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

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    Chicken farm. Photo by branex/via Adobe

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    Find all of the stories in our series Stopping Superbugs

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: the final installment of our special series Stopping Superbugs, which this week focused on the potential dangers of antibiotic use in industrial-scale farming.

    Last night, science correspondent Miles O’Brien paid a visit to a pig farm.

    Tonight, economics correspondent Paul Solman picks up our reporting by checking on how things are done on a commercial chicken farm.

    It’s part of our weekly economics feature, Making Sense.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Why are you knocking?

    BRUCE STEWART-BROWN, Veterinarian, Perdue Farms: I’m letting the chickens know we’re coming.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A chicken house in Salisbury, Maryland.

    Holy smokes. How many chickens are in here?

    BRUCE STEWART-BROWN: So, there’s about 49,000.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Forty-nine thousand?

    BRUCE STEWART-BROWN: But you can see there’s plenty of space for them to move to open areas if they’d like to.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Veterinarian Bruce Stewart-Brown oversees poultry production for a brand some of you may have grown up with.

    FRANK PERDUE, CEO, Perdue Farms: Every Perdue chicken has one of these tags on it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Frank Perdue became famous as the tough man to make a tender chicken.

    MAN: You might wonder what drives a man like this.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But an even tougher man raised him.

    MAN: Me.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Back in the 1920s, Arthur Perdue founded not just a hugely successful business, but some would say an entire industry.

    ELLEN SILBERGELD, Johns Hopkins University: And this is ground zero to the chicken industry and in fact to all of intensive agriculture. It all began here.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Johns Hopkins University environmental scientist Ellen Silbergeld is author of “Chickenizing Farms and Food,” which chronicles the rise of factory farming.

    We need it to feed the world, she says, but not by feeding low doses of antibiotics to livestock, supposedly to promote growth or prevent disease before it happens.

    ELLEN SILBERGELD: Between 70 and 80 percent of total antibiotic production is used in agriculture.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And is the use in agriculture creating as much resistance in the bacteria as the use with humans?

    ELLEN SILBERGELD: I think it’s arguably creating more. When bacteria are exposed to low doses of antibiotics, bacteria are stressed, but not killed. And the community sends out signals whereby they share resistance genes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Really?

    ELLEN SILBERGELD: Yes. So, actually low-dose antibiotics over a long period of time are much worse than high-dose.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Much worse, says Silbergeld, in that they expose workers and consumers to rapidly evolving antibiotic-resistant microbes, perhaps in the very air we were breathing near this chicken house in Sussex County, Delaware.

    ELLEN SILBERGELD: We and others have done studies where we have tracked the outflow from these ventilation fans, and we can find antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are genetically identical to the bacteria inside the house as far away as essentially three football fields.

    And, furthermore, there are flies and other things that come in and out of the house, and they can move as far as three miles away.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Flies and fans spreading microbes that, under the right conditions, can cause serious illness, even death.

    ELLEN SILBERGELD: We are coming up against the end of the age of antibiotics, exhausting what many have called the crown jewels of medicine. And, if I may say, we’re throwing them like pearls before swine.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And you mean that …

    ELLEN SILBERGELD: Literally.

    PAUL SOLMAN: As my colleague Miles O’Brien reported last night, antibiotics are routinely fed to pigs and cattle, which live a lot longer than chickens, a practice microbiologist Lance Price understands, even if he doesn’t condone it.

    LANCE PRICE, George Washington University: Pigs spend their entire lives in these concentrated animal feeding operations, crowded, stressed, standing around on their own feces. They’re just more likely to get sick.

    PAUL SOLMAN: For chickens, it all started in the 1940s, with some pharmaceutical industry studies purporting to show that antibiotics promoted growth.

    ELLEN SILBERGELD: These are studies that were all conducted within laboratories. They were not in the real world situation of a chicken houses. They were for very short periods of time, two to seven weeks.

    PAUL SOLMAN: How many in a study?

    ELLEN SILBERGELD: Thirty would be a big study.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Thirty chickens?

    ELLEN SILBERGELD: Most of them were four or five.

    PAUL SOLMAN: On this flimsy foundation, argues Silbergeld, was a match formed between big pharma and big farm.

    JIM PERDUE, Chairman, Perdue Farms: I think the industry used antibiotics because they just always did.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Jim Perdue is the third generation to run the family business. For decades, Perdue’s poultry, like almost all chickens, were raised on antibiotics.

    JIM PERDUE: There was a perception that they would grow better if you gave them antibiotics, because it would, for lack of a better word, clean up the gut and absorb nutrients more efficiently.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But the evidence really wasn’t there.

    JIM PERDUE: But you do a lot of things that you have been doing forever, and you just assume that’s the way you do it, until you actually look at it and test it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In 2002, Perdue farms did just that, publishing the results of a three-year experiment involving millions of birds. Half were raised on antibiotics, the other half not.

    ELLEN SILBERGELD: The data basically showed there was little or no difference.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Silbergeld then asked economists to calculate how much bang Perdue was getting for its antibiotics buck, the standard cost-benefit analysis at the heart of economics.

    ELLEN SILBERGELD: A return on investment, yes. And the results showed that they were actually losing money by purchasing antibiotics.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But their own study wasn’t what turned Perdue against maintenance antibiotics, the latest scion says.

    JIM PERDUE: We did it because the consumer was asking for it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Fifteen years later, all chicken sold under the Perdue brand has been raised with no antibiotics ever.

    JIM PERDUE: If you say no antibiotics that are important to humans, there is a but, or no antibiotics except subtherapeutic. That’s a but.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But it wasn’t easy, nor was it, as they say in chicken, cheep. Step one, says Perdue’s chief vet, Bruce Stewart-Brown, was to ramp up their hatchery hygiene.

    BRUCE STEWART-BROWN: If there’s a piece of organic material, just wipe it off, and use a different spot and, then turn it over, use another spot, and then get rid of it, and get a new one.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A new baby wipe, that is. They use a lot of baby wipes.

    DAVID BAILEY, Hatchery Manager, Perdue Farms: We process four days a week.

    PAUL SOLMAN: David Bailey is hatchery manager.

    DAVID BAILEY: For one week, I need 1,451,520 eggs.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Step two, make sure the vaccine that goes into every egg is uncontaminated.

    Previously, a vaccine to prevent a chicken viral disease was mixed in the middle of the hatchery, with antibiotics added to kill common bacteria.

    BRUCE STEWART-BROWN: And so this is the vaccine mixing room, and we actually put laminar flow hoods, special air flow. That keeps the vaccine from getting any contamination even in this controlled environment.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Step three, a vegetarian diet, to replace the antibiotic-laced feed.

    JIM PERDUE: We got rid of meat and bone meal, because that introduced salmonella and other things into the diet.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And now they’re experimenting with lifestyle changes, including increased playtime in a handful of hen houses, on the theory that it takes a happier home to grow a healthier chicken.

    BRUCE STEWART-BROWN: Play is a little bit down right now. They’re resting quite a bit.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Can’t we just go, hey, chickens, be active?

    Turns out, to my embarrassment, that this isn’t how chickens like to kid around.

    BRUCE STEWART-BROWN: That’s scaring them.

    PAUL SOLMAN: OK, guys, sorry. I apologize. I thought I was playing.

    Perdue is succeeding antibiotic-free. But with all the concern and dire warnings, how is it that an estimated 70 percent of the industry is still raising birds on antibiotics?

    ACTOR: Some chicken brands use labels to trick people and charge higher prices.

    ACTOR: Raised without antibiotics.

    ACTOR: That’s just marketing-speak.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Mississippi-based Sanderson is the nation’s third largest chicken producer, just ahead of number four Perdue. They say most of their customers don’t much care if they eat chicken raised on antibiotics.

    MIKE COCKRELL, CFO, Sanderson Farms: Across the Southeast, where most of our brand — branded product is sold, it’s simply not that big of an issue.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And, says chief financial officer Mike Cockrell, while it’s nice to sell antibiotics-raised chicken at a lower price, that’s not why they use the drugs. They want to be fair to the fowl.

    MIKE COCKRELL: If I can prevent illness in the flock, we’re going to do that.

    LAMPKIN BUTTS, President, Sanderson Farms: We sat down with our vets and asked our vets to do their homework.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Company president Lampkin Butts.

    LAMPKIN BUTTS: And tell us whether anything we’re doing with antibiotics in our flocks causes antibiotic resistance in humans. And they did the research, and they came back and said, absolutely not.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, we asked chief veterinarian Phil Stayer, doesn’t the use of antibacterial drugs in animals raise the possibility that there will be resistance in bacteria and other organisms that will come back to haunt human beings?

    PHIL STAYER, Chief Veterinarian, Sanderson Farms: Using antibiotics will induce resistance in any organism. The question is, what does food animal medicine in particular have to do with contributing to that? And I think that risk is so small, we can’t measure it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The scientists we have talked to say there’s a real danger in using antibacterial drugs in animals like chickens.

    MARTHA EWING, Veterinarian, Sanderson Farms: We talk to scientists as well.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Veterinarian Martha Ewing.

    MARTHA EWING: But we have our own scientists who say that if we get a bacterial infection in chickens that’s serious enough to warrant another antibacterial, it’s very possible it may actually induce more resistance.

    PAUL SOLMAN: It sounded like the red state/blue state divide.

    PHIL STAYER, Chief Veterinarian, Sanderson Farms: University of Minnesota, Kansas State University, they can’t find a link in terms of human resistance based upon food animal use.

    PAUL SOLMAN: While the elite East Coast schools have.

    So we asked Ellen Silbergeld of Johns Hopkins, is it your word against their word?

    ELLEN SILBERGELD: No, it is not. And, if I may say so, I’m very tired of the press who says, on the one hand, and on the other.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But you do understand that somebody in my position, who can’t possibly assess one study from the next, or one journal from the next, you can understand why I would be trying to be, on the one hand, on the other hand?

    ELLEN SILBERGELD: You know, at a certain point, this is rocket science.

    PAUL SOLMAN: OK, so what am I supposed to do if it is rocket science?

    Fortunately, I had someone else to turn do.

    You’re the guy who covers rocket science. So, am I just out of my depth here?

    MILES O’BRIEN: I’m afraid it is rocket science. And the scientists I speak with are practically apocalyptic about a post-antibiotic era.

    Think of the procedures that could not happen. Chemotherapy, Caesarean sections, hip replacements, all of them absolutely rely on antibiotics. So imagine a world where we can’t have those procedures and where people die of simple blisters, as occurred, not uncommonly, in the pre-antibiotic era.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But we don’t want to scare people. This isn’t happening right now. Most antibiotics still work for most problems that people have.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But the numbers are grim. And it is time to do something right now. The alarm bells are ringing.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And, from my point of view, the problem is that the market hasn’t been able to solve this problem. Maybe it cannot solve this problem, and, therefore, we need alternative solutions.

    For the PBS NewsHour this is economics correspondent Paul Solman.

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

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can watch all of Miles O’Brien and Paul Solman’s reports on antibiotics and superbugs online at pbs.org/newshour.

