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

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    A bump fire stock that attaches to a semi-automatic rifle to increase the firing rate is seen at Good Guys Gun Shop in Orem, Utah, U.S., October 4, 2017. REUTERS/George Frey - RC166E717CE0

    A bump fire stock that attaches to a semi-automatic rifle to increase the firing rate is seen at Good Guys Gun Shop in Orem, Utah, U.S., October 4, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/George Frey.

    Days after the Las Vegas shooter used rifles modified with “bump stocks” to kill 59 people Sunday, retailers have begun to remove the attachments from their shelves and websites. The National Rifle Association is also calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to review whether the bump stocks, an accessory that uses the gun’s recoil to rapidly press the trigger and fire hundreds of rounds per minute, are legal.

    At the same time, demand for the product has spiked.

    Law enforcement confirmed Tuesday that Stephen Paddock modified 12 semi-automatic guns into fully automatic weapons with bump stocks, an accessory that uses the gun’s recoil to rapidly press the trigger and fire hundreds of rounds per minute.

    “The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,”NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and NRA Chief Executive Chris Cox said in a joint statement released Thursday.

    READ MORE: The Las Vegas shooter had a cheap modification that made his rifles more deadly

    Meanwhile, bump stocks are becoming harder to buy.

    On Tuesday, searches on Google shopping and WalMart’s website resulted in a number of bump stocks for sale.

    By Wednesday, a search for “bump stock” on Google Shopping turned up no results.

    Slightly modified search terms do bring up the devices, indicating Google is likely specifically blocking search results for “bump stock,” web programmer and blogger Scott Hanselman told the NewsHour in an email.

    Google did not respond to the NewsHour’s emailed request for confirmation that it intentionally delisted the products.

    A search for “bump stock” on WalMart.com only provides results for unrelated merchandise.

    WalMart said it pulled the devices after it realized they were available.

    “These items, which were sold by third-party sellers on our online marketplace, violate our prohibited items policy and never should have been sold on our site,” WalMart said in a statement provided to the NewsHour. “They were immediately removed.”

    Calls to several Walmart stores confirmed bump stocks were never sold in the company’s brick and mortar locations, and other AR-15 accessories were removed from stores more than a year ago as part of company policy.

    Sen. Lankford: Congress has to address issue of bump stocks

    Bump stocks can still be found on a number of other websites, including Yahoo! Shopping. A number of Cabela’s outdoor sports stores told the NewsHour they had run out of bump stock inventory. Store employees the NewsHour spoke to did not know whether the company planned to restock its supply.

    One Cabela’s in Reno, Nevada confirmed it pulled bump stocks off its shelves Tuesday morning. Cabela’s corporate office did not respond to request for comment.

    The prices of bump stocks have also spiked with a surge in demand. Bump stocks could be found for a little more than $100 on Monday were selling for $300 Wednesday. On some auction websites, the product was being sold for more than $700.

    One of the major bump stock manufacturers, Slide Fire, has stopped taking orders for its product.

    “We have decided to temporarily suspend taking new orders in order to provide the best service with those already placed,” a statement on the Slide Fire website reads.

    The website for Bump Fire Systems, another provider of bump fire stocks, has been unavailable since Tuesday. The company said on its Facebook page that its servers were down due to high traffic volume.

    bump fire Facebook post

    The NewsHour reached out to both Slide Fire and Bump Fire Systems. The companies have not responded.

    The post Retailers pull bump stocks from websites, shelves after Las Vegas shooting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    Link to our complete series, America Addicted.

     

    CARRIE KAPPEL: Opiates. My drug of choice was opiates.

    DAN FRIGO: Barbiturates, quaaludes, downers, and then heroin finally.

    JEREMIAH GARDNER: I actually lost my mother to an opioid overdose. This was two years ago. She was 59 years old, the most important person in my life.

    DR. JOSEPH LEE: I don’t have a personal story, per se. And I think the humanistic spirit of addiction is what really drew me to it.

    CARRIE KAPPELL: Began self-medicating with prescriptions that were left over in my own medicine cabinet. When those were gone, I began to do and divert medications from my place of employment as a nurse.

    CECILIA JAYME: I was coming off of an amphetamine binge. And what would happen is that I would become very tired. So, I lay down on the couch with my little boy. While I was asleep, I started coughing.

    And when I coughed, it woke me up a bit. The house was filled with smoke, and the house was on fire. And in my mind, I said, thank God it’s finally over. Then, my son coughed. And I heard in my mind or in my — wherever it came from, the voice said, you can do what you want with your life. You have no right to take his.

    JORDAN HANSEN: The first time I used chemicals, it felt like the universe slipped into place.

    JEREMIAH GARDNER: At its best, addiction was a comfort. It was a friend, actually. Addiction at its worst was a monkey on my back.

    AHMED EID: Such a bad feeling physically and psychologically. And the only way really to effectively stop it at the time was to use again and again.

    JORDAN HANSEN: It’s totally illogical. I didn’t want to get high. I didn’t want to use. I didn’t want to drink. It was ruining my life.

    AHMED EID: My parents, when they’d see me high or if I had used, they’d think I was OK. They get worried about me when they see me in withdrawal, because that’s when I look bad.

    DR. JOSEPH LEE: We make a lot of mistakes about the opioid crisis, partly because of the stigma. Whenever it comes to addiction, especially to opioids, we talk about drugs, and we don’t talk about people.

    DAN FRIGO: People are afraid to ask for help. Families don’t want to talk about it.

    AHMED EID: Like, standing here now talking about it, I’m — I’m a bit uncomfortable, because I am not sure how people react to it.

    JORDAN HANSEN: I was in my undergraduate program in college, and I needed to go to treatment, and I told someone about it who was in a position of power.

    They looked it as a — I think a character issue. I would love for my kids to know that, if they’re struggling with mental health or addiction, it’s not that there’s something wrong with their character. It’s that they may have this illness.

    DR. JOSEPH LEE: It’s been around forever. And there have been communities devastated by addiction, even opioid or heroin addiction, long before it became national news. When why kids in the suburbs started to die off is when the country started to pay attention. And there’s a shame in that.

    JEREMIAH GARDNER: Part of my mission in life and my mission at work is to expose the public to the other side of the story, the recovery side of the story.

    AHMED EID: I owe people out there who don’t know about recovery and don’t know that recovery is possible, that I owe to them to — to let them know that it is.

    JEREMIAH GARDNER: If I could talk to my mother today — and I guess I do in my quiet moments — I would really want her to know that my recovery is because of her.

    JORDAN HANSEN: I have two beautiful children. I have a 4- and a 2-year-old. I have a wife. I have a job that I love. And I’m happy.

    AHMED EID: I have two kids. I’m in Center City, Minnesota. And I have to stop and remind myself of that sometimes. I’m from Cairo. And if you had told me, you know, 15 years ago, you will be standing in a basement, Richmond Walker (ph), in Center City, Minnesota, talking to people from PBS, you know, I would — OK.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEREMIAH GARDNER: My name is Jeremiah Gardner.

    CECILIA JAYME: My name is Cecilia Jayme.

    AHMED EID: My name is Ahmed Eid.

    CARRIE KAPPEL: My name is Carrie Kappel.

    DAN FRIGO: My name is Dan Frigo.

    JORDAN HANSEN: My name is Jordan Hansen.

    DR. JOSEPH LEE: My name is Dr. Joseph Lee.

    And this is my Brief But Spectacular take.

    CECILIA JAYME: Brief But Spectacular take.

    DAN FRIGO: This is my Brief But Spectacular take on addiction and recovery.

     

    The post Fighting the stigma of opioid addiction with stories of recovery appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    Link to our complete series, America Addicted.

     

    MICHAEL OATES, Welder: I would wake up in the morning and take four pills and snort two. That’s just to get out of bed.

    PAUL SOLMAN, Economics Correspondent: Michael Oates, a lifelong welder, is recovering from a 10-year opioid addiction which began when he took Vicodin for pain while working at a steel mill.

    Did you lose the job?

    MICHAEL OATES: Actually, my job went to China. And that was my excuse to do even more pills.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Have you worked since?

    MICHAEL OATES: I have had four or five different jobs since then.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And what happened to those jobs?

    MICHAEL OATES: I lost them all due to being addicted to opiates. They would random drug-test me, and I would be like, well, see you later. I would walk out.

    I even got caught one time with synthetic urine in my underwear, because I got pretty slick at using that, you know?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Do you stash it in your underpants?

    MICHAEL OATES: I would stash it in my underwear, and I would go in, and it’s synthetic urine. It’s got everything in it that you need to make them think it’s your urine.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Out of work for three years now, Oates is just one example of how the opioid crisis has decimated the American work force.

    Business owner Clyde McClellan has seen plenty of other examples.

    CLYDE MCCLELLAN, Owner, American Mug and Stein Co.: We have people that come in on a regular basis looking for employment that are obviously under the influence when they come in.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Really? You can tell?

    CLYDE MCCLELLAN: Oh, yes. They look like they’re the walking dead. I say, we’re going to send you for a drug test, and what is the drug test going to show us? Most of the time, if it’s pot or booze or anything like that, they tell me. If it’s something other than that, they don’t come back.

    PAUL SOLMAN: McClellan owns American Mug and Stein in East Liverpool, Ohio, once known as the pottery capital of the world with dozens of firms. Foreign competition has since wiped out all but two of them.

    McClellan owes his survival to his top customer, Starbucks. You would think would-be workers in town might be flocking here. But they’re flocking to drug dealers instead.

    CLYDE MCCLELLAN: One day, I was looking out of my office in 2015, and there was two policemen standing in my driveway with rifles. And I went out. I knew one of them. And I said, what’s going on? He said, well, we’re raiding this house that’s next to your building, and — for heroin distribution.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And these indelible photos of a couple overdosed in their car with their son in the backseat were snapped just three blocks from here.

    You don’t need experience to get a job at American Mug and Stein, but you do need to be clean. Half of applicants are not.

    CLYDE MCCLELLAN: I have been an employer in this area since 1983. Drugs were not at the forefront when you were talking to somebody about possible employment. Now the first thing we think of is, are they on drugs? How do we find out? What kind of references?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Somebody came in here looking for a job with a reference from one of your other employees?

    CLYDE MCCLELLAN: He was using this person as a reference. And when we asked the employee, he said, he’s a dope head. He steals money. He has stolen money from me.

    Obviously, we didn’t bring him in.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Donna Dibo has been there. A full-time waitress, she was prescribed opioids after a car accident. In time, scoring heroin became her main line of work.

    DONNA DIBO, Former Waitress: It is like a job itself, actually. It is.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Just trying to find that day’s drugs?

    DONNA DIBO: Yes.

