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

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    An artwork from an inmate at San Quentin. Courtesy of Nicola White

    An artwork from Tauno Waidla, an imate at San Quentin, published by the project San Quentin Artists. Courtesy of Nicola White

    Prison literature has a long and rich history, stretching back to Jack London, Nelson Algren and Malcolm X. The genre includes powerful work from prisoners incarcerated on death row, which is often surfaced with the help of activists or artists in the outside world. The latest of these projects, “San Quentin Artists,” publishes art and poetry made by death row inmates at San Quentin State, California’s oldest prison and the only one in the state with death row inmates.

    Nearly 750 people are currently on death row at the facility, which has a gas chamber, though no prisoner has been executed there since 2006. A recent measure upheld by the California Supreme Court, however, could allow executions to resume.

    Arts of San Quentin, ublished by London-based artist Nicola White, gives an online platform to a number of death row inmates’ work, all made in solitary confinement. “Every man is worth more than the worst thing they have done,” White said by phone from London, where she has also put the inmates’ work on display. “The poetry has a way of expressing emotions that have been frozen in a lot of these prisoners. Because no matter how damaged or worthless people feel, there is something beautiful, and poetry and art has a way of bringing that out.”

    Among the prison poets White publishes is Bill Clark, who began writing poetry after he arrived on death row in 1998. Clark, who was convicted the year before of a double murder involving a computer store robbery, maintains his innocence. For him, poetry is both therapeutic and instructive.

    “It helps me analyze and scrutinize how things are affecting me and affecting others,” he said, speaking over a prison phone line last week. “It helps me cope with the fact that I’m here. That I must maintain my sanity, integrity, sense of humanity and humor. I’ve written poems about death row that are actually amusing. I find a lot of self-realization in my poetry.”

    Several of Clark’s poems also use metaphors to make sense of his experience behind bars. In one poem, called “Pure Lust,” he appears to be longing for a woman, but that woman stands for freedom. “I yearn, I thirst, I hunger,” he writes. “I want her back. Will she give in? Who is this woman? Her name is Freedom.”

    These days, Clark, who also draws cartoons, said he more often writes children’s books than poetry. Clark, who has four children, remembers how much joy it brought them to read together and said that after years of writing often grim poetry, he wanted to “write something more positive.”

    "Hypocrisy," a cartoon by inmate Bill Clark.

    “Hypocrisy,” a cartoon by inmate Bill Clark meant to satirize the racism he sees in police lineups.

    Another prison poet White publishes is Steve Champion, also known as Adisa Kamara, who first got Clark into writing poetry. Champion, a former Crips gang member who was convicted of two counts of murder after a home burglary, is today a well-known prison rights advocate who went on hunger strike in 2012 over the treatment of prisoners at San Quentin.

    Champion said he started reading and writing shortly after his conviction. “When I was convicted I had to ask myself some hard questions,” he said. “And once I knew I was coming to San Quentin and death row, I sort of instinctively knew it would be important for me to read and study and learn about myself and the world.”

    Out of that reading came poetry, which Champion said “always gives you a glimpse about certain aspects of yourself.”

    “You think you’ve got yourself nailed down and then this other layer comes out,” he said. “We’re all evolving and growing and learning things.”

    This was a point White stressed when talking about the work San Quentin’s inmates produce, arguing that many people who were on death row are no longer the same person they were when they came in.

    “Steve Champion has been in since 1981. He’s since gone on a journey to transform himself form a thug to an enlightened person with a genuine lesson to share. If he were to be executed next month would the world be a safer place? Certainly not,” she said.

    Among the lessons Champion wants to share is what he sees as the racist underpinnings of America’s prison system. Champion’s poem, “Transported to Another Time,” was inspired by one of his evidentiary hearings, where he said he saw the vastly different outcomes for people who had resources, access and money, and those who didn’t. The hearing also called to mind for him images of the slave trade because he was put into heavy shackles.

    “But I also drew strength from thinking about that, thinking of people packed in a boat like sardines” during the slave trade, he said. “I think: ‘What are you complaining about?’ There is no universal principle in the world that says life is going to be fair.”

    Champion also maintains his innocence of the crimes for which he’s been convicted, though he chronicles his life in the Crips gang and the changes he’s undergone since in a memoir called “Dead to Deliverance.

    “Definitely if I could relive that period of my life I would relive it,” he said. “But you can’t simply freeze people in time and look at them in the worst possible moment of their life and say that’s all they are and all they’ll ever be.”

    Read Champion’s poem, “Transported to Another Time” below or listen to him read it aloud here.


    Transported to Another Time
    By Steve Champion

    I’m seated on the auction block of the courtroom.
    Curious spectators wait to witness a legal lynching.
    The court stenographer chronicles every spoken word,
    History will not forget this day.
    Waist chains gird my wrists and waists.
    Lay shackles fastened to my ankles,
    I’m transported to another time when men hunted men, cruelly enslaving them.
    Not as prisoners of war but for profits.
    I am a commodity reduced to invisibility,
    where batteries of neuro psychologists and psychiatrists
    are paid thousands of dollars not to testify about my humanity,
    but about my saneness, my fitness to be tried,
    to be executed.
    Every morning the sun rises I chant an African battle hymn.
    Every evening the sun sets I chant a freedom song.
    I am stronger today than I was yesterday but not as strong as I will be tomorrow.
    Victory is mine.
    County jail buses are vessels containing black, brown and white bodies.
    I am transported to another time where slave ships have morphed into slave buses.
    Where slave fort is the new prison fort.
    Where a whip, a rope, a chain utilized to punish, brutalize and control
    are updated to tasers, pepper sprays and stun guns.
    Commanded by men and women who wear green, the color of money, the color of greed.
    I’m transported to another time when I’m poked and prodded.
    Flanked by armed guards. Misdirected and directed to kneel, to be still.
    And when the shackles come unclamped, I am not free to walk out of a prison, but into a cage, another fort where I sleep until I am transported to the plantation ,
    again.


    Read more writing and see more art by inmates at San Quentin here, here, here and here. San Quentin also has an official arts in corrections program, which you can read about here. And a new podcast called “Ear Hustle” is made inside the walls of San Quentin; listen to that here.

    Nicola White is a London-based artist who has been working with inmates since 2015. Her other artwork is made from objects she finds while mudlarking along the banks of the River Thames. More of her work can be seen at www.tidelineart.com. More of Steve Champion’s poetry can be read here.

