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

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    Fewer states are offering end-of-summer shoppers tax holidays this year. Photo by Johnnie Davis via Getty Images.

    Fewer states are offering end-of-summer shoppers tax holidays this year. Photo by Johnnie Davis via Getty Images.

    Many back-to-school shoppers used to be able to count on sales tax holidays at this time of year. But more states are disappointing them by rejecting or cutting back on the small tax breaks, as they seek more and steadier revenue to keep budgets balanced.

    Massachusetts lawmakers this year decided not to give shoppers a late summer holiday from having to pay the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax on items with a price tag under $2,500 — as it had in recent years. Legislators did so in the face of a budget deficit that has been projected to be as high as $1 billion.

    Florida legislators trimmed the state’s back-to-school tax holiday this year from 10 days to three and limited the tax break to purchases of clothing under $60 and school supplies under $15. Louisiana trimmed shoppers’ holiday savings by saying they had to pay 3 percent on their purchases this year instead of giving them the full 5 percent break.

    Efforts to revive North Carolina’s holiday, which was scrapped two years ago, failed this year. And legislators in Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, Rhode Island and Wisconsin have rejected proposals for new back-to-school tax holidays.

    The backpedaling reverses a trend of providing tax-free shopping days that dates to 1980, when Ohio and Michigan eliminated the sales tax on automobiles as a way to boost sales during a recession and get people to buy American cars, many of which were produced in those states.

    At one time or another, about 20 states, mostly in the South, have experimented with granting holidays, with a peak of 19 states in 2010.

    Traditionally, states’ sales tax holidays tend to coincide with the start of the new school year. But some states have lifted taxes on items far beyond backpacks and notebooks.

    Several states, including Maryland, Missouri and Virginia, have separate holidays for energy-efficient appliance purchases.

    Others, including Louisiana and Mississippi, have holidays for firearms and hunting supplies.

    States in the Southeast also have had holidays before hurricane season begins in June on purchases of emergency supplies.

    Retailers love sales tax holidays, because they come with built-in advertising campaigns to encourage shoppers to turn out and spend.

    But while retailers have persuaded legislators that the feel-good tax breaks are good for the economy, studies have shown otherwise.

    States bordering other states with tax holidays see their own as a way to stem the flow of consumers across state lines.

    And lawmakers love a tax cut, especially when short-lived.

    Florida, which has no state income tax and relies more heavily on the sales tax than many other states, has found tax holidays to be a way of giving its taxpayers a break while other states are cutting income taxes.

    But Scott Drenkard of the nonpartisan Tax Foundation says the holidays are nothing but “gimmicks.”

    “Policymakers are telling their taxpayers, ‘We did something for you this weekend.’ It’s politically expedient, but poor tax policy.”

    “Policymakers are telling their taxpayers, ‘We did something for you this weekend.’ It’s politically expedient, but poor tax policy.”

    If governors and legislatures really want to make a difference for taxpayers, Drenkard said, they should implement “365-days-a-year” tax changes.

    The Tax Foundation and other opponents say the holidays don’t help retailers because buyers simply “shift” purchases they were going to make any way.

    They don’t help lower-income people much either, according to the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

    “Wealthier taxpayers are often best-positioned to benefit from the holidays since they have more flexibility to shift the timing of their purchases to take advantage of the tax break — an option that isn’t available to families living paycheck to paycheck,” the ITEP said in a policy paper last month.

    ‘Absolutely Vital’
    The holidays do cost state and local treasuries money — more than $300 million this year, the ITEP estimates.

    Cost is what prompted Massachusetts to not renew its weekend-long holiday this year. In June, the state’s budget office announced tax revenue was coming in as much as $750 million short. Later estimates put the budget gap at nearly $1 billion. Legislators said the holiday’s $25 million price tag was too high this year.

    Republican Gov. Charlie Baker had supported the holiday in the past. This year’s tight budget made it tough to both have the holiday and increase funding for his priorities — such as education, helping local governments and fighting the opioid epidemic — his press secretary, Billy Pittman, said.

    This is the first year since Massachusetts started having a back-to-school holiday, in 2004, that it hasn’t had one, other than 2009, during the recession.

    Not everyone is happy about it. Jon Hurst, president of the Massachusetts Retailers Association, said the need for the tax holiday is greater than ever, for two reasons: because consumers can cross the border to sales-tax-free New Hampshire, and because “savvy consumers” can try to avoid the sales tax by shopping on the internet.

    “No consumer in Massachusetts is farther than an hour’s drive to New Hampshire to buy things tax-free,” Hurst said. “The sales tax holiday is absolutely vital in Massachusetts.”

    In some Massachusetts cities, like Pittsfield, retailers have advertised that they would pay the sales tax for customers on a given weekend, to make up for the lost holiday.

    But efforts like that don’t deliver the same results as the state declaring a holiday, Hurst said, adding that the holiday can put shoppers in a buying mood, so that they often buy more than just the goods that are tax-exempt.

    The state also benefits from the income tax on workers putting in double and triple shifts, Hurst said.

    Hurst predicted fewer sales — not only of tax-free items but also of impulse buys — resulting in a decrease in state sales tax revenue.

    Cutting Back
    Rather than scrap their holidays, Louisiana and Florida chose to cut back on them.

    In the face of a $2 billion budget shortfall, Louisiana decided to levy a reduced 3 percent tax during its hunting equipment holiday next month rather than exempt it entirely from the state’s 5 percent sales tax, just as it did on school supplies last month. It also eliminated the state holiday for goods purchased to prepare for hurricanes.

    The reduced tax rate for school supplies and hunting equipment applies to items up to $2,500. Two big-ticket items for $2,500 each would qualify, according to the Louisiana Department of Revenue. But one purchase for more than $2,500 would not.

    Florida’s shortened back-to-school holiday this year will still cost the state about $26 million in sales tax revenue, according to a legislative analysis. But having its normal 10-day holiday instead of the three-day break would have cost another $20 million. The disparity? Most of the holiday shopping is done on the weekend.

    One fan of tax cuts who is not a fan of the holidays is Republican state Sen. Tom Lee, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. He prefers giving Floridians cuts in other taxes, as the Legislature did this year.

    Lawmakers lowered the property tax and a tax on manufacturers. Both cuts were sought by Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

    “I think the tax-free holiday makes great politics and lousy economics,” Lee said. “They are wildly popular, but they cannibalize on spending decisions that would have been made anyway.”

    The post Why fewer states are offering tax holidays this year appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Related words: webcam, video, camera, video camera, interview. Photo by Image Source via Getty Images

    Instead of interviewing a candidate, HR departments have begun asking job applicants to interview with a robot, writes Nick Corcodilos. Photo by Image Source via Getty Images

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

    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.

    Remember all those pesky online application forms you used to have to fill out? A few years ago we asked, “Is applying for jobs online not an effective way to find work?” It’s gotten worse. A lot worse.

    Are you ready for robo-interviews? Welcome to the machine.

    You have desirable skills, but maybe what makes you desirable is how hard you work for your employers. Whatever it is, you’re applying for a job, and you want to show the employer what you can do for the company.

    You sit in front of your own video camera to answer a series of questions from an online robot… What you don’t know is that no human will ever take the time to watch you answer all those questions.

    You fill out several pages of those online forms. You attach a resume that you spent hours customizing to impress an employer by addressing a specific job. You provide names of references, sign off on a waiver and agree to the terms required.

    Software and some algorithms scan your data record for keywords. If they match those in the employer’s database, your application is flagged for the next step.

    Then you get an email. It asks you to click on another agreement so you can download interview software. You sit in front of your own video camera to answer a series of questions from an online robot. You carefully organize your responses and do your best to be calm and collected as you address the camera.

    No one from the employer has spoken with you. No manager has taken time to answer your questions. No one at the employer company knows you exist.

    When you’re done, you click your video interview up to a database at a company called HireVue. What you don’t know is that no human will ever take the time to watch you answer all those questions. No one hears you speak.

    Another robot “views” your video and algorithms scan the sounds and movements you make in the video.

    The employer has invested its money in HireVue, not in you, to conduct this assessment — which we can’t even call an interview because although HR may be viewing it, there is no interaction with anyone. It’s just your bit stream, a recording and some software and hardware, saving the employer the cost of deploying a human to judge you.

    “They’re trying to attract people like me and the best they can do is a video camera?”

    If your data don’t match the template that selects job candidates, the recruiting process ends. A quick look at the employer’s website reveals that, “People are our most important asset!”

    Sucks for you, doesn’t it?

    Question: When I applied for a job, they wanted me to sign into something called HireVue so a robot could interview me. Are they kidding? They’re trying to attract people like me and the best they can do is a video camera? (Not to sound arrogant, but the work I do is specialized, and it’s not easy to find people with my skills.) Long story short, I told them to take a hike. I’m a software developer. Would you like to join forces and create a robo-interviewer that job candidates can send to employers? I’d like to see their faces when the talent they’re dying to hire wants them to pose for the camera before I decide they’re worth my face time. Are you seeing a lot of this, or is this just one clueless company (that I won’t name though I should)?

    Nick Corcodilos: In the midst of a talent shortage, HR tells the talent to sit for an interview with a robot, but can’t figure out why it can’t attract the talent.

    Is there a connection? Or is the modern HR executive daft?

    “In the midst of a talent shortage, HR tells the talent to sit for an interview with a robot, but can’t figure out why it can’t attract the talent.”

    The Wall Street Journal recently published a favorable piece on HireVue, titled “Video Job Interviews: Hiring for the Selfie Age.”

    I’d like to ask our readers: Do you as a job seeker buy this stuff? How about the many hiring managers and HR folks who read this column? Let’s take a critical look at the company through The Wall Street Journal write-up.

    Claim #1

    “…companies say it is an efficient, fair and inexpensive way to process hundreds of applicants…”

    The key word here is “process.” Here’s what Gilman Louie, partner at Silicon Valley venture firm Alsop Louie, told me about how modern HR technology destroys an employer’s competitive edge:

    HR processes 2,000 candidates! They don’t look through 2,000 candidates! And at the end of the process, what they get is the same candidate that everybody else running PeopleSoft gets! So where’s your competitive advantage if everybody turns up with the same candidates?

    Claim #2

    Video interviews have significantly reduced travel costs for Cigna recruiters. Frank Abate, a senior recruiter there, said one of his colleagues racked up more than $1 million annually just traveling to meet candidates. Since adopting video interviews four years ago, that colleague’s expenses are now under $100,000.

    Gee. Imagine spending money to go find the talent. Cigna is saving money by not meeting candidates.

    By not meeting candidates.

    You can’t make this stuff up. Imagine if Cigna told its sales team to stop spending money to call on customers to close deals.

    I love the idea for a robo-interviewer app for job seekers. Imagine how much you — the talent — could save by telling employers to talk to the video camera before you bother talking to them in person.

    Claim #3

    Recruiters at IBM and Cigna said they evaluate candidates based on how well the person communicates his/her thought process, whether the person answers all parts of the question — and whether he/she makes eye contact.

    Eye contact? Uh, contact with what eye?

    Claim #4

    HireVue, InterviewStream, WePow and other vendors that make video-interviewing software say their programs make hiring more fair because all applicants must answer the same questions, placing substance over schmoozing and small talk.

