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

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    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is expected to address President Donald Trump and Republicans’ new plan for tax reform in a Thursday news briefing.

    After significant setbacks on health care this week, senior Republican lawmakers said they were confident about their chances of passing tax reform.

    White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to hold a news briefing at 2:30 p.m. ET today. Watch her remarks in the player above.

    After unveiling a nine-page tax reform plan Wednesday, Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, praised the proposal’s cuts to tax rates for middle class families and corporations. However, Democrats slammed the proposal, saying it favored the wealthy.

    As debate over tax reform heats up, the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria is getting worse. As reports and images from the ground continue to show devastation, and U.S. citizens standing in long lines for basic necessities, the Trump administration has had to defend itself from criticism over what some call a sluggish response to providing additional hurricane relief to the island.

    Today, acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke told reporters that the shortages of food, water and fuel are the “fault of the hurricane,” adding that relief efforts were “under control.” She also blamed reporters for advancing the narrative that the Trump administration was too slow in its response to the island’s needs after the hurricane.

    On Thursday, President Donald Trump waived the Jones Act to make it easier to get supplies to Puerto Rico.

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post WATCH: White House addresses tax reform, Puerto Rico recovery appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Ellen Pao leaves San Francisco Superior Court Civic Center Courthouse during a lunch break in San Francisco, California March 25, 2015. Pao, the interim CEO of Reddit, is suing her former employer Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byerr, a venture capital firm, for $16 million in a landmark case detailing the alleged sexual bias against women in Silicon Valley. REUTERS/Stephen Lam - RTR4UVEY

    Ellen Pao leaves San Francisco Superior Court Civic Center Courthouse during a lunch break in her court case on March 25, 2015. Pao is the author of a new book, “Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change.” File Photo by REUTERS/Stephen Lam

    Editor’s note: Ellen Pao’s new book, “Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change,” chronicles her career in Silicon Valley and gender discrimination lawsuit against the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Pao recently spoke with PBS NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman. Here is an excerpt of their conversation, edited for length and clarity. Watch the full segment on Thursday’s broadcast.

    <hr/ >

    Paul Solman: From your biography, you do not seem like the person who would sue Kleiner Perkins, or for that matter, pretty much anyone.

    Ellen Pao: It’s not my nature. I think the lawsuit was part of a mission to call attention to this problem. I had tried so many other ways beforehand. But this is a culture that has pervasive problems, and seeing the extent of it, [I knew] we need to do a whole reset.

    PS: What was the percentage of women in venture capital when you were there?

    EP: I believe it was about 6 percent.

    PS: And what’s it now?

    EP: I think it’s gone down. I think it’s gone down to maybe 5 percent. And you know, less than 1 percent are black, or Latinx.

    PS: Do you think that you were sort of suppressing feelings you were having at the time, or the sense you were getting that there was systemic discrimination against you as a woman? Perhaps you as a minority?

    EP: There were a lot of small things that would make it very hard for women to be successful. So women were asked to take notes at meetings, and men were not. Women were asked to babysit. Women were asked to do some of the menial tasks of organizing events and planning conferences that the men were not. So, when it came time to invest, which was the work that you would get recognized and promoted for and compensated for, it was much harder for women to be taken seriously and it was harder to get investments through, and it was harder to be successful.

    I was getting blocked. I wasn’t being invited to meetings. One of the women at the firm also actually mapped out investments for the women and investments for the men, and showed that the women’s investments were doing significantly better … we have more experience, we have more education, on average, and, we’re not getting promoted. And, as a group, most of the men got promoted.

    WATCH: Women eschew Wall Street’s boys’club — and its glass ceiling

    PS: And you weren’t getting promoted because?

    EP: Because we were women. And there was some kind of belief that the men were better, despite all of the results and the records.

    PS: When you confronted that reality, did you think, ‘I’m in the wrong place? This is the wrong world for me?’

    EP: I actually tried to quit in 2007. I said, this culture … it’s not my culture. And they told me they wanted to change their culture, that the things that I was bringing up were things that they did not want to be. It wasn’t until I really saw [that] I [couldn’t] succeed, or any other woman in the firm — that was really the catalyst for me litigating.

    PS: So you felt it was your duty to sue?

    EP: Yeah, I would say that. I felt if I didn’t do it, then who would do it? So I sued for sexual discrimination and retaliation.

    PS: Was it worth it?

    EP: Yeah. I would do it again. And I think that this year, with all these people coming out and with the press and the public being so much more receptive to their stories and being able to take them at face value, [the kind of criticism] I went through has kind of dissipated as people see, wow, this is a huge problem.

    The post Ellen Pao on her gender discrimination suit: ‘If I didn’t do it, then who would?’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks during a press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. on September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo - RC1C037B4B20

    House Speaker Paul Ryan said the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief account will get a $6.7 billion boost by the end of the week. File photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    WASHINGTON — On the defensive over the pace of federal help for Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans cleared the way Thursday for more supplies and government cash for the hurricane-ravaged U.S. island.

    Trump waived federal restrictions on foreign ships delivering cargo. And House Speaker Paul Ryan said the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief account will get a $6.7 billion boost by the end of the week. Trump and his advisers, meanwhile, defended the administration’s response to the devastation on the island, which was hit by Hurricane Maria Sept. 20 with many people left desperate for power, food and other supplies.

    “The electric power grid in Puerto Rico is totally shot. Large numbers of generators are now on Island. Food and water on site,” Trump tweeted early in the day.

    The developments Thursday came after Trump came under sharp criticism for what critics said was a too-slow response to a humanitarian crisis among Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents.

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

    From the White House driveway to cable television, a squad of advisers defended the president’s response and described the relief efforts as well underway, with most hospitals “operational.”

    Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said she signed the waiver of a federal law called the Jones Act to clear the way for foreign-flagged ships to deliver supplies between U.S. ports.

    “You are seeing devastation in Puerto Rico. That is the fault of the hurricane,” Duke told reporters in the White House driveway. “The relief effort is under control.”

    Tom Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser, said the impression of a slow response isn’t so much wrong as it is outdated. He said more than 40 of the island’s 69 hospitals are accepting patients.

    And FEMA Administrator Brock Long said the efforts have been hampered by damaged airports and ports on the island.

    “The question is that last mile,” Long told CNN, speaking of the difficulty of getting aid all the way to those in need.

    Ryan, meanwhile, said a “huge capital injection will occur in two days” to help Puerto Rico recover. He noted Trump had waived a matching funds requirement, which means the cash-strapped island won’t have to contribute to the initial costs of the federal assistance. The Wisconsin Republican said he expects the Trump administration to send Congress a request for a long-term recovery package once damage assessments are conducted.

    Tom Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser, said the impression of a slow response isn’t so much wrong as it is outdated. He said more than 40 of the island’s 69 hospitals are accepting patients.

    “We will quickly act on that request,” Ryan said.

    Duke said the shipping waiver came in response to a request from Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello. The waiver, the White House said, would go into effect immediately.

    Rossello responded on Twitter to Trump’s action: “Thank you @POTUS.”

    Duke had waived the law earlier this month to help ease fuel shortages in the Southeast following hurricanes Harvey and Irma. That order included Puerto Rico but expired last week, shortly after Maria struck.

    The Trump administration initially said a waiver was not needed for Puerto Rico because there were enough U.S.-flagged ships available to ferry goods to the island.

    The post Trump, Ryan clear the way for government aid to Puerto Rico appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Incoming FBI Director Christopher Wray takes the oath of office during an installation ceremony at FBI headquarters in Washington, U.S., September 28, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - HP1ED9S1GA5U1

    Incoming FBI Director Christopher Wray takes the oath of office during an installation ceremony at FBI headquarters in Washington, U.S., September 28, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria – HP1ED9S1GA5U1

    Chris Wray has been formally installed as the new FBI director.

    He replaces James Comey, who was fired in May by President Donald Trump after fewer than four years on the job.

    The ceremony at FBI headquarters on Thursday was notable because neither Comey nor Robert Mueller, who preceded him as FBI director, was present.

    READ MORE: Who is Christopher Wray, Trump’s pick for FBI director?

    Mueller is now leading a Justice Department investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. As part of that probe, he and his team of investigators are looking into the circumstances of Comey’s firing.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke at the ceremony.

    Wray was a former high-ranking Justice Department official during the George W. Bush administration.

    The post Wray installed as FBI director, replacing fired Comey appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Woman Looking at Books in Bookstore, Boston, Massachusetts, United States. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

    Photo by Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

    When Hannah Baker, a fictional teen in the young adult novel “Thirteen Reasons Why,” records 13 tapes explaining why she took her own life, it’s her way of ensuring she isn’t silenced. Her creator, author Jay Asher, doesn’t want her to be either.

    Since it was published in 2007, “Thirteen Reasons Why” has been a target of censorship. A Colorado school district banned the novel, saying it glamorized suicide. In Ontario, Canda, the story was pulled from school libraries for its “negative portrayals of helping professionals.” In Alberta, any discussion of the book was prohibited.

    Earlier this year, the novel was adapted into a Netflix series, which reignited the debate around the novel’s themes and their portrayal. Parents and school districts worried the series would promote “suicide contagion”; Netflix added more trigger warnings before episodes. The New Zealand Office of Film and Literature banned people under 18 from watching the drama without an adult. For Asher, who helped develop the show, the response to both works has reinforced his ideas about the danger of censorship.

    READ MORE: ’13 Reasons Why’ is provocative and devastating. Is it also dangerous?

    The PBS NewsHour recently caught up with Asher during Banned Books Week, held Sept. 24 – 30 in celebration of the freedom to read, to discuss censorship and the reactions to his work. This interview has been lightly edited.

