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

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    U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle approach Cuba's foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez (L) as they arrive at Havana's international airport for a three-day trip, in Havana March 20, 2016.   REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTSBD4F

    U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle approach Cuba’s foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez (L) as they arrive at Havana’s international airport for a three-day trip, in Havana March 20, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria – RTSBD4F

    HAVANA — Stepping into history, President Barack Obama opened an extraordinary visit to Cuba on Sunday, eager to push decades of acrimony deeper into the past and forge irreversible ties with America’s former adversary.

    Obama’s whirlwind trip is a crowning moment in his and Cuban President Raul Castro’s ambitious effort to restore normal relations between their countries. While deep differences persist, the economic and political relationship has changed rapidly in the 15 months since the leaders vowed a new beginning.

    Air Force One touched down at Havana’s airport late Sunday afternoon after a three-hour flight from Washington. The president was joined by wife Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha on the flight, with dozens of U.S. lawmakers and business leaders arriving separately for the visit.

    For more than 50 years, Cuba was an unimaginable destination for a U.S. president, as well as most American citizens. The U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 after Fidel Castro’s revolution sparked fears of communism spreading to the Western Hemisphere. Domestic politics in both countries contributed to the continued estrangement well after the Cold War ended.

    The last visit to Cuba by a U.S. president came in 1928, when Calvin Coolidge arrived on the island in a battleship.

    “This is an incredible thing,” said Carlos Maza, a 48-year-old refrigerator repairman from Havana. He called it “a big step forward.”

    A visitor from California has her picture taken by a travel companian next to images of Cuba's President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama in Havana, Cuba March 19, 2016. Photo by Reuters.

    A visitor from California has her picture taken by a travel companian next to images of Cuba’s President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama in Havana, Cuba March 19, 2016. Photo by Reuters.

    Obama’s visit was highly anticipated in Cuba, where workers furiously cleaned up the streets in Old Havana and gave buildings a fresh coat of paint. American flags were raised alongside the Cuban colors in parts of the capital, an improbable image for those who have lived through a half-century of bitterness between the two countries.

    Many Cubans were staying home in order to avoid extensive closures of main boulevards. By early afternoon the Cuban government didn’t appear to be calling out crowds of supporters to welcome Obama, as it has with other visiting dignitaries. The city’s seaside Malecon promenade was largely deserted Sunday morning except for a few cars, joggers, fishermen and pelicans.

    The president’s schedule in Cuba is jam-packed, including official meetings with Raul Castro and an event with U.S. and Cuban entrepreneurs. But much of Obama’s visit was about appealing directly to the Cuban people and celebrating the island’s vibrant culture.

    “I don’t think that the Cuban people are going to be bewitched by North American culture,” Gustavo Machin, Cuba’s deputy director of U.S. affairs, told The Associated Press. “We don’t fear ties with the United States.”

    Shortly after arriving, Obama planned to greet staff at the new U.S. Embassy in Havana, which was opened amid great fanfare last year. He was then joining his family on a walking tour of Old Havana, including the Havana Cathedral.

    Obama was to be greeted there by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who helped facilitate months of secret talks between U.S. and Cuban officials that led to the normalization of diplomatic relations in December 2014.

    A highlight of Obama’s visit comes Tuesday when he joins Castro and a crowd of baseball-crazed Cubans for a game between the beloved national team and Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays. The president also planned a speech at the Grand Theater of Havana laying out his vision for greater freedoms and more economic opportunity in Cuba.

    Two years after taking power in 2008, Castro launched economic and social reforms that appear slow-moving to many Cubans and foreigners, but are lasting and widespread within Cuban society. The changes have allowed hundreds of thousands of people to work in the private sector and have relaxed limits on cellphones, Internet and Cubans’ comfort with discussing their country’s problems in public, for example.

    The Cuban government has been unyielding, however, on making changes to its single-party political system and to the strict limits on media, public speech, assembly and dissent.

    Obama will spend some time talking with Cuban dissidents. The White House said such a meeting was a prerequisite for the visit. But there were no expectations that he would leave Cuba with significant pledges from the government to address Washington’s human rights concerns.

    Hours before Obama’s arrival, counter-protesters and police broke up an anti-government demonstration by the Ladies in White group, with government backers shouting insults and revolutionary slogans. The women were taken into custody by female police officers and loaded onto buses. They’re typically detained briefly and then released, a scene that plays out in Havana each Sunday.

    A major focus for Obama was pushing his Cuba policy to the point it will be all but impossible for the next president to reverse it.

    That includes highlighting new business deals by American companies, including Starwood, which finalized an agreement Saturday to renovate and run three hotels on the island. The Obama administration also gave San Francisco-based online lodging service Airbnb a special license allowing travelers from around the world to book stays in private homes in Cuba.

    This report was written by Julie Pace and Michael Weissenstein of the Associated Press. AP writers Josh Lederman and E. Eduardo Castillo contributed to this report.

    The post Obama steps into history with extraordinary visit to Cuba appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally where his former rival for the Republican presidential nomination, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, announced his endorsement for Trump's candidacy for president, in Fort Worth, Texas February 26, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Stone - RTX28ROC

    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally where his former rival for the Republican presidential nomination, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, announced his endorsement for Trump’s candidacy for president, in Fort Worth, Texas February 26, 2016. Photo by Mike Stone/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — When is a gaffe not a gaffe? When Donald Trump says it.

    Over a period of 72 hours earlier in the month, the Republican front-runner faced a campaign crisis after unrest at his events forced him to cancel a rally in Chicago. He responded, not by apologizing but by justifying his supporters’ violent reactions to protesters at his events and offering to pay legal fees.

    Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton spent much of the same period cleaning up misstatements about former first lady Nancy Reagan’s role in addressing the AIDS epidemic, whether her policies would kill coal-mining jobs and her husband’s 1993 health care plan.

    The three-day window offered a glimpse into an extraordinary campaign cycle, in which strategists on both sides are wondering whether Trump’s penchant for provocation has shifted the gaffe gauge in American politics.

    His bombast already has shaken up the Republican primary contest. Now, as the race moves toward the general election, new questions have arisen about a double standard in political rhetoric — one for Trump and another for everyone else.

    “Trump’s ‘gaffes’ haven’t hurt him because a certain segment of GOP primary voters actually support the things he is saying and the way he is saying them,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former Obama adviser.

    Mike DuHaime, a Republican strategist and former adviser to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign, says that the image Trump projects as a political outsider has superseded the controversy that surrounds him. Christie has endorsed Trump.

    Whether by mistake or intention, there’s little question that Trump’s eruptions are key to his strategy.

    Trump canceled a scheduled event on March 11 at the University of Illinois at Chicago, one of the country’s most diverse campuses, despite a flood of incensed responses.

    The result was a chaotic and violent scene after which Trump dominated the airwaves, starving his rivals for coverage in the run-up to the critical March 15 primaries.

    The only time Clinton broke through the clutter was when she talked about Trump, a situation that wasn’t lost on Democrats who noted his ability to stay on the offensive throughout the GOP primaries. But party strategists and Clinton aides believe that calculus will change in the general election, pointing to Trump’s high negative ratings.

    “Trump’s statements, while they play very well with Republican primary voters, they’ve turned off the vast majority of Americans,” said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who is not advising Clinton’s campaign.

    Democrats have already begun stockpiling potential ammunition about the billionaire and are planning a coordinated effort to undercut his appeal.

    “Republicans have utterly failed to police their own ranks,” said David Brock, a Clinton ally who oversees multiple Democratic super PACs. “Should he get the nomination, I think progressives will be able to hold his feet to the fire in a way that Republicans never would.”

    Early efforts spilled out into the public this week when a Democratic group backing Clinton blasted out footage of Trump refusing to name his foreign policy advisers and instead cited his own “very good brain.”

    “Is this who we want,” asked Priorities USA, a super PAC backing Clinton’s bid, and quickly spliced the interview into an online video.

    That’s a strategy they used in 2012, when Democrats seized on a leaked video showing Republican nominee Mitt Romney at a private fundraiser in Florida dismissing “47 percent” of voters as backing President Barack Obama because they are “dependent on government.” That comment helped Democrats paint Romney as a heartless plutocrat only concerned about protecting the wealthy.

    “It fit perfectly with the narrative our campaign was telling about him, and it was one that voters found very believable about him,” said Pfeiffer.

    Other candidates haven’t been nearly as immune.

    Arizona Sen. John McCain was trailed by a comment he made in September 2008, hours before investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, when he said: “The fundamentals of the economy are strong.” In that same election, Clinton seized on comments then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama made in a San Francisco fundraiser describing some small-town Pennsylvania voters as “bitter,” saying they “cling to guns or religion.”

