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

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    The latest wave brings to 306 the total number of inmates whose sentences Obama has commuted, the vast majority for drug crimes. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS

    The latest wave brings to 306 the total number of inmates whose sentences Obama has commuted, the vast majority for drug crimes. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Thursday commuted the prison sentences of 58 federal convicts, part of a broader push to revamp the criminal justice system and ease punishments for nonviolent drug offenders.

    The people whose prison terms were cut short include 18 who were given life sentences. Most who received clemency are now due for release on September 2, though others will be released over the next two years.

    The latest wave — which includes defendants convicted of dealing cocaine, crack and methamphetamine — brings to 306 the total number of inmates whose sentences Obama has commuted, the vast majority for drug crimes. The pace of commutations — along with pardons, which are less common — is expected to increase as the end of Obama’s presidency nears.

    The prisoners given commutations have been “granted a second chance to lead productive and law-abiding lives,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates.

    “Our clemency work is continuing as part of our broader efforts to effectuate criminal justice reform and ensure fairness and proportionality in sentencing,” Yates said.

    The Justice Department revamped the clemency process two years ago to encourage more applications from federal offenders. The administration expanded the criteria for eligible inmates, soliciting petitions from inmates who were convicted of nonviolent crimes, had served at least 10 years of their sentences and had been well behaved behind bars, among other considerations.

    Advocates have repeatedly expressed concerns about what they term the slow pace of that process, saying it has denied thousands of deserving good candidates a fair shot at an early release.

    “I am pleased by today’s news but I know that for every prisoner whose sentence the president commuted today, there are a hundred more who are equally worthy,” said Mary Price, general counsel of Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

    The post Obama administration commutes 58 prison sentences, all nonviolent drug offenders appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives for his campaign rally at the Century Center in South Bend, Indiana, U.S., May 2, 2016. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski - RTX2CIGI

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Now, back to the race for the White House.

    As we reported, House Speaker Paul Ryan today became the highest ranking Republican yet to say he’s not ready to support Donald Trump.

    We examine the divisions the Trump nomination is driving with two conservatives on either side of the split.  We start with a Trump supporter, Representative Tom Marino who joins us from State College, Pennsylvania.

    Congressman Marino, thank you for joining us.

    You endorsed Donald Trump as early as just about anybody in the House of Representatives back in February.  Why?

    REP. TOM MARINO (R), Pennsylvania:  Well, it’s very simple.  I’ll answer that with a rhetorical statement.  How’s it been knowing the last 30 years having governors, senators, and career politicians being president, we’re $20 trillion in debt, 20 million people out of work, businesses are leaving the country in droves, the borders are not secured, people tell me in my district they’re afraid they’re not going to be able to even send their kids to school because they don’t know if they’re going to have a job or find a job.

    So, Donald Trump has hired tens of thousands of people.  He’s the only candidate that has signed the front of a paycheck.

    I just was talking to him the other day — and you know what one of his first meetings among others is going to be?  It’s going to be with business people, businesswomen and -men, who can tell Donald what the problem is, why they have to leave this country.

    So, I think it’s a no-brainer.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Congressman, what do you say to fellow Republicans who say they don’t believe Donald Trump is really, truly conservative?

    REP. TOM MARINO:  Well, you know, I’m a conservative.  Donald is a — he’s an individual that touches all Americans, Republicans, Democrats and independents.  He’s a populist.  He’s bringing more and more people out to vote that ever came out to vote in the past.

    He’s going to have — when the primary is over, he’s going to have more votes from the Republicans than any other presidential primary candidate in the history of this country.  He’s built a $10 billion business by surrounding him with the best and the brightest, and I don’t see what any of these other people have to offer.

    The American people are sick and tired of being sick.  They’re sick and tired of the establishment, the career politicians, the so-called political bosses in Washington, and, really, what we needed to do was bulldoze Washington and start over.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And, Congressman, the other — one of the other criticisms one hears about Mr. Trump is about his temperament.  There are some who say they might be willing to support him but worry as president he doesn’t have the temperament to be leader of the free world.

    REP. TOM MARINO:  Well, if he didn’t have the temperament to be the president, I don’t think he would be as successful as he is in business.  I have been with him many times, smoking with him many times.  He asked my advice.  I give it to him.

    I don’t say just exactly what you might want to hear because I’m that kind of a person, but just look in the past.  What has — what does Hillary Clinton have to offer?  You know, what do other candidates have to offer as far as creating jobs?

    He’s known all over the world and he’s certainly going to let the rest of the world know that we don’t think we’re better than anyone else, but we’re not going to be taken advantage of anymore like we have been in trade, like we have been in foreign affairs concerning Putin.  He’s going to take China on.  I think they know that he’s a serious guy and I believe that he’s going to make this country great again with the help of the American people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And what do you say to the leader in your own party in the House of Representatives, Speaker Paul Ryan, who said today he’s not ready to support Donald Trump because he still has work to do to unify your party?

    REP. TOM MARINO:  Well, Paul is new at the job.  It’s a big switch going from the chairman over to the Speaker of the House because there is no one in the public’s eye than the speaker other than the president.

    But I’m going to give Paul the benefit of the doubt.  We’re back in D.C. next week.  We’ll have a discussion about that.  There it is a responsibility there that he has to work to bring the party together and I know he and Donald have been having discussions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Representative Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, we thank you very much.

    REP. TOM MARINO:  It’s always my pleasure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And Donald Trump has responded to Speaker Ryan this evening.  In his statement, he said, quote, “I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda.  Perhaps in the future we can work together and come to an agreement about what is best for the American people.  They have been treated so badly for so long that it’s about time for politicians to put them first.”

    Now for a view from a conservative critic of Donald Trump, we turn to John McCormack, senior writer at “The Weekly Standard” magazine.

    John McCormack, welcome.

    Why are you opposed to Mr. Trump as the party’s nominee?

    JOHN MCCORMACK, The Weekly Standard:  Well, you know, what you heard Paul Ryan say today is that we want a standard bearer who bears our standards.  And you could view that from one respect as a matter of ideology, something that Paul Ryan would say is that we’re going to have a debt crisis if we don’t get entitlements under control, Donald Trump is completely not a conservative on that and many other issues.

    But for me, really, the issue is more of temperament and character.  I think that for the past ten months, Donald Trump has proven to be nothing less than an unstable conspiracy theorist with an authoritarian streak.  You know, he has — he got his start in politics saying Barack Obama’s birth certificate was fake.  He suggests that George W. Bush knowingly lied that there are weren’t weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  That’s an unproven conspiracy theory.  Just this week, he said that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination.

    That’s just sheer lunacy, and it doesn’t, it’s not the kind of stability that you want in a commander-in-chief.  So, for me, I’d be willing to take a chance on Donald Trump, if you just simply want quite (ph) as conservatives I like.  But again, on matters of character and temperament, I just don’t think he’s there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, you probably heard, I talked with Congressman Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, who I asked him that temperament question, and he said, well, he’s been a successful businessman.  He said his temperament is what’s helped him get him where he is today.  What about that?

    JOHN MCCORMACK:  Well, if you look at a lot of his business dealings, you know, he’s really just insulted a lot of people, been very aggressive.  He’s gotten where he is more out of his fame than business acumen.  I mean, just in his campaign, we’ve seen him denigrate women, he has insulted even prisoners of war when he said of John McCain, tat I like people who weren’t captured.  I can’t believe a patriotic party has chosen someone who has denigrated prisoners of war like that.

