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

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

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Finally, to our NewsHour Shares, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you as well.

    Staying in shape is difficult for many people, no matter their age. But one Virginia grandmother is raising the bar, literally.

    The NewsHour’s Julia Griffin has this profile.

    LINDA LEIGHTLEY, Powerlifter: Commissioner of revenue’s office.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: Between the phone calls and family photos, you would be forgiven for thinking Linda Leightley is your average government employee easing toward retirement.

    But as her co-worker Becky McNaughton at City Hall in Fairfax, Virginia, knows, Leightley isn’t the type to take anything easy.

    BECKY MCNAUGHTON, Co-Worker: The first or second day I worked here, Linda came into my office, and she asked me to check out her butt.


    BECKY MCNAUGHTON: Because it was very, very solid. And that is how I met her and found out she was a powerlifter.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: At age 72, not only is Leightley a competitive powerlifter; she’s a record- setting one at that.

    LINDA LEIGHTLEY: I have set several world records, which I’m really proud of.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: Leightley competes in 100% RAW, a worldwide powerlifting organization that emphasizes clean, steroid-free competitions.

    Since 2014, she’s garnered 12 world records in her age and weight categories; 132-pound Leightley can dead-lift 273 pounds.

    But she wasn’t always so in shape. In 2006, after years of shuttling three children and six grandchildren to their athletic activities, she finally got her own itch to work out.

    LINDA LEIGHTLEY: I was 60, and I was very sluggish. And I said, you know, I really need to do something for me.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: Blaine Dulin is Leightley’s personal trainer and coach.

    BLAINE DULIN, Personal Trainer: She was a disaster when I got her. The first time we exercised, she almost fell over doing a lunge.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: But Leightley stuck with it, and within a year, she lost 40 pounds and found a love for weight lifting along the way.

    LINDA LEIGHTLEY: Every once in awhile, he’d say, well, do you want to stay here or do you want to lift higher? And I would say, I want to lift higher, because it felt so good.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: Soon, her strength was getting noticed.

    BLAINE DULIN: One day, she — I think she was picking up 220 pounds when she was 68. Somebody mentioned, does she compete or whatever? And I looked it up. And the world record was, I believe, 232. And I thought, well, why not? If you want to, why not give it a go?

    JULIA GRIFFIN: Expectations and preconceptions were broken at that first competition.

    LINDA LEIGHTLEY: There was another gal from the gym there. And she said: “Don’t worry about it. Whatever you do, it’s a success because you are here for the first time. Don’t worry about it if you fail.”

    And I looked at her and I said, “I don’t have any intention of failing.”

    BLAINE DULIN: She set a world record then, and has set at least one every other meet since.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: The key to Leightley’s sustained success, Dulin says, is making sure each lift is done correctly and safely.

    BLAINE DULIN: I hate to yell at somebody’s grandmother, but I have yelled at somebody’s grandmother for picking up weight improperly, because, if she gets hurt, we’re done for months, maybe indefinitely. So I go out of my way to try to make sure she does everything right.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: At most events, Leightley is often the only person her age, or even close to it. That, says her daughters Colleen and Mary Beth, is what crowds find so inspiring.

    COLLEEN WOOD, Daughter: To see how all these young 20-, 30-something-year-olds were cheering for my mom, who is in her 70s, that was really neat.

    MARY BETH HAZELGROVE, Daughter: We always say she’s the strongest woman that we know, and it’s literally and figuratively.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: For her part, Leightley is just glad to show that age is no restriction when it comes to physical fitness.

    LINDA LEIGHTLEY: Some of the younger lifters, female lifters come over, and they say, you are role model to us. This is the goal we’d like to have as we get a little bit older.

    That’s really an amazing compliment.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: A compliment that might just top her long list of accomplishments.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Julia Griffin in Fairfax, Virginia.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I love that her name is Leightley. What an amazing woman.


    The post How this 72-year-old weightlifter is lifting expectations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And it’s the beginning of the week, and so we are joined now by our regular Politics Monday duo, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    Welcome to you both.

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Thank you.

    TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Thank you.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Before we get to Alabama and policy and all that stuff, let’s talk about Sean Spicer and his little cameo last night on the Emmys.

    For those who didn’t see it, he comes out, and it seems like he’s trying to poke fun at his first day of the job, President Trump’s inauguration. He comes out and, all evidence notwithstanding, he says that president had the biggest audience ever in the entire history of the universe. And then that was his declaration. And he pointed his finger at the journalists and told them, report this.

    Last night, during the Emmys, Stephen Colbert is wondering about the size of his audience. And out comes Sean Spicer.

    Let’s take a look at that.



    SEAN SPICER, Former White House Press Secretary: This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period, both in person and around the world.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: What do you make of that?

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: You know, this is life imitating art. Right?

    He was actually channeling Melissa McCarthy, who you see there, who was making fun of him in her “Saturday Night Live” skit.

    Look, this, to me, is a sign about where we are more broadly as a culture, which is, there is no such thing as having bad publicity or notoriety. You can always cash in on it. And it’s very short-lived.

    So, the name Sean Spicer is one that most people know today. It’s hard to know that it’s going to be the same a year from now. So, take it while you can get it. Take it to the bank. A lot of other Trump supporters, his former campaign manager, for example, got fired, and then ended up as a CNN commentator, is a lobbyist now.

    So, people trying to use their cache while they can here in Washington.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Tam, what do you think about this?

    Is this us not being able to take a joke? Or is this us, as many people have argued, that we’re being encouraged to chuckle at the idea that it’s just fine for the press secretary to lie to the American people?

    TAMARA KEITH: Well, this is Sean Spicer’s rehabilitation tour, his image rehabilitation tour. He also went on the Jimmy Kimmel show, and then today, in an interview with The New York Times, said that he regretted that press conference where he came out and told reporters, report the facts that were not the facts. They were alternate facts.

    And that was sort of the original sin of his entire time as press secretary. He came out and said something that was unverifiably untrue. And it led to further questions about whether what he said was true, whether what was said from the podium in the White House press Briefing Room, which has typically had some connection to reality, whether that could be trusted from this administration.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Some connection to reality. I love that.

    OK, let’s talk about the runoff next Tuesday in Alabama, very big Senate runoff race.

    AMY WALTER: Right.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Roy Moore and Luther Strange.

    What is at stake in that particular race?

    AMY WALTER: Well, these are two Republicans that are challenging each other.

    And what’s interesting here is, it is the choice between which Alabamans are going to like more. Or their choice is between loving Trump more or whether they dislike Mitch McConnell more.

    That is what they get a choice between. Roy Moore is the outsider. He is a former state Supreme Court judge. He has been kicked off the bench twice now, but he’s running as the anti-establishment, anti-Washington firebrand.

    Luther Strange is in a Strange position, which is, he’s been endorsed both by Donald Trump, and Donald Trump is coming down on Saturday to campaign for him. But he also has the support of Mitch McConnell and the leadership. So, really, what we’re looking for here is, how strong is the Trump connection?

    Can support from Trump, the president, coming down, giving outward, in this case a rally, outward support, enough support to overcome what voters’ reticence, especially in a place like Alabama, for the establishment — Roy Moore, polling has shown him ahead, some by bigger margins, some by smaller.

    So, Luther Strange, who is the incumbent right now — he was…

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The interim.

    AMY WALTER: … the interim here, replacing Jeff Sessions, starts off as the underdog.

    The real question for Republicans, what really is at stake, two things. One, if Roy Moore wins and comes to the United States Senate, the fear from Republican establishment people like Mitch McConnell is, he’s another rogue agent. They have very few votes that they can lose. They only have a 52-seat majority. They can’t afford somebody else who goes off on his own tangent.

    And the second is, it may encourage, if he succeeds, it may encourage other candidates to challenge sitting Republican incumbents. That’s not something they want to deal with.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, Tam, the president can read the polls. He must know, even if he prefers Strange, that he might be backing the guy who ends up losing. Like, why is the president — why is he willing to risk capital on this?

    TAMARA KEITH: I haven’t quite figure that out, to be perfectly honest.

    It’s a big question. And the other thing is, President Trump is doing what Mitch McConnell wanted him to do, which is endorsing Strange and working for Strange. But the flame keepers of President Trump’s, you know, agenda, the Steve Bannons, the Sean Hannitys, they have all endorsed Moore.

    And so it’s this really bizarre fight for, you know, who is the really — the true Trump candidate, the guy who Trump endorsed or the guy that all of Trump’s allies endorsed?

    And I don’t know how this is going to turn out and what it will mean for President Trump’s political capital. The interesting thing is, in this case, he’s for the incumbent, whereas, in some other states, he’s talking about wanting to primary the incumbent Republican.


    AMY WALTER: Yes.


    Let’s talk about health care quickly.

    The GOP, it seems like, are taking one last stab at putting the dagger in the Affordable Care Act with the Graham-Cassidy bill. Why are they pushing for this?

    AMY WALTER: It’s about a deadline. That’s usually what gets people motivated in Washington, is, they look and they see, we only have a certain amount of time.

    In this case, September 30 is the last day that Republicans can pass a health care bill with just 50 votes under this reconciliation deal. After that, they have got to get 60 votes. So this is really the time to be able to do this.

    Talking to folks who cover this today, there is a great deal of skepticism that this is going to happen. It’s pretty clear that the folks that held out on the first version, John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Rand Paul, are not committed to this. Rand Paul has already come out publicly and said he’s not for it.

    So, still, I wouldn’t say it is impossible, but it’s — the odds are longer.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Last to you, Tam.

    On the Democratic side, you have seen Bernie Sanders has been pushing his Medicare-for-all plan. We just saw Hillary Clinton express some skepticism about that, sort of implying that it wasn’t that realistic.

    But yet a lot of Democrats, including many who are thought of as 2020 contenders for the presidency, are signing onto this. So, why are they risking capital on something that may never go anywhere?

    TAMARA KEITH: Well, and Bernie Sanders says this bill is not going anywhere.

    They, I think, see this as a way to send a signal, to say that they care about health care. And they’re not talking about what’s practical and pragmatic. They aren’t at that stage yet. It’s — 2020 is a long way off.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, thank you very much.

    AMY WALTER: You’re welcome.

    TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

    The post What’s at stake for Republicans in Alabama’s runoff election appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    ‘What Happened,’ according to Hillary Clinton (full interview)

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: On Friday: Judy Woodruff sat down with Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate, to discuss her new book titled “What Happened.”

    We return now to that interview, when Judy asked about Clinton’s campaign against Donald Trump and mistakes she might’ve made in certain key states.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think your campaign was negligent, or whatever word you want to use, in not raising enough warning signs about the perils that could lie ahead in Wisconsin and Michigan?

    Those states, of course, turned out to be crucial to the outcome.

    HILLARY CLINTON, Author, “What Happened”: Well, when you’re in a campaign you — you look at the best information you have.

