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

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    Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is expected to speak about The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, known as the “forever GI bill,” in a news briefing Wednesday.

    Shulkin is expected to speak around 5 p.m. Wednesday. Watch live in the player above.

    The bill is considered “the largest expansion of veterans education benefits in a decade,” Stars and Stripes reports.

    The bill, introduced by Rep. David Roe, R-Tenn., will help “end a 15-year limit for veterans to use their education benefits, restore benefits to veterans whose schools abruptly close and fix a Pentagon deployment authorization that has kept about 5,000 reservists from accumulating earned education benefits,” Stars and Stripes says.

    It passed the House last month and the Senate on Aug. 2. It’s awaiting a signature from President Donald Trump.

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Veterans Affairs Secretary Shulkin to discuss ‘forever GI bill’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Dana Neely/Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller is here to provide the answers you need on aging and retirement. His weekly column, “Ask Phil,” aims to help older Americans and their families by answering their health care and financial questions. Phil is the author of the new book, “Get What’s Yours for Medicare,” and co-author of “Get What’s Yours: The Revised Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security.” Send your questions to Phil.

    Many older Americans will need some type of extended care as they age. It may come in a nursing center or at home. Some individuals, through excellent lifestyle choices, inherited genetic traits and not a little bit of luck, may be able to minimize or even avoid such episodes. But there are so many aging people in the country today that no amount of healthful living will prevent enormous increases in demand for older-age caregiving.

    As things presently stand, we cannot afford to pay for all the care that older Americans will need.

    This inevitability has been known for decades, ever since the size of the baby boom generation became clear. Such are the long-term implications of demographics. Yet here we are, faced with another aging “crisis” – an elephant that is not only in the room today but took up residence decades ago.

    Medicare and Medicaid are the two safety-net programs we now have to provide the care we will need. Unless you’ve been living in an unwired biosphere, you might have noticed that these programs are the subject of many Republican proposals that would dramatically change them. The common theme of these proposals is a big cut in funding, and thus care, in comparison with current program rules and government spending commitments.

    READ MORE: The fight over Obamacare is over — for now. What does that mean for seniors?

    If you scratch the surface, you will not find much knowledge in many of these proposals about the realities of an aging population’s future health care needs.

    But to be fair, Republicans are admitting one very compelling point that many Democrats have been politically hampered from acknowledging: As things presently stand, we cannot afford to pay for all the care that older Americans will need. Budgets at the federal and state levels will not be able to foot this health care bill, and Lord knows that nearly all of us can’t afford to pay for it out of our own pockets.

    The Republicans’ message has been lost in the meanness of many of their proposals. They have forfeited any claim to the fiscal high ground with plans that would package steep health care cuts for most Americans with tax cuts for people who are already rich by nearly anyone’s standards.

    Faced with this stand-off, one can only applaud nascent efforts by some brave Republicans and Democrats to actually begin working together. Health care reforms cannot survive without bipartisanship, and for bipartisanship to work, the parties must be willing to compromise. We are nowhere near this point today, but we need to get there, and soon.

    Older citizens and their families need to be vigilant about efforts to raise the price of their health care, restrict their access to care or deny it to them altogether.

    In the meantime, older citizens and their families need to be vigilant about efforts to raise the price of their health care, restrict their access to care or deny it to them altogether. Today, I would like to draw your attention to three such efforts: the use by hospitals of so-called observational stays, the desire by the nursing home industry to deny patients and their families the right to sue nursing homes over disputes and the growing shortage of federal funding for at-home care, coupled with rising problems in finding enough qualified caregivers to do this often low-paying work.

    Observational stays

    If Medicare enrollees are admitted to a hospital, stay there for a few days, and then require care in a skilled nursing facility, Medicare will cover that subsequent nursing care. This is a big benefit. Both the hospital and  skilled nursing facility care are covered under Part A of Medicare.

    However, if hospitals instead classify such visits as observational, as opposed to a formal admission, the person will not be covered by Medicare if they later need skilled nursing facility care. Further, their stay in the hospital will not be covered under Part A of Medicare but under Part B. These different parts of Medicare do not pay the same amounts for covered services.

    For those wishing to receive extra credit from Ask Phil, I have written about observational stays here and here. The reasons hospitals admit people on an observational basis are discussed in those pieces. Some past patients, it turns out, never even knew their hospital visit was treated as an observational stay. A recent law requires hospitals to at least tell them on a timely basis if this is so. Still, horror stories about observational stays still crop up. The good news here is that the Center for Medicare Advocacy, which filed a lawsuit to help people avoid observational stay expenses, says its suit has been certified by a Connecticut court as a class action.

    Nursing home lawsuits

    Last year, the Obama administration issued a rule that prevented nursing homes from requiring patients to agree, as a condition of admittance, to submit disputes to binding arbitration and thus waive their rights to sue the home over allegations of poor care or excessive billing. Many if not nearly all nursing homes would prefer arbitration; it usually results in more favorable and less costly outcomes for the homes.

    The nursing home industry sued to stop the rule, and its implementation was placed on hold while the litigation was pending. Now, there are Trump appointees at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Secretary Tom Price) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (Administrator Seema Verma). They have reversed last year’s rule and dropped legal efforts to defeat the nursing operators’ challenge. Not surprisingly, consumer groups are alarmed, and three dozen of them have protested. Further, 31 Senate Democrats also have protested. Accuse me of being cynical here, but I am not holding my breath waiting for Price to change his mind because Sen. Al Franken, among others, has asked him to do so.

    Home care funding

    Many Medicare beneficiaries incorrectly believe Medicare covers long-term custodial care in their homes. Such care is commonly needed by frail seniors, helping them with domestic and personal care needs. However, Medicare does not cover this care.

    It does cover medically proscribed home care for people who qualify as homebound, meaning they can’t leave their homes easily. The rules for at-home care are complicated, and as a past Ask Phil column explained, it can be very hard to find an agency to provide such care, even when it is covered.

    Under terms of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare was charged with reducing charges for at-home care, which had been identified as too generous for at-home care providers.

    Maybe that was true for shoddy providers. But it is hard to accept that Medicare’s rates are too high for those agencies that provide trained and caring home aids. These people are hard to find, and the task is made much harder when agencies are unable to pay them more than $12 to $15 an hour for what can be very demanding work.

    After trimming relatively small amounts from Medicare’s at-home reimbursement formulas in recent years, program administrators have announced reimbursement changes that would lead to an estimated $1 billion cut in at-home benefits for 2019. Given that Medicare spending on these benefits was $18 billion in the 2015 program year, this is nearly a 6 percent nominal cut, at a time when health care costs are rising.

    These reductions are not so clearly a case of Republican appointees reducing Medicare benefits. There are solid reasons to change how home health agencies are reimbursed. Logical or not, however, this shift would further hurt an already weakened industry.

    Families already face growing problems finding affordable and reliable caregivers for their aging parents. Where will future caregivers come from? As some experts have noted, President Trump’s efforts to sharply restrict unskilled immigrants could have a dramatic impact on the supply of old-age caregivers.

    There are many times more people on Medicare and Medicaid than are covered on state Obamacare exchanges. This is where the real fight is now taking place.

    This difficult situation would be made untenable under the sharp funding cuts to Medicare and Medicaid contained in any number of Republican proposals. Health care advocates have devoted most of their energy to recent GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare. That’s understandable. But there are many times more people on Medicare and Medicaid than are covered on state Obamacare exchanges. This is where the real fight is now taking place.

    Our regular reader questions will resume next week.

    The post Column: The real health care fight is coming, and it’s about seniors’ access appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: In our Leading Edge segment tonight: the eclipse.

    Monday, the United States will experience the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in nearly a century. This dazzling spectacle happens when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, blocking out the sun and plunging the Earth into momentary darkness.

    For more about what to expect and how to view this rare event, I’m joined by science correspondent Miles O’Brien.

    Miles, I tried to do it justice.

    Explain what is happening.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Well, Hari, the place to be is a swathe from Salem, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina. That is a big, long path across the United States where you will see a total eclipse.

    The moon will pass in front of the sun. And here’s one of the great coincidences of nature. The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, but the sun is 400 times farther away. And so, the optical illusion is that they are the same size, the moon passes in front, it completely covers the sun’s disk, allowing people to experience an amazing, beautiful thing.

    And it does give scientists an opportunity to study the sun’s corona.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This happens. It just doesn’t happen this often over the United States.

    MILES O’BRIEN: It happens about every 18 months.

    But, remember, the planet is about 70 percent water. And then there’s a couple of other factors that are involved here. The moon’s orbit is tilted about five degrees, and so to have it line up just perfectly doesn’t happen every time.

    In addition to that, the moon’s orbit is elliptical, so sometimes it’s a little bit farther away, and you get what’s called an annular eclipse, meaning you still see a ring of fire around the sun.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, you’re going to be where? And I’m imagining all the places along this line are preparing for people like you who are going there.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Yes. Eclipse excitement is running high all across the nation.

    There are people that are — well, put it this way. Airbnb owners are doing very well right now. I’m going to be in Irwin, Idaho, which is right underneath the path of totality. It’s likely to be a nice, clear day this time of year. That’s another factor. It’s at a nice high altitude, which helps.

    And I’m going to be doing a Facebook livestream for “NOVA” and the “NewsHour.” We will hope you will join us during that. And we’re going to be watching with great care, which is an important point, of course.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes, let’s — OK. So, you have your place picked out.

    How do you see this safely?


    So, let’s just say this as many times as you can. Kids, do not look at the sun directly. Except for that two minutes or so when it’s in totality, as they call it, it is very dangerous.

    What happens is, when we look up at the sun right now on a normal day, it’s our reaction to turn away. It’s too bright. The sun is still very bright even when it’s covered in great portion by the moon. And so that natural reaction goes away, and so you can hurt yourself.

    So, here’s what you need to do. Get some of these glasses, which are kind of Mylar, very dark. Make sure they have an ISO certification on them indicating they are the right darkness. There are some counterfeit glasses out there. Amazon sold some of them.

    They’re taking — they are going to give you your money back, but please, please, please make sure you didn’t get a counterfeit pair of glasses that was a particularly malicious thing for somebody to have done.

    The backup plan, if you can’t get the glasses — and you go to libraries — planetariums might have the glasses, viewing parties.


    MILES O’BRIEN: Number 14 welder’s glass is a good thing.

    Or you can make a pinhole camera, as I did back in the ’70s.


    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. You mentioned that scientists are going to be studying this. What do they need to figure out?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Well, the corona of the sun is of great scientists interest to anybody.

    For some reason, the corona is actually hot than the center of the sun itself. And no one really knows why that is the case. Above and beyond the scientific pursuit on that front, coronal mass ejections, the corona itself, can be very dangerous to our planet and have in the past caused problems for a communication satellite and the power grid.

    So, the more we understand how it operates, the more we can predict these kinds of things and shield the sensitive aspects of our society that might be affected by it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, are scientists going to be studying this from the ground? Are they going to fly along with it?

    MILES O’BRIEN: They actually — NASA is going to loft two former Cold War bombers that are rigged up as observatories.

    They will fly along the path of the eclipse. They’re going to be going about 700 miles an hour. The eclipse moves at about 1,500 miles an hour. So they can’t keep up, but with two of them operating in tandem, NASA figures they will get about seven minutes of totality, which, for us in Idaho, we’re only getting about 2.5 minutes.

    So, in theory, they are going to get a lot more data.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Even if we’re not in path, in this perfect path, what are we likely to see?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Well, a good chunk of the U.S., most of the U.S. — you will be in New York City, for example.

