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

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    Chuck Rivanis

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

    On the “NewsHour” tonight: The White House kicks up an already hot issue by directing all public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom matching their gender identity.

    Then: how one man’s mission to reform the nation’s justice system began by confronting Alabama’s overcrowded prisons.

    BRYAN STEVENSON, Founder, Equal Justice Initiative: If you said to any warden in the state of Alabama, can you identify 50, 100, 200 people in your prison who you think could go home tomorrow, wouldn’t be a problem, most of them could do it in a heartbeat.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And it’s Friday. Mark Shields and Michael Gerson talk about the possibility of a united Republican Party and analyze a full week of news.

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


    JUDY WOODRUFF: The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has announced that it will no longer allow its drugs to be used in lethal injections. With that decision today, all federally approved drug suppliers have now blocked sales of their products to prison systems. A number of states using the death penalty have begun buying the drugs covertly.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin stepped up his criticism of NATO missile defense sites in Poland. Putin scoffed at U.S. arguments that the system is aimed at Iranian missiles and not at Russia. He told Russian military officials — quote — “We will have to think about how we can fend off the threats.’

    Meanwhile, Polish and American officials symbolically broke ground for a new missile interceptor site. Another site went operational yesterday.

    In Iraq, Islamic State militants attacked for a third straight day. This time, the target was the Shiite town of Balad, about 50 miles north of Baghdad. Two suicide bombers and gunmen stormed a busy coffee shop there, killing at least 13 people. Four more were killed in a second attack later. ISIS bombings earlier this week killed nearly 100 civilians and soldiers.

    The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is appealing for patience as travelers face growing security delays at airports. Lines have gotten longer in the face of tighter security procedures and fewer transportation security officers, or TSOs.

    At Washington’s Reagan National Airport today, the secretary of homeland security, Jeh Johnson, promised corrective action.

    JEH JOHNSON, Secretary of Homeland Security: Our job is to keep the American public safe. We’re dealing this spring and summer with increased travel volume, which obviously puts an added burden on our TSOs and increased demand on the system. But we’re not going to compromise aviation security in the face of this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Congress agreed this week to inject more money into the TSA to hire more officers and take other steps. In the meantime, officials are warning passengers to arrive at least two hours ahead of their flights.

    A cyber-heist that stole $81 million from a Bangladesh bank now appears to be part of a wider campaign. The global financial network SWIFT reported today the same hackers also hit an unnamed Vietnamese bank. And Europe’s largest weapons company, BAE Systems, said the same malware is linked to the cyber-attack on Sony’s Hollywood studio in 2014.

    Wall Street’s week ended with a sell-off, led by retail and bank stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 185 points to close at 17535. The Nasdaq fell 19 points, and the S&P 500 slipped 17. For the entire week, the Dow was down 1 percent. The Nasdaq and the S&P were off about half-a-percent.

    General Lori J. Robinson made history today, taking over NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command. A ceremony in Colorado Springs made her the first woman to head a U.S. combat command. She’s one of only two female four-star generals in the Air Force. She is said to have a keen interest in space, cyber-security and drones.

    And the woman believed to be the world’s oldest person, Susannah Mushatt Jones, has died at the age of 116. She passed away Thursday at a seniors home in Brooklyn, New York. Jones was born in Alabama in 1899, and moved north as a young woman. She never drank or smoked, but said she did eat bacon every day. Susannah Mushatt Jones was the last living American from the 19th century.

    Still to come on the “NewsHour”: reaction to the Obama administration’s sweeping directive on public school bathrooms; a key Hezbollah leader killed in Syria; why some see Alabama’s overcrowded prisons as a sign of racial injustice; and much more.

    The post News Wrap: Pfizer halts sale of drugs used in lethal injection executions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Video by PBS NewsHour

    Going to the bathroom was a nerve-wracking experience for Alex Singh before he came out as transgender in middle school.

    “I just felt very out of place and like I did not belong,” the 14-year-old high school freshman told the NewsHour.

    As Alex transitioned from female to male, he still felt uneasy about sharing a male restroom, even with students he had known for years. He opted for the nurse’s restroom instead and, although he wasn’t happy with this decision, he used the female faculty room instead of the male changing rooms.

    “But it was a lot better than feeling uncomfortable in a room full of girls getting changed,” said Alex, who appeared in Frontline’s documentary “Growing Up Trans” last year.

    High school was easier, because fewer students had known him before he transitioned.

    The latest court battle over trans rights has centered around North Carolina’s controversial bathroom law. But the Obama administration’s guidance, released on Friday, also directed public schools to allow transgender students access beyond the school’s sex-segregated facilities like locker rooms.

    The directive said yearbook photos, school dances, graduation ceremonies, and other school-sponsored extracurricular activities and social events “must allow transgender students to dress and participate according to their gender identity.”

    The guidance came four days after North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory had filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department, asking Congress for clarification over the nation’s anti-discrimination laws.

    “It is a very complex and emotional issue. And I think the courts are the right way to do it,” McCrory told the NewsHour on Monday, adding that he encouraged separate unisex restrooms or facilities for trans people.

    Jeremy Tedesco, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, told the NewsHour on Friday that the current debate over transgender rights is also about the privacy rights of other students.

    “Students have an expectation of privacy in those facilities and the Obama administration is completely trampling those rights” by issuing that guidance, Tedesco said.

    The administration had said the state’s law, passed in March, violated the Civil Rights Act, including Title IX, which bans discrimination based on sex. The guidance has been part of the administration’s actions to block implementation of North Carolina’s law.

    Shifting the conversation around transgender rights into the national spotlight is beneficial to everyone, Alex said.

    “It could help people actually start to understand this, because people fear what they do not know,” he said. “And because everyone’s starting to talk about it, people are going to start to learn more about it, so people will have less to fear because they will know more.”

    Today, Alex is on his high school’s lacrosse team, his first time being on a male sports team. Alex said his teammates and coaches are accepting and treat him as “one of the guys, so to speak.”

    “That makes me the happiest person on Earth to know that the people at my school and in my community are capable of understanding and accepting me for who I am,” he said.

    The post For this transgender teen, the importance of being seen as ‘one of the guys’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access adorns the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina May 3, 2016. The hotel installed the restroom signage designed by artist Peregrine Honig last month after North Carolina's "bathroom law" gained national attention, positioning the state at the center of a debate over equality, privacy and religious freedom.   REUTERS/Jonathan Drake - RTX2D195

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The political and social struggle over bathrooms and gender blew up today. The spark came from a letter sent to school districts across the nation by the federal government, and it drew immediate condemnation from conservative states.

    For the nation’s public schools, the issue was already simmering. After today’s federal directive, it’s on the front burner, that is, provide transgender students with access to suitable bathrooms and locker rooms that match their chosen gender identity.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: The challenge here is not to isolate anybody. It’s not to discriminate against anybody. It’s not to make anybody unsafe. It’s actually to ensure that our schools are as inclusive and respectful and safe as they can possibly be.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education issued the directive in a formal letter to school districts. It doesn’t impose new legal requirements.

    Instead, it cites Title IX’s existing protections against sex discrimination that are tied to federal funding. According to the directive: “When a student or parent notifies the school administration that the student will assert a gender identity that differs from previous records, the school will begin treating the student consistent with that gender identity.”

    U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the goal is to protect against harassment and address unjust policies in local schools.

    The transgender community welcomed the news.

    ALEX SINGH, Freshman, New Trier High School: We have someone who’s very powerful able to help us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Chicago student Alex Singh transitioned from female to male two years ago. He appeared in a “Frontline” documentary, “Growing Up Trans,” on PBS last year.

    ALEX SINGH: When I first came out, I was in seventh grade, and before then, going to the bathroom was kind of uncomfortable for me, as it would be for any guy going into the female restroom. It was very uncomfortable, very nerve-racking. I just felt out of place and like I didn’t belong.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And high schoolers in Arlington, Virginia, offered their own reactions today.

    QUMARI MARTIN, Senior, Wakefield High School: Equal rights is just — it’s a part of our government, our amendments. Like, I don’t think it should be, like, based on gender. If you’re a U.S. citizen, you should be treated like one.

    CELINA CORDOVA, Senior, Wakefield High School: I would feel comfortable going into the bathroom, because, obviously, they think that they’re female, and I’m female, so they wouldn’t harm me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the backlash began almost immediately.

    LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK (R), Texas: We will not be blackmailed by the president’s 30 pieces of silver. We will not sell out our children to the federal government.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Texas, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick urged his state’s school superintendents to defy the Obama administration, even if it means forfeiting billions in federal aid.

    LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK: He’s either paying back the lesbian, gay and transgender community that helped him defeat Hillary Clinton in 2008, or he believes in this policy. I don’t know for what reason he’s doing it, but it is the most damaging policy, domestic policy — and that’s saying something for this president, who gave us Obamacare — the most damaging public policy he has put forth.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: North Carolina Govern Pat McCrory takes a similar stance. His state and the Justice Department are already suing each other over a new state law restricting public bathroom use to a person’s birth gender.

    GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R), North Carolina: This is an issue which is really about privacy vs. equality and that balance. When you go to a restroom or to a locker room or to a shower facility, there is an expectation of privacy, that the only other people in that room, in a very private moment, I might add, will be people of the same gender.

    EMILY, Mother of Clovis, California Student: She said, “Mom, I think there’s a boy changing in my locker room.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Some parents are worried as well. This woman in Clovis, California, where schools already follow a state gender identity law, expressed her concern this week.

    EMILY: I understand that times are changing and that there are issues that need to be addressed. I totally, completely understand that, but I don’t think that this is the right solution.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in another development, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued new rules today saying transgender people can’t be denied health care by professional providers who receive federal funding.

    The transgender bathroom battle also spilled over into the presidential race today. Republican Donald Trump was asked about it during phone-ins to morning TV talk shows. He said — quote — “Everybody has to be protected,” but he argued it is not a federal issue.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: I think the states should make the decision. They’re more capable of making the decision. I felt that from the beginning. I just think it should be states’ rights. I think many, many things actually should be states’ rights, but this is a perfect example of it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The two Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, had no immediate reaction.

    We will get a full airing of the issue right after the news summary.

    The post Transgender bathroom battle goes national with Obama school directive appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user torbakhopper.

    The Obama administration offered guidance on how to support transgender students in public schools on Friday. Photo by Flickr user torbakhopper

    SAN FRANCISCO — From locker rooms and sex education classes to dress codes and overnight field trips, many U.S. public schools already are balancing the civil rights of transgender students with any concerns that classmates, parents and community members might have.

    The U.S. Department of Education is drawing on those practices to guide other schools as they work to comply with the Obama administration’s directive that transitioning children be treated consistent with their gender identity.

    That has been the policy since 2013 of the Arcadia Unified School District in Southern California. As part of a settlement with the federal departments of Justice and Education that became the foundation for the national mandate issued Friday, students may use the bathroom, locker room or wilderness cabin that corresponds with their recognized gender outside school, Superintendent David Vannasdall said.

    “This is absolutely not about a student on a day-to-day basis saying, ‘Today I’m a boy, tomorrow I’m a girl.’ That has never happened,” Vannasdall said. “By the time these students are at a point where they are asking for our help, they are presenting in all areas of their life as that gender.”

    The administration had warned schools before Friday that denying transgender students access to the correct facilities and activities was illegal under its interpretation of federal sex discrimination laws. But the new guidance, for the first time, offers advice for accommodating the privacy needs of nontransgender youngsters.

    Citing guidelines adopted by Washington, New York, the District of Columbia and Atherton High School in Louisville, Kentucky, President Barack Obama’s Education Department said schools could erect privacy curtains in changing areas, permit all students to make use of single-stall restrooms or work out other case-by-case arrangements as long as the burden doesn’t rest exclusively on transgender students.

    “The concerns for right to privacy and safety of children applies to every single child, including the transgender child,” said Atherton’s principal, Thomas Aberli, who faced community opposition when he first allowed a transgender freshman to use the girls’ restrooms two years ago. Since that first student, about a half-dozen more have come out as transgender, Aberli said.

    Asaf Orr, a lawyer who directs the Transgender Youth Project Staff at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said the guidance could help temper the transgender rights backlash that the restroom issue has engendered in states such as North Carolina by showing that minority rights and privacy rights can co-exist if schools respect all students’ need to be comfortable.

    At least 13 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity in schools. Hundreds of school districts, from Anchorage, Alaska, and Tucson, Arizona, to Fairfax County, Virginia and Chicago, have adopted similar protections.

    Nearly two dozen state high school sports federations have adopted rules governing the participation of transgender athletes on competitive teams, including the ones in South Dakota, Maryland and Nevada.

    In Portland, Oregon, Lincoln High Principal Peyton Chapman recalls the “challenging times” about seven years when a transgender student who identified as female transferred there after being bullied at her previous school. The student made the cheerleading squad and “bathroom and locker rooms became an immediate issue with the cheerleading parents,” she said.

    An anti-bullying campaign that focused on the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity diffused the situation, Chapman said.

    “Some students may be uncomfortable with it, but we can’t let some people’s discomfort violate other people’s civil rights,” she said.

    But there was a high level of discomfort as soon as the directive came out, with officials in several states saying they would defy the administration. The rallying cry was against what Mississippi’s Republican governor said was the federal government’s “forcing a liberal agenda on states that roundly reject it.”

    While the guidance is not legally binding and the Supreme Court may ultimately decide whether federal civil rights law protects transgender people, schools refusing to comply could face lawsuits from the government and a cutoff of federal aid to education.

    Even in areas of the country where such policies enjoy broad support, putting them into practice can be complicated.

    The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference allows transgender students to play on teams that match their gender identities. Since the policy took effect in 2013, a few transgender boys have played on boys’ high school teams, said Karissa Niehoff, the group’s executive director.

    Niehoff said that since the state has a policy prohibiting boys from playing on girls’ teams, a transgender girl would be allowed to play on a girls’ team, but not a boys’ team. She said students are allowed to establish eligibility to compete under a different gender once during their school careers to prevent players from bouncing between teams.

    So far, there have been no complaints, she said.

    “But had somebody said to us, ‘Hey, you have a transgender playing on the team and we think there is a physical disadvantage, well we support that student,” she said.

    Boston’s public schools require staff members to use the names and pronouns requested by students, change school records to reflect them and acknowledge they’ve read the district’s policy regarding transgender students, according to Steven Chen, the senior equity manager.

    But sometimes there are mistakes.

    “If you’ve known a student for the first three years as one name and one pronoun, and then in year four the student has a different name and a different pronoun, I think just naturally you might make a mistake,” he said. “Honest mistakes are much different than affirmatively saying, ‘I’m not going to support my students on this.'”

    Associated Press writers Jennifer C. Kerr in Washington, Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Kentucky, Collin Binkley in Boston, Astrid Gavlan in Tucson, Arizona, and Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford, Connecticut, contributed to this report.

    The post Schools offer lessons on accommodating transgender students appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S. May 5, 2016. Photo By Chris Tilley/Reuters

    Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S. May 5, 2016. Photo By Chris Tilley/Reuters

    NEW YORK  — They were the core of the original Trump team, a small group of largely obscure political operatives who signed on a year ago for the seemingly quixotic presidential campaign of an oft-mocked celebrity businessman.

    Yet there they were in the lobby of the Trump Tower in New York City, sharing a very public embrace as Donald Trump’s victory in Indiana made it clear he was on track to be the Republican nominee for president. The improbable had come to pass.

    “It’s professionally very satisfying,” campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said in an interview. “A lot of us have been here from the very beginning when the professional pundits said this was a career-ender and we weren’t going anywhere.”

    “We’ve done something no one thought could be done,” Lewandowski said.

    Lewandowski’s path to Trump Tower was an unlikely one. He grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts, worked as a political operative on Capitol Hill, graduated from the New Hampshire state police academy and took a job with Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers-backed advocacy group.

    He had no national campaign experience when Trump, after a brief introduction, hired him on the spot to run his bid.

    Neither did Trump’s spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, a former Ralph Lauren fashion model and a public relations pro who worked for Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and became essentially a one-woman communications shop for a campaign that has attracted unprecedented media attention. Nor did Dan Scavino, a longtime executive at the Trump Organization and golf course manager who became the campaign’s social media director.

    “These are people who just believed in my father and what he was doing,” Eric Trump, one of the candidate’s children, said in an interview on Thursday. “That’s what makes it special. They wanted to drop everything they were doing to help out. We have a fraction of the staff that other campaigns have yet look where we are.”

    Scavino, Lewandowski and national political director Michael Glassner were among the members of the campaign staff watching on television when Ted Cruz announced he was suspending his campaign, clearing the path for Trump to become the GOP standardbearer. No one quite remembers who initiated the group hug that was captured on Twitter feeds.

    “I will never forget that evening,” Scavino said. “(I) thought we would be celebrating winning Indiana and it turned out to be the evening we celebrated the nomination. Without question, it was a historical evening that will go down in the history books.”

    Iowa conservative Sam Clovis signed on with Trump in August, after quitting former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s struggling campaign. At the time, the move prompted more than a few raised eyebrows in the state’s Republican circles, but Clovis says now that his instincts were right.

    “I never took it personal,” said Clovis, national co-chairman and policy adviser. “The idea was that I felt that Mr. Trump had a lot to offer the country and we worked hard. It’s been a really hard fought battle.”

    “We’re not a typical campaign,” Clovis said. “We’ve done this with a relatively small number of people.”

    And it hasn’t all been smooth.