    And our best information from polling, from what’s called data analytics, from people on the ground didn’t indicate that we faced what eventually happened in Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania.

    We campaigned hard. We had more people on the ground working for my campaign than President Obama had had. We were in constant communication: What do you hear? What do you see?

    Wisconsin’s a particularly interesting example, because Russ Feingold, someone I served with, was running again for the Senate. His polling and the polling done by the Senate Democrats showed he was going to win. I ended up doing better than he did.

    There were all kinds of factors. And one of the biggest problems in Wisconsin has been the well-executed effort to suppress voters, African-American voters in Milwaukee, young voters, particularly in Madison and elsewhere. It proved to be very effective.

    And we campaigned hard in Pennsylvania. We campaigned hard in Michigan. I was there the day before the election. So, I — I just don’t believe that those were the determining factors about how many visits how many people made. I just don’t buy that.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Judy also asked Secretary Clinton about the criticism of her campaign from within her own party, specifically from former Vice President Joe Biden.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You also had some comments about former Vice President Joe Biden. And I want to ask you about that, because he said after the election that he thought your campaign and Democrats in general didn’t adequately communicate to Americans who were economically strapped what Democrats were prepared to do for them.

    Isn’t that very similar, if not the same thing, your husband, President Clinton, was telling your campaign before the election?


    And, look, I’m a friend of and a big admirer of Joe Biden. He and I have worked together. We served together.

    And I point out in the book, you know, every day, we were talking about jobs and the economy. Post-election analyses said I talked about jobs more than anything else and more than anybody else. We had really specific plans.

    I was talking about them endlessly. But they weren’t covered. When you get 32 minutes in a whole year to cover every issue, and 100 minutes on e-mails, I don’t fault voters for not knowing what we were saying.

    Joe campaigned for me. He talked about jobs. Everybody else talked about jobs and what we were intending to do. But, you know, it was — it turned out not to be enough in that particular environment.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And, finally, they turned to health care, which, if you remember, was one of the major sticking points during the Democratic primary contest.

    Judy asked Secretary Clinton about her former opponent Senator Bernie Sanders and his recent health care proposal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the campaign, you, on a number of occasions, argued with Bernie Sanders, because he argued there should be more of a government-run health care system, rather than expanding Obamacare.

    Now he has this new plan out to expand Medicare, cover more people in the direction of single-payer. And dozens of Democrats are behind it. Are they making a mistake?

    HILLARY CLINTON: No. It’s an aspirational goal.

    I believe in universal health care coverage that is affordable and high-quality. There are a number of ways to get there. I think some are more likely than others.

    During the primary campaign, I did defend the Affordable Care Act, because, for the first time in our history, we had 90 percent of Americans covered. And as I said over and over again, it’s a lot easier to get from 90 to 100 percent than ripping it up and starting all over again.

    But as someone who’s worked on health care to try to get to universal coverage for 25 years, it matters how much it costs. It matters what people feel about giving up what they already have. And half of America gets health care from their employers. It matters what kind of standards are going to be expected in whatever benefits there are.

    You know, the devil is always in the details when it comes to universal health care coverage. So, I think having a debate about the best way we get there and having people really lay their cards on the table, so that it can be examined, is important.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I ask because some Democrats are saying it is a mistake, that this takes the focus. It, in essence, cedes the fact that Obamacare hasn’t worked and that there needs to be another way.

    HILLARY CLINTON: Well, that would be unfortunate.

    And I — it would only — that would only be true if Democrats in large numbers in the House and Senate stopped working to make sure the Affordable Care Act continues.

    I think there still is a lot of energy behind that, because the likelihood of us getting — you know, getting to a single-payer system starting from where we are is — is quite difficult. So let’s not throw the baby out with the bath. Let’s stay focused on how we’re going to deliver the highest-quality, most affordable health care right now.

    And then you want to have a debate about something better and different, go ahead and have the debate.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You can watch the entire interview with Secretary Clinton online at PBS.org/NewsHour.

    The post Hillary Clinton on losing in Wisconsin, getting universal health care appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal - RC12B0E26990

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey. The Trump administration has withdrawn a proposal to let Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security guards buy $1.2 million in U.S.-made weapons. Photo by REUTERS/Osman Orsal.

    NEW YORK — The Trump administration has withdrawn a proposal to let Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security guards buy $1.2 million in U.S.-made weapons, a congressional official said Monday, following violence against protesters during Erdogan’s visit to Washington this spring.

    Earlier this year, the administration told Congress that it planned to allow New Hampshire gunmaker Sig Sauer to sell the weapons, which include hundreds of semi-automatic handguns and ammunition. The notification triggered a period in which Congress could review the deal before final approval is granted. The weapons would have gone to an intermediary in Turkey for use by Erdogan’s presidential security forces.

    PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff interviewed Turkish President Erdogan on Monday. See their conversation on Tuesday’s broadcast of the NewsHour.

    But U.S. lawmakers began expressing strong opposition to the sale after a violent incident on May 16, which was caught-on-camera outside the home of the Turkish ambassador to Washington as Erdogan was visiting. Nineteen people including 15 identified as Turkish security officials have been indicted by a U.S. grand jury for attacking peaceful protesters.

    The incident was one of several during visits by top Turkish officials to the U.S. that have raised serious questions about the behavior of Turkish security forces on American soil.

    In June, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., wrote Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him to reject the deal and calling the conduct of the Turkish guards “unprofessional and brutal.” A Senate panel has also approved a measure that would block the sale.

    WATCH MORE: Adding to tensions with Turkey, Erdogan’s security team charged in assault of D.C. protesters

    Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said the move to cancel the deal “was a little late” but welcome nonetheless. “It should never have been something that we were considering,” Van Hollen said. He and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., succeeded earlier this month in adding a provision to a State Department spending bill that would have blocked the sale.

    In a joint statement, Van Hollen and Leahy added, “We should also stop selling weapons to units of the Turkish National Police that have been arbitrarily arresting and abusing Turkish citizens who peacefully criticize the government.”

    The State Department, in informing Congress that it was formally withdrawing the planned sale, said it was at the request of Sig Sauer, a firearms manufacturer, which had requested the license from the U.S. government that’s needed to export weapons outside the U.S.

    But the U.S. had already quietly put the sale on hold after the violence, and the Trump administration had informed the Turkish government that the sale wouldn’t be allowed to take place. Sig Sauer appeared to have pulled its request for a license from the U.S. government after hearing from the Turks that it no longer expected to purchase the weapons.

    “It should never have been something that we were considering.” – Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

    A spokesman for Sig Sauer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Rep. Dave Trott, R-Mich., hailed the decision to withdraw. He said going ahead with the deal “would have been nothing short of an endorsement” of the attack by the Turkish security guards. Pulling out, Trott said, amounts to finally pointing “a finger in Erdogan’s chest” and telling him that Turkey is not above the law.

    Word of the withdrawn sale came as President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were in New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly gathering. Erdogan arrived in New York on Monday for the meetings.

    Lawmakers of both parties have asked the State Department to take extra precautions to ensure there’s not another violent incident this week by Turkish personnel during the U.N. gathering.

    The post After violence at embassy, U.S. withdraws proposal to let Turkish security guards buy guns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But first: an inside look at the country’s overwhelmed immigration court system.

    Our John Yang is here, and he has that story.

    JOHN YANG: William, for all the headlines and all the debates about what to do about illegal immigration, much less attention is being paid to the nation’s immigration court system.

    It’s the first stop for most people charged with being in the country illegally. The current backlog is at a record high, more than 600,000 cases pending, with about 334 judges to hear them. The average wait time for a hearing is 672 days, nearly two years.

    Earlier, I talked with Judge Dana Leigh Marks, who has been a judge in San Francisco for more than three decades. Immigration judges are generally prohibited from giving interviews, but Marks spoke with us in her role as president the National Association of Immigration Judges.

    Judge Marks, thanks for joining us.

    Help us understand how immigration counts work. Who appears before you, and what is it you’re trying to decide or determine?

    JUDGE DANA LEIGH MARKS, President, National Association of Immigration Judges: Well, immigration is often compared to tax law in its complexity, but I’m fond of saying that immigration law is even more complicated than tax law, because no one has developed a TurboTax for immigration law.

    Immigration courts are the trial-level courts that someone comes to if the Department of Homeland Security asserts that they are in the country without proper status or that they have somehow violated a legal status that they had, such as being a tourist who worked or a student who no longer went to school.

    We try to decide if they are in fact here in unlawful status at this point, and then decide if there are any benefits they’re entitled to apply for under the very complicated Immigration and Nationality Act.

    JOHN YANG: And we have heard about the backlog overall. How many cases are pending before you, and how long does it take someone — for one of these cases to get before you for a hearing?

    JUDGE DANA LEIGH MARKS: I have over 3,000 pending cases in front of me personally, and it often takes as long as four to five years to finally hear a case and make a decision on the merits.

    JOHN YANG: So, for those thousands of people, what’s the real-world implications for those people to have that backlog and take that long to get their case decided?

    JUDGE DANA LEIGH MARKS: That’s a great question.

    The backlog is extremely problematic for many people, because evidence that they have become stale. They lose track of witnesses. Sometimes, they need to have certain relative as a qualifying relative in order to obtain a benefit, and that relative can become ill and die, or the relative has to be underage and, just by the passage of time, that person becomes an adult.

    So there is frustration often from people whose cases are pending before the courts that it’s problematic to them that their cases are pending so long.

    In essence, we’re doing death penalty cases in a traffic court setting. We are already working at light speed, and yet the stakes for the people who are before the courts can be a risk to their very life, particularly if they are fearing persecution or other harm if forced to return to their home countries.

    JOHN YANG: And do they have lawyers representing them?

    JUDGE DANA LEIGH MARKS: Removal proceedings, deportation proceedings are civil. There is no right to an appointed counsel.

    So the only people who have lawyers are those who can afford to provide them or those who are lucky enough to find volunteers. Overall, approximately 60 percent of the people who appear before us are able to find lawyers. But if you look only at cases where people are detained, only 15 percent of those individuals are able to find representation.

    JOHN YANG: And this backlog started actually in the previous administration, the Obama administration. What has the increased enforcement or the stepped-up enforcement of the Trump administration done to the backlog? What effect does it have?

    JUDGE DANA LEIGH MARKS: What’s been difficult for us is that the backlog has been growing for over a decade.

    For various reasons, the immigration courts have not been a priority for budgeting. And the amount of money that has gone to immigration law enforcement has not included an equivalent amount of additional funding for the courts.

    So, we have been struggling. And over the past few years, it’s just become dire. The courts are basically on the verge of complete — being completely overwhelmed and collapsing under the caseload.

    JOHN YANG: Now, President Trump rescinded DACA, the program. He said it will sunset in six months. Congress may try to do something about it.