    The robo-interview vendors now save HR jockeys from the ignominy of having to talk with the talent that HR claims is so hard to find, so hard to attract, so hard to hire. As for that pejorative reference to “small talk,” employers say they want to judge applicants for cultural fit. What kind of company-culture small talk does a camera make?

    While the HR profession’s very existence is hotly debated in the C-suite, HR outsources its most important job — hiring. Wowed by technology it doesn’t even understand, HR deploys it at enormous cost to insult the talent it needs to attract during a talent shortage.

    Claim #5

    Taking robo-recruiting one step further, some HireVue customers have an algorithm review the video interviews for them. Using data about the skills and attributes companies are seeking for a given role, a program called HireVue Insights scans videos for verbal and facial cues that match those skills then ranks the top 100 applicants.

    Now we get to what’s really going on. No humans are needed at all. HR managers don’t just avoid recruiting and interviewing you. They let HireVue’s robots “watch” your interview videos, too! Don’t those HR people realize they’re next? (See “WTF? Inflatable interview dolls?”)

    Has HireVue published any research white papers about how software can “scan videos for verbal and facial skills” that “match” the skills an employer is looking for?

    Let’s go back to Gilman Louie, whose investments in the digital world are his livelihood. What does he say about picking people?

    “When you’re selecting people… it’s personal. And personal is not digital.”

    Claim #6

    Speeding up the hiring process allows recruiters to look at more applicants than before, giving companies wider reach, said Obed Louissaint, the human-resources lead for IBM’s Watson division.

    HR complains its job postings yield such a flood of applications that HR can’t possibly look through them all. So how can personnel managers have time to look through all those videos?

    If HR is gullible enough to spend its money insulating itself from — and insulting — the talent HR says is so hard to attract in today’s hiring market, can you really blame companies like HireVue, InterviewStream and WePow?

    These HR technology vendors are vampires sucking the recruiting budgets out of comatose HR departments.

    Can you? I can. These HR technology vendors are vampires sucking the recruiting budgets out of comatose HR departments while pitching stories about how people are interchangeable parts — to be sorted by algorithms and selected by robots.

    To quote one dismayed job seeker, it’s “creepy, impersonal, presumptuous, Orwellian, exploitative, unprofessional.”

    So, what can you do when an employer confronts you with a robotic interviewer — before any human even talks with you?

    A long-time Ask The Headhunter subscriber demonstrates a sound course of action for job applicants and, in the process, suggests an answer to an important question in “What does HireVue tell us about employers?”

    Dear Readers: I’m going to take a guess: Dehumanizing the talent doesn’t play well with the talent. Would you sit for a robo-interview? There’s one mind-boggling issue with video interviews I haven’t even touched on — care to take a stab?

    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: Are you ready for robo-interviews? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The first U.S. commercial flight to Cuba in more than a half of a century took off Wednesday amid much fanfare.

    After a ribbon cutting ceremony and a performance from a Cuban band, 150 passengers boarded the JetBlue flight flying from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Santa Clara, Cuba. The flight later landed safely in Cuba, USA Today reported.

    It is the first of 300 direct flights expected each week between both the two countries, according to Associated Press.

    The U.S. implemented a trade embargo on Cuba in 1960, banning American citizens from traveling to the island nation. The last flight to Cuba took off soon after in 1961.

    Secretary of State, John Kerry called Wednesday’s historic flight “another step forward.”

    Under the Obama administration, the U.S. has begun to normalize relations with Cuba starting with political talks back in 2014.

    Since then, the U.S. has restored diplomatic relations and reopened the U.S. embassy in Cuba. In March, President Barack Obama also became the first president to visit Cuba since 1928.

    But the trade embargo, which only Congress can lift, remains in place, and travel to Cuba is still limited.

    Travelers must qualify for one of the U.S. government’s 12 approved reasons for visiting Cuba, including educational trips, journalism and family visits.

    Six airlines are expected to begin flights to the Cuban capital Havana by the end of the year, departing from New York, Los Angeles and Houston.

    The post First U.S. flight to Cuba since 1961 lands safely appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    What’s it like living in “the worst city to be black in America?” PBS NewsHour’s Kenya Downs spoke with several black men living in Milwaukee following the fatal police shooting of Sylville Smith earlier this month. Video by Joshua Barajas and Kenya Downs/PBS NewsHour

    By several counts, Milwaukee ranks as the worst city to live in for black Americans.

    Milwaukee is statistically the most racially segregated city in the nation. Minorities, including a 40 percent black population, are mostly concentrated in the city’s north side.

    Milwaukee also has the highest incarceration rate for black men in the country, according to a 2013 study from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

    These realities and more fueled the weekend of unrest in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood following the fatal August 13 shooting of 23-year-old Sylville Smith by a police officer. Rioters set several businesses on fire, including a gas station outside the park.

    Or, as Milwaukee resident Walter Bond told the NewsHour: The “community has been figuratively burning for a very long time … downtrodden by economic blight and sparse educational options.”

    The NewsHour spoke with several black men in Milwaukee about their experiences living in the city.


    Community activist Khalil Coleman. Photo by Joshua Barajas/PBS NewsHour

    Community activist Khalil Coleman. Photo by Joshua Barajas/PBS NewsHour

    Khalil Coleman, 30, said what we saw in Milwaukee was an “American problem” and that the police brutality against blacks was not something that Milwaukee — or other cities that have recently seen racial unrest — created on its own.

    “Look at Trayvon Martin. Before Trayvon Martin, what really sparked people was Troy Davis. When they executed Troy Davis. That’s really what woke people up,” he said.

    “Everybody was like ‘I am Troy Davis.’ Then it became ‘I am Trayvon Martin.’ Then it became ‘I am Mike Brown.’ Then it became ‘I am… I am somebody!” he said.


    Milwaukee County Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde. Photo by Kenya Downs/PBS NewsHour

    Milwaukee County Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde. Photo by Kenya Downs/PBS NewsHour

    Milwaukee County Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde said black men in the city experience trauma resulting from a lack of resources available to the community.

    “[S]ome of the things that we’re supposed to be taking care of through our society, we don’t have those,” Moore said.

    “[I]t is a struggle, but it’s a beautiful struggle because I’m very proud of my heritage, where I come from, being a black man, being from Milwaukee. Being kind of the underdog,” he said. “People saying you can’t do this or you can’t do that and then showing people that you can. Not just to show them, but to show yourself as well.”


    Khalif Rainey, newly elected Alderman of Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood. Photo by Joshua Barajas/PBS NewsHour

    Khalif Rainey, newly elected Alderman of Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood. Photo by Joshua Barajas/PBS NewsHour

    “When you travel to other communities, you go to Chicago, you go to Washington D.C., you’re kind of shocked to see black people looking well-to-do,” said Khalif Rainey, Alderman of Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood. “We don’t really experience that [here.]”

    “We don’t really see men in our community, black men walking around with suits on unless it’s Sunday. They’re not walking around with a briefcase and going closing business deals,” he said, referring to the problems that have disportionately affected black Milwaukeeans.

    “We don’t have those examples here in our community,” he said.


    Walter Bond of Teach for America Milwaukee. Photo by Joshua Barajas/PBS NewsHour

    Walter Bond of Teach for America Milwaukee. Photo by Joshua Barajas/PBS NewsHour

    Bond, chief of staff at Teach for America Milwaukee, said being black in Milwaukee means “having to constantly face multiple intersecting systems that aren’t built to necessarily welcome you, that aren’t built to necessarily recognize your humanity on a daily basis.”

    “So, it almost doesn’t matter that you followed the rules or internalized the playbook,” he said. “You are seen as belonging to a subclass here in our city.”


    Community activist Andre Lee Ellis. Photo by Joshua Barajas/PBS NewsHour

    Community activist Andre Lee Ellis. Photo by Joshua Barajas/PBS NewsHour

    “We have been pushed up against a wall so much and told, ‘You don’t have a voice, you don’t speak,'” community activist Andre Lee Ellis said.

    “We’re going places thinking there’s some great white hope that’s going to rescue us, when young black boys now think that by the age of 25 they’re going to be in jail or dead,” he said.


    State Representative David Bowen. Photo by Joshua Barajas/PBS NewsHour

    State Representative David Bowen. Photo by Joshua Barajas/PBS NewsHour

    “You are reminded of being oppressed everywhere you go,” State Representative David Bowen said.

    “There’s no way of escaping it whether you are walking in your own neighborhood, and your heart still beats fast when police come closer to you,” he said.

    “You’re downtown on a weekend and clearly there are different ways that they treat white patrons than black patrons at a restaurant or at a night lounge. It’s very clear that you’re reminded that you are black everywhere you go in the city,” he said.

    READ MORE: Why is Milwaukee so bad for black people?

    The post What’s it like being a black man in Milwaukee? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    File photo of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff by Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

    File photo of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff by Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

    The vast majority — 61 of Brazil’s 81 senators — voted Wednesday to impeach the country’s first female president, Dilma Rousseff, amid a political corruption scandal and an economic recession.

    The vote’s expected outcome ends the impeachment process that began in May 2016, when the Senate voted to suspend her presidential duties. It also ends 13 years of consecutive rule by Brazil’s Workers’ Party.

    Making the case for the prosecution, Miguel Reale Junior passionately argued for Rousseff’s removal as a “big demonstration of democracy to the world.”

    Rousseff was accused of doctoring government accounts ahead of her re-election, violating fiscal responsibility laws. The accounting technique is known as “pedaladas” or fiscal pedaling, and creates a false impression of state finances.

    But many believe these allegations are a pretext for the political firestorm circling the country’s leadership, signified by Rousseff’s dismal approval ratings. Brazil is “suffering from a toxic cocktail of economic, political and public health crises,” Vikram Mansharamani argued in a PBS NewsHour column.

    Rouseff maintained her innocence during testimony to lawmakers. “They took advantage of an economic crisis,” she said. “I didn’t commit the crimes I’m being accused unfairly and arbitrarily.”

    Rousseff had won a second term in 2014 by a narrow margin, earning 51.6 percent of the vote.

    Her remaining term — two years and three months — will be filled by interim President Michel Temer. His popularity with the public, however, is not much better than Rousseff’s. Only 13 percent of Brazilians considered his rule favorable in June.

    Brazilians will have the opportunity to elect a new president in 2018.

    The post Brazil votes to impeach President Dilma Rousseff appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump walks on stage during a campaign rally in Everett, Washington, U.S., August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri - RTX2NOKM

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is under immense pressure to clarify his position on illegal immigration. Photo by REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

    Donald Trump’s immigration speech on Wednesday night won’t be his first “major” policy speech this election. He has given carefully orchestrated speeches in recent months on issues like foreign policy and the economy, but these included few concrete proposals. Trump promised to provide details later on, but hasn’t yet.

    But Wednesday’s speech in Arizona could, potentially, be different. Trump is under immense pressure to clarify his position on illegal immigration after saying last week that he was “softening” his hard-line stance from the primaries.

    READ MORE: The Trump campaign has a ground-game problem

    Trump raised the stakes even further by staging a surprise trip to Mexico City today to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who has said there is “no way” the country would pay for Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S. border. Their meeting was scheduled to take place early this afternoon.

