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- 10/16/17--04:08: _Rex Tillerson says ...
- 10/16/17--04:21: _Birth control looph...
- 10/16/17--06:01: _Trump attacks Democ...
- 10/16/17--07:00: _Neutron star collis...
- 10/16/17--07:05: _Thad Cochran absent...
- 10/16/17--07:29: _These 19 states are...
- 10/16/17--08:06: _Supreme Court to in...
- 10/16/17--08:58: _A major sticking po...
- 10/16/17--09:12: _This poem shows wha...
- 10/16/17--09:33: _Trump said he ‘unde...
- 10/16/17--10:00: _Joe Manchin demands...
- 10/16/17--10:07: _WATCH: White House ...
- 10/16/17--10:32: _Thousands share sto...
- 10/16/17--11:20: _WATCH: Donald Trump...
- 10/16/17--15:25: _New Mexico deploys ...
- 10/16/17--15:30: _What the Bannon vs....
- 10/16/17--15:35: _California wine cou...
- 10/16/17--15:40: _Why a power struggl...
- 10/16/17--15:45: _News Wrap: Dozens m...
- 10/16/17--15:50: _What Trump said abo...
- 10/16/17--06:01: Trump attacks Democrats on Twitter over his tax overhaul plan
- 10/16/17--07:00: Neutron star collision offers new source of gravitational waves
- 10/16/17--07:05: Thad Cochran absent from Congress due to illness
- 10/16/17--07:29: These 19 states are cracking down on fake service dogs
- 10/16/17--08:58: A major sticking point in the Republican tax plan, explained
- 10/16/17--09:12: This poem shows what sexual abuse looks like
- 10/16/17--15:30: What the Bannon vs. McConnell fight means for Trump and the GOP
- 10/16/17--15:40: Why a power struggle has broken out over Kirkuk
- 10/16/17--15:45: News Wrap: Dozens missing after deadly Mogadishu truck bombing
- 10/16/17--15:50: What Trump said about his drug czar pick, health care fixes
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the North Korean crisis “will continue until the first bomb drops.”
That statement comes despite President Donald Trump’s tweets a couple of weeks ago that his chief envoy was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with “Little Rocket Man,” a mocking nickname Trump has given the nuclear-armed nation’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
“I think he does want to be clear with Kim Jong Un and that regime in North Korea that he has military preparations ready to go and he has those military options on the table. And we have spent substantial time actually perfecting those,” Tillerson told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “But be clear: The president has also made clear to me that he wants this solved diplomatically. He’s not seeking to go to war.”
Recent mixed messaging from the top of the U.S. government has raised concerns about the potential for miscalculation amid the increasingly bellicose exchange of words by Trump and the North Korean leader.
Trump told the U.N. General Assembly last month that if the U.S. is “forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Trump also tweeted that Korea’s leadership “won’t be around much longer” if it continued its provocations, a declaration that led the North’s foreign minister to assert that Trump had “declared war on our country.”
Tillerson acknowledged during a recent trip to Beijing that the Trump administration was keeping open direct channels of communications with North Korea and probing the North’s willingness to talk. He provided no elaboration about those channels or the substance of any discussions.
Soon after, Trump took to Twitter, saying he had told “our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man … Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!” Trump offered no further explanation, but he said all military options are on the table for dealing with North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
Analysts have speculated about whether the president and his top diplomat were playing “good cop, bad cop” with North Korea, and how China might interpret the confusing signals from Washington. Beijing is the North’s main trading partner, and the U.S. is counting on China to enforce U.N. sanctions.
“Rest assured that the Chinese are not confused in any way what the American policy towards North Korea (is) or what our actions and efforts are directed at,” Tillerson said.
Asked if Trump’s tweets undermined Tillerson, the secretary said: “I think what the president is doing is he’s trying to motivate action on a number of people’s part, in particular the regime in North Korea. I think he does want to be clear with Kim Jong Un and that regime in North Korea that he has military preparations ready to go and he has those military options on the table and we have spent substantial time perfecting those.”
He added that Trump “has made it clear to me to continue my diplomatic efforts, which we are, and I’ve told others those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops.”
North Korea has launched missiles that potentially can strike the U.S. mainland and recently conducted its largest ever underground nuclear explosion. It has threatened to explode another nuclear bomb above the Pacific.
The post Rex Tillerson says continue diplomacy with North Korea ‘until first bomb drops’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Few people were surprised last week when the Trump administration issued a rule to make it easier for some religious employers to opt out of offering no-cost prescription birth control to their female employees under the Affordable Care Act.
But a separate regulation issued at the same time raised eyebrows. It creates a new exemption from the requirement that most employers offer contraceptive coverage. This one is for “non-religious organizations with sincerely held moral convictions inconsistent with providing coverage for some or all contraceptive services.”
So what’s the difference between religious beliefs and moral convictions?
“Theoretically, it would be someone who says ‘I don’t have a belief in God,’ but ‘I oppose contraception for reasons that have nothing to do with religion or God,’ ” said Mark Rienzi, a senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented many of the organizations that sued the Obama administration over the contraceptive mandate.
Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan, said it would apply to “an organization that has strong moral convictions but does not associate itself with any particular religion.”
What kind of an organization would that be? It turns out not to be such a mystery, Rienzi and Bagley agreed.
Among the hundreds of organizations that sued over the mandate, two — the Washington, D.C.-based March for Life and the Pennsylvania-based Real Alternatives — are anti-abortion groups that do not qualify for religious exemptions. While their employees may be religious, the groups themselves are not.
March for Life argued that the ACA requirement to cover all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration includes methods that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s uterus and therefore are a type of abortion. Real Alternatives opposes the use of all contraceptives.
March for Life, which coordinates an annual abortion protest each year, won its suit before a federal district court judge in Washington, D.C.
But a federal appeals court ruled in August that Real Alternatives, which offers counseling services designed to help women choose not to have an abortion, does not qualify as a religious entity and thus cannot claim the exemption. That decision cited a lower-court ruling that “finding a singular moral objection to law on par with a religious objection could very well lead to a flood of similar objections.”
The departments of Treasury, Labor and Health and Human Services, however, suggest that, at least in this case, that will not happen. The regulation issued by those departments says officials “assume the exemption will be used by nine nonprofit entities” and “nine for-profit entities.” Among the latter, it said, “we estimate that 15 women may incur contraceptive costs due to for-profit entities using the expanded exemption provided” in the rules.
The regulation also seeks comments on whether the moral exemption should be extended to publicly traded firms.
Rienzi agrees that the universe for the moral exemption is likely to be small. “The odds that anyone new is going to come up and say ‘Aha, I finally have my way out,’ ” he said, “is crazy.”
Women’s health advocates, however, are not so sure.
“The parameters of what constitutes a moral objection is unclear,” said Mara Gandal-Powers, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, which is preparing to sue to stop both rules. “There is nothing in the regulatory language itself that says what a moral belief is that would rise to the level of making an organization eligible for the exemption.”
Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the ACLU, which has already filed a lawsuit, agreed. “We don’t know how many other entities are out there that would assert a moral objection,” she said. “Not everybody wanted to file a suit,” particularly smaller organizations.
All of that, however, presupposes that the rule laying out the moral objection exemption will stand up in court.
Bagley said he’s doubtful. The legal arguments making the case for the exemption, he said, are “the kind of things that would be laughed out of a [first-year] class on statutory interpretation.”
Specifically, he said, the rule lays out all the times Congress has included provisions in laws for moral objections. But rather than justifying the case, “it suggests that Congress knew a lot about how to craft a moral objection if it wanted to,” and it did not in the health law, he noted.
Bagley said the fact that the moral exemption was laid out in a separate rule from the religious one demonstrates that the administration is concerned the former might not stand up to court proceedings. “The administration must sense this rule is on thin legal ice,” he said.
Which leads to the question of why Trump officials even bothered doing a separate rule. Bagley said he thinks the act was more political than substantive. “The administration is doing something that signals to religious employers … that they are on their sides, that they have their backs.”
The post Birth control loophole opens for employers under new federal regulation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
President Donald Trump is assailing Democrats as he continues to lobby for his tax overhaul plan.
Trump says on Twitter Monday that “Democrats only want to increase taxes and obstruct.” He adds “that’s all they are good at!”
The Democrats only want to increase taxes and obstruct. That's all they are good at!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2017
In another tweet, Trump cited an economist appearing on Fox News who criticized Democrats.
Art Laffer just said that he doesn't know how a Democrat could vote against the big tax cut/reform bill and live with themselves! @FoxNews
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2017
After a year with no major legislative accomplishments, Trump is hoping to pass a major tax overhaul plan, which includes a proposal to cut the 35 percent corporate tax rate to 20 percent.
Republicans have called the plan a benefit for the middle class, arguing that cutting the corporate rate will spur more investment by companies, which would then boost hiring and worker productivity.
Democrats have criticized it as a boon for corporations and the wealthy.
The post Trump attacks Democrats on Twitter over his tax overhaul plan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Gravitational waves are back. And this time, they’re not traveling alone. In the first four detections of these astronomical phenomena, gravitational waves emanated from merging binary black holes—a source that puts off no light.
On Monday, Astronomers from LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, and the Virgo detector in Italy announced in a press conference that they discovered a collision of neutron stars that released both a stream of gravity waves and a flash of light. These findings–published in a suite of Science and Nature papers–back decades-old theories, including one by Albert Einstein that gravitational waves travel at the speed of light.
