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

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    White House Senior Advisor Steve Bannon attends a roundtable discussion held by U.S. President Donald Trump with auto industry leaders at the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    White House Senior Advisor Steve Bannon attends a roundtable discussion held by U.S. President Donald Trump with auto industry leaders at the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The leaders of four minority House caucus groups have written a letter to President Donald Trump calling for the removal of White House staff aides Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka.

    The heads of the black, Hispanic, Asian and progressive caucuses are calling in the letter for the firings of the Trump administration officials in the wake of a violent, racist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The letter asserts their continuing presence in the White House is emboldening a resurgent white supremacist movement in America.

    “Americans deserve to know that white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis are not in a position to influence U.S. policy,” says the letter dated Monday. “In this time of tumult in our country, Americans deserve a leader that will bring us all together and denounce those who seek to tear us apart.”

    READ MORE: What Trump didn’t say in his response to Charlottesville

    The post Trump pressed to fire Steve Bannon and other White House staffers after Charlottesville appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    File photo of cut logs in Canada by Andy Clark/Reuters

    File photo of cut logs in Canada by Andy Clark/Reuters

    Editor’s Note: The Trump administration starts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico on Wednesday.

    During the 1992 presidential campaign, independent candidate Ross Perot, a Texas billionaire with a gift for folksy phrases, put an obscure trade deal between the U.S., Canada and Mexico smack into the heat of the American political debate.

    At the time, President George H.W. Bush was wrapping up the details of a North American Free Trade Agreement that came to be known in political parlance by its acronym, NAFTA. In the three-way debates with Mr. Bush and Democratic candidate Bill Clinton that fall, Perot said the accord would create “a giant sucking sound” of American jobs going south to cheaper-labor Mexico. Perot came in third in the presidential race to Arkansas Governor Clinton, who also had expressed doubts about the deal and suggested it be renegotiated.

    Instead, as president in 1993, Mr. Clinton pushed ahead for congressional approval of NAFTA, winning only by 34 votes in a House controlled by sharply divided Democrats. Many of them were taking their cue from a bitterly opposed union leadership. Republicans gave Mr. Clinton the margin of victory in both the House and Senate.

    Fast forward 24 years to the 2016 presidential election and the victory of Republican Donald Trump in normally industrial states, a victory partly propelled by his vehement opposition to NAFTA. One of his favorite speech lines was to describe NAFTA as the “worst trade deal ever made by this country.” Thousands of blue collar workers responded to the message that the U.S. lost about 700,000 manufacturing jobs to Mexico since NAFTA went into effect in 1994.

    The economics have changed as much the politics. In 1993, trade between the three countries was a relatively modest $337 billion. It is now nearly $2 trillion. According to Carla Hills, who negotiated NAFTA for the Bush administration, Canada and Mexico are now among the top three U.S. trading partners, and the U.S. sells more to Mexico ($229.7 billion) than to Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Netherlands combined.

    RELATED: Renegotiating NAFTA, let the games begin

    When Mr. Trump came into the White House in January, he talked of scrapping the agreement that now covers almost a third of total U.S. trade. He was talked out of that by his Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who pointed out the worst damage would come to rural and farm areas, which also gave the president some of his biggest vote margins. U.S. farm exports to Mexico are valued at close to $12 billion, and senior farm state Republican senators reinforced the message of opposition to ditching NAFTA with three-month delays in confirming Mr. Trump’s choices of Perdue to run the Agriculture Department and Robert Lighthizer as U.S. Special Trade Representative.

    Rather than abandoning NAFTA entirely, the Trump administration has decided to re-negotiate the pact. Formal negotiations between the three countries begin on August 16. The obstacles may be formidable (and like most trade issues, mind-numbing).

    But that all three will be at the same table was not always a foregone conclusion. Some Canadian politicians and academics, wanted to separate Canada from Mexico and do a direct deal with the United States, as existed before NAFTA. Even President Trump, in a now publicized phone call with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, said he had few problems with Canada. But then on a subsequent trip to Wisconsin, Mr. Trump said there were problems, especially over trade rules affecting diary and soft lumber. So for the moment, the talks are three-way.

    The Trump administration set out its negotiating goals in a July 17 statement and top among them was reducing the trade deficit (small with Canada, large with Mexico). Most economists on the left and right suggest that is the wrong goal, but clearly it obsesses the president. Another major sticking point, especially for Canada, would be to get rid of a dispute-resolving mechanism, which has often ruled against the U.S. since NAFTA came into force.

    The Mexican and Canadian governments have not so specifically set out their negotiating targets. But their goals were summed up by their ambassadors to Washington at a recent trade conclave. Canadian Ambassador David MacNaughton said, “do no harm.” His Mexican counterpart Geronimo Gutierrez said he hoped for a “win-win-win” outcome.

    RELATED: Texas on the front lines of NAFTA negotiations

    Other objectives for all three, as the Stimson Center’s William Reinsch observed, reflect the aging of the NAFTA accord, such as digital trade and intellectual property, which were barely issues in 1993. And as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross noted in a recent talk, the current agreement covers such things as auto parts that no longer exist. But according to Reinsch and other analysts, the administration is proposing to deal with several of the new issues with mechanisms worked out in the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal that the Obama administration negotiated with 11 nations and that Mr. Trump scrubbed in his first days in office. Mexico and Canada were among the TPP countries.

    Reinsch said he saw “no poison pills” in the administration’s negotiating document, but warned: “they could well be lurking in the underbrush and will appear later on.”

    The U.S. administration has said it hopes to conclude the renegotiation by the end of the year, but that could be tricky. Mexico faces a presidential election next July — a possible incentive to reach a quick deal. But Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised any renegotiation will have to go through potentially time-consuming votes of approval by the country’s provincial governments.

    The post Column: What’s at stake in NAFTA renegotiation? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Sensitivity warning: This video contains graphic images and symbols that are widely considered to represent hate speech.

    The PBS NewsHour’s P.J. Tobia sat down with Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist group, after a car attack left one person dead and 19 more injured Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. People had gathered to protest a march by white nationalists and alt-right extremists, who denounced the proposed removal of a statue commemorating Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the sleepy college town.

    James Alex Fields, Jr., 20, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder for driving a Dodge Challenger at high speeds into a crowd of protesters. The incident resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, 32, of Charlottesville. Authorities are holding Fields in custody without bond.

    In 2016, Heimbach told the NewsHour the term “racist” was used to define “any white people that want to be able to advocate for their best interests” and that the movement he supports is “a European-style nationalist movement.”

    And days before the 2016 election, Heimbach said he felt support from now-President Donald Trump, saying he “has shown us that the majority of everyday Americans support our sort of message. They’re tired of globalism, they’re tired of rampant capitalism, they’re tired of Wall Street being put first, instead of Main Street.”

    Heimbach referred to Saturday’s automobile attack as a “car accident” and said, “We don’t know all the details from that.” Here are other moments from that interview:

    On whether he regretted that someone died in the automobile attack

    I think it’s regretful if any person loses their life, but i’m also not going to cry over someone trying to kill me and my comrades a few hours earlier ending up in that situation. This is the breakdown at the center of American politics and public discourse. These radical leftists are truly trying to kill anyone they disagree with, and we saw that with their actions yesterday.

    On whether President Trump contributed to the atmosphere of violence in the streets

    I think we’re seeing really the breakdown of the center of America. I don’t think there is a political center in America anymore. And I think Donald Trump doesn’t cause that, but he is showing that. Of course his election was really the white working class coming together to say that we are tired of open borders, we’re tired of globalization, we’re tired of endless imperialist wars.

    On whether, as an organizer, he feels at all responsible for the death of Heather Heyer

    Not at all. These people were yelling, “Kill, kill, kill them all the Nazis.” They were using any weapon they could to try and kill the men and women that were marching with me. They were standing for General Lee, they were standing for heritage, and just bringing our nationalist movement together.

    There would have been no violence whatsoever yesterday, if the police had simply done their job and given the leftist protesters their own space to protest, which is their right, we’d have been allowed to hold our rally. The left were the ones attacking us.

    On what he sees as the growth of the nationalist community

    The radical leftists understood if the nationalist community can come together, stand together, and fight together, that we are going to be unstoppable. That our rise, just even going back since I’ve been involved in this movement, it used to be that a rally of 50 guys was very successful. Now we’re rallying 1,000, 1,500 people in the streets. Our movement is growing, and they are trying to use violence and intimidation to silence us, to try and stop our movement.

    The post How white nationalist leader Matt Heimbach defends violence at Saturday’s rally in Charlottesville appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Applications for health coverage

    People buying individual health care policies would face sharply higher premiums, and some may be left with no insurance options if President Donald Trump makes good on his threat to stop “Obamacare” payments to insurers, congressional experts said Tuesday. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Reuters.

    WASHINGTON — People buying individual health care policies would face sharply higher premiums, and some may be left with no insurance options if President Donald Trump makes good on his threat to stop “Obamacare” payments to insurers, congressional experts said Tuesday.

    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office also estimated that cutting off the payments would add $194 billion to federal deficits over a decade. That’s because other Affordable Care Act subsidies would automatically increase as premiums rise, more than wiping out any savings.

    Sticker-price premiums for standard plans would rise about 20 percent before factoring in federal tax credits for consumers, CBO said.

    About 1 million people would become uninsured right away, but within a few years that slippage would reverse and more people would be covered, the budget office added.

    READ MORE: Trump administration’s actions raise health insurance premiums, study says

    At issue are so-called “cost-sharing” payments, totaling about $7 billion this year, that reimburse insurers for subsidizing out-of-pocket costs for people with modest incomes.

    Trump has threatened to cut off the monthly payments, most recently after the collapse of the GOP health care bill.

    The subsidies can cut a deductible of $3,500 down to a few hundred dollars. Nearly 3 in 5 HealthCare.gov customers qualify for cost-sharing help, an estimated 6 million people or more. But the money is under a legal cloud because of a dispute over whether the Obama-era law properly authorized the monthly payments.

    For months, Trump has been raising the prospect of terminating payments as a way to trigger a crisis and get Democrats to negotiate on a health care bill.