    But if it — if that program were to go away in March 2018, what would that do to the backlog? What would that do to the immigration courts?

    JUDGE DANA LEIGH MARKS: The estimate on how many people are here under the DACA program ranges from 700,000 to 800,000.

    We don’t know how many of those individuals already had cases in immigration court. But if even 100,000 of them did, those cases could immediately be reopened. And you can imagine what such an action would do for the court dockets, that we would instantly be inundated with an additional tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of live, pending cases to begin to put on our dockets again.

    JOHN YANG: The Trump administration has moved some judges to the border states, or to the areas along the border, and also started to hire more judges.

    Has that helped at all?

    JUDGE DANA LEIGH MARKS: Well, the moving of judges to the border so far has been problematic for the judges, because we have been taken from our existing home courts and moved on a temporary assignment to address cases at the border.

    The hiring of new judges eventually will be extremely helpful, but it is not a rapid process. And we also have a veritable tsunami of immigration judge retirements on the horizon. Last June, it was estimated that 39 percent of the immigration judges on board were eligible to retire.

    So it’s going to be quite a while before we have enough judges on board to handle the existing backlog of current cases.

    JOHN YANG: Judge Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, thanks so much for taking the time to explain this system to us.

    JUDGE DANA LEIGH MARKS: Thank you so much.

    The post How a ‘dire’ immigration court backlog affects lives appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In the past few weeks, the crackdown on Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar has triggered a mass exodus.

    The United Nations estimates that 390,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh after suffering what they say are violent attacks by government troops and others.

    The fighting is driven in part by an ongoing, years-long conflict between Rohingya militants and the government of Myanmar.

    NewsHour special correspondent Tania Rashid has this report from along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.

    TANIA RASHID, Special correspondent: It’s a mass exodus, with no end in sight.

    They can barely walk or speak, desperate and starving. Close to half-a-million Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh in the past three weeks, escaping violent attacks carried out by Myanmar troops and Buddhist vigilantes.

    Hundreds of people are making their way into Bangladesh right now. And it’s through terrible conditions of mud and rain and immense flooding. It’s very slippery, the mud, to walk through this.

    You feel like you can fall down at any moment.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): I can’t move.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): Take this.

    MAN (through interpreter): Get on my shoulders.

    TANIA RASHID: Her leg is broken.

    MAN (through interpreter): Get on my back.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): Really? Won’t it be too muddy and hard?

    MAN (through interpreter): There is no other way. Get on my shoulders.

    TANIA RASHID: The military, the Myanmar military, one of the members broke her leg with a stick. And a relative is having to carry her through this muddied rice paddy field to the road.

    MAN (through interpreter): Give me your other foot.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): I’m going to fall. I don’t have the energy.

    TANIA RASHID: Anuara Khatun has been walking with her two children and husband for eight days, with little food or water.

    ANUARA KHATUN, Rohingya Refugee (through interpreter): They took us out of our home and lined us up at a school and set our houses on fire. They tortured us. That’s why we’re here.

    They didn’t care whether they were shooting cows or people. They just kept shooting. They slaughtered old people. They tortured us, and that’s why we left. They stormed in and burned our homes. The military surrounded us and killed any young men they could find. They killed four to five people in front of me in Lambagouna.

    TANIA RASHID: So, this is the border. This is where Bangladesh ends. And across the Naf River is where Myanmar begins. For the past hour, I have been seeing boat after boat filled with Rohingya refugees coming in.

    The conflict was triggered by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, known as ARSA, an insurgency group. Its fighters attacked dozens of police and army posts across Myanmar’s Rakhine State on August 25.

    Funded partially by private donors in Saudi Arabia, ARSA accuses the Myanmar military of acts of extreme violence against Rohingya Muslims. In response, the Myanmar military launched a major counterinsurgency campaign. The U.N. human rights chief has called it a textbook ethnic cleansing.

    The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority group who have faced persecution in Myanmar. They are denied citizenship and freedom of movement. For the past three weeks, Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has come under immense international criticism for remaining silent in the face of this violence.

    Last week, the Nobel laureate canceled her trip to the U.N. General Assembly in New York to deal with the Rohingya crisis. The Rohingyas arrive in Bangladesh hungry and tired and into utter chaos.

    Every scrap of land is being used by the refugees to make shelter. Since many of the refugee camps are overcrowded and such a large influx of people are coming in, in such a short period of time, people are doing what they can to make space for a home.

    Hasina Begum fled her home five days ago.

    HASINA BEGUM, Rohingya Refugee (through interpreter): The Buddhists burnt my village to ash. They shot my father dead in front of me. I traveled here through the forest with my family.

    TANIA RASHID: She told me she was helped by two armed men from ARSA as she crossed the border.

    HASINA BEGUM (through interpreter): The Buddhists were killing us one by one before August 25 attacks. That’s why ARSA launched their attacks, because they are killing us. We couldn’t take it anymore. That’s why we are fighting. ARSA is fighting for all the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

    TANIA RASHID: Bengali locals and religious charities have stepped up to provide aid. But distribution has been chaotic.

    Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, has asked the international community to put pressure on the Myanmar government to let the Rohingya return. The immense scale of the crisis means that international aid agencies are the only ones equipped to respond.

    The World Food Program is giving each refugee a 55-pound sack of rice. That has to last them and their family at least two weeks.

    BIMOL CHANDRA DAY SARKER, Chief Executive of WFP Subsidiary: There are so many people so many households, so many people, they are not getting rice, because the support is not adequate for them. So, more food, more wash facilities, more shelter, they need.

    TANIA RASHID: I spoke to women queuing for rice who told me harrowing stories of violence.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): I can’t sleep at night. They take women like us to be raped. The military made a woman give birth in front of them without any help. While she was giving birth, they stomped on her belly. Nobody could help her.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): The military took a child from me and killed her in front of my eyes. I couldn’t stop them. They beat me with a gun and still feel pain all over my body. They take women into the jungle to rape and murder them. I heard them screaming, which was horrible.

    They tie the men to a chair, pour gasoline over their head, and burn them alive. The army calls the children over to give them biscuits. Then they kill them and dump their bodies in the jungle.

    TANIA RASHID: Bangladesh is one of the world’s poorest and most densely populated countries. I met with Mohammad Ershadul Haque, the local council secretary for the area near the one of the largest refugee camps.

    He expressed concern that many local Bengalis share about the sudden influx of the Rohingya.

    What has been the impact of the Rohingyas coming in?

    MOHAMMAD ERSHADUL HAQUE, Local Government Official in Bangladesh (through interpreter): The Rohingyas aren’t developed. Their character is uncivilized. We are different from them. If they continue coming like this, it will lead to destruction.

    TANIA RASHID: Do you see the large influx of the Rohingyas coming in being a threat?

    MOHAMMAD ERSHADUL HAQUE (through interpreter): With this influx of Rohingya, us Bengalis will become the minority. They will influence all the sectors of society. They might claim Bangladesh to be Rohingya territory. They built a makeshift camp on my land. They cut the trees from my garden to make their own homes. We aren’t able to say anything right now. It could be that they will rule over us here.

    TANIA RASHID: Do you see the influx of Rohingyas coming in being a breeding ground for terrorism?

    MOHAMMAD ERSHADUL HAQUE (through interpreter): Attacks have already taken place in the official refugee camps. The Rohingyas attacked the local security forces.

    TANIA RASHID: Next to one of the largest camps, I met two Rohingya refugees who are members of the ARSA insurgency group, and plan to go back to Myanmar to fight. They agreed to speak to us under the condition that we concealed their identities.

    MAN: The other Rohingya people support the ARSA because they think that if ARSA stand and take back the right of the Rohingya, they will be able to move freely from town to town, from village to village.

    TANIA RASHID: So, what do you think of the August 25 attacks? Hasn’t that sparked all this violence that’s happening right now and this mass displacement of the Rohingya people?

    MAN: The other superpower countries and the whole world, they still have not responded with any kind of responses. ARSA themselves thought that there is no one for us in the world to help. It’s better for us to stand for ourselves, to protect ourselves, to save our people from the inhumane persecution of the Myanmar government.

    MAN (through interpreter): We love ARSA. We are willing to go to war for our rights. Rohingyas have rights. this is why we will fight with the Myanmar government until we get rights. We don’t want to live without our citizenship, and us Rohingyas understand this. We are all united with ARSA. We will fight for our rights, or we will die trying.

    TANIA RASHID: Are you willing to die?

    MAN: Of course I’m willing to die. Of course. ARSA don’t afraid of dying, because the Rohingya people already have died.

    TANIA RASHID: As the violence continues in Myanmar, the future for the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh looks bleak. Stateless and displaced, the sense of desperation is increasing day by day, making the perfect conditions for insurgency groups like ARSA to grow.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Tania Rashid in Teknaf, Bangladesh.

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    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Turkey has been an important ally to the United States for years, but, recently, different views on how to fight ISIS in Syria, on human rights, and on a number of other issues have driven a wedge into that relationship.

    Judy Woodruff is in New York. And, late today, she spoke with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: William, yes, I’m in New York. And I just finished moments ago a lengthy interview with President Erdogan on a number of subjects.

    But what I think is — may be of greatest interest is, when I asked him about the report today — again, this is a moment of tension in a season of tension between the U.S. and Turkey — a report today that the Trump administration has decided it will not go forward with selling guns and other weapons to President Erdogan’s presidential guards, in a surprising twist, President Erdogan said this didn’t make sense, because he claimed that the U.S. has been giving weapons to terrorists in Syria.

    And by that, he was referring to the anti-ISIS — Kurdish anti-ISIS groups.

    Let’s listen.

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey (through interpreter): We need to fight these terrorists with the United States.

    And when we are not able to acquire those weapons from the United States, why are you giving those weapons to terrorists? It’s a question that we ask our friends in the United States. And when these questions are not answered, we’re feeling sorry, as the strategic partners to the U.S.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Those were some pretty tough words about U.S. foreign policy.

    I know there was also a recent announcement last week that the Turks had purchased surface-to-air missiles from the Russians, Turkey being a NATO member, Russia being a pretty strong enemy of NATO.

    Did you ask the president about that? And what did he say?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I did, William.

    This has raised the hackles, as you can imagine, of other NATO members in Europe and in the United States, questions about, where does Turkey’s loyalty really lie, if it’s cutting this $2.5 billion deal to buy these surface-to-air missiles?

    President Erdogan’s response is that it was a logical thing to do. He said, over time, we have been asking other NATO countries for weapons. They haven’t been willing to sell them to us.

    He said, the United States won’t even sell us drones. He said, we have had that request in for a number of years. So, he said, it was only natural that we would turn to the Russians.

    And I tried to pin him down, if you will, a little bit about where his loyalty really lies. Is it with NATO and the West, or is it with Russia? And his answer was essentially neither one — both — both and neither, that we have to do what’s best for Turkey.