    NEWSHOUR: What kinds of stories are censored?

    JAY ASHER: Pretty much any story that makes people uncomfortable. Stories about sensitive issues like sex, drugs or, in the case of my book, sexual assault, suicide and teen drinking, are often censored because people just don’t want to talk about those things.

    It’s not that these things don’t happen, but when they’re shared in a fictional setting, for some reason they make some people uncomfortable.

    NEWSHOUR: Do you think censorship tends to target young adult fiction?

    JAY ASHER: It is targeted. One of the main reasons is because young adult literature is relatively new — it just kind of exploded in the 2000s. When I grew up, there weren’t bookstores with sections dedicated to teen lit, nor was my generation raised reading books written specifically for us.

    “We still think of books for teens as children’s books and so when you write a book that includes sensitive topics, it just seems even more controversial.”

    Because of that, today we still think of books for teens as children’s books and so when you write a book that includes sensitive topics, it just seems even more controversial. What’s troubling to me about that is these are issues adults know that teens deal with. Not writing about them makes them something we don’t, or can’t talk about.

    NEWSHOUR: Has young adult literature gotten too dark?

    JAY ASHER: You know, I felt I had a very innocent childhood and I feel privileged by that. But as an adult, I know that there were people who didn’t have that. There are a lot of teens who haven’t had as easy a childhood as me, and having literature that explores these “darker” parts helps relieve the burden and stress they may be feeling.

    As a writer, there is often a temptation to draw back when we write for teens — to preserve their innocence. But the reality is, if someone has already had that innocence taken in their life, then not writing about it is just brushing it under the rug.

    NEWSHOUR: In your experience, how have the diverse themes in young adult literature helped teens explore their sense of self?

    JAY ASHER: Personally, I never understood the power of having books written about your experience — whatever that experience may be — until I wrote one and started hearing from teens. I just got an email from a reader who said that “Thirteen Reasons Why” was the first time they had felt understood. A book shouldn’t be anybody’s first time feeling understood and that’s where censorship bothers me. These books need to be out there.

    “I never understood the power of having books written about your experience … until I wrote one and started hearing from teens.”

    NEWSHOUR: Is there ever a cause for censorship?

    JAY ASHER: No, because every reader is different. There’s no book that’s inappropriate for every person, but there are people who cannot handle everything. Last week I was speaking in Alaska and this one girl said she got to the eighth chapter in “Thirteen Reasons Why” and it became too much for her — she self-censored. But she said there would be a day when she’s able to finish my book, when she’ll be ready.

    NEWSHOUR: The American Library Association, which keeps a record of challenged books or documented requests to remove materials from schools or libraries, listed “Thirteen Reasons Why” as the third most “challenged” book of 2012. What’s your reaction to that?

    JAY ASHER: A lot of authors see their book being banned or challenged as a badge of honor. But for me, it’s nothing but frustrating and upsetting. I hear from readers, and now viewers of the Netflix show, that my work encouraged them to ask for help or reach out to someone about the situation they’re in. When you hear stories like that on a daily basis and then hear adults call for your work to be banned, it’s proof of why the stigma around these issues is so dangerous.

    Challenging “Thirteen Reasons Why” was not a badge of honor, but a reason, I think, why teens have so much trouble opening up to adults. If we say issues of teen suicide, drinking, sex or sexual assault are inappropriate, we’re telling teens who may identify with those themes that there isn’t a safe space for them.

    NEWSHOUR: People have expressed concern that some scenes in your book are too graphic. What was your original intention or inspiration when writing them?

    JAY ASHER: “Thirteen Reasons Why” was partly inspired by a relative who attempted suicide in high school, and some of the scenes were things I had experienced or people had told me about over the years.

    One scene in particular that a lot of people have an issue with is the hot tub scene where Hannah is sexually assaulted. In both the book and the TV show, I don’t have Hannah say no. Boys are taught “no means no,” but quite often in those situations a girl is afraid to say no. I wrote that scene with boys in mind. I wanted them to know sexual assault is wrong no matter what.

    NEWSHOUR: Before you wrote ‘“Thirteen Reasons Why,” did you think it would be challenged?

    JAY ASHER: I did. I knew it was going to be pulled from libraries and contested at schools. But the thing about my book is that a lot of people stumble upon it, but when it’s not on shelves, people can’t do that. Libraries, to me, are safe spaces, and if young readers can’t explore the themes in my book there, where can they?

    “Libraries, to me, are safe spaces, and if young readers can’t explore the themes in my book there, where can they?”

    NEWSHOUR: What role do you think the internet plays in censorship?

    JAY ASHER: I think it gives would-be censors more justification for what they’re doing because you can use the internet to get a book at anytime, and they want to limit that. They’re making it more difficult.

    As for the rise of social media, it’s one of the reasons books with stories like mine need to be out there. Social media is a false reality, it’s only what we want people to see about us, but when teens read stories like mine they can see that they’re not the only ones struggling.

    NEWSHOUR: What has been the response to “Thirteen Reasons Why” since it premiered as a Netflix series?

    JAY ASHER: Everything is just heightened. You have more readers and viewers, but you also have more criticism. More people are trying to censor the book because the story is out there so much more. I’ve had a lot of teens reach out to comfort me in the wake of all this criticism, while at the same time I feel bad they have to listen to adults argue about it.

    The post Banning books like ’13 Reasons Why’ makes it harder for teens to open up to adults, author says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo illustration by Regis Duvignau/Reuters

    Social media company Twitter says it took action to suspend about two dozen accounts that were linked to fake, Russia-tied Facebook accounts were pushing divisive social and political issues during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Photo illustration by Regis Duvignau/Reuters

    Social media company Twitter says it took action to suspend about two dozen accounts that were linked to fake, Russia-tied Facebook accounts were pushing divisive social and political issues during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

    The company says in a blog post that it found 22 accounts corresponding to about 450 Facebook accounts. The company says it also found an additional 179 related or linked accounts and took action on some of them that it found in violation of its rules.

    Twitter shared those findings with the House and Senate intelligence committees Thursday. The committees have been investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and how Twitter and Facebook were used to spread of misinformation and propaganda.

    MORE: How to fight extremist psychology with social media

    The social media giant says it has also provided congressional investigators with a “roundup” of ads from accounts used by Russia’s state-sponsored television network, RT.

    The company says in a blog post that RT spent $274,100 on ads targeted to markets in the U.S. during 2016. Twitter provided the ads to investigators during closed-door meetings Thursday with the staff of the Senate and House intelligence committees.

    The committees have been investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and any possible coordination with Trump associates. They have specifically been looking at Twitter and Facebook and their roles in the spread of misinformation and propaganda during the election.

    Twitter says the ads it provided came from three handles used by RT. Most tweets from the accounts promoted news stories.

    The post Twitter says it suspended accounts linked to Russia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price testifies on Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Blueprint before the Committee on Appropriations at the U.S. Capitol in D.C. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    Health secretary Tom Price promised Thursday to reimburse taxpayers for his cost on charter flights taken while on government business. File photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters.

    WASHINGTON — Fighting to keep his job, health secretary Tom Price said Thursday he’d write a personal check to reimburse taxpayers for the cost of his travel on charter flights taken on government business and pledged to fly commercial going forward — “no exceptions.”

    “I regret the concerns this has raised regarding the use of taxpayer dollars,” Price said in a statement. “I was not sensitive enough to my concern for the taxpayer.” His mea culpa came a day after a public rebuke from President Donald Trump.

    The repayment — $51,887.31, according to Price’s office — was for the embattled secretary. Price did not address the overall cost of the flights, which could amount to several hundred thousand dollars.

    Price, a former congressman from Georgia regarded as a conservative policy expert, said he hopes to keep his job. At the White House, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn’t go that far.

    The repayment — $51,887.31, according to Price’s office — was for the embattled secretary. Price did not address the overall cost of the flights, which could amount to several hundred thousand dollars.

    “We’re going to conduct a full review and we’ll see what happens,” Sanders told reporters. Travel by other Cabinet secretaries is also attracting scrutiny.

    Price said all his travel was legally approved by the department he heads.

    On Wednesday Trump declared that he’s “not happy” with his Health and Human Services secretary over reports that Price flew on costly charters when he could have taken cheaper commercial flights on government business. Asked whether he’d fire Price, Trump said, “We’ll see.”

    Price told reporters Thursday, “I think we’ve still got the confidence of the president.” About the controversy, he said, “We’re going to work through this.”

    In his statement, Price said taxpayers “won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes.”

    Price played a supporting role in the fruitless Republican effort to repeal Barack Obama’s health care law — another source of frustration for the president.

    Prompted partly by controversy over Price, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has launched a wide-ranging investigation into travel by Trump’s political appointees. On Wednesday the committee sent requests for detailed travel records to the White House and 24 departments and agencies, dating back to the president’s first day in office.

    Travel by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has also drawn criticism.

    A senior GOP lawmaker on Thursday urged Trump to lay down the rules. “Considering the many travel options to and from Washington, D.C., I’m urging you to emphasize to cabinet secretaries the necessity of using reasonable and cost-effective modes of travel in accordance with federal restrictions,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote to Trump.

    The president vented his displeasure with Price to reporters on Wednesday as he left the White House for a trip to sell his tax overhaul in Indianapolis.

    “I was looking into it, and I will look into it, and I will tell you personally I’m not happy about it,” Trump responded when asked about Price’s travel. “I am not happy about it. I’m going to look at it. I’m not happy about it and I let him know it.”