    In those cases, the screw-ups trailed them for days – if not years. But rather than try and clean up his commentary, Trump typically stands by his words and has yet to suffer any consequences in the primaries.

    A new Trump campaign ad introducing the candidate to Arizona voters leaves little doubt that he’s embraced many of his most provocative statements as he turns toward the general election. The commercial rattles off Trump’s promises to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., build a wall on the Mexican border and “take” oil from the Islamic State group.

    Republican strategist Danny Diaz, Jeb Bush’s former campaign manager, believes Trump will be subject to more scrutiny in the general election. But he isn’t sure how much it will matter.

    “If I were the Democrats, yeah, I’d be worried,” he said. “He doesn’t feel constrained by the regular rules of the road. From a cultural perspective, he’s something that we haven’t seen before.”

    The post Gaffe proof? Trump vs. Clinton tests political pitfalls appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The wreckage of a bus is lifted by a crane after a traffic accident in Freginals, Spain, March 20, 2016.  Albert Gea/Reuters

    The wreckage of a bus is lifted by a crane after a traffic accident in Freginals, Spain, March 20, 2016. Albert Gea/Reuters

    At least 13 students from multiple countries died along a highway in northern Spain on Sunday when their bus crashed into a guardrail before slamming into oncoming traffic and landing on its side near the town of Freginals, according to a local official.

    The accident smashed out the front windows of the red, white and black bus, injuring at least 34 people, most of whom were taken to local hospitals.

    Students from 19 countries were reportedly among 61 passengers that included many Spanish nationals, according to Reuters. Eight people were seriously wounded.

    Most of the individuals traveling on the bus were affiliated with two European universities through the European Union’s Erasmus exchange program, officials said.

    Passengers were returning from a fireworks festival when the accident took place.

    Firemen stands next to the wreckage of a bus after a traffic accident in Freginals, Spain, March 20, 2016.  REUTERS/Albert Gea - RTSBB86

    Firemen stands next to the wreckage of a bus after a traffic accident in Freginals, Spain, March 20, 2016. REUTERS/Albert Gea – RTSBB86

    Regional government spokesman Jordi Jane told the Associated Press in a statement that the government was contacting officials from “Hungary, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Czech Republic, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Italy, Peru, Bulgaria, Poland, Ireland, Palestine, Japan and Ukraine.”

    One Spanish official said that all of the dead were women between the ages of 22 and 29.

    “There were students on board, many of them foreign students studying in Catalonia and in Barcelona who had traveled to Valencia for the Fallas and were returning,” Jane told reporters.

    Officials have not released the cause of the accident.

    The post At least 13 dead in Spanish bus crash carrying foreign exchange students appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama boards Air Force One to travel to Cuba from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland March 20, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria  - RTSBCJV

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    ALISON STEWART: Wheels down in Havana for Air Force One, as Barack Obama becomes the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge almost 90 years ago. It was raining as the first family got off the plane, to be greeted by Cuba’s foreign minister.

    While still on the plane, President Obama tweeted: “Que bola, Cuba?”, or “What’s up, Cuba” in Spanish.

    The president will spend a busy two days on the communist-ruled island nation, which has been preparing for his visit.

    Only eight months after the flag was raised at the reopened U.S. Embassy in Cuba, for the first time in more than half-a-century, the streets of Havana are decorated with American flags and images of President Obama.

    The president and the first family are beginning their Cuban visit with a walking tour of historic Old Havana tonight. Mr. Obama will meet tomorrow with Cuban president Raul Castro and attend a state dinner. the president has no plans to meet with former President and revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, older brother of the current president.

    But he does intend to spend time on Tuesday with critics of Castro’s government, many of whom have faced arrests for their outspoken opposition.

    The White House would not disclose which dissidents Mr. Obama will see, but insists the list is not negotiable.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: But I can tell you that the president is going to move forward and host meetings and have a conversation about human rights with the people that he chooses to meet with.

    ALISON STEWART: This afternoon in Havana, police arrested dozens of anti-government dissidents from the so-called Ladies in White group. The president will also deliver a speech at the National Theatre of Cuba, where he plans to lay out his vision for how the two countries can work together.

    He will also catch a baseball game between Cuba’s national team and the Major League Tampa Bay Rays. And in a video released online by the White House yesterday, the president joked with Cuba’s most famous comedian, Luis Silva, who often satirizes the failings of the Cuban government and economic system.

    Earlier, I spoke with Christopher Sabatini, a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, about this new era in U.S.-Cuba relations.

    Christopher, this has been described as a largely symbolic trip, but we don’t go to all this work for just symbolism. What else is there to it?

    CHRISTOPHER SABATINI, Professor, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs: Well, first of all, there’s the issue, and for both cases, of legacy.

    Raul Castro and his older brother, Fidel, have ruled Cuba since 1959. They’re not going to live forever. They’re both in their 80s. Fidel will turn 90 in August.


    CHRISTOPHER SABATINI: So they have got to sort of — they want to see some elements of the revolution preserved. And the revolution has not been successful, particularly on the economic front.

    It’s brought some social benefits, but there’s a fair amount of frustration. On Obama’s side, he wants to turn the page. He doesn’t want to have Cuba and U.S. relations with Cuba frozen in the Cold War. He has engaged in a series of reforms through executive orders that could be rolled back if another president comes into power.

    But he wants to preserve that legacy as well, so symbolic, but very important.

    ALISON STEWART: His critics have said that some of his — his approach to Cuba foreign policy, they use words like naive and dangerous?

    CHRISTOPHER SABATINI: Well, danger, definitely not. Cuba is not a national security threat to the United States, despite some claims.

    But he has — I mean, he is trying to engage with Cuba and a government that really does not sort of abide by basic human rights standards. And so a lot of his critics are arguing this is another example of President Obama’s foreign policy, that he is sort of weak-kneed before despots.

    But Obama is betting that, particularly in the case of Cuba, a country 90 miles off the coast of the United States, in which there are two million Cuban Americans, two-thirds of them in Florida alone, that that sort of flow of dialogue and exchange is going to build sort of, if you will, the foundation for longer-term political change that, you know, is more important than whether you engage in a grudge match with the current regime or not.

    ALISON STEWART: Will the president of the United States talk about human rights?

    CHRISTOPHER SABATINI: First of all, it is important that human rights have not changed in Cuba.

    A little over a year ago, the president announced a series of executive actions to loosen the embargo, and Cuba has not budged. While we have normalized relations across a number of fronts — we now have embassies in each other’s countries — Cuba has not budged on human rights.

    In the last month alone, over 1,400 dissidents and human rights activists were rounded up and briefly detained.

    So, what will happen? I think he is going to talk to the dissidents. I think you’re going to see a meeting in the U.S. Embassy with dissidents, human rights activists. He’s going to meet with entrepreneurs as well.

    But I think, most importantly, what he will be doing is just really engage in a public speech that will be broadcast live nationally, in the National Theatre. I think, there, you will see him start to talk about Cubans’ aspirations for a different life and for closer relations with the United States, and human rights and political freedom being part of that.

    ALISON STEWART: Christopher Sabatini, thank you so much.

    CHRISTOPHER SABATINI: Thank you very much.

    The post Why the significance of Obama’s trip to Cuba differs for both countries appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A Cuban military reservist fumigates inside a home as part of the preventive measures against the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases in Havana on the outskirts of Cuba, March 16, 2016. Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

    A Cuban military reservist fumigates inside a home as part of the preventive measures against the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases in Havana on the outskirts of Cuba, March 16, 2016. Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

    As President Barack Obama made history in Cuba on Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new travel warning over the rapidly spreading Zika virus, which recently broached the shores of the island nation.

    On Saturday, the CDC announced that the Zika virus is being transmitted in Cuba through mosquitoes and recommended that pregnant women avoid traveling to the country.

    Cuban health officials so far confirmed five instances of people infected with the virus, with an additional 130 people showing symptoms.

    The news comes as Puerto Rico installs emergency measures to avert a looming crisis over the the virus, which has spread across Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and the South Pacific to more than 30 countries and territories since it was first discovered in May last year in Brazil.

    Countries with reported cases of Zika virus

    Graphic by Elif Koc/PBS NewsHour Weekend

    Graphic by Elif Koc/PBS NewsHour Weekend

    The World Health Organization in February declared a public health emergency as a result of the Zika virus.

    The CDC said up to one quarter of Puerto Rico’s populace, or more than 700,000 people, could be infected by the virus in the coming months.

    Researchers believe Zika can cause complications in pregnant women with a possible link to a wide range of neurological disorders and birth defects. About 80 percent of those infected with the virus do not show any symptoms, the CDC says.

