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

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    U.S. President Donald Trump meets South Korea's President Moon Jae-In and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ahead the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg

    U.S. President Donald Trump meets South Korea’s President Moon Jae-In and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ahead the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 6, 2017. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The White House announced Friday that President Donald Trump will take a five-nation trip to the Asia Pacific region in November as the U.S. seeks to curb North Korea’s growing nuclear threat.

    The White House said Trump will travel to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines from Nov. 3-14, a trip that will also include a stop in Hawaii. It will be Trump’s first visit to the region as president, and it comes as North Korea moves closer to its goal of having a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike the U.S.

    The White House said Trump’s visit would “strengthen the international resolve to confront the North Korean threat and ensure the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

    Trump has offered fiery rhetoric and a tough stance against the North’s nuclear weapons program, declaring in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last week that the U.S. would “totally destroy” North Korea if provoked. North Korea responded with pledges to take the “highest-level” action against the United States and warned that it might conduct the “most powerful” atmospheric hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean.

    [Watch Video]

    Trump is also expected to discuss trade and economic ties to the region and will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in the Philippines.

    Even as Washington and Beijing grapple with that security crisis in North Korea, Trump has pressed China for more balanced trade with America.

    Trump has been openly critical of China’s large trade surpluses with the United States and last month ordered an investigation into whether Beijing improperly pressures companies to hand over their technology in exchange for market access.

    His trip to China will come weeks after Chinese leader Xi Jinping is expected to receive a second five-year term as the leader of China’s communist party. Trump has sought to forge a personal relationship with Xi, hosting the Chinese president at his Mar-a-Lago resort in April.

    In a prelude to Trump’s trip to China, Trump met Thursday with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong, who was attending the inaugural dialogue on people-to-people ties in Washington.

    The post Trump to travel to 5 countries in Asia in November appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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

    The U.S. flag flies in front of the Capitol Dome at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 12, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans have unveiled a budget plan that’s the first step to overhaul the nation’s tax system. An overhaul is the top legislative priority for President Donald Trump and the GOP.

    House and Senate passage of the budget blueprint would allow Republicans to pass follow-on tax legislation later this year.

    The ambitious tax plan would lower rates for businesses and tax plans, and Trump is promising Americans it will be the biggest tax cut ever.

    The Senate Budget Committee release on Friday comes in advance of a committee vote next week. In the House, a companion measure is headed for a floor vote next week as well.

    The new budget plan permits the upcoming tax measure to add $1.5 trillion over the coming decade to the $20 trillion national debt.

    The post New Senate GOP budget would pave way for tax rewrite appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    empty swimming pool

    Photo by Flickr user Joanna Bourne

    Amusement parks, lakes, neighbors’ pools — they are dangers that families of children with autism have long known anecdotally to beware of.

    Jessica Lapen discovered this about 10 years ago. She was at a family gathering at her parents’ home when she noticed that her son, Micah, was missing.

    “He was 6 or 7,” she recalled. “We knew that he would leave safe areas. We found out that he had gone down the road to a neighbor’s house, and when they saw him, he was climbing the ladder to their above-ground pool.”

    An authoritative study earlier this year put some numbers to the fear. Drowning is the most common fatal injury among children with autism, researchers found. Children with autism age 14 and younger are 160 times as likely to die from drowning as the general pediatric population, with drowning risk peaking from age 5 to 7.

    Such cases make headlines many times each summer. Now, researchers are working to understand the risks and how to counteract them — including helping parents and swim instructors teach water safety to autistic children.

    “The causes of drowning for kids with autism is multifactorial,” said Dr. Jeremiah Dickerson, a pediatric psychiatrist who directs the autism diagnostic clinic at the University of Vermont Medical Center. “Impulsivity is one part of it. They may not see the water as a danger, that they could fall in or that they could drown.”

    READ NEXT: Dimmed lights, loosened rules: Growing number of businesses cater to autistic visitors

    The sensory aspects of water can also attract children with autism, though for different reasons, said Michele Alaniz, a behavioral therapist in California. “For autistic kids who seek out stimulation, they are attracted to the way it sounds, the play of light on it and the feeling of buoyancy and the way it feels on the body,” she said. For kids who are driven to isolating themselves from stimulation, on the other hand, “water can be very calming, especially under the water, where there is a muffling of external sound and a kind of quiet,” said Alaniz.

    That can lead kids to submerge themselves in water and not realize the danger — or to not have the skills to act if they do.

    “We’ve put these children in the pool, and where others would sort of cling to the wall and hold on, the ones with autism would just release and sink,” said Alaniz.

    “Even when they know they’re in trouble, they may not have the communication, the language to say they need help,” said Dickerson. “And with the motor discoordination some of them have, they may not be able to pull themselves out of the water.”

    Swimming safely

    The good news is that research shows children with autism can learn to be safe around water. A study published in September in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders offers preliminary evidence that even children with severe autism can learn techniques to avoid drowning.

    “It’s more of a challenge to teach kids with severe autism,” Alaniz said. “But, yes, they can learn to swim safely, [with] skills like breath control and how to turn over in the water.”

    Advocacy organizations, community centers, and schools are creating water safety classes for children with autism. Pathfinders for Autism offers a tip sheet for swim instructors who may encounter students with autism. Autism Speaks provides swim classes for children with autism and financial need with swim lesson scholarships, awarding them to 134 organizations in 31 states since 2014.

    Some of those scholarships went to children at the Texas Swim Academy near Houston. Founder Kathleen McMordie, a nurse and swim instructor, explained that there are important accommodations needed for children with autism. The adjustments include getting them accustomed to being touched and to the feel of the water. Instructors may also have to teach lessons or parts of lessons in a different order than usual. These are among the reasons that swim lessons for children with autism are given individually, rather than in the usual group setting.

    But the most important requirement, said McMordie, is being patient with the way children with autism receive, understand, and follow instructions. She gave the example of having children place their faces in the water, which is among the first lessons taught in swim classes.

    “With neurotypical kids, you might just say, ‘OK, now, face in.’ But for a child with autism, it’s a little different. You say, ‘OK, put your face in the water.’ And then you wait.”

    It takes more time for kids with autism to move mentally from instruction to action, McMordie explained. “You wait while they process: ‘OK, she said to do this, and now I do this with my head, and then I do this.’ And they put their face in.

    “But if you don’t wait, and you’re just going, ‘Put your face in, put your face in, put your face in,’” she added, “you’re interrupting that process for them.”

    READ NEXT: Why autistic people like me need to help shape autism science

    In addition to giving autistic children more time with instruction, Dickerson also recommends taking a “comic-book approach” to swim instruction for autistic children by using pictures to help the children understand what they are told.

    The Texas Swim Academy uses this method. “It’s just a picture of one of the instructors doing something, like putting our face in the water or kicking with a kick board,” said Patty McPherson, the school’s aquatics director. “We took pictures of them doing these things, then we laminated the pictures and use them to show what to do.”

    Jessica Lapen credits such lessons with keeping her son, Micah, now 16 years old, safe over all the intervening years since that frightening day a decade ago.

    “If the neighbor hadn’t found him back then, it would have ended very differently,” she said. “But after that happened, we really worked with him on learning to be water safe.”

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Sept. 27, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post Lakes and pools can be deadly for children with autism. But tailored swim lessons can save lives appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Workers unload containers of shipping company Crowley from a barge after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria at the port in San Juan, Puerto Rico, September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez - RC1852F03210

    Workers unload containers of shipping company Crowley from a barge after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria at the port in San Juan, Puerto Rico, September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez – RC1852F03210

    Officials in Puerto Rico praised President Donald Trump on Wednesday for temporarily waiving the 1920 Jones Act, which they said would help provide faster relief as the island tries to recover from Hurricane Maria.

    But what exactly does that waiver do — and will it actually help? Here’s a look at the nearly-century-old law and how it could affect recovery on the U.S. territory.

    What is the Jones Act and why was it created?

    The Merchant Marine act of 1920 was designed to create a safe network of merchant mariners within the U.S. after World War I, in reaction to the U.S. fleet being destroyed by the German navy. The Jones Act requires all goods shipped between U.S. ports to be transported by U.S. vessels (and operated primarily by Americans).

    It calls for providing the nation with a merchant marine that can transport goods between U.S. ports, increase national security during war times, and support a U.S. maritime industry. This nearly century-old law has been amended several times, most recently in 2006.

    While much of the current attention on the Jones Act is focused on foreign shipping regulations, the law also contains important information about the maritime industry’s responsibilities regarding safety and well-being of crew. It safeguards the rights of sailors from being exploited, requiring compensation for injuries due to negligence by their employers. It requires employers to maintain safe environments and provide medical care, and also sets standards for vessel maintenance, safety equipment such as lifeboats, and crew qualifications, training and licensing. And, this all-encompassing law has something to say about the environment too, requiring all U.S. ships to comply with EPA regulations.

    How does the Jones Act restrict vessels entering Puerto Rico?

    Under the Jones Act, any vessel can enter Puerto Rico. In fact, many foreign vessels enter Puerto Rico regularly, importing goods from countries around the world. However, transportation of goods between two U.S. ports must be carried out by a vessel that was built in the U.S. and operated primarily by Americans. This law doesn’t single out Puerto Rico — it applies to all U.S. ports, the only exception being the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    Why was the Jones Act waived for Hurricane Harvey and Irma, and did it help?

    Waivers for the Jones Act have been issued in the past, such as during Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which went largely unnoticed by the public. And waivers were issued recently during Hurricane Harvey and Irma.

    Hurricane Harvey took a toll on the oil supply system of the Texas Gulf coast. Because Texas is a hub for nationwide petroleum distribution, the damage from Harvey led to limited fuel supplies, adding stress to recovery and evacuation efforts in Texas and possibly Florida. In light of this, Trump issued a temporary Jones Act waiver that allowed foreign vessels to transport petroleum products between the Gulf coast and eastern seaboard. Puerto Rico was also included in that waiver, the Associated Press reported, but it expired before Maria made landfall.

    On the day the waiver was set to expire, gCaptain, a website for maritime professionals, reported that “no foreign tankers were booked” through the waiver. However, Department of Homeland Security’s David Lapan later said in an email to NewsHour that to the best of their knowledge, eight vessels reported that they made use of the Jones Act waiver for both Harvey and Irma combined. It’s hard to tell yet if that number is accurate.

    What will Jones Act waiver mean for the delivery of goods to people in Puerto Rico?

    Even as vessels arrive, though, the island faces additional challenges in getting the goods on shore. U.S. shipping company Crowley, whose vessels already comply with Jones Act regulations and regularly deliver cargo to Puerto Rico, reported that they deployed additional vessels to hasten the delivery of goods. They also dispatched 50 relief trucks to deliver supplies around the island, because on-island distribution is at the heart of the supply shortage.

    CNN reported that goods entering Puerto Rico are piling up at the ports, and the island’s damaged infrastructure is to blame. Fuel shortages, damaged roads and debris are preventing truckers from showing up to work, so ships carrying supplies are waiting to enter the port of San Juan, and more are on standby in the U.S. These ships are waiting to deliver goods to people in need. Yennifer Alvarez, spokeswoman for Puerto Rico’s governor, said as many as 9,500 containers of supplies are sitting at the port of San Juan.

    The Maritime Labor Allowance said in a statement that, “there are currently 15 U.S.-flag ships and U.S.-flag oceangoing tug/barge combinations regularly serving Puerto Rico. These vessels alone are now bringing in more supplies than can be distributed ashore,” adding that they support a Jones Act waiver in emergencies where there is a shortage of vessels.