    Price’s travels were first reported last week by Politico, which said it had identified a couple dozen charter flights. Cheaper commercial flights were a viable option in many cases.

    On a June trip to Nashville, Price also had lunch with his son, who lives in that city, according to Politico. Another trip was from Dulles International Airport in the Washington suburbs to Philadelphia International Airport, a distance of 135 miles.

    Last Friday the HHS inspector general’s office announced it was conducting a review to see if Price complied with federal travel regulations, which generally require officials to minimize costs.

    Trump’s publicly expressed displeasure — or ambivalence — has been a sign in the past that the tenure of a key aide will soon be over.

    Price’s office had initially said the secretary’s demanding schedule sometimes did not permit the use of commercial airline flights.

    Trump’s publicly expressed displeasure — or ambivalence — has been a sign in the past that the tenure of a key aide will soon be over.

    In August, the president was asked if he still had confidence in Steve Bannon, then a senior strategist in the White House. “He’s a good person. He actually gets very unfair press in that regard. But we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon,” Trump said. Bannon was out three days later.

    Price, an ally of House Speaker Paul Ryan, is a past chairman of the House Budget Committee, where he was a frequent critic of wasteful spending. As HHS secretary, he has questioned whether the Medicaid health insurance program for low-income people delivers results that are worth the billions of dollars taxpayers spend for the coverage. He’s a former orthopedic surgeon who once practiced in an inner-city hospital.

    The post Health secretary Price says he’ll repay government for private charter travel appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to another in our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask people to describe their passions.

    Tonight, we hear from Ariel Levy about grief and motherhood. She’s a staff writer at “The New Yorker” and author of the book “The Rules Do Not Apply.”

    ARIEL LEVY, Writer, The New Yorker: When I was 38, I took a reporting assignment in Mongolia, in Ulaanbaatar.

    And it was going to be like big adventure. I mean, you don’t get much more exotic than Outer Mongolia. And it was the last adventure like that I was going to have for a long time, because I was five months pregnant. The doctors I talked to said, it’s fine to fly until your third trimester. Off you go.

    But the second night I was in Mongolia, I went into labor in my hotel room, and I gave birth in the bathroom at my hotel. And for 10 minutes, I was somebody’s mother. And then the baby died before the ambulance got there. And that was that. That was that.

    It was like a switch had flipped inside me, and I had experienced — however briefly, I had experienced maternal love. And I couldn’t get that switch to flip back, so I felt like a mother. And, you know, flip a switch in my body too, when I was making milk to feed this baby who wasn’t there.

    It was almost like an identity crisis. It was like, I know I’m a mother, but I sound crazy if I say it because I have no child.

    While the particulars of my situation are unusual — like, I have yet to meet another woman who is like, I too lost a baby in a hotel in Mongolia — like, that’s weird — but miscarriage is extremely common.

    I was doing this reading in the Bay Area, and this woman said: I have three children who are alive. I lost four babies, and I am 77 years old, and I miss every one of them.

    I just had always thought that if you were dogged and strategic and you had tenacity, you could get what you wanted. But being dogged and strategic and tenacious has not convinced my body to make a child. And that’s not up to me.

    I had this idea in my head since I was little that being a writer, like, a woman who was a writer was the kind of woman who was free to do whatever she chooses.

    No one’s really free to do whatever she chooses, except Mother Nature. Just having a situation where your body is out of your control, it’s a preview of death. It’s a preview of mortality. And it’s certainly been something I have thought about more since this happened, but, counterintuitively, or not, with less fear.

    I feel — I feel better about it.

    My name is Ariel Levy, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on Mother Nature.

     

    The post The identity crisis of losing a baby to miscarriage appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And let’s turn to a different conversation on questions of sexism, in tech, finance and Silicon Valley.

    Ellen Pao became a kind of cause celebre in 2012 after she filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against her employer, the powerful venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. Pao had been a junior partner and claimed that her bosses didn’t promote her because of her gender and retaliated against her for complaining.

    She asked for $16 million in damages in a trial, but lost. And her personal reputation was damaged along the way.

    Still, her case served as a wakeup call. She has a new book about it and the aftermath titled “Reset.”

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, sat down with Ellen Pao, part of his weekly series, Making Sense.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Ellen Pao, welcome.

    ELLEN PAO, Author, “Reset”: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change”: Thank you for having me.

    PAUL SOLMAN: From your biography, you do not seem like the person who would sue Kleiner Perkins or, for that matter, pretty much anyone.

    ELLEN PAO: It’s not my nature.

    I think the lawsuit was part of a mission to call attention to this problem. So, I had tried so many other ways beforehand. I’m not doing that much press. I’m an introvert. It’s hard for me. But it’s like kind of now it’s going to go on air and all these people, calling attention, seeing me on the street and recognizing me.

    PAUL SOLMAN: You don’t want that.

    ELLEN PAO: I don’t want that. It’s not my personality, and it makes me uncomfortable.

    But this is a culture that has pervasive problems. And seeing the extent of it, we need to do a whole reset.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Reset is the title of Pao’s book. And with its claim of gender discrimination in Silicon Valley, it’s become part of an increasingly polarized debate.

    Just in the last few months, charges of sexual discrimination and harassment have brought down the CEOs of Uber and the online lending startup Social Finance, spurring a backlash. A front-page article in this Sunday’s New York Times featured Silicon Valley men alleging discrimination.

    Pao is a Princeton grad with degrees from Harvard Law and Harvard Business School, jobs in Silicon Valley since 1998, including a stint at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins that triggered the gender bias lawsuit.

    What was the percentage of women in venture capital when you were there?

    ELLEN PAO: I believe it was about 6 percent.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And what is it now?

    ELLEN PAO: I think it’s gone down. I think it’s gone down to maybe 5 percent. And less than 1 percent are black or Latinx.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Do you think that you were sort of suppressing feelings you were having at the time, or the sense that you were getting that there was systemic discrimination against you as a woman, perhaps you as a minority

    ELLEN PAO: There are a lot of — like 1,000 cuts in little small things that would make it very hard for a woman to be successful.

    So, women were asked to take notes at meetings, and men were not. Women were asked to baby-sit. Women were asked to do some of the menial tasks of organizing events and planning conferences that the men were not.

    So, when it came time to invest, which was the work that you would get recognized and promoted for…

    PAUL SOLMAN: And compensated for.

    ELLEN PAO: … and compensated for, it was much harder for a woman to be taken seriously and was harder to get investments through and was harder to be successful.

    And it was also possible for men to take away investments that women were working on if they looked good, and to dump investments that weren’t doing so well on the women when they didn’t want to work on them anymore.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Now, this sounded strikingly familiar.

    Listen to Maureen Sherry describing Wall Street gender bias when she was a trader.

    MAUREEN SHERRY, Former Managing Director, Bear Stearns: Accounts not being given equitably, that is really one way, or an account being taken away when you felt it wasn’t something that you deserved.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And the atmosphere wasn’t exactly congenial for a woman.

    MAUREEN SHERRY: When I had come back from my maternity leave, I was still nursing and kept a breast pump under my desk.

    One trader would notice, and he would start making a mooing sound, and sometimes other herd members would join in.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Actually mooing?

    MAUREEN SHERRY: Yes, mooing.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Her problem, Pao claims, is that the young men went West.

    ELLEN PAO: That boy culture came in around 2008, when people stopped going to Wall Street and the people who wanted to make big money fast wanted to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. And they all came out to Silicon Valley instead.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So you are at Kleiner Perkins. You are making a lot of money there, right?

    ELLEN PAO: Yes, more than I could spend.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, what is happening there that is upsetting you?

    ELLEN PAO: I was getting blocked. I wasn’t being invited to meetings.

    One of the women at the firm also actually mapped out investments for the women and investments for the men, and showed that the women’s investments were doing significantly better. We have more experience. We have more education on average. And we’re not getting promoted. And, as a group, most of the men got promoted.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And you weren’t getting promoted because?

    ELLEN PAO: Because we were women. And there was some kind of belief that the men were better, despite all the results and the record.

    SALLIE KRAWCHECK, CEO and Co-Founder, Ellevest: There is actually research that shows that women are better investors, that they are more risk-aware.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But despite that, says former banker Sallie Krawcheck, who now runs a mutual fund invests in female-focused firms, men are better self-promoters.

    SALLIE KRAWCHECK: If it were just about intelligence or effort, we would have much more diverse teams. My experience has been that the gentlemen are more likely to come and ask for the promotion, and that the women are less likely to do so.

    ELLEN PAO: They were more assertive, and they did things exactly the right way, while we were, you know, too aggressive or not aggressive enough, to loud or too quiet or we were too competitive, we weren’t team players.

    And, you know, this was an endless slew of impossible things to fulfill.

    PAUL SOLMAN: When you confronted that reality, did you think, I am in the wrong place, this is the wrong world for me?

    ELLEN PAO: I actually tried to quit in 2007. I said, this culture is not — you know, it’s not my culture. And they told me they wanted to change their culture, that the things that I was bringing up were things that they didn’t want to be.

    It wasn’t until I really saw, like, I cannot succeed, or any other women in the firm, that was really the catalyst for me litigating.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, you felt it was your duty to sue?

    ELLEN PAO: Yes, I would say that. I felt, if I didn’t do it, then who would do it? So, I sued for sexual discrimination and retaliation.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So what happened?

    ELLEN PAO: Oh, you’re going to take me to the dark days.

    They hired a crisis communications firm that launched a campaign around, you know, that I was a poor performer, that my case had no merit.

    PAUL SOLMAN: That you don’t get along well with other people.

    ELLEN PAO: Right.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And the verdict?

