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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meantime, it’s time for our Politics Monday team to look at not just the Affordable Care Act, but what we have been talking about earlier in the program, the feud between the president and the National Football League.

    Joining us now, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, Tamara Keith of NPR, Politics Monday.

    Amy, you just heard Lisa’s report. Apparently, the Republicans’ effort is dead once again.

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Yes.

    And the question beyond do they have the votes is, what would happen if they actually passed this? Also over the weekend, there were a number of polls that came out showing that this bill is not particularly popular. People don’t know much about it, which goes to the question about how hard the president himself and Republicans were selling it to the public, which is, the answer is not a lot.

    But even on the question about whether people like Obamacare, you heard Senator Tim Scott saying people really hate Obamacare, we need to do something about it. When the ABC poll asked voters, if you had a choice between Obamacare or this Republican proposal, 56 percent said they would rather stay with Obamacare, 33 percent said they would go with the Republican proposal.

    So, even if something passed, Republicans would then have to spend a whole bunch of time defending it, defining it, and talking about it, and trying to get people to like something that right now they’re not particularly interested in.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, maybe they’re better off without it, Tamara.


    TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Well, I won’t be the one to decide that.



    TAMARA KEITH: I think that Republicans want something.

    Clearly, the president wants something, anything. He was on a talk show this morning in Alabama, mostly to talk about the Senate race, but was also talking about the repeal and replace effort. And he wasn’t kind to his fellow Republicans. He said they were posturing, that he was just totally upset with John McCain.

    But he also — who has said that he would vote no on the measure, and on a previous version did the thumbs-down that President Trump found very upsetting. And he talked about that.

    But, you know, he wasn’t making a hard pitch for the legislation. And he also just didn’t even seem that optimistic. Now, there have been times where this White House has said, it’s going to pass at this point in the process. And they aren’t saying that this time.

    AMY WALTER: Yes, Republicans have been saying — we saw some reporting on this over the weekend — their greatest fear was that, because they haven’t been able to pass this, donors are getting very upset about this and sitting on their wallets, which impacts the candidates up in 2018.


    AMY WALTER: It may not affect President Trump, but it certainly impacts his party.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you mentioned Alabama, Tam.

    I will use this to turn to that. The president was there on Friday. He made news for a whole lot of reasons. But what does that race look like right now between Luther Strange, who is the appointed senator, and Roy Moore?

    TAMARA KEITH: Well, it is a fascinating race that — and we talked about this a little bit last week, but it really pits President Trump, who has supported Luther Strange, who is the appointed sort of fill-in for the senator who left to become the attorney general, it pits President Trump’s candidate against basically all of President Trump’s people.

    You have got Steve Bannon, you have got Sarah Palin, you have got all of these Trump allies campaigning for Roy Moore, who, according to recent polls, seems to have an advantage.

    Yes, we — I was talking to one Republican analyst who said, you know, you have got people that went to this rally that President Trump had for Luther Strange, put on their make America great again red hats, and probably walked out and planned to vote for Roy Moore.

    AMY WALTER: It is — this debate and this sort of intraparty fighting between the establishment/anti-establishment has been going on for years, right? We remember this starting in 2010.

    The difference this year is that, in 2010, it was Republicans as the out-party. They were frustrated with their own party, saying they weren’t fighting hard enough against President Obama and Democrats in Congress.

    So, they were trying to figure out who they were and how to define themselves. Now here we are, Republicans have the White House, they have the House, they have the Senate. The intraparty rifts are as strong as ever.

    And even the president, while he did go down to endorse Luther Strange, of course, said, well, maybe I shouldn’t have done this in the first place, that Roy Moore, he is actually a pretty good guy.

    So, you know, his stamp of approval isn’t necessarily helping to heal this rift. And I think we’re going to continue to see this. We had already started to see primaries start to emerge among Republican senators up in 2018.

    It will be curious to see if we see an increase if Roy Moore does win, of these intraparty fights on the Senate and the House side.

    TAMARA KEITH: And let me just say that, if Roy Moore wins, President Trump is going to find a way to turn it into a victory for himself.

    AMY WALTER: Absolutely.

    TAMARA KEITH: President Trump doesn’t take defeat. He finds victory in defeat.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the other news that the president made in Alabama, of course, was going after the National Football League, the players who have been protesting during the national anthem.

    Amy, we — it’s become a huge topic of conversation over the weekend. It was at every professional game yesterday. What does the president gain politically by doing this?

    AMY WALTER: Yes, I think he is just — this has been true since he was a private citizen, since — as a candidate and now as president.

    Getting into the culture piece, whether we call it the culture wars or the divide on some of these issues, is a much more comfortable place for him than getting in debates about policy.

    And that’s where he likes to sit. It’s where he feels the most confident. And, remember, all through 2016, he took these positions that a whole bunch of folks, even on his own side, said, don’t get involved in those, they are going to be politically damaging, you can’t recover from this.

    And, of course, he won. And so he trusts his gut and he trusts instincts on these issues. They play to people that show up at his rallies.

    And I think that’s the other piece to remember. He loves getting the applause and adoration of the folks who show up at the rally. Having a 90-minute speech about health care and taxes wasn’t going to get people riled up.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it helping him?

    TAMARA KEITH: This is a base-feeding feud, and he keeps picking these feuds. He’s done it again and again and again.

    And they — it excites his base. Now, you know, these protests were originally about protesting racism and police brutality. But now the president and the White House say, this isn’t about race. They say it’s about patriotism and the flag.

    And President Trump, on many occasions, has turned and said, patriotism. It has — whatever this is, whatever it is, whatever the fight is, he makes it about patriotism.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we watch. But, for the time being, Amy, it seems to be splitting the country.

    AMY WALTER: It absolutely is.

    It will be curious to see when polls come out, though when we looked at polls from when this first started, it was definitely split, especially among racial lines, not surprisingly.


    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, Politics Monday. Thank you both.

    AMY WALTER: You’re welcome.

    TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.


    The post What does Trump gain politically by attacking NFL players? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A street in San Juan, Puerto Rico remains flooded days after Hurricane Maria decimated the island. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

    President Donald Trump is facing mounting criticism for tweeting over the weekend about the NFL protests and other issues while remaining silent about the plight of millions of people in Puerto Rico who were affected by Hurricane Maria.

    Mr. Trump mentioned Puerto Rico in a speech at a political rally Friday in Alabama, one day after the White House issued a disaster declaration. Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, which struck the island last week and caused widespread flooding, ruined crops, knocked out power and led to at least 13 deaths.

    The hurricane set the island back “nearly 20 to 30 years,” a top Puerto Rico official said Monday.

    But despite the growing humanitarian crisis on the island, where food and water are running low in places and many bridges and roads are destroyed, Trump didn’t comment on Puerto Rico over the weekend. Roughly 3.5 million U.S. citizens live in Puerto Rico.

    Instead Trump criticized NFL players who defied his demand that they remain standing during the national anthem.

    Hundreds of players and league officials knelt or locked arms during the anthem at games over the weekend, in a protest over police brutality and discrimination.

    The president also used Twitter to attack the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for opposing the Senate Republicans’ latest health care proposal.

    On Monday Trump doubled down on his criticism of NFL players who participated in the protest, even as criticism grew that his administration wasn’t doing enough to aid Puerto Rico.

    “We still need some more help. This is clearly a critical disaster,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told the Washington Post late Sunday.

    Rosselló called for more federal resources from the Department of Defense to assist local law enforcement agencies in the recovery effort. Others also called on the Trump administration to step up its efforts — including Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in the presidential election.

    “President Trump, Sec. Mattis, and DOD should send the Navy, including the USNS Comfort, to Puerto Rico now. These are American citizens,” Clinton tweeted on Sunday. The USNS Comfort is a Naval medical ship.

    Democrats also called for more help for Puerto Rico, with some lawmakers criticizing Trump’s tweeting in recent days. “Mr. President, instead of dividing the country over this you could give support to the 3.4 million Americans without power in Puerto Rico,” Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., wrote on Twitter Monday.

    Brian Fallon, who served as the Clinton campaign’s spokesman, also took Trump to task on Twitter in unusually harsh terms. “Trump’s racist neglect of Puerto Rico is threatening lives. It is time to start caring about the crisis there,” Fallon tweeted.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency issued an update Sunday on the federal recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, noting that more than 2,300 National Guard members were on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were also hit by the hurricane.

    FEMA also said the Defense Department has deployed helicopters, amphibious ships and other resources to help evacuate people stranded by the storm.

    In Monday’s White House news conference, Sara Huckabee Sanders said that the FEMA and DHS heads were now on the ground in Puerto Rico to access damage, and that the federal government has “done unprecedented movement in terms of federal funding to provide for the people of Puerto Rico and others that have been impacted by these storms.”

    The crisis has raised pressure on Trump to visit Puerto Rico to see the damage firsthand. The president visited Texas and Florida earlier this month after the states were battered by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

    Last week, the White House told CNN that Trump was “committed” to visiting Puerto Rico, but the official said the visit had not yet been scheduled due to “infrastructure concerns.”

    If Trump travels to Puerto Rico, he would be only the second sitting U.S. president to visit the island in four decades. Former President Barack Obama made a short trip to Puerto Rico in 2011 for a political event.

    Before Obama, the last sitting president to visit Puerto Rico was Gerald Ford, who made a two-day trip to the island in 1976.

    The post Trump faces criticism for tweeting about the NFL instead of the crisis in Puerto Rico appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In all the back and forth over how to repeal the Affordable Care Act, there was a first on Capitol Hill today, the first hearing on a health care replacement plan this year.