    As I said, we covered a lot in this interview, and we’re going to be bringing our “NewsHour” viewers much more of it tomorrow night.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Judy Woodruff from New York, thank you so much.

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    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Anger over police shootings and whether officers are being acquitted too easily in some cases is boiling once again.

    For a fourth straight day, there were protests in Saint Louis over a judge’s decision that was issued Friday. It’s at least the fifth case around the country since May where an officer was not convicted or found guilty in a high-profile shooting.

    Protesters were out early this morning in downtown Saint Louis. A racially mixed crowd marched quietly and carried signs denouncing Friday’s acquittal of Jason Stockley, a white former Saint Louis police officer. Stockley had been accused in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith back in 2011.

    Stockley and his partner tried to arrest the 24-year-old after a suspected drug deal, an incident that was caught on surveillance and dash-cam video. Smith took off in a silver sedan, and the high-speed car chase ended with his being shot at close range. The dash-cam recorded Officer Stockley saying he would kill Smith, and prosecutors argued he planted a gun inside Smith’s car after the shooting.

    JASON STOCKLEY, Former St. Louis Police Officer: I didn’t murder Anthony Lamar Smith. I didn’t plant a gun.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In an interview Friday with The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, Stockley insisted again that he acted in self-defense.

    JASON STOCKLEY: I can tell you with absolute certainty there was no plan to murder Anthony Smith during a high-speed vehicle pursuit.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The not-guilty verdict touched off a weekend of protests by thousands of people. Most were peaceful, but smaller groups have turned violent after nightfall.

    MAYOR LYDA KREWSON, St. Louis: A group of agitators stayed behind, apparently intent on breaking windows and destroying property. This is not acceptable. We have work to do here in the city. We need more and better opportunities for all of our citizens. But destruction cannot be tolerated.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: More than 80 people were arrested in Sunday’s trouble, as police in riot gear confronted the crowd.

    Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence O’Toole is the city’s acting police commissioner.

    LT. COL. LAWRENCE O’TOOLE, Acting Police Commissioner, St. Louis Police Department: These criminals we have arrested should be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We’re in control. This is our city, and we’re going to protect it.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It’s all reminiscent of another case in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, where a black teenager, Michael Brown, was fatally shot by a white officer who was also not indicted.

    And it comes on the heels of several other cases nationwide where black men have been shot by white officers. Now Saint Louis faces a fourth night of tension, with protesters turning out again, and police out in force.

    For the record, we invited a representative from the Saint Louis Police Department on the program, but they didn’t respond in time.

    For more about the situation in Saint Louis and what’s fueling the protests, I’m joined now by Tony Messenger. He’s a columnist at The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch and has been following these events closely.

    Mr. Messenger, I wonder if you could just give me a sense, what is your sense of what is driving these protests? Is it this particular case or is it something broader?

    TONY MESSENGER, Saint Louis Post-Dispatch: It’s the combination of the details in this case combined with ongoing concerns both locally and nationally about police brutality towards blacks.

    And specifically in Saint Louis, there has been a history of a disparity between black and white, blacks living in poverty and feeling that they’re just not getting a fair share, that that feeling that the nation saw in the days after Ferguson continued over the last three years and is manifesting itself on the streets one more time.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: One of the facts of the case here was the allegation that the police officer planted the gun after the shooting. The judge looked at the evidence and said it didn’t meet the standard of guilt.

    And I wonder, what’s been the reaction of that?

    TONY MESSENGER: I think what happens in a case like this is, those details, regardless of whether or not the judge determines that the prosecution met its burden, stick in the minds of black people who believe that they have been discriminated against by police, whether it’s Saint Louis police or other local police departments, growing up.

    And so you have the detail of the police officer being caught on tape threatening to kill the person that he’s chasing, as well as the allegation from the prosecutor that the gun was planted. Those things add up to some details that really matter to the folks who are protesting on the streets, regardless of the judge’s determination of burden of proof.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: These were, as we reported, largely peaceful protests. There were a few instances of people breaking off and causing some destruction.

    What’s your sense of what’s driving that particular slice of the protests?

    TONY MESSENGER: I think there’s a couple of things.

    First of all, there’s always going to be agitators, people that are hanging, that are looking to create trouble that aren’t necessarily connected to the protest. In each of the first three nights of protests, the organizers of the protests have said, it’s time to go home.

    One protest leader who’s a state representative said, let’s leave as a family. But, obviously, not everybody left. And one of the things that I’m hearing from people and seeing in social media and other things is that some of the violence is a reaction to the police militarizing. It’s a reaction to an aggressive police stance, with police officers in riot gear circling around and arresting anybody who gets in their way.

    And so some of the reaction that you’re seeing is, at least according to some of the protesters and folks on the street, a reaction to how the police are treating them.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: One of the pastors who was involved in organizing some of the more peaceful protests said that the goal of these protests were disruption, not destruction.

    Can you help us understand what that means?


    Disruption to the economy. One of the chants the first night, Friday night, when I was out there in the Central West End, was talking about disrupting the economy, letting the city feel their pain in the pocketbook, so to speak.

    And so when they talk about disruption, they’re talking about the idea of U2 and Ed Sheeran canceling their concerts, and the city reacting to that by losing money and saying, we can’t lose money. So, what are we going to do?

    Well, what the protesters hope they do is talk to them, and meet to them and hear their grievances. That’s where they’re trying to hurt the city is in an area that will get them to the negotiating table to talk about, how are we going to fix generations of grievance from people of color who believe they have been discriminated against in this city by police?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Is it your sense that those protests, the economic pressure on the city, will both continue, and will they work?

    TONY MESSENGER: My sense is that it’s going to continue.

    There were some high school walkouts today. There are other protests planned tonight. There has not been, to the best of my knowledge, any discussion between community leaders, activists, protest leaders and elected officials. And my sense is, similar to Ferguson, until those discussions start to take place, that what we have been seeing on the streets over the last two or three nights is going to continue for a period of time.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I know you have been covering this and Ferguson and other types of protests for a long time.

    What is your sense about, when does this cycle end? It seems like we have been having this argument. The communities feel they’re not trusted, they’re treated poorly by the police. These horrible incidents occur. Police don’t seem to be held responsible. And the community erupts.

    How do we interrupt that cycle?

    TONY MESSENGER: Well, if you listen to the protesters, one of the things that they frequently chapter is, “No justice, no peace.”

    And so what they say is, it will end when there’s justice, it will end when police stop killing young black men.

    That’s what they’re telling us. The sense that I get, three years after Ferguson, is that not a lot has changed in our community. There have been some efforts at reconciliation and education, but the poor black people that I talk to regularly, that I write about in my column on a variety of issues don’t believe that they are a part of this economy, don’t believe that they are full members of the community in some regard.

    And until that happens, until there’s more trust between white and black, between police and the communities of color that they serve, then this sort of cycle is going to continue.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As we mentioned, we asked to talk to someone in the police force, and they didn’t get back to us in time.

    What is your sense of how the police view all of this, this particular case, but also the protests that have followed?

    TONY MESSENGER: There is a split within the police department as well between black and white. There is a split between those quality police officers who believe in a higher level of training and some of those who give the police department in Saint Louis or Saint Louis County or the multiple municipalities that we have around here a bad name.

    So, within the police department, there is somewhat of a split. But there is very much a divide between police and protester here. Last night, the police — the interim police chief for Saint Louis said that police owned the night.

    And, last night, police were recorded on video chanting themselves — “Whose streets? Our streets” — after they arrested some protesters, some reporters, some live-streamers, and other people.

    So, that divide between protester and police is very stark still.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Tony Messenger of The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, thank you so much.

    TONY MESSENGER: Thanks for having me.

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    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For President Trump today, it was the kickoff of his first United Nations General Assembly. As a candidate, he had roundly criticized the world body. Today, he spoke at a meeting on U.N. reform, and said the U.S. will work with Secretary-General António Guterres to make changes.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The United Nations has not reached its full potential because of bureaucracy and mismanagement.

    While the United Nations on a regular budget has increased by 140 percent and its staff has more than doubled since 2000, we are not seeing the results in line with this investment, but I know that, under the secretary-general, that’s changing, and it’s changing fast.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The president also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and talked again of trying for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Mr. Trump addresses the full General Assembly tomorrow.

    The president also spoke with Chinese leader Xi Jinping by phone about enforcing new sanctions on North Korea. This came as the North warned that new pressure will only increase its drive to develop more nuclear weapons.

    Meanwhile, in live drills, the U.S. military sent a pair of B-1B bombers and F-35 stealth fighters over South Korea. It was the second such flight in recent weeks.

    Hurricane Maria has closed in on the Eastern Caribbean tonight, threatening the very same islands wrecked by Hurricane Irma. By this evening, the storm was passing Martinique with winds of 130 miles an hour, making it a Category 4 storm and still growing. The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are in the projected path tomorrow and Wednesday.

    There are new signs of recovery today in Florida, a week after Hurricane Irma swept the state. Schools in Miami-Dade and Broward County reopened for more than 600,000 students. Other systems, and some colleges, remain closed.

    In the hard-hit Florida Keys, Governor Rick Scott and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price warned today of potential dangers to those returning.

    TOM PRICE, Secretary of Health and Human Services: There’s mold challenges. There are the marine life that — and diseases that occur. So they need to take precautions, simple wearing of gloves, making certain that when they are moving debris that they are being cautious and that they are not inhabiting a place that is uninhabitable.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Utility crews have restored power to the great majority of those who lost it during the storm, but nearly 800,000 people remained in the dark today.

    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is recommending that four large national monuments in the West be downsized. It’s widely reported the sites are Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah. They cover more than three million acres, as well as two others in Nevada and Oregon.

    Zinke also recommended lifting curbs on logging and mining at several other sites. Environmentalists have condemned the proposal. President Trump has said designating these monuments amounted to a federal land grab.

    On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 63 points to close at 22331. The Nasdaq rose six points, and the S&P 500 added three.

    And some history was made at the 69th annual Emmy Awards last night. “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which was shown on Hulu, won for best drama series. It’s the first such award for a video streaming service.

    And Lena Waithe became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for best comedy-writing, for the show “Master of None.”

    HBO’s political satire “Veep” won best comedy, and “Saturday Night Live” won nine awards, the most of the evening.

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    U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) departs the Senate floor after the body's first vote upon returning from their August recess at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. September 5, 2017.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RC1622BDC440

    U.S. Senator John McCain was one of the leading supporters of a bill that pumps $700 billion into the military. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

    WASHINGTON — The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a sweeping policy bill that would pump $700 billion into the military, putting the U.S. armed forces on track for a budget greater than at any time during the decade-plus wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Senators passed the legislation by a 89-8 vote Monday. The measure authorizes $700 billion in military spending for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, expands U.S. missile defenses in response to North Korea’s growing hostility and refuses to allow excess military bases to be closed.

