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

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    U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) talks to reporters as he arrives for the weekly Republican caucus policy luncheons at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, March 10, 2015. Corker says scrutiny and approval of any nuclear agreement with Iran is essential. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS.

    U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) talks to reporters as he arrives for the weekly Republican caucus policy luncheons at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, March 10, 2015. Corker says scrutiny and approval of any nuclear agreement with Iran is essential. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS.

    WASHINGTON — Top Republicans on a key Senate panel have reached a tentative agreement on a tax plan that would add about $1.5 trillion to the government’s $20 trillion debt over 10 years, according to congressional officials.

    Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, a member of the chamber’s dwindling band of deficit hawks, said on Tuesday that Republicans have “potentially gotten to a very good place” on agreeing to how much the upcoming tax measure might cost, once the Senate’s tax writers have blended together rate cuts, additional revenue raised through curbing tax breaks, and the beneficial effects of what he called “pro-growth tax reform.”

    “We’ll have something for you a little bit later today,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., a participant in the negotiations from the party’s more aggressive side on tax cuts.

    Corker didn’t offer a number, but officials familiar with the Senate Budget panel’s internal discussions said the allowance for the tax measure would amount to $1.5 trillion.

    READ MORE: America’s long, complicated history with tax reform

    The figure would allow deeper cuts to tax rates than would be allowed if Republicans followed through on earlier promises that their upcoming tax overhaul wouldn’t add to the deficit. That would represent an about-face for top Capitol Hill Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who had for months promised it would not add to the budget deficit, currently estimated to rise to about $700 billion this year.

    Corker said he’s willing to be flexible with revenue estimates and said, “I’m all for pro-growth tax reform but over a decade it needs to pay for itself per valid models.”

    The divide between the Senate GOP’s deficit hawk and “supply side” wings has to be overcome before action on this fall’s tax measure can commence in earnest. Republicans preached a hard line on the deficit while Barack Obama was president but are taking a more lenient approach now that President Donald Trump is occupying the Oval Office.

    The divide between the Senate GOP’s deficit hawk and “supply side” wings has to be overcome before action on this fall’s tax measure can commence in earnest. Republicans preached a hard line on the deficit while Barack Obama was president but are taking a more lenient approach now that President Donald Trump is occupying the Oval Office.

    Unlike the House, Senate Republicans aren’t planning to pair the tax measure with spending cuts.

    The work of the budget panel is critical since Republicans need to agree on a Capitol Hill budget plan in order to pass a follow-up tax bill that’s a top priority of Trump and a centerpiece of the party’s fall agenda without fear of a filibuster by Democrats. But both House and Senate Republicans are divided and the budget debate is months behind schedule.

    Earlier Tuesday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., one of the budget panel’s more ardent advocates of tax cuts, said a 10-year, $1.5 trillion tax cut “ought to be a minimum.”

    Proponents of strict government spending policies swiftly condemned the apparent agreement, warning of further ballooning of the national debt.

    “With the U.S. in such a dangerous fiscal situation, policymakers shouldn’t even consider voluntarily adding another $1.5 trillion to our national debt,” Michael Peterson, president of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, said in a statement. “Reaching $20 trillion in debt should be a wake-up call to solve our fiscal challenges, not an invitation to add to the problem.”

    READ MORE: Congress started September with a packed agenda. Here’s what it has (and hasn’t) done so far.

    Many Republicans in Washington promise that cutting corporate and individual rates and ridding the code of inefficient tax breaks, deductions, and preferences will boost the economy and cause a burst of new revenue. But the outlines of their tax plan itself remain secret, and it’s not clear how successful they will be in cleaning up the loophole-choked tax code.

    Congress’ impartial scorekeepers have accepted the premise of such “dynamic scoring,” but past studies by the Joint Tax Committee and Congressional Budget Office have been cautious about how much economic growth and tax revenues would follow tax cuts. Corker said he wouldn’t feel bound by conservative estimates from Capitol Hill scorekeepers, raising the possibility of using analysis from outside economists.

    The development also means, under the tricky Senate rules governing fast-track debate on the budget and taxes, some of the provisions in the upcoming tax measure would have to be temporary.

    Corker on Monday opposed an overwhelmingly popular defense measure that would smash the budget, saying “the inability to get our fiscal house in order is the greatest threat to our country.”

    “There’s a spectrum of opinion inside our conference,” Johnson told reporters who encountered him on a Senate sidewalk Tuesday morning. “We should be doing everything to grow our economy and part of that is as aggressive pro-growth tax reform as we can get.”

    The post AP Report: GOP tentatively agrees to $1.5 trillion plan on tax cuts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As this afternoon’s earthquake struck Mexico, another hurricane, Maria, was blasting the Northern Caribbean.

    It’s a Category 5, the strongest on the scale, and, in its wake, there’s major destruction and at least one death.

    Howling winds of 160 miles an hour and driving rain battered the tiny targets of Guadeloupe and Dominica during the night. Before being rescued, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit posted live updates from his home, describing the merciless winds, and saying, “We pray for its end.”

    Then, minutes later: “My roof is gone. I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding.”

    Today, all communications were cut with Dominica. And on Guadeloupe, people waded through floodwaters several feet deep, with cars and buildings partly submerged.

    As night came on, the storm roared toward the U.S. Virgin Islands, just days after Hurricane Irma’s destruction forced more than 2,000 people to evacuate to Puerto Rico. Maria is on track to pass directly over St. Croix in the Virgin Islands overnight, and then slam into Puerto Rico by early tomorrow morning.

    Puerto Rico avoided much of Irma’s wrath, but still suffered an estimated $1 billion in damage. Now much worse may lie in store.

    Weary residents on Puerto Rico had just started to clear debris and un-board homes after Irma.

    ROBERTO LEWIS, Puerto Rico Resident (through interpreter): Puerto Rico is not prepared for this. We are going to have a bad time of it. We ask almighty God that we get through this without serious damage.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose rolled up the Atlantic today, spinning off rip currents and big waves along the U.S. East Coast. It is not expected to come ashore.

    Hurricane Irma devastated the U.S. Virgin Islands and now they sit directly in Maria’s path.

    Kenneth Mapp is governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. We spoke by phone a short time ago.

    Governor Kenneth Mapp, thank you very much for talking with us.

    Coming so soon after Hurricane Irma, how are you preparing? How are you trying to make sure people are safe?

    GOV. KENNETH MAPP, U.S. Virgin Islands: We have come to really anticipate that they’re going to have some rooms breached, maybe some windows blown out.

    You’re going to get wet. You’re going to lose your personal belongings. But we want you is to be safe. And we just went through that 12 days ago on the island of St. Thomas and St. John, with a Cat 5 called Hurricane Irma.

    We were pleased that, notwithstanding the devastation, we didn’t see any number, any marked number of folks with broken bones, cuts and gashes, and our loss of life still remains at four. And so I think we’re literally doing the same thing all over again, except for the southern part of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At this hour, Governor Mapp, what is your main worry?

    GOV. KENNETH MAPP: Protection of folks, protection of life. Folks are off the street. We have got the shelters open. Folks are in the shelter. And so my biggest priority at this moment and for the next eight hours is the protection of lives and their safety.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Governor, we wish you and all the people of the Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the very best as you try to withstand the storm in the coming hours. Best of luck, and we will talk to you on the other side.

    GOV. KENNETH MAPP: Thank you, Judy. Take care. Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Puerto Rico dodged the worst of Irma, but now faces a direct hit from Maria.

    Ricardo Rossello is Puerto Rico’s governor.

    Governor Rossello, thank you very much for talking with us.

    A dire warning from your public safety commissioner, telling people if they live in wooden or flimsy houses to get out, or they’re going to die.

    GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, Puerto Rico: This is the strongest storm that Puerto Rico will face in over a century.

    So, the danger is real. And the comments made by officials were directed at making people aware that this is not your average storm. This is going to have grave impact on infrastructure. It’s going to provoke a lot of flooding, sustained winds of 160 miles an hour.

    So we wanted to make sure people were really aware and cognizant of the need to move to one of our 500 shelters or other family shelters, but to be safe. And once the storm passes, we can start the rebuilding process.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Are people following those directions? Are you feeling confident about how prepared you are?

    GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO: There’s typically sort of a late exponential push of people coming into the shelters.

    Right now, I’m happy to start seeing those flow in. We have a dashboard as far as tabulating all of the people the are going in. In the outset, we were a little bit nervous, as with Hurricane Irma, but shortly and quickly right now, people are flocking in.

    And it’s for the best, really. We haven’t faced a storm of the ferocity that this storm possesses. And it’s better to be safe than sorry and either lose a love one or lose one’s life at this point.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We know that Puerto Rico has been under some financial strain in recent years. Is that in any way affecting your ability to be ready for this?

    GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO: Not at all. We know what priorities are. And our priority right now is to make sure that we save people’s lives.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Governor Ricardo Rossello, thank you very much. And we wish you the very best in the hours to come.

    GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO: Thank you. Thank you, Judy.

    The post First Irma, now Maria. Here’s how U.S. territories are preparing for disaster appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In another major story today: An earthquake shook Central Mexico, knocking down buildings and killing at least 61 people. The quake measured 7.1 and was centered about 75 miles southeast of Mexico City.

    Richard Ensor is the Mexico City bureau chief for The Economist magazine. We spoke just a short time ago by telephone.

    Richard Ensor, thank you very much for talking with us.

    What are you seeing? What is the very latest from Mexico City?

    RICHARD ENSOR, The Economist: Well, I’m just outside of Mexico City in a town called (INAUDIBLE) which is much closer to where the epicenter of this earthquake was.

    And there are collapsed buildings. There are rescue operations under way. I’m currently outside one right now. And there’s a lot of activity. There’s a tall building where the dome of the building has fallen off and then crushed a bus.

    And it seems that people — nobody seems to know whether there are going to be any people inside the building. But it’s a very, very somber occasion. And this area is incredibly shocked, especially after having (INAUDIBLE)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We know this is a very populated area, of course, Mexico City itself and the area around it. What did you feel?

    RICHARD ENSOR: So, I felt this impact a lot stronger than I did the previous one, even though (INAUDIBLE) a 7.1, the magnitude, from the 8.2 two weeks ago.