    For months, Trump has been raising the prospect of terminating payments as a way to trigger a crisis and get Democrats to negotiate on a health care bill. Leading Republican lawmakers have called for continuing the payments, at least temporarily, to ensure market stability.

    After the GOP drive to repeal “Obamacare” collapsed, the president tweeted: “As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!”

    Trump elaborated in another tweet, “If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies…will end very soon!”

    Insurer groups say there’s been no signal that the administration will stop making payments expected this month.

    Leading Republican lawmakers have called for continuing the payments, at least temporarily, to ensure market stability. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is working on such legislation. He and Democratic counterpart Sen. Patty Murray of Washington plan bipartisan hearings.

    The subsidies are snared in a legal dispute whether the Obama health care law properly approved the payments to insurers. Adding to the confusion, other parts of the law clearly direct the government to reimburse the carriers.

    READ MORE: President Trump on tricky legal ground with ‘Obamacare’ threat

    The disagreement is over whether the law properly provided a congressional “appropriation,” similar to an instruction for the Treasury to pay the money. The Constitution says the government shall not spend money unless Congress appropriates it.

    House Republicans trying to thwart the ACA sued the Obama administration in federal court in Washington, arguing that the law lacked specific language appropriating the cost-sharing subsidies.

    A district court judge agreed with House Republicans, and the case has been on hold before the U.S. appeals court in Washington.

    While the legal issue seems arcane, the impact on consumers would be real.

    CBO estimated that premiums for standard “silver” plans would increase by about 20 percent without the subsidies. Insurers can recover the cost-sharing money by raising premiums, since those are also subsidized by the ACA, and there’s no legal question about their appropriation.

    Consumers who receive tax credits under the ACA to pay their premiums would be shielded from those premium increases.

    But millions of others buy individual health care policies without any financial assistance from the government and could face prohibitive increases.

    The post Individual health policies will have higher premiums if Trump halts ‘Obamacare’ subsidies, report says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Combative and insistent, President Donald Trump declared anew Tuesday “there is blame on both sides” for the deadly violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, appearing to once again equate the actions of white supremacist groups and those protesting them.

    The president’s comments effectively wiped away the more conventional statement he delivered at the White House a day earlier when he branded members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who take part in violence as “criminals and thugs.”

    Trump’s advisers had hoped those remarks might quell a crush of criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. But the president’s retorts Tuesday suggested he had been a reluctant participant in that cleanup effort.

    READ MORE: Judge denies bond for suspect in Charlottesville attack at white nationalist rally

    During an impromptu press conference in the lobby of his Manhattan skyscraper, he praised his original response to the Charlottesville clashes and angrily blamed liberal groups in addition to white supremacist for the violence. Some of those protesting the rally to save a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee were “also very violent,” he said.

    “There are two sides to a story,” he said. He added that some facts about the violence still aren’t known.

    His remarks were welcomed by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who tweeted: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth.”

    Trump’s handling of the weekend violence has raised new and troubling questions, even among some supporters, about why he sometimes struggles to forcefully and unequivocally condemn white supremacist groups. Members of his own Republican Party have pressured him to be more vigorous in criticizing bigoted groups, and four business leaders have resigned from a White House jobs panel in response to his comments.

    Democrats were aghast at Trump’s comments Tuesday. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said on Twitter that the Charlottesville violence “was fueled by one side: white supremacists spreading racism, intolerance & intimidation. Those are the facts.” Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii said on Twitter that he no longer views Trump as his president.

    Trump’s handling of the weekend violence has raised new and troubling questions, even among some supporters, about why he sometimes struggles to forcefully and unequivocally condemn white supremacist groups.

    “As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment,” Schatz said. “This is not my president.”

    Violence broke out Saturday in Charlottesville, a picturesque college town, after a loosely connected mix of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists assembled to protest the city’s decision to remove a towering statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a man plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

    Trump appeared to defend both the extremists’ right to protest, noting they had a permit, and Confederate statues.

    “So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee,” he said. “I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You really do have to ask yourself where does it stop?”

    As Trump talked, his aides on the sidelines of the lobby stood in silence. Chief of staff John Kelly crossed his arms and stared down at his shoes, barely glancing at the president. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders looked around the room trying to make eye contact with other senior aides. One young staffer stood with her mouth agape.

    MORE: How white nationalist leader Matt Heimbach defends violence at Saturday’s rally in Charlottesville

    When asked to explain his Saturday comments about Charlottesville, Trump looked down at his notes and again read a section of his initial statement that denounced bigotry but did not single out white supremacists. He then tucked the paper back into his jacket pocket.

    Trump, who has quickly deemed other deadly incidents in the U.S. and around the world acts of terrorism, waffled when asked whether the car death was a terrorist attack.

    “There is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism?” Trump said. “And then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer and what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.”

    Trump said he had yet to call Heyer’s mother, said that he would soon “reach out.” He praised her for what he said was a nice statement about him on social media.

    As Trump finally walked away from his lectern, he stopped to answer one more shouted question: Would he visit Charlottesville? The president’s response was to note that he owned property there and to say it was one of the largest wineries in the United States.

    AP writers Darlene Superville and Richard Lardner contributed to this report. Pace reported from Washington.

    The post WATCH: Trump blames ‘both sides’ for violence at Charlottesville rally appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The newest addition to your dentist’s grab bag of goodies might soon be chewing gum. Photo by ulianna19970/Adobe

    The newest addition to your dentist’s grab bag of goodies might soon be chewing gum. Photo by ulianna19970/Adobe

    The newest addition to your dentist’s grab bag of goodies might soon be gum. European scientists describe the development of a chewing gum that detects oral infections Tuesday in Nature Communications. The tech could prove particularly useful for diseases that present with minimal to no symptoms.

    “It’s a great screening tool to help people test their health status easily,” Lorenz Meinel, a pharmacist at the University of Würzburg in Germany and senior author of the study, said.

    From cavities to gingivitis, oral infections are widespread — 15 to 20 percent of middle-aged adults have gum disease —  especially for people with dental implants. Dental implants stabilize crowns, dentures and bridges. While useful for the 30 percent of people over age 65 without teeth, the implants can become infected with bacteria and cause peri-implant disease. Constant prescription of antibiotics could be used for treatment, but Meinel said the tactic is impractical because peri-implant disease develops over a long timeframe (5 to 10 years).

    So he pivoted to the underlying problem. People do not often sense pain with dental implants, so infected gums go unnoticed. Meinel needed an alternative way to get patients to sense their illness. Luckily, a mouth comes with one of the best detectors on the planet: the human tongue.

    The tongue is highly sensitive to taste, and a vigilant monitor of your mouth’s chemistry. With this in mind, Meinel and his team designed a disease-sensing gum that capitalized on taste as its readout.

    The taste alarm in the gum is a compound called denatonium — the most bitter substance known. As an evolutionary signpost for poisons, people are particularly sensitive to bitterness. The denatonium is diluted in the gum, but is still awfully bitter, Meinel said.

    The researchers attached this denatonium to a biological tripwire — a molecule that gets chopped up by enzymes in the saliva of patients with peri-implant disease.

    In healthy saliva, the biological sensor and denatonium are tasteless and do not dissolve. But, if peri-implant disease enzymes are present in the saliva, they chew away the sensor and expose the denatonium and bitter flavor.

    To test its effectiveness, Meinel and his team mixed their sensor with saliva from people with peri-implant disease or saliva from asymptomatic patients with at least one dental implant. After only five minutes, peri-implant disease saliva released nearly three times more bitter compound than spit from healthy subjects did.

    The researchers tested the bitterness of their chewing gum to see how folks might tolerate the taste. Rather than submit patients to a gross tasting excursion, the team measured the bitterness released by their chewing gum with an electronic tongue. This instrument senses sour, salty, umami and bitter flavors with electronic taste buds and measures the intensity of those flavors too. The researchers found the bitterness released by their chewing gum sensor was less than half (40 percent) that of denatonium alone.

    Meinel and his team plan to try the gum in real people soon, but in the meantime, they are working on gum-based sensors for other infections, including ones to distinguish strep throat from sore throats caused by the flu.

    At the end day, Meinel hopes this gum will be a solid medical tool, but not a full substitute for a dentist or physician. Only doctors can confirm a diagnosis and prescribe the best treatment.

    Though this chewing gum may offer a versatile readout, Meinel notes the study has its limits. For example, taste perception varies by ethnicity, sex, age and genetics, so tolerable bitterness for one person may be unacceptable for another. Their clinical trials will zero in on a suitable bitterness level for all.

    He predicts it will take at least two years to complete the clinical trials for the chewing gum. So you’ll have to wait until then before you can gnaw on it.

    The post This chewing gum detects dental disease appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    FILE PHOTO:    Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) looks on during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington March 9, 2017.  REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo - RTS1BVG3

    Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., is the incumbent in Tuesday’s closely-watched GOP primary for the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. File photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

    If you cast a vote in Alabama today, congratulations on being one of the most influential voters in America. That’s because initial reports indicate that turnout has been very low, even “dismal” in the closely-watched primary for what used to be Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Senate seat.

    The winner of the GOP primary in bright-red Alabama is nearly guaranteed entry into what was once known as “the most exclusive club.” Democrats will mount a challenge in the special election, but in a state that voted for President Donald Trump by a 28-point margin, they are at a marked disadvantage.

    Brian Lyman of the Montgomery Advertiser talks with PBS NewsHour’s John Yang about why the Alabama Republican primary is a test of GOP loyalty to Trump.

    Who are the GOP candidates? A total of nine Alabamians are in the race, but the focus is on three well-known frontrunners:

    1. Luther Strange, the current occupant of the seat. Strange was appointed to temporarily fill Sessions’ seat by the state’s governor. He is a former state attorney general.

    2. Roy Moore, a lightning rod former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore ordered local courts not to certify same-sex marriages despite the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision legalizing them.

    3. Rep. Mo Brooks, a conservative member of the House of Representatives and an outspoken member of the chamber’s Freedom Caucus.