    People walk among clouds of insecticide after a fumigating truck moved past in Havana March 1, 2016. Cuba conducts regular fumigation inside homes to check the spread of dengue, a virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito that causes a fever which can be deadly. The same mosquito can also spread the Zika virus, although the Cuban government says there have been no reported cases of the disease in the country. Enrique de la Osa/Reuters

    People walk among clouds of insecticide after a fumigating truck moved past in Havana March 1, 2016. Cuba conducts regular fumigation inside homes to check the spread of dengue, a virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito that causes a fever which can be deadly. The same mosquito can also spread the Zika virus, although the Cuban government says there have been no reported cases of the disease in the country. Enrique de la Osa/Reuters

    “There could be thousands of infections of pregnant women this year,” C.D.C. director said Dr. Thom Frieden told the New York Times after traveling to Puerto Rico.

    The virus was first discovered in an 80-year-old man in November in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory. Cuban officials announced on Tuesday it had discovered its first infected citizens.

    The worrying signs that the spread of the Zika across Latin America has not abated led officials to pick up the pace of mosquito eradication efforts in Cuba, which lies 90 miles off the coast of Florida.

    More than 9,000 people including many soldiers have fumigated large swaths of the country in recent weeks, including homes and entire neighborhoods.

    The post CDC issues travel advisory as Zika virus spreads to Cuba appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 5.11.06 PM

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    TED CRUZ: “People are fed up with what I call the Washington Cartel.”

    HILLARY CLINTON: “The kind of bluster and bigotry and bullying”

    BERNIE SANDERS: “Are you tired of a handful of billionaires running our economy?

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Now is the late winter of our discontent, at least, that’s what the polls, politicians, and the pundits tell us.

    DONALD TRUMP: You’re losing your jobs, you’re losing your income, you’re losing your factories”

    JEFF GREENFIELD: We are an angry people — battered by economic stagnation and cultural dislocation. From across the political spectrum come arguments that we’ve been played for suckers; the system is rigged. So how does a free society respond?

    How do legitimate grievances that stir legitimate anger get resolved, not exploited? One answer comes from a late winter more than eighty years ago. On March 4, 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt became President of a nation where one in four adults were out of work, where banks were failing by the hundreds, where deprivation was a stark reality.

    FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: His reassuring words about fear are famous — less so, his indictment of those responsible:

    FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: Rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: But by month’s end, FDR had turned from recriminations to action – using the first of his “fireside chats” to explain a mandatory week-long bank holiday to avoid a run on the banks.  And he was also offering a raft of proposals during his first hundred days — a New Deal — to pump up the economy.

    FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: But across the Atlantic in another democratic nation afflicted by crisis, something very different was happening. A day after FDR’s inauguration, Germans went to the polls burdened by their grievances — punishing reparations imposed on them after World War I and staggering inflation that rendered life savings worthless.

    Their votes strengthened the hand of interim chancellor Adolf Hitler, who endlessly told his country of the great betrayal at the hands of Bolsheviks and Jews, who, he said, had committed a “crime unparalleled in German history.”

    By the end of March, 1933, the German Parliament would adopt “The Enabling Act,” which let Germany slide into a one-party dictatorship determined to avenge the humiliations of the Great War by military conquest. One nation preserving its traditions, the other descending into tyranny; but it’s not the whole story.

    For instance, there were important voices back then arguing the tools of the American government were inadequate to meet the crisis of the Great Depression. Walter Lippman, the most influential, syndicated newspaper columnist of his day, had argued: “A mild species of dictatorship will help us over the roughest spots in the road ahead.”

    The day after FDR was inaugurated, a Chicago Sunday Tribune headline had read: “For Dictatorship If Necessary.” William Randolph Hearst, then the most powerful newspaper publisher of his day, financed a movie, “Gabriel Over the White House,”

    “GABRIEL OVER THE WHITE HOUSE” CLIP: “Mr. President, this is dictatorship.”

    JEFF GREENFIELD: It celebrated the idea of a divinely inspired President solving the nation’s woes by seizing total power.

    “GABRIEL OVER THE WHITE HOUSE” CLIP: “And as commander and chief of the army and navy it is within the rights of the President to declare the country under marshall law”

    JEFF GREENFIELD: And in real life, Louisiana Senator Huey Long – whose control over the State was described as a dictatorship by critics-was preparing a presidential challenge to FDR with a “share the wealth” program.

    HUEY LONG: “That 4% of the American People own 85% of the wealth of America”

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Radio priest Charles Coughlin, whose listeners numbered in the millions, was beginning his move from FDR supporter to denouncing “international bankers” and Jewish political influence.

    FATHER CHARLES COUGHLIN: “We are Christian in so far as we believe in Christ’s principal of love your neighbor as yourself and with that principal I challenge every Jew in this nation to tell me that he does not believe in it.”

    JEFF GREENFIELD: And in 1937, FDR himself pushed the boundaries of presidential power…trying to change a Supreme Court that opposed many of his programs.  

    He wanted to “pack” the high court with six additional justices. But his own Democratic party rejected the plan. Retirements enabled FDR to replace enough Justices so the Court’s was no longer an obstacle to the New Deal,

    FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: “I ask this Congress for authority and for funds”

    JEFF GREENFIELD: By 1940, a defense “mobilization” to meet the growing Nazi threat finally ended widespread unemployment. It’s impossible to know what might have happened with different leaders at the helm of the United States and Germany; if the U-S had been led by a more timid — or a more aggressive or vengeful leader.

    And even in this winter of our discontent, we are facing nothing like the crisis of that Great Depression. But that long ago March has a lesson for us — when a sense of grievance is strong enough, wide enough, it can subject even the most stable of political system to the most significant of challenges.

    The post What we can learn from our history of political discontent appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    He's the wild card whose previous comments about Israel have created some anxiety among many who will attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference this week in Washington. Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

    Donald Trump will speak today at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington. Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — As America’s leading pro-Israel group prepares to hear from nearly all the presidential candidates, most eyes in the audience of thousands will be on GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

    He’s the wild card whose previous comments about Israel have created some anxiety among many who will attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference this week in Washington.

    Expect Republicans Ted Cruz and John Kasich to espouse standard conservative fare. Democrat Hillary Clinton probably will stick to well-known positions. Rival Bernie Sanders — trying to become the first Jewish candidate to win a major party’s presidential nomination — is skipping the event.

    Much like the American electorate at large, the pro-Israel community in the United States is anything but monolithic, and this year’s conference appears set to highlight those different constituencies, including socially liberal Democratic Jews, establishment Republican Jews and conservative evangelical Christians.

    In a broad sense, all the candidates confirmed to speak on Monday fall into one of those categories. Except Trump — and therein lies the angst.

    “Trump has said a lot of things about Israel over the years, most of it favorable but some of it more ambiguous,” said Josh Block, a former AIPAC official who now heads The Israel Project. “This will be an opportunity to address the ambiguity before a serious foreign policy audience.”

    READ MORE: What does Donald Trump believe?

    AIPAC bills itself as nonpartisan and has never endorsed a candidate. Yet the organization has delved into highly partisan political debates over issues of interest to Israel, most recently and notably the Iran nuclear deal, which it vehemently opposed. In that, it is at odds with ardent deal supporters Clinton and Democrat Bernie Sanders, and to a certain degree, with Kasich, the lone Republican who has not said he would automatically rescind the pact.

    Trump and Cruz have promised, if elected, to rip up the agreement.

    Beyond that, Cruz has pledged absolute support for Israel, but Trump has been far from clear on how he would approach matters of deep concern to pro-Israel voters.

    Unlike Cruz, Trump has not said he would move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a perennial Republican campaign promise, and, unlike Cruz, he has said he will be neutral as a negotiator in trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Cruz’s campaign website features an entire section on Israel; Trump’s does not address it all.

    On Mideast peace talks, Trump says: “You understand a lot of people have gone down in flames trying to make that deal. So I don’t want to say whose fault it is — I don’t think that helps.” He also put off calls to clarify his position on the status of Jerusalem.

    Trump said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” he will lay out his ideas for a peace deal in Monday’s speech.

    Clinton, meanwhile, has a long history in the Middle East, including overseeing as secretary of state the Obama administration’s first attempt to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace with former Sen. George Mitchell as envoy. Her stance against Jewish settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians has been criticized by some in the pro-Israel community, but she has been received warmly by pro-Israel groups in the past, not least because she has a track record.

    Trump, on the other hand, has something of a checkered record with pro-Israel Republicans. He drew boos last year from the Republican Jewish Coalition when he refused to take a stance on the embassy location and further raised eyebrows by using what many consider to be offensive stereotypes in moments of attempted levity. Similar remarks will not be welcomed at the AIPAC conference.