    The 1,215-page measure defies a number of White House objections, but President Donald Trump hasn’t threatened to veto the measure. The bill helps him honor a pledge to rebuild an American military that he said had become depleted on former President Barack Obama’s watch.

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and other national security hawks have insisted the military branches are at risk of losing their edge in combat without a dramatic influx of money to repair shortfalls in training and equipment. Congress’ failure to supply adequate budgets is at least partly responsible for a series of deadly ship collisions and helicopter crashes, according to McCain, the Armed Services Committee chairman.

    The 1,215-page measure defies a number of White House objections, but President Donald Trump hasn’t threatened to veto the measure. The bill helps him honor a pledge to rebuild an American military that he said had become depleted on former President Barack Obama’s watch.

    McCain, who is battling an aggressive type of brain cancer, guided the bill toward passage as he railed against Washington gridlock and political gamesmanship. But he couldn’t quell disputes among his colleagues over several contentious amendments that were blocked from votes and failed to be added to the bill.

    Among them was a proposal by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, that would have protected transgender service members from being kicked out of the armed forces. Gillibrand and McCain seek to achieve the same goal through separate legislation they introduced late last week. That bill also is supported by Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Armed Services panel.

    Approved by the Armed Services Committee by a 27-0 vote in late June, the overall Senate bill provides $640 billion for core Pentagon operations, such as buying weapons and paying troops, and another $60 billion for wartime missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. Trump’s budget request sought $603 billion for basic functions and $65 billion for overseas missions.

    READ MORE: North Korea fired another missile over Japan. Here’s what we know

    With North Korea’s nuclear program a growing threat to the U.S. and its allies, the bill includes $8.5 billion to strengthen U.S. missile and defense systems. That’s $630 million more than the Trump administration sought for those programs, according to a committee analysis.

    North Korea last week conducted its longest-ever test flight of a ballistic missile, firing an intermediate-range weapon over U.S. ally Japan into the northern Pacific Ocean. The launch signaled both defiance of its rivals and a significant technological advance.

    The legislation directs the Defense Department to deploy up to 14 additional ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, an increase that will expand to 58 the number of interceptors designed to destroy incoming warheads. The department also is tasked with finding a storage site for as many as 14 other spare interceptors, and senators envision an eventual arsenal of 100 with additional missile fields in the Midwest and on the East Coast.

    The White House, in a statement issued earlier this month, called the order for more interceptors “premature” given the Pentagon’s ongoing review of missile defense programs.

    Despite the push for the additional billions in military spending, major hurdles need to be cleared before all the extra money materializes. Lawmakers will have to work out a deal that lifts the caps on federal agency budgets, including the Pentagon’s, mandated by a 2011 law. Congress has passed temporary relief from the limits before, but senior military officials have urged for the law to be repealed altogether.

    READ MORE: House GOP passes $788 billion spending bill that boosts Pentagon budget, border wall

    As their House counterparts did, the Senate bill rejects Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ plan to launch a new round of base closings starting in 2021. He told lawmakers in June that closing excess installations would save $10 billion over a five-year period. Mattis said the savings could be used to acquire four nuclear submarines or dozens of jet fighters. But military installations are prized possessions in states and lawmakers refused to go along.

    The bill allots $10.6 billion for 94 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, which is two dozen more than Trump requested. The bill also provides $25 billion to pay for 13 ships, which is $5 billion and five ships more than the Trump sought.

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    President Donald Trump will deliver his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, an address that could offer some insight into how the “America first” candidate will handle the international body he frequently criticized during his campaign.

    World leaders will begin addressing the assembly at 9 a.m. ET. Mr. Trump is expected to address the U.N. around 10:30 a.m. ET. Watch live in the player above.

    Leaders from 193 member states began gathering Monday for meetings in New York. In brief remarks Monday morning, Trump criticized what he called the U.N.’s inefficiency and called for reform, though he did not threaten to withdraw funding, as he had during his 2016 campaign for president.

    “In recent years, the United Nations has not reached its full potential due to bureaucracy and mismanagement,” Trump said. “We are not seeing the results in line with this investment.”

    It’s also the first summit for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who previously ran the U.N.’s refugee agency for 10 years. The odds of reform rely heavily on his relationship with Trump, Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow and director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the PBS NewsHour.

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    A view of the U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, DC, U.S. on October 13, 2015. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/ Reuters

    A view of the U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, D.C. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/ Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s travel ban offers the Supreme Court the chance to make a major pronouncement on the president’s power over immigration. But the case also could vanish into the legal ether, and that may be what a majority of the court is hoping for.

    Getting rid of the case would allow the justices to avoid second-guessing the president on a matter of national security or endorsing an especially controversial part of Trump’s agenda.

    The timetable surrounding the travel ban could make that possible.

    The court will hear a challenge to the temporary pauses on visitors from six mostly Muslim countries and refugees worldwide in less than a month.

    But even before that happens, the 90-day travel ban expires on Sept. 24. The refugee ban lapses a month later.

    The administration has yet to say whether it will impose new bans, how long they might last and what countries may be affected. Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are the six countries covered by the existing ban.

    The high court could react by ruling that a new lawsuit is necessary or ordering lower courts that have handled the challenges so far to assess the new policy.

    So far, the court has stepped in three times to evaluate what parts of the policy can take effect even as legal challenges proceed in the courts.

    Chief Justice John Roberts may have the most at stake among the justices in finding a way out of the case without passing judgment on the controversy over a policy Trump talked about during the campaign and then rolled out a week into his presidency.

    “It creates political controversy whether the court approves or rejects the travel ban,” said Ilya Shapiro, editor-in-chief of the libertarian Cato Institute’s Supreme Court review.

    Shapiro said Roberts would strongly prefer any way to get the case out of his court rather than come down on either side of tough questions dealing with the Constitution and immigration law.

    READ MORE: Trump calls for ‘larger, tougher’ travel ban after London subway attack

    Top Justice Department officials in previous Democratic and Republican administrations agreed. “There’s incentive to not decide very much at all,” said Donald Verrilli, the solicitor general for most of President Barack Obama’s tenure.

    Several other justices may be willing to help Roberts get there, said Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center.

    The court’s pronouncements about the travel ban so far have either been by consensus or a six-justice majority including the more conservative Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy and the four more liberal members of the court, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

    “The liberal justices, especially the pragmatic liberals Breyer and Kagan, will do anything to allow Roberts to avoid a substantive constitutional decision,” Rosen said.

    In part, their motivation stems from a widely held view that the case is difficult to predict. Presidents have substantial power over immigration and courts typically are reluctant to undercut executive authority, especially when presidents say national security is at stake.

    That argument is at the heart of the administration’s defense of the Trump policy. The challenges shouldn’t have made it this far, the administration has told the court.

    On the other side, opponents of Trump’s policy have persuaded two federal appeals courts that Trump has either overstepped his authority under immigration law or violated the Constitution’s protections against religious bias. Trump’s campaign statements calling for a ban on Muslims entering the United States and tweets while president have figured in the rulings.

    Just last week, Trump returned to the travel ban after a bomb partially exploded on a London subway. “The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific — but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!”

    At one point in July, the court hashed out an order when Roberts was in Australia, Kennedy was in Austria and other justices were in time zones in between. The product of their collaboration was an unsigned order that said grandparents, cousins and other similar relations could not be excluded under the travel ban, while refugees who already had a relationship with resettlement agencies in the U.S. could be kept out of the country.

    “The liberal justices, especially the pragmatic liberals Breyer and Kagan, will do anything to allow Roberts to avoid a substantive constitutional decision.”

    Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, would have let the administration set more restrictive conditions on family members from the six countries.

    The outcome appeared to be the product of “cross-party consensus about what to do,” said Irv Gornstein, executive director of Georgetown law school’s Supreme Court Institute.

    Justices rarely explain what goes on in their private deliberations, but in late July Ginsburg offered a peek to an audience in Aspen, Colorado.

    The court’s three grandparents were unhappy with one aspect of the travel ban, she said.

    “The government’s restrictive interpretation had no provision for grandparents. I commented that three justices are obviously not going to put up with that — Justice Kennedy, Justice Breyer and me,” Ginsburg said.

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    A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City Tuesday afternoon, crumbling buildings in the nation’s capitol. The event comes 11 days after the most powerful earthquake to hit the nation in decades killed around 100 people and destroyed more than 45,000 homes.

    What happened? The U.S. Geological Survey said a magnitude 7.1 quake struck near the town of Raboso in Puebla, approximately 76 miles southeast of Mexico City, at a depth of 35 miles. This USGS reading is preliminary, but Mexico’s National Seismological Service released similar numbers for the earthquake’s strength.

    A USGS official told the Associated Press that Tuesday’s earthquake was not an aftershock of the disaster that struck near Chiapas on Sept. 8, due to the large distance between the two events.

    Damage report: By Tuesday evening, 149 people had died from the earthquake, according to the AP, which didn’t provide a breakdown by region. The governor of Morelos, a state in central Mexico, said earlier in the day 42 people died there, while eight more deaths were reported in Mexico State, which borders Mexico City. The interior department of Puebla, where the quake hit, reported 11 deaths.

    Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said at least 20 buildings had collapsed, with reports of people being trapped inside.

    Social media posts from Mexico City show cracked facades and toppled buildings in populated areas, as locals fill the streets. Gerardo Lazos, a journalist with Patito Television, filmed his home in Mexico City shaking during the quake. But the event likely caused devastation throughout much of central Mexico.

    “DF” stand for Distrito Federal or Mexico City.

    Why so many quakes in Mexico? Mexico is part of the Ring of Fire, the rim where the tectonic plates of the Pacific Basin jam into those propping up North America, South America and Asia. The Ring of Fire accounts f or 90 percent of the planet’s earthquakes.

    But Mexico is especially seismic because it sits on three giant tectonic plates. Moreover, the nearby oceanic crust — the Cocos plate — is denser than the landmass carrying the central portion of the country. As the two plates collide, Mexico’s softer earth crumples, which explains why mountain ranges line the eastern part of the nation.

    The Chiapas earthquake in early September also struck an area that seismologists have been watching closely for several years, as Lizzie Wade explained in Science Magazine:

    The epicenter of the quake, which struck just before midnight local time, was just southeast of the Tehuantepec gap, a 125-kilometer-long stretch of Mexico’s Pacific coast that has been seismically silent since record-keeping began more than a century ago. All along that coast, the ocean’s tectonic plates meet the continental North American plate and are forced underneath it. Violent earthquakes mark the release of built-up pressure between the grinding plates. But the ruptures have somehow avoided the Tehuantepec gap and the Guerrero gap, more than 500 kilometers to the northwest.

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    The U.S. flag flies in front of the Capitol Dome at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2017.   REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RC1586219AB0

    Congress has acted on some must-do items this month, during a busy legislative period. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    As we’ve reported, Congress entered September with a hefty to-do list. How is it doing?