    I saw — I was in a place with a pool, with a swimming pool. And I saw the swimming pool splashing around and moving from side to side. The buildings were (INAUDIBLE) loudly and, of course, the students in the school were incredibly scared.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re seeing images of people in the streets looking pretty frightened. How are people handling this right now? And do you — is the country prepared in any way to deal with this crisis?

    RICHARD ENSOR: Well, this one is going to hit some of the population centers like Mexico City a lot harder than the previous earthquake did, because the epicenter is so close.

    There are areas in Mexico City that are built on very shallow and soft ground, so the buildings are prone to coming down very easily. One of the things that was commented on after the previous earthquake was that a lot had been earned since the horrible earthquake in 1985, which killed 10,000 people, and that a lot of lessons about building regulations and emergency response had been learned.

    This is a stronger earthquake. So, we will have a real test of how the country’s emergency services hold up. I know that President Pena has been very active on social media, putting out information and drawing together a national plan of action.

    On the ground here, in Morelos, the epicenter of the quake, the local services are working as hard as they can to find any survivors in the rubble as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Richard Ensor, the Mexico City bureau chief for The Economist magazine, thank you very much, and we wish you the best.

    RICHARD ENSOR: Thank you.

    The post Powerful 7.1 earthquake will test Mexico’s emergency response appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: For President Trump today, a time to press a new world view and lay down the law. It was his inaugural address to the U.N. General Assembly.

    Lisa Desjardins has our report.

    MAN: His excellency, Donald Trump, president of the United States of America.

    LISA DESJARDINS: At the U.N., stepping onto the literal world stage, President Trump spoke with uncompromising words.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: As president of the United States, I will always put America first. Just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.

    LISA DESJARDINS: He had one key word, sovereign, something he said more than 20 times.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Strong sovereign nations let their people take ownership of the future and control their own destiny.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The U.S. will work with other countries, Mr. Trump said, but expect to benefit more from the effort. He outlined a possible doctrine.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are guided by outcomes, not ideology. We have a policy of principled realism, rooted in shared goals, interests and values. That realism forces us to confront a question facing every leader and nation in this room. Will we slide down the path of complacency, numb to the challenges, threats and even wars that we face.

    Or do we have enough strength and pride to confront those dangers today, so that our citizens can enjoy peace and prosperity tomorrow?

    LISA DESJARDINS: The president painted those dangers in stark and specific strokes.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The scourge of our planet today is a small group of rogue regimes that violate every principle on which the United Nations is based. They respect neither their own citizens nor the sovereign rights of their countries. If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Chief among the wicked few, North Korea, its leader, Kim Jong-un, and its missile tests and nuclear explosions. The president was blunt.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

    Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The president next turned to Iran, lambasting recent missile tests and its relationship with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Monitors have found Iran is sticking to the terms of the nuclear deal, but Mr. Trump warned again the U.S. might pull out.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered in to. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you have heard the last of it, believe me.

    LISA DESJARDINS: In all, the president singled out five nations, North Korea, Iran, Syria, and, in this hemisphere, Cuba and Venezuela.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.

    LISA DESJARDINS: This was part of a broader theme, a return to a pointed, ardent defense of democracy vs. socialism.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Later, Venezuela’s foreign minister complained the speech smacked of a bygone era.

    JORGE ARREAZA, Foreign Minister, Venezuela: This return to the cold world, for a moment, we didn’t know if we were listening to President Reagan in 1982 or to President Trump in 2017.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, joined in the criticism. In a tweet, he called the Trump address hate speech.

    Overall, the president’s speech was a vision of self-interest and nationalism across the world.

    DONALD TRUMP: Are we still patriots? Do we love our nations enough to protect their sovereignty and to take ownership of their futures?

    LISA DESJARDINS: The president said history will tell whether the leaders are up to the task.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Lisa Desjardins.

    The post Trump urges more nationalist worldview in first UN address appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks during a news conference on "the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal to reform healthcare" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas - RC11F81EA650

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks about the Republicans’ new health care bill on Capitol Hill on Sept. 13, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

    The heart monitor on the Republican health care reform effort is suddenly beeping again, thanks to four GOP senators who released a 140-page bill that’s keeping conservative hope for overhauling the Affordable Care Act alive.

    How does this latest bill — backed by Republicans Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — compare with the two major GOP efforts that failed earlier this year? (That would be the House-passed “American Health Care Act” and Senate Republican leaders’ “Better Care Reconciliation Act”).

    They all effectively wipe out Obamacare’s mandates to buy insurance, give more power to states and dramatically alter Medicaid, the health care program for the poor.

    But the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson measure stands out for its much more aggressive proposal to shift funding to states. It would move a trillion dollars in federal health care spending directly to states, in a formula the senators say would be based on the state’s percentage of lower-income people and (to a lesser degree) older and sicker residents.

    This chart breaks down the differences.

    The post What’s in the new GOP health care bill, in one (simple) chart appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen on stage during a town hall at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California, in 2015. Photo by Stephen Lam/Reuters

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen on stage during a town hall at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Photo by Stephen Lam/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate intelligence committee says Facebook should testify as part of its probe into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, and that the social media giant “seems to have been less than forthcoming” with Congress.

    Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said Tuesday that committee members agreed the panel should hold a public hearing after it was revealed earlier this month that hundreds of phony Facebook accounts, likely run from Russia, spent about $100,000 on ads aimed at stirring up divisive issues such as gun control and race relations during the 2016 campaign. The panel is one of several in Congress probing Russian interference and any connections to President Donald Trump’s campaign.

    MORE: What’s been happening in the Russia probe? Here’s what we know

    “Facebook seems to have been less than forthcoming on potentially how they were used,” Burr said, adding that it’s “just a question of when, and potentially the scope of what that hearing would be.”

    “Facebook seems to have been less than forthcoming on potentially how they were used,” Sen. Burr said, adding that it’s “just a question of when, and potentially the scope of what that hearing would be.”

    Facebook has briefed members of Congress and also provided the ads and other information to Robert Mueller, the special counsel in charge of the Russia investigation, the company said. In all, the accounts purchased some 3,000 ads between June 2015 and May 2017. While the ads didn’t specifically reference the election, a candidate or voting, they nevertheless allowed “divisive messages” to be amplified via the social media platform, the company’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, said in a statement Sept. 7.

    In addition to the 470 accounts that appeared to be run from Russia, Stamos said its investigators also discovered an additional $50,000 in spending via 2,200 ads that “might have originated in Russia,” even including ads purchased by accounts with IP addresses in the U.S. but set to Russian in the language settings.

    READ MORE: Facebook may be facing an ‘era of accountability’

    Lawmakers have said they want to know more about the content of the ads pushed out by the Russian-based Internet Research Agency and whether they targeted specific voters or locations in the United States.

    The company has come under intense pressure since the election to curb the flow of false information. After the election, it updated its advertising policy to say it wouldn’t run spots that are “illegal, misleading or deceptive, which includes fake news.”

    Burr said a hearing could likely involve Twitter and other social media companies as well. He said the panel hasn’t yet issued any invitations, but a hearing would be this fall.

    Asked if he expected Facebook to be open to a public hearing, Burr said the company has “expressed they don’t have anything to hide, so a public hearing would be very appropriate.”

    Facebook didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

    The post Facebook should testify in Russia probe, Senate intelligence chairman says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Este mapa muestra datos actuales generados por el Centro Nacional de Huracanes, que está siguiendo la trayectoria del huracán María.

    El miércoles, el huracán de Categoría 4 azotó a Puerto Rico después de pasar por Dominica y las Islas Vírgenes de los Estados Unidos a principios de la semana. Abner Gómez, director de la Agencia Estatal para el Manejo de Emergencias y Administración de Desastres, dijo que toda la isla ha perdido electricidad, según el periódico El Nuevo Día. Se calcula que habrá entre 12 a 18 pulgadas de precipitación en la isla.

    Después de varias horas, se espera que el huracán se mueva sobre el Océano Atlántico, posiblemente ganando fuerza.

    El huracán ha matado a por lo menos siete personas en la isla de Dominica y a dos personas en el territorio francés de Guadalupe, según informes de prensa.

    Siga nuestra cobertura completa del huracán María aquí, y a nuestras actualizaciones en Facebook y Twitter. Además, el Miami Herald está publicando actualizaciones en vivo.

    Find a version of this post in English here.

    The post Mapa en vivo: Sigue la trayectoria del huracán María appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Police in riot gear and a protester stand near a burned U.S. flag after the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis police officer charged with the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. Sept. 17. Photo by Lawrence Bryant/Reuters

    Police in riot gear and a protester stand near a burned U.S. flag after the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis police officer charged with the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Lawrence Bryant/Reuters

    All eyes are on the U.S. this week, where world leaders from 193 countries are gathered for the annual summit of the United Nationals General Assembly — a body President Donald Trump sharply criticized as a candidate for being inefficient and wasteful.

    In his Tuesday speech to the summit, Mr. Trump avoided threats to cut funding to the U.N. (The U.S. contributes about 22 percent of the international body’s general budget, and Trump has said multiple times he doesn’t think the country is getting enough of a return on that investment). But he pledged to put America first, renewing his threats against a “wicked few” countries, including North Korea.

    “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” the president said.

    The remarks took many diplomats by surprise, while others worried they would “sound alarm bells in the region.” As Trump continues to meet with other world leaders at the U.N., here are five stories you may have overlooked.

    1. Irma’s damage lingers on the U.S. Virgin Islands as locals brace for Hurricane Maria

    A resident of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands surveys his home on September 16, 2017, almost two weeks after Hurricane Irma wrought havoc to the island. Now, the islands are under hurricane watch as Hurricane Irma approaches. Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan

    A resident of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands surveys his home on September 16, 2017, almost two weeks after Hurricane Irma wrought havoc to the island. Now, the islands are under hurricane watch as Hurricane Maria approaches. Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan

    Hurricane Irma raked through the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sept. 6 with Category 5 winds of 150 mph that battered the tropical territory to near total destruction. Most media coverage focused on the storm’s impact on the Florida coast. But the islands of St. Thomas and St. John, two of the three main islands that make up the U.S. territory, received the full brunt of the storm.

    St. John was the hardest hit, with lashing winds that tore off roofs and ripped down power lines. The once-green tropical vegetation turned brown as trees were stripped bare and debris filled the streets. Most of the island remains without electricity, and it is likely that power won’t be restored for months, the Washington Post reported. Four deaths have been reported across the islands, not including a man who died after being electrocuted last Tuesday while helping to restore power, the Associated Press reported.

