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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Another hallmark of the Obama administration is the Iran nuclear deal.

    And a deadline looms this weekend to certify whether Tehran is in compliance and whether the agreement is in the U.S. national security interest.

    There is fierce debate over what President Trump should do.

    But we wanted to step back to look at what the deal does and what it does not do, and what the president’s decision could mean.

    Nick Schifrin is here to put it in context.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In 2015, the United States and a united world community made a deal with Iran. Iran severely restricted its nuclear program, allowed more access to international inspectors, and promised never to seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons.

    Before the deal, U.S. and Israeli intelligence believed the breakout time for Iran to build a nuclear weapon was as little as one month. After the deal, the breakout time is at least 12 months.

    In return, the U.S. and the U.N. lifted sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program worth more than $100 billion, and promised not to discourage investment in Iran. The deal was announced by the European Union’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini.

    FEDERICA MOGHERINI, Foreign Policy Chief, European Union: We delivered on what the world was hoping for, a shared commitment to peace and to join hands in order to make our world safer.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The deal’s critics were unconvinced.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I know deal-making. And let me tell you, this deal is catastrophic, for America, for Israel, and for the whole of the Middle East.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The first criticism is the deal’s expiry dates, or so-called sunsets.

    After eight years, Iran can begin to slowly manufacture increasingly advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium. After 15 years, Iran can start producing higher-grade uranium, and can expand its stockpile of uranium. And after 20 years, Iran can restrict international monitoring.

    The deal’s advocates counter that all arms deal have sunsets, and that the deal has important permanent restrictions. Iran is forever banned from activities that could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device, and is forever required to notify inspectors if it’s building a nuclear facility.

    The critics also condemn what’s not in the deal. Iran helps arm militant groups in the Middle East, including Hezbollah, deemed a terrorist group. The deal doesn’t prevent that. Iran launches and trades ballistic missiles. The deal doesn’t prevent that. And Iran helps the Syrian regime’s brutal crackdown. The deal doesn’t prevent that either.

    The deal’s defenders say it was never designed to confront those other issues, and it’s better to do that confrontation when Iran doesn’t have an active nuclear program.

    But the deal does say world powers expect Iran to positively contribute to regional and international peace and security. And critics argue Iran, even if it’s in technical compliance, is going against that, against the so-called spirit of the deal.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: So, what’s next?

    Administration and congressional officials tell me they expect the president will not certify Iran is in compliance with the deal, based on national security grounds. That will trigger a 60-day window, during which Congress can go vote for against snapping back sanctions, meaning reimposing nuclear-related sanctions on Iran.

    That would likely kill the deal. But even the deal’s most strident critics, such as Senator Tom Cotton, say Congress shouldn’t kill the deal. They want the 60-day window, so the U.S. can gain leverage to get Iran to change the deal, even if that takes many months.

    SEN. TOM COTTON, R-Ark.: The world needs to know we’re serious, we’re willing to walk away, and we’re willing to reimpose sanctions, and a lot more than that.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The Trump administration wants to change all Iranian behavior. But it’s not clear it’s possible to do so by renegotiating the nuclear deal.

    Iran says it won’t renegotiate. And with the possible exception of France, none of the other countries who signed the deal want to renegotiate.

    Wendy Sherman led the Obama team that negotiated the deal.

    WENDY SHERMAN, Former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs: If the president doesn’t certify, even if Congress doesn’t snap back sanctions, which is this Kabuki smackdown, their ability to pull off this Kabuki dance is in great question. As a result, we will isolate ourselves from the rest of the world.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The next few months will be dominated by uncertainty, uncertainty what Congress will do, and uncertainty how Iran will respond to Washington’s decisions. The deadline for the president to announce his decision is Sunday.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Nick Schifrin.

    The post Trump may scrap the Iran nuclear agreement. Here’s what you need to know appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump has repeatedly pledged to unwind many of former President Obama’s signature policies, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

    The Trump administration has already taken a number of steps to do so, but today made the biggest move yet. Environmental Protection Agency Administration Scott Pruitt will roll back a plan to limit emissions from existing power plants.

    John Yang has more on this story.

    JOHN YANG: The Obama era rule, known as the Clean Power Plan, aimed to significantly cut carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants by 2030. The goal? Reduce emissions by a third of 2005 levels.

    But utility companies and more than two dozen states’ attorneys general sued, including Scott Pruitt, who was the Oklahoma A.G. at the time. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court put the Obama rule on hold.

    Now Pruitt has started a process to kill it outright.

    We invited Scott Pruitt to join us tonight. But the EPA didn’t get back to us.

    We get two views on this decision now, beginning with Gina McCarthy. She headed the EPA for President Obama and was an architect of the plan. She’s now at the Kennedy School at Harvard University.

    Gina McCarthy, thanks so much for joining us.

    First, let me just ask you about your reaction to what Mr. Pruitt did today.

    GINA MCCARTHY, Former EPA Administrator: Well, it doesn’t surprise me. It’s a campaign promise they pledged to actually get rid of actions that would protect our kids and their future. And that’s exactly what this is.

    So, there are surprises in it, but I’m not surprised they moved forward with repeal of this rule.

    JOHN YANG: What are some of the surprises?

    GINA MCCARTHY: Well, I was surprised that they decided to repeal the rule without proposing anything else in its stead, because, as the science dictates and as the law dictates, the EPA’s obligated to regulate carbon pollution from this sector.

    So it surprises me that they weren’t a little bit more sensitive to the court challenges and what the courts have been telling EPA for many years, which is, you need to regulate this.

    So, instead, they took a look at it and decided that they’d repeal, and then sometime later in the future, they would start asking questions, even fundamental ones, about whether or not they actually have to do anything. So I think that’s a big risk to how that is being framed.

    And I think the other concern that I have with this is, you know, our Clean Power Plan was really based on a solid understanding of how the energy system was working. It gave states maximum flexibility to achieve reductions. And it recognized sort of the low-cost renewable and energy efficiency that was coming into the market, and it anticipated the reasonable and cost-effective reductions we could achieve without threatening the energy system itself.

    But it appears that the legal interpretation they want to take right now is that the administrator is supposed to be blind to how the energy system works, and instead the only things states are going to be allowed to do is look at their coal facilities, shift consumer money into keeping them alive, even if they’re not marketable, which will limit the kind of protections you will get for public health, and take a significant bite out of our ability to address climate change and keep our kids’ future safe.

    So, it makes really very little sense in the energy world to even be looking at it like this, because states are already far ahead where we anticipated. And recent studies show that because of the low-cost renewable energy, we’re going to be better off than we ever anticipated. The benefits are going to be larger and the costs are going to be smaller.

    JOHN YANG: Let me pick up on a couple points you said there.

    You said that the administrator said — what the administrator said today was that it went beyond regulatory norms, by asking the regulated utilities to do things beyond their specific individual plans, what they call beyond the fence line.

    But isn’t that the reason why the Supreme Court put this on hold, so that the lower courts could look at this and decide whether that was true?

    GINA MCCARTHY: Actually, no.

    This very legal issue has been fully briefed in front of the D.C. Circuit. And the D.C. Circuit is now going to have to decide whether they continue to put this on hold, which will give pause to the Supreme Court, because EPA is obligated to move forward.

    This administrator didn’t question the science in this decision. It just simply said they wanted to craft a narrower interpretation and figure that out later, which is not going to sit well. And so it’s going to be very challenging for them to defend this in court. And, in the meantime, we have a rule that’s actually working.

    It has actually looked at how the energy system works, and it’s helping to underpin that. So we perfectly expect that the clean energy system is going to continue to move forward. But what they’re trying to do is shift resources at states to coal industries only. And that’s just not the way the Clean Air Act works.

    JOHN YANG: But even with this rule on hold, it’s not — these regulations aren’t in place right now — there are studies that show that emissions for electrical plants — electrical power plants are actually going to decline to the targets envisioned by the Clean Power Plan anyway because of economic forces.

    So is the worry overstated about what happened today?

    GINA MCCARTHY: Well, actually, I don’t think it’s overstated, because they’re still trying, between the EPA and DOE, to set a case to go backwards to more coal, even though it’s not marketable, even though the future is in clean energy.

    And so we just have to be cautious and careful. The one thing that this does — and you’re right — you’re giving a great case for why the Clean Power Plan should continue, because it is continuing to underpin the way the energy world is heading.

    But what this could do is create uncertainty. That’s what the utility industry doesn’t want, because they make long-term investments. The utility industry themselves are some of the big power producers, and they will tell you that they are investing where the future is, not in the past, because that is where money will be made, that’s where reliability will be stronger, that’s where it’s less expensive for consumers.

    They know we’re moving to clean energy, but the worry is, will uncertainty cause us to hesitate? Will uncertainty cause us to not invest in the next tranche of great technologies and cede all of that to other countries, so they can claim the jobs, they can make the economic growth impacts that are associated with looking to the future, instead of going back in time to a technology that is no longer marketable?

    That’s what we’re talking about here.

    JOHN YANG: Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, thank you very much for joining us.

    GINA MCCARTHY: Thanks.

    JOHN YANG: For a different view, we’re now joined by Robert Murray, the founder, chairman and CEO of Murray Energy Corporation, the nation’s largest privately held coal company.