    And then, once that day is over, your mind’s already going 1,000 times a minute, thinking, what am I going to do for the next day?

    PAUL SOLMAN: How long have you been out of the work force?

    DONNA DIBO: I have been out of work for about seven years.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The prime skill she honed? Shoplifting.

    DONNA DIBO: I would go into all the stores. My trunk and my backseat would be full with everything. Sears, I’m no longer allowed on their property. I stole so much from them, I probably own their store.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And then there was her daughter’s new cell phone.

    DONNA DIBO: We had some people over, and, all of a sudden, it just came up missing. I made it look like it came up missing. I am the one, actually, in fact, that did it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: You stole it from your daughter and sold it?

    DONNA DIBO: Absolutely.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Scott Schwind was a well-paid machinist when his addiction took charge.

    SCOTT SCHWIND, Machinist: I was just working to supply myself. I would have people come to my work, deliver stuff to me at work.

    PAUL SOLMAN: At the machinist shop?

    SCOTT SCHWIND: Yes. I was on third shift, so they would come at night and bring me stuff. But that’s how I messed the job up, is, I wouldn’t show up, or I was doing shady stuff, like having people come there. I would be in the bathroom for half-an-hour.

    So, I lost that job. And then I have had other jobs, but I have never been able to keep a job for long because of the addiction.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, how long have you been out of work now?

    SCOTT SCHWIND: Since 2011.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Schwind, Oates and Dibo are now sober and enrolled at Flying High, a nonprofit program in Youngstown, Ohio, to get those out of the work force back in.

    It teaches hard skills, like welding and machining. An urban garden is for soft skills, showing up on time, teamwork.

    Jeff Magada says job training is critical to places like Youngstown, its population down more than 60 percent since its steel furnaces last ran full blast.

    JEFFREY MAGADA, Executive Director, Flying High: You don’t have a lot of industry coming here because they know there’s not a lot of skilled workers here, and then workers who can also pass a drug screen.

    PAUL SOLMAN: That’s a problem for Michael Sherwin’s company.

    MICHAEL SHERWIN, CEO, Columbiana Boiler Co.: We have had positions open for a year-and-a-half to two years.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Sherwin’s Columbiana Boiler Company has lots of demand for galvanized containers, but figures it’s foregone some $200,000 in business because he can’t find skilled, drug-free welders.

    MICHAEL SHERWIN: We probably lose 20 to 25 percent.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Because they can’t pass a drug test?

    MICHAEL SHERWIN: Mm-hmm.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Flying High places ex-addicts in shops like this and pays their salary for six months. But the threat of relapse is always there. That’s why Scott Schwind is taking it slow.

    SCOTT SCHWIND: I just want to get a foundation of being sober and dealing with things before I jump into a job and all that stress, and you know what I mean, having a bunch of money in my pocket, to where I’m not tempted to do something that I’m going to regret, because, like, the drugs out there today will kill you.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Why would you be tempted if you had money in your pocket?

    SCOTT SCHWIND: You forget how to deal with problems. It was a coping mechanism. Something went wrong, and you’re like, I’m just going to get high, and then you don’t have to worry about it. I had a house, I had a car, I had all my stuff taken care of. I was a good father, you know what I mean?

    And everything’s gone. And it takes a lot of work to get back to where you were. So, it’s easy to just throw your hands up and be like, you know what? Screw it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, you could imagine having money in your pocket and going back to drugs?

    DONNA DIBO: Absolutely. Absolutely. It takes two seconds for us to get a thought in our head, and we act on it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, technical instructors like Ivan Lipscomb wear two hats.

    IVAN LIPSCOMB, Flying High Instructor: Not only are we welding instructors, but we’re life coaches also. So we can try to talk to them about that also, maybe throw in a little joking in there every once in awhile just to keep their spirits up.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Magada says those who complete this program pose much less risk than those who don’t.

    JEFFREY MAGADA: We’re not just going to let them go. We’re going to monitor them over the next six months, while they have money in their pocket, and be working with them on those life skills.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Life skills absent in those whom opioids have overtaken, says Michael Sherwin.

    MICHAEL SHERWIN: Ten years ago, the drug screen wouldn’t have been an issue.

    PAUL SOLMAN: At all?

    MICHAEL SHERWIN: No.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And now you’re losing 25 percent of…

    MICHAEL SHERWIN: Of eligible candidates to it. So, for us, it’s a big deal.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A big deal for the broader economy as well, says Princeton economist Alan Krueger. He’s found a direct link between opioid use and out-of-the-work-force Americans.

    ALAN KRUEGER, Princeton University: For both prime-age men and prime-age women, the increase in prescriptions over the last 15 years can account for perhaps 20 percent of the drop in labor force participation that we have seen.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The rate has been falling for years, as the population ages, says Krueger. But opioids are increasingly the story, as the participation rate has hit historic lows.

    ALAN KRUEGER: We have had a change in medical practices, which has caused the medical profession to prescribe 3.5 times more opioid medication today than was the case 15 years ago. I think that’s made it harder for some people to keep their jobs and has led them to leave the labor force.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Clyde McClellan has seen it happening in East Liverpool.

    CLYDE MCCLELLAN: When you drive around town, you see too many young and middle-aged people just out during the middle of the day, when, normally, they’d be at work.

    If they’re out on the streets, many times, they’re not looking for work. They’re just out there looking for their next fix.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Donna Dibo is on the lookout no longer. Instead, she’s reinventing herself as a welder, Scott Schwind updating his machining skills. Michael Oates hopes to get back to work welding, and to rebuild the links shattered by his addiction.

    MICHAEL OATES: It tore my family completely apart. It was stronger than eating. It was stronger than paying bills. It was stronger than going to my kids’ football games. I went from spoiling my kids to barely doing anything for my kids.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Will they talk to you?

    MICHAEL OATES: My youngest doesn’t talk to me. And that breaks my heart. And my youngest son, he barely ever talks to me. They went without a lot of things over my selfishness, over me wanting to be high every day and not wanting to be sick.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And they’re still resentful?

    MICHAEL OATES: And they’re still resentful, yes. If it takes me the rest of my life, I will make amends.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Here’s hoping he can return to his family, and to the work force.

    For the PBS NewsHour, this is economics correspondent Paul Solman, reporting from Northeastern Ohio.

     

    The post How the opioid crisis decimated the American workforce appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, we turn our focus back to Congress and the whirlwind of issues facing lawmakers.

    Here now is John Yang.

    JOHN YANG: Thanks, Judy.

    Looming deadlines, lapsed programs, and potential movement on pressing agenda items.

    Here to explain what’s happening on the Hill is our own Hill watcher, Lisa Desjardins.

    Lisa, let’s begin our alphabet soup with DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Today was the deadline for beneficiaries whose status was going to expire before the March 5 sunset to reapply, to renew.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

    JOHN YANG: What is going on with the Hill effort to try to put this into law?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right. This is a lot to keep track of.

    First, an update on how many applications have come in. Now, anyone under DACA has until midnight tonight local time to get their paperwork in to one of three centers. And I’m told by Citizenship and Immigration Services that some 36,000 people who are eligible have yet to reapply.

    So, they have got a few hours to do that as of now.

    Now, as for Congress, there actually is some movement, believe it or not, on this issue. There was a hearing yesterday in the Senate, in which, notably, two leaders from both parties, Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois and Senator John Cornyn of Texas, seemed to indicate that there is room for agreement.

    Let’s listen.

    SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-Texas: Creating a legislative fix is the right thing to do. But there is a big caveat. Before we provide legal status to these young people, we must reassure and actually regain the public confidence that we’re serious when it comes to enforcing the law and securing our borders.

    SEN. DICK DURBIN, D-Ill.: Senator Cornyn, I couldn’t agree with you more. If we can sit down and come up with a reasonable list of border security provisions that will give us the peace of mind of assurance that we are doing our level best to stop those who shouldn’t be coming to the United States from coming here, I will join you in that effort.

    LISA DESJARDINS: How about that, couldn’t agree with you more?

    So, they are talking about a limited bill that would give status to so-called dreamers, or DACA recipients, and have some security elements.

    And, John, today in the House, we heard similar from also the number two Republican and Democrat in that chamber as well.

    JOHN YANG: Security elements, but not the wall?

    LISA DESJARDINS: But not the wall. That is what came from — we heard that from Senator Grassley. There may be more discussion on that. We will see.

    JOHN YANG: Now, continuing on, CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, funding ran out. This is a program administered by the states with federal funding. The federal funding ran out at the last of the last budget year, at the end of September.

    What is going on to try to get that going again?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. You hit it exactly.

    So, CHIP is a major program. It did run out of federal funding September 30. This is something that Congress was well aware of. This is a big deal, because it provides health care for nine million American children.

    Each state is affected differently, because the states have a different set of rules. But, John, 10 states say they will completely run out of funds for this by the end of the year.

    Where are we in Congress? Well, there was some hope last week, as the Senate was able to pass a deal through committee — or — I’m sorry — they passed a deal this week through committee, almost unanimously. That was a big sign of positivity on this issue.

    But then, yesterday in the House, a different approach. House Republicans instead went with a partisan deal that Democrats don’t like and would have trouble in the Senate.

    So, to be honest, John, it’s not clear what is going to happen to this program. Everyone would like to renew the funding, but there are real issues still on the table.

    JOHN YANG: Do you think it would not be renewed, or would it have to wait until the big budget spending bill at the end of the year?

    LISA DESJARDINS: I think that is right.

    Everyone wants to renew it. There could just be a short-term renewal of some sort, if they just can’t agree on a long-term fix. But right now, with the way Congress is, it is very hard to say.

    JOHN YANG: So, the budget resolution started moving today. The House passed its version. The Senate Budget Committee sent its version to the floor. This is something that is supposed to happen every year, but why is it particularly important this year?

    LISA DESJARDINS: I want to stress to people, the word budget sounds boring. You don’t want to pay attention to it.

    But it is incredibly important this year. As you said, the House passed its version today. And the reason it’s critical, John, is, both chambers must pass a budget this year in order to allow Republicans to pass tax reform.

    They want to change our entire tax code to do it. They first have to pass budgets which allow them to get to that special 50-vote rule in the Senate. Another thing that is really important to watch here, John, is the way they want to do it. Republicans want spending cuts. And, in fact, they also have included in one version of the budget a Medicare overhaul.

    So it is really important to watch what they do here with the money. There could also be some deficit spending in tax reform. All of that comes to a head inside the budget. So, every little dollar that they put in this outline that is the budget could matter.

    JOHN YANG: The House wants — the House calls for deficit-neutral. The Senate is calling for about, what, $1.5 trillion deficit spending in order for the tax cut, right?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s exactly right.