    Hotels suffered major damage, further hampering the recovery of the territory’s tourism-driven economy. “This means people aren’t getting incomes on top of already losing their homes. They’re not getting the paycheck that they so badly need to maybe evacuate to Puerto Rico or the mainland,” Jordyn Holman of Bloomberg told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff.

    Thousands of locals and visitors stranded on the islands have evacuated since the storm. Pregnant women and children in particular have decided to leave, St. Thomas resident and former first lady of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Cecile de Jongh, told the NewsHour. “What happens after a hurricane is usually you get a lot of mosquitoes because there’s a lot of standing water. So there is fear of Zika and dengue,” de Jongh said.

    St. Croix fared better during the storm and, along with Puerto Rico, has been helping its sister islands by delivering supplies including food, water, diapers and baby formula on private boats. “Everyday private citizens have been heroic,” de Jongh added.

    Why it’s important

    The U.S. Virgin Islands has endured hurricanes before, including Hugo in 1989 and Marilyn in 1995, but none have been like this. And while local and federal authorities have worked around the clock on recovery efforts, “the bottom line is we’re getting tremendous help from our federal partners, but the U.S. Virgin Islands need help,” U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp told NPR.

    President Trump issued a major disaster declaration for the islands on Sept. 7, allowing $223 million in emergency federal funding for relief efforts. Three days later, he authorized additional disaster assistance for recovery efforts, including debris removal. The president said he plans to visit the islands but a date has not yet been set.

    But the long-term concern, says Rep. Stacey Plaskett, U.S. Virgin Islands’ delegate to the House of Representatives, is how the U.S. federal government will continue to respond. “We’ve had disparity of treatment before. We have not gotten the same support in the aid from federal government that the States have and so now it’s that fight to not be forgotten,” she told MSNBC.

    Live map: Track Hurricane Maria’s path

    Residents of the islands are U.S. citizens, but many feel excluded and fear that media coverage on the mainland does not depict the full extent of destruction on the islands, a problem compounded by the fact that internet and cellular service is limited on the islands, de Jongh said.

    The islands are now bracing for the impact of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island of Dominica late Monday with Category 5 strength and is blamed for one death on the French island of Guadalupe. Maria is forecast to be catastrophic for the island of St. Croix with hurricane-force winds of category. The U.S. Virgin Islands was still facing 5 to 15 inches of rain, threatening flooding and mudslides, as the hurricane made its way toward Puerto Rico.

    Hurricane Irma recovery efforts and distribution of supplies were put on hold Monday evening in preparation for the storm. “We are no longer in a recovery mode,” Gov. Mapp said in a news conference Sunday afternoon. “It’s protection and shelter from this point forward.”

    2. Why is unrest continuing in St. Louis?

    Police in riot gear and a protester stand near a burned U.S. flag after the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis police officer charged with the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. Sept. 17. Photo by Lawrence Bryant/Reuters

    Police in riot gear and a protester stand near a burned U.S. flag after the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis police officer charged with the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. Sept. 17. Photo by Lawrence Bryant/Reuters

    Authorities in St. Louis erected barricades at various locations downtown and around its police department weeks before a verdict in the murder trial of a former officer in the death of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith was announced.

    Activists had promised protests should the judge find the officer not guilty, but criticized the decision to erect the barricades, with at least one Ferguson demonstrator saying the move was a form of intimidation.

    “Due to recent events around the country, we are being proactive in ensuring the safety of citizens,” the authorities said in a statement, defending the move.

    The barriers highlighted the raised tensions between the community and the authorities and was a preamble to the protests — most peaceful, some violent — that did occur after a Missouri judge ruled that Jason Stockley, who is white, was not guilty in Smith’s death.

    READ MORE: What’s happening in St. Louis?

    There have been dozens of arrests in the days since, along with reports of damaged businesses and injured police officers as a result of an unruly subgroup of protesters, as demonstrations have continued.

    Why it’s important

    As NewsHour’s Joshua Barajas wrote in a quick recap of Smith’s death, the original case predates the police killings of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, two years later.

    The latest not-guilty verdict “is the latest in a line of high-profile police shooting cases that have ended this summer with no convictions, despite video and audio evidence used by state prosecutors in the courtroom. Convictions in officer-involved shootings are rare,” he writes.

    The Stockley trial is at least the fifth case in the country since this summer in which an officer was not convicted in a high-profile shooting. Last week, the Department of Justice also announced it wouldn’t bring federal civil rights charges against six Baltimore officers in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody.

    As protests continued, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, who is white, was criticized by both protesters and the police department for not being supportive enough, The New York Times reported. But the mayor maintained that her measured approach to the unrest is best. “I do understand both sides of this road,” she said.

    The unrest in St. Louis also follows Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision last week to “course correct” a volunteer-based program designed to help local police departments rebuild trust between their officers and the communities they swore to protect.

    Sessions said in a statement that the restructuring of DOJ’s program for the Community Oriented Policing Services Office (COPS Office) will “ensure that resources go to agencies that require assistance rather than expensive wide-ranging investigative assessments that go beyond the scope of technical assistance and support.”

    As BuzzFeed News noted in its report, the COPS Office hasn’t issued any assessments for police departments that sought guidance on reforms since President Donald Trump has taken office. On the list of police departments who are due for a follow-up report: St. Louis County.

    3. The homeless population increased by triple digits in some rural California counties

    Without identification,  Janea Barton, seen leaving California for las Vegas, can't find work. Homeless and pregnant, Janea faces the uncertainty of the future for her unborn child.  Photo by Gail Fisher/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

    California has long had a problem with homelessness. But it’s where exactly that population is booming that’s catching state officials by surprise. Photo by Gail Fisher/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

    The homeless population in California has risen 15 percent in the past two years. It now stands at 135,139 — a record high for the state, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote last week, and the highest of any other place included in the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s biennial homelessness count.

    California has long had a problem with homelessness. But what’s catching officials by surprise is where exactly that population is booming.

    Counties along the state’s Western border — rural, blue-collar communities where Californians have often sought refuge from the tech boom and the crippling cost of living that has come with it — saw as much as a 128 percent rise in homelessness over the past few years, according to last week’s analysis of preliminary HUD data by the Chronicle.

    City and business leaders in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco, whose issues with homelessness have been well-documented, have poured money into programs to get residents off the streets. Those places saw their homelessness populations stay stagnant or rise slightly (which, in many cases, still meant a double digit increase). But communities like El Dorado County, which saw a 122 percent increase in its homelessness population over the past two years, are starting from scratch, as metropolitan areas did a decade or more ago, Kevin Fagan and Alison Graham write. “Until recently, they left the heavy lifting for handling transients to nonprofits like churches and charities.”

    Why it’s important

    The rise in homeless individuals in California was sparked by a perfect storm of rising median rents and housing prices — which rose as much as 55 percent in the hardest-hit counties, according to the Chronicle analysis — and wages that can’t keep pace with inflation.

    A third of renters spend more than half of their paychecks on rent, CalMatters explains in its exhaustive analysis of the state’s housing market. “Half the state’s households struggle to afford the roof over their heads. Homeownership — once a staple of the California dream — is at its lowest rate since World War II.”

    While a Census report last week indicated the median income nationwide had reached an all-time high of $59,000 in 2016, that varies by place and among different populations. At $10.85 an hour, California has a higher minimum wage than many other states, but it buys less — about half what it did in 1980, one expert told the Chronicle. Meanwhile, the median home in California is 2.5 times more expensive than it is nationally, Matt Levin of CalMatters noted recently in the Detroit Press.

    One of the biggest problems California faces is that there simply aren’t enough houses for the homeless, even if they connect with the help they need to get off the streets. State lawmakers passed a sweeping package of legislation Friday that, among other things, would subsidize rent for low-income housing and also ease restrictions to make it easier for builders to construct more affordable units.

    Will it actually help? At this point, KPCC says, it’s too early to tell. But here are ways the new rules could make the problem better or worse.

    4. The EPA plans to close its Houston Lab

    The Environmental Protection Agency is set to close its Houston facility. But no one at the EPA has announced how, or even if, the lab will continue.

    In an effort to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise of reducing the EPA and cutting back staff by a quarter, the lab, which employs 50 people, will shut its doors in 2020 when the lease expires.

    CNN reported that “a spokesperson who declined to speak on the record said the lab ‘is too big and is more space than EPA needs,’ and insisted the staffing level would remain the same wherever the new lab is located.” Yet the EPA recently offered buyouts to 12 employees at the lab, The Houston Chronicle reported, three of whom accepted.

    The Houston EPA Region 6 environmental services lab is one of 10 regional labs and 37 total EPA labs. It serves a five state region including New Mexico, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas. It employs 50 people including hazardous waste inspectors, chemists and biologists, who focus on testing samples from Superfund sites, areas identified by the federal government as being contaminated with hazardous pollutants. Now, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, they have added testing water for the recovery effort to their docket.

    Why it’s important

    A man wades through floodwater after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Texas Gulf coast with rain causing widespread flooding, in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 28, 2017. Picture taken August 28, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Nick Oxford

    A man wades through floodwater after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Texas Gulf coast with rain causing widespread flooding, in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 28, 2017. Picture taken August 28, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Nick Oxford

    According to an internal agency memo first obtained by CNN, all headquarter and regional EPA offices across the country have been instructed to reduce their amount of leased space by the end of 2017. The reporting by CNN and The Houston Chronicle is one of the first signs some offices are actively working to meet that deadline.

    The news of the planned closure in Houston comes on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, as staff are playing a key role in the long recovery from the storm.

    With 13 Superfund sites in Harris County, many of which were flooded during the hurricane, scientists at the lab are being dispatched to test the air, soil, and water in the area for contaminants, advising people on when it is safe for them to return home. Closing the lab could mean that samples would need to be sent to other sites for testing. The closest such lab is 400 miles away in Ada, Oklahoma, which could hinder the EPA’s ability to respond to disasters in the Houston area. Another alternative could mean the testing is carried out by independent contractors.

    Beyond Harvey, environmentalists are also concerned about what a closure could means for the Gulf Coast, which has a high concentration of petrochemical facilities — the highest in the country. It’s a heavy workload for one of the biggest areas of the country, and critics of the closure worry less lab space will hurt the ability of scientists to carry out their work.

