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- 05/23/16--18:18: _Head of TSA securit...
- 05/24/16--04:38: _After narrow loss, ...
- 05/24/16--04:45: _Sanders: Democratic...
- 05/24/16--05:27: _Obama pushes for be...
- 05/24/16--05:45: _When a foster child...
- 05/24/16--08:42: _Missouri Sen. Blunt...
- 05/24/16--09:37: _Are solar-powered s...
- 05/24/16--15:45: _What firing of TSA ...
- 05/24/16--15:50: _News Wrap: Califor...
- 05/24/16--15:52: _VA chief: ‘I deeply...
- 05/25/16--04:05: _Protests turn viole...
- 05/25/16--05:39: _Here’s why states w...
- 05/25/16--06:03: _Could Medicare’s dr...
- 05/25/16--06:11: _A veteran makes art...
- 05/25/16--06:45: _Trump mocks child p...
- 05/25/16--07:15: _State Department em...
- 05/25/16--08:45: _Ask the Headhunter:...
- 05/25/16--08:59: _Rare bipartisan dea...
- 05/25/16--09:48: _Taliban names new l...
- 05/25/16--10:28: _Government wastes b...
- 05/23/16--18:18: Head of TSA security operations removed from position
- 05/24/16--04:45: Sanders: Democratic convention could be ‘messy’
- 05/24/16--05:27: Obama pushes for better rights in Vietnam after arms deal
- 05/24/16--08:42: Missouri Sen. Blunt calls on Veterans Affairs secretary to resign
- 05/24/16--09:37: Are solar-powered smartphones on the horizon
- 05/24/16--15:45: What firing of TSA security chief means for summer travel
- 05/24/16--15:52: VA chief: ‘I deeply regret’ wait-time comparison to Disney
- 05/25/16--04:05: Protests turn violent outside Trump rally in New Mexico
- 05/25/16--05:39: Here’s why states want to make it tough to skip childhood vaccines
- 05/25/16--06:03: Could Medicare’s drug pricing plan give regulators too much power?
- 05/25/16--06:11: A veteran makes art from fishing lines, and he’s blind
- 05/25/16--06:45: Trump mocks child protester at chaotic NM rally
- 05/25/16--07:15: State Department email audit faults Hillary Clinton
- Is he happy to see you?
- Is she glowing?
- Is he confused?
- Is she smiling?
- Is he disgusted?
- Don’t make the candidate wait in the lobby, and don’t send a clerk to meet her.
- Welcome him yourself and personally take him into your office.
- Thank her for accepting your invitation and taking the time to visit.
- Be glad to see him.
- Don’t let anyone process her — no forms until after your meeting.
- Don’t run him through a gauntlet of administrative lackeys.
- Don’t waste her time with tests until you’ve demonstrated your company is worth working for.
- Don’t challenge him. Your goal is to recruit him.
- Explain your interest in her — don’t play 20 questions.
- Make him feel like a valued guest.
- Get to know her.
- Stimulate his professional interests and goals.
- Offer your honest opinion of the prospects of working together.
- Thank her again.
- 05/25/16--09:48: Taliban names new leader after U.S. airstrike
- 05/25/16--10:28: Government wastes billions of dollars on old computers, report says
WASHINGTON — A House committee said Monday that the head of security operations at the Transportation Security Administration has been replaced.
“Kelly Hoggan has been removed from his position as head of security at TSA,” the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform posted on Twitter.
Meanwhile, The Associated Press obtained a memo sent from TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger that does not mention Hoggan but names an acting replacement.
“Darby LaJoye will serve as the Acting Assistant Administrator of the Office of Security Operations,” Neffenger wrote in the memo addressed to TSA senior leaders. “Darby LaJoye is an experienced Federal Security Director with successful leadership tours at two of the nation’s largest airports, Los Angeles International Airport in California and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.”
The oversight committee said Hoggan received more than $90,000 in bonuses over a period from late 2013 to late 2014.
About a year later, a report from the Homeland Security Inspector General’s office revealed that agency employees failed to find explosives, weapons and other dangerous items in more than 95 percent of covert tests at multiple U.S. airports.
That report and allegations of other mismanagement within TSA have drawn congressional scrutiny and promoted multiple hearings on Capitol Hill.
Hoggan’s ouster also comes amid growing concerns of massive security lines at airports this summer. The long lines have been blamed in part on more travelers during the busy summer travel season and a shortage of screening officers manning checkpoints.
Neffenger has also attributed some security line woes to fewer people than anticipated applying for the government’s PreCheck program, which allows passengers to move through security faster after submitting to a background check.
In recent weeks there have been reports of thousands of people missing flights because of the lengthy wait times. Problems have been reported in Chicago and Neffenger last week was in the city meeting with local officials to discuss the problems.
In his memo Wednesday, Neffenger said, “At Chicago O’Hare International Airport, a new leadership team is now overseeing screening operations.”
He said that and other adjustments, including the LaJoye appointment, “will enable more focused leadership and screening operations at critical airports in the national transportation system.”
The TSA did not say where Hoggan has been reassigned.
Associated Press reporter Alicia A. Caldwell wrote this story.
The post Head of TSA security operations removed from position appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
VIENNA — The right-wing candidate who narrowly lost to a left leaning rival in the Austrian presidential election urged his supporters Tuesday to respect the result and show tolerance to those with different political views.
With only a little more than 30,000 votes determining who won, however, his Freedom Party held open the option of asking for a recount.
Norbert Hofer was ahead after polls closed Sunday. But a count of more than 700,000 absentee ballots completed Monday swung the result and the final count showed Alexander Van der Bellen as the winner with 50.3 percent, compared to 49.7 percent for Hofer.
Hofer’s party had not ruled out calling for a recount of the absentee votes going into a meeting Tuesday. Speaking afterward, Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache said the party had received substantial “diverse information” on possible irregularities.
“One can only say after an evaluation whether there is anything to it … of substance,” Strache said, adding that a recount would be demanded only if the probe revealed “anomalies” that could have decided the outcome.
Sunday’s voting was viewed Europe-wide as a proxy fight pitting the continent’s political center against its growingly strong populist and Eurosceptic movements. The outcome was cheered by the continent’s established parties, while Europe’s right hailed what it cast as a major political surge by one of its own.
Like the right elsewhere on the continent, Hofer’s Freedom Party has turned from past polemics to exploiting anti-EU sentiment and fears of a migrant invasion to gain political strength.
The party’s first head after World War II was a former Nazi officer but anti-Semitic outbursts by leading members has now become a thing of the past.
At the same time, the Freedom Party continues to count the extreme-right fringe among its supporters while gaining in appeal to mainstream voters frustrated by what they view as the inability of established parties to deal with migration, unemployment and other concerns.
Mindful of the international consternation over his strong showing, Hofer on Tuesday sought to dispel worries.
“The FPO is not an extreme-right party,” he said. “An extreme right-wing party might have achieved a 2 percent result in Austria.
“We are a center-right party with a high degree of social responsibility. And that’s why it was possible to achieve 50 percent of the votes in this election.”
Hofer asked all “Austrians to stick together,” joining efforts by Van der Bellen to overcome the ideological divisions that led to the close contest.
“We are all Austrians,” he said. “And there’s room for many opinions in Austria. And that’s also the essence of democracy — which is that there are people who have different convictions.”
Van der Bellen, a former Greens party leader who ran as an independent, quit the party after his win was announced, and declared that both political camps together make up “this beautiful Austria.”
Associated Press video journalist Philipp Jenne contributed to this report.
The post After narrow loss, right wing Austrian presidential candidate urges unity appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
LOS ANGELES — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and his push to make the party more inclusive could get “messy” but asserts in an interview with The Associated Press: “Democracy is not always nice and quiet and gentle.”
The Vermont senator, campaigning Monday ahead of California’s primary against Hillary Clinton, said his supporters hope the party will adopt a platform at the summer convention that reflects the needs of working families, the poor and young people, not Wall Street and corporate America.
Sanders said he will “condemn any and all forms of violence” but his campaign was welcoming political newcomers and first-time attendees of party conventions. He said the Democratic Party faces a choice of becoming more inclusive or maintaining the status quo.
“Democracy is not always nice and quiet and gentle but that is where the Democratic Party should go.”
Asked if the convention could be problematical, Sanders said: “So what? Democracy is messy. Everyday my life is messy. But if you want everything to be quiet and orderly and allow, you know, just things to proceed without vigorous debate, that is not what democracy is about.”