    You are going to get 70-plus percent coverage of the sun. That in and of itself, is a very striking thing and worth taking a look at it. If the weather supports it, by all means, with the safety measures taken, go out and take a look. So, if you don’t want to spend the money on the $2,000-per-night Airbnb, if you can’t just get to the path of totality, which goes from Oregon to South Carolina, by all means, take time, middle of the day Monday, to take a look. Make sure you do it safely.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Or, if you’re not in any of those places, you can certainly follow along live on Facebook on the NewsHour page, on the “NOVA,” page.

    And you’re going to be doing a special about this as well?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Well, yes.

    And, as a matter of fact, we will be doing the streaming during the day, and then “NOVA,” on the night of, that evening, will have a show that will air, “Eclipse Over America.”

    And so we invite all our PBS viewers to watch that as well.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Miles O’Brien, thanks so much.

    MILES O’BRIEN: You’re welcome.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And a news update before we go.

    In Venezuela, at least 36 people are dead after security forces raided a prison in the country’s south. Officials say it came after fighting erupted between inmates and prison staff. It’s still unclear if the bloodshed is tied to months of political unrest in the country.

    The post Why this year’s total eclipse is a bright opportunity for science appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Tonight, our first in a series from Syria.

    While a six-year civil war drags on, the fight against ISIS is heating up. The heart of the battle today? The northern city of Raqqa, where a U.S.-backed coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters are working to wrest the group from its de facto capital.

    The fight has been brutal, claiming thousands of civilian lives, and forcing tens of thousands of families from their homes.

    From Raqqa, in Northern Syria, and with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, special correspondent Gayle Tzemach Lemmon and producer Jon Gerberg report.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: In Northern Syria, the fight against ISIS has left a long, bloody trail. Towns once ISIS strongholds now lie in ruin. ISIS office buildings, the hub of its bureaucracy, now ghostly sites of death and destruction.

    But here amid the rubble, just outside of Raqqa, signs of life.

    SAMIA SHEIKH KHALIL, Displaced From Raqqa (through interpreter): We are staying in this home, but the landlords will come eventually. Where should we go? I wish I could go home to my family, my neighbors and relatives. We were living in peace. But there is no peace now, not even in our homes.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: In the shadow of Syria’s civil war now live tens of thousands of families like this, civilians forced to flee.

    The center of the battle today, Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State and the grueling campaign to drive them out. An increasingly cornered ISIS now uses car bombs and suicide attacks to slow oncoming forces.

    Supported by U.S. airpower, weaponry and military expertise, the Syrian Democratic Forces, a group of Kurdish and Arab fighters, is pushing deep into the city, wresting ISIS from its four-year stronghold.

    In East Raqqa City, half-a-mile from the front line, an ISIS car bomb still smoldering from this attack the day before. Coalition mortars sailing overhead. Temperatures topped 115 degrees, but soldiers’ spirits were high.

    HAMAS, 28-year-old Soldier (through interpreter): There are daily battles. We can be at one building, and they will be in the next. But we have made good progress from street to street. And we are the winning so far.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: They told us they were killing ISIS fighters every day. And the risk to their own lives is worth it.

    DOZDAR EFREEM, 24-year-old Soldier (through interpreter): These people are our families. Every soldier we lose to free the people is worth it to us. We are ready to be killed for the freedom of the people.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Preparing these soldiers is the work of Commander Ahmad Khalil. For 17 days, soldiers from across Syria undergo basic training, after that, the front line.

    Advisers from U.S. special operations forces have helped establish these training centers, and now Syrian leaders are taking charge. One major source of concern? Ethnic division. Foreign advisers have stressed the need for a force that reflects the Syrian population, both Kurd and Arab working together side by side.

    As U.S. advisers looked on, Commander Khalil underlined this priority.

    AHMAD KHALIL, Shuyukh Tahtani Training Center (through interpreter): We want this example to be replicated throughout Syria. All of the people of Syria, if we are not united in fighting ISIS, we will not win.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Forces must be ready, not just to fight ISIS, but to secure the streets afterward. About 30 miles north of Raqqa, security forces for the city are training and deploying.

    WISSAM, Raqqa Internal Security Forces (through interpreter): We know the mission is very difficult.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Wissam, a former university student, now teaches new recruits, preparing them to secure and stabilize their own communities after ISIS.

    WISSAM (through interpreter): This war was forced on us, and we will defend ourselves. The new generation has paid the price for this war. Students, workers, they have all paid the price with their future. They dreamed of becoming doctors, teachers and engineers. And now we are just starting to rebuild our country, our institutions, as well as our lives.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: The long-term stability of a city like Raqqa will depend on services and governance. It’s a slow, complicated effort. But this is the work that keeps wars ended.

    IBRAHIM AL-HASSAN, Raqqa Civil Council (through interpreter): Rebuilding is a very difficult process, and it’s very expensive. And the war is also very expensive. But we have the will to rebuild our country. And we will continue.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Ibrahim Al-Hassan is vice chair of the newly formed Raqqa Civil Council. He says rebuilding Raqqa is in the world’s interest.

    IBRAHIM AL-HASSAN (through interpreter): It doesn’t make sense that our people are paying the price alone. If we can eliminate terrorism here in Syria, it will not spread to France, England or New York.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: For the U.S.-led coalition, eliminating ISIS militarily has been a fraught operation. ISIS has tightened its stranglehold on Raqqa’s civilians. And the U.S. has supported the local forces with front-line advice and air support. American military leaders tout the precision of U.S. technology and weaponry.

    But precision only goes so far against an enemy that hides behind civilians to protect its fighters. Sites like this school outside of Raqqa are proof. In March, a coalition airstrike leveled this three-story building, an impromptu shelter for the war’s displaced. Scores were killed, mostly civilians, according to rights groups and local residents we met.

    But those witnesses and U.S. officials say ISIS fighters also were present and killed in the attack. American-led airstrikes have killed at least 3,000 civilians since 2014 in the fight against ISIS, according to the monitoring group Airwars.

    In the next town over, Ali Abdullah Mabrook showed me the one thing he had left of his three daughters, a single digital photograph of his youngest, Alaa. Mabrook told us his three daughters were killed when a coalition airstrike leveled his family’s home.

    ALI ABDULLAH MABROOK, Daughters Killed in Airstrike (through interpreter): I have been working for 45 years to build this house. How can I do it again now? Where should I go? Does Trump think that all of us are businessmen with billions of dollars? We are people without enough food for the day. Will he give me money now to build my house? Now I sleep in the streets now.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: But his wife pointed fingers much closer to home. She said ISIS fighters, living on her street, had been using her house as a base. It was revenge against her son, who was battling the Islamic State with the Syrian Democratic Forces. By fighting from her roof, she says, ISIS made her house a target.

    KHOWLA MUHAMAD MABROOK, Daughters Killed in Airstike (through interpreter): They knew they would be targeted, but the Islamic State wanted this. They came so my home would be targeted. What else should I say? May God take our revenge.

    Three girls, they were well-educated. They had their university certificates and all.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Abdulsalam Hamsourk recently learned his Raqqa home was destroyed in an airstrike. But he told us he was happy. The strike killed several ISIS fighters.

    Today, he works north of Raqqa, helping families caught in this brutal war. Tens of thousands have arrived at this camp run by Raqqa Civil Council.

    ABDULSALAM HAMSOURK, Raqqa Civil Council (through interpreter): We will fulfill our responsibility to our people. We will not say no to anyone. As a council and as residents ourselves, we will help our people.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: In the camp, we met Batoul. She was eight months pregnant when she led her toddler and sick husband out of Raqqa City. She gave birth to her two-week-old daughter here at the camp.

    BATOUL, Fled Raqqa With Family (through interpreter): There was a lot of violence. You could see it all. One time, I went to the doctor with my daughter when she was sick and we saw a beheading. We tried to run away from that area. They didn’t allow anyone to escape.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Eventually, she says airstrikes and fear for her family compelled her to risk is reprisal and flee.

    Will you tell your daughter about all of this one day?

    BATOUL (through interpreter): I will. I will tell her you were not born in your home. You were born here in the camp.

    The most important thing is for all of us to return and live together and for our kids to have a nice life, because this war is not their fault. And we hope for a better future for them, better than we had.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: It’s her story now, all of this.

    BATOUL (through interpreter): We suffered a lot under ISIS. And we hope to go back. If it is the Syrian Democratic Forces or anyone, if they will bring security, we just want to go home.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: But for now, this is what home looks like for so many Raqqa families.

    Inside this bombed-out building, the Khalil family struggles to forge ahead. The women clean and wash the dishes. The men salvage scrap metal from the wreckage they’re living in.

    Outside, the stench of corpses rotting reeked in the rubble underfoot, but inside we found a home, made bright with the sounds and colors of their 20-person family.

    They welcomed us in and they told a story of the hell of living under ISIS and of despair at their family’s displacement.

    SAMIA SHEIKH KHALIL (through interpreter): We left everything behind. We had been saving for 35 years. And we were safe there. Then we left everything in one helpless moment.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: What of the toll this has taken on your family?

    SAMIA SHEIKH KHALIL (through interpreter): Whatever I say, it won’t describe the suffering we have seen. I am devastated deep inside. I feel the pain of all Raqqa’s people as the pain of my own family. I can feel the injustice, how people lose their children. Even those who survived have nothing.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Nothing except the hope that the fight will someday end, and that her family can return to Raqqa and build their home once more.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I am Gayle Tzemach Lemmon in Raqqa, Syria.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Online, read more from Gayle Tzemach Lemmon about why she says she can’t stop thinking about the children she met while reporting in Syria.

    That’s at pbs.org/newshour.

    The post Syrians try to salvage life from the wreckage of Raqqa appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: And now we continue our conversation on the national reaction to the violence in Charlottesville and the president’s multiple responses to the events there.

    John Yang is back with that.

    JOHN YANG: Thanks, Hari.

    To get two different perspectives on all of this, we’re joined by Karine Jean-Pierre, a senior adviser to MoveOn.org and a veteran of the Obama administration, and from Phoenix, Chris Buskirk, editor of the conservative blog AmericanGreatness.org, and a radio talk host out in Phoenix.

    Thank you both for joining us.

    Karine, let me start with you.

    Since Saturday, there has been a lot going on and it seems like a big moment. What does this tell us about who we are as Americans in 2017 and where we are as a nation?

    WATCH LIVE: Race and Racism in the Age of Trump 

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, MoveOn.org: Right, there’s clearly no secret that this country has struggled with racism for many, many decades, right?

    It is a dark, troubling history of ours. And so the difference is that most presidents have been, on both sides of the aisle, when it comes to a scenario like this, they would have tried really hard to bring the country together.

    Now, I have not agreed with both sides of the aisle, either Democratic or Republican presidents, on how they have dealt with race, but they come from a place, usually, where they feel like the country needs to come together, we have to do all that we can.

    What we have seen in the last four days is the complete opposite of that. We have seen a president who has been on the side of Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalists, and not on the side of everybody else, essentially, who have been fighting and standing up against that.

    JOHN YANG: Chris, she says — Karine says that the president is not bringing us together. What do you say?

    CHRIS BUSKIRK, Editor, American Greatness: Yes.

    No, I don’t think that’s right. I think the president has done what he thinks he could in order to speak clearly to the American people. In the speech, he said very clearly racism is evil. He talked about the neo-Nazis, white supremacists as being evil and thugs. He was very clear about that.

    I’m not sure everybody wants to hear that. The problem that I think that we have come to, going back to your earlier question, where are we as people, is that we have become altogether too comfortable with a level of political violence that’s just intolerable.

    We have seen this — we saw this in Charlottesville, and it was tragic. It was terrible. We have what are basically racial provocateurs, these neo-Nazis who go out trying to stir up trouble. And there are people who are willing to engage them.

    And I think that that is troubling, because the rhetoric has heated up to such a point that people think that not only do they have a right to go out and commit violence in the name of violence, but they have some type of an imperative to do it. And that’s something that we need to address as a people, as a culture.

    And the president certainly can take a lead on that.