    5. It’s hard out here for a peach

    Georgia Peach. Photo by  Chris Fannin, <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/abbydonkrafts/191205607/in/photolist-hTYLp-6L596x-6L9kDh-AEbsh-BjT4Fk-FvaD-WXRYVW-iTxDf-apafb-iBUkb-5mCHGq-8CY2WR-5g7wqk-34eBuQ-bfDSeD-nApJA-2KwfgZ-HsBuQG-ATiaeF-y23UF6-RuS3pJ-HQ1unb-dBundn-e2pHv4-7vxyyf-6aXnfE-8NsYBu-bw6B6i-bw6Bfi-6DQNZs-SxAsMq-eGxNyi-LPrQWE-872Cd2-875Nkj-872Bmx-875NbG-872C5P-872AQt-872AWc-875N3b-875PwS-875NSJ-872ApB-872Ayt-875PfE-875M7m-6N1s2m-8jvnZ4-76NVTJ">via Creative Commons/Flickr</a>.

    Georgia Peach. Photo by
    Chris Fannin, via Creative Commons/Flickr.

    It was a bad year to be a peach in Georgia.

    The Peach State, which usually produces 30,000 to 40,000 tons of the juicy summer fruit a year, produced less than half of that, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture analyzed by FiveThirtyEight.

    The culprit: A warm winter, which destroyed about 85 percent of the state’s peach crops.

    Peaches “need cold like you need sleep, not just any sleep but dream-state sleep, the deeper and more sustained the better. This year, they did not get it,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote in interviews with farmers about what happened.
    FiveThirtyEight pins the problem specifically on the winter’s lack of “chill hours,” the amount of time the temperature dipped below 45 degree fahrenheit. Last year, when the state produced more than 43,000 tons of peaches, the winter gave crops about 600 chill hours, according to FiveThirtyEight’s analysis. This year, peach trees and other crops only got 400 chill hours. But both are far below the historical average.

    Why it’s important
    This summer was bad for peach lovers. But it likely foreshadowed even more bad produce to come, particularly for fruit and nuts that also grow on trees, like cherries and almonds, FiveThirtyEight says:

    “Farmers have always been at the mercy of the environment, but now agricultural catastrophes brought on by warm winters seem likely to occur with greater frequency.”

    How well the sweet Georgia peach fares next year depends on the upcoming winter. You can see the full prediction here. (But be warned, fruit fans: you probably won’t like it).

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

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    A rescue dog and his trainer work on the rubble of a collapsed building after an earthquake hit Mexico City, Mexico September 20, 2017. REUTERS

    A rescue dog and his trainer work on the rubble of a collapsed building after an earthquake hit Mexico City, Mexico on September 20, 2017. REUTERS

    Two major earthquakes have rattled Mexico over the past two weeks, one of them striking on the anniversary of Mexico City’s 1985 quake, its largest ever.

    As people just began to regroup after the first earthquake’s destruction, Tuesday’s 7.1 magnitude shock downed power lines and leveled buildings including offices, homes, and a school where 21 children died. With many people homeless and at least 200 reported dead, rescuers are working around the clock to look for victims.

    Here’s how you can provide support to relief and recovery efforts:

  • Project Paz was started by a group of Mexican friends in New York to help children affected by drug-related violence in Mexico. Now they are turning their attention to the victims of the earthquakes in Mexico
  • Save the Children is also on the ground, responding with disaster relief efforts to help children affected by the quakes.
  • The Global Giving Mexico Relief Fund is collecting donations to help earthquake survivors with supplies such as food, water, and medicine. They will also provide long-term assistance to help residents rebuild.
  • The International Community Foundation has established an earthquake disaster relief fund to help local organizations meet short-term basic needs, and assist in long-term recovery efforts.
  • Funds donated to Oxfam Mexico will go toward protecting lives and rebuilding after natural disasters.
  • UNICEF Mexico, which typically works to protect children’s rights in Mexico, has launched an earthquake relief fund.
  • A team from Red Cross Mexico is on the ground in Mexico tending to the injured.

    People that are located in Mexico and want to donate supplies can find a list of drop off locations here.

    If you have information about a victim or are searching for a loved one, you can get help or share information via Google’s Peoplefinder portal and visit this public Google Doc, which lists the names of rescued people.

    Usted puede encontrar la versión en Español aquí.

    The post Here’s how you can help victims of the Mexico earthquake appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Un perro de rescate y su entrenador trabajan sobre los escombros de un edificio derrumbado después de que un terremoto golpeó a la Ciudad de México septiembre 20, 2017.  REUTERS

    Un perro de rescate y su entrenador trabajan sobre los escombros de un edificio derrumbado después de que un terremoto golpeó a la Ciudad de México septiembre 20, 2017. REUTERS

    Usted puede encontrar la versión en inglés aquí.

    Dos grandes terremotos han agitado a México en las últimas dos semanas, uno de ellos ocurrió durante el aniversario del terremoto de 1985 en la Ciudad de México.

    Mientras la gente comenzaba a recuperarse después de la destrucción del primer terremoto, el terremoto de magnitud de 7,1 grados del martes derribó líneas eléctricas y derrumbó edificios, incluyendo oficinas, hogares y una escuela donde murieron 21 niños. Con muchas personas sin hogar y por lo menos 200 reportados muertos, los equipos de rescate están trabajando todo el día para buscar víctimas.

    Le mostramos cómo puede proporcionar apoyo a los esfuerzos de alivio y recuperación:

  • Proyect Paz fue iniciado por un grupo de amigos mexicanos en Nueva York para ayudar a los niños afectados por la violencia relacionada a las drogas en México. Ahora están dirigiendo su atención a las víctimas de México.
  • Save the Children también está respondiendo con los esfuerzos de ayuda de desastre para ayudar a los niños en México.
  • Global Giving Mexico Relief Fund está recolectando donaciones para ayudar a los sobrevivientes del terremoto con suministros como comida, agua y medicinas. También proveerán ayuda a largo plazo para ayudar a los residentes reconstruir.
  • International Community Foundation ha establecido un fondo de alivio para ayudar a las organizaciones locales conseguir las necesidades básicas a corto plazo y las necesidades de recuperación a largo plazo.
  • Los fondos donados a Oxfam Mexico ayudarán a proteger vidas y reconstruir después de desastres naturales.
  • UNICEF Mexico, que típicamente trabaja para proteger los derechos de los niños en México, ha lanzado un fondo de alivio para terremotos.
  • Un equipo de Cruz Roja México está en en México atendiendo a los heridos.

    Las personas que están ubicadas en México y quieren donar suministros pueden encontrar una lista de lugares de entrega aquí.

    Si tiene información sobre una víctima o está buscando a un ser querido, puede obtener ayuda o compartir información a través del portal Peoplefinder de Google y visitar este Google Doc público, que muestra los nombres de personas rescatadas.

    [READ MORE: Here’s how you can help victims of the Mexico earthquake.]

    The post Así es como puedes ayudar a las víctimas del terremoto en México appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sept. 8. Photo by Osman Orsal/Reuters

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sept. 8, 2017. Photo by Osman Orsal/Reuters

    The White House on Wednesday refuted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s claim that President Donald Trump apologized to him after the Department of Justice filed charges against members of Erdogan’s security detail following a clash outside of the Turkish ambassador’s residence this summer.

    Erdogan told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff days earlier that Mr. Trump called him and “said that he was sorry.”

    Trump “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,” Erdogan said in an interview that aired Tuesday.

    But White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed back Wednesday, saying that while the two leaders discussed the incident, there was “no apology” from Trump. Deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told PBS NewsHour that Erdogan’s claim was “not true.”

    WATCH: Erdogan questions why U.S. has armed Syrian Kurdish ‘terrorists,’ disputes claims of dictatorship

    The confrontation between Erdogan’s security detail and protesters followed his May 16 visit to the White House. Violence broke out after demonstrators gathered outside of the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C., to protest the arrest of a leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party.

    A video of the incident showed members of Erdogan’s security detail beating up protesters while the Turkish president watched from the residence’s driveway. Nine people were injured in the attack.

    Last month, a D.C. grand jury indicted 15 Turkish security officials, charging them with conspiracy to commit a crime of violence.

    In the PBS NewsHour interview, Erdogan said his personal security guards acted because the police failed to protect him from protesters who were “screaming and shouting.”

    “The protesters were very close to my car, to my vehicle,” Erdogan added.

    Erdogan also said he would bring the incident up when he meets with Trump on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly this week.

    “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,” Erdogan said.

    Correspondent John Yang contributed reporting.

    The post White House refutes Erdogan’s claim that Trump apologized for charges against security guards appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The USA TODAY NETWORK published an ambitious project today exploring the complex world of those who live along the Southern U.S. border and how President Trump’s proposed barrier structure might affect them.

    “The Wall” combines print reports, photographs, interactive maps and video.

    William Brangham will be back to talk to one of the lead reporters on the series.

    But, first, here’s one of its featured films, this one focusing on the cat-and-mouse game between U.S. authorities and the drug smugglers who try to evade them.

    MAN: Some of these smuggling organizations have been in business 20, 30, 40, 50 years.

    The amount of money is just too huge and too vast. They’re not just going to walk away from that profit because now there’s a wall between the United States and Mexico. They’re going to look for some other means.

    MAN: All right. I’m about ready to descend into the Galvez tunnel. Tell me when you’re clear. I’m going to descend about 70 feet straight down the bottom.

    MAN: Clear.

    MIKE UNZUETA, Retired Special Agent, Homeland Security Investigations: With the advent of the infrastructure between the ports of entry, one of the unintended consequences was huge narcotics tunnels that then were created.

    ROBERT “LANCE” LENOIR, Border Patrol Agent, Tunnel Task Force Entry Team: They are very effective. They are built in secret on the south side inside of a warehouse, and they end up in secret on a warehouse on the north side.

    MAN: Be careful down there, Bob.

    MAN: The fact that they’re going to tunnel underneath our border layered with tactical infrastructure and agents topside, and they’re all doing this all underneath that stuff, that is pretty audacious, if you ask me.

    WOMAN: Stick one more in that one.

    MAN: So, the whole idea with the infrastructure that went in between the ports of entry, the fencing, the lighting, was to drive the smugglers into the ports of entry.

