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

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    Indonesian soldiers search an area following a deadly eruption of Mount Sinabung volcano in Gamber Village, North Sumatra, Indonesia May 22, 2016. Photo By Irsan Mulyadi via Reuters

    Indonesian soldiers search an area following a deadly eruption of Mount Sinabung volcano in Gamber Village, North Sumatra, Indonesia May 22, 2016. Photo By Irsan Mulyadi via Reuters

    At least seven people died in an Indonesian village as a volcano erupted on the island of Sumatra on Saturday.

    Mount Sinabung shot volcanic ash thousands of feet high, some of which also reached the village of Gamber more than two miles away, Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency told the Associated Press.

    Many of those who died were working on their farms when the eruption took place. Two other people were taken to a hospital in critical condition.

    A woman mourns over the coffin of a relative after a deadly eruption of Mount Sinabung, Indonesia May 22, 2016. Photo By Irsan Mulyad via Reuters

    A woman mourns over the coffin of a relative after a deadly eruption of Mount Sinabung, Indonesia May 22, 2016. Photo By Irsan Mulyad via Reuters

    A Disaster Management Agency officials said disaster workers, police and soldiers combined rescue efforts to reach survivors near the volcano to no avail on the northwestern section of the island.

    Photos and videos showed hot ash surging into the sky and smoke spewing out of the volcano, which made rescue operations difficult.

    “It is not immediately clear how many people were in Gamber because when the mountain spewed clouds of hot ash, there was not supposed to be any activity in the area,” said National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, in a statement on Sunday.

    Mount Sinabung is 8,070 feet tall and one of the more active volcanoes among the 120 in Indonesia. An eruption from volcano in 2014 killed 12 people, according to Reuters.

    The post Indonesian volcano eruption kills at least seven people appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Barack Obama announced a series of steps Tuesday to make tax inversions less financially appealing. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    President Barack Obama . Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    In 1790, the U.S. Census counted people by lumping them into one of three categories – slaves, free white females and males, or all other free persons.

    By 1980, the categories had gone through nearly 20 deviations. People could identify as one of 15 possibilities, including now-derogatory words such as “Negro.” These classifications might shed some light on why some federal laws from that time contain outdated verbiage that’s now being addressed.

    After it was unanimously passed with 380 votes, President Barack Obama signed H.R. 4238 on Friday, which amends two federal acts from the ’70s that define “minorities” with terms that are now insensitive or outdated.

    The Department of Energy Act has for decades described “minorities” as, “a Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, or Aleut or is a Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent.”

    The new bill changes the language to, “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Native American, or an Alaska Native.” There’s also similar language in the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act.

    The bill was sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng, D-NY, with 74 Democratic co-sponsors and two Republican ones, who focused on the word “Oriental.”

    “[Oriental] is an insulting term that needed to be removed from the books, and I am extremely pleased that my legislation to do that is now the law of the land,” Meng said in a statement.

    The U.S. Census never used the word Oriental, which became associated in the U.S. with exoticism and Asian-American stereotypes in the 20th century. But it dropped “Negro” from identities in 2013, after people during the 2010 count said they were offended by it.

    The director at the time said 56,000 people during research in the 1990s written under “other race” that they identified as Negro. So the census had continued to include the word in its 2000 count, and also in 2010, but by then people were raising concerns.

    “I apologize to them. I am confident that the intent of my colleagues in using the same wording as Census 2000 was to make sure as many people as possible saw words that matched their self-identities. Full inclusiveness was the goal,” Robert Groves, former director of the U.S. Census Bureau, wrote. “The race question has often changed over the decades, as the country has changed and racial terms have evolved.”

    The post Obama signs bill eliminating ‘Negro,’ ‘Oriental’ from federal laws appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama disembarks Airforce One as he lands at Hanoi 's Noi Bai International Airport May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Hoang Dinh Nam/Pool - RTSFE5B

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    Read the full transcript below: 

    ALISON STEWART: For more on President Obama’s Asia trip, Washington Post reporter David Nakamura joins me now by Skype from Hanoi.

    David, everyone wants something from this visit. What does the U.S. want from Vietnam? What does Vietnam want from the U.S.?

    DAVID NAKAMURA, The Washington Post: Well, I think you’re going to see President Obama really spend his two days here, both in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, sort of the touting the warming of relations.

    You know, this is something that is happening both on the economic side, with a new trade deal that is in play here between the two countries, and also on the security side. And the main driving reason for this is not just the warming relations between these two countries, but the specter of China and its influence in this region.

    You know, President Obama has talked a lot about shifting U.S. policy a little bit away from the Middle East, even away from Europe to some degree, and center it on Asia, which is a fast-growing area. But there’s a lot of competition with China on security in the South China Sea.

    And I think you’re going to see Vietnam wanting a little bit reassurance from the United States, both on potential lifting of an arms embargo that has been in place since the end of the Vietnam War, but also economic investment.

    And the president is touting this big 12-nation Asian trade deal, so he’s going to spend time here talking about the merits, both for U.S. companies, for U.S. workers, and — because we know, on the campaign trail, there’s a lot of angst about trade with Donald Trump and also on the Democratic side.

    So, you’re going to see the president talking a lot about all of these things.

    ALISON STEWART: Let’s unpack that a little bit.

    You wrote about American companies who are manufacturing quite a bit in Vietnam. Tell us a little bit more about that.

    DAVID NAKAMURA: Yes. Well, it’s interesting.

    The trend is already global. Even before this trade deal, which has been assigned by all these countries, but it has not been approved by the U.S. Congress, the trend is already showing that a lot of companies, including in the U.S., are moving their manufacturing from China, which had been booming for a number of years, as everybody knows, to Vietnam, based on lower wages and more reliable labor chains.

    And what is interesting is, the president is saying, look, this is already a trend that is under way. A lot of U.S. manufacturing had been offshore in China, just moving now to Vietnam. We want to be in play in Vietnam.

    And U.S. companies are responding to some degree, saying, yes, this makes sense, that a trade deal would lower tariffs on athletic shoes and other kind of apparel and textiles.

    And these are all things that are already made overseas, so why not get in with Vietnam? Vietnam’s economy is poised to sort of move on this. This trade deal could do that. And then that could lower prices, ultimately, for U.S. consumers, if it’s easier to make these, if the tariffs are lower.

    The problem is that a lot of unions and labor organizations in the United States are saying, look, we have already been decimated by this kind of offshoring of manufacturing. This is going to make it worse.

    And so you have people on both sides saying, there’s benefits, not just for the U.S., but even for Vietnam. And the U.S. is saying it’s a way to draw Vietnam closer, both, as we talked about, with China, but also raise potential labor and environmental standards in Vietnam and other country as part of this deal.

    ALISON STEWART: Let’s talk about the arms embargo.

    If the arms embargo is lifted, what guarantee does the United States have that Vietnam will address human rights abuses, for example?

    DAVID NAKAMURA: Well, there’s no great guarantees.

    I think the question is both on the arms embargo, as was in the trade deal — the trade deal, they got a separate agreement with Vietnam, specifying very specific measures they would take to protect labor and workers.

    On human rights, of course, with free speech and political dissidents, Vietnam has shown some efforts. I think they freed a political prisoner on the eve of the president coming here. But there’s — the U.S. wants to see a lot more. And there’s a lot of pressure in the United States for the president not to lift this embargo among human rights groups that do want to see more.

    But I think you saw some of the president’s aides come here last week to sort of see whether Vietnam was ready. They already lifted part of this embargo two years ago, based on maritime security, because of some of the concerns about what is happening with the Chinese navy.

    But there’s now a question whether to lift this broader embargo. I think what you might see is some potential lifting, if they do make that announcement, something that will take time — over time to sort of see how Vietnam makes progress on human rights. And, if they don’t, maybe they will slow sales or they won’t sell certain types of weapons.

    I think most experts are saying, even if they announce a lifting of the embargo, it could take several years for sort of the more advanced weapons systems or defensive weapons to be actually exchanged.

    And that would give the U.S., not only this administration, but a successor, time to sort of judge whether Vietnam has moved enough.

    ALISON STEWART: David Nakamura from The Washington Post, thanks for reporting.

    DAVID NAKAMURA: Sure. Thank you.

    The post Obama expected to push for human rights in first visit to Vietnam appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Presidential candidate Norbert Hofer of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe) waves to supporters after Austrian presidential election in Vienna, Austria, May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTSFFHD

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    Read the full transcript below: 

    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Today’s president election runoff in Austria pitted two men with diametrically opposed views. Norbert Hofer of the nationalist anti-immigration Freedom Party finished first in the first round last month. If Hofer should win, he’d be Austria’s and the E.U.’s first far right head of state.

    He’s opposed by former Green Party leader Alexander Van der Bellen, who supports admitting refugees.

    Hofer had a small lead in what has been a very close race but their absentee ballots still to be counted, with the outcome expected tomorrow. Earlier, I talk about this election with reporter Zeke Turner of “The Wall Street Journal”, who joined me via Skype from Austria’s capital, Vienna.

    Why is it that the centrists were knocked out so early in that first round of voting? What’s going on that you have such candidates that are such polar opposites?

    ZEKE TURNER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: This is sort of a question that’s also echoing in Germany right now, in this part of the world, they make what’s called the “Grand Coalition”, which is when the two big parties from the left and right of center get together, and sometimes they drag each other into sort of political no man’s lands.

    For example, the center left chancellor Werner Faymann, he followed Angela Merkel’s refugee policy and suddenly, people are walking, they come through Austria, and at a certain point, get to change course and do an about-face and talk about border controls and caps. And this is what I mean by no man’s land. It’s hard to trust politicians when they’re operating in this “Grand Coalition” context.

    Whereas people from the far right, they come with a certain specific standpoint. I mean, in the case of Norbert Hofer, the candidate here, he’s talked about shooting refugees at the border. He has a strong emphasis on security. He refers to refugees and rapists and people fighting for the Islamic State in the same breath, and that’s something that’s just a clear message for voters.

    The post Austria could soon elect the EU’s first far-right president appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. soldiers from D Troop of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment walk on a hill after finishing with a training exercise near forward operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan December 30, 2014. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

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    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Joining me now via Skype to discuss the significance of the U.S. military strike on the Taliban’s leader is Jennifer Glasse, a freelance reporter, now in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.

    Jennifer, tell us a little bit more about Mansour, who he was within the hierarchy of the Taliban?