    In addition, as they have done nationally, Trump’s positions on immigration and Muslims and his apparent vacillation on support he is getting from figures known for anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric have caused concern among AIPAC members. And, as with other communities, comparisons of Trump to Hitler and Mussolini have clouded their impressions.

    Some have announced they will protest Trump, if not by disrupting his speech, by walking out. Others have said the speech will be an important opportunity to hear Trump explain his views. The debate has played out in dramatic fashion since AIPAC issued its invitations and candidates began responding to them.

    South Florida Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin is among a group of about 40 rabbis that plans to boycott Trump’s address Monday evening, saying his appearance “poses political, moral, and even spiritual quandaries.”

    Then there are those who believe the speech will be an important opportunity to hear Trump explain his views, no matter how much they may disagree, and stay on good terms with a viable candidate for the highest office in the land.

    “It’s important that the lobby keep itself on decent terms with whatever powers govern in Washington,” commentator J.J. Goldberg wrote in the Jewish newspaper The Forward.

    On Sunday night, Vice President Joe Biden assured the group the Obama administration has done what it can to make the region more secure.

    “Iran is much, much further away from obtaining a nuclear weapon than they were a year ago,” he said.

    The post Pro-Israel policy conference nervously awaits Trump speech appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    After decades of evading the Colombian military, FARC rebels are emerging from the jungle. Special correspondents Nadja Drost and Bruno Federico offer an exclusive look at the FARC perspective amid peace talks to end the world's longest-running conflict.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first, we return to Latin America, and efforts to end the world’s longest-running conflict, in Colombia.

    In Havana today, Secretary of State John Kerry met with negotiators ahead of a Wednesday deadline for Colombia’s peace talks. It included a meeting with the main rebel faction, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

    Last month, I sat down with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to discuss his peace initiative.

    Tonight, the view from the rebel side, in Putumayo, deep in Colombia’s south.

    Special correspondents Bruno Federico and Nadja Drost recently traveled there for this exclusive report before the Colombian government banned reporters from events like what you’re about to see.

    The story is narrated by Ms. Drost.

    NADJA DROST: Beyond the end of the road, the Caqueta River winds deep into Putumayo. There’s endless jungle and the FARC.

    After decades of cloaking their movements to evade the military, these rebels are emerging from the jungle. It’s for no small reason: In light of an expected peace deal, the government of President Juan Manuel Santos has pulled back its forces temporarily from the area to allow FARC commanders in Havana to travel here to talk peace directly with their troops.

    “RAMIRO,” Commander, FARC (through interpreter): We had the idea to do this out of a necessity, so that people, the guerrilla and our communities, can learn what is happening, so that people have a hand in the peace process.

    NADJA DROST: Hundreds of guerrillas gather for a landmark event on the road towards peace. The FARC have also invited the people they have lived among for decades, and us, the only foreign TV crew, to witness the biggest gathering of rebels and civilians in over a decade.

    We have been following units of the FARC over the last year, traveling to their camps camouflaged in the jungle. Now it’s the first time seeing them outside of their clandestine life. After years of discreetly moving through villages, it’s a rare and exceptional sight to see dozens of them walking in town alongside civilians, as everyone prepares for the events.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): It’s important because it might help clarify doubts that many people have.

    NADJA DROST: It’s no wonder people have doubts; 50 years of conflict have killed nearly a quarter-million people, and displaced some six million. Another 40,000 are the disappeared.

    Crimes have been committed by all parties: guerrilla groups, government forces, and right-wing paramilitary groups who often acted as a proxy for the state. The FARC started out in the 1960s as small groups of armed peasants defending the rights of the poor. It became a Marxist insurgency that later bolstered its forces using the drug trade, kidnappings and extortion to finance its their fight.

    Since 2000, the Colombian military, backed by billions of U.S. dollars, has decimated the FARC, and their ranks have dropped to an estimated 7,000 rebels today. It was a weakened, but undefeated FARC that came to the negotiating table.

    Joaquin Gomez, the nom de guerre for the commander of the FARC’s powerful southern bloc, got safe passage from Havana to visit home. Alexandra Narino, also an alias, has returned with him.

    A Dutch woman famous for being a foreign rebel, she’s wanted in the U.S. for her role in the kidnapping of three American military contractors in 2003. They’re big names here, and across Colombia, but rarely have they shown their faces in the territory they call home.

    People gather to ask the FARC if what they hear about the peace process is true.

    MAN (through interpreter): Will there really be a peace agreement signed by March 23?

    “JOAQUIN GOMEZ,” Commander, Southern Bloc, FARC (through interpreter): This is not possible. It’s not possible because the government has to fulfill a series of commitments that, until now, it hasn’t.

    NADJA DROST: Despite more than three years of negotiations, Gomez says there are many sticking points that have yet to be resolved, like how the FARC would disarm and concentrate their troops in rural areas, and one of them is a key demand by the FARC:

    “JOAQUIN GOMEZ” (through interpreter): That paramilitarism ends as a state policy. That’s it, that they get rid of it. It’s the only obstacle that exists, because, while it exists, it’s like walking with one foot in the grave.

    NADJA DROST: Gomez and other rebels worry that if the FARC become a purely political organization, they will meet the same fate as thousands of activists, social and political leaders who have been assassinated.

    If the FARC are to disarm, Gomez says the state should stop using its weapons as a tool of political repression.

    “JOAQUIN GOMEZ” (through interpreter): That would mean that weapons of the state aren’t used in assassinations of political leaders, trade unionists, or leftists. And our weapons would be kept at a distance from us. We propose that a third country hold on to them.

    NADJA DROST: While the presence of the guerrilla is feared in various regions, the vacuum of their absence worries many locals.

    LILIANA, Shopkeeper (through interpreter): At the point of signing a peace agreement, which we support, we will feel very worried, because, with living in a conflict zone, paramilitaries may come in and disappear us, one by one, or kill us, and who will protect us? With the FARC here, one feels a security that that won’t happen.

    “JOAQUIN GOMEZ” (through interpreter): What is being sought is reconciliation., not impunity, but reconciliation.

    NADJA DROST: Commander Joaquin Gomez faces narco-trafficking charges in the U.S. and a $2.5 million reward for his capture. In Colombia, he’s wanted for the kidnapping and assassination of a governor.

    “JOAQUIN GOMEZ” (through interpreter): There has to be a general amnesty, except for crimes against humanity. And there has to be a form of justice that isn’t punitive, but restorative.

    NADJA DROST: A peace agreement will call all parties to the conflict, the FARC, as much as members of the state and military, to face a special justice system that offers alternative sentences. Most of the FARC’s rank-and-file will receive amnesties, and for when they do, some are being trained to use new tools for political communication.

    “BORIS,” Instructor, FARC (through interpreter): We’re preparing ourselves here for political battle, to get ready for a new environment. We will pick up cameras and drop our arms.

    NADJA DROST: Welcoming the prospect of peace, but wary of the uncertainties to come.

    “ALEXANDRA NARINO,” Delegate to Peace Talks, FARC (through interpreter): When a peace accord is signed, that doesn’t mean that peace starts. The silencing of weapons isn’t peace. I think it’s afterwards that the difficult part starts. And the most interesting part, the construction of peace with social justice, I want to be there.

    NADJA DROST: For tonight, an air of optimism and hope takes over, as one step of many is taken on the long and difficult road to peace.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” reporting with Bruno Federico, I’m Nadja Drost in Putumayo, Colombia.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Extraordinary reporting.

    And later this week, we will look at how Colombia’s massive cocaine trade could be affected by a peace agreement.

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    GWEN IFILL: For more on how the candidates are positioning themselves with interest groups and with voters, we turn to Politics Monday, with Tamara Keith of NPR, and Stuart Rothenberg of The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report.

    Tam, let’s talk about that Hillary Clinton speech at AIPAC. First of all, for people who don’t know, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, what is it and why is their support significant? Why is everybody lining up, except for Bernie Sanders, to be there today?

    TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Well, and I will say that Bernie Sanders did give a foreign policy speech tonight in Utah at a gymnasium at a high school.

    It is a very significant Israeli lobbying group, a significant — basically, you want AIPAC on your side, generally speaking, if you’re a politician in America. It’s just — it’s easier that way. And it’s a political force.

    And Hillary Clinton came out, really, I think, with a general election posture. She came out swinging at Donald Trump in a significant way. That was one clip. She came out later in the speech and talked about, you know, not standing by as intolerance and bullying happens.

    So she used that speech. She used stronger language than she has used, though she’s been using increasingly stronger language toward Trump.