Sanders is vying for support ahead of California’s June 7 primary, a day that also includes contests in Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota. Clinton has 271 more pledged delegates than Sanders and is just 90 delegates shy of clinching the nomination when the total includes superdelegates, the party officials and elected leaders who can support the candidate of their choice.
Some Democrats have grown weary about the length of the primaries, worried that it could give Republican businessman Donald Trump a head start on the general election and make it more difficult for Democrats to unite behind a nominee. The issue gained attention when a recent Nevada Democratic convention turned raucous.
Sanders said he was “bothered” by the portrayal of the Las Vegas convention, saying it did not turn violent as some media reports indicated. “There was rowdyism. There was booing, I think inappropriately by the way,” he said.
The senator spoke after the Democratic National Committee announced a 15-member platform drafting committee, which will write the first draft of the party platform. The panel includes allies of both candidates.
“A serious debate about serious issues is good for democracy, is good for the Democratic Party. It will increase voter turnout and that always works in our effort to defeat Republicans,” he said.
He declined to entertain the possibility of being considered as Clinton’s running mate, saying he was focused on winning the nomination. “If I don’t, we will see what happens later on.” But he reiterated that he would do “everything that I can” to ensure that Trump is not elected president.
Sanders said he had a “shot” at winning the California primary against Clinton and said, given his delegate deficit, it was “imperative” that he perform well. He estimated his rallies around the state would allow him to speak directly to 200,000 voters before the primary.
“What happens if I win a major victory in California? Will people say, ‘Oh, we’re really enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton despite the fact that Bernie Sanders has now won whatever it may be, 25 states, half the states?'” he said.
If that happens, he added, superdelegates “may rethink that. That is why you want the process to play out.”
Clinton’s campaign said Monday she would not participate in a proposed California debate, choosing instead to campaign in the state. Sanders said at an evening rally in Santa Monica he was “disturbed but not surprised” that Clinton had “backed out” of the debate, which was part of an agreement the campaigns reached with the DNC earlier this year.
Sanders also looked ahead to the future of his political movement, saying his goal was “the transformation of the Democratic Party. To be a party which is a grassroots party where the main energy comes from working families, from trade unionists, from environmentalists, from people today who want real political and social and economic and environmental changes in our society.”
HANOI, Vietnam — President Barack Obama on Tuesday pressed Vietnam to allow greater freedoms for its citizens, arguing that better human rights would improve the communist country’s economy, stability and regional power.
On his second full day in the southeast Asian nation, Obama also met with activists and entrepreneurs as part of a push for closer ties with the fast-growing, strategically crucial country. The visit included the lifting of one of the last vestiges of Vietnam War-era antagonism: a five-decades-old arms sale embargo.
In a speech at the National Convention Center, Obama sought to balance a desire for a stronger relationship with Vietnam with efforts to hold its leadership to account over what activists call an abysmal treatment of government critics.
Nations are more successful when people can freely express themselves, assemble without harassment and access the internet and social media, Obama said.
“Upholding these rights is not a threat to stability but actually reinforces stability and is the foundation of progress,” Obama told the audience of more than 2,000, including government officials and students from five universities across the Hanoi area. “Vietnam will do it differently than the United States does … But there are these basic principles that I think we all have to try to work on and improve.”
Journalists and bloggers can “shine a light on injustice or abuse” when they are allowed to operate free of government interference or intimidation, he added. And, stability is encouraged when voters get to choose their leaders in free and fair elections “because citizens know that their voices count and that peaceful change is possible. And it brings new people into the system,” Obama said.
Obama also traced the transformation of the U.S.-Vietnamese relationship, from wartime enemies to cooperation. He said the governments are working more closely together than ever before on a range of issues.
“Now we can say something that was once unimaginable: Today, Vietnam and the Unites States are partners,” he said, adding that their experience was teaching the world that “hearts can change.”
Earlier Tuesday, Obama met with six activists, including a pastor and advocates for the disabled and sexual minorities. He said several others were prevented from coming. “Vietnam has made remarkable strides in many ways,” Obama said, but “there are still areas of significant concern.”
Obama also referred in the speech to China’s growing aggression in the region, something that worries many in Vietnam, which has territorial disputes in the South China Sea with Beijing.
Obama got a round of applause when he declared that “big nations should not bully smaller ones,” an allusion to China’s attempt to push its rivals out of disputed territory. Obama said the United States will continue to freely navigate the region and support the right of other countries to do the same.
As Obama paused before one statue, a guide explained that if he wanted to have a son, he should pray to her.
“I like daughters,” Obama replied.
Shifting from the historical to the modern, Obama also stopped by the Dreamplex business complex in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, a space for startup entrepreneurs that fits with Obama’s message about the potential benefits of closer ties to Vietnam’s growing economy and its burgeoning middle class.
Obama visited with several entrepreneurs at the modern Dreamplex, learning about a virtual game that helps people recover from nerve injuries and a smart phone that can serve as a laser cutter. But Obama cautioned that you have to “be careful where you point it.”
The meeting gave him another chance to promote the benefits of what he says will be enhanced trade under a 12-nation trade deal that is stalled in Congress and opposed by the leading U.S. presidential candidates. He said the pact, if approved, will accelerate economic reforms in Vietnam, boost its economic competitiveness, open up new markets and improve labor and environmental standards.
During his address, he said the agreement would give Vietnamese workers the right to form labor unions and would prohibit forced and child labor. He also predicted it would lead to greater regional cooperation.
“Vietnam will be less dependent on any one trading partner and enjoy broader ties with more partners, including the United States,” Obama said.
The post Obama pushes for better rights in Vietnam after arms deal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Steffi Green’s toy room is more crowded – and organized – than most. Clear tubs brimming with colorful toys stacked to the ceiling are labeled “stuffed animals,” “Nerf toys” and “crafts.”
She’s collecting gifts, with contributions from the greater Charleston, South Carolina, community, for children living in group foster homes.
Green learned that when the children are moved into foster care, they usually can’t bring anything with them, not even their toys.
So she and her husband Ben Wong started Birthdays for All, a nonprofit that works with the South Carolina Department of Social Services, to ensure that all children in group foster care are remembered on their birthdays. They get wish lists from the children and try to fulfill those wishes.
Schools, Girl Scout troops, and other groups and individuals provide the presents, and Green throws “wrapping parties” at her home.
“I like doing it that way, because then I can raise awareness about the state of foster care,” and talk to the adults about possibly becoming foster parents, said Green.
In its one year of operation so far, Birthdays for All has given presents to 350 children in Charleston, Berkley and Dorchester counties.
The community gift-givers are given basic information about the children: their first name and last initial, their date of birth, and their present of choice.
Sometimes a certain wish list will touch her heart, Green said. There was the 11-year-old boy who asked for a stress ball. A wheelchair-bound girl asked for a soft lap blanket.
“Generally speaking, the requests are modest: Legos, arts and crafts, things like that. No one’s asked for computer games,” she said.
Green has set up the charity at a time when the South Carolina foster care system is grappling with challenges. In 2015, child advocate groups filed a lawsuit in federal court against South Carolina for alleged incidents of mistreatment and abuse of children in its foster care system.
In response, the state Department of Social Services is working to recruit more individual foster families, and made other changes, including issuing a mandate that the youngest foster children will no longer be placed in group homes.
“We support the fact that children, especially young children, should be raised in a family,” said Barbara Kelley-Duncan, CEO of the Carolina Youth Development Center, a group home for abused, neglected and abandoned children in Charleston.
Her organization takes in children when the Department of Social Services cannot find foster care homes in the community. Under the new mandate, her group home will no longer accept children under age 6 — and eventually those under age 12.
During the transition, the South Carolina Department of Social Services said each child under age 6 must have an extra staff member present 24 hours a day to play and interact with them, said Kelley-Duncan. The ratio for older children is one staff person for every 10 children. “All children get individual attention (at the home). But a child 6 and under can get lost,” she said.
One of the reasons South Carolina’s foster children end up in group homes at a rate higher than the national average is because the stipend for foster parenting is “very low” in the state, Kelley-Duncan said.
The daily basic payment that foster parents in South Carolina receive is $11.07-$14.17, according to a 2013 report from Child Trends.
Comparing the amount to other states in the region, North Carolina’s payment is $15.62-$20.84 and Tennessee’s is $23.26-$27.28.
Groups such as Green’s Birthdays for All helps ease the burden on foster caregivers.
Even if they’re just getting a gift card for a department store, the teenagers can get clothes similar to their friends, said McDougall.