    What makes this primary extra special? It is testing the Republican Party in a core-constituent state. Strange has the endorsement of Mr. Trump, but his opponents have tried to tie him closely with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and brand him as an establishment politician. In most Republican crowds, Brooks would be considered among the most conservative candidates. But in this race, Moore may outflank him, given the former chief justice’s conservative zeal on social issues like allowing religion in public places and opposing same-sex marriage.

    Under Alabama rules, if no candidate gets a majority of the vote today, the primary goes to a runoff. Strange is hoping that will leave him to fight Moore one-on-one. But watch tonight to see if low turnout leads to a surprise outright win by Moore.

    The post What to watch in Alabama’s special election appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now a look at the state of global terrorism.

    It comes from Ali Soufan, a former FBI counterterrorism agent who identified the 9/11 hijackers. He details the evolution of terrorism in this newest addition to the “NewsHour” Bookshelf, “The Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of Bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State.”

    He recently sat down with Margaret Warner.

    MARGARET WARNER: You write in this book that the night Osama bin Laden was announced to have been killed, you were home alone. And then, instead of feeling jubilation, you felt troubled. Why was that?

    ALI SOUFAN, Author, “The Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of Bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State”: I was happy that we finally got him. And a lot of my colleagues and friends that I know who sacrificed so much, some of them their lives, you know, finally can rest, knowing that he’s dead.

    But also, at the same time, I kind of was troubled that we are now not fighting an organization anymore. The terrorists, the threat mutated to a message. Bin Laden accomplished something way bigger. He had a message that was spreading around the Muslim world.

    Unfortunately, on May 2, 2011, we killed bin Laden, but we didn’t kill his message. His message lives.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, the world has been focused for the last five years or so on Islamic State.

    ALI SOUFAN: Yes.

    MARGARET WARNER: Major move to get rid of their territorial caliphate.

    When that’s accomplished, what then?

    ALI SOUFAN: See, we forget that the Islamic State basically was a branch of al-Qaida. It used to be al-Qaida in Iraq.

    So, when it comes to the message, it’s the same message of Osama bin Laden. They differ at what stage they are in, in their plan. Are they in stage two, where they just need to create chaos and manage that chaos? Or they are in stage three, establishing a caliphate?

    ISIS decided that they are in stage three, established a caliphate and prepare for the final confrontation with the West. But, today, as you mentioned, we see ISIS dwindling. We see that terrorist organization, with all their bravado, losing their territory and going back from a proto-state to an underground terrorist organization.

    I think most of the people who joined ISIS are still believers in what bin Laden started back in the early ’90s. I won’t be greatly surprised to see some kind of a merger between these two organizations under the flag of the message of Osama bin Laden.

    And I think his son Hamza today is trying to be the person who claims that message.

    MARGARET WARNER: The next bin Laden.

    ALI SOUFAN: Exactly.

    MARGARET WARNER: You, in almost a novelistic way, look at bin Laden or al-Zarqawi, who was the head of al-Qaida in Iraq, or Baghdadi, the head of ISIS.

    ALI SOUFAN: Yes.

    MARGARET WARNER: Was there a common thread among them?

    ALI SOUFAN: Well, yes, absolutely. And the common thread is their own belief.

    It is people who believe that there is an ongoing war between the West and the United States. And anyone who does not in their way of interpreting events around the world is an infidel, regardless if you’re a Muslim or you’re not a Muslim. That doesn’t matter.

    And that’s why almost 95 percent of the victims of this form of terrorism are Muslims.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now , you mentioned Hamza, Osama bin Laden’s son, who, by my count, would be, what, 27 years old?


    ALI SOUFAN: Twenty-eight, yes.

    MARGARET WARNER: You think he’s the coming face of al-Qaida?

    ALI SOUFAN: I think they are preparing him to be the coming face. I mean, he has been a face of al-Qaida since he was a child. He was always featured in the propaganda tapes of al-Qaida.

    At the age of 13, he was the voice of fiery poems in the presence of his dad about al-Qaida and about jihad. So, many of those old members of al-Qaida fondly remember him.

    Hamza, recently, he put five or six messages, but only in the last message, al-Qaida announced him to be sheik, which indicates a promotion. Before, they used to call him Brother Mujahid.

    So, we know that al-Qaida is putting him in a leadership position.

    MARGARET WARNER: Let’s go back to the threat to the United States.

    ALI SOUFAN: Yes.

    MARGARET WARNER: How can the West, which has been at it for 16 years already, confront that?

    ALI SOUFAN: We’re not seeing, you know, organizational terrorism threat anymore.

    I think the boundaries, you know, between ISIS, al-Qaida, you name it, whatever you want to name it …

    MARGARET WARNER: All their affiliates.

    ALI SOUFAN: All the affiliates. It’s kind of very blurry.

    I think we have to focus on the message, not on the organization. I think the threat of terrorism mutated since 9/11. It shifted from being an organization to a message with affiliates across the Muslim world. And these affiliates are gaining a lot of strength because of the civil wars that exist in places like Syria or Iraq or Libya or Somalia, you name it.

    So, I think what we need to do, number one, is to find a political solution and diplomatic solution for these conflicts. Without solving the conflicts in these areas, it’s going to be extremely difficult to diminish the threat.

    Second, we need to force countries in the region not to use sectarianism in their geopolitical struggle against each other to garnish back influence in the region.

    Third, we need to fight the narrative by exposing the hypocrisy of an organization that claims or a message that claims the United States and the West are at war with Islam. But they kill more Muslims than anyone else.

    MARGARET WARNER: Do you think that the United States or the West is capable of doing effective countermessaging?

    ALI SOUFAN: I don’t think governments can do the job, not in the United States, not even in the Muslim world, because governments don’t have the credibility.

    But there are a lot of things that governments can do. We need to facilitate civil organizations to stand up and speak against these extremists.

    Sixteen years after 9/11, we still don’t even know what to call the enemy, rather than form a comprehensive strategy. And that’s what I try to do in this book. I try to write a novel with real characters in it, with the hope that the American people understand the threat that you are dealing with.

    And I hope, in a small, little way, I will be able to contribute to better understanding of the threat that we all continue to face 20 years later.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Ali Soufan, “Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of Bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State.”

    Thank you very much.

    ALI SOUFAN: Thank you.

    The post New book traces the evolution of terrorism since bin Laden appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WOODBRIDGE, VA - JULY 13: Corey Stewart talks with the media after his announcement to challenge Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) in 2018, at his home on Thursday, July 13, 2017, in Woodbridge, VA.  Stewart is the Prince William Republican who nearly won the GOP nomination for Virginia governor last month by running a populist campaign that celebrated the Confederacy and slammed illegal immigrants.   (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

    Corey Stewart, an outsider candidate for governor sometimes compared to President Donald Trump, seized on possible removal of the Confederate general’s memorial as an “attempt to destroy traditional America.” Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

    NEW YORK — Weeks before the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, became a flashpoint in the nation’s struggle over race, it was the focus of emotional debate in the state’s Republican primary election.

    Corey Stewart, an outsider candidate for governor sometimes compared to President Donald Trump, seized on possible removal of the Confederate general’s memorial as an “attempt to destroy traditional America.” Stewart, who said in an interview Tuesday that such an action “hits people in the gut,” found unexpectedly strong support, forced his main opponent to defend the statue and almost won.

    Now the fight over “traditional America” is throwing a spotlight on the Republican Party’s struggle with race in the age of Trump. The deadly white supremacist rally against removal of the Lee statue served as a painful example of the uncomfortable alignment between some in the party’s base and the far-right fringe. But despite the party’s talk of inclusiveness and minority outreach, it’s clear white fears continue to resonate with many in the GOP base. Politicians willing to exploit those issues are often rewarded with support. One big beneficiary, critics say, has been the president himself.

    WATCH: Trump blames ‘both sides’ for violence at Charlottesville rally

    For those critics, on both the left and right, Trump’s response to Charlottesville was a glaring example. On Saturday, he denounced hatred and violence on “many sides,” seeming to assign blame equally to counter-protesters as well as hate groups protesting the proposed removal of the statue. He waited until Monday to specifically name the groups he was condemning — the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

    For Republicans who hoped the president might use the moment to send a new message about racism and their party, Trump failed the test.

    “We have reached a defining moment,” said New Hampshire GOP chair Jennifer Horn. “We, as Republicans, every single one of us, needs to speak up and make it very clear that this is not our party, these are not our values.”

    “We have reached a defining moment,” said New Hampshire GOP chair Jennifer Horn. “We, as Republicans, every single one of us, needs to speak up and make it very clear that this is not our party, these are not our values.”

    Such moments have the potential to undermine years of attempts to portray the party as more welcoming to minority voters.

    The Republican National Committee, led by Trump’s former chief of staff Reince Priebus, released an exhaustive report in 2013 noting that the GOP’s traditional base of older, white voters was becoming a smaller and smaller portion of the electorate in America. “If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them and show our sincerity,” the RNC wrote.

    Yet Republican officeholders, including the president, have found success by seizing on semi-hidden “dog whistle” rhetoric and policies largely designed to appeal to whites.

    • Across the Midwest, Trump and others have appealed to suburban white voters by decrying a rise in urban violence, even as statistics show violent crime is down in many cities.
    • With no evidence of widespread voter fraud, Republicans nationwide have promoted voter ID laws that several courts determined discriminate against minority voters.
    • Trump’s promise to build a massive wall along the southern border resonates with conservatives across the West and even in overwhelmingly white Northeastern states where Republicans fear the influx of illegal Hispanic immigrants.
    • And, particularly in the South, some conservatives continue fight to preserve symbols of a Confederate Army that fought for Southern states’ rights to continue slavery. The relics are simultaneously denounced as symbols of oppression by most blacks and celebrated as marks of Southern pride by many whites.

    This week in Alabama, three Republicans running in Tuesday’s special U.S. Senate primary demonstrated the careful tiptoeing politicians do around the subject.

    Rep. Mo Brooks generally bemoaned “bigotry.” Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore rejected “violence and hatred.” Sen. Luther Strange, appointed to the seat when Trump tapped Jeff Sessions as attorney general, made no reference to racial motivations at all.