    Lewandowski was arrested for simple battery of a reporter, though prosecutors declined to press charges. The original team has been expanded, particularly as it girded for a possible battle with Cruz over delegates, and there has been friction between the old guard and the new, more seasoned hires led by longtime Republican operative Paul Manafort. And more changes seem to be on the horizon as the campaign shifts to the general election.

    But that Tuesday night won’t be soon forgotten.

    “We took a lot of arrows for a long time from a lot of people,” said George Gigicos, the campaign’s lead advance man. “Vindication is a good word. It’s been incredible to start at the bottom and end up on top.”

    Associated Press writer Catherine Lucey in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.

    The post Original ‘Team Trump’ celebrates as candidate moves toward nomination appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Two children look out of a window at a refugee accommodation in Chemnitz, Germany, March 20, 2016. Picture taken March 20, 2016. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender - RTSBHNE

    Two children look out of a window at a refugee accommodation in Chemnitz, Germany, March 20, 2016. Photo by Ina Fassbender/Reuters

    Amid a refugee crisis, Germany’s federal government could spend 93.6 billion euros ($106.2 billion) on housing, language lessons and other basic needs over the next five years, a German weekly magazine reported Saturday.

    Citing a finance ministry draft document, Der Spiegel magazine, which is based in Hamburg, reported that the Germany took in approximately 1.1 million refugees last year and is predicting that 600,000 refugees will enter the country this year. Then 400,000 are expected next year and 300,000 per year for the following years. Most of the migrants are coming from Syria and other war zones.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel has divided Germans with an open-door policy that has attracted more recent Syrian migrants than any other European country. A poll earlier this year indicated that Germans are becoming more skeptical of refugees, as an anti-immigration movement gains more support and attacks against refugee shelters continue.

    The costs associated with refugees will rise from 16.1 billion euros this year to 20.4 billion in 2020, according to the Associated Press, and the statement predicts that more than half of documented refugees will find work within that time.

    A finance ministry spokesman declined to comment on the numbers, but said federal officials were aiming to reach an agreement about it by the end of the month, the AP reported.

    The post Germany may spend $106 billion on refugees in next five years appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    By: Sam Weber and Laura Fong

    From its marijuana-filled coffee shops to its prominent red light district, Amsterdam’s bustling nightlife has long been a destination for revelers from all over the world.

    But a thriving nighttime economy can present issues for the city’s residents, from loud noise to zoning problems.

    To respond to these challenges, a unique public official is charged with helping manage the city’s celebrated nightlife: the “Nachtburgemeester,” which means “Night Mayor.”

    Elected by an Internet vote and a jury of nightlife businesses, Mirik Milan is the current night mayor of Amsterdam. While Milan doesn’t wield any official power in government, he says the role is crucial in making connections between different stakeholders around nightlife.

    “Where you have a problem at night, the first reaction of city officials or the mayor would be, ‘Oh, we have to stop this,’ instead of finding a solution,” Mirik said. “Our function is to bridge the gap between all the sides.”

    But finding common ground between the nightlife economy and the rest of the city’s sleeping residents is not easy task.


    Credit: NewsHour Weekend

    In Rembrandtplein Square, a popular destination for nightlife, Night Mayor Milan and the Mayor of Amsterdam helped install 20 “square hosts” to help monitor behavior on weekends. These hosts encourage imbibing patrons to “stay classy” and follow the rules.

    When Night Mayor Milan noticed that many problems in Amsterdam seemed to occur around the time when bars closed and patrons were all at once pushed out into the street, he proposed a solution: clubs that don’t close.

    “If people can just leave whenever they want, you have really a lot less pressure on the neighborhood,” Milan said.

    There are now 10 clubs in Amsterdam that are licensed to stay open 24 hours a day, all located outside of the city center.

    While the concept of the Night Mayor is predominantly Dutch, it has started to spread to other cities in Europe, including Paris. Last month the first-ever International Night Mayor Summit was held in Amsterdam, which brought together Night Mayors, activists, promoters, and researchers from all over the world.

    The actual Mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, attended the summit and credits Night Mayor Mirik Milan as being a valuable partner in governing the city.

    “He’s a kind of mediator,” Mayor van der Laan said. “He gives ideas, he helps moderate the dialogue, he brings in experts, he gives good warnings when you need him.”

    Another summit attendee was Chris Garrit, who serves as the Night Mayor in the northern city of Groningen. The city is known as a hub for live music and is also famous for not having any closing times for its bars and clubs. As Night Mayor, Garrit has had to mediate issues between venues and neighbors, but he also sees his role as a champion for independent and nightlife culture.

    “The culture always needs a voice to say something, because there’s always more rules and regulations going on,” said Garrit. “If nobody stands up, then the cultural climate can be going down.”

    Credit: NewsHour Weekend

    Credit: NewsHour Weekend

    Read the full transcript below:

    FEARGUS O’SULLIVAN: The Dutch capital of Amsterdam is famous for scenic canals, bicycle-filled streets, and museums of old master paintings. Amsterdam is also known for its “anything goes” attitude…with marijuana smoked in coffee shops and its red light district where prostitution is legal.

    Since 2003, Amsterdam has had a public official dedicated to making the city thrive after dark. Mirik Milan is Amsterdam’s “Nachtburgemeester,” which means “night mayor.”

    MIRIK MILAN, NIGHT MAYOR OF AMSTERDAM: The night is always treated differently than the day. Where you have a problem at night, the first reaction of city officials or the mayor would be, “oh we have to stop this,” instead of bringing all the stakeholders together– and finding a solution. So our function is to bridge the gap between all the sides.

    FEARGUS O’SULLIVAN: While night mayor Mirik Milan doesn’t wield any official power, his job is to act as a liaison between government, residents, and nightlife culture.

    Milan is elected by a combination of internet votes, and a panel made up of nightlife business owners. Together, business owners and the city combine to pay the night mayor’s salary.

    Are there any misconceptions or stereotypes about nightlife that you feel you have to dispel?

    MIRIK MILAN: Yeah. Oh, of course. Yeah. Lots.

    FEARGUS O’SULLIVAN: What sorts of things?

    MIRIK MILAN: Oh nightlife is heavy drinking, puking on the street, trouble. That’s what people say. Instead of thinking, oh, nightlife makes the city a nice place to live in, creates an area in which people can express themselves, and to connect with other people.

    FEARGUS O’SULLIVAN: In a city that hosts more than five million tourists a year, balancing the needs of a thriving night time economy and the needs of the city’s sleeping residents is no easy task.

    We’re in “Rembrandtplein,” in central Amsterdam. It’s one of the busiest areas in the whole city for nightlife. The thing is that things can get a little bit rowdy around here, and that’s why the Mayor of Amsterdam and the night mayor of Amsterdam got together to hire hosts for this square to make sure that things run just a little bit more smoothly.

    Twenty “square hosts” patrol this square on weekends from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., making sure people follow the rules: No biking after 11 p.m., “stay classy,” and if nature calls, “use a loo.”

    Lorraine Koorndijk is a patrol leader.

    LORRAINE KOORNDIJK: We help people when they’re looking for places to go, or transportation. We help people when they’re feeling sick. Then we try, when they get into arguments, we try to calm them down. And after they’re done partying, we try to get them home.

    FEARGUS O’SULLIVAN: Another example: when the bars and clubs are mandated to close around 4am, masses of partygoers flood out into the streets at the same time. Night mayor Mirik Milan’s counterintuitive solution? A plan to allow some clubs to stay open all night.

    MIRIK MILAN: If the people can just leave whenever they want, you have really a lot less pressure on the neighborhood.

    FEARGUS O’SULLIVAN: Radion, inside this former dentistry school, is one of ten Amsterdam clubs licensed to stay open 24 hours a day. Owner Staas Lucassen says one key advantage is that it’s located in the less populated outskirts of the city.

    STAAS LUCASSEN: Are you not going to make too much noise of the neighborhood? Is it outside of the city center?

    FEARGUS O’SULLIVAN: Another factor helping it gain a 24 hour license is that Radion is not just a nightclub. After partying ends at 7 a.m., an area of the club transforms into a playroom for neighborhood kids.

    MIRIK MILIAN: I think that’s really like a modern day nightclub. So the people that live around it should also benefit from the fact that the nightclub is there.

    FEARGUS O’SULLIVAN: the actual Mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan meets several times a year with Night Mayor Milan and credits him with helping to keep the peace.

    EBERHARD VAN DER LAAN: He is the connection between those that go out in the night, and those that sleep in the night and work during the day. He’s a kind of mediator. He gives ideas, he helps to moderate the dialogue. He brings in experts. He gives good warnings when you need him in specific situations. He’s always there.

    MIRIK MILAN: Welcome, welcome to the first ever night mayor summit.

    FEARGUS O’SULLIVAN: And just last month, Amsterdam hosted the first international night mayor summit, bringing together activists, researchers, club owners, and night mayors from all over the world.

