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- 09/27/17--15:50: _Hurricane relief is...
- 09/26/17--15:48: Trump turns focus on Puerto Rico, promising aid and a visit
- 09/26/17--15:50: Is the government doing enough to help Puerto Rico?
- 09/26/17--16:07: Trump, GOP consider surtax on wealthy, doubling standard deduction
- 09/27/17--11:16: WATCH LIVE: Ryan, McConnell discuss GOP plan for tax reform
- 09/27/17--11:47: Can I get more affordable long-term care insurance?
- 09/27/17--12:25: What Moore’s win in Alabama means for Trump and the GOP
- 09/27/17--13:06: How these 3 experiments went from goose egg to science gold
- 09/27/17--13:44: Trump to NFL: Change or business is ‘going to go to hell’
- 09/27/17--15:15: In ‘My Absolute Darling,’ a teen girl must survive her own father
- 09/27/17--15:20: Agent Orange puts a new generation at risk in Vietnam
- 09/27/17--15:25: How to fight extremist psychology with social media
- 09/27/17--15:30: What the GOP can learn from the Alabama Senate race
- 09/27/17--15:35: Alabama primary runoff shows Trump’s base had a different idea
- 09/27/17--15:40: Who wins and loses in the GOP’s proposed tax overhaul
- 09/27/17--15:45: News Wrap: Trump ‘not happy’ over Price’s private plane trips
- 09/27/17--15:50: Hurricane relief isn’t reaching remote areas of Puerto Rico
WASHINGTON — Suddenly, just about all President Donald Trump can talk about is Puerto Rico.
After not mentioning hurricane-devastated island for days, Trump on Tuesday pushed back aggressively and repeatedly against criticism that he had failed to quickly grasp the magnitude of Maria’s destruction or give the U.S. commonwealth the top-priority treatment he had bestowed on Texas, Louisiana and Florida after previous storms.
Trump announced that he would visit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands next week. He tweeted about Puerto Rico’s needs. He talked about Puerto Rico during a meeting on tax cuts. He raised the subject at a Rose Garden news conference with the prime minister of Spain.
And he attended a hurricane briefing. He called a meeting of agency heads tasked with helping Puerto Rico recover, and sent top officials out to the White House driveway to talk to reporters. FEMA Administrator Brock Long delivered specifics: 16 Navy and Coast Guard ships in the waters around Puerto Rico and 10 more on the way.
Throughout, Trump stressed that Puerto Rico’s governor had praised the federal response, characterizing Ricardo Rossello as “so thankful of the job we’re doing.”
Six days after Marie struck the island, conditions in Puerto Rico remain dire, with 3.4 million people virtually without electrical power and short of food and water. Flights off the island are infrequent, communications are spotty and roads are clogged with debris. Officials said electrical power may not be fully restored for more than a month.
Trump, who had proposed visiting Puerto Rico earlier this month, said that next Tuesday was the earliest he could get there without disrupting recovery efforts.
His public focus in recent days on other matters, particularly his extended commentary on NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem, generated criticism that he was giving Puerto Rico short shrift after devoting considerable public attention to storm damage in Texas and Florida.
Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., said she had been concerned that Trump’s continued tweets about NFL players showed he didn’t grasp the severity of the crisis. She warned that if he didn’t start taking it seriously, “this is going to be your Katrina,” referring to criticism of President George W. Bush following the slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
And it wasn’t just Democrats.
“The crisis for these Americans needs more attention — and more urgency from the executive branch,” tweeted Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a frequent Trump critic. Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio concurred, tweeting about San Juan, “MUST get power crews in ASAP.”
“We have a fundamental obligation to Puerto Rico to respond to a hurricane there the way we would anywhere in the country. #HurricaneMaria,” Rubio tweeted Tuesday.
For any president, there’s much to be gained politically from ably handling the government’s response to natural disasters, and Trump is no exception. His approval ratings in the most recent Gallup tracking poll ticked up, to 39 percent, after his trips to survey damage from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida.
But Trump’s fixation on Puerto Rico on Tuesday stood in sharp contrast to his focus on other matters between Maria’s landfall Sept. 20 and Monday, including his fight with the NFL over football players protesting during the National Anthem. The president has tweeted about the NFL more than two dozen times since Friday.
By Monday, Democrats, Republicans and Rossello were emphasizing that Puerto Ricans are Americans, too.
Trump was intent on showing he’d gotten the message — but still wasn’t ready to set aside the NFL issue entirely.
“We are totally focused on that,” Trump said Tuesday of the growing crisis on the U.S. island. “But at the same time, it doesn’t take me long to put out a wrong and maybe we’ll get it right. I think it’s a very important thing for the NFL to not allow people to kneel during the playing of our National Anthem.”
Even as Trump insisted he has plenty of time to prioritize both issues — “All I do is work,” he said Tuesday — criticism lingered.
Particularly galling to Trump’s critics were his first tweets since last Wednesday when he urged people on the island to stay safe as Maria came ashore. In a trio of tweets on Monday night, he suggested that Puerto Rico was suffering in part because it had incurred “billions of dollars” in debt to “Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.”
“Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble.” Still, he promised, “Food, water and medical are top priorities – and doing well.”
Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., said it was “absolutely ridiculous” for Trump to mention Puerto Rico’s debt “when people are suffering and dying. Here’s a president who’s used bankruptcy throughout his entire career.”
Associated Press writers Matthew Daly contributed to this report.
The post Trump turns focus on Puerto Rico, promising aid and a visit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Puerto Rico, prostrate. The U.S. territory’s cries for help grew louder today, and echoed all the way to the White House.
P.J. Tobia begins our coverage.
P.J. TOBIA: The desperate plea of an island in distress painted on a rooftop. Nearly a week after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, most people don’t have enough food or drinking water, and few have electricity.
Today, under pressure to do more, President Trump defended the federal recovery effort so far.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have shipped massive amounts of food and water and supplies to Puerto Rico, and we are continuing to do it on an hourly basis. But that island was hit as hard as you can hit.
P.J. TOBIA: The president announced he’s expanding the aid, and will visit the territory next week.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I grew up in New York, so I know many people from Puerto Rico. I know many Puerto Ricans. And these are great people, and we have to help them.
P.J. TOBIA: The hard part, how to get the help there. The White House sent out Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, this afternoon.
BROCK LONG, Administrator, FEMA: We don’t just drive trucks and resources on to an island. So, with the damage, you had extensive damage to the air traffic control systems, which meant sequencing life safety flights into the area, into the one airport that we could get open, San Juan, initially, is incredibly difficult.
You can’t mobilize ships and just send them in, because there has to be port space, the port has to be safe. There’s all types of things that we have to bring in.
P.J. TOBIA: But six days into the recovery, more than three million people are struggling from one day to the next. Grocery stores that have managed to open are rationing supplies, with no way of knowing when they might be restocked.
DAVID GUZMAN, Supermarket Manager (through interpreter): We hope to receive more merchandise soon so we can provide to all our clients. We are restricting so we can give something to everyone, to extend what we have left.
P.J. TOBIA: In this battered town in southwest Puerto Rico, volunteers have been handing out food to hard-pressed police. Medical care is also spotty. At this San Juan hospital, emergency tents are set up outside to handle the influx of people seeking help.
DR. JUAN NAZARIO, Emergency Room Doctor (through interpreter): There has been a growing number of patients coming to our emergency room, because other services aren’t available to the public, as people take to the streets to perform recovery efforts and suffer accidents or other incidents.
P.J. TOBIA: The hospital’s resources are being stretched to the brink. And badly needed medical procedures are delayed.
ESMERELDA RIVERA, Sister of Hospital Patient (through interpreter): My brother had an accident two days before Maria hit, and he is waiting for surgery. He injured his back and his spinal cord, though he is waiting. Because of electricity issues and other systems, they are slower.
P.J. TOBIA: Satellite images show the extent of the electricity issues, above, before the storm hit, in July, and below, an island plunged into darkness.
Many who can leave are doing just that. Planes carrying passengers from Puerto Rico arrived in New York, and family members who had waited days for any news tearfully embraced them.
They left behind a mammoth job of recovery, compounded by a long-running financial crisis. The president tweeted about the problem last night, saying the island’s huge debt will slow efforts to rebuild.
That drew fire from some Democrats.
REP. NYDIA VELAZQUEZ, D-N.Y.: If you don’t take this crisis seriously, this is going to be your Katrina. The people of Puerto Rico deserve better from our government.
P.J. TOBIA: After Mr. Trump’s remarks today, Puerto Rico’s governor said he believes the president does care about the island.
For now, FEMA the federal emergency management agency says it’s coordinating a response by some 10,000 government workers across the Caribbean.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m P.J. Tobia.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The speed and adequacy of the federal response was indeed under more scrutiny today. As you just heard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is coordinating much of it.
And for more on that, I spoke with Daniel Kaniewski, FEMA’s deputy administrator for protection and national preparedness, a short time ago.
I started by asking about reports that FEMA is not doing enough.
DANIEL KANIEWSKI, Deputy Administrator, FEMA: Well, this is a disaster response, and we’re very focused on the current needs of the population there, which for right now it still very much is an active response for lifesaving and life-sustaining missions.
JUDY WOODRUFF: They say — what we’re hearing, Mr. Kaniewski, is that it’s not just matter of getting around the island, getting to the island. It’s just that there’s not enough help there.
DANIEL KANIEWSKI: We have nearly 10,000 federal responders on the ground there, and millions of meals and other types of commodities that are there for this lifesaving mission.
We have active rescues under way right now. We’re providing commodities to those people in areas that might not be easily accessible. It’s taken several days to get to some of these outlying areas. And to the extent we still can’t access them, today, we have helicopters overhead dropping in supplies, including food and medicine, to make sure that these people who are in need are getting the help that they deserve.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Was there a delay getting ships and supplies to the island in the first place?
DANIEL KANIEWSKI: I wouldn’t say there was any more delay than a situation involving a location over 1,000 miles away from the U.S. mainland.
Before the disaster, before the hurricane came in, we pre-staged those types of assets, whether it be equipment, commodities and personnel, in the area, so that there would be a fast response. Obviously, that response needed to grow over time, and demands are not shrinking.
They’re increasing. So, today, we have taken very decisive action with our federal partners, including the Department of Defense, to make sure that we have a robust sustainment effort under way, that we know we’re going to be here for the long haul, providing these — this assistance that frankly here in the continental U.S. might only be for a couple of days.
It’s going to be for weeks, given the location of this disaster on the island.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we’re hearing and seeing reporting on so many different aspects of this crisis, not just the leftover damage from the flooding, people not having homes, but we’re hearing hospitals, what is it, only 11 of 69 hospitals on the island are open.
