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

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    WASHINGTON – House Speaker Paul Ryan says the Republican tax plan will aim to reduce the corporate tax rate to mid- to low-20 percent — a smaller cut than what President Donald Trump wants.

    Ryan is providing some specifics as the GOP starts to write tax legislation — with help for the middle class a main goal.

    Trump has called for a 15 percent tax rate for corporations. The rate now ranges from 15 percent to 35 percent.

    MORE: Trump makes a debt ceiling deal with Democrats, complicating work for Republicans

    Some experts say a 15 percent rate isn’t possible without blowing a hole in the deficit.

    Watch Ryan’s remarks in the players above.

    The post WATCH: House Speaker Ryan says Republicans will seek smaller cut to corporate tax rate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California detailed her meeting with President Donald Trump on Wednesday, including a deal he made with Democrats to pass Harvey aid and raise the country’s borrowing limit.

    Pelosi also touched on DACA, saying that in her meeting with the president and leaders of both chambers of Congress “we made it clear the DREAM Act must come to the floor as soon as possible and we will not rest until we get that done.”

    The Associated Press reported Thursday morning that Pelosi had urged the president to make clear on Twitter that DACA recipients would be safe from deportation during the six months he’s given Congress to come up with a solution. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration would scale back the program, and would cease issuing permits as of March 5, 2018.

    Watch Pelosi’s remarks in the player above.

    The post WATCH: Pelosi addresses DACA, deal with Trump 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 is trying to reassure the hundreds of thousands of immigrants in a program his administration announced it is ending. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is trying to reassure the hundreds of thousands of immigrants in a program his administration announced it is ending.

    “For all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about – No action!” he tweeted.

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

    He is referring to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which President Barack Obama created by executive order in 2012. Trump’s administration said Tuesday it is rescinding the program but is giving Congress six months to take action on it.

    Trump is navigating politically tricky waters. Portions of his Republican voters wanting a hard line on illegal immigration. Yet others in his administration and a majority of Americans support protected status for children brought to the country illegally by their parents.

    The post Trump tweets DACA recipients have ‘nothing to worry about’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday declared that “the era of ‘rule by letter’ is over” as she announced plans to change the way colleges and university handle allegations of sexual violence on campus.

    She said Obama administration rules established in 2011 to guide schools as they investigate and resolve complaints of assault have failed to protect students and done a “disservice to everyone involved.”

    “Instead of working with schools on behalf of students, the prior administration weaponized the Office for Civil Rights to work against schools and against students,” she said in a speech at George Mason University.

    Her comments signaled the possibility of a major shift in the way colleges enforce Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in education.

    MORE: Will rules on investigating college sexual assault be dialed back?

    DeVos didn’t detail how the rules will change. Instead, she said she would seek feedback from the public and universities, and develop new rules.

    Debate has flared in recent years over the Obama-era rules, which reshaped how colleges enforce Title IX in cases of sexual assault.

    The rules — set forth in a memo now known as the “Dear Colleague Letter” — told schools they must investigate and resolve all complaints of sexual assault, even if there is a separate criminal case. They also established what has become a polarizing standard of evidence used to judge cases.

    Unlike in criminal courts, where guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, colleges were told to judge students based on whether it’s “more likely than not” they committed the offense.

    Some advocacy groups said the rules have protected victims and forced schools to confront problems long kept quiet. Opponents said the rules lean against students accused of sexual assault, and pressure colleges to take strong action against the accused. Dozens of students have sued schools alleging their due-process rights were violated.

    MORE: Education Secretary DeVos says rules on campus sexual assault aren’t working

    In her speech, DeVos described “increasingly elaborate and confusing guidelines” that have harmed students on both sides of the debate. She criticized the standard of evidence and said the system has led schools to create “kangaroo courts” overseen by campus officials who don’t always have legal training.

    “Every survivor of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously. Every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined,” she said. “These are non-negotiable principles.”

    At the same time, she made clear that “acts of sexual misconduct are reprehensible, disgusting, and unacceptable” and must be addressed head-on.

    “Never again will these acts only be whispered about in closed-off counseling rooms or swept under the rug,” she pledged.

    Since President Donald Trump took office, critics including men’s rights groups and lawyers representing students accused of misconduct have called for an overhaul of the system.

    But she said the Obama guidelines for addressing complaints were burdensome and confusing.

    Opponents of the Obama rules applauded the announcement and said it’s a good sign that change is coming. Supporters said they fear it could set back years of improvement.

    Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, said the speech “signals a green light to sweep sexual assault further under the rug.”

    “It will discourage schools from taking steps to comply with the law — just at the moment when they are finally working to get it right,” she said in a statement.

    The speech drew about two dozen protesters who gathered outside the auditorium, including some women who said they were assaulted on their campuses. Among them was Meghan Downey, 22, a recent graduate from the College of William & Mary, who said she doesn’t want the Trump administration to “attribute more validity to the voices of the accused.”

    The post WATCH: DeVos says she’ll end Obama policies on campus sexual assault appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump says North Korea “is behaving badly and it’s got to stop.”

    Trump says military action is an option against a nuclear-armed North Korea, but “nothing is inevitable.”

    He says he would prefer not to go the military route, but he says it could happen — and if it did, it would be “a very sad day for North Korea.”

    Trump was speaking at a White House news conference after meeting the leader of Kuwait.

    During the news conference, Trump praised Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah for taking a leadership role in trying to end a diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its Arab neighbors.

    Trump applauded Kuwait’s “critical contributions to regional stability.” He urged the parties to the dispute — Qatar on one side and Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on the other — to embrace the emir’s initiative.

    READ MORE: What’s behind the dramatic diplomatic rift with Qatar?

    Trump says all the countries involved are “essential partners” in the fight against Islamic State group.

    When the dispute erupted three months ago, Trump initially appeared to side with Saudi Arabia but later instructed his team to support Kuwait’s mediation efforts. But the dispute has dragged on.

    The post WATCH: Trump says North Korea is ‘behaving badly and it’s got to stop’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) asks a question during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Marines United Facebook page on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. March 14, 2017.  REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RC1450B0DE00

    In the report to be released Thursday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said “despite years of congressional reforms, our men and women in uniform still do not have confidence in the military justice system.” File photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein.

    WASHINGTON — Sexual assault in the U.S. armed forces remains pervasive despite the military’s attempts to eradicate sex crimes from the ranks, according to a new report by a Senate Democrat who has been critical of the Pentagon’s efforts.

    In the report to be released Thursday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said “despite years of congressional reforms, our men and women in uniform still do not have confidence in the military justice system.” Fewer sexual assault cases are going to trial, she said, and those that do are generating fewer convictions.

    Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, examined internal legal documents from 238 sexual assault cases that were adjudicated in 2015 at four of the largest military installations in the United States: the Army’s Fort Hood in Texas, Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton in California and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

    READ MORE: Sexual assault reports up at Navy, Army academies

    In what she described as a shocking outcome, Gillibrand said there were no examples in the records from those bases of disciplinary action being taken against anyone who retaliated against a person who reported a sexual assault. She said that conflicted with Pentagon surveys that found more than half of all victims across the vast Defense Department enterprise experienced negative reactions or reprisal for their complaints.

    Gillibrand is the top Democrat on the panel’s personnel subcommittee.

    Her report is being issued less than a week before the Senate is scheduled to take up the defense policy bill for the 2018 budget year. Gillibrand is seeking to force a vote on an amendment that would make a major change in how the military services deal with allegations of sexual misconduct.

    Gillibrand’s proposal would strip senior military officers of their authority to decide whether sex crimes and other serious offenses go to trial. That responsibility would be given instead to independent military trial counsels. Supporters of Gillibrand’s measure, including Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Rand Paul of Kentucky, say drastic change is needed to get a grip on a persistent problem.

    Gillibrand said the data she’s compiled “make a profound argument for the professionalization and modernization of the military justice system.” For example, she said, her review of the 2015 cases found that higher-ranking service members accused of sexual misconduct are more likely to be believed than their victims and are therefore less likely to be convicted.

    WATCH: Department of Defense addresses sexual assault prevention and response

    “There appears to be an inherent bias when commanders make military justice decisions in these cases, and because of this, the disposition authority must be taken out of the chain of command and placed in the hands of trained, unbiased military lawyers,” her report stated.

    But senior Pentagon officials have opposed her plan, as has Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. They’ve argued that commanders are essential to maintaining good order and discipline in the ranks. Removing them would mean fewer sex offenders will be caught and convicted, they said.

    Gillibrand said the Pentagon’s tallies fail to capture the breadth of the problem, which extends beyond military bases and into the civilian communities surrounding the installations.

    Other lawmakers and senior U.S. military leaders say gains have been made toward curbing sex crimes and punishing offenders. The Pentagon’s annual report on sexual assault and harassment in the military that was issued in May found that reports of sexual assaults in the military increased slightly last year — 6,172 reports were filed in 2016 compared to 6,083 the previous year.

    But defense officials said an anonymous survey done as part of the report also showed progress in fighting sexual assault, as fewer than 15,000 service members described themselves as victims of unwanted sexual contact. That is 4,000 fewer than in a 2014 survey.

    Gillibrand said the Pentagon’s tallies fail to capture the breadth of the problem, which extends beyond military bases and into the civilian communities surrounding the installations.

    Female civilians, nonmilitary spouses of service members, and minors accounted for more than a third of the 2015 cases of sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact, according to the senator’s report. Yet these cases aren’t counted in the Defense Department’s surveys, an omission Gillibrand said “underrepresents the scope of sexual violence in military communities.”