    JOHN YANG: Karine, the president was heavily criticized for his first response. And the people in the White House that I talk to say he saw this as a law and order issue, not as an ideological issue. What would you say about that?

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: I would say this.

    When it comes to Nazis, white supremacists and white nationalists, there are no two sides. There are no many sides. It’s just — I can’t believe what he’s saying. He continues to divide this country.

    He heard people, he watched people say Jews will not replace us, blood and soil, white lives matter, and he says, those are good, fine people? How is that? He went out of his way to criticize people who were standing up to them.

    That is incredibly troubling. And not only that, we saw one Donald Trump Monday, which was like a teleprompter Donald Trump. His staff wrote a script and he stuck to the script. That’s right, he did condemn the violence.

    But off-script, he was a completely different person. We saw exactly who he was. And it was this Donald Trump that incites violence, that agrees with violence. And he did that for two years during the campaign.

    JOHN YANG: Chris, what’s your take on the difference between the president’s statement on Monday and than what he said yesterday in the press conference?

    CHRIS BUSKIRK: Well, I’ll tell you, I think Karine makes one point that I wholeheartedly agree with, which is that, of course, there’s not two sides when it comes to Nazis or neo-Nazis or any of this. There’s one side on that, at least in this country. And we can be thankful, we can be very thankful for that.

    But I think that’s it’s not an issue, at least from the president’s perspective, from a lot of people’s perspective, it’s not just a race issue or law and order issue. It can be both. And people are trying to divide what — the president’s statements and parse them as though it’s an either/or choice.

    It’s both. He came down clearly and said there is a racial issue here in terms of the neo-Nazis, the white supremacists, and that’s unacceptable, it’s wrong, and it’s something that can’t be tolerated.

    On the other hand, he said that political violence — this is what he was talking about yesterday — we cannot have different — we cannot have mobs of people from different political parties or viewpoints battling it out in the streets.

    And this is where I think that the police in Charlottesville made an issue where there didn’t have to be one. They were not present. And they needed to keep these two parties or these two groups of people apart.

    We wouldn’t be talking about this today if they had been in there and not let this situation spiral out of control.

    JOHN YANG: I think the police role is a big issue.

    Chris, let me stay with you for a second. These advisory councils and sort of the fallout from all this, you had CEOs trying to distance themselves, trying to leave those advisory councils.

    This is a president who ran on being business friendly, who has touted his closeness to CEOs. Is this a sign of political trouble for the president?

    CHRIS BUSKIRK: Yes, it’s hard to tell on the political front.

    I think it is a sign, though, that people like to talk about courage and about coming together a lot more than they like to do it, because it would take some courage for these CEOs to actually lead by example and come together and work on the things they were brought together for, which are the kitchen table issues that matter to mainstream America.

    They need to be working on the things that they were there for. How do we increase the number of jobs in this country, the number of good-paying jobs, increase wages? That’s why they were there. And yet at the first moment they could make a political statement, they chose to cut and run.

    I think they should have led by an example and stuck together to their knitting and work together to work on those projects.

    JOHN YANG: Karine.

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I think the first few CEOs that did leave very clearly on did show a profile in courage.

    The last ones, it was the public pressure that they received. And rightly so, they dropped out. But I think the lesson here to learn is that when you work for Donald Trump, you are either going to be humiliated or burned.

    And this really also applies to Republicans who are on the Senate, Republican governors, White House staff who work with him. If you work for this president, and he’s done it over and over again, he will drag you in the mud and make you look bad.

    JOHN YANG: Chris, we have also heard a lot of critics talk about whether or not the president’s lost sort of the moral authority by equating the two sides in this. How do you respond to that? And what’s your take on that?

    CHRIS BUSKIRK: I think that that remains to be seen.

    And, of course, the answer is going to — the answer you get is going to depend on who you ask, of course, but the president needs to show leadership on this front. I think that’s absolutely right.

    And we’re going to see what happens over the days and weeks to come. I will tell you, I’m more optimistic than I think — than Karine is, because I think that the president understands this as an issue that is important for the country and is important in racial terms, but it’s also important in law and order terms.

    We need to get to a place where we can have political differences with each other that don’t break out in violence on the streets.

    JOHN YANG: Karine, we have less than 30 seconds left.

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t think the president has shown any type of moral standing or leadership on this.

    And we are at an inflection point in our country. On one side, we’re closer to war with North Korea than we have ever been in decades, and on the other side we have — we have, you know, Nazis and white supremacists and white nationalists who feel emboldened and are in the streets without hoods.

    JOHN YANG: Well, we’re going to have to leave it there.

    Karine Jean-Pierre, Chris Buskirk, thanks so much for joining us.

    CHRIS BUSKIRK: Thank you.

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.

    The post Does President Trump’s Charlottesville response drive national division? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: But, first, back to the fallout from the president’s comments on Charlottesville.

    Political correspondent Lisa Desjardins joins me now to discuss how Republican lawmakers have reacted, and the new numbers from our latest NewsHour poll, done in collaboration with NPR and Marist College.

    Now, these were done after the statement on Saturday.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.

    This was a poll done Monday and Tuesday. And so some of this might include the president’s latest reaction. Most of it is including his reactions from Saturday.

    And here’s what we found. We asked people what they thought about the president’s response; 27 percent felt it was strong enough. But, Hari, a majority of Americans felt, 52 percent, not strong enough.

    Now, that did break down across party lines. Republicans felt better about the president’s response than did Democrats and independents, but on another question, there was universal agreement. The question was, should the fatal crash in Charlottesville be investigated as an act of domestic terrorism?

    Sixty-seven percent of those polled answered yes. And that was the same across all parties. We saw that resonate. And what’s interesting there, Hari, of course, is that the president has yet to say this should be investigated as domestic terrorism. He talks about Islamic terrorism, but here Americans seem to be raising a phrase that the president is not.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, so the president may not be in line with the views in that question, but how are other Republican leaders handling this now?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. He’s not the only major Republican leader.

    We have seen, I think, one common response, and that is the one we have seen from House Speaker Paul Ryan and also Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.

    Let’s look at what Mitch McConnell said in his response. He said: “There are no good neo-Nazis.” He went on to say: “We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and violence whenever it raises its evil head.”

    READ MORE: Trump disbands manufacturing council amid fallout over Charlottesville response

    In other words, Hari, most Republicans are saying, we are against racism, we’re against neo-Nazis. But they’re not taking on the president by name. There are a few who have, however.

    Let’s look at a tweet from Senator Marco Rubio. He tweeted: “Mr. President, you can’t allow white supremacists to share only part of the blame,” of course, going after the president’s idea that there is blame on all sides.

    And then we have seen, even more, even fewer Republicans have said this on camera, because, of course, it’s recess right now. But one is an interesting congressman, Will Hurd of Texas. He’s in a swing district.

    Let’s listen to what he said on CNN.

    WOLF BLITZER, CNN: What would you say to the president, Congressman, right now?

    REP. WILL HURD, R-Texas: Apologize, and that racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism of any form is unacceptable, and the leader of the free world should be unambiguous about that.

    LISA DESJARDINS: So he said it should be unambiguous and that the president should apologize.

    It’s a range for Republicans, but, mostly, Hari, the truth is most of them are not addressing the president directly.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: As you said, they’re in recess right now. When they get back to business, what does this mean for them?

    LISA DESJARDINS: I spent a lot of time making a lot of phone calls today. And the truth is, a lot of them don’t know. They’re not sure.

    This September, Hari, is going to be one of the most difficult climbs for Republicans and mainly for any Congress. They have to pass a budget. They have to have a spending bill, keep government operating, and pass a debt ceiling increase. It’s a lot for any Congress.

    And, meanwhile, they also want to try and tackle tax reform. So what I hear from Republicans is that they’re trying to focus ahead, and in coded words they say we are focusing on what we can do here in Congress. That means they’re not expecting, they’re not sure they can get help from this president at this point.

    One person said the president has to be part of this process, we know that. But also multiple people said we would like less drama from the White House. It’s as if they’re driving into a storm right now with the president.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And when those members of Congress come back to the Capitol, the issues of monuments and statues doesn’t go away.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.

    They will hear it from their local constituents, but also it’s in their daily lives, Hari. There are 10 statues in the U.S. Capitol of men who served in the Confederacy. Those are chosen by states. That’s not something Congress controls alone, but it’s something that members of Congress do see every day.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Lisa Desjardins, thanks so much.

    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.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: In response to the recent events in Charlottesville, something interesting happened in Charleston, South Carolina, yesterday that could be a road map forward.

    A secessionist and a black nationalist came together to make sure the racial tensions in their town do not lead to what happened in Charlottesville.

    They agreed to what they’re calling the Charleston Accord, which says though they may continue to be on opposite sides of an issue, they would have an open dialogue, promote legal avenues for change, work to prevent violence, and collaborate for the public good when they could.

    As part of our Race Matters Solutions, tonight, we have with us James Bessenger of the South Carolina Secessionist Party, and Johnathan Thrower, who goes by Shakem, a self-described black nationalist.

    Gentlemen, welcome.

    Johnathan, I want to start with you. I will call you Shakem from now on.

    JOHNATHAN THROWER, Charleston Black Nationalist Movement: Yes, sir.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: To say that the two of you have different world views is an understatement. As of a few nights ago, you and James were exchanging critiques on Facebook. So, give me an idea. How tense are race relations in Charleston, and what changed after Charlottesville?


    Well, race relations have lakes been on a sharp decline ever since the Walter Scott and Dylann Roof incident. We know that the Confederate Flag over the South Carolina Statehouse has actually been a boiling point in the media and also in the minds of the people here. Race relations have basically gone down.

    So, essentially, what we are looking at now is a situation where you have two ideologies basically amongst white people and black people. And there are people who don’t actually see it as a race issue. It’s also looked as a class issue, because classism is an issue also more so as race.

    Right now, it’s almost like a boiling point, and there has been a lot of words exchanged lately. Tensions are very high. Now, with the — a lot of leaders, black and white, calling for the John C. Calhoun statue and a lot of the Confederate monuments to come down in the city, that has sparked the ire and the attention again and put the focus back on race relations in the city. And they were already high to begin with, I mean, very tense to begin with.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: James Bessenger, I want to ask you.

    For your group, the Confederate monuments and the statues are a source of pride. For members of Shakem’s group, they’re a source of pain. So, how do you have a conversation about something like this, which is deeply personal for people, without it coming to blows?

    JAMES BESSENGER, The South Carolina Secessionist Party: I think we have to do that by exactly what we have started here in Charleston.

    We don’t see a lot of dialogue between — hardly dialogue any at all between organizations like ours and organizations like his that represent two very polar — polar opposite groups in this debate.

    It’s been difficult to try to find someone, at least on our side, that we can talk to like that. But I think sitting down and having a first-time dialogue is a good way to start that process.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: James, when you first heard that Shakem — when he reached out to you, tell me a little bit about that.

    JAMES BESSENGER: Well, I heard from him the first time. We got to know who each other was a little bit, and it was the first time I had heard from someone on that side of the debate who didn’t describe me as a racist, or a fascist or a neo-Nazi.

    So it was kind of refreshing to see that there were people on the other side of this debate that were paying close enough attention to at least see where we were really coming from without jumping to assumptions.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And, Shakem, When you first met him, what was going through your mind?

    JOHNATHAN THROWER: Well, it’s really kind of hard to — when I look at a white person with a Confederate Flag, it also — it brings up a lot of emotion, right, because, normally, that’s my — that brings images of an enemy.

    And, you know, in spite of the fact that all of them aren’t Klansmen, which we know, or all of them aren’t KKK members, it’s still something that you have to really get over psychologically in your head, especially as being a black person.