How long is it going to take to get them reopened, and what about the patients?
DANIEL KANIEWSKI: Yes, again, right now we’re focused on that lifesaving, life-sustaining mission.
We have disaster medical assistance teams that have been deployed there by the Department of Health and Human Services that are providing medical services whether or not the hospital is open. These medical teams are using to working in austere environments. And they’re providing that medical care to those in need.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And part of that story, and I’m sure you’re aware of it, are patients who rely on dialysis machines…
DANIEL KANIEWSKI: Correct.
JUDY WOODRUFF: … for — frankly, to save their lives. Some of them are in places where the generators have run out of diesel fuel. How are you addressing that?
DANIEL KANIEWSKI: Well, we’re using a combination of approaches.
One is evacuation. We have already evacuated a number of dialysis patients and other critical-needs patients that our medical experts on the ground felt it was in their best interests to be moved out.
For those patients, we can’t move or don’t have the ability to move because they might be in remote areas, or it’s in their best interests to stay there. So, some critical patients, you don’t want the move, you want the keep there, but they need proper support. They need obviously electricity and medicine and proper medical care.
We’re doing everything we can to make sure that those in need are getting that care.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What is your main focus right now? You were saying this could take weeks, even longer, and, frankly, some people are saying months before this island is even close to getting back to a place where people are safe. What is the greatest need?
DANIEL KANIEWSKI: So, right now, our priorities are, one, people, making sure we’re getting emergency responders on the ground.
Again, we have 8,000 on the ground right now, closer to 10,000 now. We also need equipment. We have to have generators. We need fuel. We need commodities like food and water. All of those are there.
In fact, as far as food goes, we have over four million meals, and water, over 6,000 liters. But just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’s in people’s hands. And I think that’s an important distinction.
We have pushed as many commodities and as much support as we possibly can. Now we need to work with the local officials and our responders on the ground to get that distributed to those in need. And in some cases, they can only be reached by helicopter, and it might involve us airdropping that in.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Deputy FEMA Administrator Daniel Kaniewski on the dire situation in Puerto Rico, thank you very much.
DANIEL KANIEWSKI: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s hear now from one of those very concerned about the federal response.
She is Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, a Democrat from New York state. She traveled to Puerto Rico after the hurricane. And she joins us now from the U.S. Capitol.
Congresswoman Velazquez, thank you so much for talking with us.
You were quoted today as saying the response in Puerto Rico has been totally inefficient.
What did you mean?
REP. NYDIA VELAZQUEZ, D-N.Y.: Well, it has been six days since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.
And I was there on Friday with the governor of the state of New York. And what we saw was pure devastation and destruction, the entire island without electricity, without water. Diesel is running out. Gasoline is running out. Food is running out.
And so they are in a very dire situation. And we didn’t know until now that there have been 16 deaths. Up to this weekend, there were up to 10. And there is no way for the government, the local government, to reach remote areas.
So we don’t know the type of devastation that has taken place in those areas, because there is no communication, there is no transportation. People can’t just drive through those roads to reach those devastated areas.
So the kind of response that has taken place from the federal government is people, the FEMA employees are there. But what I found is that we have not been able to understand the severity of the situation right now.
And so we need a top-notch three- or four-star general to oversee the interagency response. Otherwise, what we’re going to be facing is a humanitarian crisis.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What did you see of FEMA, of U.S. government assistance on the island when you were there?
REP. NYDIA VELAZQUEZ: Well, the assistance, basically, they were assessing the area.
They were assessing the devastation. But they didn’t have enough people to go to remote areas in Puerto Rico. And they were, yes, distributing some water, but the situation is such that it requires the full presence of the military.
One of the most basic needs that people, that the island has right now is the restoration of the power grid. The entire island is basically without electricity and without water. The hospitals do not have electricity.
So we have to bring the Army, with all the tools and all the equipment that it requires to be able to restore electricity in Puerto Rico and to be able to distribute water. People are going to some of the streams to get the water that they need, so the situation is really very critical.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I was just going to say, what we just heard from FEMA’s deputy administrator is that they now have more than 8,000 FEMA people on the ground.
He said it took them longer because of a distance of, he said, 1,000 miles from the mainland U.S., but he said we now have people there. We know the crisis. We are taking it very seriously. He said, we’re aware of the hospital crisis, the fuel crisis.
So is it your sense that in the days since you left, that the federal government is now taking this more seriously?
REP. NYDIA VELAZQUEZ: Well, I think so, because of the media coverage.
But let me just say, we need the presence of an aircraft carrier in Puerto Rico, stationed in Puerto Rico, like we did right after Irma with Miami. We need to have helicopters. We need to have small planes.
Those are the type of things that we need that Puerto Rico doesn’t have right now. Yes, the presence of 8,000 people from FEMA is great, but they don’t have the capability to reach the most remote areas. They don’t have the capability and expertise to restore the power grids in Puerto Rico.
And this is why we need — when disasters strike in other foreign countries, we send the military, we send the experts from the Department of Defense. That’s the kind of help that we need.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And I assume you have told the Trump administration this. What’s the answer been?
REP. NYDIA VELAZQUEZ: Well, I’m sending a letter. I requested for a matching fund requirement to be waived. And the president announced today that that is going to happen for 180 days.
I’m asking for a whole year. And today, we are sending — I am sending a letter with 100 colleagues of mine, Democrats, asking the president to appoint a senior military official to oversee the whole operation in Puerto Rico.
We have been asking for an extension, a waiver for the Jones Act, so that we could get help from other foreign countries.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez of New York, thank you very much.
REP. NYDIA VELAZQUEZ: Thank you.
The post Is the government doing enough to help Puerto Rico? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
No cell phone service. No gas. No power. Little to no water — this is Puerto Rico seven days after Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory. When the storm hit as a category 4 hurricane last week, it was one of the worst the area had seen in years.
The hurricane not only wiped out Puerto Rico’s power grid, but also made many roads impassable, making it difficult to reach rural or mountainous areas with aid. As debris is cleared, the focus is now on getting running water and electricity to hospitals.
While Puerto Rico continues its recovery mission, lawmakers back in Washington are urging President Donald Trump, Congress and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to authorize more aid to the region. Mr. Trump said he will visit the island Tuesday. Meanwhile, FEMA, the Red Cross, and other organizations have launched efforts to begin rebuilding.
The PBS NewsHour spoke with Rosemarie Valdez, public affairs officer for American Red Cross in Puerto Rico and a Puerto Rico resident, from the capital city of San Juan about the group’s efforts.
Despite the challenges, “what I saw throughout the community was resiliency. The day after the storm it wasn’t just the responders out, it was neighbors, it was people in the community … That’s what it’s all about. We are resilient, we have high spirits and we know that we will rebuild.”
Watch our conversation in the video player below.
The post WATCH: Despite long recovery ahead, this Puerto Rico aid worker says ‘we are resilient’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are considering an income tax surcharge on the wealthy and doubling the standard deduction given to most Americans, with the GOP under pressure to overhaul the tax code after the collapse of the health care repeal.
On the eve of the grand rollout of the plan, details emerged on Capitol Hill on Tuesday while Trump personally appealed to House Republicans and Democrats at the White House to get behind his proposal.
“We will cut taxes tremendously for the middle class. Not just a little bit but tremendously,” Trump said as he met with members of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. He predicted jobs “will be coming back in because we have a non-competitive tax structure right now and we’re going to go super competitive.”
Among the details: repeal of the tax on multimillion-dollar estates, a reduction in the corporate rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and potentially four tax brackets, down from the current seven. The current top rate for individuals, those earning more than $418,000 a year, is 39.6 percent.
The goal is a more simple tax code that would spur economic growth and make U.S. companies more competitive. Delivering on the top legislative goal will be crucial for Republicans intent on holding onto their majorities in next year’s midterm elections.
The tax overhaul plan assembled by the White House and GOP leaders, which would slash the rate for corporations, aims at the first major revamp of the tax system in three decades. It would deliver a major Trump campaign pledge.
The outlines of the plan were described by GOP officials who demanded anonymity to disclose private deliberations.
The plan would likely cut the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. A new surcharge on wealthy taxpayers might soften the appearance of the wealthiest Americans and big corporations benefiting from generous tax cuts.
Republicans already were picking at the framework, pointing up how divisions within GOP ranks can complicate efforts to overhaul taxes as has happened with the series of moves to repeal the Obama health care law.
Details of the proposal crafted behind closed doors over months by top White House economic officials, GOP congressional leaders and the Republican heads of tax-writing panels in the House and Senate were set to be released Wednesday. Trump and the Republicans were putting the final touches on the plan when the Democrats were brought in. A senior Democrat saw it as the opening of negotiations.
Trump had previously said he wanted a 15 percent rate for corporations, but House Speaker Paul Ryan has called that impractically low and has said it would risk adding to the soaring $20 trillion national debt.
Trump said Tuesday some of the components included doubling the standard deduction used by families and increasing the child care tax credit. He said the majority of Americans would be able to file their taxes on a single page. “We must make our tax code simple and fair. It’s too complicated,” Trump said.
Some conservative GOP lawmakers, meanwhile, dug their heels in on the shape of the plan.
Rep. Mark Meadows, head of the House Freedom Caucus, said he’d vote against tax legislation if it provided for a corporate tax rate over 20 percent, a rate for small businesses higher than 25 percent, or if it fails to call for a doubling of the standard deduction.
“That’s the red line for me,” Meadows said at a forum of conservative lawmakers. He noted he was speaking personally, not as head of the conservative grouping.
Disgruntlement came from Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., over the process of putting together the plan.
“I get that we want to move to 3 percent but I’d like to know how,” Kennedy said referring to Trump’s ambitious goal of annual growth in the economy through tax cuts. “I’m not much into all the secrecy,” he said. “We need to do this by November, and at the rate we’re going I’m not encouraged right now.”
The Democrats, while acknowledging the tax system should be simplified, have insisted that any tax relief should go to the middle class, not the wealthiest. Tax cuts shouldn’t add to the ballooning debt, the Democrats say.
Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, came away from the White House meeting in a negotiating mood. “This is when the process gets kicked off,” Neal told reporters at the Capitol.
The rate for wealthiest taxpayers shouldn’t be reduced, he said. Democrats are concerned by indications from Trump and his officials that “they intend to offer tax relief to people at the top,” he said.
Still, there may be room to negotiate over the Republicans’ insistence on repealing the estate tax, Neal indicated, since “there are other things you can do with it” to revise it short of complete elimination.
Associated Press writers Ken Thomas and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.
The post Trump, GOP consider surtax on wealthy, doubling standard deduction appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The federal government will pick up 100 percent of the costs for debris removal and other emergency protective measures in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
The White House made the announcement Tuesday, saying it will pick up all the costs for six months after the hurricane’s impact.