    The post How death row inmates at San Quentin are using poetry to examine the prison system — and themselves appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Protestors gather outside the White House to protest President Donald Trump's plan to repeal DACA in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RC14C293E930

    Protestors gather Sept. 5 outside the White House to protest President Donald Trump’s plan to repeal DACA in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein.

    The White House took a firm stance on Tuesday in outlining why an immigration program created by President Barack Obama needs to be eliminated.

    President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions described the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as an unconstitutional action that contributed to a surge in immigration and gang violence in recent years. They also said it hurt the economy by taking jobs away from Americans.

    Here is a look at the claims made by the administration and the facts:

    TRUMP: “The temporary implementation of DACA by the Obama administration, after Congress repeatedly rejected this amnesty-first approach, also helped spur a humanitarian crisis — the massive surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America including, in some cases, young people who would become members of violent gangs throughout our country, such as MS-13.”

    THE FACTS: Some DACA critics contend that the program signaled to Central American children that they would get similar treatment if they came to the U.S., but there is scant evidence to support the claim.

    The Government Accountability Office found that the main reasons for the surge of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in 2014 were crime and lack of economic opportunity at home. Other reasons included education concerns, desire to rejoin family and aggressive recruiting by smugglers.

    Some DACA critics contend that the program signaled to Central American children that they would get similar treatment if they came to the U.S., but there is scant evidence to support the claim.

    The 2015 GAO report said perceptions of U.S. immigration policy played a part, specifically because some believed that prospects for a broad overhaul of U.S. immigration laws would include a path to citizenship for those already in the country. The 25-page report made no mention of DACA.

    At a lengthy congressional hearing in June on unaccompanied children who belong to the El Salvador-based MS-13 gang, senior administration officials made no mention DACA. Carla Provost, the acting Border Patrol chief, said 160 unaccompanied children who were arrested crossing the border since 2012 were suspected of having gang affiliations, including with the MS-13. But none of the officials offered any estimate of how many are currently in the U.S. and whether they became members after coming to the country.

    SESSIONS: DACA “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.”

    WHITE HOUSE SPOKESWOMAN SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: “There are over 4 million unemployed Americans in the same age group as those that are DACA recipients; that over 950,000 of those are African-Americans in the same age group; over 870,000 unemployed Hispanics in the same age group. Those are large groups of people that are unemployed that could possibly have those jobs.”

    THE FACTS: Few economists or business leaders subscribe to the administration’s view. The unemployment rate is near a 16-year low, and U.S. companies are seeking to fill 6.2 million jobs, the most on records dating from 2001. Many companies are practically begging for more workers. Some analysts argue that automation in factories and warehouses is picking up in part because of a shortage of available employees.

    For the economy to grow, it needs both more workers and to make those workers more efficient through investments in machinery and technology. The U.S. population is aging, more people are retiring, and that has restrained the economy’s growth in the 9-year recovery from the Great Recession. Immigrants help offset that trend.

    Immigrants are also more likely than native-born Americans to start companies, which leads to greater job creation.

    The unemployment rate for African Americans fell in June to nearly the lowest level on records dating back to 1976. It has since moved higher, but it is low by historical standards. Even in a healthy economy, some Americans will be unemployed as they switch jobs or start looking for work after completing their educations.

    It’s a stretch to say that “virtually all other top legal experts” believe DACA is unconstitutional. It is a highly contested issue.

    TRUMP: “Officials from 10 States are suing over the program, requiring my Administration to make a decision regarding (DACA’s) legality. The Attorney General of the United States, the Attorneys General of many states, and virtually all other top legal experts have advised that the program is unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court.

    THE FACTS: It’s a stretch to say that “virtually all other top legal experts” believe DACA is unconstitutional. It is a highly contested issue.

    More than 100 law school professors and university lecturers wrote Trump in August to insist it’s legal. “In our view, there is no question that DACA 2012 is a lawful exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Our conclusions are based on years of experience in the field and a close study of the U.S. Constitution, administrative law, immigration statutes, federal regulations and case law,” they wrote.

    Ten state attorneys general threatened to challenge DACA in June. One of them, Tennessee’s Herbert H. Slatery III, shifted course on Friday, urging Congress to act and saying there was “a human element … that is not lost on me and should not be ignored.”

    READ MORE: Trump’s decision to end DACA, explained

    The post AP FACT CHECK: What the Trump administration said about DACA appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump speaks about tax reform during a visit to Loren Cook Company in Springfield, Missouri, in August. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    President Donald Trump speaks about tax reform during a visit to Loren Cook Company in Springfield, Missouri, in August. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is promoting his tax overhaul pitch on a visit Wednesday to North Dakota.

    On Twitter Wednesday, Trump says he’ll “discuss tax reform and tax cuts.” He adds: “we are the highest taxed nation in the world – that will change.”

    The president, who has offered few specifics on the plan, met with Republican congressional leaders Tuesday to discuss the tax efforts. Trump and congressional Republicans say they want to simplify the tax code, lowering the rate for corporations from the current 15-35 percent range, and bringing relief for the middle class.

    At an event near Bismarck, Trump is expected to promote the plan as an opportunity for bipartisanship. He’ll be joined by North Dakota’s Democratic senator, Heidi Heitkamp, who’s traveling with Trump on Air Force One.

    The overall U.S. tax burden is actually one of the lowest among the 32 developed and large emerging-market economies tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

    Taxes made up 26.4 percent of the total U.S. economy in 2015, according to the OECD. That’s far below Denmark’s tax burden of 46.6 percent, Britain’s 32.5 percent or Germany’s 36.9 percent. Just four OECD countries had a lower tax bite than the U.S.: South Korea, Ireland, Chile and Mexico.

    The United States does have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world, but, due to tax breaks, many companies don’t pay the full rate.

    The post President Trump to pitch tax overhaul in North Dakota appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Emergency management signs are posted on traffic signal posts in the aftermath of tropical storm Harvey in down town Houston, Texas, in September. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    Emergency management signs are posted on traffic signal posts in the aftermath of tropical storm Harvey in down town Houston, Texas, in September. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — With federal disaster reserves running out, the House is swiftly moving to pass President Donald Trump’s request for a $7.9 billion first installment of relief for victims of Harvey.