    Think of it. The House budget goes after things, like it would change Medicare overall. It would reform Medicare in a way that many in the Senate don’t necessarily think would pass there. But the Senate, on the other hand, would add over a trillion dollars potentially to the deficit. And that’s something that the House doesn’t like.

    So this leads to conflict ahead, but, right now, each chamber is taking its own route on the budget.

    JOHN YANG: Less than 30 seconds.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Yes.

    JOHN YANG: What are the chances of all this happening by the end of the year?

    (LAUGHTER)

    LISA DESJARDINS: Not good that all of it happens by the end of the year. But I think the date to watch is December 8. That’s when the next spending bill for all of government runs out.

    Many of my sources say they think a lot of this could let lumped into one giant bill or debate around that time.

    JOHN YANG: Lisa Desjardins, thanks a lot.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Sure thing.

    The post The deadlines, program lapses and other pressing issues facing Congress right now appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Earlier this year, federal regulators blocked Energy Transfer Partners from drilling until it addressed environmental concerns over the project. Photo: Ohio EPA.

    Earlier this year, federal regulators blocked Energy Transfer Partners from drilling until it addressed environmental concerns over the project. Photo: Ohio EPA

    President Donald Trump and Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt have vowed to boost domestic energy production by dismantling federal regulations on things like drilling, but environmental agencies in both blue and red states have pushed back in the months since Mr. Trump took office. One such battle in Ohio suggests that oil and gas companies may not have a blank check to drill after all — even with a Republican in the White House ordering expedited environmental reviews on major pipeline projects.

    Energy Transfer Partners — the same company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline — has received 13 violations from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency since construction began this year on the Rover Pipeline Project, a 713-mile pipeline designed to gather gas from processing plants in Eastern Ohio, Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The new pipeline will distribute 68 percent of the gas carried through Ohio and West Virginia into markets across the country, with remaining gas flowing to storage fields across the state of Michigan and as far north as Ontario, Canada.

    Ohio flagged the most recent violation last week after pollutants from the pipeline were were unlawfully discharged into an unnamed river that flows into a larger lake. The spill took place days after federal regulators allowed Rover Pipeline construction to resume horizontal directional drilling, a construction method used to install pipelines under bodies of water.

    Following a number of these environmental violations — some of which prompted a four-month stop on some drilling after two separate spills dumped two million gallons of drilling mud contaminated with diesel fuel into Ohio wetlands — the state EPA director notified Energy Transfer Partners it owes $2.3 million dollars in civil fines and damages. But the company has held firm it is not responsible for those fines, and still plans to finish the project next year.

    READ MORE: The Rover Pipeline leaked millions of gallons of drilling fluid into Ohio wetlands

    Such a dispute would be less noteworthy in blue states, like California, which enforces some of the toughest environmental regulations in the U.S. But in Ohio — a more moderate state with a robust energy sector that voted for Trump — competing views represent an impeding tension inside the Republican Party on energy and climate change policy at the state level.

    Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich is a case in point: Kasich ran to the left of Trump in last year’s presidential race on a platform that included support for renewable energy, and has taken steps as governor to boost wind and solar development. Craig Butler, Ohio’s EPA Director, was appointed by Kasich in January 2014.

    In ongoing efforts to receive damages associated with repetitive water and air violations, the Ohio EPA referred the case to Attorney General Mike DeWine, a long-serving Ohio Republican.

    As the battle moves forward, here’s a look at the multistate Rover Pipeline, why it stalled earlier this year, and how the fight might play out in coming months.

    What happened?

    Energy Transfer Partners — which recently announced it would give North Dakota $15 million to reimburse the state for its response to protest movements along Dakota Access pipeline — has committed numerous violations of Ohio’s Water Quality standards, according to state documents. Its violations include disposing of pollutants containing diesel fuel near sources for public drinking water, considered illegal in Ohio without a permit.

    Butler’s dissatisfaction with the company festered in April, when, two weeks into construction, millions gallons of drilling fluid leaked into high-quality wetlands.

    Ohio’s EPA ordered Energy Transfer Partners to file for a construction stormwater general permit, designed to help regulate the amount of rain water containing oil, chemicals and trash that runs off to coastal waters. It also fined the company $431,000 for damage caused by the spill and the resources needed to clean it up, a number that has increased five times over with subsequent violations.

    Butler sought to negotiate a consensual order with the company to outline future steps to reduce the prevalence of drilling mud spills. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has the authority to stop interstate pipelines found to be in violation of their contracts, ordered Energy Transfer Partners to stop new horizontal directional drilling near water sources, temporarily halting the $4.2 billion dollar pipeline project.

    What did state and federal officials find?

    Since May, the Ohio EPA has communicated its concern directly to the FERC after samples of drilling fluid taken along the Tuscarawas River detected petroleum hydrocarbon constituents, mainly found in diesel fuel.

    On the first day of June, in a letter to the senior vice president of Rover Pipeline LLC, FERC instructed “Rover preserve and maintain all documents and information related to the composition, acquisition, preparation, and disposal of the drilling fluid.”

    A screengrab from Google Maps shows the Tuscarawas River just outside of Navarre, Ohio.

    A screengrab from Google Maps shows the Tuscarawas River just outside of Navarre, Ohio. The river is one of the sites that the state EPA says was contaminated by the Rover Pipeline Project.

    A July report by Ohio EPA found discharged industrial waste was contaminating run off that feeds into state sewage, also contaminating waterways that require costly treatment provided by state agencies. Federal regulators sent a notice of federal violations to Rover Pipeline LLC, acknowledging the Ohio EPA’s frustration over its claim that “Rover falsely promised it would avoid adverse effects to a historic resource that it was simultaneously working to purchase and destroy.”

    Why did construction resume?

    Last week, FERC gave Rover Pipeline a green light to restart construction at nine locations. The company adhered to federal regulators requests to bring on independent monitors to oversee drilling operations. Energy Transfer Partners additionally settled with the Ohio Historic Preservation Office.

    Why has ETP ignored Ohio’s orders?

    The company has yet to pay Ohio the $2.3 million it says it is owed, a combination of $2 million in civil penalties and the rest in restitution for emergency response and oversight costs.

    In a letter to Butler on September 25, ETP President and Chief Operating Officer Matthew R. Ramsey wrote that “your own agency and you personally, have repeatedly praised Rover for its cooperative approach” adding “Rover has already spent close to $20 million to mitigate those impacts.”

    The Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempts pipeline projects from state regulation. But the Ohio EPA retains the authority to take enforcement action if what’s known as a toxic release inventory violation occurs. The Ohio EPA has sanctioned Rover Pipeline for not adhering to state air and water quality standards, and Butler maintains his legal stance that Energy Transfer Partners is not protected from state penalties.

    “To engage in time consuming and expensive litigation over claims as narrow and baseless as those you have asserted is wasteful and needless,” Ramsey said.

    Energy Transfer Partners benefits from a president that campaigns in support of oil and gas executives. It also has close ties to the new administration. Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, donated $100,000 to the Trump Victory Fund and an additional $66,800 to the Republican National Committee after Trump won the electorate. Four days into his presidency, Trump signed an executive order overruling Obama’s decision to stop Dakota Access construction, allowing the pipeline to reach completion after all. Rick Perry, Trump’s pick to head the U.S. Department of Energy, was a corporate board member of Energy Transfer Partners up until 2016.

    The latest spill

    The latest violation notice issued by Ohio EPA to Rover Pipeline occurred three days after FERC re-approved horizontal drilling at nine locations along the route. The incident earned the pipeline a 13th notice from Ohio regulators for violating state environmental standards this year. Soap wastewater and soil sediment were detected in a tributary of Irish Creek in Loudon Township, Carroll County, Ohio.

    Approximately 500 feet of waterway was impacted by the spill, requiring 6,000 gallons of water to be recovered by vacuum truck. Affecting aquatic life and discoloration of the water is yet another “illegal discharge without a permit,” Butler said.

    Millions of gallons of drilling fluid leaked into Ohio wetlands during construction of the Rover Pipeline Project. Photo: Ohio EPA

    Millions of gallons of drilling fluid leaked into Ohio wetlands during construction of the Rover Pipeline Project. Photo: Ohio EPA

    “Although Rover’s arrogance and blatant disregard for Ohio’s environmental laws is no longer surprising, we will remain vigilant in holding the company accountable,” Butler said in a statement.

    A spokesperson for Energy Transfer Partners described the 13th violation to NewsHour as “an issue where the contractor put Dawn dishwashing liquid in the exit hole of the drill under a roadway, without our approval. The employee has been let go. The area has been remediated.”

    Why it’s important

    Currently, Energy Transfer Partners does business in 38 states. The Rover Pipeline Project will distribute natural gas to markets across the U.S., and onward to Canada.

    As a state agency, Ohio EPA can issue penalties, but does not have authority to halt a pipeline project it finds in violation of state law. Only the FERC can do that.

    Whether the Ohio EPA will be able to obtain relief for damages and receive civil penalties from Energy Transfer Partners is key to future debate on the power of states to sanction oil and gas executives refusing to maintain proper permits before releasing contaminants into water supply.

    On June 27, Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the EPA is “taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses.” But Butler told NewsHour he has not contacted nor been contacted by Pruitt’s office in relation to Rover Pipeline.

    What’s next?

    In July, House Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr., (D.-N.J.,) and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Ranking Member Maria Cantwell, (D-Wash.,A) sent a letter to FERC requesting an expanded investigation into Energy Transfer Partners. Ranking Democrats reminded the FERC that three states had initiated actions against the Rover pipeline, including actions taken by Pennsylvania.

    It is unclear if FERC plans to broaden its investigation to the pipelines parent company; a spokesperson told NewsHour the pipeline project is now required to update the FERC on a weekly basis. As construction resumes, federal regulators continue reviewing drilling proposals from the natural gas pipeline. In addition, a FERC spokesperson told NewsHour “re-training of construction crews to prevent similar instances of noncompliance” is ongoing.

    With FERC’s approval to resume drilling at nine locations, the Rover natural gas pipeline is on schedule to be operational by the end of the first quarter of 2018. The company looks “forward to continuing to work with the FERC to adhere to the requirements outlined in its approval,” Alexis Daniel, a spokeswoman for Energy Transfer Partners, told NewsHour.

    The question remains if Ohio EPA can legally require Energy Transfer Partners to apply for a stormwater permit. Ramsey, on Sept. 25, told Butler, “You cannot.”

    But Butler cautions the agency “may end up in federal court.”

    Dan Tierney, a spokesperson for the Office of Ohio Attorney General, told NewsHour it was preparing litigation but no filing date had been set.

    The post The ongoing fight over the Rover pipeline, explained appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: The battle to retake Syria’s northern city of Raqqa from the Islamic State is inching closer to an end.