    Participants discussed topics like boosting infrastructure around transportation, the role of nightlife in marketing a city, and how to accommodate for demographic changes in cities due to gentrification.

    One of the people attending the summit was Isabelle von Walterskirchen. She’s the president of Zurich, Switzerland’s “night city council,” which was started just last year.  It has a slightly different approach compared to Amsterdam: made up of all volunteers, it has no official connection with the city.

    Do you think there’s an advantage to being independent in that way?

    ISABELLE VON WALTERSKIRCHEN, The big advantage is that we’re not representing a branch, so we don’t have to take care of needs of any stakeholder, but we can take care of the whole construct of nightlife.

    FEARGUS O’SULLIVAN: In France, Paris and Toulouse are among the latest to install night mayors, and London is considering creating a “nighttime champion” position. But the concept remains predominantly Dutch. At least 10 cities in the Netherlands have night mayors, including here, in the northern city of Groningen known for its live music venues.

    Night Mayor Chris Garrit has had to deal with many issues, including noise.

    CHRIS GARRIT: I think a good Night Mayor watches these two facts: people can sleep well and people can party hard.

    FEARGUS O’SULLIVAN: Garrit took me around his city of 200 thousand people one sunday evening. First stop was a public arts center where more than 1,000 people had come out for a concert.

    Groningen has no rules about closing times, which makes the city a magnet for revelers across the Netherlands.

    The next stop, a local band was playing at a bar across town.

    Even in the small city of Groningen, a big part of the night mayor’s job is being a mediator between clubs and neighbors who may have issues with the sound.

    After more than four years, Garrit is stepping down as night mayor this month, but still believes it’s a crucial role.

    CHRIS GARRIT: I think it doesn’t matter how big the city is. The culture always needs a voice to say something. Because there’s always more rules and regulations going on. If nobody stands up, then the cultural climate can be going down.

    FEARGUS O’SULLIVAN: In Amsterdam, night mayor Mirik Milan says night mayors help cities promote the economic value of nightlife.

    MIRIK MILAN: What people really often forget, is when there’s lot of people dancing, there’s a lot people working.

    FEARGUS O’SULLIVAN: Amsterdam has a big nightlife industry. It has a lot of tourists. It has a soft drug scene. It has a sex industry that’s quite active. A critic might say that the night mayor’s role is just about making vice easier to access for partiers and tourists. Is that all there is to it?

    MIRIK MILAN: When we see the night time economy, we see it as a place where a lot of development is happening for the creative industry. Think of all the photographers, filmmakers. Of course, DJs, and live musicians. They have a platform in which they can develop their talent. So that’s the value that I see in nightlife.

    The post Behind Amsterdam’s thriving club scene, this ‘night mayor’ keeps the peace appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) listens to a question during his weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., April 28, 2016. Republican lawmakers recently failed to meet a self-imposed deadline to address Puerto Rico's debt crisis. Photo By Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan listens to a question during his weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., April 28, 2016. Republican lawmakers recently failed to meet a self-imposed deadline to address Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. Photo By Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — House Republicans have missed a self-imposed deadline for a plan to help Puerto Rico manage $70 billion in debt.

    Legislation was expected this week to create a control board to help manage the U.S. territory’s financial obligations and oversee some debt restructuring. It would have been the third version of the House bill, which has come under fire from conservatives who feared it would set a precedent for financially ailing states and Democrats concerned the control board would be too powerful and favorable to creditors.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement Friday that Republicans want to ensure the bill is the “best, most responsible legislation to tackle Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis while protecting American taxpayers.”

    Ryan said negotiations continue with Democrats and the Obama administration on the issue. He said it will be introduced in “the coming days.”

    House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, has led negotiations on the bill and has said he wants bipartisan support. The aim is to write legislation that could pass both the House and the Senate before Puerto Rico defaults on a $2 billion debt payment due July 1. The territory missed a nearly $370 million bond payment May 1 – the largest so far in a series of missed payments since last year.

    In an interview Friday for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program, Bishop said he believes the House needs to move forward but lawmakers want to make sure the legislation doesn’t have any remaining constitutional or legal issues.

    “We have one shot at getting this right,” Bishop said. “Once this bill starts moving I think it moves through Congress very quickly.”

    Bishop said the final version yet to be released will be similar to previous versions, including the control board setup.

    “That basic concept of what we want to do has been agreed to by everybody that’s a player, and so I think regardless of what the final version is, that structure will be there,” Bishop said on C-SPAN.

    He said the bill will not set a precedent for ailing states, as some have feared. He said the legislation is designed to apply only to Puerto Rico.

    Puerto Rico has been mired in economic stagnation for a decade. Financial problems grew worse as a result of setbacks in the wider U.S. economy, and government spending in Puerto Rico continued unchecked.

    Under the bill being drafted, the control board is expected to direct the island to create a fiscal plan, including adequate funding for pensions. The island has underfunded public pension obligations by more than $40 billion.

    Creditors and some Republicans have expressed concern that they would take a back seat to the pension obligations, while the Obama administration has pushed to make sure that pensions are also a priority.

    Bishop has said the aim of the legislation is to make sure they are all paid.

    “We’re not in the process of picking winners and losers in this, and that’s why you have the board in the first place, so they can make an orderly process of that,” Bishop said.

    The bill is also expected to retain provisions to allow the island to lower federal minimum wage requirements for some younger workers and transfer federal land on the island of Vieques to the territory, despite Democratic opposition.

    Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has been part of the negotiations, and traveled to the island on Monday to push Congress on the issue. He toured a San Juan elementary school struggling with insects and limited electricity and a hospital unable to provide some basic services to infants. He said economic troubles in Puerto Rico can only get worse if Washington doesn’t act soon.

    The Senate has not yet acted on the issue, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the chamber is waiting for the House to act.

    The post GOP fails to meet self-imposed deadline on Puerto Rico’s debt appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JULY 29: (ISRAEL OUT) US gaming tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam leave after U.S. Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney delivered a speech outside the Old City on July 29, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel. Romney stated that he backs Israel's right to defend itself against the threat of a nuclear Iran. He is in Israel as part of a three-nation foreign diplomatic tour which also includes visits to Poland and Great Britain. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

    Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam are seen on July 29, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel. Adelson has indicated he will support Donald Trump in the 2016 election. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

    With Donald Trump just 103 delegates short of securing the Republican presidential nomination, the top individual donor in the last presidential election cycle is now backing him.

    Billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who publicly endorsed Trump on Friday, has privately informed him of plans to give potentially more than $100 million to groups and super PACs backing Trump, according to the New York Times.

    Adelson gave $93 million in 2012 to groups supporting republicans, including Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

    Trump is reportedly considering Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, to be his running mate.

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    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks with supporters during a rally in Fargo, North Dakota, U.S. May 13, 2016. Democrats are increasingly worried he is undercutting efforts to defeat the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donal Trump. Photo By Dan Koeck/Reuters

    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks with supporters during a rally in Fargo, North Dakota, U.S. May 13, 2016. Some of his fellow Democrats are increasingly worried he is undercutting efforts to defeat the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Photo By Dan Koeck/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Democratic Party leaders are upping the pressure on Bernie Sanders to drop his presidential campaign, alarmed that his continued presence is undermining efforts to beat the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, and again win the White House.

    “I don’t think they think of the downside of this,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a supporter of front-runner Hillary Clinton and broker of the post-primary peace between Clinton and then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in 2008.

    “It’s actually harmful because she can’t make that general-election pivot the way she should,” Feinstein said. “Trump has made that pivot.”

    The new concerns come after Sanders’ recent wins over Clinton in Indiana and West Virginia. While those victories have provided his supporters a fresh sense of momentum heading into next week’s primaries in Kentucky and Oregon, they did almost nothing to help Sanders cut into Clinton’s nearly insurmountable lead in the delegates who will decide their party’s nomination.

    Still Sanders soldiers on, frequently telling the thousands of supporters who attend his rallies that he still has a narrow path to the nomination.

    “Please do not moan to me about Hillary Clinton’s problems,” Sanders said in a recent interview with MSNBC. “It is a steep hill to climb, but we’re going to fight for every last vote.”

    Clinton, her aides and supporters have largely resisted calling on Sanders to drop out, noting that she fought her 2008 primary bid against Obama well into June. But now that Trump has locked up the Republican nomination, they fear the billionaire businessman is capitalizing on Sanders’ decision to remain in the race by echoing his attacks and trying to appeal to the same independent, economically frustrated voters that back the Vermont senator.

    “I would just hope that he would understand that we need to begin consolidating our vote sooner rather than later,” said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., a Clinton backer and former chief of efforts to elect Democrats to the House. “Democrats cannot wait too long.”

    Though Clinton has for the past few weeks largely focused her rhetoric on Trump, campaign aides say the two-front effort hampers their ability to target both Sanders supporters and Republican-leaning independents that may be open to her candidacy. It also means she’s spending time in primary states, rather than battlegrounds that will decide the general election.