    If there becomes a shortage of U.S. flagged vessels, companies can now draw from a larger pool of vessels to help ship goods to Puerto Rico.

    What’s next?

    The waiver expires Oct. 7. But we’re likely to see a fight about the Jones Act again. Sen. John McCain, who has recently been vocal in his opposition of the Jones Act, called for a permanent repeal of the law, calling it an “antiquated, protectionist law that has driven up costs and crippled Puerto Rico’s economy.”

    While foreign companies can ships goods to any U.S. port, supporters of the Jones Act say restricting shipments between U.S. ports to American-run vessels strengthens the economy. It’s also a matter of national security, they argue, saying that abolishing it could put control of U.S. ports, domestic shipping, and shipbuilding in the hands of a foreign country. Fair Kim, policy director at the American Maritime Congress told The Intercept: “You don’t want a foreign country to control the acquisition, design, and construction of a war ship.”

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

    The post The Jones Act, explained (and what waiving it means for Puerto Rico) appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Members of the Haitian community shout slogans in favor of  the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian immigrants during a 2009 visit by former President Barack Obama to Miami, Florida. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    Members of the Haitian community shout slogans in favor of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    President Donald Trump isn’t happy with a lot of what’s happening in the world, and he isn’t being shy about it. He escalated his fiery rhetoric against North Korea in a speech to the U.N. and traded barbs with NFL players kneeling in protest before turning his criticism toward Mitch McConnell after Senate Republicans’ failed attempt at a vote on health care.

    Here are five important stories you might have missed between all of the president’s 140-character (or soon, 280-character) tweets.

    1. The Department of Homeland Security’s decision to end temporary protection for Sudanese immigrants casts doubt on the future of nearly 400,000 recipients

    A woman holds a sign calling for her legalization during a rally by immigration activists CASA and United We Dream demanding the Trump administration protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) programs, in Washington, U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RC1D815EA100

    A woman holds a sign calling for her legalization during a rally by immigration activists CASA and United We Dream demanding the Trump administration protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) programs. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    The Department of Homeland Security decided Sept. 18 to end the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Sudan. More than 1,000 immigrants from Sudan with TPS, a program that grants a temporary immigration status, will have one year to arrange their departure before the designation for their country ends on Nov. 2, 2018.

    The decision is raising concerns about what this administration may decide to do with a program that in all gives status to about 400,000 immigrants.

    The TPS program was created in 1990 to grant humanitarian relief to foreign nationals already in the U.S. whose countries are experiencing ongoing civil war or environmental disasters, making it impossible for them to return. While beneficiaries are eligible to remain in the U.S. without threat of deportation and obtain a work permit, the temporary grant does not provide a path to citizenship.

    Sudan, one of 10 countries currently designated for TPS, has been on the list for 20 years. It was first designated in 1997 because of the country’s brutal civil war. Now, DHS has decided that “conditions in Sudan no longer support designation for Temporary Protected Status” and will no longer renew its designation. Immigrants from South Sudan, which was initially designated for TPS in 2011, will continue to be eligible for the program through May 2, 2019.

    Why it’s important

    An immigrant woman holds a U.S. flag during a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization ceremony in the New York Public Library in New York, U.S., June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTS19AZZ

    An immigrant woman holds a U.S. flag during a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization ceremony in the New York Public Library in New York. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton.

    Immigration reform has been the subject of extensive debate this month, but the focus has been on passing a legislative fix for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which grants reprieve from deportation and a work permit to nearly 790,000 undocumented people who entered the country illegally as children. While DACA recipients face uncertainty about what will happen to them after the program’s end date on March 5, 2018, so too do immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua, whose TPS benefits are set to expire within the next six months.

    “It worries me a lot because I have a three-year-old son who was born here,” Roxana Rodas, whose TPS is set to expire in March, told the NewsHour in Spanish. She has lived in the U.S. for 16 years. “I understand this country isn’t mine but right now it’s not in our plans to return to our country because of the circumstances in Latin America—there is a lot of violence.”

    Rodas is one of approximately 263,282 TPS beneficiaries from El Salvador, according to CNN. The country was first placed on the list in 2001 following a series of devastating earthquakes. DHS has extended the protection 11 times. In the last of those renewals in 2016, DHS announced that El Salvador continued to meet conditions for TPS, including environmental, economic and social circumstances that made it unfit for handling the return of its citizens.

    Rodas has established her life in Baltimore and lives with a her 3-year-old son, who is a U.S. citizen, and two older sons, who have received work permits through DACA. Her mixed-status family embodies the complexity of immigration law that her family has had to navigate while living in the U.S. She worries that a termination of TPS would mean becoming undocumented, but even if that were to happen she said it is unlikely that she would return to El Salvador.

    “I want to fight to find something legal, a residency or something different because I can’t go back to my country,” she said.

    Former Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly has made it clear that the program’s purpose is to provide temporary relief. “TPS is not supposed to continue to be enforced until Haiti’s like Jamaica, or any country with a very functioning democracy [or] a relatively low unemployment rate. That’s not the point of it,” he told the Miami Herald.

    For countries like El Salvador or Haiti, a termination of TPS would put thousands of immigrants at risk of deportation. But, as Vox’s Dara Lind reports, ending TPS might just lead to a heightened feeling of uncertainty for immigrants unable to return to their country, and not to a case of mass deportation.

    “Those are numbers too big to round up and arrest with the resources the government has now, or can get in the next sixth months,” Lind writes. “But dumping them into the pool of vulnerability, and making it clear that they could get arrested at any time with no legal recourse? It costs much less to send a message.”

    2. Violent crime increased for the second consecutive year in the U.S. But it’s too soon to say why

    For the second year in a row, violent crime in the U.S. rose, according to annual data released by the FBI, with certain cities such as Chicago and Baltimore driving the increases.

    The rate of violent crimes, including homicides and robberies, increased by 4.1 percent nationally in 2016. Homicides also rose by 8.6 percent, according to the FBI’s figures. In the prior year, violent crime increased by 3.9 percent, while homicides rose by more than 10 percent.

    It should be noted, however, that violent crime rates remain at historically low numbers, a trend that has extended over the past 25 years.

    Why it’s important

    According to the Brennan Center, the violent crime rate for 2017 is projected to decrease by 0.6 percent, the second lowest level since 1990. This graph represents data for 30 of the largest U.S. cities.Courtesy of the Brennan Center.

    According to the Brennan Center, the violent crime rate for 2017 is projected to decrease by 0.6 percent, the second lowest level since 1990. This graph represents data for 30 of the largest U.S. cities. Courtesy of the Brennan Center.

    During a speech last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the numbers a “frightening trend that threatens to erode so much progress that had made our neighborhoods and communities safer; over 30 years declines in crime are being replaced by increases.”

    There are indeed pockets of increased crime: in Chicago, 750 people were killed last year, the highest murder rate in the country. But Sessions’ framing of the issue isn’t quite right according to some critics. The attorney general has used those increases to support a 1990s-era approach to violent crime, one that encourages aggressive prosecution of gun cases and tougher sentences for low-level drug offenses. But criminologists and other experts are hesitant to pinpoint such a direct cause for the increase of violent crime. Adam Gelb of The Pew Charitable Trusts told the Associated Press that there aren’t enough factors to say definitively that the increase in violent crime would continue.

    “We all yearn for a big-picture, national explanation for what’s going on that would help us make sense of this, but we don’t have one,” he said.

    One theory for the cause of the increase is the eroded trust between police officers and the communities they protect.

    “… The only thing that has changed [in the past 15 years] is the distrust between heavily policed communities and local police. It’s not a coincidence that cities that have crime increases have also had problems between communities and the police,” John K. Roman, a criminologist at the University of Chicago, told The New York Times.

    The Times pointed out that Chicago joins Baltimore, Milwaukee and a handful of other U.S. cities where both homicides, and scrutiny over police misconduct and shootings, are up. However, Las Vegas and Memphis, which have both seen higher rates of homicides in past couple of years, haven’t had the same issues with local law enforcement.

    As for 2017, the Times cited a preliminary analysis from the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center that projects a 0.6 percent decrease in violent crime rate, “essentially remaining stable.” The center also projected the overall crime rate to fall by 1.8 percent by year’s end.

    3. San Diego is dealing with a massive outbreak of hepatitis A

    Vaccinations to help prevent Hepatitis A and B, where given by HEP Team to those interested, free of cost. Second day of the 26th Annual Sunset Junction Street Fair with food, games rides and health information for the hundred attending on Sunday.  (Photo by Carlos Chavez/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

    Vaccinations to help prevent Hepatitis A and B are given out in Los Angeles. File photo by Carlos Chavez/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

    San Diego officials extended a public health emergency this week over a hepatitis A outbreak that has killed 17 people and infected more than 400 others.

    Sanitation workers continued for a second week to blast public streets and sidewalks with bleach to combat spread of the viral liver disease, which is transmitted through contact with fecal matter, or food or water contaminated with infected fecal matter.

    The county first declared the emergency Sept. 1, as the outbreak, which began in March, appeared to get worse.

    Homeless people are at particular risk of contracting the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, because they don’t have regular access to restroom facilities or sinks for sanitation. Most people recover on their own, or with brief medical attention. But with enough time, the disease can be fatal.

    County officials have launched an aggressive free vaccination campaign that has so far treated close to 28,000 people as of Friday. It’s also installed 41 hand washing stations in areas with large homeless populations and opened up more public restrooms.

    Normally, only two or three people report a hepatitis infection per month, the Los Angeles Times reported.

    Why it’s important

    Hepatitis A cases have decreased drastically over the past few decades. Graphic courtesy of CDC.

    Hepatitis A cases have decreased drastically over the past few decades. Graphic courtesy of CDC.

    The outbreak has caught many people in the area by surprise. A vaccination for hepatitis A has been available since 1999, and it’s proven to be highly effective at keeping the disease at bay. Since it was introduced, the CDC said cases have decreased 95 percent nationwide. In 2015, the last year for which federal data was available, nearly 1,400 people contracted the disease. California reported 186 cases in all of 2015, a number San Diego County alone surpassed weeks ago.

    The L.A. Times reported there’s only been one hepatitis A outbreak larger than the one happening in San Diego: A 2003 outbreak traced back to contaminated green onions in a Pennsylvania restaurant. More than 900 people reported the disease then, the newspaper said.

    It’s not yet clear how well San Diego County’s efforts will curb outbreaks in the city, home to 3.3 million people.

    Officials kicked off the week pointing fingers over who was to blame (the San Diego Tribune traced most of the tension to a battle over city bathrooms). The Tribune also suggested officials may have been slow to put a public health plan in place, a story that will unfold over the next several weeks.

    Meanwhile, outbreaks have moved to other parts of the state — largely to areas wrestling with rising homeless populations, too. Ten people in Los Angeles have contracted hepatitis A, city officials said as they declared a public emergency last week; nearly 70 reported the disease in Santa Cruz.

    4. Are sanctions against North Korea working?

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 15, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. PICTURE BLURRED AT SOURCE. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTS1BTNV

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA/via REUTERS.

    The United Nations and the U.S. have both issued new rounds of sanctions against North Korea after its Sept. 14 missile launch over Japan.

    But some countries who have signed onto the sanctions may not be cooperating, Reuters suggested last week.

    Their investigation indicates that cargo vessels carrying fuel from Russia may have stopped in North Korea before heading to their declared destinations, even after the latest round of U.N. sanctions restricted the country’s ability to import fuel.