“There’s already the stigma of being in foster care in their core group or at school. They want to dress like other kids, but they don’t have the money to have the same clothes, or have a cellphone, or in-style tennis shoes that everybody’s wearing,” she said. Equipped with the donated gift cards, they can go to a store and buy whatever they want.
“They feel they’re not forgotten,” she continued. “I think that is really the best thing that we can do for our kids, just give them hope that they may be going through something right now, but things can only get better.”
The post When a foster child has a birthday, this group makes sure they open a gift appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — A Republican senator is calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald to resign after McDonald compared long wait times at VA health care sites to waiting in line at a Disney amusement park.
Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said McDonald’s “preposterous statement is right out of Never-never land” and said the VA leader has shown he cannot ensure that veterans receive health care in a timely manner.
“Dismissing wait times when veterans can often wait months for an appointment is negligent and a clear sign that new leadership is needed at the VA,” Blunt said.
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. McDonald said a veterans’ health-care experience was more important than the time spend waiting for an appointment.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called McDonald’s comments “disgusting and beyond the pale,” although he stopped short of calling for McDonald to step down.
“This is not make-believe. This is not Disneyland, or Wonderland, for that matter,” Ryan told reporters. “Veterans have died waiting in line for their care.”
There was no immediate comment from the VA on Tuesday. On Monday, VA spokeswoman Victoria Dillon put out a statement acknowledging that veterans are still waiting too long for care and that “we must transform the way we do business.”
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers of Washington state, a member of the Republican leadership, said McDonald’s comments were hard to believe. “When you go to Disneyland, you aren’t wondering if you are going to live long enough to make it to Space Mountain,” she said.
Republicans said McDonald’s comments were especially egregious since he took office in 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.
McDonald should clarify his comments and “show some empathy for our veterans that he is supposed to serve,” Ryan said.
The post Missouri Sen. Blunt calls on Veterans Affairs secretary to resign appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Solar-powered streetlights and parking meters are not hard to find, nor are photovoltaic panels that deliver energy to houses and factories. These advances beg a big question: Will we ever be able to use the sun to power our ubiquitous smartphones and other mobile gadgets instead of plugging them into the grid every night?
The answer depends not only on efficiency gains in photovoltaic cell technology but also on where those cells are placed on our devices and where we store them—many of us keep our smartphones stuffed in a pocket or handbag for much of the day, out of reach of the sun’s energy.
To be sure, there has been some progress. At the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona this year, Japanese cell phone maker Kyocera Corp. for the second year running showed off a prototype of a 12.7-centimeter solar-powered phone. The so-far nameless device allows for a minute of talk time for every three minutes of sunlight—a big improvement over the company’s 2015 predecessor, which offered only 15 minutes for every two hours of solar charging.
To develop the phone Kyocera worked with France-based Sunpartner Technologies, which produces translucent film impregnated with photovoltaic cells. Being see-through, the film can be installed between the LCD display and the touch screen so that the phone can charge more easily while in use. Most previous efforts at solar-powered phones had the cells on the back, meaning that the device had to be facedown to get a charge and that the cells, being external, could more easily be damaged.
Kyocera says it expects to bring its solar-powered smartphone to market soon, possibly in time for the next Mobile World Congress in February 2017. The company says solar charging will not add much in the way of cost, so the phones are likely to have a price tag that is acceptable to users and the carriers that sell the handsets. Kyocera spokesman John Chier adds that the technology will most likely show up in one of its lines of phones geared for industrial or outdoor use. If they do become a hit, expect more gadget makers to follow suit.
Another trick is to design a photovoltaic cell that allows visible light to pass through while collecting energy from infrared and ultraviolet radiation.“The idea is to not even notice that you are recharging your phone,” says Vladimir Bulović, associate dean for innovation at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s School of Engineering. Bulović, Richard Lunt of Michigan State University and former Lemelson–MIT Prize winner Miles Barr have used technology they developed to co-found Ubiquitous Energy, a Bay Area start-up developing transparent solar cells.
Bulović says greater efficiencies can be gained from the photovoltaics that power handheld consumer gadgets—but not much more at this point. “Sunlight only gives you so much energy; we can’t change that,” he says. “We’ve worked on improving solar cell efficiency over and over again. The very best solar cells are already running at the limit of expected physical performance.”
Those “very best” cells are close to becoming cost-competitive with fossil fuels such as coal in some applications but are themselves expensive and impractical for consumer electronics—hence Kyocera’s interest in the film.
“You want something that can be reasonably efficient at a reasonable cost so it doesn’t change the paradigm of what your cell phone costs,” Bulović says.
Lunt’s team at Michigan State’s College of Engineering is developing a transparent luminescent solar concentrator that can be applied over an area as big as a window or as small as a smartphone display. The material picks up infrared and ultraviolet light and channels it to the edges, where photovoltaic cells convert the light to electricity.
Despite all the technical progress, solar-powered phones face another limitation that has more to do with user behavior—specifically how long people have their phones outside of their pockets, backpacks or purses and in the light, Bulović says. Making solar-charged phones more practical “would require a change in habits,” he adds.
Bulović suggests that new handset configurations may solve some of those problems. One possibility: phones that come with an extendable solar sheet that rolls out for charging, then retracts when done.
But nothing is assured in this market. Back in 2009 Samsung introduced the Blue Earth phone—which featured a solar charger—but soon withdrew it. A Samsung spokesman says Blue Earth was a “limited production” phone that was never sold in the U.S. Nokia in 2012 abandoned a project to develop phones with a solar charger built into the back cover, saying it simply was not practical and demand was limited.
HARI SREENIVASAN: If you have traveled on a plane recently, you have likely seen something different at the airport, extremely long lines. It’s a problem roiling the government, airlines and the public.
WOMAN: One on the right, one on the left, please.
HARI SREENIVASAN: At airports across the country, frustration is boiling over as security wait times soar.
MAN: I have missed three flights because of, you know, standing in line.
WOMAN: Look at the chaos that goes on here, and every checkpoint is like this.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Now the Transportation Security Administration has sacked Kelly Hoggan, the man in charge of day-to-day security operations. He’s had a checkered three-year tenure. In 2015, a Homeland Security report found TSA employees failed to find banned items in more than 95 percent of covert tests.
And there’ve been allegations that Hoggan played a role in punishing whistle-blowers. Then there’s $90,000 in bonuses he received between 2013 and 2014. That issue riled the chair of the House Oversight Committee at a recent hearing with TSA head Peter Neffenger.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), Utah: Those bonuses were given to somebody who oversees a part of the operation that was in total failure.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Dissatisfaction with Hoggan came to a head last week, when hundreds of passengers missed flights at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport after waiting for hours.
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D), Chicago: We have a situation that is totally not tolerable for the flying public because the people responsible were not doing the jobs that they needed to do in funding, but also staffing positions.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The TSA’s Neffenger says his agency has struggled with budget cuts at a time when more people are flying. Another concern? Relatively few people signed up for TSA’s expedited pre-check procedure. Congress has voted an additional $34 million to hire nearly 800 more screeners, but Neffenger says that’s not enough.
Today, the union for TSA one called for an additional 6,000 personnel. Meanwhile, with summer about to begin, the number of airline passengers is expected to reach all-time highs.
We break down the problem now with Bart Jansen, transportation reporter for USA Today.
I flew out of O’Hare last week, not once, but twice. What was going on? And these were lines that I have never seen anything this long.
BART JANSEN, USA Today: They were having among the worst experience in the whole country last week. They had waits that stretched to two, three hours.
And that is why they started to throw these extra staffers and canine teams at that problem.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, so, what is at the core of the staffing issue? What happened and what is going to fix it?
BART JANSEN: Well, there is a confluence of three elements.
One is that overall staffing for screeners is down something like 5,800 screeners since a peak in 2011. So, they have about 42,500, but it’s much fewer than they used to. That I.G. report that found that they weren’t catching much last summer has prompted them to check bags more thoroughly, so they’re taking a closer look at you as you go through the lines.
They’re going to redo that undercover investigation this summer to see if they’re catching more. Neffenger says they are catching more. And we are also seeing more travelers than ever before. The Airlines for America expects 231 million travelers this summer between June 1 and August 31.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But what’s the ripple effect on the traveler? When we saw and heard those people say how many flights that they have missed, cumulatively, this has got to be a lot of business concerns for the airlines, too.
BART JANSEN: Yes, the concerns — it’s a headache for the airlines, because anybody who misses a flight, trying to rebook them, the flights are going almost 90 percent full. It’s difficult.