    The post The economic reason this chicken producer gave up antibiotics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump’s latest warnings to North Korea come as Congress is away on recess, but it hasn’t stopped lawmakers from weighing in.

    We turn to one of them now, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ben Cardin of Maryland.

    I spoke to him just a short time ago and began by asking if President Trump’s latest threats are helpful.

    SEN. BEN CARDIN, D-Md.: Judy, I think not.

    I think it’s going to be very counterproductive. The international community looks to the United States for leadership to find a way that we can avoid a military conflict with North Korea that could involve nuclear weapons. And the president’s statement gives little hope that could be accomplished.

    It questions whether the United States really has a strategy to bring North Korea to change their way. So, it is, I think, extremely unhelpful, the comments the president made and continues to make in regards to the use of force.

    What we need to do is work with China changing the equation, so that China enforces the sanctions that were just recently reinforced by the U.N. Security Council against North Korea, so that we can get North Korea to come to the bargaining table and give up their nuclear weapons.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Senator, I’m sure you heard the president makes the argument that the United States has let North Korea get away with its tough rhetoric for years, let it get away with this nuclear buildup.

    We see what the result is. And the president saying it’s time for someone to stand up for the American people, in his words.

    SEN. BEN CARDIN: Well, it is time to enforce sanctions. And that means for China — China doesn’t want North Korea to become a nuclear weapons state.

    What China wants to do is protect the communist regime on its border, so the United States needs to work with China to indicate this is not about regime change for North Korea. It’s about changing their course on nuclear warfare. And that’s an area where China would agree with the United States.

    China can guarantee North Korea, its regime, that it must change its course on its nuclear policies. That’s what we need to negotiate. And there’s a way forward. If we rely on military, the risk factors are so great, the casualties could be so high, and the outcome uncertain. So we should give diplomacy the best chance possible.

    And the president’s comments yesterday and today have made that more difficult.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you think about the idea of the United States accepting North Korea’s current posture as a nuclear power and then negotiating?

    SEN. BEN CARDIN: No, I don’t think we accept North Korea having a nuclear weapon capacity that violates international protocols. That’s not an acceptable option. It’s not acceptable for the United States. It’s not acceptable for South Korea. It’s not acceptable for Japan.

    All that’s going to do is accelerate more countries in the region wanting to have nuclear weapons. That’s not a way in which we want to move forward with stability in that region. So, what we need to do is turn the pressure up on North Korea. That means really enforcing sanctions.

    If you do that, North Korea’s going to have to come and negotiate. What North Korea is mostly concerned about is the regime’s security. That’s an area that we can talk about, and that’s an area in which diplomacy can work in bringing about an acceptable solution for their nuclear weapons program.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, do you have an understanding that this administration is working on enforcing those sanctions, whether it’s the secretary of state or the president’s national security advisers or others in the administration?

    SEN. BEN CARDIN: Judy, I don’t think we have confidence that the president has a well-thought-out policy for North Korea. If he did, I don’t think he would have made the statements he did, which I understand were not thought out, were not after consultation with his advisers.

    He made these comments because he thought it was the right thing to say at the moment. That’s not having a policy. A policy is a well-thought-out game plan that gives us the very best chance to let diplomacy work and get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, in exchange for which there will be rewards for North Korea, that their economy will be able to grow, that their people will be more prosperous, and, yes, their security can be guaranteed, particularly by China.

    So,there’s a way of a path forward, but it involves the president showing leadership in the international community.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But are you and others on the Foreign Relations Committee, the chairman, Republican Bob Corker, trying to talk to the administration about this to get your point of view across? What’s Senator Corker saying to you about this?

    SEN. BEN CARDIN: Well, we have talked with the administration on several occasions. We have received briefings on several occasions.

    But I have not yet seen a coordinated strategy from this administration in North Korea or, by the way, in some of the other hot spots in the same areas of the world. We have not seen that.

    I think the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is very concerned about the president working with Congress, so we have a coordinated strategy. We all agree nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in North Korea must end. That’s not an acceptable course. They cannot threaten the United States, cannot threaten South Korea or Japan or other countries in that region, that there’s a path forward. We all agree on that.

    We also agree that we are going to have to be very tough on sanctions and that China is a key player. And we’re prepared to work this administration to make it easier for China to be tougher on North Korea.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, in the meantime, until this happens, how worried are you? How worried should the American people be about, oh, something happening, whether it’s an attack by the North Koreans or some other step that would result in something catastrophic?

    SEN. BEN CARDIN: Well, I must tell you, I think this is a very dangerous situation.

    I think this is probably — it is the worst we have seen between the North Korea and the rest of the world as far as their weapons program is concerned. So, this is a very, very serious matter.

    I have a lot of confidence in our ability to maintain the safety of our people. The Department of Defense does their mission best of any country in the world. We will take care of ourselves.

    But I think we have let this situation get too dangerous. And now is the time for the international community, through U.S. leadership, to find a way so that we can have diplomacy work in North Korea.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Ben Cardin, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, we thank you very much.

    SEN. BEN CARDIN: Thank you, Judy.

    The post Cardin: Trump’s warning for North Korea isn’t a game plan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the day’s other news: The dispute over Kenya’s presidential election is intensifying.

    Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga declared victory over incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta, a claim rejected by the election commission. Still, Odinga backers celebrated today. Some clashed with police in Nairobi, as electoral officials called for calm from all sides as the votes are counted.

    WAFULA CHEBUKATI, Chairman, Voting Authority: I commend all Kenyans for the patience they have shown so far as we finalize the process of tallying and collection of results. We urge all parties to continue to exercise restraint, especially at this critical moment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Election officials have disputed Odinga’s claim that hackers infiltrated a database and manipulated results. Their preliminary tallies showed Kenyatta with a strong lead.

    There’s been yet another migrant disaster off the coast of Yemen. The U.N. says five people are dead and more than 50 are missing after smugglers forced them off a boat. It comes less than a day after 50 Ethiopian and Somalian migrants were deliberately drowned in the same area. The U.N.’s migration agency says about 55,000 migrants have left the Horn of Africa for Yemen this year.

    CHISSEY MUELLER, International Organization for Migration: Migrant smuggling to Yemen is not new. It happens every day. A few hundred migrants, primarily from Ethiopia, as well as Somalia, come into Yemen. And they often are intent on passing through Yemen to go to other locations in the Arabian Peninsula. Some people stay in Yemen.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.N. agency said that migrants continue to arrive because there’s no central authority to prevent their travel.

    Hurricane Franklin soaked Central Mexico today. It made landfall on the country’s Gulf Coast overnight, as the first hurricane of the Atlantic season. Franklin brought heavy rains and winds of up to 85 miles per hour. The storm weakened as it went over Mexico’s mountains, but forecasters said that it could drop up to eight inches of rain in parts.

    Back in this country, the mayor of New Orleans has declared a state of emergency over flooding concerns. The city is scrambling to repair damaged equipment as the threat of more rain looms in the area. Heavy downpours last weekend overwhelmed pumping systems and inundated neighborhoods.

    Mayor Mitch Landrieu took aim at city officials.

    MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU, New Orleans, Louisiana: But I can’t even begin to tell you how extremely frustrated and angry I am at the inability of the Sewage and Water Board to communicate clearly and to give accurate information to the public. I’m not sure even at this moment that we have the complete and accurate information.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The federal government had earmarked billions of dollars for repairs in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but problems have persisted.

    2016 was the hottest year on record, the third straight year of record global warmth. That’s according to a new report led by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Among the findings, the global temperature increase was helped by a strong El Nino effect, and concentrations of major greenhouse gases also reached a new high.

    On Wall Street, brewing tensions between the U.S. and North Korea dragged stocks down again today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 204 points to close at 21844. The Nasdaq fell 135. The S&P 500 dropped 35.

    The post News Wrap: Kenyan election officials dispute Odinga victory claims appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In a few moments, we will talk to the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ben Cardin of Maryland, about the growing North Korean crisis.

    President Trump came back to cameras at his New Jersey golf club today for a series of newsworthy exchanges.

    And I’m joined now by our own John Yang to take us through some of it.

    John, he came back and he just kept on talking.

    JOHN YANG: He kept on talking.

    His press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, tried to cut it off. He ignored her, went on for 20 minutes. At one point, he was asked about Vladimir Putin, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to expel U.S. diplomats from Russia.

    He says the United States should be grateful.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want to thank him, because we’re trying to cut down on payroll. And as far as I’m concerned, I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people, because now we have a smaller payroll.

    There’s no real reason for them to go back. So, I greatly appreciate the fact that they have been able to cut our payroll for the United States. We will save a lot of money.

    JOHN YANG: It was remarkable. Foreign policy experts say it was really remarkable to hear a president go on like that, even if he was making — trying to make a joke.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We have been hearing Republicans in Congress say this is a bad thing, to lose these diplomats stationed in Moscow.

    John, the president went on. It was interesting that he had nicer things to say about Vladimir Putin than he did about the Senate majority leader, who in his own party?

    JOHN YANG: Mitch McConnell has become the whipping boy for the failure of the Obamacare repeal and replace. And he was asked at one point whether he had asked his Cabinet secretary, Elaine Chao, to help him. Elaine Chao, of course, is married to Mitch McConnell.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Elaine is doing a very good job. We’re very proud of Elaine as secretary of transportation, as you know, as you said, Mitch’s wife. She’s doing a very, very good job.

    I’m very disappointed in Mitch. But if he gets these bills passed, I will be happy with him. I will be the first to admit it. But, honestly, repeal and replace of Obamacare should have taken place and it should have been on my desk virtually the first week that I was there or the first day that I was there. I have been hearing about it for seven years.

    JOHN YANG: Some are saying that the president’s saying that he should have had that bill on his desk on the first day underscores Mitch McConnell’s point that he has unreasonable expectations.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: John, another thing the president was asked about is the Russia investigation and the — I guess the leaks that he and others in the administration have been saying they’re so concerned about.

    JOHN YANG: He said he’s given no thought at all to firing special counsel Robert Mueller. He said the White House is cooperating and that Mueller is looking into something that never happened.

    And he also said that there are two kinds of leaks in Washington. One, he doesn’t mind.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You have the leaks where people want to love me, and they’re all fighting for love. Those are not very important, but, certainly, we don’t like them. Those are little inter-White House leaks. They’re not very important, but, actually, I’m somewhat honored by them.

    But the important leaks to me, and the leaks that the attorney general’s looking at very strongly, are the leaks coming out of intelligence. And we have to stop them for the security and the national security of our country.

    JOHN YANG: So, this ends a long period, Judy, where the president has been isolated, not seen in the public eye, but, clearly, he had a lot he wanted to get off his chest.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I noticed, just quickly, that he was also asked about Paul Manafort, former chairman of his campaign, whose home was raided by the FBI a few weeks ago.

    JOHN YANG: He said that he thought that raid was to send a strong signal, that it was sort of going into his house before dawn.

    He also said that he really hadn’t talked to Paul Manafort in a long time, and repeated that he had been with the campaign only a brief time, even though he was the campaign chairman.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And he made a reference to Manafort being a consultant and earning fees here and there, so a lot of interesting material here. Remarkable.