    Clinton will return to Kentucky on Sunday, two days before the state’s primary. She’s sending high-level advocates to the state this weekend to rally voters, among them Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Reps. James Clyburn of South Carolina, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Hakeem Jeffries and Joe Crowley of New York.

    While they can talk up Clinton, Sanders’ determination to contest every state remaining has kept Obama and Vice President Joe Biden largely on the sidelines, benching two of her most powerful advocates.

    “It all sort of slows the takeoff of her general-election campaign,” said Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a member of the party’s liberal wing from a perennial battleground.

    Sanders’ campaign saw its fundraising drop by about 40 percent last month and he’s laid off hundreds of staffers. Biden said this week he “feels confident” that Clinton will be the nominee. Even Obama is pointing out the realities of the delegate math, which puts Clinton on track to capture the nomination early next month.

    Clinton has won 23 states to Sanders’ 19, capturing 3 million more votes than her rival along the way. She has 94 percent of the delegates needed to win the nomination, which means she could lose all the remaining states and still emerge as the nominee – as long as all her supporters among the party insiders known as superdelegates continue to back her.

    Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook wrote in a memo to donors this week that there is “no doubt” Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, describing her lead as “insurmountable.”

    White House officials believe Obama has the ability to coax some die-hard Sanders’ fans into the Clinton camp, particularly young people and liberals. But if he moves before Clinton officially captures the nomination, he risks angering those voters and undermining that effort.

    Clinton faces a similar calculus. While her international expertise could attract foreign policy-focused Republicans and suburban women, highlighting her record on those issues now might encourage Sanders to resurrect attacks on her vote in favor of the Iraq war.

    “When his rhetoric takes a sharper tone against her, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. “I know that can be used as ammunition.”

    Clinton backers say there’s plenty for Sanders to do in his old job – and a lot of good reasons for him to join forces. If Democrats regain the majority in the Senate, he’d likely become chairman of the powerful Senate Budget Committee.

    “We are looking forward to welcoming him back to the Senate,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

    Others note that Clinton has gone through this before and the party was able to unite after a tough primary in 2008.

    “She knows this is a long process. It’s a marathon you run to the end,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif. “On the Democratic side, we’re attacking issues, not each other.”

    The post Democrats fear Sanders may undermine efforts to beat Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Matt Dieterich

    Mt. Rainier is seen in this photograph taken in June 2015. Photo by Matt Dieterich. Dieterich is represented by Capestany Films / Creative Endeavors Talent Management

    Most people alive today have never seen the Milky Way.

    It’s a void that Matt Dieterich, a night sky photographer, has spent his life attempting to fill.

    “Humans connect to the night sky, and it’s gone back for centuries,” he said. “As long as people have been around, we’ve wondered.”

    When Dieterich took the photo seen above, he was working as an intern astronomy ranger in Mt. Rainier in 2015, educating visitors about the night sky. He used a Nikon D750 with a 24mm lens, a tripod and a shutter cable release. He took 200 photos, each on an eight-second exposure, and combined the backgrounds from each of those photos to form the photo’s backdrop.

    The result is stunning: an image of stars in motion. The photo was just selected as a new Forever stamp to commemorate the centennial of the National Parks Service.

    Dieterich’s fascination with the night sky has inspired him to become an art-driven activist against light pollution, which he says is “only getting worse as development continues in cities.”

    “We can reclaim the night sky,” he said. “We can change the way we light cities. We can reclaim a resource that inspires science, that inspires religion and art.”

    Dieterich, who is working now as a research geologist in West Virginia, said he hopes his photographs will encourage people to limit light pollution.

    Dimming the lights at night and reconsidering the positioning of city lighting would help, he said. Bright lights aimed upward, such as at billboards, add to light pollution. So do lights that shine continuously instead of operating on a sensor, he said.

    “My goal is to get folks outdoors. To get them involved to protect the night sky,” he said.

    The post This stargazing photographer wants to inspire an end to light pollution appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama and former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now running the Myanmar's government, hold a press conference after their meeting at her residence in Yangon, November 14, 2014. The president may extend sanctions on the country for another year even as business and human rights activists tussle. Photo By Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    U.S. President Barack Obama and former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now running the Myanmar’s government, hold a press conference after their meeting at her residence in Yangon, November 14, 2014. The president may extend sanctions on the country for another year even as business and human rights activists tussle over the probable decision. Photo By Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. business lobby says it is high time to drop the remaining U.S. sanctions on Myanmar, but human rights activists and U.S. lawmakers say not so fast.

    Former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi is now running the government after winning elections. Still, the military continues to wield considerable power.

    That poses a dilemma for President Barack Obama, who wants to encourage investment but not lose leverage to encourage further reforms. So next week, Obama is expected to renew sanctions for another year. The administration could take some state-run companies off a U.S. Treasury blacklist.

    Secretary of State John Kerry will be traveling to Myanmar on May 22 to signal support for the civilian-led government that took power last month and for further democratic and economic reforms, the State Department said Friday.

    The U.S. waived its longstanding bans on investment and trade in 2012 after the country also known as Burma began shifting from a half-century of repressive military rule. The U.S. still forbids business dealings with companies majority-owned by the military and dozens of companies and individuals designated by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. The U.S. also bans arms trading and imports of rubies and jade, one of Myanmar’s most lucrative industries.

    The authority under which sanctions are imposed is the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which empowers the president to regulate commerce with another country in response to “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to the United States. Some 20 countries are subject to such a declared emergency.

    “Does an emergency still exist as it did in Burma five or 10 years ago?” said John Goyer, senior director for Southeast Asia for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is pushing lifting of Myanmar-specific sanctions that it says create uncertainty for investors. He said that where necessary, the U.S. could blacklist companies and individuals under different sanctions programs.

    Although several major U.S. firms like Coca-Cola, General Electric, Chevron and Caterpillar are now operating in Myanmar, U.S. investment of $248 million represents less than 1 percent of total foreign investment there, a much lower proportion than in other Southeast Asian countries, Goyer said.

    A woman carrying a baby walks among debris after fire destroyed shelters at a camp for internally displaced Rohingya Muslims in the western Rakhine State near Sittwe, Myanmar May 3, 2016. Photo By Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

    A woman carrying a baby walks among debris after fire destroyed shelters at a camp for internally displaced Rohingya Muslims in the western Rakhine State near Sittwe, Myanmar May 3, 2016. Photo By Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

    Human rights activists see matters through a different prism. They cite continuing repression of 140,000 stateless Rohingya Muslims confined to squalid internment camps, and abuses by Myanmar’s army in long-running hostilities against ethnic armies.

    “The current sanctions regime is deliberately limited and creates incentives for human rights abusers to clean up their act,” said Matthew Smith, executive director of the group Fortify Rights. “These measures are sensible and should remain in place. Known human rights abusers shouldn’t profit from improved bilateral relations.”

    U.S. lawmakers of both parties have also urged Obama to renew the sanctions authority that expires on May 20.

    In a letter to the president this week, seven House members said that despite the electoral success of Suu Kyi’s party, “there is no path toward ending the military’s extraordinary and powerful role in civilian politics.” Under the current, junta-era constitution, the military controls three key government ministries and 25 percent of parliamentary seats.

    Congressional aides briefed by the administration this week said they expect the sanctions authority to be renewed but for some non-military state-owned enterprises to be either removed from the Treasury blacklist, or get waivers. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the matter before the announcement. The aides said that the administration is also considering the duty-free trade benefits for Myanmar, but it’s unclear when that might happen.

    Tin Htut Oo, former chairman of Myanmar’s National Economic and Social Advisory Council, said sanctions were slowing down trade. He stressed the importance of the U.S. restoring duty-free trade benefits to help the economy grow.

    “The U.S. can still put some particular sanction on Myanmar but the unnecessary ones, especially (ones) that affect the people, farmers and poor people, should be lifted,” he said.

    Associated Press writer Esther Htusan in Yangon, Myanmar, contributed to this report.

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    Central American immigrants ride north atop a freight train known as "La Bestia,"  or "The Beast," near Juchitan, Mexico. It is part of a long and perilous journey through Mexico to reach the U.S. border. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

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    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: In the coming weeks, the Department of Homeland Security is planning to step up the arrest and deportation of undocumented immigrants whose asylum claims have been denied.  Many asylum seekers said they had fled violence in Central America.  The deportations will most immediately affect some 50,000 migrants arrested crossing the southwest U.S. border between last October and this March.

    “Reuters” reporter Julia Edwards, who covers homeland security, broke the story this week, and she joins me now from Washington to discuss it. Julia, these raids are coming in response to a surge of people coming from Central America.  Who’s coming and why the surge?

    JULIA EDWARDS, REUTERS: So, we know that women and children, some traveling together, some children traveling without a guardian have been coming up from the three countries in Central America they call the “Northern Triangle”.  That would be Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.  They’re escaping poverty.  There has been extreme drought in that region this year and they’re also escaping violence.  There are drug cartels who have really made living conditions very poor in these places.