    But passage of this latest Republican push, the Graham-Cassidy bill, is far from certain, even as Senate leaders say they plan to hold a vote in coming days.

    Lisa Desjardins is here to help bring us up to speed.

    Lisa, the Republicans have been doing all sorts of thing to try to win more votes, but, as of right now, and just in the last hour, it’s proving it’s hard.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. We have some news.

    I think, for all intents and purposes, this version of Graham-Cassidy and basically its outline, the shape of this bill, is dead.

    Senator Susan Collins came out with a statement saying that she is now a hard no. That makes her the third no, after Rand Paul and John McCain. Three Republicans no’s means a bill doesn’t go forward in the Senate.

    Now Republicans have some decisions to make. They have got to figure out, do they take this vote anyway, so make people walk the plank and get them on the record on this, or do they try to come up with some other magical, another last-minute, last-ditch formula?

    Judy, they have until 11:59 Saturday night to use the reconciliation process this year and be able to pass something with 50 votes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the clock is ticking.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: You and I were just talking about the statement that Senator Collins has put out.

    And I was going to ask you, is there any glimmer of hope anywhere? But this is a pretty devastating indictment of the Republican bill.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Oh, it’s a lengthy — it’s a lengthy and certainly well-thought-out statement from her, in which she lists three concerns.

    One are the cuts to Medicaid in this bill. Another are the cuts, the effects for people with preexisting conditions. And then the third is what it would mean for coverage, the loss of coverage, the number of people who may not get coverage under this bill.

    And also tonight, in this flurry of news, Judy, we have some news from the Congressional Budget Office that looked at a previous version, two days’ old now, of the Graham-Cassidy bill. And they said they don’t have enough time, but they did believe it would mean millions fewer Americans with coverage.

    CBO may actually get a night off tonight, as Republicans try to figure out what to do next.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just quickly, you’re saying this is dead, or appears to be dead…

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … unless somebody changes their mind — someone who’s declared changes their mind.


    The most likely path, people think, is Rand Paul, finding something that maybe appeals to him. But, to be honest, to have something that appeals to Rand Paul and, say, Lisa Murkowski seems unlikely. And you would have to dramatically change the bill.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let’s talk quickly about that hearing today.

    You were saying it is the first we have seen this year. Dramatic.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Yes, unbelievable. I don’t think I have experienced anything like this.

    First of all, protesters, dozens of them. Let’s play some sound from what it was like.



    MAN: OK, the committee is in recess.

    LISA DESJARDINS: So, there, they were saying, “No cuts to Medicaid, save our liberty.”

    And you heard they had to recess that hearing for 20 minutes, Judy, while they took all of those protesters outside.

    Now, the hearing did get back under way. And that’s when we did get into some of the core debate. This was the first hearing this year that the Senate has had on a health care bill. So it’s significant.

    You heard from the Republicans more power to states. And then you heard from Democrats more power for protesters and individuals.

    SEN. MARK WARNER, D-Va.: Literally, hundreds of people were sitting outside this hearing room wanting to have their voices here.

    If this is such a great idea, let’s take the time to analyze it, review it, and put it through all the same hoops that Obamacare went through. Chances are, there might be Democratic amendments that would actually be accepted.

    But, no, we’re going through this trumped-up process to try to get a political scalp before September 30.

    SEN. TIM SCOTT, R-S.C.: They miss the obvious point that, for so many people today, the ACA isn’t an option.

    One thing is clear. Residents and citizens throughout the entire country say that their local and state politicians have their confidence more than their federal politicians. This seems like a no-brainer to give the money to the states.

    LISA DESJARDINS: There was real substance there, Judy.

    But, of course, this is the substance just five days before they have got this deadline, when they have had, of course, many months, this Congress, to be talking about this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Many months, and just a few days to go, and, right now, they don’t have the votes.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right. Oh, definitely do not.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins, we thank you.

    The post After dramatic hearing, Graham-Cassidy health care bill seems dead appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Kevin Brady (R-TX) listens as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Republican Congressional leaders about tax reform at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RC110F93D400

    Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Kevin Brady, R-Texas, listens as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Republican Congressional leaders about tax reform at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    WASHINGTON — The White House and congressional Republicans are finalizing a tax plan that would slash the corporate rate while likely reducing the levy for the wealthiest Americans, with President Donald Trump ready to roll out the policy proposal at midweek.

    The grand plan to rewrite the nation’s tax code would be the first major overhaul in three decades, delivering on a Trump campaign pledge and providing a sorely needed legislative achievement. It also is expected to eliminate or reduce some tax breaks and deductions.

    The plan would likely cut the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans, now at 39.6 percent, to 35 percent, people familiar with the plan said Monday. They spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement.

    In addition, the top tax for corporations would be reduced to around 20 percent from the current 35 percent, they said. It will seek to simply the tax system by reducing the number of income tax brackets from seven to three.

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

    Trump has said he wanted to see a 15 percent rate for corporations, but House Speaker Paul Ryan has called that impractically low and risking adding to the soaring $20 trillion national debt.

    The White House and congressional leaders planned an all-out blitz later this week to build support for the plan, which is now Trump’s top legislative priority as the GOP has struggled to repeal and replace Democrat Barack Obama’s health care law. The political stakes are high for Trump, who has promised to bring 3 percent economic growth and expanded jobs through tax cuts.

    The plan being assembled lays out “pro-growth tax reform,” Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, head of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, told reporters on Capitol Hill. It will fix a tax code that is “so complex, so costly and so unfair,” he said.

    Details will be filled in later by the committee, and legislation will be put forward after the House and Senate enact their budget frameworks, Brady said.

    Republicans are divided over the potential elimination of some of the deductions, underscoring the difficulty of overhauling the tax code even with GOP control of the House and Senate.

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

    House Republicans planned to hold a Wednesday retreat at Fort McNair, Maryland, a few miles from the White House, to discuss the proposal, with briefings led by Brady and Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill.

    Trump planned to address the plan in a speech the same day at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. Cabinet members and other top administration officials were fanning out on Thursday to talk about the benefits of overhauling the tax system.

    “The tax reform I think is very critical and he knows that,” said Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of NewsMax and a longtime Trump friend. “And that’s why he’ll push really hard for it. But he’s got something big going for him here. The Republicans need to run on something next year and it’s tax cuts. So even if they don’t want to be particularly helpful to him, I think they’re going to give him this. If he has the tax cuts signed, I think it’s going to be very helpful for him.”

    Touching with his conservative base, Trump planned to discuss the tax plan at dinner Monday night with representatives of several conservative, religious and anti-abortion groups.

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

    Republicans control Congress but they are split on some core tax issues. They’re in agreement on wanting to cut tax rates and simplify the byzantine tax system but they’re divided over whether to add to the government’s ballooning debt with tax cuts. The GOP also is at odds over eliminating the federal deduction for state and local taxes.

    That deduction is prominently in the sights of the plan’s architects. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the administration wants to eliminate or reduce it because the federal government shouldn’t be subsidizing states and wealthy households. Nearly 44 million people claimed the deduction for state and local taxes in 2014, according to the most recent IRS tally, especially in the high-tax, high-income states of California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

    Politics figure heavily. There are a host of GOP lawmakers in those four Democratic-controlled “blue” states — including prominent members like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. A number of them are pushing back.

    Regardless of what the administration and the House GOP come up with on taxes, Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican who heads the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, has warned that his panel won’t be “a rubber stamp” for the plan.

    Republican senators on opposing sides of the deficit debate have tentatively agreed on a plan for $1.5 trillion in tax cuts. That would add substantially to the debt and would enable deeper cuts to tax rates than would be allowed if Republicans followed through on earlier promises that their tax overhaul wouldn’t add to the budget deficit. That would mark an about-face for top congressional Republicans like Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had for months promised it wouldn’t add to the deficit.

    The post Republicans, White House plan to push deep cuts to corporate tax rate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: Millions of Kurds in Northern Iraq went to the polls today to vote on whether to begin the process of creating their own nation, and separating from the rest of Iraq.

    It’s a vote opposed by governments in Baghdad, in Washington, in Tehran and elsewhere.

    But as special correspondent Jane Ferguson reports, that’s doing little to divert the Kurds from their goal.

    JANE FERGUSON, Special Correspondent: Voting for a new country, a national identity for themselves, Farida Mamand wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

    You voted?

    FARIDA MAMAND, Kurdish Iraqi Citizen: Yes, I did, finally.

    JANE FERGUSON: How does it feel?

    FARIDA MAMAND: Oh, it feels amazing. I’m so emotional. I have goose bumps all over my body. It’s really so emotional, that I cannot describe into words.

    JANE FERGUSON: Iraq’s Kurds went to the polls to vote in a referendum asking: Do they want to remain a part of Iraq or break away as an independent nation of Kurds?

    Farida’s family live for Kurdish independence. They have been fighting and dying for it for generations. Her father is General Hussain Mamand, and he has been a proud member of the Kurdish armed forces, known as the Pesh Merga, most of his life, just like his father before him.

    GEN. HUSSAIN MAMAND, Commander, Pesh Merga (through interpreter): I joined the Peshmerga in 1965, when our leaders led us in a revolution for our freedom. The government in Baghdad was bombing the Kurdish people, bombing our villages.

    JANE FERGUSON: His leader back then was Mustafa Barzani. Now it’s Mustafa’s son, Masoud Barzani, who is leader of Iraqi Kurdistan.

    MASSOUD BARZANI, President, Kurdistan Regional Government (through interpreter): After the referendum, we are ready to start the process of dialogue with Baghdad. We are never, ever going back to Baghdad to renegotiate the failed partnership that we had in the past.