    GOP leaders also hope to use the urgent Harvey aid bill to solve a far more vexing issue: Increasing the U.S. debt limit to permit the government to borrow freely again to cover its bills.

    Wednesday morning’s vote comes as the government’s response to Harvey is draining existing disaster reserves, with Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster accounts hovering at $1 billion or less. FEMA is warning lawmakers that disaster funds run out on Friday, even as a much more powerful hurricane, Irma, is bearing down on the eastern U.S.

    This week’s measure is to handle the immediate emergency needs and replenish reserves in advance of Irma. Far more money will be needed once more complete estimates are in this fall, and Harvey could end up exceeding the $110 billion government cost of Hurricane Katrina.

    The Harvey aid bill is the first major item on a packed fall agenda. GOP leaders such as Speaker Paul Ryan hope it will allow lawmakers to quickly take on the more challenging job of increasing the government’s $19.9 trillion borrowing cap. That plan was gaining momentum Tuesday, with even some top House conservatives sounding resigned to the idea.

    “I think it’s a terrible idea,” said House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who conceded that conservatives were getting outmaneuvered.

    “I think at this point there are bigger issues that we have to focus on,” Meadows said.

    House action on Wednesday would set up a Senate debate that, as of Tuesday, would follow an uncertain path. A spokesman for top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said the New Yorker is seeking assurances that minority party Democrats will be treated fairly as Congress advances through its lengthy to-do list, which includes extending a popular children’s health program, federal flood insurance, and, perhaps, a small-bore budget outline that would ease tight budget “caps” on both the Pentagon and domestic agencies.

    Schumer was a key force in winning aid of more than $50 billion to help New York and New Jersey recover from Superstorm Sandy five years ago. And he supported former President Barack Obama’s successful efforts in recent years to block Republicans from using debt limit increases as blackmail to win other GOP priorities.

    So Schumer is keeping his options open despite initially acting cool to the idea of pairing the debt limit with flood funding.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that increased Harvey costs show the importance of acting swiftly to increase the government’s debt cap to make sure there’s enough borrowed cash to pay out the surge in disaster aid.

    “In the case of the debt limit, we need to act quickly given the new uncertainty from the large costs of storm recovery,” McConnell said.

    Analysts at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank, say Harvey aid wouldn’t cause a cash crunch for weeks.

    Democrats recognize that their votes are needed to help GOP leaders pass any debt limit increase but they aren’t threatening to withhold those votes.

    “We’re dealing with all these things at this point in time anyway,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley of New York. “Democrats have said we’re for a clean debt ceiling and we’re also for making sure the people from Texas, Louisiana, and elsewhere who’ve been severely damaged by these storms — with one more on the way as well — that their needs need to be addressed as well.”

    READ MORE: First Harvey, now Irma. Why are so many hurricanes hitting the U.S.?

    The post House to vote on $7.9 billion bill for Harvey relief appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says that if Congress doesn’t pass protections for immigrants brought to this country illegally as children, Democrats will move to attach it to other items this fall “until it passes.”

    The New York Democrat said in a Senate floor speech that aid for those immigrants “would likely pass without much fuss.”

    Schumer said “we could solve this problem tomorrow rather than letting the fear of deportation hang over the heads of 800,000” young immigrants, many of whom only know the U.S. as their home.

    The announcement came a day after President Donald Trump announced he would end protections against deportation for such immigrants, which Former President Barack Obama issued by executive order in 2012. Trump gave lawmakers a six-month delay in an attempt to craft immigration legislation.

    READ MORE: Trump’s decision to end DACA, explained

    The post WATCH: Top Democrats speak about Trump’s DACA decision appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    House Speaker Paul Ryan is telling Republicans that they will address the issue of immigration through the regular legislative process.

    That’s the word from Rep. Dennis Ross on Wednesday after the weekly closed-door meeting. Ross said Ryan told the GOP caucus that the leaders “were not going to jam anybody, we’re going to go through the process.” That means the chamber will not put the legislation on a fast track, but go through a more deliberative process.

    President Donald Trump is dismantling the program protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children. He gave Congress six months to come up with a legislative solution.

    Congress has repeatedly struggled to come up with a legislation solution to deal with immigration.

    WATCH: Top Democrats speak about Trump’s DACA decision

    The post WATCH: House GOP says it will find DACA solution through regular legislative process appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Both parties must give ground to craft a compromise bill shoring up the nation’s individual health insurance markets or they’ll be blamed for hurting millions of consumers, the chairman of the Senate health committee said Wednesday.

    Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., spoke as his panel held the first of four hearings in its effort to see if Democrats and Republicans can forge a modest bill aimed at curbing premium increases and preventing insurers from fleeing some marketplaces. The effort will show whether divided Republicans are willing to pivot from trying to obliterate the Obama health care law to helping it survive, and if both parties can overcome lingering raw feelings over that battle.

    Alexander said he wants a bipartisan bill produced by the end of next week. By late September, insurers must decide whether they will sell policies in the government’s Healthcare.gov online exchanges in 2018, and he and top panel Democrat Patty Murray of Washington state hope to quickly produce a bill that would ease companies’ anxieties.

    Failure to produce legislation will hurt millions of Americans buying individual insurance who’d face big premium boosts and less competition.

    “The blame will be on every one of us, and deservedly so,” Alexander said.

    Alexander is offering to extend billions in federal subsidies to insurers who reduce out-of-pocket costs for lower-earning customers for a year. In exchange, he wants Democrats to make it easier for states to let insurance companies sell policies with lesser coverage requirements than are imposed by President Barack Obama’s health care law.

    Murray said President Donald Trump is trying to “sabotage” Obama’s statute by repeatedly threatening to halt the subsidies to insurers and slashing federal spending for outreach aimed at persuading people to buy policies. She’s said she wants the cost-reduction payments to be extended for multiple years, not just one, and favors creating another federal fund states could tap to help insurers contain premiums.

    “Threading this needle won’t be easy,” Murray said. “But I do believe an agreement that protects patients and families from higher costs and uncertainty” is possible.

    Senators’ remarks underscored the differences lawmakers must overcome.

    Conservative Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said the individual insurance market — where about 18 million people buy policies — is “non-functional” and said lawmakers should create ways for those customers to instead join more efficient group plans. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., warned against easing coverage requirements, saying it was crucial that consumers not be forced to buy “lousy insurance.”