“It’s a privilege to discover that neutron stars can also emit gravitational waves, especially so close to the original gravitational wave discovery’s second anniversary,” said Stefano Covino, a researcher at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy and lead author of a Nature Astronomy paper that details some of the announced findings. LIGO and Virgo identified the gravitational waves from the twin neutron stars on August 17. At about 130 million light years away, this is the nearest gravitational wave event detected so far.
Astronomers verified the source by the neutron stars’ low masses. Black holes tend to start at around three to five times the mass of our sun. The new source ranged from 1.1 to 1.6 solar masses, which fit the bill for a neutron star.
Though it doesn’t seem massive, a neutron star is the collapsed core of a giant star after it goes supernova. They’re packed with neutrons (hence the name) and are usually about 12 miles in diameter. The density of a neutron star is so great that scooping up a teaspoon of its matter would weigh more than a billion tons. So, neutron stars — like black holes — were considered by astronomers to be massive enough to interact with the universe; thus, causing gravitational ripples in the curvature of spacetime.
Neutron star mergers were what scientists initially expected to find with LIGO, explained astrophysicist France Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation, which funds LIGO.
“We arguably know a lot more about neutron stars and can imagine them in binaries more than large black holes,” Córdova said. “It was a real surprise when we first found a few black hole mergers that were farther away than this star merger.”
However, LIGO and Virgo data show that neutron star collisions may be less common than expected, Vicky Kalogera, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University and with the LIGO collaboration, said at the press conference. In rough estimates, neutron star mergers may be happening between 30 to 500 times in the Milky Way over the course of millions of years, Kalogera said.
The way two massive objects become one is virtually the same, but for the neutron stars, it takes time. As the stars swirled around each other, they began losing angular momentum which slowly closed the gap between them.
Previous observations of black holes showed the merger happening in an audible “chirp” that lasted less than a second. Black holes quickly bubble together rather than crash. For the neutron stars, the gravitational wave chirp lasted about 100 seconds.
Two seconds after the waves passed through the Earth, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s gamma-ray observatory INTEGRAL spotted a surge of high-energy light after the cataclysmic collision. This finding meant the merger of stars caused a burst of short gamma-rays and then a kilonova, 1,000 times brighter and more violent than the average nova. What’s left in the gamma ray afterglow are rare heavy elements, such as uranium, platinum and gold. Yes, the material in your jewelry and gadgets may have come from neutron star collisions.
“These kinds of explosions as the source for the universe’s heavy elements have been theorized for a long time by people looking at how elements get synthesized in the collapse of stars or in neutron stars,” Córdova said. “Now we have confirmed that this kind of explosion produces those. Next, scientists need to figure out how this all happens in these very energetic explosions.”
After all these detections happened in a span of minutes, alerts sounded at 70 ground- and spaced-based observatories, who quickly guided their telescopes to the same swath of sky. The multinational collaborators watched for a variety of electromagnetic radiation—gamma rays, x-rays, ultraviolet, visible light, infrared and radio waves—to confirm LIGO and Virgo data in the next days and weeks.
David Reitze, executive director of the LIGO Laboratory, said these findings may usher in a new field called “multi-messenger astronomy.”
“This is the first time the cosmos has provided us a ‘talking movie,’” Reitze explained. “We’re going from the era of silent movies to talking movies. In this case, the audio soundtrack comes from the chirp of the neutron stars as their spiraling together. The video is basically the light that we see from the collision.”
Like the prediction that neutron stars would radiate gravitational waves, theorists had long hypothesized that these same colliding bodies could send out short gamma-ray bursts from a kilonova. This recent event finally confirms this suggestion and adds weight to Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Detecting gamma rays and gravitational waves at the essentially same time confirms his prediction that gravitational waves travel at the speed of light.
“[These validations] show that we have the capacity to understand the universe. We’re starting to see the whole universe in front of our eyes,” Covino said.
The post Neutron star collision offers new source of gravitational waves appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran is continuing to grapple with a urinary tract infection that has delayed a planned return to Washington.
The GOP veteran, 79, has been absent from Washington for a month.
Cochran’s chief of staff Brad White came as Republicans controlling the Senate had hoped to pass a budget measure that’s a key step toward the party’s goal of rewriting the tax code. It’s unclear whether Cochran’s absence will delay the budget debate. Republicans control the Senate with a narrow 52-48 margin.
White said Cochran’s wife told him late Saturday that the infection had returned. His office had said last week that Cochran would return to work on Monday.
Chris Slavin was in an elevator a couple years ago with Earle, her yellow lab service dog, sitting calmly beside her wheelchair. The elevator doors opened and in walked a woman holding a purse. In the purse was a teacup poodle the color of apricots.
The doors closed just as the poodle spotted Earle. That’s when the trouble started. In an instant, the poodle leaped from the purse, flung himself at Earle, and clamped his teeth into the bigger dog’s snout, leaving Earle bleeding onto the elevator floor.
“As soon as this occurred the woman said the poodle was a service dog,” said Slavin, who has a severe spinal injury that requires use of the wheelchair. “She then said he wasn’t a service dog but an emotional support dog. Finally, she admitted he was a pet she just wanted to bring in the building with her.”
Incidents like that one in Reading, Massachusetts, not far from where Slavin lives in Danvers, have spurred 19 states to enact laws cracking down on people who try to pass off their pets as service animals. The push has been gathering steam in recent years: Virginia implemented its new law in 2016, and Colorado followed suit this year. Massachusetts is now considering a similar proposal.
“Today, any pet owner can go online and buy a vest for a dog to pass it off as a service animal to gain access to restaurants, hotels and places of business,” said Republican state Rep. Kimberly Ferguson, who introduced the Massachusetts bill. “Their animals aren’t trained and end up misbehaving in these public places, which gives real service dogs a bad name.”
Service dogs, which are trained to perform tasks for a person with a disability, were first used by people with vision and hearing impairments. They are now also used by those who use wheelchairs or have other impairment in mobility, people who are prone to seizures or need to be alerted to medical conditions, like low blood sugar, and people with autism or mental illness. The American Humane Association, which promotes the welfare and safety of animals, says there are 20,000 service dogs working in the U.S.
Supporters of the new laws compare those misbehaving dog owners to people who acquire handicap signs so they can park in spaces intended for disabled people. The laws make it a misdemeanor to represent an untrained dog as a service animal, and usually come with fines of no more than $500 for an incident.
But because there is no certification or official national registry of legitimate service dogs, there is no way to verify whether a dog has undergone rigorous training to become a service animal.
That makes it hard to enforce the laws, said David Favre, a law professor at Michigan State University College of Law and editor of its Animal Legal and Historical Center website, which follows public policy issues related to animals. He said he’s not aware of anyone who has been prosecuted anywhere for violating them.
Rather, he said, the laws are largely symbolic, and meant to educate dog owners as well as people who let pets into spaces where they don’t belong. “Maybe you can scare some people into being honest.”
People who pass off their dogs as service animals in order to take them into stores, restaurants, libraries, sporting events and offices are a real problem, he said, for the proprietors of those establishments, their customers and disabled people who genuinely rely on the help of their service dogs.
“A service animal is trained to be in public and to be under control and non-intrusive and not bark,” Favre said. “They are trained not to be a nuisance in any way. You should hardly even know they are there.”
Because of Earle’s training as a service dog, Slavin said, when the poodle attacked him, “My dog never moved, never retaliated, never barked.” He did nothing. That is the way a service dog is trained. They are not going to ever be aggressive. Ever.”
‘Four on the Floor’
Earle performs many functions for Slavin. He picks up items she drops, retrieves keys, opens doors, puts objects like library books on counters that Slavin can’t reach, and returns change or credit cards to her after purchases. She credits Earle with “enabling me to truly become part of my community.”
Service dogs receive up to two years of training, which can cost more than $40,000. Before they are placed, their new owners are often required to live at the training center for a week or two to learn about caring and interacting with their dogs. Many training centers provide the dogs free of charge to disabled clients, defraying their costs through fundraising. The waiting time for a service dog is often two years or longer.
But for people who want to pass off their pet as a service dog, it’s easy enough to be convincing. Anyone can go online and purchase for about $20 the types of vests that legitimate service dogs usually wear.
The vests may help the fake service dogs gain entry, but their behavior, and that of their owners, often gives them away. Trained service dogs don’t go off-leash, bark, knock things off shelves, jump on people, play or fight with other dogs, or grab food off tables, trainers say.
And owners of real service dogs don’t carry them in shopping carts or purses. “The rule is four on the floor,” with all four feet on the ground except when a dog is performing a task, said Katelynne Steinke, a paraplegic in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with her own yellow lab service dog.
The problem is that the proprietors of establishments where people bring their dogs have no way of determining whether a dog is a real service animal.
The American with Disabilities Act requires all places open to the public, such as businesses, government agencies and entertainment venues, to give access to service dogs and their owners. And it permits them to ask only two questions: whether the dog is required because of a disability and what tasks the dog is trained to perform. It is illegal to request documentation for the dog or to ask the nature of the owner’s disability.