    JENNIFER GLASSE, FREELANCE REPORTER: He was the Taliban leader who took over in last summer. He was a bit of a controversy because when he took over after the announcement, that Mullah Omar had been dead for more than two years. There was a bit of a power struggle and division among the Taliban.

    But under Mansour, the Taliban that did follow him took a whole lot of territory in Afghanistan and we saw them take Kunduz last September and October for a few days, the first they’ve been able to take a city of that size, Afghanistan’s fifth largest city. Right now, they control more territory and contest more territory than they have since 2001.

    So, under Akhtar Mansour, the Taliban really saw a resurgence, saw a lot of strength, but they also were very fractured.

    STEWART: Why would the Obama administration consider him a worthy target, someone worth sending drones after?

    GLASSE: President Obama made the order himself. Normally, American forces here can’t target the Taliban and I did ask that question this morning of the U.S. spokesman. And he said that they made the decision because Akhtar Mansour and his fighters were planning attacks against — attacks against Afghan forces and American forces, and therefore were a threat to U.S. forces.

    That’s the justification they use for this drone strike that killed him.

    STEWART: What does this drone strike and the death of Mansour mean for the peace talks, the peace process?

    GLASSE: Well, that’s the big question right now. What will happen with the peace process, how will things go from now on?

    The chief executive officer of the country, Abdullah Abdullah, said in Afghanistan today, he hopes that it will bring the Taliban into the peace process, but it’s really not clear what will happen now, whether there will be a power struggle to see who replaces him, whether the Taliban will continue fighting as they have the last year, with Afghan forces taking punishing casualties across the country and whether the peace process will revive.

    We know that after a bombing here in Kabul last month that killed 64 people, President Ashraf Ghani really hardened his stance against Pakistan and the Taliban, very angry, saying that Pakistan was harboring the Taliban and, of course, the fact that Akhtar Mansour was killed in Pakistan really kind of bears them out.

    And we haven’t seen a lot of reaction from Pakistan. The last time the Americans launched a big operation in Pakistan was in 2011, the assault and the killing of Osama bin Laden. And after that happened, there was a huge outrage in Afghanistan that the Americans had done something on sovereignty territory.

    It’s very quite in Pakistan right now. Pakistan says they want the peace process to go forward, but Afghanistan says they want to see some progress. That’s really unclear right now what happens, what the next step will be for the Taliban and what the next step will be in trying to move the peace process forward.

    STEWART: Jennifer Glasse reporting from Kabul — thank you so much.

    GLASSE: Good to talk to you.

    The post U.S. drone strike may have killed Taliban leader appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Syrian refugee children stand outside their tents during the visit of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to their camp in Zahrani village, southern Lebanon May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho - RTX2CNIX

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    Read the full transcript below: 

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:  In Lebanon, Syrian refugees are scattered around the country. The largest concentration lives just a 15-minute drive from the Syrian border…in tents in camps in the Bekaa Valley. Other refugees find shelter in dilapidated buildings like this one in the capital, Beirut. Still others reside in cordoned-off areas within cities that have become refugee ghettos.

    That’s where I met the woman who asked us to call her “Suha” for her protection. She left the besieged city of Homs, Syria, three-and-a-half years ago, fleeing a civil war she describes as a fire.

    SUHA: The war began suddenly. Burned everything.

    She says her family didn’t take sides, but that didn’t protect them from soldiers loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    SUHA: My brother killed, was killed.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: What happened?

    SUHA: They shot him in the back, and he died.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Suha came to suspect her own husband was responsible for her brother’s death.

    SUHA: I discovered he is a double agent.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:  So he was working for the regime?

    SUHA: After a long time, I discovered that.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Confused and fearing for her life, Suha left her husband and escaped to Lebanon by paying a smuggler to drive her and her two children across the border. She lives on the fifth floor of this rundown building with her 9-year-old son, Ra’ad, and daughter, Raghad, who’s four. Electricity is on only a few hours a day. So she has no refrigerator. Her biggest worry is her children’s safety.

    SUHA: This is miserable for the kids. They know there are guns everywhere, everywhere. Everywhere.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:  You want your children to grow up in peace?

    SUHA: Yes That’s what I want.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Suha is going to get her wish. A few months ago, an Italian Christian charity project called “Humanitarian Corridor” selected her family to resettle in Italy. The same people helped the Vatican choose three Syrian families to fly with Pope Francis from Greece to Italy in April. Giancarlo Penza is International Relations Director of the participating charity Comunita’ di Sant’Egidio.

    GIANCARLO PENZA: The Pope, he called us to choose the people. Twelve people. It’s a gesture. In order to show what he was doing is easy, is reasonable, and he’s right.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Humanitarian Corridor intends to transport 600 Syrian and Iraqi refugees from Lebanon to Italy during the next two years. The charity project screens the candidates, obtains hard-to-get “humanitarian” visas, and arranges their flights. Simone Scotta is a field officer for the NGO Mediterranean Hope. He helps run the project and initially interviewed Suha, who is on the list for the next airlift.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: This is the list?

    SIMONE SCOTTA: Yes, this is the list of 101 people that will leave in two days.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: 101 people?

    SIMONE SCOTTA: 101, yes.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: So, out of more than a million refugees here in Lebanon, it’s been narrowed to 101?

    SIMONE SCOTTA: Only 101 we can move. So yeah, these are the luckiest, maybe.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: The “luckiest” met certain criteria. They were considered especially vulnerable but also likely to assimilate in Italian society. Suha was a veterinarian back in Syria.

    SIMONE SCOTTA: She’s always worked in her life, and we are sure that she will find her way in Italy.

    SUHA: No. Some things are unknown to me — where I’m sleeping, the house, the area, the neighbors. But I think everything will be okay.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Have you packed your bags already?

    SUHA: Yes, yes, (laughs) yes.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Suha is giving away the few possessions she has to her fellow refugees.

    SUHA: One jacket for Ra’ad and one jacket for Raghad.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Most of what her family is taking fits in one suitcase.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: One change of clothes for yourself

    SUHA: Yes.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: And one change of clothes for each of your kids — that’s it?

    SUHA: Yes.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: That’s three lives inside of one suitcase?

    SUHA: Yes.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Mixed with the excitement is sadness. Suha has friends who desperately want a new start too…like Ghysa, who is also from Homs. Ghysa lost everything she owned in Syria and bares the scars of war; she was shot in the leg by a sniper. Not among the chosen, she’s staying behind in Lebanon.

    SCOTTA: We know many families. We just cannot help everybody, so we need to choose.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: What’s that like to say ‘no’?

    SCOTTA: Most of them they understand, because we explain to them in a very clear way like we have a tiny number, and there are people that deserve more help than you. Many of them understand, but other times people get pissed.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Tensions are high among refugees and within Lebanese society. Nora Jumblatt, a businesswoman and philanthropist in Beirut, says Lebanon has a long history of helping refugees in the region. But the welcome mat has worn thin.

    NORA JUMBLATT: We have to remember that we have Palestinian refugees. And we also have had an influx of Iraqi refugees at one point. It is a very difficult situation, and it is a very precarious situation, because the strain on the infrastructure — on water, on electricity, on jobs — is huge.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Syrian refugees are not officially allowed to work in Lebanon, but many do…mainly in construction and the service sector. This Lebanese jewelry store owner complains: Syrian refugees are hurting an already fragile economy.

    JEWELRY MAN: They’re impacting our medical care, and taking the aid that’s meant for the poor people of our country. They’re taking many things – from electricity to gas expenses – and taking it for a lesser price.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Refugees who relied on their savings to survive have found that after five years of war, their money is running out, and Syrian currency is worth much less than it used to be.

    OMAR, THE MONEY CHANGER: This one, it’s about 20 dollars before the war. Before the war, it’s 20 dollars. Now, it’s 2 dollars.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Omar’s money exchange store is on one of Beirut’s busiest shopping streets.

    OMAR: If you walk here, each two meters, three meters, there’s a little boy or a little girl and her mother.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: So little kids begging in the street?

    OMAR: Yeah, begging.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: This boy was begging for money to buy gum to resell on the street. He doesn’t go to school. Getting Syrian refugee children into school is one goal of Nora Jumblatt’s foundation, called Kayany. It has built “private” schools that can accommodate 25-hundred kids. But that’s a “fraction” of the need.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Why aren’t these Syrian children going to Lebanese public schools?

    NORA JUMBLATT: Because of lack of space. We have about 155,000 refugee children going to Lebanese public schools, however there are 350,000 that are still in need.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: 350,000 Syrian refugees who aren’t getting education?

    NORA JUMBLATT: Yes, who are not getting. And this is, of course, a very dangerous affair, because this is the future of Syria. These children should go back to build Syria.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: And that’s what the Lebanese are hoping for: the war to end, and the Syrians to return home. Suha wants that too. But for now, thanks to the charity project, she’s leaving with her children to start a new life in Italy…today.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Are the kids excited, ready to go?

    SUHA: More than me. Really.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: They take some last minute photos and say their goodbyes.

    CHILD: “Bye!’

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: When the family arrives at the first meeting point, they meet other refugee families on the “airlift.” Suitcases labelled…they board the bus for Beirut. Out the window, the Mediterranean Sea. Suha was once desperate enough to consider paying a smuggler to take them to Europe by boat. But her son Ra’ad, who’d seen stories on TV about children drowning said ‘no.’ And Suha agreed.

    They arrive in Beirut, where they meet still more refugees from Syria — families bound for different cities around Italy. And then another bus ride to the airport to catch their 4am flight.

    NATSOT SON RA’AD: “Italia! Italia! Hoo, hoo!”

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Two weeks later, I meet up with Suha in the riverside town of 10,000 people in Northern Italy where she and her children now live. For now, her family is sharing a one-bedroom apartment with an elderly Syrian woman who left Lebanon on the same Christian charity flight.

    SUHA:  I sleep here, and the old woman, with me here. This is my kitchen. Refrigerator.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: You have a refrigerator?

    SUHA: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: You’ve got a stove, you’ve got an oven. That’s important.

    There’s a big park behind their apartment where the children can play. They start school next week.

    SUHA: I want to have time to learn and to work.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Under Italian law, it will be a few months before Suha is eligible to work. She’s hoping to resume work as a veterinarian. In the meantime, the charity Mediterranean Hope is paying the rent and will give Suha’s family 780 dollars a month for at least the next six months. She says she would like to return to Syria … someday.

    SUHA: To find a solution in Syria, I think it’s far away. The most important thing is safeness. That’s what I feel. Everything else will come.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: From civil war in Syria, to a refugee camp in Lebanon, to a new beginning in Italy.