    GWEN IFILL: So, what is it that AIPAC can do for candidates, and then this particular group of candidates? Because John Kasich was there this afternoon. He gave a very strong speech, standing ovation.

    STUART ROTHENBERG, The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report: Well, let’s remember AIPAC is not a political action committee in the sense that other political groups are. They give money to candidates. They endorse candidates. They do political activity.

    They don’t do that. It’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

    GWEN IFILL: That’s right. That’s right. Good catch.

    STUART ROTHENBERG: And they do is introduce candidates to pro-Israel voters, mostly Jewish voters, in an attempt to generate support for Israel.

    But, look, if you’re at AIPAC, you are going to meet contributors. you are going to meet people who want to decide what candidate to support. Israel is a key issue. So, AIPAC is a really important advocate for Israel, but in that regard, it has strong support in the Jewish community, not throughout the Jewish community.

    There is another group, J Street, which is more…

    GWEN IFILL: More liberal?

    STUART ROTHENBERG: … more critical, more critical of Israeli domestic policy.

    But AIPAC has a lot of groups around the country, a lot of supporters. It is a great place to go if you’re going to talk about U.S.-Israel relations.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    Let’s stick with Donald Trump for a while. He was in Washington today not only to meet with AIPAC, but also to meet with — at least it was billed as a meeting with establishment Republicans.


    GWEN IFILL: But that didn’t — didn’t exactly live up to that.

    STUART ROTHENBERG: No. This was another case where the billing, I think, was off.

    Right. We expected this to be Republican insiders, veteran party strategists, long-term GOP maybe money folks. No, it was basically mostly people who had already endorse him, members from the Hill, Tom Reed of New York, Duncan Hunter of California, a number of…


    GWEN IFILL: Jeff Sessions.

    STUART ROTHENBERG: Jeff Sessions of Alabama, as well as a couple of other Republicans who hadn’t, Jim DeMint, now the head of the Heritage Foundation.

    It was very odd in that he seemed to be talking to the choir there, not reaching out to moderate, pragmatic Republicans and party insiders, which is I thought he probably needed to do and probably he was going to do.

    GWEN IFILL: Does that mean this pivot to being embraced by the mainstream Republican Party is not quite all the way there yet?

    TAMARA KEITH: It’s not there yet.

    The stages of denial of the Republican establishment are ongoing and they haven’t moved on to acceptance in a lot of ways. And Donald Trump held that meeting. Again, it wasn’t a broad meeting. It wasn’t, you know, going to the Senate Republican Caucus and doing the lunches.

    Actually, the Senate is out of town. I think it happens to be that Donald Trump was in town for AIPAC, and this press conference at the hotel, and he had a meeting with a few people, and it got big billing.

    GWEN IFILL: Let’s talk about this pivot, this general election pivot, because both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would like it if we didn’t talk about Ted Cruz or John Kasich, who are still — and Bernie Sanders, who are still out there.

    Is that what they’re using this little interregnum for?

    TAMARA KEITH: They’re definitely making that shift. But it’s not done. It’s definitely not done on…

    GWEN IFILL: In part because, for instance, Bernie Sanders outraised Hillary Clinton.

    TAMARA KEITH: Yes, absolutely. We got the February numbers, and he outraised her by something like $12 million or something. He raised more than $40 million. She raised more in the $30 million range.

    Interestingly, though, she ends February with more cash on hand than he does, and he actually spent significantly more money. He outspent her by about $10 million in February. The results of that were not immediately apparent, given Super Tuesday, given what just happened semi,sort of Super Tuesday last Tuesday, where he didn’t win any of those states.

    So, it’s — but Bernie Sanders is sticking it out and he is able to raise a lot of money, so he is not ready in any way to make that turn. One quick interesting thing, Elizabeth Warren, Senator Elizabeth Warren today went on a massive tweet storm, calling Donald Trump a loser, among other things.

    But she has moved on. She hasn’t endorsed anyone in the Democratic race, but she has begun attacking the Republican front-runner.

    GWEN IFILL: And I would just say what Donald Trump’s response is, but it would require too much explanation.


    GWEN IFILL: So, let’s talk a little bit more about that, though.

    You have Elizabeth Warren calling him a loser, clearly trying to stir the pot. You have more primaries coming up tomorrow. What are we all watching for now?

    STUART ROTHENBERG: Well, we have two. We have the Utah caucuses and the Arizona primary on the Republican side.

    Donald Trump has had the advantage in Arizona. There isn’t a lot of polling in either state, Gwen, so we’re kind of feeling our way through this, not that the surveys have always been accurate anyway.

    GWEN IFILL: True.

    STUART ROTHENBERG: But in this case, I think the endorsements, former Governor Jan Brewer, a number of other elected officials in Arizona have endorsed Trump. We’re kind of assuming that he’s the favorite there, and going to win, although Ted Cruz is running well apparently in what limited polling we have.

    In Utah, on the other hand, though, it’s all about Ted Cruz, and will he get 50 percent? As it turns out, Donald Trump’s personality, style, criticism of Mitt Romney, language has alienated a lot of LDS Mormon voters. And right now, it appears that Ted Cruz is the overwhelming favorite there.

    Trump is playing around. Kasich is playing around to try to keep Cruz under 50 percent. If Cruz exceeds 50 percent in Utah, he gets all of the delegates. It’s like a winner-take-all. So there is still some maneuvering going on here.

    GWEN IFILL: A lot of maneuvering.

    STUART ROTHENBERG: The two states are likely, most likely, at least we think, most likely to divide between the two candidates, which would, in a sense, I guess, keep the race as Trump the front-runner, Cruz the contender, and John Kasich still looking to win a race other than Ohio.

    GWEN IFILL: And Bernie Sanders obviously deciding there is something to be gotten out West at this point.

    TAMARA KEITH: Absolutely, there is. And he is about to begin, most likely, a very decent run, possibly a very good run of states that really favor him.

    GWEN IFILL: Tamara Keith, Stu Rothenberg, thank you both very much.

    STUART ROTHENBERG: Thanks, Gwen.

    TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

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    Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the media during a news conference at the construction site of the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office Building in Washington, March 21, 2016.   REUTERS/Jim Bourg - RTSBJ2I

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    GWEN IFILL: Now to the race for the White House.

    Ahead of tomorrow’s primaries, campaigns focused on foreign policy, as candidates stopped off in the Capitol.

    John Yang reports.

    JOHN YANG: Donald Trump spent today in the city he’s railed against, Washington, D.C.

    One of his stops was just blocks from the Capitol, a midday, closed-door meeting with a select group of Republicans, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Trump made another stop to talk, this time on the record, to The Washington Post editorial board, unveiling his team of foreign policy advisers.

    Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, who has already endorsed Trump, will lead the group. Other names include a former Pentagon inspector-general, an oil and energy consultant, and a retired Army lieutenant general who helped oversee Iraq after the U.S. invasion.

    In the afternoon, he warned Republicans who are vowing to stop him not to organize a third-party run.

    DONALD TRUMP, Republican Presidential Candidate: Well, a third party means that the Democrats are going to win, almost certainly. You can’t be that spiteful. You can’t be that spiteful, because you will destroy the country.

    JOHN YANG: Trump held his news conference at a hotel development in downtown Washington. That allowed him to talk about the jobs he’s creating, and also show it off to the press.

    Trump’s two remaining Republican rivals, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, were also in town, at the annual conference hosted by AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group. It was the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, who spoke first. She zeroed in on Trump, saying he couldn’t be trusted.

    HILLARY CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Candidate: Yes, we need steady hands, not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows what on Wednesday, because everything’s negotiable.


    HILLARY CLINTON: Well, my friends, Israel’s security is non-negotiable.


    JOHN YANG: After the speech, Clinton headed to Arizona for campaigning. The only candidate to skip AIPAC? Bernie Sanders, the race’s only Jewish candidate. He spent the day campaigning in Arizona, Idaho and Utah, which hold contests tomorrow.

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

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    U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuba's President Raul Castro shake hands during  a meeting with both countries' delegations on the second day of Obama's visit to Cuba, in Havana March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTSBING

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    GWEN IFILL: Now we turn to the view from the ground in Cuba during this historic visit.

    It comes from the BBC’s Laura Trevelyan, who is reporting from Havana tonight.

    So, Laura, how has the U.S. president been received on the ground there?

    LAURA TREVELYAN, BBC World News America: Well, Gwen, by the young 20-something Cubans who I have been talking to, with tremendous excitement.

    As one young Afro-Cuban said to me: “Obama is change. That’s what he represents.”