    The brief Mexico trip underscores Trump’s struggle to move toward the middle in the general election without abandoning the harsh rhetoric that helped him win the Republican presidential nomination.

    During the primaries, Trump promised to create a “deportation force” to remove all of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

    Last week, however, he appeared to reverse positions, saying he would consider allowing some undocumented workers to remain in the country, so long as they paid back taxes. “There’s no amnesty, as such, but we work with them,” Trump told Fox News.

    The comments angered many of Trump’s supporters on the right, who said he abandoned a core conservative principle. Trump’s apparent reversal and subsequent efforts to walk back the shift also drew derision from critics on the left who painted him as a flip-flopper on the main theme of his campaign.

    The attacks from all sides have put Trump in a bind. Ahead of the speech, his supporters argued that Trump would benefit from outlining his immigration plan in full.

    Trump will likely provide more “specifics” on his proposals to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and crack down on illegal immigration, said Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has discussed immigration policy with Trump. Kobach said earlier this year that he helped develop Trump’s border wall plan.

    “I’m expecting the same principles that we’ve heard all along during the campaign,” Kobach said.

    But others said that dissecting the nuances of Trump’s immigration plan was almost beside the point.

    “He’s never really been about the words, he’s always been about an ability to tap into anger,” said James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute. “He’s the first guy to have understood that people don’t care about policy.”

    Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Trump’s views on immigration from Central and South America mirror his approach to immigrants fleeing Syria and other parts of the Middle East.

    “Talking about Syrian refugees is a stand in for expressions of anti-Muslim bigotry,” said Hamid, the author of “Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World.” “So I don’t think it matters what the details are about how many refugees he would let in or not let in.”

    Putting policy aside, the politics will be tricky for Trump to navigate tonight. If he gives up the “softer” approach and doubles down on his earlier vow to try and deport all of the country’s illegal immigrants, the GOP’s conservative base will be thrilled.

    But it could further alienate moderate Republicans and Democrats who want him to move to the center. Trump needs those voters to beat Hillary Clinton in November; without them, his ceiling of support in national polls remains stuck around 40 percent.

    Kobach played down those concerns, saying that Trump’s standing among independent voters would increase if he sticks to a conservative position on immigration.

    “Politically the best move for him is to stay where he is, and that is advocate a really strong rule-of-law approach to immigration,” said Kobach.

    “There may be some people who self-identify as Democrats who don’t like that approach, but at the end of the day, it brings him more votes than it loses him, especially among independents,” he added.

    The alternative option is equally risky: If Trump sticks with his new, more moderate immigration plan, he could be in danger of losing key votes on the far right by appearing to embrace policies championed by the Obama administration, Democrats in Congress and several of Trump’s GOP primary opponents.

    While a large portion of Trump’s base appears set to vote for him no matter what, there are many conservative voters who view any kind of immigration reform as a political non-starter.

    The so-called “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in 2013 included a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who pay back taxes, undergo background checks, and take other steps to come out of the shadows. Trump endorsed several of those ideas last week, though he said under his new plan undocumented workers would not be eligible for full citizenship status.

    “That is definitely what moderate Republicans have been saying” for several years, said Jacinta Ma, the policy director for the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigration reform advocacy group.

    Trump’s latest proposal to deport undocumented immigrants with criminal records, instead of all undocumented immigrants, also closely resembled the Obama administration’s existing deportation policy, Ma noted. “The current policy is to prioritize violent criminals,” she said.

    It’s also unclear if a shift to the center will improve Trump’s standing with Hispanic voters this late in the election cycle.

    There are 27.3 million eligible Hispanic voters in the country, and the vast majority have said in polls that they hold a negative view of Trump. Polls also consistently show Trump trailing Clinton among Hispanic voters by a wide margin.

    “Certainly his supporters are strongly in support of many of the immigration policies Trump has talked about,” said Mark Hugo-Lopez, the director of Hispanic Research at the Pew Research Center. But “he’s always had a very unfavorable rating among Hispanics.”

    Ma said Trump’s speech tonight could give voters and policy experts new insight into Trump’s thinking, provided he takes a clear stand.

    “Without the details it’s really hard to say” what Trump believes, Ma said. “I’m hoping that he will clarify his position.”

    The post Immigration policy, Trump’s signature issue, may be his greatest test appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Amyloid plaques, a key feature of Alzheimer's disease, were reduced significantly by a year of treatment with a new drug  called aducanumab. Photo by Sevigny et al., Nature, 2016

    Amyloid plaques, a key feature of Alzheimer’s disease, were reduced significantly by a year of treatment with a new drug called aducanumab. Photo by Sevigny et al., Nature, 2016

    A new drug trial that some researchers are calling the most promising yet in the fight against Alzheimer’s suggests it may be possible to clear the brain of the amyloid protein that is characteristic of the disease.

    The results are very impressive and very encouraging.

    The study was small and researchers caution that it’s far too soon to declare victory against a fatal disease that robs people of their memories and ability to function in daily life. But despite repeated failures of Alzheimer’s drugs in the past, there was room for enthusiasm about the trial, the results of which were published today in Nature.

    “This is the best news we’ve had in my 25 years of doing Alzheimer’s research,” says Stephen Salloway, a professor of clinical neurosciences and psychiatry at Brown University and a co-author of the paper.

    The longer an early-stage Alzheimer’s patient took the drug aducanumab, and the higher the dose, the less clogged their brain was with amyloid a year later. The 21 subjects who made it through the study on the highest dose had no detectable amyloid deposits left in their brains after a year.

    “The effect size of this drug is unprecedented,” says paper co-author Roger Nitsch, president and founder of Zurich-based Neurimmune, which initially developed aducanumab.

    The drug also increased the risk of stroke and potentially dangerous fluid shifts in the brain, however, forcing a balancing act between its effectiveness and patients’ ability to tolerate a high-enough dose. Researchers were able to catch early signs of the side effect, known as amyloid-related imaging abnormalities (ARIA), through MRI brain scans, Salloway says, and no one in the trial suffered irreversible harm.

    Aducanumab is an antibody, a natural substance the body produces to fight disease.

    The trial was too small to show whether the reduction in brain amyloid made a difference in the everyday functioning of the participants, although there were some indications the drug slowed cognitive and functional decline in those who received the highest dose for more than six months. Most of the trial results have been released previously at public meetings. The new publication offers more depth and marks the first time the results have been peer-reviewed and presented comprehensively, the authors said in an August 30 news conference.

    The small trial showed promise, but the real test of aducanumab is underway in two much larger studies funded in collaboration with the drug company Biogen, which has partnered with Neurimmune to bring aducanumab to market. Those trials, begun last year, will include 2,700 participants in North America, Europe and Japan, who will take the drug for 18 months. If the trials are successful, the companies will go on to apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for permission to sell aducanumab to patients.

    Aducanumab, a new drug, caused a dose-dependent reduction in amyloid plaques, a key feature of Alzheimer's disease. Photo by Sevigny et al., Nature, 2016

    Aducanumab, a new drug, caused a dose-dependent reduction in amyloid plaques, a key feature of Alzheimer’s disease. Photo by Sevigny et al., Nature, 2016

    Salloway and others said they do not expect aducanumab, even if it works well, to be “the” solution to Alzheimer’s. As with other complex diseases like cancer and HIV, a cocktail or series of drugs will likely be necessary. The drug will also likely be most useful at the disease’s earliest stages, when removing amyloid can hopefully make a difference in Alzheimer’s trajectory, said Biogen Group Senior Vice President Alfred Sandrock, who led the research and press conference.

    Aducanumab is an antibody, a natural substance the body produces to fight disease. The compound was derived from healthy older people who had not developed Alzheimer’s, under the presumption that they carried some kind of protective factors in their immune systems. It is still not completely clear how aducanumab works, although the study shows it targets amyloid in the brain but not in the bloodstream.

    The hypothesis suggests antibodies that attack amyloid in the bloodstream get sidetracked and never make it into the brain. By focusing on brain amyloid, aducanumab seems to be able to cross into the brain to reach its target, researchers said at the press conference.

    In the two larger studies participants will start on a lower dose to minimize their risk of ARIA, which is more likely to occur early in treatment, and people who carry at least one copy of the APOE ε4Alzheimer’s risk gene, who are more vulnerable to ARIA, will probably remain on a lower dose, according to Salloway.

    If the drug performs well in the larger trials…it could be used in people in their 40s and 50s who are starting to show the first evidence of amyloid buildup.

    Participants must have evidence of excessive amounts of amyloid in their brains, as shown in a PET scan, before being allowed into the study. This should help avoid a problem that may have doomed earlier drug trials. Those trials failed in part, researchers think, because they included too many people without excessive amyloid in their brains and must therefore have had a form of dementia other than Alzheimer’s. Earlier trials are also believed to have failed because they tested patients whose disease was too advanced and the damage irrevocable. In contrast, aducanumab is being tested in patients with only very early evidence of disease.

    Others in the Alzheimer’s field expressed enthusiasm this week for the paper and the ongoing study of aducanumab.

    “The results are very impressive and very encouraging,” says Rudolph Tanzi, a neurologist at Harvard University and a longtime leader in Alzheimer’s research. “The fact is [the authors are] the first ones to show some level of proof that an anti-amyloid therapy is a way to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s.”

    If the drug performs well in the larger trials, Tanzi says he expects it could be used in people in their 40s and 50s who are starting to show the first evidence of amyloid buildup. Clearing out amyloid then and keeping levels low with another type of drug that Tanzi is working to develop might prevent them from ever having Alzheimer’s, he says.

    James Hendrix, director of global science initiatives for the Alzheimer’s Association, also praised the trial, saying he was impressed with its design as well as its results. He said the study also shows how crucial it is for people to volunteer for Alzheimer’s research studies, to help better understand the disease and how to treat it. Because of the stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s, researchers typically struggle to find enough volunteers to fill studies, he says, adding that the Alzheimer’s Association offers information on ongoing trials on its Web site.

    This article is reproduced with permission from Scientific American. It was first published on August 31, 2016. Find the original story here.

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 11:  Vanguard Award recipient Nate Parker speaks onstage at the Sundance Institute NIGHT BEFORE NEXT Benefit at The Theatre at The Ace Hotel on August 11, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage)

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    GWEN IFILL: But, first: The filmmaker behind one of the more widely anticipated and potentially controversial movies of the year is now at the center of his own controversy touching on sexual assault, consent, and race.

    In a year when Hollywood’s troubles with diversity have been well-chronicled, actor and director Nate Parker film “Birth of a Nation” promised to be a breakthrough. But Parker’s own tangled past has changed the conversation.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: “The Birth of a Nation” tells the story of Nat Turner, who led a bloody slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831.

    NATE PARKER, “The Birth of a Nation”: The lord has spoken to me, visions of what’s to come, a rise of good against evil.

    ACTOR: What are we going to do?

    NATE PARKER: We will fight. Once it begins, our brothers and sisters will join. And we will number in the hundreds, thousands even.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Thirty-six-year-old Nate Parker wrote, directed and starred in the movie, which first wowed audiences last January at the Sundance Film Festival. Parker spoke of his motivation.