    This is the third consecutive year Gillibrand has written a report based on an analysis of internal legal documents she’s obtained from the military services. She requested the 2015 records in July 2016 and it took more than a year for the Defense Department to gather the cases files and for her office to analyze them.

    The post Sexual assault remains a problem in U.S. military, new Senate report says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Elizabeth White, talking to long-term unemployed older workers at Jewish Vocational Services in San Francisco in July, 2017. Photo courtesy of Jewish Vocational Services

    Elizabeth White, left, talking to long-term unemployed older workers at a Jewish Vocational Services event in San Francisco in July, 2017. Photo courtesy of Jewish Vocational Services

    Editor’s note: Elizabeth White is an author and former non-profit executive. The following column is an excerpt from “Fifty-Five, Unemployed, and Faking Normal,” her book about the financial challenges many Americans face as they age. White was profiled by PBS NewsHour earlier this year.


    When I lost my job three years ago, one friend in particular proved to be my touchstone and sanity refuge. Like me, she was a former high-earner dealing with a major work gap and an unstable income. We were brutally honest with each other.

    We used to play this crazy game called “top this” to get relief from the stress. I would share that my cell phone was about to be disconnected for nonpayment. She would counter that her water had been turned off. It was the crisis sweepstakes. The person with the worst situation won.

    I know, I know — it sounds morbid, but in some of the worst moments, it made all the difference. Our friendship was one of very few places I could go without feeling I had to “fake normal” or pretend I was all right.

    We talked about other things too, like who we were without our props and credentials and our “job identities.” We talked about what had meaning for us now at this age and stage, when so much had been stripped away. We talked about what we wanted to take into the future and what we wanted to leave behind. We mirrored back to each other the people we’d been before we’d experienced such economic turmoil.

    This friend, a few others, and my mother and daughter were the line in the sand between the abyss and me. I was still broke, but how I held being broke had changed. And that allowed me to take my first steps back from the abyss.

    That’s why I suggest that you read my book, “Fifty-Five, Unemployed, and Faking Normal,” with other faking-normal travelers in what I’m calling a “Resilience Circle.” And I strongly urge you to do so if you feel that you’re circling the drain, exhausted by the sheer effort it takes to pretend you’re fine when you’re not. For me, finding my tribe and being part of a supportive community is critical to my sense of well-being and key to my ability to choose what’s right for me and to act on my own behalf. And I believe it could be for you too.

    Creating Your “Resilience Circle”

    You likely already know one person among your friends and friendly acquaintances who is faking it, and that person likely knows one other, and so on. That’s enough to begin.

    Approach that person. Tell him or her that you’d like to start a small group — a “Resilience Circle” to support each other and to discuss issues related to aging and living a good life on a limited income. Along the way, you will utilize many resources, but this book is designed to get you started.

    Hold meetings even if your group consists of just you and two or three other people at the beginning. It’s hard to navigate these waters alone. Isolation is crazy-making. Peer-to-peer support can keep you even-keeled and open to possibility.

    Keep the logistics simple. Meet in someone’s home or in the library. Make it cheap. Don’t go overboard with the refreshments, or serve no food or drinks at all.

    But, but you say: what if your “fake” is so good that no one knows your situation. Well, are you on Facebook or Linkedin? Post the “You Know Her” essay on social media. Ask who would like to meet to discuss this and other issues related to aging and “rewiring” for the fourth quarter.

    I guarantee that you will get a big response. Your challenge will be having too many people, not too few. It would be great to meet in person, but if you don’t live near the folks you have connected with, why not talk on the phone?

    Also, don’t make the group too big. Your group is your safe place. It’s where you get to drop your mask and say what is true for you. You will be sharing personal information. You don’t need a cast of thousands for that. Between eight and ten people is probably enough. I like the idea of mixed-gender groups, but you can decide what works for you.

    You will figure out how you want to structure your group, how often you want to meet, what you want to focus on, and other ground rules.

    Initially, the topics you discuss can follow the chapters in my book, but as the group progresses, the topics you discuss will depend entirely on your interests and priorities.

    I’ve included some questions to get you started at the end of each chapter. Of course, you will also come up with questions and resources of your own.

    There’s one last thing. Why not start your meeting with the “top this” sweepstakes? I know, I know… it’s corny! Do it anyway. Each person should write a few sentences on a page and put it in a bowl. No names. Someone read each “top this” entry aloud.

    When folks have been faking it for a long time, it becomes second nature. The “top this” sweepstakes quickly gets people past self-puffery to “Wow…there are a lot of people in this boat with me.” It keeps it 100 percent honest.

    Every eight seconds, another American turns 65. That’s some 10,000 people per day. By 2030, nearly 20 percent of the population will be 65 or older, comprising the largest senior population in the history of the United States. And millions of boomer households are financially unprepared, one extended health crisis, job loss, or traumatic event from insolvency.

    This reality, while well known to experts working on senior issues, is largely missing from political and public discourse. As individuals facing this situation, we’ve got to start talking about it if we want to find solutions.

    “Resilience Circles” are a place to start. We’re going to have to use our strength in numbers to change the national la-la-land conversation on retirement-income security. And we’re going to have to sound the alarm and push our institutions and public-policy makers to go hard on this crisis with the urgency it deserves.

    The post Column: How to create a financial hardship support group appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An employee of a foreign exchange trading company works near monitors showing TV news on North Korea's nuclear test (R) in Tokyo, Japan September 4, 2017.REUTERS/Issei Kato - RC147387CCD0

    An employee of a foreign exchange trading company in Tokyo works near monitors showing TV news on North Korea’s nuclear test on Sept. 4, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Issei Kato

    August was another month during which asset markets continued to brush off the seemingly ubiquitous geopolitical and other risks facing the global economy. Many markets hit new highs, and virtually every downdraft was met with a wall of buyers eager to join the party. Japan registered phenomenal growth, China’s economy seemed to be accelerating and many commodities (as well as shipping rates) pointed to a steady global economy.

    Within America, the August jobs report, released on last Friday, captured the dynamic quite efficiently: an apparently disappointing jobs report was cheered by investors that felt the “weakness” may delay the Federal Reserve from raising rates or tightening monetary conditions. Many commentators suggested the employment slowdown was further evidence of a Goldilocks economy that was growing steadily without a noticeable risk of overheating.

    READ MORE: Column: How can the stock market rally possibly continue?

    But at the same time, the list of risks continues to grow and intensify, obviously led by North Korea, the rogue regime that has dramatically escalated tensions by firing a missile over Japan and detonating a hydrogen bomb. Disturbingly, North Korea’s state news agency also warned that the weapon could be attached to a missile and “detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP attack.”

    An EMP attack is a risk I’ve previously discussed, and one that I specifically feared might even enter the North Korean arsenal of threats. For a sobering view as to how an EMP attack might impact the world, I’d encourage you to read the novel “One Second After.”

    Additionally this week, U.S. Secretary of Defense General James Mattis warned Kim Jong Un about the “many military options” available to the United States; the Chinese indicated that U.S. threats of halting trade with countries that do business with North Korea were unacceptable; and South Korea warned that North Korea is preparing to imminently launch a long-range ICBM.

    And despite Dennis Rodman’s praise of Kim Jong Un’s forward-looking leadership approach, the Hermit Kingdom’s recent actions suggest the threat is worth taking seriously.

    Last month, I paid a visit to the NORAD Command Center and also went into Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, entering the bunker through two sets of 25-ton blast doors, designed to protect the facility from a nuclear bomb. I also had a chance to meet with the leadership team of NORAD at Peterson Air Force Base during a briefing with Gen. Lori Robinson, the four-star Air Force general running the place (and the highest ranking female service member in U.S. history), and her team.

    Sure, asking the NORAD team what worries them is a bit like asking a gathering of hypochondriacs about their health, but I found it useful to hear what they chose to focus on. Unsurprisingly, North Korea was a top worry, but Robinson also expressed concern about the militarization of the Arctic, fiscal constraints, a resurgent Russia, an assertive China, Iran, natural disasters, space and cyber-related risks, and CBRN risks. Note that this briefing was before Hurricane Harvey dumped biblical amounts of rain onto the Houston area … or before the recent round of threat escalation from Pyongyang.

    And lest you think this is a comprehensive risk list, a seemingly irrelevant mountain pass recently pushed India and China to the brink of war. Although three months of rising tensions appear to be resolved, the Doklam pass border dispute in the Himalayan mountains raised the possibility of a full-blown war between the two nations. Even if tensions have abated, I’m not convinced the risk of conflict is entirely gone.

    Meanwhile, in Europe, last week’s Brexit negotiations were grossly unproductive and suggested a very disruptive process. (To get a sense of how recent discussions have gone, read Politico’s summary.) Bottom line: little, if any, progress has been made in recent negotiations, and worse, it seems a contentious process may be in the cards.

    Risks are by definition probabilistic, and many never materialize. Nevertheless, rather than chasing returns, it may be prudent to forego gains if they are accompanied by elevated risks.

    And within asset markets themselves, headline highs may be masking a shaky foundation. Market breadth, historically seen as a measure of market health, has gotten narrower and narrower, as fewer and fewer stocks are drive index performance. Weakness is brewing under the surface of market strength, which combined with elevated valuations, suggest a fragility to asset prices. While markets could of course go higher, headwinds are building as tailwinds dissipate.

    So what is an investor to make of these dynamics? Those seeking to navigate the cross-currents of asset markets are certain to make errors. It’s simply not possible to invest error-free. But it is possible to choose what type of error one makes, and in this regard, I’d suggest it’s time to make errors of omission rather than errors of commission.

    Risks are by definition probabilistic, and many never materialize. Nevertheless, rather than chasing returns, it may be prudent to forego gains if they are accompanied by elevated risks. While we can’t know for certain which spark might ignite the tinderbox, Goldilocks appears to be playing with matches.