    The news agency said it “has no evidence of wrongdoing by the vessels,” adding that “changing a ship’s destination once underway is not forbidden and it is unclear whether any of the ships unloaded fuel in North Korea.”

    “But U.S. officials say that changing destination mid-voyage is a hallmark of North Korean state tactics to circumvent the international trade sanctions imposed over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program,” Reuters said.

    You can read the full investigation, which tracked eight vessels departing Russia over the past several months, here.

    Why it’s important

    Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump attend a dinner at the start of their summit at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria.

    Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump attend a dinner at the start of their summit at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria.

    As President Donald Trump continues to threaten “total destruction” of North Korea, and Kim Jong Un threatens to shoot down U.S. planes, leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov have grown concerned over the increasingly heated rhetoric, and many experts have called for de-escalating talk of war in favor of a renewed focus on non-military intervention like sanctions.

    But experts have raised doubts about whether those sanctions will actually work. Previous rounds of sanctions have not been effective, they said, because not everyone who has signed on to sanctions follows through, giving North Korea little reason to want to negotiate a peaceful solution.For instance, CNN reported Wednesday that China, a reluctant partner in sanctions of the past, may have also resumed its purchase of coal from North Korea, despite pledging earlier this year it would suspend trading that good with the country through the end of this year. (The U.N. banned coal exports from North Korea in August).

    In the last week, Trump has tried to put pressure on those countries through “secondary sanctions” on businesses and financial institutions — largely Chinese banks — working with North Korea.

    China bought about two-thirds of all of North Korea’s exports in 2014, according to U.S. News and World Report, which noted that business between “China and North Korea is so opaque that it is difficult to understand the true extent of their economic exchange.”

    The U.S. has often been reluctant to penalize China for its relationship with Pyongyang, NPR noted. This new kind of economic pressure — including new sanctions this week that target North Korea banks and bank workers — may have a better chance of forcing North Korea to the table, said David Cohen, former deputy director of the CIA and an undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury Department.

    “That puts real pressure on those banks,” Cohen told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, noting Trump indicated “they need to make a choice between working with North Korean institutions or working with the United States.”

    On Thursday, China announced it would shutter North Korean businesses by early January. We could learn more as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits China this weekend.

    5. How the “organic” food label can be misleading

    Whole Foods grocery store worker Tim Owen trims the tops of organic carrots in the produce section of the store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, March 8, 2012. Photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters

    Whole Foods grocery store worker Tim Owen trims the tops of organic carrots in the produce section of the store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, March 8, 2012. Photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters

    Before spending an extra $7 on that bundle of organic kale, consider the report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture this month on organic imports. To summarize: you may be better off with the cheaper stuff.

    The report reveals that imported fresh foods labeled as organic may actually be blasted with pesticides at U.S. ports of entry. The year-long audit found that the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the program in charge of making sure our food meets organic standards, lacked strength and transparency when it comes to the handling, and subsequent branding, of food items destined for U.S. grocery shelves.

    The report’s summary said that “imported agricultural products, whether organic or conventional, are sometimes fumigated at U.S. ports of entry to prevent prohibited pests from entering the United States.” And that the AMS didn’t have a system in place to track which products were sprayed before they hit stores with “organic” labels.

    Why it’s important

    U.S. consumers are crazy for organic produce. Imports — including large quantities of bananas, olive oil, coffee, corn and soybeans — totaled $1.65 billion last year, according to the USDA data. Aside from a possibly misleading label causing the average American to overpay for a level of quality they aren’t getting, loose oversight of organic imports also takes a toll on local organic farmers who have to compete with larger, international producers who aren’t following the rules.

    A New York Times report from last year highlights the the difficulty of switching land over to organic production, as well as the high costs involved in overhauling crop management to get rid of synthetic fertilizer. Wendell Naraghi, owner of a Central Valley nut orchard, told the Times that the labor costs for his organic operation are three times higher than for the rest of his orchards.

    If food coming in from outside the U.S. isn’t up to the same standards U.S. farmers must follow, the report says, lax controls at our ports “increases the risk that non-organic products may be imported as organic into the United States and could create an unfair economic environment for U.S. organic producers.”

    “If this estimate holds, 2017 will have the second-lowest crime rate since 1990,” the center said in a statement.

    The post 5 important stories that deserve a second look appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Editor’s note: Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn are economics professors at Cornell University. The research in this post is based on “The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends and Explanations,” an article Blau and Kahn co-wrote in the September, 2017 of the Journal of Economic Literature. This analysis is being published here in collaboration with EconoFact, a nonpartisan economic publication.


    The issue

    In 2016 women who worked year-round and full-time earned, on average, around 81 cents for every dollar earned by men. Though still substantial, the difference in women’s average earnings relative to men’s has narrowed considerably since the 1970s. But the largest improvement in women’s wages relative to men’s happened during the 1980s and progress has been slower and more uneven since then. This is especially true for women at the top of the income distribution. Gender wage gaps at the higher levels of the wage scale are larger and declined more slowly over time than at lower and mid-income levels. By 2010, the wage gap between men and women was larger for the highly skilled than for other workers, suggesting that developments in the labor market for executives and highly skilled workers especially favored men.

    The facts

    • The gap in earnings between men and women has closed substantially since the mid-1950s, with the most dramatic progress happening during the 1980s (see chart above). After many years of little progress, women working year-round and full-time went from earning about 60 percent as much as men did in 1980 to making about 72 percent by 1990 (the gap in wages of full-time workers measured on a weekly basis tends to be smaller). The progress of women’s wages relative to men’s continued after the 1980s, but at a slower and more uneven rate of increase. By 2014, women full-time workers earned about 79 percent of what men did on an annual basis and about 83 percent on a weekly basis (numbers cited come from this study we co-authored, which offers a comprehensive review of the trends and explanations for the gender wage gap).
    • Women surpassed men in education and nearly caught up with them in terms of work experience, which played an important role in reducing the wage gap. In the case of education there was a dramatic reversal of the gender gap. In 1981, women had lower average levels of schooling than men and were less likely to have exactly a bachelor’s or an advanced degree. But, beginning in the 1980s, young women began to catch up to and eventually surpass young men in pursuing higher education. In 2014, for example, women earned 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 61 percent of associate degrees. They also surpassed men at the post-graduate level receiving 60 percent of master’s degrees, 52 percent of Ph.D’.s and 49 percent of first professional degrees (see here, chapter 8). With the continued infusion of younger cohorts in which women were more highly educated than men, gender differences in education flipped and women are now more highly educated on average than men.

      In terms of work experience, the story is also one of considerable narrowing of the differences between the genders. In 1981, men had nearly 7 more years of full-time job experience on average than women. By 2011, the gap had fallen markedly to only 1.4 years, with the fastest catch-up occurring during the 1980s. As a result of these advancements, a much smaller portion of the current wage gap between men and women can be attributed to differences between them in schooling or work experience. In 1980 the fact that women lagged behind men in education and experience accounted for 27 percent of gender wage differences. By 2010, differences in education and experience only accounted for about 8 percent of the – much smaller – wage gap. Although the type of education women receive has changed toward more mathematics and career-oriented programs, they continue to lag in higher-paying STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

    • Differences in the occupations and industries in which men and women tend to work remain important in accounting for the gender wage gap — and their importance has risen over time. Since the 1970s, women have made progress in climbing the occupational ladder from less well-paid administrative support and service occupations towards managerial positions. Similarly, women have made significant inroads into higher-paying professions that were traditionally male dominated: Women have branched out from teaching or nursing and become more prevalent in traditionally male-dominated law, medicine and engineering. However, reductions in occupational segregation by sex seem to have plateaued or slowed since the 1990s. And, the differences in employment among the genders across occupations and industries remain significant.

      Moreover, while women have ascended managerial ranks, they remain underrepresented at the very top tier of the management hierarchy: although women are nearly half of managers in Fortune 500 companies, they comprised only 14.3 percent of executive officers in 2012, and made up 3.8 percent of CEOs and held just 16.6 percent of board seats in 2011 (see here for more information on women in S&P 500 companies). Changes in the relative returns to different occupations also played a role: Increasing returns to occupations in which men are more heavily represented contributed to the gender wage gap. Consequently, by 2010 — especially given the diminishing importance of education and experience — gender differences in occupation and industry together accounted for over one half of the gender wage gap.

    • Is there a glass ceiling? The move towards greater gender parity in pay since the 1980s has not been uniform across the income spectrum. Women at the top of the income distribution made less progress in narrowing the gap with respect to their male counterparts than women at the middle and bottom of the income distribution. Though they started out trailing men by similar percentages in 1980, by 2010 women’s earnings at the top were between 74-77 percent of their male counterparts, while at the bottom of the income distribution women were earning 82-88 percent of men’s wages and about 82 percent at the median. The convergence in earnings at the bottom reflects, in part, losses by men who have seen a decrease of lucrative jobs for less educated workers in sectors such as manufacturing. It is difficult to determine whether the lower pay and scarcity of women at the top is due to the fact that women are relative newcomers and it takes time to move through the ranks or whether there are particular barriers to their advancement that present a “glass ceiling.” It could also reflect greater work-family conflicts for women that reduce their productivity or interest in high-level positions.

      There is some evidence that career-family tradeoffs are a particularly important factor in wage differences for women in high-skilled jobs. Workforce interruptions, fewer hours worked or greater workplace flexibility have a considerable cost in terms of earnings in some higher-paying occupations. Studies of lawyers and business school graduates have found that men and women earn equivalent wages after graduation but diverge widely as they progress in their careers: 15 years after graduation male lawyers earned 52 percent more than their female counterparts and male MBA graduates earned 82 percent more 10-16 years out of school. To the degree that women continue to assume traditional gender roles within the family, they are more likely to take time off to have or raise children and may place a higher value on workplace flexibility than men. As a result, they may be willing to accept lower wages in return for greater flexibility.

    • A substantial share of the gender wage gap cannot be explained by differences in the observable characteristics between men and women, suggesting that discrimination may continue to play a role. This unexplained portion of the wage gap decreased markedly during the 1980s, suggesting a potential decrease in discrimination during the decade, but has remained fairly steady since then. Economists have found evidence of men being favored over equally qualified women in specific instances. For example, an audit study of high-priced restaurants in Philadelphia found women to have a 40 percent lower probability of being called for an interview and to be 50 percent less likely to receive a job offer. Another study found that when symphony orchestras began to adopt “blind” auditions for musicians — in which a screen is used to conceal the identity of the candidate — it substantially increased the probability that women would advance out of preliminary rounds and be winners in the final round.

      Beyond discrimination, it may be that there are differences between the genders that are more difficult to measure than education or work experience that result in different wages. For instance, gender differences in psychological factors or non-cognitive skills may account for a small portion of the unexplained gender wage gap. Women have been found to be less willing than men to negotiate and compete. On the other hand, there is some evidence that women have better interpersonal or “people” skills and are more agreeable than men. Firms and industries may place higher or lower values on such attributes and compensate accordingly. The extent to which these factors are due to societal expectations or are ingrained is a subject of debate.

    • Gender roles and the gender division of labor within the family continue to impact women’s work. Research continues to indicate a negative relationship between children and women’s wages, commonly known as the motherhood wage penalty. This penalty could be attributed to the firm’s anticipating that motherhood may cause a woman to leave her employer or alter her productivity. Evidence also indicates that women are more likely to quit their jobs or to exit the labor market for family-related reasons, while men are more likely to quit for job-related reasons, adversely affecting women’s wages relative to men’s. Additionally, the greater tendency of men to determine the geographic location of the family, even among highly educated couples, continues to be a factor in the gender wage gap.