    Keeping government open. Done, for three months. Congress passed a short-term federal spending bill that keeps the lights on until Dec. 8.

    Avoiding the debt ceiling. Done, for several months. In the same bill, Congress raised the debt ceiling to whatever level it hits on Dec. 8. The Treasury Department can then effectively push back a hard deadline on the debt ceiling to early spring. (Check out our video explaining the nutty debt ceiling, including how we got one.)

    Flood insurance. Done, for three months. The nation’s flood insurance program was set to expire Sept. 30. Congress also punted on this, extending the program until Dec. 8.

    Children’s health care. Almost done. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health care for 9 million kids, is set to expire Sept. 30. Two key senators from each party have agreed on a deal to extend it for five years. But it still must pass both chambers.

    FAA and air traffic control. Not done. The Federal Aviation Administration’s authorization runs out Sept. 30, but it’s caught in a larger, controversial debate over reforming the agency. A House GOP bill would remove air traffic control from the FAA and make it a non-profit.

    Passing a budget. Not done. House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tenn., does not appear to have enough GOP votes to pass a budget yet. This is a bigger problem for the GOP then simple fiscal responsibility. See below.

    Tax reform. Not done, and a bumpy road ahead. Republicans hope to use budget reconciliation — which requires just 50 Senate votes — to pass tax reform. But they do not have a budget yet. That is a problem. Otherwise, Republicans appear to be making progress on crafting a tax reform bill. But so far they haven’t figured out the mechanism for voting on it.

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    Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it is wrong for the United States to deny the sale of guns to his guards in response to his crackdown on terrorist organizations. He sat down with PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Monday.

    Congress withdrew a proposal allowing Turkish guards to buy $1.2 million in American-made weapons after his security guards were filmed beating protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C., on May 16.

    A failed coup in July 2016 prompted Erdogan to ramp up arrests of perceived opponents, including thousands of police and civil servants, which put a further strain on U.S.-Turkish relations.

    “I think it’s wrong for the United States to fight terrorism with YPG (an acronym for the People’s Protection Units) or PYD (an acronym for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, a Syrian affiliate of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party). This is something I’ve shared with the higher echelons of the United States. We need to fight these terrorists with the United States. We are not able to acquire those weapons from the United States. ‘Why are you giving these weapons to terrorists?’ is the question that we ask our friends in the United States,” Erdogan said in Monday’s interview.

    “Democracy is quite strong in Turkey,” he said, pointing to his election. “We are receiving the full support of our people and we are continuing down our path.”

    READ MORE: Turkey continues crackdown one year after failed coup

    Woodruff previews the first part of the interview on Monday’s broadcast. You can watch the full interview on Tuesday.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, a former professional athlete takes on color divisions in sport.

    Jeffrey Brown has our look from New York as part of our Race Matters series.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A beautiful late summer day on the grounds of the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows, New York, tennis’ biggest stage in this country, the kind of day that can stir memories.

    JAMES BLAKE, Author, “Ways of Grace”: This place is so special to me because I was a fan here first.

    JEFFREY BROWN: James Blake was born in Yonkers to an African-American father and white British mother. He started playing tennis at 5, alongside his brother Thomas, who also became a professional player.

    JAMES BLAKE: I grew up an hour from here, was born less than 30 minutes from here. I was getting autographs of the qualifiers.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You did as a kid?

    JAMES BLAKE: Yes. I snuck in.

    JEFFREY BROWN: They haven’t come after you to get the payment yet?

    JAMES BLAKE: They haven’t come after me. I think I still owe them about $20 or $30 from back tickets.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Blake more than repaid the sport, becoming a top American star, known for his speed and his power.

    He climbed to the world number four ranking in 2006, and retired in 2013 after a 14-year career.

    Two years later, awaiting a ride from his Manhattan hotel to be a commentator at the U.S. Open, Blake was thrown to the ground, handcuffed and arrested by a plainclothes New York City police officer. It was caught on a surveillance camera, a case of mistaken identity, for which the New York police commissioner publicly apologized.

    MAN: My apologies for the incident which he found himself involved in.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But one that drew national headlines and charges of excessive force and racial profiling.

    JAMES BLAKE: They have got you cuffed. You don’t know what’s going on. I know I had done nothing wrong. But while that’s going on, you just feel so weak and ineffective, because they are totally in control of the situation. And they know that.

    And some of them handle that situation well. Some don’t. And the officer that handled this case wasn’t handling it well.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I assume that you had never experienced anything like that?

    JAMES BLAKE: Not to that extent.


    JAMES BLAKE: I mean, I think almost every person of color at some point in their life has been profiled, whether it be walking into a store or driving your car and you’re pulled over for no reason or anything to that extent.

    So, I have had instances like that, but never physical — physical violence like this.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The incident caused Blake to rethink his own role as a citizen-athlete. He began to speak out about cases of police misconduct, and now has a new book about the efforts work of other athletes, “Ways of Grace: Stories of Activism, Adversity, and How Sports Can Bring Us Together.”

    JAMES BLAKE: I want to see some positive headlines about athletes.

    And that’s what I try to in this book and show that there are athletes that have a social conscience, that aren’t just there for the three hours that you watch them on TV. They have lives. They have things that are important and that they are passionate about.

    I think so many people focus on LeBron James, was he selfish to go to Miami, was he selfish here? Well, you know what? The guy donated $40 million to education in Akron, in his community, realizing that education is one of the biggest barriers for income disparity.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Blake writes of many athletes, including from his own sport, lesser-knowns such as Amir Hadad and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, an Israeli Jew and Pakistani Muslim, who played doubles together at Wimbledon in 2002 and beyond, in the face of opposition.

    And more famous names, Arthur Ashe, who spoke out about apartheid and championed civil rights, as well as support for those with HIV/AIDS, which he himself battled. And Billie Jean King, who has accomplished so much for gender equality and social justice in tennis and beyond.

    And he writes with sympathy for the most controversial figure today, former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who publicly took a knee during the national anthem before games last year to protest police brutality. He’s is now out of football, and Blake and others believe it’s because of his public stance.

    JAMES BLAKE: People are criticizing him, saying, oh, he makes $15 million, he should just shut up and play.

    And I just always have hated that narrative, because it doesn’t matter the amount of money that’s being paid. You still shouldn’t be able to control someone, because then it’s just a matter of saying, at what stage are you selling your whole soul, you’re selling all your beliefs for a certain amount of money? And I think Colin Kaepernick is showing that he’s not for sale.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But do you understand fans who would say, look, I love and support you, Colin Kaepernick, or athlete XYZ, for what you do on the field, but that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?

    JAMES BLAKE: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That’s your job.

    JAMES BLAKE: Yes. Yes, and I…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Don’t push your politics on me.

    JAMES BLAKE: Yes. Well, fans are absolutely within their right to not go to the games, to say, I’m not going to buy your jersey, to do anything like that.

    But I don’t think it’s really fair to put that on him, because of what he’s fighting for, as a lot of veterans have said, that’s what we fought for. He has his freedom. And people say, oh, well, you know what, we want sports just to get away from politics. We want it just to be an escape.

    Well, it can be an escape for when it’s on the field and he’s still doing his job on the field. But when he’s not forced to be on the field, it’s up to him. It’s his right. And it’s his freedom of speech that he can say and do what he wants, especially since it’s peaceful.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Do you think there’s more responsibility with the higher — the higher profile you are? Because you think about very famous stars of the past, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, people who spoke out.

    You think of Michael Jordan, who some people criticized him for not, right…


    JEFFREY BROWN: … being more connected with the brands and the advertising.

    JAMES BLAKE: Well, again, I think it’s individual.

    And I think it’s — we talk about in the book, with the fact that there was a little bit of an era where a lot of people weren’t speaking out. Michael Jordan was in that era, where it was, you’re going to protect your brand at all costs.

    So, I think a lot of people in that time were going to be silent, and they were just going to try to sell shoes.

    I don’t fault them for that, but I feel like it’s shifted. Now, especially with social media, people are going to speak out. And I think, previous to that generation, there was the generation of Muhammad Ali. There was the civil rights movement. There were people that stood for a serious cause.

    And it seemed like people thought, athletes maybe thought, hey, we have got it good now. Let’s not mess this up.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As for himself, Blake settled a lawsuit against the New York Police Department this summer, and got the city to fund a legal fellowship.

    JAMES BLAKE: That was a good outcome, exploring cases of police misconduct. You have a fellow on staff for the next six years, two years at a time. So it will be three different ones straight out of law school to fight these kind of cases, because, last year, over 50 percent of them weren’t seen to conclusion.

    So, now there’s someone on staff to help them see these cases through to the end, get whatever payout, get whatever accountability is necessary for the police officers.

    It’s a start. It’s not the end of the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown in Flushing Meadows, New York.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, we conclude our special education series Rethinking College.

    Tonight, how one university offers customized learning to fit the busy lives of nontraditional students.

    Hari Sreenivasan has our report, part of our weekly segment Making the Grade.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Terence Burley lives on the Navajo reservation in Northern Arizona, a place where college often seems beyond the horizon.

    TERENCE BURLEY, Personalized Learning Student, Northern Arizona University: I wanted to go to college, and it didn’t work out.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Only 7 percent of residents on the reservation get college degrees.

    TERENCE BURLEY: It was a money issue. My parents weren’t really making a lot of money.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now a 42-year-old father, Terence is pursuing his bachelor’s degree, hoping to advance his career in computer technology.

    TERENCE BURLEY: I want to make myself more marketable.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Burley is using federal grants to pay tuition at Northern Arizona University, a campus that is 160 miles away.

    He’s enrolled in an unusual online program called personalized learning.

    Rita Cheng is the president of Northern Arizona University.

    RITA CHENG, President, Northern Arizona University: Personalized learning is a perfect approach to students who may have competency they have gained from their work experience. It is a demonstration of mastery.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The program allows Terence to quickly move through college courses because it’s based on a subscription, like Netflix. Students pay one flat fee every six months, and take as many courses as they have time for.

    RITA CHENG: If they can master something very quickly, they can speed through segments of the curriculum.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Terence is studying information technology, and as a software administrator, he’s been able to use what he’s learned on the job to advance.

    TERENCE BURLEY: The courses reemphasizes what you know already. I’m tested for my competency. If I pass my test, I’m able to pass my courses.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: He must still take the core curriculum required of all on-campus university students.

    Cori Gordon is the coordinator for NAU’s personalized learning program.

    CORI GORDON, Personalized Learning Coordinator, Northern Arizona University: Everything is online, and it was all curated by a professor. We will use online textbooks. We use videos. We use case studies. We use simulations, interactive software.

    What’s different about us, though, is that the students really have the keys. So, everything is available when the student starts, and they determine when they’re ready to move on to the next concept. They determine when they’re ready to take the test.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But there are challenges with Terence Burley’s remote learning. He lives in his mother’s house, which currently has no electricity or Internet.