There’s another complication: the growing use of “emotional support dogs,” which are intended to provide comfort to those with anxiety or other emotional problems. Some of them may have received special training, although nothing as rigorous as the training for service dogs. (Emotional support dogs are not covered under the ADA and can legally be denied access.)
Some service dog owners say many businesses, unable to tell fake service dogs from real ones, allow all of them in. Many owners of service dogs avoid those places for fear of exposing their animals to danger from untrained dogs. Other businesses, they say, simply bar all dogs from the premises, even if it violates the ADA.
The National Disability Rights Network, which advocates on behalf of people with disabilities, is sympathetic to those who want to crack down on pet owners who misrepresent their dogs as service animals. But Ken Shiotani, a senior staff attorney with the organization, said the laws should aim to educate, rather than punish, and the penalties for violations should be minimal. “We want to have a positive impact on people to help them realize that what they’ve done has this very negative effect.”
Advocates for the laws agree.
Cathy Zemaitis, who helped draft the Massachusetts bill and is director of development for National Education for Assistance Dog Services, a Massachusetts group that says it has trained over 1,700 dogs since 1976, said the laws should launch a national effort to teach people not to put dogs in situations they are not trained for — and to educate the public on the need for legitimately trained dogs.
The long-term goal, Zemaitis said, is the creation of a national certification program and registry for legitimately trained service dogs. “This is the beginning of a much larger conversation we need to have.”
The post These 19 states are cracking down on fake service dogs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is intervening in a digital-age privacy dispute between the Trump administration and Microsoft over emails stored abroad.
The justices say Monday they will hear the administration’s appeal of a lower court ruling in favor of Microsoft. The court held the emails sought in a drug trafficking investigation were beyond the reach of a search warrant because they were kept on a Microsoft server in Ireland.
The case is among several legal clashes that Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft and other technology companies have had with the government over questions of digital privacy and authorities’ need for information to combat crime and extremism.
Privacy law experts say the companies have been more willing to push back against the government since the leak of classified information detailing America’s surveillance programs.
The case also highlights the difficulty that judges face in trying to square decades-old laws with new technological developments.
In 2013, federal investigators obtained a warrant under a 1986 law for emails from an account they believe was being used in illegal drug transactions as well as identifying information about the user of the email account.
Microsoft turned over the information, but went to court to defend its decision not to hand over the emails from Ireland.
The federal appeals court in New York agreed with the company. The administration said in its Supreme Court appeal said the decision is damaging “hundreds if not thousands of investigations of crimes — ranging from terrorism, to child pornography, to fraud.”
Wherever the emails reside, Microsoft can retrieve them “domestically with the click of a computer mouse,” Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Wall told the court.
Microsoft had urged the court to stay out of the case and instead allow Congress to make needed changes to bring the 1986 Stored Communications Act up to date. Bipartisan bills have been introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Microsoft said the high court’s intervention would “short-circuit” the congressional effort.
“The current laws were written for the era of the floppy disk, not the world of the cloud. We believe that rather than arguing over an old law in court, it is time for Congress to act by passing new legislation,” Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith wrote on the company’s blog after the court acted.
Privacy scholars also have worried that the court may have trouble resolving difficult issues in a nuanced way.
Data companies have built servers around the world to keep up with customers’ demands for speed and access. Among the issues the court may confront is whether the same rules apply to the emails of an American citizen and a foreigner. Another is whether it matters where the person is living.
The Stored Communications Act became law long before the advent of cloud computing. Judge Gerard Lynch, on the New York panel that sided with Microsoft, called for “congressional action to revise a badly outdated statute.”
The case, U.S. v. Microsoft, 17-2, will be argued early next year.
The post Supreme Court to intervene over privacy of Trump administration, emails and Microsoft servers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The state and local tax deduction has become a key sticking point for Republicans negotiating tax reform. How the tax break gets handled will help determine the final price tag of the tax legislation Republicans hope to pass by the end of the year.
The White House has called for eliminating the tax break, known as “SALT,” to help pay for the personal and business tax cuts President Donald Trump promised. But some House Republicans are pushing to keep a version of the deduction in place. The debate is the latest chapter in a decades-long fight between supporters who say the tax break helps middle-class taxpayers, and critics who claim it’s a costly federal subsidy.
Here is a guide to the state and local deduction, and what might happen if it gets tweaked or eliminated altogether.
How SALT works
The current tax code allows individuals and households who itemize deductions to deduct state and local real estate and personal property taxes from their federal returns. Taxpayers can also deduct either state and local income taxes or sales taxes. Most people choose to itemize their state and local income and real estate taxes, which combined account for 95 percent of all SALT deductions.
Who takes the deduction?
The vast majority of people who receive the state and local tax break are high-income earners. In 2014, 81 percent of all SALT deductions were claimed by people earning $100,000 or more, according to data from the Tax Policy Center. Just 10 percent of all state and local deductions were claimed by taxpayers earning less than $50,000.
Wealthier people also claim larger state and local deductions. The average claim by people earning between $100,000 and $200,000 in 2014 was $11,000. In contrast, the average claim that year by taxpayers earning between $20,000 and $50,000 was just $3,800. Most of the federally-funded tax break flows to middle- and upper-middle-class earners in states with high state and local income and real estate taxes. In 2014, taxpayers in New York state claimed the largest average state and local deduction, at $21,000, followed by Connecticut ($18,900), New Jersey ($17,200), and California ($17,100).
Far fewer people would choose to itemize deductions — including their state and local taxes — under the current White House tax plan, because it would significantly increase the standard deduction for individuals and married couples who file jointly.
How much does this tax break cost the federal government?
The Treasury Department estimated last year that the federal government would spend $783 billion on state and local income tax deductions between 2016 and 2026. A full repeal of the tax break — which would include scrapping the deductions for state and local real estate, personal property and sales taxes — would raise $1.3 trillion over the next decade, the Tax Policy Center found.
Eliminating the SALT deduction would generate the second-largest source of revenue under the tax proposal the White House and Republican leaders put out last month. The largest source of revenue, nearly $1.6 trillion, would come from eliminating personal exemptions. Overall, the tax plan, which included a full SALT repeal, would cost $2.4 trillion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
Getting rid of the state and local tax deduction is “one of the biggest revenue increasers” in the current plan, Frank Sammartino, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, said. “If it’s not part of the package, it’s hard to see where they make that up.”
House Republicans are reportedly considering a proposal to keep the SALT deduction in place for taxpayers with incomes of up to $400,000, though the final cap could be closer to $250,000. That would add hundreds of billions to the deficit over 10 years, depending on the cap, unless lawmakers found another way to offset the cost.
Senate Republicans have sent mixed signals on the tax break. After the White House rolled out its “unified framework” on tax reform last month, Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who helped craft the framework, said he wanted to leave the SALT deductions unchanged. But last week, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said the Senate Finance Committee’s tax legislation would likely include a provision fully eliminating the state and local tax break.
Why the politics are so tricky
The people who benefit most from the state and local deduction are high-income earners in blue states like New York and California. But many live in wealthy congressional districts represented by Republicans. GOP lawmakers represent 45 percent of the 20 House districts with the highest percentage of SALT claims. That’s why some House Republicans with constituents who benefit from the tax break, like Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., have opposed getting rid of it. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has also come out strongly against the proposal.
“It’s kind of discouraging that some people on the Hill are trying to keep part of the break,” said Rachel Greszler, a tax expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “Regardless of who benefits and who loses, it’s a bad policy.”
The White House has insisted on a full repeal of the deduction, but it’s possible Mr. Trump would accept a compromise if House and Senate Republicans can reach a deal. A full repeal would be a victory for opponents who have called for eliminating the state and local tax break for years. Republicans considered eliminating the deduction in 1986, when Congress last passed a major tax overhaul, but the proposal was left out of the final law.
The post A major sticking point in the Republican tax plan, explained appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
When Yrsa Daley-Ward wrote the poem “bone” years ago, it came to her as many of her poems do: in the morning, just after waking up, and she wrote what hit her, in an attempt to tell the truth about something not often said.
The result is a poem that speaks plainly of sexual abuse through a series of numbered but unnamed aggressors who get away with what they do in different ways: “From One / who says, ‘Don’t cry. You’ll like it after a while,’” she writes. “And Two who tells you thank you / after the fact and can’t look at your face.”
Daley-Ward has been reading the poem aloud for years on tour for her poetry collection, also called “bone,” which first came out in 2014 and was just expanded and reissued. But she said that in the last few weeks, after revelations that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed or abused dozens of women, she’s felt a different energy in the room.
“I have a lot of poems that are loud and energetic. But this one, it’s palpable what comes over the room when I read that. Because the poem doesn’t hold back… Because it’s become a thing we need to talk about right now, at this moment… Because it’s nearly every woman’s experience.”
Daley-Ward, whose poetry has spread widely over the past few years on social media, particularly Instagram, and whose book has sold so many copies it’s now available in places like Target and Urban Outfitters, said it’s encouraging to see the poetry reach across age, class and gender.
But women in particular have connected with her poetry, she said, because her poetry addresses issues that affect women — issues that aren’t always openly talked about.
“It’s sexism, it’s misogyny, it’s violence. But it’s beautiful things also, it’s pleasure, it’s sex, it’s falling in love,” she said. “And these issues affect everyone as well.”
In the poem “bone,” she said, she chose to use numbers for each of the aggressors because that’s how people like Weinstein view women, “as one after the next after the next.”