    ELLEN PAO: I lost on both counts.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Why?

    ELLEN PAO: I think people weren’t ready to believe that tech was this really biased and unfair culture.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Or that Pao, who had turned down a million-dollar settlement offer, had been unfairly treated.

    Taking the role of devil’s advocate, I asked if she could have played along, and, if so, how.

    Would you have become more of a sports buff? It sounds ridiculous, and yet…

    ELLEN PAO: Yes, but those were the things that I would have had to do. It was to become one of the guys.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Yes, but if — I’m thinking of myself now as one of these guys, OK?

    ELLEN PAO: Yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Much younger, sort of not reflective, making a lot of money. And if you are there, and are you not playing along, you are making me a little uncomfortable, maybe.

    ELLEN PAO: Well, I think if playing along means participating in sexist and racist jokes, that expectation has to change.

    It can’t be on the women to — or, you know, the people of color or the older people to try to make everything better. And I think, now that, you know, this year, with all these people coming out, and with the press and the public being so much more receptive to their stories and being able to take them at face value, instead of going through the same process I went through, where, oh, you are not a perfect victim, oh, you are kind of crazy, oh, you are a fraud, oh, you shouldn’t have done this, oh, why did you do that, like, all of that has kind of dissipated, as people see, wow, this is a huge problem.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Ellen Pao, thank you very much.

    ELLEN PAO: Thank you for having me.

    The post How Ellen Pao realized women ‘cannot succeed’ in Silicon Valley frat boy culture appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: the life and times of the founder of Playboy, Hugh Hefner.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    HUGH HEFNER, Founder, Playboy: Well, I remember, you know, with great fondness the very beginnings of it all, the days in which I held the first issue of the magazine, realized that I was going to be in the business for a while.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The first issue of “Playboy” was published in 1953, when Hugh Hefner was just 27, and only recently moved out of his parent’s house in Chicago.

    But when it hit the stands, “Playboy”‘s 51,000 copies featuring naked photos of Marilyn Monroe sold out. In a 2011 interview with his then-fiancee, Crystal Harris, by his side, Hefner looked back.

    HUGH HEFNER: The fact that it would be so successful and that it wouldn’t only succeed, but also would become such a phenomenon in the ’60s, literally change the world, who could have possibly imagined that?

    JEFFREY BROWN: With its centerfold and Playmate of the month, circulation shot up quickly, reaching seven million by the 1970s.

    Hefner himself was a walking advertisement for his product. In his signature silk pajamas, smoking his pipe, he fashioned himself, and “Playboy,” as the face of the sexual liberation.

    Here, in a 1966 interview with William F. Buckley:

    HUGH HEFNER: What it really comes down to is an attempt to establish a — what has been called a new morality. I really think that’s what the American — this thing called the American sexual revolution is really all about.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Hefner launched his company into movies, TV, and clothing, and opened clubs, resorts and casinos crammed with Playboy Bunnies with rabbit ears and fluffy tails.

    An expanding empire, but also a rising chorus of critics who saw the Playboy fantasy as exploitative and vulgar. In 1963, then 28-year-old feminist Gloria Steinem briefly worked undercover at the New York Playboy Club, And published “A Bunny’s Tale,” an article that described how the women were overworked and underpaid, the atmosphere rampantly sexist and “tacky.”

    Feminist blasts never abated, but Hefner was unrepentant.

    HUGH HEFNER: The suggestion that somehow or other Playboy exploits women is really a political point of view. The truth of the matter is, we celebrate sexuality, and we celebrate the sexuality of the women who appear on the pages of the magazine.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In 1985, Hefner suffered from a mild stroke and turned his empire over to his daughter, Christie.

    Still, he remained editor in chief of “Playboy.” Just last year, he handed over creative control to his son Cooper.

    In the Internet era, readership has fallen dramatically. Hefner at one point turned to reality TV with the show “The Girls Next Door,” focused on the adventures of his three young blonde girlfriends who lived with him at the Los Angeles Playboy Mansion.

    HUGH HEFNER: I think a best life is one where one pursues one’s own personal dreams.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In 2012, at age 85, Hefner married his third wife, Crystal Harris. She was 60 years his junior.

    In addition to Crystal, Hefner is survived by his four children from previous marriages.

    Hugh Hefner died yesterday at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. He was 91.

    And we take a closer look at Hefner’s complicated legacy with Amanda Marcotte. She writes about politics, feminism, and culture for Salon.com. And Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, his numerous books include “The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage.” He joins us via Skype.

    And Todd Gitlin, Hugh Hefner begins as one claiming to push against the conformity and puritanism of America of the ’50s. And it worked, right? Give us a little bit of that background.

    TODD GITLIN, Columbia University: He was the great anti-puritan.

    He made sex for men respectable. That is to say, it was no longer or really a kind of pornography. The magazines that preceded “Playboy” were kind of trashy-looking. They were printed on crummy paper. You always had the feeling that the ink was rubbing off on you, sort of something to read furtively. And they had no great literary pretension. They were full of stories about hunting and war.

    And then suddenly here was slick, smooth, airbrushed, high-color “Playboy,” that it sort of attached an idea of women as Playmates to a way of life. The way of life was, you are a bachelor, you have your own pad, you have a good record player, you have a nice sports car, you have soft jazz, and sex.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, Amanda, this was always sex as commodity, right, selling the idea of sexual freedom, but always as a brand, the Playboy logo. It is a commercial venture. What was he selling?

    AMANDA MARCOTTE, Salon: I mean, he was selling, like Todd said, a lifestyle. And it was very much a male lifestyle.

    It wasn’t really — women were seen as another accessory, like the car, like the record player. They weren’t really kind of seen as full partners in the sexual revolution. And it was really just one more object to buy. And, you know, unfortunately, to the end, Hefner was treating women in his own life that way.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Todd, the old joke was — about “Playboy” was, people would say, I’m reading it for the articles.

    But it really did have lots of important interviews and great writers working for it.

    TODD GITLIN: Yes, it did.

    He paid lots of money for writers. He had a huge circulation. And I think he must have been serious about trying to convey the idea that his idea about sexuality was somehow harmonious with or of a piece with the lifestyle.

    So, you are playboy and you are reading Isaac Bashevis Singer, and that is all part of the same thing. You are not some dumb cluck, you know, reading crummy hunting, fishing stories. You are an advanced citizen, Mr. — you lucky man. And you get to read the greats. You get to interview most people you are interested in.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, Amanda, we start off talking about him starting against this idea of conformity, but then clearly running into another kind of cultural phenomenon of the time, feminism.

    AMANDA MARCOTTE: Yes, he was in conflict with feminists from the beginning.

    And I think it is a little bit unfortunate, because I think that created this sense that feminists were against the sexual revolution. They weren’t. They just wanted women to be included as equals and as full human beings, and not treated as objects.

    And I don’t know if Hefner ever really completely understood that criticism. He always seemed to just bristle against it, instead of really listen to it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I mean, the charge, obviously, the sexism, this idea of privilege that Todd has been talking about, that is what came at him all the time.

    AMANDA MARCOTTE: Yes.

    And, I mean, he think, you know, he leaned into it, if we’re going to be honest. The Playboy Mansion was like an icon of his privilege, his notion of himself as a sophisticated man.

    And he would have these huge parties where he would let his friends enjoy food and drink and drugs and the beautiful pool and the women. And it was all sort of held out as one piece.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Todd Gitlin, even if I think, decades ago, he already appeared to many people as a kind of an anachronism. He turned to reality TV at one point. But he just went on.

    TODD GITLIN: Yes, and the fact that his empire was actually crumbling, and he was sort of outdone by raunchier, you know, more vile publications like “Hustler,” and then eventually by the whole sea of pornography that was available everywhere.

    So, he was actually less of a figure. But he sort of, I think, basked in his sort of glory as sort of the founding letch, the founding keeper of the harem, so that, at one point, a certain president of the United States in an earlier incarnation brought some of his people from “The Apprentice” to the Playboy Mansion and said to Hefner, “I can’t tell which of your girls or which are mine,” which I think tells you a lot about both men.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Amanda, just in our last minute, when you think about that legacy, and you think about what Todd was just talking about, how the Internet sort of brought a kind of sex to our — sort of every moment of anybody’s life, if they want it, where does that leave Hugh Hefner’s legacy?

    AMANDA MARCOTTE: I mean, I think it leaves it mixed.

    I think you can’t deny that he played a huge role in the mainstreaming of porn and sexual talk in our culture. On the other hand, I think he is an anachronism, and he will mostly be forgotten in a world where our sexual culture just has very little to do with the way Playboy was conducted.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Amanda Marcotte of Salon, Todd Gitlin, thank you both very much.

    TODD GITLIN: Thank you.

    AMANDA MARCOTTE: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Diplomats from Europe, the Middle East and the U.S. met in Geneva today to iron out a resolution that would establish an international inquiry into atrocities in Yemen.

    Saudi Arabia and its allies are aligned with one faction of Yemen’s civil war. They stand accused of causing massive civilian casualties amid a punishing bombing campaign, with American support. The Saudis deny this, and they say the time is not right for an international probe.

    Meanwhile, in Yemen, a disastrous humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate.

    William Brangham has that.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Yemen has been torn apart by a two-year-old civil war, as a coalition led by Saudi Arabia fight against Houthi rebels and their allies.

    Over 10,000 people have died, more than 40,000 have been injured, and over three million are malnourished. On top of it all, an outbreak of cholera has killed 2,000 people since late April, and 700,000 people currently are infected.

    For more on all of this, I’m joined now by Jamie McGoldrick. He’s the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Yemen.

    Welcome to the “NewsHour.”