    The post Column: When the global economy seems to brush off big risks, prudence matters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Donald Trump Jr. stands onstage with his father then-presidential nominee Donald Trump after a debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, in September 2016. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    President Donald Trump’s eldest son told lawmakers Thursday he was open to receiving information about Hillary Clinton’s “fitness, character or qualifications” in a meeting with a Russian lawyer last year. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s eldest son told lawmakers Thursday he was open to receiving information about Hillary Clinton’s “fitness, character or qualifications” in a meeting with a Russian lawyer last year.

    However, Donald Trump Jr. insisted that neither he nor anyone else he knows colluded with any foreign government during the presidential campaign.

    His description of a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, delivered in an opening statement at the outset of a closed-door Senate Judiciary Committee interview, provided his most detailed account of an encounter that has attracted the attention of congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller.

    Multiple congressional committees and Mueller’s team of prosecutors are investigating whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the outcome of the election. A grand jury used by Mueller as part of his investigation has already heard testimony about the meeting, which besides Trump Jr., included the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

    MORE: Lawyer: Trump organization pursued property in Russia during campaign

    In Thursday’s prepared remarks, which were obtained by The Associated Press, Trump Jr. sought to explain emails he released two months ago that showed him agreeing to the meeting, which had been described as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.

    In his new statement, he said he was skeptical of the outreach by music publicist Rob Goldstone, who said he had information that could be damaging to Clinton. But Trump Jr. said he thought he “should listen to what Rob and his colleagues had to say.”

    “To the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out,” Trump Jr. said in the statement.

    At one point during the email exchange, Trump Jr. had told Goldstone, “If it’s what you say I love it especially in the summer.”

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

    Trump Jr. sought to explain that remark Thursday by saying it was “simply a colloquial way of saying that I appreciated Rob’s gesture.”

    Trump Jr. agreed to the Senate interview after the committee chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, subpoenaed him and Manafort. The committee withdrew the subpoenas after the two agreed to be interviewed privately by staff. Grassley said they both would eventually be questioned by senators in a public hearing.

    Trump Jr. also is expected to appear before the Senate intelligence committee at some point.

    Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, said the senators want to speak with others who attended the June meeting before interviewing Trump Jr.

    “We want to do this in a thorough way that gets the most information possible,” Warner said.

    Manafort met privately with staff on that committee in July. Kushner has met with that staff, as well as members of the House Intelligence Committee.

    That House committee has tried to talk to Trump Jr., too. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said negotiations are underway and a date hasn’t been set.

    Associated Press writer Chad Day contributed to this report.

    The post Trump Jr. says he was ‘open’ to receiving Clinton intel, but there was ‘no collusion’ with Russians appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks after a Republican policy meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RC127DD18160

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks after a Republican policy meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly backed a $15.3 billion aid package for victims of Harvey, nearly doubling President Donald Trump’s emergency request, and adding a deal between Trump and Democrats to increase America’s borrowing authority and fund the government.

    The 80-17 vote sends the massive package to the House for a Friday vote, with emergency accounts running out of money and Hurricane Irma barreling toward the East Coast. Trump is expected to sign the measure.

    The must-do legislation would provide money to government agencies through Dec. 8, eliminating the threat of a government shutdown when the new fiscal year starts next month.

    The must-do legislation would provide money to government agencies through Dec. 8, eliminating the threat of a government shutdown when the new fiscal year starts next month.

    Thursday’s vote came a day after Trump stunned GOP leaders by siding with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, by backing a short-term extension to the debt limit increase and the spending bill.

    The need to raise the debt limit to ease a looming cash crunch that is worsening because of unanticipated Harvey spending was a major headache for GOP leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who had urged a longer extension to spare Republicans multiple votes ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

    GOP leaders are fuming, but Ryan backed the idea on Thursday, telling reporters that the president didn’t want to have “some partisan fight in the middle of the response.”

    MORE: Trump makes a debt ceiling deal with Democrats, complicating work for Republicans

    The aid money comes as Harvey recovery efforts are draining federal disaster aid coffers and Irma is taking aim at Florida. It’s just the first installment on a recovery and rebuilding package for the twin hurricanes that could eclipse the more than $110 billion cost to taxpayers of Hurricane Katrina.

    In a surprise move late Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell added $7.4 billion in rebuilding funding to Trump’s $7.9 billion request to deal with the immediate emergency in Texas and parts of Louisiana.

    “It will provide certainty and stability for first responders, state officials, and the many others involved in preparing for and recovering from these storms, with critically needed emergency resources that will not be interrupted by the prospect of a shutdown or default,” McConnell said Thursday. “The recovery effort for a record-setting storm like Harvey has strained resources to the limit already.”

    McConnell also added a temporary extension of the federal flood insurance program, which otherwise would have expired at the end of the month.

    The additional community block grant money is to jump-start rebuilding efforts. The money can cover costs the Federal Emergency Management Agency can’t.

    The aid money comes as Harvey recovery efforts are draining federal disaster aid coffers and Irma is taking aim at Florida.

    “This funding will serve as an initial first step toward helping Texans begin the process of rebuilding,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who requested the additional funding be adding to the measure.

    The $15 billion-plus aid package is also crafted in such a way to free up another $7 billion in Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief funds.

    Trump’s move is galling to many GOP conservatives. Pelosi used a Thursday news conference to take a victory lap, telling reporters that her deal with Trump ensured that Democrats would have leverage during upcoming Washington debates this fall on health care, government spending, and immigration.

    Just before the final vote, the Senate easily voted 87-10 to kill a move by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to pay for the aid package by cutting foreign aid accounts.

    “Why don’t we pay for this? Why don’t we simply take some money that we were going to spend somewhere else for something not as valuable in another country, and why don’t we spend it here?” Paul said.

    READ MORE: These lawmakers will drive Congress’ biggest battles this month

    Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., fared only slightly better in losing a 72-25 vote to kill a bid to remove the debt limit language and all spending above Trump’s request.

    “Do your constituents know that we’re using the hurricane as an excuse to extend the debt ceiling?” Sasse said. “We can’t pay our credit card bill, so we’re just going to take over the credit card company and change our credit limit without any discussion.”

    Earlier he railed against the deal between the Republican president and Democrats.

    “Yesterday we saw Washington’s swamp continue to rise: Chuck Schumer wrote the art of the steal by taking hurricane relief hostage to guarantee a December showdown that favors Democratic spending priorities,” Sasse said.

    In the meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders on Wednesday, Trump also suggested doing away with the debt ceiling entirely.

    “It complicates things. It’s really not necessary because you’re talking about budget, so it’s really not necessary,” Trump said Thursday.

    Pelosi and Schumer indicated that it was an issue they would discuss with their respective rank and file.

    The post Senate passes bill that gives $15 billion to Harvey aid, raises debt limit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Waves crash against the shore as Hurricane Irma moves off from the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic September 7, 2017. Photo by Ivan Alvarado/REUTERS

    Waves crash against the shore as Hurricane Irma moves off from the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic September 7, 2017. Photo by Ivan Alvarado/REUTERS

    Hurricane Irma has hammered the Caribbean this week, devastating the islands with flooding and wreckage. As it churns north of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba, before setting its course toward the U.S., here are some numbers you should keep in mind.

    25 is the percentage of bridges classified as structurally deficient in Miami-Dade county, according to the Naples Daily News.

    55. The number of hours Irma has spent as a Category 5 hurricane, as of 3 pm E.T., making it the fourth longest on record. Irma will likely pass number three on the list — 2004’s Hurricane Ivan (60 hours) — by this evening. The storm started to pour over Saint-Martin, Saint-Barthélemy, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla and other Leeward Islands late Tuesday. At least 10 people died across the Caribbean, including a two-year-old child on Barbuda, where officials said 90 percent of structures had been destroyed.

    185 miles per hour. The maximum sustained winds that directly pummeled these islands. Destruction also occurred through storm surge. Barbuda recorded eight-foot storm surges, and people on Saint Martin and Saint-Barthélemy reported massive flooding. Four people died on Saint-Martin and 60 percent of its homes are now uninhabitable. Anguilla also reported one fatality and said 90 percent of roads are out of commission.

    Hurricane Irma damage on Saint Maarten seen from Dutch naval helicopter.

    Hurricane Jose, which upgraded to a Category 3 storm Thursday, is slated to hit the Leeward Islands Saturday. It’s the first time since 2008 that the Atlantic Ocean has developed 3 major hurricanes before Sept. 7, according to Colorado State University atmospheric scientist Philip Klotzbach.

    900,000. Half the island of Puerto Rico — 900,000 people — lost electricity Wednesday night and 50,000 were without access to water, even though the eye of Hurricane Irma passed north of the U.S. territory.

    On the British Virgin Islands, where Irma also struck Wednesday afternoon, Sam Branson — son of billionaire Richard — documented rooftops ripped off buildings and several destroyed buildings. The U.S. Virgin Islands reported widespread damage too.

    Instagram Photo

    34. The next 24 hours should dictate where and if Irma makes landfall, and this final determination may rely on a forecast model created by 34 European nations. As Eric Berger reported for Ars Technica, the European model — or  European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts — is riding a hot streak of consistency right now:

    Often, the model produced by this intergovernmental organization of 34 nations generates the best forecasts for hurricane tracks. In some cases, during Hurricane Harvey, it even exceeded the skill of human forecasters at the National Hurricane Center.

    For this reason, the European model now has an outsized influence on the forecasts for hurricanes around the world, including those in the Atlantic, and in particular Hurricane Irma, which presently threatens the Caribbean Islands as well as the southeastern United States.