    NATE PARKER: When people asked me who I wanted to be like, I would say Nat Turner. So, about two years ago, I stepped away from acting and said, the next film I’m involved with will be “The Birth of a Nation.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: The film won the audience award and the grand jury prize at Sundance. Fox Searchlight bought its rights for a festival record $17.5 million, and its national release is due in October.

    But, earlier this month, headlines emerged about a 1999 rape allegation made against Parker when he was a student at Penn State. The alleged victim claimed she’d been unconscious. Parker was charged and later acquitted.

    Parker’s friend and “Birth of a Nation” co-writer Jean Celestin was also accused in the case. He was convicted, but the verdict was overturned on appeal.

    In a recent interview with “Variety” magazine, Parker reiterated his claim that the sex was consensual.

    “Seventeen years ago,” he said, “I experienced a very painful moment in my life. It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that. Seventeen years later, I’m a filmmaker.”

    The remarks struck a nerve, especially after the revelation days later that the alleged victim had killed herself in 2012.

    Last week, in his first interview since learning about the suicide, Parker changed his tone, telling “Ebony” magazine: “I was acting as if I was the victim, and that’s wrong. My only thought was, I’m innocent and everyone needs to I know. I didn’t even think for a second about her.”

    Also last week, the American Film Institute canceled a screening of the movie.

    And we explore some of the issues surrounding this with Roxane Gay, writer/author of the essay collection “Bad Feminist,” and associate professor at Purdue University, and Mike Sargent, chief film critic for Pacifica Radio and co-president of the Black Film Critics Circle.

    Welcome to both of you.

    Let me start with you, Roxane Gay.

    You wrote recently: “I am struggling to have empathy for Nate Parker, a man experiencing the height of his career, while being forced to reckon with his past.”

    So, explain that. Was there a conflict of emotions when you first learned of this?

    ROXANE GAY, Purdue University: Absolutely.

    You know, when you follow someone’s career trajectory, and you see them at the height of their career with a critically acclaimed film that sold for a record amount of money at Sundance, of course I want him to do very well, I want the movie to succeed.

    But I cannot overlook these allegations against him. He was acquitted, yes, but his handling of the incident troubles me. The fact that the incident occurred at all troubles me. That he’s still friends with the man with whom he was accused troubles me.

    And so I want to have empathy for him, but I have far more empathy for the victim and for the truth.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Mike Sargent, I assume you were first aware of the film as a filmmaker yourself and film critic. What were your thoughts when you learned about this?

    MIKE SARGENT, Film Critic, Pacifica Radio: Well, I was conflicted on many levels, because, as a filmmaker, you know, it’s great to see a black filmmaker get to make something.

    Black historical dramas are not easy to, A, get made, and they don’t generally do too well. As a film critic, of course, I want to support black filmmakers.

    But I’m also a father of a daughter who’s in college. So this strikes a particular chord with me. And similar to Roxane, his handling of it and his attitude about it, I mean, he is, after all, a storyteller. And very often, we tell ourselves stories that we begin to believe.

    So, I am conflicted. I can’t say I won’t see the film. I definitely will. But, no, I don’t think that he’s doing what he could and probably should in terms of atoning for what has happened.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, Roxane Gay, what should he be doing? And what should we as audience members do? You and others have said this raises an old question, right, about what — can you love the art, even while you hate or disdain, or whatever, the artist?

    ROXANE GAY: Absolutely. It’s really challenging.

    And I myself, as I wrote in my editorial for The Times, cannot separate the art and the artist, or I choose not to. But I do think we have to have a conversation about restorative justice, because, as a culture, we do not know how to achieve justice for victims of sexual violence.

    And I don’t think that someone’s life should end because they commit a crime, but I do want to see atonement. I do want to see him having more self-examination about the role that he played that night, because there was a third man there, and he recognized that it was a bad situation and that this young woman was probably in no position to consent, and he walked away.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But he — but can I say — but can I just interrupt you for a second?

    ROXANE GAY: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Because a bad situation, but, at least legally, no crime committed, because it’s worth saying again found not guilty.

    ROXANE GAY: Well, legally, lots of things are allowed that shouldn’t be allowed.

    It was more than a mistake. I consider it to have been a crime. I think that, when a woman is passed out drunk, she cannot consent, and that sex shouldn’t be on the table in any way, shape or form. I call it rape.

    You know, we don’t know what happened that night, but I do think that I would like to see just more acknowledgment. And the interview that Parker did with “Ebony” is a step in the right direction, but it was also the kind of interview where you can tell that he was really well-coached by a publicist, and he was saying most of the right things, while also just acknowledging that he has never really thought about gender, and that he didn’t really think about the victim ever. And that troubles me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Mike Sargent, what about this question of the art vs. the artist, and especially in a case like this, as you both have said, that the role of race in both the film and the filmmaker?

    MIKE SARGENT: Well, I think the role of race is undeniable.

    I mean, you know, there are definitely filmmakers who have done very, very more than questionable things, whether it’s a Roman Polanski or a Woody Allen, and they have gone to not only have long careers, but win Oscars.

    But the question does become, can you separate the artist from the art, and should you? And at what point have you atoned? At what point — what could and should he be doing?

    That is a good question. I mean, I have my own ideas of what I think he should do and how I think he should address it. But, again, like Roxane said, he’s being coached. He’s being held — there is a way he needs to present himself, so that they can still do well with this film.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Mike Sargent, it was announced today that there is going to be a press conference that he’s speaking at, at the Toronto Film Festival in a few weeks. What would you like him to say?

    MIKE SARGENT: Well, for me, I would him to — as Roxane mentioned, I would like some more self-examination.

    I mean, let’s look at this for a little bit. I mean, even if he himself feels that he didn’t commit this act, and if he felt it was consensual, you know, she went under, after that, what would be termed bullying after that. She became a victim.

    Now, that is something that, as a man and as a father — and he’s got daughters — you know, this is something he needs to address, all of it. How do we handle these things? How should young men treat themselves? There are a lot of things that he could be doing and a lot of things he could be addressing in regards to this whole matter, because this matter is something that it’s not just about race.

    It’s specifically about gender, but it’s also about, you know, once you have, let’s say, been acquitted of this, that doesn’t mean you can turn your back on it. There was still something he was involved in that ended up contributing to a woman’s death.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, let me just ask, finally, Roxane Gay, will you see the film? Do you think others should see the fill?

    ROXANE GAY: I am not going to see the film, no.

    But I do think that people should do what they want to do. The reality is that he’s not the only person that worked on this movie. There is an entire cast and crew that put a lot of work and a lot of really thoughtful work into the making of this movie.

    And so I am in no way suggesting that other people shouldn’t. I just cannot personally do it, for many reasons, both personal and just ethical.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Mike Sargent, briefly, will you see the film?

    MIKE SARGENT: Well, as a film critic, I really have to see the film.

    I have to be able to see the film. I have to be able to judge it on its own merits as a film. But I can’t ignore what happened behind it, and I can’t ignore the history behind the filmmaker.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Mike Sargent and Roxane Gay, thank you both very much.

    ROXANE GAY: Thank you.

    MIKE SARGENT: Thank you.

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    A child looks at U.S. workers building a section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall at Sunland Park, U.S. opposite the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, August 26, 2016. Picture taken from the Mexico side of the U.S.-Mexico border. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez - RTX2N89F

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Perhaps the most repeated theme in Republican nominee Donald Trump’s campaign is building a bigger, better, border wall.

    Currently, a fence runs along 652 miles of the almost 2,000-mile border. And many residents on both sides doubt a new wall is a solution to the problems they face.

    Special correspondent Angela Kocherga with Arizona PBS’ Cronkite News reports from Nogales.

    ANGELA KOCHERGA: Every evening, Melissa Biskofsky and her dog take a walk.

    MELISSA BISKOFSKY, Nogales, Arizona Resident: I love my walks, and my dog loves them too.

    ANGELA KOCHERGA: Her favorite route runs along the border fence in Arizona.

    MELISSA BISKOFSKY: The fence — well, yes, there is a fence, but I say to hello to everybody on the other side of the fence.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: We’re going to have a strong border. We’re going to have the wall. We’re going to have the wall.

    ANGELA KOCHERGA: With all the talk of building a big wall, some Americans may not realize illegal immigration from Mexico is at a historic low. And there has never been more security on the Southwest border, including hidden ground sensors, cameras. This one offers a view from a blimp high above West Texas.

    And the Border Patrol has never had more agents, 21,000 in all. About 650 miles of fence exist in strategic spots along the nearly 2,000-mile Southwest border, from California, where the structure extends into the Pacific Ocean, to Texas, where it runs parallel to the Rio Grande.

    Fernando Flores Barrera can see the fence in Tijuana from his front yard. The construction worker has crossed back and forth for decades to work on U.S. job sites. He says Donald Trump should think twice about building a border wall.

    FERNANDO FLORES BARRERA, Tijuana, Mexico Resident (through translator): He should let immigrants work, instead of blocking their path. Just as we help them, the Americans, by working, they should give us a hand. You need us too.

    ANGELA KOCHERGA: On the U.S. side of the border, Callai Hernandez also questions the need for Trump’s $25 billion wall, since there’s a big fence in place now.

    CALLAI HERNANDEZ, Eagle Pass, Texas Resident: I don’t think there’s a need for it. We don’t feel unsafe or anything.

    ANGELA KOCHERGA: Her son’s soccer team practices in Eagle Pass right near the international border, the banks of the Rio Grande. One of longest sections of border fence cuts through the Desert Southwest.

    The fence is found in the middle of bustling border cities like Nogales, where, here, it’s part of the landscape, a fixture, a fact of life.

    Biskofsky has a view of the rust-colored fence from her home perched on a hill in Nogales, Arizona.

    MELISSA BISKOFSKY: When they have parties on the other side, you can hear the music on Saturdays or Fridays. They’re pretty loud.

    ANGELA KOCHERGA: She’s so close to the border, people trying to sneak into the U.S. sometimes cut through her backyard.

    During our interview, Yemmi (ph) and other neighborhood dogs noticed this man. Before long, Border Patrol agents spotted him too.

    Many border residents doubt a new wall will keep people from trying to cross, or deter drug traffickers at all. Biskofsky doesn’t have to look far for proof. Two years ago, authorities discovered a 481-foot drug smuggling tunnel in the basement of the home she now rents.

    MELISSA BISKOFSKY: Well, this is where they would get the drugs.

    ANGELA KOCHERGA: The entrance is now sealed. The previous tenant chose the property because of its proximity to the border.

    MELISSA BISKOFSKY: Well, when he first arrived, the neighbors told me that he was dressed in white and he was carrying a Bible. He had a dog called El Chapo. And, yes, the neighbors, after everything transpired, yes, that’s when they found it suspicious that his dog was called El Chapo.

    ANGELA KOCHERGA: As in convicted drug trafficker Chapo Guzman, who authorities say has used tunnels, including the one in this house, to move tons of drugs into the U.S., in spite of a border fence.

    These days, Biskofsky is patching up holes in her own fence.

    MELISSA BISKOFSKY: If you go along the fence, every so often, you see a hole, because she’s been digging all along the fence to see where she can get out.

    ANGELA KOCHERGA: More proof fences everywhere are not 100 percent effective.

    MELISSA BISKOFSKY: Building a wall, and being against building the wall, I think it’s still not addressing the real problem.