    ROBERT HOOD, San Ysidro Acting Port Director: We’re at the San Ysidro port of entry. We’re the busiest land border in the world. We probably lead the nation as far as smuggling attempts for aliens and narcotics.

    ANGELICA DE CIMA, Public Affairs Liaison, U.S. Customs and Border Protection: You have anywhere from you know 90,000 to 100,000 people coming through this port of entry every day. That’s like a small city coming through this port of entry on a daily basis.

    MAN: The big challenge is, is most of the travelers are legitimate. They’re good travelers, they’re good people just coming up to do business, to visit family. And we’re looking for the needles that are in a haystack.

    So, our job is to ferret those people out, to find them who are hiding within that mass of people who come in every day. And that’s always a fine balancing act, and it’s been that way on the border forever.

    MAN: One of the other dynamics that we have faced here in San Diego is the marine smuggling threat.

    KURT NAGEL, Marine Interdiction Agent, U.S. Customs and Border Protection: That’s a lot of ocean. They’re going so far now out of our area of operations that we can’t even cover that area. You know, we can’t keep up with it.

    Even if our aircrafts spot a vessel 500 miles north, I mean, all we can do is contact another agency and hope that they have a water asset that they can go get them.

    MAN: Updated position.

    MAN: Four miles away dead south of us.

    MIKE UNZUETA: Every time we have done something to try and secure the border, drug smuggling organizations have tried to come up with some way to end-run us.

    So, I think, sometimes, the talk of the wall or building the wall is hugely and largely a political symbol. In some areas, it has been effective.

    But, at the end of the day, you build a wall along the Southwest border, and you’re not going to end drug smuggling. They’re only limited by the amount of time and the amount of money and ingenuity that they want to invest in their smuggling ventures.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Joining me now is one of the people who worked on this whole series.

    Daniel Gonzalez is a reporter for The Arizona Republic. And he’s covered immigration and the border for nearly two decades. And he helped conceive this project.

    Welcome to the NewsHour.

    DANIEL GONZALEZ, The Arizona Republic: Thanks for having me.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, very, very ambitious series you guys have done.

    I wonder if you can just give me a sense of, what was the impetus for the whole series?

    DANIEL GONZALEZ: Well, obviously, Donald Trump campaigned to build a border wall. This became kind of a signature of his entire campaign.

    DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States: We’re going to build the wall, folks. Don’t worry about it.

    DANIEL GONZALEZ: And after he became president, as The Arizona Republic and the USA Today Network, we felt like we were really well-situated to tell the story, to explain to the American people what was at stake if the United States were to go, follow through and build a border wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

    We’re not journalists that would just be parachuting in like other journalists. This is a subject that we know well because we have covered it for a long time.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, as you say, you particularly have been covering this for over 20 years.

    Was there a particular idea or series of ideas that were driven home by your reporting on this series?

    DANIEL GONZALEZ: One of the things that I worked on personally as the border has become more fortified, because of how lucrative it is to smuggle people and drugs into the United States, it has attracted criminal organizations into the United States.

    So, we wanted to look at, well, what would the effect be on smugglers? Would it stop the smuggling trade, which is what people might presume? And, actually, we found out that it would be the opposite, that, as you fortify the border, it becomes more difficult for people to cross, they rely even more on smugglers.

    They’re able to charge more money. So, the bottom line was that…

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And take these much more dangerous routes and oftentimes die in the desert, and…

    DANIEL GONZALEZ: Exactly, exactly.

    So, smugglers, in the end, would end up becoming richer from a more fortified border. And, also, as you mentioned, it would drive migrants to take riskier routes, and we would end up having more people likely dying in the desert.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So much of this seems to be about economics.

    The border — the retired border security official that we heard from in that piece was saying, every time we tried a new innovation on the wall, the smugglers found another way around it.

    And it seems like, if there’s an economic incentive for people to come, for goods to come, for drugs to come, people are going to find a way to do that if they can get paid to do it.


    And this was definitely a point that we heard over and over again. When you talk about drug smugglers, you’re talking about enterprises that — where there’s billions of dollars at stake.

    Is a border wall going to just have people pack up and go home? No. They’re going to find more innovative ways to get drugs across the border. Will a border wall solve the economic problems in Latin America that drive people to come to the United States? No. A border wall isn’t going to do anything.

    Unless we address these more complicated, difficult issues, a border wall is really kind of — really, in a lot of ways, a Band-Aid. That’s not to say that it wouldn’t be effective. There are many areas along the border where the fencing is there now, the technology that exists has been effective.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You also show in this series that, it’s not a black-and-white issue. There’s very, very complicated opinions about this.

    In fact, there’s a piece in here where you hear from ranchers who argue — who very much want this wall. They think that the increased militarization and security along the border has made things better. And they hope that a bigger, more robust wall will make it even better still.

    DANIEL GONZALEZ: Yes, so are definitely people who are directly impacted by the border who live along the border who would like to see more fortification.

    They have seen the criminal activity that has come in the border. They’re scared by it. They have seen evidence of people being killed along the border. So, for them, a border wall is a welcome solution.

    On the other hand, they also know that a border wall pushes people out into other areas, and people will continue to find ways to circumvent that wall.

    We saw in our reporting smugglers that take people right over the border wall in urban areas. So, if a border wall isn’t effective in an urban area, how can it be effective in remote deserts where there’s 100 — it’s hundreds of miles to the nearest road, and there’s no Border Patrol agents in those areas?

    So, people — if you have a wall, and people can get over it, but there’s nobody to stop those people who have gotten across, then the border wall is ineffective.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It’s really a tremendous piece of journalism.

    Daniel Gonzalez of The Arizona Republic, thank you so much.

    DANIEL GONZALEZ: Thank you very much for having me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Some powerful reporting.

    And you can find additional stories at TheWall.USAToday.com.

    The post How smugglers stand to profit from Trump’s border wall appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This week, Russia has been conducting a large-scale military exercise within the territory of one of its neighbors, Belarus, a former Soviet republic.

    Russian units are also war-gaming near the borders of three Baltic NATO member states which were also once part of the Soviet Union.

    Moscow says that this is a defensive exercise, but others see a more ominous purpose.

    Nick Schifrin has our report.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: On day two of the imagined war between NATO and Russia, the cacophony of combat crescendoed.

    Russia’s military exercise is called Zapad, or West, and it began with the military responding to a hypothetical threat to Russian ally Belarus. Soldiers quickly crossed the Belarus border and unleashed hell; 70 jets and helicopters, 250 tanks helped defend Belarus. And that was before the scenario escalated.

    An airborne operation dropped tanks 20 miles from NATO member Estonia’s border, preventing a hypothetical incursion by NATO troops. Ten Russian ships set to sea to escape hypothetical incoming NATO cruise missile strikes.

    And witnessing it all, Russian commander in chief and President Vladimir Putin, whose allies say they genuinely fear NATO launching this kind of war.

    ANDREI TSYGANKOV, San Francisco State University: NATO now is after Russia’s regime change, and, therefore, we have to defend ourselves. So it is a defensive exercise. But really it is not just really about military deterrence. It’s about political survival as well.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Andrei Tsygankov is a Russian politics professor at San Francisco State University. He echoes the Russian establishment when he says NATO’s support of revolutions in previously Soviet states and satellites and NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders convince Russia NATO’s an existential threat, and Zapad provides necessary deterrence.

    ANDREI TSYGANKOV: NATO is not merely a military alliance. It’s a civilizational clash. And NATO is the military outpost of the Western civilization, and, therefore, it’s just a tool to ultimately change regimes around Russia.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: But, for the West, Russia is the threat. Since the 2014 Crimea annexation, the U.S. has painted Russia as a danger to international order. Earlier this year, the U.S. called the Zapad exercise a Trojan horse, whose real aim was leaving troops in Belarus or invading a NATO ally.

    LT. GEN. BEN HODGES, Commander, U.S. Army Europe: When they went into Crimea, that was against the backdrop of an exercise. When they went to Georgia, it was an exercise.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: General Ben Hodges commands the U.S. Army in Europe. He spoke in June at a U.S.-Poland exercise designed to deter Russia from crossing any more borders.

    LT. GEN. BEN HODGES: They don’t have a reputation for being trustworthy when it comes to compliance. We have to practice. We have to demonstrate that we can support allies.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Lithuania was so concerned about the Zapad exercises, it installed a new fence on its Russian border to deter what Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis called Russian dreams of supremacy.

    RAIMUNDAS KAROBLIS, Defense Minister, Lithuania: It’s clear Russia really wants to establish its domination and change the defense in all Europe.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Those fears are understandable, but there is a larger, more ominous threat argues National Defense University fellow Peter Zwack.

    PETER ZWACK, National Defense University: It is the more visible muscular arm of a Russian military, but it’s not just the military. It’s almost societal.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Zwack is a retired U.S. brigadier general and a former U.S. defense attache to Moscow. He says the real threat posed by Russia isn’t leaving troops in Belarus or invading a NATO member, but a newly defined Russian strategy that combines conventional forces with asymmetric forms of warfare, annexing Crimea, supporting separatists who destabilize Eastern Ukraine, and hacking the 2016 U.S. election.

    PETER ZWACK: For the Russians, yes, asymmetry, you go after somebody’s strengths, but you do it also in recognition of your own weaknesses.

    And Russia knows it has weaknesses. If the West and allies worldwide were to pull together, the Russians would be outmanned, outgunned.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Zapad is designed to close that gap. It’s also designed to soften NATO resolve, something all militaries do.

    Last year, I attended NATO exercises 30 miles from the Russian border. American soldiers practiced waging war against a military with equal firepower. On the training ground, there was even a burned-out Soviet-style tank for target practice, which means both sides will continue to exercise, and both sides will continue using their militaries as a means to ensure peace.

    PETER ZWACK: NATO today, in this really, difficult chaotic world, I believe, is the core alliance of our civilization. I believe it also needs to find a way, the Russians need to find a way, both, to coexist.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: And that would allow all these preparations for war to remain exercises.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Nick Schifrin.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: one on one with Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire philanthropist, businessman and former mayor of New York City.

    As world leaders and other notable dignitaries gather in New York this week for the U.N. General Assembly, Bloomberg hosted a special forum today about economic challenges facing the country and the world.

    We spoke just a short while ago about that and more.

    Michael Bloomberg, welcome.