    The European model excels because it takes longer — once every 12 hours — to pump out a more detailed supercomputer simulation, relative to predictive models created in the U.S. The National Hurricane Center relies on both to build the cones for its hurricane warning maps, but the European model had Irma tracking toward Miami as early as Wednesday afternoon, while other models pushed the storm further east and out to sea. The latest forecast from the European model continues to project landfall in the Florida Keys, near Marathon, Berger reported.

    On Thursday, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for the southern tip of Florida. They predict the storm will create a 20-foot storm surge for the Bahamas before reaching the U.S. with 145-miles-per-hour winds.

    That’s troubling because…

    25 is the percentage of bridges classified as structurally deficient in Miami-Dade county, according to the Naples Daily News. When Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, much of the $25 billion in structural damage was caused by the storm’s 160-mile-per-hour winds, though nine- to 16-foot storm surges tossed boats ashore like softballs. Miami-Dade evacuation orders were expanded on Thursday.

    If Irma hits south Florida as a Category 4 during high tide, the region could experience inland flooding across Florida’s southernmost 100 miles. Meanwhile, less than half of the homes in Florida’s coastal counties have flood insurance.

    Thursday's wind, storm surge, flooding rain and tornado threat warnings for Miami-Dade county as of 11 am E.T. Graphic by National Weather Service Forecast Office, Miami

    Thursday’s wind, storm surge, flooding rain and tornado threat warnings for Miami-Dade county as of 11 am E.T. Graphic by National Weather Service Forecast Office, Miami

    14 Superfund toxic waste sites are located in Miami-Dade county.

    7 trillion. MIT meteorologist Kerry Emanuel told the Associated Press the amount of energy in Hurricane Irma is approximately 7 trillion watts or more than all of the bombs dropped during World War II. This dynamo led the storm to maintain winds of 185 miles per hour for 37 hours, a record for tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean. Irma has been a major hurricane for nearly four days, trailing only 1995 Hurricane Luis in longevity.

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    Ann Coulter signs copies of her book "Adios America" at Books and Books on March 10, 2016 in Coral Gables, Florida. (Photo by Aaron Davidson/Getty Images)

    Ann Coulter signed copies of her book “Adios America” at a bookstore in Coral Gables, Florida. “Adios America” was a New York Times Best Seller. Photo by Aaron Davidson/Getty Images

    The publisher known for its books by conservative authors including Ann Coulter, David Horowitz and Laura Ingraham, among others, has decided to cut ties from The New York Times and its Best Sellers list, a popular measure of literary commercial success.

    Regnery Publishing said this week that it will stop using the Times’ weekly rankings to to market its books, and its authors will no longer receive special bonuses for making the list. The company says it will use Publishers Weekly’s ratings instead.

    “As a conservative publisher, we believe that the Times’ list does not represent national sales of conservative books as accurately as other widely-published bestseller lists,” Marji Ross, the president of Regnery Publishing, said in a statement.

    The company pointed to one of its books, “The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left” by Dinesh D’Souza, as an example. Regnery said it was ranked seventh on the Times’ list, while Nielsen BookScan, a media data provider, ranked it first.

    The New York Times pushed back, saying its goal is to accurately reflect best-selling books.

    “The political views of authors have no bearing on our rankings, and the notion that we would manipulate the lists to exclude books for political reasons is simply ludicrous,” New York Times spokesman Jordan Cohen said.

    The New York Times says it determines its best seller list by compiling survey data from thousands of booksellers. Nielsen BookScan, whose measurement Regnery says ranks its books higher, instead counts print sales in stores representing about 85 percent of the market.

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    This combination of pictures created on September 7, 2017 shows panoramic photos taken on September 6, 2017 of the Hotel Mercure in Marigot, near the Bay of Nettle, on the French Collectivity of Saint Martin, during and after the passage of Hurricane Irma. Photo by LIONEL CHAMOISEAU/AFP/Getty Images

    Hurricane Irma destroyed homes and upended cars in the Caribbean this week on its relentless northwestern journey. It is expected to crash ashore in Florida early Sunday.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned residents to obey evacuation orders. “Do not try to ride out this storm,” he said at a briefing on Thursday. “We can’t save you once the storm hits.” Residents filled sandbags and boarded up windows in preparation.

    The Category 5 storm has killed three people on Anguilla island, Barbuda and the Dutch side of St. Martin. Four people were confirmed dead on the French side of St. Martin, reported the Associated Press.

    In Barbuda, the hurricane destroyed 90 percent of its structures, said Prime Minister Gaston Browne. “This is like having a bomb literally thrown on a city,” he said.

    Residents fill sandbags in Dania Beach, Florida, on Sept. 7 in preparation for Hurricane Irma. Photo by Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images

    Residents fill sandbags in Dania Beach, Florida, on Sept. 7 in preparation for Hurricane Irma. Photo by Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images

     

    TOPSHOT – A photo taken on September 7, 2017 shows ships wrecked ashore, in Marigot, near the Bay of Nettle, on the island of Saint-Martin in the northeast Caribbean, after the passage of Hurricane Irma. Photo by LIONEL CHAMOISEAU/AFP/Getty Images

     

    Cars piled on top of one another in Marigot, Saint Martin. Hurricane Irma has killed at least 10 people. Photo by Lionel Chamoiseau/AFP/Getty Images

    Cars piled on top of one another in Marigot, Saint Martin. Hurricane Irma has killed at least 10 people. Photo by Lionel Chamoiseau/AFP/Getty Images

     

    Hurricane Irma doused the northern coast of the Dominican Republic on its northwestern trek. Photo by Ricardo Rojas/Reuters

    Hurricane Irma doused the northern coast of the Dominican Republic on its northwestern trek. Photo by Ricardo Rojas/Reuters

     

    Hurricane Irma plowed through Saint Martin island in the Caribbean on Sept. 6. Photo by Netherlands Ministry of Defense/Handout via Reuters

    Hurricane Irma plowed through Saint Martin island in the Caribbean on Sept. 6. Photo by Netherlands Ministry of Defense/Handout via Reuters

     

    Waves crash around buildings on Saint Martin island. Photo by Netherlands Ministry of Defense/Handout via Reuters

    Waves crash around buildings on Saint Martin island. Photo by Netherlands Ministry of Defense/Handout via Reuters

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, another in our Brief but Spectacular series, where we ask interesting people to describe their passions.

    Tonight, we hear from Lisa Lucas, the executive director of the National Book Foundation.

    The organization was established to raise the cultural awareness of great writing in America, and it sponsors the National Book Awards, which will be presented November 15 in New York City.

    LISA LUCAS, Executive Director, National Book Foundation: I’m loud. I was born loud. I get excited about things that I love.

    And I have always loved books. I love the stories. I love the sentences. I love the paper. I love the way that they smell. I love the variety of them. I love the people who are standing next to you when you shop for them, the fact that any time somebody comes up with a problem in the world or something you don’t understand, you can say, there’s a book for that.

    The National Book Award has been around since 1950, and 68 years later, it’s one of the most prestigious literary prizes and awards in the country.

    It places you alongside people like Flannery O’Connor and Ralph Ellison and some of our great authors.

    It was my first National Book Award when Ta-Nehisi Coates won. And I remember being so grateful for his book and for his deeply thoughtful take on the United States that we actually live in.

    Even though we think of reading as something that we do alone in our rooms by ourselves, we talk about books, and we take the ideas that we learn from books and the stories that we have heard about books, the characters that we have fallen in love with in books, and we bring them to our conversations.

    They make us more empathetic. They connect us to one another. They make people who are not like us more human.

    A child that picks up a book and learns to read, and learns to love reading, is the very beginning of a lifelong reader. The more that we make sure that our young people’s literature reflects the reality and experience of the world that our young people are growing up in today, the more that kids are going to think that books are relevant to them in their lives, that every once in awhile, you look at that cover and you see somebody that looks like you or that lives in a community like yours.

    I’m the first the woman in this role, and I’m the first African- American woman in this role. And that’s my — first and foremost that everyone who’s ever interviewed me has asked me if I am the first woman, and the first African-American woman, and how it feels to do my job.

    It feels like everybody else’s job does for them. Feels like I come into work every day, and I work really hard. But, on top of that, there’s the obstacle of feeling different and feeling like it’s really, truly important to work as hard as I can to make sure that the generation that comes after me and the generation that comes after that can go to work and do their jobs, and feel like it’s just the pedestrian, everyday, ordinary activity, that getting up and going to work.

    My name is Lisa Lucas, and this is my Brief but Spectacular take on why books will always matter.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Plenty of new thrills at this year’s U.S. Open.

    On the men’s side, Rafael Nadal is still in. Roger Federer is out.

    But the big news this year is the success of American women. With the legendary Serena Williams absent — she delivered her first child last week — four others stormed into the semifinals.

    The other great Williams sister, Venus, joined by three new to this grand stage, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, and CoCo Vandeweghe.

    It’s the first all-American semifinals since 1981. And it’s quickly rewriting the story of American tennis.

    Jeffrey Brown reports from Flushing Meadows, New York.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Not even U.S. tennis officials dared predict this. Last week, outside the Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the biggest matches are played, I talked to USTA player development director Martin Blackman.

    So, how soon before we see another U.S. Open American champion?

    MARTIN BLACKMAN, Player Development General Manager, USTA: I’m not going to put myself on the spot for that one.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You’re not going there for me?

    MARTIN BLACKMAN: But I would say between three and five years, we’re going to see American women on this court on the final Saturday.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Who are not named Williams.