    John Yang, thank you very much.

    JOHN YANG: Thank you.

    The post Trump has kinder words for Putin than McConnell at news conference appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump continued the war of words between North Korea and the U.S. today, as Guam, the small U.S. territory island in the Pacific, became the center of global attention.

    Special correspondent Nick Schifrin begins our coverage.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Things will happen to them like they never thought possible.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Today, President Trump doubled down on his threats against North Korea.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: North Korea better get their act together, or they’re going to be in trouble like few nations ever have been in trouble in this world.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: He met with his national security team in New Jersey and disparaged a quarter-century of what he called failed North Korea negotiations.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Look at Clinton. He folded on the negotiations. He was weak and ineffective. You look what happened with Bush, you look what happened with Obama. Obama, he didn’t even want to talk about it.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Meanwhile, on the streets of Pyongyang, this is the season of steadfast support. Tens of thousands of North Koreans, scripted and staged, pledge allegiance to leader Kim Jong-un as he faces off against what they call imperialist America.

    And the regime’s mouthpiece, state TV, declared the president of the United States reckless.

    MAN (through interpreter): Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy, bereft of reason, who is going senile.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The TV announcer said Kim was considering an unusually specific plan, to launch four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missiles over three districts of Japan, flying for 17 minutes and exactly 2,086 miles, landing 19 to 25 miles off the coast of U.S. territory Guam.

    Guam is about the size of Chicago, and, today, the 160,000 residents wavered between fear and faith.

    WOMAN: It’s actually been scary since yesterday.

    MAN: With the military presence here, I am pretty sure we are safe.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The U.S. military has been here for 120 years and takes up a third of the island; 7,000 U.S. service members are stationed on an Air Force base with the U.S.’ most modern bombers, and a Naval base that’s home to fast-attack nuclear submarines.

    The island is protected by a high-altitude missile defense system, and it has been threatened by North Korea many times before.

    DAVID COHEN, Former Deputy Director, Central Intelligence Agency: It is destabilizing, it is threatening, but it is not anything new.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: David Cohen was the deputy director of the CIA until last year. He says President Trump’s rhetoric:

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They will be met with fire and fury.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: … is music to Kim Jong-un’s ears.

    DAVID COHEN: The more that the president of the United States engages directly in a war of words with Kim Jong-un, and with the North Korean regime, the more that they are able to use that to solidify and to justify their totalitarian regime.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: U.S. officials defend their strategy, saying Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is committed to diplomacy, allowing the president to be more aggressive as an attempt to finally convince North Korea, as well as China, to change policy.

    But that only works if everyone is on the same page.

    DAVID COHEN: The difficulty in not having coherent strategy is that the object of that strategy, whether it’s North Korea or China, for that matter, doesn’t really understand what it is you’re trying to accomplish.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: And that means the rhetorical and the real tension continue to rise.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Nick Schifrin.

    The post Trump fires back in war of words with North Korea appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A protester, demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Akai Gurley, holds a placard as he takes part in a march through Manhattan, New York December 7, 2014. REUTERS/Elizabeth Shafiroff

    A protester, demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Akai Gurley, holds a placard as he takes part in a march through Manhattan, New York December 7, 2014. REUTERS/Elizabeth Shafiroff

    On Aug. 9, 2014, Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. A young black boy was killed, made into a corpse for the threat he was perceived to be but never actually was. He was imagined to be a raging beast, and in America, the fear a black boy is imagined to be is in fact what he is. That terror led many in white America to blame Michael Brown for his own death. He was depicted as a criminal, a violent young teen — a super-predator.

    In media accounts following Brown’s death, the justifications for Wilson’s use of lethal force ranged from Brown attacking Wilson (which resulted in a “broken eye-socket”) to a campaign aimed at painting Brown as a robbery suspect posthumously. Michael Brown was not the first and will certainly not be the last black male unjustly killed or murdered in the light of day in America. For all its promises of equality, democracy, and the rule of law, America has an appetite for the death of black men. The question, however, is why?

    Historically, black males have been imagined as savage and animalistic in the minds of Europeans and American settlers. Despite the verifiable cruelty of American chattel slavery, it was a common belief that only the shackles surrounding the neck, wrists and feet of African men prevented them from slaughtering the white man, raping the white woman, and destroying the whole of white civilization.

    The freedom of black men has always been imagined as a pretext to the inevitable unraveling of Western civilization.

    The freedom of black men has always been imagined as a pretext to the inevitable unraveling of Western civilization. In 1839, for instance, the rebellion of the Mende against the slave holders upon the Amistad (a Spanish slave vessel) was depicted throughout American media as an uprising of black male cannibals with sharpened, pointy teeth, who not only killed but devoured their captors.

    These seemingly unbelievable caricatures of black men in the 19th century, however, are not so far removed from how we perceive black males today. These ideas have profound effects on how the larger white society interacts with black men and boys. They are thought of as looming dangers in America and this anxiety and uneasiness about their presence—their physical being—makes it more likely that black men and boys will be the targets of lethal violence.

    Phillip Atiba Goff, a black psychologist, has shown that white males often associate the black male face with that of the ape. The Negro-ape distinction has long been a racist delineation used to dehumanize blacks as lesser beings.

    Black males are perceived as larger than and more threatening than other male groups. A study led by John Paul Wilson, a social psychologist at Montclair State University, found that “young black men are more physically threatening than young white men, believing that they must therefore be controlled using more aggressive measures.” As deplorable as this may seem, it is not inconsistent with previous studies that regard black males as more muscular, physically threatening, and dangerous — more formidable — than white or Asian men.

    A cursory exploration of the numbers of black men killed by police in America over the last several years bears out this finding. Earlier this year, for instance, a Mother Jones analysis showed that among those aged 18 to 44, black men were about three times as likely as white men to be killed by police in 2015. This disproportionate violence directed towards black males offers an unsettling confirmation of the idea that black males, despite who they may actually be, are defined by the anxieties they produce in the minds of white America, no matter how illusory these fantasies may be.

    Michael Brown was a victim. Regardless of what one may believe he did do wrong, be it not complying with a police officer, or having an altercation at a gas station, or even in the worst case scenario sold weed, none of these infractions legitimize Brown’s death.

    Black males are among the most dehumanized groups in America. No amount of violence towards black males triggers the larger society’s sympathy or outrage on their behalf. In fact the exact opposite is the case. As I argue in my book, “The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of black Manhood,” “the American public, secure in its racist-sexual tropes of black male criminality and danger, consents to the police as executioners-murderers of black males, because this public is now convinced that the death of black men and boys is necessary for their protection and the security of society.”

    Michael Brown was a young man made into a corpse. He will serve as a reminder to black men of the precariousness of life, of how near death lurks among them in America. He will remind black America of the cost of blackness within an American democracy that struggles, even in the 21st century, to recognize their humanity.

    [Michael Brown] will remind black America of the cost of blackness within an American democracy that struggles, even in the 21st century, to recognize their humanity.

    But most of all, Mr. Brown — along with Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Emmett Till — will remind America that for all its supposed civility, its alleged exceptionalism, there is a barbarism that turns black bodies into rotting flesh and reminds black people that this is a white republic.

    Admitting this paradoxical position of black males is often met with ridicule and censorship in academic settings, and death threats and intimidation outside of it. Examining the death and dying of black men and boys in the United States serves as a stark reminder that segregation, lynchings, and police executions still exact a deadly cost for venturing beyond the place white America has set for black men. Resisting this violence, or even the act of speaking against it, marks black men as militant and radical.

    In May, Rod Dreher, a blogger at the American Conservative, resurfaced comments I made in 2012 concerning the movie Django. He was offended by my speech patterns and tone, as well as my insistence that black Americans had a right to self-defense and have valiantly exercised said right against white racism, police brutality, and vigilantism. In particular, Dreher was obsessed with one line in which I claimed that “in order to be equal, in order to be liberated, some white people might have to die” — something he took out of context.

    His accusation ignited a slew of death threats, ranging from pictures of dead monkeys being sent to my email account to threats by white women who said I should be lynched because as a black man I was born a rapist. This is America. It makes no distinction between a black man with a Ph.D or a black man without it.

    In this sense, we are all Michael Brown.

    The post Column: Why does America have an appetite for the death of black men? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    2016 surpassed 2015 as the warmest year due to the lingering influence of El Niño and long-term global warming. Climate map by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    2016 surpassed 2015 as the warmest year due to the lingering influence of El Niño and long-term global warming. Climate map by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    Last year was the hottest on record, according to a new report from the American Meteorological Society.

    The group’s annual State of the Climate report, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found global temperatures and the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere hit record highs in 2016.

    A combination of climate change and a strong El Niño contributed to temperatures that were approximately 1 degree Fahrenheit hotter than the average temperatures from 1981 to 2010, the report says.

    The nearly 300-page report is a collaboration between about 500 scientists from more than 60 countries around the world.

    Here are some other takeaways from the report:

    • For the third consecutive year, U.S. temperatures have reached record highs. The report notes that 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000.
    • Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increased last year by 3.5 parts per million, the largest single year increase in the 58 years on record. The increase also put CO2 levels over the 400 parts per million threshold — a symbolic “red line” that scientists warn has not been crossed in more than 800,000 years and means the planet is entering a danger zone when it comes to climate change.
    • Sea surface temperatures and global sea levels were also higher than any other year on record. This marks the sixth consecutive year global sea level has increased.
    • Arctic and Antarctic regions in particular experienced warmth, leading to less sea ice. Worldwide, ice and snow cover are in decline, and this year, the Larsen C ice shelf broke off Antarctica, becoming one of the largest icebergs on record.
    • Extreme climates, including major flooding and extreme drought, were other consequences of rising global temperatures.

    Editor’s Note: This report is unaffiliated with a climate report cited by The New York Times earlier this week, which drew wide-ranging controversy due to editorial errors.

    The post 2016 was the hottest year on record and other takeaways from NOAA’s new climate report appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A line of asylum seekers who identified themselves as from Haiti wait to enter into Canada from Roxham Road in Champlain, New York on Aug. 7. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    A line of asylum seekers who identified themselves as from Haiti wait to enter into Canada from Roxham Road in Champlain, New York on Aug. 7. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    Canada is scrambling to prepare temporary housing for an influx of people entering from the United States and seeking asylum.

    About 250 asylum seekers, mainly from Haiti, are entering Montreal in French-speaking Quebec province each day, Reuters reported.

    Soldiers are setting up tents along the border while officials process the new arrivals.

    RELATED: More people are entering Canada illegally, but no one knows for sure why

    “We are aware of irregular border crossings by individuals who request refugee protection upon arrival in Canada,” the nation’s Immigration and Citizenship agency said in a Facebook post. “In some countries, messages have been circulating through channels such as WhatsApp which suggest that Canada is inviting individuals to seek refugee status here.

    “In fact, the government of Canada discourages people from entering Canada outside of designated ports of entry as it can be dangerous and is a violation of the law.” The post links to the proper procedure to claim refugee protection.