    Brooks and Strange also expressed support for Trump’s remarks, and Strange seemed to echo the president’s assertion that “many sides” were at fault, as he encouraged “Americans to stand together in opposition to those who encourage hate or promote violence.” Trump recently endorsed Strange.

    READ MORE: What to watch in Alabama’s special election

    The careful language reflects a political reality in a state where nearly all Republican votes come from white voters, says David Mowery, an Alabama-based political consultant who has worked for Republicans and Democrats. That doesn’t mean Republicans actively pursue racist votes, he said, but sometimes it means they take the most cautious path to avoid controversy.

    “I don’t think here that any Republican benefits by talking about it or is necessarily hurt by not talking about it,” he said.

    Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, now Trump’s representative to the United Nations, said as recently as 2014 that the Confederate battle flag should fly at the state Capitol. She changed course two summers ago only after a white supremacist who was photographed holding a Confederate flag murdered nine black people inside a South Carolina church. About the same time, then-Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama removed Confederate banners from a Confederate monument outside his office, though the monument remains.

    In this year’s Virginia primary for the Republicans’ candidate for governor, outsider Stewart lost to establishment favorite Ed Gillespie, but by less than 2 percentage points. On Sunday, Gillespie attended church in Charlottesville and minced no words in naming names and urging those responsible for the violence to take their “vile hatred” out of the state.

    “We have stared down racism and Nazism and white supremacy before, and we will stare it down again,” the Republican candidate for governor told a local TV station.

    His campaign later added that Gillespie continues to oppose removal of confederate statues, but “believes it is an issue best resolved at the local level.”

    Stewart is now running for the Senate in 2018.

    AP writer Alan Suderman in Richmond, Virginia contributed to this report.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Yesterday, a jury in Denver, Colorado, awarded Taylor Swift one dollar in damages in a lawsuit over a groping allegation.

    Lisa Desjardins is here to explain — Lisa.


    Hari, that one dollar was the amount that Taylor Swift requested. It was her countersuit, after a radio host sued the singer for defamation when she spoke publicly about the incident. He claimed that she cost him his job, but the court sided with Swift.

    The verdict came after four days of testimony, with a photo of the incident as the only piece of physical evidence. It shows former radio station host David Mueller posing with 27-year-old Swift before a Denver concert four years ago. His hand appears behind Swift just below her waist.

    Swift says Mueller grabbed her bare bottom and didn’t let go when she lurched away. Mueller said he may have touched her ribcage, but nothing else, but the jury didn’t believe him.

    Swift’s case and experience is not new. One in five college-age women in the United States say they have experienced some form of sexual assault. That’s according to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

    But Swift’s stature in the music industry and society gives her a position and podium most women who’ve been sexually assaulted don’t have. And with that comes hundreds of young fans following the case’s proceedings outside the courtroom, and millions more on social media.

    WATCH: Taylor Swift shake, shake, shakes up a slowing music industry

    CAROLINE TURNER, Taylor Swift Fan: I was really happy because Taylor Swift is one of my role models. And when she stood up, like, by being in that courtroom, she’s standing up for women all around the world.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Swift’s attorney says he hopes the case sets an example for young girls and boys.

    DOUGLAS BALDRIDGE, Taylor Swift’s Attorney: Not just a win, but something that can make a difference for my kids, your kids, all of us, my son, my daughters, where the lines are, what’s right, what’s wrong.

    LISA DESJARDINS: After being awarded the one dollar payment Swift requested in damages, she put out the following statement, saying: “I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this.”

    Swift’s victory comes in a year of mixed results for women pursuing sexual assault cases. Such cases have ousted FOX News host Bill O’Reilly and founder Roger Ailes, while the singer known as Kesha has repeatedly continually rejected repeatedly lost her attempts to end her contract with a former producer whom she says sexually assaulted her.

    With an estimated two out of three of all sexual assault cases still going unreported, Swift says she hopes to give a voice to those who feel silenced by sexual assault, and she plans to donate to groups that help victims.

    And I’m now joined by Maya Raghu, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, where she focuses on women’s issues in the workplace, including sexual harassment. And Judy Vredenburgh, she is the president and CEO of Girls, Inc., an advocacy group that works to equip girls to navigate gender, economic and social barriers in life. She joins us from New York.

    Ladies, thanks to both of you for joining us tonight.

    Maya, I want the start with you. And let’s talk about our justice system.

    This was a victory for Swift today, but what do we know about any shift in judges and juries in how they look at most victims or most people who bring claims of sexual assault in court?

    MAYA RAGHU, National Women’s Law Center: Well, many people think that survivors of sexual harassment or sexual assault lie or make false allegations.

    So it makes it very difficult for victims to come forward and talk about what happened to them. There’s a lot of fear, fear for their safety and fear for consequences and retaliation in the workplace or at school.

    But the truth is that it’s very difficult to come forward and report sexual harassment or assault, and there are huge risks for coming forward and doing so, whether people go to the police, whether they report to an employer or to a school, or whether they bring a lawsuit.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Judy, I want to ask you. You work with young girls.

    How much of an issue is this to them, and how certain do they feel about taking a stand in situations like this?

    JUDY VREDENBURGH, President, Girls, Inc.: Yes, we asked our girls, what are the top issues that you’re facing?

    And 70 percent of girls, viewing a list of 12 issues, identified as their number one issue bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault. So, it’s a real issue for girls, absolutely.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But do you get a sense that they feel certain about what is acceptable and when they should be advocates for themselves, when they should stand up for themselves?


    Girls know when they have been violated, when there’s been inappropriate behavior, inappropriate touching. They absolutely know that. I think that a case like this becomes a surrogate case on behalf of all girls, including girls from low-income communities who wouldn’t have the resources to fight for themselves, and it says to girls that it’s not acceptable.

    You can stand up and speak out when you feel something that is not right.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Maya, just a few minutes ago, you mentioned two terms, sexual harassment and sexual assault. This was a case of sexual assault, is what Taylor Swift was mentioning.

    But I wonder about definitions here. Sexual assault is a very broad term. That could mean anything from groping to rape. How are we defining that as nation right now, and is that helpful? Do we need to talk about this in more clear terms?

    MAYA RAGHU: Absolutely.

    And I think that’s one of the reasons that this case is so important, because it is continuing a conversation that began earlier this year with the other high-profile sexual harassment and sexual assault cases that we have been hearing about.

    And it’s helping people understand that these sorts of behaviors and crimes exist on a continuum. I think a lot of people, when they hear about sexual assault, they immediately think of rape. But they’re not thinking necessarily about groping, as you pointed out, which is incredibly serious.

    But it tends to be minimized, and people might say, oh, it was nothing, or don’t let it bother you, when, in fact, it’s incredibly traumatic.

    I also think that we tend to separate sexual harassment and sexual assault. Sexual harassment is in the workplace, it’s at school, but it’s not criminal. But, actually, if sexual assault or groping or rape occurs in the workplace or at school, that is sexual harassment.

    LISA DESJARDINS: So, that’s talking about the language.

    Judy, I want to talk you about resources. Obviously, Taylor Swift is a woman of wealth. She has power in her industry, and she acknowledges that, that she has privilege.

    What about the girls that you work with, everyday women? When they encounter something like this, what is the reality for how they could handle this? Do you think they would end up in the same situation with Taylor Swift necessarily, or are there more barriers for them?

    JUDY VREDENBURGH: I believe that Taylor Swift is a role model, but they have role models among themselves.

    There are girls who are abused, assaulted every single day, and creating a safe place where those girls can come forward, tell the truth about what happened to them, and be emboldened to tell the truth to power, to not accept this is really important.

    And so we create at Girls, Inc., safe places where girls can openly share what they’re dealing with and get the support they need to come forward and not allow that to happen to them in the future and certainly not to blame themselves.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Maya, are different women treated differently? Are there barriers for women, even those who decide to come forward, when they are going to courts, when they are dealing with the legal system or at the workplace with these claims?

    MAYA RAGHU: Absolutely. There are all kinds of barriers. Some of them are overt. They might be discriminatory. And, sometimes, they’re subtle or implicit biases.

    There’s also economic barriers to coming forward. As you pointed out, Taylor Swift is a wealthy person who has a lot of resources and could afford to bring a lawsuit. But that’s definitely not the case for many, many survivors.

    And if you’re working a low-wage job in retail and you’re supporting a family, coming forward and reporting sexual assault, and then losing your job is devastating for the entire family.

    And what ends up happening is that people are forced to stay silent about this situation, and it becomes the price that people have to pay to keep a job or to stay in school.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Do you see more women reporting in workplace situations like this, or no, right now?

    MAYA RAGHU: I would say that, definitely, in the last couple years, we have seen an increase in people reaching out to us for information and assistance about sexual harassment and sexual assault.

    I think the conversation in this country in the last couple of years, because of high-profile cases, has certainly inspired and empowered many women and men to come forward and talk about what’s happened to them and seek justice, and, more importantly, also started thinking about, how do we hold perpetrators accountable and make sure that they’re bearing the consequences for this behavior?

    Because, otherwise, it’s going to be impossible to prevent this from happening in the first place.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Judy, briefly, I talked to a mother and a 13-year-old today who told me they had different reactions to this. One wasn’t surprised that Taylor Swift came out ahead. That was the 13-year-old. She said she felt that, most times, victims win in these cases. The mother felt differently.

    Very briefly, is there a generational shift going on here?

    JUDY VREDENBURGH: Yes, I think the public is ahead of institutions, and young people understand that this is not appropriate behavior. This is not something to hide about or feel ashamed about, but to speak out about.

    So, I do think there’s a change, and we’re seeing the public not accept unhealthy touching, violation, of respecting the dignity of every person. It’s not acceptable.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Judy Vredenburgh …

    JUDY VREDENBURGH: And Title IX enforcement in the schools is very important.


    JUDY VREDENBURGH: Sexual harassment is — happens at schools, and that’s not acceptable, and we have to make sure that that enforcement is real.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Judy Vredenburgh from Girls, Inc., thank you so much.