    The company filed the first lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan.

    Mr. Murray, thank you for joining us.

    First of all, let me just ask you your reaction to what Administrator Pruitt did today.

    BOB MURRAY, Murray Energy Corporation: We fully support President Trump and Administrator Pruitt’s decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan.

    It will preserve low-cost, reliable electric power in America for those families on fixed incomes that are paying out 21 percent of their earnings for energy and for those single moms that are paying out the same amount.

    Ms. McCarthy was wrong in her statements, blatantly wrong and misleading. We paid out $15 billion, the American taxpayer did, last year for windmills and solar panels in subsidies. It costs 26 cents a kilowatt hour. Coal-fired generation costs 4 cents a kilowatt hour.

    Gina McCarthy and Barack Obama destroyed reliable, low-cost electricity in America, and Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt are trying to bring it back.

    JOHN YANG: Let me ask you also about this question about whether or not there should be regulation on carbon dioxide at all.

    The Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Edison Electric Institute say that there — acknowledge there probably will be some regulation on CO2.

    What’s your stand on that?

    BOB MURRAY: My stand is that the endangerment finding needs to be repealed, that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.

    I have 4,000 scientists that tell me that it is not a pollutant. A lot of people, John, have made money off of promoting the politics of climate change and the politics of the Democrat Party, in promoting their windmills, their solar panels, and all other restraints and alarmist restraints on low-cost reliable electricity.

    We need to get back — we have an energy poverty problem in this country, John. We need to have low-cost reliable electricity for all Americans, and coal is 4 cents a kilowatt hour. A windmill and a solar panel is 25 cents that they have promoted.

    And they can — it’s all going back now to the science, back to what should have been. Low-cost electricity is a staple of life in this country. We must have it for jobs, for manufacturers, for people on fixed incomes, for that single mom. And Obama and McCarthy destroyed it. We’re putting it back.

    JOHN YANG: You mentioned the endangerment finding. That’s the basis for the EPA’s regulation of CO2. You want it reversed.

    I know you talk to the president. Is that something that is also on the president’s agenda, do you think?

    BOB MURRAY: I don’t know, John, whether it is for sure or not. We have discussed it. It should be.

    It was never intended in the Clean Air Act of 1971, John, where all of these regulations of Obama came from, that carbon dioxide be a regulated pollutant. That was only recently decided.

    And all of this that they have been doing has been illegal. What McCarthy did here is illegal. I was joined by 29 states. I filed a lawsuit and got a stay on February 9, 2016, before the United States Supreme Court. I was joined by 29 states that thought Obama and his director of the EPA had done something illegal.

    And they have. And so we’re trying to put it back now and put it right. I believe that there needs to be a lot of discussion as to what the effects are of any climate change on the society, on our standard of living. We have an energy poverty problem. We do not have a climate change problem.

    JOHN YANG: You don’t see climate change as an issue or a problem at all, despite what other scientists say?

    BOB MURRAY: I do not. I do not, because I listen to 4,000 scientists, and who tell me that mankind is not affecting climate change.

    Climate change has occurred over the cycle for decades. The Antarctic ice field is larger than it has ever been right now. The Earth has cooled for the last 19 years. It’s a natural cycle. And to cause people to pay too much for their electricity or have unreliable electricity because of this scare, which a lot of people, like Albert Gore, have made a lot of money off of, is wrong.

    It’s wrong for Americans. And Scott Pruitt and President Trump are trying to put it back to where it should be, in the best interests of all Americans.

    JOHN YANG: Robert Murray, the founder and chairman of Murray Energy, thank you very much for joining us.

    The post What revoking the Clean Power Plan means, from both sides appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the day’s other news: The confirmed death toll in Puerto Rico rose to 43, nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria wrecked the U.S. territory. Authorities blamed infections and bad road conditions, among other factors.

    At the same time, local officials said power has been restored to just 16 percent of the island’s customers. Maria knocked out electricity to all of Puerto Rico.

    President Trump today denied that he is undercutting his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. The president spoke as he met with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. He told reporters, “I don’t believe in undercutting people.”

    Earlier, in a “Forbes” magazine interview, Mr. Trump reacted to reports that Tillerson had called him — quote — “a moron.” He said — quote — “If he did that, I guess we will have to compare I.Q. tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.”

    This afternoon, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders dismissed questions about the president’s quip.

    SARAH SANDERS, White House Press Secretary: He wasn’t questioning the secretary of state’s intelligence. He made a joke. Maybe you guys should get a sense of humor and try it some time. But he simply made a joke.

    He’s been extremely clear, time and time again, despite the fact that you guys want to continue to bring this up and create a story. He’s got 100 percent confidence in the secretary of state.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All of this came on a day when President Trump had lunch with Secretary Tillerson, and with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

    The president also went after Democrats today over immigration reform. In a morning tweet, he charged, “The Democrats don’t want secure borders,” and he said, “They don’t care about safety for USA.”

    Last month, Mr. Trump met with Democratic leaders about protecting young undocumented immigrants. He now says that a border wall and other measures must be included in any deal.

    U.N. humanitarian agencies say they are on full alert, as a new exodus of refugees from Myanmar floods into Bangladesh. Some 11,000 Rohingya Muslims have made the crossing yesterday alone. Today, UNICEF said it’s working to give 900,000 doses of cholera vaccines to the refugees. They are crowded into makeshift camps, where the disease is spreading.

    A diplomatic row between Turkey and the United States heated up today. Overnight, the U.S. ambassador to Ankara condemned the arrest of a Turkish man employed at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul. Today, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan charged that the man was a spy. He also criticized the ambassador and the U.S. decision to halt visa services.

    In Spain, the president of Catalonia stopped short today of declaring the region’s independence. He called instead for negotiations. The region’s government says that Catalans voted overwhelmingly to secede in a referendum on October 1.

    The Catalan president addressed his parliament today and urged calm, after Madrid flatly rejected the outcome.

    CARLES PUIGDEMONT, Catalan Regional President (through interpreter): We propose that parliament suspend the effects of a declaration of independence, so that in the next few weeks, we start a dialogue, without which it is not possible to get to a concerted solution. We firmly believe that, at this moment, a de-escalation of tensions is necessary.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Spain’s central government has warned that it will sternly oppose any attempt to secede.

    Kenya’s opposition leader, Raila Odinga, declared today he will not compete in a rerun of the presidential election. That leaves President Uhuru Kenyatta without a challenger. Odinga says the election commission has — quote — “stonewalled reforms” that are needed to ensure the vote is fair. Kenyatta won an August election, but the Kenyan Supreme Court overturned it.

    Back in this country, owners of the National Football League’s teams will consider making it mandatory for players to stand during the national anthem. Commissioner Roger Goodell told the executives in a memo today that the issue is dividing the league from many fans. The owners meet next week.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 70 points to close at 22830. The Nasdaq rose seven, and the S&P 500 added almost six.

    The post News Wrap: Hurricane Maria death toll rises in Puerto Rico appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The toll from the fires racing across Northern California is climbing tonight. At least 15 people have died so far. More than 2,000 homes and buildings have burned down, and hundreds more firefighters have been called to action.

    Tonya Mosley of PBS member station KQED begins our coverage.

    TONYA MOSLEY, KQED: It’s already one of the deadliest, most destructive outbreaks of wildfires in California’s history.

    From above, tanker planes bombed the flames with water and retardant today, and, on the ground, an army of firefighters hoped for help from cooler weather and lighter winds. The fires erupted Sunday night, and their speed and ferocity caught homeowners and officials off-guard.

    JONATHAN COX, Battalion Chief, Cal Fire: The first 24, 36 hours of these incidents were fairly unprecedented in California, right? To have so many fires burning in this way, in such a condensed area, with a big population was fairly unprecedented.

    TONYA MOSLEY: Causes are still unknown, but the fires sprang up almost simultaneously across nine counties and a 200-square-mile area of Northern California’s wine country.

    ALYSSA O’GORMAN, Calistoga Resident: This is my neighborhood in flames, completely in flames.

    TONYA MOSLEY: The flames were fed by dry brush and driven by 50-mile-an-hour winds. Some people awoke to honking cars, their neighbors sounding the alarm as they fled without much more than they could carry.

    The city of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County was among the hardest hit. The Tubbs fire jumped a six-lane highway and barreled through the city of 175,000. It left behind a charred shopping center and cars, melted from the heat.

    OMAR BUENO, Santa Rosa Resident We don’t recognize the place. And we used to actually go over there and hang out, but I don’t even know if we’re going to do that ever again. I just hope we can all come back as a community and get together and help everybody.

    TONYA MOSLEY: The flames struck at all ends of the economic spectrum, incinerating the city’s Hilton Hotel, as well as homes in this mobile home park. Part of a high school was burned, and hospitals had to be evacuated.

    In nearby Napa County, the Atlas fire burned through the vineyards and wineries, the very heart of the region. And officials said this morning an elderly couple died in their home, unable to evacuate. Charles and Sara Rippey, 100 and 98 years old, had recently celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.

    Across the region, scores of others are still missing. Some who survived the onslaught have begun returning to the remains, whole neighborhoods reduced to ashes.