    SUHA: I hope good things will happen. I’m hopeful. Really.

    The post How Lebanon is coping with more than a million Syrian refugees appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour is seen in this undated handout photograph by the Taliban. The U.S. military carried out an air strike on May 21, targeting Mansour in a remote area of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, the Pentagon said. Taliban Handout via Reuters

    Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour is seen in this undated handout photograph by the Taliban. Handout via Reuters

    HANOI, Vietnam — President Barack Obama said Monday that the violent death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour by a U.S. airstrike should send a “clear signal” to anti-American extremists that “we’re going to protect our people.”

    Obama also said Mansour’s death was an “important milestone” in the yearslong effort to bring peace to Afghanistan.

    “It has been confirmed that he is dead,” Obama said Monday during his first visit to Vietnam. “He is an individual who, as head of the Taliban, was specifically targeting U.S. personnel and troops inside of Afghanistan” who Obama sent there to help counter terrorism and help train Afghan troops.

    Mansour was killed when a U.S. drone fired on his vehicle in the southwestern Pakistan province of Baluchistan, though it was unclear whether the airstrike took place on Friday or Saturday. He had emerged as the successor to Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, whose 2013 death was only revealed last year.

    Obama authorized the attack and was briefed before and after it was carried out, aides said.

    Speaking at a news conference following his meeting with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, Obama said the fatal attack on Mansour did not represent a change in U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan, which is to help train Afghan forces. Obama ended the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014.

    “We are not re-entering the day-to-day combat operations that are currently being conducted by Afghan security forces,” Obama said. “Our job is to help Afghanistan secure its own country, not to have our men and women in uniform engage in that fight for them.”

    “On the other hand, where we have a high-profile leader who has been consistently part of plans and operations to potentially harm U.S. personnel and who has been resistant to the kinds of peace talks and reconciliation that ultimately could bring an end to decades of war in Afghanistan, then it is my responsibility as commander in chief not to stand by, but to make sure that we send a clear signal to the Taliban and others that we’re going to protect our people.

    “And that’s exactly the message that has been sent,” Obama said.

    Mansour was chosen to head the Afghan Taliban last summer after the revelation of Omar’s death in 2013. The Taliban is the most powerful insurgent group in the war-ravaged country, where an estimated 11,000 civilians were killed or wounded and 5,500 government troops and police officers died last year alone.

    The Taliban seized power in 1996 and ruled Afghanistan according to a harsh interpretation of Islamic law until the group was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

    Almost 15 years later, about 13,000 troops are in the country from a U.S.-NATO coalition, including around 9,800 Americans. While they are mostly focused on training and helping Afghan government forces battle the insurgency, about 3,000 troops are conducting counterterrorism operations against the Taliban and the extremist groups al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

    In a written statement issued before the news conference, Obama said Mansour’s death marked an “important milestone in our longstanding effort to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan.” Obama said Mansour had rejected Afghan government efforts to engage in peace talks with the Taliban with the goal of ending violence that has killed thousands. He called on the organization to choose the path toward peace.

    “The Taliban should seize the opportunity to pursue the only real path for ending this long conflict – joining the Afghan government in a reconciliation process that leads to lasting peace and stability,” Obama said.

    ___

    Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post Obama: Taliban leader’s death a ‘milestone’ for Afghan peace appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama (right) and his Vietnamese counterpart Tran Dai Quang review the honor guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam on May 23. Photo by Kham/Reuters

    U.S. President Barack Obama (right) and his Vietnamese counterpart Tran Dai Quang review the honor guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam on May 23. Photo by Kham/Reuters

    HANOI, Vietnam — U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday lifted a half-century-old ban on selling arms to Vietnam, looking to bolster a government seen as a crucial, though flawed partner in a region that he has tried to place at the center of his foreign policy legacy.

    Obama announced the full removal of the embargo at a news conference where he vowed to leave behind the troubled history between the former war enemies and embrace a new era with a young, increasingly prosperous nation. Obama steered clear of harsh condemnation of what critics see as Vietnam’s abysmal treatment of dissidents, describing instead modest progress on rights in the one-party state. Activists said his decision to lift the embargo destroyed the best U.S. leverage for pushing Vietnam on abuse.

    “At this stage, both sides have established a level of trust and cooperation, including between our militaries, that is reflective of common interests and mutual respect,” Obama said. “This change will ensure that Vietnam has access to the equipment it needs to defend itself and removes a lingering vestige of the Cold War.”

    Obama also had more current motivations. His move was the latest step in a yearslong and uneven effort to counter China’s influence in Asia. Obama’s push to deepen defense ties with a neighbor was certain to be eyed with suspicion in Beijing, which has bristled at U.S. engagement in the region and warned officials not to take sides in the heated territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

    Obama claimed the move had nothing to do with China, but made clear the U.S. was aligned with the smaller nations like Vietnam.

    The United States and Vietnam had mutual concerns about maritime issues and the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, he said. While the Washington doesn’t take sides, he said, it does support a diplomatic resolution based on “international norms” and “not based on who’s the bigger party and can throw around their weight a little bit more,” a reference to China.

    China outwardly lauded the lifting of a U.S. arms embargo, saying it hoped “normal and friendly” relations between the U.S. and Vietnam are conducive to regional stability. A spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said bans are a product of the Cold War and shouldn’t have existed.

    China itself remains under a weapons embargo imposed by the U.S. and European Union following 1989’s bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

    For Vietnam, lifting the arms embargo was a psychological boost for Vietnam’s leaders. The United States partially lifted the ban in 2014, but Vietnam pushed for full access as it tries to deal with China’s land reclamation and military construction in nearby seas.

    It was unclear whether striking the ban would quickly result in a boost in arms sales. Obama said that each deal would be reviewed case by case, evaluated based on the equipment’s potential use. But he said he no longer believe a ban based on “ideological division” was necessary.

    “There’s been modest progress on some of the areas that we’ve identified as a concern,” Obama said, adding that the U.S. “will continue to speak out on behalf of human rights we believe are universal.”

    Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang embraced the chance to enter a new era in U.S-Vietnamese relations. He praised the expansion in security and trade ties between “former enemies turned friends” and, standing next to Obama before reporters, called for more U.S. investment.

    Ahead of the visit, in what was seen as a goodwill gesture, Vietnam granted early release from prison to a prominent dissident Catholic priest.

    Some U.S. lawmakers and activists had urged the president to press the communist leadership for greater freedoms before lifting the arms sale embargo. Vietnam holds about 100 political prisoners and there have been more detentions this year. In March, seven bloggers and activists were sentenced for “abusing democratic freedoms” and “spreading anti-state propaganda.” Hanoi says that only lawbreakers are punished.

    “In one fell swoop, President Obama has jettisoned what remained of U.S. leverage to improve human rights in Vietnam — and (has) basically gotten nothing for it,” Phil Robertson, with Human Rights Watch, said.

    Obama’s arrival in Hanoi late Sunday made him the third sitting president to visit the country since the end of the war. The trip comes four decades after the fall of Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City, and two decades after President Bill Clinton restored relations with the nation.

    Obama also made the case stronger commercial and economic ties, including approval of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that is stalled in Congress and facing strong opposition from the 2016 presidential candidates. The deal, which includes Vietnam, would tear down trade barriers and encourage investment between the countries that signed it.

    Critics worry it would cost jobs by exposing American workers to low-wage competition from countries such as Vietnam.

    Obama and Quang earlier attended a signing ceremony celebrating a series of new commercial deals between U.S. and Vietnamese companies valued at more than $16 billion. The deals included U.S. engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney’s plans to sell 135 advanced engines to Vietnamese air carrier Vietjet, and Boeing’s plans to sell 100 aircraft to the airline.

    ___

    Associated Press correspondent Foster Klug wrote this report. AP writer Nancy Benac contributed to this story.

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    A Syrian army soldier and civilians inspect the damage after explosions hit the Syrian city of Tartus, in this handout picture provided by SANA on May 23. SANA/Handout via Reuters

    A Syrian army soldier and civilians inspect the damage after explosions hit the Syrian city of Tartus, in this handout picture provided by SANA on May 23. SANA/Handout via Reuters

    A series of explosions targeting government strongholds in Syria killed at least 78 people on Monday, state media reported. The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility.

    The explosions, including suicide bombings, hit the coastal cities of Tartus and Jableh. At least one suicide bomber detonated explosives in a crowded bus station in Tartus, according to Syria’s SANA news agency. Another explosion struck near a bus station in Jableh, killing dozens.

    Russia has a naval base in Tartus and an air base in Latakia province, also on the coastline. Insurgents maintain a presence in rural Latakia, according to the Associated Press.

    “We will not be deterred. … We will use everything we have to fight the terrorists,” said Syrian Cabinet minister Omran al-Zoubi on Syrian TV, reported the AP.

    A one-sentence statement on the Islamic State-linked Aamaq news agency said the militant group claimed responsibility.

    The post Coordinated blasts hit Syrian government strongholds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses the audience at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan. Photo by Alvin Baez/Reuters

    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses the audience at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan. Photo by Alvin Baez/Reuters

    LOS ANGELES — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is breaking with the Obama administration and House lawmakers over a plan to restructure Puerto Rico’s $70 billion in debt, saying the legislation would make “a terrible situation even worse.”

    The Vermont senator writes in a letter released Monday that the deal reached last week between the White House and House Republicans and Democrats would empower an “unelected and undemocratic oversight board” and allow the governor of Puerto Rico to slash the minimum wage to $4.25 an hour for up to five years.

    “We must stop treating Puerto Rico like a colony and start treating the American citizens of Puerto Rico with the respect and dignity that they deserve,” Sanders wrote in a letter to Senate colleagues.

    “At a time when the people of Puerto Rico are suffering, the legislation introduced in the House would make a terrible situation even worse,” he wrote.

    Sanders trails Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the presidential primaries and both are competing in the upcoming June 5 Puerto Rican caucuses. Clinton has outperformed Sanders among Latino voters during the primaries.

    Sanders has been virtually absent from Senate proceedings during his lengthy primary campaign but his opposition could complicate the measure’s future after careful negotiations between the White House and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

    Ryan, R-Wis., has said the bill would avoid an eventual taxpayer bailout and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has called it a “tough bipartisan compromise.” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi also supports the agreement.

    Puerto Rico, which has struggled to overcome a lengthy recession, has missed several payments to creditors and faces a $2 billion installment, the largest yet, on July 1. Two government agencies have been under a state of emergency and many businesses have closed, schools have lacked sufficient resources like electricity and some hospitals are limiting treatment.