    And, Maya Raghu, thank you also for joining us.

    MAYA RAGHU: Thank you.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: But first: A movement to get kids out of classrooms with walls and into the great outdoors is picking up steam. Across the U.S., nature preschools are seeing a surge.

    Jeffrey Brown traveled to Midland, Michigan, to find out why for our weekly education segment, Making the Grade.

    STUDENT: There’s a spider in my net.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Hunting for bugs, jumping off logs, dipping for frogs, it’s what kids do, right? In fact, no, many don’t, certainly not as part of their education.

    But in the age of testing, screens, and, some would say, excessively coddled children, a new movement of nature preschools is growing and pushing kids outdoors.

    Jenn Kirts, a biologist by training, oversees educational programs at the nonprofit Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, Michigan, 1,200 acres of woodlands, wetlands, ponds and meadows.

    JENN KIRTS, Director of Programs, Chippewa Nature Center: In a classroom, a lot of the things that you have are static and were designed to be played with in one particular way. The natural environment changes every single day. The weather changes, the humidity. There’s scat left behind. There’s new footprints. There’s leaves that are chewed today that weren’t chewed yesterday.

    And so there’s just a natural curiosity that happens there. And it’s something that people have spent time in for generations and generations. All of our existence, kids have grown up outdoors. That has changed in these current generations.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Students here spend most of the day outdoors. Some nature preschools don’t even have indoor classrooms. The alphabet and language skills are emphasized, while the lab for other skills is all around.

    JENN KIRTS: When we’re dipping at a pond and we’re discovering what’s there, that’s life science right there. And when we’re measuring trees, and kids are then going around and designing things to do those measurements and to figure that out, that is engineering and problem-solving and math.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And the idea is catching on. Nature preschools are seeing a surge in the U.S. — 10 years ago, there were barely 20. Today, by one count, the number has grown to nearly 250.

    STUDENT: A tadpole is swimming away.

    JEFFREY BROWN: These 3- and 4-year-olds learned about the life cycle of a frog, and then went to the pond to catch some.

    JESSICA DANKERT, Chippewa Nature Center: To see a child touch a frog that looks slimy and ewy and icky for them, and they’re OK and their hands and shaking, and we gently put them in there for them, and their face just glows.

    WOMAN: What do we not want to touch?

    STUDENTS: Poison ivy.

    WOMAN: Poison ivy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: During a weeklong summer camp, which closely mirrors the preschool program, teacher Kendall Cunningham led her charges to a meadow to catch insects and learn about the habitat.

    KENDALL CUNNINGHAM, Teacher, Chippewa Nature Center: A lot of the times, they say they don’t like the insects, they don’t want to touch them, but they want to watch. Watching it different than handling it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Madison Powell is the director of the Chippewa Nature Preschool, with 140 students during the school year and a growing wait list.

    MADISON POWELL, Nature Preschool Director, Chippewa Nature Center: Children are so very scheduled, they’re not allowed to be bored anymore, they’re not allowed to play with things that are dangerous or that are messy. We want them to have those opportunities.

    We ask parents to look back at their childhood. What are some of the things you remember? Was it climbing a tree? Was it being covered in mud, stomping in puddles? And a lot of times, it is. And if it’s not their parents, it’s their grandparents, or some sort of relative who said, I grew up that way. I came home and the streetlights came on, that sort of thing.


    MADISON POWELL: And we’re living in a society that just doesn’t allow children to make many decisions for themselves.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Here, they’re willing to push boundaries. We watched as one boy tried to tear down what he thought was a dead tree. First, he shook it, to no avail, then tied a rope around the sapling’s trunk to bring it down. Finally, he and a classmate managed to snap the tree, and now it really was a dead tree.

    KENDALL CUNNINGHAM: They’re going to learn something from the whole experience. We can sacrifice a tree.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Teacher Kendall Cunningham explained:

    KENDALL CUNNINGHAM: If it would have gotten to a point that it didn’t look like it was going to be a safe activity anymore, then I probably would have intervened and said, OK, now it’s time to stop. We can’t do this anymore.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And the lesson wasn’t over. Cunningham gave the boys some tools for learning, small saws, in fact, used under her watchful eyes.

    Preschool director Madison Powell:

    MADISON POWELL: We just make sure that we’re going with the comfort level of the teachers and the kids. Our teachers have maybe a higher tolerance for that, because we do see such value in risky play and what that does for their decision-making.

    We make sure that they’re within reach. They’re not going to fall from great heights, according to us. Great heights for them might be the top of this bench.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A certain level of risk is allowed.

    MADISON POWELL: It sure is, and it’s healthy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Also considered healthy, going outside in most types of weather. We visited on a very hot day, but even on cold winter days in Michigan the kids bundle up and head out. Parents we talked with hear no complaints.

    BECKY BENSALL, Parent: They would love to be outside all the time. Just maybe the snow suits that they wear are phenomenal. It keeps them so warm that they don’t even know it’s cold. Doesn’t even bother them. They love it.

    WOMAN: They would live outside if I let them live outside. And they’re extremely curious. They’re always asking me questions, whether we’re playing in the backyard, we’re out here for hikes, or anywhere outside.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But will these nature kids be academically prepared for kindergarten? That’s the subject of study right now by a Michigan State University research team, which followed the children around last year, rain or shine, gathering data with GoPro cameras and conducting interviews to test their skills.

    Lori Skibbe, one of the lead investigators, told us the early results.

    LORI SKIBBE, Michigan State University: What we found is that children at the, here at the nature-based center did just as well on our literacy measures, our language measures, our science measures and some of our executive function measures as children in the more traditional setting. So, they learned just as much.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Does that surprise you so far?

    LORI SKIBBE: At how similar they are, yes, that surprised me. The rates of learning were fairly equivalent across all of our schools, were pretty much the same.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And can you draw any preliminary conclusions from that?

    LORI SKIBBE: I think you can say that a nature-based setting can prepare you for kindergarten, as well as a traditional setting, if it’s done well.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That study continues, for now, along with the hunt for the next insect.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown at the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, Michigan.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Weeks of fiery rhetoric and escalating threats over North Korea are showing signs of cooling, at least for the day.

    In Washington, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. is interested in dialogue. And, in Pyongyang, the tone of Kim Jong-un’s messages seem to maintain the same belligerent tone, but reading between the lines, analysts believe his latest statements may also be trying to de-escalate tensions with the U.S.

    Special correspondent Nick Schifrin tries to decode North Korea’s propaganda.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In his military’s strategic forces’ H.Q., a commander in chief studies his options. His generals reveal a plan to test-fire missiles near the enemy’s strategically important base. The target is on the wall, the U.S.’ Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

    The narrator promises — quote — “enveloping fire.”

    WOMAN (through interpreter): U.S. imperialists put the noose around their necks due to their reckless military confrontations.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: That sounds ominous, but the sentence continues:

    WOMAN (through interpreter): He added, he would keep an eye on the foolish and stupid conduct of the Americans.

    ROBERT CARLIN, Stanford University: The signal that he’s dialing things back again.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: For 33 years, Robert Carlin studied North Korea for the U.S. government. He visited the country more than 25 times, and he says Kim might be signaling he wants a diplomatic path.

    ROBERT CARLIN: You can get distracted by language which really isn’t important, and read right over what is significant, and how it’s supposed to click together. Are we in a period like that now? I hope so.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Often, the West focuses on North Korea’s hyperbolic propaganda. Videos show North Korea preparing for war, targeting the White House and being able to destroy the Capitol. Propaganda aimed at children depict kids destroying a large-nosed U.S. soldier. Paintings in a Pyongyang museum depict a U.S. soldier pulling out a North Korean woman’s tooth.

    Demonizing the U.S. helps an authoritarian regime rally its population. It might those seem those rallies are preparations for conflict. But on the streets of Pyongyang, there is no crisis. So, despite all the rhetoric, North Korea seems not to want war.

    ROBERT CARLIN: They didn’t go on alert. They didn’t mobilize the population. There’s a difference between policy and propaganda.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Take the July 4 launch. Kim celebrated North Korea’s first ever launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. And in a statement, he said North Korea would put — quote — “neither its nukes nor its rockets on the table for negotiations, unless hostile U.S. policy was terminated.”

    ROBERT CARLIN: If you read that, it reads like a negative. But it’s not a negative. It’s actually — if you know the history of this stuff, it’s actually a positive, because it’s the first time that Kim has publicly said, oh, incidentally, there is a possibility that these things would go on the table.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: That offer of negotiating its rockets and nuclear program has been repeated multiple times since. And it’s exactly that offer that some North Korea watchers consider a ruse.

    SUNG-YOON LEE, Tufts University: The latest de-escalation, illusory as it may be, is a prelude to a provocation.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Sung-Yoon Lee is an assistant professor at Tufts University. He says North Korea acts over the top, so when it seems to behave, it receives concessions.

    SUNG-YOON LEE: North Korea, in acting crazy, or funny, even, bizarre, I think, achieves its strategic goal of getting the U.S. to take North Korea lightly, go back to damage control diplomacy, for the sake of getting North Korea out of the headlines for a few months. And all along, North Korea is able to advance its nuclear and missile capabilities.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: And all along, as the U.S. has been focusing on the military aspects, Kim has advanced North Korea’s economy. And that has helped solidify his hold on power.

    ROBERT CARLIN: Because, if you look at the policies that he has followed since he came in, over the last six years, they are not erratic, they are not crazy, and they are producing results.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: On organized and controlled trips, the government shows off prosperous businesses like catfish farms. Kim Jong-un has liberalized the economy, so owners of companies like this one can control their own profits.

    And the government also showed off a new luxury shopping and housing district. North Koreans gawked at the Pyongyang’s tallest buildings. A government official said this street was more powerful than 100 nuclear warheads.

    ROBERT CARLIN: I hadn’t been there previously for about seven years. I was flabbergasted at the change in Pyongyang, the growth, the vitality of the city.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Kim’s been called crazy. He is ruthless, but long-term North Korea watchers see an economy that’s improved and messaging, even if exaggerated, that’s nuanced, which means, despite what it may seem, there is method to North Korea’s madness.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Nick Schifrin.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: We return now to the fallout from the violent events in Charlottesville and the rise of racial tensions that came to a head there.