    You said earlier today that, after an appeal from one of your partners, you were sending some of your people and aid down to the U.S. Virgin Islands because of the crisis there.

    What are you hearing? And how important is it for private individuals and private organizations to get involved?

    MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, CEO, BLOOMBERG L.P.: Well, Judy, based on my experience with Hurricane Sandy in New York, the federal government actually does a very good job.

    The trouble with the federal government is, it’s a big organization and it takes a while to mobilize. And, at the moment, they also have a lot of their resources expended in helping Texas and Florida.

    So, small territories like the American Virgin Islands, at the very beginning, they can’t get there quick enough. And the people there didn’t have a roof over their head. They didn’t have food, they didn’t have electricity, they didn’t have water, they didn’t have medicines that they take or penicillin or tetanus shots if they have an injury.

    And so that’s where the private sector can come in. One of my partners has a house down there. He went down there. He called me right away and said, we have just got to do something.

    I said, OK, we will marshal the resources. We took some of employees who had worked on Hurricane Sandy, got them on the plane. I got Johns Hopkins to send us up a whole bunch of the medicines that they needed, put them on a plane, took it down with some other things that they could use. And we were able to help them while they wait for the federal government to come in.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Different subject. You’re holding your forum for government and business leaders the same week President Trump makes his first address to the United Nations, making news because he’s saying to North Korea, we will totally destroy you if you make the wrong move.

    What are you hearing from these other leaders about that? And what do you think about it?

    MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: I didn’t agree with a lot of what he said.

    I think that, at the United Nations, whether you inside are seething or not, diplomacy calls for a certain level of discourse. And, in diplomacy, that’s the way you get things done. Threatening, cajoling and being in your face doesn’t really work in the diplomatic community.

    And we do need to have good diplomatic relations with lots of other countries. I think, if there’s anything you can — that comes out of the North Korean problem is, you realize you can’t do it alone. We have to employ the — get the rest of the world to join us, particularly China, since China’s the country, the main trading partner with North Korea.

    So they’re the ones that, through them, anything we want to do is going to have to be affected. But I think that the president has — obviously has some views. I hope he has the best advisers that are competent and understand what’s going on, because he’s going to have to make decisions based on what they say.

    And, remember, he does not have a long history of working in the diplomatic world, doesn’t have a lot of experience with overseas businesses or overseas governments or the military. And so what he’s got to do is build the best team.

    And, so far, he’s got a lot of holes in his team. And if I were him, I would focus on filling those holes, getting the smartest people he can. I have always used the criteria I always want to hire people smarter than me. A cynic would say that’s easy.

    But, nevertheless, you need very good people to deal with all the problems of the world.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And on the subject of immigration, Mayor Bloomberg, the — as you know, this president is reflecting the views of many Americans who think too many immigrants have been allowed to come into this country.

    Just recently, he said he’s rescinding the move by President Obama to protect the so-called dreamers, the DACA agreement, young people who came to this country without documentation as children.

    What is the overall effect of that?

    MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Well, the dreamer thing is a separate issue, I guess.

    These are people who it’s really ridiculous to say that they committed a crime. And just think. a woman carries her newborn baby in her arms, walks into a bank, takes out the gun, holds up the bank. The cops grab the woman. Are they going to arrest the infant? No, nobody thinks the infant had anything to do it.

    So, the dreamers, this is — it is nothing to really do with immigration. They are here, brought here without them doing anything active. Their parents brought them here. They become, if not legal citizens, they become productive members of our society. And to throw them out, I cannot conceive of the president actually doing that.

    Just there is no congressman that would get elected if you saw screaming people being — young people being dragged in handcuffs to the border or put on a plane. That’s just not going to happen.

    In terms of general immigration, this — I think what’s happened here is, some of the president’s supporters have probably misinformed him about the impact of immigrants. Every reputable study shows that immigrants create a lot more jobs than they take away.

    Most immigrants that come here either do jobs that Americans absolutely wouldn’t do at any price, or they come here to start businesses or take jobs that are additive. When there is another business or more business in a given company, they hire more people.

    And for people who think that they have lost their jobs because of immigrants, maybe some of them have, but we have got to find ways to help them and not make it worse.

    If you want jobs, we need more global trade. If you want more jobs, we need TPP, the Trans-Pacific trade agreement. If you want more jobs, we have to keep NAFTA in place, so that Canada and Mexico and the United States together can create more jobs.

    We have to do all these things. We have to have training programs. And cutting back a lot of the stuff that the president wants to do doesn’t help create jobs. If anything, it takes away jobs.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just finally, you have got some strong views on a number of issues out there. You decided in 2016 not to run for president. Was that a mistake?

    MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: No. I think the conclusion was that you could not run as an independent. The Constitution, with the Electoral College, means that no independent is going to get a majority of electoral votes.

    And if you just had a plurality, it doesn’t mean anything, because the House would then pick the president, and the Senate would pick the vice president. And they would pick from whatever party was in control of the House or the Senate. They certainly wouldn’t pick an independent.

    So, we weren’t going to win. And I — there is a lot of ways to effect change. I’m a very lucky guy. I would like to leave this world better for my daughters and for my grandkids. And that’s what I’m doing with all my money. My companies’ profits virtually all go to our foundation, and we work very hard to improve the quality of government that you have at the local level.

    We have some expertise. We work very hard on public health issues, on the arts, on the environment. There are a lot of things that we are working on. And, hopefully, we can have let people have longer and healthier and more fun lives.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Businessman, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, we thank you.

    MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Judy, all the best.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And tune in tomorrow night. I talk with philanthropist Melinda Gates about the importance of U.S. aid abroad.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yesterday’s earthquake in Mexico was the second in less than two weeks and brought back memories of the terrible tremor that hit 30 years to the day yesterday.

    So many are asking about why the country and region seem more prone to these earthquakes.

    We look at those questions with a seismologist.

    She is Lucy Jones.

    And this is for our Leading Edge science segment this week.

    Lucy Jones, welcome to the program.

    We have been watching these heartbreaking scenes of trying to get people out of collapsed buildings, including a school, young children.

    Is this part of Mexico particularly vulnerable to this kind of quake?

    LUCY JONES, Seismologist: Well, there’s one issue with Mexico City, which is that it’s built in an old lake bed. The ground underneath it is extremely soft and wet.

    When the seismic waves come from wherever they come from and into the soft soil, they get larger. They have to slow down. They have to carry the same amount of energy. They get bigger.

    That happens in any soil. Here in Los Angeles, we might have a factor of two or three amplification. In Mexico City, it’s a factor of 100. So, every earthquake is much worse when it’s in Mexico City.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, are buildings typically built that much stronger to withstand earthquakes in these situations?

    LUCY JONES: When you say how is a building built, there are buildings built currently right now to the best code which are trying to be handling that, but older structures haven’t had that advantage.

    And, you know, there was that horrible earthquake in 1985 that damaged and got rid of a lot of buildings and helped understand what’s going on with this lake bed.

    But it was so far away — it was actually 250 miles away from the city — that by the time the waves got there, they were only very slow waves. And that’s what got amplified. So, very big buildings got damaged in that event, but the smaller ones just didn’t really respond to those very distant waves.

    This time around, now the earthquake is much closer, even though it’s somewhat smaller. It’s closer, so the waves are coming in big. They still have their high energy. And we’re seeing a lot of damage to those smaller buildings.

    As far as I can tell, a lot of them are older buildings. Everywhere in the world, your building code is not retroactive. Your building is as good as the code that was in place when it was built. If that’s 1940, it’s not much of a code.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Am I right that there have been not been aftershocks, Lucy Jones? And, if not, why? Isn’t that unusual?

    LUCY JONES: There haven’t been large aftershocks. There are still plenty of aftershocks. So far, they have all been below magnitude 5.

    Main shock of magnitude 7, that’s on the lower edge of the distribution, but it’s still easily within the normal range. Same thing applied to the Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco in 1989.

    What we see, though, is, when earthquakes are deeper, they’re likely to have these smaller aftershock sequences. And this earthquake started 30 miles below the earth’s surface.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just finally, this is the second earthquake to hit Mexico in a couple of weeks. Everybody down there has to be on edge.

    LUCY JONES: Well, I think now seismologists would look at the magnitude 7 as a sort of extended aftershock or a distant triggered earthquake.

    Usually, we use the word aftershocks for the large majority of triggered events that are very near the first one. But we see this ability to trigger out to greater distances, maybe 300 or 500 miles, to a magnitude 8.

    And so this earthquake could have been at least hastened by the occurrence of the first magnitude 8. And it doesn’t mean that you have got to have a whole lot of other earthquakes coming. But it does — emotionally, it definitely feels scary.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Seismologist Lucy Jones, we thank you very much.

    LUCY JONES: Thank you for having me.

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    Usted puede encontrar la versión en inglés aquí.

    Un terremoto poderoso agitó la Ciudad de México el martes por la tarde, colapsando edificios en la capital del país. El evento ocurrió 11 días después de que otro terremoto más poderoso mató alrededor de 100 personas y destrozó más de 45.000 hogares.

    ¿Que pasó? El Servicio Geológico de los Estados Unidos dijo que un terremoto de magnitud 7,1 ocurrió cerca del pueblo de Raboso en Puebla, aproximadamente a 76 millas al sureste de la Ciudad de México, a una profundidad de 31 millas. Esta estimación del servicio geológico es preliminar, pero el Servicio Nacional de Sismología de México publicó números similares.

    Un funcionario del Servicio Geológico de los Estados Unidos le dijo a La Prensa Asociada que el terremoto del martes no fue una réplica del desastre que ocurrió cerca de Chiapas el 8 de septiembre, debido a la gran distancia entre los dos eventos.

    Reporte de daños: Según Luis Felipe Puente, coordinador de la Agencia de Defensa Civil de México, 225 personas han muerto hasta ahora.

    La ciudad de México reportó un número de fallecidos de por lo menos 94, mientras que en Morelos, un estado en el centro de México, murieron 71 personas. Puebla, donde ocurrió el terremoto, reportó 43 muertes. Se registraron 12 muertes más en el Estado de México, que está al lado de la Ciudad de México, cuatro en Guerrero y una en Oaxaca.

    El alcalde de la Ciudad de México, Miguel Ángel Mancera, dijo que al menos 20 edificios, entre ellos una escuela, se habían derrumbado, con informes de personas atrapadas adentro.