As of Monday, 38 women had come forward to accuse the Hollywood producer of sexual misconduct, which was followed by accusations against Amazon Studios head Roy Price and the video game developer Naughty Dog. At least two male actors also came forward to talk about sexual harassment they’d faced in their career.
But “bone” ends in perhaps an unexpected place, not with anger but with an expression of gratitude, for how the body puts itself back together.
“Thank heavens you’re resetting,” she writes, “ever / setting and / resetting… How else can the body survive?”
Read the full poem below:
by Yrsa Daley-Ward
who says, “Don’t cry.
You’ll like it after a while.”
and Two who tells you thank-you
after the fact and can’t look at your face.
To Three who pays for your breakfast
and a cab home
and your mother’s rent.
“But you felt so good
I didn’t know how to stop.”
To Five who says giving your body
but something you do very well.
Who smells of tobacco
and says “Come on, I can feel that
you love this.”
To those who feel bad in the morning yes,
some feel bad in the morning
and sometimes they tell you
you want it
and sometimes you think that you do.
Thank heavens you’re resetting
How else do you sew up the tears?
How else can the body survive?
Yrsa Daley-Ward is a writer and poet of mixed West Indian and West African heritage. Born to a Jamaican mother and a Nigerian father, Yrsa was raised by her devout Seventh Day Adventist grandparents in the small town of Chorley in the North of England. She splits her time between London and Los Angeles.
President Donald Trump says he “understands” his former chief strategist’s anger at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and efforts to unseat incumbent Republicans.
Trump told reporters as he convenes a Cabinet meeting Monday that he “can understand where Steve Bannon’s coming from.”
At a conservative gathering over the weekend, Bannon declared war against the Republican establishment, including McConnell.
Trump says he has “great relations” with many senators, but says “they are not getting the job done.”
Trump says “There are some Republicans that, frankly, should be ashamed of themselves,” though he says “most of them are really, really great people.”
He called Bannon “a friend.”
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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump should withdraw the nomination of Republican Rep. Tom Marino to be the nation’s drug czar, a Democratic senator said Monday, citing the lawmaker’s role in passing a bill weakening the Drug Enforcement Administration’s authority to stop companies from distributing opioids.
The Washington Post and CBS’s “60 Minutes” reported Sunday on the 2016 law and Marino’s role in it.
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he was horrified at the Post story and scolded the Obama administration for failing to “sound the alarm on how harmful that bill would be for our efforts to effectively fight the opioid epidemic” that kills an estimated 142 people a day nationwide.
In a letter to Trump, Manchin called the opioid crisis “the biggest public health crisis since HIV/AIDS,” and said, “we need someone leading the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy who believes we must protect our people, not the pharmaceutical industry.”
The Post reported Sunday that Pennsylvania’s Marino and other members of Congress, along with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to an industry-friendly law that undermined efforts to restrict the flow of pain pills that have led to tens of thousands of deaths.
The Post called the 2016 law, signed by President Barack Obama, “the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market.”
The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, including Marino, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns, the newspaper reported.
A White House commission convened by Trump and led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has called on Trump to declare a national emergency to help deal with the growing opioid crisis. An initial report from the commission in July noted that the approximately 142 deaths each day from drug overdoses mean the death toll is “equal to September 11th every three weeks.”
Trump has said he will officially declare the opioid crisis a “national emergency” but so far has not done so.
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Before Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ press briefing Monday, President Donald Trump launched several attacks, both in meetings and on Twitter, against Democrats, Republicans, Iran and welfare fraud, offering reporters ample fodder for questions.
Huckabee Sanders had been tentatively scheduled to speak at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Earlier Monday, Trump tweeted attacks against Democrats in Congress, saying they would obstruct his tax overhaul plan, the Associated Press reported.
He also said he shared Steve Bannon’s anger with Congressional Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, over their work while in office, according to the Associated Press Monday.
And then Trump appeared with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at his side in the Rose Garden to offer wide-ranging press briefing where he took questions and commented on everything from the opioid crisis to the Russia probe to hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
The post WATCH: White House briefing cancelled after Trump offers statements from Rose Garden appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Thousands of people revealed the magnitude of sexual assault and harassment they have endured under the social media hashtag #MeToo within the last 24 hours.
Women shared stories of how they’ve been the targets of such abuse after actor Alyssa Milano posted a message of solidarity on Sunday, urging victims to reply “me too” to her original tweet. “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘Me too.’ as a reply to this tweet,” Milano posted in a screenshot message on Twitter.
In the hours since, women and men replied with the two-word message, while many others offered detailed accounts of misconduct they’ve witnessed. As of mid-day Monday, there have been more than 40,000 responses to Milano’s original tweet. The stories have been posted to Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr as well.
Milano credited a friend with the idea and, tweeted that the outpouring could help illustrate the problem’s scale.
Others posted general reminders to victims that they also didn’t need to share their stories online either for those experiences “to be real,” one person tweeted.
“If you don’t join in with #MeToo, that’s OK. If you’re not ready to share, that’s OK. We shouldn’t need to tell our stories to earn rights,” another tweeted.
The trending messages came after mounting sexual assault and harassment allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein. Earlier this month, back-to-back reports from The New York Times and The New Yorker of several actors and workers within Weinstein’s company who said the Hollywood mogul made unwanted advances. A few said he raped them.
Weinstein has “unequivocally” denied the allegations, a spokesperson told Variety. Since the twin reports, Weinstein has been ousted by his company and dismissed by the Academy. More women have also come forward, adding to the on-the-record allegations made against Weinstein.
In an essay published to PatriotNotPartisan.com, for Milano said it was “complicated” for her to publicly comment on the Weinstein allegations because she was friends with his ex-wife Georgina Chapman and her two children.
“Please don’t confuse my silence for anything other than respect for a dear friend and her beautiful children,” Milano wrote.
She also said she was “sickened and angered over the disturbing accusations of Weinstein’s sexual predation and abuse of power.”
“To the women who have come forward against a system that is designed to keep you silent, I stand in awe of you and appreciate you and your fortitude,” she wrote. “It is not easy to disclose such experiences, especially in the public eye. Your strength will inspire others.”
Since Sunday, “MeToo” messages proliferated on Twitter, the same platform that temporarily froze the account of actor Rose McGowan, Milano’s one-time co-star in the TV show “Charmed,” last week.
After being critical of Weinstein, Twitter shut down McGowan’s account. Twitter defended its decision to locked the actor’s account by pointing out its policies, saying McGowan had tweeted a private phone number. When the hashtag #WomenBoycottTwitter started trending in response, Twitter reopened McGowan’s account.
The Times reported that McGowan reached a $100,000 settlement with Weinstein after a 1997 incident.
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Watch President Trump’s remarks, made from the Rose Garden at the White House on Monday, in the player above.
President Donald Trump offered remarks today that wandered from the opioid crisis to the Russia probe and to relief efforts in hurricane-hit Puerto Rico with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at his side.
He and McConnell made remarks and took questions during the press briefing. Early on, Trump and McConnell appeared to offer a timetable for when the public can expect Congress to pass the president’s tax overhaul plan. Initially, Trump said he hoped to see Congress pass his plan well before the end of the year.
“I would like to see it be done this year,” Trump said.
But McConnell then quickly stepped to the podium to point out that previous administrations had passed ambitious legislation during their second year in office, not their first.
Trump signaled that he might withdraw his drug czar nomination of Rep. Tom Marino, a Republican from Pennsylvania. A report from the Washington Post and CBS News “60 Minutes” said Marino had a relationship with the pharmaceutical industry and shepherded 2016 legislation that hindered the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to stem the opioid crisis.
“If I think it’s 1-percent negative to doing what we want to do, then I will make a change,” Trump said.
In response to a reporter’s question, Trump said he will declare a national emergency on the opioid crisis next week. This is not the first time Trump has said he would make such an announcement. The opioid commission he established by executive order in March recommended that Trump put the full weight of his office behind stopping the opioid crisis. He said he would but has not yet. In 2016, an estimated 64,000 people fatally overdosed on drugs, according preliminary government data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Trump said he’d written personal letters to U.S. soldiers who died in Niger and said they would be mailed Monday or Tuesday, adding that he has not yet called their families to offer condolences. The soldiers were killed after an Oct. 4 training mission in Niger.
When asked whether or not would fire Robert Mueller as he leads the Special Counsel investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election, Trump flatly said “no,” but added that the Russia probe was “an excuse” by Democrats who were unhappy about having lost the race for the White House.
When a reporter asked about the president’s response to relief and recovery in Puerto Rico, where U.S. citizens have struggled for roughly one month to secure drinking water and electricity since Hurricane Maria devastated the island, Trump conceded that “Puerto Rico is a tough one” and that the island “was in really bad shape before.”
Trump blamed 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the NFL protests where players kneeled during the National Anthem. When a reporter pointed out that these protests were intended to bring attention to systemic mistreatment of African-Americans by police, Trump said, “It is very disrespectful to our country when they take a knee during the National Anthem.”
Trump then highlighted sagging ratings and a decline in stadium ticket sales to professional football games.
The post WATCH: Donald Trump stands with Mitch McConnell for Rose Garden press briefing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We return to our series on the opioid epidemic, America Addicted.