    An estimated 250 asylum seekers are entering Montreal, Canada, each day. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    An estimated 250 asylum seekers are entering Montreal, Canada, each day. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    Haitians in particular are flowing into the country because their temporary protected status will expire in January, unless the Department of Homeland Security extends it. The U.S. granted Haitians the protection from deportation following the massive 2010 earthquake.

    When renewing the status in May, officials said conditions in Haiti were improving so the program might not be extended again.

    A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer instructs people waiting in line to enter Canada. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer instructs people waiting in line to enter Canada. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    Olympic Stadium in Montreal is being used as temporary housing for asylum seekers. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    Olympic Stadium in Montreal is being used as temporary housing for asylum seekers. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are erecting tents to house asylum seekers at the Canada-U.S. border in Lacolle, Quebec, on Aug. 9. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are erecting tents to house asylum seekers at the Canada-U.S. border in Lacolle, Quebec, on Aug. 9. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    Members of the Canadian Armed Forces carry wooden flooring into the tents they set up for asylum seekers. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    Members of the Canadian Armed Forces carry wooden flooring into the tents they set up for asylum seekers. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    The post Haitians flock to Canada, concerned about losing protected status in U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of President Donald Trump by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    File photo of President Donald Trump by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    BEDMINSTER, New Jersey — President Donald Trump on Friday again delivered a bold warning to North Korea, tweeting that the U.S. military is “locked and loaded” if the isolated rogue nation acts “unwisely,” escalating an exchange of threats between the nuclear-armed nations.

    American and South Korean officials said they would move forward with large-scale military exercises later this month that North Korea claims are a rehearsal for war. Pyongyang has laid out plans to strike near the U.S. territory of Guam.

    Trump tweeted Friday: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

    He later retweeted a posting from U.S. Pacific Command that showed B-1B Lancer bomber planes on Guam that “stand ready to fulfill USFK’s #FightTonight mission if called upon to do so.” ”Fight tonight” has long been the motto of U.S. forces in South Korea to show they are always ready for combat on the Korean Peninsula.

    Trump’s provocative public declarations, a break from the careful language of his predecessors, have only grown louder as the week as gone on. They included the president musing that his initial warning of delivering “fire and fury” to North Korea — which appeared to evoke a nuclear explosion — was too timid. The days of war rhetoric have alarmed international leaders.

    “I don’t see a military solution and I don’t think it’s called for,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She declined to say whether Germany would stand with the U.S. in case of a military conflict with North Korea and called on the U.N. Security Council to continue to address the issue.

    “I think escalating the rhetoric is the wrong answer,” Merkel added.

    Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, estimated the risk of a military conflict between the U.S. and North Korea as “very high,” and said Moscow was deeply concerned.

    “When you get close to the point of a fight, the one who is stronger and wiser should be the first to step back from the brink,” Lavrov said Friday.

    READ MORE: Russia and Germany weigh in on North Korea war rhetoric

    Trump’s bluster, however, stands in stark contrast to an ongoing back channel for negotiations between the United States and North Korea, which came to light Friday. It had been known the two sides had discussions to secure the June release of an American university student. But it wasn’t known until now that the contacts have continued, or that they have broached matters other than U.S. detainees.

    People familiar with the contacts say the interactions have done nothing thus far to quell tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile advances, which are now fueling fears of military confrontation. But they say the behind-the-scenes discussions could still be a foundation for more serious negotiation.

    Despite tensions and talk of war, life on the streets of the North Korean capital remains calm. There are no air raid drills or cars in camouflage netting as was the case during previous crises.

    North Koreans have lived for decades with the state media message that war is imminent, the U.S. is to blame and their country is ready to defend itself. State-run media ensure that the population gets the North Korean side of the story, but don’t convey any sense of international concern about the situation.

    Two days after North Korea laid out its plans to strike near Guam with unsettling specificity, there was no observable march toward combat. U.S. officials said there was no major movement of U.S. military assets to the region, nor were there signs Pyongyang was actively preparing for war.

    As it is, the U.S. has a robust military presence in the region, including six B-1 bombers in Guam and Air Force fighter jet units in South Korea, plus other assets across the Pacific Ocean and in the skies above. U.S. military options range from nothing to a full-on conventional assault by air, sea and ground forces. Any order by the president could be executed quickly.

    READ MORE: Cardin: Trump’s warning for North Korea isn’t a game plan

    The U.S.-South Korea exercises are an annual event, but they come as Pyongyang says it is readying a plan to fire off four Hwasong-12 missiles toward the tiny island, which is U.S. territory and a major military hub. The plan would be sent to Kim for approval just before or as the U.S.-South Korea drills begin.

    Called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, the exercises are expected to run Aug. 21-31 and involve tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops on the ground and in the sea and air. Washington and Seoul say the exercises are defensive in nature and crucial to maintaining a deterrent against North Korean aggression.

    The exercises were scheduled well before tensions began to rise over Trump’s increasingly fiery rhetoric and North Korea’s announcement of the missile plan, which if carried out would be its most provocative launch yet. Along with a bigger set of maneuvers held every spring, the exercises are routinely met by strong condemnation and threats of countermeasures from North Korea.

    The heightened military activity on the peninsula this time is a concern because it could increase the possibility of a mishap or an overreaction of some sort by either side that could spin into a more serious escalation. North Korea has been increasingly sensitive to the exercises lately because they reportedly include training for “decapitation strikes” to kill Kim Jong Un and his top lieutenants.

    The possibility of escalation is made even more acute by the lack of any means of official communication across the Demilitarized Zone, though there has been no easing of the barrage of inflammatory comments in the U.S. and the North since new sanctions against North Korea were announced last week.
    ___

    Talmadge contributed from Seoul, South Korea. Associated Press writers Josh Lederman, Matthew Pennington and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post Trump warns U.S. ‘locked and loaded’ as North Korea readies missiles appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov by Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

    File photo of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov by Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

    Russia’s foreign minister says the risk of a military conflict between the U.S. and North Korea is “very high,” while Germany’s chancellor says she doesn’t see a military solution to the rising tensions.

    Sergey Lavrov said Friday that Russia is strongly worried about escalating rhetoric coming from Pyongyang and Washington. He added that “when it comes close to fight, the one who is stronger and wiser should be the first to step back from the brink.”

    Asked how Moscow would act in case of a military conflict between the U.S. and the North, Lavrov answered it would do everything it could to prevent the worst-case scenario.

    Lavrov said Russia doesn’t accept the North’s nuclear weapons bid and pointed at a proposal by China and Russia under which Pyongyang would freeze its nuclear and missile tests while the U.S. and South Korea would halt their military drills.

    File photo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel by Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

    File photo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel by Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

    Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she doesn’t see a military solution to rising tensions between the United States and North Korea and called for a de-escalation of the rhetoric.

    Asked Friday about Trump’s latest statements, Merkel declined to say whether Germany would stand with the U.S. in case of a military conflict with North Korea. She said, “I don’t see a military solution and I don’t think it’s called for.”

    Merkel called on the U.N. Security Council to continue to address the issue. She says Germany would work to find diplomatic solutions with the countries involved, the U.S. and China in particular, but also South Korea.

    She added: “I think escalating the rhetoric is the wrong answer.”

    Earlier this week, Trump said the U.S. would slam the North with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it provoked America again.

    The post Russia and Germany weigh in on North Korea war rhetoric appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The turtle-headed sea snake is most commonly found with black and white stripes. Photo by Claire Goiran

    The turtle-headed sea snake is most commonly found with black and white stripes. Photo by Claire Goiran

    Usually when animals change color, it’s to avoid predators or to become more appealing for mates. But faced with the stress of urban life, turtle-headed sea snakes in the Pacific and Oceania lose their stripes, as a way of purging toxic chemicals from their body, according to a study published Thursday in Current Biology.

    Australian ecologists found these striped snakes cope with excessively polluted waters by losing their white stripes and sporting a solid, black coat. This ink-colored skin soaks up harmful contaminants, which are then purged when the snakes shed their skins.

    “It is a spectacular example of how animals are able to evolve very rapidly to deal with the new challenges that people are imposing on ecosystems,” said Richard Shine, a study co-author and evolutionary ecologist at the University of Sydney.

    For the last 15 years, Shine has spent his family holidays on the the Pacific island of New Caledonia, a location where he can step outside his hotel and collect sea snakes. Every morning, he dons his wetsuit, grabs a French coffee from the cafe and walks 50 yards to a colorful reef, abundant with sea life. There, a stone’s throw from the booming stereos, busy roads and city life, he conducted a study of the turtle-headed sea snake, which lives in coral reefs near Australia and the Pacific islands.

    One day, Claire Goiran — a University of New Caledonia marine biologist and Shine’s colleague — noticed the snakes near an urban area and near a military bombing range were all black. Goiran read a study where pigeons in France shed pollutants, such as zinc and lead, by trapping them in pigments in their dark feathers. She wondered if the same might apply to the sea snakes, given studies had found high pollution at those two sites.

    So the team collected 48 freshly shed skins from all-black snakes living near the urban reef and from striped snakes near the the university’s less urban campus. They then measured the level of toxic chemicals in the discarded skins, comparing urban versus rural snakes and dark versus light stripes.

    This turtle-headed sea snake was found in an urban-industrial area. The melanin pigment in its black skin sequesters toxins, which are then shed with its skin. Photo courtesy of Richard Shine

    This turtle-headed sea snake was found in an urban-industrial area. The melanin pigment in its black skin sequesters toxins, which are then shed with its skin. Photo courtesy of Richard Shine

    They found that snakes in the urban reef had higher concentrations of toxins than snakes in remote areas. But even within the same snake, the darker skin trapped more pollutants.

    Rutgers University biologist Joanna Burger said this is the first example she can recall in which skin color was so important for sequestering toxins.

    But Burger wasn’t surprised. Snakes often use their skins to store toxins, she said, and adding that snake eggs and human hair are also avenues for shedding toxic metals, like arsenic or zinc, or pollutants.

    University of Florida biologist Harvey Lillywhite said this sea snake saga is a good lesson in industrial melanism, a term that describes the prevalence of darker-colored varieties of a species in polluted areas. Starting during the U.K.’s Industrial Revolution, for instance, moths turned gray to better camouflage against trees blackened by soot from factories.

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    Shine said solid black skin can fight more than just pollutants. Dark colors attract algae, and in previous work, Shine found turtle-headed sea snakes without white stripes tend to accumulate more algae growth. This algae slows down the serpents’ ability to swim, making the snakes shed their skins more often.

    “It’s getting rid of things that otherwise might interfere with its viability,” Shine said.

    Even though the snakes are losing their white stripes, Shine sees a glimpse of brightness.

    “I think it’s an encouraging story in that we put these poisons into the water and low and behold, [the] snakes turn out to have a pretty good mechanisms of dealing with them,” he said.