    MARTIN BLACKMAN: Who are not named Williams.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    MARTIN BLACKMAN: And we’re going to see American men on that court.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Blackman was way off with the women, with Venus Williams, joined by three other Americans making their first ever appearance on the semis here.

    As for American men, that will have to wait. Just one, Sam Querrey, made it as far as the Round of 16.

    In fact, no American man has won here since Andy Roddick in 2003, the last Grand Slam title won by an American man. It’s a long drought that American tennis officials are determined to end.

    MARTIN BLACKMAN: It’s so important.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You need that.

    MARTIN BLACKMAN: Oh, it’s so important. We need American players in here rocking the house, you know, the way Jimmy Connors did, John McEnroe, Agassi, Sampras, the demonstration effect for young people.

    Those were household names, American sports heroes, honored on the wall of champions here at the Flushing Meadows, Queens, home of the U.S. Open.

    More recently on the men’s side, almost all European winners, especially the four greats who have dominated the sport for more than a decade, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray.

    JAMES BLAKE, Former Tennis Professional: It has really been difficult for anyone to rack up more titles or Grand Slams outside of them. So, it was just a little bit of a tough situation to be in.

    JEFFREY BROWN: James Blake knows first hand just how tough. Retired since 2012, he reached a top ranking of number four in the world in 2006. But he beat Federer just once in 11 tries.

    Do you think tennis lost its power in the culture of not getting the best athletes or not getting the best training as they are getting in other countries?

    JAMES BLAKE: I don’t think it is the training. I think it is the fact that there is a lot more competition in the States. There is basketball, there’s football, there’s baseball. Soccer has become more popular in the States. Lacrosse has become more popular.

    So, some of the athletes are going to other sports.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Former American great Jim Courier faced plenty of stiff competition from abroad while winning four Grand Slams in the early 1990s. Today, Courier serves as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team, which competes with teams from other countries.

    He says players around the world are better than ever, with access to all they need to reach the top.

    JIM COURIER, Captain, U.S. Davis Cup: I think we have to understand that the world is very different than it was when Americans had nearly 50 percent of the top 100 players.

    We had the best coaching systems. We had the best information. The world wasn’t flat, to borrow Tom Friedman’s book title. Information wasn’t democratized amongst the Internet.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As for American women, no one not named Williams has won a major championship since 2002. But a new generation has been on the rise.

    Washington Post tennis writer Ava Wallace.

    AVA WALLACE, The Washington Post: On the women’s side, there’s a lot of optimism. There is people like Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe, Sloane Stephens, who have all, I believe, made semifinals of Grand Slams, which is ultimately the goal in American tennis.

    That’s what the USTA has already said. They want to make Grand Slams, and they want to make the second week of Grand Slams.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The USTA, the sport’s governing body in this country, has been working hard in recent years to develop a new pipeline of talent among women and men.

    For youngsters, there’s a program called Net Generation. They were out in force at the U.S. Open watching the pros. For older players, there is a new centralized collaborative approach called Team USA, which offers support, including financial subsidies, to every American ranked in the top 500.

    That effort got a huge boost this January with the opening of a $60 million 100-plus-court training center near Orlando, where juniors, collegiate players and pros can live and work part- to full-time and get a variety of help to supplement their own private coaching.

    MARTIN BLACKMAN: Maybe it’s strength and conditioning. Maybe it is mental skills. Maybe it’s on-the-road coaching.

    But there is a way that we can help. You’re still preserving that customized team around the individual player, but, at the same time, you are leveraging the performance team expertise that they need to maximize their potential.

    It is a model that has been used by a lot of Olympic sports.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Last week, one American player mentored by Blackman, 19-year-old Frances Tiafoe, pushed Federer to the limit, before falling in five sets.

    Taylor Fritz, also 19, won his first ever Grand Slam match here. After losing a tough second round match, he gamely talked with us about being part of the new USTA approach.

    TAYLOR FRITZ, U.S. Tennis Professional: I kind of like the Team USA group. It is all the young American guys, we all train together, practice together. We root for each other. We all want each other to do the best, and we push each other.

    There is like a good competitiveness amongst ourselves.

    JEFFREY BROWN: American women on their way to the semifinals also spoke of the camaraderie they feel.

    And there is more talent just behind them. Shelby Rogers, in the bright yellow shirt, seeded number 62 here, won one of the most thrilling matches, meeting the higher seeded Australian Daria Gavrilova in a U.S. Open women’s record for length, three hours and 33 minutes.

    Afterwards, she was tired but happy.

    SHELBY ROGERS, U.S. Tennis Professional: I love matches like that. You know, that is why I play the sport, the competing, the individuality, the fight.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Rogers lost to the number four seed in her next match, but she is a big believer in the potential of her group of American women coming up after the Williams sisters.

    SHELBY ROGERS: Venus is still killing it. I love it. But they have been great mentors for us as well. We genuinely want each other to do well, which is a really cool thing to be a part of.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Will it work toward putting American men and women atop the tennis world over the long run? Before this week’s string of success by American women, former champion Jim Courier said this:

    JIM COURIER: We have to also realize that this is very much a meritocracy.

    The thing that I preach to our young kids is, we are not entitled to success. Because we’re American, it means nothing. The tennis ball has no idea what country you are from when you hit it. We have got to earn it like everyone else. We have got to be as hungry, if not hungrier, than everyone else. And we have got to go get it.

    So, that’s my message.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For the moment, plenty of reason for hope, particularly with the final foursome this weekend. So, keep your eye on the bouncing ball.

    For the PBS NewsHour I’m Jeffrey Brown at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York.

     

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: Earlier this year, our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, profiled Elizabeth White. She was once comfortably middle class, but found herself struggling to make ends meet as she got older.

    Paul recently checked back in with White and discovered that her story has touched a nerve.

    It’s part of our series Making Sense, which airs every Thursday.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Every Sunday afternoon, Elizabeth White heads to Malcolm X Park near her home in Washington, D.C., for a therapy session with a drum circle.

    ELIZABETH WHITE, Author, “Fifty-Five, Unemployed and Faking Normal”: I can work it all out in that park and just dance. And it’s festive, and it’s free.

    PAUL SOLMAN: We first met White in January, after she had just self-published a book, “Fifty-Five, Unemployed and Faking Normal.”

    ELIZABETH WHITE: Everybody is pretending.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And that’s why you call the book “Faking Normal”?

    ELIZABETH WHITE: Right, because there’s a lot of pressure to seem like you are doing well.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In fact, White had long been on the edge of the financial cliff.

    Despite a career at the World Bank, graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins and Harvard, she’d been unable to find steady work since the Great Recession. She’d once made six figures, but she now struggled to pay the mortgage on her townhouse.

    But you haven’t been in a situation where you literally couldn’t afford whatever it is, the condo fee, or…

    ELIZABETH WHITE: Oh, absolutely, I have. I right now have to park outside because I’m in arrears on the condo fee, right now.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And she’s refinanced to the hilt, taken in a boarder.

    Well, you haven’t used food stamps.

    ELIZABETH WHITE: But I have. I have had to.

    PAUL SOLMAN: White worked scattered freelance gigs, but still had to borrow money from friends, like neighborhood free spirit Elijah, a clothing minimalist.

    ELIJAH ALEXANDER, Friend: I’m not a things person. How much money do you think I’m spending on my attire, OK?

    PAUL SOLMAN: White is far from alone, as we learned at what she calls her resilience circle.

    Deborah Burkholder hadn’t had a full-time job since 2009.

    DEBORAH BURKHOLDER, Job Seeker: I don’t have enough to cover January bills if nothing changes. It’s hard to predict what will happen the next month, and calculating, how many times do I have to go through this until I’m buried?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Nine months later, the economy has improved with the weather. Although overall unemployment ticked up in August, it’s at a low 4.4 percent. Still, more than 30 percent of job seekers over age 55 have been out of work for more than half-a-year.

    No wonder White’s story has resonated in the months since her appearance on the “NewsHour.”

    ELIZABETH WHITE: Spoke to groups in San Francisco, in Boston, in Memphis.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, you have become the voice of faking normal?

    ELIZABETH WHITE: I’m becoming a voice, for sure.

    PAUL SOLMAN: White has done a number of paid speaking gigs. She even did a TEDx Talk in July.

    ELIZABETH WHITE: We live in a world where success is defined by income. When you say that you have money problems, you’re announcing, pretty much, that you’re a loser. When you’re a graduate of Harvard Business School, as I am, you’re some kind of double loser.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The talk has about 100,000 views already.

    ELIZABETH WHITE: I’m getting a lot of: Thank you for just bringing this topic up. I thought I was by myself.

    I get a few e-mails every day of stories of what’s happening to people.

    PAUL SOLMAN: What is happening to people?

    ELIZABETH WHITE: People are worried. Someone wrote me that they had to move out of their housing into subsidized housing. They never expected to land there. They had to give up their car. They’re doing jobs that they never expected that they would have to do, dog walking and all of this.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Have you become more reassured about yourself as you encounter more and more people who have had the same experience?

    ELIZABETH WHITE: I have become more convinced that I’m doing the work I’m supposed to do. I did a great consultancy since I saw you with Senior Service America helping low-income older adults find work.

    PAUL SOLMAN: As part of her work with the group, White went to speak to ex-factory workers in rural Martin, Tennessee.

    ELIZABETH WHITE: The factory had been China, Mexico, outsourced somewhere, and then they were left, at 50, 55, 57, maybe with a high school education, maybe a little bit of college, and they were jettisoned out of the work force.

    And I got a standing ovation there.

    And then the great recession hit.