    Sanders warned that the control board would have the power to cut the budget, slash pensions and take other measures. He notes that most of the control board would be chosen by Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

    Puerto Rican officials have argued for a less powerful board that could not control the island’s finances.

    Republicans say the legislation would force the control board to both consider creditors and also find a way to fund pensions. The Puerto Rican government has underfunded pensions by more than $40 billion.

    Sanders said the legislation “looks out for the needs of Wall Street vulture funds first and foremost. That is unacceptable.”

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    In a 7-1 decision Monday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Timothy Foster who was sentenced to death for murdering a white woman, a conviction handed down from an all-white jury selection. Photo by Molly Riley/Reuters

    In a 7-1 decision Monday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a black Georgia death row inmate who was sentenced to death for murdering a white woman, a conviction handed down from an all-white jury. Photo by Molly Riley/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has thrown out a death sentence handed to a black man in Georgia because prosecutors improperly kept African-Americans off the jury that convicted him of killing a white woman.

    The justices ruled 7-1 Monday in favor of death row inmate Timothy Tyrone Foster in underscoring the importance of rules they laid out in 1986 to prevent racial discrimination in the selection of juries.

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

    Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court that Georgia “prosecutors were motivated in substantial part by race” when they struck African-Americans from the jury pool.

    But the court did nothing to limit lawyers’ discretionary decisions to reject potential jurors, a practice that the late Thurgood Marshall once said would allow racial discrimination to persist in jury selection,

    The outcome probably will enable Foster to win a new trial, 29 years after he was sentenced to death.

    Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, saying he would have respected the decisions of state judges who sided with prosecutors and rejected Foster’s claims.

    When the case was argued in November, the justices did little to hide their distaste for the tactics employed by prosecutors in north Georgia. Justice Elena Kagan said the case seemed as clear a violation “as a court is ever going to see.”


    Still, Georgia courts had consistently rejected Foster’s claims of discrimination, even after his lawyers obtained the prosecution’s notes that revealed prosecutors’ focus on the black people in the jury pool. In one example, a handwritten note headed “Definite No’s” listed six people, of whom five were the remaining black prospective jurors.

    The sixth person on the list was a white woman who made clear she would never impose the death penalty, according to Foster’s lawyer, Stephen Bright. And yet even that woman ranked behind the black jurors, Bright said.

    The court was not persuaded by the state’s argument that the notes focused on black people in the jury pool because prosecutors were preparing to defend against discrimination claims. The Supreme Court’s ruling about race discrimination in jury selection was about a year old when Foster’s case went to trial, the state said. The 1986 decision in Batson v. Kentucky set up a system by which trial judges could evaluate claims of discrimination and the explanations by prosecutors that their actions weren’t based on race.

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    Costco had been voluntarily labeling its mechanically tenderized beef before USDA required it in May 2016. Photo by Lydia Zuraw/Kaiser Health News

    Costco had been voluntarily labeling its mechanically tenderized beef before USDA required it in May 2016. Photo by Lydia Zuraw/Kaiser Health News

    A new label on some of the steaks in your grocery store highlights a production process you may have never heard of: mechanical tenderizing.

    This means the beef has been punctured with blades or needles to break down the muscle fibers and make it easier to chew. But it also means the meat has a greater chance of being contaminated and making you sick.

    The labels are a requirement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that went into effect this week.

    “Blade tenderized,” that label might read, followed by safe cooking instructions: “Cook until steak reaches an internal temperature of 145°F as measured by a food thermometer and allow to rest for 3 minutes.”

    Here’s how it can make you sick: If pathogens like E. coli or salmonella happen to be on the surface of the steak, tenderizing transfers those bacteria from the surface to the inside. Since the inside takes longer to cook and is more likely to be undercooked, bacteria have a higher chance for survival there.

    And without a label, you can’t tell if you need to be especially careful with your steak.

    “It doesn’t look any different,” said a spokesperson for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. “It’s not filled with holes from the needle piercings.”

    Mechanical tenderizing is not an unusual occurrence. FSIS estimates that 2.7 billion pounds or about 11 percent of the beef labeled for sale has been mechanically tenderized. The new labels will affect an estimated 6.2 billion servings of steaks and roasts every year, according to FSIS.

    The label on "blade tenderized" beef sold at Costco recommends 160 degrees as the minimum internal temperature, which doesn’t require a 3-minute rest time. Photo by Lydia Zuraw/Kaiser Health News

    The label on “blade tenderized” beef sold at Costco recommends 160 degrees as the minimum internal temperature, which doesn’t require a 3-minute rest time. Photo by Lydia Zuraw/Kaiser Health News

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tracked six outbreaks of foodborne illness since 2000 that were attributable to mechanically tenderized beef products prepared in restaurants and consumers’ homes.

    In 2009, 21 people in 16 states were infected with the most common strain of dangerous E. coli called O157. Nine had to be hospitalized, and one victim developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially fatal kidney disease. USDA food safety officials connected the illnesses to blade-tenderized steaks from National Steak and Poultry, and the company recalled 248,000 pounds of beef products.

    “We need to improve how we tell consumers and the food service workers about the particular risks that would be involved in cooking it so that they can reduce the risk of illness,” said Patricia Buck, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention, a nonprofit advocacy group. Mechanical tenderizing is not an unusual occurrence. Buck, who has been pushing for the labeling rule since 2009 said she’s “very excited” to see it happening. “I think it’s an important step in the direction we need to go.”

    The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association “worked closely” with USDA on the label, said spokesman Chase Adams. “We will continue to work with them to provide helpful guidance for our members.”

    Before the label became a requirement, Costco had been voluntarily labeling its meat. According to Consumer Reports, the grocery giant began labeling its mechanically tenderized beef in 2012 after an E. coli outbreak in Canada was linked to their blade-tenderized steaks.

    Consumer advocate Buck lost her toddler grandson to an E. coli O157 infection in 2001. “I don’t like scaring people,” she said, “but on the other hand, people don’t really know that these can be really deadly pathogens.”

    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website.

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    A night view of the old houses surrounded by new apartment buildings at Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China, April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song - RTX2CX26

    A night view of the old houses surrounded by new apartment buildings at Guangfuli neighbourhood in Shanghai, China. Photo by Aly Song/Reuters

    Editor’s Note: For 31 years now, Paul Solman’s reports on the NewsHour have aimed to make sense of economic news and research for a general audience. Since 2007, our Making Sen$e page has vowed to do the same, turning to leading academics and thinkers in the fields of business and economics to help explain what’s interesting and relevant about their work. That includes reports and interviews with economists affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research.

    Making Sense/NBER logo

    Each month, the NBER Digest summarizes several recent NBER working papers. These papers have not been peer-reviewed, but are circulated by their authors for comment and discussion. With the NBER’s blessing, Making Sen$e is pleased to feature these summaries regularly on our page.

    The following summary was written by the NBER and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Making Sen$e.


    Insights about the economics of cities have been developed largely from studies in the United States and Europe. But do these insights apply with equal force in the developing world, where in coming years the majority of the world’s urban population will reside? The authors of “What Is Different About Urbanization in Rich and Poor Countries? Cities in Brazil, China, India, and the United States” explore whether key concepts about the patterns of urbanization in wealthy, largely Western nations apply more generally.

    READ MORE: An explanation for the rise in CEO pay? Stable option grants

    Juan Pablo ChauvinEdward GlaeserYueran Ma and Kristina Tobio focus on three concepts: spatial equilibrium, the notion that differences in wages are offset by differences in costs of living and amenities across metropolitan areas; human capital externalities, the proposition that the productivity of workers of similar characteristics is larger in better-educated areas; and agglomeration economies, which suggest that urban density and proximity increase productivity and local economic success. They find limited support for the spatial equilibrium concept in developing nations, but they find evidence in favor of both human capital externalities and agglomeration economies.

    urbanization

    The researchers test for spatial equilibrium by investigating if rents rise when earnings rise, if real wages decrease when natural amenities are more desirable and if income is uncorrelated with self-reported happiness. They find exceptions to all three of these predictions of spatial equilibrium. Rents respond strongly to earnings in the U.S., Brazil and China, but not at all in India. In the U.S., real wages are lower in areas with the natural amenity of temperate climate, with average temperatures near 70 degrees Fahrenheit. But the researchers find no relationship between climate and real wages in India or China, and in Brazil, real wages are higher in more temperate areas, primarily because nominal wages are much lower in Brazil’s hottest regions. There appears to be a positive income-happiness relationship across Chinese and Indian metropolitan areas, but less so in U.S. cities.

    Agglomeration effects are observed in all four countries, but they were noticeably stronger in India and strongest in China, especially with regard to area density. Human capital is strongly associated with earnings in all four countries. The effect was stronger in Brazil, China and India than in the U.S.

    READ MORE: Minority students get a boost from high-achievement classes

    Skills appear to matter for urban success, and agglomeration increases productivity in all four countries studied. But the data from the United States are noticeably more consistent with spatial equilibrium than the data from Brazil, China or India. Why? One explanation, say the researchers, is that “the spatial equilibrium framework is not particularly relevant in poor, traditional economies, where human-capital heterogeneity is enormous and people remain rooted to the communities of their birth… It seems quite possible that spatial equilibrium emerges with development as human capital becomes more widespread and as people turn to markets instead of traditional social arrangements

    — Deborah Kreuze, National Bureau for Economic Research

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    People attend the 75th Annual Peabody Awards in New York, U.S. May 21, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz  - RTSFCBL

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Over the weekend, the “NewsHour” was proud to accept the George Foster Peabody Award, the highest in broadcast journalism, for our coverage of the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe, a series we have called Desperate Journey.

    Since he began covering those stories last summer, special correspondent Malcolm Brabant has brought us into the lives of people fleeing war and terror, often at unimaginable personal risk, as they sought new homes in Europe.

    The stories were the work of a team of correspondents and producers here, but none so important as Malcolm himself, who accepted the award on the program’s behalf.

    Because he’s based overseas, few of us here at the “NewsHour” had ever even met Malcolm in person, until today.

    So, I’m particularly happy to have him join me now.

    And it is so wonderful to have you here, Malcolm.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Thank you very much.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And congratulations.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Thanks a lot.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you first started reporting for us just about a year ago. You were in Europe in the very beginnings of this refugee — it was then a problem in Europe. You did some reporting for Greece, but you went on to cover this story in all of its dimensions.

    Malcolm, did you have any idea in the beginning just what it was going to become?

    MALCOLM BRABANT: I certainly had no idea it was going to be as enormous as this.