    MAN: Been here 25 years. It was a great neighborhood. It’s going to be a lot of work getting it back.

    VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Our prayers are with you, and we will be with you every day until we put these fires out and stand with these families to rebuild these communities.

    TONYA MOSLEY: In Sacramento today, Vice President Mike Pence pledged federal assistance. But state officials say California already has a backlog of federal disaster assistance.

    REP. MIKE THOMPSON, D-Calif.: Napa County still hasn’t received all the funding that they are due from the last natural disaster that we experienced. That’s why it’s incredibly important that Congress do its job and appropriate the funds.

    TONYA MOSLEY: Meanwhile, fire officials say, with so many fires burning, they’re strained to the limit.

    BARRY BIERMANN, Fire Chief, Napa County: We have folks on the fire line starting their third shift right now that have not been relieved, because there’s folks not available to come in, with so many fires in the area.

    TONYA MOSLEY: And, in Southern California, another fire is raging again today near Anaheim, 30 minutes south from Los Angeles. The 7,500-acre blaze has swallowed up homes and buildings.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Tonya Mosley in Santa Rosa, California.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, President Trump promised full federal support for the fire victims. He said, “We will be there for you.”

    We turn now to Mark Ghilarducci. He is director of the California State Office of Emergency Services. I spoke with him just a short time ago, and began by asking how large an area has been affected so far.

    MARK GHILARDUCCI, Director, California Office of Emergency Services: Well, right now, I think we have got roughly about 100,000 acres that have been scorched by the fires, and we still have a number of these fires at no or very little containment. So, it’s still a very active fire situation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why so little progress in fighting them?

    MARK GHILARDUCCI: Well, a big part of it is because, you know, we continue to have what we call red flag wind conditions.

    These are wind — this is a wind event that has continued with high gusts or sustained winds that continues to push the fire out in front and expand the fire’s perimeter. And so that makes it a challenge when you’re dealing with a fire like this. And the other part is, it’s some very, very rough terrain. And so it’s a combination of efforts.

    And that’s been a big problem with the overall effort during this particular fire siege.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So I was reading that this yesterday was considered one of the worst days in California’s history when it comes to fires. Is that your experience, that this is that much worse than what you have seen before?

    MARK GHILARDUCCI: Well, I would characterize it as being one of the worst that we have seen.

    California has experienced some very catastrophic fires, you know, certainly, the Oakland Hills fire back in the ’90s, where several thousand homes were burned down. We had the Cedar fire, I think, it was in 2003 in San Diego. We have had our share of major fires in the past, and — but this one obviously, with the number of structures that have been lost and unfortunately the lives that have been lost, the injuries, will rate up there as one of the worst we have had.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We are hearing about the people who are missing. How much concern is there about people you can’t find?

    MARK GHILARDUCCI: Well, it’s a huge concern for us, and it is a major priority that we’re collectively working with the local authorities, with our — with the Cal Fire units and the fire teams that are out there.

    This fire came roaring through. It came roaring through in the middle of the night. Many people were asleep. And, you know, it’s highly conceivable that people were unable to escape the flames. And so it’s going to be very, very important for us to go through and ensure that we are crosschecking where people who are missing with possibly still being in some of these buildings.

    So the search operations that are going on now will continue for several days, until we can be 100 percent sure we have accounted for everybody.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We heard the Napa County fire chief say that his resources were stretched to the limit. Are they getting the resources they need from the state and anyplace else?

    MARK GHILARDUCCI: They are.

    Resources — you know, certainly, it’s a big state. And we have close to 4,000 personnel assigned to these fires. That’s fire and law enforcement and emergency management and emergency medical. We have our California National Guard.

    All these assets have been deployed. And, of course, California has the most robust mutual aid system in the world. We utilize it regularly, and this has been — this summer has been no different than in the past. We have been very, very active and very, very busy.

    And we have been working with the fire agencies throughout California. We have fire agencies as far south as San Diego and as far north as Siskiyou County coming in to assist Sonoma County.

    But we have other fires going on in the state as well. So it’s always a balance of where we’re going to place resources. And we prioritize these fires, and we provide that support to the fires with the highest priority.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What’s your expectation at this point, Mr. Ghilarducci? Do you just simply have to wait for these winds to die down in order to get control of these fires?

    MARK GHILARDUCCI: Well, no.

    We are actively — you know, we have hand crews and crews on the ground that are actively working to suppress the fires. We have — during the days, we have done a tremendous amount of air support. We have a 747. We have our large air tankers. We have retardant-dropping aircraft.

    All of those are actively working on the fires, and they are having an effect. But, you know, there’s a lot of fuel, and these wildfires pushed by wind can be very challenging.

    The big hope — and we understand the winds are going to die down now for a day or so, but we look to the forecast, and we know there is another wind event that’s shortly happening. So we’re expecting that, and we’re gearing up for that appropriately.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Ghilarducci, the California Office of Emergency Services director.

    And I’m sorry you have been having trouble with your earpiece, but thank you very much.

    MARK GHILARDUCCI: I apologize for that. Thank you very much.

    The post Ferocious wildfires turn Northern California neighborhoods to ashes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey takes part in the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis in Washington, U.S., June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RC1EA11A7300

    Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey takes part in the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis in Washington, D.C. Christie said Tuesday “it’s not good” that President Donald Trump has yet to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency.

    TRENTON, N.J.— New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday “it’s not good” that President Donald Trump has yet to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency.

    Trump appointed the fellow Republican to chair his opioid commission, whose signature recommendation was an emergency declaration.

    Christie said Tuesday that the commission’s recommendations are “lessened” without the declaration, but he says it’s too soon to say whether not declaring one has made things worse.

    “I think the problem is too big to say that if he had declared an emergency two months ago that it would make a significant difference in two months,” Christie said. “But I would also say you can’t get those two months back. And so it’s not good that it hasn’t been done yet.”

    MORE: Opioid addiction is the biggest drug epidemic in U.S. history. How’d we get here?

    The commission contends the declaration is needed to empower the Cabinet to address the crisis and force Congress to focus on funding agencies to address overdose deaths. Trump already has said the crisis amounts to an emergency, but the White House has described the declaration usually reserved for natural disasters as an “involved process.”

    A White House spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday.

    “I think the problem is too big to say that if he had declared an emergency two months ago that it would make a significant difference in two months,” Gov. Christie said. “But I would also say you can’t get those two months back. And so it’s not good that it hasn’t been done yet.”

    Christie echoed earlier comments on Tuesday, saying the administration has told him the “legal” issues are involved, but he said he didn’t push for further details. He did, though, add that the opioid crisis is different from a natural disaster — such as a storm — because the drug crisis doesn’t have an endpoint.

    The White House commission that Christie chaired estimated about 142 deaths each day from drug overdoses mean the death toll from the epidemic is “equal to September 11th every three weeks. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2015, they killed more than 52,000 Americans.

    Christie on Tuesday also unveiled a series of recommendations from a state commission, including allowing emergency medical technicians to use more of the overdose drug naloxone to treat people overdosing from fentanyl.

    READ MORE: How treating opioids with more opioids has divided the recovery community

    The antidote is capped at 2 milligrams under current regulations but officials report they need 4 milligrams to successfully revive people from fentanyl overdoses, Christie said.

    He said the changes wouldn’t likely require legislation and he expects most of them to be done administratively. He said he doesn’t expect them to carry any cost beyond the roughly $200 million in anti-opioid initiatives he rolled out in September.

    The 26-page report stems from a January executive order declaring opioid addiction a public health crisis. Its members included state Cabinet officials and was chaired by Charles McKenna, who is the CEO of New Jersey’s Schools Development Authority and a former chief counsel to Christie.

    Learn more about the opioid crisis in PBS NewsHour’s special series “America Addicted.”

    The post Gov. Christie says it’s ‘not good’ that Trump hasn’t declared emergency over opioid crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A false rumor is currently circulating on conservative junk news web sites and social media warning that the loose knit movement of anti-fascist activists known as “Antifa” is planning to launch a civil war in the United States on Nov. 4. We found that on Oct. 4, searching Google for the phrases “Antifa November 4” and “Antifa civil war November” returned results that could serve to confirm this conspiracy theory.

    As seen in the screenshots below, the Google search results show a “Top stories” widget with headlines such as “ANTIFA Planning a ‘Civil War’ to Overthrow the US Government” and “Antifa Planning Communist Revolution for America on November 4.”

    The “Top Stories” presentation, which includes article thumbnails and recent timestamps, lend the links an air of credibility, as though they are news stories from reputable outlets.


    Screen shots collected on October 4, 2017.

    The rumor appears to have begun circulating after a traffic-stopping protest in late September on U.S. Route 101 in Los Angeles, staged by the group Refuse Fascism. Heavy.com explores how that event’s promotion of a real plan for a Nov. 4 protest was transformed into the false rumor of an impending civil war. That legitimate story appeared just below the misleading news headlines.

    Google and its algorithm became the focus of a lot of criticism last week when those same “Top stories” boxes offered up a story with misinformation about the identity of the Las Vegas shooter from the website 4chan, an online community known to purposefully generate many false stories.

    We took a deeper dive into Google’s “Top news” algorithm and how, in the case of this planned Refuse Fascism protest, it may have helped spread misinformation.