    Analysts expect 2018 premium increases to match or exceed the average 25 percent boosts on midlevel plans sold this year on the government’s Healthcare.gov online marketplace. Insurers say additional upsurges are possible due to uncertainty over actions by the Trump administration.

    In addition, nearly half the nation’s roughly 3,000 counties are expected to have only one insurer offering coverage on government insurance exchanges next year. Republicans say that lack of competition shows a failing of Obama’s law. Republicans also had asserted that a handful of mostly rural counties would have no insurers selling policies in 2018, but the latest federal figures project that will not happen.

    The payments to insurers cost around $7 billion this year and compensate companies for lowering out-of-pockets costs for customers’ deductibles and co-payments, which Obama’s law requires. Almost 7 million lower-earning people benefit from the reductions.

    The subsidies are also legally required, but they’re the subject of a federal court case over whether Congress properly approved the payments. Trump has threatened to halt them, calling them bailouts for insurers. Insurance companies and nonpartisan budget analysts say blocking that money would prompt insurers to raise premiums even further, and lawmakers from both parties want the payments to be approved.

    Each of the five state insurance commissioners who testified Wednesday, from states governed by Republicans, Democrats and an independent, backed continuing payments to insurers.

    The states whose insurance commissioners testified ranged from Oklahoma, where every county is projected to have just one insurer selling individual policies on the marketplace next year, to Washington, where most counties are expected to have two insurers or more. Officials from Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Alaska also appeared.

    Hardened partisan positions might be tough to overcome after the two parties fought bitterly all year over the GOP repeal drive. And Republicans are split: While Trump and conservatives want the GOP to revive a full-fledged drive to erase the law, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has resisted doing so without the votes to prevail.

    The chemistry between Trump and Senate Republicans remains uncertain after Trump spent August repeatedly assailing McConnell and GOP senators for letting the health bill crash. McConnell opened the Senate’s return from summer recess Tuesday listing a busy September agenda that excluded any mention of health care.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Senate health committee holds first hearing on stabilizing Obamacare appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Haight-Ashbury of 1967 was a place of endless possibility: new ways of living, an influx of ideas, and political and cultural revolution were in the air. And yet amidst this “anything goes” scene, one band still stuck out as an anomaly.

    The Ace of Cups didn’t set out to be an all-girl band. The group’s original five members — Mary Gannon, Marla Hunt, Denise Kaufman, Mary Ellen Simpson and Diane Vitalich — came together guided by the communal spirit that blanketed Summer of Love-era San Francisco. Up to that point, most all-female bands had worn matching outfits and played cover songs. But with original songs that reflected their circumstances, the Ace of Cups played with groups like The Band, Jefferson Airplane, and even Jimi Hendrix, an avowed fan.

    Despite their impact in San Francisco, in the intervening years the Ace of Cups were relegated to footnote status, all but written out of history books. They never signed with a record label, and after they started having children, the band split up.

    But now, having kept in touch, four of the five original band members are recording their first album together. Watch the video in the player above to learn more about their experience.

    This report originally appeared on KQED. Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member and public radio stations around the nation.

    The post Meet the Ace of Cups, the Haight’s (almost) forgotten all-girl band appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The share of Americans who identify as white and Christian has dropped below 50 percent, a transformation fueled by immigration and by growing numbers of people who reject organized religion altogether, according to a new survey released Wednesday.

    The share of Americans who identify as white and Christian has dropped below 50 percent, a transformation fueled by immigration and by growing numbers of people who reject organized religion altogether, according to a new survey released Wednesday. Photo by REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz.

    NEW YORK — The share of Americans who identify as white and Christian has dropped below 50 percent, a transformation fueled by immigration and by growing numbers of people who reject organized religion altogether, according to a new survey released Wednesday.

    Christians overall remain a large majority in the U.S., at nearly 70 percent of Americans. However, white Christians, once predominant in the country’s religious life, now comprise only 43 percent of the population, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, or PRRI, a polling organization based in Washington. Four decades ago, about eight in 10 Americans were white Christians.

    READ MORE: Millennials haven’t forgotten spirituality, they’re just looking for new venues

    The change has occurred across the spectrum of Christian traditions in the U.S., including sharp drops in membership in predominantly white mainline Protestant denominations such as Presbyterians and Lutherans; an increasing Latino presence in the Roman Catholic Church as some non-Hispanic white Catholics leave; and shrinking ranks of white evangelicals, who until recently had been viewed as immune to decline.

    The trends identified in the survey are fueling anxiety about the place of Christians in society, especially among evangelicals, alarmed by support for gay marriage and by the increasing share of Americans — about one-quarter — who don’t identify with a faith group. President Donald Trump, who repeatedly promised to protect the religious liberty of Christians, drew 80 percent of votes by white evangelicals, a constituency that remains among his strongest supporters.

    About 17 percent of Americans now identify as white evangelical, compared to 23 percent a decade ago, according to the survey. Membership in the conservative Southern Baptist Convention, the largest U.S. Protestant group, dropped to 15.2 million last year, its lowest number since 1990, according to an analysis by Chuck Kelley, president of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

    The trends identified in the survey are fueling anxiety about the place of Christians in society, especially among evangelicals, alarmed by support for gay marriage and by the increasing share of Americans — about one-quarter — who don’t identify with a faith group.

    “So often, white evangelicals have been pointing in judgment to white mainline groups, saying when you have liberal theology you decline,” said Robert Jones, chief executive of PRRI. “I think this data really does challenge that interpretation of linking theological conservatism and growth.”

    The PRRI survey of more than 100,000 people was conducted from January 2016 to January of this year and has a margin of error of plus or minus 0.4 percentage points. Previous surveys had found that the Protestant majority that shaped the nation’s history had dropped below 50 percent sometime around 2008. The PRRI poll released Wednesday included a more in-depth focus on race and religion. Jones said growth among Latino Christians, and stability in the numbers of African-American Christians, had partly obscured the decline among white Christians.

    The survey also found that more than a third of all Republicans say they are white evangelicals, and nearly three-quarter identify as white Christians. By comparison, white Christians have become a minority in the Democratic Party, shrinking from 50 percent a decade ago, to 29 percent now. Forty percent of Democrats say they have no religious affiliation.

    Among American Catholics, 55 percent now identify as white, compared to 87 percent 25 years ago, amid the growing presence of Latino Catholics, according to the report. Over the last decade, the share of white Catholics in the U.S. population dropped from 16 percent to 11 percent. Over the same period, white mainline Protestants declined from 18 percent to 13 percent of all Americans.