    And until Donald Trump can prove he’s a man of character and a man of temperament, which he hasn’t done, which I don’t think he can do, I can’t support him.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Are you saying you don’t think you could come around — you and others who agree with you, couldn’t come around to support Donald Trump if he demonstrates temperament you say you look for in a president changes and maybe comes up with positions on issues that you can agree with?

    JOHN MCCORMACK:  Well, I think the Donald Trump that we’ve seen over the last ten months is the real Donald Trump.  I don’t see him, you know, apologizing publicly to all the women he’s insulted — degraded, really — to the prisoner of war people like John McCain, to excommunicate the nationalists who have found a welcoming home in his campaign, to prove that he has a sober and steady hands.  You know, I mean, he bounces all over the place on tissues.  He can’t control his worst impulses, as he insults Heidi Cruz, he threatened to, quote, “spill the beans” on her.

    It’s not the stability you’re seeing, and I think the person you’ve seen in the last ten months is the real Donald Trump.  So, I don’t think I’ll be able to support him in November.  I hope there is a third party candidate, maybe somebody like Dr. Coburn from Oklahoma.  Time is running out to get on the ballot, but I hope there’s a viable option for principled conservatives in November.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, that’s what I want to ask you, John McCormack.  What do you and other conservatives do who aren’t able to support Donald Trump?  If you support a third party, doesn’t that automatically help the Democratic nominee who’s likely to be Hillary Clinton?

    JOHN MCCORMACK:  Well, you know, the polls show right now that Hillary Clinton is going to beat Donald Trump whether or not conservative.  It’s very likely she’ll beat him whether or not conservatives support Donald Trump.  A recent CNN poll found 84 percent of Republican back Donald Trump.  Hillary Clinton was leading Trump overall by 13 percentage points, which means if you have 100 percent of Republicans supported Donald Trump, he would still lose to Hillary Clinton.

    But, you know, at the end of the day, conservatives, they just kind of take a stand and say that they believe that both candidates are disqualified.  On one hand, you see Hillary Clinton, someone who’s Supreme Court nominee would trample the Constitution, send the country hurdling to the left, and then Donald Trump, who as I said, is simply unfit to be commander-in-chief.

    And you just have to take a stand, let the chips fall where they may.  You can hope that there is a third party principled candidate there and if not, write somebody in and vote down ballot.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  I want to ask you about another point that we heard Congressman Marino make, and that is, he said Trump appeals — he’s a populist.  He’s appealing to Democrats, to independents, as well as Republicans.  Why wouldn’t Donald Trump be able to put together a coalition that could prevail in November?


    The post Trump the leader of the free world? Two GOP perspectives appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A man smokes an electronic cigarette vaporizer, also known as an e-cigarette, in Toronto, August 7, 2015. Many of the world's junior miners are laying down their picks and shovels to start new ventures ranging from egg exporting to e-cigarette company, as they as try to survive a crash in metals prices by shifting away from exploration. Picture taken on August 7, 2015.    REUTERS/Mark Blinch - RTX1PBBR

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    HARI SREENIVASAN:  There’ll be no more e-cigarette and cigar sales to people under the age of 18.  Federal oversight of the growing industry was announced today by the Food and Drug Administration.


    HARI SREENIVASAN:  They’ve been around since 2006, but until now, they were largely un-regulated.  E-cigarettes turn nicotine into an inhalable liquid vapor, but without the tobacco in regular cigarettes.

    WOMAN:  With blue e-cigs there’s no tobacco only vapor.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Ads for the products tout benefits, using celebrity endorsements, like this one from actress Jenny McCarthy.  In fact, there’s no scientific consensus on benefits, or potential harm.

    But Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell says the industry will now be regulated, citing its rapid growth among teens.

    SYLVIA BURWELL, Secretary of Health and Human Services:  Between 2011 and 2015, the percentage of high school students who smoke e-cigarettes has skyrocketed over 900 percent.  Meanwhile, hookah usage has risen significantly among young people and cigar smoking continues to be a problem among high schoolers.  Together, that means millions of kids are being introduced to nicotine every year, a new generation hooked on a highly addictive chemical.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Manufacturers, many of them small companies, will have to undergo a lengthy federal review in order to stay on the market.

    In response, Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said today, quote, “If the FDA’s rule is not changed by Congress or the courts, thousands of small businesses will close in two to three years.”

    House Republicans have their own answer: a bill to curb retroactive safety reviews for e-cigarettes and cigars.


    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Meanwhile, some states have launched ad campaigns against teenage use of e-cigarettes.  And yesterday, California became the second state in the nation, after Hawaii, to raise the smoking age to 21.


    HARI SREENIVASAN:  The use of e-cigarettes among youth keeps rising.  The latest estimates from the CDC show about 2.5 million high school students or middle schoolers vaped at least once a month.

    Mitch Zeller is the FDA’s point person on today’s decision.  He’s the director of its Center for Tobacco Products.  And he joins us.

    What’s the exact health risk you’re trying to prevent?

    MITCH ZELLER, Food and Drug Administration:  No child, no teenager should be exposed to nicotine.  Nicotine is addictive.  E-cigarettes have nicotine in them.  Kids should not be inhaling those products into their lungs.

    There is a separate debate about whether e-cigarettes have a public health benefit to some current cigarette smokers who might be able to use the product to transition away from harmful cigarettes, but there should be no harm reduction questions about kids.  Kids should not be using e-cigarettes and today’s action will take this product out of the Wild Wild West of unregulation into the world of being regulated.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  But are you concerned it could have a chilling effect on the people trying to transition away from conventional cigarettes using this as a way to step down?

    MITCH ZELLER:  FDA is a public health protection and consumer agency and we will make policy where the science takes us.  The fact is that 70 percent of all adult e-cigarettes consumers today are still smoking cigarettes together with their e-cigarettes.  So, we don’t know if they’re transitioning away from e-cigarettes or if along the way, 70 percent of all adult e-cigarette users are still smoking cigarettes, they’re losing interest in quitting conventional cigarettes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, how do we measure all this, where’s the science behind exactly what’s happening, how the behaviors are changing?

    MITCH ZELLER:  FDA is making a massive investment in what we call the regulatory science to get answers to two fundamental questions — who is using products like e-cigarettes and how are they being used?  We are following 46,000 children and adults to get answers to questions which products are you using, why are you using them, and how our patterns of use changing?

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, the industry is also pushing back as expected.  And saying, look, the fees and the process and structure you have for the applications is going to essentially close down some of those small businesses and small manufacturers and it’s essentially going to protect the big tobacco companies that have shifted and you really will be giving them an advantage over the long haul.

    MITCH ZELLER:  This is a public health issue.  Beyond e-cigarettes we’re talking about the need to regulate cigars.  Every single day, more teenage boys light up a cigar for the first time than light up a regular cigarette.  So, between cigars and e-cigarettes, we have a lot of work to do to protect kids from the harms of tobacco products.

    There are costs that are associated with becoming regulated.  We have tried to address the concerns of small businesses.  And I disagree with the assessment that this is an industry that’s going out of business.  They may have to transition away from the conventional model that we see in a typical vape shop, but there is time to submit the applications, time for us to conduct our reviews and we’ll take it as it goes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Some of the health advocates are saying, listen, there is almost too much time involved, there’s up to three years and some of these folks can continue to sell their wares that they are selling today, knowing that at that point is when they have to sunset their business.

    MITCH ZELLER:  And that’s what we’ve done today is reasonable and sensible regulation.  We received over 135,000 comments as part of our rule making process.  And on the issue of flavors in e-cigarettes, we got comments across the board, from public health groups that said flavors should be band, to users of e-cigarette who said, anecdotally, that’s what got me off cigarettes.