    How do “Top stories” boxes work?
    After the false Las Vegas shooter story, a Google spokesperson told several news outlets that “within hours, the 4chan story was algorithmically replaced by relevant results. This should not have appeared for any queries, and we’ll continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future.”

    In fact, this is what happened with the “Antifa civil war” search query. We reached out to Google to ask about the misinformation we found for the “Antifa civil war” search in “Top stories,” and they declined to comment. However, by the following day, searches for those same terms did not return any “Top stories” boxes at all, though junk news stories remain at the top of the list of results.

    In another statement, Google attempted to shed a little more light on what happened in the 4chan case. According to the company, the “Top stories” algorithm favors recently published content for search terms which are not widely used. So if someone is searching for something unusual or even unique, the search results will feature items in “Top stories” that are “fresh” from all over the web, not just those from whitelisted news sites.

    While this particular instance may have seemed nothing more than a digital blip, it may have amplified the spread of misinformation generated by 4chan. If the “Top stories” feature continues to function this way, it could have significant impact on the spread of misinformation.

    Imagine a scenario where you decide to use Google to research the veracity of a rumor you have heard elsewhere, perhaps on another social media platform or even offline. Say the rumor, for example, is that a group of masked activists called “Antifa” are planning to wage a civil war on our country starting Nov. 4.

    The answer you get from Google is surprising — there are multiple news stories from distinct outlets with headlines that seem to confirm the idea, all featured in the “Top Stories” treatment. Without digging a little deeper, you could easily leave with your paranoia reinforced.

    Sifting fact from fiction can often be difficult, which is why Google’s role is critical. In a global survey conducted by the PR firm Edelman, 64 percent said they trusted search engines for their news and information, more than any other source.

    “Those boxes at the top of search results can shift opinions by 30 percent,” said Dr. Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology. Epstein calls it the “Answer Bot Effect,” and said his research, which has not yet been published, found the mere existence of boxes like the “Top stories” widget can influence people who are trying to form opinions. Seeing such a box can also enhance the effect of confirmation bias — the tendency to believe information that confirms a pre-existing opinion–and push some people over the edge.

    He cited the example of Dylann Roof, the white-supremacist mass murderer who in 2015 killed nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof said that Google results appearing under searches for “black on white crime” impacted his worldview.

    For many online conspiracies, a Google search is likely to return a fact-check article right near the top of its results, if such an article exists. But until a false claim is debunked, the “Top stories” can have potentially dangerous implications. In this case, considering the violence that has already followed some demonstrations in 2017, the risk is great.

    So what are the facts?
    Regarding the spectre of “civil war,” here are the facts we have verified: A group called Refuse Fascism is organizing protests starting on November 4th.

    Sunsara Taylor, who is with the organization, said they are planning “a mass non-violent political protest.” She said “the misinformation and lies being spread by the alt-right echo chamber about Antifa planning a civil war … are lies through and through.”

    Taylor herself does not identify as “Antifa,” but said that the group welcomes protestors from all backgrounds, including those “who identify as Antifa, as well as Hillary supporters, Bernie people …”

    Though Taylor and Refuse Fascism do not condone violence, protesters in anarchist “black blocs” who are frequently aligned with the anti-fascist movement have been violent during some past protests.

    Possible fallout

    References to violence against “Antifa” can be found throughout various threads on 4chan and Reddit about Refuse Fascism’s plans to begin protesting on Nov. 4.

    One Reddit commenter states “If s**t hits the fan in my town … they’ll need to send the coroner because there are a lot of retired Navy vets who will protect themselves against antifa. Lots purple and green haired gender neutrals will be dead in the streets.”

    Source: Reddit.

    On 4chan, a commenter posts: “Guess we need to all buy Dodge Challengers then” – a reference to the vehicle used to kill a protester in Charlottesville.

    Source: 4chan.

    When asked if if there was a concern that misinformation online could incite real violence against them, the Refuse Fascism protesters said their events would go forward as planned. “We are not going to be deterred,” Taylor said. “It does pose a risk, but not acting is riskier.”

    The post Google ‘Top stories’ featured false news about rumored Antifa civil war appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a signed executive order to advance construction of the Keystone XL pipeline at the White House in Washington January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC1EF34CDA00

    President Donald Trump holds up a signed executive order Jan. 24 to advance construction of the Keystone XL pipeline at the White House. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    BILLINGS, Mont. — Attorneys for the Trump administration said a federal judge has no authority to second-guess a presidential permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline as they seek to stop a lawsuit that would block the project.

    Justice Department attorneys are due in U.S. District Court in Montana on Wednesday to defend the administration’s March approval of the 1,179-mile pipeline — a lightning rod in the debate over what to do about climate change.

    The TransCanada proposal would transport Canadian crude oil through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with an existing system of lines to carry oil to Gulf Coast refineries.

    READ MORE: The ongoing fight over the Rover pipeline, explained

    The Obama administration rejected the project before the proposal was revived in March by President Donald Trump, who said it would create jobs and lead to greater energy independence.

    Conservation groups and Native American organizations that sued over the project argue that an environmental review completed in 2014 was inadequate. They’ve asked U.S. District Judge Brian Morris to revoke its permit.

    Government attorneys said in their motion to throw out the case that Morris can’t interfere because the Constitution gives Trump authority over matters of foreign affairs and national security.

    “The remedy that plaintiffs seek — an injunction against the presidential permit — is not available because such an order would impermissibly infringe on the president’s authority,” Justice Department attorney Bridget McNeil wrote.

    The project’s economics have shifted considerably since the pipeline was proposed in 2008, with low oil prices and the high cost of extracting Canadian crude from Alberta’s oil sands now casting doubt on whether it would be profitable.

    Opponents say those market changes undercut arguments from Keystone supporters that oil sands crude would get to consumers by another means if the pipeline was not built.

    Justice Department attorneys are due in U.S. District Court in Montana on Wednesday to defend the administration’s March approval of the 1,179-mile pipeline — a lightning rod in the debate over what to do about climate change.

    The opponents said the current market conditions should have been weighed by the State Department before it issued the permit.

    “In a low oil market world, adding close to a million barrels a day of capacity out of the tar sands is a lifeline for that industry. You can’t say it’s going to find its way to market whether this pipeline is built,” said attorney Doug Hayes with the Sierra Club, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuits.

    A State Department spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on lawsuits.

    A TransCanada executive in August raised doubts about Keystone’s prospects and said the Calgary-based company would decide later this year about whether to start construction.

    Company spokesman Matthew John said Tuesday that the project was in the national interests of the U.S. and Canada. He declined to address the lawsuits or the pipeline’s economic prospects.

    READ MORE: Keystone XL survived politics, but economics could kill it

    TransCanada last week cancelled plans for a pipeline that would have carried crude from Alberta to New Brunswick on the Atlantic coast. The company cited regulatory delays and “the associated cost implications” faced by its Energy East Pipeline proposal.

    In the U.S., Keystone has faced heated opposition from landowners whose property would be crossed by the line and farmers who live downstream from river crossings.

    Opponents planned a rally ahead of Wednesday’s hearing in Great Falls to draw attention to their concerns.

    Among the protesters will be Dena Hoff, who farms along the Yellowstone River near the small city of Glendive, Montana, 13 miles downstream of where Keystone XL would cross the waterway. Hoff worries about a repeat of a 2015 oil pipeline spill into the Yellowstone at the edge of her property that fouled Glendive’s drinking water supply.

    “They’re talking about endangering one of the most historic, iconic and economically important rivers in this part of the country,” she said.

    The Nebraska Public Service Commission must decide by Nov. 23 whether to give approval. South Dakota and Montana regulators have approved the project.

    The post Court can’t suspend Keystone XL pipeline decision, Trump administration says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Njideka Akunyili Crosby, a 2017 MacArthur Fellow, photographed in her studio in Los Angeles, CA on Wednesday September 13th, 2017.Photo courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation.

    Njideka Akunyili Crosby, a 2017 MacArthur Fellow, photographed in her studio in Los Angeles, CA on Wednesday September 13th, 2017.Photo courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation.

    The MacArthur Foundation announced today it has selected 24 individuals — from photographers and historians, to computer scientists and psychologists — for its annual “genius grant,” given to those who have “extraordinary originality and dedication to their creative pursuits.”

    How does someone become a so-called “genius”? We reached out to a few of them to ask about their “secret sauce.” What are the quirks and habits that fuel their creativity and enhance their work?

    Here’s how eight MacArthur fellows tap into their inner “genius.”

    Plan smaller (and more frequent) celebrations

    Betsy Levy Paluck, 39, is interested in the idea that our behaviors are not caused by the things we believe, but by society’s expectations. She hopes to find ways to combat bullying, discrimination and violence by understanding social norms — and, in some cases, challenging them.

    “I’m big into group celebrations,” she says, explaining that in academia, celebrations don’t happen often enough because they are typically reserved for when discoveries are made and papers are published. Insetad, Paluck plans frequent mini celebrations throughout what might be a long and tedious research process.

    The celebrations aren’t only for keeping up morale.

