced from the fighting Raqqa. They have all flown north into the lines of the force that we’re working with.

    We are helping with humanitarian aid supporting the United Nations and basic what we call stabilization. What that means is the elements to help return people to their homes, number one, de-mining. You have to clear the streets of land mines.


    BRETT MCGURK: Second, rubble removal, electricity, water, those sorts of things.

    We did the same thing in Iraq. And that’s why we have seen this remarkable trend of Iraqis returning to their homes in areas that have been cleared of ISIS. This is really hard work. It’s not glamorous, but it’s working.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You are answering some of the questions I was planning to ask. So, thank you very much for anticipating those.

    I do want to ask you, though, Brett McGurk, about the cease-fire in Syria that the U.S. and Russia worked out. It’s been pointed out that Iran wasn’t part of that, and by ignoring or leaving out Iran’s interest in the long run, that that’s going to have to be taken into consideration.

    BRETT MCGURK: Well, the cease-fire that was worked out in the southwest, I’m glad you asked about this.

    It’s a very important initiative, actually, and another example of how some decisions have been delegated down. Secretary Tillerson really asked us to get after this opportunity that had emerged in the southwest. And we have negotiated really over a period of months with Jordan. King Abdullah of Jordan was a key driver of this.

    And with the Russians throughout that southwest corner of the country, very important corner of the country. It was a painstaking negotiation meter by meter mapping out what we call the line of contact between the Syrian regime forces and Syrian opposition forces.

    And since then, we’re well into the third week now. The fighting has virtually stopped. It’s really — it’s going quite well. And I think the reason this cease-fire is going quite well is because there was this really detailed negotiation about what we call this line of contact.

    The Russians have deployed some of their military police on the northern side of that line really to deter violations from the Syrian regime. And so far, it’s going well. We’re seeing people return to their homes in this area. So, we want to make sure that trend line continues.

    Now, the presence of the Iranian forces, Hezbollah, some of the militia forces down in that southwest corner of the country, is highly destabilizing. And that’s not something that we only believe. It’s also something the Russians believe.

    So, part of this agreement, there is a broader aspect to it. This is something that was very well worked out. We want to see stability in that area, which means setting Hezbollah out of certain areas. It means getting some Iranian-backed forces out of certain areas. And that’s something that we continue to work on.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of how complicated this is, it’s not just Iran, but Turkey is also a factor. We hear the Turkish leader President Erdogan talking about coming after the Kurds inside of Syria.

    Of course, the U.S. has been working alongside them. We know a number of Turkish leaders have said they think you have been too supportive of the Kurds. How much of a concern is that to you?

    BRETT MCGURK: So, Syria is one of the most complex challenges on the planet as we speak.

    And, obviously, Turkey is a critical NATO ally. We are totally transparent with everything we do with the Turks. We had a very big decision to make also early on in this administration of exactly how are we going to get ISIS out of Raqqa.

    And, quite frankly, we had two options. One options was to work with the Syrian Democratic Forces, which we’re doing, and which is going quite well. The second option, quite frankly, was an option that Turkey would have supported, but would have required almost 20,000 to 30,000 American troops. So, that’s something that we’re not going to go back to that model.

    We think the model we’re using now is more effective, more sustainable. Look, the coalition that we lead, as the United States, 73 members now, the nature of any coalition, not every member sees eye to eye at all times. That’s the whole nature of having a coalition.

    So, certainly, Turkey, every members of the coalition, we have disagreements, we work through them. And I remain an optimistic that we will be able to work through these issues.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But it sounds like there’s still some disagreements with the Turks.

    BRETT MCGURK: We have disagreements with the Turks. We have disagreements with a lot of our coalition partners. But as with any endeavor, not everybody sees eye to eye all the time, which is why we continue to work through very difficult issues.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Brett McGurk, joining us from the State Department, thank you very much.

    BRETT MCGURK: Thank you, Judy.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: The city of Chicago has sued the Trump administration over its plan to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities. The lawsuit says that it’s unconstitutional to tie grant money to a city’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

    After filing the complaint, the head of Chicago’s legal office said the city will now request a freeze on the policy.

    ED SISKEL, Chicago’s Law Department: We are bringing this legal challenge because the rhetoric and the threats from this administration embodied in these new conditions imposed on unrelated public safety grant funds are breeding a culture and a climate of fear within the communities in our city.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is named in the lawsuit. In a statement late today, he doubled on the policy, saying that Chicago’s leaders have — quote — “adopted an official policy of protecting criminal aliens who prey on their own residents.”

    Authorities have found the wreckage of a U.S. military plane that crashed off the coast of Australia over the weekend. Three Marines are presumed dead, after a search-and-rescue operation was called off yesterday; 23 other people on board were rescued. The Osprey aircraft went down Saturday in Shoalwater Bay off the eastern coast of Queensland during regularly scheduled operations.

    Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has vowed a severe punishment for those behind yesterday’s raid on an army base. The intruders appeared to want to set off a military uprising against the socialist leader. Maduro said at least 20 people, including some former soldiers, attacked the site in central Venezuela and seized weapons. At least two were killed and eight more arrested.

    PRESIDENT NICOLAS MADURO, Venezuela (through interpreter): A trial has already been set and I have asked for the maximum sentence for all those involved in the terrorist attack, the maximum sentence and no benefits for those civilians or deserters involved in the attack.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The incident came as the country’s newly installed, all-powerful Constitutional Assembly continued its work. Today, the European Union criticized that body’s decision to remove Venezuela’s public prosecutor.