    So, that was something that really kind of, you know, took me a moment to get over with — get over. And, also, we have a lot of issues with the Klan here in South Carolina. So, it was just something that really took something in me to sit down and say, OK, let’s see how this issue of race can actually be resolved without coming to blows.

    And let me just add something really quick. You asked him a question about, how do we look at this issue? How do we kind of resolve this issue without coming to blows?


    JOHNATHAN THROWER: One of the things I had to do on my end, as far as talking to black people as a whole and being a leader in this community, I had to really show them that taking down a statue doesn’t end systematic oppression, whether it’s classism or racism.

    So, we really — I really wanted them to get a big-picture understanding of what’s being done here. And if we begin to invest all of our energy — and I’m not saying don’t take the statues down, because, if they come down, I’m happy.

    But what I had to do before I could even have a conversation about the relevancy of our conversation, I had to let them know that fighting to take a monument down is not necessarily a substantive victory.

    So, that’s kind of like what I had to overcome before I can let them know, OK, this is what we’re going to do to stop — to try to prevent some of the violence.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, James, how do you work with organizations and how do you try and stop the violent pulling down of statues that might already be planned or might happen in the future? How do the two of you work together to make sure that at least people know that an organization or a pact or an accord like yours exists and that this would be a violation of that?

    JAMES BESSENGER: Well, we both have gone to our communities and let them know what we have agreed on.

    Charleston has a wonderful reputation in not responding in that type of way to crises. I guess we saw that with Walter Scott. We saw that with Dylann Roof. Charleston has a different response.

    And like Governor McMaster said the other day, Charleston does things differently. South Carolina does things differently. So, I think that what we have started is, it’s gotten a lot of positive feedback already and it’s just giving people a little bit of hope, considering what we have seen so far.

    I have a strong inkling that if we were to see things like what we saw in Durham, North Carolina, the other day, that those types of people would come out of state. I don’t think we would see South Carolinians acting that way.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally, I want to ask both of you, and kind of brief responses, if you can, Shakem, I want to start with you.

    What about the people that are kind of further on the fringe from your position who are going to look at you and say, you know what, you have sold out; just by shaking this man’s hand, you have missed the point; you’re not one of us anymore?

    And, eventually, James, I want you to answer the same question.

    JOHNATHAN THROWER: OK, this is what I say.

    In 2015, when the Confederate Flag came down after we fought so hard to get that to down, we see the murder rate is still increasing. We see that education has still continued to remain at the bottom. South Carolina is last in education.

    When you begin to look at the economic conditions that are prevalent in this city, you see that our cities, our urban communities are being starved of resources. So, if what you’re telling me is that I’m selling out because I’m telling you don’t go to jail for pulling down a statue, then I think the problem is with you.

    And we need to actually refocus our energy and our intelligence on getting solutions that are going to raise the economic level of black people here in this city. So, that’s what I would say to them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: James Bessenger, what about the neo-Nazis or the Klan or other people who might just say, you know what, you’re a traitor; I can’t believe you’re sitting shoulder to shoulder with this guy right now?

    JAMES BESSENGER: I mean, that’s their opinion. They’re entitled to that.

    I would tell them that those organizations that have tried to involve themselves in defense of Southern heritage and monuments, they have only made matters worse. When organizations like that presents themselves at these events, like what we saw in Charlottesville, it only exacerbates the problem. And they have made absolutely zero progress in alleviating the tension that we feel.

    As far as calling me a race traitor, or what have you, South Carolinians have been family, in lieu of slavery, black and white, for 300-some-odd years. So, I could care less if someone sees me as a race traitor.

    Me and this man have more in common with each other than I do with some of those people.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, James Bessenger of the South Carolina Secessionist Party and Johnathan Thrower, Shakem, thank you both for joining us tonight.

    JOHNATHAN THROWER: Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

    JAMES BESSENGER: Yes, sir. Thank you.

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    Members of white nationalists clash a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville Virginia

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: At President Trump’s press conference yesterday in New York, he made a series of statements about the participants in the deadly weekend protests in Charlottesville.

    NewsHour’s P.J. Tobia was at the protests. He compares what he saw on the ground to the president’s comments.

    P.J. TOBIA: The Unite the Right rally was formally supposed to begin on Saturday, but neo-Nazis and white nationalists held a surprise torchlight march on Friday night. They filed through the University of Virginia’s main campus, chanting, in a display reminiscent of 1930s Germany.

    PROTESTERS: Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us! Blood and soil! Blood and soil!

    P.J. TOBIA: But at his Trump Tower news conference yesterday, President Trump defended the marchers.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I looked the night before. If you look, there were people protesting, very quietly, the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure, in that group, there were some bad ones.

    READ MORE: Photo of ‘Antifa’ man assaulting officer was doctored, analysis shows

    P.J. TOBIA: NewsHour producer Mark Scialla and I arrived in Charlottesville the next morning. By that time, police were pushing white nationalists and neo-Nazis from the grounds where they had originally been permitted to demonstrate. The city called for a state of emergency and canceled the permit.

    On their way out of the park, they clashed with counterdemonstrators. The white nationalists were far outnumbered, but most looked ready for a fight, wearing helmets and carrying sticks and shields. From what we observed, the white nationalists were far more aggressive than the counterprotesters.

    Yesterday, though, the president suggested, again, both sides were equally violent.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It looked like they had some rough, bad people, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them.

    But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest, because, you know, I don’t know if you know, they had a permit.

    P.J. TOBIA: A few of those protesting the Nazis and white nationalists were armed with sticks and helmets too. The president accused them of also using violent tactics, as he defended the so-called alt-right, a loose affiliation of white nationalist supremacist groups.

    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 that they came charging — that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.

    P.J. TOBIA: The vast majority of counterprotesters we saw were unarmed, like this group of local clergy.

    WOMAN: Fear and hate have been given license in our country. Violence — racialized violence has been given permission in this country, and we are here to stand for love.

    COUNTERPROTESTERS: Black lives matter! Black lives matter!

    P.J. TOBIA: There were also many local people who came to defend what they see as Charlottesville’s values.

    WOMAN: It’s not what we love, and it feel, you know, like abuse. It feels like our wonderful city is being abused.

    P.J. TOBIA: By midday, the white nationalists were routed from the park, and regrouped at a separate location. It appeared the counterprotesters had won the day, as I explained on Saturday’s NewsHour.

    The protest had turned kind of festive. There were people with funny signs. There was laughing and sing and chanting.

    But, moments later, a car driven by 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. plowed into the group of anti-white nationalist Nazi protesters, killing one and sending 19 more to the hospital. Those who know the driver, Fields, say he had long idolized Adolf Hitler, and believed in white supremacy.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and this country, and that is — you can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want.

    P.J. TOBIA: Even those who were physically unscathed were shaken and terrified.

    After the attack, protesters and counterprotesters dispersed. We followed a Pennsylvania militia carrying long guns and Confederate Battle Flags. They wandered into a largely African-American neighborhood. They were soon met by angry locals, who pelted them with rocks.

    Soon after, they packed up their guns and left the area.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m P.J. Tobia in Washington.

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    north korea

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: In the day’s other news: President Trump welcomed a gesture by North Korea to ease tensions. He tweeted that Kim Jong-un’s decision not to fire missiles toward Guam was — quote — “very wise and well-reasoned.”

    Separately, the U.S. territory’s homeland security adviser joined appeals for calm.

    GEORGE CHARFAUROS, Homeland Security Adviser, Guam: We are hopeful that diplomacy will win the day. I am hearing that Secretary Tillerson, Rex Tillerson, is opening up dialogue with North Korea. We are hopeful that that goes through. And we are also moving about with the business of government, praying that things go well.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Also today, China urged both sides to — quote — “hit the brakes” on verbal threats.

    There’s word an American soldier has died fighting Islamic State forces in Eastern Afghanistan. The U.S. military says several other soldiers were wounded. It’s unclear exactly where or when the fight occurred.

    The people of Sierra Leone kept digging today, desperately hoping to find survivors from Monday’s deadly mudslide. More than 300 are confirmed dead in the capital, Freetown, with 600 still missing.

    John Ray, of Independent Television News is there.

    JOHN RAY: A lament for the dead. By the time all the bodies are counted, it will swell to a great chorus of grief. This woman cries for the sister she’s lost. A few feet away, a husband mourns a young wife and their twin children, born a few days ago, their young lives snuffed out.

    They were summoned in the hundreds to the city’s morgue to try to identify the dead.

    Ismail tells me he’s looking for his sister and her family.

    ISMAIL TUMERALAI, Freetown Resident: Everybody died, including her husband. We lost everybody.

    JOHN RAY: For two miles, there is nothing but destruction. The falling mountain tossed huge boulders down onto what were once busy streets. Silence now, except for the diggers and the regular call for another body bag to be brought to the scene. Hard to imagine any survivors in the suffocating mud.

    SGT. MOHAMED KONGOMA, Sierra Leone Army: Ten to 12 now.

    JOHN RAY: Ten to 12 bodies this morning?

    SGT. MOHAMED KONGOMA: Correct, sir.

    JOHN RAY: Have you found anybody who is still alive?

    SGT. MOHAMED KONGOMA: Not yet, sir. Everybody’s dead.

    JOHN RAY: This nation has only just recovered from Ebola. Yet again, they are bringing out the bodies, each corpse accompanied by tears.

    The government has declared this week a week of national mourning. But here, the sense of grief is tangible. This is a disaster that has stunned even people who have grown used to tragedy and hardship.

    By the time they opened the more mortuary gates to relatives, the queue stretched round the block. The rain is falling again. It does nothing to wash away the smell of decay, nor the sorrow of a nation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That report from John Ray of Independent Television News.

    In the Philippines, police have killed 32 people in the deadliest single day of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. Authorities say the victims died in shoot-outs during raids in a northern province from Monday night into Tuesday. Officers also arrested 109 people.

    In a speech today, Duterte hailed the results and said — quote — “Let’s kill another 32 every day.”

    Back in this country, the Republican primary race for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama will head to a runoff in September. Interim Senator Luther Strange finished second on Tuesday to former state Chief Justice Roy Moore, who’s heavily backed by evangelical voters.

    After the results were tallied last night, both men positioned themselves as change candidates.

    ROY MOORE (D), Alabama Senatorial Candidate: The voters of Alabama have just sent a powerful message to Washington, D.C., a resounding message that can’t be denied. They want them to stop playing games with the people of Alabama and with the people of America.

    SEN. LUTHER STRANGE (R), Alabama: President Trump, as you all know, called me a week ago tonight and, said, “Luther, I want you to be elected to the Senate, because you understand what I’m trying to do to make America great again. You know the problems that need to be addressed on the ground in Alabama.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The president tweeted that his endorsement of Strange helped close the gap with Moore. The runoff winner will face Democrat Doug Jones in December for the seat that Jeff Sessions gave up to be U.S. attorney general.

    The Trump administration will make cost-sharing payments to health insurance firms under Obamacare for the month of August. The White House announced the decision today, but gave no indication about future months. The payments subsidize co-payments and deductibles.

    President Trump took fresh aim at Amazon again today. He tweeted that the e-commerce giant is doing great damage to retailers and costing jobs. Many traditional retailers have blamed Amazon for driving them out of business. The company has also hired thousands of warehouse workers nationwide. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is also the owner of The Washington Post, which has published many stories critical of the president.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained about 26 points to close near 22025. The Nasdaq rose 12 points, and the S&P 500 added three.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The fallout from the weekend’s clash in Charlottesville has dominated the day’s news again. It came in new criticism of President Trump, and in words of praise for the woman who was run down by a car.

    John Yang begins our coverage.

    JOHN YANG: In Charlottesville today, hundreds of people gathered to remember Heather Heyer at a downtown theater, just blocks from where the 32-year-old was killed as she protested Saturday’s white nationalist rally.