    The post When faced with pollution, these sea snakes shed their stripes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Heather Menzel rides the 6 a.m. bus to Bakersfield, California, en route to a methadone clinic on June 6, 2016. Photo by Brian Rinker for Kaiser Health News

    Heather Menzel rides the 6 a.m. bus to Bakersfield, California, en route to a methadone clinic on June 6, 2016. Photo by Brian Rinker for Kaiser Health News

    Heather Menzel squirmed in her seat, unable to sleep on the Greyhound bus as it rolled through the early morning darkness toward Bakersfield, in California’s Central Valley. She’d been trapped in transit for three miserable days, stewing in a horrific sickness only a heroin addict can understand. Again, and again, she stumbled down the aisle to the bathroom to vomit.

    She hadn’t used since Chicago. She told herself that if she could just get through this self-prescribed detox, if she could get to her mother’s house in her hometown of Lake Isabella, Calif., all her problems would be solved.

    “I’ve been through a lot of horrible, crazy stuff,” said Menzel, now 34. “I’ve been raped. I’ve been beaten up. I’ve been in prison. But trying to kick heroin on the Greyhound on the way home was the worst experience of my entire life.”

    When Menzel finally arrived at the Bakersfield bus station at 6 a.m. that day in February 2014, her mother and stepfather were there waiting. The two women hadn’t seen each other in years, not since Menzel stole her mom’s jewelry and fled the area. They didn’t talk much as they drove east though the twisty canyon on State Route 178 toward Lake Isabella, a two-stoplight town with a population of 3,500, nestled in the golden Sierra Nevada foothills.

    Menzel hoped that the worst of the withdrawal was over — that a new life without heroin awaited. What she didn’t know was that heroin was now cheap and plentiful in Lake Isabella, as in so many small towns in the U.S., and that her best hope for treatment was far away.

    32 churches, no methadone clinic

    Experts recommend medication-assisted treatment for drug users like Menzel, one of nearly 2 million Americans struggling with opioid addiction, whether to prescription pills or heroin. MAT, as the therapy is known, has been proven far more effective — and less dangerous and miserable — than cold-turkey quitting. Drugs like methadone and buprenorphine can help suppress opioid cravings and stave off the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal.

    When carefully managed, MAT can cut the risk of overdose death by half, research shows. But not all medical providers are properly trained and approved to provide the treatments, which themselves are opioids (albeit less likely to be abused). Only state-licensed and federally approved clinics can provide methadone, and doctors need to apply for a federal Drug Enforcement Administration waiver to prescribe buprenorphine.

    Lake Isabella sits in the Kern River Valley, home to 32 churches but not a single methadone clinic or doctor able or willing to prescribe buprenorphine. Like half the counties in California, the valley is an opioid “treatment desert.”

    “In rural areas, historically, there has been a lot of stigma around addiction treatment,” said Kelly Pfeifer, a primary care doctor and opioid project director at the California Health Care Foundation. “Although the state is trying to remedy this, there are still wide treatment deserts across California.” (California Healthline is an editorially independent publication of the California Health Care Foundation.)

    In July, the California Department of Health Care Services awarded 19 applicants part of a $90 million federal grant to improve MAT access. In addition, $6 million was dedicated to support treatment in tribal communities. The agency hopes to create a network of “oases” in the state’s vast treatment deserts, many of which are in far Northern California, as well as eastern Kern County, which encompasses Lake Isabella.

    The grants aim to pay for clinical and educational support to rural physicians, many of whom have never been trained in addiction medicine. Local doctors will handle most buprenorphine prescriptions, and in some towns, a mini-methadone program may set up shop.

    But eastern Kern didn’t make the cut. For now, expanding opioid treatment in this area, and eastward, will have to wait.

    Without such help, many experts say people like Heather Menzel — whose story a reporter followed over the course of a year — barely stand a chance.

    After riding the bus to the methadone clinic, Heather Menzel gets picked up by her brother at the bus stop in Lake Isabella, California, on June 6, 2016. Photo by Brian Rinker for Kaiser Health News

    After riding the bus to the methadone clinic, Heather Menzel gets picked up by her brother at the bus stop in Lake Isabella, California, on June 6, 2016. Photo by Brian Rinker for Kaiser Health News

    Hooked again

    From the beginning, Menzel struggled to stay clean at her mother’s. She soon fell back in with her old drug-abusing friends. Within two months of arriving home, her grand plan for getting clean slid into her veins and disappeared with the push of a plunger. She was hooked on heroin again, smoking methamphetamine and, once her mom kicked her out, homeless.

    She was risking death, and she knew it. On average, 91 people a day in the United States died of an opioid overdose in 2015, the latest figures available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and projections show the death rate will continue to rise. Overall, California’s opioid death rate is relatively low: 4.73 deaths per 100,000 people. Still, 1,966 Californians died of an opioid overdose in 2015. Kern County’s rate was nearly double the state’s in 2015, and some sparsely populated rural counties, mostly up north, have rates that are far higher.

    Policymakers fear the death risk is growing as use of fentanyl moves west. A synthetic opioid estimated to be 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, fentanyl has caused numerous overdoses and deaths on the East Coast. Some policymakers fear the fentanyl monster is heading to California, a potentially vast market of addicts.

    “We really feel an urgency in California to increase access to services so if and when fentanyl arrives, we are more prepared to deal with it,” said Marlies Perez, chief of the Substance Use Disorder Compliance Division at DHCS.

    Immediate, convenient access to these treatments is key. “It is very important for someone in the middle of addiction to access treatment when they are ready,” said Pfeifer. “There are these moments when people have wake-up calls — when they are ready to seek care and get out of the chaos of trying to get drugs to feel normal again.”

    ‘What do I do?’

    Menzel’s wake-up happened when she noticed that she was still sick after a morning heroin injection. After an angry call to her drug dealer to accuse him of ripping her off, Menzel soon realized it wasn’t fake heroin — she was pregnant.

    She took the bus to the emergency room in Bakersfield. “I’m fully addicted to heroin,” she blurted out to the ER doctor. “What do I do?” The doctor told her, “If you want to save your baby, you need to get on methadone.”

    Affording methadone wasn’t a problem for Menzel. Medi-Cal, the state’s version of the Medicaid program for the poor, covered the costs. What impeded her was the daily trip from Lake Isabella to Bakersfield — an hour-plus bus ride down the curving canyon road. A round-trip ticket cost $5, more than she could spare. And if she missed an early bus back, she had to stay most of the day in Bakersfield to catch the next one.

    For safety’s sake, the clinic started her at a low dose, increasing the amount until it was just right for her. But that beginning dose didn’t stave off the withdrawals, so she continued to use heroin and meth. She started to miss too many days of treatment and was kicked out of the program.

    Menzel’s mother got her back in, promising the clinic that she would drive her daughter there every day. That meant quitting her job at Meals on Wheels.

    “The fact you have to travel an hour to two hours every day to receive treatment requires somebody to operate a vehicle, pay for gas, and for some of our patients that is impossible,” said Javier Moreno, who manages the narcotics treatment programs in the Central Valley for Aegis Treatment Centers, the state’s largest methadone provider.

    His Bakersfield clinics serve about 20 people in the Lake Isabella area, but Moreno thinks many more residents could benefit from MAT.

    Heather Menzel feeds her daughter, Belle, during a Christian-based drug recovery meeting in Wofford Heights, California, in June 2016. Menzel is taking a maintenance dose of methadone to treat her heroin addiction. Photo by Brian Rinker for Kaiser Health News

    Heather Menzel feeds her daughter, Belle, during a Christian-based drug recovery meeting in Wofford Heights, California, in June 2016. Menzel is taking a maintenance dose of methadone to treat her heroin addiction. Photo by Brian Rinker for Kaiser Health News

    ‘I made it’

    Menzel didn’t take the ideal path to getting clean. But she eventually began to feel the groove of methadone, and her cravings for heroin subsided. After a couple of months, she was able to get methadone “take-home” doses for the weekend. She started riding the bus again to give her mother, who has the autoimmune disease lupus, a break.

    “I was big and pregnant,” said Menzel, who woke up Monday through Friday at 5:30 a.m. to catch the bus. “I had to ask the bus driver to pull over and pee a lot. But I made it.”

    In May 2015, Menzel gave birth to a healthy girl and named her Bella. She said she hasn’t used heroin or any other drug, besides methadone, in more than two years. She’s on a maintenance methadone dose, just 39 milligrams compared with 140 mg she used to take and plans to cut back until she is off it completely. Now she drives herself to the clinic every other week and has enrolled in community college, hoping to become a certified drug and alcohol counselor.

    “I don’t know if there will ever be a methadone clinic in the Kern River Valley,” Menzel said. But if one ever arrives, she said, she’d love to work there.

    “I really want to work with other pregnant women who will be going through the same thing that I went through.”

    This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation. You can read the original story here.

    The post How a heroin addict tried to kick her habit in an opioid ‘treatment desert’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters after a security briefing at his golf estate in Bedminster, New Jersey U.S. August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTS1B9K0

    President Donald Trump is sending three senior officials to the Middle East in coming days to discuss prospects for resuming the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the White House said Friday. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is sending three senior officials to the Middle East in coming days to discuss prospects for resuming the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the White House said Friday.

    In a statement, it said Trump believes the return of calm to Jerusalem after a period of unrest over a contested holy site has created an opportunity to restart discussions. To explore that opportunity, it said departing “soon” for the region will be Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner; his envoy for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt; and deputy national security adviser Dina Powell.

    “He believes that the restoration of calm and the stabilized situation in Jerusalem after the recent crisis on the Temple Mount-Haram al Sharif has created an opportunity to continue discussions and the pursuit of peace that began early in his administration,” it said. The three are to meet leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority “about how best to support the peace effort,” it said.

    The crisis erupted when Israel installed metal detectors at gates to the compound — known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, or Haram al Sharif, and to Jews as the Temple Mount — after Arab gunmen killed two Israeli policemen there in mid-July. The measures triggered protests by Muslims.

    Israel removed the devices after a few days, after intervention from the United States, Jordan and others. The step was seen by many in Israel as a capitulation and by Palestinians and the Arab world as a victory.

    Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, welcomed the impending visit.

    “We are committed to peace based on the two state solution.” he said. “We informed the American Administration that we are ready for peace on this basis. And we are waiting now for the American delegation to work together toward peace.”

    There was no immediate comment from the Israeli government.

    The post Trump to send team to Middle East to work on Israel-Palestinian peace appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will speak to reporters Friday after a workforce and apprenticeship roundtable led by President Donald Trump.

    Acosta and DeVos are expected to speak around 4:30 p.m. ET. Watch live in the player above.

    In June, Trump signed an executive order to expand apprenticeships and vocational training.

    It also established a task force to review federal job-training programs, and created new rules to allow businesses and corporations to develop their own training programs that would be approved by the Department of Labor.

    “We want to keep jobs in America and we want to train people and hire American workers to fill those jobs,” Trump said at the signing.

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Acosta, DeVos speak after Trump workforce roundtable appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    BEDMINSTER, New Jersey — President Donald Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “will regret it fast” if he continues his threats to U.S. territories and allies, in another warning that the U.S. is willing to act swiftly against the nuclear-armed nation.