    So, we think we’ve struck the right middle of the road here.  The key point here is that what FDA has done today is foundational.  Finally, e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah will be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  If you know what attracts the young kids is the flavors, why not have something that addresses the flavors today?

    MITCH ZELLER:  We will be able to address the rule of flavors in each and every one of the applications that the companies submitted for marketing authorization, and they will have to answer our questions about what role are the flavors in your products playing in initiation by kids and initiation by anyone who’s never used the product?  We’ll be able to handle that through the applications.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  There is also concern there is a grandfather date going back to 2007.  It’s essentially saying we’re going to start the rule making back then.  Well, are you maybe protecting devices that were more dangerous and didn’t have to comply with the rules that you’re imposing today?

    MITCH ZELLER:  The grandfather date is a legislative and legal issue, and what we said is that, as a regulatory agency, we can’t change the date by which certain products would receive grandfather status and be exempt from pre-market review.
    What some in industry are trying to do is advance the grandfather date in a way that we think and the administration thinks will be harmful to public health by forever exempting all currently marketed e-cigarettes and cigars from a pre-market review by the Food and Drug Administration.  We think that would be bad for health.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  If Congress can change the date in one direction, they can change it in the other.  What happens to the entire force of the law if that grandfather date is moved to, say, 2016?

    MITCH ZELLER:  If that legislation passes, we think that public health will be harmed because one of the most important responsibilities that Congress gave FDA was to apply public health principles to determine which products would be authorized for marketing.  If they received grandfather status and we don’t have the opportunity to apply those public health principles, we don’t think that’s good for public health.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Mitch Zeller from the FDA — thanks so much for joining us.

    MITCH ZELLER:  Thank you.

    The post Skyrocketing teen use of e-cigarettes leads to new regulations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A Canadian Joint Operations Command aerial photo shows wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada in this image posted on twitter May 5, 2016. Courtesy CF Operations/Handout via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY - RTX2D0AI

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Good evening.  I’m Judy Woodruff.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  And I’m Hari Sreenivasan.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  On the “NewsHour” tonight, a new dynamic on the campaign trail:

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Also ahead this Thursday, no more e-cigarettes for minors.  The FDA announces new age requirements in a crackdown on unregulated tobacco, while California raises the legal age for smoking to 21.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And, planning a vacation?  How airlines are battling over bargain passenger fairs for trips to the Caribbean.


    MAN:  The airlines are afraid that if customers are given the choice, they’ll buy their tickets somewhere else from someone who will offer them a better deal.  The last I heard, that was capitalism.


    HARI SREENIVASAN:  All that and more on tonight’s “PBS NewsHour”.


    HARI SREENIVASAN:  In the day’s other news, a raging wildfire forced new evacuations in the heart of Canada’s oil sands country.  Wind-driven flames had already put more than 80,000 people to flight, from Fort McMurray in Alberta.  There were more towns to the south that were evacuated as the fire swept across tinder-dry woodlands.

    Paul Davies of Independent Television News has this report.


    PAUL DAVIES:  They are driving away from homes they have abandoned to the flames.  The fire so close, it’s showering sparks from trees it’s consuming alongside the road.  And caught in this vision of Armageddon, thousands of families running for their lives.

    How long it will be before Fort McMurray will welcome people again, no one can know.

    The city had laid on a fleet of buses to help the less advantaged escape from the inevitable destruction, but there were strict limits on what possessions could be taken.  For many, it was the clothes they could carry and their pets but no more.

    DONNA GOALLAMOT, Evacuee:  You don’t know what’s burned and what’s not burned, when you can go back.  Now you’re sitting here and all you see is red flames.  It’s pretty scary.

    PAUL DAVIES:  The evacuation so far prevented loss of life but in the suburbs where the flames have done their worse and moved on, there is little left for people to return to.

    Two thousand buildings have been destroyed and tonight there are fears large portions of the city may be lost before any improvement in weather conditions.


    HARI SREENIVASAN:  The fire has also shut down about one-third of Canada’s total crude oil capacity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  A near- miracle today in Nairobi, Kenya.  Four more people were rescued after being trapped for six days in the rubble of a collapsed building.  The first was a woman who was eight months pregnant and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.  Officials said her unborn baby did not survive.  The death toll from Friday’s collapse now stands at 36, with dozens still missing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  In Syria, an air strike killed at least 28 people in a crowded refugee camp, including children.  It happened at the northwestern town of Sarmada, in a rebel-held area near the Turkish border.  Video posted on social media showed tents burned to the ground, amid clouds of dark smoke.  The camp is home to around 2,000 people.  It was unclear whose planes carried out the strike, but U.S. officials denied any role.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Meanwhile, the prime minister of Turkey announced today he’s resigning, moving the NATO nation ever closer to authoritarian rule.  Ahmet Davutoglu had held his office since 2014, but he was at odds with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who’s pushing for greater power for himself.  Even so, the prime minister pledged continued support for Erdogan, despite his crackdown on dissent.


    AHMET DAVUTOGLU, Former Prime Minister, Turkey (through interpreter):  My loyalty to our president will continue until the last breath I will breathe.  Nobody has or will hear a single word against our president from my mouth.  Everybody should know that and I would never let people exploit this matter.


    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The resignation comes as Europe is relying on Turkey to cut off the flow of migrants, and the U.S. needs its help fighting the Islamic state group.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Back in this country, the number of sexual assaults reported in the military stayed about the same last year, but Pentagon officials say it’s still far too high.  In all, there were 6,083 reports of assaults in 2015, virtually unchanged from 2014.  At the same time, more than 16,000 service members intervened in situations they believed could escalate to sexual assault.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  President Obama has commuted prison sentences for 58 more federal convicts.  It’s part of his recent push to overhaul the criminal justice system, with a focus on non-violent drug offenders.  Most of this latest group will be freed in September.  18 had been serving life sentences.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Wall Street struggled to find much direction today.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained nine points to close at 17,660, the NASDAQ fell eight points, and the S&P 500 dropped a fraction of a point.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And, a game that dates back to 1978 leads the new class of inductees into the Video Game Hall of Fame.  “Space Invaders” set off a craze for arcade games in the ’70s and ’80s.  Also inducted today: the educational adventure game “Oregon Trail,” as well as “Sonic The Hedgehog,” “The Sims,” “The Legend of Zelda,” and “Grand Theft Auto 3”, which has been criticized for violence and sexual content.

    The Video Game Hall of Fame is in Rochester, New York.

    Still to come on the “NewsHour”: banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, conservatives for and against the presumptive Republican nominee, the rise of discount airlines in the U.S., and much more.

    The post News Wrap: More towns evacuate amid Alberta wildfire emergency appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    People hold up rainbow flags during an lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parade. Photo by Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images

    The 17-university system risks losing more than $1.4 billion in federal funds. Photo by Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images

    RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s prized public universities could be the biggest losers as state leaders defend a new law limiting the rights of LGBT people.

    The 17-university system, which includes the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University as well several historically black colleges, risks losing more than $1.4 billion in federal funds if the Republicans who run the Legislature don’t reverse the law by the end of business on Monday.

    The U.S. Justice Department set that deadline in letters this week to University of North Carolina leaders, Gov. Pat McCrory and the state’s public safety agency, warning that the law violates civil rights protections against sex discrimination in education and employment.