    The post White Christians are now a minority of the U.S. population, survey says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (R) speaks next to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a news conference on President Trump's first 100 days on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas - RTS14CNR

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the agreement Wednesday after meeting with Trump at the White House. File photo by REUTERS/Yuri Gripas.

    WASHINGTON — Democratic leaders say President Donald Trump has agreed to a plan to fund the government and increase the nation’s debt limit for three months as part of a deal to rush disaster aid to Hurricane Harvey victims.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the agreement Wednesday after meeting with Trump at the White House.

    READ MORE: AP FACT CHECK: What the Trump administration said about DACA

    The deal promises to speed a $7.9 billion Harvey aid bill, which passed the House Wednesday, to Trump’s desk before disaster accounts run out later this week.

    The move buys almost three months for Washington to try to solve myriad issues, including more funding for defense, immigration, health care, and a longer-term increase in the government’s borrowing authority.

    The post Democrats say Trump agrees to deal on spending, debt, Harvey aid appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Recent data from the CDC shows teen suicides on the rise, particularly among teen girls. The PBS NewsHour will hold a Twitter chat on the subject, Sept. 7 at 1 ET.

    The suicide rate among teen girls doubled from 2007-2015, reaching a 40-year high according to new analysis from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

    Just as the suicide rate among young women has spiked, it has also increased by 30 percent among young men.  The uptick in teen suicides is a noticeable development amid a general increase in suicides since 2007, and health professionals are looking at the socio-political and economic environments of the Internet age as possible influences.

    To discuss the findings of the CDC’s study, risk factors and what parents and educators can do to support teens, the PBS NewsHour will be joined on Twitter Sept. 7th at 1 ET by mental health counselor and educator Dr. Christina Connolly (@CConolly_psych), Chief Medical Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Dr. Christine Moutier (@AFSPNational) and co-author of the CDC study Sally Curtin (@NCHStats).

    Have questions? Tweet them to #NewsHourChats.

    The post Twitter chat: Why suicide rates are on the rise, especially among teen girls appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Rohingya refugee girl carries a baby in the Kutupalang makeshift refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on July 8. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    A Rohingya refugee girl carries a baby in the Kutupalang makeshift refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on July 8. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    About 123,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since violence erupted in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state on Aug. 25.

    “Those who have made it to Bangladesh are in poor condition,” said U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Duniya Aslam Khan in Geneva. “Most have walked for days from their villages – hiding in jungles, crossing mountains and rivers with what they could salvage from their homes. They are hungry, weak and sick.”

    Rohingya refugees walk on a muddy path after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Teknaf, Bangladesh, on Sept. 3. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    Rohingya refugees walk on a muddy path after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Teknaf, Bangladesh, on Sept. 3. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    Rohingya refugee men carry an older woman across the border into Teknaf, Bangladesh on Sept. 1. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    Rohingya refugee men carry an older woman across the border into Teknaf, Bangladesh on Sept. 1. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    A steady stream of Rohingya refugees cross into Bangladesh. The United Nations estimates 123,000 have entered since August. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    A steady stream of Rohingya refugees cross into Bangladesh. The United Nations estimates 123,000 have entered since August. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    About 30,000 have gone to existing refugee camps in Bangladesh, while others have sought shelter in villagers’ homes, schools, community centers and madrassas. The new arrivals joined about 200,000 refugees from Myanmar holed up in Cox’s Bazar, a fishing port in Bangladesh.

    “We are running out of space in the existing settlements, and new arrivals are pitching camp wherever they can erect some plastic sheeting to protect themselves from the elements,” said Sarat Dash, the International Organization for Migration’s Bangladesh chief of mission.

    Tents made from reeds and tarps line the Kutupalang refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on July 8. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    Tents made from reeds and tarps line the Kutupalang refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on July 8. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    Rohingya refugees rebuild their shelters after Cyclone Mora tore them down at the Kutupalang refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh on June 1. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    Rohingya refugees rebuild their shelters after Cyclone Mora tore them down at the Kutupalang refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on June 1. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    Who are the Rohingya? The Rohingya are an ethnic mostly Muslim minority group living in Rakhine state on the western coast of Myanmar. The government says they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and does not recognize them as one of the country’s 135 ethnic groups. A 1982 law prevented the Rohingya from gaining citizenship, which restricts their job opportunities.

    The Rohingya face “severe restrictions,” including curfews and a heavy security presence in villages, along with needing official authorization to travel between townships and villages, reported the United Nations. Villagers described beatings, rapes and their homes getting burned allegedly by security forces, according to the report.

    Many Rohingya refugees are moving into Kutupalang makeshift refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    Many Rohingya refugees are moving into Kutupalang makeshift refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    On Aug. 25, Rohingya insurgents attacked two dozen police posts and an army base. At least 12 members of the security forces and dozens of militants reportedly were killed. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the attacks “unacceptable” and expressed concern over escalating tensions.

    Rohingya refugees travel from the Bay of Bengal into Teknaf, Bangladesh, on Sept. 5. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    Rohingya refugees travel from the Bay of Bengal into Teknaf, Bangladesh, on Sept. 5. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    READ MORE: Why thousands of Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar, only to be stranded at sea

    Reaction from Nobel laureates: In December, Bangladeshi social entrepreneur and Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 2006 Muhammad Yunus wrote an open letter to the U.N. Security Council “to end the ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya people.

    Some of the same Nobel laureates again called for an end to the violence after the Aug. 25 flashpoint, including Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011:

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

    Malala Yousafzai, 2014 Nobel laureate, issued a statement: “Over the last several years, I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment. I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same. The world is waiting and the Rohingya Muslims are waiting.”

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

    Suu Kyi, a long-time human rights activist, was under house arrest from 1989 to 2010 while the country was under military rule. In 2016, Myanmar got its first democratically elected president, Htin Kyaw, who is now considered Suu Kyi’s proxy since she was constitutionally barred from becoming president.

    In the first government statement since the recent refugee exodus, Suu Kyi said while speaking with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that her government had “already started defending all the people in Rakhine in the best way possible.”

    The statement reported Wednesday also said there was a lot of fake news circulating which was the “tip of a huge iceberg of misinformation calculated to create a lot of problems between different communities and with the aim of promoting the interest of the terrorists.”