    ISIS seized control back in 2014, declaring it the capital of their caliphate.

    John Irvine of Independent Television News has spent several days on the front line with the liberating forces, and he filed this report.

    JOHN IRVINE, ITN: It is the most intense American bombing campaign since Vietnam.

    Nowhere in Afghanistan or Iraq has ever been subjected to the sustained bombardment being inflicted on Raqqa, the Syrian city I.S. call their capital.

    The world’s most advanced air force is doing this to help one of the worlds most poorly equipped armies, the YPG. With no tanks or heavy weapons of their own, this pro-Western militia must rely on warplanes, on AK-47s, and on a thirst for revenge.

    Getting to the city center necessitated a hectic drive through streets of rubble. Our driver, Okab, said speed was the best defense against rocket-propelled grenades. He handled his Humvee with the skill of a rally driver. Okab lost two brothers to the Islamic State, one shot, one beheaded.

    The commander we meet is nicknamed Earthquake. For three weeks, his unit has laid siege to this place, Raqqa Hospital, where I.S. have made their last stand. Capturing it is difficult, because I.S. have trapped civilians inside, so direct airstrikes are not possible.

    At this, their most forward position, the YPG are near neighbors with the enemy. We have come for a better view, but visibility is a two-way street, and we are spotted.

    (GUNFIRE)

    JOHN IRVINE: Earlier, the men, all Arabs, talked about two things they share, belonging to same tribe and losing a love one to Islamic State.

    Earthquake was at university studying to be a human rights lawyer when he enlisted to restore human rights to victims of I.S. His demonstration with a meat cleaver was to explain how a friend’s fingers were cut off by I.S. when they caught him smoking.

    Downstairs, Earthquake told us about the entrance to a tunnel dug by Islamic State, but now covered over with furniture and debris, because two days after he took this building, I.S. emerged from the tunnel to mount a counterattack.

    This man is wielding a sword taken from a dead I.S. fighter. The balaclava is to protect his identity, which not even his comrades know, because often he crosses the front line to pose as an Islamic State fighter and collect intelligence.

    This is a YPG spying operation inside Raqqa last year. The bulb inside a motor bike headlight has been replaced by a camera. This an I.S. checkpoint. Here, I.S. fighters leave a mosque. The streets are largely deserted, however, because people want to avoid the man questioning the motorist. They are the religious police. They spread terror inside Raqqa, while others plan to inflict terror abroad.

    For four years, Raqqa has cast a long shadow, stretching out over places like London, Manchester, Brussels and Nice. It’s hard not to think of all the innocent victims of I.S., the victims of the hatred and the murderous instructions that emanated from right here.

    An hour’s drive outside the city, these are the latest residents of Raqqa to escape and join many others already at the refugee camp. But at least they are safe. As winter approaches, the biggest battle they will face is with the elements.

    As for civilians deaths inside Raqqa, the coalition says it does all it can to avoid them and that, when they do happen, it’s the fault of Islamic State for using human shields.

    The post Battle to retake Raqqa inches toward conclusion appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The White House said today that it is “sad” that the mayor of San Juan has continued to criticize the Trump administration for its response to hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

    San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz has heavily criticized President Donald Trump’s visit to survey damage from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, including on PBS NewsHour’s program Wednesday night, saying the meeting between Trump and local leaders “finally put into perspective the disconnect between what [the White House staff is] hearing and what is actually happening, what they think should happen and what is actually taking place.”

    “So, he can attack me all he wants. Bring it on. I’m here,” Cruz told the NewsHour . “As long as it gets the message out that we are thirsty, that we are hungry, that we need supplies.”

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during today’s briefing that by criticizing the Trump administration so strongly in the press, Cruz “chose to make that a political statement instead of a time of focusing on the relief efforts.”


    The federal response in Puerto Rico continues to draw criticism from locals, their dissatisfaction amplified by President Trump’s visit to the island on Tuesday.

    Sanders said Cruz had the opportunity to air some of her concerns during a meeting between White House staff and local officials during the president’s trip. Sanders continued:

    “[The president] specifically asked in the meeting where many were present, including a couple dozen other mayors who were very happy with the recovery efforts — the governor, the congresswoman. He opened the floor up for discussion, and she actually made zero comments. To me, that would have been the time and the place that she should have weighed in and asked for what she needed, and laid out what she was asking for for San Juan. She didn’t.

    Instead she chose to wait until the President left and then criticize him on TV, which I think is the wrong thing for her to do for her constituents. And I hope next time she’s given the opportunity to help her constituents, she’ll take it.”

    Cruz also wore a “NASTY” black tee in an interview with Univision on Wednesday, a day after the president’s visit to the island. The shirt appeared to reference Trump’s tweets over the past weekend.

    “The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” he tweeted.

    He later tweeted that Cruz exemplified “poor leadership,” adding that the mayor and others in Puerto Rico “want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.” For her part, Cruz said Trump was a “miscommunicator-in-chief,” adding that the president’s trip to Puerto Rico was “insulting.”

    WATCH: How Puerto Ricans see President Trump’s hurricane response

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Three U.S. special forces soldiers were killed and two more injured yesterday while on a training mission with the military of Niger. The soldiers were Green Berets reportedly caught in an ambush near the village of Tongo Tongo, not far from the Malian border.

    Al-Qaida and Islamic State militants are active in that area. U.S. and French commandos have been training and in some cases fighting alongside local forces around the region.

    Joining me for more on the fight against Islamic militants in this part of Africa is Peter Pham. He’s the director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Program.

    Peter, welcome back to the program.

    We were just talking about this is the first set of U.S. casualties in this region. Tell us about the mission there. What are the U.S. troops and their allies doing?

    PETER PHAM, Atlantic Council: Well, we have for several years now had varying numbers, low several hundreds, U.S. personnel in Niger doing two things primarily, one, operating a drone base in Niamey, the capital of Niger, and building another drone base in Agadez, in the center of the country, which will be able to reach surveillance into Mali and Southern Libya.

    And the other mission has been training the Nigerian forces to stand up and fight these militants, as you mentioned, from both al-Qaida-linked groups and Islamic State-linked groups that have been crossing in this region and increasingly carrying out violent attacks.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So they are there because — who are they? Who is the enemy there?

    PETER PHAM: Well, there are a — a nation of various Islamic extremists, roughly in two broad coalitions, one that was announced just this past March that is calling itself the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims, GSIM, in the region, which is made up of al-Qaida-linked groups, including those linked with the ethnic Tuareg, with ethnic Fula or Fulani, as well as former members of the Al-Mourabitoun, which is Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s group, as well as members of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb’s Sahara battalion.

    And on the other side, we have this group that is calling itself Islamic State Greater Sahara, which was approved last year by the so-called caliph of the Islamic State.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were just telling me the more active these groups have become, these various Islamic groups and others have become, there has been more competition.

    PETER PHAM: There has been, each seeking to be the more lethal, the more dangerous, the one to join, to attract both recruits and resources.

    And, in fact, the leadership of both groups, al-Qaida and the Islamic State, have withheld approval of the local affiliates until they have shown themselves — for example, the Islamic State affiliates were not approved until after the attacks in Burkina Faso last year, for example.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, specifically, what are the U.S. troops — and we were talking French troops there as well — what are they doing? They are training, but they are doing more than that.

    PETER PHAM: The primary mission is training.

    The Nigerian troops in Niger — and, of course, the French have a large training and antiterrorism mission across the region, but very active in Mali as well. And so it’s a training mission, but it’s also providing ISR, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, to the allied governments in the region as well.

    But, primarily, it’s training. There — certainly, when you are out training with these allies, there will be occasions where you enter into kinetic operations with them, but that is not the primary focus.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: When they’re — and we see now what happens when they do get out there. But we know there is a drone base in that area, which is I think what you are referring to.

    PETER PHAM: Yes, there is a drone base in Niamey, the capital of Niger, and one that is almost complete in Agadez in the center of the country.

    But in the training, they have built up, for example, a Nigerian unit, the BSR, the security and intelligence battalion, which has become very, very effective. And this was the unit that we understand was out there with the special operations forces that were attacked.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is this viewed as a successful mission, and is it believed that there are going to be more U.S. troops going there?

    PETER PHAM: Well, it’s been successful, as far as we have stood up local partners who are now beginning to take the fight out. That’s the success.

    But this is something that the international community has to invest in building up the capacity of the countries in the region. Recently, during the United Nations General Assembly, Secretary-General Guterres convened a meeting of the presidents of the region, plus other international partners, to look for ways to better integrate.

    The area where this attack took place, Tongo Tongo, actually was perhaps the site of the attack because it’s the tri-border region of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. And these militants use these borders, fluid borders, moving easily to stay one step ahead of forces pursuing them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And this is one time when it certainly ended in tragedy for the U.S. forces and others.

    Peter Pham, we thank you very much.

    PETER PHAM: Thank you.

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    Protesters gather on the National Mall during the "March for Truth" rally in Washington

    Protesters gathered on the National Mall during a rally in June. A new Pew study shows that the country is more divided politically than at any time in the past two decades. File photo by REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

    Democrats and Republicans are more divided on race, immigration and other issues than at any point in the past two decades, according to a new study on partisanship and political values.

    The average “partisan gap” or divide between Republicans and Democrats’ beliefs on 10 key political issues — from immigration, race and foreign policy to government aid to the poor and same-sex marriage — is now 36 points, the Pew Research Center study found. The partisan gap was just 15 points when Pew began taking the survey in 1994.

    It’s no surprise that partisanship has grown in recent years. But the study’s findings underscore just how dominant partisanship has become in shaping the national debate. Party affiliation now plays a bigger role in determining a person’s overall political views than their race, class, religious beliefs or education level.

    “Two decades ago, the average partisan difference on these items were only somewhat wider than differences by religious attendance or educational attainment,” the study’s authors wrote. “Today, the party divide is much wider than any demographic difference.”

    Party affiliation now plays a bigger role in determining a person’s overall political views than their race, class, religious beliefs or education level.

    Attitudes about racial discrimination, for example, have shifted as a whole. Today, 41 percent of Americans believe racial discrimination is the leading reason why African-Americans “cannot get ahead,” the study found — the highest number since Pew started asking the question. Overall, 49 percent of Americans believe blacks who can’t get ahead are “mostly responsible” for their struggles, the study found.

    But the partisan divide on race is striking. In 1994, there was a 13-point gap between Republicans and Democrats’ attitudes about racial discrimination. Today, the gap has grown to 50 points: 64 percent of Democrats believe racial discrimination is the “main reason why black people can’t get ahead,” compared to 14 percent of Republicans who feel the same way.