    What this means

    There has been substantial convergence in the labor market earnings of men and women since the 1980s. Women have made tremendous gains in education and work experience, but reaching pay parity remains elusive. Finding ways to further reduce the gap is likely to hinge on achieving a better understanding of why men and women tend to sort into different occupations and industries. Similarly, recent trends point to the importance of looking into why women’s progress in higher-skilled jobs has been relatively slower. Addressing work-family issues is also important in furthering gender equity in the labor market.

    The post Analysis: Why women continue to make less than men appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The controversy over players kneeling in the NFL has revealed that the league’s embrace of American iconography has different meanings for different audiences. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Every aspect of our lives, whether directly or indirectly, is political. To pretend otherwise is to either be involved in a critical delusion or to have a limited understanding of the term. We tend to view politics strictly in terms of governmental affairs, or disputes involving our two major political parties. But a more expansive definition sees politics as the ideological battles that govern the ways in which we interact with one another. This plays out in arenas we don’t think of as explicitly political: relationships, sex, religion, film, television, and, much to the dismay of some, sports.

    While there are fans who would try to argue that the world of sports is and should remain separate from the world of politics, the two have and will continue to be inextricably linked. Major political issues of our time, from racial integration to gay rights/representation, have played out in professional sports leagues, while labor and compensation practices are an annual debate (especially at the collegiate level). Questions of public financing for privately owned stadiums directly impact taxpayers, and the increased scrutiny of players off-field behavior reflect intense debates about some of our most vexing issues, including drug use/addiction and domestic violence. All of this is present before we even get to the question of athletes as activists.

    The NFL, by way of embracing all the iconography of America, has also invited the pointed backlash to that iconography.

    That landmine was exploded last year when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick opted out of standing for the playing of the national anthem which precedes each sporting event in the U.S. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said in defense of his action, prompting condemnation from those who viewed his refusal to stand as disrespectful to the flag and the military service members who have served under it. Despite this, his form of protest was taken up by several other NFL players, some WNBA teams, and other athletes hoping to draw attention to racist police killings and continued racial inequality in America. A year later, Kaepernick is no longer in the league, but his protest was carried on by enough of his colleagues to catch the attention of President Donald Trump.

    “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!’” the president said before a rally in Huntsville, Alabama.

    But that the NFL has become the primary site for this ideological rift comes as no surprise. Football is the American sport in a way no other major sport can claim. Baseball is the great American pastime, with an emphasis on past. Basketball has grown into a global sport, and its associations with blackness here in the states prevent it from universal acceptance. Soccer still has not truly caught on, while hockey will always belong to our neighbors to the north. Football is pure Americana. And with that tag comes all of the hypocrisy, bigotry, and inequality that also define America. If the two are going to be synonymous, then each criticism that is levied against the country as a whole will also find a home in the league that acts as its athletic representative.

    It goes beyond the question of the flag. Football is an inherently violent sport that seems to relish in that violence, despite growing evidence of the long-term harm such violence causes to the brains of its players. The league has paid lip service to more safety and protection, but little has been done to care for its current or former employees. It may not be a one-to-one comparison, but this does bring to mind the failure of America to reckon with its gun violence problem, or to account for any violence it inflicts overseas.

    And while activists continue to organize daily to get the American justice system to take seriously the epidemic of violence against women, the NFL fails daily to mete out in adequate form of punishment to its players for the number of abuses many of them have been alleged to commit.

    Add to this an on-the-field critique of the way players themselves are described according to racist stereotypes. White players are often fetishized for their “blue collar roots” or “blue collar work ethic,” while black players, who make up a majority of the league, find that their only virtuosic qualities are those associated with their athleticism. The league struggled for a long time with accusations of racism at the quarterback position, the most celebrated position in the sport and the one most defined by its cerebral characteristics, and even as more black players have found success at the position this has again been attributed to their athletic ability, rather than their intelligence.

    But the NFL has also draped its league in a form of militaristic patriotism that readily invites criticism. From 2011 to 2014, the U.S. Department of Defense spent $5.4 million in contracts with 14 NFL teams for “on-field flag ceremonies and tributes to welcome home veterans,” according to ESPN.com. The league hands out an annual “Salute to Service” award “to acknowledge the exceptional efforts by members of the NFL community to honor and support U.S. service members, veterans and their families,” according to its website. This entangling of football and the military has been one of the more effective propaganda tools in modern memory, providing the government with a readymade audience for a message of “supporting the troops” even when that support has meant a reluctance to critique military engagement in overseas conflicts.

    In short, the NFL, by way of embracing all the iconography of America, has also invited the pointed backlash to that iconography. What they may have wanted was a patriotic sense of unity around ideas of liberty and freedom, but the symbols of America mean different things to different people based on their experience. For Kaepernick, the stated meaning of the flag and the anthem were not being upheld by the reality of police violence. For others, it could be the NFL’s pinkwashing efforts during Breast Cancer Awareness month while the league fails to acknowledge that Domestic Violence Awareness month happens at the exact same time.

    Whether the anthem protests continue or fade, or even hold the same meaning anymore, so long as the NFL traffics in the superficiality of Americana, they will also continue to be a prime target for the most righteous critiques of what it all means.

    The post Column: As ‘America’s sport,’ the NFL cannot escape politics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    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 September 28, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Alvin Baez

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pledged a relentless effort to help Puerto Ricans recover from hurricane devastation Friday after his homeland security chief stirred a tempest of her own making by declaring the federal response a “good news story.”

    Elaine Duke, the department’s acting secretary, drew a sharp rebuke from San Juan’s mayor for seeming to play down the suffering.

    “When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story,” Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz told CNN on Friday. “Damn it, this is not a good news story. This is a people-are-dying story.”

    Trump said Puerto Rico is “totally unable” to handle the catastrophe on its own. “They are working so hard but there’s nothing left,” he said. “It’s been wiped out.” He said all appropriate agencies of the government “are fully engaged in the disaster and the response and recovery effort.”

    Yet even in voicing solidarity and sympathy, he drew attention again to Puerto Rico’s pre-hurricane debt burden and infrastructure woes, leaving doubt how far Washington will go to make the U.S. territory whole.

    “Ultimately the government of Puerto Rico will have to work with us to determine how this massive rebuilding effort — it will end up being one of the biggest ever — will be funded and organized, and what we will do with the tremendous amount of existing debt already on the island,” he said. “We will not rest, however, until the people of Puerto Rico are safe.”

    Earlier he tweeted: “The fact is that Puerto Rico has been destroyed by two hurricanes. Big decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding!”

    Duke visited the island Friday to survey damage and meet local officials. Asked about her Thursday “good news” comment, she said: “There is so much more to do. We will never be satisfied. That is why we are here.” She had described “our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths” as the good news.

    “Let me clarify,” she said Friday, explaining that she meant “it was good news that people of Puerto Rico and many public servants of the United States are working together.”

    Trump has come out with a flurry of boasts in recent days about the positive reviews he said his administration is getting from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for its relief effort. Many in the devastated zones have said help is scarce and disorganized and food supplies are dwindling in some remote towns after Hurricane Maria.

    Trump is expected to survey the damage Tuesday.

    The post San Juan mayor angry at Trump official ‘good news story’ remark appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks prior to President Donald Trump signing an executive order reviewing previous National Monument designations made under the Antiquities Act, at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C. on April 26, 2017. File photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is dismissing controversy over his use of charter flights as “a little BS over travel,” but says the American public has the right to know the costs of official travel.

    Zinke on Friday disclosed that he has taken three charter flights since taking office in March, including a $12,375 late-night trip from Las Vegas to his home state of Montana in June.

    He said no commercial flight was available after 8 p.m. local time, when he planned to fly for a speech to western governors the next day in Whitefish, Montana.

    Zinke is one of several Cabinet members facing questions about their travel after Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price came under criticism for his use of costly chartered planes while on government business.

    Zinke was in Las Vegas to speak to the Vegas Golden Knights, the city’s new National Hockey League team. The team’s owner, Bill Foley, contributed to Zinke’s congressional campaigns. Zinke is a former Montana congressman. During his June 26 visit to Nevada, Zinke also announced funding grants to rural communities earlier in the day.

    Despite his dismissal of the controversy, Zinke said before a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation on Friday, “Taxpayers absolutely have the right to know official travel costs. It’s common sense … and the heart of good government.”

    In what he called an effort at transparency, Zinke disclosed details on the Vegas flight at the Heritage speech and said he also traveled by private plane in Alaska in May and the U.S. Virgin Islands in March. Zinke wants to expand energy production in Alaska, while the Interior Department oversees the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    Zinke said he also went on a military flight with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to view wildfires in Montana in August.

    All of his travel was approved in advance by Interior’s ethics officials “after extensive due diligence,” Zinke said, adding that he works hard to “make sure I am above the law and I follow the law.”

    Zinke’s office did not provide the costs for his Alaska or Virgin Island trips, but said in a statement that commercial flights were not available in either case.

    Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said private travel by Zinke, Price and other Cabinet members was “troubling.” Zinke’s Las Vegas trip was especially worrisome because it was “tied to political interests,” Libowitz said, noting the apparent reason for the late flight was Zinke’s speech to the hockey team owned by a campaign contributor.

    The post Zinke dismisses charter as a ‘little BS over travel’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    tom price

    Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price attends a listening session on Healthcare reform at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has been telling associates that his health chief has become a distraction, overshadowing his agenda and undermining his campaign promise to “drain the swamp” of corruption, according to people familiar with the discussions.

    Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was trying to hang on to his job Friday amid continuing questions over his use of private charter flights on official business at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars.

    Other cabinet secretaries scrambled to explain their own charter flights, and a House committee pressed ahead with a government-wide travel investigation.

    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke dismissed the controversy over charter flights as “a little BS over travel,” but he said taxpayers do have the right to know official travel costs.

    Price had offered public regrets and a partial repayment Thursday, but that didn’t seem to calm the furor, particularly in the White House.

    Trump is deeply frustrated with Price and has grown increasingly annoyed by the stream of reports about the health secretary’s expensive air travel, according to three people familiar with Trump’s private discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

    He has also told people close to him that he believes Price’s run of bad headlines stepped on the administration’s launch of its tax plan. And he has told people he believes Price didn’t do enough to sell the ill-fated GOP plan to “repeal and replace” the Obama health law.

    Trump has considered firing Price but has not yet committed to doing so, according to one of the people who have spoken to him in recent days. Trump often muses about dismissing underlings but does not always follow through.

    Though Trump has told these people close to him that he believes he has found a winning issue in attacking NFL players who kneel during the national anthem, he’s angry over the latest Republican failure to overturn “Obamacare” and irritated that he felt pressured into backing the losing candidate in the Alabama Senate primary this week.

    Much of Trump’s ire over the health care failure has been aimed at the Republican-controlled Congress, but he also assigns some blame to Price, who he believes did not do a good job of selling the GOP plan. He mused aloud in a speech to a gathering of Boy Scouts in July that he would fire Price if the health bill did not pass, a line that was largely taken as a joke at the time.

    The perception of Price jetting around — including a three-nation trip in May to Africa and Europe — while GOP lawmakers labored to repeal “Obamacare” raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill. Price flew on military aircraft overseas.

    The controversy was a catalyst for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to launch a government-wide travel investigation. The panel is seeking detailed records from the White House and 24 departments and agencies on the use of government planes as well as private charters.