    Pope Francis, meanwhile, plans to travel to Myanmar from Nov. 27 to 30 and Bangladesh from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 to show his support for the Rohingya. “I would like to express my closeness to them and all of us ask the Lord to save them and to prompt men and women of good faith to help them and ensure their full rights,” he said.

    Rohingya refugees reach for food near Balukhali in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on Sept. 4. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    Rohingya refugees reach for food near Balukhali in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on Sept. 4. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    A Rohingya girl recites a poem at a school in the Balukhali refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on April 10. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    A Rohingya girl recites a poem at a school in the Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on April 10. Photo by Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

    The post Rohingya refugees, caught in crosshairs, flood into Bangladesh appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senator Claire McCaskill, a top-ranking Democrat from Missouri, is scheduled to unveil findings from an opioid investigation she launched in March in a news conference Wednesday.

    McCaskill is expected to speak around 2:30 p.m. ET. Watch live in the player above.

    McCaskill, who serves on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in March she would investigate whether malpractice in drug marketing helped fan opioid misuse into a national public health crisis.

    READ MORE: McCaskill launches investigation of opioid drugmakers

    On Wednesday, McCaskill was set to deliver previously unreleased audio and documents that illustrated inappropriate actions by members of the pharmaceutical industry. The investigation is ongoing.

    Read the full report here.
    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post WATCH: McCaskill announces findings of opioid report appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    South Sudan's Information Minister Michael Makuei attends a ceremony held for the International Day of UN Peacekeepers in Juba, South Sudan on May 29, 2015. The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, which is commemorated each year on the 29th of May, is an occasion to salute the peacekeepers of today who serve in some of the worlds most volatile and dangerous environments. (Photo by Samir Bol/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

    The Trump administration on Wednesday imposed sanctions on two senior members of South Sudan’s government — including South Sudan’s Information Minister Michael Makuei, seen above — a former official and three South Sudanese companies for undermining peace, security and stability in the crisis-stricken nation.Photo by Samir Bol/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Wednesday imposed sanctions on two senior members of South Sudan’s government, a former official and three South Sudanese companies for undermining peace, security and stability in the crisis-stricken nation.

    The departments of State and Treasury announced penalties against South Sudan’s deputy defense chief Malek Reuben, Information Minister Michael Makuei and former military chief of staff Paul Malong. The sanctions freeze any assets they may have in U.S. jurisdictions, ban them from travel to the United States and bar Americans from doing business with them. Three firms owned by Reuben — All Energy Investments, A+ Engineering, Electronics & Media Printing and Mak International Services — were also targeted by the sanctions.

    READ MORE: Uganda now houses more than 1 million South Sudanese refugees

    In addition, the Treasury Department issued a notice to banks warning that doing business with South Sudanese officials and companies who are suspected of laundering money obtained through corruption may bring penalties.

    “Treasury will forcefully respond to the atrocities ongoing in South Sudan by targeting those who abuse human rights, seek to derail the peace process, and obstruct reconciliation in South Sudan,” Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.

    South Sudan is in the midst of a four-year civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people and forced more than two million people to flee their homes.

    The post U.S. hits officials in South Sudan with sanctions for role in crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump says he believes Congress will come up with a legislative fix for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally who were brought here as children.

    Trump on Tuesday suspended a program for these immigrants and gave lawmakers six months to resolve their status.

    Trump told reporters traveling with him that he’d like to see a permanent deal and that he thinks it will happen. He predicted having great support from both sides of Congress.

    Trump said in a tweet late Tuesday that he would “revisit” the issue if Congress blew its six-month deadline. He said Wednesday that revisiting the issue may be unnecessary because “Congress really wants to do this.”

    He says the issue was discussed during an Oval Office meeting with top Republican and Democratic congressional leaders.

    [READ: Trump’s decision to end DACA, explained]

    The post LISTEN: Trump thinks Congress will come up with DACA fix appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Escorts who ensure women can reach the clinic lineup as they face off protesters outside the EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. on January 27, 2017. Picture taken July 27, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Kenning - RC19EE729960

    Escorts who ensure women can reach the clinic lineup as they face off protesters outside the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, Kentucky on January 27, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Chris Kenning

    The 24-hour news cycle is filled with politics coverage, but not everything gets the attention it deserves. Here are five politics stories you may have missed in the past week.

    1. The Trump administration just halted this Obama-era rule to shrink the gender wage gap — 8/30. The rule would have required U.S. employers to disclose to the government how they pay workers by race and gender. — The Washington Post
    2. Justice Department: No evidence Trump Tower was wiretapped — 9/3. The DOJ was responding to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit regarding the president’s March tweets. — CNN
    3. Kentucky’s last abortion clinic to face off against governor — 9/4. The Bluegrass State could become the first state in the country without an abortion clinic. — Associated Press
    4. Federal district court blocks Texas’ sanctuary cities law — 8/30. Ken Paxton, the state’s attorney general, is appealing the ruling. — Dallas News
    5. Trump’s EPA attacks AP reporter in personal terms — 9/3. The spat came after an AP story on flooded Superfund sites in Houston. — Politico

    READ MORE: 5 overlooked politics stories that are worth your time (Aug. 29)

    The post 5 overlooked politics stories that are worth your time appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    'Despacito' topped the airwaves this summer. But it was not the No. 1 song in every state. — Screengrab from "Despacito"

    Summer is (un)officially over, but we’re still hanging on to the music that soundtracked the season’s barbecues, pool days and beach trips. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” — the first Spanish-language song to hit No. 1 since the “Macarena” — was the clear song of the summer nationally: It just tied the record for the most number of weeks atop Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and has more than 3 billion views on YouTube (and still climbing). It’s no wonder why; the Puerto Rican reggaeton pop song, which was picked up and remixed by Justin Bieber, has an irresistibly catchy chorus and beat.

    But “Despacito” was not the No. 1 song in every state. While the most streamed song in the most places from June 21 to present was “Despacito,” according to data provided to the NewsHour by Spotify, in many southern states, the more popular song was Philadelphia rapper Lil Uzi Vert’s manic single “XO Tour Llif3,” and in many northeast states and California, the more streamed song was DJ Khaled and Rihanna’s hip hop-rock (and also Latin-inspired) hit “Wild Thoughts.” Those three songs took over airwaves in most states this summer, and are still on top as we go into fall.