    JANE FERGUSON: The vote is not binding, and Kurdish leaders will not declare independence immediately or even soon afterwards. Instead, it is meant to give them a stronger mandate for negotiating a breakup with Baghdad.

    The Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the world without a state. Excluded when European powers carved up the Middle East in the 1920s after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Kurds were divided between Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq.

    Those in Northern Iraq have not stopped fighting for their independence ever since. Over the years, that struggle has cost them dearly. Saddam Hussein was their worst enemy. After an uprising against his regime in Baghdad in the 1980s, he shocked the world by using chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians.

    In 1988, the people of Halabja town were gassed, massacring thousands of Kurdish men, women and children. The horror of those times has never been forgotten here.

    GEN. HUSSAIN MAMAND (through interpreter): In the ’80s, there were chemical weapons used against the Kurds. The Kurds were given even more reason to fight for our rights.

    JANE FERGUSON: That fight cost General Mamand and his family dearly. His 27-year-old son, Abdullah, was killed fighting the terror group.

    GEN. HUSSAIN MAMAND (through interpreter): From Bashiqa, they were heading into Mosul. He was wounded twice by gunfire and a suicide bomber. He wasn’t alone. A couple of others were killed too.

    JANE FERGUSON: The Trump administration has pushed the Kurdish leaders to cancel the independence referendum. They say breaking apart Iraq is too destabilizing for the region.

    Brett McGurk is the top U.S. envoy to the coalition fighting ISIS, and has been working in Iraq for over a decade.

    BRETT MCGURK, Special Presidential Envoy: The referendum, to get to your question, just carries an awful lot of risks. And that’s not something that — that’s not something the United States can control.

    JANE FERGUSON: Kurds here know they will have to go it alone for now.

    GEN. HUSSAIN MAMAND (through interpreter): We are disappointed with the Americans now, but I hope this will not last. I hope they understand that the Kurds are only fighting for their rights, nothing else.

    JANE FERGUSON: In the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region, Irbil, there is growing excitement about the latest independence bid.

    It would be difficult to find anybody in a market like this who doesn’t support the referendum and independence. But beyond Kurdistan’s boundaries, anger is growing.

    Neighboring countries Turkey, Syria and Iran are threatening military action if more moves towards independence are made. They are afraid the Kurdish minorities in their own countries could start agitating for independence too.

    Those are not baseless fears. In a cafe in Irbil, a group of Kurds originally from Turkey and now living in Europe have gathered. They traveled here just to witness the historic vote and show support. They are not Iraqi citizens, so cannot vote, but, to them, a Kurd is a Kurd.

    AZAD LORDENI, Turkish Kurd (through interpreter): We don’t say we are from Kurdish Turkey, or Kurdish Iran or Kurdish Syria. We say we are from Northern Kurdistan or Eastern Kurdistan or Western Kurdistan. We are from Kurdistan.

    JANE FERGUSON: To these men, the issue of U.S. opposition to the referendum is just a case of political necessity, for now.

    Professor Dlawer Ala’Aldeen heads up the Middle East Research Institute in Irbil.

    DLAWEER ALA’ALDEEN, Middle East Research Institute, Erbil: Now, when the current administration says don’t do it, this has not translated into people feeling abandoned or bitter about it. People still love America.

    But what they expect is that, after the referendum, and if they enable this process of independence, they expect that understanding from America, that there will be more friends supporting this move and trying to calm things down.

    JANE FERGUSON: Baghdad angrily rejects the referendum, and the inclusion of disputed areas like Kirkuk City in the proposed future Kurdish country hasn’t helped.

    Kirkuk is home to an ethnic mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. It also holds great oil wealth, and Baghdad will not give it up easily.

    HAIDER AL ABADI, Prime Minister, Iraq (through interpreter): We will not relinquish our Kurdish people. We have rejected a sectarian and racist state. Iraq will remain for all Iraqis. And we do not allow anyone to do what he likes without bearing consequences.

    JANE FERGUSON: That hasn’t frightened those in the Mamand family, who all showed up excited to vote. Farida’s mother, Aisha, was overcome with emotion, voting for the creation of a country her son has already died for.

    Whatever the result of the referendum, negotiating for independence afterwards will be fraught with difficulty and the threat of violence from all sides.

    Despite the peaceful vote, more blood may be shed before the Kurds ever win their own country.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jane Ferguson in Irbil, Iraq.

    The post Facing opposition, Kurds make a new bid for independence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats (2NDR) ; Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe (L) ; National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers (R); and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (2NDL) are seated to testify before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in Washington, U.S., June 7, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTX39GQ2

    Intelligence directors, seen before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) earlier this year, lobbied Congress Monday to let them conduct broad surveillance on foreign targets in coming years. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    WASHINGTON — Intelligence and law enforcement officials across the government lobbied Congress Monday to let them conduct broad surveillance on foreign targets in coming years, saying it helps prevent terrorist and cyberattacks on the United States. They said current rules adequately safeguard the privacy of Americans.

    More than 10 senior officials with the CIA, National Security Agency, FBI, Justice Department and national intelligence director’s office made their case to news reporters for why Congress should reauthorize a highly contentious section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

    The program has been a source of endless debate in recent years between security officials and privacy advocates who complain that information about Americans also is being swept up.

    They said the authority to target the communications of foreigners located outside the United States yields intelligence on terrorist plots, weapons proliferation, malicious cyber operations and other threats to U.S. national security. The officials said 106,469 foreigners abroad currently are being targeted — up from about 89,000 in 2013. The authority expires at the end of the year and lawmakers are weighing reauthorization.

    The senior government officials briefed reporters on behalf of their departments and agencies on condition they not be quoted by name.

    The program has been a source of endless debate in recent years between security officials and privacy advocates who complain that information about Americans also is being swept up.

    The intelligence officials Monday cited several recent successes as a result of the surveillance:

    • Helped stop a U.S. manufacturer from unwittingly selling $200,000 in goods to a weapons proliferation network.
    • Tipped Turkish authorities to the whereabouts of a man suspected of conducting a New Year’s attack on a nightclub in Istanbul that killed 39 people. The suspect was captured after evading police for more than two weeks.
    • Gained information about a foreign adversary’s cyber tactics that could stop a future cyberattack against the United States.
    • Flushed out a network run by a man from Trinidad and Tobago who traveled to Syria and used social media to recruit militants for the Islamic State group.

    Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who briefly stepped into the briefing, said getting the law renewed is his “top priority this year.”

    National Security Agency director Mike Rogers told senators earlier this year that a lot of what was in the intelligence agencies’ assessment on Russian meddling in the U.S. election was informed by knowledge gained through the program. Earlier this month, Coats and Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote a letter to top Republicans and Democrats in Congress, asking them to not only reauthorize it as it’s written, but to make it a permanent fixture in the law books.

    Most Republicans and Democrats want the surveillance tool to continue. Some are proposing a specified period of time so it that can be periodically reviewed. There also are calls to bolster safeguards to protect the privacy of Americans whose communications can get collected in surveillance of foreigners targeted overseas.

    The program may not be used to intentionally target a U.S. person anywhere in the world. Nor may the law be used to intentionally target any person, regardless of nationality, who is in the United States.

    Even though the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has ended, calls and emails are still gathered by U.S. surveillance work targeting foreigners. Intelligence officials say they follow stringent protocol when dealing with communications of Americans incidentally acquired.

    Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democratic champion of privacy rights, has asked intelligence officials to determine how many U.S. citizens’ communications have been collected. Intelligence officials said they’ve tried to figure that out and shared with Congress the results of those attempts. They say it’s difficult to determine the nationality of people whose communications are collected when they’re not the targets.

    No bill to reauthorize the surveillance authority has been introduced in the House. Lawmakers there are expected to keep it from expiring.

    In the Senate, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican hawk, introduced a bill in June to reauthorize the program permanently. Wyden and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky currently are drafting another bill.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It was not any given Sunday.

    Professional sports turned political, kicking off a national debate over protest, race and respect for the national anthem.

    Jeffrey Brown begins our coverage. (national anthem playing)

    JEFFREY BROWN: A day of defiance in the National Football League. In stadiums across the country, players chose their form of protest against a president who has made clear his distaste for such demonstrations.

    BENJAMIN WATSON, Tight End, Baltimore Ravens: It was very emotional for all of us. And we all had decisions to make. Some guys kneeled. Some guys stood. But rest assured that we all care. We all care about any form of injustice.

    JEFFREY BROWN: League-wide, more than 200 players sat or kneeled during the national anthem. Others locked arms with their teammates and some owners in a show of unity. Three teams, the Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers, chose not to take the field during the anthem.

    The issue jumped into the headlines on Friday night, when the president spoke at a campaign rally in Alabama.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, get that son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) off the field right now? Out. He’s fired.



    JEFFREY BROWN: Indeed, NFL owners responded, but many in opposition to the president. Even longtime Trump supporter New England Patriots boss Robert Kraft released a statement, saying: “I support our players’ right to peacefully effect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.”

    Still, the president doubled down on his remarks with more than a dozen tweets, and one this morning with the hashtag #Standforouranthem.

    It was a steamy Sunday outside FedEx Field in suburban Washington. The hometown Redskins were getting set to take on the Oakland Raiders in a prime-time matchup. But as tailgaters fired up grills, tossed footballs and cheered on their teams, the political conversation loomed large.

    MAN: Athletes have the platform. And if that’s a way to get the message out, I’m all for it. It’s peaceful. There’s no violence. I’m all for it.