    Other cabinet secretaries were doing their own explaining:

    —Interior’s Zinke said he’s taken three charter flights while in office, including a $12,375 late-night trip from Las Vegas to his home state of Montana in June. Zinke said no commercial flight was available at the time he planned to fly for a speech to Western governors. He also went on a military flight with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to view wildfires in Montana. All of his travel was approved in advance by Interior’s ethics officials “after extensive due diligence,” Zinke said.

    —Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said he has not used private aircraft for official business but has taken six trips on military aircraft. Information about his official travel will be posted on the department’s website, he said.

    —At the Treasury Department, the inspector general is investigating all requests for and use of government aircraft, including those by Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who came under fire for requesting a government aircraft to use on his honeymoon. The request was later withdrawn.

    —The EPA said four non-commercial flights taken by Administrator Scott Pruitt were pre-approved by ethics lawyers. The agency’s inspector general opened an inquiry last month into Pruitt’s frequent taxpayer-funded travel on commercial planes. The Associated Press reported earlier this year that Pruitt often spends weekends at his Tulsa home.

    Price’s travels were first reported last week by Politico, which said cheaper commercial flights were a viable option in many cases. That prompted a review by the HHS inspector general’s office to see if federal travel regulations were followed.

    A former congressman from Georgia regarded as a conservative policy expert, Price said his travel was approved by the department he heads. He said he’d write a personal check to reimburse taxpayers for his travel on charter flights taken on government business. And he pledged to fly commercial — “no exceptions.”

    The repayment — $51,887.31, according to Price’s office — covers only the secretary’s seat. Price did not address the overall cost of the flights, expected to be much higher.

    The post Trump says Price’s travel becoming a distraction, AP sources say 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

    Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price testifying before the Committee on Appropriations on March 29, 2017. File photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned Friday, after a wave of negative stories about his use of charter flights for official business trips. The White House said that Don Wright, a top Health and Human Services official, will take over as the department’s acting secretary at 11:59 p.m. Friday.

    READ MORE: Health Secretary Price resigns after private flight controversy

    The White House released Price’s resignation letter shortly after announcing that Mr. Trump had accepted Price’s offer to step down. Read Price’s full letter below:

    Dear Mr. President:

    It is an honor and privilege to serve you as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Under your leadership, the Department is working aggressively to improve the health and well-being of all Americans. This includes working to reform a broken health care system, empower patients, reduce regulatory burdens, ensure global health security, and tackle clinical priorities such as the opioids epidemic, serious mental illness and childhood obesity.

    I have spent forty years both as a doctor and public servant putting people first. I regret that the recent events have created a distraction from these important objectives.

    Success on these issues is more important than any one person. In order for you to move forward without further disruption, I am officially tendering my resignation as the Secretary of Health and Human Services effective 11:59 PM on Friday, September 29, 2017.

    You may rest assured that I will continue to support your critical priorities going ahead because failure is not an option for the American people.

    Yours truly,
    Thomas E. Price, M.D.

    The post Read Health Secretary Price’s full resignation letter appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Seattle has a new way of mapping itself — through the so-called “Poetic Grid,” an online map of the city from the voices of people who live there. Claudia Castro Luna dreamed up the idea in 2015, when she became Seattle’s first civic poet.

    WATCH: Navigating Seattle’s ever-evolving streets through poetry

    Castro Luna wanted a way to capture the rapidly changing city and asked people to write about specific locations that had meaning to them. We met with her in Seattle’s Central Library, designed by architect Rem Koolhaas, and also the site of workshops Castro Luna has held to meet budding poets in her city. In addition to being poet, Castro Luna is an urban planner and teacher. She read us her poem, “A Corner to Love”:

    Maps of this city
    number in the thousands
    unique and folded
    neatly inside each citizen’s
    heart. We live in the city
    and the city lives in us.

    We also traveled around the city to meet other contributors to the “Poetic Grid,” stopping at the locations they wrote about. Seventeen-year old Lily Baumgart met us in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, where she grew up and went to school. She’s currently the city’s Youth Poet Laureate and she read us her poem, “Volunteer Park,” in the park with the same name:

    They say there’s a giant squid in the reservoir
    that if you could climb the fence
    you could stick your hand
    into the Bright Water
    and feel his slimy body swimming by yours.

    And there’s a giant bone in the park
    that kids say is the squid’s skeleton.
    But if you were to brush away the wood chips
    you’d see a placard and commemoration.
    We’d slide down the soft curves
    and land on our knees,
    letting the damp soak through our jeans.

    When it rained
    we would hide in trees
    and feel their cold bark underneath our toes.
    We’d laugh so loud that the sky
    would be scared of us; our umbrella laughter.

    On snowy days we’d take cardboard
    for sleds
    and leave our scarves at home.
    They say when the reservoir freezes over,
    the squid still lives
    but only if you throw rocks
    over the fence and break holes
    in the white ice
    for him to breathe through.

    Koon Woon is a longtime Seattle resident and a published poet. He came to the U.S. from China with his family in 1960. We spoke in a neighborhood he once called home, the International District, a gathering place for Chinese immigrants. Woon started writing poetry as a way of working through his mental illness. From the middle of Hing Hay Park, Woon read us his poem, “The High Walls I Cannot Scale (With Apologies to Tu-Fu).”

    Desolate in my Chinatown morning
    among the scraps and people sleeping in urine
    doorways, I ache form the politics of the heart.

    Pigeons flock together in Hing Hay Park,
    no children to greet them.
    I walk for my sanity, since alone in my room
    before dawn, the mind constructs improbable things.

    The city is humming for profits,
    and I wait for the porridge place to open:
    a bowl of sampan porridge
    adorned with a clump of watercress.

    The Chinese and I are one, scattered
    to the four corners of the globe.
    I have only enough to pay for one bowl,
    and so, my friend, I’m sorry, I must dine alone.

    The Poetic Grid was created by Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture.

    The post Mapping Seattle, poem by poem appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Every day brings another story about the depth of this country’s opioid crisis: overdoses up, emergency services overwhelmed, another family burying a loved one.

    On Monday, we’re starting an extensive series here on the “NewsHour,” broadcast and online. It’s called America Addicted, and it will look at how opioids are affecting communities throughout the country, from its toll on one city in West Virginia, to the rise of powerful new synthetic drugs like fentanyl in New England, and how new programs out West are trying to combat addiction.

    First, we wanted to take a quick look at exactly how this crisis began.

    William Brangham has that.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It’s hard to grasp the full scope and scale of the opioid crisis we’re in the midst of.

    The numbers are staggering. Almost half-a-million Americans have died in the last 15 years from an overdose, and the majority of those involve opioids. On average, 91 Americans are still dying every single day.

    In that same period, the rate of addiction to opioids has shot up by almost 500 percent. And the availability of addiction treatment hasn’t kept up at all.

    So, how did we get here?

    Most experts say this crisis began in the 1990s, when some doctors and medical associations argued that, for generations, their profession had ignored the problem of chronic pain, which had caused unnecessary suffering for millions of patients.

    They started pushing the idea that pain be seen as the fifth vital sign, something to be checked as often as blood pressure, and treated accordingly.

    At roughly the same time, the pharmaceutical industry, which was eager to boost sales of its new class of painkillers, like OxyContin, told doctors that these new drugs could be used without fear of their patients becoming addicted.

    The industry even put out testimonial videos, like this one from Purdue Pharma in 2000.

    MAN: We doctors were wrong in thinking that opioids can’t be used long-term. They can be, and they should be.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The industry and even some doctors also cited this one-paragraph letter posted in “The New England Journal of Medicine” back in 1980.

    Its authors had looked at the use of opioid painkillers at one burn unit in Massachusetts and wrote — quote — “The development of addiction is rare in medical patients with no history of addiction.”

    While the authors and “The New England Journal” have both said that this letter was misinterpreted, it was cited hundreds of times as an endorsement for the widespread use of opioids for pain.

    And, in fact, starting in the late ’90s and early 2000s, the rate of opioid prescriptions began to snowball. By 2015, according to the CDC, enough pills were being prescribed for every American to be medicated around the clock for three straight weeks.

    But studies have now clearly shown that opioid medications can lead to dependency within just a matter of days, and so this flood of prescriptions led to a surge of addiction. And it also drove a steady rise in overdose fatalities.

    With these numbers growing, the medical community, local governments and law enforcement began to take action. New prescribing guidelines were issued. Databases were created to track prescriptions.

    MAN: This was a pill mill operation. Those are the allegations tonight.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And law enforcement cracked down on the so-called pill mills, the doctors and pharmacies that had been recklessly flooding certain communities with opioids.

    In 2010, prescriptions of opioids peaked, and have fallen ever since. Problem solved, right? Not so fast.

    In 2015, there were still three times as many opioid prescriptions being written as there were in 1999, and many people have turned to cheaper opioid substitutes, like heroin.

    Seizing on this booming market, drug dealers sought to boost potency, and their own profits, by lacing their heroin and other drugs with powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Those additives have only accelerated the rise in overdose deaths, which last year killed more than 64,000 Americans.

    By almost any measure, this is the biggest drug epidemic in American history, dwarfing the number of lives lost to crack cocaine or methamphetamines. It’s a crisis that took decades to create, and experts say will take a great deal of time, patience and work to undo.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Our series America Addicted will continue all next week here on the NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sometimes overlooked in this week’s debate over whether athletes should take a knee during the playing of the national anthem before games is the original focus of Colin Kaepernick’s protest, the deaths of unarmed black men in confrontations with law enforcement.

    Riley Temple is a lawyer and author.

    And, tonight, he shares his Humble Opinion on how those confrontations with police are a direct legacy of slavery and the racism that fueled it.

    RILEY TEMPLE, Author: Whenever I go to the Smithsonian’s African American History Museum, I make my pilgrimage to Joseph Trammell’s tin wallet.

    It’s a handmade, thin case that holds his freedom papers. Joseph Trammell, a black man, was born a slave in Virginia in 1831. When he was 21, he was freed, and surely believed that he had some measure of liberty so long as he had his tin wallet with him.

    When he was stopped, he invariably had to effect a servile posture to the whites, who demanded to know who, why, how come, and what for. The very sight of him, no slave tag, no white supervision in sight, was terrifying, an errant and aimlessly roaming Negro going about his ordinary days.

    His family undoubtedly reminded him, be nonthreatening, say yes, ma’am, no, sir, effect servility, cower even. Just don’t get killed.

    I was having an ordinary day not long ago, when, in my upscale and overwhelmingly white Washington, D.C., neighborhood where I have lived for the past 25 years, my dog Wilson and I walked past an apartment building just across the street from my own.

    As Wilson paused, a blustery white man appeared and bellowed at me to not let my dog stop there. Then he demanded to know if I lived in his neighborhood. I asked why it was a pertinent question.

    He became furious, threatened to call the police. Three cops in two cruisers appeared within a couple of minutes, flashing lights and all. They told me they were answering a trespassing complaint.

    I pulled out my I.D. I didn’t have to, but I knew I had to show my papers to de-escalate the situation. I wasn’t a trespasser in this rich white neighborhood. I lived there.

    I got out of my brush with the police unscathed, but not before telling a belligerent cop to go to hell. And, in so doing, I broke a rule, the rule by which the Joseph Trammells of slavery days lived, and by which all black people today are told to obey, in order to survive confrontations with law enforcement: Be nice. Be servile. Say, no, sir, yes, ma’am.

    By all means, do nothing that smacks of dignity or claim of right, else you will be killed.

    My story was minor. But so too is failing to signal a lane change or selling illegal cigarettes, and those acts turned deadly for Sandra Bland and Eric Garner.