    Two weeks before that, I was at an event at MIT. These were former high earners, long-term unemployed. And hearing the two conversations close together, they were almost exactly the same. It didn’t matter whether you gave up salmon or catfish. It was the same conversation.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, were you surprised when you went to Martin, Tennessee, and saw that factory workers were feeling and talking exactly the same way?

    ELIZABETH WHITE: I have a very urban appearance.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Yes, you do.

    ELIZABETH WHITE: Yes. I have the hair and the diamond nose bolt. I didn’t know kind of how this was. And none of it mattered. None of it mattered.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Because they had been faking normal too.

    ELIZABETH WHITE: If faking normal means that you’re not sharing with people candidly what’s happening to you and what you’re afraid of, yes.

    I had a situation here where I spoke, and a woman jumped up, screaming and crying and running out of the room. And what she said is: You are telling my story. How did you get into my head? How did you know this was happening to me? How did you convey the pain that I’m feeling about where I have landed?

    I have had men cry. And…

    PAUL SOLMAN: Really?

    ELIZABETH WHITE: Absolutely.

    There’s a man, he told me he had been living in his car, had been living in his car. And that was at MIT. He’d been living in his car.

    PAUL SOLMAN: This guy was a former high earner living in his car?

    ELIZABETH WHITE: Yes, living in his car.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, where are you financially now?

    ELIZABETH WHITE: I would say a bit better. OK.

    So, it’s still feast or famine. It is not the Cinderella story, bow on the end. I know that’s what people want. I don’t think it’s going to be that for really any of us. Where I am is, I can see a pathway forward. I like what I’m doing, a lot.

    I feel like I am contributing. People like getting that affirmation. I feel like I am creating a really interesting casserole of work.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And you’re making money by doing speaking engagements, consulting on this very issue?

    ELIZABETH WHITE: So, it’s a combination.

    I sell some books.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Right.

    ELIZABETH WHITE: OK? I do some speaking. I teach. And then I have one remaining consultancy from before. The cobbling that together is enough to kind of keep me — I’m OK.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But, according to White’s friend Elijah, whom we bumped into at the park, she has found her purpose.

    ELIJAH ALEXANDER: At first, it was like, uh, uh, uh, I need help. But then now it’s like she’s got a enough of a footing, and she sees how there are millions like her. She says: Oh, I have got a purpose. I have got to do this.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Life hasn’t turned out quite as White expected. She scrimps, doesn’t save. But she’s drummed up work that matters.

    You knew that line was coming, right?

    Living a rich life on a modest income, and not faking normal anymore.

    This is economics correspondent Paul Solman, updating from Washington, D.C.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As you just heard in that discussion with Senator Durbin, a three-month agreement between Trump and — President Trump and congressional Democrats to raise the debt ceiling means Congress ducks a political debate that has dogged them in the past.

    But, in December, that recurring pitched battle will surface again, which leads us to ask, what is the debt ceiling, and where did it come from?

    Lisa Desjardins puts it in context.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Let’s start with how the debt ceiling works.

    It sounds obvious, like the Capitol dome, an absolute height limit on debt. But the truth is, it doesn’t work that way. The U.S. government is the largest spender on Earth, trillions of dollars a year. But the U.S. doesn’t bring in as much as it spends. So, each year, we borrow the difference and we keep adding to our debt, also the largest on Earth.

    The debt limit says borrowing must go no higher than here. The problem? In reality, the spending was already in motion, workers’ salaries, weapons delivered, buildings built, programs under way. If we hit the debt limit, the spending has already happened, but it would just mean the U.S. couldn’t pay some of the bills that are due, including loan payments, leading to default.

    And that would be dramatic.

    ACTRESS: So, this debt ceiling thing is routine, or the end of the world?

    ACTOR: Both.

    ACTRESS: OK. That’s it. Thanks, everybody.

    LISA DESJARDINS: What could happen if we don’t raise the debt limit? Well, the U.S. wouldn’t be able to pay all of its bills, and that could include paying its loans.

    Defaulting on U.S. loans would have dire consequences, changing our nation’s good credit rating and sending out a financial wave that could raise mortgage and other rates. That wasn’t the idea at the start.

    Debt limits began in World War I, in an effort to give Treasury more power. The debt limit let Treasury take on loans up to a certain level, and that level was initially set relatively high above debt needs. After World War II, the limits became tighter, and Congress had to vote nearly every year to raise them.

    Then came the 21st century. Starting in 2001, a jump in spending and in deficits sparked years of debt concern. Standoffs in Congress over the debt ceiling became so regular, they were parodied.

    ACTOR: Questions for Mr. Ryan. Would you vote to raise the debt ceiling?

    ACTOR: Well, as the late, great Lionel Richie once said, oh, what a feeling. I am dancing on the debt ceiling.

    LISA DESJARDINS: So, that all brings us to now and one other important point about how the debt ceiling works. When exactly do we hit it? How do we know?

    This gets me to one of my favorite debt ceiling facts. The national debt is tracked every day, to the penny, by a small group of Treasury workers in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

    Those workers in West Virginia, when we hit the debt ceiling, have a tricky job. They move things around to keep us technically under the debt limit, holding off on some investments, waiting to issue some internal debt. These are called extraordinary measures. Sometimes, Treasury can keep the U.S. hovering right at the debt limit for many months using this fiscal slight of hand.

    But, of course, it is just a delay tactic, until Congress and the president agree to push up the debt limit again.

    So, one conclusion? We have a new inevitable. To death and taxes, now add the U.S. continually bumping up against its debt ceiling.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Lisa Desjardins.

    The post What you need to know about the federal debt ceiling, and why you should care appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It is said necessity is the mother of invention. In Washington, D.C., this week, the need to find funding to help those hurt by Harvey seems to have forced some unlikely alliances.

    Our John Yang reports.

    JOHN YANG: Today, President Trump suggested his fiscal deal with congressional Democrats could be just the beginning.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think that’s a great thing for our country. And I think that’s what the people of the United States want to see. They want to see some dialogue.

    JOHN YANG: Earlier, there was another sign of bipartisan collaboration. Mr. Trump reassured DACA recipients that they have nothing to worry about as the program winds down. The inspiration for that? A phone conversation with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

    REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., House Minority Leader: When he called this morning, I said: Thanks for calling. This is what we need. The people really need a reassurance from you, Mr. President, that the six-month period is not a period of roundup.

    And I was reporting to my colleagues. I said, this is what I asked the president to do. And, boom, boom, boom, the tweet appeared.

    JOHN YANG: Republican leaders are trying to put the best face on the president’s alliance with Democrats.

    REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: He was interested in making sure that this is a bipartisan moment while we respond to these hurricanes. And he made that clear, and I think that’s what his motivation was.

    JOHN YANG: But the leader of the conservative 155-member House Republican Study Committee wrote Ryan opposing the deal. And moderate Ben Sasse of Nebraska was one of 17 Republicans to vote against it in the Senate.

    SEN. BEN SASSE, R-Neb.: This is an embarrassing moment for a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican administration.

    JOHN YANG: But, for now, the Republican president seems to be trying to get things done in Congress with Democratic votes.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I spoke a short while ago with Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin.

    And I started by asking the Illinois Democrat how surprised he was by the deal President Trump struck with his party yesterday.

    SEN. DICK DURBIN, D-Ill, Minority Whip: Well, I thought it was interesting, because what we proposed to the president was very basic.

    Let’s provide the disaster aid for Hurricane Harvey victims. Let’s put that money on the table. I might add, there is money added for those who are going to suffer from Irma.

    And, secondly, we said, let’s not shut down the government. Let’s make sure it is funded. And, third, let’s extend the debt ceiling in this country, so there is no threat to the economy.

    We offered a three-month package and said there will be no wasted time in debate. We can do it and do it tomorrow. The president said, I will take it.

    I think it was the right decision.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think Democrats are going to be able to work with the president on other big issues, like health care, like tax reform?

    SEN. DICK DURBIN: Well, I hope so.

    And I might add to that DACA and the DREAM Act. It was kind of a stunning decision this week announced by Attorney General Sessions and the president that they were going to end DACA. It broke my heart. I introduced the DREAM Act 16 years ago and still trying to make it the law of the land. Almost 800,000 young people depend on it to stay in the United States without fear of deportation.

    And the president ended it on Tuesday. But I saw it not so much as an epitaph, as an opportunity, because we heard from the White House quickly, we want to do something. We want to respond to this with a law that we can back.

    The president called Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi again this morning and repeated the same thing. I’m going to take him at his word. We have got an opportunity to work together on a bipartisan basis to do the right thing for these young people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I do want to ask you about that, but, very quickly, as you know, there are progressives in your party who are critical of leadership and saying they should have attached the DREAM Act, DACA, to this deal over spending, over the debt ceiling.

    SEN. DICK DURBIN: Judy, it’s simple math.

    To pass anything in the United States Senate takes 60 votes. We have 48 Democrats. I need 12 Republicans to make the DREAM Act the law of the land. If we said that we were going to withhold relief for the Hurricane Harvey victims until the Republicans came around, imagine how that would have played out. That is not the way to get it done.

    We have committed ourselves to passing the DREAM Act this year, putting it on must-pass legislation in the Senate, so the House takes it up. And we’re getting good signals from the White House in terms of being open to this approach. So I know they’re as anxious as I am, but let’s do it the right way and do it effectively.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you think the outlines of a compromise are going to be? You have said you are open to some sort of security measures. I believe you have said that should not include a border wall. What exactly do you see as the components of a deal?

    SEN. DICK DURBIN: When we closed the deal on comprehensive immigration reform, it passed the Senate with 68 votes, bipartisan roll call.

    Never it was taken up the by Republican House. But we passed it. And the last thing to close the deal was border security. We voted for more money than I thought was necessary, but enough to satisfy Republicans to join us.