    When I started reporting from Greece, most of the refugees were coming to a holiday island called Kos. But I heard about that this nearby island about six hours’ journey away by boat, it was called Lesbos, was starting to receive people.

    And so I went up there. And I had heard that there was this strange Englishman called Eric Kempson who was looking out for the boats and who was helping refugees on the beaches. And he was my guide to start with.

    And we have this most extraordinary morning, when we saw a boat in the distance, and we had to drive like crazy about 100 kilometers, 70 miles an hour, through Greek lanes to get to the beach in time, as this rubber raft arrived.

    And it was biblical almost. It was like something out of Exodus, seeing these people swarming onto the beaches just not knowing what they were going to expect. And the joy on their faces was unbelievable. And what was extraordinary was seeing the reaction of some of the Greeks who were there, because these are a people, the Greeks, who have also experienced what it’s like to flee from war.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: And it was very heartwarming to see them sort of carrying out what they call philoxenia, which is unconditional kindness and welcomes to strangers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And this was at a moment when Greece had been through its own terrible financial crisis. People were in a — many people didn’t know where their next — literally where their next meal was coming from, and yet they were welcoming these refugees.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Yes, because that’s in their nature, because they understand what it’s like to run away from war.

    They have been refugees. They have had to migrate to make living in countries — in places like New York, in Toronto, you have got all these great Greek communities, and they know what it’s like. And so they’re very sympathetic.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you watched it, Malcolm. You covered it in Greece. You covered it across Europe. And you saw attitudes change.

    Originally, the Europeans were welcoming, but then the fears of terrorism grew, and you saw a shift.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Yes.

    And I think that people were just simply overwhelmed by the numbers, and I think that there are some countries in Europe that resented Germany and Sweden, for example, for opening the — for saying that basically everybody was welcome.

    And I think perhaps, if Germany and Sweden hadn’t done that, then there might have been maybe a better welcome for some of these refugees. But taking in a million may not seem a lot in a continent of 500 million people. But the impact on nations like Sweden, for example, which is close to my home in Denmark, it’s really been quite enormous.

    And they are really struggling to accommodate the 160,000 people that they’re taking in, because you have to provide schooling, you have to provide housing. And there is some trouble in some of these asylum centers, too.

    The police, for example, say that they’re on their knees. And that’s one of the reasons why there has been this backlash.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the fears of terrorism are real in many instances, aren’t they?

    MALCOLM BRABANT: The numbers of people who have come with bad intent are probably minuscule.

    And I think the vetting process is now sort of much — is in place, but in the initial waves, Europe didn’t really know who was coming in. And so perhaps amongst all these millions of — a million people who came in, there might be maybe hundreds of bad guys. Who can tell?

    But it is the fear that it’s actually generating this big reaction and a fear of Islam as well, in many countries, especially Christian ones, which are predominantly Christian like Poland, Hungary, and also Slovakia, for example.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we’re certainly still watching it unfold. we don’t know what’s going to happen with the many people who are still kind of in limbo who haven’t been — who haven’t found a home yet.

    But I want to ask you for a minute, Malcolm, about your own personal story, because it wasn’t so very long ago you were working for the British Broadcasting Corporation. You were reporting from abroad for them. In fact, you were here in the U.S. for a while.

    You had your own personal crisis, and you wrote a book about it. But that’s another extraordinary story.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Well, it’s — this is a wonderful sort of comeback for me, in a way, because I thought that my career was finished. I thought it was completely over, because exactly five years to the day that we picked up the award on Saturday was the day I entered an insane asylum.

    I was taken into a secure, locked-up ward because I had gone mad. A few days earlier, I had taken — I had been given a drug called Stamaril, which is — it’s a yellow fever vaccine made by a company called Sanofi Pasteur. And it fried my brain. I was — I was in a — I had a really high fever for about 13 days.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Supposed to be a yellow fever vaccine. Right.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Yes, it is.

    And it’s supposed to protect you. But it devastated my brain. And it fried my brain, literally, affected the balance of it, and sent me mad. And I spent in total about a year-and-a-half in institutions, in locked-up wards, and because I went through various sort of times when I thought I was Christ, I thought I was the devil.

    I even thought that I was a suicide bomber. And, eventually, the drugs and the care and the wonderful techniques of the Danish doctors managed to bring me back. And, eventually, I managed to purge myself of all the chemicals, basically.

    And I was finally given an all-clear about two-and-a-half years ago. And I haven’t had a pill since. I haven’t had to go see a psychiatrist since. And I’m back perhaps even stronger than I was before, because it didn’t kill me. And it almost did kill me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you told us that it gave you a much better understanding of what those who are mentally ill may have to go through.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Absolutely.

    I hope that it — that this acts for some sort of inspiration for people who are stigmatized because of mental illness, because that happens. But — and I’m very grateful to the “NewsHour” for giving me this immense opportunity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Malcolm, we’re exceedingly grateful to you. And we wish you the best and look forward to your reporting.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Thank you very much, indeed. Thanks. I’m grateful to you.

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    Children look at the motorcade transporting U.S. President Barack Obama before an arrival ceremony at the presidential palace in Hanoi, Vietnam May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria  - RTSFGKL

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We return now to Vietnam.

    Relations between the United States and its former enemy have warmed since the end of the war more than 40 years ago. Now some Vietnamese who fled as children and became Americans have begun to go back. And the country they find is one transformed.

    From Ho Chi Minh City, special correspondent Mike Cerre reports.

    HENRY NGUYEN, IDG Ventures Vietnam: We got one of those calls early one morning from a friend who contacted the embassy. He said, the embassy car is coming, pack the family into the car, only have one bag, and get ready to go.

    QUYNH PHAM, Art Gallery Owner: My mother told me one story of how the Vietcong were coming after us and we had to just lie down and feign death basically. She told me that she covered all of us in other people’s blood.

    COL. TUAN T. TON, U.S. Army: If I look back, that’s probably one of the most dangerous parts of my life, because we see death every second we’re on that boat. My job was just scoop the water out all day long. And it was the fifth day, and I start passing out, because I didn’t eat for five days.

    MIKE CERRE: An estimated million-and-a-half Vietnamese have migrated to the United States since the end of the war, often at great personal and professional sacrifice. But for most first-generation Vietnamese-Americans there is little interest in coming back, save to visit relatives.

    But for a younger generation of Vietnamese-Americans who have little reference to either the war or the communist takeover, the draw of the new economy and the old culture is creating a reverse diaspora.

    HENRY NGUYEN: I wouldn’t say my parents were jumping for joy when they heard that I was interested in spending more time in Vietnam.

    MIKE CERRE: After fleeing Vietnam with his family when he was 2, Henry Nguyen’s parents worked multiple and often menial jobs as refugees in Northern Virginia in pursuit of the American dream for their children.

    Playing in rock bands and working at McDonald’s, Henry’s came true by going to Harvard and earning his medical degree and MBA at Northwestern.

    But, Henry, growing up in Fairfax, Virginia, you actually worked in a McDonald’s?

    HENRY NGUYEN: Yes. Yes.

    MIKE CERRE: Really?

    HENRY NGUYEN: Just part-time one summer. Like, it’s like every kid’s first summer job, right?

    WOMAN: Welcome to McDonald’s Vietnam.

    MIKE CERRE: Since moving back to Vietnam full-time 12 years ago, he’s now an owner of the first McDonald’s in Vietnam, the local pro basketball team, and runs one of the country’s largest venture capital funds as a V.C., an ironic twist on wartime shorthand for the Vietcong guerrillas, which overthrew his South Vietnam homeland.

    HENRY NGUYEN: Yes, but I want to make sure people understand that means venture capitalist. And, in some ways, it’s funny because even here you could argue that capitalism, because of socialist ideology, was kind of a dirty word.

    But, fundamentally, I think, if you really look at the underlying kind of culture and drive of people here, like, it’s always been very market-oriented anyway.

    MIKE CERRE: Henry’s initial motivation for coming back was to better understand the Vietnamese culture he largely ignored while growing up in America. He’s now married to the daughter of a former prime minister and raising his family here.

    What keeps him here are the professional challenges and opportunities in the new Vietnam.

    HENRY NGUYEN: There’s so many ways to really make a contribution, to make the life of people here in Vietnam better, to make the country better in terms of accelerating its development, and whether it’s the economy, whether it’s society, et cetera.

    QUYNH PHAM: I can totally see the influence like from Hopper.

    My mother, who I am very close to, she actually flat-out told me that I’m no longer her daughter if I come back to Vietnam. She has a different history from me. And I totally realize that she couldn’t fathom then her daughter, who she risked everything for.

    We fled this nation, and for me, as this conscious adult, to say, OK, wait a minute, I’m going to go back to this country that we fled from — I was really curious, and that was the reason why I came back to Vietnam.

    MIKE CERRE: Quynh Pham left a comfortable and prestigious job at an art institute in California to start a gallery of her own here in Ho Chi Minh City.

    QUYNH PHAM: This is a developing nation, and there aren’t many contemporary art galleries that work at this level in the country.

    MIKE CERRE: She believes the vibrant contemporary art scene is a reflection of Vietnam’s creative renaissance, as well as its economic emergence from nearly a century of colonization, war and unification.

    COL. TUAN T. TON: My father was a major in the South Vietnamese army and my wife’s father was a colonel in the Vietnamese air force.

    MIKE CERRE: Tuan T. Ton is a colonel in the United States Army. He moved back to Vietnam as the American defense attache, the U.S. military’s chief representative for our new defense agreements with the Vietnamese, to counter China’s expansion efforts in the South China Sea.

    COL. TUAN T. TON: When I left Vietnam, I never thought I would return here, because the image that imprint in my head was so deep, I pretty much looking forward to what America had to offer. And America definitely had offered a lot.

    And not until a few years ago, when I started working on Vietnam issue from Washington, D.C., I realize that it’s an opportunity for me to serve here in my new capacity.

    MIKE CERRE: He and his Vietnamese-American wife, Thu-Ha, live in this four-story villa the U.S. maintains for its defense attaches.

    This is pretty nice living for army living.

    THU-HA TON, Wife of Col. Tuan T. Ton: Yes. Pretty nice, the best we have ever lived in.

    MIKE CERRE: The best you ever live in the Army, obviously, over here.

    COL. TUAN T. TON: Yes, because we host a lot of foreign guests here.

    MIKE CERRE: Many of them recognize the South Vietnamese military insignias of their parents’ former units.

    COL. TUAN T. TON: I display that proudly. My Vietnamese counterparts see it. Here, it’s only American. And we just talk about history.