    By questioning my right to be, I was suddenly slammed onto that continuum of history, a black man, perceived to be an interloper, a trespasser, an imminent threat, just like freed slave Joseph Trammell in 1852 Virginia.

    Editor’s Note: On tonight’s broadcast, we aired an essay by lawyer Riley Temple. We did not include in our introduction that Mr. Temple is a trustee of the Greater Washington Education Television Association, which owns and operates PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first to a story of poetry and place, and a new way to look at the life of an ever-evolving city.

    Jeffrey Brown reports from Seattle.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How do you map a city in all its complicated glory?

    For Seattle, a bird’s-eye map in 1889 showed its early expansion. Foot traffic downtown was highlighted in the 1920s, pedestrian fatalities in the 1940s.

    There’s this minimalist map of the city’s quirky and infamous intersections, and now, a different way of seeing the city, the Poetic Grid.

    The idea of the Poetic Grid is to capture a sense of place in a city going through rapid change, and to use the words of the people who live here.

    CLAUDIA CASTRO LUNA, Creator, Seattle’s Poetic Grid: I have a background in urban planning, and, you know, it was a happy convergence, I think, of my interests in poetry and place.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Claudia Castro Luna dreamed up the online digital map in 2015, when she became Seattle’s first civic poet.

    It’s a two-year position administered by the city’s Office of Arts and Culture. She ran a series of workshops at Seattle’s public libraries, and asked people to write about the place they live.

    CLAUDIA CASTRO LUNA: We all have stories to tell about the place we live in. And we all have memories attached to the place we live in. And so, you know, it was like opening up a faucet.

    And people have stories to tell. And that’s one of the marvelous things. At the end, I told them, you will write. You will see you will have a poem. And, indeed, they had one. And it’s such a pleasure. It’s a pleasurable thing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The poems for the grid span the city. Some are about home, memories of growing up in the affluent Blue Ridge neighborhood. Others are about homelessness, the cold concrete of a Seattle underpass.

    There are poems left in their native tongues, Spanish, Arabic. The writers run from well-established poets to first-timers. And they reflect the diversity of the changing city, where cranes dot the skyline.

    Seattle is adding more people per year than during the post-gold rush boom years.

    CLAUDIA CASTRO LUNA: Some of the poems express very well what it feels like to not recognize the place you grew up in, because the buildings that you had so much attachment and were meaningful to you are no longer there, and the sense of this location, of turning a corner and the building that was there is no longer there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Changed that fast?

    CLAUDIA CASTRO LUNA: Oh, yes, it has.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Hing Hay Park in Seattle’s International District has seen its share of change.

    KOON WOON, Poet: I first moved in here when I couldn’t afford rent anywhere else in the city. And my uncle said well, there’s a room here for $60 a month. And I came here to look at it. And there’s this tiny little table. I said, I can put my typewriter on top of that. So, I took the room.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Koon Woon was born in China, but moved to Seattle in 1960. In the 1980s, he lived just a block from here, sometimes homeless, struggling with mental illness.

    His poem, “The High Walls I Cannot Scale,” is now part of the grid.

    KOON WOON: “Desolate in my Chinatown morning, among the scraps and people sleeping in urine doorways, I ache from the politics of the heart. Pigeons flock together in Hing Hay Park, no children to greet them. I walk for my sanity, since, alone in my room before dawn, the mind constructs improbable things.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: Why are you writing about these things?

    KOON WOON: Well, I first started writing poetry as a way to deal with my mental illness. I could articulate my feelings and try to clarify to myself what my thoughts were. I would try to separate delusions from reality.

    JEFFREY BROWN: There go the pigeons you write about, huh?

    KOON WOON: Yes, that’s the flock of pigeons, yes.

    LILY BAUMGART, Poet: Seattle Youth Poet Laureate: I always enjoy coming back.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For 17-year-old Lily Baumgart, animals figured into her writing as well.

    LILY BAUMGART: The squirrels here are very aggressive. They expect to be fed by people. And so we’d write stories about why they’d come up to people, how humans’ interactions with animals change their behaviors.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We met in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood at Volunteer Park, where Baumgart took field trips in elementary school and conjured up images of what lived in the reservoir, inspiring her poem.

    LILY BAUMGART: “Volunteer Park, they say there’s a giant squid in the reservoir, that if you could climb the fence, you could stick your hand into the bright water and feel his slimy body swimming by yours. When it rained we would hide in trees and feel their cold bark underneath our toes. We’d laugh so loud that the sky would be scared of us and our umbrella laughter.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: So now you’re here, much older, right?

    LILY BAUMGART: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You think the squid is still out there?

    LILY BAUMGART: I like to think he’s still there.

    (LAUGHTER)

    LILY BAUMGART: I think it would be a lot more fun if we had a squid there. But I don’t think he is.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Baumgart is now Seattle’s youth poet laureate and one of the youngest contributors to the new grid.

    LILY BAUMGART: I get to write about myself and my own experiences, without it seeming like me, me, me.

    I can kind of hide it behind using different metaphors or even characters, for lack of a better word. I feel like poetry has a sense of intimacy that other writing just can’t give you, which I enjoy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Poetry brought something else to Claudia Castro Luna, a way to work through traumatic childhood memories of war in El Salvador that forced her family to leave their home when she was 14.

    CLAUDIA CASTRO LUNA: It was a tremendous loss of place, of culture, of family, of language. And I think it’s taken me my entire life.

    Actually, I think a lot of, all of my writing has to do with understanding that — what it meant to lose that place. And this is why I’m interested in other people’s lives and what they have to say about the place they occupy.

    “A corner to love. Maps of this city number in the thousands, each unique and folded neatly inside each citizen’s heart. We live in the city, and the city lives in us.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: Castro Luna’s term as civic poet has ended, but she plans to add more tales of the city to the evolving online map.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown in Seattle, Washington.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You can watch the poets read their full poems on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to the analysis of Brooks and Klein. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Ezra Klein of Vox.com. Mark Shields is off this week.

    Gentlemen, it’s good to have you both.

    We — our lead story tonight, David, is the resignation of the secretary of health and human services, Tom Price. We were going to talk about the flights several Trump Cabinet officials seem to have been taking. But now he’s gone, the first Cabinet member to step down. Big deal.

    DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Yes, I don’t think he should have to go.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You don’t?

    DAVID BROOKS: If Donald Trump thought he was a good secretary of defense — of health and human services, and he knew his policies, which he did — he knew the policies — and he was generally supportive, which, as far as I could see, he was, then this scandal doesn’t merit a firing/resignation.

    He made Trump look bad. And Trump’s only loyalty is to himself. So, I get that. He had to go.

    But, personally, I think the government should have a fleet of planes to take around Cabinet secretaries. It would just be more efficient. Any company of any size has this sort of thing. And so this scandal makes Trump look bad, but it certainly doesn’t merit firing, I would say.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Didn’t have to be fired?

    EZRA KLEIN, Vox: No, I think he probably did have to be fired. But I have different views on what’s a decent health and services secretary than Donald Trump.

    I think there are two things here that are interesting. One is, Donald Trump has not been running an administration of very high ethical standards.

    When Tom Price was nominated, there was quite a lot of ethical smoke around him. There were allegations of insider trading. These were things the Senate decided not to dig into. There were things that he misstated. They didn’t hold a secondary hearing to look into them.

    Donald Trump himself has had a lot of conflict of interests and quasi-dealing things that he’s been trying to get around and certainly not address in any serious way. Nobody knows the tax returns.

    But the other thing that I actually think is a bigger scandal here — it’s not at all why Tom Price was forced to step down — but he’s been fundamentally sabotaging Obamacare, which is the law of the land. They’re just making it worse in an effort to weaken it.

    It’s going to make a lot of people’s lives a lot worse, and feels to me like it should be a bigger scandal than whatever planes he did or didn’t take.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, David, in fact, we are told the president was unhappy with Tom Price because he didn’t get Obamacare repealed.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I understand that, but that really wasn’t Tom Price’s fault.

    If Donald Trump wants to fire somebody for not getting Obamacare repealed, he should fire himself.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: He was the one primarily who messed up the investigation, who had no clear agenda, who was ignorant when he entered into the negotiations with the Congress, messed everything up even worse.

    And so, if that’s the standard, then there is a lot of people to be fired.

    Donald Trump has a problem with loyalty and a problem with his administration. How many people has he gone through already?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Exactly.

    DAVID BROOKS: We’re only a country of 320 million people. He’s going to run through all of us.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: He’s going to start hiring labor from Mexico.

    So there has to be — if you’re running a successful administration, then you’re loyal to people who are basically good who make a mistake. And that seems to be essential for any organization. And it should be essential if this were a normal administration, rather than a fiefdom, where everybody simply tries to give Donald Trump a good headline every day.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And if he holds to this standard, Ezra, these other four Cabinet secretaries could be in trouble. But it’s hard to believe that four more would go.

    EZRA KLEIN: Is it that hard to believe?

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I don’t know. I don’t know.

    EZRA KLEIN: This has been a very unusual administration so far.

    I do think that there is a very unclear level of conduct in the Trump administration. That’s one reason you’re seeing this among so many different secretaries. Again, Trump himself has been bending ethics rules left and right.

    But the problem is, Donald Trump is loyal to himself. He’s not loyal to them. The rules are different for them in ways that they don’t understand. It’s creating a lot — a real lack of clarity.

    This is something, though, that I think Senate Republicans deserve a fair amount of blame for. They should have been much harder in terms of the confirmation hearings in insisting on a fairly high level of ethics and a fairly high level of competence in the folks they let through.

    You do that and you have those standards to protect yourself, so these things don’t happen down the road and make you look bad and imperil your agenda.

    There is a lot that they didn’t do at the front end that is going to come back to bite them in these coming months.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of Senate Republicans, they have got other headaches right now.

    The leader of the Senate Republicans, David, Mitch McConnell, was backing a particular candidate, Luther Strange, in the Alabama Republican Senate runoff, the same candidate President Trump was backing.

    But folks like Steve Bannon were backing Roy Moore. We have talked about Roy Moore here, very, very conservative Republican from Alabama.

    How much of a rebuke is this to the Republican majority in the Congress and the president?

    DAVID BROOKS: Pretty strong. And they’re rebuking themselves.

    The thing I think we learned this week is that Roy Moore and Steve Bannon, what we will call the nationalists, they have a story to tell. They have a story about the country and why it’s going astray. They have a story about what is wrong with Washington and the swamp and why it needs to be drained.

    The regular Republicans, the Mitch McConnell Republicans, have no story. And they thought they could hold off the nationalists with money, and with logistics and with party organization.

    And I think one of the things we have learned is they can’t do that, that if you want to hold off Steve Bannon, you actually have to have an argument, you have to have a story about why his kind of Republican is the wrong kind.

    And they don’t have that. And if they don’t have it in Alabama, they are probably not going to have it in Tennessee, and they may not have it in Wyoming, and they may not have it in Arizona and all the other states where Republicans are up for grabs, at least in the Senate, in 2018.

    EZRA KLEIN: There is one place I would push on that a little bit, which is that I think David’s right, except that what’s strange about it is, this is a story that the establishment Republicans have also been telling.

    The hard thing that they have been doing in the past couple of years, a thing that I think has given them a lot of trouble, giving them to some degree Donald Trump, is, they have bought into, have helped along, have at the very least indulged a story about what a swamp Washington is, about how the establishment needs to be torn down, about how government has become completely dysfunctional, about what Barack Obama was or wasn’t doing, about how corrupt he was, about birth certificates.