In a moment, William Brangham looks at how federal law enforcement was undermined when it came to stopping shipments of the drugs.
Let’s begin with a report from the Southwest.
While states nationwide have been scrambling to tackle the crisis, New Mexico has been hard at work with an aggressive response for years. And yet its death rate from overdoses remains stubbornly high.
Hari Sreenivasan begins our report in northern New Mexico.
DR. GINA PEREZ-BARON, Las Clinicas del Norte: How’d your week go this week?
HARI SREENIVASAN: This is what progress against the opioid epidemic looks like.
ANTHONY OCANA, Patient: I kind of messed up. I had a bunch of friends up there, and we started drinking and stuff. And a guy pulled out a baggie, and it was meth. And I kind of messed up, and I…
DR. GINA PEREZ-BARON: Kind of relapsed with meth.
ANTHONY OCANA: Relapsed with meth.
HARI SREENIVASAN: It’s the latest relapse for Anthony Ocana (ph). His doctor, Gina Perez-Baron at Las Clinicas del Norte, had already discovered it during a routine drug screen.
DR. GINA PEREZ-BARON: I’m glad you told me. Not happy, but glad you told me.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Then the surprise. Anthony’s drug of choice is heroin.
DR. GINA PEREZ-BARON: Did they have heroin? Did they have — they did? No kidding. And you didn’t use? All right.
HARI SREENIVASAN: A small success here in Rio Arriba County against a staggering problem that Perez-Baron says can only be won with a million small successes.
DR. GINA PEREZ-BARON: Yes, I may have relapsed, but this time I didn’t do heroin, right, you know? Or if I did heroin, I didn’t inject it, you know? Those are all small recoveries. Those are all small victories.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The opioid epidemic struck this corner of New Mexico more than a decade before the rest of the nation, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.
Lieutenant Billy Merrifield of the sheriff’s office:
LT. BILLY MERRIFIELD, Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office: It’s hard to say what actually fuels it, other than it’s such — this drug, it just — once they use it once, it’s like it takes control of them.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Some blame poverty and high unemployment. Others an aggressive overprescription of legal pills in the area. Others still the normalization of illegal drug use — so widespread now that multiple generations often use together.
Regardless, you can see the fallout almost everywhere. Needles scattered throughout the countryside…
LT. BILLY MERRIFIELD: We could probably drive along this whole roadway, and we’re going to find them.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And overdose rates five times the rest of the country. But this has also meant that New Mexico got a big head start on nearly every evidence-based strategy now being rolled out elsewhere.
That includes widespread harm reduction and needle exchange programs that are still extremely limited in many states.
PHILIP FIUTY, Santa Fe Mountain Center Outreach Worker: You can just throw those right in here.
PHILIP FIUTY: As long as the lids are tight.
HARI SREENIVASAN: There’s a residential treatment center in the county facility on the banks of the Rio Grande.
And in the outpatient clinic where Perez-Baron works, there are even trauma-based group sessions for low-income Medicaid patients designed to get at the underlying emotional wounds that often fuel addictions.
EUTIMIA SANCHEZ, Las Clinicas del Norte Patient: I was molested when I was young. And I think that’s what happened.
DR. GINA PEREZ-BARON: We don’t have a single patient where trauma doesn’t play a part in their addiction. What addiction is really an effort to avoid pain.
WOMAN: Losing my son, it’s taken lot out of me. I have relapsed over and over.
HARI SREENIVASAN: After more than a decade, these interventions have started paying off, says Lauren Reichelt, the county’s health and human services director.
Overdose death rates fell here in 2015.
LAUREN REICHELT, Rio Arriba County Department of Health and Human Services: We brought it down by 30 percent, which I consider significant. And then it looks like, in 2016, we have held steady. And so that’s at a time when everybody else’s has been increasing.
HARI SREENIVASAN: At the state level, even bigger moves. As early as 2001, New Mexico became the first state to increase access to the overdose reversal drug naloxone, now in widespread use.
WOMAN: It reverses the heroin you just injected.
HARI SREENIVASAN: New Mexico is now a leader in training some at-risk populations on how to reverse an overdose, like inmates preparing to leave Albuquerque’s Metropolitan Detention Center.
NURSE, Metropolitan Detention Center: What I am hoping for is that even just one of you guys can reverse somebody to give that one person a chance to rethink what they’re doing to their lives, what they’re doing to themselves, what they’re doing to their families.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And in Albuquerque Public Schools, one of the largest school districts in the United States, there is early opioid education, like this lesson by a substance abuse prevention counselor in a seventh-grade health class.
KIM CHAVEZ, Crossroads Counselor: Metropolitan Detention Center: So, remember, opioids come in our painkillers and they come in heroin. So look at the difference in this brain.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Despite all those efforts — and the gains in hard-hit Rio Arriba County — the number of overdose deaths statewide is still staggeringly high. Around 500 per year, or 25 deaths per 100,000 residents. The national average is 16 overdose deaths per 100,000.
Many of those bodies show up here on a cold metal table.
Medical investigator Dr. Hannah Kastenbaum:
DR. HANNAH KASTENBAUM, New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator: Several in a day are concerning for drug deaths, for overdose deaths. Every day, we’re here at one of these tables examining some young person who shouldn’t otherwise be dead. Every day.
HARI SREENIVASAN: New Mexico seems to be doing everything. They have aggressive treatment. They have harm reduction. They have early education. They even track every opioid being prescribed.
So why is it so bad? Part of the answer is the freeway we’re driving on. Two national highways cross New Mexico — I-40 east to west, I-25 north to south. They meet in Albuquerque.
RUDY MORA, Undersheriff, Bernalillo County: We’re jumping on here onto I-40 westbound. This road is literally the pipeline of America.
HARI SREENIVASAN: A pipeline that keeps drugs from Mexico pulsing through the state, says Rudy Mora, the Bernalillo County undersheriff.
Mora says he’s been involved in close to a thousand large-scale drug seizures over the course of his career. Hidden cargo, including heroin, meth, pills, marijuana, frequently travel on from Albuquerque in concealed compartments in tractor-trailers discovered during routine stops and planned raids along this highway.
Illegal activity and busts are frequent here because New Mexico serves as a Wal-Mart style distribution center in the international drug trade, he says.
RUDY MORA: And once they can get those drugs across the international border, then they can start breaking their drugs apart and distributing them from there.
MIKE GALLAGHER, Investigative Reporter, Albuquerque Journal: They’re looking to see if there’s dope hidden, stuck in there and hidden, covered up by the fruit. And so he’s going to be shining his light and digging through the fruit.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Mike Gallagher, an investigative reporter for The Albuquerque Journal, says Mexican cartels have streamlined the entire process. They now operate deep within the U.S. and control every piece of the pipeline.
MIKE GALLAGHER: From the point of origin, where the poppies are grown, to the lab, to the smuggling organizations to the delivery points in Albuquerque and the Northeast Heights.
HARI SREENIVASAN: One example of many: this now closed auto body shop in Southwest Albuquerque, tied in a federal investigation to the Juarez cartel. In an auto body shop in Mexico, they’d open vehicles up, create secret compartments, and stash drugs inside to get it across the border.
Then they’d come to an auto body shop here in Albuquerque, where those vehicles would be opened up, the drugs would be taken out, money would be put back in, and then the vehicles would go back across.
But the drugs, Gallagher says, continue on.
MIKE GALLAGHER: Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Saint Louis, Memphis, Atlanta, Charleston, into New Jersey, Ohio, and as far north as Massachusetts.
WILL GLASPY, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration: The Mexican criminal organizations understand that some of their loads are going to be seized. That’s cost of doing business to them.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Will Glaspy is a special agent in charge with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Until recently, he oversaw the El Paso division, which includes New Mexico.
The cartels, Glaspy says, play a numbers game that will continue to be in their favor, unless the U.S. wants to drastically reduce commerce with Mexico. Last year alone, roughly 5.8 million trucks legally dove over the border at points of entry, along with 75 million personal vehicles. More than 42 million pedestrians crossed by foot.
WILL GLASPY: For us, it’s a game of cat and mouse. We’re always looking for the avenues or the cover that the criminal organizations are using to smuggle the drugs. Once we find that, then we can focus on that until the traffickers move to something else.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Confiscated drugs from the nearby border crossings are stored in a drug vault near Glaspy’s old office. Tens of thousands of pounds often line the shelves. But no matter how much is seized, Glaspy says, it’s just a small fraction of what flows in, a sign of a bigger problem.
WILL GLASPY: They have realized that they have got this huge market in the United States, so they have ramped up production of heroin and really flooded the streets of the United States with this deadly poison.
EUTIMIA SANCHEZ: It just blocks the pain is what it does, you know, numbs it.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Back in Rio Arriba County, stories like Eutimia Sanchez’s help explain why the national opioid epidemic has been so hard to beat back.
In recent years, she turned to pills and cocaine to block her pain, the physical pain from a fall, she says, and the anxiety of everyday life. For long stretches of time, she fights for sobriety, but they’re always interrupted by moments like this.
EUTIMIA SANCHEZ: I relapsed this weekend, before my dad and everybody showed up. The pain is so bad that I just — I can’t, so, you know, I go self-medicate with drugs, you know?
HARI SREENIVASAN: Addiction continues to rage in Rio Arriba County, despite the small band of health providers and their many efforts, despite aggressive law enforcement action and the county’s recent drop in death rates.