    TERENCE BURLEY: I use my cell phone to get connected. And on a good day, I usually get two bars.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: When his laptop runs out of power, Burley recharges it by plugging into his truck. And his day is long.

    TERENCE BURLEY: Usually, I wake up at 4:00 in the morning, be on the road by 4:30 a.m. I get home. By 6:00 p.m., I start my class again from 8:00 p.m. up to 10:00 p.m.

    RITA CHENG: There are so many working adults. This allows students to go at their own pace, balance their family, work and stay on the job, demonstrate what they have learned in their career, and complete the degree.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Northern Arizona University was the first public college to receive accreditation and federal aid for four-year degree students who can move through courses by proving competencies.

    But the program is still very small. So far, only 172 students have graduated.

    Selina Larson is one of them. Selina graduated on the same day as her 22-year-old daughter, Raven. Larson decided on personalized learning after her daughter began classes at NAU’s Flagstaff campus.

    SELINA LARSON, Graduate, Northern Arizona University: I said, you know what, I’m going back to school, and I’m going to finish before you.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Larson did graduate before Raven, by five hours.

    RAVEN LARSON, Graduate, Northern Arizona University: Here’s my hero graduating from college.

    SELINA LARSON: Five hours before you.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Larson did all the course work for a liberal arts bachelor’s degree at their family home in Phoenix. It took her three years.

    SELINA LARSON: I did appreciate having my own timeline. I think that gives you a lot of control, but you have to be very motivated.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The university points to anecdotal success stories, but there’s been little research to show if this new way of learning benefits students. And, for Larson, the process wasn’t always easy. There were technical glitches.

    SELINA LARSON: There could be a struggle with software, where something just went wrong. It doesn’t open. And you can’t get in, and their I.T. can’t help you. So you’re going around in circles sometimes. There’s no office to go to, to talk to somebody.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: President Cheng acknowledges early problems with the software, but says technology has been improving.

    RITA CHENG: Every year, we’re getting better with the technology. And NAU has always been known to adapt to the latest in technology, and we will continue.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: President Cheng herself was a nontraditional student, relying on the U.S. post office and correspondence courses for much of her college work.

    RITA CHENG: I spent seven years and five universities getting a bachelor’s degree. Affordability and access were always important to me.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For Selina Larson, the bachelor’s degree has given her new confidence.

    SELINA LARSON: We’re just this huge, prideful family right now.

    She was super, super proud. I don’t know that it changed how she saw me, but I know that she has, like, this huge sense of pride that I have in her, now she has in me.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And while Terence Burley estimates he still has two years to go, he believes a bachelor’s degree is finally within reach.

    TERENCE BURLEY: I will just take it course by course, and, eventually, I will get there.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Hari Sreenivasan.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We return now to the legacy of the Vietnam War and a story of one woman whose pilot father was shot down over neighboring Laos.

    She went on a mission to find the place he died and some measure of comfort.

    A new film lays out her odyssey along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

    Special correspondent Mike Cerre, a Vietnam veteran himself, reports.

    REBECCA RUSCH, Firefighter: I don’t have any of my own personal memories of my dad. I mean, he left when I was very young. We have very few photos, really just one or two of me with him as a baby.

    MIKE CERRE, Special correspondent: Rebecca Rusch’s father, Steve, was shot down in Laos in 1972 while flying a bombing mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail near the end of the Vietnam War.

    He was listed as MIA, missing in action, most of her life.

    REBECCA RUSCH: This is my remembrance. This is my dad’s crash coordinates, the place really where my life changed. There are the military navigation coordinates that we received years ago.

    And it’s also a remembrance that he’s still a part of my life.

    MIKE CERRE: Rebecca, an Idaho firefighter and endurance mountain bike racer, has spent most of her life wondering about what happened to the father she never had a chance to know. He left for Vietnam when she was only 3 years old.

    REBECCA RUSCH: I’m attached to Vietnam and Southeast Asia for the rest of my life. And I have been attached through my dad my entire life. I just hadn’t really — hadn’t really recognized the depth of it until now.

    There’s a place I have been avoiding for a long time. It’s been in my thoughts for more than 40 years. What happened there long ago set me on this path.

    MIKE CERRE: Rebecca rode nearly 1,200 miles, the length of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, to visit her father’s crash site, both as a memorial tribute to him and for some possible closure to her family’s Vietnam experience the past 45 years.

    Her journey, along with a Vietnamese mountain bike racer, was documented in the theatrical film “Blood Road.”

    REBECCA RUSCH: They call it Blood Road because so many people died there, and countless Americans, countless Vietnamese, Lao, Cambodian.

    And knowing that we were going to travel that path of history, but also that path of death, was very somber.

    There was trepidation about what we were going to find in the jungle, but also this deep sense of remorse and sadness for what this trail represented.

    MIKE CERRE: This critical network of roads, trails and footpaths through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia was used by the North Vietnamese to move troops and supplies to fight in South Vietnam. It was heavily bombed by the Americans.

    REBECCA RUSCH: I really didn’t expect to see so many bomb craters and the land to still be pockmarked with representation of the devastation that happened there.

    I didn’t expect to see so many physical remnants of the war while we were riding. And this included a boat that we took that was a fuel fuselage from an F-4 Phantom, the same plane that my dad flew.

    MIKE CERRE: She also didn’t expect to be greeted so warmly by villagers once they understood her family’s connection to the decade-long bombing campaign that claimed many of their family members.

    REBECCA RUSCH: If someone had come to my house, and her had been dropping bombs on my family, and she came and knocked on my door, would I be as open and welcoming and say, come on in, I want to help you on your mission?

    Sadly, I don’t think that I would be that open. And it was — it’s a big lesson to take from them on forgiveness and getting past the painful history.

    MIKE CERRE: The son of the villager who saw her father’s plane crash in 1972 took her to the site in the jungle where his father buried her father, next to a large tree.

    REBECCA RUSCH: Picking around in the dirt with his machete, he actually found parts of the plane. Finding those pieces and actual remnants made it very real and made it, you know, that this really is the place where dad was. And that’s his gravestone for me.

    MIKE CERRE: There’s very few pictures of you and him.

    REBECCA RUSCH: Yes, this is — this is the one.

    MIKE CERRE: Instead of closure, Rebecca’s journey opened a new chapter in her Vietnam War history, one inspired by how her fathered signed off one of his last letters home to his family.

    REBECCA RUSCH: “I love the flying in the airplane, but I don’t really like the job. Regardless of any opinions I have of this war or any other, I try to rationalize and say it has to be done, but I can’t see any reason why. If anything should happen to me, please don’t let me die. Be good. Steve.”

    MIKE CERRE: Rebecca has gone back to Laos since her initial ride to keep her father’s memory alive, as well as those of the local casualties of the war, whose numbers continue to grow, due to UXOs, the unexploded ordnance that is still injuring another generation of Lao.

    REBECCA RUSCH: Two of the fingers were cut off.

    MIKE CERRE: The United States government estimates that 20 to 30 percent of the bombs dropped here didn’t go off as designed.

    As a result, there may be tens of millions of unexploded ordnance littered around the landscape.

    REBECCA RUSCH: So, this one is safe?

    MAN: Yes, it’s safe. It’s safe too.

    REBECCA RUSCH: This is one safe too?

    MIKE CERRE: To help pay for the clearing of the land of this dangerous legacy of the war, Rebecca is working with local artisans and the New York jewelry company Article 22 on recycling metal from UXOs and parts of downed aircraft like her father’s. A portion of the sales goes to UXO cleanup.

    REBECCA RUSCH: The bracelets, I have had engraved with in my dad’s handwriting the way that he signed his letters home, the words, “Be good.”

    And on the opposite side in my handwriting is the Lao translation of “Be good.” And, really, it does represent a combining of the two cultures and my trip over there.

    The bracelet is not just about my dad or my story or even one person. It’s — you know, there are millions who lost their lives there. And we can look back at our history and be embarrassed or devastated by it or ashamed by it, but then it’s up to us to actually do something to create a better future.

    And that’s what’s happening with my trips back and my partnership with Article 22. And taking mountain bike groups back there is. I feel a responsibility to be part of the change.

    MIKE CERRE: For the PBS NewsHour, Mike Cerre reporting from Xiangkhouang Province, Laos.

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    Screen image of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister, and since 2014 as president, an office he has remade into the nation’s preeminent leader.

    Turkey has been an ally of the U.S. for decades, but that alliance is now tense. A main source of division, U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG, and its related organization, the PYD, which the U.S. is helping fight ISIS in Syria.

    Both groups are allies of Erdogan’s sworn enemy in Turkey, the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group. There are also concerns about the state of Turkish democracy, in the wake of last year’s coup attempt. Erdogan says the FETO organization orchestrated it. That’s his term for a group run by a former ally, Fethullah Gulen. He lives in Pennsylvania, another source of tension with the U.S.

    Erdogan spoke today at the U.N., and he will meet President Trump on Thursday.

    I sat down late yesterday afternoon with him in New York for an exclusive interview.

    President Erdogan, thank you very much for talking with us.

    You’re here to speak to the United Nations and to an American audience.

    What should the American people know about the state of Turkey-United States relations right now?

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey (through interpreter): Of course, Turkey’s relations with the United States date back to a long time in history.

    We have been enjoying very serious relations throughout history within the framework of this strategic partnership. And all throughout the years, this process successfully sustained our strategic partnership, peaking within NATO.

    We are together. We’re allies within NATO. And Turkey is one of the founding members of NATO. And the strategic partnership was then converted into a model partnership. And we have been enjoying the cooperation in that regard.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I ask this because there is some tension in the relationship right now. Just today, it’s reported that the Trump administration has decided not to allow the sale of guns and other weapons to your presidential guards.

    Is this a problem? What does it say about the relationship between Turkey and the U.S.?

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): This is a question that I will be talking about when I get together with President Trump on the 21st, and these are all rumors. There are no statements. And these rumors are not very healthy rumors.

    I just want to address the audience and state the following openly. In Syria, the PYD terrorist organization is present, and the YPG is there as well. And they are extensions of the PKK separatist organization in Turkey. And we are all fighting these extensions of the PKK.

    I know that the United States officially recognized the PKK as a terrorist organization. However, as long as that is the case, the PYD or YPG, which are extensions of the PKK, I don’t think it is the right move to fight Da’esh in Raqqa with those groups. That fight can be conducted with us.

    But I think it’s wrong for the United States to fight terrorism with the YPG or PYD. This is something I have shared with the higher echelons of the United States. We need the fight these terrorists with the United States. And we are not able to acquire those weapons from the United States. Why are you giving weapons to those terrorists, is the question that we ask our friends in the United States.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States, as you know very well, has been saying it depends on the Syrian Kurds to lead the fight, be an important part of the fight against ISIS.