U.S. states and territories typically cover 25 percent of the costs, with the federal government paying the remaining 75 percent.
Previously, Trump had pledged to cover 90 percent of costs for debris removal in the Virgin Islands, and 100 percent of protective measures for 30 days, then 90 percent after that.
The post Federal government to pay for all debris removal from Virgin Islands in wake of Hurricane Maria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
House Majority Leader Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will offer details about Republicans’ latest plans for tax reform in a news briefing Wednesday.
Ryan and McConnell will begin speaking around 2:15 p.m. ET. Watch live in the player above.
Trump plans to unveil the full plan later today in a speech in Indianapolis.
PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.
The post WATCH LIVE: Ryan, McConnell discuss GOP plan for tax reform appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller is here to provide the answers you need on aging and retirement. His weekly column, “Ask Phil,” aims to help older Americans and their families by answering their health care and financial questions. Phil is the author of the new book, “Get What’s Yours for Medicare,” and co-author of “Get What’s Yours: The Revised Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security.” Send your questions to Phil.
Brenda: I am currently working with no plans to retire. But I will turn 65 soon, and am thinking about getting basic Medicare (Parts A and B), a Part D drug plan, and a letter G Medigap plan. My employer plan costs me $160 per month and I have to cover my copay and some hidden fees, as well as medications. My plan covers about 80 percent of vision, dental (preventative) and outpatient procedures as well as an annual mammogram, physical, TB and flu shots. I am given a $500 card each year to offset some of these out of pocket expenses. I take no medicine at this time — only antibiotics before dental appointments.
My first question is, would you advise giving up my employer coverage and replacing it with Medicare A, B, D and G? As I see it, the money I save by doing this would cover all these premiums, which would mean all my possible medical expenses would be covered 100 percent. Is this thought process correct?
My second question is, I have had long-term care insurance for 14 years. I have not had occasion to use it, but just received a notice stating future projections require that my policy premiums will increase annually by $655, and that there could be future increases as well. This is a big blow as the insurance already costs $2,200 annually, which is not easy for me to cover. Would you advise dropping the coverage altogether considering the Medicare coverage I will have, and if not, could your direct me to reputable companies I can look into for less costly coverage?
Phil Moeller: Brenda is asking all the right questions here, and I know they are the same questions that many other readers have.
My estimates of Brenda’s Medicare premiums differ a bit from hers, and I think she might be better off keeping her employer plan and not getting Medicare. But as I recently wrote, this can be a close call, and it makes a lot of sense to do the kind of careful comparison that Brenda is undertaking.
In Brenda’s case, Part B of Medicare will cost her at least $134 a month, has an annual deductible, and pays only 80 percent of covered expenses. Part G, which will cover unpaid Part B expenses, will set her back roughly $100-$175 a month, depending on where she lives. Part D plans aren’t free, either, and even though monthly premiums average only about $40, annual out-of-pocket maximum spending can reach $6,000 or even more. While Brenda does not take prescription drugs now, I try to hammer home to people that health insurance is not for the “present” you but the “future” you. Nearly all of us will face higher prescription drug and other health expenses as we age.
As for long-term care insurance, I wouldn’t drop it. Medicare DOES NOT pay for long-term term care. I don’t know the terms of her current policy, but I’m afraid the price she mentions does not seem unreasonable for an individual policy. Long-term care costs can be very, very high. I suggest Brenda contact her current LTC carrier and see if it offers cheaper policies, and decide whether they still provide meaningful protection. Trying to find a cheaper policy may be difficult, as any new insurer would price her at her current age, and might charge even more than your present carrier. I’d also reach out to an insurance broker or two, ask them to shop for a new policy, and see what’s out there.
Dan: I pay late-enrollment penalties that add 30 percent more to my Medicare premiums for the rest of my life. The only reason I signed up late is that I was still covered by my employer health policy. Is there any way out of this? Such a permanent fine for lateness is beyond harsh.
Phil Moeller: Employers with more than 20 employees are supposed to continue offering group health insurance to active employees even after the employees have turned 65. In this event, you should not face any enrollment penalties when you later enroll in Medicare.
Retiree health insurance, however, does not count as active group coverage. So, if you had this type of coverage, you would be subject to late-enrollment penalties even though you had employer health insurance. COBRA doesn’t count as active employer insurance, either.
If you think you had active employer group health insurance, and thus are being unfairly charged with late-enrollment penalties, your former employer should be able to confirm this. Here is the form the employer should complete. If you get a completed form, go to your local Social Security office, and formally appeal the penalty. Be patient! Social Security offices are overwhelmed with demand and waits can be long. That situation, of course, is beyond harsh as well. But don’t be surprised.
Derek – N.Y.: My mother is a retiree and she gets less than $700 a month for Social Security and less than $700 for her pension plan. She has Medicare, is a cancer survivor, and is battling disabilities. At 83, she needs assistance with keeping up her apartment, cleaning, shopping and laundry. I was told she is not eligible to receive home health care unless she gives up her pension and Social Security benefits and becomes a state welfare patient. This is very scary for all of us that work and look to retire. What can I do to help my mother?
Phil Moeller: My heart goes out to Derek and his mother. She is facing the reality and limitations of Medicare, and there are no easy solutions here. Medicare, unfortunately, does not cover so-called “custodial care,” which is what she needs.
It seems to me that the advice Derek received was based on the assumption that his mother would need to apply for Medicaid to be eligible to receive insurance payments to cover the kind of in-home care she needs. Qualifying for Medicaid, in turn, could require her to spend down her assets. This may be true, but he needs to do some homework to understand New York’s financial requirements for Medicaid eligibility.
Also, he might be able to afford paying for some in-home care out of his own pocket. This is hardly a great solution but could be the best practical choice.
The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) provides free consumer counseling. Perhaps they can help with Medicaid eligibility questions, including what might happen to his mother’s current retirement income.
Tony – La.: My wife retires this month. We both have employer health care. She has enrolled for Medicare Part B and will remain on my plan. Which one of us would possibly benefit having supplemental insurance?
Phil Moeller: I am assuming here that Medicare would be secondary to your wife’s employer coverage. I don’t know enough about your plan to know how helpful it might be in that role. But it would only apply to her health claims, not yours. However, any benefits certainly would flow to your household. and if you have a high deductible plan, Medicare would help pay that deductible for her covered claims. Once the overall deductible was met, of course, you would wind up paying less for your own health care.
Rudolf: I will reach full retirement age soon. I am working full-time and do not intend to apply for Social Security benefits in the immediate future. I know that my benefits will be based on my 35 highest years of wage earnings, but I wondered if my future wages will affect my benefits?
Phil Moeller: Your 35-year record is never final. So long as you continue to have wage income on which you pay Social Security payroll taxes, Social Security will evaluate whether each new year’s earnings represent a new top-35 year or not. Any benefit increases then will be retroactively awarded.
Dan – Calif.: I retired from teaching at a community college and will be turning 65 next month. The school keeps me on its group insurance plan until I turn 65. After that, I can pay a monthly premium to stay on the school’s group insurance plan or choose different insurance options not connected with the school. If I stay on with the school’s group insurance, do I also need to pay Medicare Part B? The group plan covers everything I had when I was working full time.
Phil Moeller: Most retiree health plans require Medicare when a person turns 65. At that time, Medicare becomes the primary insurer and the plan becomes the secondary insurer. I’d confirm this with the plan. If that’s the case, then you should look at what the plan charges and compare this with what it would cost you to get other Medicare policies beyond Part B.
For example, retiree plans normally fill the secondary insurance role that Medicare supplement plans fill with basic Medicare (Parts A and B). You can use Medicare’s Medigap plan finder to find out what such plans would cost, and compare this to the employer plan. Lastly, you need to find out how the employer plan handles prescription drugs, and whether or not you also would need a separate Medicare Part D plan or not.
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Roy Moore’s convincing win Tuesday in Alabama’s Republican primary runoff for a U.S. Senate seat put the GOP establishment on notice. Moore, an outsider candidate who vowed to take on the Washington status quo, easily beat his opponent, Sen. Luther Strange, who was backed by President Donald Trump and groups allied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Moore is now the heavy favorite to win Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ old Senate seat when he squares off against Democrat Doug Jones in the December general election. Here’s what we learned from Tuesday’s closely watched race.
More uncertainty in the Senate
Moore, a controversial former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, will add an element of uncertainty to the McConnell-led Senate Republican caucus, assuming he wins in December, as is widely expected. (Republicans have held both U.S. Senate seats in Alabama since 1997).
It’s too early to know how Moore would vote on big issues, but there are already indications he could be a problem for McConnell, whose caucus holds a slim 52-vote majority.
Last week, the Moore campaign said he wouldn’t vote for the Senate Republicans’ latest health care plan unless it was a “full repeal” of the Affordable Care Act. The stance put Moore in line with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who opposed the failed Graham-Cassidy bill on similar grounds. Moore could fall in line with leadership once he’s in office, of course. But the fact that McConnell can’t count on his vote could make it harder for Senate Republicans to pass major legislation, at a time when they’re facing mounting pressure from Mr. Trump to score a win ahead of the 2018 midterm election.
Trump took a gamble, and lost
Presidents typically avoid wading into divisive primary fights. (Former President Barack Obama, for example, waited until the 2016 Democratic presidential primary was over to endorse Hillary Clinton). Trump took the opposite approach by backing Strange and campaigning for him in the final days of the race. The move made some sense, given that Trump’s success depends in part on McConnell’s ability to push legislation through the Senate. But it was also a risky move, with a large potential downside if Trump’s candidate lost. Moore’s win was a setback for Trump and McConnell, plain and simple. After it appeared Moore would win Tuesday night, three recent tweets in support of Strange were deleted from Trump’s Twitter account.
Can Trump shrug it off?
Conventional wisdom holds that Trump lost some of his “political clout” by backing the loser in the Alabama race. But Trump is adept at shrugging off setbacks by deflecting blame, a tactic he has used repeatedly in blaming Republicans in Congress for failing to act on health care and other issues. The strategy has backfired on occasion since Trump took office. But the Alabama primary was largely about politics, not policy, and Trump is at his best in the role of candidate or campaigner-in-chief. He is deeply popular in Alabama, and there is little reason to assume that will change after Moore’s win.
The reasons voters gave for their decisions on Tuesday were telling. “I voted for Strange. I’m a Trump voter. Either one is going to basically do the Trump agenda, but since Trump came out for Luther, I voted for Luther,” John Lauer told the Associated Press. Others said they voted for Moore because of his anti-Washington message. There was no early indication of widespread anger with Trump among conservatives for his decision to endorse the establishment candidate. In the end, the endorsement may not have much of an impact with Trump’s conservative base.