    If the DOJ follows through on its enforcement threat, tens of thousands of students also could lose around $800 million in federally backed loans that cannot be borrowed to attend institutions that violate Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act, UNC spokeswoman Joni Worthington said Thursday.

    “It’s a very big stick,” said Katharine Bartlett, the former law school dean at nearby Duke University. “The federal government is giving funds under certain conditions.”

    State legislative leaders vowed to resist what they describe as Washington’s bullying, but it remains to be seen how far they’ll go to defend a position compromised by a federal appellate ruling in Virginia last month.

    The North Carolina law requires transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms conforming with their birth certificates, rather than their gender identity, and leaves LGBT people out of a statewide anti-discrimination code that also bars local governments from providing additional protections.

    UNC President Margaret Spellings is two months into her new job, having succeeded Tom Ross, who was pushed out last year after the university system’s governing board was overhauled by the state’s ascendant Republican leaders. They have been eager to revamp a system that many consider the state’s leading bastion of liberal thinkers.

    Now, the former Education Secretary to President George W. Bush has found her leadership tested as she steers the UNC system between the conservatives who just appointed her and the federal agency she once led.

    Spellings was criticized by LGBT student groups for not doing more to lobby against the law before it was approved in a daylong special session last month. She declared that while the UNC system is obligated to follow, campuses need not make any significant changes to comply with it. The law lacks any enforcement mechanism, and the schools will not venture to impose one on their own, she said.

    She also said she hoped legislators would change the law, and in yet another statement, she acknowledged that UNC students, faculty and staff are “hurt, angry and even afraid” as a result of the law.

    She said the UNC administration’s “factual guidance on the requirements of the law has been misinterpreted by many as an endorsement … nothing could be further from the truth.”

    “This law is sending a chill throughout the University of North Carolina,” she continued, harming recruitment and retention, prompting alumni to take back donations, and prompting major conferences to be delayed, canceled or moved out of state.

    None of these statements prevented the Justice Department from declaring that both she and the board that just appointed her remain in violation of federal law — a determination that she said she takes seriously.

    It seems unlikely that state and federal authorities will allow the impasse to continue to the point where UNC actually loses this money. While the Education Department has in the past withheld federal funds due to a Title IX violation, in the past decade the agency has reached settlements instead, spokeswoman Dorie Nolt said in an email.

    “It’s not really in anybody’s interest that North Carolina loses,” Bartlett said. “Who loses from that? All the children and young adults involved in the education system of North Carolina. A lot of people get hurt.”

    The DOJ letters cited the appellate ruling protecting a Virginia high school student’s right to use bathrooms aligned with his new gender identity, which also applies to North Carolina and other states in the Fourth Circuit.

    A similar case in suburban Chicago was settled after the Education Department threatened the loss of millions in federal funding, but a group of parents in that district, in Palatine, Illinois, sued Wednesday to challenge the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX to include gender identity.

    This interpretation is “just beginning to be tested in court,” said John Dinan, who teaches about state-federal relations at Wake Forest University.

    The conservative legal group that filed the Illinois lawsuit says the Obama administration’s position is flawed.

    “Title IX is very clear in its plain language that schools can maintain restrooms and locker rooms based on biological sex because this is the only logical way to protect the rights of all students,” said Kelly Fiedorek, a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom. What the federal agencies are “trying to say is that sex should be interpreted to include gender identity, which is very fluid.”

    The post NC’s federal funds for public colleges in crosshairs of LGBT law appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Supporters of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hold their hands to their chest as the national anthem is played at a campaign rally in Concord, New Hampshire January 18, 2016.      REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl/File photo - RTX2CWBE

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Republican Donald Trump gets back to campaigning tonight, now that he’s virtually wrapped up the GOP nomination for president.  But as he works to win over voters, he faces new resistance from leaders in his own party.  The latest example came today from Paul Ryan, speaker of the House of Representatives.

    We begin our coverage with John Yang, who’s covering tonight’s Trump event in West Virginia.


    JOHN YANG:  For Donald Trump, tonight’s event in Charleston isn’t about next week’s primary, it’s all about winning the fall campaign.

    MARK KEYSER, Trump Supporter:  He come out, he won Indiana, secured the nomination and one of the first things that come out of his mouth was we’re going to help people in West Virginia, we’re going to help people in Pennsylvania, we’re going to get coal back on the market.

    JOHN YANG:  And in today’s “New York Times,” Trump outlined goals for his first 100 days in office.  They include: designing the wall he says he’ll build on the Mexican border, stopping Muslim immigration, auditing the Federal Reserve, and repealing the Affordable Care Act.

    He also went on CNBC, making his economic pitch to voters.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate:  They have two jobs in some cases, and they’re making less money than they made 20 years ago.  And that’s why you’re wondering what’s going on and why they’re not liking Republicans or Democrats.  I mean, they’re not liking either, to be honest with you.

    JOHN YANG:  But there’s was new evidence that Trump has a long way to go to rally his own party behind him.  House Speaker Paul Ryan said today, he’s not ready to back Trump, and there was more.  “Politico” obtained a recording of Republican Senator John McCain speaking at a recent fundraiser.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona:  If Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket, here in Arizona, with over 30 percent of the vote being the Hispanic vote, no doubt that this may be the race of my life.

    JOHN YANG:  Nevertheless, top Trump aides have begun the behind the scenes overtures to party leaders.  They’ve already had some success.  A number of Republican members of Congress, are signing up to lend their support.

    Meanwhile, the Democrats are still battling.  Bernie Sanders is in West Virginia, too.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), Democratic Presidential Candidate:  It’s about time we started in the wealthiest nation in the world to talk about poverty.


    JOHN YANG:  Still dogging Hillary Clinton despite her big lead in delegates.

    Clinton already has Trump squarely in her sights.

    HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Candidate:  I think that anybody running for office should spend as much or more time listening than talking and I know I will be way ahead in that category against Donald Trump, there’s no doubt about that.

    JOHN YANG:  She spent today campaigning and fundraising in California.


    JOHN YANG:  People have been waiting for hours in the cold rain in Charleston, waiting for Donald Trump to do what he says working on Hillary Clinton, the beginning of a general election campaign.  A lot of the people online say they’re excited to see Trump as the nominee for the very first time — Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, John, do you sense there is something different in how they see him now that he’s the presumptive nominee?

    JOHN YANG:  I think there is excitement that he’s now the guy, he has now cleared the way to the nomination and that he’ll start to take on Hillary Clinton.  A lot of the people we talked to said they were very excited to see that.

    A lot of talk here about West Virginia.  They hope he can help West Virginia’s economy, particularly the coal workers we talked to, who were — expressed some anger at what they heard from Hillary Clinton lately about putting coal workers out of work, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And, John, what have you learned about how Donald Trump may be shaping a different kind of campaign going into the general election against Secretary Clinton, assuming it is Secretary Clinton?

    JOHN YANG:  Well, that’s the big question, Judy.  These campaign — this campaign has been unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.  Not much television ads.  A lot of social media.  A lot of free media.  Television interviews.

    He only has one event a day, usually late in the day like this one because he’s going home every night, commuting to New York and flying out again the next day.  The big question is whether this will change in the general election, although some may say you don’t tinker with success — Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And, finally, John, we know that Hillary Clinton’s opponent Bernie Sanders is also in West Virginia today.  Any read on the kind of reception he’s getting there?