American Airlines said that during a single week in mid-March, they had 6,800 travelers miss their flights because of the security screening. So, that’s why Airlines for Americas organized a hashtag and Web site called I Hate the Wait for people to register just to try to get more public acknowledgment of the problem.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes, speaking of registering, we were talking off camera about Global Entry. I signed up a few years ago. I was going through the TSA pre-check lines. How many other people are joining me in this, and how does that factor into it?
BART JANSEN: Overall, there are somewhere a little above 10 million people in expedited screening programs so far.
About 2.5 million of them are specifically pre-check, which is the TSA program. If you’re in Global Entry through Customs and Border Protection, that gives you the added value of, when you’re coming back from overseas, you get to go through the customs lines faster, skip the long lines from the airlines.
So, they’re trying to recruit more people into these programs, but so far they’re falling well below. At 10 million total members, they’re falling far below their goal of 25 million in these expedited programs.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And have these pain points at the airports increased the amount of applications?
BART JANSEN: Yes.
They were getting 2,000 to 3,000 applicants a day at this time last year. Now they are up to above 10,000 a day last week. Neffenger told us this morning that they got 15,000 people in one day.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, you met with Neffenger this morning before the news about Hoggan came out. What was the mood there?
BART JANSEN: Well, yes, we set up a — we had an editorial board arranged with him before this news broke.
He was very forthright, saying that — he didn’t say that Hoggan had done something wrong. He just said he wanted a change of strategy. He wants to try to make the lines more efficient, rather than just going faster for people. They don’t want to sacrifice security for moving the lines.
Nevertheless, they think they can move the lines more efficiently and get people through faster.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Almost every travel agent I speak with says it’s going to get worse through the summer.
BART JANSEN: Yes, the secretary of homeland security, Jeh Johnson, has warned that, even as they add the screeners that was mentioned in your report, that lines are still expected to be long. You should plan ahead.
But they are going to try to avoid the two- and three-hour waits that you have seen in the last few weeks.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Bart Jansen of USA Today, thanks so much.
BART JANSEN: Thanks for having me.
The post What firing of TSA security chief means for summer travel appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I’m Judy Woodruff.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And I’m Hari Sreenivasan.
JUDY WOODRUFF: On the “NewsHour” tonight: The chief of security for the TSA is fired amid outrage over record-long lines at airports and generous bonus checks. But will the shakeup solve the problem?
HARI SREENIVASAN: Also ahead this Tuesday: As campaigns pivot to the general election, it’s all about the dollar signs — how candidates are getting the financial support they need for the next phase.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And months after a standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge became national news, opposing sides of the federal land dispute are coming together to try a different approach.
DAN NICHOLS, Rancher: We can sit down and talk. You still don’t agree on everything. That’s a given. That’s people. But you respect one another to listen.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All that and more on tonight’s “PBS NewsHour.”
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Democratic presidential hopefuls worked California today, heading toward their final primary showdown on June 7. Bernie Sanders is aiming for an upset, and he says he will keep pressing his case even if it means what he calls a messy process leading up to the convention.
In Anaheim today, Sanders touted his support among the nation’s youth and said it’s a message to party leaders.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, Democratic Presidential Candidate: We are winning the overwhelming majority of young people. What should that tell us? What does it tell us? It tells us — it tells us and it should tell the country and certainly the leadership of the Democratic Party that our ideas, our vision is the future of America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Sanders camp also asked today for a re-canvass of last week’s Kentucky primary results. Hillary Clinton finished just over 1,900 votes ahead in Kentucky.
She, too, campaigned in California today, in the Los Angeles area, and again trained her fire on Republican Donald Trump.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Candidate: Now he says he wants to roll back the financial regulations that we have imposed on Wall Street to let them run wild again. Well, I will tell you what. You and I together, we’re not going to let him bankrupt America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JUDY WOODRUFF: This was primary voting day for the Republicans in Washington state. But Trump, the de facto nominee, turned his attention to holding fund-raisers, starting in New Mexico. We will explore his campaign funding later in this program.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In the day’s other news, President Obama made a show of support for dissidents in Vietnam after formally ending a U.S. arms embargo. It came on his second day in Hanoi.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There are still areas of significant concern in terms of freedom of speech.
HARI SREENIVASAN: It was a telling moment, the president meeting with human rights activists and criticizing repression, but with some chairs unfilled.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I should note that there were several other activists who were invited who were prevented from coming for various reasons. And I think it’s an indication of the fact that, although there has been some modest progress, there are still folks who find it very difficult to assemble and organize peacefully.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In a later speech, Mr. Obama argued greater freedom would benefit the communist state. He balanced that with another show of solidarity with Vietnam against China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Nations are sovereign, and no matter how large or small a nation may be, its sovereignty should be respected, and its territory shouldn’t be violated. Big nations shouldn’t bully smaller ones.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Beijing had issued a relatively mild statement on Monday. But, today, its Foreign Ministry essentially warned Washington to back off in diplomatic language.
HUA CHUNYING, Spokeswoman, Chinese Foreign Ministry (through interpreter): We believe the countries outside the region should respect the efforts by regional countries in safeguarding peace and stability. They shouldn’t threaten other countries’ sovereignty.
HARI SREENIVASAN: From Hanoi, the president flew to Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, where thousands welcomed him and his push for greater economic ties and trade. The president spends a final day in Vietnam tomorrow, then heads to Japan.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mystery swirled again today around the fate of an EgyptAir plane that crashed last week, killing all 66 people on board. An Egyptian forensics expert said the small size of human remains found so far points to an explosion. But the head of Egypt’s forensic agency called that report baseless. The aircraft’s black boxes have yet to be found.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Kurdish-led forces in Syria have launched a new offensive near the Islamic State group’s de facto capital. Fighting was reported in villages near the city of Raqqa. It could be a prelude to an assault on the city itself.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In Greece, officials began moving migrants today from a makeshift refugee camp near the northern border with Macedonia. Police managed to get about 1,500 people to leave the squalid Idomeni site and move to other, better organized facilities. They piled into buses, and bulldozers removed what was left of their tent shelters.
Separately, the International Organization for Migration reported fewer migrants are dying as they try to reach Europe. That’s largely because Turkey has curbed the overall flow.
And back in this country, the Justice Department announced late today that it is seeking the death penalty for the killings at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Dylann Roof is accused of gunning down nine black parishioners last June. He faces 33 federal charges, including hate crimes and firearms offenses.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Comedian Bill Cosby will stand trial for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in 2004. A judge in Norristown, Pennsylvania, issued that ruling today. Cosby left the hearing without commenting, but the prosecutor said statements to police back in 2005 established probable cause.
KEVIN R. STEELE, District Attorney, Montgomery Co., Pennsylvania: A preliminary hearing is a situation where we only have to show that a crime is committed and the defendant is connected to the crime. We did that through the victim’s statement and the defendant’s admissions to much of the crime.
HARI SREENIVASAN: A defense lawyer said Cosby’s rights have been violated, and he will appeal the ruling. More than 50 women have claimed he assaulted them over the years, but this is the only criminal case so far.
JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s word that Kenneth Starr is out as president of Baylor University in Texas. He was the independent counsel who investigated President Clinton back in the 1990s. Several broadcast and online outlets reported today that Starr has been fired over his handling of allegations of rape leveled against male athletes at the school. Baylor labeled the report rumors.
HARI SREENIVASAN: For the first time, more than 40 major health groups are recommending weight loss surgery as a routine option for treating diabetes. The new guidelines include patients who are only mildly obese. Some 26 million Americans have diabetes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The smoking rate among American adults has fallen by the most in more than 20 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 15 percent of adults classified themselves as smokers in 2015. That is down from 17 percent the year before. It’s not clear if the rise of e-cigarettes played any role.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Monsanto today rejected a takeover bid by German chemical giant Bayer. It was valued at $62 billion.
And Wall Street had its biggest day since March. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 213 points to close at 17706. The Nasdaq rose 95 points and the S&P 500 added 28.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Still to come on the “NewsHour”: a shakeup at the TSA, will it help cut down long airport lines?; Congress at odds over Zika-prevention funding with mosquito season fast approaching; a tax on sugar drinks to pay for preschool; and much more.
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WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said Tuesday he regrets remarks he made comparing long wait times at VA health care sites to waiting in line at a Disney amusement park.
“It was never my intention to suggest that I don’t take our mission of serving veterans very seriously,” McDonald said in a written statement. “If my comments Monday led any veterans to believe that I, or the dedicated workforce I am privileged to lead, don’t take that noble mission seriously, I deeply regret that. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
McDonald’s statement came after a Republican senator called for his resignation and GOP lawmakers and veterans’ service groups slammed his remarks as insulting and inappropriate.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said McDonald’s “preposterous statement is right out of Never Never Land” and said the VA leader has shown he cannot ensure that veterans receive health care in a timely manner
“Dismissing wait times when veterans can often wait months for an appointment is negligent and a clear sign that new leadership is needed at the VA,” Blunt said as he called for McDonald to step down.