    So, are you saying, unless the U.S. stops working with the Syrian Kurds, that is a deal-breaker in the relationship between Turkey and the U.S., or is there some accommodation here possible?

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): Well, we shouldn’t mix one thing with another.

    First and foremost, this issue has got nothing to do with Kurds. We’re just talking about terrorist organizations. Some of the Kurds in the northern parts of Syria are involved in terrorism. And they are to be called terrorists.

    And some of them are moderate, and they have positive relations with Turkey, and they defend to maintain those positive relations via Turkey. Both of them shouldn’t be confused with another, or else we will have different interpretations of the issue in Turkey.

    I want to highlight this fact, because we’re not against the Kurds. We are against the terrorist organization, and Kurds are our friends.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you are saying that there is an accommodation possible.

    After Raqqa falls, which many expect it to do, after ISIS is driven out of Raqqa, is there an agreement, an understanding between Turkey and the United States about who will be in charge and what role will the YPG play, will other groups play in that area, the Syrian Democratic Forces?

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): Whatever the stance we had embraced via the terrorist organizations on a global scale will be exactly the same views of the YPG. And especially the name Da’esh shouldn’t be confused with the others.

    We are fighting Da’esh in a very committed fashion and very seriously. We have killed more than 3,000 Da’esh terrorists. But we are very saddened to see the following. We’re trying to eradicate one terrorist organization using another terrorist organization as a vessel.

    Right now, the United States is working with the YPG in order to eradicate Da’esh. The United States is using YPG as the land forces to fight Da’esh. But, instead, we said we could be of help there. We are Turkey, and we could do that. Let’s walk hand in hand.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: While we’re talking about the Kurds, next door, in Iraq, there could be a time in the near future when there is a separate Kurdish state. There will be a referendum, it appears.

    Can Turkey live with an independent Kurdish state in Iraq?

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): Well, let me be very clear in my remarks.

    First and foremost, since day one, we have always defended the territorial integrity of Iraq, even though nobody else seems to be doing the same. This referendum shouldn’t be conducted. How can we accept a referendum, as Turkey, when we have a border line of 350 kilometers of Iraq?

    Iran doesn’t seem to agree. The federal state doesn’t seem to agree with the referendum, so how can you make a decision all by yourself as the northern part of Iraq? We do not accept this decision.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Syria. We were talking about Russia is a major player in Syria. Just last week, you announced a multibillion-dollar deal to buy surface-to-air missiles from Russia. Why? And is this a contravention of your commitment to NATO, which you’re a longtime member of?

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter):We have asked for those weapons from many NATO allies, primarily the United States, but we were turned down.

    That’s why we have to resort to other means, because these systems are very important in terms of our defense. We have had discussions and deliberations with Russia, and Russia is willing to support us all the way to a possible joint manufacturing of these missiles.

    It’s quite natural for us to take decisions on our own self-defense mechanisms. The secretary-general of NATO officially declared that every country had the discretion to make up their own mind and take the necessary measures.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Does this mean that you cannot rely on NATO for your defense? And NATO was partly created to defend against Russia, in opposition to Russia. So, is Turkey now closer to Russia or closer to NATO? Where do you place Turkey in that divide?

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): Turkey is a very powerful member of NATO. And why are you standing against such a member of NATO as Turkey? We’re going to pay for these weapons and acquire them.

    But terrorists are being supplied these weapons free of charge; 3,000 trucks carrying these weapons were provided for these terrorists, and we, as a legitimate member, failed to acquire those weapons, and we had requested to acquire Predators or drones from the United States.

    And, for many years, we have never received them. We were not supplied drones, but terrorists are being supplied all those drones and all those weapons. This is unacceptable, and we have to take care of ourselves.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Turkey has for many years sought membership in the European Union. Are you still interested in joining?

    And I say so because there has been a dispute recently. Chancellor Merkel of Germany has said this shouldn’t happen. Is Turkey still interested in being part of the E.U.?

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): Has the E.U. decided to admit Turkey as a full member? They should come up with a statement. Are they going to take us in or not? We are ready for everything and anything, so long as they tell us what they’re going to do.

    We are very sincere, and we expect the exact same from the E.U., to be sincere. But I don’t know to what extent we will be able to tolerate this lingering on. But I think this can only be tolerated to a certain level, and after that threshold, I think Turkey will come to the point where we have to make our own decision.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the sources of tension, a great source of the tension between Turkey and the E.U., Turkey and the United States, has been the strength of the democracy in Turkey.

    Your moves before and especially after the coup attempt in the summer of last year, many people in Turkey, in the government, in the military, in the journalism field, reporters, and others have either been — have either lost their jobs or have been imprisoned, in jail.

    The question from the United States, from many in the U.S. and in Europe, is, is this the permanent course for Turkey, or is this temporary? You have said these people are terrorists, they were attempting to overthrow your government.

    But many of them are schoolteachers, low-level government workers, news reporters. And I think it’s hard for people in the West to understand why you believe so many of them are terrorists.

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): Why are you not calling terrorists what they are? That’s what I’m curious about. Call terrorists terrorists.

    And, secondly, in our country, a terror act involving many individuals with the eventual goal of toppling the government is subject to legal measures to be taken against them, to which we’re committed to staying in the future, because these individuals have infiltrated into law enforcement, into the armed forces.

    They were wearing their uniforms, but they had their terrorist agendas in their minds. And they have infiltrated into the police force, into the ministries of the state. There are many echelons within those institutions bearing titles, having different agendas.

    All of these individuals are subject to prosecution. And their agendas are being identified as a result of the judicial process. The democracy is quite strong in Turkey. Looking at the number of votes cast throughout the elections, you will see that the turnout was around 80 to 85 percent, demonstrating that democracy is quite powerful in Turkey.

    Tayyip Erdogan became the president of the Republic of Turkey with 52 percent of the public vote within the first round of the elections. I was elected as the president, and I’m being called a dictator. However many media outlets in the West, in the United States, I’m being defamed, and they are being very disrespectful.

    We are receiving the full support of our people, and we are continuing down our path.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Under President Trump, this administration, there is — there have been charges filed against some of your presidential security detail because of an incident that happened in Washington last — this summer, when you were visiting, outside the residence of the ambassador.

    You — you disagreed with these charges. You have said the U.S. judicial system is corrupt. Again, fundamental disagreement. Can you do — how can you get along with President Trump, how can you do business with President Trump when there is this fundamental disagreement over what happened that day?

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): I’m very sorry about that.

    Actually, President Trump called me about a week ago about this issue. He said that he was sorry, and he told me that he was going to follow up on this issue when we come to the United States within the framework of an official visit.

    The protesters were insulting us, and they were screaming and shouting. The police failed to intervene properly. And similar protests were seen around the White House as well when we were inside of the embassy residence. The protesters were very close to my car, to my vehicle.

    The PKK terrorists and the FETO terrorists were protesting. These police officers were officers of the state, not the federal government, but they are in charge of maintaining safety around me and security. They failed to do that.

    And, of course, that would be the moment when my personal security would come to my aid and make sure that everything was safe and secure around me.

    I’m going to get together with President Trump on Thursday, and I’m going to talk about these developments in a very extensive fashion. I hope and pray that justice will be served as soon as possible, because I know that the United States is very sensitive in terms of judiciary and in terms of the rule of law and the legal aspects.

    And there will be many other things that we will discuss with President Trump on Thursday.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, President Erdogan, I understand that a number of — there are many Turkish nationals living now in the United States. I think over a million live here in this country.

    Do you have a message for them? Have they made the right decision to live in the United States, to work here?

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): I hope and pray that the U.S. administration and the Turkish descendants will build a bridge between us, and they should sustain this relationship on and on.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Erdogan, thank you very much for talking with us.

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): Thank you.

    The post Erdogan questions why U.S. has armed Syrian Kurdish ‘terrorists,’ disputes claims of dictatorship appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: Senate investigators canceled a private interview with President Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in the Russia connection probe. Leaders of the Intelligence Committee complained that Cohen violated an agreement by releasing a public statement beforehand. Later, they invited him to testify in public.

    The lawyer left the Capitol after 90 minutes, and offered no details about what had happened.

    MICHAEL COHEN, Personal Lawyer for President Trump: It was a request by the Senate Intel to postpone. And I will be back. And I look forward to giving all the information that they are looking for.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Cohen’s statement said that a proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, as the presidential campaign was starting last year, was — quote — “solely a real estate deal and nothing more.”

    Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has been told to expect an indictment. Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Manafort’s contacts in Ukraine and Russia.

    Senate Republicans appeared to gain momentum today in a last-ditch effort to overhaul Obamacare. South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy are pushing a bill to give so-called block grants to states to cover some health care costs, while reshaping and cutting Medicaid.

    They claimed today that they’re close to getting the votes, over staunch Democratic opposition.

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: At the end of the day, I really believe we’re going to get 50 Republican votes. And I make a prediction. There are going to be a lot of Democrats struggling with a no-vote, because at least eight of them, eight of them, their states do far better than Obamacare in terms of funding, and they have more control over the money. And that’s going to be a hard no.

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: No guarantee of a preexisting condition, and an end to Medicaid as we know it. Tens of millions of people could well lose coverage. People who desperately need essential services would lose it.

    Our Republican colleagues don’t seem to care about how this affects the average American.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Vice President Mike Pence met with Senate Republicans today and said that the Trump administration is all in on the plan.

    Turkey has stepped up a show of force along its border with Northern Iraq. It’s aimed at discouraging Iraqi Kurds from holding an independence referendum on Monday. Dozens of Turkish tanks and rocket launchers took up position today. The Turks also staged airstrikes on Kurdish militants. Ankara fears that the vote will embolden Turkey’s own Kurdish population.

    We will hear from the Turkish president right after the news summary.

    In Myanmar, leader Aung San Suu Kyi gave her first national address on the flight of 420,000 Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh. The Rohingyas say they’re fleeing attacks by Myanmar’s military. Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, condemned any human rights violations. She didn’t address U.N. claims that her Buddhist nation is engaged in ethnic cleansing.

    AUNG SAN SUU KYI, De Facto Leader, Myanmar: We are concerned to hear that numbers of Muslims are fleeing across the border to Bangladesh. We want to find out why this exodus is happening. We would like to talk to those who have fled, as well as to those who have stayed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Suu Kyi invited international diplomats to visit Myanmar and see the situation for themselves. But her speech drew a lukewarm response at the U.N. General Assembly.

    In economic news, the once-giant chain Toys ‘R’ Us filed for federal bankruptcy protection today. The company said it’s more than $5 billion in debt. It’s the latest big box retailer to be pushed aside by growing online sales.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 39 points to close at 22370. The Nasdaq rose six, and the S&P 500 added two.

    The post News Wrap: Senate Intelligence Committee cancels private interview with Trump lawyer appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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