    MAN: I want them all standing. If they want to lock arms, that’s cool. But everybody stand up. If they don’t want to stand, stay in the locker room, like Pittsburgh did, and be over with it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The debate drew a wide range of opinions on the role athletes should play in such national conversations.

    MAN: Well, they’re getting paid millions of dollars to play a game, a kids’ game. So, you ought to respect a country that allows you to do that. I mean, you don’t have to agree with the way things are. And there’s other ways to protest. Stand up for the flag, because a lot of people died for it.

    MAN: They’re getting paid millions of dollars year after year even put their lives at risk, even to the point of concussion. But when it comes to them having consciousness, and when they feel they need something to change, that’s when the whole motive shifts. It’s crazy how that is.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Many of those who argue against kneeling say the protests disrespect the military. But veterans we met were split.

    ERNEST DAVILA, U.S. Army: I have been in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I fight to protect our rights as American citizens with our freedom of speech. But kneeling for the flag isn’t going to change what’s happening.

    NANCY BUCHANAN, Air Force Veteran: I think that was a stupid thing for the president to say. Everybody has a voice, and if they disagree with what the flag stands for, or whatever meaning behind it, that’s their decision.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Corey Lee was at the game to watch his son Marquel, a starting linebacker for the Raiders. The Navy veteran supports what the players are doing, but when it came to his own son:

    COREY LEE, Father of Marquel Lee: Oh, he’s going to stand for the national anthem. He’s going to definitely stand for that. This is my son. And he knows my beliefs. He knows our beliefs as a family.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But lee’s wife, Katanya, said Marquel can make up his own mind:

    KATANYA LEE, Mother of Marquel Lee: I want him to do whatever he feels in his heart is best for him. That’s the way — I mean, we raised him to be very independent and to not be followers, but to be leaders.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Elsewhere, shows of support for the player who sparked the debate, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who first kneeled during the anthem last year to protest police brutality against minorities.

    The president has insisted his comments aren’t about race, but Greg Banks disagrees.

    GREG BANKS, Washington, D.C. area: He’s totally disregarding what the message is. And the message is, we don’t want to be killed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The next act could come tonight, as the Arizona Cardinals face the Dallas Cowboys on the national broadcast of “Monday Night Football.”

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We take a deeper look at all this now with Jerry Brewer, who has been reporting on and writing about all this for The Washington Post.

    Jerry Brewer, welcome to the program.

    JERRY BREWER, The Washington Post: Thanks for having me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you wrote in your column for today’s Post — and they made it — “The Headline NFL Beat Trump.”

    What did you mean by that?

    JERRY BREWER: Well, I think Trump wanted to take on 1,800 members of a league and essentially tell them what to do. And they said, no, this is — our constitutional right is to express ourselves peacefully.

    And that’s what they did Sunday. And, ultimately, that’s what that was about. Colin Kaepernick is so much — it’s about such bigger issues. But yesterday was really about, what do we stand for as a football league in the face of the president saying some vulgar things about us?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is the message that the league is united behind, do you think?

    JERRY BREWER: I think that they’re united in just — in solidarity that you do have a choice.

    And they’re united, I think, in the message that, if you choose to peacefully protest, that doesn’t make you an SOB. It’s quite — it’s very much that simple.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And when the president and when his spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, today at the White House said, this is not about race, this is not about anything other than respecting our flag, respecting our country?

    JERRY BREWER: Well, I don’t think that you can — just like you can’t take words out of context, you can’t take actions out of context. It’s very dangerous.

    And so the first thing, I believe, whenever someone protests, you have to ask the question, why? And you have to get to the why. And the why is, from Colin Kaepernick’s standpoint and a lot of players who started this before Sunday, it’s about police brutality, it’s about inequality, it’s about racism, it’s about just building a better American society.

    And we have kind of gotten away from that. And they feel a sense of helplessness, in that no one is going to listen to this issue, unless I, who have a platform, do something.

    And people forget that protests are not supposed to be polite. You protest something because you feel like your voice isn’t being heard. And so they’re speaking for hundreds, thousands, millions of people who have these legitimate concerns in their own communities, and no one wants to pay the appropriate attention to them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Does it get more complicated when you have people taking it, as you saw some of the fans at the Redskins game yesterday, saying, they shouldn’t be disrespecting the military, people who have sacrificed their — put their lives on the line for this country?

    JERRY BREWER: Yes, I think it becomes a dangerous oversimplification.

    And I don’t think — when you go and talk to any of these players, no one is saying that we’re doing this against the military, that we’re doing to this because we hate the United States.

    They’re doing it to get attention. And I think you have — again, I think you have to put it in context, and we have to understand what they are doing.

    We understand that symbols are very powerful in this nation, in the entire world, but, ultimately, it is a symbol. But can we get back to caring about the people that they’re trying to represent, instead of being so ferociously angry at how they’re misrepresenting a symbol?

    It’s a symbol. Again, the flag is a very powerful thing. I have family members. I have a huge history of family with military backgrounds. But, at the end of the day, you’re choosing to peacefully kneel or sit down in front of a flag in order to say, please, please, please, would you pay attention to these issues of inequality that are ruining America, in my opinion?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We noticed that a number of players — I saw the number 200 — kneeled yesterday.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: And there were a number of others who stood and locked arms.

    And we saw the owners locking arms. And the president at one point tweeted — I guess this was yesterday — he said: “Great solidarity for our anthem and our country. Standing with locked arms is good. Kneeling is not acceptable.”

    Is there a difference?

    JERRY BREWER: Yes, I do think there’s a difference.

    I think, ultimately, what the NFL was trying to do yesterday was say, no matter how you want to express yourself, we’re with you. And it was a very empathetic statement that they were trying to make, and they were trying to show that you can be united.

    And I think, in this country, name any issue. We are never going to be perfectly aligned and in agreement on anything. And that’s — in a lot of ways, it’s the beauty of our country. You’re allowed to be that way.

    But you should care about the man to the right of you, the woman to the left of you. And that is the way that we get better. We can’t just — we can’t just say, this is this, this is how I feel, go argue at my brick wall over there in the corner.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One other thing.

    This all started, in a way, last week with that report about concussions, about CTE, the new information that it’s affecting these athletes much younger. That’s out there.

    And, meantime, the president is saying in Alabama Friday night, oh, these new rules protecting the players are ruining — he said, ruining the game.

    What are we to take away from all that right now?

    JERRY BREWER: Yes, if he didn’t curse talking about the protests, I think that what he said about the game would be a lot more inflammatory.

    You’re talking about — we’re talking about athletes who play this game for 10 years, leave, and then, 15 years later, they are committing suicide because they have brain damage, because they have CTE.

    And you can’t just come back and say, I want football to be the way it used to be.

    And what is the value of a life? These aren’t just disposable human beings. And, again, that speaks to just football.

    But when you want to talk about America in general and issues that people care about, human beings are not disposable. And we have to get back to having some empathy. We understand that we all aren’t going to agree, but we can listen to each other, and we can learn from each other, even though we may not agree.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So much more to talk about here.

    Jerry Brewer of The Washington Post, thank you very much.

    JERRY BREWER: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: The official death toll reached at least 324 in last week’s earthquake in Central Mexico.

    Today, crews in Mexico City were still searching the rubble of collapsed buildings, although hope of finding survivors is all but gone. Meanwhile, officials cleared just 103 of the city’s nearly 9,000 schools as safe to reopen.

    Texas has won another round, another legal round in its bid to ban so-called sanctuary cities that protect undocumented migrants. A federal appeals court in New Orleans gave the Lone Star State more latitude today to enforce the statute. That means that police chiefs and jail officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration officials can face jail time.

    In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel now faces a struggle to create a new ruling coalition after Sunday’s election. Her Conservatives finished first, but they lost seats, as a far-right party surged to new prominence.

    Matt Frei of Independent Television News reports from Berlin.

    MATT FREI, ITN: Angela Merkel strode into her party headquarters this morning after a night of licking wounds, wringing hands and extracting daggers from her back.

    What coalition will now run Europe’s most powerful nation is far from obvious. Germany could be facing months of instability.

    CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, German Chancellor (through interpreter): As I have said, I will use all my strengths to serve Germany and a stable Europe and then let others decide how they want to describe me, which, by the way, varies quite a bit in Europe.

    MATT FREI: (through interpreter): Indeed.


    MATT FREI: Supporters of the hard-right-wing AFD, or Alternative For Germany party, this is their stampede into the history books, from zero seats to 94 in the Bundestag. Their motto sounds familiar: We want to take our country back.

    Outside, the response: “Berlin hate the AFD. Nasties out. You make us sick.”

    You get the drift. Alexander Gauland, his co-leader, Alice Weidel, and their supporters are voicing opinions that dare not speak their name, especially on immigration, until now.

    What do you say to those people, to those Germans — and there are many of them — who look at you and look at your party and say, you are racist? What do you say to them?

    ALEXANDER GAULAND, Alternative for Germany: We are no racists. We are no national socialists. We are a democratic party.

    MATT FREI: Germany, too, has caught a bout of populist contagion. It, too, has joined the tortured debate of our time about national identity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That report from Matt Frei of Independent Television News.

    Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is calling for early parliamentary elections. He said today that he hopes, in part, for a stronger mandate to oppose North Korea’s nuclear activities. The election is set for October 22.

    Back in this country, former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner was sentenced today to 21 months in prison for exchanging lewd messages and images with a 15-year-old girl. The New York Democrat begged the judge for leniency, and then broke down and wept. He remains free for now, but has to report to prison by November 6.