McConnell took a big hit
For McConnell, Moore’s win could have longer-lasting repercussions, above and beyond the issue of Moore’s potential impact on policy in the Senate. Moore vowed to oppose McConnell and other establishment figures in Washington. His win was a reminder of just how unpopular Congress, and congressional leaders, are with voters. Sixty-nine percent of voters disapprove of how Republicans are doing in Congress, according to a recent poll; 57 percent aren’t happy with Democrats, either. Next year, McConnell could be a major liability for Republican incumbents seeking re-election.
Get ready for a wild 2018 GOP primary season
There are 34 Senate seats up for re-election in 2018. Of those, 25 are held by Democrats and independents who caucus with Democrats — and 10 are in states that Trump won last year. It’s a good map for Republicans, who only have to defend nine seats. Even so, the primary season will likely get ugly, with plenty of fights between GOP incumbents and outsiders like Moore. His win proved that incumbents are vulnerable, even if they’re backed by the president and the rest of the Republican establishment.
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Science projects that were once admonished for being too quirky, too convoluted or a waste of money get a second chance to prove their worth.
Scientists and a gaggle of policymakers will assemble on Wednesday at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., to honor six researchers for the sixth annual Golden Goose Award. The award recipients dedicated years to federally funded projects that seemed downright odd at first, but made economically and socially valuable breakthroughs.
“We’re rewarding the giants of science,” Representative Jim Cooper (D-Tenn), who conceived the idea of the Golden Goose Award, told NewsHour. “These folks have achieved miracles in the lab, and sometimes those results were serendipitous.”
The Golden Goose award celebrates scientists who conduct basic research — studies that reveal the fundamental truths of nature — and use creative solutions for wide-scale problems. With this award, Cooper hopes to educate both Congress and the public about the value for federally funded research. [Basic research] depends on a deep understanding of what’s going on in the world, and nothing is more vital to government function,” he said.
One fungus to rule them all
In 1996, the National Zoo in D.C. witnessed many deaths in their blue poison dart frogs, and around the world, several other frog species met a similar fate. The zoo’s veterinary pathologists had an inkling of a microscopic organism was causing this devastating outbreak, but they still needed expert advice.
Since the 1980s, biologist Joyce Longcore had spent hours upon hours at the University of Maine familiarizing herself with fungi. Because she knew the ins and outs of these obscure organisms, the National Zoo called her to verify the culprit behind the mass frog die-offs. Sure enough, Longcore found a species of fungus called chytrids were annihilating frogs across the globe by hitching a ride with traveling humans. And the chytrids weren’t only killing off frogs. “These fungi were inadvertently introduced to where they were not native and decimated biota,” Longcore said. For example, some chytrids attacked American chestnut and elm trees, preventing them from maturing into healthy adults.
With her colleagues Don Nichols, Elaine Lamirande and Allan Pessier, and through funding from the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution, Longcore raised awareness to an invasive species wreaking global havoc. All four will receive the Golden Goose award tonight, but Longcore said their work is not done. Their next step is to treat any afflicted frog species and sustain biodiversity.
The glue of the sea
For wood chemist Kaichang Li, inspiration sat underwater and on seaside cliffs.
Li always sought novel substances to effectively and safely process wood. Knowing this, a colleague mentioned how mussels stick to wet and rugged surfaces, which was a major challenge when making water-resistant adhesives for plywood. At Oregon State University, Li studied the mollusks and noticed that proteins played a huge role in their binding strength. He wanted to make a glue out of the mussel protein, but he could only extract miniscule amounts at a time. It would definitely not satisfy the nearly 50 million pounds of glue needed for plywood each year, Li explained.
So Li turned to one of the most abundant protein sources he could find: soybeans. This agricultural commodity is not only in excess, but it has far more proteins with properties similar to those in mussels. After realizing he had a wealth of resources to work from, he requested funding from the USDA to start the R&D process. His soybean-based glue ended up being safer than formaldehyde, the most common wood adhesive that the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies a dangerous carcinogen.
In 2003, Li’s glue won the attention of Columbia Forest Products who urged him to commercialize his adhesive. With the company’s help, Li’s glue is now used in 60 percent of American plywood products. “The collaboration and USDA support helped me disrupt the formaldehyde industry all while creating a new, healthy standard for plywood processing,” Li said.
How fuzzy logic changed the world
Lotfi Zadeh pioneered a concept decades ago that people refused to acknowledge and even mocked. He called it “fuzzy logic” and saw it pop up in almost every facet of life. Zadeh, formerly a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, often dealt with true or false scenarios, like the 1’s and 0’s in computer code. But at times, he needed more precise information—an in-between scenario.
Take height for example. You would say four-foot person is short and someone at 8-feet is tall. But what about a person who’s 6-feet-tall?
This fuzziness or blurring between two, concrete options happens frequently in math and logic problems that permeate all industries. Zadeh’s original paper on the concept, published in 1965, is the most widely cited study in all of science. More than 16,000 patents also embrace fuzzy logic in sectors such as health care, artificial intelligence, HVAC systems and the automobile industry. The most common applications involve modern consumer electronics: digital cameras, air conditioners and self-piloting helicopters.
Zadeh received funding from the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research for the funny-sounding fuzzy logic. Zadeh, who died on Sept. 6, will be honored posthumously for his life’s goal of improving everyone’s quality of life with one simple notion.
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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has a new message for the NFL: Change or business is “going to go to hell.”
Trump said Wednesday that the NFL is in a “really bad box” over the issue of players kneeling in protest during the national anthem. He said ratings are falling, and the only thing doing well is the NFL pregame show.
Beginning with a rally last Friday in Alabama, Trump has been criticizing players who kneel during the “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest racial injustice. He has said the NFL should require that players stand during the anthem.
Trump said Wednesday there are other places during a game where players can protest “but they cannot do it during the national anthem.”
“You cannot have people disrespecting our national anthem, our flag, our country,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House for a trip to Indiana. “In my opinion, the NFL has to change. Or you know what’s going to happen. Their business is going to go to hell.”
Earlier on Twitter, Trump said he had spoken Tuesday with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
“Jerry is a winner who knows how to get things done. Players will stand for Country!” Trump tweeted.
Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR sit down with Judy Woodruff to discuss how President Trump’s feud with NFL players helps him with his base.
On Monday night, Jones — a Trump supporter — and his players knelt arm-in-arm before the anthem, then rose for the playing of the anthem before the team’s victory at the Arizona Cardinals.
Trump has spent several days lashing out at players who kneel, a practice that started with a handful of players to protest racial issues, including police brutality.
Responding to Trump, hundreds of players have been sitting, kneeling, locking arms or remaining in locker rooms.
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The Baltimore Ravens’ national anthem singer has resigned after three years with the team, the Baltimore Sun reported last night.
Joey Odoms, who took the job in 2014, announced his retirement in an Instagram post, saying, “The tone/actions of a large number of NFL fans in the midst of our country’s cultural crisis, have convinced me that I do not belong here.”
He clarified his comments in a later post, saying “Fans who attack players for protesting, (a right in which I fought to defend) but are simply not interested in understanding why, is the reason I am resigning.”
Odoms’ resignation comes after a weekend of widespread protest in the NFL, with about a dozen Ravens players and ex-players taking a knee. The protests came after President Donald Trump criticized NFL players like former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee during the anthem to protest police officers shooting and killing minorities. In a speech in Alabama, Trump called any NFL player protesting a “son of a bitch” and called for their firing.
Today, Trump told reporters that the NFL is in a “really bad box” over the issue of players kneeling in protest during the anthem, adding that the NFL’s ratings were falling.
In his Instagram post, Odoms, also a combat veteran, said that his resignation is “not an emotional reaction to to recent events,” adding that it was instead “an ethical decision that part of me regrets but my core knows is the right choice.”
While serving in Afghanistan as a member of the Maryland Army National guard, Odoms met Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. He told Harbaugh that he wanted to be the Ravens’ next national anthem singer. In 2014, Odoms succeeded longtime Ravens anthem singer Mishael Miller, after earning the job over eight other finalists.
“We greatly appreciate the work Joey did for us and we thank him,” Kevin Byrne, Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations, told the Baltimore Sun.
Odoms concluded his Instagram post thanking the Ravens and the football community for the opportunity to sing the anthem and “for allowing me to live out a dream of sharing my gift with you.”
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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration defended its decision Wednesday to sharply curtail the number of refugees allowed into the United States to 45,000 next year, even as global humanitarian groups decried the move and called the number far too low.
The 45,000 cap, to be formally announced by President Donald Trump in the coming days, reflects the maximum the U.S. will admit during the fiscal year that starts Sunday, although the actual number allowed could be far lower. Even if the cap is ultimately hit, it would reflect the lowest admissions level for the U.S. in more than a decade.
Lowering the cap reflects Trump’s opposition to accepting refugees and other immigrants into the U.S., an approach that has already driven down refugee admissions. Former President Barack Obama had wanted to take in 110,000 in 2017, but the pace slowed dramatically after Trump took office and issued an executive order addressing refugees. The total admitted in the fiscal year that ends Sunday is expected to be around 54,000, officials said. In 2016, the last full year of Obama’s administration, the U.S. welcomed 84,995 refugees.
Though a broad array of criteria determines who receives refugee status, the allotments are broken down into specific numbers of refugees admitted from various geographic regions. The State Department conveyed those numbers to Congress on Wednesday, officials said.
Africa will receive the largest allotment of 19,000 refugees, or 42 percent of the total. The next-highest number goes to the Middle East and South Asia, which will be granted 17,500 slots, or 39 percent. The remaining allotments include 5,000 for East Asia, 2,000 for Europe and 1,500 for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Although the totals are far lower than in the Obama administration, the percentage granted to each region was left almost unchanged from the last year of Obama’s term. One key difference: there will no longer be an “unallocated” allotment of 14,000 refugees that could come from any region.
Trump’s decision has drawn consternation from aid groups who have pointed to refugee crises that have worsened, not improved, including in Syria, Myanmar and South Sudan. Several groups have urged Trump to reconsider and adopt a figure closer to Obama’s goal of 110,000.
“With historically high numbers of innocent people fleeing violence worldwide, the United States response cannot be to welcome a historically low number of refugees into our country,” said Bill O’Keefe of Catholic Relief Services.
But Trump administration officials said the new cap will advance national security interests and reflect the United States’ capacity to properly screen and take in refugees. They said new screening and admittance requirements for refugees will be announced later, as a 6-month review, ordered by Trump near the start of his presidency, draws to a close.
It’s unclear how those requirements might affect individuals from countries included in Trump’s revised travel restrictions, a list that includes Syria, Yemen, Chad, Libya and Somalia. Officials couldn’t say whether people from those countries would be allowed in as refugees. The officials briefed reporters on a conference call on condition of anonymity.