    Now, we have told them, if they want to talk about border security again, we’re not going to protect the dreamers by having more deportations of their parents. That’s unacceptable. We’re not going to buy a 2,200-mile wall. And we are going to be very sensitive to the sanctuary city issue in Chicago and other places.

    Beyond that, if they want to put more technology and resources on the border that doesn’t assault what I have just described, I think there is going to be a real opening for discussion.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the proposal by those like Senator Tom Cotton and others who are saying, well, it’s OK to do something to protect the dreamers, but what we have got to do is stop immigration at spouses and at unmarried children, in other words, that it has just become too open-ended?

    SEN. DICK DURBIN: Well, I can tell you that Tom Cotton goes after an aspect of immigration reform which we debated at length in our bipartisan approach. And it’s controversial.

    And there are many members of the Senate who voted for the comprehensive bill on the Republican side who don’t embrace Tom’s approach to this. So, you know, if we are going to do comprehensive immigration reform, I’m open to that. And let’s get into the debate.

    But for the time being, let’s protect DACA and the dreamers. Let’s make that the law of the land and save all the other myriad issues in immigration for a later discussion.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Could the president’s move this week to rescind what President Obama did ultimately turn out to be better for the dreamers, because, if you end up with a law that protects them, isn’t that better than having had a presidential memorandum?

    SEN. DICK DURBIN: It absolutely is.

    And when I asked President Obama, along with my colleagues, to create by executive order some protection for dreamers, it was simply because we couldn’t pass a law at that time. We didn’t have the votes to do it in the United States Senate. So now, if we can pass a law, a permanent law that protects the dreamers, it is all the better.

    This — what looked, as I said, like an epitaph could turn into an opportunity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, another thing I want to quickly ask you about, as you know, one of your Democratic colleagues, Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, flew on Air Force One with President Trump yesterday when he was visiting her home state.

    Is that something that you and other Democratic senators should do? Is that an appropriate thing to do? She even stood on stage with President Trump.

    SEN. DICK DURBIN: Well, if I heard it correctly, he invited her on stage, and then described her as a good woman.

    I can’t tell you how much joking Heidi Heitkamp has taken today from her Democratic colleagues about that little trip.

    But is it wrong for a Democrat to travel with the president or go somewhere with the president? Of course not. And the same would have been true under President Obama. Republicans were invited to travel with him. That’s not inappropriate at all.

    And if we can find some common ground, if she can help us find some common ground, more power to her.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And final question. Senator, what do you see happening on tax reform, which the president says is his number one priority next month?

    SEN. DICK DURBIN: Well, I hope we can get some basic agreements.

    First, if this is about another tax break for the wealthiest people in America, it’s a nonstarter with Democrats.

    Secondly, at the end of the day, we want to make sure that it’s a good accounting, that we use CBO scoring, that we don’t make up some rules about the impact of tax cuts, for example, on the deficit.

    And, finally, my big talking about, this president spent so much time talking about working families falling behind, that their wages just weren’t keeping up, that they weren’t being rewarded for their productivity.

    I agree. Let’s make the tax code go to work for working families in America. That, to me, would be a real plus for economic growth.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, do you see any prospects for passing health care reform?

    SEN. DICK DURBIN: Well, I think we can.

    We just had meetings in the last few days with Lamar Alexander, Patty Murray, a Republican, Democrat. We had insurance commissioners and governors from many states. We had over 50 senators from both parties show up.

    There is a real appetite to do something, instead of just making speeches. Wouldn’t it be great for America if we, on a bipartisan approach, made our health care system stronger, health care more affordable, and didn’t give up on the quality of our health insurance policies? That should be our goal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Devil’s in the details.

    Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, thank you very much.

    SEN. DICK DURBIN: Thanks, Judy.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: The U.S. Senate approved more than $15 billion in Hurricane Harvey relief, nearly double what the House had passed. The Senate bill also raises the federal debt ceiling and funds the government through early December. It returns to the House tomorrow for final approval.

    We will return to this story after the news summary.

    The credit monitoring firm Equifax reports a major new data breach. The company says that it could affect roughly 143 million Americans, or more than a third of the U.S. population. Between May and July, cyber-intruders gained access to everything from customer names to Social Security numbers to addresses.

    President Trump today issued a new warning to North Korea to stop launching missiles and testing nuclear weapons. He spoke at an afternoon news conference, and said U.S. military action is still an option.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Is it inevitable? Nothing is inevitable. It’ll be great if something else could be worked out. We would have to look at all of the details, all of the facts. So I would prefer not going the route of the military, but it’s something certainly that could happen.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The North had its own warning today against any new sanctions. In a statement, the government in Pyongyang said: “We will respond to the barbaric plotting and pressure by the United States with powerful countermeasures of our own.”

    Meanwhile, in South Korea, 300 protesters clashed with police. The trouble erupted as the South deployed more U.S. missile defense launchers.

    Syria says that Israeli warplanes staged an air raid in Western Syria today. A number of reports said the target was connected to the regime’s chemical weapons program. The site is near the Mediterranean coast, in an area heavily defended by Syria’s Russian and Iranian allies. The Israelis wouldn’t confirm or deny the strike.

    Back in this country, Donald Trump Jr. again denied coordinating with Russians during the presidential campaign. The Associated Press cited his prepared remarks to Senate investigators.

    In them, the president’s son acknowledged he met with a Russian lawyer last summer, and hoped for damaging information on Hillary Clinton. But he also said — quote — “I didn’t collude with any foreign government and do not know of anyone who did.”

    U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called today for an overhaul of how colleges investigate sexual assaults. She charged that Obama-era guidelines encourage intimidation and coercion of the accused, and force schools to go too far. DeVos signaled major changes are coming, but she gave no details.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost almost 23 points to close at 21784. The Nasdaq rose four, and the S&P 500 slipped about half-a-point.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hurricane Irma has lost a bit of intensity at this hour, but its danger is undiminished. Sustained winds dropped slightly today to 175 miles an hour. The storm is still heading for Florida. And it’s left a trail of at least 10 dead and heavy damage in the Northern Caribbean.

    William Brangham begins our coverage.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Whole islands lay wrecked today, 24 hours after taking direct hits from Hurricane Irma. Destruction on Barbuda spread as far as the eye could see. The prime minister said 95 percent of the buildings are damaged or simply gone.

    GASTON BROWNE, Prime Minister, Antigua and Barbuda: We just did a flyover, and I have to tell you, my heart sunk and this has been one of the worst days of my life. So I know how you must feel as Barbudans.

    The entire country has been decimated. I have never seen anything like this before.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The storm’s record-breaking power also smashed the surrounding islands. Seen from above today, the French-Dutch island of Saint Martin was in ruins. The Dutch navy flew in supplies and troops by helicopter because Saint Martin’s airport and harbor were damaged beyond use.

    The Dutch prime minister said even reaching the battered island was a challenge.

    MARK RUTTE, Prime Minister, Netherlands (through interpreter): There is widespread destruction of infrastructure, of homes and businesses. There is no power, no petrol, no running water.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: To the west, the hurricane battered Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Social media video showed one family fighting to keep windows closed as the storm passed over and their home filled with water.

    Puerto Rico was also ravaged, and woke this morning to its own devastation. More than one million people had lost power, and authorities said there was no way to know how long the outage would last.

    A story also circulated of a miraculous flight by a Delta Airlines plane from New York to San Juan. The pilot managed to land in Puerto Rico safely, and then quickly take off again with a final load of passengers, just before the storm closed in.

    By late today, Irma roared past the northern coasts of the Dominican Republican and Haiti. It’s sweeping over Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas tonight, and beginning its run past Cuba.

    By the weekend, a turn north takes it over Florida’s Atlantic Coast, and north onto Georgia and the Carolinas. Skies were still blue over Turks and Caicos this morning, but people were hurrying to stock up before the storm rolled in.

    CHANDRA CRAIG, Providenciales Resident: I wanted to make sure that I was very prepared this time, so I have done everything. I’m going to go home and shortly I’m going to be filling in bins of water just in case we don’t have access to water in the next couple of days.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: South Florida is bracing for what could be the worst hurricane it’s seen in decades. Shelves were already empty at stores today. Highways were clogged with people heading north, and people waited for flights at Miami’s main airport.

    Governor Rick Scott warned Floridians everywhere to take heed.

    GOV. RICK SCOTT, R-Fla.: It is wider than our entire state and could cause major and life-threatening impacts on both coasts, coast to coast. Regardless of which coast you live on, be prepared to evacuate.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Preparations were also under way farther north. A mandatory evacuation order was issued today for Savannah, Georgia, and Georgia as well as north and South Carolina have all declared states of emergency ahead of Irma’s arrival.

    The damage in its wake could be compounded by yet another storm. Hurricane Jose powered up today to 120-mile-an-hour winds. It’s poised this weekend to hit some of the same islands already hammered by Irma, and a third hurricane, Katia, is still brewing in the Gulf of Mexico.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Where Irma actually makes landfall on the U.S. mainland could make all the difference for places like Miami.

    That’s where Ed Rappaport is, closely watching the storm’s path. He’s acting director of the National Hurricane Center.

    Ed, first of all, what is the very latest on the direction of this storm?

    ED RAPPAPORT, Acting Director, National Hurricane Center: Yes.

    At this hour, the hurricane is located about 650 miles off of the Florida Peninsula, and, unfortunately, is moving in that direction. And the forecast we have is for the center to continue in that direction and then take a turn to the north, very near or over the Florida Peninsula.

    And if that does occur, then indeed we will have potentially devastating impacts on the Florida Peninsula and Florida Keys.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How strong could it still be at that point?