     

    Spotify also provided NewsHour with the most distinctive streaming by state, meaning songs that were streamed more often in one state than in other places in the U.S. Measuring songs of the summer this way, they found more variety. In Vermont, people loved streaming Irish singer’s Niall Horan’s pop hit “Slow Hands,” while in Colorado they had rock band Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still” on repeat. Washington, D.C., favored “Praying,” Kesha’s first single in almost four years, while Florida played another Reggaeton song from Colombian singer J. Balvin and French producer Willy William’s, called “Mi Gente.”

    Other states, however, went country, including Arkansas, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia, who all streamed Luke Combs’ debut country single “Hurricane.” Another country hit, Sam Hunt’s “Body Like A Back Road,” was popular in Maine and New Hampshire.

    In general, it seems, hip hop and Latin-inspired tunes dominated the summer. And as of Tuesday, “Despacito” was still at Billboard’s No.1.

    The post Here’s every state’s song of the summer (no, it’s not all ‘Despacito’) appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Thomas Barwick/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.


    Karen: I recently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, partly because a physician that is part of a university-affiliated practice was listed in the network directory. I was a patient of a doctor in the university practice who is not in the network, but I wished to stay in the university practice for continuity of care. The day my coverage began, I attempted to make an appointment with the physician, but was told by the insurance billing office that none of the physicians in their office is in the network! I spoke with a customer service representative from the MA plan and explained the inaccurate, discrepant information in its online directory. When I inquired about disenrolling, I was told I would have to write a letter with my reasons and, further, that if I switched coverage to another plan, I would have to pay a penalty for a lapse in my Part D drug coverage.

    I do not trust the information I am receiving. Is this information accurate? How do I avoid penalties? How do I avoid a lapse in coverage? I don’t want to pay out-of-network charges to continue seeing a physician in the university practice. Is this grounds for changing to another MA plan? It seems unfair that when you enroll in an MA plan you can face a penalty or even lack of any insurance due to the plan’s mistakes.

    READ MORE: How do I get the Medicare coverage I want with the lowest out-of-pocket cost?

    Phil Moeller: Karen’s letter describes the kind of problem that has given MA plans a bad public image. The plans are increasingly popular, and now serve a third of all Medicare enrollees. They often provide more complete coverage than basic Medicare and usually cost less than having basic Medicare, a stand-alone Part D drug plan, and a Medigap supplemental plan.

    The accuracy of provider directories has been a problem for some Medicare Advantage plans. They have been criticized for this problem and are taking steps to improve the directories.

    A goodly amount of their cost savings stems from their requirement that plan members use doctors and hospitals in their provider networks. Here, the accuracy of provider directories has been a problem for some Medicare Advantage plans. They have been criticized for this problem and are taking steps to improve the completeness and accuracy of the directories. Unfortunately, it’s very hard if not impossible for consumers to know ahead of time which plan networks are likely to be inaccurate. For that reason, I urge people to call their preferred health care providers ahead of time, and ask them if they are in a plan’s network.

    As to your exposure to late-enrollment penalties, I don’t have enough information from you about the timing of your application for the MA plan to be able to comment with certainty on whether the MA plan was justified in what it told you.

    If your enrollment in Medicare was the result of you turning 65, your initial enrollment period should have been seven months, including the three months before your birthday, your birthday month, and three months after your birthday. If your enrollment was the result of leaving a job after you had turned 65, you should qualify for a special enrollment period lasting eight months after the end date of your employer health coverage.

    I mention this because your window for getting a Part D drug plan might still not have closed, meaning you would not face late-enrollment penalties if you could get a new Part D plan before your enrollment period ended. Part D penalties begin kicking in once your enrollment windows are closed and you’ve gone 63 days without Part D coverage. So, even if your enrollment window has closed, disenrolling from your current Part D plan might not trigger a late-enrollment penalty if you can obtain new coverage within 63 days of disenrolling. Of course, I don’t know if any of this is relevant to your situation.

    This still leaves you with the broader issue of how to hold the plan accountable for misrepresenting the information in its provider directory. In the pro-consumer world I wished we all lived in, this would be a snap. In the real world, it is anything but that. Plans have a lot of leeway in avoiding accountability for these kinds of decisions. I’ll get to possible remedies in a moment.

    If seems to me that your first order of business is to find a better package of Medicare coverage. This would include finding a stand-alone Part D drug plan that will take effect quickly and thus allow you to avoid the late-enrollment penalty. The penalty, by the way, is only 1 percent a month tacked on to your Part D premium. So, it’s not a lot of money. But it lasts the rest of your life and would be nice to avoid.

    I would also call Medicare (1-800-MEDICARE) and find out how quickly your basic Medicare coverage would kick in, and thus how soon you could see your preferred doctors and be covered. Get ready for some frustration here, as it can take a while for this coverage to take effect.

    In the interim, you may face the unpleasant choice of either paying out-of-network rates or going without care.

    Once you’ve attended to these needs, you can explore remedies for your plan’s mistakes. I work with several nonprofits that provide consumer Medicare advice, and might be able to work with you to redress the problems you’ve encountered. The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) is often the first place to go, although it is more focused on explaining how Medicare works than dealing with private insurance companies. The other two are the Medicare Rights Center and the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

    Please let me know how things go. If you discover an effective way to deal with the errors in your plan’s provider directory, I’d like to share that knowledge with other readers.


    Deborah: I know that parents can get Social Security benefits for their children in certain situations. But what about grandparents? My husband and I are raising our grandson because his mother and father have abandoned him. He is 8 years old and has only seen his father maybe three times, and I think that was around 2012. He doesn’t call or write him. His mother lives in the same town as us, a tiny town of about 300 people. But everyone else comes before her own son. Ultimately, we would like to adopt him but we don’t have the money to do so right now.

    Phil Moeller: I am so sorry you and your grandson are having to go through this. If you can demonstrate that your grandson is living with you and that you are his primary caretaker and pay for his needs, he should qualify to file for benefits based on one of your earnings records, presumably that of the higher earner. In order for him to file, the person on whose earnings record he is claiming must already have filed for their own retirement benefit. I suggest you call Social Security and find out specific requirements to establish your eligibility for benefits for your grandson. You and your husband also should determine the best Social Security filing strategy – one that reflects your longer-term needs as well as those of your grandson. If you run into any obstacles, please let me know.