Trump’s administration settled on the 45,000 figure after a vigorous debate among his top advisers, other officials have said, including some who advocated letting in far fewer. Strong opposition to higher levels from some top aides has fueled speculation that Trump’s administration might set a limit of 45,000, but then deliberately slow-walk admissions so that the number actually allowed in is significantly lower.
But officials pushed back, arguing that while it’s often the case that actual admissions are somewhat lower than the cap, the U.S. would work to accept as many as possible within the 45,000 limit.
Worldwide, there were some 22.5 million refugees last year, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, with many more people internally displaced within their home countries. The strong preference among aid groups and governments has been to seek conditions so refugees can return to their homes, rather than being permanently resettled in host countries.
Trump has made limiting immigration the centerpiece of his policy agenda. He temporarily banned visitors from a handful of Muslim-majority nations, has rescinded an Obama-era executive action protecting young immigrants from deportation and insists he’ll build a wall along the southern border with Mexico.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: A first-time author has written a gripping, but disturbing novel.
Jeffrey Brown has this latest addition to the NewsHour Bookshelf.
JEFFREY BROWN: A 14-year-old girl nicknamed Turtle lives in the woods of Northern California with her father. She knows how to forage for food and hunt, but little about normal social interactions. Her father is charming, protective, but also a monster who abuses her psychologically and physically.
The new novel, “My Absolute Darling,” is a story of survival, a powerful tale that is getting enormous attention and acclaim.
And it is the debut novel by author Gabriel Tallent, who joins me now.
And welcome to you.
GABRIEL TALLENT, Author, “My Absolute Darling”: I’m glad to be here.
JEFFREY BROWN: I called it a story of survival. I wonder what you set out to do. Is that how you came to see it?
GABRIEL TALLENT: I set out to tell the story of a young woman’s fight for her own soul when the odds are murderously against her.
You know, I — when I’m out with friends talking, the stories that I value most is when they tell you something that they went through, and they walk you through every strategy, every thought, sort of each tactic that they employ and how that worked. I love those stories.
They make me feel less alone in my own thinking about my life, and I love that entrance into a character. And so I set out to do that here.
JEFFREY BROWN: Where did this character, Turtle, come from? Was she fully formed, or was — she come through as you were writing her?
GABRIEL TALLENT: She was a glimmer. She was an intuition that was pursued draft after draft, and each draft saying, like, is this as complex, is this as difficult as a real person? Am I treating this character with integrity and honesty?
And so, no, she was arrived at through a process of compassion and hard work.
JEFFREY BROWN: But this also means you’re writing from a perspective of a teenage girl. Is that difficult to do? Were you worried about taking it on? Were you worried about how others would look at you for taking that on?
GABRIEL TALLENT: Yes, I’m writing across a gap of privilege that must be acknowledged.
And I took it very seriously and tried to engage in those problems with attention and integrity. I felt very seriously the responsibility of writing that character. I will say, like, I think that Turtle is just a girl who is lost and who is searching for the way forward.
And if you start there, she’s not as alien as she seems to some people, right? I think that, occasionally, we make people in Turtle’s situation out to be more difficult to understand than they really are. And I think that has more to do with our desire to put them out of mind than it has to do with the actual limits of our compassion.
JEFFREY BROWN: This goes to some very difficult places.
The father, Martin, who is the one big factor in her life, a kind of survivalist himself, protector, but also tormenter, including sexual abuse.
Was there a point when you kind of realized what you were writing and perhaps had second thoughts, or what am I doing here, or where am I taking this?
GABRIEL TALLENT: Yes, so I set out to write about some of these themes, and because I’m very interested in why we destroy — like, problems about feminism and environmentalism seem intricately linked to me.
Like, these seem like human rights issues, like social justice issues.
JEFFREY BROWN: How are they linked?
GABRIEL TALLENT: How are they linked?
They are linked in the fact that we destroy things that matter to us. Like, they are linked because we are not taking women seriously in culture. They are linked because we are not taking the environment seriously as something more than a stage on which we play out our human dramas.
And I think that when we fail to do that, everyone suffers. Like, this culture of callousness and destruction and hatred of women is common to us all, and a grievous issue that we need to take on. And so I was interested in writing about those issues.
JEFFREY BROWN: You know, I mentioned this is your first book, and it came. And you seem to have appeared out of nowhere for many of us.
But this book came with out-of-the-world praise and blurbs. Stephen King calls it a masterpiece, compares it to “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Catch-22.”
Now, that’s pretty heady stuff, right?
GABRIEL TALLENT: It has been incredible.
I wrote a challenging book, and I was aware writing it that it was a challenging book, right? And I sort of knew no other metric, but than to follow what I thought was true. Like, my ambition was, I thought I had good observations. I thought I knew some true things about this predicament.
And I wanted to put them in fiction, so that someone might feel less alone. But I knew that the book was going to be challenging because of that, because of what the project is.
And I have found allies. And that has been amazing. And it has been so incredible that people like Mr. King and Celeste Ng supported the book, when they have no stake in my career.
It has been profound to witness those sort of acts of literary generosity. And it has made for an eye-opening entrance into this community.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, the new novel, “My Absolute Darling.”
Gabriel Tallent, thank you very much.
GABRIEL TALLENT: Thank you.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: how two men hear and are driven by the echoes of their time in Vietnam, one a Marine combat veteran, the other a conscientious objector who went to help the people of that country.
They are bound together now, working to help a new generation terribly affected by a war that ended before they were born.
Special correspondent Mike Cerre reports.
MIKE CERRE, Special Correspondent: At the height of the Vietnam War in 1968…
ANNOUNCER: Before the parade, mass draft card burning was urged.
MIKE CERRE: … and the protests against it that divided the country, two young Americans made very different decisions that would make Vietnam parts of their lives for the next 50 years.
LARRY VETTER, Vietnam Veteran: After I graduated from Texas A&M, I went to the Marine Corps basic school. And then, when I got out of that, in a few months later, we were off to Vietnam.
DICK HUGHES, Conscientious Objector: I was just wrapping up my acting studies at Boston University, and, at that time I was pretty concerned about the war, upset by the war.
So, I decided to do two things, that I would go down and take my physical in for the draft, but I would refuse induction.
MIKE CERRE: Larry Vetter, the volunteer, ended up serving two tours of duty in Vietnam as a Marine infantry and recon officer, much of the time on the front lines.
LARRY VETTER: You believed all that you were being told and what you read, and you were pretty gung-ho about going over and serving your country. And that’s what we all did.
MAN: If you’re concerned about something, you do something out it. The way I do things is, you go right to the center of the problem and where it’s happening.
MIKE CERRE: Dick Hughes, the draft refuser, ended up in Vietnam that summer of ’68 as well by paying his own way to Saigon in search of some kind of alternative service he could do.
Confronted by bands of street children orphaned by the war on his first day in country, he helped them find food and safe shelter with money from cashing in his return plane ticket.
Dubbed the Shoeshine Boys Project, it grew into eight safe houses Dick ran in Saigon and Da Nang until after the war ended.
DICK HUGHES: Are you a Saigon cowboy. You a Saigon V.C.?
These kids slept in the streets, shined shoes and watched people’s motorbikes and things like that to have money to live. And I think, over the course of seven years, probably in the area of 2,500 children went through the project.
LARRY VETTER: A person being a conscientious objector, I think that’s perfectly valid. At that time, I would have said something more like, well, find a way you can serve your country, and if you don’t want to be in the military, maybe you can be in something else.
MIKE CERRE: Two Americans with very different perspectives on the Vietnam War and a sense of service in the ’60s now find themselves on a common mission, the battle against Agent Orange, the dangerous legacy left over from the war that continues to plague another generation of Vietnamese.
LARRY VETTER: I got diagnosed with a cancer that was listed on the VA list as being caused by Agent Orange. And so that was one of the reasons why I asked to meet people in Vietnam that had Agent Orange diseases.
MIKE CERRE: Most American tourists passing through Da Nang don’t know it’s been one of Vietnam’s most contaminated Agent Orange sites, with dioxin levels in some areas 350 times international safety standards.
Nor did I when I was flying out of the Da Nang Air Base as a Marine aviator in the ’70s. The Agent Orange defoliant was used during the war originally to make enemy positions more visible from the air.
While it was stored in Da Nang and other air bases, it leaked into the surrounding areas, and is believed to have contaminated local water sources, according to a study done by Canadian scientists.
LARRY VETTER: In this area next to the airport, you have people whose dioxin levels in their blood are 100 times the safe levels, and you have women whose breast milk is four times the safe levels.
MIKE CERRE: Originally stationed in Da Nang during the war, Larry moved here in 2012 after recovering from prostate cancer, one of the many presumed Agent Orange-related illnesses. Nearly 250,000 American veterans are being compensated for Agent Orange.
He’s using his veterans disability benefits to help two Vietnamese brothers severely crippled by those presumed Agent Orange illnesses.
Toan (ph), age 25, has been in intensive care for the past two years, no longer able to move or swallow on his own.
LARRY VETTER: By the age of 8, he was seriously showing symptoms, stumbling, not having the strength to pull himself up. They saw some American doctors. The American doctors told them that they thought it was likely a disease caused by Agent Orange.
MIKE CERRE: The family Larry is helping camps outside on the hospital’s walkway, because Vietnamese families are responsible for feeding and bathing their hospitalized relatives.
LARRY VETTER: The mother, Hoa (ph), really works very hard trying to hold the family together. Her husband is paraplegic, two boys quadriplegic.
I guess I feel a little bit of national guilt for what we did here in Vietnam to so many people. I need to, just in my own little way, try to help.
MIKE CERRE: The Agent Orange problem has also drawn Dick Hughes back to Vietnam, where some of his former Shoeshine Boys are helping him work with another generation of children still at risk from the war.
DICK HUGHES: We decided to form a thing called Loose Cannons and try to get some assistance to people in Vietnam who had been exposed to dioxin and who needed some help.
Most people think Agent Orange was something that happened in the war. They don’t realize that the byproduct of Agent Orange, dioxin, is still in the soil, in the vegetation and the fish, and that people today are being born with deformities and illnesses.
It’s also being passed down in the genes. The Red Cross estimates there’s three million people in Vietnam today suffering with Agent Orange. And it wouldn’t take so much, really, to help them, but they are a constituency very far away.
MIKE CERRE: While Larry tries to generate support for his and other Agent Orange families through his children of war social media campaign, Dick has taken his Loose Cannons advocacy mission to Washington to persuade legislators to include funding for Agent Orange victims assistance programs in the Defense Department’s budget.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse first met Dick in Saigon in 1972 while visiting a Shoeshine Boys house with his father, who was serving there as the deputy U.S. ambassador to Vietnam.