    In comparison, there was a narrower gap in views on racial discrimination based on people’s race, age and level of education. The partisan gap on other issues, like immigration, and the role of government, was also stark.

    On the issue of immigration, a growing number of Democrats and Republicans think immigrants “strengthen the country,” but the partisan divide has increased significantly from the first year of Pew’s survey. Between 1994 and 2017, the percentage of Democrats who say immigrants help the nation jumped from 32 percent to 84 percent.

    Among Republicans, the percentage who view immigrants favorably also increased, but more slowly, from 30 percent two decades ago to 42 percent today. Republicans are also much more likely than Democrats to hold the view that immigrants are a “burden” on the country, the study found.

    Pew spoke to 5,009 people in surveys conducted on June 8-18 and June 27-July 9, 2017. The study’s margin of error is 1.6 points.

    Attitudes about the size and role of government also show a sharper political divide than that which existed in the past. Today, 63 percent of Republicans and people who lean Republican think regulations for businesses “usually do more harm than good,” compared to 30 percent of Democrats and those who lean Democratic. That 33-point gap is up from an 18-point difference in 1994.

    Similarly, 69 percent of Republicans believe the government “can’t afford to do much more to help the needy,” up from 58 percent two decades ago. Democrats have shifted in the opposite direction. In 1994, 37 percent said the government can’t afford to do more to help struggling Americans; today, the figure has dropped to 24 percent.

    At the same time, the growing partisan gap has obscured some differences among Democrats and Republicans.

    “While Republicans and Democrats have grown further apart, there are sizable divisions within both parties on many political values,” the study found.

    For instance, 62 percent of Republicans and Republican “leaners” aged 18-29 think immigrants strengthen the nation, compared to just 31 percent of Republicans age 65 or older. On the left, the gap is smaller but not insignificant: 94 percent of Democrats and Democratic “leaners” aged 18-29 say immigrants strengthen the U.S., compared to 72 percent of those over 65 years old.

    The differences within both parties extend to views on gender discrimination as well. Overall, 55 percent of Americans believe women face “significant obstacles” to get ahead that men do not. But fewer men in both parties held that view than their female counterparts.

    Among Republicans, 29 percent of men said that women face greater obstacles, compared to 44 percent of Republican women who felt the same way. Among Democrats, 65 percent of men said women face greater obstacles, compared to 79 percent of women.

    In the end, however, the differences within both parties pale in comparison to the political gulf separating Democrats from Republicans.

    A growing number of Democrats and Republicans hold more negative views of the opposite party than they did in the past. Forty-four percent of Democrats have a “very unfavorable” view of the Republican Party today, up from just 16 percent in 1994. The number of Republicans who hold a “very unfavorable” view of the Democratic Party has risen from 17 percent two decades ago to 45 percent now.

    “Republicans and Democrats have long had negative opinions of the other party,” the study noted, but the degree of dislike was less extreme. “This is no longer the case.”

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There is new information today about Russia obtaining highly classified information about how the U.S. military protects its computer networks and how it conducts electronic spying.

    Hari Sreenivasan has that story.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The Wall Street Journal reports on a web of breaches.

    First, classified material was stolen from the National Security Agency by a contractor. His computer was then hacked, and Russia took the sensitive data. The article doesn’t say who the contractor was, but that he used Kaspersky Lab antivirus software, which is believed to be compromised by Russian intelligence.

    For more on all of this, we turn to Shane Harris, who broke the story, covering national security and intelligence issues for The Wall Street Journal.

    Shane, what do we know that was compromised? What do the Russians have?

    SHANE HARRIS, The Wall Street Journal: Well, what we are told this is that was information that describes or deals with offensive and defensive computer network operations at NSA, so, basically the tools and techniques, the codes that the NSA would use to hack into foreign computer systems and the tools and techniques they use to protect computer networks inside the United States.

    This is very critical information that goes to what intelligence agencies call sources and methods, and it’s the kind of thing that is most jealously guarded inside the NSA and is extremely classified.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And the Kaspersky Lab software, that wasn’t at his desktop at the NSA. This was at his home.

    SHANE HARRIS: No.

    What happened was the contractor removed this classified information unauthorized from his workplace and took it home, we are told, to work on it there, is what authorities believe, and loaded it on to a personal computer.

    And that computer was running the Kaspersky antivirus product. This is a commercially available antivirus product. Probably many watching this tonight may have it on their own home computers.

    And what authorities believe is that that system was then used to alert hackers in Russia to the files that were on his machine, which were then removed from it by Russia.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So the software that is scanning his computer, looking for sensitive files, sends a message to Russia saying, hey, here is a sensitive file, and since they have some sort of a backdoor, they can access it?

    SHANE HARRIS: Well, there is a sequence here that we’re still not entirely sure, but, essentially, yes, this is the idea, that it alerts people back in Russia, who are then able to take advantage, knowing what they know, from the software, then home in on this individual’s computer and obtain this information.

    Now, it is important to say that Kaspersky says they do not provide any kind of access that is unauthorized or illegal, and they do not participate in computer operations of this nature, cyber-spying on behalf of governments.

    So there still is some question about the sequence of events. But what officials have concluded is that, if not for this Kaspersky product, they do not believe that this information would have been obtained.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, just a couple of weeks ago, we had members of the Intelligence Committees — members of intelligence community sitting in front of the Senate panel. And when they were asked whether or not they would put this kind of software on their own computers, they unanimously said no.

    And it looks like the government’s already taking steps to try to make sure that this software is not available to government agencies, right?

    SHANE HARRIS: That’s right.

    In fact, last month, the Homeland Security Department issued a directive prohibiting all federal departments and agencies in the U.S. government from either buying these products and services from Kaspersky or using them. And they were told to get rid of them if they were using them.

    That is an extraordinary measure for the government to take. This is a product that is sold in America. It has been sold, been sold in big box stores. So that really underscored the extent to which officials, we’re told, believed that this tool was being used to conduct espionage inside the United States.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And let’s talk a little bit about the timeline. When did this hack happen, I mean, given the context of all that we’re investigating about Russia and their influence on the elections?

    SHANE HARRIS: What we know so far is that the incident itself occurred in 2015, but it wasn’t discovered until the spring of 2016.

    So this would be before the election campaign really kicked off in earnest. But what is interesting about that spring 2016 period is that is when intelligence agencies now say that they were starting to detect the first signs of Russia beginning to interfere in the U.S. elections.

    Now, we don’t know that there is a direct line between what was going on with this contractor and that activity, but it does appear that there may have to some degree been coincident, and that the activity against the contractor may have even preceded the Russian interference in the elections, and certainly preceded the period before which the U.S. government really became more alert to that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Shane Harris of The Wall Street Journal, thanks so much.

    SHANE HARRIS: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And let’s continue now our remembrances of the 58 people who were murdered when the shooter began firing into the crowd at a country music concert.

    As stories of heroism emerge, so do clearer pictures of the victims’ lives. Here now, 12 more.

    Brian Fraser was moving closer to the stage, getting set for Jason Aldean to play his favorite song. He was shot trying to shield his wife. The 39-year-old father of four was “the definition of American,” his son said. “He taught me what it meant to be an honest, motivated, driven, loving man.”

    Twenty-one–year-old Erick Silva was working as a private security guard at the concert. He was killed as he helped people get out of the venue. “He would give the shirt off his back to comfort anyone,” a close friend recalled. “He was such a courageous man.”

    Nicol Kimura was at the concert with a group of friends who called themselves family. The 38-year-old worked at a tax office in Southern California. “She was just such an amazing woman, and she was just such a light,” one of the group members said.

    Cameron Robinson worked for the city of Las Vegas. The 28-year-old moved to Southern Utah about a year ago to be with his boyfriend, and commuted two hours every day. A colleague remarked: “He was just so happy, you could see it in his face.”

    One couple died together. Denise Cohen and Derrick Taylor had been dating for several years. Each had two sons.

    Keri Lynn Galvan of Thousand Oaks, California, was at the concert with her husband, who survived the attack. The 31-year-old had three children, ages 10, 4 and 2. According to her sister, Galvan’s days started and ended with doing everything in her power to be a wonderful mother.

    Lisa Patterson called her husband just hours before the shooting to tell him how much fun she was having with her girlfriends. “She loved life, loved helping, and there is nothing she wouldn’t do to help someone,” he noted.

    Forty-four-year-old Chris Hazencomb was a big sports fan from Camarillo, California. He jumped on top of his friends as the bullets rained down. One friend commented: “He was a very kind man that everyone loved dearly.”

    Jordyn Rivera was 21 and in her fourth year at California State University, studying health care management. The school’s president wrote: “We will remember and treasure her for her warmth, optimism, energy and kindness.”

    Brennan Stewart rarely missed a chance to hear country music live, his family said. The 30-year-old from Las Vegas played guitar and wrote songs. When the shooting began, he used his body to protect his girlfriend.

    And Rocio Guillen was a mother of four, including a two-month-old, and a general manager at a pizza restaurant in California. “She was a super mom,” her cousin said, “always working hard and juggling everything to be the best mom.”

    The post Lives lost in Las Vegas, remembered by loved ones appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Even before the Las Vegas shooting, terror attacks had raised serious questions about how to secure open spaces and so-called soft targets. That includes hotels with their open access.

    Now those security concerns are front and center around the country.

    Special correspondent Cat Wise reports from Las Vegas.

    CAT WISE, Special Correspondent: In many ways, Las Vegas appears to be returning to normal. Tourists crowd the streets. Wedding bells are ringing. But it’s also very evident this is not the same city it was four days ago.

    As the Vegas community is still coming to terms with the worst shooting in modern U.S. history, many here, and around the country, are wondering what could be done to prevent future mass shootings in so-called soft targets like hotels and open spaces.

    DAVE SHEPHERD, Former Head of Security, Venetian Resort: I can make the safest place there is in the entire world, and nobody will come, because you can’t let them back in.

    CAT WISE: Dave Shepherd is a former FBI agent and the former head of security at the Venetian Resort.

    DAVE SHEPHERD: There’s not one thing that is going to answer every question. Even if you had a metal detector, even if you had wand people down, you still could run into problems with a person.

    CAT WISE: Could there have been metal detectors that picked up on these weapons in his suitcases?

    DAVE SHEPHERD: If you use metal detectors, sure, you can end up having that, if you do every bag, if you check every bag coming into a place.

    But was that set up standard in all the places anywhere? If you are looking at this hotel as a hotel, it is not being done at 72,000 other hotels in the United States. It’s not.

    CAT WISE: These days, whenever we fly or go to big events like concerts and games, we expect to go through metal detectors and have our belongings searched, and yet very few hotels around the country, and here in Las Vegas, have those same tight security measures in place.