Dr. Leslie Hayes says treatment can work wonders for individual payments, but this county is still filled with poverty, unemployment, and trauma, pain in search of a painkiller.
DR. LESLIE HAYES, El Centro Family Health: I have heard law enforcement say we’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem. The same is also true for medicine. We’re not going to treat our way out of this problem. We want to stop it earlier, stop it by not prescribing inappropriately, and by getting other things in their lives that are meaningful.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The nature of addictions means that most solutions and victories here will continue being small and incremental.
There are times when Sanchez still reaches for drugs, but more often now times when she reaches for helps.
EUTIMIA SANCHEZ: I will have cravings, and there’s time they have stopped, because I will call somebody up and take a walk or do something else. They will remind me of the things that we have been working on.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Working to cope … a work in progress.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Hari Sreenivasan in New Mexico.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first, back to the president’s public appearances today, the state of his agenda, and his working relationship with congressional Republicans.
For more on all that, we turn to Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.
Thank you both for being here.
So, let’s start. We heard a little of this earlier, but let’s bore in on the president’s earlier criticism of Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. The president had McConnell over to the White House today, as we saw earlier.
Over the weekend, though, the president’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, spoke at the conservative Value Voters Summit. He was combative about mainstream Republican senators whom he is vowing to unseat. Let’s listen.
STEVE BANNON, Executive Chairman, Breitbart News: All you folks that are so concerned that you’re going to get primaried and defeated, you know, there’s time for mea culpa. You can come to a stick and condemn Senator Corker. And you can come to a stick, a microphone, and you can say, I’m not going to vote for Mitch McConnell for majority leader.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: My goal, as the leader of the Republican Party in the Senate, is to keep us in the majority. The way you do that is not complicate it. You have to nominate people who can actually win, because winners make policy and losers go home.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And so, Amy, I don’t know whether it’s complicated or not, but Mitch McConnell is saying the party is going to win the way it is, and Steve Bannon is saying, no, we have got to move to the populist right.
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Right.
Mitch McConnell is correct. His job is to protect the people in his party and the people in his caucus. Steve Bannon’s job is to protect the president, and what Steve Bannon sees as over-reliance on this establishment thinking. His job is to blow things up. Steve Bannon’s is. Mitch McConnell’s is to kind of — is to keep things steady as they go.
And this is, in sum, the relationship between the Republican Party and Donald Trump, which is a president who came in vowing to shake up the establishment, to do things very differently. And the personnel who’s committed to doing this in — within their own party is Steve Bannon.
And it’s Mitch McConnell whose job it is to try to keep these incumbents together. And, as we saw, Mitch McConnell and his team have spent a whole lot of money trying to protect one of those, Luther Strange in Alabama. Didn’t work out so well.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Didn’t work out.
And Steve Bannon really is trying to help some other candidates.
TAMARA KEITH, NPR: He is.
He says that he wants to field candidates for basically every Senate race. He wants to go after people who are very conservative, who have never voted against President Trump on anything, but who are part of a leadership and support Mitch McConnell.
The thing about today that was fascinating to me is, President Trump in his Cabinet meeting was asked about Bannon and says that he was sort of sympathetic to Bannon’s position, that he felt like there were some senators that — you know, some are good people, he said, but some of them need to go.
And then he goes out, has this impromptu press conference in the Rose Garden with Mitch McConnell, and basically was like, yes, I’m with Mitch McConnell. We’re on the same team.
Mitch McConnell is Steve Bannon’s public enemy number one.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you set this up perfectly, because we were going to show — we are going to show what the president had to say, both at the Cabinet meeting and later with Senator McConnell. Here it is.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I can understand where Steve Bannon is coming from.
And I can understand — to be honesty with you, John, I can understand where a lot of people are coming from, because I’m not happy about it and a lot of people aren’t happy about it.
Steve is doing what Steve thinks is the right thing. Some of the people that he may be looking at, I’m going to see if we talk him out of that, because, frankly, they’re great people.
What Mitch will tell you is that, maybe with the exception of a few — and that is a very small few — I have a fantastic relationship with the people in the Senate and with the people in Congress. Just so you understand, the Republican Party is very, very unified.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Amy, as Tam said, which side is the president on here?
AMY WALTER: You don’t hold a press conference in the Rose Garden to say that you are really unified with the person standing next to you if you are really unified, because we would know you’re unified. You don’t need to stand out in front of a bunch of cameras to tell people that you’re unified.
It’s pretty clear why they did this today, because the story over the weekend of Steve Bannon and then the constant attacks of the president on Mitch McConnell.
More important, the president’s agenda is not exactly lining up with where the Republican agenda is. What Mitch McConnell wants to do, number one, save the Senate. Number two, the way they think they’re going to save the Senate is by passing tax cuts, tax reform, whatever you want to call this. That’s what they want to focus on.
The president, meanwhile, is throwing a whole bunch of other things on their plate, which could deter them, whether it’s from DACA, Iran, and now of course on Obamacare and the payments to the insurance companies.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Tam, the president does keep bringing up health care. He brought it up again today. He said the short-term, we’re going to maybe get something. It may take — it left us all wondering, what exactly is going on with regard to health care?
TAMARA KEITH: And that is not entirely clear. It kind of depends on the minute.
So, President Trump says, yes, maybe we can get this short deal. And, as you reported earlier, Patty Murray and Senator Alexander, Senator Murray and Senator Alexander, working on some sort of bipartisan maybe fix.
But then you have the president’s budget director in an interview with Politico on Friday — this is Mick Mulvaney — making it very clear that the president isn’t going to accept some sort of small ball bipartisan deal. He wants more. He wants to extract more.
You know, when the president has talked about, well, maybe we can do something with Democrats, he has typically still wanted to repeal Obamacare, and that’s not something that Democrats are interested in talking about.
AMY WALTER: And this is the real danger for Republicans, which is, the president is very intent on showing that he’s followed through on his promises and protecting the Trump brand.
He’s not as interested in protecting the Republican brand. He’s not on the ballot in 2018. His party is. So, Mitch McConnell obviously is much more concerned about what happens to his Republicans, the president much more concerned about what happens to the President Trump brand.
TAMARA KEITH: And he’s still — he’s talking about 2020.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
TAMARA KEITH: Today, in that press conference, he was saying, oh, I hope Hillary Clinton runs in 2020.
The president is very focused on 2020. And driving a wedge with Republicans in Congress and the establishment is great for his brand for 2020, but his presidency is contingent on what happens in 2018.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes, it’s — and the different messages, the signals coming out of the White House out of Steve Bannon, who we know still talks to the president, leaves us al scratching our heads.
I do want to ask you both about the reporting on CBS and The Washington Post over the weekend, really disturbing reporting about the links, the pharmaceutical industry, certain companies that ship drugs, Amy, to retail stores.
They lobbied heavily to prevent any sort of slowdown in what they were doing because of the opioid — with the opioid epidemic. And fingers are reported at certain Republicans and a few Democrats on Capitol Hill.
AMY WALTER: Right.
A lot of this started under — the bill that was actually passed was passed under the Obama administration, so this is not just a partisan issue.
The real question is whether Tom Marino, the congressman who shepherded this bill through Congress, is being — right now has been nominated as the drug czar for President Trump, whether he becomes now — either he is pulled out or at the very least a lot of very sharp questioning at his hearings.
TAMARA KEITH: Yes.
And President Trump says he’s going to look into it. Meanwhile, the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, as well as Joe Manchin from West Virginia are saying that he should withdraw. And President Trump didn’t dismiss that out of hand. He says, we’re going to have to look into Tom.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, Politics Monday.
Thank you both.
TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.
AMY WALTER: You’re welcome.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Firefighters say they are making some progress battling the wildfires in Northern California. In all, the fires have consumed more than 220,000 acres, an area larger than New York City.
More than 5,700 structures have been destroyed. And at least 41 people have died, making it the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history.
The wine industry and the tourism business connected with it are trying to take stock. More than $50 billion in California’s economy comes from the wine business. And nearly 24 million people visit the region for that reason every year.
Special correspondent Joanne Jennings reports from Napa County.
JOANNE JENNINGS, Special Correspondent: The Mayacamas mountain range creates a natural barrier between Sonoma and Napa Counties. And it is here where the massive Nuns fire is posing a tough challenge for some 11,000 firefighters who are taming the blaze with aircraft and units on the ground.
CAPT. MARK BRENNERMAN, Viejas fire Department: We’re going around and making sure none of these fires that are still smoldering and smoking, we’re not going to get another big fire out of them.
JOANNE JENNINGS: Even as firefighters are battling shifting winds, owners and workers in Wine Country are trying to determine just how much damage has been done.
The tony Highlands gated community was among the first to be consumed by flames when the Atlas fire raced through this canyon, leaving several mansions in rubble. Down the hill, at the Silverado resort, charred remnants of the Safeway PGA Tour remain. The major golf event had just wrapped up last Sunday afternoon, a few hours before flames engulfed tents and grandstands, forcing spectators and athletes to evacuate.
MAN: Do you see how it burned right up to the retaining wall here?
JOANNE JENNINGS: Silverado resident Steve Messina stayed behind and shot video of fire crews containing the flames, which consumed some condos. Within minutes, flames raced three miles down Silverado Trail, home to several storied hillside vineyards.