DICK HUGHES: It is like a circle. We started off on different sides of it, but now we ended up at the same place.
MAN: I think it’s interesting that those who served in Vietnam in different ways have come together to help in solving the last of the wounds of the Vietnam War.
MIKE CERRE: For the PBS NewsHour, Mike Cerre, Da Nang, Vietnam.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: the dangers of domestic terrorism, extremism and efforts to counter its use of social media.
The attack in Charlottesville underscored just how real this is.
As Miles O’Brien explains, experts who study the psychological and technological underpinnings of extremism say neo-Nazis and Islamic terrorists are cut from the same bitter cloth.
It is this week’s Leading Edge and a co-production with PBS’ NOVA.
HUMERA KHAN, Muflehun: We want to make sure that people can openly talk.
MILES O’BRIEN: At the University of Illinois-Chicago, on this summer morning, a small group of determined people gathered in a classroom to figure out what they can do about terrorism.
HUMERA KHAN: My name is Humera Khan. And your name?
MILES O’BRIEN: Humera Khan was schooled as a nuclear engineer. She holds four degrees from MIT. But now she is doing something perhaps more complex, and most certainly less predictable, than splitting atoms.
In sessions she calls viral peace, she tries to find ways to battle extremism online using social media to counter the narrative.
HUMERA KHAN: The idea is teaching them how to recognize when they are being manipulated, and then teaching them the skill sets for how to respond, should they respond, when should they respond, and using social media to come up with their own campaigns.
MILES O’BRIEN: She thinks stories effectively told on social media can motivate people to turn away from violence.
Participants identify flash point issues and underlying causes of extremism. The problems are posted, sifted and prioritized. Then they work on their own campaign. The winner gets $1,000 to implement the idea.
But this is not just about Islamic terrorism. It’s about all kinds of hate and extremism.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI, Former White Supremacists: My name is Christian Picciolini. I’m the co-founder of Life After Hate.
MILES O’BRIEN: Christian Picciolini is a former white supremacist skinhead, who was the lead singer in a racist heavy metal rock band. He ran an organization focused on identifying white supremacists who might be convinced to walk away, de-radicalization.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: Big place for people who are involved in hate groups to leave.
I think it’s tough for us as a country to hold a mirror up to ourselves, to address a problem that’s inherent in our own population and our own citizens.
PROTESTERS: Jews will not replace us!
MILES O’BRIEN: The ugly scene in Charlottesville made it difficult to avoid that mirror.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Charlottesville is a great place that has been very badly hurt.
MILES O’BRIEN: President Trump was reluctant to blame white supremacists and neo-Nazis for the violence, and offered support for their protest march to save a statue of Robert E. Lee.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think there’s blame on both sides.
MILES O’BRIEN: Former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke said he was thrilled by what the president said.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: What’s scary about Donald Trump and what’s happening is not that he’s creating racists. I don’t believe that. I believe that these people existed. He’s created a safe place for them to now vent.
MILES O’BRIEN: And he has retweeted messages from neo-Nazis, giving them a global audience.
J.M. Berger is a fellow with the International Center for Counter-Terrorism.
JM BERGER, Terrorism Analyst: If you are somebody who believes that white people are being subjected to genocide, and, you know, that desperate measures are required to preserve the existence of the white race, and you get Donald Trump to retweet your content, then, suddenly, you have an audience of millions of people that you didn’t have before.
MILES O’BRIEN: Berger studies the links between extremism, terrorism and the Internet. He has carefully tracked the rise of online recruitment and propaganda created by Islamic terrorists.
JM BERGER: Social media has inherent advantages for extremists that mainstream movements don’t have. And ISIS is only the first group to realize this. And we’re going to see many others. I think we’re in for a decade or more of significant instability that can be attributed to the interconnectedness of the world.
MILES O’BRIEN: Social media companies have had some success thwarting the online threat from ISIS, because the message is so extreme and so violent.
JM BERGER: It is easier for these companies to step on them.
White nationalists, while they are marginalized in our society, they are still very much embedded in our society. And they are currently enjoying a pretty good run of mainstreaming some of their beliefs. If they are not advocating for violence directly, it’s a much harder problem.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: And until we can classify white extremists as terrorism, it won’t have the same resources, it won’t get the same priority, and won’t get the same funding to fight it.
MILES O’BRIEN: The Trump administration has gone in the opposite direction, killing a $400,000 grant for Christian Picciolini’s Life After Hate Group.
PROTESTERS: You will not replace us!
MILES O’BRIEN: It was part of a broader effort to cut federal funding for campaigns against domestic terrorism.
But should the Trump administration treat white extremism differently?
Not according to University of Maryland psychologist Arie Kruglanski.
ARIE KRUGLANSKI, University of Maryland: There’s a universal process that prompts people to the extremes, prompts them to deviate from the mainstream and move to the fringe.
And the same process applies to neo-Nazis in Germany, Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers, Muslim extremism, or the militia, the far right in the United States.
MILES O’BRIEN: Kruglanski says extremist groups thrive during times of uncertainty, offering simple black-and-white answers in a world filled with many shades of gray.
Their messages, transmitted via Twitter, Facebook and the like, offer something they crave, certainty. The psychological term is cognitive closure.
ARIE KRUGLANSKI: At the psychological level, it’s the very same dynamic that gives us ISIS, because ISIS also thrives on a very clear-cut ideology that promises the world and promises order and fame and structure, and that’s what Trump promises as well.
MILES O’BRIEN: Terrorism expert J.M. Berger believes the Internet is hastening the polarization of our society, and he says there is no easy way to stop it.
JM BERGER: I don’t think that there’s a solution is going to come around soon. I think it’s going to take quite a while, and I think that identity-based extremists are going to get the most benefit out of these technologies. And I think that we’re going to see the things we have seen with ISIS with other groups.
MILES O’BRIEN: But the proliferation of the Internet and social media cuts in both directions. And that is what has brought these people together in Chicago.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI: While there is a lot of misinformation and a lot of recruitment to extremism happening online, it also serves as a wonderful platform for counternarratives, for people to reach others with an alternate message to what the extremists are proposing, and also to link the facts, so people can do their own homework.
MILES O’BRIEN: Humera Khan strongly believes in promoting a counternarrative, stories that can motivate people to turn away from violence.
HUMERA KHAN: We are talking about a minuscule, less than a percentage, which means we have the numbers on our side, if we can actually mobilize them to actually do good, not just watch, but actually step up and say, OK, I have a role, and I will do it.
MILES O’BRIEN: Extremists have always been among us, and they have always been small in number, but, these days, everyone owns a global megaphone.
HUMERA KHAN: Because anyone can have a role in bringing others in to the community.
MILES O’BRIEN: In Chicago, I’m Miles O’Brien for the PBS NewsHour.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: We take a closer look now at Roy Moore’s win, at the Republican push for tax reform, and another failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and what all of that means for the future of the GOP, with Tom Davis, a former member of Congress who headed up the committee in charge of electing more Republicans to the House. And Matt Schlapp, he’s the chairman of the American Conservative Union and the former White House political director under President George W. Bush.
And, for the record, we note that Matt’s wife, Mercedes Schlapp, is a senior communications adviser to President Trump.
And we welcome both of you back to the “NewsHour.”
Tom Davis, I’m going to start with you.
What happened in Alabama? The candidate the president, the Republican establishment was backing lost to Roy Moore, who may be the most conservative candidate to run for a Senate seat in this modern era.
FORMER REP. TOM DAVIS, R-Va.: He’s certainly an exotic candidate, but there were some Alabama characteristics to this race, I think, that were peculiar to Alabama.
The way Senator Strange was appointed by a governor who they felt he’d underinvestigated, I think that blew up on him. I think, had Luther Strange run basically not as the incumbent and appointed by that governor, you might have had a different result.
I wouldn’t read too much into this election.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you mean?
FORMER REP. TOM DAVIS: I think this was a very Alabama-centric dynamic in this race that defeated Strange, who was appointed by a governor who ended up resigning.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Matt Schlapp, do you agree with that, that it may not have a wider meaning? And what do you think it means for the general election there?
MATT SCHLAPP, American Conservative Union: Well, to continue this full disclosure, I also have to let you know that Tom Davis’ son used to work for me, so I don’t know what’s going on here.
MATT SCHLAPP: But who is a great young man.
But I think that this election in Alabama actually is indicative of a very big trend that’s going on within Republican politics. I agree with Tom completely that there are reasons why this election went the way it did, and it did have to do with what was seen as a corrupt bargain about the former governor and the fact that Strange was an appointed candidate, and that he got so imprinted with the leadership in the Senate.
None of those things were positive. I think the big trend we have to understand is that Republicans, it’s not that ideological. It’s not really moderate vs. conservative right now. Republicans out there in the country, they’re just so frustrated that, on the big, central issues, they don’t see Republican majorities in the House and the Senate fulfilling the promises, starting, number one, with Obamacare.
And they have got to get taxes done. If they stub their toe on that, we are going to be in a very, very bad situation as a party, because it’s going to look like we’re not delivering on the promises we have made.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, how big a setback, number one, Tom Davis, is this for the president, for Mitch McConnell, and what is it potentially going to mean for other Senate races?
FORMER REP. TOM DAVIS: Well, it’s a shot across the bow at the Republican leadership in both the House and Senate that they better get their act together, and exercise some teamwork and get some things passed.
What hasn’t been talked about — and there were a couple of special elections yesterday in state legislatures. Republicans lost a state senate seat in Florida, and they lost a statehouse seat in New Hampshire that was a heavy, strong Republican seat.
What has happened is, you’re finding the Republican vote being depressed at this point. Republicans are kind of down on their party and Democrats are really juiced at this point, have a lot of excitement.
And that can really skew turnout in favor of Democrats, if the Republicans don’t do what Matt Schlapp said they need to do, and that is pass some of these things that Republicans elected them to do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see this, Matt? How big a setback for the establishment, is what I mean?
MATT SCHLAPP: It’s big.
And once again, I don’t think it’s as ideological as some like to portray it. Yes, Roy Moore is a very conservative guy, and he’s a strong Christian conservative, but really the dynamic in Alabama was, who could be closer to Trump? Both Luther Strange and Judge Moore, they were running as — each one was running as the Trump candidate, even though Trump endorsed Luther Strange.
So, it’s really — that’s not really the dynamic here. The dynamic that’s problematic across this country is that if the Republican majority is seen as failing to deliver, we’re going to have more losses. And I agree with what Tom is saying, which is, I really think this is a critical moment for the Republican Party.