    And the young Cubans that I have been talking to have been very struck by the difference between what they see as the young American president and, of course, their own president, Raul Castro, who is in his 80s. So there is a sense that his visit represents a new era, that people feel that this is a new beginning that, after almost 60 years of a hostile relationship with a superpower just 90 miles away from here, that now this is exciting, that there are endless possibilities for young people to study.

    But there is a generational change there, too, Gwen. And I think, for parents of these 20-somethings, this is a difficult moment for them, because they have grown up with a one-party state, with the system as it is, and they wonder what the change will bring.

    GWEN IFILL: But what is the practical effect of the hope and the change that you’re talking about? When we saw two presidents side by side today, there was clearly — there are clearly wide areas of disagreement between them that are not just generational.

    LAURA TREVELYAN: Absolutely.

    But one of the practical effects of change is that, for example, there are cranes up all over Havana. Some of the hotels which were playgrounds for wealthy Americans in the 1950s are now being refurbished, because, of course, for so many Caribbean items, tourism is a lifeline, particularly American tourism.

    And it could be the same for Cuba, especially with 110 direct flights a day due to be coming here from later in the year. So, I have been talking to Cubans who, for example, for the last year have been able to rent out their homes through Airbnb, that American service on the Internet where you let out your homes to people.

    Now, Cubans for years have been letting out their rooms. They call it casas particulares, but now it’s on the Web. Here in Havana, there 2,500 homes that are being rented out on Airbnb. And people are so pleased to have the extra money, because the average Cuban wage is about 25 U.S. dollars a month.

    Through Airbnb, the average amount you get from a stay is $250. So, there is a huge change for people who regularly complain that they just do not have enough money to live on.

    GWEN IFILL: Yet, when the two presidents talk about — admit that they have — still have profound differences between the two nations, does that trickle down at all to ordinary Cubans?

    LAURA TREVELYAN: Well, most certainly.

    As someone who’s lived in America 12 years, coming here to Havana, Cuba, what strikes you is that this is a one-party state, that broadcasting is state-controlled.

    So, for example, this morning, on morning television, there was respectful TV coverage of the Obama visit, pictures of the Obama girls under an umbrella, pictures of Michelle coming down from Air Force One.

    But the tone is state-controlled. And it was made clear in the coverage that Guantanamo Bay is something that will be raised. And then, of course, related to that is the fact that there isn’t freedom of information here, because the Internet service is terrible.

    One of the changes that Raul Castro has introduced, is there is more public Wi-Fi in public parks, but Cubans have to pay for it. And the young Cubans that I have been speaking to, their biggest wish is that the Internet service could be better, so that they could be online, so they can use Facebook, they can use Twitter, they can use e-mail.

    They just feel that their lives are so restricted. As one young Cuban said to me, “Knowledge is power, and without the Internet, we can’t have the information we need to make choices about our lives.”

    GWEN IFILL: It’s something, watching change happen right before our eyes.

    Laura Trevelyan reporting for the BBC and for us from Havana tonight, thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn to analysis of today’s historic meeting in Havana and of the president’s trip to Cuba.

    For that, I’m joined by Maria de Los Angeles Torres, director of the Inter-University Program for Latino Research and a professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago. And Roger Noriega of the American Enterprise Institute. He’s a former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs in the George W. Bush administration.

    And we welcome you both.

    Roger Noriega, to you first.

    What’s your impression so far of how this trip is going?

    ROGER NORIEGA, American Enterprise Institute: Well, it was a little clumsy today, I think, the very awkward press conference.

    But I can understand the excitement of the Cuban people that was described by your previous guest. You know, there is something sort of exotic about Cuba. People haven’t been able to travel there in a long time. It’s a tropical island. It has a shortages of fish and tropical fruit. Something clearly is wrong there.

    But, on the other hand, the people aren’t that different than people anywhere. And they — you know, why would anybody choose to be in a dictatorship? Why wouldn’t they choose democracy? Because the government has a totalitarian hold on every aspect of their lives.

    And that worries me, because the government, in the final analysis, will have the say of whether the economic opening achieves any sort of meaningful change or whether the people are going to be left disappointed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Maria Torres, what’s your sense of the trip so far?

    MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES, University of Illinois at Chicago: Well, for not only for Cubans on the island, but I think for Cubans like myself that came to the United States as young children, this has been very moving.

    And it is historic, even though that is a very overused word when we speak about Cuba. I would like to just remind all of us that this is not the first time that we have had a rapprochement with Cuba. In 1978, Jimmy Carter also opened the door. In fact, there was another historic moment in which a Cuban airline landed in Atlanta and took over 100 Cuban Americans to dialogue with the Cuban government.

    Actually, that was my first trip back to Cuba. We were very excited at the time. We thought that there could be change. There was 3,600 political prisoners that were released, and, in fact, small businesses were opened up at the time.

    But what happened was that it got out of control and the Cuban government opened up the floodgates, and at the same time clamped down. And after that came Reagan. So, I am hopeful, to the extent that I think this is a little bit more, if you will, assertive rapprochement on the part of President Obama, but we still need to remember it is a military government.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Roger Noriega, do you think this time will be different? Do you see something materially different this time? Obviously, the president’s there, but what do you believe could come from this?

    ROGER NORIEGA: Well, certainly, that’s very dramatic. The president’s made a big bet on this in terms of his legacy in history.

    Unfortunately, if he loses that bet, it’s going to be 11 million Cubans that pay the price, because by licensing deals, as he has, tractor factory and…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Business deals.

    ROGER NORIEGA: …. hotels being — several hotels being managed, these are deals that he’s licensed with entities that are owned and operated by the Cuban military.

    So, in a certain way, you know, we sort of counted on the actuarial table to deal with the Castro brothers, but by the president sort of not only giving the political normalization and legitimization, but also this economic engagement, it may actually create a certain momentum for transition in the post-Castro period to just more dictators.

    And I think that would be extraordinarily tragic if that were to happen.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Maria Torres, could that be an outcome of this, that the communist regime is strengthened by this, rather than moving toward — in any way toward democracy?

    MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES: Well, I think there’s always — that’s a risk, but I also think that there’s a couple of factors that are different this time around.

    And that is, one, I think there is support on this side of the Florida Strait. Many of the businesses today in Cuba are being fueled by family members who are in Miami. There is — that’s a very porous border. I think that the Cuban government realizes they do not have Soviet Union or a Venezuela or Brazil or Chinese government that will bail them out this time around. And so, therefore, they are forced to make changes.

    I don’t think these are changes that they want to make. And they are, in fact, very modest changes, given the depth of the crisis in Cuba. But, nonetheless, I think for those who would like to be part of whatever configuration of a government there is after the Castro brothers, there is a sense that they have got to make some changes.

    And one thing Cuba cannot do is open up the immigration floodgates, and so, therefore, it is internally that the changes have to be made.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s pick up on that and pick up on the political prisoner exchange at today’s news conference.

    Roger Noriega, we saw President Castro fire back. He said, what political prisoners? And he said, give me a list and we will release them tonight.

    What do you see going on there? Because now there are human rights organizations saying, we’re going to put out the names.

    ROGER NORIEGA: Well, quite frankly, I can see why he would lose track of the political prisoners, because they take them every day, and the arrests were very dramatic because they were on the eve of the president’s visit, the arrests yesterday of ladies going to church, Santeria Parish, as they do every Sunday. They are beaten up and roughed up every Sunday as well, so…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And this is just on the eve of President Obama arriving?

    ROGER NORIEGA: Absolutely. And that just sort of affirms that the regime is not going to let up. And they have every intention of holding, you know, sort of restraining any kind of economical or political opening that would threaten its survival.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Maria Torres, why isn’t that a pretty discouraging development here, that there really is very little sign so far of their move toward democracy and certainly not toward doing anything about these prisoners, political prisoners?

    MARIA DE LOS ANGELES TORRES: I absolutely agree.

    I think one thing we have to remember, change doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be positive. And I think, with the crumbling, if you will, of totalitarian regimes oftentimes comes a moment of extreme repression.

    And I think that is why the fact that Raul Castro was asked on his own turf about political prisoners and about human rights is something that we normally don’t see. And I think that that, regardless of how little Internet there is in Cuba and how little press there is, people in Cuba will know this by tonight.

    And so I think that that is — in a sense, that is creating another sense of environment, and in fact, I would say a sense of empowerment. The repression — as one of the leaders of the human rights groups in Cuba said today, there is a lot of repression because there is a lot of democracy movement on the ground.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Roger Noriega, so could there be empowerment just by the very fact that they had the president’s visit and this news conference, that people will ask questions?

    ROGER NORIEGA: I think this is a very tough totalitarian Stalinist regime, as it’s been described to me by Eastern Europeans who’ve lived there, but it’s also a brittle regime, in my way of thinking.