    I’m joined now by Mark Potok, a former senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Carol Anderson, she’s chair of African-American studies at Emory University and author of “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide.” And Leonard Pitts Jr., he’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with The Miami Herald.

    Carol, I want to start with you.

    I wanted to start on the events of Friday night, but the comments of the president today put that in a different dimension. The images that you saw on Friday night of people walking with torches on the UVA campus vs. the one perhaps the president saw seem to be a different picture. What came to your mind?

    CAROL ANDERSON, Emory University: What came to my mind when I saw the torches and the marching was, it reminded me so much of, like, Klan marches in the ’20s.

    It reminded me of the marches that happened in Montgomery as the Klan was trying to force African-Americans to get back on those Jim Crow buses, to get back in their place.

    It was a signal of white power and of trying to create black fear. As I thought about it, it was as well a way of seeing how this toxin of racism and white supremacy has reemerged in a very virulent form in American society. And it’s been aided and abetted by the kind of politics of dog whistles that have now led to the rise of Donald Trump.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Leonard Pitts Jr., it seems today, when the president was asked about those events, what he saw was peaceful protests on Friday night, even though there were some violent incidents that were caught on tape as well.

    His world view, whatever it’s shaped by, sees something very different than we do.

    LEONARD PITTS JR., The Miami Herald: Well, I think it’s hardly surprising that someone who is not part of a group who has a collective memory of Klan marches and of people marching with torches with a design to inflict political and actual violence on you, I think it’s no surprise that someone who doesn’t have that collective memory would see that in a completely different way.

    We have a history in this country, frankly, of seeing white people, and, frankly, white violence and white threats of violence as more benign than we do people of color. So, in that regard, there’s nothing really surprising about him seeing things that way. He’s just — he’s being who he is and where he’s from.

    And, frankly, he lacks the imagination to possibly see or even to wonder how these things might be perceived by those who have a memory of having been, you know, threatened by this.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mark Potok, I remember seeing video of an elderly Klansman several years ago saying, this is going to be the last generation of people who actually are like me.

    And he was lamenting it, but the pictures that we saw on Friday night, these were young men in polo shirts, with cropped hair.

    MARK POTOK, Former Senior Fellow, Southern Poverty Law Center: Yes. I think that’s absolutely true.

    I think that this is a new generation of racists who, as Carol and Leonard both have suggested, were in large part created by Donald Trump and others like Donald Trump, people who are in the public eye, who have been normalizing and mainstreaming the ideas of white nationalism in a way that really is unprecedented going back some 50 years in terms of coming from people in high political office and so on.

    It really has been something to behold. And, you know, today when Trump decided that — once again doubled down on the idea that the left was just as bad as the right, I just see that as absolutely, 100 percent not credible.

    I mean, the man has no authority, no credibility whatsoever. It was simply Trump once again pivoting back to the Klansmen, the neo-Nazis, the white nationalists and others who support him. He’s absolutely loathe to alienate them.

    We have seen that so much through his candidacy and through his presidency, his absolutely false claims, for instance, that he didn’t know who David Duke was and therefore couldn’t condemn him. So, it’s — as Carol said, it’s the dog whistle game all over again, although it is barely veiled.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Carol Anderson, one of the things that he did today was use the fallacy of the slippery slope to say, well, today, it’s the Confederate monuments. Tomorrow, why not George Washington, why not Thomas Jefferson, who were slave owners themselves?

    CAROL ANDERSON: I don’t even know how to really respond to that, except to say his inability to understand the difference between people who fought to create the United States of America and people who fought to destroy the United States of America, so that they could hold, rape, breed, and sell human beings, shows his inability to think, his inability to have any kind of a sense of American history.

    And it shows again that kind of dog whistling, so that what you do is you create a false narrative, which is what he’s doing to create fear that, what this left is doing, this so-called left that he’s talking about, is trying to destroy America, when, in fact, what you’re seeing are the people who are out protesting against the Nazis, against the Klan, they are fighting for America, they are fighting for the recognition of our humanity, all of our humanity.

    That is so fundamentally different, and you would think that the president of the United States would be able to understand that. But Donald Trump doesn’t.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Leonard Pitts, this weekend, you wrote in a column that part of this is because we choose to lie to ourselves about the racial divide that exists in the country. What did you mean?

    LEONARD PITTS JR.: What I meant is that a lot of my white fellow countrymen have chosen a path of intellectual dishonesty, I guess would be the best way to put it, to deal with what’s going on with regard to race right now.

    And I think reason they do that is because it’s a lot easier on them emotionally and intellectually, frankly, than to actually confront what’s actually going on in the country these days and what’s going on with African-Americans.

    So, instead of dealing with that, if you want the think of yourself as a good person, you do not want to therefore want to think of yourself as part of some sort of racist system, because, then, if you’re a good person, you’re obligated to do something about it and to stand up.

    So, the alternative to doing that is to say, well, it’s all these people’s imaginations or it’s — the alternative is to adopt these really spurious claims.

    One of my favorite is — and Donald Trump sort of, I think, leads toward this — one of my favorite is, well, there’s racism on both sides, which is one of the — which is hugely false, and for obvious reasons. When people who are white talk about the — quote, unquote — “racism” they experience at the hands of black people, they’re talking about somebody called me a bad racial name.


    LEONARD PITTS JR.: When I talk about the racism that I fear from white people in this society, I’m talking about the fear that one of my sons will be shot and killed by police and then thing-afied and thug-afied on cable news.

    When they talk about racism, they’re talking about something that affects the quality of their day. When we as African-Americans talk about racism, we’re talking about something that affects the quality of our lives.

    And this has been said very clearly for many years, and yet, for whatever — and this and other things. But, for whatever reason, too many of our white fellow countrymen have — profess to have difficulty in understanding this. This is what I mean when I say intellectual dishonesty.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mark Potok, you spent decades tracking this. Is this actually increasing, or is our perception of it increasing because everything is so much more visible these days?

    MARK POTOK: No, I think it is increasing.

    I think there are many things going on in the world today that are helping to foment this movement. Many of them, I have mentioned already, cable TV, radio talk show hosts, people like Donald Trump and some of the really loathsome characters within his administration.

    But, beyond that, I think this country, like much of Western Europe, has gone through enormous changes. The most obvious is demographic change, the idea that whites will be a minority by about 2050 — 2043, pardon me, according to the Census Bureau, but also huge economic changes that are hurting people, very many of them white, who in the past were fairly privileged, had very good factory jobs, made a lot of money, and are now in trouble, certainly not in as much trouble as black people or other minorities, but are feeling the hurt.

    And also cultural changes. I think the most obvious example of that is the idea of same-sex marriage, which seemed unimaginable a mere 15 or 20 years ago, and today is the law of the land in all 50 states. So, I think something real is happening out there. There are huge changes occurring.

    Obviously, quite a few white people out there feel that somehow the country their white forefathers created for their white offspring is not the place that they grew up in anymore. So, you know, I think you add to that very volatile mix, that very real mix of what’s happening in the world a character like Donald Trump, who I think has done just enormous damage to the country in terms of mainstreaming and normalizing these ideas, these very violent ideas, and you find yourself, as we find ourselves today, in a very scary and dangerous situation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.

    Mark Potok, Carol Anderson, Leonard Pitts Jr., thank you all.

    LEONARD PITTS JR.: Thank you.

    MARK POTOK: Thank you.

    CAROL ANDERSON: Thank you.

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    Protesters block  members of the press as they chain themselves to an entry point prior at the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in Washington, DC, U.S., January 20, 2017.  REUTERS/Bryan Woolston - RTSWGFD

    Protesters block members of the press as they chain themselves to an entry point prior at the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Bryan Woolston.

    WASHINGTON — An internet company is fighting what it says is a “sweeping” request for information about an anti-Trump website that prosecutors allege was behind destructive Inauguration Day protests. The company says the government is seeking information about 1.3 million visitors to the site, among other information.

    More than 200 people were charged after protesters broke windows and set fire to a limousine on President Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. Prosecutors say the website disruptj20.org was used in the “development, planning, advertisement, and organization of a violent riot,” and they obtained a search warrant in July ordering the company that hosted the website, DreamHost, to turn over information.

    But California-based DreamHost says the warrant violates the Constitution and a federal privacy law. The company said in a blog post Monday that it’s being asked to turn over IP addresses of those who visited the site plus “contact information, email content and photos of thousands of people.” The company said that “information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment.”

    “That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind,” the post says.

    A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which is prosecuting the case, declined to comment beyond what had been filed in court. A court filing by prosecutors says the search warrant was “properly issued.”

    A hearing in Superior Court in Washington was scheduled for Friday, but has been postponed.

    Mark Rumold, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group supporting DreamHost, says such sweeping seizures are usually reserved for investigations of websites devoted to criminal activity like child pornography.

    “Here, the concerns are exacerbated because we’re dealing with core, protected First Amendment activities,” he said.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All of today’s comments surrounding the events in Charlottesville follow a protest last night in neighboring North Carolina.  Demonstrators in Durham tore down a Confederate statue outside a courthouse.  They attached a rope and overturned the bronze monument, before kicking it and cheering.  The Durham County sheriff said protesters will face felony charges.

    In the day’s other news: The death toll from yesterday’s devastating mudslide in Sierra Leone has surged to more than 300. And the Red Cross estimates another 600 people are still missing. Rescue crews battled still fast-moving waters, as they searched homes ravaged by the floods. Survivors recounted the horror of the mudslides in the capital, Freetown.

    ALFRED JOHNNY, Mudslide Survivor (through interpreter): There was a big sound and the ground was trembling and stones started falling. When I came out, a stone nearly killed me, so I ran away. When I looked back, all the buildings were covered with mud. Nobody survived from that part of the hill.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: If you want to hear more about the rescue and recovery efforts in Sierra Leone, we spoke with Idalia Amaya of Catholic Relief Services. You can find that interview on our Facebook page.