McDonald said at a breakfast 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. McDonald said a veterans’ health-care experience was more important than the time spend waiting for an appointment.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called McDonald’s comments “disgusting and beyond the pale,” although he stopped short of calling for him to step down.
“This is not make-believe. This is not Disneyland, or Wonderland, for that matter,” Ryan told reporters. “Veterans have died waiting in line for their care.”
Republicans said McDonald’s comments were especially egregious since he took office in 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.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, a member of the Republican leadership, said McDonald’s comments were hard to believe. “When you go to Disneyland, you aren’t wondering if you are going to live long enough to make it to Space Mountain,” she said.
Democrats called Blunt’s comment a blatant bid to boost his re-election chances.
“Senator Blunt of all people should know another resignation at the VA will likely only make things worse,” said Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, Blunt’s likely Democratic challenger.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who is known for his own verbal miscues, supported McDonald.
Referring to himself as “an expert at wrong choice of words,” Reid said McDonald “could have done a better job talking about Disneyland, but he didn’t. He is a good man, he’s doing his best under very, very difficult circumstances. So I support Secretary McDonald all the way.”
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In one of the presidential campaign year’s more grisly spectacles, protesters in New Mexico opposing Donald Trump’s candidacy threw burning T-shirts, plastic bottles and other items at police officers, injuring several, and toppled trash cans and barricades.
Police responded by firing pepper spray and smoke grenades into the crowd outside the Albuquerque Convention Center.
During the rally, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was interrupted repeatedly by protesters, who shouted, held up banners and resisted removal by security officers.
The banners included the messages “Trump is Fascist” and “We’ve heard enough.”
At one point, a female protester was physically dragged from the stands by security. Other protesters scuffled with security as they resisted removal from the convention center, which was packed with thousands of loud and cheering Trump supporters.
Trump responded with his usual bluster, instructing security to remove the protesters and mocking their actions by telling them to “Go home to mommy.”
He responded to one demonstrator by asking, “How old is this kid?” Then he provided his own answer: “Still wearing diapers.”
Trump’s supporters responded with chants of “Build that wall!”
Trump later tweeted “Great rally in New Mexico, amazing crowd!”
The altercations left glass at the entrance of the convention center smashed.
Albuquerque attorney Doug Antoon said rocks were flying through the convention center windows as he was leaving Tuesday night. Glass was breaking and landing near his feet.
“This was not a protest, this was a riot. These are hate groups,” he said of the demonstrators.
Albuquerque police said several officers were treated for injuries after getting hit by rocks thrown by protesters. At least one person was arrested from the riot, police said.
During the rally, protesters outside overran barricades and clashed with police in riot gear. They also burned T-shirts and other items labeled with Trump’s catchphrase, “Make America Great Again.”
Tuesday marked Trump’s first stop in New Mexico, the nation’s most Hispanic state. Gov. Susana Martinez, head of the Republican Governors Association and the nation’s only Latina governor, has harshly criticized his remarks on immigrants and has attacked his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The governor did not attend the rally and has yet to make an endorsement.
Trump read off a series of negative statistics about the state, including an increase in the number of people on food stamps.
“We have to get your governor to get going. She’s got to do a better job, OK?” he said, adding: “Hey, maybe I’ll run for governor of New Mexico. I’ll get this place going.”
The governor’s office fired back, saying Martinez has fought for welfare reform.
“The potshots weren’t about policy, they were about politics,” said spokesman Michael Lonergan. “And the Governor will not be bullied into supporting a candidate until she is convinced that candidate will fight for New Mexicans, and she did not hear that today.”
Trump supporters at the rally said they appreciated his stance on boosting border security and stemming the flow of people crossing the border illegally, but some said they were frightened by the violent protests outside.
Karla Molinar, a University of New Mexico student, said she participated in disrupting Trump’s speech because she felt he was attacking members of her family who are living in the country illegally. She said she believes Trump is using them as scapegoats for the nation’s problems.
Associated Press writer Susan Montoya Bryan contributed to this report from Albuquerque.
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When Jennifer Stella’s two children were babies, she made sure they got all the usual vaccines. But when one started having seizures and the other developed eczema after they’d gotten immunizations, the Vermont woman decided her kids would no longer get shots required to attend school.
Stella, a co-founder of the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice, is among a growing number of parents who are opting out of childhood vaccinations because they’re worried about their safety. Public health experts say the movement is leading to outbreaks of nearly eradicated dangerous diseases, such as measles and whooping cough, among clusters of unvaccinated kids.
All states require children to get vaccinated to attend school, and immunization rates across the nation remain high, with 92 percent of children between 19 months and 35 months getting the shots to protect against potentially deadly measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
But even a small number of unvaccinated people can undermine the immunity of the larger population, which is leading public health officials and vaccine advocates to push for changes. Some want to educate parents about the risks of forgoing vaccines and fight what they say is misinformation about the risks posed by the vaccines. Others have pushed lawmakers to eliminate exemptions from state vaccine requirements and sought to make it more difficult for families to qualify for the exemptions that remain.
After an outbreak of measles last year that was linked to Disneyland, in California, state legislators there rolled back laws that allowed children to go without vaccines based on their parents’ beliefs. Now, children in California can only be exempted from vaccines if their doctor determines immunization to be unsafe for them.
Vermont eliminated its philosophical exemption in 2015, leaving only religious and medical exemptions. In the last year, similar bills to eliminate philosophical or religious exemptions were proposed in at least seven states: Hawaii, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
In nine states — Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah and West Virginia — lawmakers introduced bills that would require that parents receive information about the risks of skipping vaccination before their children can be granted exemptions. The information would come from their doctor or local health department, or through state-approved resources such as videos and online courses.
But the proposals have met strong resistance from groups such as the National Vaccine Information Center, which favors laws that allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their children based on personal, religious or conscientious belief.
The group’s co-founder Barbara Loe Fisher said parents should be able to decide whether their kids can be vaccinated. Many parents worry that vaccines cause illness and permanent disabilities, she said, although links between vaccines and autism have been discredited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And, Fisher said, eliminating exemptions would mean that unvaccinated children in many states wouldn’t be able to attend school.
“We believe that it is a human right to be able to exercise conscientious and religious beliefs, in terms of protecting the child,” Fisher said. “And we believe the child has a right to an education.”
Fisher and other vaccine skeptics say diseases such as measles are bound to pop up, even in communities with high vaccination rates. But public health officials point out that because these diseases are highly contagious, a large segment of the population needs to be vaccinated in order to protect those, like children being treated for cancer, who cannot get immunized for medical reasons.
As the number of unvaccinated children grows, so does the risk of an outbreak, said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the state epidemiologist for Iowa. “This is not an individual decision; this is a decision that affects the whole community.”
A growing number of Iowa families are choosing not to vaccinate their children under a religious exemption law. The number of children in kindergarten through 12th grade who skipped vaccinations for religious reasons jumped to 6,737, a 13 percent increase from last school year to this school year.
The exemptions tend to occur in communities where parents share opinions about vaccine safety or hold similar religious beliefs, Quinlisk said, and there’s not much the state can do to challenge parents’ decisions.
“We can’t question it,” Quinlisk said. “We have to accept it.”
Recent disease outbreaks have drawn attention to the growing debate over whether to vaccinate. In the Disneyland case, 45 percent of the California residents who got sick were unvaccinated. Five years earlier, also in California, 10 children died from whooping cough.
Other states have seen their own whooping cough outbreaks, which shuttered schools and child care facilities. One of those states is Colorado. The executive director at the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition, Stephanie Wasserman, said it’s just a matter of time before the state sees a measles outbreak.
Less than 87 percent of Colorado kindergarteners are vaccinated against MMR, the lowest rate in the country for that vaccine, according to CDC data. In Mississippi, where there are no religious or philosophical vaccine exemptions, almost 100 percent of kindergarten children have received the MMR vaccine.
But it’s about to get harder for parents to exempt their children from regular vaccines in Colorado. A law that takes effect in July will require parents to apply for an exemption every time their children are due for a vaccine, rather than filing one exemption for an entire childhood. Proponents hope the extra legwork will lead families to think twice about skipping shots.
“It shouldn’t be easier to get an exemption than it is to get a vaccine,” Wasserman said.