    In remarks to reporters, Trump issued the threat directly at Kim, who is also known for his bellicose rhetoric, and all but drew a red line that would trigger swift U.S. action.

    “If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat — which by the way he has been uttering for years and his family has been uttering for years — or he does anything with respect to Guam or anyplace else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast,” Trump said.

    The words followed an early morning tweet in which Trump declared the U.S. military is “locked and loaded” if the isolated rogue nation acts “unwisely.”

    The compounding threats came in a week in which the longstanding tensions between the U.S. and the isolated nation seemed to abruptly boil over. North Korea threated to launch an attack on the U.S. territory of Guam, while Trump vowed to deliver “fire and fury” if threatened.

    The compounding threats came in a week in which the longstanding tensions between the U.S. and the isolated nation seemed to abruptly boil over.

    Tough talk aside, there was scant sign the U.S. military was preparing for imminent action and an important, quiet diplomatic channel remained open. The Associated Press reported Friday that talks between North Koreans and a U.S. official continue through a back channel previous used to negotiate the return of Americans held in North Korea. The talks have expanded to address the deterioration of relationship, according to U.S. officials and others briefed on the process. They weren’t authorized to discuss the confidential exchanges and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Still, Trump on Friday sought to project the military strength.

    Trump tweeted Friday: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

    He later retweeted a posting from U.S. Pacific Command that showed B-1B Lancer bomber planes on Guam that “stand ready to fulfill USFK’s #FightTonight mission if called upon to do so.”

    Such declarations, however, are not necessarily indicators of new more aggressive posture. “Fight tonight” has long been the motto of U.S. forces in South Korea to show they are always ready for combat on the Korean Peninsula.

    Cardin: Trump’s warning for North Korea isn’t a game plan

    U.S. officials insist that there have been no new significant movement of troops, ships, aircraft or other assets to the region other than what has already been long planned for previously scheduled exercises.

    American and South Korean officials said they would move forward later this month with the exercises, which North Korea claims are a rehearsal for war.

    The days of war rhetoric have alarmed international leaders.

    “I don’t see a military solution and I don’t think it’s called for,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She declined to say whether Germany would stand with the U.S. in case of a military conflict with North Korea and called on the U.N. Security Council to continue to address the issue.

    “I think escalating the rhetoric is the wrong answer,” Merkel added.

    AP FACT CHECK: How strong is America’s nuclear arsenal?

    Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, estimated the risk of a military conflict between the U.S. and North Korea as “very high,” and said Moscow was deeply concerned.

    “When you get close to the point of a fight, the one who is stronger and wiser should be the first to step back from the brink,” Lavrov said Friday.

    Trump’s rhetoric, however, stands in stark contrast to an ongoing back channel for negotiations between the United States and North Korea. People familiar with the contacts say the interactions have done nothing thus far to quell tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile advances. But they say the behind-the-scenes discussions could still be a foundation for more serious negotiation.

    Despite tensions and talk of war, life on the streets of the North Korean capital remains calm. There are no air raid drills or cars in camouflage netting as was the case during previous crises.

    North Koreans have lived for decades with the state media message that war is imminent, the U.S. is to blame and their country is ready to defend itself. State-run media ensure that the population gets the North Korean side of the story, but don’t convey any sense of international concern about the situation.

    As it is, the U.S. has a robust military presence in the region, including six B-1 bombers in Guam and Air Force fighter jet units in South Korea, plus other assets across the Pacific Ocean and in the skies above. U.S. military options range from nothing to a full-on conventional assault by air, sea and ground forces. Any order by the president could be executed quickly.

    READ MORE: 5 things you likely didn’t know about Guam

    The U.S.-South Korea exercises are an annual event, but they come as Pyongyang says it is readying a plan to fire off four Hwasong-12 missiles toward the tiny island, which is U.S. territory and a major military hub. The plan would be sent to Kim for approval just before or as the U.S.-South Korea drills begin.

    Called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, the exercises are expected to run Aug. 21-31 and involve tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops on the ground and in the sea and air. Washington and Seoul say the exercises are defensive in nature and crucial to maintaining a deterrent against North Korean aggression.

    The exercises were scheduled well before tensions began to rise over Trump’s increasingly fiery rhetoric and North Korea’s announcement of the missile plan, which if carried out would be its most provocative launch yet. Along with a bigger set of maneuvers held every spring, the exercises are routinely met by strong condemnation and threats of countermeasures from North Korea.

    The heightened military activity on the peninsula this time is a concern because it could increase the possibility of a mishap or an overreaction of some sort by either side that could spin into a more serious escalation. North Korea has been increasingly sensitive to the exercises lately because they reportedly include training for “decapitation strikes” to kill Kim Jong Un and his top lieutenants.

    The possibility of escalation is made even more acute by the lack of any means of official communication across the Demilitarized Zone, though there has been no easing of the barrage of inflammatory comments in the U.S. and the North since new sanctions against North Korea were announced last week.

    Talmadge contributed from Seoul, South Korea. Associated Press writers Josh Lederman, Matthew Pennington and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post WATCH: North Korea ‘will regret it fast’ if it acts against U.S. allies, Trump says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An activist attends a demonstration outside the White House as part of "A Day Without a Woman" strike on International Women's Day in Washington, U.S., March 8, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTS1205M

    An activist attends a demonstration outside the White House as part of the “A Day Without a Woman” strike on International Women’s Day in Washington on March 8, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    Before Donald Trump became president, Adrienne Bell, an elementary school teacher in east Texas, had never considered running for a higher office than her city council seat. Now, the self-described progressive is challenging the district’s Republican congressman, Rep. Randy Weber, in the 2018 midterms, marking her first foray into national politics.

    In ruby-red northeast Indiana, another political neophyte, Courtney Tritch, recently announced that she would run against freshman GOP Rep. Jim Banks next year. Tritch, a marketing consultant, has long been active in her community, but had not considered running for office until President Donald Trump’s victory last November.

    “It all came down to this election and thinking, ‘I’m not going to go quietly back to 1950’,” Tritch said in an interview.

    The 2018 midterm election is still more than one year away, but already candidates on both sides of the aisle are launching campaigns for the House and Senate. Among the early entrants, one pattern stands out: a growing number of them are female Democratic candidates, like Tritch and Bell, who have challenged Republican incumbents.

    Since Mr. Trump took office, women are paying more attention to politics than men, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll released last month. Fifty-eight percent of female respondents said they were following politics more closely, compared to 46 percent of male respondents.

    Liberal women also appear to be outpacing men when it comes to political activism in the early days of the Trump era. The Pew poll found that 17 percent of Democratic women, compared to 12 percent of Democratic men, have attended a protest since the 2016 election ended. Among college-educated Democratic women, the number was nearly 30 percent.

    Since Mr. Trump took office, women are paying more attention to politics than men, a recent Pew poll found.

    It’s still too early to know exactly what impact the wave of female Democratic candidates will have next year. But they could become a factor in an election where the Democratic Party and liberal groups will seek to regain control of the House and rebuild the party at the state and local level.

    “For me, the process really started the day after the election,” Katie Porter, a Democrat running in California’s 45th congressional district said. A consumer advocacy lawyer, Porter was invited to work on Hillary Clinton’s economic transition team in the event that Clinton won the election.

    “I had all these ideas” about policies to help protect consumers, Porter said in a phone interview. “It was very clear to me I wanted to find a different way to do that.”

    In 2016, Clinton won the district, which spans an inland region between Los Angeles and San Diego. Voters there also backed Democrat Kamala Harris in her successful campaign for the U.S. Senate. At the same time, the district’s voters also re-elected Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Calif, to a second term.

    Porter is hoping to capitalize on the split-vote. Walters is one of only 23 Republicans who represent districts that Clinton carried in 2016. Voters in the district are “shocked and upset and motivated when they learn their representative does not represent their views,” Porter said.

    Hundreds of thousands march down Pennsylvania Avenue during the Women's March in Washington, DC, U.S., January 21, 2017.  REUTERS/Bryan Woolston - RTSWR2W

    Hundreds of thousands marched in the Women’s March in Washington, DC, on January 21, 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Photo by REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

    In a recent study by American University and Loyola Marymount University, researchers found that so far this year, the number of women running for office has not dramatically changed from previous years. But the report, titled “The Trump Effect,” found that a quarter of the women who have jumped into politics in 2017 began to consider running for office only after Mr. Trump’s election.

    The report, based on a survey conducted by the two universities and Politico, examined what Democratic women think about Trump. When asked if they would rather have a private lunch with the president or have a colonoscopy, over 50 percent of the respondents said they would prefer the latter option.

    Jennifer Lawless, a professor of government at American University and one of the authors of the study, said that initially the researchers were unsure how Hillary Clinton’s loss in November would affect other women’s political ambitions.

    “We generally though it would go either way,” Lawless said in an interview. “Women could either be very deflated by a Clinton loss and check out. The second possibility is they would be more energized than ever.”

    It became clear following the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and other marches across the country the day after Trump’s inauguration that the increased political “interest and activism was less about Clinton, and more about Trump,” Lawless said.

    Midterm elections historically bode well for the party out of power. In 2010, the Tea Party movement propelled fiscally conservative Republicans into Congress and helped the GOP regain the House. Tea Party-backed lawmakers, formed a bulwark of opposition to then-President Obama’s policy agenda.

    Like today, many of the new candidates who ran for Congress in the Tea Party era of 2009-2010 had little to no previous experience in elected politics.

    The Tea Party movement was not based on the gender equality issues that are helping drive the wave of women running for office now. Like today, many of the new candidates who ran for Congress in the Tea Party era of 2009-2010 had little to no previous experience in elected politics.

    And there are other signs that the left’s enthusiastic opposition to Trump is similar to the Tea Party movement that coalesced on the right ahead of the 2010 midterms: high voter turnout in the special elections that have been held so far in 2017, rallies against the Republicans’ health care bills, and other protests over issues like climate change and immigration.

    Still, Democrats have failed to win a single special election this year. A tough reelection map, especially for Democrats in the Senate, could also impede the party’s ability to replicate the GOP’s gains of seven years ago.

    The Trump Effect study concluded that Democratic women, in particular, are politically motivated by strong anti-Trump sentiment. But it also drew a direct correlation between women’s increased political activity — from attending marches and rallies to writing checks for candidates — to taking concrete political action, such as running for office.

    Bell, the second-grade teacher from southern California, is a good case in point. Bell’s initial political experience was as a community organizer, and then a 2012 fellow for Obama for America. In 2015, Bell mounted an unsuccessful campaign for a local city council seat. It wasn’t until Trump won that Bell decided to run for Congress.

    Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), accompanied by children with preexisting conditions covered under the Affordable Care Act, arrives for a press conference about the Senate health care bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 12, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTX3B7FU

    Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., was part of a wave of women elected to Congress in 1992. The press nicknamed it “The Year of the Woman.” File photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

    The transition from activist to candidate has been nudged along by new liberal grassroots organizations like Indivisible and Swing Left that formed after the 2016 election. The groups are targeting vulnerable House Republicans in 2018, and organize local chapters to boost grassroots support for Democratic candidates. Many of the local chapters are run by women, which has also led to more interest in running for state and local offices.