    JOHN YANG:  He’s a pretty strong lead in the polls, about 8-point lead in the last pre-primary poll.  And what’s fueling his campaign are a lot of the same issues and the same forces and the same demographics that is giving Trump a lot of strength here.  This is a state of poor white voters, a lot of whom are hurting very much from the economy, a lot of people hurting from the downturn in the coal industry, a lot of those things giving fuel to Sanders’ campaign and it’s also likely to help him at some of the other states down the road like Kentucky, right down until that big showdown in California.

    So, he’s going to be dogging Hillary Clinton every step of the way right to the end — Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  John Yang reporting for us from what will be a Trump campaign event in Charleston, West Virginia — we thank you.

    JOHN YANG:  Thanks, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  We’ll take a closer look at how Republicans are dividing over Donald Trump as their nominee a little later in the program.

    The post As Trump outlines White House goals, signs of division in his party appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    SpaceX's reusable Falcon 9 rocket lands on a droneship on May 6, 2016. Image by SpaceX

    SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 rocket lands on a droneship on May 6, 2016. Image by SpaceX

    The days of huge ocean fireballs seem long gone for Elon Musk and SpaceX. Early Friday morning, the CEO and his aeronautics firm celebrated the landing of a reusable Falcon 9 rocket on an ocean barge for the second time in less than a month.

    Today’s achievement, however, surpasses the technical difficulty of the first feat by leaps and bounds, bringing the company’s ultimate prospects of Mars mission closer to fruition.

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

    At 1:21 am ET, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 propelled a Japanese telecommunications satellite — JCSAT-14 — from Florida’s Cape Canaveral into Earth’s orbit. Together, they hurtled into suborbital space, where the first-stage rocket split from the spacecraft and plummeted toward the droneship. The second stage switched on, successfully pushing the satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit — 22,000 miles above Earth.

    Space starts 100 kilometers  (62 miles) from Earth. Geosynchronous transfer orbit, where SpaceX delivered JCSAT-14 today, is  approximately 35,800 kilometers (22,000 miles) above sea level. Photo by SpaceX

    Space starts 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Earth. Geosynchronous transfer orbit, where SpaceX delivered JCSAT-14 today, is approximately 35,800 kilometers (22,000 miles) above sea level. Photo by SpaceX

    This lengthy distance is what complicated the primary rocket’s return. Today’s first stage had to burn more fuel compared to the rocket used during the April 8 launch, when SpaceX stuck the droneship landing. Even Musk voiced his doubts before the mission.

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

    As a result, the primary rocket flew higher (124 miles in altitude), traveled faster and was subsequently subjected to hotter temperatures during reentry. Even after igniting its reentry boosters to slow the descent, today’s Falcon 9 rocket continued dropping twice as fast as the April 8 mission.

    “Energy is the square of velocity, so four times as much energy is being imparted on the stage,” said SpaceX mechanical design engineer John Federspiel during a webcast of the launch. “And eight times as much heating, which is why we said before that this is going to be very difficult mission, and we’re not expecting a successful attempt this time around.”

    Two additional reentry burns were needed to park the 229-foot-tall booster safely aboard the droneship named “Of Course I Still Love You.”

    SpaceX launches JCSAT-14 satellite onboard a Falcon 9 rock on May 16, 2016. Photo by SpaceX/via Flickr

    SpaceX launches JCSAT-14 satellite onboard a Falcon 9 rock on May 16, 2016. Photo by SpaceX/via Flickr

    The touchdown marks the sixth time that SpaceX has attempted a droneship landing in the last year. Two triumphs in a row raises their “batting average” to 33 percent, which isn’t too shabby considering that each Falcon 9 rocket costs $62 million.

    If SpaceX can refuel and relaunch these rockets, the price of spaceflight might drop precipitously. Rocket fuel represents 0.3 percent — $200,000 — of the cost of these missions, according to Musk. The reusable rocket from April 8 is scheduled to launch later this year, as part of SpaceX preparation to reach Mars by 2018.

    The post Two in a row! SpaceX sticks second, trickier sea landing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Filipino presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte (center) listens to senatorial candidates Dionisio Santiago (right) and Sandra Cam during a campaign event in Malabon, Metro Manila in the Philippines on April 27. Photo by Erik De Castro/Reuters

    Filipino presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte (center) listens to senatorial candidates Dionisio Santiago (right) and Sandra Cam during a campaign event in Malabon, Metro Manila in the Philippines on April 27. Photo by Erik De Castro/Reuters

    This Monday, more than 40 million Filipinos will elect new leaders, from president to senators to mayors. And with a renewed U.S.-Filipino alliance, their choices could help determine how deeply America will be drawn into potential future conflicts, this time with China.

    For more than a century, the United States has been deeply enmeshed in the politics and wars of the Pacific island nation of the Philippines. It has gone from colonial overlord to protector and patron and, more recently, absent friend of a poor country whose sometimes chaotic and often corrupt government are distilled from its Asian, European and American inheritances.

    But it is this comment at a campaign rally that made Trump look angelic in comparison.

    When the revered author and journalist Stanley Karnow wrote of the classic U.S. history with the Philippines, his book was titled, “In Our Image.” Little could even he have imagined how much this Philippine election would mirror the one in the United States.

    It may be too easy a journalistic comparison and device, but inevitably the leading presidential candidate, Rodrigo Duterte, has been called the “Filipino Donald Trump.” The mayor of Davao City in the troubled Mindanao province (which is constantly confronted with communist and Islamist secessionist and terrorist movements) is known for speaking his mind; he even saw fit to bawl out Pope Francis for creating traffic jams in Manila.

    He revels in his tough-guy persona and the reputation for keeping his city safe, sometimes, say human rights groups, with the help of death squads. Speaking recently to a Manila business group, he promised to round up drug dealers and feed them to the fish in Manila Bay.

    But it is this comment at a campaign rally that made Trump look angelic in comparison. Duterte brought up the case of an Australian woman gang raped in a Philippine prison.

    “I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing,” he said. “But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste.”

    When the Australian and U.S. ambassadors went on television to say that rape was not a joking matter, Duterte told them to stop meddling in Philippine politics. He later apologized for the comments. Meanwhile, his poll ratings went up.

    But Duterte’s shoot-from-the-hip style is not limited to personal outbursts. He has made contradictory statements on the issue that could determine the peaceful future of the Asia-Pacific region: the response to China’s claims to much of the South China Sea (and numerous rocks and islands, including the Scarborough Shoal, which China seized in 2012).

    The Philippines has brought that seizure and China’s claims to an international tribunal in The Hague. A ruling is expected within months. The decision will represent a major turning point in how all the Pacific powers deal with South China Sea disputes in coming months and years.

    He revels in his tough-guy persona and the reputation for keeping his city safe, sometimes, say human rights groups, with the help of death squads.

    China’s actions have helped draw the U.S. military back to the Philippines more than two decades after it was asked, in a burst of nationalism following the overthrow of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, to leave its huge bases at Subic Bay and Clark Field.

    The United States and the Philippines are pushing ahead on recent agreements to deploy more U.S. planes and ships and to rebuild Philippine forces.

    Presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe shakes hands with supporters in Pandi, Bulacan in the northern Philippines on May 6. Photo by Ezra Acayan/Reuters

    Presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe shakes hands with supporters in Pandi, Bulacan in the northern Philippines on May 6. Photo by Ezra Acayan/Reuters

    According to Southeast Asia defense analyst Marvin Ott, the stage is now set for what he calls “a perilous time.” What happens, he asks, if Chinese and Philippine ships clash around one of the islands? When and how firmly is the U.S. committed under treaties and agreements to intervene on the side of the Philippines and, possibly, to start a shooting war with China?