They assume that all these Republicans across the country are going to stand with them even when things are tough, but they will not if they see us unable — think about this, Judy. On these reconciliation votes, which is what all the health care votes have been so far and what this tax vote will be, what reconciliation means is, they can do it if they want just with Republican votes in the Senate.
Even on those votes, they failed to pull together as a conference to get to 50. That’s quite a stunning problem, when you ran for seven-and-a-half years after attacking the Obama agenda.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Tom Davis, is the message then to Republicans to keep moving farther to the right, or is it to think about working with Democrats?
FORMER REP. TOM DAVIS: I think Matt just made it clear they need to get things done. They need to try to solve…
JUDY WOODRUFF: But how? By…
FORMER REP. TOM DAVIS: Look, I was in the House when we had five- and six-seat margins in the House, and we were able to pass legislation. It was almost as polarized as it is today.
But we functioned as a team. I think right now, some of these outside groups, some of the outside media get involved with this, and members aren’t feeling a part of the Republican team. But they either hang together or they hang separately. Republicans have got to pass tax reform, and that is a must, or I think they’re doomed.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and whether it’s tax reform or anything else, Matt, is the answer for Republicans, again, to lean more to the right, to bring in more Roy Moores, or is it to work across the aisle? The president said today he’s prepared to work with Democrats on tax reform.
MATT SCHLAPP: Well, Judy, I obviously chair a group with conservative in its title. I am true-blue conservative. I want to see the Republican Conference in the Senate be conservative.
I also am a strong Republican. I’m a conservative first, a Republican second. But I want our Republican Party to be a national party. I want us to be able to win in red states and in blue states. And the only way we’re going to accomplish that is if we can be competent at having the majority.
If you really think about it, Republicans do great — we’re the anti-government party. We do great when we’re out of power and we criticize those trying to grow a government and raise taxes. We are great at that. We excel at that. We prosecuted the case on Obamacare for seven-and-a-half years, and we did a sterling job. We got our message out.
You know what we weren’t so good at? Coming up with what our alternative was. And that is the moment we are in now. We have to talk about our alternatives. And we have to be able to show that, at least on these Republican votes, that we all stand together on it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well…
MATT SCHLAPP: Think about this. We actually can’t stand together even on replacing Obamacare. That’s quite a stunning statement.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, is the answer, Tom Davis, to elect more Roy Moores to the Senate?
FORMER REP. TOM DAVIS: No, look, the answer is — the wakeup call for Republicans is they need to work together as a team to get these passed.
If not, they are going to have to work with Democrats. And that’s going to make some Republicans very unhappy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But Roy Moore coming in, as somebody who likes to go his own way, is…
FORMER REP. TOM DAVIS: I think Roy Moore will part of the team on issues like tax reform.
I don’t see him going off the reservation, a problem on those kind of issues. But the Senate is full of cats. It’s like herding cats, and they just added another cat to the bag to herd.
But I think Roy Moore will be supportive of the president on most of these issues.
MATT SCHLAPP: Yes, I agree, Judy.
I want to answer your question, which is, the fact is, Alabama is a conservative state. Both Luther Strange and Roy Moore match up with the philosophy of Republican voters in the state. And that’s what the Republican Party is going to be made up with. Some are going to be more conservative. Some are going to be less conservative.
But on the central issues of, are taxes too high and is government playing too big a role in your life, we should be able to unify on these questions?
And for people like Susan Collins, who have not been there, actually, the politics back home in her state are getting tougher, because even moderate Republicans back home in these states, they are antsy over the fact that we’re not getting things done.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the cat herding is under way.
And we will continue to watch it with Matt Schlapp and Tom Davis. Thank you both.
FORMER REP. TOM DAVIS: Thanks, Judy.
MATT SCHLAPP: Thanks, guys.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Sticking with politics, Alabama Republicans voted yesterday to nominate firebrand candidate Roy Moore for a U.S. Senate seat, a rebuke to President Trump and the GOP establishment.
William Brangham begins our coverage.
ROY MOORE, Republican Senate Candidate: I certainly support President Trump’s agenda.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Roy Moore took a cable TV victory lap today. The Alabama GOP’s newly minted Senate nominee celebrated his win from yesterday, and even promised to support the president, who campaigned against him.
ROY MOORE: Well, I don’t think the president knew me. And I think that when he gets to know me, that he will understand that I do support a very conservative agenda for this country.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For his part today, President Trump suggested he was encouraged by the prospect of a Senator Moore coming to Washington.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, we have a man who’s going to be a great senator. And I’m very happy with that. I spoke to him last night. I never met him. I never spoke to him. I’m very happy with him.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Last night, Moore prevailed in a primary runoff against Luther Strange, the incumbent. Strange had the backing of not just Mr. Trump, but also Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But Alabama voters had a different idea.
SEN. LUTHER STRANGE, R-Ala.: I’m telling you, those seas, the political seas, the political winds in this country right now are very hard to navigate. They’re very hard to understand.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Strange had only been in the seat since February. He was appointed to replace Jeff Sessions when Sessions was named attorney general.
Moore, meanwhile, is well-known in Alabama as a staunchly conservative Christian evangelical. He served as the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, but on two different occasions was removed from his duties. The first time was in 2003, when Moore refused to remove a Ten Commandments display from the lobby of a state courthouse.
And then last year, he was suspended permanently after urging other judges in the state to defy federal court rulings on same-sex marriage.
Moore also faced criticism earlier this month when he used crude, derogatory terms to describe certain minority groups.
ROY MOORE: Now we got blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The runoff between Moore and Strange pitted some top Republicans against one another, each side claiming the mantle of President Trump and his agenda.
Stumping for Moore were former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
FORMER GOV. SARAH PALIN, 2008 Republican Vice Presidential Nominee: The loudest message to the swamp, are you ready to tell them, here comes the judge?
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And former chief White House strategist, now Breitbart executive chairman, Stephen Bannon.
STEPHEN BANNON, Former White House Chief Strategist: You’re going to get an opportunity to tell them what you think of the elites that run this country.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Stumping for Strange, not just the president, but Vice President Mike Pence as well.
However, while the president was in Alabama last week for Strange, he admitted in passing that his endorsement came with some hesitation.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I might have made a mistake. And I will be honest. I might have made a mistake.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It was a moment one outside group immediately seized on.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I might have made a mistake. I don’t know him. I don’t know him. I don’t know him.
SEN. LUTHER STRANGE: The president supports me.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: But I don’t know him.
DOUG JONES: Please stand with me.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In the general election, Moore now faces Democrat Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor with a strong record on civil rights. That vote will be held in December.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The president launched a major campaign today to pass big tax cuts, and perhaps the most sweeping overhaul of the tax code in more than three decades.
Many key details are not yet decided. Whether he can succeed is very much an open question.
But the president and congressional leaders said today they have ambitious plans, which include cutting the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, reducing the number of individual tax brackets to just three, with rates — tax rates of 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent, and doubling the standard deduction for individuals and families.
President Trump told supporters in Indianapolis the tax code is a relic that must be simpler.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Americans waste so much money, billions and billions of dollars, and many hours each year to comply with our ridiculously complex tax code.
More than 90 percent of Americans use assistance to prepare their taxes. Under our framework, the vast majority of families will be able to file their taxes on a single sheet of paper.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on what we know and what we don’t know about the Republicans’ tax proposal, we turn to Greg Ip, who writes on economic and financial matters for The Wall Street Journal.
Greg, welcome back to the program.
So, what is the core idea here? What are the president and Republicans trying to do?
GREG IP, The Wall Street Journal: There are two core ideas in this proposal.
The first one is lower corporate taxes, so that American businesses will have a higher incentive to invest. That raises economic growth and wages for everybody. And it makes the United States a more competitive place to locate head offices and businesses.
Right now, the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. After this reform, it would have one of the lowest. The second big piece is something that Donald Trump has been very emphatic about from the campaign trail and now. That is a big middle-class tax cut.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So then who are the winners and the losers, based on the information they have provided so far?
GREG IP: Well, right now, first of all, they haven’t put out a fully, you know, detailed document, so it’s impossible to say for sure.
But we know that, right now, the business side is very much a winner. They see the corporate rate drop from 35 percent to 20 percent. They get to like write off the cost of all their new equipment right away, instead of taking several years to do it.
We move to a so-called territorial system, which means that instead of taxing them on their profits no matter where they earn it, we only tax them on their American profits.
On the individual side, it’s a little harder to tell. There are some things that clearly are good for the middle class. For example, some of the tax rates are lowered. Instead of seven brackets, we have three. The standard deduction is doubled.
On the other hand, there’s a few things that are negative in there. For example, some itemized reductions are reduced or eliminated altogether, for example, for state and local taxes.
And, finally, even though the president is framing this as a middle-class tax cut, there are provisions which clearly benefit the wealthiest the most, repeal of the estate tax and repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, I’m reading the cost of doing all this in the trillion — a few trillion dollars. How do they make up for that, or are they even going to try?
GREG IP: So, one of the drawbacks in today’s proposal is there aren’t enough details to fully know how much it will cost.
But some good estimates suggest that, over 10 years, it will be more than $2 trillion of additional borrowing. Now, we have already heard Republicans in Congress and the president basically say they’re willing to borrow a lot of money to finance this tax cut, somewhat ironic, considering they spent eight years bashing Barack Obama and Democrats for the big rise in debts that they presided over.
Now, there is a budget resolution in the works which will limit the debt impact to $1.5 trillion over 10 years. That still leaves a lot more so-called revenue raisers that they need to find.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And just in a few seconds, political prospects better than for health care reform, which has been a problem for them?
GREG IP: It’s still tough. They will still have the same tensions within the Republican Caucus, for example, blue state Republicans who don’t like taxes being raised on their taxpayers, deficit hawks who don’t like the fact that this might add to the deficit.
But there are some positives. First of all, because they are essentially paying for it by borrowing from future taxpayers, you’re giving away to people, instead of taking away, as you were with health care.
And perhaps most important, Trump was only peripherally involved and interested in health care. He was always leaving the details to Congress.
Here, you have seen a unified effort and the president thus far fully engaged.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Greg Ip of The Wall Street Journal, it’s only beginning.
GREG IP: It sure is.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.
GREG IP: Watch this space.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: The storm that devastated Puerto Rico returned to hurricane strength today off the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Maria’s sustained winds of 75 miles an hour pushed water into dunes and eroded large sections of beach. The surge also flooded the only road through Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. More than 10,000 vacationers were forced to evacuate earlier this week.
President Trump and congressional Republicans proposed a sweeping tax reform plan today that could total $5 trillion. It would lower the top tax rate for corporations, double the standard personal deduction, and reduce the number of personal income tax brackets from seven to three. We will explore the plan in detail after the news summary.