    Bob – Ga.: I’m unclear on the dental work that Medicare covers. We are retired and have traditional Medicare and a letter F Medigap policy. We have believed that we could easily pay out of pocket for what we consider routine dental work such as regular cleanings and fillings, so we did not get dental insurance when we retired. Recently my dentist became concerned about a precancerous spot on my tongue. Suppose I need surgery to remove a benign growth on my tongue or for oral cancer? Would that be covered by Medicare? I know the work must be done by someone who accepts Medicare. But does it matter whether a dentist or physician performs the surgery? Or where the surgery is done? In general, what diseases of or injuries to the mouth/teeth/jaw area would not be covered?

    Phil Moeller: You are correct that Medicare does not cover routine dental care. Further, while Medicare generally does cover medically necessary care, this is not always the case with dental work. So, I would urge you to work carefully with your health care providers to get prior approval for any indicated procedures before proceeding.

    I wish I could give you a nice and neat list of what “dental” diseases or injuries Medicare does not cover, but its explanation of what is covered is hardly a model of clarity.

    I wish I could give you a nice and neat list of what “dental” diseases or injuries Medicare does not cover, but its explanation of what is covered is hardly a model of clarity. The agency does have an online form to ask if a procedure is covered. I did not find it useful but perhaps you will have better luck.

    It should not make a difference whether a procedure is done by a DDS or MD, but, as you note, you need to make sure the surgeon accepts Medicare rates for his or her work. You also should make sure the facility where the procedure is performed accepts Medicare, and that any doctors assisting your own do as well.

    If Medicare does cover a procedure, your Medigap plan should operate normally, paying for covered expenses that weren’t fully paid by your basic Medicare.


    Michael – Calif.: I’m retired military and married. We currently have Tricare Prime, and will not turn 65 until 2019. When we do, will we need to apply for Medicare and pay for both Tricare Prime and Medicare? Also, will my wife qualify for free Part A benefits under my Social Security number? The last thing, do we both have to pay for Medicare Part B, or is it a family thing? We are just starting to plan ahead, and don’t understand Medicare.

    Phil Moeller: When you turn 65, your Tricare Prime will convert to Tricare for Life, which requires you to get Part B of Medicare. The good news for you is that Tricare does a better job than Medicare of explaining how it works! The bad news is that Part B premiums are $134 a month, and there is no Medicare family plan, so each of you will have to pay. If your wife does not qualify on her own work record for premium-free Part A, she does qualify on yours.

    READ MORE: Social Security says I owe money for Medicare coverage I didn’t get. How do I appeal?

    Lastly, even if your wife does not qualify for her own Social Security benefits, she can file for a spousal benefit on your record. She can collect up to half of the benefit you would have been entitled to at your full retirement age, even though you filed for retirement earlier than this and received what’s called a reduced benefit. She will get her maximum spousal benefit if she waits until 66 to file for it, which will be her full retirement age.

    The post My physician isn’t in my Medicare Advantage network. What can I do? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s briefing on Hurricane Irma.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott has called for mandatory evacuations and federal help as Hurricane Irma headed toward his state Thursday. He urged residents to heed evacuation orders. “The roads will fill up quickly, so you need to go.”

    The Category 5 hurricane is expected to make landfall in Florida early Sunday. It already has killed at least 10 people and left thousands homeless in the northern Caribbean, according to the Associated Press.

    The post WATCH: Florida governor warns about ‘life-threatening’ Hurricane Irma appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez was indicted with corruption charges on April 1, 2015. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez was indicted with corruption charges on April 1, 2015. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    NEWARK, N.J. — How a jury tackles the question of “why?” and not “what?” could hold the key to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s bribery trial.

    The battle lines were drawn during opening statements on Wednesday when defense attorney Abbe Lowell told jurors he would stipulate — not contest, in essence — to all the acts the government says the New Jersey Democrat took. Those included taking luxury vacations courtesy of Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, whom he’d known since the early 1990s, and meeting and corresponding with government officials on issues that could affect Melgen’s business interests in Florida and in the Dominican Republic.

    Menendez can’t be found guilty, Lowell added, unless jurors conclude that his intent was corrupt and that there was a bribery arrangement between the two men. The evidence won’t show that, he said.

    “This case isn’t about what happened, it’s about why it happened,” Lowell said.

    The government painted a different picture in its opening statement. Justice Department attorney Peter Koski described Menendez pressuring government officials to help Melgen with securing visas for his foreign girlfriends and intervening in a lucrative port security contract in the Dominican Republic and a multimillion-dollar Medicare dispute.

    “He went to bat when Dr. Melgen asked, and Dr. Melgen asked frequently,” Koski said. “There’s no friendship exception to bribery. There’s no friendship exception to breaking the law.”

    READ MORE: Potential hurdles await prosecutors in Menendez case

    Melgen’s attorney began his opening statement on Wednesday and is resuming Thursday before testimony in the trial begins.

    Among the gifts prosecutors say Melgen gave Menendez were flights on Melgen’s private jet, vacations at Melgen’s private villa in the Dominican Republic frequented by celebrities like Beyonce and Jay Z, and a three-night stay at a luxury Paris hotel valued at nearly $5,000. Melgen also contributed more than $700,000 to Menendez’s legal defense fund and to entities that supported Menendez’s campaigns.

    Lowell countered that the two men have been friends since the early 1990s and said that “acting out of friendship is not a crime.”

    Menendez and Melgen were indicted in 2015 and face multiple fraud and bribery charges in a case that could threaten Menendez’s political career and potentially alter the makeup of a deeply divided U.S. Senate if he’s convicted.

    If he is expelled or steps down before Gov. Chris Christie leaves office Jan. 16, the Republican would pick Menendez’s successor. A Democrat has a large polling and financial advantage in November’s election to replace Christie.

    Menendez said before entering the courthouse on Wednesday: “Not once have I dishonored my public office.”

    Menendez has kept up a busy public appearance schedule while under indictment, and that didn’t change Wednesday. After court adjourned, Menendez attended a rally of about 100 people outside a federal immigration building next to the courthouse to protest President Donald Trump’s decision to end deportation protection for young immigrants living in the country illegally.

    “We can keep the dream alive,” he told the crowd through a megaphone. “You are not alone.”

    The post Determining intent will be crucial in Menendez bribery trial appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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