    JAMIE MCGOLDRICK, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen: Thank you.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Can you just give us a snapshot of how the humanitarian situation is in Yemen right now?

    JAMIE MCGOLDRICK: Well, after two-and-a-half years of war, you see things collapsing.

    The economy has collapsed. The conflict is raging, obviously, and people are facing a number of threats. The most recent one you mentioned is cholera, where you have some 700,000 people who have been affected by it and over 2,000 people dead.

    Those numbers will go up to the end of the year to 850,000. And then it will peter out and all disappear for a few months. Then it will come back again, because the conditions are in place. And the conditions are people can’t afford to buy clean water, feed their families properly, and the fact that they have very little resilience anymore.

    And that is what is causing these outbreaks. And the lack of systems for health to treat the people is one of the big factors.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, is it infrastructure, is it water, is it food? What is driving cholera in particular?

    JAMIE MCGOLDRICK: Well, it is a combination of them.

    The water sanitation systems have collapsed. They have been struck by airstrikes, or they have been bombed. And they no longer function. There is cross-contamination between water supply and the other parts of the sewage.

    And at the same time, people who after two years of war are very weak, nutritionally very weak health-wise, and so it takes up very quickly as a disease and then affects people very quickly, as we saw.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You mentioned this issue of food. I understand that shipments, food and other aid, have been hard to get into the country. Is there enough food to feed people who need the food now?

    JAMIE MCGOLDRICK: Well, there are two things.

    Food is getting into the country, but not in the numbers that we need, because the ports like Hodeida are being restricted in terms of movements. And bringing food in other parts of the country is quite a challenge.

    But the other big issue is that people can’t afford to buy food. People’s purchasing power is diminished. Eighty percent of the population are actually less well off than they were two years ago.

    And there’s one person out of every four who has no purchasing power. And what that means is that, tomorrow, there are seven million people that can’t tell you how they will feed their families tomorrow. That is how desperate the thing is.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Would you put that as the greatest challenge among the challenges, the many that you face? What is the greatest one?

    JAMIE MCGOLDRICK: Well, the greatest challenge is to get media attention and get the world’s attention to the suffering of Yemen.

    It has been going on for too long now. And the results, the numbers are incredulous, where you have got 20 million people out of a population of 27 million who need some sort of assistance. And 10 million of those are in real acute need, starving, not able to feed their families, no access to health care, no access to clean water.

    And it is just a recipe for further and more desperate catastrophic humanitarian situation.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, obviously, it has got to be difficult too with active fighting going on to try to deliver humanitarian aid. Are the combatants getting in the way of you doing your job?

    JAMIE MCGOLDRICK: Well, they do in any conflict.

    They are there to restrict access and movement. And we find that from all sides, who don’t understand what their obligations are, which that we are supposed to have unfettered access to populations in need.

    But we are often instrumentalized by the parties and they use us as part of the war effort. And that happens with imports. That happens with moving people around. It happens with getting visas even. And so they try to control how we work.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: There was a recent U.N. report that said that the Saudi airstrikes had been largely responsible for the civilian deaths, including the deaths of children.

    What have you seen on the ground? You live there. You are there all the time. The impact of those Saudi airstrikes on strikes on the civilians?

    JAMIE MCGOLDRICK: Well, I think, like in any conflict, and this one in particular, is that the civilian population, who have no skin in this game, they are the ones who suffer most.

    And a combination of airstrikes, a combination of bombing and fighting, all sides have been guilty of what is taking place. The international humanitarian law violations and the protection that should be afforded to civilians and civilian infrastructure has been absent in this crisis.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You said that both sides in this fight are to blame for some of the casualties here.

    But how would you apportion blame, the civil war vs. the Saudi bombing here, as far as the destruction that you have seen?

    JAMIE MCGOLDRICK: The physical destruction has mostly been done by the coalition, because they have got the aircraft.

    There is a lot of other destruction taking place because of bombing and shelling and local fighting that takes place as well. There is no side in this crisis that is innocent. There’s no good guys in this fight.

    The only people who are in this fight who are suffering are the average citizen of Yemen, who really doesn’t have any control over how this turns out.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Have you appealed, yourself, to the Saudis to say, please, be a little more discrete in your bombing campaigns, try to ease up on the civilian population?

    JAMIE MCGOLDRICK: We — every time there is an incident, every time we have a problem, we ask all the parties to the conflict to recognize that, under the Geneva Conventions, international humanitarian law, they have responsibilities.

    And the responsibilities are to protect civilians and avoid like the sort of damage that takes place to structure and to people’s lives. Unfortunately, one of the features of this crisis has been almost a blatant disregard by the parties to their obligations under international humanitarian law.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As you know, the Saudis have also been very resistant to any investigation into their actions in Yemen.

    How is this conflict ever going to come to an end? How are you ever going to be really be able to help the people fully there if one of the main belligerents seem to have no constraint on its actions?

    JAMIE MCGOLDRICK: Well, I think there are two things.

    The investigation should happen whenever there’s an incident of any kind, regardless of who is alleged to have taken it. And right now, we would call for any investigation into any action on any side that takes place.

    The way this will stop is for the war to end. There is no military solution to this. There has been no progress made militarily really in the last two-and-a-half years.

    The only thing is peace. We have to get the political situation back online, because, right now, the humanity is suffering because of the lack of politics.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Jamie McGoldrick, thank you very much for being here.

    JAMIE MCGOLDRICK: No problem. My pleasure. Thanks a lot for having me.

    The post Biggest challenge of Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is making the world pay attention appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We have heard a lot this year about Russia and its attempt to use social media to influence the 2016 presidential elections. But new revelations today about the role of social media giants like Facebook and Twitter add to the issue.

    Hari Sreenivasan has our report.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In fact, officials with Twitter met behind closed doors today with staff on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about Russian involvement in the election.

    The New York Times reported that Russia may have used Twitter even more extensively to influence the election, including using automated message accounts, or bots, to spread false information and promote stories about e-mails by Democratic operatives.

    It comes after Facebook recently announced it will give congressional investigators some 3,000 political ads purchased by Russian propaganda groups.

    Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged the spread of false information on his platform, saying in a statement — quote — “After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea that misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea. Calling that crazy was dismissive, and I regret it. This is too important an issue to be dismissive.”

    Congressman Adam Schiff is a Democrat from California and the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, which intends to have a hearing with tech companies soon.

    Representative Schiff, anything you can say publicly about your conversation with Twitter today?

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-Calif.: Yes.

    They came in and gave a preliminary briefing to our staff. And I view it really as the first of many briefings on what they know now about the extent of Russian use of Twitter as a medium of their active measures campaign.

    But I think there’s a lot yet for them to learn about the use of their own platform, and, obviously, the American public as well. It will be, I think, important during our hearing next month with these companies to ask them, you know, how rigorous was their investigation, what are they able to tell us at this point, and what more work needs to be done, because I think that we only still have scratched thee surface in terms of our knowledge of the extent of Russian use of Twitter and Facebook, for that matter.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Do we know if the scale of spending was on the same as Facebook?

    Twitter announced today that R.T., the Russian media arm, has spent some $274,000 in ads purchased in 2016. But beyond that, did they say anything else?

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, this was a subject of our discussion as well.

    They were able to point to that R.T. advertising. I don’t know whether they have identified other advertising. Obviously, that is of keen interest to us.

    It is one thing when Twitter users get something passed to them by R.T., and they can put that in context and say, OK, this is the Russian propaganda position. It’s far more pernicious when those tweets are coming, and you can’t identify the source or they are misrepresenting the source.

    I don’t think they have a good handle on that yet. I don’t think they fully know whether there was paid advertising that was using a pseudonym, and, perhaps even more significant, the extent of Russian bots that were used to propagate information in the campaign.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What is your understanding of how significant the influence of these platforms were and how they manipulated the election?

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, just in the little we know in terms of the use of Facebook and Twitter, I think we can tell that it is significant.

    But we don’t really have a sense of the full dimension. If you look at what Facebook and Twitter have revealed already, we know about advertising. We know about the use of these bots. But we don’t know much about the downstream consequences of each, that is, the advertising, for example, that Facebook did, those that showed interest in that advertising, what kind of messages were sent to them.

    And how well-coordinated was the Facebook and Twitter campaign, in the sense of those that responded on Facebook? Were they then the target of tweets from that same Russian entity in St. Petersburg?

    So, there is a great deal we have yet to learn about this.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And to what level have you seen any evidence of collusion between what these Russian troll farms bought on social media, on Twitter and Facebook, and the Trump campaign?

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, we’re obviously bringing people in from the campaign. We’re also bringing in people from the digital arm of the campaign.

    We have a great many questions for them. But we’re also trying to approach this from the other side in, and that is, can the social media companies tell us more about the targeting of their ads, about the targeting of these tweets?

    Is that — is it of a level of sophistication that you couldn’t perform unless you had the data analytics of the campaign? So we’re trying to approach it from both sides. At this point, I don’t think we’re ready to draw any conclusions.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are you lacking for any sort of an overlap in exactly how the political campaign targeted individuals on these platforms and how perhaps the Russians did, to rule out or rule in whether there was any coordination?

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Absolutely.

    We want to know, look, if the campaign was targeting these precincts or this demographic with these specific messages, is that something that is also reflective in what the Russians were doing at the same time?

    So, this is exactly what we’re looking at in terms of trying to prove or disprove whether there was any coordination. I think it’s also important, though, that we recognize that, on both these platforms, a big part of what the Russians did was simply turn one American against another.