    There’s word that Russian-bought advertisements on Facebook tried to sow divisions in the United States over race and religion during last year’s presidential contest.

    The Washington Post reports tonight that the ads played up discord over groups like Black Lives Matter and Muslims in the U.S. A separate Post report says that President Obama warned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to crack down on so-called fake news. They spoke after the November election.

    Today marked the 60th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine. On this day in 1957, nine black teenagers had to be escorted by federal troops past an angry white mob to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Today, in the school auditorium, the eight surviving members were honored for their courage.

    ERNEST GREEN, Little Rock Nine: Making history is not something we aspired to do. We wanted the best education our parents’ taxes afforded. We wanted what the Constitution said, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I saw education as part of that right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The confrontation in 1957 came three years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down racial segregation in public schools.

    And on Wall Street, a rough day for the tech sector. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 53 points to close at 22296. The Nasdaq fell 56, and the S&P 500 slipped five.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to Puerto Rico and the disaster that Hurricane Maria left behind. The U.S. territory is a vast scene of wreckage, and there are new calls to do more.

    John Yang has that story.

    JOHN YANG: Across Puerto Rico, there is heart-wrenching devastation. Most of the U.S. territory’s three-and-a-half million people can only wait, wait for water, wait for power, wait for fuel.

    YARILIN COLON, Puerto Rico Resident (through interpreter): We don’t have communications. I have no telephone. We have nothing. We do not have supplies. In my house, we do not have water. There is no gas. The lines are long.

    JOHN YANG: In San Juan, lines wrapped around gas stations. Others flocked to a point near a cell tower, damaged but still functioning, hoping for a signal strong enough to reach loved ones.

    ADMIN REBOZO, Puerto Rico Resident (through interpreter): I have been trying for days to get in touch with my family in the United States, and just today I found out that there is a signal here. So I came with my mother to call my father, who is there, and let him know that we are OK.

    JOHN YANG: Elsewhere, people waited to fill any container they could carry with precious water. Some in the Central Mountains resorted to the only source they could, a stream that was once off-limits.

    CARLOS LOPEZ, Puerto Rico Resident (through interpreter): We didn’t know we could get water because it was forbidden in the past, but it’s open now to the public to be able to get some.

    JOHN YANG: Still more lines at San Juan’s international airport, hoping to get a flight off the island.

    RAMON CUEVAS, Puerto Rico Resident (through interpreter): Since we are without communications, we don’t have phones, Internet. We have nothing. We came in person to see what the status of the airport is, and what the possibility is of taking any flight.

    JOHN YANG: Others are bent on returning home. Many who fled Toa Baja on the northern coast have begun to return, only to find the ruins that the hurricane left behind.

    CARMEN BERRERO, Puerto Rico Resident (through interpreter): Every time I get here to my house, I cry, because it’s not easy to start again, start, clean, pick up, pull and see that there is nothing. I do not have anything, but I will start again with the help of God. I really will.

    JOHN YANG: Almost a week after Maria hit, some isolated towns still have not been heard from at all. It’s in those places, cut off from the rest of the island and the world, where some fear the worst damage and loss of life.

    And there is still danger elsewhere: Officials said a dam on the Guajataca River remained in danger of failing. About 70,000 people could be in danger and have been urged to evacuate. Much of Puerto Rico’s economy is in shambles; 80 percent of its agricultural crops were wiped out, a calamity for a territory that was in fiscal crisis even before Maria.

    National Guard planes are delivering sorely need supplies, but there are calls for much more.

    Today, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi urged President Trump to deploy the military for search-and-rescue, maintaining order and providing transportation. House Speaker Paul Ryan vowed Puerto Ricans will have what they need. And to encourage private giving, the five living former presidents expanded their one-America appeal to include Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    For more on the situation in Puerto Rico, I spoke with the territory’s governor, Ricardo Rossello.

    Governor Rossello, thanks for joining us.

    Let me first by asking you, what’s the latest on the Guajataca Dam? Is that still in that danger, or has that stabilized?

    GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, Puerto Rico: Well, right now, we were unclear.

    We sent a group of engineers to assess the situation. We’re going to get information in the next two hours. However, we’re still on emergency protocol, making sure people are out of harm’s way. We are assessing mitigation plans to make sure that we can stop the damage that has already occurred within the dam.

    So things are still in flux. But, of course, we would rather err on the side of caution.

    JOHN YANG: Governor, you say you have sent teams out to the dam. How hard is it to get information, to reach various parts of the island?

    GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO: It’s very difficult in terms of telecom. We only have 27 percent of telecom network working right now, and it’s mostly in the metropolitan area.

    However, we have established certain teams that are going to the different municipalities. We have made sure that the mayors or their representatives come over here to our center of operations, so that we can communicate what the needs are and we can start being effective.

    We send a crew of runners every day to every municipality, so we can get information back and forth. So it’s a little bit rudimentary, but it’s working for us at this moment, and hopefully we will have a mitigation strategy within the next 24 to 48 hours.

    JOHN YANG: Governor, are you getting all the aid you need or getting it fast enough from the states?

    GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO: First of all, we are very grateful for the administration. They have responded quickly.

    The president has been very attentive to the situation, personally calling me several times. FEMA and the FEMA director have been here in Puerto Rico twice. As a matter of fact, they were here with us today, making sure that all the resources in FEMA were working in conjunction with the central government.

    We have been working together. We have been getting results. The magnitude of this catastrophe is enormous. This is going to take a lot of help, a lot of collaboration. So, my call is to congressmen and congresswomen to take action quickly and conclusively with an aid package for Puerto Rico.

    We are in the midst of potentially having a humanitarian crisis here in Puerto Rico which would translate to a humanitarian crisis in the United States. So, I call upon Congress to take action immediately. You know, Puerto Ricans are proud U.S. citizens.

    We have shown as much when Irma went through our region. It impacted us, but that didn’t stop us from going to the aid of other almost 4,000 U.S. citizens that were stranded in some of the islands. We gave them food, shelter. We make them out of harm’s way and we have them go back to their homes.

    Now it is time for, you know, the U.S. citizens in the mainland to help Puerto Rico as well. And because we are a territory, we need to be equal, because we’re U.S. citizens, as would happen in any other state. The aftermath of this could be health emergencies, severe problems with infrastructure, and, of course, massive exodus of people of Puerto Rico, which would cause a tremendous demographic shift in Puerto Rico and in the United States.

    JOHN YANG: You say it has to be consistent with the aid that went to Harvey and Irma.

    Do you worry that, because that was Texas and Florida, that Puerto Rico might be overlooked or in some sense sort of forgotten in the wake of all of that?

    GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO: We can’t be treated differently. You can’t build half a house.

    You need to have all of the resources to restructure and rebuild Puerto Rico properly. And let me just say this. Puerto Rico’s situation is very unique. FEMA, you know, recognizes as much. So, it’s a situation where we essentially had two Category 5, 4 or 5, hurricanes go through Puerto Rico in a matter of two weeks.

    This is unprecedented. And, as such, the response should be unprecedented as well.

    JOHN YANG: Governor Ricardo Rossello of the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, thank you very much for your time. And we wish you the best.

    GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO: Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. And we will be fighting to build a much better Puerto Rico.

    JOHN YANG: As Hurricane Maria bore down on Puerto Rico last week, Miami Herald reporter Patricia Mazzei was on one of the last flights in. Yesterday, she was on one of the first flights out.

    And she joins us now from Miami.

    Patricia, what — tell us what you saw, what it was like down there in the days after Maria hit.

    PATRICIA MAZZEI, Miami Herald: What was really impressive was the extent of the damage.

    I mean, it wasn’t just centered in one place. Everywhere you went, everybody had a story about the horrific storm and just how it had wreaked havoc on their property, on their loved ones. I mean, city after city was flooded, had huge mud come into people’s homes, had all the roofs torn out.

    It was unrelenting in seeing the extent of the catastrophe.

    JOHN YANG: How widely were you able to get out and around the island? How far were you able to get from San Juan?

    PATRICIA MAZZEI: Well, we were concerned about running out of gas because there was a gas shortage, as you know, after the storm. So, we were able to get east of San Juan and west of San Juan, so we’re talking maybe 60 miles, 70 miles each way, because we didn’t want to get stranded anywhere.

    And it was different going in each direction. To the east, there was a lot of flooding that we saw, a lot of sand coming on to the streets, just beach erosion. And to the west, we went towards that dam that has the crack in it that’s threatening some towns and threatening their water supply. And there is where we saw the mud and where we saw people who were completely isolated, because that’s where the eye went out of the storm, and they had yet to reach even their own government officials for help.

    JOHN YANG: How were food supplies holding up as you traveled around? What did you see?

    PATRICIA MAZZEI: We saw a few little grocery stores open up here and there, but they were selling the supplies that they had had since before the storm. No one was getting resupplied.

    And people were starting to run out of their own stocks of water and things like that. There was one bakery in the town of Loiza that we went to that would open everyday at 7:00 a.m. and make all the bread it could for the day. And there was a line out the door.

    And then, as soon as they ran out, that was it. That was all they had. We even saw in San Juan that at least one hotel where foreign and locals were staying, they didn’t have any more water bottles either. They ran out of plantains, because they were just — there wasn’t new supplies coming in to any of these places yet.

    JOHN YANG: Did you see signs of relief aid?

    PATRICIA MAZZEI: We saw San Juan starting to get on its feet, because we saw debris removal, big tractors, that sort of thing, on the road, out of the city as well. We didn’t see utility trucks anywhere.