The law will also force schools to report their vaccination numbers so parents can choose not to send their kids to a school with a low vaccination rate.
Public health experts like Diane Peterson, an associate director at the Immunization Action Coalition, say it’s been too easy to get exemptions, creating entire communities of unvaccinated children that have been directly tied to outbreaks of disease.
To boost vaccination rates, some states have tried to educate parents about the risks of skipping important shots. In 2012 California passed a law that requires parents to meet with a health care provider to discuss the risks and benefits of vaccines before they are granted an exemption.
This session a Florida measure that would have required parents to watch an educational video before they are granted an exemption was pulled by its sponsor before lawmakers could even consider the legislation.
Proposals like the one in Florida have met stiff resistance from groups that oppose mandatory vaccinations. “All states basically are struggling [from] an erosion of the public’s trust in vaccines because of the misinformation that is being shared on social media,” Wasserman said.
Parents who want to be able to decide if and when their children receive vaccinations are paying attention to the state attempts and are working hard to make sure exemption laws stay in place, Fisher said.
In Vermont, Stella said the new law won’t stop parents from applying for exemptions because they will file under the religious exemption provision. “People need to be able to make their own choices about how they protect their health.”
This story was produced by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.
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A broad proposal by Medicare to change the way it pays for some drugs has drawn intense reaction and lobbying, with much of the debate centering on whether the plan gives too much power over drug prices to government regulators.
One of most controversial sections would set up a nationwide experiment, scheduled to start in 2017, to test a handful of ways to slow spending on drugs provided in doctor’s offices, clinics, hospitals and cancer infusion centers. The proposal would not affect most prescriptions patients get through their pharmacies.
The aim, the government says, is to maintain quality while slowing spending in Medicare Part B by more closely tying payments to how well drugs work, using methods drugmakers, insurers and benefit managers are already trying in the private sector.
One of the approaches included in the proposal would allow Medicare to earmark “therapeutically similar” drugs and set a benchmark, or “reference price,” that it would pay for all drugs in that category. That amount might be the cost of the drug the agency considers the most effective in the group, or some other measure. It’s aimed at narrowing the wide variability — often hundreds or thousands of dollars a year — in what is paid for similar drugs.
Such an approach is seen by some as government price setting, a method common in Europe that draws support in the U.S. from the left but has longstanding opposition from conservatives, many economists and pharmaceutical companies.
The drug industry’s “biggest nightmare is that the Obama administration decides to do something like reference pricing,” said Paul Heldman, an analyst with Heldman Simpson Partners. “Then the government would be making a decision that two products are similar and Medicare should reimburse at the rate of the lower-cost one.”
It is similar to a money-saving effort tried by Medicare in the late 1990s, when it paid only up to an amount equal to the “least costly alternative,” for certain Part B drugs used to treat prostate cancer, respiratory diseases and kidney failure. The agency halted the program after a patient won a legal challenge regarding its authority to do so.
In the private sector, some employers and insurers are using such pricing-control techniques, although the focus has been on surgical treatments or tests, not drugs.
The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), for example, capped payments for joint replacement surgeries at $30,000. Patients can elect to have their surgeries at any in-network hospital, but those who pick facilities that charge more than $30,000 must pay the full difference in cost out of their own pockets. Over time, CalPERS said savings came not only as patients switched to lower-cost hospitals but also as more expensive hospitals lowered their prices.
Unlike the California surgery example, the Medicare proposal specifically bars providers from charging patients the difference in cost between any benchmark payment and a drug’s actual sales price.
Implementing a reference-price approach for drugs could be more complex than doing so for tests or procedures, as medications can have widely differing effects based on the genetic makeup of patients. Also, critics note that it would put Medicare — or some other group — in charge of determining which products are similar.
“The last thing I want to see is Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services trying to make decisions on the relative value of drugs,” said Scott Gottlieb, a resident fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who previously served as a deputy commissioner at the Food and Drug Administration and as a senior adviser to Medicare.
Although details are scant in the proposal, Medicare says reference pricing would be applied only to some Part B drugs, not all.
Other Aspects Of Medicare’s Proposal
The reference-pricing experiment is part of a larger proposed regulation issued in March, which the Obama administration said is needed to slow spending in Medicare’s Part B, which doubled since 2007 from $11 billion to $22 billion.
Another part of the regulation would change the formula Medicare Part B uses to reimburse doctors and hospitals when they provide chemotherapy and other drugs, and has drawn opposition from physician groups.
More than 1,300 comment letters were submitted about the proposal before the May 9 deadline.
“It’s a pretty explosive document: There’s a hot-button in it for everyone,” said Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health, a consulting firm in Washington. “The biggest thing is that it’s seen as a bow to the government setting prices for drugs.”
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America — the drugmakers’ trade group — submitted a 45-page comment letter citing a variety of objections to the proposal, from its scope to the methods like reference pricing that would be tested.
“PhRMA is disappointed that [Medicare] chose to … pursue imposition of policies for price regulation based on government value judgments,” the letter says.
Support for the proposal has come from AARP, which said it won’t affect patients’ access to medications and might even lower their costs, and the American Academy of Family Physicians, among other groups.
Health insurers, who blame rising drug prices for causing premiums to go up, have their own take.
Aetna said the proposal would “incentivize providers to choose less expensive drugs when they are able to do so.” America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s lobbying arm, was more qualified. The proposal highlights “a fundamental concern about the affordability of prescription drugs,” AHIP said, but warned that it might result in shifting costs to other parts of Medicare.
Politics could play a large role in the shape of the final directive. Republicans have already introduced legislation to block the regulation if it were to be finalized.
Democrats are split, with 20 issuing a May 9 letter in support of the proposal, calling it “essential” to ensure Medicare beneficiaries get “the most cost effective, appropriate drugs.” But earlier, a letter signed by all Democrats on the powerful Senate Finance Committee strongly warned Medicare to hold off until it resolves their concerns.
Given the controversy, many observers say it’s hard to tell what the final version will look like. In recent weeks, Medicare’s chief medical officer, Patrick Conway, has sounded open to adjusting the overall proposal.
Revisions may be made, but it’s likely something of the broad regulation will remain intact, said Gottlieb. For his part, he would like to see reference pricing removed and the sheer size of the experiment scaled back.
“It’s a grab bag of policy prescriptions related to drug pricing. They threw in some good ideas and some very problematic ideas,” said Gottlieb.
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Video featuring Jim Stevens’ art was produced by Leslie Dodson, Paul Cywilko and Janine Trudell.
Jim Stevens is meticulous in crafting his art.
It’s a process he calls “monofilament painting.” First, he lays out 129 strands of fishing line, covering each strand with acrylic paint before repeating the process seven more times. Then he suspends those lines eight layers deep in a clear acrylic case. The completed piece has a holographic effect, moving and shifting depending on where the viewer is standing.
The artwork is all the more exceptional because Stevens is legally blind.
“I was angry for a very long time after I lost my eyesight. Then my two youngest daughters said ‘Dad, you’ve always loved art. Why don’t you get back to it? My art eventually got me so busy, I forgot to be angry.”
Stevens loves how his unusual art makes people stop, look at it from many angles and question what they are seeing. “I want to engage people. I want people to interact with the art,” he said.
Stevens, a former professor at the University of Colorado, devotes all of his time to his art. He’s won several awards and has started showing at galleries across the country. He says he lives by the motto: “A man with a vision is never truly blind.”
This report originally appeared on Rocky Mountain PBS’s “Arts District” program. Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.
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Chaos erupted at the Donald Trump rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Tuesday. Protesters clashed with police in riot gear throwing rocks and bottles at officers on horseback and lighting fires. Police wielded batons and used smoke to keep protesters away from the center. Officials said tear gas wasn’t used.
Much earlier in the day, thousands of Trump supporters began lining up snaking outside the city’s convention center. Inside fewer than half had seats in the bleachers flanked by an American flag on one side, the New Mexico flag on the other. The rest stood patiently for hours awaiting the candidate’s appearance.
Across the street, more than one hundred protesters shouted obsenities. Some waved Mexican flags, others held up hand-written posters. A group of Native American dancers performed a ceremony with drums, a horn, corn and other objects.
It was the GOP’s presumptive nominee’s first visit to the state, just two weeks before the primary. New Mexico has more Hispanics per capita than any other state. The candidate acknowledged that New Mexico has leaned “a little on the Democratic side,” but vowed that would change this year.
Trump’s speech hit his frequent themes: criticisms of the Democratic party – “They’re in a mess,” of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton – “I don’t know if Hillary will be allowed to run,” and of the media – “dishonest slime.” He promised as President he’d lower taxes, save Social Security and Medicare, and create jobs.