    “It is those times, when everyone is relaxed and enjoying themselves, that we can have deeper conversations. We end up always talking about the work. It helps to keep us going and we often come up with creative and new ideas,” she says.

    Jot down a daily thought — in words or a doodle

    For personal creativity, Paluck draws inspiration from artist Rachel Berger who thought up the icon diary — jotting down a daily thought in words and small drawings.

    “I find it useful for me as a way to keep record of things I’m thinking about or make a record of things that bother me so I can clear my mind and move on,” she says. Although drawing is not her forte, she says the process is what is important. “It’s a moment in the day when I’m processing a memory that’s on my mind.”

    Escape to a new place (even for just a few minutes)

    Regina Barzilay, 46, designs machine learning models to enable computers to understand and generate language. Currently, she is focused in expanding machine learning technology in the field of medicine to advance cancer diagnosis and treatment.

    But engaging in creative thinking, she says, primarily involves getting away from her office at MIT.

    “When you are a professor, most of the day you are not busy with your own creative thinking: You need to teach a class, you need to got to faculty meeting, you need to advise the students and help them out with their own research,” she says. “If I want to think of something different I really need to isolate myself from people.”

    Depending on her goal, Barzilay will head toward her favorite coffee shops in Cambridge and Boston, or look for parks rich with greenery. “They have different functionalities for different type of thinking,” she says.

    Hit the pavement

    Rami Nashashibi, 45, is a community activist bridging the racial, religious, and socioeconomic divides in inner-city communities. He serves as the executive director if the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, which he co-founded in 1997 to unify disconnected Muslim immigrant and African-American communities in Chicago and now provides social services for Chicago’s South Side residents.

    The three practices that have become essential for helping him balance a busy day at work are prayer, reading and long bike rides along quiet streets in Chicago.

    In the middle of the night and early into the morning, Nashashibi hops on his bike and pedals for as long as he can. There is where he says he finds balance.

    “It’s just a different way of looking and feeling the city. It’s a time to think and process. It’s the isolation. There’s something very meditative about becoming one with the bike. I love plugging in a destination and as much as we’re lucky in Chicago — we have 17 miles of beautiful trail on the lake — I really actually prefer city biking,” he says.

    Hit the books

    Njideka Akunyili Crosby, 34, explores how migration shapes identity and what it means to exists in hybrid spaces, where different people, cultures and influences collide. Her artwork draws on her experiences as an immigrant from Nigeria and the country’s history as a former British colony to tell stories of people in marginalized spaces.

    When facing a creative block, Akunyili Crosby turns to literature. She feels connected to others who are telling stories similar to hers but through a different medium, including writers like Junot Díaz, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Binyavanga Wainaina and Chinua Achebe.

    “Reading writers who are exploring the same theme as me and hope something will spark and idea. Someone I think about a lot is the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. I look for him in terms of content but also in terms of how he does it. He wrote about a space he knew–he grew up in Nigeria from when it was colonized to when it gained independence. I look to him for that with the urgency to tell stories from marginalized spaces. But another reason I look at him is to figure out how he does this successfully,” she says.

    Seek opportunities to watch painters, sculptors or musicians make their art

    Dawoud Bey’s portraits prod viewers to confront the reality of his subjects’ experiences. His work includes a 2002-2006 project called Class Pictures, in which he captured a generation of high school students across the country and engaged them in the telling of their own biographies as a way to challenge stereotypes.

    Bey, 63, says inspiration requires discipline and choosing to continue to engage with the work. But it can also arrive from looking at other artists’ work and engaging in conversations with what they are doing.

    “I spend a lot of time in museums and galleries. I believe that the work we do is in conversation with other photographs and art objects that are in the world and currently being made. And so I often draw inspiration from seeing how other artists are engaging in their process, how they are meeting the challenge of giving coherent and dynamic form to their own ideas and concerns,” Bey wrote in an email.

    “I also spend time listening to live music, particularly jazz,” he added. “I find a lot of creative inspiration in music, and I consider the local jazz club to be my “thinking room,” where I go listen to the music and clear my mind.”

    Make use of your commute (or whenever else you can make mindful “me time”)

    Nikole Hannah-Jones, 41, is an investigative journalist who writes about race and disparity, particularly in education. Her work explores the policies that have maintained school segregation over generations and makes a moral argument for confronting the segregation that persists in American society today.

    As a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine and mother of a 7-year-old daughter, Hannah-Jones says finding time to herself can be difficult. But surprisingly, she says, she often finds it during her hour-long daily commute to work.

    “I think sometimes when you’re a writer and you’re focusing so intensely in your work all the time, it actually can block your creativity because you’re not giving yourself a break and giving yourself a mental space to breathe,” she says.

    The time on the train, where she puts her earbuds in and listens to trap music, she says is “time that I have to myself. It gives me the time to clear my mind … time to work and think things through.”

    Find your equivalent of an “open mic”

    Every few months, Hannah-Jones invites friends and writers to her home.

    “I cook and then we have open mic and people can do readings of their work or readings of other people’s work that they admire,” she says. It has been so fulfilling to have this space where we can try out some of the work that we’re working on … by the end of the night we always end up dancing and it provides a very liberating space for myself and other writers.”

    Forget the big picture — pay attention to the details (or, in this case, the margins)

    Derek Peterson, 46, is documenting the African experience of colonialism by reading between the lines — literally. In the last 10 years, Peterson and his team have collected, digitized and reviewed thousands of local court documents, police files, and government paperwork.

    Peterson says the key to finding the heart of the story is looking at the doodles and notes in the margins.

    “Historians don’t have inspiration with blinding flashes of light. The key is not to start with large ambitious ideas but to start with small scale ideas that emerge from minor materials.” he said, explaining that through his recent research on Nixon’s relationship with Uganda, he learned that the former president was a “blunt and profane man.”

    A musician and chorister, Peterson likens writing history to making music. “Its mastering details, picking up nuances, understanding how phrases work in relationship with other phrases – and then interpreting them as one aspect of a larger composition.”

    Surround yourself with a diverse group of people, and talk to them — a lot

    Gabriel Victora, 40, works on understanding the immune system’s rules. Ask him where he gets his ideas, and he won’t take credit as a solo act.

    “Everything I’ve done has been done with other people in my lab,” he says. Victora regularly takes a stroll around the lab, striking up conversations with people in a wide range of qualifications, from lab rookie to seasoned Phd. It is this diversity that Victora values most. Successful ideas, he says, can come from “naive ideas that turn out to be great.”

    “I surround myself with very good people and talk to them a lot. People with any level of experience. That’s also why I think diversity should be encouraged. ” he says.

    Here’s a full list of this year’s recipients:
    Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Painter
    Sunil Amrith, Historian
    Greg Asbed, Human Rights Strategist
    Annie Baker, Playwright
    Regina Barzilay, Computer Scientist
    Dawoud Bey, Photographer and Educator
    Emmanuel Candès, Mathematician and Statistician
    Jason De León, Anthropologist
    Rhiannon Giddens, Singer, Instrumentalist and Songwriter
    Nikole Hannah-Jones, Journalist
    Cristina Jiménez Moreta, Social Justice Organizer
    Taylor Mac, Theater Artist
    Rami Nashashibi, Community Leader
    Viet Thanh Nguyen, Fiction Writer and Cultural Critic
    Kate Orff, Landscape Architect
    Trevor Paglen, Artist and Geographer
    Betsy Levy Paluck, Psychologist
    Derek Peterson, Historian
    Damon Rich, Designer and Urban Planner
    Stefan Savage, Computer Scientist
    Yuval Sharon, Opera Director / Producer
    Tyshawn Sorey, Composer and Musician
    Gabriel Victora, Immunologist
    Jesmyn Ward, Fiction Writer

    The post 10 ways this year’s MacArthur Fellows find their ‘genius’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Demonstrators protest against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban in Chicago

    Demonstrators protest against President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban outside the offices of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Chicago, Illinois, on March 16, 2017. Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed one of two cases over President Donald Trump’s ban on visitors from mostly Muslim countries, suggesting it will step away from the controversy for now.

    The court got rid of a case that originated in Maryland and involves a ban that has now expired and been replaced by a new version.

    But the justices took no action on a separate case from Hawaii. That dispute concerns both the travel ban and a separate ban on refugees, which does not expire until Oct. 24.

    Dismissing the cases would allow the court to avoid ruling on difficult legal issues, at least for a while.

    [Watch Video]

    The justices had combined the two cases and set them for argument that was to have taken place Tuesday. But after the travel ban expired last month and a new policy was rolled out, the court canceled the argument and began to weigh whether it should decide the legality of the policy after all.

    The third and latest version of the travel ban is supposed to take full effect Oct. 18 and already has been challenged in the courts.

    Five of the six countries included in the travel ban the Supreme Court was supposed to review remain in the latest version.

    The post Supreme Court dismisses 1 of 2 travel ban cases appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Menendez and Corker hold a news conference after a Senate vote on an aid package for Ukraine at the U.S. Capitol in Washington

    U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez is charged with accepting free flights on a private jet in exchange for favors. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    NEWARK, N.J. — When the government rests its case against U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, whether it moves forward or is dismissed without the defense having to call a witness will hinge on how the judge interprets a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that already has helped reverse several politicians’ corruption convictions.