    Now, the divisive issues that they chose and the cynical way they did it may have been to the advantage of the Trump campaign. But the broader objective here was to weaken our democracy, to accentuate these divisions. And it’s worth all Americans recognizing the Russians view this as a vulnerability. We need to view this as a vulnerability as well.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Representative Schiff, a colleague of yours, Senator Lankford, also said this morning that the groups that are tracking some of these Russian accounts were actually involved actively in conversations about Black Lives Matter or, even just as recently as last weekend, the take a knee or the boycott the NFL hashtags that were trending.

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: You know, I think that’s right, in the sense that, in the most cynical of ways, the Russians would use these issues, whether it is Black Lives Matter.

    I haven’t seen the examples yet in terms of the NFL, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all. This is what they do. They take these very hot issues in the United States. They target them geographically in a way that they are designed to be the most incendiary possible.

    And in the context of a political campaign, if they can target these particular messages or ads at people that will push them to support one candidate over the other, all the better.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally Mr. Schiff, are you confident that these technology platforms, these companies are doing everything they can to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, that is, to sort of target addresses from where this stuff is coming from, to create black lists, to kind of isolate how this happened, and make sure that their platforms aren’t abused this way?

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: I think both of these platforms are really going to have to scale up their response to this and devote a lot more of their resources and investigative effort to ferreting these out, not only as a diagnostic in terms of what happened in the past, but also to protect their users and the public in the future.

    So, at this point, I think it’s still very much a work in progress. And both of these companies are going to have to devote a lot more resources to the problem.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Representative Adam Schiff from California, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, thanks so much.

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Thank you.

     

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: The human wave of Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar has now topped half-a-million. That new estimate today from the United Nations. They have crowded into camps in Bangladesh, after escaping attacks by the military in majority-Buddhist Myanmar.

    The U.N. secretary-general warned today that it could get worse yet.

    ANTÓNIO GUTERRES,  Secretary-General, United Nations: The failure to address the systematic violence could result in a spillover into Central Rakhine, where an additional 250,000 Muslims could potentially face displacement. It is imperative that U.N. agencies and our nongovernmental partners be granted immediate and safe access to all affected communities.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Washington today, more than 20 U.S. senators from both parties urged sanctions against Myanmar.

    In Indonesia, a volcano on the island of Bali has now forced more than 130,000 people to flee. Amid regular tremors, officials say the eruption of Mount Agung is imminent. Tourists are catching any flight available to get off the popular travel destination.

    Another volcano is rumbling on a tiny island in the Pacific nation of Vanuatu. Officials there have ordered all 11,000 people to leave.

    China today ordered North Korean-owned businesses within its borders to shut down, in accordance with U.N. sanctions. The Chinese Commerce Ministry said that North Korean companies and joint ventures will have 120 days to comply. The sanctions aim to halt Pyongyang’s weapons development by isolating it from trading partners, mainly China.

    The leader of the Islamic State has apparently been heard from, three months after Russian officials said that they had killed him in an airstrike in Syria. The militant group released an audio recording today said to be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He urged followers to keep waging war in the face of military losses across Iraq and Syria.

    ABU BAKR AL-BAGHDADI, Leader, Islamic State (through interpreter): Beware of retreat or feeling defeat. Beware of negotiations or surrender. Do not lay down your arms, for Islam rises above everything, and a believer doesn’t humiliate oneself, for God has blessed them with unification and jihad.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The recording also urged ISIS militants to target what it called media centers of the infidels.

    The World Health Organization is warning that nearly half of all abortions worldwide, some 25 million, are done in unsafe conditions. The U.N. health agency blames limited contraception and safe abortion services in poorer nations.

    In a statement today, it says, “There are serious consequences for the health of women and their families. It also says President Trump’s renewed ban on U.S. funding for groups that provide abortions will raise the risk.

    Back in this country, the governor of Illinois, Republican Bruce Rauner, signed a law permitting state health insurance and Medicaid to pay for abortions. He had changed his mind on the issue at least twice before. The new law takes effect immediately.

    The majority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, Steve Scalise, returned to work today, more than three months after he was shot and critically wounded. The Louisiana Republican entered the House chamber on crutches to thunderous applause. He said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from both sides of the aisle.

    REP. STEVE SCALISE, R-La., Majority Whip: Some might focus on a tragic event and evil act, but, to me, all I remember are the thousands of acts of kindness and love and warmth that come out of this.

    Each and every one of us, we come here and we fight for the things we believe in, and I have passionate beliefs. We are the people’s house. This is the place where these ideas are supposed to be debated, and we fight through those issues, but ultimately we come together.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Scalise was wounded in June by a gunman during a congressional baseball practice. Two Capitol Police officers shot the assailant to death and were themselves wounded.

    President Trump’s health secretary, Tom Price, says that he will reimburse the federal government for his costly private travel, and change his ways. That follows reports that he’s taken at least 26 charter flights since May, costing more than $400,000. Price will pay about $52,000 for his seats on those flights.

    Yesterday, Mr. Trump said that he’s not happy with Price over the flights.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 40 points, to close at 22381. The Nasdaq rose a fraction of a point, and the S&P 500 added three.

    The post News Wrap: U.N. estimates 500,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Puerto Rico is not alone in coping with the aftermath of two hurricanes. The U.S. Virgin Islands were also left in ruin.

    I spoke a short time ago with Governor Kenneth Mapp, and began by asking about where things stand there.

    GOV. KENNETH MAPP, U.S. Virgin Islands: We’re moving out of rescue and into recovery.

    We have received tremendous provisions and support from the federal partners. We’re now talking about and beginning the process of covering and sheltering folks in homes that lost roofs. We have cleared a good bit of debris out of the road system and we’re working on getting the power distribution system up.

    That’s going to be a long haul. We’re planning on bringing 400 line men from the U.S. mainland to help us in that regard, sign those contracts. We are talking, looking at how we’re going to begin to open schools. Our children have not been into school for the school year for many imaginable parts. And so we’re planning on how we’re going to merge schools and get the children back in school in October.

    So, we are moving out of rescue and into recovery, getting the businesses open, getting the lights on, and doing what we do after we have these damaging hurricanes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what would you say your greatest needs are right now?

    GOV. KENNETH MAPP: Infrastructure development, help in terms of building the power systems up, help in getting the road systems back up and functioning.

    We really have to work with the Congress on getting the hospitals rebuilt, getting schools rebuilt. So, you know, I’m making those — I’m having those discussions with our federal partners, the White House and our friends in Congress.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So much of the focus, it seems, in the last days have been on Puerto Rico, larger population on that U.S. territory. Has that affected what you in the Virgin Islands have been able to get done?

    GOV. KENNETH MAPP: Not — I would say no.

    We feel for our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico. They have just been really devastated. And we had — after Irma, we had a contingent of their National Guard troops on the island helping us here. And our general escorted them back home and met with the — over there.

    And whatever we can do to help them, they’re just in — it’s just — they just really need help. And any quickness in terms of getting the supplies into their communities and to their people is what is really going to make the big difference.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, what about the state of health care, your hospitals, your clinics in the Virgin Islands?

    GOV. KENNETH MAPP: Hospitals are blown out.

    For all intents and purposes, we’re just using covered parts of the emergency room. Mobile hospitals are being constructed on the front lawns of the main hospitals. And we have evacuated all of the folks that were admitted to the hospitals.

    People who come and the doctors require — say that they require admittance, we simply evac them out. We have evaced out our patients requiring dialysis services. And those hospitals are going to have to be rebuilt from the ground up.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Governor Kenneth Mapp of the Virgin Islands, I know so many Americans have been thinking about you and everyone there affected by these terrible storms.

    Thank you very much for talking with us.

    GOV. KENNETH MAPP: Thank you, Judy, so much for spreading the word out for the American citizens, all of us living in these territories.

    Thank you so much.

    The post U.S. Virgin Islands need help rebuilding hospitals ‘from the ground up’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The drive to get more help to Puerto Rico is accelerating tonight. But much of what’s already arrived isn’t getting to the hurricane victims who need it.

    John Yang begins our coverage.

    JOHN YANG: Across Puerto Rico, many residents still desperately need food, fuel and drinking water.

    But at the Port of San Juan, thousands of cargo containers filled with supplies sit on the docks, unable to get inland to those in need. Why is that aid so close and yet so far?

    For one thing, shipping company and local officials say both truck drivers and diesel fuel are in short supply. And roads are badly damaged or blocked.

    After meeting with President Trump this morning, acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said they’re working on it.

    ELAINE DUKE, Acting Secretary, Department of Homeland Security: We have been working on yesterday principally getting distribution that last mile, as they call it. To do that, we had to remove debris. We had to restore rolls. We had to clear land — landslides across the island. And we have done things like airdrops in the meantime.

    JOHN YANG: Cell phone service is also hampered by the lack of diesel fuel generators.

    MAN (through interpreter): The cell signal is really bad. In the area I live in, which is Morovis, this a real problem. Lots of people are looking for places trying to get a signal to speak to family members outside Puerto Rico and in other places across the island.

    JOHN YANG: Today, Mr. Trump directed Duke to temporarily lift longstanding shipping restrictions, known as the Jones Act, in hopes of speeding deliveries of fuel and other supplies.

    ELAINE DUKE: I did sign a Jones Act waiver this morning that came in yesterday afternoon from the governor of Puerto Rico that is based on national security needs. The president encouraged us, as he has done throughout this hurricane response and the other two also, to lean forward.

    JOHN YANG: Critics like Democratic Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez of New York said the federal response has been inexcusably slow.

    REP. NYDIA VELAZQUEZ, D-N.Y.: This has to happen soon, not weeks from now, not in late October. This needs to be an immediate priority for Speaker Ryan and the Republican leadership. We need to see action as early as next week.