    Los medios de comunicación social de la Ciudad de México muestran paredes agrietadas y edificios derribados en áreas pobladas, mientras los ciudadanos entran en pánico y salen despavoridos a las calles. Gerardo Lazos, periodista de Patito Televisión, filmó su casa en la Ciudad de México temblando durante el terremoto. Pero el evento probablemente causó devastación en todo el centro de México.

    La policía, los oficiales de emergencia y los ciudadanos continuaron excavando durante la noche, bajo luces de inundación, buscando sobrevivientes.

    “DF” stand for Distrito Federal or Mexico City.

    ¿Por qué hay tantos terremotos en México? México forma parte del Anillo de Fuego, el borde donde las placas tectónicas de la Cuenca del Pacífico chocan con las placas apuntalando a América del Norte, América del Sur y Asia. El anillo de fuego representa el 90 por ciento de los terremotos del planeta.

    Pero México es especialmente sísmico porque está sentado sobre tres placas tectónicas gigantes. Por otra parte, la corteza oceánica cercana – la placa de Cocos – es más densa que la tierra que carga la porción central del país. Cuando las dos placas chocan, la tierra más suave de México se desmorona, lo que explica por qué las cordilleras de montaña se alinean en la parte oriental del país.

    El terremoto que ocurrió en Chiapas a principios de septiembre también afectó un área que los sismólogos han estado observando durante varios años, como explicó Lizzie Wade en Science Magazine:

    El epicentro del terremoto, que ocurrió justo antes de la medianoche hora local, estaba justo al sureste de la brecha de Tehuantepec, un tramo de 125 kilómetros de la costa del Pacífico mexicano que se ha mantenido sísmicamente silencioso desde que empezamos a mantener registros hace más de un siglo. A lo largo de la costa, las placas tectónicas del océano se encuentran con la placa norteamericana continental y se van por debajo de ella. Violentos terremotos marcan la liberación de presión acumulada entre las placas en fricción. Pero las rupturas han evitado la brecha de Tehuantepec y la brecha de Guerrero, a más de 500 kilómetros al noroeste.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A few weeks ago, Republicans’ long-fraught efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act looked all but dead on Capitol Hill. But just in the past few days, a new proposal is gaining sudden momentum in the Senate, as a critical deadline looms for the GOP.

    This afternoon, President Trump told reporters that he believes the bill has a very good chance of passing the Senate.

    John Yang has more.

    JOHN YANG: Judy, the new health care bill is sponsored by four Republican senators, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

    It would bring sweeping changes to the current health care system, including ending the individual mandate that everyone have insurance or pay a penalty, eliminating the Medicaid expansion in states, and instead give states lump sums so they can spend as they choose, eliminating federal tax credits to help offset health care costs, and removing protections so that insurers cannot charge more for preexisting conditions.

    Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he intends to have a vote in the Senate next week, before the chamber loses its chance to pass a health care bill with just 50 votes, instead of 60 to overcome a filibuster.

    One of the bill’s original sponsors, Lindsey Graham, defended the push:

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: You can have different opinions about the quality of this bill. At the end of the day, this is the only process left available to stop a march towards socialism.

    We have between now and the end of the month to have a vote and a debate about whether this is better than the status quo. My friends on the other side are never going to agree to a bipartisan proposal that does anything other than prop up Obamacare.

    JOHN YANG: Today, former President Barack Obama, at a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — in New York City ripped into the bill.

    FORMER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When I see people trying to undo that hard-won progress for the 50th or 60th time, it is aggravating.

    And all of this being done without any demonstrable economic or actuarial or plain commonsense rationale, it — it frustrates.

    JOHN YANG: Here to help us understand the policy and the politics behind all of it, Sarah Kliff, who covers health policy for Vox, and our own Lisa Desjardins, who covers Capitol Hill.

    Lisa, a lot of changes not only to the current system, but also to the previous bills, repeal bills. One is how the federal money is going to be distributed.

    What are those changes?

    LISA DESJARDINS: This is a massive change in health care spending. It would shift money to the states.

    Let’s look at it specifically. So, right now, under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government pays tax credits for premiums. These are for lower- and middle-income people. Also pays cost-sharing subsidies to help with deductibles. And, in addition to that, there’s the Medicaid expansion.

    That’s a lot of money. The Graham-Cassidy bill would shift all of that money and all of those things and shift it all to states, $1.4 trillion worth. Now, Republicans say that gives states many more options. But without the limits, there is also no guidance, there’s no plan right now for what to do with that money.

    JOHN YANG: Sarah, this morning, you wrote that of the four repeal bills that Congress has considered so far, that this is the most radical of them all.

    Explain that in terms of the protections, the benefits and coverage that this bill would afford.

    SARAH KLIFF, Vox: Yes, I think part of it has to do with what Lisa was saying, that there is really no requirement that this money go to health insurance.

    It could be sent to hospitals. It could be put into high-risk pools. There’s very few guardrails around how this money gets spent. And one of the other things you see going on is a return of preexisting conditions.

    Health insurance plans could once again charge people higher premiums because they have a cancer diagnosis or something like asthma if a state applies for a waiver to let its insurance companies do that.

    So it really goes beyond the other Republican repeal plans. Those ones, I kind of saw as poorly funded versions of Obamacare. The tax credits go down, Medicaid expansion gets less money, but the framework is there.

    Like Lisa was saying, this gets rid of the framework entirely. It makes this lump of money. It distributes it in a very, very different way. It really disadvantages any state that has embraced Obamacare. It would be very, very disruptive if it were to become law.

    JOHN YANG: And, Lisa, what are the timelines for this? When would these changes take effect? When would the programs end, the current programs end?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That is another big difference.

    The Medicaid expansion in other bills was phased out in different ways. But in this bill, it would have a hard end in 2020. And there also would be some changes that would affect — be in effect immediately in 2018. And it’s not clear how insurers would deal with those right away.

    JOHN YANG: Now let’s turn to the politics of all of this.

    This is now being opposed by a slew of patient groups, of provider groups, the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association, the AARP, some hospital groups, late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel, who became a voice on all of this debate in May when he talked about his son, who was born with a congenital heart defect.

    Last night, he joined the criticism.

    JIMMY KIMMEL, Host, “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”: If the bill passes, individual states can let insurance companies charge you more if you have a preexisting condition.

    You will find that little loophole later in the document, after it says they can’t. They can, and they will.

    But will it lower premiums? Well, in fact, for lots of people, the bill will result in higher premiums. And as far as no lifetime caps go, the states can decide on that, too, which means there will be lifetime caps in many states.

    So, not only did Bill Cassidy fail the Jimmy Kimmel test. He failed the Bill Cassidy test. He failed his own test.

    JOHN YANG: Lisa, you have got governors coming out against this. You have got all these groups.

    What are the chances of this passing?

    LISA DESJARDINS: We should point out, there are also some governors who came out in favor of it, Republican governors.

    I think the chances are still long, because it comes down to four key Republicans. We already know that the Senate Republicans can only lose two of their members on this vote. Rand Paul is already a no. Then you get the three Republicans who voted no the last time, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain.

    They need two of those three. And that’s going to be hard to do. John McCain said just today to reporters that he still wants regular order, he doesn’t want this to be rushed through.

    But they have got this September 30 deadline, and McConnell seems to want to meet it.

    JOHN YANG: And, Sarah, why are some people so enthusiastic about this?

    SARAH KLIFF: I think Obamacare repeal has been such a goal for Republicans.

    If you talk to senators on Capitol Hill, as my colleagues at Vox have been doing, a lot of them will say, this is our last chance. We have promised this in elections. We have said we need to deliver.

    Pat Roberts of Kansas told one of my colleagues, this is the last car leaving, and we want to get in it.

    So, it seems very much it is less about the actual policy. It’s more about this being last plan left standing and the last option to move forward with 50 votes this year.

    JOHN YANG: And the leaders have made this the last option in a certain way. There was an attempt at bipartisan — to fix the problems with Obamacare. But what’s happened to that?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.

    Democrat Patty Murray has been working with Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Republican, to try and craft a bipartisan compromise. Different versions on that. The Republicans say they just couldn’t get there. The Democrats say they came a long way.

    It’s hard to say, but I think one other answer to what Republicans like about this, they do want more options for state. They want more power to states. And some specific states win in this deal, red states.

    The states that lost the most are states like California and New York. States that gain the most seem to be states like Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi. Those are Republican red states and it’s a significant shift in resources.

    JOHN YANG: And, Sarah, what would this do for insurers? If states — every state could write is own rules, what do insurance companies think about this?

    SARAH KLIFF: They are very nervous.

    They have generally come out against this bill. If you remember, when healthcare.gov launched in 2013, it was a big mess. It didn’t work. And that was with four years to build one system for the entire country.

    Graham-Cassidy asks all 50 states to build their own health insurance system, some new framework in just two years. So I think insurance companies, they have just gotten used to the Affordable Care Act. The marketplaces, they’re finding their legs there. They are not enthusiastic about the idea of having 50 new systems that they would have to learn to navigate in just two years from now.

    JOHN YANG: Sarah Kliff, Lisa Desjardins, we have an interesting week-and-a-half ahead. So, thank you very much.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: The president of Iran condemned President Trump’s U.N. address yesterday as — quote — “ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric.”

    Mr. Trump had charged that Iran is — quote — “an economically depleted rogue state that represses its people and exports violence.”

    Hassan Rouhani answered today in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, and he warned against abrogating the nuclear deal with Iran.

    PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI, Iran (through interpreter): The Islamic republic of Iran will not be the first country to violate the agreement, but it will respond decisively and resolutely to its violation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, President Trump said in New York today that he’s made a decision on whether to withdraw from the nuclear agreement. He wouldn’t say what he decided, but he told reporters, “I will let you know.”

    On North Korea, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is defending the president’s warning that the North will be — quote — “totally destroyed” if it threatens the U.S.

    Haley said today that Mr. Trump is not yet giving up on diplomacy to end North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

    More than 40 nations today signed the world’s first treaty banning nuclear weapons. It takes effect once 51 nations ratify it. The signing took place at a ceremony along the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting. More than 120 nations had approved the pact in July. The U.S. and other nuclear powers have rejected the treaty and are not subject to its terms.

    The White House is denying that President Trump apologized to Turkey’s president over an incident last spring. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s bodyguards and supporters attacked a group of protesters during his visit to the U.S. in May.