    The Democratic Party is also working to rebuild the party at the ground level. In July, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez launched the State Party Innovation Fund, which incentivizes state parties to compete for DNC funding. Both Hillary Shields and Faith Chikwekwe are running for a seat in their state’s legislatures, and both have gone from being activists to candidates in the months since Trump entered the White House.

    Shields, who had her first taste of politics as a founding member of the Kansas City, Missouri Indivisible chapter, said she “never wanted to be a politician.”

    Nonetheless, in July she announced she was running for a seat in the Missouri state senate, a culmination of events following the 2016 election. Trump’s win was a “wake up call” to become a more engaged and active voter, Shields said in an interview.

    Chikwekwe is challenging a five-term GOP incumbent in the Georgia state House who has run unopposed in the past three elections.

    “We live in a democratic nation,” Chikwekwe said. “If we’re gonna say we’re providing democracy for the people, then we need to give the people of my district a choice of who represents them at the ballot box.”

    The transition from activist to candidate has been nudged along by new groups that formed after the 2016 election.

    Amanda Litman, the co-founder of Run for Something, a group that recruits young progressive candidates, said Democrats just need to look across the aisle to see how important it is to run and support down-ballot candidates.

    “The Republican party has invested a lot of money recruiting and supporting local races and you can see the fruits of their labor now,” Litman said.

    But if Republicans are nervous about the potential backlash to Trump and his history — both before and since he became president — of offensive behavior towards women, they aren’t yet showing it.

    Jesse Hunt, the press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said there was no shortage of conservative women seeking office in the 2018 midterm elections.
    There are “quite a few [Republican] women who are looking to run this cycle or have already announced,” Hunt said in a phone interview.

    Despite the high level of interest in politics from Democratic women across the country, there is no guarantee that the early energy will translate into electoral success next year.

    Still, some observers drew a parallel between next year’s election and 1992, when scores of women like now-Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ran for office for the first time. At the time, some were motivated in part by the way the all-male Senate Judiciary committee treated Anita Hill when she testified against Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court nomination. In all, four Democratic women were elected to the U.S. Senate that year, and 1992 became known as “The Year of the Woman.”

    Now, 25 years later, there are 84 women in the House and 21 in the Senate, according to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics. In 2002, 13 women served in the Senate, and 56 in the House.

    It remains to be seen if, thanks in large part to Trump that number will increase in 2018.

    The post Will 2018 be the next ‘Year of the Woman?’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A still image captured from police body camera video appears to show two Baltimore police officers look on as a colleague places a small plastic bag in a trash-strewn yard (not shown), according to the Maryland Office of the Public Defender in this image released in Baltimore on July 19, 2017.    Photo courtesy of Baltimore Police Department via Reuters

    A still image captured from police body camera video appears to show two Baltimore police officers look on as a colleague places a small plastic bag in a trash-strewn yard (not shown), according to the Maryland Office of the Public Defender in this image released in Baltimore on July 19, 2017. Photo courtesy of Baltimore Police Department via Reuters

    Three years ago this week, Michael Brown was killed in an officer-involved shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

    A makeshift memorial of balloons, candles and stuffed animals built by neighbors and activists this week was a reminder of the city’s yearslong struggle to reform its policing practices, and the debate over police use of force nationwide.

    Three cases of police misconduct had new developments this week — all of them involving body cameras. Here’s a look at what happened and what’s next for the families of the victims and the officers involved.

    BALTIMORE POLICE MAY HAVE PLANTED OR MISHANDLED EVIDENCE

    Original incident:

    Last month, a Baltimore Police Officer was suspended and two of his colleagues placed on leave after body camera footage appeared to show them planting fake evidence at a crime scene.

    As documented by NPR, footage released by the Maryland Public Defender’s Office captures a January arrest of a suspect at a rowhouse.

    Police originally used the footage — in which Officer Richard Pinheiro finds a soup can stuffed with a clear plastic baggy outside a row house — to arrest a Baltimore man on suspicion of drug charges.

    The suspect was held for months in jail, the Baltimore Sun reported.

    What Pinheiro apparently didn’t realize, as the Sun points out, is that “police cameras have a feature that saves the 30 seconds of video before activation, but without audio.”

    When the Maryland Public Defender’s Office got a hold of the footage, it found those earlier moments, which show Pinheiro placing the soup can into a pile of trash before walking out of the alley alongside the house, and then, activating his body camera and returning to the alley to announce a discovery.

    The Baltimore Police Department suspended Pinheiro and put other officers on the call on paid leave, NPR reported.

    All charges were dropped against the suspect, who is now free, but the public defender’s office raised broader concerns about the officers’ involvement in other ongoing cases. (Pinheiro, it said, was listed as a witness in 53 other cases).

    “We have long supported the use of police body cameras to help identify police misconduct, but such footage is meaningless if prosecutors continue to rely on these officers, especially if they do so without disclosing their bad acts,” it said in a statement.

    The latest:

    Earlier this week, the public defenders’ office said they had found footage indicating other officers had also planted evidence, this time during a November 2016 traffic stop.

    The footage, authenticated by the Baltimore Sun, shows Officer Glenn Peters coming up empty while searching the driver’s side of a car he had stopped late Nov. 29.

    But footage from 30 minutes later shows Peters searching the same area again and “emerging almost immediately with a bag of alleged drugs.”

    Peters is arguing he has been transparent from the start about the traffic stop, including through several memos he wrote explaining a thorough search of the vehicle and a pause to turn on his camera again when he spotted the bag under the steering wheel. His attorney suggested to the Sun that the police department felt pressure to flag the incident prematurely in light of other footage that emerged earlier this summer.

    The two officers in this case were referred to BPD’s Department of Internal Affairs. All charges have been dropped against Shamere Collins, the driver involved in the stop, and other cases that rely on the officers’ testimony have also been dismissed.

    Collins told the Sun she “intends to pursue all legal options against the police department.”

    What’s next?

    The discoveries are the latest chapter in the troubled police department’s attempts to weed out misconduct and regain public trust.

    In March, seven officers were arrested for abusing their power. In April, the Justice Department placed the city under a consent decree aimed at reforming the city’s policing practices — a result of the civil rights investigation that followed the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. The city has planned public forums next week to select an independent monitor for the decree, which will pour millions of dollars into improving city law enforcement.

    On Wednesday, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said at a news conference that “it’s irresponsible to jump to a conclusion that the police officers were engaged in criminal misconduct. That’s a heavy allegation to make.”

    On Tuesday, he warned officers not to “attempt to recreate the recovery of evidence after reactivating your body worn camera,” CNN says.

    Prosecutors have dropped at least 40 criminal cases following the release of the two sets of footage, NPR reported. More than 50 other cases are being reviewed, the state’s attorney’s office in Baltimore told CNN. The public defender’s office told NPR hundreds of other cases were “at risk of being tossed out.”

    Meanwhile, the state’s attorney office told NPR it “believes that this represents a small percentage of officers, and will support the Baltimore Police Department as it works to rectify the issue.”

    TERRENCE STERLING

    A still from the body camera footage released by D.C. police weeks after officer Brian Trainer shot and killed motorcyclist Terrence Sterling after a traffic stop in 2016.

    A still from the body camera footage released by D.C. police weeks after officer Brian Trainer shot and killed motorcyclist Terrence Sterling after a traffic stop in 2016.

    Original incident:

    In the early morning hours of Sept. 11, 2016, a Washington, D.C., police officer shot and killed unarmed motorcyclist Terrence Sterling.

    Officer Brian Trainer had originally flagged Sterling, 31, to pull over after responding to a report of a motorcycle driving erratically through D.C.

    When Trainer started to get out of the passenger side of his vehicle, Sterling intentionally rammed his vehicle into the squad car. Trainer responded by shooting at Sterling, striking him in the head and back. Sterling was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

    Witnesses challenged the officer’s account, saying that they didn’t believe Sterling purposely struck the police car.

    Weeks after the shooting, D.C. police released edited body camera footage of the shooting’s aftermath. Sterling is seen bloodied on the ground, while an officer performs CPR on him.

    Trainer and his partner did not turn on their body cameras until one to three minutes after the shots were fired, leaving an incomplete picture of what occurred. Weeks later, the D.C. police department changed its internal policy requiring officers to activate the body cameras immediately after they respond to a dispatch call.

    The latest:

    A grand jury decided Wednesday to not bring charges against the officer involved in Sterling’s death, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

    Following a review of the evidence, prosecutors said in a statement they concluded that there was “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer violated Mr. Sterling’s civil rights.”

    The decision comes 10 months after the shooting, a time during which Sterling’s family and demonstrators criticized police response as too slow.

    “It is hard to reconcile how quickly the police will charge our citizens yet, when it’s one of their own, it seems as if they are looking for any way to avoid it,” the family said in a statement earlier this summer.

    What’s next?

    With the U.S. Attorney’s Office done with their criminal investigation, the Metropolitan Police Department will now start its disciplinary review of the officer’s action, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement Wednesday.

    The mayor also said MPD has asked for Trainer’s resignation, saying, “I do not believe there can be real accountability if the officer remains on the force.” Trainer currently remains on administrative leave.

    In her statement, Bowser reiterated that Trainer violated MPD policies when he failed to properly turn on his body camera.

    Late last year, Sterling’s family filed a $50 million lawsuit against the District and the police department.

    ARIES BORTEZ CLARK

    Original incident:
    An Arkansas teen died after two officers fired at him July 25 outside of an emergency shelter and foster care center.

    Aries Bortez Clark, 16, was shot outside of East Arkansas Youth Services. He died overnight at a local hospital, Local 24 reported.

    Officers said the teen had pointed at them with a gun, but investigators wouldn’t comment on whether he had a weapon.
    At the time, a director at EAYS told Local 24 that Clark was not staying at the center.

    The two officers were put on paid administrative leave as a state district attorney took up an investigation.

    The latest:

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Wednesday that no criminal charges would be fired against the officers involved in the shooting of Clark.

    A report from Arkansas District Attorney Scott Ellington said employees had called police when Clark, who had been a resident of the youth center, tried to return to the facility after leaving two days earlier without permission.

    Body camera footage released alongside Ellington’s report showed officers trying to convince Clark to put down the weapon before firing their guns. A report released by Ellington said that officers found a black BB gun at the scene, and that the officers’ use of force was justified.

    “Clark’s actions that day brought about the circumstances that threatened the lives of at least four law enforcement officers had the gun he brandished been a firearm as perceived by the responding officers,” Ellington wrote. “Therefore, I find the officers were justified under these circumstances.”

    What’s next?

    The case is closed, Ellington said.

    The post Three police misconduct cases — all involving body cameras — had new developments this week. Here’s what happened appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump again denounced North Korea today, saying that the U.S. and its military was ready to deal with any provocation by the Pyongyang regime.

    Special correspondent Nick Schifrin starts us off.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The U.S. military calls Guam the tip of its Pacific spear, and, today, it showed off bombers that carry more conventional weapons than any other plane.