    ED RAPPAPORT: At this point, the hurricane is at the upper level or upper category of 5, the highest winds on our scale.

    And we think that it will be either a Category 5 or Category 4 when it comes ashore. The difference isn’t going to make — there won’t be a big difference in terms of the impact. It will be potentially devastating. We have concerns, usually for the water, and, of course, that is the case here with storm surge and rainfall, but this storm is so strong that in fact the winds are also going to be a great risk for property and life from Hurricane Irma.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the message from this to residents of the entire state of Florida is what?

    ED RAPPAPORT: At this point, they need to prepare.

    For South Florida, all the preparations need to be complete by tomorrow, by Friday, because the initial tropical-storm-force winds, which are the threshold beyond which you shouldn’t be outside, it becomes dangerous, those are going be arriving Saturday morning, it appears, in South Florida.

    And then the weather will deteriorate even further from then, with the worst of the conditions being Saturday night into Sunday. So, all preparations need to be complete. There are evacuations under way. And we urge everyone to follow the advice of their local emergency management officials.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I remember, as Harvey was bearing down on Texas and the Gulf Coast, Ed, some days ago, you were saying at that point Harvey wasn’t changing in its strength and its predictability.

    How is Irma different in that regard? How much change could we see at this point?

    ED RAPPAPORT: Much like Harvey, we don’t expect there to be much change in terms of the strength of the hurricane. And that’s really bad news, because it’s considerably stronger than Harvey was.

    This is, again, a Category 5 hurricane. And our biggest concern is going to be, in addition to the wind and potential rainfall, is going to be storm surge. This map shows where the greatest risk from storm surge is.

    Could see 5 to 10 feet of surge. That’s the rise of water, inundation above ground level. We will have waves across the top of that. So, this is where we have a storm surge watch in place, which means that there is the potential for life-threatening storm surge within the next 48 hours.

    So, particularly along the coast and in Florida, that is where most of the lives have been lost, is at the coast in a storm surge. This is the area that needs to be most prepared for the water. And then even inland, though, you are going to have risk from very strong wind.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It looks like a lot of square miles.

    Ed Rappaport working hard on yet another major hurricane, thank you, Ed.

    ED RAPPAPORT: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Regardless of where the eye of Irma strikes, Florida is poised to get hit hard by winds and flooding. Residents throughout the state are bracing for the worst.

    And our P.J. Tobia is there.

    P.J., I know you just arrived. You are on the Atlantic coast of the state. Tell us exactly where you are and what you are looking at.

    P.J. TOBIA: That’s right, Judy.

    I’m here in Port Canaveral, not too far from Orlando. This port is the second largest cruise ship port in the world. It sees millions of cruise ship passengers a year. And there’s been a flurry of activity since we got here a few hours ago.

    The cruise ships are coming in from all directions, disgorging passengers and then taking off for safer waters where the hurricane isn’t going to be. I was actually talking to the director of this port not too long ago. He said that in just the last 48 hours, more than 10,000 cruise ship customers have had their cruises cut short.

    While we were speaking, he got a phone call from a Carnival cruise ship that was on its way here and was saying they were rerouting to New Orleans. So a lot of people’s travel plans being disrupted by this storm.

    The cruise ship industry brings Florida about $8 billion in revenue each year. So, it is a lot of disruption to state revenue. This port also a major source for natural gas coming into the state and also motor fuel. So, people are worried about price rises in filling their tanks over the coming weeks.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, P.J., I see a little bit of blue sky behind you. So the storm has clearly not hit yet.

    But how are people who get off these ships, who are dropped there when they thought they were going to be traveling, what are they doing?

    P.J. TOBIA: That’s actually a big worry.

    There are no vacant hotel rooms in this area or really anywhere in the state of Florida, according to folks we have spoken to. And just trying to book our own travel in the area was a challenge. And that is why some ships are now being diverted from this location to other places in the region that are hopefully not going to be harmed by the storm.

    The airport also was completely jammed. And just for people who live in this area, we saw long lines around gas stations, many gas stations out of fuel entirely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We can’t imagine that.

    P.J. Tobia, who will be reporting for us from there at Port Canaveral on the Atlantic Coast, thank you.

    P.J. TOBIA: Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So many streets in Miami Beach were underwater just last month after seven inches of rain. Now the city is one of the places in Florida under a mandatory evacuation order. Residents spent today piling sandbags and battening down before leaving town.

    I spoke by phone with Miami Beach’s Mayor Philip Levine just a short time ago.

    Mayor Philip Levine, thank you very much for talking with us.

    Your evacuation orders were effective today. How are people complying?

    MAYOR PHILIP LEVINE, Miami Beach: Really good so far.

    As a matter of fact, I have been all over the city all day, and literally seeing people leaving. It’s quiet. The streets are deserted, and from a town that you can imagine is always packed, now the streets are empty, which is a very good thing.

    I started urging and encouraging the residents and the visitors to leave Miami Beach literally two to three days ago, because we felt we didn’t want to wait for an evacuation order. We wanted people to start getting going and get through their plan or leave Miami Beach as soon as possible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What are you preparing for? What are you telling people to prepare for? Of course, they’re leaving, so I assume you have a much smaller population, but what are you preparing for?

    MAYOR PHILIP LEVINE: Well, listen, we — this is a very powerful storm. This is a historically powerful storm.

    It is so aggressive. It is coming our way. We hope it doesn’t. We are planning for the worst. We’re hoping for the best. We have brought in emergency generators, emergency pumps. We have given out free sand for sandbags to our residents in multiple locations.

    We have closed down construction sites, tied down both public and private machinery and things that could potentially become debris. We’re working very close with the county, offering bus service, trolley service, to get folks to shelters across, not on the island, but on the mainland.

    So we’re doing everything we possibly can preventively and, of course, constantly communicating with our residents and our visitors, so they understand what to do and how serious this situation is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That was one of the questions I wanted to ask you is, where are people going? And how are you cooperating with other jurisdictions in the area, other cities, the county and so forth?

    MAYOR PHILIP LEVINE: Very well.

    I got to tell you, Miami-Dade County, Miami, everyone works very well together. We have had various crises. Of course, this is something unbelievably serious in nature. And the machine works well. So people are responding. People are listening. Obviously, there’s traffic and gridlock throughout the state.

    But I can tell you that on Miami Beach right now, we have done everything in our power to evacuate the city, and lock things down for what we expect to be a very powerful, very dangerous storm.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you going to remain in Miami Beach?

    MAYOR PHILIP LEVINE: One hundred percent, absolutely. I will be bunkered down with the command staff in a hardened location, which is the best place for us, is the actual major hospital here, Mount Sinai Hospital. And that is where I will be riding out the storm.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And as you do prepare in these final hours, what are you most worried about?

    MAYOR PHILIP LEVINE: Well, I’m most worried about any residents that don’t believe that this is very serious, that would somehow want to stay here.

    I know that some of the buildings, condominium buildings, are turning off electricity, turning off water, and literally turning off the air conditioning. And, of course, that is a pretty big incentive for those residents to leave their building and leave Miami Beach.

    That, of course, is the major concern, coupled with, besides just the wind damage, we’re very concerned about tidal surge. We know when a storm like this comes in, we understand how high you could have a storm surge come, and that could be very devastating to the city.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mayor Philip Levine, preparing for this very big storm, thank you so much.

    MAYOR PHILIP LEVINE: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Cuba is also preparing for Irma’s wrath, less than a year after parts of the island were hit hard by Hurricane Matthew.

    For more on the situation there, I spoke a short time ago with Richard Paterson in Havana. He’s lived in Cuba for two decades as the representative for CARE, the international aid group.

    I started by asking about where preparations stand now.

    RICHARD PATERSON, Country Representative, CARE International: We’re right now preparing in the sense of refreshing our contacts with suppliers of relief items, reviewing the list of items that we need to procure to respond to the needs of the population.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what exactly do you expect those needs will be?

    RICHARD PATERSON: We anticipate that coastal communities are going to be severely affected.

    Heavy rains, strong winds, storm surge will no doubt result in flooding to particularly coastal communities. And people will have to leave their homes, seek higher ground.

    The Cuban Civil Defense has evacuation plans in place and are kicking in. But then CARE’s response kicks in when people start returning home. Typically, we provide hygiene goods, water handling and water purification supplies, basic household supplies, because it’s likely that people will have lost virtually everything at home.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How well-equipped is the Cuban government to handle this, just to give folks a sense of the state of preparation there?

    RICHARD PATERSON: Cuba’s Civil Defense has evacuation plans, very effective at their evacuating of families, people that are in particularly vulnerable situations.

    So, there are centers ready to receive families where there’s drinking water, where there’s food. And a year ago, when Hurricane Matthew hit, there were upwards of 500,000 people that had to be evacuated. And that happened quite smoothly.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: As I understand it, though, evacuation orders have not yet gone into effect. Just from a human standpoint, how are the Cuban people dealing with this?

    RICHARD PATERSON: It’s a struggle, for sure, particularly in Guantanamo Province, which went through or faced Hurricane Matthew less than a year ago.

    At the same time, they have some experience, and there are clear orientations from the Cuban Civil Defense in terms of how families need to prepare, whether it’s protecting their homes, whether it’s necessary evacuating, whether it’s storing supplies.

    There are clear guidance available. And it’s disseminated extensively amongst the population that is potentially going to be hit by the storm.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Richard Paterson with the CARE organization in Cuba, thank you very much. And we wish you the best in dealing with this.

    RICHARD PATERSON: Thanks very much, Judy.

    The post Florida, Cuba brace for wrath of Hurricane Irma appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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