    DIANA RATCLIFF, Cousin of Heather Heyer: Did I ever tell you how much I loved you? Heather, when my children ask me who I admire most, I will them you.

    JOHN YANG: President Trump called her a truly special young woman.

    The firestorm over Mr. Trump’s ricocheting response to the violent confrontation spread. More CEOs quit Trump administration advisory councils. With even additional resignations likely, Mr. Trump moved preemptively. “Rather than putting pressure on the business people of the Manufacturing Council and Strategy and Policy Forum, I am ending both.”

    In Chile, Vice President Mike Pence stood by his embattled boss.

    VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: The strength of the United States of America is always strongest, as the president has said so eloquently, when we are united around our shared values. And so it will always be.

    JOHN YANG: But lawmakers from both parties condemned equating the white nationalists who organized Saturday’s rally, and counterprotesters many Republicans never mentioning the president’s name.

    Former Presidents George Bush, father and son, issued a joint statement: “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms.”

    The backlash also extended abroad.

    THERESA MAY, Prime Minister, United Kingdom: I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them. And I think it is important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far-right views, wherever we hear them.

    JOHN YANG: Mindful of Saturday’s confrontation, Baltimore officials ordered the overnight removal of statues of Confederate leaders in the interests of public safety.

    In Charlottesville, all this was on the minds of those who spoke of Heather Heyer.

    FEDA KHATEEB-WILSON, Friend of Heather Heyer: I want to thank you, Heather, for all your passion, for all of your talks, for all of your smiles, for believing that this world can change, and trying to make that happen.

    JOHN YANG: A grieving mother sought meaning in her daughter’s death:

    SUSAN BRO, Mother of Heather Heyer: They tried to kill my child to shut her up well, guess what? You just magnified her.


    SUSAN BRO: So, remember, in your heart, if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. And I want you to pay attention. And that’s how you’re going to make my child’s death worthwhile. I would rather have my child, but, by golly, if I have to give her up, we’re going to make it count.


    JOHN YANG: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang.

    The post Trump faces backlash for Charlottesville comments as protest victim is laid to rest appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump stops to respond to questions about his responses to the violence white nationalist rally in Charlottesville on August 15, 2017, in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    In a press conference Tuesday, President Donald Trump again changed his position on the weekend’s violent white nationalist march on Charlottesville, Virginia, defending his initial statement that there was plenty of fault to go around, both on the side of the white nationalists as well as their counter-protesters.

    “What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right’?” Trump asked. “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.”

    Since Trump’s statement, he’s been condemned on both sides of the aisle and his strategy council of CEOs has disbanded after a growing number of its members quit. Many have decried his remarks equating white nationalists with their counter protesters, and also pointed out the distinction between fighting racist views and espousing them. The moral argument aside, reporting shows that it’s simply not true that violence in Charlottesville was equal on both sides.

    But what does Trump mean when he uses the phrase “alt-left,” and from where did it originate?

    “Alt-right” vs “alt-left”

    The term “alt-left” sprang up long after the term “alt-right,” which was coined in 2010 by white supremacist Richard Spencer, and defined by the Associated Press just after the 2016 election as a movement based on a mix of white nationalism and hard-edged populism. Over time, the media outlined how the so-called “alt-right” also included anti-feminist views, neo-Nazism and a hatred of modernity. After the Charlottesville rally, the AP adjusted its guidelines, saying reporters should avoid using the term “alt-right” because white nationalist and other hate groups needed clearer definitions, and because the term was meant as a “euphemism to disguise racist aims.”

    After the Charlottesville rally, the AP adjusted its guidelines, saying reporters should avoid using the term “alt-right” because white nationalist and other hate groups needed clearer definitions.

    The “alt-left” is perhaps an even slippier term. Researchers who study extremist groups say there is no such thing as the “alt-left.” Mark Pitcavage, an analyst at the Anti-Defamation League, told the New York Times that it “refers to no actual group or movement or network” and had been created as a term to make a false equivalence between the far right and left.

    John Daniszewski, editor at large for standards for the Associated Press, said that unlike “alt-right,” the “alt-left” also “doesn’t seem to be something that anyone calls themselves,” and that the wire service would soon issue guidelines that describe “alt-left” as a “recently claimed term for far-left factions.”

    “It seems to have just been created as an opposite to ‘alt right,’” he added, “so in some ways it’s a term that is meant to be pejorative, and a label to slap onto people you don’t agree with.”

    Since “alt-left” had been used in a lot of different contexts, he said, AP would issue guidance that required reporters to explain it.

    Who coined the term “alt-left?”

    According to the Washington Post, the term “alt-left” was first used on conspiracy theory-pushing websites like WorldNetDaily. As early as August 2016, that site published an op-ed entitled “Let’s look at the alt left” that argued that the Democratic party was as racist as the right, and that it should be considered extreme because it welcomed into its ranks communists and socialists.

    By December 2016, Fox News was also using the term “alt-left,” but in a different way, to argue that the mainstream left was out of step with the majority of Americans. As examples of the left’s radicalism, it cited that Democratic politicians had mourned the death of strongman Fidel Castro, and that the failures of Obamacare had been undercovered by the media.

    As of April of this year, conservative commentator Sean Hannity had begun using the phrase in a third way — and in the same manner that Trump did on Tuesday. Hannity used “alt-left” to describe campus protests by left-leaning students, and specifically the fact that they had turned violent.

    In Trump’s statements Tuesday, he characterized the “alt-left” as counter protesters who used violence, describing some who carried clubs.

    There were very few extreme left protesters in Charlottesville

    Leftist, anti-fascist activists known as Antifa, whose stated goals are to stamp out racism, white supremacy and authoritarianism, sometimes do use violence. The New York Times reports that scattered Antifa activists in Charlottesville used clubs and dyed liquids in their counter protests against white supremacists. But the NewsHour’s P.J. Tobia and Mark Scialla, who were on the ground in Charlottesville, report that there were very few Antifa present, and the vast majority of the counter protesters were peaceful.

    “There absolutely were some people who could be described as Antifa,” said Tobia, who added that in addition to clubs, there were complaints that anti-fascists had wielded urine, mace and other irritants. “But they were a really small number. And they were far outnumbered by peaceful protesters, who were really just local people who told us they were there to take a stand in their community.”

    “There absolutely were some people who could be described as Antifa … but they were a really small number. And they were far outnumbered by peaceful protesters.”

    (Political activist Cornel West, who was among the counter-protesters in Charlottesville, said Antifa acted as protection for the peaceful protesters, and may even have saved his life.)

    Scialla reported that “the level of violence was not equal, nor was the messaging behind it.” While white nationalists came “dressed for battle” and “backed up by militia members carrying high-capacity assault rifles and confederate battle flags,” he said, “few of the anti-racists actually engaged in violence.”

    The worst violence of the day came when a car plowed through a crowd, killing a female counter protester. James Alex Fields Jr, who has been charged with second degree murder for the attack, is believed to have held white supremacist and neo-Nazi views.

    In general, the extreme right is more violent than the extreme left

    Violence from the extreme right far outpaces violence from the extreme left, according to an analysis from the Cato Institute, shared Wednesday by the New York Times. The analysis used data from the RAND Corporation and the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database on the last 25 years of terrorism fatalities and injuries in the U.S.

    Nationalists and right-wing terrorists were found to be the second deadliest group — after terrorism committed by Islamists — committing 219 murders in that time period, while left-wing terrorists killed 23. However, there has been a recent uptick in left-wing terror, with left wingers killing 13 since the beginning of 2016, and right wingers killing five in that time (Cato included the death in Charlottesville in that number). Despite that increase, nationalists and right-wing terrorists have killed 10 times as many people as left-wing terrorists since 1992, Cato found.

    Another study of radicalization from the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database found that people who held far-right ideologies committed more attacks. The study, which tracked attacks from 1948 to 2013, found that far-right groups, such as white nationalists and militia members, were more likely to commit violence against people, while far left groups, such as communists, socialists or anarchists, were more likely to commit property damage.

    Where does the “alt-left” narrative comes from?

    Those who use the term “alt-left” consistently point to violence from the left, often by anti-fascists — both perceived and real. Anti-fascist activists rioted in multiple cities after Trump’s election, and, though Antifa was a tiny part of the counter protest in Charlottesville, it has been more active and aggressive in other parts of the country since Trump took office. NewsHour recently visited Portland, Oregon to look at how women who support Trump felt attacked by Antifa.

    Those who use the term “alt-left” consistently point to violence from the left, often by anti-fascists — both perceived and real.

    Though the majority of anti-fascist activity is not violent, the Atlantic argued in a piece Wednesday that conservatives successfully “use Antifa’s violence to justify — or at least distract from — the violence of white supremacists,” just as Trump did in his Tuesday press conference.

    Videos of Antifa violence, some of them doctored, are regularly shared on conservative, pro-Trump and conspiracy theory-pushing websites, often with commentary that suggests the media purposefully ignores those events. These videos often do not often include wider context or numbers.

    And on Fox News on Tuesday, commentator Tucker Carlson and a guest gave the “alt-left” a fourth definition entirely, suggesting that counter protesters who tore down confederate statues in the wake of Charlottesville were “iconoclastic” “mobs” who wanted to delegitimize the U.S. government. The segment made only fleeting reference to violence by the white nationalists who rallied there.

    The post How the term ‘alt-left’ came to be appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    An image that appeared to capture a member of an anti-fascist group beating a U.S. police officer with a club during a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, is fake.

    The doctored photograph, the Associated Press and Snopes.com found, turned out to be a Getty Image shot in 2009 during clashes between police officers and protesters in Athens, Greece. An “Antifa,” or “antifacist,” logo was digitally superimposed onto the jacket of a protester, who is seen attacking an officer with a blunt object.

    The image was widely shared shortly after Saturday’s car attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, which followed a rally organized by neo-Nazis and white nationalists to protest the relocation of a Confederate statute. Some users flagged the photo on Twitter.

    The fake image circulated among social media accounts that opposed anti-fascist activists and was often used to support President Donald Trump’s statement that “both sides” were to blame for the Charlottesville violence.

    READ MORE: How the term ‘alt-left’ came to be

    Anti-fascists comprised a small portion of the counter-protesters who opposed the white nationalist rally over the weekend. NewsHour reporters in Charlottesville said they did not see a large Antifa presence in the crowd of counter-protesters, who were largely peaceful.

    Charlottesville native Heather Heyer, 32, was killed in the car attack. Authorities charged suspect James Alex Fields Jr., 20, with second-degree murder in Heyer’s death.

    The post Photo of ‘Antifa’ man assaulting officer was doctored, analysis shows appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by TechCrunch via Flickr

    Michael Preysman of Everlane (left) and Dave Gilboa of Warby Parker (right) speak onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 at The Manhattan Center on May 1, 2013 in New York City. Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for TechCrunch via Flickr

    Editor’s note: Likely by now you have heard the stories about the failing retail industry. In January, Macy’s announced it would lay off 10,000 workers in addition to its previously announced plan to close 100 stores.

    And it’s far from alone. Sears, J.C. Penney and RadioShack have all announced more than 100 store closures. As we reported in our coverage of the July jobs report, general merchandise stores have lost 36,000 jobs in the past year while clothing and clothing accessories stores dropped 10,000 jobs in July.

    So what’s happening to retail? For our latest Making Sen$e series, economics producer Diane Lincoln Estes spoke to Dave Gilboa, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker, which sells inexpensive eyeglasses online and in brick-and-mortar stores.

    Read what Gilboa has to say about the transformation of retail, and tune in to next week’s Making Sen$e report for more on how Warby Parker is positioning itself in the retail landscape. Tonight’s Making Sen$e report, part one of a two-part series, focuses on the death of traditional big-box retailers. Making Sen$e airs every Thursday on the PBS NewsHour. The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

    — Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e editor

    DIANE LINCOLN ESTES: So, you began with an online business. Why did you guys decide to get into brick-and-mortar stores?