Senate Republicans have put aside their effort to replace Obamacare, but the president insisted today that they will be back. Party leaders acknowledge they can’t meet Friday’s deadline to use the so-called reconciliation process. It would allow a bill pass with just 51 votes.
Still, during his tax speech today, Mr. Trump said it’s not over.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have the votes on Graham-Cassidy, but with the rules of reconciliation, we’re up against a deadline of Friday, two days. But, early next year, when reconciliation kicks back in, in any event, long before the November election, we’re going to have a vote. And we’re going to be able to get that through.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The president also said that he’s willing to negotiate with Democrats on the health issue.
On another subject, the president said today he is not happy with reports that Health Department Secretary Tom Price billed the government for expensive charter flights. Mr. Trump said today that he let Price know he is disappointed. As to whether Price’s job is in jeopardy, he said, “We will see.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ arrival in Afghanistan today was followed by a barrage of Taliban rockets. The militants fired on Kabul’s airport hours after Mattis arrived, and they claimed they targeted his plane. He had already gone to a meeting with President Ashraf Ghani, where he urged the Taliban to stop fighting.
JAMES MATTIS, Secretary of Defense: I want to reinforce to the Taliban that the only path to peace and political legitimacy for them is through a negotiated settlement. We support Afghan-led reconciliation as the solution to this conflict, and the sooner the Taliban recognizes they cannot win with bombs, the sooner the killing will end.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Afghan officials say that one woman was killed and 11 other civilians were wounded in the attack.
In Iraq, the outcome of an independence vote by Kurds is now definite. The election commission there announced today that more than 92 percent of voters approved the move in Monday’s referendum. That word came as Iraqi’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ruled out using force to keep the Kurds from breaking away. But he insisted that he will enforce Baghdad’s authority.
Back in this country, the University of Louisville placed basketball coach Rick Pitino on unpaid leave. It came after news that the men’s basketball program is part of a federal investigation into alleged bribery of recruits. Louisville is already under NCAA sanctions over separate allegations that strippers were paid to have sex with players and recruits.
And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 56 points to close at 22340. The Nasdaq rose 73, and the S&P 500 added 10.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: New appeals today to do more for Puerto Rico. The island is still reeling from its worst storm in a century, and there are calls to cut red tape and get more relief on the ground quickly.
John Yang has the story.
JOHN YANG: A full week after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, patience, like so many other things, is in short supply, especially over federal disaster aid.
LAURA VASQUEZ, San Juan Resident (through interpreter): He, President Trump, has the power. If he could show his power in Puerto Rico, things would be different, very different. Many people don’t trust him.
JOHN YANG: For a second straight day, President Trump defended his administration’s response, saying the government is doing everything it can.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Massive amounts of food, water and supplies, by the way, are being delivered on an hourly basis. It’s something that nobody has ever seen before from this country.
JOHN YANG: Today, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said the U.S. territory needs a sweeping aid package.
GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLÓ, Puerto Rico: The proud U.S. citizens that live in Puerto Rico want to work. They want to deal with the emergency. Our ask is that we treat Puerto Rico equally, that we attend to the devastation. And if we do that, we can avoid a humanitarian crisis in the United States.
JOHN YANG: At a Senate hearing, acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said efforts are hampered by the condition of the Puerto Rican government.
ELAINE DUKE, Acting Secretary, Department of Homeland Security: The capacity of the Puerto Rican government is severely diminished, both because of Hurricane Irma, their prior existing financial situation, and the devastating wracked by the direct hit of Maria. We’re using the DOD to now help with distribution. That generally is something that the commonwealth would do itself.
JOHN YANG: Senators of both parties pushed Duke to waive longstanding shipping restrictions, known as the Jones Act, to help get supplies to the island.
REP. JAMES LANKFORD, R-Okla.: That waiver was given to Houston, was given to Florida. It’s a week to be able to get even a vessel to them. So, the longer it takes to be able to get that waiver done, then vessels can’t even start getting there.
JOHN YANG: Much of the aid that has reached the island has not made it much farther than San Juan.
ANDRIAN ROMAN, San Juan Resident (through interpreter): They have not evaluated the real level of damage, and they are doing what they can, however they can. But since there isn’t communication, people don’t know what to do or how to do it.
JOHN YANG: With help like a U.S. Navy hospital ship the Comfort still days away, states and municipalities have sent help on their own.
Even individuals like NBA player J.J. Barea are pitching in. He borrowed the Dallas Mavericks’ team plane to fly aid into his native Puerto Rico earlier this week.
For many on the island, it remains a do-it-yourself recovery, with a patchwork of desperate fixes.
We will take a closer look now at the situation on the ground in Puerto Rico.
For that, I spoke a short time ago with Camila Domonoske of NPR. She joined me via Skype from the capital, San Juan.
Camila, I know you’re in San Juan now, but I understand you have been out into some of the areas around, especially into the mountains. What have you found there? What are conditions like there?
CAMILA DOMONOSKE, NPR: People have absolutely no power. Most people don’t have any running water. The water situation, in particular, is quite dire.
Where there is bottled water available in grocery stores, the lines are incredibly long. So, when we were up in the mountains near Cayey, near Aibonito, near Coamo, we saw people gathering water from mountain streams to drink, to cook with, to clean with, waiting in line for non-potable water that had been sitting stagnant in municipal tanks for days, and going to rivers to take baths and wash laundry.
Many of these people, their homes were completely destroyed or partially damaged in the storm. And a lot of people say they haven’t seen any aid whatsoever reaching their communities.
The mayor of Coamo, I spoke with him this morning. And he said that the sum total of aid that his municipality received was five pallets of water, which is nothing compared to the need.
JOHN YANG: You say people out in the hinterlands, as it were, are seeing very little aid. How does that compare with San Juan?
CAMILA DOMONOSKE: San Juan is somewhat better off. It’s still difficult for people to find resources, even here. The lines for ATMs for cash are very long. The lines for gas are very long.
I have talked to people who have driven all over the city looking for generators. I talked to a family whose generator was actually destroyed in the storm. And there is simply none to be found.
But the food availability and the water availability here in the city is better off. People can buy things when they need them, which is not the case in some of these more isolated communities.
JOHN YANG: So, is it the case that the aid is getting aid into the city, but they can’t get it out beyond it? Is that the situation?
CAMILA DOMONOSKE: That’s the frustration that I was hearing from people in these communities and even from the mayors who I spoke with this morning here in San Juan who are coming to petition to ask for more help, to say that they need more resources in their communities.
That said, the government of Puerto Rico will tell you the resources are getting out. It’s just very difficult, very dangerous and slow.
So, conflicting reports of how much of the aid is actually being distributed out of the ports here. But there are certainly people who say they haven’t seen any FEMA trucks, that they haven’t seen any drop-offs or that the only help they have seen has been coming from their own local communities, neighbors helping each other and mayors serving their communities.
JOHN YANG: Do you get any sense of why that is? Is that roads are blocked, that there are no drivers, there are no trucks? What’s the problem?
CAMILA DOMONOSKE: I have certainly heard reports that the problem is that there are not enough drivers.
I have heard that from a man who runs a logistic company, says that people aren’t available for work. I have heard that there isn’t enough diesel. And the lines for fuel are hours and hours long.
Again, the officials with the Puerto Rican government will tell you that distribution is happening, that there’s not a gas shortage and that resources are getting out there. But, on the ground, it’s certainly not visible.
JOHN YANG: Camila Domonoske of NPR, thanks so much for your on-the-ground reporting.
CAMILA DOMONOSKE: Yes, thank you for having me.
JOHN YANG: The Pentagon said today it’s shifting its response to a provide long-term support to FEMA in Puerto Rico. But critics say the military could have done a lot more a lot earlier.
To examine that question, we are joined by Phillip Carter. He is a former Army officer who was a deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration. He’s now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University.
Mr. Carter, welcome.
We just had an interview with a reporter on the scene in Puerto Rico. She said that, as the Trump administration has been talking about how much aid has been delivered to Puerto Rico, she says a lot of that is not getting out of San Juan, it’s having trouble getting out into other parts of the island, because they can’t have — they can’t find truck drivers.
Is that something the military could have helped with?
PHILLIP CARTER, Center for a New American Security: Absolutely.
So, Puerto Rico is a fairly large island. It’s about 100 miles wide, and 40 miles deep. It’s got mountains on it that are almost 5,000 feet high, and the population is not just in San Juan, but it’s all over the island.
And so it’s one thing to even get the supplies there. It’s another to get it throughout the island to people who need it. And that’s something that military units have a unique capability to do that because they’re used to pushing supplies in very arduous terrain, whether it’s Puerto Rico, Korea or Afghanistan.
JOHN YANG: What else could the military or the Pentagon be doing in Puerto Rico?
PHILLIP CARTER: So, Puerto Rico is unique. It’s an island, in the sense that you can’t rely on adjacent states or counties for mutual aid when disaster strikes.
The military got this unique deployable logistics capability. They can pick up and move by air or sea to anywhere in the world. And that’s the kind of capability Puerto Rico needs now. It needs power, clean water, food, medical care, and the types of support the military provides its own troops in combat can be lifesaving in a place like Puerto Rico after a disaster like Maria.
JOHN YANG: You talked about medical care. The Pentagon announced this morning that the Comfort — the hospital ship the Comfort has been requested to get under way, but it’s not leaving until — getting under way until Friday, and will take five days to get to Puerto Rico.
PHILLIP CARTER: That’s right.
And in the interim, there are ground units and others that can plug that gap and also do things so that Puerto Rico’s existing infrastructure can continue to function. The Pentagon said today that roughly 50 of 70 hospitals are still operating, but they need fuel for their generators, medical supplies, clean water and other supplies.
And those are things the military can help with, too.
JOHN YANG: Should the Pentagon have been asked to do more earlier in response to the hurricane?
PHILLIP CARTER: That’s a hard judgment call.
FEMA and the Defense Department were stretched already by Harvey and Irma. And for them to have leaned forward into the Maria response might have been too much. That said, they certainly underdid it, and now we’re seeing the effects of that judgment call.
JOHN YANG: And we have heard about the military being stretched between Afghanistan and Iraq and overseas. But are they stretched in terms of the domestic response to things like this?
PHILLIP CARTER: Yes.
And part of the problem is that a lot of the logistic units necessary for the Puerto Rico mission come from reserve components. And it’s harder to call them up and deploy them than simply snap your fingers and send the Marines or the 82nd Airborne Division down to Puerto Rico.
Those units take days or weeks to mobilize and deploy. And pulling them off of where they’re training or deployment cycles they’re on can be also be taxing to the Pentagon.
JOHN YANG: Phillip Carter of the Center for a New American Security, thank you very much.
PHILLIP CARTER: Thanks, John.
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