    And then the voters believe them. They believed that they were going to repeal and replace Obamacare. They believed a lot of what the Republicans were saying. And then, when you get to election time, they try to run these more establishment candidates, and it’s at odds with their own story.

    And then folks like Bannon come in and hijack it and become more authentic than the party itself. That’s worked for Trump, worked for Bannon. But it’s not good long-term for the Republican Party. And, at some point, they have to tell a story that they can actually fulfill.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, in the short-term, this is a headache.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, and I do think Republicans — right now, the establishment Republicans are frozen in fear and they’re just trying not to be the next target.

    But I think, if I were them, I would say, how do we get out in front of this thing? Maybe Mitch McConnell is not the face of establishment Republican Party. Maybe we do have to have a new leader, somebody who can actually speak to the country.

    And maybe we do have to have a story to tell. And maybe Mitch McConnell’s job shouldn’t be secure, because the hatred toward Mitch McConnell, while I think 50 percent unearned, is vituperative and not going anywhere. And so if every Republican has to really run as Mitch McConnell’s partner, that’s going to be a problem for a lot of Republicans in the primaries.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: True. If he stays, and they have to figure out a way to work around that, they have got a complication in so many of these races coming up.

    EZRA KLEIN: I think that’s right.

    It’s been true for a couple of years. One of the things that’s going to be a real big question here for Mitch McConnell, the things that can really imperil you as a Senate leader is if you put your Senate majority at risk.

    So, we just saw a poll come out — I believe it was today — that said Roy Moore’s only leading the Democrat in Alabama, who is a strong candidate actually, 50-44. That is not the margin you would expect to see for a Republican in Alabama.

    Now, it’s early. Special elections have unusual dynamics. I would still certainly put Moore as a favorite. But if you begin to see an upset in Alabama or Tennessee, then maybe Democrats take something in Arizona, particularly if Flake loses his primary to another — to Kelli Ward, to another sort of nationalist more Tea Party-like challenger.

    The thing that will really put McConnell’s job in danger in if, in what should be a very good year for Republicans — the Senate map looks very good for them — they lose more than expected or, even worse, lose the Senate. And it seems more possible than it did, say, two months ago.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to turn to the NFL story.

    The president’s really gone to war with the National Football League, David.

    I’m just learning from our producer that the White House has announced that the White House chief of staff is going to have to approve, going forward, all charter travel on the part of senior Cabinet official — I guess any Cabinet official or Cabinet at any level.

    But what about — David, what about this story that has — confrontation that’s just blown up before our eyes over the last week-and-a-half, between the president openly criticizing professional football players and the league standing up for them?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, well, I don’t approve of what Colin Kaepernick did. I don’t think you kneel before the national anthem.

    I think, if you are going to protest, you protest in a way that doesn’t undermine our common nationality. And so I didn’t think — he did what he did.

    But Donald Trump reacted in his typical way, which was to find a wound in the American body politic, in this case, a wound about race, and then to stick a red-hot poker in it and to rip it open. And to me, that is what is most troubling about what we’re seeing over the last year, maybe two years, is that the fabric of society is being destroyed by someone who’s really good at finding out where we’re weakest, and exploiting those differences in order to launch really a cultural agenda.

    And so the fragmentation we saw last Sunday, and we will probably see again, is something that he is exacerbating. And somehow we have to find a way to reverse that cycle.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It doesn’t get a more serious indictment than that.

    EZRA KLEIN: No. And I think that part of it — and I think that’s right.

    I think that Donald Trump — Donald Trump didn’t need to wade into this fight. There was plenty going on that he could have focused on, Puerto Rico, tax reform, his own administration and how it’s running.

    He looks for these points of cultural conflict. The one thing that he is doing still that is responsive to his base, right, in a moment when they’re bringing a tax reform bill that doesn’t look good for that base, in a moment when the health care effort was incredibly unpopular among his own voters, as well as everyone else, he looks for these points of cultural conflict, because that at least is one place where he’s able to deliver.

    He’s able to deliver on leading one side of a tribal war. And it’s not a good thing for the country. And it’s not a good thing for any of the folks involved. It’s probably not even long-term a very good thing for Donald Trump, but it is the one place where he can stand on firm ground and be assured of keeping his side coalesced.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, cultural conflict is right.

    We can quickly show our audience this news “NewsHour”/Marist poll that shows — people were asked about their views on athletes kneeling or locking arms. Overall, very divided between respectful, disrespectful. Among Democrats, 82 percent say it’s OK, Republicans, 88 percent disrespectful.

    David, you’re — the president’s going right at a sore place in the American psyche.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I wrote a column this week trying to argue that he’s sort of the Abbie Hoffman of our era.

    Abbie Hoffman was a prankster in the 1960s who just was great at political theater, great at pulling at the weaknesses in that — the establishment of that era. And his only job was to destroy, so something could replace.

    And that’s more or less what Donald Trump was hired to do. He doesn’t have to build anything. He just has to pick apart at the cultural fabric and destroy the consensus of that we had. And that’s sort of what he’s been running on and what he’s been doing, with some effectiveness, culturally for two years.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Which begins to raise the question, how do Democrats and other Republicans counter this?

    EZRA KLEIN: I’m not sure there’s a way to counter it.

    The thing that Donald Trump does control — doesn’t control votes in the Senate, not control them in the House, does not even really control the legislative agenda. He controls his Twitter feed, and, to some degree, he controls the media.

    There is a question here, why are we even talking about this, right? What happened here? Was there a policy put in place towards the NFL? Did he do something?

    He said some stuff at a rally. He sent out some tweets. His ability to pull the media to whatever zone of conflict he wants us in, that is Donald Trump’s one real great power. He doesn’t use it judicially. He doesn’t use it wisely. He doesn’t always use it always in ways that benefit himself.

    I’m not sure that pulling apart our cultural consensus is even good for him, again, in the long run. But there isn’t a lot that other actors in politics can do, so long as Trump’s ability to move the media is as complete as it currently is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s hard to see how others compete with that, isn’t it?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, we have to find — if we solved the underlying problems of the country, a large number of people who are financially disenfranchised, then that will make the culture wars a lot less fierce.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we are — but you’re right, Ezra. There is a lot that we’re talking about, and Donald Trump is behind it.

    We didn’t get to tax reform. We got — I think we may have a few weeks to talk about that.

    EZRA KLEIN: That’s the Trump administration in a nutshell right there.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, that’s for sure.

    Ezra Klein, thank you for joining us.

    David Brooks, have a great weekend.

    DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

     

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: What happened in Cuba remains a mystery.

    We know 21 people who work at the U.S. Embassy in Havana have suffered a variety of illnesses, including hearing loss, dizziness and headaches.

    Today, the State Department ordered all non-emergency embassy staff to leave the island.

    Hari Sreenivasan has the story.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The order, issued by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, says that the State Department still doesn’t have a definitive answer on the cause or source of the illnesses, but described them as coming from an attack of unknown nature.

    WATCH: Ailments that plagued diplomats in Cuba puzzle investigators

    Joining me for more on this is Josh Lederman, the Associated Press reporter who broke today’s news on this, and Maria de Los Angeles Torres, a professor of Latin American and Latino studies at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She has written about and studied Cuba and Cuban politics extensively.

    Josh, let me just start with you.

    The latest on this, you know, there seems to be a difference in the word choice. We’re now calling it an attack. Just a week ago, we were calling these incidents.

    JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press: That’s right.

    And the United States hasn’t exactly explained what has changed. It was only a few days ago that they were saying, look, it’s premature to say attacks because we don’t know what’s causing this, so how can we say that it was a deliberate attack?

    Now we have pressed repeatedly to say, you’re not just using this new term casually. There’s an actual difference of position here in saying specific attacks. And U.S. officials say, yes, we are now confident that Americans were targeted in Havana and this was an attempt to harm them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And, Josh, the president did say, “They did bad some stuff to us.”

    I’m still trying to figure out who the “they” are in this. Does the State Department or any other agency say that there was a calculated move by perhaps another country?

    JOSH LEDERMAN: No, I think the president was being deliberately vague.

    The State Department, the White House and other U.S. agencies have not said that, because they don’t know who it is. In fact, there’s a lot of reason that the U.S. officials are skeptical that this would be something that Cuba’s government from a top-down way would have ordered. So, as of right now, the culprit really remains a mystery.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Ms. Torres, what happens to U.S.-Cuba relations in the short-term if 60 percent of the embassy is ordered to go home?

    MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES, University of Illinois: Well, I think that the secretary of state has said that diplomatic relations are still on and that this is really about a prudent, if you will, taking care of the diplomats.

    I think that we will see in the coming days and weeks whether or not the conversations continue. I think the Cuban government has invited the U.S. government to help investigate this. I think the question really is this idea of “they.”

    I think you really hit it on the head here, because the Cuban government is not a monolith, and there are many competing factions within that government. At least three intelligence agencies are organized and often do compete with each other, and the competition has become more fierce after the death of Fidel Castro, and as we get closer to the date of Raul Castro’s resignation.

    All this, I think, says we should be on the ground, and not go back on the diplomatic relations.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Josh, you have also spoken to scientists who have studied this extensively.

    Is there any indication that this is just spy vs. spy sort of stuff, or any sort of a new technology that could do this, given how different the — I guess the indications are from the victims?

    JOSH LEDERMAN: We know one of the these are U.S. investigators are looking at is whether this was some type of new advanced espionage operation gone awry, some type of device that was intended to listen to U.S. diplomats, who are very closely watched by the Cuban government in Havana, that somehow caused unintentional harm.

    However, that’s just really one of the theories that they’re looking at. But, as you point out, this comes in the context of Havana, Cuba, where we had exploding seashells and poison cigars and all kinds of history in larger-than-life science fiction espionage between the United States and Cuba.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Ms. Torres, the way that the United States has responded so far doesn’t necessarily feel they know the Cuban government is behind this, because the two diplomats that we expelled, it wasn’t a banish and never come back in the U.S. again, an action that the United States might likely take if they knew that the U.S. — or the Cuban government was behind this.

    MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES: Right, I think we don’t know.

    And I think — therefore, I think, number one, safeguarding the health of diplomats abroad, we do that all the time. We tell them to come home when there are either tornadoes or hurricanes or potential attacks, right?

    When we don’t, in fact, we go back and say, we should have done that. So I think that they don’t know. I think that the calls today by a couple of the Florida senators saying that we should, you know, expel all the Cuban diplomats is really so shortsighted, because we don’t know what’s going on.

    And, in fact, in any one of the likely explanations that may be going on, we should have channels of communication open with the Cuban government.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Ms. Torres, finally, the State Department also put out a warning, a travel advisory to anyone else that is coming, any U.S. citizens that are traveling.

    What are the kind of repercussions of that? What does that do to tourism or business that’s happening?

    MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES: Well, I think that tourism, remember, has already been down.

    This is hurricane season, as your show has been covering so well. So I think that tourism during this time is down. I do not think that immediately it’s going to necessarily bring down the numbers any further than they are. So I think it’s a wait and see.

    I think that the United States should take the invitation of the Cuban government to help investigate this and keep the channels open.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Josh Lederman, any of those folks that you’re talking to on the ground there, are they concerned about the deterioration of the relationship?

    JOSH LEDERMAN: Certainly, we know that a lot of the U.S. diplomats who are working in Havana don’t want to come home, don’t want the mission to be drawn down, because they see it as really important.

    At the same time, the fact that the U.S. is unable to provide assurances to — either to diplomats who are working there or even to American tourists who might come and stay in hotels in Havana that they won’t be attacked by incidents that could create brain damage is a real serious concern, and not one that the U.S. felt like it could take lightly in this circumstance.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Josh Lederman, Maria Torres, thank you both.

    MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES: Thank you.

    The post What happens to U.S.-Cuba relations amid mysterious attacks on diplomats? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now, in the day’s other news: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warned that Hurricane Harvey caused a potentially dangerous chemical spill from a Houston area Superfund site. The EPA says that it detected extremely high levels of dioxins in the San Jacinto River after a protective cap was damaged at the site. Dioxins are linked to cancer and birth defects, and can be spread in contaminated mud.

    A 12th person has died after being taken from a sweltering nursing home in South Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma. It happened on September 13, when nearly 150 patients were wheeled out of the facility in Hollywood Hills. The building’s air conditioning had lost power. A criminal investigation into the deaths is continuing.

    New tragedy for Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar. U.N. officials report that more than 60 of them apparently drowned last night, when their boat capsized off Bangladesh. They were trying to join more than a half-a-million others who have already made the perilous journey.

    Today, as relatives buried the drowning victims at a refugee camp, a U.N. spokesman said the story they told is astonishing.

    JOEL MILLMAN, International Organization for Migration: The boat left Myanmar and had been at sea for two days. Survivors described being at sea all night, having no food, and that the captain of the vessel, who was a Bangladeshi national, as we understand it, was trying to evade checkpoints or sea patrols.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Rohingya are escaping a military crackdown in mostly Buddhist Myanmar.

    Russia’s state-funded broadcaster R.T. insisted today that it bought advertisements on Twitter last year simply to promote itself, not to meddle in the U.S. election. The editor in chief of R.T. said — quote — “It didn’t occur to us that, in a developed democracy, regular media advertising could turn out to be a suspicious and harmful activity.”

    Twitter says R.T. spent $274,000 on ads for U.S. markets in 2016.

    In Spain, the region of Catalonia is vowing to go ahead with Sunday’s independence referendum, despite the central government’s vow to prevent it. Thousands held a closing rally today in the Catalan capital of Barcelona, and farmers rolled through the streets on tractors in support of independence. Spanish national police have been ordered to seize ballots and keep polling stations closed.

    Back in this country, the Air Force Academy is now investigating racist slurs found at the academy’s prep school. The slurs appeared Tuesday on message boards outside the dorm rooms of five black students. Now the academy superintendent, Lieutenant General Jay Silveria, is laying down the law.

    He called together all 4,000 cadets and the 240 prep school students yesterday, and he warned them in no uncertain terms.

    LT. GEN. JAY SILVERIA, Superintendent, U.S. Air Force Academy: If you’re outraged by these words, then you’re in the right place. If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.

    If you can’t treat someone from another gender, whether that’s a man or a woman, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out.

    And if you can’t treat someone from another race or a different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In 2015, about 29 percent of the Air Force Academy cadets were racial minorities.

    The U.S. will admit a maximum of 45,000 refugees in the coming fiscal year. The Trump White House confirmed the number this evening. That is the smallest cap on the number of refugees since 1980.

    And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 24 points, to close at 22405. The Nasdaq rose 42, and the S&P 500 added nine, both of those markets closing at all-time highs.

    The post News Wrap: Hurricane Harvey caused potentially dangerous chemical spill, says EPA appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But now let’s return to the resignation of Tom Price, and similar questions being raised about other members of the Trump Cabinet.

    Price stepped down after it was revealed he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on private airplane flights for himself and his staff.

    Just yesterday, he pledged to pay back about $50,000, but only for his seat.

    In the past few days, other Cabinet members have come under scrutiny for air travel, including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

    Just before Price’s departure was announced today, President Trump signaled to reporters why he was in trouble.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It’s not a question of confidence.

    I was disappointed, because I didn’t like it, cosmetically or otherwise. I was disappointed. And, you know, this is an administration that saves hundreds of millions of dollars on renegotiating things. So, I don’t like to see somebody that perhaps there’s the perception that it wasn’t right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now our John Yang is here to help bring us up to speed.

    So, John, this has come all about very quickly. We were just saying it just was disclosed a few days ago. What have you learned from the White House about what’s behind this?

    JOHN YANG: Well, despite the president saying on the lawn to reporters that he was going to make a decision tonight, White House officials are now saying that Secretary Price submitted his resignation earlier today.

    And, by the way, in his letter, he referred to the controversy as recent events. The president was already a little bit down on Price because of the failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but he was very unhappy over these reports that, in the space of three days earlier this month, Price took five chartered flights including a $25,000 round-trip between Washington and Philadelphia.

    He, of course, had prided himself, the president, on saving taxpayers money.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, John, what makes this even more striking is that Tom Price, before he was in the Trump Cabinet, member of Congress from Georgia, conservative, often very critical of government waste.

    JOHN YANG: That’s right. Typical is this speech that Price made on the House floor in 2005.

    He said: “Too often, money that comes to Washington never gets back home because it is eaten away by waste, fraud and abuse.”

    And, of course, Price had been talking about — as HHS secretary, had championed big cuts in federal spending proposed by the Trump administration and had talked about bringing efficiency to HHS..

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, John, we just listed these other — four other Cabinet members now who had been identified as using private charter jets to go somewhere. Are they in trouble, too?

    JOHN YANG: Well, earlier today, one of those Cabinet secretaries, Ryan Zinke of Interior, said he had done nothing wrong.

    RYAN ZINKE, Secretary of the Interior: The flights were only booked after extensive due diligence by the career professionals and the department’s General Law and Ethics Division.

    JOHN YANG: There are inspector generals investigations going on at EPA into Scott Pruitt, at Treasury into Steven Mnuchin. And the White House has put down — laid down the law. They say no more private chartered planes until they have a chance to review this whole thing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we don’t know whether other Cabinet members may have been engaged or sub-Cabinet, for that matter, may have been engaged in the same thing?

    JOHN YANG: That’s exactly right.

    The White House said they were not involved in these decisions before they took place. They do sometimes get involved about military planes, which are sometimes used for the security of the Cabinet official, or if the Cabinet official needs to have secure communications for national security reasons.

    But they had no role, they say, in these private charters.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Not a quiet week at the White House.

    JOHN YANG: No.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: John Yang, thank you.

    The post Price resignation over charter flights amid questions about other Cabinet members’ travel appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re covering two big stories this evening.

    Tom Price’s stint as secretary of health and human services is over, after revelations of costly private airplane travel. We will get to that in a few minutes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: Puerto Rico is still waiting for help.

    We begin with the latest from the stricken island.

    Special correspondent Monica Villamizar is there.

    MONICA VILLAMIZAR, Special Correspondent: For the people of Puerto Rico, lines are now a fact of life. They wait for hours to buy supplies, to withdraw money from banks, and even to wash their clothes.

    William De Lara was in line for gas this afternoon in San Juan.

    WILLIAM DE LARA, San Juan Resident: We’re in the heat, and we suffer every day. The military can build a city in one day in the desert. Why can’t they do the same here?

    MONICA VILLAMIZAR: But the U.S. military and Puerto Rican National Guard units are trying to reach beyond San Juan, to towns that have gone nine days with little or no assistance.

    Others are desperate to get themselves or their loved ones off the island. Hundreds waited late yesterday in the capital to board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship to the U.S. mainland for free.

    LARA BROWN, Mother of Evacuees (through interpreter): I’m sending my children to Miami so they can be more comfortable because they don’t have electricity here. Sometimes, they have water. Sometimes, they don’t.

    MONICA VILLAMIZAR: The U.S. Navy is now on the ground working to get hospitals up and running; 34 dialysis centers and 36 hospitals are currently limping along on generators.

    In Washington, the acting U.S. homeland security secretary, Elaine Duke, said yesterday that the federal response has been a good-news story.

    But, today, San Juan’s mayor disagreed.

    MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, San Juan: I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging anyone that can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency.

    MONICA VILLAMIZAR: After traveling to Puerto Rico today, Secretary Duke had a new assessment.

    ELAINE DUKE, Acting Secretary, Department of Homeland Security: The president and I will not be fully satisfied, however, until every Puerto Rican is back home, the power is back on, clean water is freely available, schools and hospitals are fully open, and the Puerto Rican economy is working.

    MONICA VILLAMIZAR: But frustrations on the island are also aimed at Governor Ricardo Rossello’s government. The mayor of San German says his southwestern town of 35,000 is still without power, and hasn’t received any water trucks.

    He tweeted today that: “The governor is giving the message that everything is resolved, and it is not true.”

    In his own tweets today, President Trump argued his administration is fully engaged with the crisis in Puerto Rico. But he also raised the question of how it will all be paid for.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Ultimately, the government of Puerto Rico will have to work with us to determine how this massive rebuilding effort, will end up being one of the biggest ever, will be funded and organized, and what we will do with the tremendous amount of existing debt already on the island.

    MONICA VILLAMIZAR: The president is expected to visit Puerto Rico himself next Tuesday.

    But residents here in San Juan and in all of Puerto Rico are bracing for a long recovery — Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Monica, based on what you have seen, what do people still not have? What do they need?

    MONICA VILLAMIZAR: They need a lot of supplies. And they don’t have pretty much anything.

    It’s hard to explain how dire the situation is. If you stop to think anything that anyone one needs in modern life, they are lacking. They don’t have water. They don’t have food. But there’s no power supply. So, ATMs don’t work, so they can’t get cash.

    There is no electricity, no phone reception, and the list goes on and on. Things here are quite bad, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, we have spent a lot of time talking about how hard it is getting supplies to where they need to be. Is that what you are still seeing on the ground today?

    MONICA VILLAMIZAR: What we have seen on the ground, the distribution of aid has not been equal at all.

    So, here in San Juan, the capital, there is some aid. However, if you travel outside the capital, there are rural areas that are very remote that haven’t been reached so far. And this is a week after the storm, and we understand people there haven’t had anything so far.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And why aren’t those supplies getting where they need to be fast enough?

    MONICA VILLAMIZAR: It’s really hard to understand how — what a colossal task it is on the ground to get things distributed to those who need it and to prioritize, because the infrastructure of the whole country was completely decimated.

    It’s very hard to get things from point A to point B. And also there are so many agencies involved, both public and private, it’s proven very hard to communicate and coordinate between all of them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what’s been the reaction there to the appointment of this three-star Army general to oversee the work being done there?

    MONICA VILLAMIZAR: We have heard that citizens are welcoming the fact that the U.S. military is sort of going to take more control of all the logistics on the ground. They think that can make a real difference.

    They think they have been treated as sort of second-class citizens. They say, why are we part of the United States, and it’s a week after this disaster, are we not seeing things being reestablished? Of course, things are much more complex.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Monica, you mentioned earlier that people are talking about a kind of new normal there. What did you mean by that?

    MONICA VILLAMIZAR: We understand that if something is not done urgently — and this is the Red Cross who told us — people are going to probably die in the rural areas, because they are surviving out of basically water they are finding in springs or small creeks.

    It’s a really dire situation over there. And we were staying, for example, in the east, where the hurricane came through. There’s a very big mountain called El Yunque and people think it’s safe there because, before, it had sort of protected them from the hurricanes.

    We saw all that natural forest has been completely decimated. And this is what the island looks like. There is no vegetation. There is no lushness. It’s certainly going to take a very long time for Puerto Rico to look like it did before.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Monica Villamizar, reporting for us from Puerto Rico, thank you.

    MONICA VILLAMIZAR: Thank you, Judy.

    Editor’s Note: Additional footage was provided by the U.S. Navy.

    The post Desperation in Puerto Rico fuels frustration with federal response appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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