    Menendez is charged with accepting free flights on a private jet and other gifts from a wealthy friend in exchange for pressuring government officials to take actions favorable to the friend’s business interests.

    He argued in court filings over the summer that the charges should be dropped because they didn’t meet a narrower definition of bribery under a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that reversed the corruption conviction of former Republican Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

    U.S. District Judge William Walls said at the time he would wait until the government presented its case before ruling. The trial is in its sixth week, which is roughly how long prosecutors initially estimated they would take.

    “The defense was smart,” former federal prosecutor Adam Lurie said before the trial began. “That motion helps frame the entire trial for the defense. So while the prosecution is putting on their case, the judge is listening through the lens of the defense motion. The defense was really trying to set the stage for the government’s case.”

    The McDonnell decision has been the 800-pound gorilla in the room during the first six weeks of the trial. Walls acknowledged as much last week during a discussion with attorneys with the jury out of the room.

    He noted that some prosecution witnesses had testified that although they may have believed Menendez set up meetings with them to help out Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen in an $8.9 million Medicare billing dispute and a stalled port security contract, Menendez didn’t mentioned Melgen’s name during the meetings.

    “I am very careful because of you know what, and that being McDonnell,” Walls said.

    Before the McDonnell ruling, public officials accused of bribery were considered to have taken an official act if the act was “among the official duties or among the settled customary duties or practices of the official charged with bribery.” That language came from a 1914 case involving the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

    The Supreme Court narrowed that in McDonnell to define an official act as a decision or action on a “question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy'” that must involve “a formal exercise of governmental power, and must also be something specific and focused that is pending or may by law be brought before a public official.” Setting up a meeting, talking to another official, or organizing an event by themselves aren’t official acts, the court ruled.

    Prosecutors have presented evidence that Menendez set up the meetings with homeland security officials and health officials during a time when Melgen was donating several hundred thousand dollars to campaign organization that supported Menendez and flying Menendez on his private jet to his villa in the Dominican Republic.

    Defense attorneys have argued Menendez used the meetings and other interactions with executive branch officials to discuss Medicare and port security policy issues, and that even if he “encouraged others to take a particular action” those can’t be considered official acts under McDonnell.

    In recent months, the McDonnell ruling was cited by courts that tossed the convictions of former New York state lawmakers Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, and former Democratic Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson.

    The post Judge to weigh Menendez dismissal bid when government rests appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — New federal rules would be the “the smartest, quickest” way to regulate the device the gunman in the Las Vegas massacre used to heighten his firepower, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday in remarks that suggested Congress was unlikely to act first.

    It remains unclear, however, what if any action the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will take on so-called bump stocks. The agency has said that once it issues a ruling on a weapon or equipment, it revises its stance only if gun laws or the equipment itself have changed.

    The bureau decided in 2010 that bump stocks did not violate federal law, and gun statutes and the design of the devices have been unchanged since then. Ryan, R-Wis., said lawmakers are trying to figure out why the bureau has allowed the sale of bump stocks.

    “This is a regulation that probably shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” Ryan told reporters. He added, “We think the regulatory fix is the smartest, quickest fix.”

    Bump stocks can be attached to a semi-automatic rifle to fire continuously, discharging 400 to 800 rounds in one minute. That can transform guns into fully automatic weapons, which are strictly regulated.

    The devices were found in the arsenal of gunman Stephen Paddock, who fired from a high-rise hotel into a packed country music festival, leaving 58 dead and more than 500 wounded. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

    An administrative ruling that curbs bump stocks could ease pressure on Republican members of Congress, who have overwhelmingly opposed gun restrictions for years. Even with the National Rifle Association saying such equipment should be “subject to additional regulations,” a lawmaker’s vote to do so might jeopardize support from ardent gun supporters.

    On the other hand, the magnitude of the Las Vegas slaughter — and the focus on a device attached to guns, not on the weapons themselves — may be edging lawmakers toward acting on the issue themselves.

    Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Penn., said he’s “an avid sportsman” who sometimes goes shooting with his wife and pastor after church. He and many lawmakers have said they’d never heard of bump stocks until the Las Vegas shooting.

    “Anything that modifies something from a semi-automatic to an automatic seems like it should be illegal,” he said in an interview. “I’m hoping and I anticipate that we’ll have a good discussion and maybe fix that.”

    House and Senate bills have been introduced to ban bump stocks. On Monday, Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., introduced legislation that would make their production, sale or use a felony.

    Backed by the White House, the NRA — the gun lobby that usually opposes any firearms restrictions — has urged the bureau to re-examine its finding that bump stocks could be sold legally. Lawmakers from both parties have done the same, though many Democrats and some Republicans have gone further and said they want legislation banning the item.

    AP congressional correspondent Erica Werner and reporter Kevin Freking contributed.

    The post WATCH: Ryan says bump stocks should be addressed by regulation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by applezoomzoom/Adobe

    The Trump administration’s new birth control rule is raising questions among some doctors and researchers. Photo by applezoomzoom/Adobe

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s new birth control rule is raising questions among some doctors and researchers, who say it overlooks known benefits of contraception while selectively citing data that raise doubts about effectiveness and safety.

    “This rule is listing things that are not scientifically validated, and in some cases things that are wrong, to try to justify a decision that is not in the best interests of women and society,” said Dr. Hal Lawrence, CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a professional society representing women’s health specialists.

    Two recently issued rules — one addressing religious objections and the other, moral objections — allow more employers to opt out of covering birth control as a preventive benefit for women under the Obama health care law. Although the regulations ultimately address matters of individual conscience and religious teaching, they also dive into medical research and scholarly studies on birth control.

    It’s on the science that researchers are questioning the Trump administration. They say officials ignored some recent research and stretched other studies.

    “The interpretation is very selective in terms of the science that they use,” said Alina Salganicoff, director of women’s health policy at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “It’s always possible to find one study that validates your claim, but you have to look at the quality of the study and the totality of the research. You can make an argument that you don’t agree because of your religious or moral objections, but that is a different discussion.”

    In a statement, Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley responded to critics, saying: “The rules are focused on guaranteeing religious freedom and conscience protections for those Americans who have a religious or moral objection to providing certain services based on their sincerely held beliefs.”

    The administration also says some parts of the rules are meant to illustrate the sorts of concerns that religious objectors may have, and don’t necessarily reflect government policy.

    Here’s a look at examples from the Trump administration’s birth control rules that are raising questions:

    THE MORNING-AFTER PILL

    Emergency contraception is birth control for use after unprotected sex, often called the “morning-after pill.”

    Referring to the morning-after pill as well as intrauterine devices or IUDs, the regulations state that the Food and Drug Administration “includes in the category of ‘contraceptives’ certain drugs and devices that may not only prevent conception (fertilization), but also may prevent implantation of an embryo.”

    Because of that, “many persons and organizations” believe emergency contraception methods cause “early abortion,” the regulations add.

    But Princeton researcher James Trussell said that while studies years ago suggested the morning-after pill might affect the lining of a woman’s uterus and interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg, more recent studies have not found such an effect.

    “The preponderance of the evidence, and certainly the most recent evidence, is that there is no post-fertilization effect,” said Trussell.

    That’s not included in the administration’s rule.

    “The actual medical evidence is that it blocks ovulation,” or the release of an egg from the ovaries, explained Lawrence, the ob-gyn. “If you don’t ovulate, there is no egg to get fertilized. It’s not blocking implantation.”

    READ NEXT: How some states make effective birth control more available

    EFFECTIVENESS OF BIRTH CONTROL

    The Trump administration’s rule takes issue with the science behind the Obama-era decision to require most employers to cover birth control as preventive care.

    It suggests that some studies cited in a key 2011 report did not show a direct cause-and-effect link between increased birth control use by women and a decline in unintended pregnancy.

    But Adam Sonfield of the Guttmacher Institute said solid research does in fact exist. The organization does studies on reproductive health that are cited by opposing sides in the political debate.

    For example, Sonfield cited a Guttmacher report which found that women who used birth control consistently year-round accounted for only 5 percent of unintended pregnancies in 2008.

    “The vast majority of women use birth control at some point in their lives,” said Sonfield. “As a medical service, it’s far more universal than almost anything covered by insurance.”

    George Washington University public health professor Susan Wood, a former women’s health chief for the FDA, said there’s very clear clinical data that contraception prevents pregnancy. Why else would the FDA approve birth control pills?

    “They are just using this as a smoke screen,” Wood said of the administration. “They are picking out things that they like, and leaving out (studies) that support access to contraception.”

    THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION

    The Trump administration’s rule suggests there may be a link between birth control and promiscuity.

    It cites a study finding that between 1960 and 1990, “as contraceptive use increased, teen sexual activity outside of marriage likewise increased.” (The administration added a caveat that the study did not prove a cause-and-effect link.)

    Lawrence, the ob-gyn, said he thinks that’s a stretch.

    “There were a whole lot of other things going on in the ’60s,” he said, such as changing social mores about sex before marriage. Also, many people relied on condoms, diaphragms and spermicides.

    “The world of birth control in 2018 is about as similar to the world of birth control in 1960 as a Ralph Nader Chevy Corvair is to a space shuttle,” he said.