    ANGELA KOCHERGA: So far, there has no political will to deal with the root causes of immigration and the growing demand for drugs. Instead, during this hotly contested presidential race, much of the talk has been about building a bigger border wall, a questionable solution, according to many of those who live in the shadow of the border fence.

    MELISSA BISKOFSKY: Because it cannot separate these communities.

    ANGELA KOCHERGA: For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Angela Kocherga in Nogales, Arizona.

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    U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto arrive for a press conference at the Los Pinos residence in Mexico City, Mexico, August 31, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero - RTX2NQQW

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: We begin with Donald Trump’s day trip to Mexico City. It dominated the political headlines and drew even more attention to a high-profile speech he gives tonight on immigration.

    It was the unlikeliest of summits, Donald Trump, who launched his campaign by speaking of Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals and made other inflammatory remarks.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: It is a great honor to be invited by you, Mr. President, a great, great honor. Thank you.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And President Enrique Pena Nieto, who’s compared him to Adolf Hitler.

    PRESIDENT ENRIQUE PENA NIETO, Mexico (through translator): I have also voiced the grievances that we have felt in Mexico because of the statements that have been issued. But I’m sure that his interest is genuine in wanting to build a relationship and lead our societies to stability.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Trump agreed today on building a relationship, but he has also repeatedly called for building a wall along the border.

    DONALD TRUMP: We did discuss the wall. We didn’t discuss payment of the wall. That will be for a later date. This was a very preliminary meeting. I think it was an excellent meeting.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Lately, he’s seemed to suggest his stance on immigration could soften. And his visit today came hours before he delivers a major speech on the subject this evening in Phoenix.

    DONALD TRUMP: This is a humanitarian disaster, the dangerous treks, the abuse by gangs and cartels and the extreme physical dangers, and it must be solved. It must be solved quickly.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Trump’s visit to Mexico City sparked protests there today. It also turned up the political heat on Pena Nieto, who’s already widely unpopular in Mexico.

    A political rival, former President Vicente Fox, condemned the invitation to Trump and even apologized.

    VICENTE FOX, Former President, Mexico: He is not welcome to Mexico. By 130 million people, we don’t like him, we don’t want him, we reject his visit.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Pena Nieto has invited Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as well. Her campaign says she will meet with him at the appropriate time.

    Today, she addressed the American Legion Convention in Cincinnati, and dismissed Trump’s Mexican trip as too little, too late.

    HILLARY CLINTON (D), Presidential Nominee: You don’t build a coalition by insulting our friends or acting like a loose cannon. And it certainly takes more than trying to make up for a year of insults and insinuations by dropping in on our neighbors for a few hours and then flying home again.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Clinton also called for strong American leadership in the world, and accused Trump of advocating retreat.

    HILLARY CLINTON: Threatening to walk away from our alliances, ignoring the importance that they still are to us, is not only wrong; it’s dangerous. If I’m your president, our friends will always know America will have your backs, and we expect you to have ours.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Trump is scheduled to address the same American Legion Convention tomorrow.

    GWEN IFILL: For more on the Mexico City meeting between that nation’s president and GOP nominee Donald Trump, how it came to be, and how it was received, we turn now to Ambassador Roger Noriega, former assistant secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration, and Dan Nowicki, national political reporter for The Arizona Republic.

    Dan Nowicki, since Donald Trump is going to be in your town tonight giving this big immigration speech, maybe you can answer what Donald Trump was hoping to accomplish with the surprise trip to Mexico, as well as with the speech tonight.

    DAN NOWICKI, The Arizona Republic: Right.

    Well I think it gave him an opportunity to look presidential and kind of look more serious on immigration. He’s been criticized a lot, and a lot of the criticism has focused on his proposals as just not very serious or realistic.

    And first and foremost is his significant signature issue of building the wall and having Mexico pay for it. And it was a little interesting. He went down to Mexico and didn’t raise the issue of Mexico paying for the wall.

    So I think it’s a little interesting to see if kind of the soft-spoken tone that Trump took in Mexico City will carry over across the border when he comes here in Phoenix. I have covered several Trump rallies here in Arizona and one in Las Vegas, and, you know, one of the biggest applause lines is building the wall, where he leads the audience in asking them who’s going to pay for the wall. They yell Mexico.

    So, I wonder if he’s going to use that line tonight in Phoenix.

    GWEN IFILL: Hmm. Well, we will be listening to see.

    Ambassador Noriega, if Donald Trump was trying to look presidential with this trip, what was President Pena trying to do?

    ROGER NORIEGA, American Enterprise Institute: I think Pena Nieto was taking a big risk taking on this meeting. He’s extraordinarily unpopular already in Mexico. And in the last 24 hours…

    GWEN IFILL: His popularity somewhere in the 20s.

    ROGER NORIEGA: In the 20s, mid-20s perhaps, probably going down.

    In the last 24 hours, Mexican pundits were saying, you know, he’d better confront Trump on some of the uglier things that he has said, he better defend the dignity of the Mexican people and Mexican immigrants. He should make it very clear that Mexico will have nothing to do with paying for whatever kind of wall Trump wants to build.

    And none of that happened.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, he did talk about respecting Mexican people. He did talk about that.

    ROGER NORIEGA: Right, but nothing in the form of an apology or some kind of acknowledgment from Trump.

    So I think, quite frankly, if you’re a Trump supporter today, you would have to say that he achieved his objective by swooping into town with this kind of drive-by diplomacy, but Pena Nieto had a very bad day.

    GWEN IFILL: Do we think that Pena Nieto maybe had a change of heart? And this is the man who likens Donald Trump to Mussolini and Hitler.

    ROGER NORIEGA: Well, there is no telling what — how the discussions went.

    But I’m sure that pundits, the Mexican people would have expected a much more forceful public statement from their president while Trump was there as a guest of the president in Mexico City.

    GWEN IFILL: Dan Nowicki, we know that Donald Trump isn’t very popular among Hispanics in general, Mexican-Americans perhaps in particular, and I wonder whether this kind of appearance, this kind of joint appearance, might open up lines of communication, or is everything set in stone at this point politically?

    DAN NOWICKI: Yes, I don’t really think his audience is, you know, the Latinos in the United States. I think he’s kind of aiming more at some of the moderate Republican white people who he’s lost, especially here in Arizona.

    He’s hemorrhaged a lot of a moderate Republicans who normally would be backing the presidential nominee of their party, but this year are making a pretty close race with Hillary Clinton in what is usually, traditionally, a red state, Arizona.

    GWEN IFILL: We talked a bit about the building the wall idea, the border discussion, but there were other issues which apparently were raised during this conversation.

    One of them that they don’t agree about, Roger Noriega, is NAFTA. Donald Trump says he thinks it’s a disaster and has stolen American jobs. And that’s not what we heard from President Pena Nieto.

    ROGER NORIEGA: Well, the very superficial joint press conference really didn’t touch on any detail on the terms of NAFTA and the mutual beneficial relationships.

    And that’s because Trump, quite frankly, I think, is incapable of carrying on a serious conversation about the details of the benefits that accrue to the United States in terms of our national security, our economic security, the number of jobs created by NAFTA, six million jobs in the United States created by trade with Mexico alone.

    And I think that there was a failure on Pena Nieto to make that in a strong way. As a matter of fact, his suggestion that there are parts of NAFTA that could be renegotiated I think was kind of a capitulation because, there was a failure to address the genuine benefits that we accrue from NAFTA and, frankly, challenge Trump’s failure to command the details and understand those details.

    GWEN IFILL: Dan Nowicki, let’s talk politics for a minute, because you had a big primary in your state yesterday. John McCain, who has endorsed Donald Trump, but not enthusiastically, did very well. Jeff Flake, the other senator, has been very anti-Trump.

    But in a moment like this today and in a turn like that he pulled off today, did he manage to trump Hillary Clinton on a day when there was very little attention paid to her big speech?

    DAN NOWICKI: Well, I think he did. I think he certainly stole the spotlight.

    And I think if you’re in Hillary Clinton’s campaign, you have got to be scratching your head a little bit and wondering if you missed an opportunity here as well. You know, whether or not he’s going to win over something like Jeff Flake, who has been very critical of him, remains to be seen.

    But I think Flake has kind of been encouraging him to go in this direction and kind of reach out to Latinos in the United States and also kind of cut back on the anti-Mexico rhetoric. So it might help a little bit on that end.

    GWEN IFILL: And what are the expectations, Dan, tonight for tonight’s speech in Phoenix?

    DAN NOWICKI: Well, I think everyone really wants to know what Trump is going to say about the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants who have settled in the United States.

    So, that’s kind of a big question. And I don’t think any of the immigration reformers are really expecting him to change much. I think they see this as a lot of more of the same.

    I think if you hear him saying something like, oh, we’re going to enforce the laws, we’re going to secure the border, I think you’re just going to see him basically sticking with what he’s been saying all along, maybe wording it a little bit more moderately.

    But no one really expects him to go too far in terms of embracing any kind of, you know, comprehensive immigration reform or anything like that.

    GWEN IFILL: And, finally, Ambassador Noriega, was today in the end a discipline test for both the Mexican president and the Republican presidential nominee?


    I think certainly Trump passed that test in being able to sort of carry on this moderate discourse and not offend anybody in particular. On the other hand, I think, for Pena Nieto, a bad day. He’s already very unpopular. I think that the political implications in Mexico will be bad for his party.


    Ambassador Roger Noriega and Dan Nowicki of The Arizona Republic, thank you both very much.

    DAN NOWICKI: Thanks.

    GWEN IFILL: Online, we take another look at the stakes behind Donald Trump’s immigration speech in Arizona tonight. You can watch a stream of that speech on our home page, PBS.org/NewsHour.

    The post Trump talks of building a wall — and a relationship — on visit to Mexico appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    PHOENIX — Seeking to end confusion over his aggressive but recently muddled language on immigration, Donald Trump vowed Wednesday to remove millions of people living in the country illegally if he becomes president, warning that failure to do so would jeopardize the “well-being of the American people.”

    But Trump didn’t address what he would do about millions more who might remain under his approach — the major question that has frustrated past congressional attempts at remaking the nation’s immigration laws.

    Instead, Trump repeated the standard Republican talking point that only after securing the border can such a discussion begin to take place.

    It was a retreat in the rhetoric for the billionaire from the GOP primaries, when he had vowed his “deportation force” would seek to remove all who didn’t have permission to live and work in the country.

    The Republican presidential candidate insisted than any of the estimated 11 million such immigrants who want to seek legal status or citizenship in the United States must return to their home countries in order to do so. And he outlined plans to create a special task force that would prioritize the deportation of criminals, people who have overstayed their visas and other immediate security threats.

    “Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation,” Trump charged in the highly anticipated speech, which took place hours after he met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

    He added, “There will be no amnesty.”

    The aggressive tone during his speech in Phoenix marked a shift from the New York billionaire’s demeanor earlier in the day, when a much more measured Trump described Mexicans as “amazing people” as he appeared alongside Pena Nieto in Mexico’s capital city. It was his first meeting with a head of state as his party’s presidential nominee.

    Shortly after the joint appearance, a dispute arose over the most contentious part of the billionaire’s plans to secure the U.S. southern border and fight illegal immigration — his insistence that Mexico must pay to build his promised wall.