    As FBI investigators comb the scene at Sunday’s shooting, an outdoor concert venue, we ask visitors on the Vegas Strip if more security was needed.

    Would you be willing to go through metal detectors in hotels?

    RACHEL MELTON, Tourist: I sure would. I definitely would. I mean, when they started the extra security on airlines after 9/11, I didn’t mind at all waiting those few extra minutes while they checked me and everybody else.

    TYLER MARINO, Tourist: It seems like there’s a lot of security around here. I mean, we see a lot of police officers.

    DAN  FERGUSON, Tourist: You know we feel comfortable. You know, it’s just is this an isolated incident?

    DARCY FERGUSON, Tourist: Hopefully.

    DAN  FERGUSON:  In this magnitude? Of course it is. But as far as the safety measures, what extent do they have to go to really control something that they can’t?

    CAT WISE: Vegas casinos are notoriously secretive about their security operations. Cameras are often used with high-tech systems like facial recognition. But bags are rarely searched, a gap in security shooter Stephen Paddock took advantage of when he brought in an arsenal of weapons.

    MGM Resorts, which owns the Mandalay Bay Hotel, where Paddock stayed, provided a statement to the NewsHour which read in part: “MGM Resorts has increased its level of security and works consistently with local and national law enforcement agencies to keep procedures at our resorts up to date, and are always improving and evolving.”

    Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta said increasing security comes down to a question of what people will accept.

    TILMAN FERTITTA, Owner, Golden Nugget: We’re not a police state, and nobody wants to live in a police state. And now, besides going into a ball game or going or catching an airline, we’re going to start checking everything everybody brings into a hotel? Well, then what’s going to happen?

    He could have just walked down the street and started shooting and would have killed 30 or 40 or 50 people. So now we’re going to have somebody check you when you walk out of your house?

    CAT WISE: At the Wynn Vegas casinos, security guards were screening visitors with metal-detecting wands and checking bags at random this week. And owner Steve Wynn has employed security guards with military training for years.

    STEVE WYNN, Owner, Wynn Las Vegas: There are almost 40 of them at every opening of my building, armed, on the lookout. Las Vegas is a target city. We have hardened the target at the Wynn.

    CAT WISE: Dave Shepherd believes the question of how to increase security goes well beyond Las Vegas. And news reports today say that Paddock may have scouted locations in Chicago and Boston before going to Las Vegas.

    DAVE SHEPHERD: Every property in the United States now because of this, a high-rise building, has to look to see what the procedures are. I’m sitting there in New York looking at Central Park. There’s some buildings. I’m here at a concert. I’m sitting in Chicago’s event. I’m in San Francisco in a park.

    They’re all going to have to look at that now.

    CAT WISE: And, in fact, earlier today, the Las Vegas Security Chiefs Association met to discuss new security measures in the wake of the shooting — Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you, Cat — Cat Wise reporting for us from Las Vegas.

     

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s word that the gunman who mowed down concert-goers in Las Vegas may have considered other targets in other cities.

    Stephen Paddock killed 58 people Sunday night, before taking his own life. Now it’s widely reported that he had booked a hotel room in Chicago overlooking the Lollapalooza music festival two months ago. Other reports say he also researched hotels near Fenway Park in Boston.

    The National Rifle Association announced today it supports regulating so-called bump stocks. Investigators say the Las Vegas gunman apparently used the devices to convert semiautomatic rifles to even more lethal automatic fire. In a statement, the NRA called for a federal review.

    At the White House, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said President Trump would welcome that effort.

    SARAH SANDERS, White House Press Secretary: We would like to see a clear understanding of the facts. And we’d like to see input from the victims’ families, from law enforcement, from policy-makers. And we’re expecting hearings and other important fact-finding efforts on that, and we want to be part of that discussion, and we’re certainly open to that moving forward.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: House Speaker Paul Ryan joined a growing number of Republican leaders today, saying Congress needs to look into the issue.

    A new tropical storm has formed off Nicaragua, and it could strike the U.S. Gulf Coast this weekend as a hurricane. Officials say the storm, dubbed Nate, is already blamed for 22 deaths in Central America. Forecasts show that it’s on track to cross Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula tomorrow night and reach the U.S. mainland by Sunday morning. Officials in Louisiana today began to order coastal evacuations.

    In Puerto Rico, officials now say that power has been restored to about 9 percent of the island’s customers. This is two weeks after Hurricane Maria wrecked the island. Governor Ricardo Rossello said that he hopes to see service restored to 25 percent of customers within a month.

    The U.S. House of Representatives today approved a Republican budget plan worth $4.1 trillion. It revives a plan to turn Medicare into a voucher-like program and to cut Medicaid by about $1 trillion over 10 years. The vote split largely down party lines, with Republicans and Democrats arguing over whether the plan does more harm than good.

    REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: This is a budget that reflects our first principles, freedom, free enterprise, a government accountable to the people it serves. It’s a budget that will help grow our economy and it’s a budget that will help rein in our debt. It strengthens our national defense. It supports our men and women in uniform.

    REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., Minority Leader: This is a budget, their budget, that steals from the middle class, steals hundreds of billions of dollars from critical job-creating, wage-increasing investments in infrastructure, job training, and clean energy. It harms veterans. It cuts education. It abandons rural America.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The budget is intended to set the stage for the consideration of tax reform legislation. The Senate is expected to vote on a similar plan later this month.

    This was deadline day for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. They scrambled to renew their work permits and protection from being deported for another two years. Those benefits were granted under President Obama’s DACA program, which President Trump is ending.

    California is now a so-called sanctuary state for undocumented immigrants. Governor Jerry Brown signed this into law today. It bars police from helping federal immigration officials or from asking about a person’s immigration status. The new law takes effect January 1.

    In Iraq, government troops today recaptured one of the last towns held by Islamic State militants. ISIS fighters seized Hawija three years ago, as they rampaged across Northern Iraq. Today, Iraqi soldiers could be seen riding through the streets celebrating their victory. They’d been battling to liberate Hawija since late last month.

    This year’s Nobel Prize in literature goes to British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. The Japanese-born writer is known for works depicting British and Japanese life, including “The Remains of the Day” and “Never Let Me Go.”

    In London today, he said he tries to speak to how nations remember their past and how they sometimes try to bury it.

    KAZUO ISHIGURO, Winner, Nobel Prize for Literature: I hope that these kinds of themes will actually be in some small way helpful to the climate we have at the moment, because I think we have entered a very uncertain time in the world at the moment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ishiguro said he was caught off-guard when he heard he had won the Nobel before he was officially notified. He said he thought at first that it was fake news.

    Republican Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania announced today that he’s resigning. The anti-abortion lawmaker admitted last month that he’d had an affair. This week came reports of text messages from Murphy’s phone urging his mistress to have an abortion, when he thought that she was pregnant.

    All that infotainment tech in new cars and trucks, it turns out, is distracting drivers for dangerous periods of time. The AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety warned today that the systems are getting more complex, and taking more time to use. In the worst cases, they say, drivers were distracted an average of 40 seconds when programming GPS navigation systems or text messaging.

    On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 113 points to close at 22775. The Nasdaq rose 50, and the S&P 500 added 14.

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    Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) receives a bottle of champagne from her husband Will Fihm Ramsay (R) next to Daniel Hogsta, coordinator, while they celebrate after ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize 2017, in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by Denis Balibouse/Reuters

    Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) receives a bottle of champagne from her husband Will Fihm Ramsay (R) next to Daniel Hogsta, coordinator, while they celebrate after ICAN won the Nobel Peace Prize 2017, in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by Denis Balibouse/Reuters

    The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

    The Nobel Committee said the organization, which is made up of non-governmental organizations from more than 100 countries, is being honored for its work “to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”

    ICAN’s immediate goal is to support and implement the 2017 United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted this summer. It’s the first treaty negotiated for nuclear disarmament in 20 years, the organization said.

    The world’s nuclear powers, including the United States and Russia — who lead the nuclear stockpile race with around 6,700 and 7,000 nuclear weapons respectively — opposed the talks, citing a disregard for “the realities of the international security environment.”

    “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it,” U.S., UK and French representatives to the UN said in a statement earlier this year.

    To go into effect, the UN’s treaty needs 50 countries to ratify the deal. So far, 53 countries have signed onto the deal, but only three — Guyana, the Vatican and Thailand — have ratified it.

    Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN, expressed shock at receiving the award when she received the news from Oslo.

    “What an honor. I feel like I have to collect myself for a couple of seconds,” she said during the initial phone call.

    Fihn said she could not believe the award was real until the official announcement, and thought the call, made minutes before the ceremony, was a “prank.”

    For Fihn, the award is a statement on “unacceptable” nuclear reliance.

    “We can’t threaten to indiscriminately slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians in the name of security. That’s not how you build security,” she said.

    The Nobel Peace Prize comes amid heightened global tensions with North Korea, which has ramped up tests of nuclear missiles in recent months.

    In presenting the award, the Nobel Committee singled out the North Korean threats. It also noted other countries are modernizing their nuclear arsenals.

    The U.S. is one of those nations. The Pentagon has pledged $1 trillion over the next three decades to overhaul its nuclear triad.

    President Donald Trump told Reuters in an interview earlier this year that he wanted the U.S. nuclear arsenal “at the top of the pack.”

    Mr. Trump has also signaled he could pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, which was reached in 2015 under the Obama administration.

    When asked whether the threat of the Iran deal unraveling was a factor in the committee’s decision, Norwegian Nobel Committee chair Berit Reiss-Andersen sidestepped, citing a need for nuclear states to work toward eliminating their arsenals however slowly.

    She later responded more directly to a question about whether the award was a message to Trump.

    “We’re not kicking anybody’s leg with this prize,” Reiss-Andersen said. “We are giving great encouragement. And we also want to help ICAN focus on the extremely serious problem that the world is facing.”

    Reiss-Andersen also pushed back against the notion that this year’s peace prize was largely symbolic given that many major powers have not signed on, saying ICAN’s efforts have brought more countries to the negotiating table.

    A list of candidates circulate before the Norwegian Nobel Committee announces its winner in Oslo, and anyone can get a nod if a qualified Nobel nominator submits their name. Trump and Vladimir Putin of Russia both had nominations this year. Only the five-person Nobel Committee can make the final decision.

    Every year, the Peace Research Institute Oslo announces an unofficial shortlist of Nobel Prize frontrunners. This year’s list includes UNHCR and High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, the White Helmets and Raed al Saleh and the Economic Community of West African States.

    ICAN was not on that shortlist, and the win was an upset for some circles who thought Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, and Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief would take the prize for their involvement in the Iran nuclear deal.