    JOHN YANG: House Speaker Paul Ryan said FEMA’s disaster relief account will get another $6.7 billion by the end of the week. Meanwhile, the Pentagon tapped Army Lieutenant General Jeffrey Buchanan to lead relief efforts.

    One challenge he will confront, eliminating a backlog on the mainland. At air bases in Georgia and South Carolina, utility crews and other contractors have been waiting days for military flights to Puerto Rico.

    MONTY MILLER, Electrician: We are anxious to go, but we are just waiting. Hurrying up and wait. We are trying to get there. We are just — we’re anxious to go.

    JOHN YANG: Eager to get to work to try relieve the suffering of so many fellow Americans.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m John Yang.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We get a closer look at what it’s like on the ground in Puerto Rico now®MD+IT¯®MD-IT¯.

    Carmen Yulin Cruz is the mayor of the capital city, San Juan.

    Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz of San Juan, thank you very much for joining us.

    Tell us what the situation is there right now.

    MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, San Juan: It is a humanitarian crisis.

    People are desperate for food, for water, for gas, for diesel in order to keep equipment that is necessary for people that are plugged into a respirator or an oxygen tank in order to survive. Our dialysis and cancer patients haven’t been able to get most of their treatments on time, which is, of course, life-threatening.

    And even though there is aid here, there is reported to be about 3,000 containers of much-needed medical equipment or medical materials, any type of things that you need, we’re talking about primary necessities, you know, just a glass of water. It doesn’t matter if it is cold. It just matters that you can drink it.

    I have been getting calls — and this is from mayors from towns outside of the metropolitan area — telling me that, you know, their people are drinking out of creeks, and they’re washing their clothes and they’re washing themselves in the same creeks that they are drinking and eating and bathing.

    And so this is a real concern, that the aftermath will be even worse because of the health conditions that get created.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what we have been reading is — today is that you do, as you just said, have containers there at the port in San Juan, but you don’t have the ability to get a lot of this material to people. What is the holdup?

    MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ: I don’t understand what is the holdup is. I do have to tell you that I did get a call this morning from Mr. Bossert at the White House.

    He did send John Ravins (ph), the FEMA regional coordinator that is in charge. And they have deputized two people from FEMA into San Juan. They are working very closely with a team of our people and a team of logistics experts that the mayor of New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio and (INAUDIBLE) have deployed to San Juan.

    So, we will be in a position in the next 24 to 48 hours to start distributing whatever we have already gotten. Some wonderful mayors, like the mayors of Miami Beach, Levine, that came personally yesterday to bring 7,000 pounds of stuff that we need, the mayor of Chicago and the people of the Puerto Rican human rights group in Chicago, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Congressman Asencio in Florida.

    The mayor of Boston has also reached out to see how they can help. So mayors are about helping people, because we know we’re at the forefront of people’s needs. And we’re — pretty much, you can call us the first line of defense whenever it comes to situations like this.

    And we have not ever seen anything like this in our lifetime in Puerto Rico. We also need to reinvent and rethink how we are going to rebuild and what our goals are and our priorities when we do that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, just very quickly here at the end, you do have enough people to get this material to where it is needed?

    MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ: Yes, ma’am, we do have enough people. And, you know, where there is a will, there is a way.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, I know we all are wishing you the very best at this very difficult time. Thank you.

    CARMEN YULIN CRUZ: Thank you very much.

    The post The logistical nightmare of getting backlogged aid into Puerto Rico appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Bottles of prescription painkiller OxyContin, 40mg, 20mg and 15mg pills, made by Purdue Pharma L.D. sit on a counter at a local pharmacy, in Provo, Utah, U.S., April 25, 2017. Photo by George Frey/REUTERS

    The PBS NewsHour will hold a Twitter chat, Thurs. Sept. 28th 1 ET on opioid use and substance abuse. Questions? Tweet them to #NewsHourChats.

    America has an opioid problem.

    More than 20 million people have substance use disorders, the Surgeon General said in a report last year, adding that 12.5 million Americans reported misusing prescription pain relievers. Ninety-one Americans die of an opioid overdose each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

    How did this start? And what are we doing about it?

    As a part of the PBS NewsHour series “American Addicted,” NewsHour (@NewsHour) will host a Twitter chat at 1 p.m. ET Friday, Sept. 29 to talk about opioid use and substance abuse with Dr. Leana Wen (@DrLeanaWen), Baltimore City Health Commissioner and Dr. Sarah Wakeman (@DrSarahWakeman), medical director of the Substance Use Disorder Initiative and the Addiction Consult Team at Massachusetts General Hospital.

    Humans have struggled with opioids for centuries. Today, opioids are used as prescription painkillers, typically for chronic or acute pain such as a cancer or a wisdom tooth removal. The CDC reported that from 1999 to 2014, the sale of prescription opioids in the U.S. nearly quadrupled, while the amount of reported pain remained the same. The drugs have also enjoyed a sales spike on the so-called dark web, a set of websites and servers where users can purchase opioids anonymously.

    Opioids target parts of our brain that release dopamine, a chemical associated with happiness, which can lead to addictive behavior. There are 48.9 million Americans using opioids or opiates, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. For those abusing the drug, quitting would mean several days of torturous withdrawal. Yet as opioid overdoses reach an all time high, doctors and other substance abuse experts are trying new methods to prevent and treat substance abuse.

    Have questions? Tweet them using #NewsHourChats

    The post Twitter chat: America’s unhealthy relationship with opioids appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The U.S. Supreme Court building is pictured in Washington, D.C. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    The Trump administration is dealing with lawsuits that were in progress before the president took office — and asserting different positions than the Obama administration. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Backing employers over employees. Backing the state of Ohio over groups involved in voter registration. Backing a narrow reading of a sexual discrimination law over a broad one.

    Those are just some of the legal about-faces President Donald Trump’s administration is making at the Supreme Court and in lower courts.

    The Trump administration has found itself in court defending a variety of new policies: the president’s travel ban, the phasing out of a program protecting young immigrants, and the revisiting of a policy that had allowed transgender individuals to serve openly in the military. But it’s also dealing with lawsuits that were in progress before the president took office — and asserting positions different from those of the Obama administration.

    The Office of the Solicitor General, the Justice Department office that represents the federal government at the Supreme Court and determines what position it will take in federal appeals court cases, does some position switching every time the White House changes parties. But the office prizes its reputation as largely nonpartisan and switches positions with “a great deal of trepidation,” said Gregory Garre, who served as solicitor general under George W. Bush.

    “The office’s currency and credibility before the court depends on it not being viewed as a political institution,” Garre said. He said Supreme Court justices, and Chief Justice John Roberts in particular, have given the office a hard time in court about flipping positions.

    [Watch Video]

    On Monday, the first day of its new term, the Supreme Court will hear its first case in which the Trump administration is reversing course from its predecessor. In one of the most important business cases of the term, the Obama administration had backed employees in a dispute with their employers over arbitration agreements. Now, the Trump administration is backing employers.

    A federal agency, the National Labor Relations Board, is being permitted to defend the original position, meaning that two government lawyers will argue against each other. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said that the unusual lineup “will be a first for me in the nearly 25 years I’ve served on the court.”

    The justices will soon consider a case in which the government now supports a method Ohio uses to remove people from voter rolls. When the case was being heard in a federal appeals court, the Obama administration argued that the method, which puts someone on the path to being removed from the rolls if they haven’t voted for two years, violates federal law.

    Samuel Bagenstos, a University of Michigan law professor and former Justice Department official, called the switch in a longstanding position “stunning” because it reversed a view held for more than 20 years by Republican and Democratic administrations alike.

    While the highest-profile shifts in position may be those at the Supreme Court, the administration has also altered course in cases at lower-level courts. In cases about pollution-control rules put in place by the Obama administration, the Trump administration has asked for pauses in the litigation so the rules can be re-evaluated, said Pat Gallagher, the director of the Sierra Club’s environmental law program.

    In a case out of Texas, the Obama administration had joined groups suing over a controversial voter ID law. The Trump administration, in contrast, has abandoned the argument that the state passed ID rules with discrimination in mind. It said changes signed by Texas’ governor should satisfy the courts.

    The Trump administration has also aggressively shifted positions in cases involving gay rights, said Human Rights Campaign legal director Sarah Warbelow. In a New York case involving a skydiving instructor who alleged he was fired after telling a customer he was gay, the Trump administration’s Justice Department weighed in to argue that a federal law barring “sex” discrimination means discrimination based on gender and doesn’t cover sexual orientation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President Barack Obama took the opposite view.

    The Trump administration is also supporting a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because of his religious beliefs, a case now before the Supreme Court.

    Donald Verrilli, who served as solicitor general from 2011 to 2016, said the Obama administration either wouldn’t have weighed in on the case at all or would have supported the couple. But Verrilli, who himself backed position switches when he was solicitor general, declined to discuss other about-faces by his former office.

    “It’s a hard job. You know, you’ve got to make difficult judgments in that job,” Verrilli said. “I’m sure they’re doing their best.”

    Associated Press writer Mark Sherman contributed to this report.

    The post At high court and others, Trump reverses legal course appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO: An exterior view of the U.S. Embassy is seen in Havana, Cuba, June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini/File Photo - RC18EA4199E0

    The U.S. is ordering all nonessential staff in the embassy in Havana to leave, according to AP sources. Photo by Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The United States is warning Americans against visiting Cuba and ordering more than half of U.S. personnel to leave the island, senior officials said Friday, in a dramatic response to what they described as “specific attacks” on diplomats.