    Trump told reporters during the afternoon appearance that the two men didn’t discuss who would pay for a cost of construction pegged in the billions. Silent at that moment, Pena Nieto later tweeted, “At the start of the conversation with Donald Trump I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.”

    With the meeting held behind closed doors, it was impossible to know who was telling the truth. But clash cast a cloud over Trump’s first meeting with a foreign dignitary and threatened to overshadow the evening address.

    The post Watch: Donald Trump vows to remove millions living in U.S. illegally appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Marco Rubio greets supporters at his victory party in Kissimmee, Fla., after winning the Republican primary for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL:  The presidential race took another sharp turn today.  Republican Donald Trump flew to Mexico to meet with that country’s president, hours before giving a major speech on immigration.  Trump’s tough talk about Mexico has made him widely disliked there, but both men said their talks were constructive.  We will have a full report right after the news summary.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  In the day’s other news:  Two Republican senators geared up for tough general election fights after sailing past primary opponents.  In Arizona, five-term Senator John McCain handily defeated a Tea Party challenger, and rallied supporters at a victory rally last night.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz):  It’s imperative Republicans maintain our majorities in Congress.  It’s important to American’s future that we have a say over the next president’s appointments to this United States Supreme Court.  Now, let’s go win one more time.


    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Meanwhile, Florida Senator Marco Rubio won his own primary, as he seeks a second term.  Also in Florida, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz defeated an opponent who had been endorsed by Bernie Sanders.

    GWEN IFILL:  A U.S. commercial flight landed in Cuba today for the first time in more than half-a-century.  It is part of overall efforts to improve ties.  The JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, arrived in Santa Clara, Cuba, with 150 passengers on board.

    They included Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  Flights to Havana and other cities are also in the works.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  In Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff was formally ousted by the country’s Senate for violating budgetary rules.  She denied any wrongdoing, but the vote against her was 61 to 20.  It followed a year-long impeachment battle.

    DILMA ROUSSEFF, Impeached President, Brazil (through translator):  The Senate has just impeached the first elected woman president of Brazil.  There was no constitutional reason to do it.  This is just the beginning of a coup that will indiscriminately beat back any progressive political organization, progressive and democratic.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Rousseff plans to appeal to Brazil’s highest court.  The drama has played out amid a separate corruption scandal that has landed dozens of business and political figures in jail.

    GWEN IFILL:  Protests against Indian rule flared across Kashmir today, as authorities lifted a 54-day curfew.  Tensions have spiked in the disputed region since a rebel commander was killed in early July.  Today’s crowds battled security forces with rocks and wood, and the troops fired back with rubber bullets.  One person was killed, and about 150 were injured.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Towns across Northern Japan are underwater from a typhoon strike tonight.  At least 11 people died, most of them residents at a nursing home.  Aerials today showed the damaged building on the banks of a swollen river.  Elsewhere, rescue workers pulled stranded victims from rooftops.

    Meanwhile, Hawaii’s Big Island is bracing for a hurricane overnight.  And a tropical storm is brewing in the Gulf of Mexico.

    GWEN IFILL:  On Wall Street today, stocks fell again, as oil prices sank.  The Dow Jones industrial average lost 53 points to close near 18400.  The Nasdaq fell nine points, and the S&P 500 slipped five.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  And the town of Bunol in Eastern Spain was seeing red today.  It was the annual Tomatina fiesta, marking a 1945 food fight among local children.  Revelers pelted each other with 160 tons of tomatoes and left the town covered in red pulp.  Some 20,000 locals and tourists took part.

    CHRISTOF, Tomatina participant (through translator):  This was crazy.  The tomatoes hit you very hard, but it’s an experience that has to be lived.  This doesn’t happen in any other place.  Many tomatoes hit my face, but I’m happy I have experienced it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Organizers hosed the streets down minutes after the event ended.  The throngs of tomato-stained warriors were supplied with public showers.

    GWEN IFILL:  I had to talk Hari out of going.

    The post News Wrap: McCain, Rubio win their primaries appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 31, 2016. Photo by Carlo Allegri/REUTERS

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 31, 2016. Photo by Carlo Allegri/REUTERS

    WASHINGTON — Wednesday was supposed to be the day Donald Trump clarified his immigration stance. But in a key speech on that subject, he misstated facts about immigration policy, life for those in the country illegally and their impact on the U.S. economy.

    A look at some of his statements in an Arizona rally in the evening and after a meeting earlier in the day with Mexico’s president:


    TRUMP: “President Obama and Hillary Clinton have engaged in gross dereliction of duty by surrendering the safety of the American people to open borders.”

    THE FACTS: Trump actually praised President Barack Obama in the past for deporting an unprecedented number of people during his first term, a record that does not square with an accusation of supporting an “open” border.

    Obama increased Border Patrol staffing to an all-time high of 21,444 agents in 2011 and his administration has virtually ended the practice of “voluntary returns,” or turning back Mexicans without any consequences.

    Both Obama and Clinton support a more lenient policy than Trump has proposed, but what they lay out is not an open border.

    Clinton has promised to extend Obama’s actions that would let people brought to the country illegally as children remain in the country, as well as to let some parents of U.S. citizens stay. Both seek legislation that would allow most of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally to stay if they pass a background check, learn English and pay taxes. However, those who fail the background check or commit crimes would be deported.


    TRUMP, on people illegally in the U.S.: “They’re treated better than our vets.”

    THE FACTS: People in the country illegally do not have the right to work, vote or receive most government benefits. A modest number have been exempted from deportation because of an Obama administration action but most live under the risk of being removed from the country.

    Veterans are guaranteed government health care and because almost all are citizens, the right to vote and other government benefits.

    The quality of their care has been criticized by Trump and others but people in the country illegally do not have equivalent rights to health care, except for emergency treatment. Public hospitals are required to provide emergency medical care regardless of immigration status.

    TRUMP: “When politicians talk about immigration reform they usually mean the following: amnesty, open borders, lower wages … It should mean improvements to our laws and policies to make life better for American citizens.”

    THE FACTS: No politician of either party who supports overhauling immigration laws supports “amnesty,” but the meaning of “amnesty” varies depending on who is talking.

    The sweeping and bipartisan immigration bill that passed the Senate in 2013 was derided by opponents as amnesty, but supporters including GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida disputed that, noting numerous requirements imposed on immigrants in the country illegally along a 13-year path to citizenship, including paying penalties.

    The bill proposed spending tens of billions of dollars to double the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents and greatly increase border security. And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office studied the bill and projected that it would lower wages for the entire workforce slightly over the first 10 years after becoming law, but would then increase wages for the entire workforce by even more, at the same time boosting economic output and increasing the GDP.


    TRUMP, on the number of people in the U.S. illegally: “Our government has no idea. It could be 3 million, it could be 30 million. They have no idea.”

    THE FACTS: The government actually has an idea. The Homeland Security Department estimates there are 11.4 million people in the United States illegally. Few in the immigration debate challenge that estimate.

    The figure comes from an analysis of the most recent Census Data. The government compares the number of people whom the Census reports as foreign-born with the number of people who have been admitted legally and gained citizenship. The most recent estimate dates to January 2012. It roughly matches the estimates of demographers from the Pew Foundation, which issues its estimates more rapidly than the government.

    Experts believe the number of people in the U.S. illegally has been steadily declining as Mexicans and others return to their home country and illegal border crossings dwindle.

    U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto shake hands at a press conference at the Los Pinos residence in Mexico City, Mexico, August 31, 2016. Photo by Henry Romero/REUTERS

    U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto shake hands at a press conference at the Los Pinos residence in Mexico City, Mexico, August 31, 2016. Photo by Henry Romero/REUTERS

    TRUMP, on ending the practice of releasing people who are caught crossing the border illegally, pending a court appearance: “We are going to end catch-and-release … Under my administration, anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country and back to the country from which they came.”

    THE FACTS: Many of the releases in question were ordered by courts. They were not a policy of the Obama administration.

    A federal judge in Los Angeles ruled last year the federal government’s detention of children and their mothers who were caught crossing the border illegally violated a 1997 court settlement. In July, an appeals court narrowed the scope, saying children must be quickly released but not their parents. From October through July, 48,311 unaccompanied children were arrested crossing the border from Mexico; many more children were caught with their families.

    Many crossing the border illegally claim asylum, which must be adjudicated by an immigration judge. People can claim asylum because they are being persecuted or fear persecution on grounds of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion.


    TRUMP, on preventing people from overstaying their visas and remaining in the country illegally: “We will finally complete the biometric entry-exit visa tracking system, which we need desperately. For years Congress has required biometric entry-exit visa tracking systems but it has never been completed. The politicians are all talk, no action. Never happens, never happens … In my administration we will ensure that this system is in place.”

    THE FACTS: Trump is correct in focusing on visa overstays as a source of much illegal immigration. The biometric system he wants to complete, though, presents enormous logistical, technical and financial challenges, and he gave no details how he would address it differently than his predecessors.

    Congress mandated the system first in 1996 and only now has the Obama administration begun implementing it on select flights at nine airports and at a border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico.

    The scope of the problem is immense – and not one that Trump’s proposed border wall could fix.

    The U.S. admits more than 45 million people annually on tourist, student and work visas. The government says 99 percent of them leave when required. But 1 percent overstay their visas, and that’s more than 450,000 people annually.


    TRUMP, after meeting Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto: “I shared my strong view that NAFTA has been a far greater benefit to Mexico than it has been to the United States and that it must be improved upon. … I expressed that … we must take action to stem this tremendous outflow of jobs from our country. It’s happening every day, it’s getting worse and worse and worse, and we have to stop it.”

    THE FACTS: The loss of manufacturing jobs is generally attributed to China, not Mexico.

    Some U.S. companies have moved jobs to Mexico — the Carrier Corp. recently decided to relocate an air conditioning factory there from Indiana. But there is little data to show that the trend is getting “worse and worse.”

    No reliable annual measures exist of job flows between the U.S. and Mexico. The United States hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs from 2000 to 2010, when more than 5.5 million were lost, but most economists blame the emergence of China as a manufacturing powerhouse and the increasing automation of many factories.

    Recently, manufacturing has done a bit better: Since 2010, U.S. manufacturing jobs have increased by about 900,000. And many economists credit NAFTA with helping the U.S. auto industry by providing a cheap source of parts that otherwise might have been sourced in China. A report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research argued that imports of subsidized U.S. agricultural products put as many as 2 million Mexican farmers out of work. And since NAFTA’s implementation in 1994, Mexico has grown more slowly than many of its Latin American counterparts.


    TRUMP: “We didn’t discuss that. We didn’t discuss who pays for the wall, we didn’t discuss.” … “We did discuss the wall. We didn’t discuss payment of the wall. That’ll be for a later date.”

    PENA NIETO on Twitter, in Spanish: “At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.”

    THE FACTS: The facts may depend on what your definition of a discussion is. If the Mexican president opened with a comment that his country won’t pay for the wall and Trump did not respond to it, that may not have been a discussion in his mind. But the subject, it seems, came up. The Trump campaign’s brief statement on the meeting did not quibble with Pena Nieto’s account. It said the meeting “was not a negotiation.”