There were multiple interruptions by protesters who were escorted out. One, a young boy who appeared to elementary school age, was taunted by Trump who said, “How old is this kid? He’s still wearing diapers.” Others were mocked and told to “get out” and “go home to mommy.”
Trump criticized New Mexico’s governor, Susana Martinez, a Republican Latino who has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick. He cited a rise in unemployment in the state, an increase in the number on food stamps and a decrease in the median household income. Crowds cheered when he said, “We’ve got to get your governor to do a better job. We got to get her moving.” Martinez, who hasn’t endorsed Trump, didn’t attend the speech, nor did Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, or the lone GOP member of the New Mexico Congressional delegation, Rep. Steve Pearce.
One of the biggest applause lines of the evening came when Trump reiterated his intention to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. He said Texans and New Mexicans told him, “We want that, we need that.” The audience chanted back, “Build that wall.”
Democratic candidate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders spoke in Santa Fe and Albuquerque on Friday. Former President Bill Clinton appeared in Espanola, New Mexico earlier Tuesday. Both were peaceful events. Hillary Clinton has not campaigned in the state this year.
WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton and her team ignored clear guidance from the State Department that her email setup broke federal standards and could leave sensitive material vulnerable to hackers, an independent audit has found. Her aides twice brushed aside concerns, in one case telling technical staff “the matter was not to be discussed further.”
The inspector general’s review also revealed that hacking attempts forced then-Secretary of State Clinton off email at one point in 2011, though she insists the personal server she used was never breached. Clinton and several of her senior staff declined to be interviewed for the State Department investigation.
Earlier this month, Clinton declared that she was happy to “talk to anybody, anytime” about the matter and would encourage her staff to do the same.
Opponents of her Democratic presidential campaign pointed to the audit Wednesday as proof that Clinton has not been truthful about her private email use and fresh evidence she is not trustworthy or qualified to be commander in chief.
A spokesman for Clinton, who served as the nation’s top diplomat from 2009 to 2013, declared the audit showed her email use was consistent with what others at the department have done.
The 78-page analysis, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, says Clinton ignored clear directives. She never sought approval to conduct government business over private email, and never demonstrated the server or the Blackberry she used while in office “met minimum information security requirements.”
Twice in 2010, information management staff at the State Department raised concerns that Clinton’s email practices failed to meet federal records-keeping requirements. The staff’s director responded that Clinton’s personal email system had been reviewed and approved by legal staff, “and that the matter was not to be discussed any further.”
The audit found no evidence of a legal staff review or approval. It said any such request would have been denied by senior information officers because of security risks.
The inspector general’s inquiry was prompted by revelations of Clinton’s email use, a subject that has dogged her presidential campaign.
The review encompassed the email and information practices of the past five secretaries of state, finding them “slow to recognize and to manage effectively the legal requirements and cybersecurity risks associated with electronic data communications, particularly as those risks pertain to its most senior leadership.”
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon underscored that point Wednesday.
“The inspector general documents just how consistent her email practices were with those of other secretaries and senior officials at the State Department who also used personal email,” Fallon said, noting that the report says “her use of personal email was known to officials within the department during her tenure, and that there is no evidence of any successful breach of the secretary’s server.”
The audit did note that former Secretary of State Colin Powell had also exclusively used a private email account, though it did not name any other prior secretaries who had done so. But the failings of Clinton were singled out in the audit as being more serious than her predecessor.
“By Secretary Clinton’s tenure, the department’s guidance was considerably more detailed and more sophisticated,” the report concluded. “Secretary Clinton’s cybersecurity practices accordingly must be evaluated in light of these more comprehensive directives.”
Republicans said Wednesday the audit shows Clinton was in clear violation of the Federal Records Act.
“The inspector general’s findings are just the latest chapter in the long saga of Hillary Clinton’s bad judgment that broke federal rules and endangered our national security,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. “The stakes are too high in this election to entrust the White House to someone with as much poor judgment and reckless disregard for the law as Hillary Clinton.”
The State Department has released more than 52,000 pages of Clinton’s work-related emails, including some that have since been classified. Clinton has withheld thousands of additional emails, saying they were personal.
Critics have questioned whether her server might have made a tempting target for hackers, especially those working with or for foreign intelligence services.
Separately from the State Department audit, the FBI has been investigating whether Clinton’s use of the private email server imperiled government secrets. It has recently interviewed Clinton’s top aides, including former chief of staff Cheryl Mills and deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin. Clinton is expected to be interviewed.
Clinton has acknowledged in the campaign that the homebrew email setup in her New York home was a mistake. She said she never sent or received anything marked classified at the time, and says hackers never breached the server.
The audit said a Clinton aide had to shut down the server on Jan. 9, 2011, because he believed “someone was trying to hack us.” Later that day, he said: “We were attacked again so I shut (the server) down for a few min.”
The next day, a senior official told two of Clinton’s top aides not to email their boss “anything sensitive,” saying she could “explain more in person.”
On CBS’ “Face the Nation” this month, Clinton said, “I’ve made it clear that I’m more than ready to talk to anybody, anytime. And I’ve encouraged all of (my staff) to be very forthcoming.”
The audit said three of her closest State Department aides — Mills, Abedin and policy chief Jake Sullivan — declined interview requests.
Associated Press reporters Stephen Braun, Chad Day, Jack Gillum in Washington and Lisa Lerer in Los Angeles contributed to this report. Associated Press reporters Bradley Klapper and Michael Biesecker wrote this report.
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In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.
As a headhunter, I marvel at the silly behavior employers demonstrate to the professional communities they want to recruit from. While companies devote enormous effort (and money) to public relations, image campaigns and marketing, they usually invest next to nothing in making a good impression on the people they need to hire. I think it’s because employers have no idea what it takes to attract hires. They need basic instruction.
Recruiting and hiring does not mean herding cattle — yet managers send HR to do just that every day. Recruiting and interviewing are not administrative processes, but when managers deploy HR clerks to talk to engineers, programmers, marketers, accountants, actuaries and IT experts, they get what they deserve — a “talent shortage.”
Recruiting and hiring is a highly social art: the art of tactful influence. You’re guiding professionals into your fold. Do it gently. Do it responsibly. Don’t send a clerk. Do it yourself.
To be an effective hiring manager, you must constantly keep your eyes on the state of the candidate.
What job applicants think when they leave your interviews is your responsibility. And it could be your downfall.
In an old article — “Death By Lethal Reputation” — I described how a big Silicon Valley company trusted hiring to an administrative process. The company completely forgot that job candidates talk to other members of their professional community and that the company’s reputation (and success) hinged on what those candidates had to say about that process. Sadly, there’s nothing old about this story. It happens all the time in today’s world, because employers forget that job candidates deserve respect.
How does your company recruit and hire people?
Don’t process job candidates — respect them
Every good sales person knows the art of seduction — how to attract and entice a prospective customer and how to respect and satisfy them, so they will stay customers. Sadly, few HR departments even realize their job is to entice, respect and satisfy the people they need to hire.
A job candidate is an invited guest to be shown hospitality and respect — not a beggar. So why do employers treat applicants like cattle?
The first mistake your company probably makes is with initial contact. Who makes that first call to the candidate to invite her for an interview? If it’s not the hiring manager, it’s a mistake. A call from an intermediary is, to put it bluntly, cheesy and rude.
“But,” you say, “we’re Human Resources, and the manager doesn’t even know we’re screening the candidate yet. The candidate has to talk to us first.”
Don’t waste the candidate’s time. Keep HR in the background. Put hiring managers out front from the start. I coach job hunters to keep their standards high by taking this position when HR calls to interview them: “No dice. I meet with the hiring manager, or there’s no meeting.”
When you’re trying to fill a position in your department, the first rule is to do it yourself — because no one sends a surrogate on a first date. When you invite a job candidate to visit:
There is no excuse for anyone but the hiring manager doing the initial interview. In fact, this is the quickest, least costly way to eliminate the wrong contenders. I’ll take a manager’s professional judgment — and sixth sense — about a candidate over any personnel jockey’s, mainly because HR is not expert in the work the manager’s department does. It’s simple as that. (See “Why HR should get out of the hiring business.”)
Not all candidates are worth hiring. But if anyone is going to turn a candidate away, let it be someone whose credibility ranks high with the candidate — the manager. Oh, the ignominy of getting turned down by a personnel jockey! There is no greater disrespect.
You (and your company) will be judged by how professional, reasonable and respectful you are toward members of your professional community. Word will get around.