Most wineries in the region have been spared the worst. But hundreds suffered some damage. And at least eight vineyards have been significantly damaged or destroyed.
Pierre Birebent, who has been making wines for the family-owned Signorello estate for 20 years, rushed to his winery as quickly as he could.
PIERRE BIREBENT, Signorello Estate Vineyards: I jumped right in my truck, came down, and then when I was riding down, I saw the hill all flaming.
JOANNE JENNINGS: Two vineyard workers joined him to help save the estate’s tasting room.
PIERRE BIREBENT: But the smoke was getting very thick, and the wind was very strong. And after an hour, we couldn’t breathe anymore. At the moment, I was so upset. It was rage to see that I couldn’t do anything. But it was like fighting a giant.
JOANNE JENNINGS: The tasting room, which also housed the winery’s office and a dining room, burned to the ground. But Birebent says he wants to focused on what survived.
Fortunately, he said, the fire stopped short of reaching the vineyard, the crush pad, or any of the barrels of wine stored on site; 95 percent of this year’s grapes were already picked.
But, to be on the safe side, Birebent is taking these samples to a lab to make sure the juice is not too acidic for winemaking. If the crops are OK, a staff of 25 employees will have jobs to return to.
As the fires begin to recede and the smoke clears, people here are beginning to wonder when the tourists, who fuel much of the economy, will return.
It’s a serious concern for Andrew and Jeni (ph) Schluter, who are self-employed and are raising a young family.
ANDREW SCHLUTER, Andrew’s Tours and Transportation: I do wine tours and transportation for people. And my business started to do really, really well. I was on track to have the best month ever.
JOANNE JENNINGS: Andrew just bought this new SUV, which has been idle in his driveway collecting ash. Jeni is a personal trainer and has family who lost their homes in the fires. She’s just not sure how they’re going to make ends meet.
WOMAN: I think we’re just overwhelmed, you know? And uncertainty is kind of scary.
ANDREW SCHLUTER: We will hopefully get by for awhile, but we might make — have to make some hard decisions shortly.
JOANNE JENNINGS: While fires burn nearby, some vineyards are already open to tourists. At the Raymond Vineyard, workers are crushing grapes at a feverish pitch. The tasting room is open for the first time since the fires started.
Jeremy and Erika Moore arrived from Tennessee yesterday. They considered canceling their trip, but decided the best way they could help people here is to give them their business.
JEREMY MOORE, Tourist: On the one hand, a few hundred yards from here, you can see them shuttling up with the helicopters fighting fires, but then here it’s beautiful. They are doing some great tastings, and they are working outside on the crops. So, it’s a weird combination of tragedy, but then at the same time business must go on, too.
JOANNE JENNINGS: Proprietor Jean-Charles Boisset owns several wineries in California, France and Canada, but like many other people here, he and his family had to evacuate their home when the flames came dangerously close.
Still, he is bullish about the future of the wine industry in this region.
JEAN-CHARLES BOISSET, Boisset Collection: Napa has been one of the most amazing agricultural places in California for a long time, so it will survive those fires. What I love, as a Frenchman here in California, is that amazing American positive attitude.
We will recover. We will walk again, run again, and we will welcome all our guests and give them the dreams of fine wine.
JOANNE JENNINGS: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Joanne Jennings in Napa Valley, California.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Longstanding rivalries were re-ignited in Iraq today between vital American allies.
Iraqi military forces and militia moved to push Kurdish forces out of the disputed city of Kirkuk in the country’s north.
Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.
MAN (through interpreter): The commander in chief of the armed forces, Dr. Haider al-Abadi, gave orders to protect the people of Kirkuk and to impose security in the city.
LISA DESJARDINS: After months of simmering tensions, Iraqi federal troops moved to retake the disputed city of Kirkuk from Kurdish forces.
The effort launched before dawn. By midday, Iraqi soldiers, along with state-backed militias, quickly took control of several massive oil fields north of the city. Iraqis also captured Kirkuk’s military airport and various government buildings. They lowered what had been a symbolic Kurdish flag at the governor’s compound.
Journalist Rebecca Collard in Irbil was in Kirkuk this morning.
REBECCA COLLARD, Journalist: You could hear some clashes, some gunfire in the distance, but for the most part, the city seemed more or less abandoned. Now, the Iraqi army, by the end of today, was essentially in control of the whole city and many of the outskirts of Kirkuk.
LISA DESJARDINS: The spokesman for an Iraqi Shiite militia said they achieved all their goals with little resistance.
AHMED AL-ASSADI, Spokesman for al-Hashed al-Shaabi (through translator): As the troops approached the area, they were confronted by some rebels, who tried to hinder the progress of the advancing units. Our troops returned fire and silenced its source.
LISA DESJARDINS: This comes three weeks after the Kurds held a nonbinding independence referendum that included the disputed province of Kirkuk.
More than 90 percent of the Kurdish region’s residents voted to split from Iraq. The Iraqi federal government, Turkey, Iran and the U.S. all rejected the independence drive.
The multiethnic region of Kirkuk lies just outside of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq’s north. Called the country’s oil capital, Kirkuk produces around 500,000 barrels a day.
In 2014, amid the ISIS onslaught across Northern Iraq, the Kurds took control of Kirkuk, as the Iraqi military fled the city. In the three years since, the Kurds, led by their president, Massoud Barzani, sought to cement their hold, despite tensions with the central government.
Today, Kurdish officials accused Iraq of carrying out a major multipronged attack.
MAJ. GEN. AYOUB YUSUF SAID, Peshmerga Commander (through interpreter): I don’t know what is happening exactly, because we have been in this fight since 4:00 in the morning. We have suffered casualties, including martyrs, and now we have withdrawn to this position. Some of the other Kurdish forces have pulled out. They didn’t fire a single shot.
LISA DESJARDINS: While Kurdish forces withdrew from posts south of the city, some residents vowed to die fighting. Thousands of others fled north.
REBECCA COLLARD: For the last few years, the Iraqi forces, these primarily Shia militia, the Hashed Shaabi, and the Kurdish forces have been focused on fighting ISIS. Now that fight is coming to an end, and what the fear is that now these internal division in Iraq are going to become more apparent and possibly more violent.
LISA DESJARDINS: These clashes pit one substantially American-armed military force against another. Both the Kurdish forces and Iraqi government troops are part of the coalition fighting ISIS. The U.S. sought to downplay the fighting, labeling the exchange of gunfire a misunderstanding.
And, in the Rose Garden, President Trump tried to stay neutral.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We don’t like the fact that they’re clashing. We’re not taking sides. But we don’t like the fact that they’re clashing.
LISA DESJARDINS: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Lisa Desjardins.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For more, I’m joined now by Emma Sky. She served as an adviser to General David Petraeus while he was commander of U.S. forces in Iraq from 2007 to 2010, and by Feisal Istrabadi. He’s a former Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations and he helped write Iraq’s interim constitution.
Welcome to both of you.
Let me start with you, Emma Sky.
This has happened so quickly. What exactly has the Iraqi government done?
EMMA SKY, Yale University: The Iraqi government has deployed its forces back up north into Kirkuk.
And since 2003, the Kurds have made it clear that they want to include Kirkuk within their territory in order to proceed with gaining independence, which has always been their goal. But Kirkuk is important to Iraq itself, and no Iraqi prime minister can afford to lose Kirkuk.
So you can see this reaction that has taken place following the referendum on independence, which happened September the 25th, and also included the disputed territories and the city of Kirkuk.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Feisal Istrabadi, what can you add to why the Iraqi government is so set on taking over the city?
FEISAL ISTRABADI, Former Deputy UN Ambassador, Iraq: Well, a couple of reasons.
First, as Emma just said, it is a part of the disputed territories, which are legally and constitutionally under the jurisdiction of the federal government in Baghdad. The KRG expanded into these disputed territories at the time when ISIL was expanding its territory, and then began to take steps to unilaterally declare that these areas were now incorporated into the Kurdistan region, including when it held the referendum that Emma talked about.
It included holding the referendum in these disputed territories. Now, so long as Iraq — so long as we’re talking about a single country, it matters a little less who controls Kirkuk, but once the referendum was held, this gave rise then to the second reason for Baghdad choosing to act now.
As Emma said, Kirkuk is an important oil-producing zone in Iraq. And it is vital for the economic viability of an independent Kurdish state and an important part of the economic viability of the Iraqi state. So there was never going to be a scenario, I think, in which Baghdad would allow a unilateral exercise of control by Kurds to occur over Kirkuk, so long as independence is on the table.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Emma Sky, we heard President Trump say today the U.S. is not taking sides in this.
Is that accurate, that the U.S. isn’t taking sides? What is the U.S. role here?
EMMA SKY: Well, the U.S. has stipulated over and over again that its policy is to support a united Iraq.
So you can see the U.S. has given support to Iraqi security forces, but also to the Kurdish Peshmerga, to fight against ISIS. The U.S. policy for the last few years has really been focused on ISIS and not on the day after ISIS.
But what we’re witnessing at the moment is that different groups are already moving to the day after, which is the power struggle for control of different territories in Iraq.
And Barzani believed that during the fight against ISIS, he became stronger because he got weapons directly from the international community. And, as Feisal said, he was able to extend his control over the disputed territories.