    And, separately, monsoon-fueled rains across Southeast Asia have now killed more than 200 people in Nepal, Bangladesh, and India.

    The president of Argentina today became the latest Latin American leader to speak against the prospect of U.S. military action in Venezuela. President Mauricio Macri said force is not the way to go. Colombia’s president also said military force shouldn’t be considered. Macri spoke during a visit by Vice President Mike Pence, who once again declined to rule out military action.

    Pence did say he’s confident a — quote — “peaceable solution can be achieved.”

    The president of Iran has issued a new threat about his country’s nuclear program. President Trump says Iran has violated the spirit of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, a pact he has repeatedly wanted to scuttle. But speaking to lawmakers in Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran’s nuclear activities could be advanced quickly if the U.S. continues its — quote — “threats and sanctions.”

    PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI, Iran (through interpreter): If the U.S. administration is willing to repeat previous experiences, Iran will certainly, within a short period, not short on a scale of weeks or months, but short on a scale of hours and days, will return to a much more advanced position than when the talks started.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Earlier this week, Iran’s Parliament voted to increase spending on the country’s ballistic missile program and foreign operations of its Revolutionary Guard.

    Back in this country, voters went to the polls today in Alabama’s Senate Republican primary. It’s a race to fill the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Luther Strange, who was appointed to the seat, is up against Congressman Mo Brooks and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. The contest could go to a runoff next month between the top two finishers. President Trump has thrown his weight behind Strange.

    READ MORE: What to watch in Alabama’s special election

    The federal government is facing pushback on its attempt to get information about visitors to a Web site that helped organize protests at President Trump’s inauguration. The site’s provider, DreamHost, says it is challenging a request for data on some 1.3 million visitors to the page. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Friday in Washington.

    President Trump’s threat to stop subsidies for insurers could add $194 billion dollars to federal deficits over a decade. That’s according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It says ending insurance subsidies would force an increase in federal payments directly to individuals. The president has said cutting the payments, which help cover costs for people with lower incomes, would force lawmakers to negotiate on health care reform.

    And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained five points to close at 21998. The Nasdaq fell seven points, and the S&P 500 dropped a point.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Yesterday we reported on President Trump’s updated statement criticizing violent neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups for the violence over the weekend in Charlottesville. That was yesterday.

    Today, in an impromptu news conference originally about an executive order on infrastructure, Trump defended his statements from over the weekend and went even further.

    For more on all this, I’m joined by the NewsHour’s John Yang.

    John, at first, it was about infrastructure. There were visual aids. There were flowcharts. And then:

    JOHN YANG: It was a remarkable performance, Hari.

    Reporters were initially told that the president wouldn’t take questions. It was just going to be a statement. But he’s described as fuming at the press and the coverage of his reaction to Charlottesville, and this afternoon he came out swinging, first on CEOs quitting White House advisory panels.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Take a look at where their product is made. It is made outside of our country. We want products made in the country.

    Now, I have to tell you, some of the folks that will leave, they’re leaving out of embarrassment, because they make their products outside. And I have been lecturing them, including the gentleman that you are referring to, about you have to bring it back to this country.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: He was referring to the Merck CEO, but there were many other CEOs.

    JOHN YANG: There were three CEOs altogether and also the head of another panel, CEOs of Intel, of Under Armour, and then the head of a manufacturing alliance.

    And then, just a few moments ago, Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, announced that he’s quitting. He said that Mr. Trump’s today, in his words, repudiate his forced remarks yesterday.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: He doubled down. This was kind of the person that almost was forced, as Richard Trumka says. You could see how uncomfortable he was in front of the teleprompter yesterday. But, today, he was incredibly confident. He was sure of himself. And this is what he thinks.

    JOHN YANG: Yesterday, we are told that especially Chief of Staff John Kelly pressed for what happened yesterday. They wanted to get this behind them, so they could move on to their agenda in September, but the president brought it right back today, back to square one.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: He was also defending — he took sort of several moments and opportunities to defend the alt-right in not so many words, by really pointing out there were other good and decent people there, and even how he perceived the protests on Friday night, where those men were carrying torches.

    WATCH: Scenes from Charlottesville invoke racist legacy in the present day

    JOHN YANG: And he sort of also defended why it took him more than 48 hours to specifically condemn white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I didn’t wait long. I didn’t wait long. I didn’t wait long.

    I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct, not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement, but you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the fact.

    And it takes a little while to get the facts. You still don’t know the facts. And it is a very, very important process to me. It is a very important statement. So I don’t want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This is not the same person that tweets within minutes. When he’s angry about something, he takes to Twitter very quickly. He makes statements sometimes too quickly.

    And here he is sort of saying the opposite, that he’s deliberate, that he waits for facts and information.

    JOHN YANG: Critics pointed out, have already been pointing out that this is the same man who went to Twitter to criticize, accused President Obama of wiretapping him in Trump Tower without any evidence, and make a number over claims that — without any evidence.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And even in the remarks about the Merck CEO who left the council, it was an incredibly short amount of time, as soon as he left the council, that he sort of took Merck through the ringer.

    JOHN YANG: He went — yesterday, after Kevin Frazier resigned from the council, he took to Twitter and said, great. Now we have more time to secure these ripoff high drug prices, even though, at Merck, Frazier has led the way in sort of being transparent about drug costs.

    And he also accused him today of manufacturing drugs overseas.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Which makes you wonder, why did you have him on, on the commission in the first place, right, if you thought these things about him?

    And there’s also this equivalency that he’s making throughout this defense of what happened in Charlottesville.

    JOHN YANG: He went back to the original statement on Saturday, that this was something — he criticized what he called the alt-left.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Excuse me. What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?


    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Let me ask you this. What about the fact they came charging — that they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.

    I am not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this. You had a group on one side and a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and horrible and it was a horrible thing to watch.

    I think there’s blame on both sides, and I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It’s because, really, what — when you see the statement that was constructed yesterday, and when you see how forthright he is, this is what he believes, and Saturday is what he believed.

    JOHN YANG: People — some at the White House have been telling me that, talking about the Saturday statement, that he saw this as an issue of law and order, that he saw unrest, he saw civil unrest and violence.

    He didn’t really distinguish which side. He saw this more as an issue of law and order, not ideology.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And, you know, there was also kind of a fallacy of the slippery slope here with George Washington.

    JOHN YANG: That’s right.

    He was asked about this whole controversy of removing Confederate memorials like the Robert E. Lee statue that sparked Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville.

    Mr. Trump, in response, brought up the founding fathers who were slave owners.

    READ MORE: Robert E. Lee opposed Confederate monuments

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down — excuse me. Are we going to take down — are we going to take down statues to George Washington?

    How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? OK, good. Are we going to take down his statue? Because he was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue?

    So, you know what? It’s fine.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There has already been reaction.

    JOHN YANG: There has been reaction.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted just a little bit ago, saying that — I have lost it on my phone here, but that there can be no moral ambiguity.

    He was — also won praise. David Duke, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, tweeted: “Thank you, President Trump, for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville and condemn the leftist terrorists in Black Lives Matter and Antifa, anti-fascists.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, these are the people that are happy with the president and his remarks today?

    JOHN YANG: They — our colleague P.J. Tobia talked to Matthew Heimbach, who is the head of the Traditionalist Worker Party, described him as being ecstatic on the phone when he spoke to him.

    He says that what the president called the alt-left: “These were actual anarchists, radical leftists, not your daddy’s Democrats. And they talk about violence and commit violence and terror acts on a daily basis.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The Traditional Worker Party.

    All right, there was also a moment with John McCain and how he sort of referenced him as somebody that was questioning him about a critique by John McCain and kind of threw him under the bus at that moment.

    And then there was this — all I can say is this sort of bizarre promo for a winery that Trump owns in Charlottesville.

    Anyway, it’s fascinating insight into the president. John Yang, thanks so much.

    JOHN YANG: Thank you.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: We have only scratched the surface of the president’s press conference. You can watch the whole event on our Web site, pbs.org/newshour.


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    File photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    File photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    A judge in north Texas handed down the 89th and final conviction in a yearslong investigation into the criminal activity of several white supremacist gangs in north Texas.

    U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle handed down a 20-year prison sentence to Jeramy Weatherall, 29, of Dallas. He pleaded guilty in March to one count of possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute the drug.

    Weatherall was the last defendant in a series of prosecutions stemming from a 2013 probe that targeted members of various white supremacist gangs — including the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas — selling drugs in the north Texas area.

    The defendants were members of ABT and other violent organized crime groups such as the Aryan Circle, the “Dirty White Boys,” the “White Knights,” among others.

    “Each of these gangs are organized crime groups, but in recent years, the white supremacy ideology of each of these groups has taken a backseat to traditional criminal ventures, such as drug-dealing,” according to a statement on the Justice Department’s site.

    Of the 91 people charged in connection with the probe, 89 have been convicted. One remains at large and is believed to be in Mexico, while one died before the trial began, the statement added.

    In all, officials said those convicted were linked to 956 kilograms of methamphetamine, “with a conservative street value of just under $10 million.”

    U.S. Attorney John Parker singled out ABT and the Aryan Circle in the statement Monday, saying that the dozens of convictions meant the two largest groups of this kind “have essentially been decimated in north Texas.” Parker then noted the work of the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Dallas Police Department in the case.

    Lisa Slimak, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Dallas, told the NewsHour that the office “feels strongly” that the “free-world,” or “street,” ABT population in Dallas has been decimated.

    “It remains a strong presence in prisons and ABT members are released everyday, but the free-world structure has been destroyed and their ability to work collectively and efficiently has been severely reduced,” she wrote in an email.

    While Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League considers the 89 convictions to be a success, he does not think it necessarily means the case has “decimated” those white supremacist groups. The best authorities can do is hinder or slow down the criminal activities of the ABT or the Aryan Circle, he said. This is because these groups, for much of their history, have primarily conducted all manner of crimes — from drugs, burglary rings and identity theft to hate crimes and murder — in prison.