    We didn’t see any distributions of food or water. The relief that was present already in the shelters, those folks were trying to get together cots and things like that, but they were putting lists of supplies that they needed together, and it was the bare essentials, toothbrushes, toothpastes, female hygiene products, toilet paper. They were running out of all of it.

    JOHN YANG: We have less than a minute left, but I want you to tell me a little bit about the scene at the Miami Airport when you arrived yesterday evening.


    Well, we saw family where a young girl had a big Puerto Rican flag that she unfurled when she saw the first people come out of — off the flight. There were TV news crews waiting to speak to people who were telling them about, you know, arriving in the U.S.

    And even on the plane, as soon as we landed, people were turning on their phones and getting to call their relatives for the first time, and the woman behind me started weeping because she hadn’t been able to reach her family until she landed in Miami. They didn’t know she was here.

    JOHN YANG: Patricia Mazzei of The Miami Herald, thank you very much for sharing your stories with us.

    PATRICIA MAZZEI: My pleasure.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Supreme Court is dropping, for now, upcoming arguments over President Trump’s controversial travel ban. The move comes one day after the White House issued a revised and expanded ban. It restricts travel to the U.S. from eight countries, including five on the original ban, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. New to the list, Chad, North Korea and Venezuela.

    For more on the ban and what comes next, we are joined by Yeganeh Torbati. She covers immigration for the Reuters news service.

    Yeganeh, welcome back to the program.

    So, what is mainly different about this one?

    YEGANEH TORBATI, Reuters: So, what happened was the administration essentially dropped Sudan from the list of countries that whose citizens can come to the United States.

    It added a couple of other countries, Chad, North Korea, and it restricted travel to the United States by certain Venezuelan government officials and their families. But for the five main countries on the travel ban list, the ones you just named, the restrictions are largely still in place, and they’re now indefinite. There’s no time limit on them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What was the rationale behind this change?

    YEGANEH TORBATI: So what the administration said over the past weekend, essentially, Friday and again on Sunday, is that they went through a rigorous process where they engaged with countries around the world to — in order to get more information from them on their citizens and get certain assertions and certain agreements of cooperation, essentially, to help the United States verify their citizens’ identity.

    And what they have told the public and what they have told us is that those countries that didn’t provide that or either were not able to or willing to provide that level of cooperation, those are the countries whose citizens are now basically banned from coming to the United States.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So it’s no longer then a Muslim ban, which is what the critics were saying it was, even though the administration denied that?

    YEGANEH TORBATI: Right, so the administration denies that.

    But what critics of the ban are saying is that throwing in countries like North Korea and Venezuela into this ban doesn’t sort of take away from the original intent or what they see as the original intent, which was to ban people from Muslim-majority countries from coming to the United States.

    North Korea last year sent about 109 individuals to the United States in the form of immigrants and non-immigrants, a tiny number. The restrictions on Venezuela, another non-Muslim majority country in this new list, are very narrow. It’s just certain government officials and their families can’t come as tourists to the United States.

    Chad is 53 percent Muslim, and so critics still see this as a Muslim-majority — a ban on countries that are Muslim-majority.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, as we reported, the Supreme Court now put off hearing these arguments. What is likely to be the effect? There were lawsuits filed on the basis of this being unconstitutional. Where is all that likely to go?

    YEGANEH TORBATI: Right. So, legal experts see the Supreme Court’s move today as essentially an indication that it really doesn’t want to rule on this case, and that it likely or perhaps will indeed rule it moot.

    The Supreme Court has a long-term view and it realizes that President Trump is not going to be the last president. There will be presidents after him, and they don’t want to rule on a case related to immigration and national security, areas that are very much the prerogative generally of the executive branch. They don’t want to set very far-reaching precedents if in fact the original reason for the case has now expired.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yeganeh Torbati of Reuters, we thank you.

    YEGANEH TORBATI: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.

    The post How Trump’s travel ban changed and what comes next appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: New escalation today in the war of words between the United States and North Korea. The North now says it’s ready to shoot down U.S. bombers in the face of threats by President Trump.

    That follows the president’s weekend tweet that North Korean leaders — quote — “won’t be around much longer.” Today, the North’s foreign minister said that such language amounts to declaring war. He spoke in New York, where he’s attending the U.N. General Assembly.

    RI YONG HO, Foreign Minister, North Korea (through interpreter): Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down the United States’ strategic bombers, even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House dismissed the North Korean complaint. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders brushed aside any talk of war.

    SARAH SANDERS, White House Press Secretary: We have not declared war on North Korea, and, frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd. It’s never appropriate for a country to shoot down another country’s aircraft when it’s over international waters. Our goal is still the same. We continue to seek the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. That’s our focus.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice, but there was never a peace treaty. As a result, the U.S. and North Korea are technically still at war.


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    Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) talks to reporters as she arrives for a Senate health care vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. in July. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she could not support the latest GOP effort to reform health care. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters.

    WASHINGTON — The last-gasp Republican drive to tear down President Barack Obama’s health care law essentially died Monday as Maine Sen. Susan Collins joined a small but decisive cluster of GOP senators in opposing the push.

    The Maine moderate said in a statement that the legislation would make “devastating” cuts in the Medicaid program for poor and disabled people, drive up premiums for millions and weaken protections Obama’s law gives people with pre-existing medical conditions.

    Collins told reporters that she made her decision despite receiving a phone call from President Donald Trump, who’s been futilely trying to press unhappy GOP senators to back the measure.

    READ MORE: What Republicans just changed in their health care bill

    She said the legislation is “deeply flawed,” despite several changes its sponsors have made in an effort to round up support.

    The collapse of the legislation marks a replay of the embarrassing loss Trump and party leaders suffered in July, when the Senate rejected three attempts to pass legislation erasing the 2010 statute. The GOP has made promises to scrap the law a high-profile campaign vow for years.

    With their narrow 52-48 majority and solid Democratic opposition, three GOP “no” votes would doom the bill. GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Texas’ Ted Cruz have said they oppose the measure, though Cruz aides said he was seeking changes that would let him vote yes.

    The only way Republicans could revive the bill would be to change opposing senators’ minds, something they’ve been trying unsuccessfully to do for months.

    The only way Republicans could revive the bill would be to change opposing senators’ minds, something they’ve been trying unsuccessfully to do for months.

    The Senate must vote this week for Republicans to have any chance of prevailing with their narrow margin. Next Sunday, protections expire against a Democratic filibuster, bill-killing delays that Republicans lack the votes to overcome.

    It was unclear if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would have a roll call if he knew it would lose.

    Collins announced her decision shortly after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said “millions” of Americans would lose coverage under the bill and projected it would impose $1 trillion in Medicaid cuts through 2026.

    No. 3 Senate GOP leader John Thune of South Dakota conceded that the measure’s prospects were “bleak.”

    The post Collins opposes latest GOP health care plan, jeopardizing chances for reform appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before boarding Air Force One in Morristown, New Jersey. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before boarding Air Force One in Morristown, New Jersey. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. ramped up its response Monday to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, even as President Donald Trump brought up the island’s struggles before Hurricane Maria struck — including “billions of dollars” in debt to “Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.”

    The Trump administration has tried to blunt criticism that its response to Hurricane Maria has fallen short of its efforts in Texas and Florida after the recent hurricanes there.

    Five days after the Category 4 storm slammed into Puerto Rico, many of the more than 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory were still without adequate food, water and fuel. Flights off the island were infrequent, communications were spotty and roads were clogged with debris. Officials said electrical power may not be fully restored for more than a month.

    Trump himself pointed out some differences between the two states and the island in a series of tweets Monday night.

    “Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble.”

    Trump also noted that the island’s electrical grid was already “in terrible shape.” Still, he promised, “Food, water and medical are top priorities – and doing well.”

    In Washington, officials said no armada of U.S. Navy ships was headed to the island because supplies could be carried in more efficiently by plane. The Trump administration ruled out temporarily setting aside federal restrictions on foreign ships’ transportation of cargo, saying it wasn’t needed. The government had waived those rules in Florida and Texas until last week.

    Though the administration said the focus on aid was strong, when two Cabinet secretaries spoke at a conference on another subject — including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose agency is helping restore the island’s power — neither made any mention of Puerto Rico or Hurricane Maria.

    Democratic lawmakers with large Puerto Rican constituencies back on the mainland characterized the response so far as too little and too slow. The confirmed death toll from Maria jumped to at least 49 on Monday, including 16 in Puerto Rico.

    “Puerto Ricans are Americans,” said Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., who traveled to Puerto Rico over the weekend to assess the damage. “We cannot and will not turn our backs on them.”

    John Yang speaks with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald about the extent of the damage and the island’s need for federal aid.

    Trump himself was expected at the end of last week to visit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, after they had been ravaged by Hurricane Irma. But the trip was delayed after Maria set its sights on the islands.

    The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, and White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert landed in San Juan on Monday, appearing with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello at a news briefing. Though Rossello had urgently called for more emergency assistance over the weekend, he expressed his gratitude for the help so far.

    The governor said the presence of Long and Bossert was “a clear indication that the administration is committed with Puerto Rico’s recovery process.”

    Long said, “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We realize that.”

    Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made no mention of Puerto Rico or the hurricane during a joint appearance before the National Petroleum Council, a business-friendly federal advisory committee. News reporters were not allowed to ask questions.

    Perry had traveled with Trump to Texas and Florida following hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

    Energy Department crews are working in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, coordinating with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, FEMA and a team from the New York Power Authority, among others. An eight-member team from the Western Area Power Authority, an Energy Department agency, assisted with initial damage assessments in Puerto Rico and has been redeployed to St. Thomas. A spokeswoman said additional responders would go to Puerto Rico as soon as transportation to the hurricane-ravaged island could be arranged.