    MIKE CERRE: It has taken some time for the local Vietnamese to fully embrace the returning Viet Kieus, as the Vietnamese-Americans are known here.

    After nearly 40 years of tough economic times and living conditions since the war, the local Vietnamese are just now enjoying the benefits of peace and prosperity.

    COL. TUAN T. TON: I think people deserve it. There’s hardworking people here.

    QUYNH PHAM: It’s just unreal.

    I mean, when I first came back to Vietnam, Viet Kieu was — it was a derogatory term. So, Viet Kieu are considered people who left Vietnam. But it’s changed, this perception of who Viet Kieus are, because the government here, the people here see that we have been educated abroad. We have a more international, more global vision.

    We are able to bring these resources, these networks, this knowledge into this country. And they see that it’s contributing to economic growth, and so there’s much more support for what everybody is doing.

    HENRY NGUYEN: So many people from Vietnam now travel extensively. And, reciprocally, there’s so much more economic activity, so much many more people, whether it’s of Vietnamese origin or whether who are not of Vietnamese origin, have come to Vietnam and done business.

    And this country has changed dramatically, socially, politically, economically, you name it.

    QUYNH PHAM: Having certain freedoms in the U.S. and then coming back here and perhaps feeling a little bit more restricted, I don’t really feel we’re being hindered. I’m just very aware. And, at times, to be honest, I’m cautious. You have got this old communist ideology, but yet we have really embraced capitalism here.

    MIKE CERRE: As much as he enjoys living and working here, there’s no confusion in Colonel Ton’s mind over who he is.

    COL. TUAN T. TON: I’m an American officer. There’s no such thing as Vietnamese-American officer. It’s only an American officer. Over two-thirds of my life have been grown up in the United States. I served in the United States military. It’s where I belong.

    HENRY NGUYEN: I feel like my experience is not uncommon, in the sense of, I may have grown up in a time when I felt very isolated or separated from that identity, but now that I have lived here, wow, there is something special that we can be a part of, and this is still our country.

    MIKE CERRE: For the “PBS NewsHour,” Mike Cerre in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

    The post Vietnam’s new economy and old culture drawing back children of U.S. immigrants appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Sheriff deputies escort the family of police officer Edward Nero from the courthouse in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., May 23, 2016. Nero was acquitted on Monday of four charges in the 2015 death of black detainee Freddie Gray. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston     - RTSFL88

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: But, first, we return to Baltimore and the not-guilty verdict for a police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray.

    Debbie Hines was in the courtroom today. She’s a former Baltimore prosecutor who currently practices law in Washington.

    Thanks for joining us.

    Tell us first, I guess, what was the mood in the courtroom?

    DEBBIE HINES, Former Baltimore Prosecutor: Well, they made very clear before the judge even came out that there wasn’t to be any shouting, any emotions, and if you didn’t think you could contain your emotions inside the courtroom, then you needed to leave before the judge came out. So there wasn’t really any response inside a completely packed courtroom.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. What about Nero himself? What about the officer when he heard the verdict?

    DEBBIE HINES: I couldn’t see his expression because he’s from the back. I’m looking at him from the back, as all the spectators in the courtroom are.

    But there still wasn’t any emotion there. And you have to understand that the judge read about 20 minutes. It’s not just as it comes out in a jury verdict where it’s not guilty, not guilty, not guilty. He actually read a very long legal opinion describing each and every of the four counts and how he came to his conclusion.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, this is also in this specific individual case, right? This isn’t an automatic hall pass for all the officers. We already had one end up in a hung jury, and now we’re just talking about officer number two in this situation.

    DEBBIE HINES: Exactly. And that was one of the things that Judge Barry Williams made very clear when he went over methodically all the facts and the evidence that had been presented, that he actually said it might have been different when we get to the cases of Officer Miller and actually the case of the van driver, who, throughout the course of both trials, Officer Porter, as well as Officer Nero, everybody seemed to be putting a lot of blame on the van driver for the criminal actions.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about the decision here by Officer Nero to choose a bench trial instead of a jury trial?

    DEBBIE HINES: I was reading his lawyer’s account of that.

    And that, I think, was a superb decision in this case and in this case only. There is always a risk, because, generally — I do some criminal defense, and, generally, you want to have 12 people decide your fate, more than just one person.

    But a lot of the issues that are surrounding Officer Nero, they really evolved around legal issues and his facts as they fit into the legal issues and that’s where the burden of proof comes in. And so I think that his attorneys felt that his best shot was with having a bench trial and a judge who could look at the facts on the one hand, look at the elements of the law on the other hand, and make sure that they fit together, without showing any emotions as what would be likely or might be likely with a jury.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right, especially with a jury this kind of a heated climate. Maybe they might want to find him guilty of something before they let him out.

    DEBBIE HINES: Right.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, so how does the state prove that officers knew about the rules on how to belt down someone who was under arrest?

    It seems some of this case depends on whether or not somebody opened an e-mail.

    DEBBIE HINES: Well, it’s that.

    And then when I was looking over the written opinion from Judge Williams, he also went through a lot of discussing the van driver. And a lot of the regulations go to actually the van driver’s responsibility and his duty. And then there were the other officers that were involved. One was a lieutenant and their supervising officers.

    And so I think a lot of his decision in this case weighed heavily on Officer Nero was only a two-year, if you want to call a veteran — he was a rookie. He’s only been on the force for two years. And so, in this case, the facts are very fact-specific. There was an e-mail that went out several days before Freddie Gray’s arrest that basically that you have to seat-belt. It’s a mandatory seat-belting any detainees.

    And he was off that day. So it’s not even clear if he actually read it because he’s off that day. He’s not there and there was no evidence that it was presented in any role call.

    But I think the facts are very specific, and the judge wanted to point that out, as to what the awareness was with respect to Officer Nero in his case.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, so then we have got four more officers. This is…

    (CROSSTALK)

    DEBBIE HINES: Or really five, because they’re going to retry Porter.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Five, right. That’s right.

    So, this is a very long — give us the timeline. What’s kind of the next step now?

    DEBBIE HINES: OK.

    So, the next step — and this is really, really the biggest one. That’s going to be Officer Caesar Goodson. And he is the van driver, and his trial is June 6. And he is the most culpable.

    I think, whether you’re defense or you’re the prosecution, he’s the most culpable of all. And then the other officers that are staged after that, the trials are leading up all the way to September if all of them are tried.

    But I think what happened with Officer Goodson, who is the most culpable by even his fellow officers, I think that that’s going to make the determination of what happens ultimately in the other cases.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Debbie Hines, thanks so much.

    DEBBIE HINES: Thank you for having me.

    The post The implications of Baltimore police officer’s acquittal in Freddie Gray case appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    PoliMon

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to politics and the battle for the Democratic Party nomination.

    Senator Bernie Sanders is pushing hard in California, the state with the most Democratic delegates up for grabs.

    At a rally today in Los Angeles, he slammed both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for their big donors.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, Democratic Presidential Candidate: Secretary Clinton has several super PACs, and one of her largest super PACs have received many millions of dollars from Wall Street.

    (BOOING)

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Now, there is — with regards to Trump, this is really hysterically funny.

    (LAUGHTER)

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Trump is a multibillionaire, or so he tells us. We don’t know if it’s true or not.

    (LAUGHTER)

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: You know, he lies every day, so probably he’s broke. I don’t know.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hillary Clinton addressed the labor base of the party, speaking at the Service Employees International Union Convention in Detroit today. She also made a nod to campaign finance and pivoted to Trump.

    HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Candidate: We are coming to the end of the Democratic primaries. I applaud Senator Sanders and his supporters for challenging us. We are going to get unaccountable money out of politics. We are going to take on the crisis of income inequality. And we are going to unify the Democratic Party and stop Donald Trump.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that brings us to Politics Monday with Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    And welcome to you both this Monday.

    So, Tamara, this contest — we just heard Hillary Clinton talking about Trump, but Bernie Sanders is still talking about her. Where does this race stand? Over the weekend, he said to the effect, I need to be in this race because we don’t want people voting against — voting for the lesser of two evils, which didn’t sound like the greatest endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

    TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Well, he is definitely not ready to endorse Hillary Clinton at this point.

    And his supporters are very much still interested in seeing this play out. They don’t want a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton if they can avoid it. Mathematically, we should say, it’s almost certain, unless something dramatic happens, that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee.

    That’s why she moving on. She has hired staff in like — something like nearly a dozen swing states. I talked to one Sanders’ supporter, though, this — who was in Albuquerque at a rally. He said, if he had to choose between Donald Trump and Satan himself, he wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Oh.

    TAMARA KEITH: Which is to say that he will vote for Hillary Clinton, but he won’t be happy about it. And I heard a lot of that from Sanders supporters.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That also doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but it is a move in her direction.

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: But that’s what we’re seeing in the polls sort of overall, which is the reason that we have seen the polls tightening is the last time we were here talking about this, I said the number that I was paying much more attention to than how many endorsements Donald Trump was getting from Republican elites and officeholders was whether or not he was getting support from voters on the ground, right, the real people who show up and vote.

    And right now, we’re seeing the polls tightening because voters are starting to come home. Republican voters who earlier in April or in March were saying, I don’t know if I can vote for Donald Trump, now are saying they can vote for him.

    The expectation is, we will see the same thing on the Democratic side. But the other thing we’re seeing is that a majority of voters right now both on the Democratic side and the Republican side say they’re voting for their candidate not because they like that candidate. It’s because they dislike the other one so much more. It’s a vote against, rather than a vote for.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, and you’re talking about the numbers coming together for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

    TAMARA KEITH: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Are these numbers — numbers like that, Tamara, at this stage in a campaign, are these enduring numbers? Are they likely to stay?

    TAMARA KEITH: It’s a moment in time. And at this moment in time, Hillary Clinton is fighting on two fronts. Donald Trump is beginning to consolidate.

    Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s unfavorables among Bernie Sanders supporters are actually rising. And so you have this time where people who are polled are going to say, I don’t support Hillary Clinton.

    Now, I spoke to pollster Peter Hart earlier today. He has a new poll out, the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. He said only about 10 percent of Sanders supporters said they would eventually support a Republican or consider supporting a Republican, which means once — this will shake out some.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s my question, Amy. Again, we’re at May in the campaign. We have got six months to go.

    With high — we call them high unfavorables at this point, so high for Hillary Clinton and for Donald Trump, are these numbers, are they likely to give as people…

    AMY WALTER: That’s the real question, because we have never had in the history of these polls — Peter Hart has been doing the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll for a along time.