    The door for a U.S. return to the Philippines was opened by outgoing President Benigno Aquino III, regarded both in Manila and Washington as probably the most effective leader since Philippine independence after World War II.  He is the son of former President Corazon Aquino and the late Benigno Aquino Jr., who helped lead the opposition against Ferdinand Marcos and was later assassinated.

    Internationally, Aquino III has stood up to China’s claims; domestically, he has presided over 6 percent annual growth rates and one of the most dynamic economies in Asia. All this while trying to put a lid on corruption.

    But as Philippine analyst Greg Rushford recently wrote, “The bad news is that none of the front-runners appears likely to continue Aquino’s reforms, which remain fragile and subject to reversal.”

    Besides Duterte, the major contenders include Aquino’s Vice President Jejomar Binay, his former transportation minister Mar Roxas, and Sen. Grace Poe.

    And to remind that the past is never far behind, the leading candidate for vice president (elected separately) is Bongbong Marcos, the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda, who has been quiet during the campaign. And even if her shoe collection remains the most vivid image of the Marcos kleptocracy, she still has something of a following: Last year, I saw her being greeted warmly at the historic Manila Hotel where she was attending a high society wedding reception.

    So far, the U.S. is maintaining diplomatic silence on the election, but the willingness of the ambassador to criticize the comments of the leading candidate indicate that silence won’t last indefinitely.

    The post Column: Why the U.S. should care about the ‘Filipino Donald Trump’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, May 3, 2016. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses members of parliament in Ankara on May 3. He resigned this week over a disagreement with the president. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Turkey this week experienced political upheaval when Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu abruptly resigned over a disagreement with the president over his consolidation of power. The action is already starting to have ripple effects, analysts say.

    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the European Union later in the week that Turkey would not change its anti-terrorism laws in order to get visa-free travel, a deal Davutoglu largely brokered.

    “We’ll go our way, you go yours,” Erdogan reportedly said.

    For more on the political and social unrest in Turkey, the PBS NewsHour interviewed Gönül Tol, founding director of The Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies, a professor and columnist. Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

    What events brought Turkey to this point?

    Tension have been brewing between Prime Minister Davutoglu and President Erdogan. The biggest problem is that Davutoglu didn’t want to move forward with Erdogan’s agenda. On April 29, during Davutoglu’s official visit to Qatar, parliament made a decision stripping him of his powers allowing him to name local party officials, and that is where the latest tension started.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets supporters in Istanbul, Turkey on May 6. Photo by Murad Sezer/Reuters

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets supporters in Istanbul, Turkey on May 6. Photo by Murad Sezer/Reuters

    What is Erdogan’s ultimate goal?

    Erdogan has been pressing for more presidential authority. I think Erdogan thinks if he loses power there will be a rapid power shift. Erdogan feels that if he loses power he could end up in jail or his family could be targeted by these people who turned against him.

    What will happen to the EU/Turkey deal on the Syrian refugees? (Read more)

    We heard from EU officials that most of the Western world would have less faith in Erdogan than they did in Davutoglu. Davutoglu pushed for refugees to be welcomed to Turkey. And he was someone who could contain Erdogan’s ambitions. If Davutoglu is not in the picture, it could harm Turkey’s relations with the Western world.

    The EU’s condition was that Turkey would revise its anti-terrorism laws (which many view as anti-democratic as thousands were jailed in the name of national security) to allow Turks to visit Europe without a visa. Initially, Davutoglu agreed to the terms, but Erdogan said the fact that we made the promise to the EU was a mistake.

    Another problem (from the Western viewpoint is) Erdogan has never been interested in a Turkey-EU deal and he has lashed out at European leaders. For EU leaders it poses a problem because they have to sell the deal to the public and justify allowing 78 million more people to travel in the EU without visas.

    Will these latest action affect NATO?

    I don’t think so because Turkish democracy has never been perfect. Even with fighting and uprisings, Turkey has always been a strong and long-term partner of NATO. We are now at a time with instability in Eastern Europe and the Middle East region (where Turkey is a key player).

    Do you foresee escalating violence in Turkey?

    Totally, Davutoglu had the ability to reach out to the opposition and have a more moderate approach in a time where Turkey’s social and political tensions run high. Turkey is extremely polarized along party lines. It is a very tense country, and that’s why you need figures who can build bridges.

    The post Turkey’s president backs off EU deal after prime minister resigns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Here are some of the policy differences between the country's top two Republicans. Photos by Reuters

    Here are some of the policy differences between the country’s top two Republicans. Photos by Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A presidential campaign throws policy differences into stark relief and so it is this time, on immigration, spending, trade, foreign affairs — you name it.

    In this cockeyed campaign year, though, the divide at the moment is between the country’s top two Republicans: the presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, a conspicuous holdout from the candidate’s bandwagon and a man once denounced by Trump for producing a “death wish” budget.

    Trump the businessman’s “art of the deal” may get its first big test in the political world at an expected meeting next week with the speaker aimed at some version of common ground. It will bring together a sober, policy-driven, consensus-seeking conservative and a crowd-rousing improviser with indistinct ideology and a handful of core issues, several of them combustible.

    Here are some of the contours of the chasm between them :


    In December, after Ryan negotiated a plan to ease automatic spending curbs on the Pentagon and domestic agencies, Trump blasted him and other GOP leaders, saying “the elected Republicans in Congress threw in the towel and showed absolutely no budget discipline.”

    Trump presents himself as a guardian of Social Security and Medicare even as other Republicans, Ryan chief among them, see no choice but to restrain their cost. “He represented cutting entitlements,” Trump said this year, recalling Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012. “That was the end of the campaign. I said, ‘you’ve got to be kidding.'”

    Trump says he can save Social Security by growing the economy, with no increases in the retirement age and or other scale-backs, a contention disputed by many economists.

    In Trump’s view, Ryan hasn’t done right by the country for some years. As a budget leader before he became speaker, Ryan was the driving force behind attempts to control the debt, a mission he still embodies. His 2011 budget plan, heavy with spending cuts and a Medicare overhaul, earned Trump’s scorn. “If anyone needs more evidence of why the American people are suffering at the hands of their own government, look no further than the budget deal announced by Speaker Ryan,” he said at the time.


    Ryan is a leading advocate for free trade and his support for deals negotiated by the Obama administration with Pacific nations and other partners is distinctly at odds with Trump’s vow to dismantle or renegotiate such agreements.


    Silent on the Republican presidential race for much of it, Ryan was moved to speak out when Trump proposed banning foreign Muslims from entering the U.S. until the security of Americans could be assured.

    “Freedom of religion is a fundamental constitutional principle; it is a founding principle of this country,” Ryan said in response. Trump’s plan “is not what this party stands for, and more importantly it’s not what this country stands for.”

    More broadly, Ryan embraced a path to legal status for people in the country illegally, stepping back from previous support for “a path to earned citizenship.” He’s said he could not imagine how Trump could achieve his plan for the mass deportation of the 11 million people in the country illegally, then the re-entry of the “good ones” through a “giant door” in his Mexico border wall.


    Ryan supports an activist foreign policy, not a “fortress America,” while Trump’s “America First” campaign suggests a retrenchment and a questionable commitment to traditional allies. Ryan has dismissed the notion the U.S. could retreat, as reflected by Trump’s demand that allies pay more or America will step back from protecting them.


    Ryan has supported stripping federal money from Planned Parenthood because of its abortion services. Trump, while criticizing those abortion practices, said the organization does good work for women on other fronts and those parts of its mission should continue to get federal money. He later qualified the remark to suggest the group should not get federal support as long as it provides abortions, while reaffirming his view that “Planned Parenthood has done very good work for millions of women.”