    WATCH: White nationalists see violent Charlottesville rally as successful turning point

    The Southern Poverty Law Center points out that a 2012 report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimates ABT membership in the Texas prison system at 2,600 members, with another 180 in federal prisons. Other estimates, SPLC says, places the total number at 3,500, including 1,000 members out on the streets.

    Convicted ABT members who go to prison could continue their illegal activity there; the group was founded in the early 1980s by people within the prison system, Pitcavage said.

    “Putting an ABT gang member behind bars does not have the same effect as putting a KKK member behind bars,” Pitcavage said.

    ABT and other white supremacist prison gangs didn’t really have a street presence until the 21st century, he added, saying that they are just as active on the streets as they are behind bars.

    Police and prison officials have wrestled with how to adequately contain these white supremacist prison gangs. Their solutions have had varying degrees of success, from enacting what’s essentially solitary confinement to breaking up the gangs and shipping members to other states, Pitcavage said.

    “There’s no perfect solution to dealing with this problem,” he said. “You have to keep grinding at it.”

    The post Years-long probe into Texas white supremacist gangs ends with 89th and final conviction appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The Alabama GOP primary for a special election that will fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Senate seat will head to a September runoff between Strange, left, and Moore.

    The Alabama GOP primary for a special election that will fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat will head to a September runoff between Sen. Luther Strange, left, and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. photos by Reuters and Getty.

    Sen. Luther Strange and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore are headed to a Republican primary runoff to fill the U.S. Senate seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    The two men, who represent different factions within the Alabama Republican Party, will face off in a Sept. 26 runoff.

    READ MORE: Your guide to Alabama’s special election

    Strange was appointed to the Senate seat in February by the state’s then governor. He was unable to escape a runoff despite being buoyed by an endorsement by President Donald Trump.

    Moore harnessed his support among evangelical voters to secure a spot in the runoff. A judicial discipline panel twice removed Moore from his duties as chief justice.

    The runoff winner will face the Democratic nominee in a Dec. 12 election.

    The post Strange, Moore head for runoff in Alabama GOP primary to fill Sessions’ Senate seat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A man looks at flowers placed on the road where Heather Heyer was killed when a suspected white nationalist crashed his car into anti-racist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 16, 2017.   REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    A man looks at flowers placed on the road where Heather Heyer was killed when a suspected white nationalist crashed his car into anti-racist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 16, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    A majority of Americans are dissatisfied with President Donald Trump’s response to the violence that erupted Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, according to a new poll conducted by the PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist Poll.

    Two-thirds of Americans viewed the car attack that killed one person and injured 19 others at the protest as an act of domestic terrorism, the poll found. Overall, 52 percent of respondents said they don’t think Trump issued a strong enough response to the violent protests in Charlottesville, which were organized by white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups, including some that supported Trump’s campaign last year.

    Trump initially blamed the violence on “many sides,” sparking a backlash from Republicans and Democrats alike who criticized the president for not speaking out more forcefully against racism and white supremacists. Trump issued a stronger statement two days later.

    READ MORE: New poll: 70% of Americans think civility has gotten worse since Trump took office

    But in a press conference Tuesday, Trump again blamed both sides for the violence, claiming that the so-called “alt left” was also responsible for the deadly turn of events. There is no such thing as the “alt-left,” the New York Times reported Wednesday, citing researchers who study extremist groups in the United States. Trump’s latest comments on Charlottesville again cast attention on his reluctance at times to fully distance himself from hate groups, a sharp contrast from the way past presidents have addressed race relations and bigotry in the country.

    Overall, the NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll found that just 27 percent of Americans were satisfied with the president’s message after Charlottesville. Another 21 percent of U.S. adults said they had not yet decided if they supported Trump’s response or not.

    A quarter of Americans -- 27 percent -- said they think President Donald Trump's response was strong enough after the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, according to a new poll from PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist Poll.

    Respondents were sharply divided along political lines, however, with 59 percent of Republicans expressing support for Trump’s statements, while only 10 percent of Democrats and 30 percent of people who identify themselves as politically independent felt the same.

    There were also some differences of opinion along racial lines. Among white Americans, 31 percent thought Trump said what needed to be said after Charlottesville, with 20 percent of Hispanics and 13 percent of African-Americans saying the same.

    READ MORE: Independent voters sour on Trump’s handling of the economy

    “It’s not surprising that people of color feel the president dropped the ball in his handling of this crisis, but whites are not in his corner, either,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.

    Nearly seven out of 10 Americans -- 67 percent -- think the automobile attack that left Heather Heyer dead and 19 more people injured should be considered an act of domestic terrorism.

    Nearly seven out of 10 Americans — 67 percent — think the automobile attack that left Heather Heyer dead and 19 more people injured should be considered an act of domestic terrorism.

    The split along racial and political lines didn’t apply to the public’s views about the deadly car attack, however. The split along racial and political lines didn’t apply to the public’s views about the deadly car attack, however. Nearly seven out of 10 Americans — 67 percent — think the automobile attack that left Heather Heyer dead and 19 more people injured should be considered an act of domestic terrorism.

    “What’s interesting about the incident in Charlottesville is we’re seeing more consensus of Americans as a whole,” said Barbara Carvalho, who directs Marist Poll at Marist College. “You have this disconnect with what president is saying and what they’re seeing with their own eyes.”

    “What’s interesting about the incident in Charlottesville is we’re seeing more consensus of Americans as a whole. … You have this disconnect with what president is saying and what they’re seeing with their own eyes.”

    The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville was organized to protest the city’s decision to remove a memorial to Confederate general Robert E. Lee. But the poll found that 62 percent of Americans believe Confederate statues should remain in place as historical symbols.

    Republicans were twice as likely as Democrats to say they supported keeping statues that honor Confederate leaders. Two-thirds of whites and Latinos said these statues should not be removed. African-American respondents were split, with 44 percent saying the statues should remain in place, and another 40 percent saying they need to be removed because some people find them offensive.

    PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll shows 62 percent of U.S. adults think statues honoring Confederate leaders should remain as historic symbols.

    According to the poll, a majority of Americans — 52 percent — think race relations are worse now than they were a year ago, while 9 percent of Americans said they think race relations are improving. In recent years, Americans have been fairly pessimistic when asked about the state of race relations in the country. When asked in September 2015, 58 percent of respondents told Marist that race relations were getting worse, not better.

    This latest poll, which was conducted August 14 through August 15 and included responses from 1,125 U.S. adults, had a margin of error of 2.9 percent.

    Overall, the poll found that a third of Americans — 35 percent — approve of Trump’s job performance, a figure that has remained largely unchanged since he took office. In April, Trump’s approval rating was 39 percent.

    The PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist Poll contacted 1,125 U.S. adults using landline and mobile phones between August 14 and August 15. There is a 2.9 percent margin of error.

    The post New poll: Majority of Americans unhappy with Trump’s response to Charlottesville appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Virginia State Troopers stand under a statue of Robert E. Lee before a white supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTS1BI7E

    Virginia State Troopers stand under a statue of Robert E. Lee before a white supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    Both were great generals. Both Virginians. Both came from slave-owning plantation families.

    Is it really so far-fetched to put Robert E. Lee in the same category as George Washington, as President Donald Trump suggested Tuesday?

    Many historians say yes.

    “It’s a ridiculous conflation,” said Professor Alice Fahs of the University of California, Irvine. “He’s not a founding father, and it’s as though Trump thinks he is. It’s really astonishing. It’s amazing.”

    Trump’s remarks on Tuesday came as he was defending those who have sought to preserve the statue of Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, the focus of a violent weekend clash in which an anti-racist protester was killed. The president didn’t exactly equate the Confederate general with the nation’s founding fathers. But he noted a similarity sometimes glossed over — ownership of slaves by figures who nobly stand or sit astride horses on U.S. pedestals — and he asked: If you’re going to be pulling down statues, “where does it stop?”

    “So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee,” he said. “I wonder, is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?”

    There is no notable movement to tear down the Washington monument.

    [WATCH: Trump blames ‘both sides’ for violence at Charlottesville rally]

    Most historians agree that Washington and Jefferson’s ownership of slaves has tainted the positive legacy they left. And some monuments and memorials to both men attempt to address that part of their lives.

    For some, monuments to those founding fathers “force us to contemplate the centrality of slavery to the making of the nation,” said Gregory Downs, a history professor at the University of California, Davis who studies the impact of the Civil War on the United States. But he also said the difference between the nation’s first president, George Washington, and then man who sought to secede from the nation, Robert E. Lee, isn’t complicated.

    “It is obvious that traitors in arms to the nation are not equivalent to those who created it,” he said.

    Adding to the complexity of the debate, many Lee memorials were erected long after the Civil War as part of an effort to rehabilitate Lee’s reputation and denigrate his victorious opponent Ulysses S. Grant, who fought to preserve the nation and later defended black civil rights as president.

    In that sense the memorials “celebrated two historical crimes,” Downs said. “First, treasonous secession for the purpose of preserving and expanding slavery forever. Second, the violent and fraudulent creation of Jim Crow segregation.”

    Associate Professor Michael Green of the University of Nevada Las Vegas added, “A lot of Southerners glorified Lee into something more than he was.”

    Lee has been portrayed as kindly to slaves, which he was not, and conflicted about which side to fight for, which is inaccurate, Green said.

    He concedes, however, that if “my ancestors had fought for the Confederacy, it’s possible I would feel a little differently. It’s important to look at historical figures so that we don’t look up at them or down on them, but from all angles.”

    He said that historical consensus is very different now than when Trump learned it in school decades ago. People like Lee were presented as heroes and people like Frederick Douglass, about whom the president seemed to have little knowledge earlier this year, weren’t presented at all.

    Lee and Washington in the same class? Said Downs: “Had the Confederacy won, a new nation founded on perpetuating slavery would have celebrated Robert E. Lee as its George Washington. Luckily for us, that effort failed.”___

    Andrew Dalton reported from Los Angeles.

    The post Historians say Trump went afoul in lumping Robert E. Lee with founding fathers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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