    DAVE GILBOA: We launched Warby Parker seven years ago, and initially we sold exclusively online. And a big reason for that was just that it was capital efficient. We were full-time students working out of our apartments. We hadn’t raised any external capital. And so we wouldn’t have been able to sign a lease for a store even if we wanted to. We also thought there was an interesting opportunity to offer a new, unique experience around selling glasses, where we could offer free home try-ons. So we could send people glasses without prescription lenses, have them try on the frames, send them back to us, and we’d be able to operate the business without all the overhead of running physical stores. Our e-commerce business is doing really well. That continues to grow really quickly. But we found that there’s still a lot of demand for people walking into physical stores. And now we have 55 stores. We’ll open about 25 this year. And we’re finding these great synergies between having both online experiences and offline experiences.

    DIANE LINCOLN ESTES: What are the synergies between online and offline?

    DAVE GILBOA: We find that about 75 percent of our customers that shop in our stores have been to our website first. The world’s not black and white, and people have been saying that physical retail is over.

    DIANE LINCOLN ESTES: So is retail as we know it dead?

    DAVE GILBOA: We don’t think retail’s dead. We think mediocre retail is dead. And we’re finding a really powerful response from customers any time we open stores. Both in terms of driving sales through the stores themselves, but also in just the profitability of our overall business. The halo effect that in driving general awareness, and driving sales to our e-commerce business in markets that we’re opening stores. The stores themselves are great billboards for attracting customers who are then spreading awareness about Warby Parker through word of mouth.

    Photo by Katy DeCorah via Flickr

    Despite Warby Parker’s success online, the company will open about 25 more brick-and-mortar stores this year. Photo by Katy DeCorah via Flickr

    DIANE LINCOLN ESTES: Why do you think customers were interested in a physical store? Is there a certain type of customer who says, “I don’t want to buy my glasses online”?

    DAVE GILBOA: We launched exclusively online, and we realized that 99.9 percent of our customers had never bought prescription glasses online, and so it was going to require a departure. It’s a little bit of a leap of faith for people to try out a new brand that they weren’t familiar with, at a price point that’s a fraction of what they’re used to paying for prescription glasses. We thought about, “How can we de-risk this process as much as possible?” So we offered free shipping and free returns, great customer service and the ability for people to try on glasses even from the comfort of their own home. But we recognized that that’s probably not enough for a certain segment that maybe has been buying glasses from optical shops for decades. There’s a different risk tolerance for certain types of customers. There are certain customers that probably will never feel comfortable buying glasses online. And so those customers wouldn’t shop with us unless we had physical stores. There are other customers that even if we open up a store right next to their house, down the street, they’d prefer the experience of ordering online. They just find it more convenient to transact, either on their phone or through computer, than driving somewhere or walking down the street.

    “We don’t think retail’s dead. We think mediocre retail is dead.”

    More than anything we just want to give customers options. We like to say that we’re experience-focused, but medium-agnostic. We don’t care if customers are engaging with us through a physical store, online, through their phones, through channels like Twitter or Instagram. We just try to make things as easy as possible, regardless of the medium. We think that the way that consumers engage with brands and retailers is going to continue to change. A few years from now, a lot of the interactions will probably happen through virtual reality or augmented reality, or new types of platforms. We just want to continue to offer options for consumers where they’re spending time.

    DIANE LINCOLN ESTES: How will people interact with Warby Parker using virtual reality technology? What can you see in the future?

    DAVE GILBOA: We don’t have a crystal ball, but we know that technology is going to continue to change. There are going to continue to be more options for consumers over time. The best brands and retailers have to continue to be flexible and innovate. And you’re seeing now traditional retailers that are either going out of business or closing stores; those are the ones that really haven’t innovated, that haven’t kept up with the pace of change. They haven’t recognized that consumers have more choice than ever. And that pace of change is accelerating. For us, as there’s emerging technology around virtual reality or augmented reality, we just want to make sure that we’re staying up to date and providing options for consumers as those platforms gain ubiquity.

    DIANE LINCOLN ESTES: So which one’s more successful? Your online business or your physical store business?

    DAVE GILBOA: Both our online business and our physical store businesses are growing really quickly. When we launched, less than 1 percent of the eyeglasses market was online. This was in 2010. If you’d asked us then, we probably would have predicted that e-commerce would have grown industry-wide more quickly by 2017 than it has. Right now we think it’s about 3 percent of the overall market. And we’re helping to drive a lot of that growth. Our e-commerce growth rate is still incredibly healthy, but we want to cater to all customer segments. If 97 percent of dollars in the industry are happening in physical stores, we want to give people options. You’ll continue to see us open stores, but we’re never going to have thousands of stores. We can serve a lot of our customer base very well through e-commerce and we’re finding a lot of customers are buying something online, and the next time, they make a purchase in-store, and vice versa.

    DIANE LINCOLN ESTES: You said that overall it’s 3 percent and 97 percent. Is that what you’re seeing in your business?

    DAVE GILBOA: For us, we’re seeing a much closer split to 50-50 between e-commerce and retail. Both channels have really favorable economics for us. And we just want to offer the best experience possible, and let consumers choose how to engage with us.

    DIANE LINCOLN ESTES: Do you think all retailers need to have this mix of online and offline?

    DAVE GILBOA: Historically, the world’s been viewed as pretty black and white. You had e-commerce companies like Amazon, or had kind of pure bricks-and-mortar retailers. You’re seeing a convergence. Most consumers don’t think of the world in channels. They think about their relationship with a particular brand or retailer. As consumers are spending more time on their mobile devices I think the best brands and retailers need to have a presence there. Similarly, online and in physical stores. And that’s why you’re seeing even companies like Amazon acquiring Whole Foods, starting to open bookstores. I think that was surprising to a lot of people. It’s not surprising to us. For those brands that want to have a ubiquitous presence, and have an offering that appeals to the general population, I think it is a requirement to have physical stores, to have a great online presence and, increasingly, have a great mobile offering.

    The post Warby Parker’s CEO on how to thrive in retail as big-box stores are dying appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Mourners gather under a LGBT pride flag flying at half-mast for a candlelight vigil in remembrance for mass shooting victims in Orlando, from San Diego, California, U.S. June 12, 2016. To match Special Report FLORIDA-SHOOTING/HATE CRIMES REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo - RTX2IPWI

    Mourners gather under a LGBT pride flag flying at half-mast for a candlelight vigil in remembrance for mass shooting victims in Orlando.The number of LGBTQ people who have been killed in “hate violence” homicides so far this year has surpassed the number of deaths from 2016. File photo by REUTERS/Mike Blake.

    “There are two sides to a story.”

    President Donald Trump ended a news conference with this line Tuesday, where he appeared frustrated with how the media covered his response to the violence at a weekend “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    On Saturday, he blamed “two sides” for the violence, drawing criticism for not more forcefully calling out the hate groups who helped organize the rally. On Monday, he put out another statement, this time condemning neo-Nazi and white nationalists groups by name. The next day, he was back to blaming “both sides” for the violence again, in a briefing on infrastructure that turned into a combative back-and-forth between the president and the media.

    As fallout from Saturday’s rally continues, here are five important stories you may have overlooked.

    1. Modern slavery in UK is more widespread than previously thought, officials said

    LUTON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 23: A covert patrol by the National Crime Agency is seen in Bury Park at around 11.00hrs on March 23, 2017 in Luton, England.    Faces hidden by request from the officers.  PHOTOGRAPH BY Tony Margiocchi / Barcroft Images  London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Tony Margiocchi/Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

    LUTON, UNITED KINGDOM – MARCH 23: A covert patrol by the National Crime Agency is seen in Bury Park in Luton, England. Photo by Tony Margiocchi/Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images.

    When the UK’s National Crime Agency dedicated their resources to assess the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking several months ago, their initial estimate of victims hovered around 10,000 to 13,000 people.

    But last week, the agency said that figure was actually the “tip of the iceberg” — the number is closer to the tens of thousands, said Will Kerr, vulnerabilities director of the NCA.

    “The more we look for modern slavery, the more we find evidence of the widespread abuse of the vulnerable,” he said in a news conference. “The growing body of evidence we are collecting points to the scale being far larger than anyone had previously thought,” he added.

    The agency said it has broadened its investigations to more than 300 live policing operations. Kerr said these cases affect “every large town and city in the country.”

    The NCA announced a campaign to draw more awareness of the crime to the public, encouraging people to report tips of suspicious activity to a modern slavery hotline.

    Why it’s important

    The issue of modern slavery is often referred to as a “hidden” crime. Victims face sexual exploitation and domestic servitude, and are forced to work against their will. It’s a crime that affects people of all ages and genders, but minorities and other marginalized groups are particularly affected.

    Kerr said the most common modern slaves have come from Eastern Europe, Vietnam and Nigeria, adding that they often work at brothels, farms and nail salons, among other places where they come into everyday contact with the average UK citizen.

    “As you go about your normal daily life, there is a growing and a good chance that you will come across a victim who has been exploited and that’s why we are asking the public to recognize their concerns and report them,” Kerr said.

    Kevin Hyland, the anti-slavery commissioner , told the Evening Standard that before this investigation, the NCA failed to act on the information it already had on its own databases. The information “sat dormant,” Hyland said, because modern slavery wasn’t treated seriously enough as a crime. The agency, in response, said there was a “sea change” across its operations.

    “The question remains whether this extraordinary modern crime has grown because too little has been done since then,” BBC home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani writes.

    2. The family of a 30-year-old pregnant woman fatally shot by Seattle police is filing a wrongful death lawsuit

    Police officers disperse protestors from Westlake Park during May Day protests in Seattle, Washington, U.S. May 1, 2017.  REUTERS/David Ryder - RTS14QGN

    The family of 30-year-old Charleena Lyles, who was fatally shot by police in June, said it was bringing a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, claiming police were “negligent and violated her civil rights.” Photo by REUTERS/David Ryder.

    On June 18, two Seattle police officers responding to a report of an attempted burglary shot the woman who had called them for help.

    In audio released by the department, 30-year-old Charleena Lyles can be heard talking about items missing from her apartment. But suddenly, the situation escalates. Officers warned Lyles, who had apparently started to move toward them with knives, to get back before opening fire.

    The police department drew widespread criticism for using deadly force against the African-American mother of four, who was also several months pregnant and had a history of mental illness.

    “Why couldn’t they have Tased her?” Lyles’s sister, Monika Williams, told the Seattle Times.

    Last week, her family said it was bringing a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, claiming police were “negligent and violated her civil rights.”

    Why it’s important

    A partially burned American flag lies on the street near the spot where Michael Brown was killed before an event to mark the one year anniversary of his killing in Ferguson, Missouri August 9, 2015.  Several hundred people gathered in Ferguson on Sunday to mark the anniversary of the shooting death of the unarmed black teenager by a white police officer that sparked protests and a national debate on race and justice.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking - RTX1NP45

    A partially burned American flag lies on the street near the spot where Michael Brown was killed before an event to mark the one year anniversary of his killing in Ferguson, Missouri August 9, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Rick Wilking.

    Three years ago last week, Michael Brown was killed in an officer-involved shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. Across the country, questions remain about when police should use deadly force — and what happens to officers and families of victims after the shooting.

    Three cases of police misconduct had new developments last week — all of them involving body cameras, NewsHour reported. In two of those cases, officers were cleared of responsibility in fatal shootings.

    Seattle, where Lyles was shot, has been under a consent decree, a Department of Justice mandate to reform policing practices, since 2012. In April, the department’s consent monitor found use of force by Seattle police had improved. It’s unclear how Lyles’ case will affect that finding.