    On some issues, each is closer to Hillary Clinton than to each other. But their common wish to deny her the White House will be a key reason they come together, if they do.

    Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.

    SUBSCRIBE: Get the analysis of Mark Shields and David Brooks delivered to your inbox every week.

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    Images of Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at the Schenectady County Historical Society in Schenectady, New York. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    Images of Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at the Schenectady County Historical Society in Schenectady, New York. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    PORTLAND, Maine — Democrats are hoping to use state conventions to unite supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders as fans of the two candidates engage in sometimes bitter disputes ahead of the presidential election.

    The scenario is playing out Friday in Maine, where Democrats are divided between supporters of the Vermont senator and the former secretary of state.

    Most states still have conventions on the horizon, and they are on tap around the country through May and June in places where both candidates have had success. The conventions will happen next week in Illinois, which was won by Clinton, and Alaska, which was won by Sanders.

    Clinton is far ahead, leading Sanders by more than 300 pledged delegates and some 3 million votes. But Sanders has vowed to stay in the race through the Democratic National Convention in July, and supporters of the two have engaged in spats on social media about whether he should drop out.

    Party leaders in Maine will try to unite the two factions at a convention held Friday and Saturday in Portland.

    “There’s so much more that unites than divides us,” said Phil Bartlett, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party. “My focus for this weekend is to make sure supporters of both candidates are welcome and are engaged with the party, and making sure everyone is heard.”

    Sanders won Maine’s caucus on March 6, taking 16 pledged delegates to Clinton’s nine. But Clinton has the support of at least three of the state’s five superdelegates. One of the other superdelegates is Bartlett, who has said he won’t decide whom to support this weekend.

    In Portland, Carlos Maibeth-Mortimer, of Brooklin, said he hopes Sanders keeps running until the national convention. He said Sanders is raising important issues, including boosting the minimum wage and reducing military intervention. But he also said he hopes the party emerges from the state conventions unified.

    “The rhetoric from each group has gotten harsher, and I think that’s not constructive,” said Maibeth-Mortimer, 26. “We’re supposed to be the big-tent party.”

    A Bernie Sanders supporter carries a sign through a maze of political sign for Sanders and opponent Hillary Clinton before the start of the debate in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo by Randall Hill/Reuters

    A Bernie Sanders supporter carries a sign through a maze of political sign for Sanders and opponent Hillary Clinton before the start of the debate in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo by Randall Hill/Reuters

    The drive to unite the Democratic Party is happening as the Republican presidential picture has come into focus. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich dropped out of the race after a decisive win by billionaire businessman Donald Trump in Indiana on Tuesday. The Republicans had appeared for weeks to be headed for a contested convention, but Trump is now the presumptive nominee.

    Lynn Luzzi, of Rockport, said it’s important for the Democrats to put their differences aside and unite against Trump.

    “I’m hoping Bernie gets his supporters together and gets the party unified,” said Luzzi, 58. “The prospect of Donald Trump as president should scare the bejesus out of anyone.”

    The Maine Democrats are promoting the unity push with a convention theme of “Together, we are Maine!” Convention participants will also elect the state’s delegation to the national convention in Philadelphia.

    SUBSCRIBE: Get the analysis of Mark Shields and David Brooks delivered to your inbox every week.

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    Mechanic Donnie Asher works on a car at Corner Mechanic in Golden, Colorado, U.S. April 19, 2016.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking  - RTX2D0DC

    Mechanic Donnie Asher works on a car at Corner Mechanic in Golden, Colorado. The U.S. economy added 160,000 jobs in April, and the unemployment rate remained at 5 percent. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    The U.S. economy added 160,000 jobs in April, and the unemployment rate remained at 5 percent. With an average of 200,000 jobs gained per month in the past three months, April’s job gains are, at a glance, disappointing. Adding injury to insult: February and March’s job gains were also revised downward a combined 19,000.

    “It was clearly a disappointing month, but I think it’s important not to overreact to that,” said Michael Strain of the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

    And, as we always say here: never put too much stock in one month’s numbers.

    “When you look at the report in its entirety, my underlying view of the labor market hasn’t changed,” Strain added. “We’re on a reasonably healthy trajectory.”


    Fortunately, wages are finally on the upswing. Average hourly earnings rose 8 cents in April, following a 6 cent gain in March.

    “Over the year, we’ve seen wages increase by 2.5 percent,” said Strain. Just how much wages are rising depends on how you look at it, as economist Justin Wolfers of the Peterson Institute pointed out:

    Wage growth has been slow over the year — not exactly what you’d expect with 5 percent unemployment — suggesting that there is still slack in the labor market.

    Often, economists point to the lagging labor force participation rate to explain slow wage growth.

    “People outside of the labor force — and we can think of them as potential workers — are putting a downward pressure on wages,” said Strain. “Firms don’t have to accelerate wage growth to attract and retain workers.”

    But that may not be the case for April.


    In April, the labor force participation rate ticked down from 63 percent to 62.8 percent. This small decrease is not necessarily a sign of economic weakness but demographic changes.

    Ten thousand baby boomers hit retirement age every day. With so many leaving the workforce and retiring, the number of young people joining the workforce has to increase to balance the overall labor force participation rate, said economist Betsey Stevenson, a former member of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers.

    “I don’t see labor force participation rising in the next year because of the downward pressure of demographics,” said Stevenson.

    So while the labor force participation rate may not rise in the next year, it may not hurt wages. Retirees, after all, aren’t potential workers.


    April was kind to female workers. Most of the jobs created went to women.

    “The reason I tweeted it is because this is a broader trend. Women are continuing to grow as a share of the labor force and will likely be back at half,” said Stevenson.

    At the onset of the recession, men got hit the hardest and recovered first. “However, women’s share of the labor force peaked at exactly half in 2009. It hit a low point in 2014 and started to climb back,” said Stevenson.

    Today, women make up 49.53 percent of the labor force.

    “Often, people treat women’s labor force participation rate as secondary, but it’s important to remember that they hold half of the jobs,” said Stevenson.


    If we look long term, the economy looks pretty good. We may have not added as many jobs as we would’ve liked in April, but we did add jobs. Plus, earnings have started to show some life, and the unemployment rate stayed steady.

    “The jobs report shows that we still have very strong job growth. And maintaining this kind of steady growth is, in some sense, nothing short of miraculous,” said Stevenson. “It is the longest streak of job growth on record. Every month, I hold my breath and say, ‘Can it possibly add to that record?’ And we continue to do so.”

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    A pair of federal judges expressed their skepticism over challenges to the Obama administration's plan to reduce the effects of climate change by targeting pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants. Photo by  Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

    The carbon intensity of many economies continues to fall. But don’t be fooled. Economic growth does affect CO2 emissions. Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

    You can call it my pet peeve or even my obsession, but whenever I read about the claimed “decoupling” of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and economic growth, I get annoyed. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines decoupling as “eliminating the interrelationship” between two processes. When a caboose is decoupled from a train, it stops moving altogether.

    Decoupling is the wrong expression because the interrelationship between CO2 emissions and economic growth has certainly not been eliminated. A better metaphor, though less linguistically appealing, would be a “slipping clutch.” The engine continues to transmit power, and as a result the driveshaft continues to rotate, but with less velocity than when the clutch was new.