    READ MORE: Kazuo Ishiguro wins Nobel Prize for Literature

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    A protester holds a sign in support of undocumented students at a "ICE Out of Oregon" rally co-organized by Milenio.org and Voz HIspana Cambio Comunitario at the ICE offices in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Diego G Diaz/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.

    A protester holds a sign in support of undocumented students at a “ICE Out of Oregon” rally co-organized by Milenio.org and Voz HIspana Cambio Comunitario at the ICE offices in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Diego G Diaz/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.

    WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of young people eligible for renewed protection from deportation had yet to submit their applications hours before a Trump administration deadline Thursday night. The administration was finalizing details of an immigration wish list that could jeopardize a long-term fix.

    Under a phase-out plan announced by the president last month, more than 150,000 young people covered by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program whose permits were set to expire before March 5 were given the chance to submit renewals — provided they arrive by Oct. 5.

    Trump gave Congress six months to come up with a legislative replacement for the program. It shielded from deportation hundreds of thousands of young people, many of whom were brought into the U.S. illegally as children, and allowed them to work legally in the country.

    While final numbers wouldn’t be available until next week, DHS spokesman David Lapan said that about 118,000 of the roughly 154,000 people eligible for renewals had submitted their applications by mid-day Thursday. That left 36,000 — or about 23 percent of those eligible — outstanding. Facilities processing applications were prepared to accept courier deliveries until midnight, he said.

    The deadline approached as the Trump administration finalized the details of a set of immigration principles that could upend efforts to come up with a permanent fix for DACA recipients, often known as “Dreamers.”

    According to people familiar with ongoing discussions, the principles were expected to include elements of proposed legislation that would dramatically reduce legal immigration rates and overhaul the green card system to prevent extended family members, including siblings and adult children, from joining permanent residents in the U.S.

    The White House was expected to endorse principles of the Davis-Oliver bill, which aims to give local law enforcement officials the power to enforce immigration laws and allow states to write their own immigration legislation. The White House was also expected to call for billions of dollars in funding for border security, more immigrant detention beds and immigration judges.

    It remained unclear whether the principles, which were expected to be announced in the coming days, would serve as a broad immigration wish-list or specific demands the White House expected in exchange for signing DACA legislation.

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to discuss specifics Thursday, but back in mid-September she said the list would likely include demanding an end to so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to share information with federal immigration authorities, funding for more immigration judges, and “supporting things like the RAISE Act” limiting legal immigration.

    Lawmakers are facing a whirlwind of issues this month, including efforts to codify DACA into law, a funding renewal for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the 2018 budget resolution that will be critical for the GOP’s tax reform proposal. Lisa Desjardins sits down with John Yang to break down what’s happening on the Hill.

    But Ali Noorani, the executive director of the immigration advocacy group National Immigration Forum, said that, if those expectations held true, there was little chance for a DACA deal.

    “If the president winds up tying these elements to the DREAM Act,” he said, Trump would wind up responsible “for deporting 800,000 young people, which pretty much nobody wants except Stephen Miller,” Trump’s hard-line senior policy adviser, who was working on the principles.

    Immigration advocates spent weeks trying to publicize Thursday’s DACA deadline. Earlier this week, dozens of DACA recipients traveled to Washington to try to pressure members of Congress to vote on the Dream Act, which would provide an eventual path to citizenship.

    Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., one of the authors of the RAISE Act, said, “Democrats really want a fix on DACA, and we really want a fix on the immigration system.”

    “This is a landmark opportunity to fix the DACA problem and once and for all fix the vagaries of this immigration system that really doesn’t work,” he said.

    But Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who has introduced his own immigration legislation, said it was unlikely the Senate would accept a proposal slashing legal immigration, noting that any DACA legislation will have to attract Democratic support.

    “With the deadline we have with DACA, I think it’s unrealistic to think we can do broader immigration reform like that,” he said. “I don’t see that happening.”

    AP Congressional Correspondent Erica Werner contributed to this report.

    READ MORE: Poll: Most Americans say ‘dreamers’ should be granted citizenship

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    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders held a news briefing at 2 p.m. ET today. Watch her remarks in the player above on the September jobs report, the U.S. military fatalities in Niger and President Trump’s comments about a “calm before the storm.”

    READ MORE: During photo shoot, Trump talks of ‘calm before the storm’


    President Donald Trump plans to “decertify” the Iran nuclear deal next week, relegating the issue to Congress to resolve, according to several media reports.

    Per the deal’s conditions, the president has to certify the deal every 90 days. If Trump fails to do so this time, Congress will have 60 days to decide whether to impose new sanctions on Iran.

    On Thursday, Trump said Iran has “not lived up to the spirit of their agreement.” Two senior U.S. officials told CNN that the announcement tentatively planned for next week will say that the Obama-era deal was not in the U.S.’ interests.

    During a late Thursday meeting with top military officials, Trump said of the meeting: “You guys know what this represents?” Trump asked. “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm. Could be the calm, the calm before the storm.”

    When a reporter asked the president to clarify what he meant by “storm,” be it ISIS, North Korea or Iran, Trump had a short reply.

    “You’ll find out,” he said.

    Meanwhile, as the Trump administration and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz continue to trade barbs, a bipartisan group of five senators are expected to travel to Puerto Rico to survey the hurricane damage. The Department of Homeland Security is organizing the trip. An exact date has yet to be set.

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

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    Photo by applezoomzoom/Adobe

    Photo by applezoomzoom/Adobe

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is allowing more employers to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women by claiming religious or moral objections, issuing new rules Friday that take another step in rolling back the Obama health care law.

    The new policy is a long-expected revision to federal rules that require most companies to cover birth control as preventive care for women, at no additional cost. Preventive services are supposed to be free of charge to employees and their dependents under former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

    Trump’s religious and moral exemption is expected to galvanize both his opponents and religious conservatives that back him, but it’s likely to have a limited impact on America’s largely secular workplaces. Most women no longer pay for birth control, and advocates immediately announced plans to try to block the new rule in court.

    Although tens of thousands of women could be affected by Trump’s new policy, the vast majority of companies have no qualms about offering birth control benefits through their health plans. Human resource managers recognize that employers get an economic benefit from helping women space out their pregnancies, since female workers are central to most enterprises.

    The administration estimated that some 200 employers who have already voiced objections to the Obama-era policy would qualify for the expanded opt-out, and that 120,000 women would be affected. However, it’s unclear how major religious-affiliated employers such as Catholic hospitals and universities will respond.

    Since contraception became a covered preventive benefit, the share of women employees paying their own money for birth control pills has plunged to under 4 percent, from 21 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

    The Trump administration’s revision broadens a religious exemption that previously applied to houses of worship, religiously affiliated nonprofit groups, and closely-held private companies. Administration officials said the new policy defends religious freedom. Privately owned for-profit companies, as well as publicly-traded for-profit companies will be able to seek an exemption.

    Officials also said the administration is tightening oversight of how plans sold under the health law cover abortion. With limited exceptions, abortions can only be paid for through a separate premium collected from enrollees. No public subsidies can be used, except in cases that involve rape, incest, or preserving the life of the mother.

    Doctors’ groups that were key to derailing Republican plans to repeal the health law outright expressed dismay over the administration’s move on birth control.

    The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said the new policy could reverse the recent progress in lowering the nation’s rate of unintended pregnancies.

    “Instead of fulfilling its mission ‘to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans,’ HHS leaders under the current administration are focused on turning back the clock on women’s health,” said the organization’s president, Dr. Haywood Brown.

    Women’s groups said they would try to stop the administration from carrying out the changes.

    “The rules give employers a license to discriminate against women,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president of the National Women’s Law Center. “We will take immediate legal steps to block these unfair and discriminatory rules.”

    Administration officials said the new policy takes effect right away.

    AP writer David Crary in New York contributed to this report.

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    U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl leaves the courthouse after an arraignment hearing for his court-martial in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Dec. 22, 2015. Bergdahl spent five years as a Taliban prisoner after walking away from his combat outpost in Afghanistan in 2009. Photo by Jonathan Drake/Reuters

    U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl leaves the courthouse after an arraignment hearing for his court-martial in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Dec. 22, 2015. Bergdahl spent five years as a Taliban prisoner after walking away from his combat outpost in Afghanistan in 2009. Photo by Jonathan Drake/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for half a decade after abandoning his Afghanistan post, is expected to plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, two individuals with knowledge of the case said.

    Bergdahl’s decision to plead guilty rather than face trial marks another twist in an eight-year drama that caused the nation to wrestle with difficult questions of loyalty, negotiating with hostage takers and America’s commitment not to leave its troops behind. President Donald Trump has called Bergdahl a “no-good traitor” who “should have been executed.”

    The decision by the 31-year-old Idaho native leaves open whether he will return to captivity for years — this time in a U.S. prison — or receive a lesser sentence that reflects the time the Taliban held him under brutal conditions. He says he had been caged, kept in darkness, beaten and chained to a bed.

    Bergdahl could face up to five years on the desertion charge and a life sentence for misbehavior.

    Freed three years ago, Bergdahl had been scheduled for trial in late October. He had opted to let a judge rather than a military jury decide his fate, but a guilty plea later this month will spare the need for a trial.

    Sentencing will start on Oct. 23, according to the individuals with knowledge of the case. They weren’t authorized to discuss the case and demanded anonymity. During sentencing, U.S. troops who were seriously wounded searching for Bergdahl in Afghanistan are expected to testify, the individuals said.

    It was unclear whether prosecutors and Bergdahl’s defense team had reached any agreement ahead of sentencing about how severe a penalty prosecutors will recommend.

    An attorney for Bergdahl, Eugene Fidell, declined to comment on Friday. Maj. Justin Oshana, who is prosecuting the case, referred questions to the U.S. Army, which declined to discuss whether Bergdahl had agreed to plead guilty.

    “We continue to maintain careful respect for the military-judicial process, the rights of the accused and ensuring the case’s fairness and impartiality during this ongoing legal case,” said Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman.

    Bergdahl was a 23-year-old private first class in June 2009 when, after five months in Afghanistan, he disappeared from his remote infantry post near the Pakistan border, triggering a massive search operation.

    Videos soon emerged showing Bergdahl in captivity by the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan in the years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and harbored al-Qaida leaders including Osama bin Laden as they plotted against America. For years, the U.S. kept tabs on Bergdahl with drones, spies and satellites as behind-the-scenes negotiations played out in fits and starts.

    In May 2014, he was handed over to U.S. special forces in a swap for five Taliban detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison, fueling an emotional U.S. debate about whether Bergdahl was a hero or a deserter.

    As critics questioned whether the trade was worth it, President Barack Obama stood with Bergdahl’s parents in the White House Rose Garden and defended the swap. The United States does not “leave our men or women in uniform behind,” Obama declared, regardless of how Bergdahl came to be captured. The Taliban detainees were sent to Qatar.