    Meanwhile, other cities under consent decrees are having their own issues. Baltimore, who will select a monitor for its own consent decree this month, is grappling with several new cases of police misconduct uncovered by the public defender’s office, which discovered body camera footage that showed officers mishandling or planting evidence.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a review of the DOJ’s consent decrees in April, which some advocates feared could mean a reduction in the program, or its elimination altogether. Sessions has yet to release a report, which means it’s unclear how any changes will affect cities, like Seattle and Baltimore, already under review.

    We’re also still without a good sense of how much consent decrees actually help improve policing on the ground. A study from a group of Texas criminologists in May found the “consent decree process may contribute to a modest reduction” in civil rights suits, the Washington Post reported — “but that lawsuits start to trend back up once the decree lifts.”

    3. Hundreds of California schools have low vaccination rates, putting them at risk of disease outbreak

    A measles poster is seen at Venice Family Clinic in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015. Lawmakers in several U.S. states are backing proposals to make it harder for parents to opt out of school vaccinations based on personal beliefs, as health officials fight a growing measles outbreak that has sickened more than 100 people in more than a dozen states. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: HEALTH POLITICS) - RTR4OFFV

    Statewide, about 95.6 percent of all kindergarten students in California are fully vaccinated, according to the LA Times. But several schools have low vaccination rates, putting children at risk of disease outbreak, the newspaper says. Photo by REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson.

    In 2015, after a measles outbreak traced to a visitor to Disneyland infected nearly 150 people across more than a dozen states (along with Mexico and Canada), California lawmakers passed a new law cracking down on parents who declined to vaccinate their children.

    Two years later, while the vaccination rate among kindergartners has gone up, “hundreds of schools across California still have so many children lacking full immunization that they pose an increased risk of disease outbreaks,” according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times.

    Statewide, about 95.6 percent of all kindergarten students in California are fully vaccinated, according to the LA Times. But the number of students who claimed exceptions to the law has also grown:

    At 58 schools, 10 percent or more kindergartners had medical exemptions last fall. The rate topped 20 percent at seven schools.

    Why it’s important

    In most places, by the time children enter kindergarten, they are vaccinated for measles (along with things like chickenpox, polio and whooping cough).

    Doctors say to achieve “herd immunity” — a rate of immunity that protects disease from spreading, even among those who cannot be vaccinated — at least 95 percent of the population must be fully vaccinated.

    Doctors who spoke to the Times said it was reasonable to expect about 3 percent of the kindergarten population to have valid reasons for avoiding vaccination — “such as a gelatin allergy or because they’re undergoing chemotherapy.”

    But a rate as high as 20 percent is “nonsense,” Dr. James Cherry told the Times.

    The data indicates that parents may be asking doctors to write notes that would give their children medical reasons to avoid vaccinations or delay them, experts told the Times.

    “It’s not just about policy but about compliance,” one researcher suggested.

    The increase in overall exemptions was a positive sign, many experts said, and a better sense of how the law is working could come even farther down the road. West Virginia and Mississippi were among the first states in the country to ban exemptions from vaccines beyond those for medical reasons. “Mississippi hasn’t had a case of measles since 1992,” Ed Source reports, and the last case of measles in West Virginia was in 2009. Last year, only 17 children across the state had exemptions to Mississippi’s vaccination law, Columbia says.

    4. More LGBTQ people have died from “hate violence” this year than in all of 2016, new data shows

    Mourners gather under a LGBT pride flag flying at half-mast for a candlelight vigil in remembrance for mass shooting victims in Orlando, from San Diego, California, U.S. June 12, 2016.  To match Special Report FLORIDA-SHOOTING/HATE CRIMES      REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo - RTX2IPWI

    Mourners gather under a LGBT pride flag flying at half-mast for a candlelight vigil in remembrance for mass shooting victims in Orlando. Photo by REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo.

    The number of LGBTQ people who have been killed in “hate violence” homicides so far this year has surpassed the number of deaths from 2016, according to new data released by one organization last week.

    So far in 2017, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs has recorded 33 hate-violence-related homicides of LGBTQ individuals, Buzzfeed News reported. In 2016, 28 LGBTQ people were killed (not including the 49 lives lost in the June shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida). Of those killed in 2017, 15 were transgender women of color.

    Why it’s important

    Members of the LGBT community participate in a vigil in memory of the victims of the Orlando Pulse gay nightclub shooting and hate crimes in San Salvador, El Salvador June 18, 2016. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas - RTX2GZI2

    Members of the LGBT community participate in a vigil in memory of the victims of the Orlando Pulse gay nightclub shooting and hate crimes. Photo by REUTERS/Jose Cabezas.

    NCAVP, which compiles this data every year, said in June that 2016 was the deadliest year on record for the LGBTQ community. The advocacy group explained in its 2016 report that the common perception of hate violence as a random act or one carried out by strangers isn’t quite correct. Perpetrators of hate violence can also be in trusted spaces, like homes, schools and workplaces. And the group’s data includes cases that may not have been classified, by legal standards, as a hate crime.

    As to the reasoning behind the uptick this year, NCAVP thinks it could be multiple factors, including increased media coverage, an actual increase in violence or more accurate police work.

    Either way, “it should be a wake-up call for us across our communities that hate violence is not going away, it’s certainly not decreasing, and it’s symptomatic of larger and deeper problems in our society that we still haven’t addressed,” Beverly Tillery, executive director at the New York City Anti-Violence Project, told BuzzFeed News.

    5. The USDA could lift restrictions on genetically-engineered trees

    The United States’ first genetically engineered tree, a free-tolerant eucalyptus, could become a reality.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering lifting restrictions on commercially produced trees, The Washington Post reported.

    While a draft environmental impact statement says “the trees pose few environmental risks,” environmentalists and scientists argue there are in fact many, including increased risk of wildfire and a new invasive species, among other concerns.

    Part of the scientists’ arguments, the Post writes:

    Fast-growing trees like eucalyptus can grow and be harvested in less than a decade — but even then, it could take years to make up for the carbon released by clearing out the slower-growing, carbon-rich tree plantations they would be replacing.

    Why it’s important
    ArborGen, the biotechnology firm that developed the eucalyptus,says the trees could help ease global demand for biomass in the midst of increasing concerns over climate change. The company first approached the USDA about their trees six years ago, the Post reports.

    The USDA estimates that about one million acres of pine plantations could be replaced with the eucalyptus trees, if they’re approved.

    Brazil already approved the commercial use of enhanced eucalyptus (developed by a different biotech firm, FutureGene) in 2015.

    Groups such as the Global Justice Ecology Project and Campaign to Stop GE Trees started to push back against the trees, developed by biotechnology firm ArborGen, in July, according to The Genetic Literacy Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to science discussion. Only three of the hundreds of thousands of comments collected were in favor of the trees.

    For now, details on the trees’ production remain unclear. The USDA is still considering public comments, and plans to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on how the trees’ production could make an impact on wildlife.

    If the trees are approved, ArborGen “would no longer have to obtain a permit or notification to grow the plant within the U.S. or ship it across the country,” the Hill reported.

    The post 5 important stories you might have overlooked appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Donald Trump answers questions about his responses to the violence, injuries and deaths at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville as he talks to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    President Donald Trump’s comments on Tuesday — in which he equated white nationalists with counter-protesters at the “Unite the Right” in Charlottesville, Virginia, and blamed “both sides” for the violence — drew criticism from both sides of the aisle. Now, three Democratic House members have said they plan to introduce a resolution to censure the president over his “inadequate” remarks.

    Though Congress is in recess until Labor Day, Reps. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y, Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., have indicated they will introduce the resolution during a brief session on Friday.

    What is a censure?

    Largely symbolic, a vote to censure does not carry legal weight and cannot result in expulsion from office. More or less, it is comparable to a “strongly-worded letter.” The president, members of Congress and Cabinet members can all be censured this way. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton was the first government official to be censured for mishandling loans. The last politician to be censured by the House was former Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., in 2010. The House Ethics Committee found him guilty for ethics violations, including failing to pay income taxes.

    Has a president been censured?

    Although Congress has tried to censure many presidents, only a few of those attempts have actually been successful. In 1834, Andrew Jackson became the first president to be censured following his refusal to turn over a document to the Senate, and the House censured James Polk in 1848 for the “unnecessary” Mexican-American War.

    More recently, the Senate introduced a censure resolution over Bill Clinton’s affair and subsequent perjury. In 2006, then-Sen. Russ Feingold, R-Wis., called to censure George W. Bush over his administration’s domestic surveillance program, however, it failed to pass the Judiciary Committee.

    Why is there now a resolution to censure the President?

    Politicians across the aisle have criticized Trump’s response to the white nationalist rally and subsequent violence. On Saturday, he spoke out against the violence from “many sides,” which was largely interpreted as a moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and the counter protesters. Speaking from the White House on Monday, the President delivered a more forceful statement, calling racism “evil.”

    However, when taking questions following a short introduction to an infrastructure plan on Tuesday in the lobby of Trump Tower, Trump caused controversy again by equating the white nationalist’s violence with the counter protesters and saying he believes “there’s blame on both sides” and that there “were very fine people on both sides.”

    The resolution to censure Trump is specifically aimed at his Tuesday comments.

    Will this censure pass?

    It’s too soon to tell. Few presidents have been censured in the past. But lawmakers use censures, at the least, as a tool to make political statements — in this case, against the president’s handling of the violence in Charlottesville and other race overall.

    READ MORE: In 3 tweets, Trump defends ‘beautiful’ Confederate monuments

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    WASHINGTON — After months of sometimes heated internal debate, the Trump administration has almost reached a decision on a new approach for fighting the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday. He gave no hint of what the strategy would look like.

    In remarks at the State Department, Mattis told reporters President Donald Trump will confer with his national security team Friday at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, and said the talks “will move this toward a decision.”

    “We are coming very close to a decision, and I anticipate it in the very near future,” he added.

    The U.S. has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Their primary roles are to train and advise Afghan forces and to hunt down and kill members of al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

    Months ago the Pentagon had settled on a plan to send approximately 3,800 additional troops to help strengthen the Afghan army, which is stuck in what some call a deteriorating stalemate with the Taliban insurgency. Some in the White House have questioned the wisdom of investing further resources in the war, which is the longest in American history.

    The administration has said its Afghanistan strategy will be informed by a review of its approach to the broader region, including Pakistan and India. The Taliban have long used Pakistan as a sanctuary, complicating efforts to defeat the insurgency in Afghanistan and stabilize the country.

    The outlook in Afghanistan is clouded by the government’s struggle to halt Taliban advances on its own. In its most recent report, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said the Taliban hold sway in almost half the country.

    READ MORE: U.S. still debating ‘big ideas’ on Afghan plan, says Mattis

    Government forces also are battling an Islamic State affiliate that has carved out a foothold mostly in eastern Afghanistan. Trump has vowed to crush IS, so the affiliate in Afghanistan poses an additional challenge with no immediate solution. Just this week, a U.S. soldier was killed and nearly a dozen were wounded in combat with the IS affiliate.

    The U.S. has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Their primary roles are to train and advise Afghan forces and to hunt down and kill members of al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

    Trump has expressed frustration at the prolonged fighting in Afghanistan. Earlier this summer he raised the idea of firing the top U.S. commander there, Gen. John Nicholson. On July 18, he said, “I want to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years.”

    MORE: Criticizing Trump, McCain proposes new Afghanistan strategy

    Asked Monday if Trump has confidence in Nicholson, Mattis demurred.

    “Ask the president,” Mattis said. “I will tell you right now, he is our commander in the field, he has the confidence of NATO, he has the confidence of Afghanistan, he has the confidence of the United States.”

    Trump is “looking at all aspects” of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan “as he must in his responsibilities as the commander in chief,” Mattis said.

    “We are losing in Afghanistan and time is of the essence if we intend to turn the tide.”