    And I think that this is one area. Can the regime control expectations? If that gets out of hand, it will be a serious problem. But my concern is that, did the president strengthen Castro’s hand by accepting engagement with Cuba on his terms?

    The regime has made this a binary choice. You either engage the regime or you engage the people. And since Eisenhower, presidents have chosen not to engage the people. And I’m afraid that this sends the wrong message, and the president also making a commitment, a statement that he’s not about changing the regime.

    Well, why wouldn’t he be? This is a totalitarian regime. Why wouldn’t anybody be for changing that regime?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re going to have to leave it there, but we thank you both very much, Roger Noriega, Maria de Los Angeles Torres. Thank you.


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    A refugee boy shouts slogans as refugees and migrants protest to demand for the opening of the Greek-Macedonian border, in a makeshift camp near the village of Idomeni, Greece, March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis - RTSBJ6K

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    GWEN IFILL: In the day’s other news: Europe’s deal with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants and begin returning thousands showed no sign today of taking effect just yet. Nearly 50,000 people, many from Syria, are now stranded in Greece.

    But Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he needs logistical help to process and return new arrivals.

    ALEXIS TSIPRAS, Prime Minister, Greece (through interpreter): We have ahead of us a hill to climb because the implementation of that agreement will not be an easy matter. I think that we avoided the worst. If there wasn’t an agreement and cooperation with Turkey, we would have found ourselves facing a domino, one-sided conclusion.

    GWEN IFILL: Turkish monitors arrived on some Greek islands today. France, Germany and the Netherlands have also pledged to help.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The hunt is on in Turkey for three suspects believed to be planning more suicide attacks in the name of the Islamic State. It follows a weekend bombing that killed four people in Istanbul’s busiest pedestrian shopping street. Funerals for the dead began today. Three of those killed were Israeli. Two held dual citizenship with the U.S., and the fourth was Iranian.

    GWEN IFILL: Russia’s prime minister today ordered officials to look into tougher flight safety rules after a deadly crash. All 62 people aboard died Saturday when a FlyDubai airliner went down in Southern Russia as it tried to land in strong winds. Since then, search crews have combed the snow-covered wreckage for clues. Russian officials say the black box recorders were badly damaged, but they have been able to recover some data.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. military now confirms that American Marines have established a small artillery base in Northern Iraq. It’s the first time since U.S. forces returned to Iraq in 2014.

    On Saturday, a Marine was killed at the base near Makhmour by Islamic State rocket fire. But a U.S. spokesman said today it is not a combat mission.

    COL. STEVE WARREN, Spokesman, Operation Inherent Resolve: What they’re there to do is simply shoot back if somebody shoots at them or at the forces in Makhmour. So, they won’t kind of go off and conduct any type of mission on their own. They don’t really have that capability anyway.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The colonel says the Marine base was fired on again today, but no one was hurt.

    GWEN IFILL: Back in this country, a new fight over drawing congressional districts for political gain went before the U.S. Supreme Court, at issue, whether Virginia lawmakers illegally packed black voters into one district to help Republican candidates in neighboring districts.

    The vacancy on the Supreme Court means a 4-to-4 tie would uphold a lower court ruling against those districts.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The two largest daily fantasy sports Web sites in the U.S. will, for now, stop taking bets in New York state. DraftKings and FanDuel reached agreement today with the state attorney general. They’re going to let the New York state legislature resolve their legal dispute. At issue is whether the sites promote gambling.

    GWEN IFILL: New England braced today for a spring snowstorm that mostly failed to deliver. Forecasts had called for up to a foot of snow in places. Instead, about six inches fell across much of Eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Northeastern Connecticut. Boston saw only three inches, but they still closed schools. Boston’s had about 30 inches of snow this winter, after getting 100 inches last year.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Wall Street opened the week with a fairly quiet day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 21 points to close near 17624. The Nasdaq rose 13 points, and the S&P 500 added two.

    Still to come on the “NewsHour”: a new era of U.S.-Cuba relations; presidential candidates make their case to the pro-Israel lobby; Colombian rebels emerge from the jungle in hopes of peace; and much more.

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    TOPSHOT - US President Barack Obama (L) and Cuban President Raul Castro meet at the Revolution Palace in Havana on March 21, 2016. US President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro met Monday in Havana's Palace of the Revolution for groundbreaking talks on ending the standoff between the two neighbors. Obama, meeting Castro for only the third time for formal talks, was the first US president in Cuba since 1928.  AFP PHOTO/ NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The end of one era, the beginning of another. President Obama held direct talks today with the leader of Cuba in his capital city. And they took questions, something the communist government rarely allows.

    It was a moment that made history, “The Star-Spangled Banner” played for an American president in the heart of Havana. Mr. Obama stood side by side with Cuban President Raul Castro in the city no U.S. leader had visited in 88 years.

    Later, they emerged from a private meeting to describe their summit.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: For more than half-a-century, the sight of a U.S. president here in Havana would have been unimaginable. But this is a new day. Es un nuevo dia.

    PRESIDENT RAUL CASTRO, Cuba (through interpreter): Today, I reaffirm that we should exercise the art of civilized coexistence, which involves accepting and respecting differences and preventing these from becoming the center of our relationship.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the issue of human rights quickly interjected itself.

    CNN reporter Jim Acosta, a Cuban-American, apparently struck a nerve when he asked Castro about political prisoners.

    PRESIDENT RAUL CASTRO (through interpreter): Give me of can give me a list of the political prisoners, and I will release them immediately. Just mention a list. If we have those political prisoners, they will be released before tonight ends.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, yesterday, just hours ahead of Mr. Obama’s arrival, Cuban officials detained dozens of dissidents. Back at today’s briefing, President Obama acknowledged differences on the issue, but said he believes a constructive dialogue is possible.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As I think we both indicated, we had a very frank conversation around issues of democracy and human rights. Our starting point is that we have two different systems. But as is true with countries around the world where we have normalized relations, we will continue to stand up for basic principles that we believe in.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Obama visit is the product of more than a year of work to thaw relations. During that time, embassies in both countries have reopened, with some economic and trade barriers lifted.

    Already, there’s been an influx of American tourists and business interests to the island nation. Coinciding with the trip, Mr. Obama announced Google will work to expand Internet coverage in Cuba, and he met with American and Cuban entrepreneurs.

    Separately, American hotel chain Starwood said it will begin operating in Havana soon. But referring to the commercial opening, President Castro said today it’s not enough, and he pointed again to the decades-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, which Congress has refused to abolish.

    PRESIDENT RAUL CASTRO (through interpreter): Much more could be done if the U.S. blockade were lifted. The most recent measures adopted by the Obama administration are positive, but insufficient. The blockade remains enforced, and it contains discouraging elements and intimidating effects and extraterritorial outreach.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Castro also called again for the U.S. to return the Guantanamo Naval Base site to Cuban control.

    Despite such disagreements, there were also gestures of goodwill. President Obama laid a wreath this morning at a memorial for Cuban independence hero Jose Marti. And on Sunday, despite a steady rain, the first family toured old Havana, as hundreds of people looked on.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): It was very emotional, very emotional. It was good. We Cubans here, as always, are happy and joyful to receive him. May this all be for good, retaining our full identity.

    CLARISA PEREZ, Havana Resident (through interpreter): I don’t disagree with his coming to the island, but, well, what I want is that changes be for the benefit of the Cuban people, because we are going through a difficult economic time here. There is no milk. We are mistreated.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president plans to meet with opposition figures tomorrow before a baseball game between the Cuban national team and Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays.

    We will get a report from the scene in Havana, and analyze the Obama visit, after the news summary.

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    Video by PBS NewsHour

    WASHINGTON — Ohio Gov. John Kasich is stressing his experience as he speaks in front of a major Israel lobby and taking subtle shots at rival Donald Trump.

    “I don’t need on the job training,” he told the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday, saying he already knows about the dangers facing the U.S. and its allies.

    The Ohio governor also stressed his “firm and unwavering” support for the Jewish State and vowed to work to stamp out intolerance, racism and anti-semitism.

    But some of his loudest applause came as he appeared to take on Trump.

    “We are Americans before we are Republicans and Democrats,” he said, adding: “I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land.”

    Unlike some of his GOP rivals, Kasich for months did not pledge to “rip up” the multi-nation deal on his first day in office. But he is now calling for a suspension in the U.S. involvement in the Iran nuclear deal in response to recent ballistic missile tests, which he says are a violation.