    The post AP Fact Check: Donald Trump clarifies his immigration stance appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The prices of Epipen auto-injectors have more than quintupled since 2004. Photo by M/via Flickr

    The prices of Epipen auto-injectors have more than quintupled since 2004. Photo by M/via Flickr

    Following weeks of criticism over dramatic price increases on its EpiPen, Mylan said Monday it will offer a generic version of the life-saving allergy treatment. The generic, which the company says will be identical to the brand product, will sell for $300 for a two-pack, which is half the cost of Mylan’s brand name EpiPens. The news did little to dim the ongoing outcry over the price of the product, for which there are no other competitors on the market. Some called it a marketing ploy, while Robert Weissman, president of the consumer group Public Citizen, said the generic price was still too high, writing in the Huffington Post of “the weirdness of a drug company offering a generic version” of its own brand-name product.

    KHN offers answers to some key questions related to Mylan’s generic and what this development could mean for consumers and the marketplace.

    When will I be able to get a generic EpiPen?

    Mylan, which is the company that markets this treatment, says it will have a product out within a few weeks. Pfizer is the firm that actually manufactures EpiPens. The drug used is the product epinephrine but the patent applies to the auto-injector device used to deliver it.

    Will it cost me less?

    For some patients, yes. Those who are uninsured, pay a percentage of the drug cost as their insurance copayment or have an unmet prescription deductible will likely pay less for the $300 two-pack generic than for the brand-name version. That’s because what they pay is based on the full price. Many other consumers have insurance with flat-dollar drug copayments, ranging from $10 to $100 for every prescription, so they are paying far less than the retail price. Insurers generally set lower copayments for generic drugs than brand-name medicines. So if a consumer’s health insurer makes the generic available and places it in the generic payment “tier,” the cost per prescription also could fall. In some cases, however, there is a possibility that some people who could benefit from the lower cost generic won’t have access to it. An insurer or pharmacy benefit manager, for example, might not add the generic EpiPen to the formulary, or restrict its availability in some way. That’s because some health plans get such large rebates from brand-name companies as to make the brand-name version cost less than the generic, said Adam Fein, president of Pembroke Consulting. But consumers do not benefit from rebates directly. Instead, it goes to the pharmacy manager, insurer or employer.

    Are manufacturer rebates good?

    It depends. They can help lower the cost of the drug for insurers and employers, helping slow overall spending and keeping costs paid by consumers such as premiums and deductibles lower. “If we didn’t have rebates [spending on drugs] would be at least 35 percent higher,” said Richard Evans, co-founder of SSR Health, which does investment research on the pharmaceutical industry.

    Even so, some say rebates should be barred in favor of more transparent prices. Stephen Schondelmeyer, director of the Prime Institute, an independent consulting group that monitors pharmaceutical trends, said discounts don’t make him feel good when his health plan is paying about $700 for EpiPens that it paid $80 for five years ago. “We should outlaw rebates,” said Schondelmeyer, who also helps oversee the University of Minnesota’s health plan. “What rebates are really is a way to overcharge the market. … We are giving the drug industry loans to the tune of billions of dollars … and rarely does it get back to the end consumer.”

    Are drugmakers even allowed to create generic versions of their own products?

    Many major drugmakers also market their drugs as generics. Called “authorized generics,” such products are identical to the drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration as part of a manufacturer’s New Drug Application. Drugmakers do not need to go back to the FDA for further approval to market an authorized generic.

    Why would drugmakers want to offer a generic to their own product?

    Most authorized generics appear on the market just as a competitor launches a generic of its own. In those cases, the move helps brand manufacturers retain some revenue that might otherwise be lost to competitors because the entry of less costly generics generally results in a sharp drop in brand-name sales. Manufacturers are careful not to release the authorized generic much before it loses patent protection, because it doesn’t want it to undercut sales of its more pricey brand-name product.

    So why is Mylan doing this?

    Mylan appears to be offering its “authorized generic” in response to complaints about the cost of its brand-name drug, not fear of competition from rivals. It currently controls the market. Pembroke’s Fein said Mylan miscalculated when it raised EpiPen’s price tag from about $100 to $600 over the past decade.

    During that time, the firm failed to notice that insurance coverage had changed, Fein said. Instead of flat-dollar copayments, a growing number of consumers now have prescription deductibles they must meet first. That means some consumers are on the hook for the full $600. “They behaved as if everyone had good insurance,” said Fein. And the firm still seems to argue that raising its prices would not hurt most consumers, noting that many had flat copayments of less than $100. But, as the price rose, their insurer or the employer who provides coverage made up the difference, helping fuel premium and deductible increases.

    “Premiums are an out-of-pocket cost,” said Schondelmeyer. “That’s what Mylan and other manufacturers have ignored.”

    Do authorized generics reduce competition, which is supposed to help lower prices?

    Some generic companies argue that is the case, saying a brand-name company jumping in ahead of rivals makes it less attractive for generic makers to bring their own products to market or challenge existing patents held by brand-name companies. But a 2011 Federal Trade Commission report found that authorized generics did not “measurably” reduce the number of patent challenges. The study also said the presence of authorized generics actually resulted in retail generic prices that were 4 to 8 percent lower than they would have been without.

    KHN’s coverage of prescription drug development, costs and pricing is supported in part by theLaura and John Arnold Foundation. This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation. 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.

    The post Mylan’s generic EpiPen — a price break or marketing maneuver? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 31, 2016. Photo by Carlo Allegri/REUTERS

    Donald Trump delivers an immigration speech in Phoenix, Arizona on Wednesday night. Photo by Carlo Allegri/REUTERS

    Donald Trump has expanded his words on immigration, moving from the three core principles he outlined just over one year ago (that policy paper remains the primary immigration document on his website) to a ten-point plan unveiled in his speech in Phoenix on Wednesday night.

    What are his ten points?

    1. Build the wall
    2. End “catch and release.”
    3. Create a deportation task force and focus on criminals in the country illegally
    4. Defund sanctuary cities
    5. Cancel President Obama’s executive actions
    6. Extreme vetting. Block immigration from some nations
    7. Force other countries to take back those whom the U.S. wants to deport
    8. Get biometric visa tracking system fully in place
    9. Strengthen E-Verify, block jobs for the undocumented
    10. Limit legal immigration, lower it to “historic norms,” and set new caps

    Here is some context on each point:

    1. Build the wall

    Trump has continued to stress that Mexico would pay for the wall, despite Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s tweet on Wednesday insisting that he personally told Trump his nation would do no such thing. Going off script in Phoenix, Trump complimented Peña Nieto and then said, “They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for the wall.”

    2. End “catch and release”

    Trump says any immigrant in the country illegally who is arrested by law enforcement would be detained until they are deported.

    3. Create a deportation task force and focus on criminals in the country illegally.

    Trump says he would launch a “deportation task force” that would focus on removing undocumented residents with criminal records, along with those who have overstayed their visas or are using public resources or benefits.

    4. Defund “sanctuary cities”

    Trump says he would use the federal government to discourage cities from enacting policies that protect or aid undocumented residents. Such places are referred to by conservatives as “sanctuary cities.”

    5. Cancel President Obama’s executive actions

    The GOP nominee would end the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy, better known as DACA, under which roughly half a million young people brought to the U.S. as children have received temporary legal status. Trump would also cancel President Obama’s DAPA program, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which would give similar status to undocumented parents of American citizens. That program has been frozen as it faces court challenges.

    6. Extreme vetting. Block immigration from some nations

    Trump would block immigration from countries for which proper vetting is not possible. He says that would include Syria and Libya currently.

    7. Force other countries to take back those whom the U.S. wants to deport

    Trump did not specify how this might work but insisted he would force other nations to take back criminals and other undocumented residents the U.S. wants to deport.

    8. Get biometric visa tracking system fully in place

    Such a system would include biometric records, such as fingerprints or retinal scans, that could identify individuals with more precision as they enter the country.

    9. Strengthen E-Verify, block jobs for the undocumented

    The nominee did not offer specifics but said he would strengthen the E-Verify system so that undocumented residents would find it difficult or impossible to get work.

    10. Limit legal immigration, lower it to “historic norms” and set new caps

    In the past, Trump has indicated that some legal immigration should be curtailed (in August 2015 he proposed a temporary freeze on all green cards). But his Phoenix speech expanded on that idea. The Republican nominee is now calling for a commission to roll back the amount of legal immigration to “historic norms,” a phrase that implies a level that is lower than the current historic high (immigrants relative to total U.S. population). Trump said he would expect new immigration caps to be put in place.

    The post What is Donald Trump’s 10-Point immigration plan? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Dr. Martha Perez examines Maria Lebron in a room at the Community Health of South Florida, Doris Ison Health Center on February 21, 2013 in Miami, Florida. Florida Governor Rick Scott reversed himself on Wednesday and now is callling for an expansion of Medicaid to Florida residents under the federal Affordable Care Act. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

    Aging and retirement expert Phil Moeller answers your questions. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller, who writes widely on aging and retirement, is here to provide the answers you need in “Ask Phil.” Send your questions to Phil.

    Check out his new Recommended Reading section with links to notable stories and reports at the end of today’s post.

    Michael – N.J.: I have Medicare Parts A and B and a Medigap plan. I am 66, and I’m about to start getting Social Security in October. I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma early this year, and found out (too late of course) that Medicare will not cover the stem cell transplant I need from my identical twin brother.

    I’m researching adding private coverage, but it doesn’t look promising. I have been reading that private insurers cannot legally write policies if they know you have Medicare. So I am considering dropping Medicare and getting a private plan that would cover this.

    However, this looks even less palatable. I understand that to give up Part A means I forfeit future and past Social Security payouts. Also, if I give up Part B and later do re-enroll, my Medigap plan is no longer guaranteed issue.

    Am I understanding this correctly? Am I missing any promising loopholes?

    Phil Moeller: A spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services confirmed that Medicare generally does not cover these tests. However, as with much of Medicare, there may be an exception for some Medicare beneficiaries with multiple myeloma who require allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. The qualifications seem narrow, but you should check them out and follow up if it looks promising.

    As for getting private coverage, I doubt you will find any takers. Even if you dropped Medicare and Social Security — which I do not recommend — I know of no private insurer who would take you on with this pre-existing condition. And if you did find one, the premiums likely would be higher than you could afford.

    I wish I had better news. I hope you can find the help you seek.

    Janet – Fla.: I am a 55-year-old woman. I have been receiving Medicare since 2005 when I became a disability claimant. I work part time from home, but between doctor’s payments and way over-the-top prescription drug prices, I need help. For example, a monthly prescription I used to pay $10 for is now $275 a month! I have prescription and medical insurance with Humana. Am I financially better off to just use my Medicare and not use private insurance? Supplemental insurance seems expensive.

    Phil Moeller: Janet, I am so sorry that you are getting hammered by such outlandish price increases for your medications. Unfortunately, you are in the same boat as millions of other Americans. Tell me what drug you’re taking, and maybe we can embarrass the manufacturer like the maker of EpiPens was embarrassed. That manufacturer consequently agreed to make its product more affordable. And its price gouging, by the way, was only 500 to 600 percent. Yours is 2,750 percent!

    READ MORE: Did outcry on social media lead to Mylan’s generic EpiPen?