    From Guam, B-1 bombers can reach North Korea in only a few hours.

    LT. COL. CHRISTOPHER OCCHIUZZO, U.S. Air Force: And that’s what this continuous bomber presence does. It assures our allies and deters our adversaries.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The military wouldn’t detail the bombers’ mission, but the message was clear, as President Trump tweeted this morning: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully, Kim Jong-un will find another path.”

    Late this afternoon, he repeated his warning.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I hope that they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said. And what I said is what I mean. If he does anything with respect to Guam, or anyplace else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will regret it fast.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: On Guam, authorities are taking no chances. They distributed a fact sheet in case of imminent missile threat. Instructions include make a list of potential concrete shelters, and do not look at the flash or fireball. It can blind you.

    In Japan, the military deployed Patriot interceptors in the districts that North Korea promised its missiles would overfly. An alarmed world is urging calm.

    From German Chancellor Angela Merkel:

    CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, Germany (through interpreter): I am firmly convinced that an escalation of rhetoric will not contribute to a solution of this conflict.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: To Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He called U.S. and North Korean rhetoric over the top, and the risk of conflict high.

    SERGEI LAVROV, Foreign Minister, Russia (through interpreter): When you get close to the point of a fight, the one who is stronger and wiser should be the first to step back from the brink.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In China, a state-owned newspaper urged both sides to step back. But it delivered a warning to North Korea, when it wrote, if North Korea attacked first, China will stay neutral.

    Despite the tensions, we learned today that U.S. and North Korean diplomats have had back-channel discussions that continued after the June release of a comatose American college student from North Korean custody. He later died. Those talks obviously haven’t calmed tensions, but they could become a foundation for more serious negotiations.

    We turn now for a view from North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, and Associated Press correspondent Rafael Wober.

    Rafael, thank you very much.

    Rafael, during past points of tension, we have seen things like air raid drills, camouflaged cars in the streets of Pyongyang. But, today, it’s actually quiet. Why is that?

    RAFAEL WOBER, Associated Press: I think that here people in the DPRK, people have lived with this threat of war for decades. So, on the streets of Pyongyang, it is still calm.

    There isn’t preparation that is visible here for war. But the statement which came from the general in charge of the DPRK’s strategic forces — that’s its missile forces — that came from him this week is something new, and it sets a bar, it sets a kind of — something to try to focus U.S. attention on making steps towards negotiations sooner, rather than later.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Rafael, here in the U.S., Kim Jong-un is often disparaged.

    And I just want to play some sound for you, two pieces, one, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and Senator John McCain.

    NIKKI HALEY, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: This is not a rational person, who has not had rational acts, who is not thinking clearly.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: China is the one that can — the only one that can control Kim Jong-un, this crazy fat kid that’s running North Korea.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Is the U.S. underestimating Kim Jong-un, and what’s the impact if it is?

    RAFAEL WOBER: I think that foreign analysts have often said that the DPRK, North Korea, is a country which plays a weak hand very strongly.

    So, it is in a difficult position, and the leadership is often characterized in this way. Plus, of course, the previous leader of the DPRK, North Korea, Kim Jong Il, the man in charge before the current leader, Kim Jong-un, he was remembered as saying that one of the best ways to keep a strong hand is to try to keep things under wraps and not let — not give away anything.

    And, in fact, there’s often the feeling that the Koreans here want to keep the world guessing, and that’s the best way to make a strong position out of not very much.

    So, I think that these kinds of assessments from the outside world, the throwaway comments made often are not really accurate, and I think there’s plenty of analysis from experts over the past weeks, months and years, even going back to the early 1990s, which suggests that, because, after all, it was back in the early ’90s that people thought that the country would collapse following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    And, in fact, here we are in 2017, and it is still here.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: And, Rafael, quickly, can you describe how Kim is different from his predecessors, who really emphasized the military aspect? But he has emphasized both the military nuclear program and the economy.

    RAFAEL WOBER: I think that, since 2012, which was the first full year that the new leader, Kim Jong-un, has been in charge, there’s certainly been a change. We have seen it here in discussions with economists here, as well as out and about in farms and factories, businesses and shops.

    And that’s called here new economic management methods. The leadership here, the North Korean government, calls it a dual-track policy (INAUDIBLE) and Korean, which is developing the national defense industry at the same time as the economy.

    Essentially, what has happened is, as economists here have told us, a new method of trying to free up people in the country to trade and do business and to become more productive economically.

    So, we have seen there is definitely a big increase in economic activity within the country. Of course, the international sanctions most recently this past weekend, those are having an effect on the country’s ability to trade with the outside world.

    But, since 2012, there has been a major step-up in economic activity, people doing business, trading with each other, being more productive inside the country.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Rafael Wober with the Associated Press in Pyongyang, thank you very much.

    RAFAEL WOBER: Thank you very much.

    The post What’s the view of U.S. tensions from Pyongyang? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO - U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017. To match Special Report USA-STUDENTLOANS REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo - RTX3CTS9

    Both President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have promoted the scholarships as a way to give parents greater choice in deciding where their children will go to school. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo.

    LAS VEGAS — More than a third of U.S. states have created school voucher programs that bypass thorny constitutional and political issues by turning them over to nonprofits that rely primarily on businesses to fund them. But the programs are raising questions about transparency and accountability at a time when supporters are urging that they be expanded into a federal program.

    Unlike traditional school vouchers, which are directly funded by the states — or in the case of Washington, D.C., the federal government — these programs don’t use any public money. Instead, those who contribute to the voucher program get tax credits. Seventeen states now have the so-called tax-credit scholarships.

    Both President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have promoted the scholarships as a way to give parents greater choice in deciding where their children will go to school. Supporters are pushing the administration to launch a federal program extending the tax credit scholarships nationwide.

    Asked whether such a proposal might be included as part of a tax overhaul, DeVos said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press, “It’s certainly part of our discussion.”

    Depending on whom you ask, the programs are either another avenue for school choice drawing on the generosity of taxpayers, or a workaround to existing bans on giving public money to religious organizations — in this case schools — with a set-up that’s ripe for abuse.

    Depending on whom you ask, the programs are either another avenue for school choice drawing on the generosity of taxpayers, or a workaround to existing bans on giving public money to religious organizations — in this case schools — with a set-up that’s ripe for abuse. It’s hard to know who’s right, given that the states purposefully limit their fingerprints on their own programs.

    For Mayra Puentes of Las Vegas, it was simply a way to get her children a better education. Her son, she said, was struggling in public school, in a state that is ranked at or near the bottom of national lists on the quality of public education.

    Puentes said would not have been able to afford the combined $22,000 tuition for her three children at Mountain View Christian Schools.

    In Nevada, scholarships are capped annually at about $7,700 per child. They can be used at 86 private schools, not all of them accredited.

    How the program works:

    • Nonprofits solicit contributions from businesses and others. The organizations distribute the funds to families that apply. They keep 5 percent to 10 percent of the donations for administrative costs.
    • Contributors can deduct the amount they gave, sometimes dollar-for-dollar, from their state tax bill.
    • Most states designate the vouchers programs for low-income families.

    “They are this weird blend of tax policy and education policy, and in a lot of ways, they are treated more like tax policy,” said Josh Cunningham of the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks the programs.

    Nevada lawmakers secured a $20 million boost for the scholarships this year, after Republicans suffered a crushing blow when they couldn’t get money for their embattled Education Savings Accounts, a different type of school choice program.

    Assemblyman Paul Anderson, a Republican, said government transparency laws do not and should not apply to the tax-credit scholarships because the tax component is confidential by nature, and the private sector is handling the rest. He said it was no different than a church asking its parishioners for donations — even though the state created the voucher program.

    READ MORE: Can tax reform save Trump’s legislative agenda?

    Supporters have on their side the U.S. Supreme Court, which has ruled that the contributed money is private funds because the cash is never touched by the state.

    But government transparency watchdogs have warned that the set-up can be problematic, with abuses well-documented. In Alabama and Georgia, for example, groups advertised the programs as money-making for contributors. In Arizona, a lawmaker makes six figures annually by running a scholarship group in the same system that he has supported.

    Critics say under certain circumstances, wealthy contributors could even make a profit by claiming the “charitable” deduction multiple times over at the state and federal levels.

    The AAA Scholarship Foundation Inc. which runs programs in Nevada and five other states, says it doesn’t give tax advice but has, when asked, shared an IRS memo on the matter.

    The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy say loopholes in the tax code would allow contributors to both eliminate their state tax bill and also get a charitable deduction off their federal taxes, and in some cases, also their state taxes. Carl Davis, the Washington-based think tank’s research director, likened the system to a money-laundering tax scheme because the contributions are officially considered donations — even if the scholarship money goes to for-profit schools.

    READ MORE: A (quick) guide to the upcoming battle over tax reform

    “That’s not charity. That’s just helping facilitate the movement of funds. These so-called donors are really like middlemen,” Davis said. “They’re not making a financial sacrifice.”

    The research firm estimates that states give away $1 billion annually in tax credits for these voucher programs. Aside from closing the loophole, states could also rein it in by requiring contributors to show their federal tax return to prove that they aren’t “double-dipping,” Davis said.

    EdChoice, a leading school choice advocacy group, defends the tax-credit program, saying it’s accountable to parents who can choose to take their kids elsewhere if they don’t like a school — even if there are, like in all government programs, some cases of abuse.

    Acknowledging there are things to address, EdChoice’s policy director Jason Bedrick said his team has advised scholarship groups against mischaracterizing the system as profit-making because the conditions vary, depending on the state and the individual taxpayer.

    But he’s not apologetic about the tax loophole, saying it’s no different compared to tax credits for other charitable causes that in some states, though very rarely, are also dollar-for-dollar contributions. And if there is tax code reform to address double-dipping, it should apply uniformly to all donor tax credits — not just for a highly political issue like vouchers.

    “Some people might not like that, but they’re acting within the letter of the law. I see no problem with that,” Bedrick said. “Nobody’s going to go to jail for this.”

    The post Why school vouchers could be part of tax reform fight appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump is warning of severe consequences if North Korea attacks Guam.

    Trump says he has yet to speak with the governor of the territory, but says, “I feel that they will be very safe, believe me.”

    He adds, “if anything happens to Guam, there’s going to be big, big trouble in North Korea.”

    North Korea this week announced a detailed plan to launch a salvo of ballistic missiles toward the U.S. Pacific territory, which is a major military hub and home to U.S. bombers.

    Trump has been escalating his rhetoric against North Korea, but says he hopes “it will all work out.”

    MORE: Trump fires back in war of words with North Korea

    When asked whether he and the president were on the same page, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said “it takes a combined message,” saying Trump has made it clear he prefers a diplomatic solution, but was responding to the latest rhetoric.

    Trump said he was going to speak to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday about the deepening crisis with North Korea.

    Trump has alternately praised and chided China for the efforts to contain its rogue neighbor.

    He has increased his condemnation of North Korea in recent days, tweeting Friday morning that the U.S. would have military options “locked and loaded” if needed.

    The post WATCH: Trump warns of severe consequences if North Korea attacks Guam appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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