    Zinke’s department oversees the U.S. Virgin Islands, along with other territories.

    The federal response to Maria faces obvious logistical challenges beyond those in Texas or Florida. Supplies must be delivered by air or sea, rather than with convoys of trucks.

    FEMA said it had more than 700 staff on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They were helping coordinate a federal response that now includes more than 10,000 federal personnel spread across the two Caribbean archipelagos.

    In Puerto Rico, federal workers supplied diesel to fuel generators at hospitals and delivered desperately needed food and water to hard-hit communities across the island. Cargo flights are bringing in additional supplies, and barges loaded with more goods are starting to arrive in the island’s ports.

    San Juan’s international airport handled nearly 100 arrivals and departures on Sunday, including military and relief operations, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The Pentagon dispatched the Navy amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, which provided helicopters and Marines to help with the relief effort onshore.

    However, the Trump administration said Monday it would not waive federal restrictions on foreign ships’ transportation of cargo as it had following Harvey and Irma. The administration said it will continue to enforce the Jones Act, which requires that goods transported between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flagged ships.

    Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan said the agency had concluded there were already enough US-flagged vessels available.

    On Capitol Hill, congressional leaders were talking about how to pay for it all. Puerto Rico was already struggling from steep financial and economic challenges before Maria made landfall.

    Last year, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi joined with President Barack Obama to help recession-ravaged Puerto Rico deal with its debt crisis. After the devastating storm, Puerto Ricans will now be eligible to benefit from the same pots of federal emergency disaster aid and rebuilding funds available to residents in Texas and Florida.

    Lawmakers approved a $15 billion hurricane relief packaged after Harvey hit Texas, but billions more will likely now be needed to respond to Maria.

    Ryan said Monday that Congress will ensure the people of Puerto Rico “have what they need.”

    Associated Press reporters Ben Fox in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Jill Colvin, Robert Burns, Matthew Daly, Joan Lowy and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed.

    READ MORE: How you can help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico

    The post Trump responds to Puerto Rico crisis, says the island’s debt ‘must be dealt with’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo of House Benghazi Committee's Republican chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. Photo by James Lawler Duggan/Reuters

    Photo of House Benghazi Committee’s Republican chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. Photo by James Lawler Duggan/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A top House Republican has demanded details on the use of private emails by some of President Donald Trump’s closest advisers.

    Rep. Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina conservative who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the top Democrat on that panel, Rep. Elijah Cummings, cite a recent Politico report that Jared Kushner set up a private email account after the election to conduct work-related business.

    The New York Times is reporting that at least six of Trump’s closest advisers, including Kushner, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, used private email to discuss White House matters.

    During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly attacked Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for setting up a private email server as secretary of state, a decision that prompted an FBI investigation that shadowed her for much of the campaign. Gowdy is best known for his two-year investigation into the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, in which he focused heavily on Clinton’s role as secretary of state.

    In letters Monday to White House general counsel and State Department, Gowdy and Cummings said they want details on all employees.

    “With numerous public revelations of senior executive branch employees deliberately trying to circumvent these laws by using personal, private, or alias email addresses to conduct official government business, the committee has aimed to use its oversight and investigative resources to prevent and deter misuse of private forms of written communication,” the lawmakers wrote.

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday that the use of private email accounts by staff was “to my knowledge, very limited.”

    “White House counsel has instructed all White House staff to use their government email for official business, and only use that email,” she said, adding that “we get instructed on this one pretty regularly.”

    Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, on Sunday confirmed Kushner’s use of a personal email in his first few months of the administration. He said the emails usually involved news articles and political commentary. Lowell also said that any non-personal emails were forwarded to Kushner’s official account and “all have been preserved in any event.”

    Sanders wouldn’t say whether the White House would release Kushner’s private emails that dealt with government business.

    READ MORE: All of the Russia investigations, explained

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    A picture shows the interior of the burnt US consulate building in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on September 13, 2012 following an attack on the building in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other U.S. nationals were killed. Photo by Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/GettyImages

    A picture shows the interior of the burnt US consulate building in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on September 13, 2012 following an attack on the building in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other U.S. nationals were killed. Photo by Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/GettyImages

    WASHINGTON — The trial of the suspected mastermind of the 2012 Benghazi, Libya, attacks will be one of the biggest terrorism cases yet for a Justice Department under a leader who has said it shouldn’t be handling such cases at all.

    Since his time as an Alabama senator, Jeff Sessions has argued that terrorism suspects should be sent to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, rather than prosecuted in U.S. courts by the Justice Department he now oversees. He’s in lock-step with President Donald Trump, who promised during the presidential campaign to fill the prison with “bad dudes.”

    But the Trump administration has yet to send a terror suspect there. And next week, on Oct. 2, it will open the civilian trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala, a case that could offer further evidence that the American civilian justice system can provide legal rights to terror suspects without costing the government valuable intelligence or running the risk that the suspect will go free.

    “Time and time again we have shown that we have a system that can withstand constitutional scrutiny and send people to jail for substantial periods of time,” said David N. Kelley, a former U.S. attorney in New York City, a hub for terrorism prosecutions.

    Abu Khattala is charged in connection with the September 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The case became political fodder, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of intentionally misleading the public and stonewalling congressional investigators, though officials denied any wrongdoing. Some in Congress were particularly critical of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the problem.

    The Obama administration, which had been trying to shutter Guantanamo, brought Abu Khattala to the U.S. to face charges after his capture in 2014. Republican lawmakers, including Sessions, had warned that valuable intelligence might be sacrificed when a detainee is afforded the legal protections of the American justice system, like access to a lawyer and the right to remain silent. They argue that the government can learn more about future plots by holding suspects as enemy combatants and questioning them indefinitely.

    But Abu Khattala’s case shows that even in the American court system, the government has broad freedom to glean and use intelligence from terror suspects, said Jonathan Hafetz, a senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who has handled terrorism cases.

    A judge ruled that prosecutors can use as evidence statements Abu Khattala made during 13 days aboard a Navy transport ship headed to the U.S., a trip his defense lawyers argued was illegal. He was questioned for days about national security matters before being advised of his rights. A new team of FBI investigators then pressed him some more, this time to produce evidence prosecutors could present at trial. Abu Khattala waived his rights, but his attorneys argued that the trip was so coercive, the waiver shouldn’t count.

    The Justice Department declined to comment on its position or elaborate on Sessions’ views.

    The judge rejected that, saying Abu Khattala was “treated respectfully and humanely while in custody.”

    The ruling raises concerns for the rights of defendants, but undermines Sessions’ argument that intelligence collection is impeded by access to attorneys and other rights, Hafetz said.

    “The decisions show the degree to which courts have accommodated the government’s national security concerns in criminal prosecutions, albeit in some cases to a troubling degree,” he said.

    The debate played out vividly over the previous eight years, when then-Attorney General Eric Holder sought to prove that American courts were a fairer and faster form of justice for terror suspects. He tried in 2009 to move the five men accused in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks from Guantanamo to New York for trial, but was derailed by political opposition. With their cases bogged down in pretrial motions, it could be years before the men see a trial before a military commission.

    Holder has claimed vindication as the military commission system at Guantanamo stalled, and the Justice Department convicted hundreds of terrorists captured in the U.S. and overseas. For many career officials, prosecuting terror suspects on American soil has become a source of pride.

    Meanwhile, military commissions since 2001 have resolved just eight cases that ended in convictions, four of which were later overturned. Sessions has lamented the problems with the commissions but still supports their use.

    The White House is drafting a detention policy, but there is nothing that would prevent Trump from sending suspects to Guantanamo again.

    The Justice Department declined to comment on its position or elaborate on Sessions’ views. But they have not publicly changed. He toured Guantanamo this year, after telling a conservative radio host, “I don’t think we’re better off bringing these people to federal court in New York and trying them in federal court where they get discovery rights to find out our intelligence, and get court-appointed lawyers and things of that nature.”

    Asked recently whether U.S. courts are the best place to handle terror cases, Dana Boente, acting head of the department’s national security division, would not answer.

    Another former Manhattan terrorism prosecutor, Andrew C. McCarthy, said that while the Guantanamo military commission system is flawed, Sessions’ concerns have merit.

    “If we end up holding people for five years because they are useful for intelligence, so what?” McCarthy said.

    Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump greets Senator Luther Strange (R-AL) during a campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama, U.S. September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RC1E1DC75D30

    President Donald Trump greets Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., during a campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama, on September 22, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

    Alabama is holding a Republican primary runoff Tuesday for the U.S. Senate seat that used to belong to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill Sessions’ seat, is running against Roy Moore, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. The victor Tuesday is all but assured of winning the general election in December, when the Democratic nominee will face a big disadvantage in staunchly conservative Alabama. Here is a guide to the race:

    Proxy battle for the GOP

    Tuesday’s special election has turned into a proxy battle between the establishment wing of the Republican Party, which is backing Strange, and the GOP’s far-right base, which has coalesced behind Moore. President Donald Trump and Vice President Michael Pence have campaigned for Strange, and he has also received support from groups allied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Moore has been endorsed by popular conservatives like former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

    Incumbent senators rarely lose re-election. But Strange, a former attorney general of Alabama, has held the seat for less than eight months. Moore neutralized whatever advantage Strange may have held by painting him as a loyal follower of McConnell, a deeply disliked figure among many conservative voters. Moore is also well known in Alabama for ignoring a federal judge’s order in 2003 to remove a religious statue from the state supreme court building.