    The decision deals a blow to already delicate ties between the U.S. and Cuba, longtime enemies who only recently began putting their hostility behind them. The embassy in Havana will lose roughly 60 percent of its U.S. staff, and will stop processing visas in Cuba indefinitely, the American officials said.

    In a new travel warning to be issued Friday, the U.S. will say some of the attacks have occurred in Cuban hotels, and that while American tourists aren’t known to have been hurt, they could be exposed if they travel to Cuba. Tourism is a critical component of Cuba’s economy that has grown in recent years as the U.S. relaxed restrictions.

    Almost a year after diplomats began describing unexplained health problems, U.S investigators still don’t know what or who is behind the attacks, which have harmed at least 21 diplomats and their families, some with injuries as serious as traumatic brain injury and permanent hearing loss. Although the State Department has called them “incidents” and generally avoided deeming them attacks, officials said Friday the U.S. now has determined there were “specific attacks” on American personnel in Cuba.

    [Watch Video]

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision to draw down the embassy overnight while traveling to China, officials said, after considering other options that included a full embassy shutdown. President Donald Trump reviewed the options with Tillerson in a meeting earlier in the week. The officials demanded anonymity because the moves have yet to be announced.

    The United States notified Cuba of the moves early Friday via its embassy in Washington. Cuba’s embassy had no immediate comment.

    Cubans seeking visas to enter the U.S. may be able to apply through embassies in nearby countries, officials said. The U.S. will also stop sending official delegations to Cuba, though diplomatic discussions will continue in Washington.

    The moves deliver a significant setback to the delicate reconciliation between the U.S. and Cuba, two countries that endured a half-century estrangement despite their locations only 90 miles apart. In 2015, President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro restored diplomatic ties. Embassies re-opened, and travel and commerce restrictions were eased. Trump has reversed some changes, but has broadly left the rapprochement in place.

    The Trump administration has pointedly not blamed Cuba for perpetrating the attacks. Officials involved in the deliberations said the administration had weighed the best way to minimize potential risk for Americans in Havana without unnecessarily harming relations between the countries. Rather than describe it as punitive, the administration will emphasize Cuba’s responsibility to keep diplomats on its soil safe.

    To investigators’ dismay, the symptoms in the attacks vary widely from person to person. In addition to hearing loss and concussions, some experienced nausea, headaches and ear-ringing, and the AP has reported some now suffer from problems with concentration and common word recall.

    Though officials initially suspected some futuristic “sonic attack,” the picture has grown muddier. The FBI and other agencies that searched homes and hotels where incidents occurred found no devices. And clues about the circumstances of the incidents seem to make any explanation scientifically implausible.

    Some U.S. diplomats reported hearing various loud noises or feeling vibrations when the incidents occurred, but others heard and felt nothing yet reported symptoms later. In some cases, the effects were narrowly confined, with victims able to walk “in” and “out” of blaring noises audible in only certain rooms or parts of rooms, the AP has reported.

    READ NEXT: In Cuba, mystery deepens over attacks on U.S. diplomats

    Though the incidents stopped for a time, they recurred as recently as late August. The U.S. has said the tally of Americans affected could grow.

    Already, staffing at the embassy in Havana was at lower-than-usual levels due to recent hurricanes that have whipped through Cuba. In early September, the State Department issued an “authorized departure,” allowing embassy employees and relatives who wanted to leave voluntarily to depart ahead of Hurricane Irma.

    Though Cuba implored the United States not to react hastily, it appeared that last-minute lobbying by Castro’s diplomats was unsuccessful. The days leading up to the decision involved a frantic bout of diplomacy that brought about the highest-level diplomatic contacts between the countries since the start of Trump’s administration in January.

    Last week, the Cuban official who has been the public face of the diplomatic opening with the U.S., Josefina Vidal, came to the State Department for a meeting with American officials in which the U.S. pressed its concerns. Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez used his speech to the U.N. General Assembly to insist Cuba had no idea what was harming American diplomats, while discouraging Trump from letting the matter become “politicized.”

    As concerns grew about a possible embassy shut-down, Cuba requested an urgent meeting Tuesday between Rodriguez and Tillerson in which the Cuban again insisted his government had nothing to do with the incidents. Rodriguez added that his government also would never let another country hostile to the U.S. use Cuban territory to attack Americans.

    Citing its own investigation, Cuba’s embassy said after the meeting: “There is no evidence so far of the cause or the origin of the health disorders reported by the U.S. diplomats.”

    The post AP report: U.S. urges no travel to Cuba, cuts embassy staff appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People queue to fill containers with water from a tank truck at an area hit by Hurricane Maria in Canovanas

    People queue to fill containers with water from a tank truck at an area hit by Hurricane Maria in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 26, 2017. Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

    Scenes of a devastated Puerto Rico are continuing to pour in as the island seeks assistance in recovering from Hurricane Maria, which made landfall Sept. 20.

    Those on the ground say displaced people are gathering in droves around available cell towers, their phones held to the sky, hoping for a few bars of service. On an island with 3.4 million U.S. citizens, people wait in long lines for a few bottles of water, groceries or gas. Communication is difficult and roads are barely accessible.

    “The magnitude of this catastrophe is enormous. This is going to take a lot of help,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told the NewsHour on Tuesday, adding that the island would need “unprecedented” aid to rebuild.

    The American Red Cross, reporters and residents on the island, in talking with the NewsHour, observed community resilience in the face of widespread devastation. However, some say federal aid is coming too slowly, especially to the island’s most remote communities. Up in the mountains, people wait “in line for non-potable water that had been sitting stagnant in municipal tanks for days,” NPR’s Camila Domonoske, who’s reporting from Puerto Rico, told the NewsHour.

    Late Thursday, President Donald Trump announced that he would waive the Jones Act, lifting its restrictions on foreign ships and their ability to transport supplies to Puerto Rico. The act was also waived for relief efforts after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

    Trump said he will visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday, citing “massive efforts” on the part of the U.S. to aid recovery and defending his administration’s response to hurricane relief. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a news brief Thursday that “the full weight of the United States government is engaged to ensure that food, water, healthcare and other lifesaving resources are making it to the people in need.”

    Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert also said that there is a “dual priority” in Puerto Rico to distribute aid and restore power. Bossert identified blocked roads as one of the largest challenges currently facing aid efforts. Responding to questions on the viability of air drops, Bossert said that forces on the ground have identified ground transport as the most effective means of delivery.

    Here’s a primer on how to contribute to aid and volunteer efforts for Puerto Rico.

    People queue at a gas station to fill up their fuel containers, after the island was hit by Hurricane Maria, in San Juan

    People queue at a gas station to fill up their fuel containers, after the island was hit by Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 28, 2017. Photo by Alvin Baez/Reuters

    Women hug as people line up to board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in San Juan that will take them to the U.S. mainland

    Women hug as people line up to board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that will take them to the U.S. mainland, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 28, 2017. Photo by Alvin Baez/Reuters

    People wait at a gas station to fill up their fuel containers, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in San Juan

    People wait at a gas station to fill up their fuel containers, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 27, 2017. Photo by Alvin Baez/Reuters

    An aerial photo shows damage caused by Hurricane Maria in San Juan Puerto Rico

    An aerial photo shows damage caused by Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 27, 2017. Photo by DroneBase/Reuters

    People fill containers with water at an area hit by Hurricane Maria in Canovanas

    People fill containers with water at an area hit by Hurricane Maria in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 26, 2017. Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

    Ana Coreino puts the clothes in a container while she cleans the mud in her house after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Toa Baja

    Ana Coreino puts the clothes in a container while she cleans the mud in her house after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 24, 2017. Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

    The post Photos: Uncertainty and calls for resilience in Puerto Rico as residents wait for aid appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will promote his plan for a sweeping rewrite of the tax code to an audience eager for the proposed change.

    Trump is expected to speak around 11:25 a.m. ET. Watch live in the player above.

    Trump is set to address the National Association of Manufacturers on Friday in Washington. A senior administration official says Trump will promote the tax plan as one that will help make American businesses more competitive. The official insists on anonymity to discuss the speech ahead of time.

    The president and congressional Republicans this week released the outlines of a nearly $6 trillion tax cut plan that would deeply reduce taxes for corporations, simplify tax brackets and nearly double the standard deduction used by most tax filers. Many details remain to be fleshed out.

    In the remarks, Trump is expected to highlight a provision that would allow businesses for the next five years to write off the full cost of new equipment in the year it’s purchased.

    READ MORE: Trump says he wants tax cuts for middle class, not just rich Americans

    Under the broader proposal, corporations would see their top tax rate cut from 35 percent to 20 percent. Seven personal tax brackets would be reduced to three: 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent. But the information released didn’t include the income levels applied to the rates, making it difficult to know how a typical family’s tax bill may be affected.

    The plan also recommends a surcharge for the very wealthy. The standard deduction would nearly double to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for families, basically increasing the amount of personal income that would not be taxed. Deductions for mortgage interest and charitable giving would remain, but the plan seeks to end most other itemized deductions.

    In the address, Trump will also review policy changes since he took office in January that are intended to improve the business climate, the official said. Those changes include lifting restrictions on energy production, reversing environmental rules and rolling back regulations. He’ll also review economic gains of the past eight months.

    Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the association, said Trump has been a “tireless advocate” for manufacturers. Timmons said U.S. manufacturers “have never been as enthusiastic or as optimistic about their future as they are this year, and that is because of the huge opportunity we have to get tax reform done.”

    Trump wants to sign tax legislation into law by the end of the year.

    This report was written by Darlene Superville of the Associated Press.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Trump to promote tax plan in address to manufacturers group appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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