    The post Why some doctors are questioning Trump’s new birth control rules appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NBC sign on the General Electric building in New York

    An NBC sign apears on the General Electric building in New York on Oct. 5, 2009. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is renewing his feud with NBC News, and this time he’s raising the possibility of challenging broadcasting licensing for broadcast outlets.

    Trump writes on Twitter that with all the “Fake News” coming out of “NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License?”

    The Federal Communications Commission oversees the renewal of licenses for broadcasters.

    Trump has been pushing back against a recent NBC News story that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson considered resigning during the summer and that Tillerson had called Trump a “moron.”

    The post In series of tweets, Trump renews feud with NBC, raises broadcaster license issue appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO: Rapper Eminem performs 'Not Afraid' at the 2010 BET Awards in Los Angeles

    Rapper Eminem performs ‘Not Afraid’ at the 2010 BET Awards in Los Angeles on June 27, 2010. Photo by Mario Anzuoni/File Photo/Reuters

    DETROIT — Eminem has unleashed a profane lyrical tirade against President Donald Trump — saying he “came to stomp” and taking aim at Trump’s Twitter habits, policy, appearance and supporters.

    The rapper on Tuesday unveiled “The Storm,” a 4½-minute freestyle rap video recorded Friday in a Detroit parking garage that aired as part of BET’s Hip Hop Awards on Tuesday night.

    Eminem slammed the Republican president as “a kamikaze who will probably cause a nuclear holocaust” before criticizing Trump’s ongoing campaign against NFL national anthem protests.

    “But this is his form of distraction, plus he gets an enormous reaction when he attacks the NFL, so we focus on that instead of talking Puerto Rico or gun reform for Nevada. All these horrible tragedies and he’s bored and would rather cause a Twitter storm with the Packers,” he rapped.

    He later mentioned NFL free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who’s credited with launching the ongoing anthem protests. Kaepernick told the rapper on Twitter, “I appreciate you.”

    Eminem also took down Trump’s recently unveiled plan for tax cuts, questioning: “then who’s going to pay for his extravagant trips back and forth with his fam to his golf resorts and his mansions?”

    At one point he called Trump, who’s 71, a “racist 94-year-old grandpa” and compared the president’s appearance to the Marvel Comics character “The Thing.”

    The 44-year-old rapper closed out his rant with a message to his fans who support Trump, saying “I’m drawing in the sand a line, you’re either for or against.” He added that people who don’t support the president love the military and the country, but “hate Trump.” Eminem has drawn controversy in the past for lyrics that critics said were homophobic or advocated violence against women.

    The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment on the video, and Trump didn’t mention it while tweeting on several issues Wednesday morning.

    This is Eminem’s most recent rhymed attack on Trump. It follows up last year’s nine-minute freestyle track “Campaign Speech” and a verse earlier this year on Big Sean’s “No Favors.”

    The post Eminem takes down Trump with profane lyrical tirade appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is expected to address young “dreamers” protected by the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in a Wednesday news briefing.

    Rep. Nancy Pelosi is expected to address DACA at a news briefing at 1 p.m. ET. You can watch live in the player above.

    About 80 percent of Americans think so-called “dreamers,” who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents but protected under the Obama-era legislation, should be allowed to stay in the country, according to a PBS NewsHour-Marist poll.

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

    On Sunday, Trump told lawmakers his hardline immigration priorities, including the wall, must be approved if he is to go along with protecting the young immigrants from deportation.

    Americans have largely negative opinions about President Donald Trump’s signature immigration pledge to build a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Just under half — 49 percent — oppose construction, while 32 percent support it.

    About 800,000 young immigrants had been given a deportation reprieve under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA, until Trump ended the program last month. He’s given Congress six months to act.

    About 60 percent of Americans favor allowing those young immigrants, commonly referred as “Dreamers,” to stay in the U.S. legally, compared to 22 percent who are opposed. Just 19 percent of respondents say all these childhood arrivals should be deported.

    Sixty-eight percent of Hispanics, 61 percent of blacks and 57 percent of whites favor extending protections. Eight in 10 Democrats favor allowing the young immigrants to stay legally. So do more than 4 in 10 Republicans.

    “For the ones who are already here, there should be a way for them to stay because it wasn’t their fault,” said Nik Catello, a 57-year-old independent film producer from Orange County, California. “But you have to give them a path to citizenship.”

    Showing sympathy for the young immigrants does not always translate into softer views on immigration. Catello, for example, favors the construction of a wall along the Mexican border.

    Among those who favor a border wall, 38 percent also favor allowing “dreamers” to stay.

    Among those who favor a border wall, 38 percent also favor allowing “dreamers” to stay.

    “What you see is growing support within the voters overall in giving Dreamers a path to citizenship,” said Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “Giving Dreamers the ability to earn citizenship is the most popular bipartisan, not just immigration, issue, the single most united issue in the country.”

    When Trump ordered the phase-out of the DACA program last month, he gave 150,000 young immigrants the chance to quickly renew permits that are to expire before March 5. Officials say that more than 35,000 didn’t make his Oct. 5 deadline. And many others will see their status begin expiring after March 5, unless Congress acts before then.

    Trump suggested at the time that he was eager for a deal to settle the matter, telling reporters, “I have a love for these people and hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly.” He also tweeted that if Congress was unwilling to find a fix, he would “revisit this issue!” in six months.

    Trump had previously said he wanted a DACA deal to include significant money for border security and eventual funding for the wall. But the priorities released by the White House this week went far beyond that.

    The White House’s demands include limiting green cards to spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, hiring 10,000 more immigration enforcement officers and making it easier to deport unaccompanied children. The White House says the measures are to soften the impact on the U.S. caused by granting benefits to DACA recipients.

    Carolyn Kurtz, a 62-year-old retired engineer from Monument City, Colorado, who wants protections for young immigrants, said Trump hasn’t done “the research necessary” on immigration.

    “Do I believe that immigration should be more carefully monitored and maybe limited? Yes. But the way he wants to go about it is not the way to do it,” Kurtz said. She called the president’s stance “very close-minded.”

    Two-thirds of Americans — 64 percent — say they disapprove of Trump’s handling of immigration, and a similar percentage — 65 percent — say the same of his handling of foreign policy. Both of those are similar to Trump’s overall approval rating.

    The poll also revealed more Americans favor than oppose another aspect of Trump’s immigration policy — his latest travel ban. Forty-four percent favor it compared to 37 percent who say they are against the new rules.

    In September, the administration announced the most recent restrictions which affect citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — and some Venezuelan government officials and their families. They are to go into effect Oct. 18. It was the administration’s third try at limiting travel after a broader ban sparked chaos in January and was challenged in courts across the country.

    The AP-NORC poll of 1,150 adults was conducted Sept. 28-Oct. 2 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

    Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone.

    This report was written by Adriana Gomez Licon and Emily Swanson of the Associated Press.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Pelosi to address ‘dreamers’ at news briefing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will pitch his tax plan as a boon for truckers in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Wednesday — the latest stop on a cross-country tour aimed at selling his tax reform proposal.

    Trump is expected to start speaking at about 5:45 p.m. ET. You can watch live in the player above.

    Trump will be speaking in front of an audience of roughly 1,000 people, including lots of truckers, against a backdrop of big rigs at a local air plane hangar, according to the White House. Trump is pitching a plan that would dramatically cut corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 20 percent, reduce the number of personal income tax brackets and boost the standard deduction.

    At his latest stop, Trump will argue that his tax reform framework will benefit truckers by lowering their tax rates, boosting manufacturing, and making it easier for families to pass their trucking businesses onto their children, the White House says.

    “When your trucks are moving, America is growing. That is why my administration is taking historic steps to remove the barriers that slow you down,” he’s expected to say, according to excerpts provided by the White House. “America first means putting American truckers first.”

    Trump has left it up to Congress to fill in many specifics of his plan, which leaves out details such as which income levels his new tax brackets would apply to.

    Trump’s proposal includes cutting the top income tax rate, getting rid of the alternative minimum tax, and eliminating the federal estate tax. He also wants to encourage multinational companies to bring back, or repatriate, cash that they’ve kept overseas. All told, there’s more than $1 trillion in cash held abroad by S&P 500 companies, according to Deutsche Bank.

    “We will eliminate the penalty on returning future earnings back to the United States and we will impose a one-time low tax on money currently parked overseas so it can be brought back home to America, where it belongs,” Trump is expected to say Wednesday, adding that his “Council of Economic Advisers estimates that this change alone would likely give the typical American household a $4,000 pay raise.”

    The $4,000 in additional income estimate comes from a back of the envelope calculation by White House economics adviser Kevin Hassett based on companies returning 71 percent of their foreign profits over the course of eight years.

    This estimate appears to assume that the returned profits would flow to workers in the form of higher wages. But many economists say much of it would likely be returned to investors in the form of stock dividends and buybacks.

    The post WATCH LIVE: In Pennsylvania, Trump will pitch tax plan as boon for truckers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The PBS NewsHour will hold a Twitter chat Thursday, Oct. 12th on the reality of addiction and recovery. Have questions? Tweet them to #NewsHourChats

    The opioid crisis is devastating communities across the nation, and overdose deaths are at record highs. These are the facts of America’s addiction crisis. But what does addiction really look like? What does it mean to recover?