    And so, since 2014, we really began to see a surge of people coming across the border, up through Mexico taking very dangerous journeys, often paying human smugglers exorbitant prices just to get them across the border.  But we saw a bit of a dip in 2015.  The Department of Homeland Security thought that they had more or less gotten this problem under control by trying to get the message back to Central America that illegal immigrants could not stay in the United States.

    However, at the end of last year and coming up until about last March, the latest numbers we have available, there’s actually been a surge again.

    ALISON STEWART:  There were raids like this in January.  So, these raids that are going to happen in the incomes month or so — allegedly going to happen in the incomes month or so — how are they expected to be different?

    JULIA EDWARDS: So, the raids in January were just over two days — January 2nd and 3rd and they focused on three states.  That was Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina.  These raids are to take place over a 30-day period nationwide, and a document that went out to the field offices, it explained to each enforcement field office to go ahead and take inventory of who was in their field, who had already gotten a final order of deportation.

    And that’s a point that the White House is really trying to drive home as well, is that these are people who have actually gone through the court system.  Their cases have been heard.  They were not granted asylum and a judge has ordered them to have deportation.  In January, it was 121 women and children who were arrested.  This time, we’re likely to see many more than that.

    ALISON STEWART: Once people are apprehended, where do they go?  How long is the process?

    JULIA EDWARDS:  We know that in January, when ICE agents came to the doors of these families often in the early morning hours, arrested them, they brought them to detention facilities. There is one — very notable one in Dilley, Texas, where women and children were kept where they could be processed. There was a bit of back-and-forth that goes on there while they’re at the detention facility.  If they are approved, they will then be put on planes and deported back.

    ALISON STEWART: The two candidates reasoning for the Democratic ticket have criticized the Obama’s administration strategy here.  How does the administration defend it?

    JULIA EDWARDS: The White House spokesman Josh Earnest yesterday was asked about, how do you defend this policy?  What he stuck to is it is in the president’s authorities to deport people who are recently arrival, and in this case, that’s people who have arrived after January 1st, 2014.

    That date is important because, of course, we saw a surge start around 2014.  And at the same time that Obama laid out his immigration executive action in November of 2014, we saw that there was another caveat to that, that while he was going to protect some people from deportation, there were other people who were priorities for deportations, and that was criminal aliens and also new arrivals.

    It’s sort of also the strategy of we can’t deport everyone who’s here, that’s 11 million people.  But we want to try to increase our borders and send a message that: no, you cannot come to the United States illegally and expect to stay.

    ALISON STEWART: Julia Edwards from “Reuters,” thank you for sharing your reporting.

    JULIA EDWARDS: Thank you.


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    ALISON STEWART, NEWSHOUR ANCHOR: And now to “Viewers Like You” – Your chance to comment on our work.

    Here’s what some of you said about last week’s signature segment about “Operation Peacemaker” – the program in Richmond, California, that pays young men with criminal records a stipend up to a thousand dollars a month to stay out of trouble and away from guns. Some viewers were skeptical about the program.

    ROBERT NOLTON said “you cannot bribe young men into becoming good citizens. I agree with the goal but as usual the path to get there is very flawed. And after nine short months, they are totally transformed? Good luck with that.”

    MIKE TOBIAS added “how about being a man by start taking responsibility for your own actions and life! I follow the rules. Where is my reward?”

    Some though the money for the program should be spent elsewhere.

    According to BAHMAN JAB  the city of Richmond could “give them a productive job to build roads, paint, clean highways, plant trees, remove trash…then pay them.”

    SANDY COX added “maybe if they helped low income people with things like housing, college, job training, they wouldn’t have to spend all that money later on rehabilitation projects.”

    Other viewers were hopeful the program can work.

    ANNA MARIE wrote “most people are not truly evil, they’ve often just made bad decisions. Maybe a little positive reinforcement for a temporary period will go a long way. I like it a lot better than the idea of recidivism.”

    HEIDI MARTY said “so often it simply comes down to how people react to being notices, cared for, and helped along … perhaps for the first time in their lives.”

    SANDY CHRISTIAN BORELLA added “whatever it takes to give young men hope for a different and better way of life. For far too many, there isn’t hope, choices, or guidance.”

    As always we welcome your comments. Visit us online at PBS dot org slash NewsHour, at Facebook dot com slash newshour, or Tweet us at NewsHour.

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    By Ivette Feliciano and Melanie Saltzman

    Whenever it rains, several feet of black, contaminated water and trash flood the homes of people living near the Martin Pena Channel.

    While Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, estimated at more than $70 billion, has dominated headlines about the U.S. territory for more than a year, for the 27,000 residents living in a ring of impoverished communities in the island’s capital, another disaster has been brewing for decades.

    The channel is the U.S.’ only tropical estuary and connects the San Juan Bay and a series of lagoons. In the early 20th century, garbage was used as fill material on the channel’s wetlands to create housing for industrial workers. Adequate sewer systems in most of the area were never built.

    Today, more than 3,000 homes and buildings still dump raw sewage into the channel. What was once an expansive waterway has been reduced to a trickle, and many inside and outside the neighborhood continue to use the channel as a garbage dump.

    The trash and raw sewage also attract mosquitoes, which can carry the Zika Virus, as concerns grow over an outbreak of Zika in the territory.

    Puerto Ricans produce more solid waste than people on the mainland, and recycling rates are also lower. Compounding the problem, the island’s government is running out of places to put their trash. Over the past three decades, the Environmental Protection Agency has shut down more than 50 landfills in the territory for not being up to environmental code. Of 29 left, the EPA has ordered eight more to close in the next five years.

    The Puerto Rican government has said it is doing what it can to address the problem, including trying to boost recycling rates and enacting a ban on plastic bags across the island.

    Activists along the Martin Pena Channel say the lack of landfills has brought more illegal dumping to the waterway. They are working to secure funds from Puerto Rico’s cash-strapped government and agencies and from Congress for a restoration project, with an estimated price tag of more than $600 million.

    Until that money is secured and the restoration project begins, residents surrounding the channel live in fear of the next rainstorm, and the filthy flood it could bring.

    Read the full transcript below: 

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Romana Castro sleeps with her two children on donated mattresses in this small bunk bed. She lost most of her furniture and belongings last month, when several feet of raw sewage and trash flooded her cement block home in Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan.

    ROMANA CASTRO: I was asleep, and I heard water running, and I said, ‘What is that?’ And when I get up and check, I see that water is pouring in. Water was coming in from the toilet. Lots and lots of black water. I didn’t have time to bring anything inside or get anything out of the way.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: The problem of contaminated water and trash literally flowing into homes in her neighborhood is decades-old and getting worse. Castro is one of 27,000 people who live in a ring of impoverished communities along the Caño de Martín Peña, or the Martín Peña Channel.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: A heavily polluted waterway connecting San Juan Bay and a series of lagoons.

    MARIA VICTORIA CASTRO: The water was pouring in from the shower and the toilet. And it wasn’t clear water. It was completely dirty, really awful. Completely black. This time it was worse than ever. People have been comparing this last flood to hurricane Hugo. That’s what it felt like.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: The water is so polluted, because the area has never had adequate sewer systems dating back 80 years ago, when housing for industrial workers was built here. More than 3,000 homes and buildings still discharge raw sewage directly into the Martín Peña Channel.  Just as damaging, people inside and outside the communities use the channel as a garbage dump.  

    LUCY CRUZ RIVERA: We’ve had to intervene and step in when they arrive. They bring trash and tires in the middle of the night. And at 2am, who will be here to fight with them and tell them to stop?

    IVETTE FELICIANO: The channel was once 400 feet wide and 10 feet deep, popular for swimming and fishing. Today, the waterway, clogged with garbage and sewage, has shrunk to 30 feet wide and three feet deep, and almost no one goes in it. It is a magnet for mosquitoes, potentially carrying the Zika virus, at a time when 925 people on the island are confirmed to have been infected with Zika. Doctor Hector Villanueva is medical director at Health Pro-Med, a clinic that offers low cost, and in many cases free, services to residents along the channel.

    HECTOR VILLANUEVA: When the trash is present it usually attracts insects, rats, and all kinds of vectors and animals that may transmit diseases.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: A 2014 study by Mount Sinai Medical School in New York found people who live around the channel have higher levels of gastrointestinal disease than the overall rate in Puerto Rico. And University of Puerto Rico researchers found that children there are more likely to develop bronchial asthma and skin conditions. Castro is concerned about the health of her two children and the third on the way. She’s six months pregnant.

    ROMANA CASTRO: I’m especially worried because I’m pregnant, and Zika right now is a big threat in this country. So I’m really worried, because I see more mosquitoes than ever before.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Pregnant woman are especially at risk, as Zika can cause Microcephaly, a birth defect that causes babies to have abnormally small heads and brains. Just yesterday the territory announced its first Zika-related microcephaly case among the 128 pregnant women diagnosed with virus. Doctor Villanueva tells his patients to do what they can to avoid mosquito bites.