    Lawmakers in Congress also are frustrated by the war and the prolonged debate within the administration on how to break the stalemate. Last week, Republican Sen. John McCain declared that “America is adrift in Afghanistan.” He proposed a war strategy that would expand the U.S. counterterrorism effort and provide greater support to Afghan security forces.

    “Nearly seven months into President Trump’s administration, we’ve had no strategy at all as conditions on the ground have steadily worsened,” said McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The thousands of Americans putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan deserve better from their commander in chief.”

    McCain said bluntly, “We are losing in Afghanistan and time is of the essence if we intend to turn the tide.”

    The post WATCH: Mattis says U.S. is close to new approach in Afghanistan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Few things ignite the collective imagination like a solar eclipse, and August 21 will be no exception. On that day, a total solar eclipse will sweep across the entire continental United States. Such a spectacle hasn’t happened since June 8, 1918, and anticipation couldn’t be higher.

    Can’t find a pair of eclipse glasses? You can always build your own sun viewer with trash bags or a pasta colander.

    Transportation officials are expecting clogged highways as a major portion of the 200 million who live within a day’s drive flock to the path of totality — the 70-mile-wide, 3,000-mile-long swath below the shadow of the moon. Both NASA scientists in jets and regular citizens in chartered planes will chase the moon, while Amtrak’s solar eclipse train sold out in less than 24 hours.

    This hysteria is warranted. Though total solar eclipses happen frequently on Earth, once every 18 months, ones to cross the U.S. are much less common. The last cut through the Pacific Northwest in 1979, and the next will slice through the midwest in 2024.

    But if you plan to join the 5,000-year-old tradition of eclipse watching next Monday, here are five things you need to remember.

    1. You shouldn’t look at the eclipse, unless you live here

    The luckiest among us will be able to stare at the eclipse without eye protection for a very brief period. But take note! This exposed viewing is only permissible for the totality — the 2.5 minutes when the moon completely obscures the sun. And this experience will only happen on the path of totality.

    The rest of the country and the remainder of the 90-minute eclipse will be partial and should not be viewed without proper protection. Even a brief, unprotected exposure to sunlight can harm one’s eyes, so best to play it safe with a pair of eclipse glasses.

    Example of eclipse times for cities in the path of totality. Chart by NASA

    Example of eclipse times for cities in the path of totality. Chart by NASA

    NASA and the American Astronomical Society recommend that people use eclipse glasses, camera filters and telescope viewers from “reputable vendors” that follow international safety standards. Such glasses and lenses carry the manufacturing number “ISO 12312-2” and make the sun look 100,000 weaker than normal.

    But counterfeits abound. Last week, Amazon recalled a set of eclipse glasses, saying it was unable to confirm whether the protective ware was made by a recommended manufacturer. Also, don’t use glasses that are more than three years old, scratched or wrinkled. Protective gear is especially important for the developing eyes of children, who might be prone to incorrectly wearing the glasses.

    So where should you go to get glasses? There are a number places handing out free, verified glasses for the event. Public libraries across the country will hand out more than 2 million pairs of compliant glasses, thanks to a donation from NASA, Google, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Space Science Institute. There’s even a map where you can find the nearest participating library. Warby Parker, the chic eyewear company, has been handing out free eclipse glasses since August 1.

    Can’t find a pair of eclipse glasses? You can always build your own sun viewer with trash bags or a pasta colander. And there are many ways to stream the eclipse via the web.

    2. The eclipse is a great time for experiments

    A total eclipse is a ripe time for science. If not for the solar eclipse of 1868, we wouldn’t know about helium.

    During the totality, Earth-based telescopes will obtain a better view of the sun’s corona — the ring of starlight left unobscured during the eclipse. These wisps of super hot plasma get washed out by the rest of the sun’s light emissions. But this dim ring can reveal details about the sun’s magnetic fields and the source of solar winds. Some astrophysicists will use the occasion to measure the sun’s diameter, while other will scan for geologic features on nearby Mercury. Indeed, the drop in light exposure on Earth will make the sky dark enough to see four other planets.

    3. Animals get weird during an eclipse.

    The California Academy of Sciences and the nature organization iNaturalist want spectators to look around, rather than up, during the totality and document any bizarre animal activity. Anecdotal reports acknowledge a bevy of oddball behaviors during past eclipses.

    Bugs tend to lose their collective minds on the great day of shadow. Crickets chirp, assuming night has fallen. Cicadas in the southwest cease their calls, for the same reason. Bring the bug spray, because mosquitoes tend to emerge in greater numbers as the moon blocks out the sun.

    Here’s why scientists are collecting accounts of strange animal behavior via citizen science websites like iNaturalist.org. Video by Teresa L. Carey

    But the weirdest behaviors may befall bees. Before 1932’s total solar eclipse, ecologists put out ads in New England newspapers, asking citizens to mail in any strange accounts of animal behavior. At night, bees typically switch off and rest in their hives. But during this eclipse, beekeepers up and down New England noticed signs of “apprehensiveness” in honeybees just before darkness fell.

    “As darkness increased, the outgoing bees diminished in numbers and the return battalions grew larger,” one observer reported.

    Daytime birds tend to roost during eclipses, but keep an ear out for a cock-a-doodle-doo and a hoot-hoot. Both roosters and owls get tricked by the blackness of the eclipse. Those on the coast may notice seabirds takeoff. A naturalist in Venezuela in 1998 witnessed frigate birds and pelicans disappear just before the eclipse and return just after. He also observed gulls flying rapidly back and forth in tight packs during the totality.

    Watch out for weird squirrels too. During a partial solar eclipse in 1969, squirrels in Southern California began zipping back and forth. The rodents spent three times as much time running and were twice as active as normal.

    4. Earth’s total eclipse is unlike any other

    Earth is the only place in our solar system where a total solar eclipse is possible. Other planets, like Jupiter, have eclipses. Mars can have two in a single day. But their moons aren’t placed to perfectly mask the sun.

    By pure coincidence, the sun happens to be 400 times larger than Earth’s moon, but also 400 times farther from our planet. That makes the sun and moon appear exactly same size in the sky. And if not for the moon’s misaligned orbit, we would see solar eclipses once a month, akin to the frequency of a full moon.

    5. Enjoy solar eclipses while they last

    The same physical forces behind ocean tides — tidal friction — is also causing the moon’s orbit to gradually become larger and larger. So 600 million years from now, the moon will be too far away to fully block out the sun. All the more reason to enjoy this one while it’s still stellar.

    Editor’s note: The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is a funder of the PBS NewsHour.

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    The post 5 things you should remember as you prepare for the great solar eclipse appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump is flanked by (L-R) Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney as he speaks about the violence, injuries and deaths at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville while talking to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTS1BXQL

    President Donald Trump is abandoning his plans to form an infrastructure advisory council. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    President Donald Trump is abandoning his plans to form an infrastructure advisory council.

    It’s the third such industry council to be eliminated by the White House this week after the backlash to the president’s comments blaming “both sides” for the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    READ MORE: Trump disbands manufacturing council amid fallout over Charlottesville response

    The White House says in a statement Thursday that the infrastructure council, which was still being formed, “will not move forward.”

    The administration said Wednesday it was ending two other advisory councils made up primarily of business leaders, the Manufacturing Council and the Strategy & Policy Forum. The decision followed a series of announcements by CEOs that they were quitting the councils following Trump’s remarks.

    The post Trump abandons plans for infrastructure advisory council appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    NewsHour shares web small logoIn our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now to our NewsHour Shares, something that caught our eye that may be of interest to you, too.

    A 93-year-old World War II veteran traveled more than 5,000 miles from his Montana home this month to return a treasured keepsake to a grateful Japanese family.

    The NewsHour’s Julia Griffin explains.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: Warm temperatures and rainy skies greeted Marvin Strombo as he returned to Japan this week for the first time in 73 years.

    During the war, Strombo served as an elite sniper scouter with the 2nd Marine Division. Alone on the Japanese line during the 1944 invasion of Saipan, he came across the body of a dead Japanese soldier.

    MARVIN STROMBO, World War II Veteran: I saw a Japanese soldier laying there. And I knew he was an officer because he had a sword on.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: But Strombo also noticed something else, a customary flag the soldier carried, known as a yosegaki hinomaru, that bore 180 signatures of his family and village members.

    Strombo knew such flags were given to departing soldiers as a symbol of good luck and support.

    MARVIN STROMBO: I finally realized, if I didn’t take it, somebody else would have, and it would be lost forever. So, the only way I could do that, as I reached out to take the flag, I made a promise to him that, someday, I would try to return it.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: For decades, the soldier’s identity remained unknown, until five years ago, when Strombo reached out to the Obon Society, a nonprofit that coordinates the return of battlefield souvenirs.

    The group identified the soldier as Sadao Yasue, of Higashishirakawa, Japan. And on Tuesday, Strombo made good on his promise to return the ancestral heirloom, during an emotional ceremony with Yasue’s surviving brother and two sisters.

    MARVIN STROMBO: It was a very emotional moment, really. I saw that the older sister — her holding that flag about broke my heart. And I have fulfilled a promise, which I’m happy about. I could see that it made them quite happy. So, I guess that’s the main thing.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: The poignant event between one-time enemies and now friends coincided with the Japanese Obon holiday, when families return to their hometowns to remember departed loved ones.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Julia Griffin.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now to another in our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask people to describe their passions.

    Tonight, we hear from journalist and novelist Calvin Trillin. His book “Jackson, 1964: And Other Dispatches from Fifty Years of Reporting on Race in America” became available in paperback last month.

    CALVIN TRILLIN, Writer: I was sort of between projects a little while ago, and I thought, this would be a good opportunity to re-catalog my collection of Civil War artifacts. But I don’t have a collection of Civil War artifacts, or any other collections.

    This is time to put that harpsichord kit together. I don’t have a harpsichord kit. I don’t have a golf game to polish. So, I suppose it’s just writing or sitting quietly in a dark room.

    For 15 years, I did a piece every three weeks for The New Yorker that was about 3,000 words. The New Yorker didn’t require what newspaper people sometimes call the nut graph, which is the paragraph that tells you why this story is important.

    The billboard paragraph in some of my stories would have to say something like, all over the country, disreputable people in small towns are killing each other, something like that. I mean, I didn’t have one of those.

    So, I was only interested in whether it was an interesting story. I didn’t know much about The New Yorker when I was a kid. I had one cousin who took The New Yorker, and she was considered rather strange.

    I definitely backed into journalism. I think most people of my era backed into journalism because they didn’t want to go to law school or they were trying to write a novel and couldn’t figure out how to do it.

    I knew I wasn’t going to do anything that required manual dexterity or mathematics skills. I have always said that mathematics was my worst subject. I was never able to persuade the teacher that many of my answers were meant ironically.

    I took a writing course in college that had those usual mottoes, like — like show, don’t tell and all that sort of thing. And one of them was, individualize by specific detail. I thought that was the most useful one, particularly in attempts at humor.

    Humor is sort of indefensible. If the woman in the second row doesn’t laugh, it isn’t funny. That’s one reason there’s no way to sort of try to imagine your audience when you’re writing. I think you could only satisfy yourself.

    My wife, Alice, who died in 2001 was the person I showed rough drafts to, I think the only person. What all writers want to hear if they show somebody something is, brilliant, don’t change a word, even if you know it’s sort of rough. Obviously, she wasn’t going to say that.

    When Alice died, I was going over the galleys of a novel about parking in New York, a subject so silly that I think I would’ve hesitated to submit the book to a publisher, if she hadn’t, somewhat to her surprise, liked it.

    When the novel was published, the dedication said, “I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice.”

    My name is Calvin Trillin, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on my life and writing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You can watch more Brief But Spectacular videos online at pbs.org/newshour/brief.

    The post What Calvin Trillin learned from his college writing course appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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