    Shifting services

    True enough, the carbon intensities of many economies in the world, particularly those of the industrialized nations, have been falling for many years. Those economies have become less energy intensive (less energy use per unit of economic activity – GDP) and, therefore, less carbon intensive. For each dollar of economic activity, CO2 emissions are less than they used to be. For each unit of economic growth, there is less growth in CO2 emissions than previously.

    But picture an economy that is growing exclusively in its services sector. In this case, economic growth might be accompanied by no change in CO2 emissions. Now, imagine an economy that is growing in its services sector while shrinking in its manufacturing sector. (Sound familiar?) In this case, economic growth might be accompanied by reduced CO2 emissions. Add to this picture the presence of some public policies, such as those that close coal-fired power plants but expand electricity generation from natural gas-fired plants. The result: Economic growth continues with falling CO2 emissions, but there has been no decoupling.

    Confusion due to casual contrasts

    The confusion with decoupling arises from a very common mistake in the popular press and, for that matter, in many casual conversations: failure to use the right counterfactuals — or examples that run contrary to fact.

    The fact that GDP is rising while emissions are falling does not mean that GDP is not affecting emissions. The appropriate counterfactual for comparison is how much emissions would have fallen had there been no growth in GDP.

    Presumably, emissions would have fallen even more. The excess of emissions in the factual case, compared with the counterfactual case, is the magnitude of emissions growth due to (actually, “associated with”) economic growth. There has been no elimination of the relationship between the two, though the nature and the magnitude of that relationship has changed.

    What factors affect CO2 emissions?

    So why have CO2 emissions been declining in some countries? Or, more broadly and more to the point, what factors have affected CO2 emissions? Four stand out (though there are others).

    First, energy comes at a cost in all economies, so economic incentives exist to spend less on energy use through technological change. The energy intensity of the U.S. economy has gradually fallen — almost monotonically — since early in the 20th century.

    Second, putting aside energy intensity and focusing on carbon intensity, some technological change has worked against the use of carbon-intensive sources of energy. The most dramatic example in the United States has been the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which has caused a significant increase in supply and a dramatic fall in the market price of natural gas. This, in turn, has led to a massive shift of investment and electricity dispatch from coal to natural gas.

    Third, in the richer countries of the world including the U.S., the process of economic growth has led to changes in sector composition: from heavy industry to light manufacturing to services. California’s deindustrialization is a graphic example. Does the fact that California’s economy has grown while emissions have fallen mean that decoupling has occurred? Of course not. And, in California’s case, there has also been a fourth factor…

    Fourth, public policies in some jurisdictions of the world (Europe, the U.S. and most of the other Organization for Cooperation and Development countries) have discouraged carbon intensity. In the U.S., this has happened both through climate and non-climate policies. Some non-climate policies — such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mercury rule — discourage investment, encourage retirement and discourage dispatch of coal-fired electricity; while other examples, such as CAFE standards for motor vehicles, bring about greater fuel efficiency of the fleet of cars and trucks over time.

    Climate-specific policies have also mattered in California, where the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB-32) has brought down emissions through a portfolio of policies, including an economy-wide cap-and-trade system for CO2.

    The bottom line

    So yes, the carbon intensity of many economies continues to fall — for a variety of reasons, including but by no means limited to public policies. The combination of energy price changes, technological change, changes in sectoral composition, climate-related public polices and other, unrelated public policies has meant that emissions have fallen in years when economic growth has continued in some scenarios. But don’t be fooled. Economic growth does affect CO2 emissions. There has been no decoupling; just some (desirable) slipping of the clutch.

    Of course, this is not an anti-environment message. On the contrary, a belief in decoupling per se could lead to a misguided laissez-faire attitude about the path of CO2 emissions. Being honest and accurate about the links between (desirable) economic growth and (desirable) CO2 emissions reductions puts our focus and emphasis where it ought to be: finding better ways to have both.

    The post Column: Don’t be fooled. CO2 emissions still tied to economic growth appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event at the Old National Events Plaza in Evansville, Indiana. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event at the Old National Events Plaza in Evansville, Indiana. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    SAN DIEGO — Donald Trump will testify after the presidential election on a class-action lawsuit that accuses the billionaire businessman and his now-defunct Trump University of defrauding people who paid up to $35,000 for real estate seminars, his attorney said Friday.

    A federal judge in San Diego set a Nov. 28 trial, raising the possibility that Trump could take the stand as a president-elect if he wins the White House. The presumptive GOP nominee plans to attend most, if not all, of trial and will take the witness stand, Trump lawyer Daniel Petrocelli said.

    Trump’s attorneys resisted the idea of bringing the six-year-old case to trial while the real estate mogul was in the race, with Petrocelli asking for February trial. Plaintiffs had suggested June.

    The lawsuit is one of three that accuse Trump University of fleecing students with unfulfilled promises to teach secrets of success in real estate.

    The San Diego suit says Trump University, which no longer operates and was not accredited as a school, gave seminars and classes across the country that were like infomercials, constantly pressuring students to buy more and, in the end, failing to deliver.

    Trump, who appears on a list of defense witnesses for the trial, has repeatedly pointed to a 98 percent satisfaction rate on internal surveys. But the lawsuit says students were asked to rate the product when they believed they still had more instruction to come and were reluctant to openly criticize their teachers on surveys that were not anonymous.

    Since the early 1980s, Trump personally has been sued at least 150 times in federal court, records show. Only a handful of those cases are pending, with the ones involving Trump University being the most significant.

    U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, an appointee of President Barack Obama, has been eager to schedule a trial in the San Diego case. It was filed in 2010, making it the second-oldest on his docket.

    At a hearing late last year, the judge floated the possibility of a June trial and then settled on August as a more likely date. He appeared to have second thoughts by March as Trump surged in the primaries.

    Trump’s attorneys have resisted a trial during the campaign.

    “This will be a zoo if it were to go to trial,” Trump lawyer Daniel Petrocelli said at a March hearing.

    Trump has railed against the judge, calling him hostile and suggesting his positions in the case may be the result of Trump’s stance on border security. The presumptive GOP nominee has noted the Curiel’s ethnicity.

    Trump said of the judge at an Arkansas rally in February: “I believe he happens to be Spanish, which is fine. He’s Hispanic — which is fine.”

    SUBSCRIBE: Get the analysis of Mark Shields and David Brooks delivered to your inbox every week.

    The post Trump will testify after election in Trump University suit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Saturday will mark the 183rd birthday of the celebrated German composer and pianist Johannes Brahms. A complicated and utterly self-guarded man, Brahms liked to claim that his music didn’t flow from his heart, but the soulful and passionate nature of his compositions tells another tale. For more on what makes Brahms’ music so beautiful and enduring, Jeffrey Brown talks to composer Rob Kapilow.

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    Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including what Donald Trump’s ascension as the GOP’s presumptive nominee means for American politics, the fate of the Republican party after Trump, why Hillary Clinton hasn’t been able to finish off Sen. Bernie Sanders and the role of “big ideas” in this election cycle.

    The post Shields and Brooks on Trump’s nomination triumph, and why the Democratic race isn’t over appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses the crowd during a campaign rally at Heritage Hall in Lexington, Kentucky, U.S. May 4, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX2CW69

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    Though the battle for the GOP nomination ended with Donald Trump’s victory, the fate of the Democratic party’s candidacy is still in question, as trailing contender Sen. Bernie Sanders has vowed to fight on until the DNC convention. Sanders joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his superdelegate strategy, Hillary Clinton’s criticism of his foreign policy experience and what could happen if he loses.

    The post Resolute Sanders on strategy, foreign policy and the outlook for the DNC appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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