    HECTOR VILLANUEVA: “The problem is that the community’s very poor. So the recommendations are not really affordable to them. Some of them cannot buy the insect repellant. It’s also recommended that they should use screens and they should take advantage of the air condition[er]. But those things are not affordable to our community. So we have to deal with their reality.”

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Last month, his clinic received a 250-thousand-dollar grant from federal department of health and human services and the centers for disease control and prevention…For a Zika-awareness campaign. Clinic board member Carmen Velez Vega is a professor at the University of Puerto Rico School of Public Health and says part of the problem is that the amount of trash here undermines their efforts.

    CARMEN VELEZ VEGA: The garbage truck, doesn’t come here as often as it comes to other communities. There are places here where the truck will come once and sometimes even twice a day. But that’s not what’s going to happen here. There are parts of this community that probably won’t see a truck in more than a week. And sometimes maybe more. There is a difference in terms of the attention that communities like these get.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: The clinic tests patients for Zika if they exhibit symptoms like a rash or red eyes. So far, it has documented only one case of the virus. But just steps away from the clinic, we met Carmen Hernandez, who says she contracted Zika after having sex with her husband because she didn’t not know the virus can be spread through intercourse.

    A proposed restoration project would dredge the Martín Peña Channel, build a sewage system, and relocate families during the cleanup. The Puerto Rican government has already spent $120 million addressing the faulty sewage system in some areas and preparing for the dredging.

    Lyvia Rodriguez heads “enlace,” an organization created by Puerto Rico’s government to implement the project in partnership with the environmental protection agency and the army corps of engineers.

    LYVIA RODRIGUEZ: Every time there is a flood like the one we had two weeks ago, the government has to spend millions of dollars dealing with the crisis and the emergency when we should be spending those same dollars in dealing with the issue. However we do know that Puerto Rico cannot afford by itself to deal with the Caño de Martín Peña restoration.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: The estimated cost of the restoration project is $600 million. About half still needs to be secured. Congress has promised a quarter of the funds for the EPA and Army Corps of engineers to assist the cleanup. The Puerto Rican government and its agencies are supposed to provide a third of the funds, but the debt crisis has put that money in jeopardy. Rodriguez says that’s why plans to build a sewage system along the channel have been delayed.

    LYVIA RODRIGUEZ: We have had one project for example, which is the relocation of a potable water lane that has been in the bidding process for over a year because they do not have cash flow to be able to construct it. So those are the kinds of issues that the community has been facing currently because of the fiscal crisis.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: The Martín Peña Channel is a symptom of much larger trash trouble on the island.

    PUERTO RICO GOVERNOR ALEJANDRO GARCIA PADILLA: EPA has been telling Puerto Rico for many years that we are getting to the end of the road.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla says the island is doing what it can to reduce waste. During the past 30 years, the Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the closure of more than 50 landfills across the island for leakage issues contaminating groundwater and not being up to environmental standards.

    PUERTO RICO GOVERNOR ALEJANDRO GARCIA PADILLA: It hasn’t been a problem yet to pick up trash from the houses. What is a real problem, and will be if we do not attempt to try to tackle now, is what they do with the trash.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Of 29 landfills left, the EPA has ordered eight more to close during the next five years. To reduce landfill waste, Garcia Padilla recently issued an executive order outlawing plastic bags, and says he’s working to expand recycling. The island recycles less than 15 percent of its garbage, compared to 35 percent on the mainland. The landfill closures make garbage disposal even more challenging for residents along the Martín Peña Channel.

    LYVIA RODRIGUEZ: Basically, because people have less opportunities of where to take their garbage to, or they want to avoid the fees to dispose of properly of the garbage in ways, they look for places where you can use illegal dump sites and dispose of this garbage.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: While the government works to boost recycling rates across the island, people living here have launched a community recycling program to do their part on the ground.

    CARMEN FEBRES ALMESTICA: “The EPA told us this is the law, so if it is the law, we’ll make it happen.”

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Next month they hope to sign an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps to design the cleanup program. Obviously the trash situation has been an issue in this community for decades. The economic crisis and Zika.

    HECTOR VILLANUEVA: All these three elements obviously doesn’t help us. Because Zika is bad in any moment, but right now with all those external factors affecting the quality of life for population, it has a greater impact.

    ROMANA CASTRO: Until the channel cleanup begins, Romana Castro lives in fear of the next storm, and the filthy flood it could bring.

    ROMANA CASTRO: Material things can always be bought again, but my child’s life? That’s completely different. Or they could get sick, all of that contaminated water could make them sick. It really worries me.

    The post Beyond debt default and Zika, Puerto Rico struggles as trash piles up appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Ukraine's Jamala reacts on winning the Eurovision Song Contest final at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, May 14, 2016. TT News Agency/Maja Suslin/via REUTERS ?ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. SWEDEN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SWEDEN. - RTSEBM2

    Ukraine’s Jamala reacts on winning the Eurovision Song Contest final at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, May 14, 2016. Photo by TT News Agency/Maja Suslin/via Reuters

    KIEV, Ukraine — Crimean Tatars on Sunday celebrated Ukrainian singer Jamala’s win at Eurovision with a song that sheds light on their horrific deportations to Central Asia under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin but also hints at their recent treatment under Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Many Russians, whose Eurovision Song Contest entry won the popular vote but finished third when the national juries’ votes were added, said they felt robbed of the win because of political bias.

    The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman joked sarcastically that to win next year’s contest a song will need to denounce “bloody” Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is supported by Moscow but blamed in the West for Syria’s 5-year civil war.

    Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 was condemned by the United States and European Union, which responded by imposing punishing sanctions. Inside Crimea, the seizure of territory from Ukraine was most strongly opposed by the Tatar minority, who now face persecution on the Moscow-ruled Black Sea peninsula.

    “This song is about our tragedy … and I hope that people heard this,” said Emine Ziyatdinova, a 27-year-old Crimean Tatar who was among those celebrating the win at a Tatar restaurant in Kiev.

    Jamala’s song, “1944,” recalls how Crimean Tatars, including her great-grandmother, were deported during World War II.

    In the space of three days in May 1944, all 200,000 Tatars, who then made up a third of Crimea’s population, were put on trains and shipped off to Central Asia upon Stalin’s orders, suspected of collaborating with the Nazis during their long occupation of the peninsula during the war.

    Thousands died during the grueling journey or starved to death in the barren steppes upon their arrival. In the decades after the war, the Soviet Union developed Crimea as a naval base and a tourist destination, dominated by ethnic Russians along with Ukrainians.

    It was not until the 1980s that the Tatars were allowed to return to their native land. Jamala, the stage name for Susana Jamaladinova, was born in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan in 1983. She now lives in Kiev.

    The lyrics of her song don’t touch on Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and Jamala insists there’s no political subtext. But there’s no doubt the lyrics are powerful. She starts the song in English, singing “when strangers are coming, they come to your house, they kill you all and say ‘we’re not guilty.'”

    Russians believe anti-Russian sentiment in Europe swayed the vote. Their entry, Sergey Lazarev, had all the right ingredients for a Eurovision winner: a song with a thumping techno beat, a catchy refrain and a buff man in a tight shirt riding on an iceberg through space.

    “This is a political contest, 100 percent,” said Anastasia Bagayeva, who watched the contest from a Moscow restaurant. “This is not fair, but this is the current time.”

    Russian officials also cried foul. Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said bitterly in a Facebook post that next year’s winning Eurovision song needs to be about Assad. She suggested this chorus in English: “Assad blood, Assad worst. Give me prize, that we can host.”

    The country that wins Eurovision gets to host it the following year — an expensive obligation for the state broadcaster.

    In reporting on Ukraine’s victory, Russian state television questioned how the extravagant song contest can be held in a country where “there is a hole in the budget, a war is being waged in the east and in the capital there is often disorder.”

    After Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly president was ousted by street protests in early 2014, Russia seized Crimea and backed separatists who now control swathes of territory in Ukraine’s industrial heartland in the east. Their fight against the Ukrainian government has claimed more than 9,300 lives.

    Alexander Roslyakov and Lynn Berry in Moscow contributed.

    The post Eurovision winner’s song recalls Crimean deportations during World War II appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (R) meets U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia May 15, 2016. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.       - RTSECQF

    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, right, meets U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on May 15, 2016. Photo by Saudi Press Agency/Reuters

    JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday held talks with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman about the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen, ahead of international meetings this coming week in Europe on those crises.

    The visit by Kerry, who also held talks with the crown prince, deputy crown prince and foreign minister, comes at a critical time in efforts to rein in fighting and encourage political dialogue in all three countries, wracked by violence for years.

    Kerry is trying to shore up the shaky truce in Syria that has been fraught with violations on both sides. While the U.S. and its partners accuse President Bashar Assad’s government of the vast majority of breaches, they have acknowledged violations by the opposition.