    He’s never seen — the Wall Street Journal the polls has never seen this. The ABC/Washington Post poll has never seen two candidates for president of the United States as unpopular as these two candidates. So we’re in uncharted territory.

    We normally say, if you’re a really well-known candidate and you have very high unfavorables, it’s not likely that people are going to change their perception of you between now and the election.

    But you have two really, highly disliked people who are eventually going to be the nominees, and you are going to have to pick one of them. So how voters get to that place is going to be interesting to watch for the next six months.

    A lot of people have sort of resigned themselves to who they’re voting for. Like Tamara pointed out, some of them are saying, well, it’s the lesser of two evils, but maybe they get there or maybe they stay home. That’s the thing that is going to be harder to track.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. I saw where someone working for Trump was saying what Hillary Clinton is going to have to do because of her high unfavorables is — quote — “to destroy Donald Trump.”

    But it seems to me that may have to be Donald Trump’s strategy as well.

    TAMARA KEITH: Yes, there might be some mutual destruction that goes on. And you have to wonder who is going to show up and vote.

    And it may be that this is an election where the negativity is what motivates people, rather than the joy of pulling the lever.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do we — let’s come back to the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders situation, Amy, because you heard Hillary today. We heard the comments she made about Donald Trump, but she was fairly positive about Bernie Sanders.

    She said, I applaud Senator Sanders for challenging us. We’re going to get, she said, an accountable — we’re going to get unaccountable money out of politics. We’re going to take on the crisis of income inequality.

    So, she is talking about his issues. He, meanwhile, is still criticizing her.

    AMY WALTER: Right.

    She is, as Tamara pointed out, fighting this two-front war. She can’t go on the attack for Bernie Sanders. You’re going to see, she barely mentions him. It’s all Trump all the time.

    The super PACs that Bernie Sanders talks about supporting her, they’re not going after Bernie Sanders. They’re going after Donald Trump as well. And so the real question is going to be post this primary process in June, not only what does Bernie Sanders do, but will the biggest spokesperson for the Democratic Party, President Obama, come out and start to try to make that unification?

    That, I think, is something you’re likely to see.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we should point out that Sanders himself and the people around him have begun to say that his main priority is defeating Donald Trump in the fall, so if he’s not the nominee.

    But we did learn today, Tamara, that they have named the members of the platform committee at the convention. This is where they will be talking about what the Democratic Party believes in. And there are a number of Bernie Sanders supporters on that committee.

    TAMARA KEITH: Yes. And I think this is a really important thing.

    Sanders’ campaign put out a statement saying they were happy that this had happened. The Clinton campaign put a statement saying, this is great. What is happening here is Bernie Sanders in a way is figuring out how to land the plane. And he is going to — he clearly wants to make an impact on this party platform and to be able to use that to say, look, look at what this movement has accomplished.

    The other thing he did in the last 48 hours is, he endorsed Tim Canova, who is a candidate for Congress running against Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chairman.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The chairman.

    TAMARA KEITH: And he did a fund-raising e-mail. It was a money bomb for Canova.

    And Sanders, we believe, is going to start doing this for other down-ballot candidates, which is part of making this about more than just nominating Bernie Sanders.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But that may not earned the friendship forever of the chair of the…

    (CROSSTALK)

    AMY WALTER: No, of the chair of the DNC.

    And the offer to — just imagine what this — for both sides what these conventions are going to look like. You have Paul Ryan, who chairs the Republican Convention, who has not yet endorsed Donald Trump, who may have to preside over a convention that he’s not supporting the front-runner.

    And you have the DNC chairwoman in a fight with the person who’s not the nominee, but will certainly a role to play in this process, which goes to show again that this has been a roiling of the two parties. It’s obviously much more significant on the Republican side, but I think, at the end of the day, this is just the beginning of what we’re seeing as either major or minor breaks in the two parties and their makeups.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And it may be true to say that the likes of which we have never seen before, and that will continue to be case.

    AMY WALTER: That’s very true, because, every week, we’re going to say that, every week.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.

    TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

    The post In 2016, is it ‘who are you voting for,’ or ‘who are you voting against?’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Newspapers containing news about Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour are on display at a stall in Peshawar, Pakistan, May 23, 2016.  REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz             FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. - RTSFJQ3

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The man who led the Afghan Taliban for the past year was killed in a U.S. operation over the weekend. The group had been gaining ground and waging a bloody war against the Afghan government.

    So, what’s next for the Taliban, and the countries who fight it?

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner begins our coverage.

    MARGARET WARNER: Smoldering wreckage on a Pakistani roadside was all that remained of the Taliban commander’s vehicle hours after he died in it Saturday.

    Today, in Vietnam, President Obama officially announced a U.S. drone strike killed Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It has been confirmed that he is dead. And he as an individual who, as head of the Taliban, was specifically targeting U.S. personnel and troops inside of Afghanistan.

    MARGARET WARNER: Mullah Mansour took over the Afghan Taliban last summer, after the group finally announced that longtime leader Mullah Omar had died in 2013. The new leader faced down rivals, in part by rejecting Afghan- and U.S.-backed peace talks.

    Under his direction, Taliban forces briefly seized the Northern Afghan city of Kunduz last September, and carried out a bloody assault in Kabul itself in April, killing 64.

    Word of his death was welcomed by Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah:

    ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, Chief Executive, Afghanistan (through interpreter): He was in charge of all terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, and he had direct contact with other terrorist networks. This will bring a big change in the Taliban condition. His death is a blow to their abilities in carrying out terrorist attacks against the Afghan people.

    MARGARET WARNER: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani signaled that the Taliban leader’s death could also open the door to renewed peace talks. The drone strike that killed Mansour was the first by the U.S. inside Baluchistan, in Southwestern Pakistan. It’s long been a Taliban stronghold.

    In London yesterday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack, saying the U.S. gave no advance warning.

    NAWAZ SHARIF, Prime Minister, Pakistan (through interpreter): We are protesting strongly. This is a violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan.

    MARGARET WARNER: But Afghanistan’s government accuses the Pakistanis of harboring a veritable who’s-who of most wanted terrorists.

    GEN. DAWLAT WAZIRI, Spokesman, Afghan Defense Ministry (through interpreter): The Haqqani Network is in Pakistan. Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden were in Pakistan, and now Mullah Mansour was killed in Pakistan’s Baluchistan. It would be better if Pakistan cooperated with Afghanistan and didn’t give shelter to these people who are continuing the war in Afghanistan.

    MARGARET WARNER: Pakistani authorities say a passport found near the drone strike wreckage shows Mansour had just returned from Iran. Officials there denied the claim.

    Meanwhile, the already-fractured Taliban is scrambling to close ranks. Senior leaders met today, and speculation over a successor centers on Mansour’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, a warlord seen as even more brutal than Mansour.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Margaret Warner.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: We take a closer look at what this means for Afghanistan moving forward with Riaz Mohammad Khan, a former Pakistani diplomat who also served as that country’s foreign minister, and Barnett Rubin. He was a senior adviser at the U.S. State Department from 2009 to 2013.

    Riaz Khan, I want to start with you. Who was Mullah Mansour? What do we know about him?

    RIAZ MOHAMMAD KHAN, Former Pakistani Diplomat: Well, Mullah Mansour was an important leader under Mullah Omar.

    And after a long struggle, he was being recognized as the leader of the Afghan Taliban. Of course, now he’s dead. And this is going to lead to another round of divisive struggling for leadership within the Taliban.

    But apart from that, I think it will be a setback to the so-called quartet process. Secondly, I think we can anticipate a spike in violence, because, knowing the character of the Afghan Taliban, some of the factions, they would want to avenge this. And there may be some violence within Afghanistan or in Pakistan.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Barnett Rubin, what about the significant of this happening in Baluchistan?

    BARNETT RUBIN, Former State Department Official: Well, first, it’s important to recognize that this was — the decision to undertake this act was inspired by the need to protect American soldiers, not by a strategic decision about the course of the Afghan war or Afghanistan.

    What is important about striking Baluchistan is, Baluchistan is the province in Pakistan where the headquarters of the Afghan Taliban is located, primarily in the city of Quetta. And we have known that for a very long time.

    But the United States used drones. Mostly, it was the CIA using drones against terrorists with global reach, like al-Qaida or those closely connected to al-Qaida, in the tribal areas of Pakistan. And they had agreed with the military of Pakistan there were certain areas where they could use those drone strikes.

    Now, this strike was carried out by the United States special forces in Afghanistan, which means it’s not part of the CIA’s anti-terrorism campaign. It’s part of the war in Afghanistan. So they have extended the territory of the war of Afghanistan into Baluchistan, which also puts Pakistan in a deservedly very difficult position, because it shows that the leader of the Taliban was driving a taxi across Baluchistan without apparently being concerned about his security, which shows that the top leadership of the Taliban operates with impunity in Pakistan, which we all knew, of course, and means that their complaints about violating their sovereignty are null and void, because they are constantly violating the sovereignty of Afghanistan by sponsoring military incursions and terrorist acts have.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Riaz Khan, what about the idea that there is a level of complicity? Mullah Mansour also had a fake Pakistani passport. What is the relationship between the intelligence agencies in Pakistan and what they do they know and what are they willing to tolerate with leadership of the Taliban?

    RIAZ MOHAMMAD KHAN: Well, first, I would like to say that this shows — this incident shows, apart from the question of sovereignty, that the United States didn’t trust Pakistan.

    There is no confidence. There is no transparency, which is necessary for cooperation in such matters. But as far as complicity is concerned, the Taliban, many — most of the Taliban, they have come to Pakistan — had come to Pakistan after the American intervention. And many of them have got passports.

    It wouldn’t be surprising if he also can use Pakistani passport. There are five million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. And many of them, they have become part of the Pakistani society. But there is this disconnect between Pakistan and the United States in terms of confidence which is necessary.

    Secondly, I should say that a lot of blame is placed on Pakistan ISI, others, et cetera, for the troubles in Afghanistan. But there is — it ignores the fact of failure policy; it ignores the fact of error of judgment, like, for example, Iraq.

    There is a great deal of mess over there. Now, there is no ISI and Pakistan over there. It had been a failure of policy. Similarly here, the failure of policy goes even back to the voting process, where the Taliban, reconcilable Taliban, should have been brought into the fold of the voting process, but that didn’t happen.

    There have been other mistakes, like, for example, the control of Kabul was left to the Northern Alliance forces, which were mostly non-Pashtun. That rankled with the Pashtun. And that helped, in fact, the Taliban revive themselves later on.