He’s also facing domestic problems within Kurdistan. There are tensions between the different Kurdish groups, and some believe that Barzani has overstayed his term as president.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Which reminds us just how complicated this is, Feisal Istrabadi.
What does the Iraqi central government want here? They’re not going to get rid of the Kurds. What is it that they want?
FEISAL ISTRABADI: Oh, well, I mean, the Kurds of course are a vital part of Iraq. They’re a vital part of the political process, and they have been represented in Baghdad. The president of Iraq is a Kurd and has been since 2005.
I think what needs to occur and I hope what the government of Iraq wants is a negotiated settlement, in which no party dictates terms to the other, but a negotiated settlement.
Look, Irbil has some legitimate agreements with respect to Baghdad. Baghdad has some legitimate agreements with respect to Irbil. I think we need a mediator perhaps or somebody to convene a roundtable — the United States is who I’m thinking of, of course — to address some of those issues.
Most of the issues are, from the Irbil side, economic issues of payments, and from Baghdad’s side, transparency of how much oil Irbil is producing and exporting, which Irbil has never accounted for to Baghdad.
I think if those issues are resolved, perhaps hopefully some of these other issues can at least be delayed for another day. But at the end of the day, neither government — neither the regional government nor the federal government in Baghdad can really tolerate dictation of terms to it by the other side. My hope is that a negotiated settlement obtains.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Emma Sky, where do you see this going from here? Do you see the peace that different sides have worked to hard to create in Iraq unraveling as a result of this?
EMMA SKY: I think there is an opportunity for a deal, and I think the sort of deal that could be negotiated is one that looks at a special status for the city of Kirkuk and negotiated terms for Kurdistan’s separate, whether that be towards confederation or towards independence.
But there needs to be negotiation. There needs to be a look at where should the border between Iraqi Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq actually be, and that requires mediation district by district through those territories.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we know there are other players who are playing an important role here in Iran and Turkey, and this is all very much playing out as we watch, watch it happen in Iraq.
Emma Sky, Feisal Istrabadi, thank you very much.
FEISAL ISTRABADI: Thank you.
EMMA SKY: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the day’s other news: More than 300 people are now confirmed dead after Saturday’s massive truck bombing in Somalia, one of the world’s worst attacks in years.
Nearly 400 more were wounded. The government blamed the al-Qaida-linked Al-Shabaab group. Rescue crews today searched for survivors at the scene of the bombing, a crowded street in the capital, Mogadishu. With dozens still missing, officials say they expect the death toll to rise.
OSMAN LIBAH IBRAHIM, Deputy Minister for Natural Resources, Somalia (through interpreter): More bodies are gradually being found and removed from the rubble. There are other people who are under the rubble. We have heard them as they scream for help. My biggest worry is that even the wounded are succumbing to their injuries.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The attack happened two days after Somalia’s defense minister and army chief resigned for undisclosed reasons.
There’s been yet another shift to the right in European politics; 31-year-old conservative Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s foreign minister, is set to become that country’s next leader. But he’s short of a majority in Parliament and will likely form a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party. It was founded by ex-Nazis in the 1950s.
Kurz has called for the European Union to focus more on internal trade and securing borders. He celebrated in Vienna.
SEBASTIAN KURZ, Austrian People’s Party (through interpreter): I have a big request for you. Use today to celebrate. You all have earned it through hard work and dedication. At the same time, I need to tell you that tomorrow the work starts. We didn’t just run to win the elections. We did so to bring Austria back to the top. We ran in this election to achieve real change.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A final result in the election is likely to be decided on Thursday.
Wildfires that broke out over the weekend in Portugal have killed at least 35 people, including a one-month-old infant. Today, more than 5,300 firefighters with some 1,600 vehicles were battling the fires, some of which officials say were started by arsonists. Wildfires have also left at least four people dead in neighboring Spain.
Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty today to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. He was captured by the Taliban in 2009, after leaving his post in Afghanistan. It prompted an intense search and a prisoner swap. Bergdahl appeared before a military judge in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, today. The 31-year-old could be sentenced to life in prison. He said his actions were very inexcusable, adding he didn’t — quote — “think there’d be any reason to pull off a crucial mission to look for one guy.”
The truck driver in deadly immigrant smuggling run has pleaded guilty in court. San Antonio police found at least 39 immigrants, 10 of whom died, packed into a sweltering semi-trailer last year and died. The driver, James Matthew Bradley Jr., pleaded to conspiracy and transporting immigrants, resulting in death. He faces now up to life in prison.
A New Jersey man has been convicted of planting two pressure-cooker bombs on New York City streets last year. Ahmed Khan Rahimi faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for charges including using a weapon of mass destruction. One of the bombs exploded in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, wounding 30. The second didn’t detonate. Officials said Rahimi was inspired by ISIS and al-Qaida.
JOHN MILLER, Deputy Commissioner, NYPD Intelligence & Counterterrorism: Ahmed Khan Rahimi learned a lesson which we keep reminding people of. This is the wrong place to try and carry out an act of terrorism. Witnesses will come forward, evidence will be developed, arrests will be made, prosecutions will be brought forth, and they will be successful.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Prosecutors said Rahimi also planted a pipe bomb in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, but no one was injured.
Colin Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the national football league. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback says that he remains unsigned due to collusion by team owners over his national anthem protests. Kaepernick sparked a debate when he kneeled during the anthem last year, protesting police mistreatment of African-Americans.
On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 85 points to close at 22957. The Nasdaq rose 18. And the S&P 500 added four.
It was a milestone day in the world of astronomy. For the first time, researchers say they have detected gravitational waves with a flash of light from the same cosmic event. The dual observation supports Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The ripples in space and the light burst were caused by the collision of two neutron stars. They were first detected in August.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: We begin our coverage tonight at the White House.
At two public appearances today, President Trump addressed a flurry of news stories and controversies.
Joining me now to walk us through the president’s remarks is our own John Yang.
John, thank you.
So we know the president invited the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to the White House today to have lunch. There was a lot of attention on that. We’re going to talk about that later in the program.
But I think what the big news coming out of the president’s comments today was when he spoke about this opioid control story that broke over the weekend, The Washington Post and CBS News.
JOHN YANG: That’s right.
The stories were about the president’s nominee to be head of the Office of National Dug Control Policy, the drug czar. That’s Pennsylvania Representative Tom Marino. The stories say that he pushed legislation in Congress that made it harder for the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, to police opioids.
And, today, Mr. Trump said he wants to talk to Marino about that.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I did see the report. We’re going to look into the report. We’re going to take it very seriously, because we’re going to have a major announcement, and probably next week, on the drug crisis and the opioid mess or problem. And I want to get that absolutely right. We’re going to be looking into Tom.
JOHN YANG: Earlier today, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a state hit-hard by the opioid crisis, said he wants that nomination withdrawn.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we’re going to be hearing more about that opioid story a little later in the program with William Brangham.
John, the president also spoke again about health care, the failure of Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare.
JOHN YANG: This came during the Cabinet meeting earlier in the day.
He made it sound like the breakthrough is imminent both on a short-term fix to sort of bolster the Affordable Care Act and then on a long-term bill to destroy the Affordable Care Act and replace it.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think we will have a short-term fix, and then we will have a long-term fix. And that will take place probably in March or April. We will have a solid vote. It will be probably 100 percent Republican, no Democrats, but most people know that that’s going to be a very good form of health insurance.
JOHN YANG: Now, our colleague Lisa Desjardins reports from Capitol Hill that there is some signs of progress on a short-term fix, a bipartisan short-term fix. The negotiations or talks between Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Patty Murray are showing some signs of progress.
But on the longer-term fix, the suggestion is, according to Lisa, that the president may be pushing an idea that is not yet fully baked on Capitol Hill.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, separately, John, the president was asked about those well-publicized allegations out there for the last week against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, sexual assault allegations.
And then the question turned to the president’s own situation, a problem that emerged during the campaign last year.
JOHN YANG: That’s right. Specifically, he was asked about a subpoena that was served on his campaign committee asking for documents about women who accused President Trump during the campaign of sexual misconduct. And, once again, he denied everything.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: All I can say is, it’s totally fake news. It’s just fake. It’s fake. And it’s made-up stuff. And it’s disgraceful what happens, but that happens in the world of politics.
JOHN YANG: Mr. Trump’s lawyers are trying to have that suit dismissed. They argue that a sitting president cannot face a civil suit.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, John, the president was asked why he has not spoken out publicly yet about U.S. special operations soldiers who were killed in Niger just in the last few days by Islamist extremist forces.
JOHN YANG: He took this question and turned into a comparison, this question about four fallen warriors overseas, and made it a comparison between how he reacts and other presidents reacted, particularly his immediate predecessor, President Obama.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it.
MAN: Earlier, you said President Obama never called the families of the fallen soldiers. How can you make that claim?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don’t know if he did. No, no, no, I was — I was told that he didn’t often. And a lot of presidents don’t. They write letters. I do — excuse me, Peter. I do a combination of both.
Sometimes, it’s a very difficult thing to do, but I do a combination of both.
President Obama, I think probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told.
JOHN YANG: Former aides to President Obama are pushing back very hard, saying that he did make phone calls, he wrote.
And I can say that also both President Obama and President George W. Bush met personally with families of the fallen.
JUDY WOODRUFF: John Yang, thank you very much.
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