    And in Mexico, officials are bracing for Tropical Storm Franklin. It’s expected make landfall tonight along the Yucatan Peninsula at near-hurricane strength. Authorities are closing an airport near the Caribbean coast and are preparing shelters. Residents could face flooding and winds of at least 60 miles per hour.

    It was another record-setting day on Wall Street, led by technology stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 25 points to close at 22118. That’s its ninth straight record high. The Nasdaq rose 32, and the S&P 500 added 4.

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    Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) arrives for a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said on Monday the Interior Department would scrap an Obama-era rule on coal royalties that mining companies had criticized as burdensome and costly. File photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    The Interior Department on Monday scrapped an Obama-era rule on coal royalties that mining companies had criticized as burdensome and costly.

    The Trump administration put the royalty valuation rule on hold in February after mining companies challenged it in federal court. Officials later announced plans to repeal the rule entirely. The final repeal notice was published Monday in the Federal Register and takes effect Sept. 6.

    Repealing the rule “provides a clean slate to create workable valuation regulations,” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, adding that the repeal will reduce costs that energy companies would otherwise pass on to consumers.

    The decision reinstates rules in place since the late 1980s governing royalties paid by energy companies for coal and other minerals produced on federal and tribal lands.

    Interior remains committed to collecting every dollar due, Zinke said, noting that public lands are assets belonging to taxpayers and Native American tribes.

    The valuation rule, crafted under the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama, was aimed at ensuring that coal companies don’t shortchange taxpayers on coal sales to Asia and other markets. Coal exports surged over the past decade even as domestic sales declined.

    MORE: ‘Difficult slog’ ahead to undo Obama climate legacy, says former EPA chief

    Federal lawmakers and watchdog groups have long complained that taxpayers were losing hundreds of millions of dollars annually because royalties on coal from public lands were being improperly calculated.

    Interior disputed that, saying in the Federal Register notice that the prior — and soon-to-be-reinstated — regulations “have been in place for more than 20 years and serve as a reasonable, reliable and consistent method for valuing federal and Indian minerals for royalty purposes.” As evidence, the agency noted that the Obama-era rule would have increased royalty payments by less than 1 percent a year.

    Rules in place since the 1980s have allowed coal companies to sell their fuel to affiliates and pay royalties to the government on that price, then turn around and sell the coal at a higher price, often overseas. Under the now-repealed rule, the royalty rate would have been determined at the time the coal is leased, with revenue based on the price paid by an outside entity, rather than an interim sale to an affiliated company.

    House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, hailed the repeal, saying it would encourage more responsible energy development and spur investment in federal and Indian lands.

    But conservation groups criticized the action, calling it a “sweetheart deal” for the industry that will deprive states of much-needed revenues. About half the coal royalties collected by the federal government is disbursed to states including Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: North Korea had tough talk today for the United States, following the weekend adoption of new sanctions by the United Nations. The new measures target North Korea’s already-limited export market, and seek to further isolate the nation after recent missile tests.

    Lisa Desjardins reports.

    LISA DESJARDINS: To new sanctions, North Korea today reacted with its own threat.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): The U.S.’ villainous illegal actions against our country and people will be reciprocated by thousands-fold. If it thinks that it will be safe because it is across an ocean, there is no bigger misunderstanding than that.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That sharp warning after North Korea test-launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month that some analysts believe could reach parts of the United States.

    Today, at a summit of Southeast Asian nations in Manila, a North Korean spokesman defended its nuclear program.

    BANG KWANG HYUK, Spokesman, North Korean Delegation (through interpreter): We affirmed that we will never place our nuclear and ballistic missiles program on the negotiating table and won’t budge an inch on strengthening nuclear armament.

    LISA DESJARDINS: And again singled out the United States.

    BANG KWANG HYUK (through interpreter): Is our nuclear possession a threat to the world or is it just a threat to the United States? We want to make it clear that the worsening situation on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the nuclear issues, were caused by the United States.

    LISA DESJARDINS: From U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, also at the Manila forum, a very different tone, stressing possible dialogue, but only if Pyongyang stops missile tests.

    REX TILLERSON, U.S. Secretary of State: This is really about the spirit of these talks, and they can demonstrate that they’re ready to sit with a spirit of finding a way forward in these talks by no longer conducting these missile tests.

    LISA DESJARDINS: North Korea officials so far have rejected any talks that include the U.S., but did meet separately in Manila with representatives from a pivotal go-between, China.

    Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi:

    WANG YI, Foreign Minister, China (through interpreter): China urged North Korea to remain calm in the face of the new U.N. Security Council resolution and not to carry out missile tests or even nuclear tests in violation of the Security Council resolution and the will of the international community.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The U.N. sanctions on North Korea are a victory for the U.S., whose Ambassador Nikki Haley led the effort at the United Nations. She spoke Saturday.

    NIKKI HALEY, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: They have the option of stopping the reckless and irresponsible behavior. And the international community could not have made a stronger point to tell them that the time to stop is now.

    ANTHONY RUGGIERO, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies: For the most part, they target North Korea’s export revenue.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Anthony Ruggiero helped write North Korea sanctions under President George W. Bush. He says these new sanctions may affect up to a third of North Korean exports, a severe impact, but only if they are enforced.

    ANTHONY RUGGIERO: Unfortunately over the last 11 years, that has been lacking, in particular by China, and the U.N. itself has called out China for its lack of implementation.

    LISA DESJARDINS: For his part, President Trump spoke with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, later tweeting: “Very happy and impressed with 15-0 United Nations vote on North Korea sanctions.”

    President Moon’s office said he stressed that the nuclear issue must be resolved in a peaceful diplomatic manner.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Lisa Desjardins.

    The post New U.N. sanctions trigger sharp warning from North Korea appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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