    The situation has been further complicated by the intermingling of some Western and Arab-backed rebels with groups such as the al-Qaida affiliate, known as the Nusra Front, which the U.N. has designated a terrorist organization and therefore not covered by the truce. Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have rejected attempts by Russia to get those rebels placed on the U.N. terrorist list.

    Kerry was traveling later Sunday to Vienna where he planned to host, with Italy’s foreign minister, talks on Libya on Monday, and, with his Russian counterpart, meetings on Syria on Tuesday.

    [Watch Video]

    The U.S. on Friday imposed sanctions on the speaker and president of Libya’s House of Representatives for what the Obama administration said was their efforts to obstruct and delay political transition in the country. Since the 2011 uprising that toppled leader Moammar Gadhafi, Libya has been split between rival governments. Last year, the U.N. brokered a deal on a unity government to heal the rift among the Libyans. But the new government has so far failed to gain support from various factions.

    The 17-member International Syria Support Group includes Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and others. The August deadline that the U.S. has set for starting a political transition is a target, not a drop-dead endpoint for negotiations, Kerry has said.

    The U.S. ultimatum has spurred speculation that if the deadline is blown, U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia Arabia might respond by giving the Syrian opposition stronger weapons to fight Assad.

    Kerry also has said indirect peace talks between the Syrian opposition and the Assad government probably would resume “some days” after the Vienna meeting. Those U.N.-led talks have been stalled since the opposition suspended participation last month in protest.

    The U.N.’s humanitarian aid coordinator for Syria has expressed dismay about “disappointing” levels of access so far this month to besieged and hard-to-reach areas.

    In Yemen, the warring parties have been holding U.N.-brokered negotiations in Kuwait to resolve the conflict. A truce began April 10 and has mostly held despite multiple breaches by both sides. The conflict pits the country’s Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and their allies against President Abed Rabbo Mansour’s government, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

    The U.S. State Department said Kerry and Saudi officials discussed the need to strengthen that truce and their support for continued U.N. talks. A suicide bomber on Sunday detonated his explosives among policemen standing in line outside a police base in a southern Yemeni city, killing 25 people, security and health officials said. The Yemeni affiliate of the extremist Islamist State group claimed responsibility.

    Kerry’s trip also includes a visit to Brussels for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers before he flies to Asia to meet up with President Barack Obama in Vietnam.

    The post Kerry in Saudi Arabia for talks on Syria, Libya, Yemen appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Smoke rises from gas storage tanks after a bomb attack against a state-run cooking gas factory in Taji at Baghdad's northern outskirts, Iraq May 15, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani - RTSECB4

    Smoke rises from gas storage tanks after a bomb attack against a state-run cooking gas factory in Taji at Baghdad’s northern outskirts on May 15, 2016. Photo by Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

    At least 14 people were killed Sunday in an assault on a gas plant north of Baghdad, the latest in a string of attacks for which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

    The attack on the state-owned plant at Taji, located approximately 12 miles north of Baghdad, left at least 27 people wounded and cut off service to two power plants that supply Baghdad’s power grid.

    It began when a bomb was detonated near the entrance of the plant. Then, eight suicide bombers entered the premises and clashed with guards there before setting off more bombs. Three of the plant’s large gas tanks caught on fire during the attack.

    Sunday marks the fifth day of heightened violence in the region, where multiple Islamic State attacks have killed more than 140 people this week.

    Several other attacks on Sunday brought the day’s death toll to at least 29. A car bomb that exploded in Latifiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad, killed seven people and wounded 18, while three bombs that exploded in Baghdad’s commercial areas killed eight people and wounded 28, the Associated Press reported.

    [Watch Video]

    On Wednesday, three car bomb explosions killed 93 people in one of Baghdad’s most deadly days in recent months. The following day, the extremist group killed 17 Iraqi soldiers and two others in suicide bombings in Abu Ghraib, Reuters reported.

    On Friday, an attack killed 12 people at a coffee shop in Balad, and six others were killed on Saturday.

    The post Islamic State attacks gas plant north of Baghdad appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The computer screen in an autonomous prototype Continental Chrysler 300C sedan is seen during an event featuring numerous self-driving cars on Capitol Hill in Washington March 15, 2016. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    The computer screen in an autonomous prototype Continental Chrysler 300C sedan is seen during an event featuring numerous self-driving cars on Capitol Hill in Washington March 15, 2016. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Self-driving cars are expected to usher in a new era of mobility, safety and convenience. The problem, say transportation researchers, is that people will use them too much.

    Experts foresee robot cars chauffeuring children to school, dance class and baseball practice. The disabled and elderly will have new mobility. Commuters will be able to work, sleep, eat or watch movies on the way to the office. People may stay home more because they can send their cars to do things like pick up groceries they’ve ordered online.

    Researchers believe the number of miles driven will skyrocket. It’s less certain whether that will mean a corresponding surge in traffic congestion, but it’s a clear possibility.

    Gary Silberg, an auto industry expert at accounting firm KPMG, compares it to the introduction of smartphones. “It will be indispensable to your life,” he said. “It will be all sorts of things we can’t even think of today.”

    Cars that can drive themselves under limited conditions are expected to be available within five to 10 years. Versions able to navigate under most conditions may take 10 to 20 years.

    Based on focus groups in Atlanta, Denver and Chicago, KPMG predicts autonomous “mobility-on-demand” services – think Uber and Lyft without a driver – will result in double-digit increases in travel by people in two age groups: those over 65, and those 16 to 24.

    Vehicles traveled a record 3.1 trillion miles in the U.S. last year. Increased trips in autonomous cars by those two age groups would boost miles traveled by an additional 2 trillion miles annually by 2050, KPMG calculated. If self-driving cars without passengers start running errands, the increase could be double that.

    And if people in their middle years, when driving is at its peak, also increase their travel, that yearly total could reach 8 trillion miles. “This could be massive,” Silberg said.

    Driverless cars are expected to make travel both safer and cheaper. With human error responsible for 90 percent of traffic accidents, they’re expected to sharply reduce accidents, driving down the cost of insurance and repairs.

    But the biggest cost of car travel is drivers’ time, said Don MacKenzie, a University of Washington transportation researcher. That cost comes down dramatically when people can use their travel time productively on other tasks.

    A study by MacKenzie and other researchers published in the journal Transportation Research: Part A estimates that the vehicles can cut the cost of travel by as much as 80 percent. That in turn drives up miles traveled by 60 percent.

    “You are talking about a technology that promises to make travel safer, cheaper, more convenient. And when you do that, you’d better expect people are going to do more of it,” MacKenzie said.

    There’s a fork ahead in this driverless road, says a report by Lauren Isaac, manager of sustainable transportation at WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff, that envisions either utopia or a nightmare.

    In the best case, congestion is reduced because driverless cars and trucks are safer and can travel faster with reduced space between them. Highway lanes can be narrower because vehicles won’t need as much margin for error. There will be fewer accidents to tie up traffic. But those advantages will be limited as long as driverless cars share roads with conventional cars, likely for decades.

    But that scenario depends on a societal shift from private vehicle ownership to commercial fleets of driverless cars that can be quickly summoned with a phone app. Driverless fleets would have to become super-efficient carpools, picking up and dropping off multiple passengers traveling in the same direction.

    The congestion nightmare would result if a large share of people can’t be persuaded to effectively share robot cars with strangers and to continue using mass transit, Isaac said.

    A study last year by the International Transport Forum, a transportation policy think tank, simulated the impact on traffic in Lisbon, Portugal, if conventional cars were replaced with driverless cars that take either a single passenger at a time or several passengers together.

    It found that as long as half of travel is still carried out by conventional cars, total vehicle miles traveled will increase from 30 to 90 percent, suggesting that even widespread sharing of driverless cars would mean greater congestion for a long time.

    Airlines also may face new competition as people choose to travel by car at speeds well over 100 mph between cities a few hundred miles apart instead of flying. Transit agencies will need to rethink their services in order to stay competitive, especially because the elimination of a driver would make car-sharing services cheaper.

    To make the shared-vehicle model work, government would have to impose congestion pricing on highways, restrict parking in urban centers, add more high-occupancy vehicle lanes and take other measures to discourage people from traveling alone in their self-driving cars.

    Land-use policies may need to be adjusted to prevent sprawl, or people will move beyond the fringes of metropolitan areas for low-cost housing because they can work while commuting at high speeds. Taxes based on the number of miles a personal vehicle travels are another way to discourage car travel.

    All these policy changes would be controversial and difficult to achieve.

    While there are “loads of likely positive impacts for society associated with driverless technology,” people are right to worry about potential for huge increases in congestion, Issac said.

    “Without any government influence,” she said, “human nature is to get into that single occupancy vehicle.”

    The post Will robot cars drive traffic congestion off a cliff? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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