If respect for the candidate is missing, destroy the traditional interviewing process at your company. Make it a personal, professional experience that leaves the candidate feeling they’re a valued guest. Earn your professional community’s respect with every interview you conduct, because your company’s reputation — and its future — depends on it.
Next week, we’ll talk about how job applicants can turn the tables to get the respect they deserve.
Dear Readers: If you’re a manager, how do you demonstrate respect to your job candidates? If you’re a job seeker, which employers showed you the respect you deserve? Which treated you like cattle?
Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”
Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!
Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.
The post Ask the Headhunter: Employers, respect job applicants. Your company’s reputation depends on it appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — House Republicans are attempting to hold together a rare bipartisan deal to help Puerto Rico manage its crippling finances as a committee considers the legislation on Wednesday.
The bill to create a financial control board and restructure some of the U.S. territory’s $70 billion debt has support from House Republican and Democratic leaders, as well as the Obama administration. But some bondholders, unions and island officials have opposed it.
“We have a constitutional, political and moral imperative to act,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, the Utah Republican who has led negotiations on the bill. The panel began considering the legislation Tuesday evening, and a final committee vote is expected Wednesday.
The legislation won new support from Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s representative in Congress, who said people on the island fear for their finances and their future.
“Accepting a board is personally painful, but it is also the right and necessary thing to do,” Pierluisi said.
The island’s governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, has been less enthusiastic, arguing that the seven-member board would be too powerful and could undermine the territorial government.
Bishop introduced the bill May 18 after weeks of negotiations that involved House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. Pelosi has endorsed the legislation, and Lew called it a “fair, but tough bipartisan compromise.”
Ryan, R-Wis., has worked to unite his fractured caucus behind the bill, arguing that the legislation would avoid an eventual taxpayer bailout.
The Senate hasn’t yet acted. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said the chamber is waiting for the House to move first.
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 the economic crisis has forced businesses to close, driven up the employment rate and sparked an exodus of hundreds of thousands of people to the U.S. mainland. Schools lack proper electricity and some hospitals have said they can’t provide adequate care.
But like U.S. states, Puerto Rico cannot declare bankruptcy. The legislation would allow the control board to oversee negotiations with creditors and the courts over reducing some debt.
It would also require the territory to create a fiscal plan. Among other requirements, the plan would have to provide “adequate” funds for public pensions, which the government has underfunded by more than $40 billion.
During negotiations, the Obama administration pushed to ensure that pensions are a priority in the bill, while creditors worried they would take a back seat to pension obligations. Bishop says the control board is designed to ensure all are paid.
While some bondholders have backed the legislation, others have lobbied forcefully against it.
“If passed, this bill will serve as a landmark moment in American municipal finance — the moment when Congress made clear that it will not hesitate to rewrite rules and override contracts so that bondholders are forced to foot the bill for the pension systems that negligent governments have bled dry and refused outright to fund,” read a release from a group called the Main Street Bondholders Coalition.
Some conservatives have wavered on the bill, echoing the concerns of some bondholders and voicing concern that the legislation could set a precedent for financially ailing states. Rep. Tom McCintock of California, a Republican on the committee, said he would offer an amendment that would exempt some bonds from the legislation, and said he would not support it unless his amendment passes.
“If Congress is willing to undermine a commonwealth’s constitutionally guaranteed bonds today, there is every reason to believe it would be willing to undermine state guarantees tomorrow,” McClintock said.
Some Democrats, including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, have said they worry the board would neglect the needs of ordinary Puerto Ricans.
“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 earlier this week.
Sanders also criticized a provision in the bill that would allow the governor of Puerto Rico to cut the minimum wage temporarily for some younger workers. Unions have also lobbied against the legislation for that reason.
Pierluisi said Tuesday that he doesn’t think the island would ever decide to trigger the minimum wage provision.
“It’s not worth discarding the bill over this misguided but ultimately meaningless authority,” Pierluisi said.
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Days after the U.S. airstrike and death of Taliban leader Mullah Mansour, the terrorist group announced a new leader Wednesday.
Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada has been the group’s lesser-known deputy member and served as a former judicial leader for Afghanistan’s Taliban government. The announcement is the group’s first public confirmation that a U.S. airstrike killed Mullah Mansour in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province Saturday.
Well-respected by Taliban commanders as an elder and cleric of the group, Mawlawi Haibatullah led the group through the selection process amidst a growing discord.
Mawlawi Haibatullah’s main rivals included Sirajuddin Haqqani, the insurgency operations leader, and Mullah Muhammad Yaqoub, the young son of the Taliban founder, Mullah Muhammad Omar, according to a statement from the Taliban’s core leadership council in Quetta, Pakistan, The New York Times reported.
The selection of Mawlawi Haibatullah is viewed by the Taliban as a way to unite the fracturing movement, regardless of his lack of military experience.
“One of the reasons that the Taliban chose Haibatullah as leader is that as a religious scholar, he can reunite different factions of the Taliban and prevent disintegration,” Habibullah Fawzik, a former Taliban diplomat told The New York Times.
But spokesman for the breakaway faction, Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi, told The New York Times Wednesday, “Haibatullah is not the right choice for us. He has been selected quite similarly to Mansour with no consensus of all mujahedeen — it will never be acceptable to us.”
It is unclear what effect the strike had on the breakaway faction.
WASHINGTON — The government is squandering its technology budget maintaining museum-ready computer systems in critical areas from nuclear weapons to Social Security. They’re still using floppy disks at the Pentagon.
In a report released Wednesday, nonpartisan congressional investigators found that about three-fourths of the $80 billion budget goes to keep aging technology running, and the increasing cost is shortchanging modernization.
The White House has been pushing to replace workhorse systems that date back more than 50 years in some cases. But the government is expected to spend $7 billion less on modernization in 2017 than in 2010, said the Government Accountability Office.
“Clearly, there are billions wasted,” GAO information technology expert David Powner told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee at a hearing.
Although lawmakers of both parties say they are frustrated, it’s unclear whether Congress will act. Part of the problem is finding money to invest in a transition to new systems at agencies across the government.
Among the vintage computing platforms highlighted in the report:
— The Defense Department’s Strategic Automated Command and Control System, which is used to send and receive emergency action messages to U.S. nuclear forces. The system is running on a 1970s IBM computing platform, and still uses 8-inch floppy disks to store data. “Replacement parts for the system are difficult to find because they are now obsolete,” GAO said. The Pentagon told GAO it is initiating a full replacement and the floppy disks should be gone by the end of next year. The entire upgrade will take longer.
— Treasury’s individual and business master files, the authoritative data sources for taxpayer information. The systems are about 56 years old and use an outdated computer language that is difficult to write and maintain. Treasury plans to replace the systems but has no firm dates.
— Social Security systems that are used to determine eligibility and estimate benefits, about 31 years old. Some use a programming language called COBOL, dating to the late 1950s and early 1960s. “Most of the employees who developed these systems are ready to retire and the agency will lose their collective knowledge,” the report said. “Training new employees to maintain the older systems takes a lot of time.” Social Security has no plans to replace the entire system but is eliminating and upgrading older and costlier components. It is also rehiring retirees who know the technology.
— Medicare’s Appeals System, which is only 11 years old, faces challenges keeping up with a growing number of appeals, as well as questions from congressional offices following up on constituent concerns. The report says the agency has general plans to keep updating the system, depending on the availability of funds.
— The Transportation Department’s Hazardous Materials Information System, used to track incidents and keep information regulators rely on. The system is about 41 years old, and vendors no longer support some of its software, which can create security risks. The department plans to complete its modernization program in 2018.
GAO says its estimate of at least $80 billion spent on information technology in 2015 is probably low. Not counted were certain Pentagon systems, as well as those run by independent agencies, among them the CIA. Major systems are known as “IT investments” in government jargon.
“Legacy federal IT investments are becoming obsolete,” the report concluded. “The federal government runs the risk of continuing to maintain investments that have outlived their effectiveness and are consuming resources that outweigh their benefits.”
The White House has been nudging agencies to identify obsolete systems for replacement, but GAO said that clearer, more specific goals and timetables are needed. A starting point could be recent legislation supported by the White House to create a revolving fund of $3 billion for replacing or upgrading older technology. It seems certain that President Barack Obama’s successor will have to grapple with the situation.
“This is not a partisan issue,” said committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who supports the goal of modernizing the government’s aging systems, but has not committed to any particular legislation.
“We all need to come together on this, on both sides of the aisle,” added Chaffetz. “It is a vital part of the infrastructure we need in order to have a fully functional government.”
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