    Moore’s outsider strategy appears to have worked. He entered Tuesday with a double-digit lead in most polls and was widely expected to win, barring a come-from-behind upset by Strange. If Moore wins it might encourage other outsider candidates to challenge incumbents in Republican Senate primaries next year, a scenario McConnell would like to avoid as he prepares to defend his party’s control of the Senate.

    A wild-card vote

    Senate Republicans currently control 52 seats in the upper chamber. Since his appointment earlier this year, Strange has been a reliable vote for McConnell and GOP leadership. Moore, on the other hand, has vowed to shake up Washington by challenging the status quo. Moore would be another possible thorn in McConnell’s side, giving him one less sure-fire vote to count on at a time when he cannot afford to lose any more votes. If Strange stays in the Senate, McConnell would likely have an easier time passing tax reform — and taking another shot at health care down the line if Graham-Cassidy, the current GOP health care bill, goes down in defeat. With Moore, McConnell’s job would become that much more complicated.

    Testing Trump’s clout

    The race is an important political test for Mr. Trump. In backing Strange, Trump, who ran as the ultimate outsider candidate, sided with the Republican establishment. The decision carried clear political risks, even before Moore started surging in the polls. Of the two candidates in the race, Moore more closely embodies the president’s brand of scorched earth politics. But Trump made the calculation early on that maintaining McConnell’s tenuous control of the Senate was worth the risk of angering some conservative primary voters.

    U.S. Senate candidate Judge Roy Moore campaigns at the Historic Union Station Train Shed in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S., September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Tami Chappell - RC190DA22390

    U.S. Senate candidate Judge Roy Moore campaigns at the Historic Union Station Train Shed in Montgomery, Alabama on September 21, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Tami Chappell

    It was a pragmatic move by Trump, who is eager for Republicans in Congress to notch a major legislative victory. Republicans have failed to pass a health care overhaul — the latest effort took a big hit Monday, when Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, came out against the Graham-Cassidy bill — and the party will need all the votes it can muster to pass tax reform later this year. Keeping Strange in the Senate seemed like the best way to do that.

    But now the decision is in danger of backfiring. Trump put some of his political capital on the line by endorsing Strange, and is facing the possibility that he’ll have nothing to show for it. If Moore wins, it could influence Trump’s strategy for making future GOP primary endorsements.


    Republicans hold six of Alabama’s seven congressional districts. In 2016, Trump won at least 63 percent of the vote in every GOP congressional district in the state. Trump remains popular in Deep South states like Alabama, which he won overall by 28 points. But the 2016 map shows some areas of weakness for Trump. Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent in the presidential race, carried portions of central Alabama, as well as the county surrounding Birmingham, the state’s largest city.

    It will be interesting to see how Republicans vote Tuesday in the moderate parts of the state that went for Clinton. To the extent that the race is a referendum on Trump, a low turnout there would confirm national poll numbers showing Trump’s inability to expand his appeal to moderates and independent voters. On the opposite end of the political spectrum, Trump did best last year in northern Alabama, around the city of Huntsville, and in the state’s southernmost counties, along the Florida panhandle. Those are good places to gauge Moore — and Trump’s — popularity with the party’s far-right base.

    Follow the post-election spin

    Since taking office, Trump has rarely acknowledged making mistakes. When the Senate failed to pass a health care bill in July, he lashed out at Republicans who voted against the proposal, though many privately blamed Trump for not doing more to sell the plan. But at a rally for Strange in Alabama last Friday, Trump admitted that his decision to support Strange may have come at a cost.

    “I might have made a mistake. I’ll be honest, I might have made a mistake,” he said. Trump went on to say that, despite campaigning for Strange, he would back Moore in the general election. If Moore wins, “I’m going to be here campaigning like hell for him,” Trump said.

    The comments underscored Trump’s willingness to quickly change course when it becomes politically expedient, as well as his penchant for deflecting blame. The president’s response to Tuesday’s special election could offer an early clue of how he plans to position himself going into the 2018 midterms, when Republicans will have to run on his record.

    The post What to watch in Alabama’s GOP Senate primary runoff appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Credit reporting company Equifax Inc. corporate offices are pictured in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Tami Chappell/Reuters

    Credit reporting company Equifax Inc. corporate offices are pictured in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Tami Chappell/Reuters

    The chief executive of Equifax is out after a massive data breach compromised the personal information of 143 million Americans.

    Richard F. Smith will “retire” as chairman and CEO of the credit reporting agency today, according to a statement released by the company.

    Equifax’s board of directors “remains deeply concerned about and totally focused on the cybersecurity incident,” Mark Feidler, appointed as non-executive chairman, said in the statement. “We are working intensely to support consumers and make the necessary changes to minimize the risk that something like this happens again.”

    The move follows a personnel change nearly two weeks ago, in which two high-level Equifax officials stepped down as the agency investigated how hackers infiltrated files that contained people’s names, Social Security numbers, addresses, among other sensitive information available on a credit report.

    Half of all Americans could have had their sensitive data compromised by a security breach at the credit reporting agency Equifax. William Brangham joins John Yang to discuss what happened and what consumers should do to safeguard their credit.

    News of the breach prompted swift condemnation from lawmakers, but, as the Associated Press pointed out, hacks seen in recent years affecting consumer data at Target, Yahoo, Home Depot, among others, has not led to tougher standards for protecting that sensitive information. Instead, congressional lawmakers have largely left the issue to the states, and there’s been a lack of Republican support for legislation that would enforce better practices for storing consumer data, AP reported.

    Three of the company’s executives had also sold $1.8 million in company shares after the hack was discovered and before customers were notified of the breach, The New York Times reported.

    Smith was already scheduled to testify at twin hearings in early October. And the FBI is spear-heading a federal investigation into the hack.

    READ MORE: After Equifax breach, Congress unlikely to pass new rules to protect consumer data

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    President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before boarding Air Force One in Morristown, New Jersey. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before boarding Air Force One in Morristown, New Jersey. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he’ll visit hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico next Tuesday.

    Trump announced the visit after the administration came under criticism for its response to the damage on the island that is home to more than 3 million U.S. citizens. The island has been coping with shortages of food, drinking water, electricity and various forms of communication after Hurricane Maria struck earlier this month.

    Trump said Tuesday is the earliest he can visit without disrupting recovery operations.

    He says he may also visit the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    Trump says Puerto Rico is important to him. He says Puerto Ricans are “great people and we need to help them.”

    WATCH: Devastated Puerto Rico needs unprecedented aid, says governor

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    Attorney General Jeff Sessions will deliver remarks about free speech Tuesday at the Georgetown Univeristy Law Center in Washington, D.C.

    Sessions is scheduled to speak at 12 p.m. ET. Watch his remarks in the player above.

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Sessions to address free speech on campus in remarks at Georgetown appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A man is showing his first signs of consciousness, 15 years after a car crash, thanks to vagus nerve stimulation. Illustration by Alexandr Mitiuc/via Adobe

    A man is showing his first signs of consciousness, 15 years after a car crash, thanks to vagus nerve stimulation. Illustration by Alexandr Mitiuc/via Adobe

    Doctors generally accept that the damage from a traumatic brain injury is irreparable after a person spends 12 months in a vegetative state. New research has just turned this idea on its head.

    Neuropsychologists in France have restored a minimal level of consciousness in a man with profound brain injuries who has been in a vegetative state for more than a decade. Their findings, published Monday in Current Biology, unlock a potential path for bringing consciousness back to thousands of patients previously thought beyond help.

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    “We choose a patient who was in a vegetative state [for] 15 years, showing no sign of change since his car accident,” neuroscientist and study co-author Dr. Angela Sirigu said in an email. Little else is publicly known about the 35-year-old man, as the researchers have chosen not to share his identity and his family has declined to speak on his behalf.

    Brain activity returned to the patient due to the researchers’ use of a technique called vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), which they had hoped could rehabilitate his consciousness.

    The vagus nerve connects “most of the key organs — heart and lungs included — to the brain stem,” Samuel K. Moore wrote in IEEE Spectrum. “It’s like a back door built into the human physiology, allowing you to hack the body’s systems.” Since the 1990s, stimulating the vagus nerve with an electrical current from a pacemaker-like device has been explored, with mixed results, as a treatment for neurological issues such as epilepsy, migraines and depression.

    Sirigu and her colleagues tried VNS on the vegetative patient for six months.

    The vagus nerve connects the heart, lungs, and other organs to the brainstem.  Photo via Wikimedia

    The vagus nerve connects the heart, lungs, and other organs to the brainstem. Photo via Wikimedia

    After the first month of the procedure, an electroencephalogram (EEG) brain scan “revealed a significant increase in theta band (4–7 Hz) power,” which is the brain wave associated with daydreaming and ideation. The brain activity does not represent full consciousness; more like the trance you fall into when you are driving on a particularly straight stretch of highway, but it is a marked improvement from an unresponsive vegetative state.

    Yet visitors noticed the change in the patient. “After VNS, the patient could respond to simple orders that were impossible before,” Sirigu said, “to follow an object with his gaze, to turn the head [to] the other side of the bed on verbal request.” The patient even managed to stay awake and show more attentiveness when read to by his mother.

    The researchers plan to pursue the VNS approach in other patients whose traumatic brain injuries were thought beyond remedy, and the team is hopeful. “Changes even in severe clinical patients are possible when the right intervention is appropriate and powerful,” Sirigu said. “After this case report we should consider testing larger populations of patients.”

    A version of this story appeared on Miles O’Brien Productions.

    The post Consciousness partially restored in man who spent 15 years in vegetative state appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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