    In his “NewsHour” interview this week, Erdogan told me that Mr. Trump had called him to say he’s sorry about what happened. The White House says — quote — “There was no apology.”

    In economic news, the Federal Reserve announced that it’s ready to begin reducing its enormous bond holdings. But Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that this will be gradual, to try to prevent a surge in long-term interest rates. The Central Bank bought up bonds during the recession to stimulate the economy.

    Now Yellen says that growth is steadier, despite some short-term setbacks.

    JANET YELLEN, Chair, Federal Reserve: In the third quarter, however, economic growth will be held down by the severe disruptions caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. As activity resumes and rebuilding gets under way, growth will likely bounce back.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Fed also signaled that it expects to raise short-term interest rates once more this year, and possibly three times in 2018.

    On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 41 points to close at 22412. The Nasdaq fell five points, and the S&P 500 added a point.

    And two milestones in sports tonight. Boxer Jake LaMotta, whose life inspired the movie “Raging Bull,” has died. His career spanned the 1940s and early ’50s, including six fights against Sugar Ray Robinson. And he eventually became world middleweight champion. Jake LaMotta was 95 years old.

    And Major League Baseball is celebrating a new record: the most combined home runs in a single season. It came last night when Kansas City’s Alex Gordon homered against Toronto. That was number 5,694 by all teams this season. The previous record was set in 2000, when steroid use was at an all-time high.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: Hurricane Maria, it blasted Puerto Rico today with sustained winds of 155 miles an hour. That left more than three million people to ride out the island’s strongest storm since 1932.

    P.J. Tobia begins our coverage.

    P.J. TOBIA: The people of Puerto Rico spent a long day trapped in their homes, snatching cell phone glimpses of Maria carving a slow, destructive path.

    The hurricane made landfall about dawn, and quickly ripped roofs off buildings, tore fences from the ground, and unleashed deadly storm surges and 20 inches of rain as it swept across the island and past San Juan.

    Raul Pichardo recorded images of a home wrecked in his San Juan neighborhood.

    RAUL PICHARDO, Resident of Isla Verde, Puerto Rico (through interpreter): That whole building over there is already completely destroyed. A home’s satellite dish just fell right here.

    P.J. TOBIA: The storm knocked out 21 of the island’s 22 weather stations, and left nearly all of its people without power. Officials imposed an overnight curfew. Local reports said several coastal villages were largely wrecked.

    The mayor of Fajardo told one outlet: “I have never seen my city so destroyed.”

    Maria’s power was intensified by extremely low pressure, lower even than Hurricane Irma’s two weeks ago. That, coupled with the storm’s smaller, more concentrated center, added to the destruction. A day earlier, it had blasted the tiny islands of Dominica and Guadeloupe, plus St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    Scattered reports today told of major damage and little or no communications. Puerto Rico had already suffered an estimated $1 billion in damage from Irma, after a decade-long struggle to recover from recession. Now, housing in the territory is a growing concern, with more than 11,000 people in shelters.

    But in a statement today, Governor Ricardo Rosselló insisted: “We are stronger than any hurricane. Together, we will rebuild.”

    Meanwhile, the storm is rolling on. It’s expected to skirt the Dominican Republic by tomorrow, continuing northeast and passing near Turks and Caicos Thursday night and the Bahamas by Saturday morning. It may also regain some of the power it lost crossing Puerto Rico.

    Fearing the worst, officials on in the Dominican Republic scrambled today to get ready as rain began to fall.

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

    JUDY WOODRUFF: As of this evening, the hurricane’s sustained winds dropped to 110 miles an hour.

    And we keep our focus on Puerto Rico now.

    We are joined by Carlos Mercader. He’s spokesman for the governor of Puerto Rico.

    Mr. Mercader, we’re seeing reports that power is out across the entire — the extent of the island of Puerto Rico. Is that right?

    CARLOS MERCADER, Spokesman, Governor of Puerto Rico: That’s right.

    The governor, days before the storm, he had basically warned everyone that the infrastructure of the electric system was really vulnerable to what we were really facing. And in the wake of what’s probably the most damaging hurricane we have ever seen in our history, that was going to be one of the areas that were going to feel the damage more closely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you have any sort of assessment yet of how much damage has been done to buildings, to homes?


    Well, to be honest, we’re still facing some of the effects of the hurricane. Right now, in San Juan, there is still like rain. There are still some winds, not necessarily the winds that they were feeling 10 hours ago, but there are still some winds of 40, 50, 60 miles per hour, so they have got to wait until the rain ends and the winds just go down, so that they can deploy all of the brigades that they have.

    We have kind of like a task force created with FEMA, DOD, Department of Homeland Security, and the local state agencies that basically, once the storm is out, they are going to deploy to the whole island to assess the damages. And then we will able to talk about a number.

    But I would just like to say this. In terms of infrastructure, material damage, it’s total devastation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I should have asked you this first. What about casualties, loss of life, injuries?

    CARLOS MERCADER: I believe that that’s one of the good stories here so far, is that, because of the preparation that the government ensued during the days before the storm, the federal authorities, all of the sectors in Puerto Rico, private sector, all joined the governor in his message of — in his warnings that this was going to be a damaging storm and that people either would seek refuge in one of the shelters, or they would face life danger, right, or they would endanger their life.

    And, in that sense, people responded well. People — we had about — right now, we still have about 12,500 evacuees that are in the 500 shelters that we have throughout the island. And we are expecting that the number may keep more or less around that same figure, because you know that a lot of people lost their homes.

    We’re talking here about major devastation. And when we say major devastation, that means that, in terms of infrastructure, we have full communities that 80 or 90 percent of the homes are a complete disaster. They are totally lost.

    So those people probably, once they go back and they see that they don’t have a home or that their home, it’s inhabitable, they have got to go back to the shelter. So we have those shelters. People are in for some long stay of — some will be weeks.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You are facing Puerto Rico needing of a lot of help in the months — in the weeks and months to come, it sounds like.


    No, I would like to say one thing, is that we — throughout Irma and Maria, we have had a big support from the president of the United States, Donald Trump, his agencies, Brock Long, the administrator of FEMA, Tom Bossert, the adviser to the president on homeland security, the — Secretary Price, Secretary of HHS Price.

    All of them have been in constant communication with the governor. They have called him on a daily basis almost, and they have not only show their support in words, but in actions. We have a big team of FEMA working right now on the ground now in Puerto Rico. They have deployed people from DHS.

    We have helicopters from the military in Puerto Rico ready to start working with the different crises that we’re going to working in once the storm goes.

    So, we have had a lot of help, but we need more. And I think, in this sense, I want to talk a little bit about what happened with Irma. You know that while Irma didn’t hit Puerto Rico directly, Irma did cause a lot of damage in the neighboring islands, and Puerto Rico became a safe haven for a lot of citizens that were stranded in those islands.

    Puerto Rico helped, even though when we needed help. Now, obviously, we’re going to need more support. And we’re calling on Congress and all political leaders to support your fellow citizens in Puerto Rico.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we are certainly wishing the very best for all the people of Puerto Rico.

    Carlos Mercader, who is a representative of the governor of Puerto Rico, we thank you.

    CARLOS MERCADER: Thank you for the opportunity.

    The post Historic Hurricane Maria devastates housing in Puerto Rico appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he leaves a Made in America roundtable meeting in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S. July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTX3C4VE

    U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he leaves a Made in America roundtable meeting in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria.

    WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators is seeking information from the White House related to Michael Flynn’s stint as national security adviser and about the response to a meeting with a Russian lawyer that was attended by President Donald Trump’s oldest son, The Associated Press has learned.

    Mueller’s office has requested a large batch of documents from the White House and is expected to interview at least a half dozen current and former aides in the coming weeks. Lawyers for the White House are in the process of trying to cooperate with the document requests and to turn over that information.

    Though the full scope of the investigation is not clear, the information requests make clear at least some of the areas that Mueller and his team of prosecutors intend to probe and reveal an interest in certain Trump decisions as president.

    MORE: What’s been happening in the Russia probe? Here’s what we know

    A person familiar with the investigation who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity said investigators want information on, among other topics, a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower that Donald Trump Jr. attended with a Russian lawyer as well as on the administration’s response to it.

    A statement provided to journalists in July, which the White House has said Trump played a role in drafting, said the meeting was primarily to discuss a disbanded program that used to allow American adoptions of Russian children, but emails released days later by Trump Jr. show that he arranged the encounter with the expectation of receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

    Though the full scope of the investigation is not clear, the information requests make clear at least some of the areas that Mueller and his team of prosecutors intend to probe and reveal an interest in certain Trump decisions as president.

    The person also said investigators appear interested in White House interactions concerning Flynn, such as what officials including Trump knew about the Justice Department’s investigation into him. Flynn was forced out as national security adviser in February after White House officials concluded that he had misled them about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

    Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates has said she warned White House counsel Don McGahn in January that that deception left Flynn and the White House in a compromised position, and that she expected him to take action. That conversation took place two days after FBI agents had interviewed Flynn. But Flynn was not asked to resign until several weeks later, following news reports that said he had discussed sanctions during the transition period with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

    Former FBI Director James Comey has said that Flynn was facing an FBI criminal investigation “of his statements in connection with the Russian contacts and the contacts themselves. And so that was my assessment at the time.”

    Comey has also said that Trump, in a private Oval Office encounter in February, told him that he hoped he would end the FBI investigation into Flynn. Trump has denied that statement.

    Comey’s own firing in May is also under investigation for potential obstruction of justice, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel and oversees his work, has been questioned by investigators about the circumstances of that event, according to people familiar with the matter.

    READ MORE: Trump lawyer to testify in public hearing on Russia probe

    A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

    Mueller was appointed in May to investigate potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, and potential crimes arising from that probe. Investigators in July raided the home of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in a search of tax and banking records and in recent months have served subpoenas related both to Manafort’s business dealings and those of Flynn.

    Mueller’s team of investigators includes prosecutors with experience in organized crime, national security and complex financial fraud cases. The primary prosecutor on the White House investigation is James Quarles, who came with Mueller from the WilmerHale law firm and was involved in Watergate prosecutions.

    Among the aides expected to be interviewed, perhaps by October, are McGahn, former press secretary Sean Spicer and former chief of staff Reince Priebus.

    The post Mueller requests documents from White House in Russia probe appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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