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    A member of the audience (R) throws a punch at a protester as Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event in Tucson, Arizona. Photo by Sam Mircovich/Reuters

    A member of the audience (R) throws a punch at a protester as Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event in Tucson, Arizona. Photo by Sam Mircovich/Reuters

    TUCSON, Ariz. — A man captured on video kicking and punching an anti-Donald Trump protester at the presidential candidate’s rally in Tucson on Saturday is a member of the Air Force.

    Staff Sgt. Tony Pettway, a response force leader, is assigned to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson and was arrested on Saturday on a misdemeanor charge of assault with injury. He works in security forces.

    The event in Tucson turned ugly when two protesters displayed offensive imagery in an attempt to make a statement against the divisiveness of the Trump campaign. Pettway was one of several people arrested at two Trump rallies in Arizona this weekend.

    The anti-Trump protester carried a sign with a Confederate flag over an image of Trump and was being escorted out of the building when Pettway punched and kicked him.

    The incident was caught on video. People can be heard cheering as Trump denounces another protester who was wearing a KKK-style sheet.

    “There’s a disgusting guy. Puts a Ku Klux Klan hat on. Thinks he’s cute. He’s a disgusting guy,” Trump said. “I’m going to tell you folks, that’s a disgrace. They are taking away our First Amendment rights.”

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    Davis-Monthan is reviewing the situation and will take appropriate action, said 2nd Lt. Sydney Smith of the 355th Fighter Wing public affairs office.

    Airmen are allowed to participate in political events on their own time, Smith said. “We believe wholeheartedly in our fellow Americans’ rights to express their views on political issues, and we strongly condemn any attempt to silence those views through force or violence,” Smith said.

    Video by Arizona Daily Star

    Pettway was released without being booked into jail. It is unclear if he has an attorney.

    Pettway, 32, began active duty in the Air Force in August 2002 and completed his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson said. He was stationed in South Korea twice and in New Mexico before moving to Davis-Monthan in December 2012. Dickerson said Pettway has received a commendation medal on three occasions but didn’t know what they were for.

    Tucson police also arrested 67-year-old Linda Rothman on a misdemeanor count of assault without injury. They haven’t said why she was arrested.

    Authorities in Phoenix, where Trump held a rally earlier in the day, also arrested several protesters. Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies identified three protesters who were arrested while helping block the only major highway leading to a Trump rally in metropolitan Phoenix.

    Steffany Laughlin, Jacinta Gonzalez and Michael Cassidy were all booked on one count of obstructing a public thoroughfare, deputies said.

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    WASHINGTON — Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is focusing on Iran as he delivers a highly-anticipated foreign policy speech in Washington.

    Trump tells a gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee: “Iran is the biggest sponsor of terrorism around the world.”

    Trump has been speaking from prepared remarks — a rarity for the businessman who usually speaks off-the-cuff using hand-scrawled, point-form notes.

    He’s repeatedly bashed Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, speaking with the aid of a teleprompter.

    Trump is also slamming the United Nations. He says the group is “not a friend” of democracy, freedom, the United States or Israel.

    He says he would veto any attempt by the UN to impose its will on the Jewish state.

    The Associated Press wrote this report.

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    WASHINGTON — Ted Cruz is attacking Donald Trump for promising to be “neutral” in brokering a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

    The Texas senator seized on Trump’s past statement during his speech to pro-Israel activists on Monday. Trump, himself, did not address his past reference to neutrality as he took the stage just before Cruz.

    Cruz noted Trump’s comments and said, “As president, I will not be neutral.” He added, “America will stand unapologetically with the nation of Israel.”

    Cruz is chasing Trump in the Republican presidential primary.

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    Emergency personnel are seen at the scene of a blast outside a metro station in Brussels in this still image taken from video on March 22. Photo by Reuters TV

    Emergency personnel are seen at the scene of a blast outside a metro station in Brussels in this still image taken from video on March 22. Photo by Reuters TV

    • A series of explosions hit an airport terminal and subway station in Brussels on Tuesday.
    • At least 31 people have been killed and more than 100 wounded.
    • One explosion may have been detonated by a suicide bomber, said Belgium’s federal prosecutor.

    Explosions erupted at the Brussels airport and one of its subway stations during rush hour Tuesday morning, killing at least 31 people and injuring more than 130 others, Associated Press reported.

    Twin explosions struck the departures area of the city’s main international airport, collapsing the ceiling, blowing out windows and sending passengers running from the building. Belgian officials say at least 11 are dead from the blasts at the airport and at least 81 more have been injured, AP reported.

    About an hour later, another explosion was reported at a Brussels metro station in the heart of the city, near the headquarters of the European Union. Brussels Mayor Yvan Majeur said 20 people are dead from the train explosion, AP reported.

    Belgium’s federal prosecutor says at least one of the blasts at the airport was likely caused by a suicide bomber.

    “What we fear has happened,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said. “We were hit by blind attacks.”

    [Watch Video]PBS NewsHour will live stream reports and press conferences on the Brussels attacks all day today. Watch them in the player above.

    French President Francois Hollande called an emergency cabinet meeting for later in the day.

    “Terrorists struck Brussels but it was Europe that was targeted,” Hollande said.

    The explosions happened four days after Salah Abdeslam, one of the men behind the Paris attacks in November, was arrested in Brussels. Michel said there was no current evidence linking Abdeslam to Tuesday’s attacks, and no one has yet claimed responsibility.

    Passengers are evacuated from Belgium's Brussels Airport on March 22 after twin blasts rocked the main terminal. Photo by John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

    Passengers are evacuated from Belgium’s Brussels Airport on March 22 after twin blasts rocked the main terminal. Photo by John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

    Belgian authorities immediately raised the country’s terror alert to the highest level, putting the city in lockdown, and canceling all flights and train service. Belgium’s national soccer team called off a practice session in Brussels on Tuesday. The U.S. Justice Department and FBI are also working with their Belgian counterparts, following the attacks, a DOJ official told the AP.

    President Barack Obama, traveling in Cuba, was briefed Tuesday morning.

    Both British Prime Minister David Cameron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte offered their support.

    “I am shocked and concerned by the events in Brussels. We will do everything we can to help,” Cameron wrote on Twitter.

    French President Francois Hollande responded Tuesday to the deadly terror attacks in Belgium, drawing comparisons to attacks in Paris and Africa, and calling for a global response. Video by PBS NewsHour

    Rutte said Belgium was “hit by cowardly, murderous attacks.”

    “Our thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones, and the Netherlands stands ready to help and support our neighbors to the south in any possible way,” the Dutch prime minister said in a statement.

    A previous version of this story said 28 people died. The death toll has since been revised.

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    [Watch Video]PBS NewsHour will live stream President Obama as he speaks in Havana, scheduled for 10:10 a.m. EDT today. We will also live stream reports and press conferences on the Brussels attacks all day today.

    HAVANA — President Barack Obama, traveling in Cuba, was briefed Tuesday morning on the Brussels attacks that killed dozens of people. The White House said the U.S. was in contact with Belgian officials about the explosions at the Brussels airport and subway system.

    READ MORE: Explosions rip through Brussels airport and subway

    At least one of the attacks was believed to be caused by a suicide bomber, and Belgium raised its terror alert to its highest level.

    Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement that the U.S. was working “to determine the status of all American citizens in Brussels.” The embassy there issued a statement telling Americans to stay where they are and “take the appropriate steps to bolster your personal security.”

    Emergency services at the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels. Photo by Francois Lenoir/Reuters

    Emergency services at the scene of explosions at Zaventem airport near Brussels. Photo by Francois Lenoir/Reuters

    Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking member of the House intelligence committee, said the attacks “bear all the hallmarks” of an Islamic State group coordinated or inspired attack. He said he received a preliminary briefing Tuesday from U.S. officials. Schiff says it’s unclear if encrypted communications played a role in the attacks but noted that the Brussels attacks occurred despite the city being under constant vigilance.

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it was closely monitoring the unfolding events and “would not hesitate to adjust our security posture, as appropriate, to protect the American people.”

    READ MORE: U.S. cities step up security after Brussels attacks

    DHS reiterated that members of the public should report any suspicious activity in their communities to law enforcement authorities.

    Attorney General Loretta Lynch was also briefed on the attacks, Justice Department officials in Washington said. They said the Justice Department and the FBI was coordinating with other U.S. government agencies, as well as with Belgian counterparts.

    Last week U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Homeland Security officials constantly monitor world events and evaluate whether there is a need to either publicly raise the nation’s security posture or issue another bulletin via the government’s National Terror Advisory System.

    Such a bulletin was issued in December advising the public that federal law enforcement was concerned about the possibility of homegrown violent extremists and terrorist-inspired individuals.

    Caldwell and Associated Press writer Tami Abdollah contributed reporting from Washington.

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