    As a part of the PBS NewsHour series “America Addicted,” our reporters spoke to former addicts, recovery coaches and doctors on the front lines of the addiction crisis to answer those questions. We asked them how they use naloxone to save lives, what role peer support and methadone play in recovery, and their thoughts on media coverage of the epidemic.

    To share those stories, the PBS NewsHour will be joined on Twitter on Oct. 12 at 1 p.m. ET by NewsHour reporter/producer Frank Carlson (@frankncarlson), chief medical officer of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Dr. Jessie Gaeta (@jessiegaeta), and community outreach manager at the Anchor Recovery Center, Jonathan Goyer (@JonathanGoyer).

    Have questions? Tweet them to #NewsHourChats.

    The post Twitter chat: The realities of opioid addiction and recovery appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GettyImages-500744037

    The flag of Iran is displayed. Photo by Izzet Keribar/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Several congressional Democrats who split with President Barack Obama to oppose the nuclear agreement with Iran are now urging President Donald Trump to uphold the international accord, arguing that robust enforcement is the best way to counter Tehran’s malign behavior in the Middle East.

    The reversal underscores deep concerns among lawmakers that Trump will inform Congress in the coming days that the landmark 2015 agreement with Iran is contrary to America’s national security interests. That declaration could lead to an unraveling of the seven-nation pact and leave the United States, not Iran, as the country that balked at honoring its commitments.

    Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., who voted against the agreement two years ago, said at a hearing Wednesday U.S. interests are best served by keeping the deal and aggressively policing the agreement to ensure Iran doesn’t violate the terms. Engel, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said unwinding the agreement would send a dangerous signal to allies and adversaries alike.

    The U.S. will need to work with France, Germany and the United Kingdom — all parties of Iran nuclear pact — to fix its flaws and those countries need to know that the U.S. is a reliable partner, according to Engel. North Korea’s leaders, meanwhile, would have little incentive to negotiate a nuclear disarmament if they see the Iran deal collapse, he said.

    “We need to work with allies and partners on a shared agenda that holds the regime in Iran accountable, not dividing America from our closest friends across the globe,” Engel said.

    Former Obama administration officials who played central roles in brokering the Iran nuclear agreement are scheduled to brief congressional Democrats later Wednesday on the merits of the international accord. A brief description of the closed-door briefing slated for Wednesday afternoon says former Secretary of State John Kerry, former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and Wendy Sherman, the former undersecretary of state for political affairs, are speaking.

    Under the 2015 deal, Tehran agreed to roll back its nuclear program in exchange for relief from wide-ranging oil, trade and financial sanctions that had choked the Iranian economy.

    Trump faces an Oct. 15 deadline mandated by law to tell Congress if he believes Iran is complying with the nuclear accord and if it advances U.S. interests. If the president doesn’t certify compliance with the requirements, Congress has 60 days to decide whether to re-impose or “snap back” sanctions lifted under the agreement.

    Trump has called the deal forged during the Obama administration one of the nation’s “worst and most one-sided transactions” ever and threatened during the presidential campaign to tear the pact up. But many of his top national security aides don’t want to dismantle the agreement, and America’s European allies have lobbied the Trump administration and Congress to preserve the accord.

    READ NEXT: As Trump approaches deadline, what’s next for the Iran nuclear deal?

    Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that Iran “is not in material breach of the agreement.” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said at the same hearing that the deal is still in the U.S. national security interest.

    More than 180 House Democrats sent a letter to Trump last week calling on him to certify compliance unless he could produce “credible evidence of a material breach by Iran.” Among the lawmakers who signed the letter were Engel and 12 other House Democrats who had criticized the deal when it was reached two years ago. Among them were Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

    Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, was one of four Senate Democrats who opposed the Iran nuclear agreement in 2015. He still has concerns with how the accord will contain Iran in the future, but he doesn’t want the pact ditched.

    “I think I speak for a lot of us who opposed the agreement. We thought it was the wrong decision,” Cardin told reporters recently. “Once it was entered into, once it was implemented, we want to see it enforced. We don’t want to see the United States violate it.”

    The post Democrats who opposed Iran nuke deal urge Trump to keep pact appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks at a Harden County Republican party fundraiser in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, U.S. on June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston/File Photo - RTX3BWYY

    U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks at a Harden County Republican party fundraiser in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, U.S. on June 30, 2017. Photo by Bryan Woolston/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Senate’s top Republican, facing increasing pressure from conservative groups, is promising to upend a longstanding Senate tradition in order to speed the confirmation pace on a backlog of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees.

    Conservative activists such as the Judicial Crisis Network have been increasingly frustrated with the slow pace on judicial nominees. The influential group had threatened to run ads against Majority Leader Mitch McConnell starting this week but backed off after winning assurances from the Kentucky Republican that the pace will quicken.

    McConnell has also announced in media interviews that the Senate will no longer abide by a longstanding tradition that home-state senators must sign off on a judge before a Senate vote.

    Democrats have been slow-walking many of Trump’s nominees but say McConnell is going too far.

    The post McConnell promises to speed pace on judicial nominees appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Big changes are coming to an American tradition, the Boy Scouts. The Scouting board voted unanimously today to admit girls into the century-old program, and to permit them to earn the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.

    John Yang has more.

    JOHN YANG: Thanks, Judy.

    Beginning next year, the Boy Scouts will allow young girls to become Cub Scouts. And then, in 2019, they will begin a program for older girls that will allow them to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.

    Here to help understand what’s going on, what is behind this historic change and what it might mean for the Girl Scouts, we’re joined by Associated Press national writer David Crary.

    David, thanks for joining us.

    DAVID CRARY, Associated Press: Hey. It’s a pleasure to be here.

    JOHN YANG: First of all, let me ask you, why are the Boy Scouts doing this?

    DAVID CRARY: You know, they have been looking at their membership numbers now for quite a while. They have been going down over the last couple of decades. They have stabilized the last year or two, but they have been looking for ways to grow.

    And it’s not an easy task in this day and age, where these youth organizations are all struggling to keep their ranks full. So, I think the idea was, if we want to grow, let’s let girls in. This could be a huge increase, hundreds of thousands of girls over the next few years. It would help them get more revenue and really change the way the demographics of the Boy Scouts work.

    JOHN YANG: And they also talked in their announcement — that, I think, are some of the forces behind it. But in their announcement, they also talked about demographic changes in society overall.

    DAVID CRARY: Well, it’s been tough for all of these youth groups, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, because there are so many — there are single-parent families now. There are families where both parents are working. It’s tough for the parents to find the time to take their kids to and from these meetings and activities.

    I think the Boy Scouts are hoping that parents will see this kind of one-stop shopping now, where they can have the girls and boys in the same organization, maybe make things a little more efficient for themselves.

    JOHN YANG: And, also, Dave, the Boy Scouts have already had co-ed programs for older girls for a while now. So, what’s going to be the significance of this new program for older girls that they’re going to start in 2019?

    DAVID CRARY: Yes, it’s pretty fascinating, because that one they are saying it’s going to still be single-sex. There will be the boys, Boy Scouts, and then there will be a mirror program for girls of that age, 11 to 14 years old.

    It is going to be fascinating how much they interact with each other. They told me today still no co-ed camping. That is not on the cards. So it’s almost like two parallel groups. And I think the odd person out, the odd entity out is the Girl Scouts, who feel, I think, that their mission is being encroached on.

    JOHN YANG: Have they had anything to say today, the Girl Scouts?

    DAVID CRARY: As I came to the studio, I asked Girl Scouts for comment at midday, right when the story broke. Five hours later, no comment.

    I’m guessing they are upset. I’m sure they are. It will be interesting perhaps tomorrow to see how they phrase their annoyance with this and their idea for how to go forward.

    JOHN YANG: They have been talking about their annoyance with this earlier in the year, when they heard about the plans for this, didn’t they?

    DAVID CRARY: They have been very outspoken.

    They said this was covert recruiting of girls. They have implied that the Boy Scouts are doing this out of financial distress. They have harked back to decades ago, these sex abuse cases of the Boy Scouts, implying that this is the last thing the Boy Scouts should be doing, is bringing in girls.

    It’s been pretty nasty. And I think a lot of people have been surprised that these two organizations that have been kind of buddies for so long are now at odds with each other.

    JOHN YANG: And, in the recent years, we have seen the Boy Scouts open up to first gay Scout leaders then gay Scouts and then transgender Scouts. What does this say about the Scouts and how they’re trying to change with the times or keep up with the times?

    DAVID CRARY: Well, I think it shows that they take their livelihood, their viability pretty seriously.

    It’s interesting. The other three changes that you mentioned were all the result of a lot of pressure. Big business, gay rights activists were saying, hey, you have got to be more tolerant, you have got to let these people in.

    Eventually, the Boy Scouts did acquiesce. With this one, they haven’t been getting outside pressure, so it’s a little different, in the sense that they have figured out for themselves, I think, in a very entrepreneurial way, this is what we have got to do to be viable financially.

    JOHN YANG: David Crary of the Associated Press, thank you very much.

    DAVID CRARY: Thank you.

    The post Looking for ways to grow, Boy Scouts will invite girls to join appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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