    And that kind of imbalance even continues today in the Afghan national army. And that is the reason why it is not that effective in the Pashtun-dominated areas of Afghanistan.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Barnett Rubin, as Mr. Khan just mentioned, what about the diplomatic and political implications about the fact that there wasn’t any sort of a signal given, any permission asked before this strike was launched, the level of distrust that exists between these two countries?

    BARNETT RUBIN: Well, first, I will just say, I agree with my friend Riaz Mohammad Khan that there were a lot of policy mistakes by the United States, in particular missing early opportunities to include the Taliban in the setup Afghanistan, so that they would have not fled to Pakistan.

    Now, your question was, if you can repeat it?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Sorry.

    I was just asking, what about the level of distrust between these two countries?

    BARNETT RUBIN: Oh, yes.

    Well, the United States has had experiences where, when they have given advance notice to Pakistan about a counterterrorism action, that somehow the target of that action escapes.

    And clearly, you know, of course there are lots of Afghans in Pakistan and some of them have Pakistani passports. But it certainly strains credulity to believe that a very effective intelligence service, such as Pakistan has, wouldn’t be aware of the location of the leader of Afghan Taliban, who apparently not only went to Iran, but flew 18 times out of the international airport at Karachi, according to the stamps in his passport.

    So, clearly, since he was clearly under their protection, and they also provided security for him to be elected and for him to hold large gatherings last summer to try to build support for himself, and as they even told us that they were trying to make sure he could consolidate power, they certainly didn’t want to give them advance warning that they were going to make this attack.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Barnett Rubin, Riaz Mohammad Khan, thank you both.

    The post With killing of top mullah, what’s next for the Taliban in Afghanistan? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (L) next to Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang (2nd L) during welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Kham - RTSFH4J

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

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And I’m Hari Sreenivasan. Gwen Ifill is away this week.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On the “NewsHour” tonight:

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It is my responsibility as commander in chief not to stand by, but to make sure that we send a clear signal to the Taliban and others.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Calling the action an important milestone for peace, President Obama confirms a U.S. drone strike kills the Afghan Taliban leader — what this means for the fight against the terror group.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Also ahead this Monday: As candidates head West, our Politics Monday team breaks down the latest in the race for the White House.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Plus, during President Obama’s trip to Vietnam, we take a look at the generation who moved back after escaping the atrocities of war with their parents.

    QUYNH PHAM, Art Gallery Owner: My mother, who I am very close to, she actually flat-out told me that I’m no longer her daughter if I come back to Vietnam.

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

    (BREAK)

    HARI SREENIVASAN: A historic moment in Hanoi today. The United States formally dropped its prohibition on selling weapons to Vietnam. It highlighted the dramatic turnaround in relations between the two former enemies.

    John Yang has our report.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This change will ensure that Vietnam has access to the equipment that it needs to defend itself and removes a lingering vestige of the Cold War.

    JOHN YANG: In Hanoi, President Obama officially ended the more-than-four-decades old arms embargo.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: At this stage, both sides have established a level of trust and cooperation, including between our militaries, that is reflective of common interests and mutual respect.

    JOHN YANG: That mutual respect was on full display during the first of Mr. Obama’s three days in Vietnam. He was greeted at the presidential palace by a military honor guard. At night, hundreds of people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the president as he left a noodle shop.

    The warming extends to commerce, too: American and Vietnamese companies signed deals worth $16 billion. Lifting the arms embargo reflects growing U.S. concerns about China’s military buildup and territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. China’s efforts to exert more naval control over shipping lanes in the sea is troubling to both the United States and Vietnam.

    While acknowledging the shared concerns, Mr. Obama said ending the embargo was about warming relations between two former foes.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The decision to lift the ban wasn’t based on China or any other considerations. It was based on our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving towards normalization with Vietnam.

    JOHN YANG: China’s immediate response was muted, but human rights groups said Vietnam was getting a reward it didn’t deserve. They have long criticized Vietnam’s communist regime for repressing dissidents. Even as he praised the two nations’ reconciliation, President Obama underscored differences over democracy and human rights. Tomorrow, he meets with Vietnamese dissidents.

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

    HARI SREENIVASAN: We will focus on the phenomenon of Vietnamese Americans returning home later in the program.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Iraq, government troops have launched a much-anticipated offensive to retake Fallujah from Islamic State fighters. The city about 40 miles west of Baghdad has been under the militant group’s control since January 2014. Today, Iraqi forces pushed their way into nearby farming areas. They were backed by U.S. coalition airstrikes and paramilitary troops.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Islamic State bombings in Syria killed nearly 150 people today and wounded at least 200 more. Five suicide attackers and two car bombs hit government strongholds in the coastal cities of Jableh and Tartus. That area is home to Russian military bases.

    ISIS also claimed responsibility for twin bombings in Yemen that killed at least 45 people there. The victims had gathered at army recruiting centers in Aden.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The leader of an anti-immigrant party in Austria came within a whisker today of being elected president. His support showcased rising opposition both to migrants and to the European Union.

    James Mates of Independent Television News reports.

    JAMES MATES: Austria held its breath. Much of Europe held its breath. The country interior minister walked solemnly to the podium to declare whether the far right had made the biggest electoral breakthrough since World War II.

    By just 31,000 votes out of 4.5 million, Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party had been kept out of the presidential palace, conceding defeat on his Facebook page, but promising supporters he will be back. The country’s new president is the mild-mannered economics Professor Alexander van der Bellen backed originally by the Greens, but then by everybody as they tried to keep the far right out.

    So Europe will breathe a sigh of relief, but cannot ignore the biggest lesson here, the collapse of the center and the rise of the extremes of both left and right. Centrist politicians who face wipeout point out it’s far from just an Austrian problem.

    Should the rest of Europe be worried about this?

    JAN KRAINER, Social Democrat MP: I think the entire Europe should worry about what is going on in the entire Europe, without specifically looking into in one country. It’s not that what is going on in Austria is so much different from what is going on in very many other European countries.

    JAMES MATES: At a party in a Vienna beer garden last night, Norbert Hofer was prematurely celebrating victory, but 49.7 percent of the vote is hardly a defeat.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Center-left parties have dominated Austrian politics since World War II, but they were eliminated in last month’s first round of voting.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Back in this country: The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the murder conviction for a death row inmate in Georgia because of racial bias in picking his jury. Timothy Foster was convicted in 1987 of murdering an elderly white woman. The high court ruled 7-1 that state prosecutors violated the Constitution when they excluded blacks from his jury. Foster is now eligible for a new trial.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A Baltimore policeman was acquitted today in the death of Freddie Gray, an incident that sparked riots in the city last year. A judge found officer Edward Nero had little to do with Gray’s arrest and death in custody. Nero still faces an internal police investigation. In all, six officers were charged in the case. The trial of the first ended in a hung jury. We will examine the verdict and its implications later in the program.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: A major takeover bid today in the farm chemicals industry. Germany’s Bayer offered to buy Monsanto for $62 billion. The Saint Louis seed giant specializes in crop seeds and the widely used weed killer Roundup. Any deal would be subject to a federal regulatory review of how it affects farmers and consumers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street, a quiet day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost eight points today to close below 17493. The Nasdaq fell three points and the S&P 500 slipped four.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And swarms of insects are now threatening the Taj Mahal in India. Millions of flies are breeding in a polluted river that’s nearby, and they’re leaving behind green and black waste. That’s forced crews to scrub the 17th century monument daily. Officials warn all that scrubbing will damage the building’s famed marble inlay work.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And still to come on the “NewsHour”: the Taliban’s top leader taken out in Pakistan; a shift to the general election, even as Bernie Sanders campaigns in California; what an acquittal means for a Baltimore police officer in the death of Freddie Gray; and much more.

    The post News Wrap: Warm embrace of Obama sign of how far Vietnam-U.S. relations have come appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald testifies about "The State of VA Health Care" as he appears at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. in 2014. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald testifies about “The State of VA Health Care” as he appears at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. in 2014. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said Monday that the VA should not use wait times as a measure of success, comparing waits for VA health care to the hours people wait for rides at Disney theme parks.

    “When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important? What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience?” McDonald said during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Monday. “And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure.”

    McDonald’s comments set off a political firestorm, with Republicans denouncing the remarks as inaccurate and inappropriate.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called McDonald’s comments “flippant” and said they show “just how seriously the Obama administration’s VA is taking life or death problems” at the agency.

    “This is not make-believe, Mr. Secretary. Veterans have died waiting in those lines,” Ryan said on Twitter.

    McDonald took office in July 2014 after his predecessor was forced out amid a scandal over chronically long wait times at VA health care sites and reports that as many as 40 patients died while awaiting care at the Phoenix VA hospital. Similar problems were discovered at VA health sites nationwide, along with a widespread practice among VA employees of creating secret lists to cover up the long wait times and receive VA bonuses.

    “There is nothing amusing about VA’s performance over the past few years, and comparing VA wait times to those of an amusement park is just plain wrong,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House veterans panel.

    “Wait times are of critical importance to the veterans waiting for VA medical care and they should be to Secretary McDonald as well,” Miller said. “Unfortunately, nearly two years after McDonald took over at VA, the department’s wait-time rhetoric doesn’t match up with the reality of veterans’ experiences.”


    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a longtime veterans’ advocate, called McDonald’s comment “outrageous and completely inappropriate,” especially since McDonald himself is an Army veteran.

    “Our veterans aren’t in line for a theme park ride — they are in desperate need of timely access to quality medical treatment,” McCain said. “The VA secretary’s statement reflects a fundamental lack of understanding about the serious problems plaguing veterans’ health care.”

    Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said McDonald was “playing the role of ‘Dumbo’ in his very own ‘Fantasyland.’ Disney does, in fact, monitor how long its customers wait in line because they have the astonishingly simple belief that serving their customers quickly and efficiently is the best measure of overall performance.”

    The group’s president, Tom Schatz, said in a statement that McDonald “seems ‘Frozen’ in the past, incapable of understanding that if veterans do not get an appointment in a timely manner, it could cost them their lives.”

    VA spokeswoman Victoria Dillon said in a statement late Monday that officials know that veterans are still waiting too long for care.

    “In our effort to determine how we can better meet veterans’ needs — knowing that their satisfaction is our most important measure — we have heard them tell us that wait times alone are not the only indication of their experience with VA and that’s why we must transform the way we do business,” Dillon said.

    The post VA chief compares wait times for veteran care to Disney park lines appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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