    “Whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity,” Obama said. “Period. Full stop.”

    Trump, as a presidential candidate, was unforgiving of Bergdahl, who has been assigned to desk duty at a Texas Army base pending the outcome of his case. At campaign events, Trump declared that Bergdahl “would have been shot” in another era, even pantomiming the pulling of the trigger.

    “We’re tired of Sgt. Bergdahl, who’s a traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed,” Trump said at a Las Vegas rally in 2015.

    Bergdahl’s guilty plea will follow several pretrial rulings against him that had complicated his defense. Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance, the judge, decided in June that testimony from troops wounded as they searched for him would be allowed during sentencing, a decision that strengthened prosecutors’ leverage to pursue stiffer punishment.

    Some of Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers want him held responsible for any harm suffered by those who went looking for him. The judge ruled a Navy SEAL and an Army National Guard sergeant wouldn’t have found themselves in separate firefights if they hadn’t been searching.

    The defense separately argued Trump’s scathing criticism unfairly swayed the case. The judge ruled otherwise. Nance wrote in February that Trump’s comments were “disturbing and disappointing” but didn’t constitute unlawful command influence by the soon-to-be commander in chief.

    Bergdahl’s lawyers also contended that misbehavior before the enemy, the more serious charge, was legally inappropriate and too severe. They were rebuffed again. The judge said a soldier who leaves his post alone and without authorization should know he could face punishment. The misbehavior charge has rarely been used in recent decades, though there were hundreds of cases during World War II.

    Defense attorneys don’t dispute that Bergdahl walked off his base without authorization. Bergdahl himself told a general during a preliminary investigation that he left intending to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit. An Army Sanity Board Evaluation concluded he suffered from schizotypal personality disorder.

    The defense team has argued that Bergdahl can’t be held responsible for a long chain of events that included decisions by others about how to retrieve him that were far beyond his control.

    Associated Press writer Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this report.

    READ MORE: For the first time, read Bowe Bergdahl’s explanation for why he walked off base

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    Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., October 4, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid - RC18123EF150

    Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York on October 4, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

    History might not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Robert Z. Aliber, an emeritus professor of international economics at the University of Chicago and expert on financial crises, has noted that an innovation is at the root of every financial crash. In 1987 it was portfolio insurance; for the Great Recession in 2008 it was securitization. The obvious candidate for the next crisis is Exchange-traded funds, or ETFs.

    What is an ETF? It is a pool of securities whose shares are traded in real-time on stock exchanges. Buying a share of an ETF is like buying a share of a company. Like mutual funds, ETFs are diversified within an asset class — such as an ETF that mimics the S&P 500 index. Unlike a mutual fund that mimics an index, however, these shares trade during trading hours, while a mutual fund is effectively traded at the close of business each trading day at a price that equals the net asset value (NAV) of the fund. Thus, an investor inclined to time the market will be attracted to an ETF, because waiting until a price at the end of the day might result in a missed opportunity.

    Now let’s get into the weeds a bit (more). ETF sponsors do not trade directly with investors. Investors buy and sell only with market makers or authorized participants. Each ETF might have some 30 authorized participants who together create a secondary market for the shares of the ETF, which investors buy on an exchange.

    The ease of buying or selling shares of an ETF creates some risks. If orders to buy or sell greatly exceed what the market will bear, the price of the ETF might diverge from the net asset value of the underlying assets. In such cases the authorized participants, in their role as market makers, arbitrage the difference. These efforts could lead to a sudden rise in market orders, which are information-less: they do not result from any specific knowledge of the securities being sold. Extreme situations could result in fire sales.

    Two aspects make innovations like ETFs ripe vehicles for mischief that can lead to financial crises. First, they have force: while dumb ideas are quickly discarded, good innovations provide purchase for the imagination, which is fueled by seeing others making money. Second, an innovation is new and untried, so the imagination is unconstrained by adverse experience. Leading up to 1987, for example, portfolio insurance was promoted as the vehicle to protect against stock market losses. It became popular among large investment operations.

    But what might work for a single operation might very well become a disaster when many investors act at the same time. In the late 1980s, the idea was that you would sell futures to hedge a declining market. But when everyone tried to do this at once, the market seizes and crashes as it did on Oct. 19, 1987.

    While dumb ideas are quickly discarded, good innovations provide purchase for the imagination.

    Two decades later, the Great Recession was fueled in large part by the widely accepted assumption that the securitization of mortgages made ownership of mortgages less risky. The securities were diversified by including many mortgages within a pool, and diversified geographically. And the rating agents stamped their approval. Congress, likely impressed by this innovation, also put pressure on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to increase home ownership by issuing questionable mortgages — which were entered on their books as “sub-prime.” At the root of it all was an untested innovation.

    Leading up to 2008, investors and policymakers alike lulled themselves into believing that house prices only rise. Mortgage-backed securities were being bought and sold with little attention to the underlying mortgages and no one cared while house prices kept rising. But eventually, house prices not only stopped rising, they declined to the point that the value of a mortgage security depended on the ability of the homeowner to repay. Many couldn’t and the collateral no longer covered the mortgage.

    Both the 1987 and 2008 crises exhibited the marks of an experiment many of us did in grade school. Remember mixing a slurry of cornstarch and water? It was easily done, if done slowly. But what happened when you tried to stir too fast? It locked up solid. The stock market is a cornstarch-in-a-water slurry. If trading is moderate the market clears, but if everyone rushes at once for the exit, the market freezes or goes into a freefall search of buyers.

    So why might ETFs be the next innovation to go awry? For starters, the concept of an ETF is a sound idea: they offer real-time trading and broad diversification. But it is untested, in the sense that ETFs have yet to be exposed to a real-life stress test. Investors are operating with the belief that they’re liquid and tradable in real-time, and they are well diversified within their asset class. But how liquid are they really?

    The billionaire investor Howard Marks has made a persuasive case that an ETF is only as liquid as the underlying assets. What if those underlying assets can’t be readily sold? What happens if investors suddenly find cause to press the sell button on their smartphone? Can those orders be refused? At some point, the authorized participants (market makers) will be forced to liquidate a portion of the underlying assets in informationless trades. In other words: Sell, period. The result is a fire sale.

    One might think that an S&P 500 ETF would be less susceptible to sudden illiquidity. But think of October 1987. And then consider that the volume of the S&P ETFs, reportedly, far exceeds the volume one might expect if S&P ETF investors were mainly patient, buy-and-hold, long-term investors. It appears that many institutional investors use these ETFs to hedge positions. What would happen if this trading suddenly dried up or, worse, if these ETF positions were suddenly liquidated forcing the authorized participants to sell heavily the underlying shares? And let’s remember that investors buy ETFs to avoid the need to study many businesses.

    We know what happens when investors know little or nothing about the underlying assets. Remember securitized mortgages?

    My gosh, The Efficient Market Hypothesis has taught us that studying 500 companies is a waste of time; the market knows everything already, so just buy the ETF! But this puts the average investor way outside his or her sphere of competence. We know what happens when investors know little or nothing about the underlying assets. Remember securitized mortgages? How reliable are your decisions when you know little about a matter? We lull ourselves into thinking that diversification gets us off the hook. But can we be sure that the slurry won’t freeze up again under extreme, not-yet-tested conditions? As Mark Twain wrote in his novel “Pudd’nhead Wilson,” “Behold, the fool saith, ‘Put not thine eggs in the one basket’—which is a manner of saying, ‘Scatter your money and your attention’; but the wise man saith, ‘Put all your eggs in the one basket and—WATCH THAT BASKET.’”

    Pudd’nhead Wilson is wise. Modern finance and human nature have lead us to confuse volatility with risk of permanent loss. We prize diversification because it reduces volatility, but does that reduce permanent loss, particularly when we know little about the underlying assets? Perhaps we should think of it a little bit more as a marriage: make one good decision, and then LEARN TO HANDLE THE VOLATILITY that arises along the way.

    Warren Buffett observed long ago that one should only own a stock if one is prepared to have the price decline 50 percent, because sooner or later it will. Otherwise one risks the urge to sell at the worst time. My guess is that the majority of ETF investors are not prepared for prices to decline 50 percent, or less. The ETF has deluded investors into thinking they are safe— and they can get out by pressing the sell button.

    I began by arguing that an innovation is at the root of a financial crash. But remember, innovations aren’t the cause of a crash, they exacerbate them. The economist Robert Aliber notes that crises are often caused by a shift in foreign capital flows into the United States. Aliber thinks that shift has again happened, drying up the capital inflows buoying stock prices, and a significant decline is imminent. Innovation put off the day of reckoning and, in doing so, exacerbate the reversion to the mean.

    Recently, billions of dollars have been flowing into all manner of ETFs. Yet there hasn’t been enough attention paid to the potential systemic risk of ETFs. Charlie Munger, the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, was right when he said that if you haven’t overturned a long-held view in the past 12 months, you haven’t been thinking. It’s time to start thinking. That doesn’t mean we should rush to throw out good ideas; it means we should take the time to examine them properly. A clearer-headed view of the risks of ETFs is a good place to start.

    The post Column: This innovation could lead to the next financial crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Trump and the first lady hosted a Hispanic Heritage event today at the White House. Watch the president’s remarks here.

    President Donald Trump is scheduled to delivered remarks at his first Hispanic Heritage event at the White House.

    While representatives from more than 200 Hispanic businesses and community and faith groups were expected to attend, the president’s understanding of Latino culture has been questionable. As Raul A. Reyes wrote for NBC, the relationship between Latinos and the president could be best described as “mutual antipathy.”

    At the start of his presidential campaign, Trump likened Mexican immigrant to drug dealers and “rapists.” On Cinco de Mayo, the president tweeted a photo of him with a taco bowl made at a Trump Tower restaurant. He made racist remarks about judge Gonzalo Curiel, saying he could not do his job because of his Mexican heritage.

    And since Trump has taken office, his administration has aggressively enforced immigration laws and phased out the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which granted immigrants the ability to work in the U.S. and provided temporary deportation relief. The decision affects about 800,000 DACA recipients. A deadline to renew DACA status ended yesterday. And in an extremely controversial move, Trump pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was repeatedly found to routinely racially profile Latinos in Arizona.

    Meanwhile, the Trump administration has been criticized by Puerto Rican locals and officials for its response in the wake of Hurricane Maria. With San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz among the most vocal, the White House has pushed back on the claims that the federal government wasn’t doing enough to help Puerto Rico with relief aid.

    Puerto Rican performers attended today’s event.

    The post WATCH: Trump hosts Hispanic Heritage Month event at White House appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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