    Depending on your income, you may qualify for Medicare savings programs, including its Extra Help program for prescription drugs. Call a Medicare counselor in your state who works for the free State Health Insurance Assistance Program, see if you qualify and get help applying for benefits. In the meantime, you should look at Medicare’s Plan Finder online tool and see if Humana’s price for this medication is what other drug plan insurers also charge where you live. If you can find this medication at lower cost in another plan, you should consider switching to that plan for 2017 during this year’s annual Medicare open enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.

    Another possibility you could consider is shopping for your health insurance on the Florida state insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act. While you are eligible for Medicare because of your disability, you do not have to enroll in Medicare until you are 65. The exchange plan may be cheaper than Medicare. The State Health Insurance Assistance Program might be able to help you find out. As for supplemental insurance, it’s not only costly, but it doesn’t even cover drugs.

    READ MORE: Is there any relief for astronomical drug costs?

    Lisa – Ga.: I am a Social Security Disability Income recipient and hope to move out of the country to Germany or someplace similar in Europe. I am currently 46. I know some countries it is acceptable to relocate on SSDI. I wish to be independent, but the chaos of politics and living where the buses don’t run and in a society that demonizes disability (especially cognitive) is tiresome. I speak conversational German, which I learned after a traumatic brain injury, but before subsequent brain injuries 12 years ago.  If I am receiving SSDI and can speak the language well enough to get by, what happens with my medical coverage? Can I live overseas? Please advise. I was a paralegal as well. I earned that degree in 1999 after my injury in 1996. I understand the law.

    Phil Moeller: Lisa, you are already overcoming more obstacles than people without disabilities ever confront. I applaud your desire to be independent. I’m also sorry you’ve had such negative experiences in the U.S. The first part of your question is easy. If you get SSDI, these payments will continue to be sent to you if you relocate outside the U.S. to Germany. Social Security payments are not sent to people in all countries, but they are provided to people in Germany. The agency has an online screening tool that discloses the rules in different countries. However, you must become a legal resident of Germany (see page 6 of this document) for your Social Security payments to continue.

    READ MORE: Why doesn’t Medicare cover more for physical therapy?

    Even if you can jump through these hoops, getting medical insurance is not such an easy matter. I assume you are now on Medicare. It does not cover medical care outside the U.S. You would most likely need to get health insurance in your new country of residence. This could be a challenge, especially if you do not have a job and would be living only on your SSDI income. I would begin by joining some online discussion groups of ex-pats living in different European countries. There may be a lot of relocation issues you’d face beyond health insurance, and you should take the time to learn about them and plan your move. Next, I’d find a few insurance brokers who specialize in German health insurance. I say “a few,” because you will want to speak to several people to make sure you’re getting the best deal. I wish you the best of luck. Please let me know if I can be of further help.

    Christopher – Mexico: I turned 65 in March, and I retired in Mexico about 100 miles south of the border. I began collecting retirement benefits at 62, and when I turned 65, my online account information was updated to say I was automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A. This is fine with me. In a pinch, I figured I could take a bus or taxi to the border for medical treatment if need be. Here’s my problem: I have never received a Medicare ID card. I used the online service every month to request one to no avail, and I called and spoke with the kind folks at the office in the states and they said they initiated a card replacement. The online service was recently changed to require a cell phone text message so now I can’t even check it out online.

    Phil Moeller: Your Medicare card is supposed to be mailed to the address that is connected with your Social Security account. Assuming this address is in Mexico, that’s where the card should go. I’d call or email Social Security again and keep asking them to send you the card. Also, the agency’s requirement that people use a text message as part of its online security process was very short-lived. Many seniors do not have smartphones and do not text. They spoke up, along with advocacy groups, and the agency quickly reversed itself and abandoned the policy. So at least you will be able to access your online account once again.

    READ MORE: I can get my Social Security abroad, so why not my Medicare?

    Having said this, I don’t know that having a Part A card is going to do you much good. Part A charges no premiums to people who qualify for Social Security payments. That makes it a nice benefit. But it covers only hospital costs. If you really want to have medical treatment when you return to the U.S., you’d also need Part B of Medicare to cover doctors and outpatient clinics. And you’d need Part D to have your prescription drugs covered. Parts B and D both carry monthly premiums. You might get both of these rolled into a low-cost Medicare Advantage plan, but you’d need a U.S. address to document that you’re in the plan’s service area. I’d call some insurance brokers specializing in ex-pat coverage for folks living in Mexico and see what they suggest.

    Carol – Ga.: My husband is on disability and will automatically be registered for Medicare next year. Should I still cover him on my insurance at work? Do I need to register him for Parts B and D?

    Phil Moeller: It normally takes about 30 months between the date someone is approved for Social Security disability payments and when they can begin participating in Medicare. This is a wonderful safeguard for people with disabilities, providing them guaranteed access to insurance even at very young ages. However, in your situation there is no requirement that he has to take Medicare. Now, I don’t know exactly why you think your husband will automatically be registered for Medicare next year. Perhaps it’s because he’s turning 65 or simply that it will have been 30 months since he was approved for disability. Whatever the reason, he does not have to sign up for more than Part A of Medicare (which he automatically received upon commencing disability payments) as long as he is covered by your employer insurance plan and your employer has at least 20 people on the payroll (there are different Medicare rules for smaller employers). If he receives a Part B Medicare card from Social Security, he should call them and say he rejects the coverage and wants to return the card. Best of luck!

    Sherry – Ariz.: I signed up for Medicare when I turned 65 in May of this year. I work full time and I had much better insurance through Walmart. Can I go back on the Walmart insurance during open enrollment this coming fall?

    READ MORE: Should you stay on your employer health insurance or get Medicare?

    Phil Moeller: As I just told Carol, you do not have to get Medicare when you turn 65 (or 75 or even 85) so long as you have health insurance from your employer and it employs more than 20 people. Walmart, of course, employs a lot more than 20 people! So I don’t know why you signed up for Medicare. Whatever the reason, if you have left the Walmart insurance plan, you may have trouble getting back into it. Before you drop Medicare, talk to someone at Walmart in the employee benefits department and understand exactly what your options are for resuming employer insurance.

    Jonathan: In regards to taking Social Security benefits and then being unable to contribute to an health savings account, what’s the policy if a person claims a spousal benefit from Social Security, delays their own retirement benefit until 70 and continues to work?  Can they still contribute to their HSA under this claiming strategy?

    READ MORE: Why health savings accounts and Medicare don’t mix

    Phil Moeller: No, they can’t. Claiming any benefit, even a spousal benefit, will trigger the mandatory enrollment in Part A of Medicare. This enrollment qualifies as being on Medicare and thus disallows continue contributions to an HSA. Sorry!

    Debbie – Wash.: My husband is turning 65 in January 2017, but has been medically retired since 2003. He has had Medicare since then. Since 1991, I have had very good private health insurance that covers both of us. I’m writing because whenever we make appointments or go to the hospital, he is always referred to as a Medicare patient. Sometimes we are told that a physician is not seeing any more “Medicare” patients, even though we have secondary private insurance and Tricare for Life. Is there a way not to have Medicare without penalty and have our private insurance the primary payer? It seems that being a “Medicare patient” only makes things worse.

    Phil Moeller: Are you paying any premiums to Medicare for your husband’s insurance? I hope not and that the only kind of Medicare he’s had is premium-free Part A. As I’ve told other readers in today’s column, he does not have to have Medicare so long as he is covered on your employer’s plan. Now, I can’t tell for sure if you are still actively employed or whether your “very good private health insurance” is actually a retiree insurance plan. These plans nearly always require a person to have Medicare when they turn 65, because the plans become the secondary payer of health claims, and Medicare becomes the primary payer. That’s certainly the case with Tricare for Life. And if you have a secondary private insurance plan, then Tricare for Life would move to third place and wouldn’t pay claims until your primary and secondary carriers had paid their share of covered expenses.


    Audits Of Some Medicare Advantage Plans Reveal Pervasive Overcharging

    Fred Schulte continues his compelling coverage of how some Medicare Advantage insurers have been gaming the system to get the government to pay them more money than is needed to provide insurance to some of their Medicare policyholders. Medicare Advantage is the private insurance product that is required to provide at least the same coverage as Original Medicare (Parts A and B) and usually includes a Part D prescription drug plan as well. Insurers receive per-beneficiary payments from the government that are based on the health of the beneficiary. By overstating how sick a person is, an insurer can get a higher fixed payment to cover that person. (Source: Fred Schulte for The Center for Public Integrity via NPR.)

    How to include your digital assets in your estate plan

    It’s hard enough to get your final wishes properly expressed in your will. Now, you have to worry about your digital afterlife as well! However, what used to be an oddity is moving mainstream. Here’s a helpful “how to” piece about making sure your Facebook page has a final resting place as nice as yours. (Source: Andrea Coombs for MarketWatch.)

    Tax Credits for Ramps, Grab Bars to Help Seniors Stay at Home

    Here’s another practical piece on efforts in some states to permit tax reductions for “age friendly” home improvements that help older and disabled people to continue living in their homes. (Source: Jenni Bergal for Stateline from The Pew Charitable Trusts.)

    The post Medicare won’t cover a procedure I need. Can I get private insurance? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A SpaceX rocket, due for launch this weekend, exploded Thursday morning on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX confirmed the rocket’s cargo, a multimillion dollar Israeli communications satellite, was also lost during the incident.

    NASA stated the explosion happened shortly after 9 a.m. during a firing test of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. The Air Force 45th Space Wing confirmed via Twitter that no casualties occurred and there was no immediate threat to public safety.

    Smoke billowed from the launch pad for half an hour according to the Associated Press, and was accompanied by series of explosions. A local weatherman spotted the giant smoke plume on radar maps.

    The destroyed communications satellite, called Amos-6, was meant to launch Saturday whereupon it would have provided internet to Sub-Saharan Africa as part of a Facebook initiative called Internet.org. Amos-6 reportedly cost $195 million to construct.

    The explosion interrupts a series of successes made this year by the private space exploration company, including multiple landings of its reusable Falcon 9 rockets. On Tuesday, the company signed its first customer for a recycled rocket mission.

    However, today’s accident arrives a year and two months after one of their Falcon 9 rockets exploded just after launch. SpaceX stated initially that an anomaly on the platform caused this morning’s fireball. Later, the company clarified, stating the issue arose while loading fuel into the rocket.

    The post SpaceX rocket explodes at Cape Canaveral, $195 million satellite destroyed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 31, 2016. Photo by Carlo Allegri/REUTERS

    Donald Trump outlined his immigration plan at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday night. Photo by Carlo Allegri/REUTERS

    Donald Trump’s immigration speech in Phoenix on Wednesday served up a buffet of red meat for his supporters, with talk of detention, deportation, clamping down on so-called “sanctuary cities” and blocking some nationalities altogether.

    But what was new? A few, strikingly important things.

    1. His Deportation Force


    “I am going to create a new special deportation task force, focused on identifying and removing quickly the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America.”


    “Our enforcement priorities will include removing criminals, gang members, security threats, visa overstays, public charges – that is, those relying on public welfare or straining the safety net.”

    This is a key change or clarification from Trump. What he once described as a “deportation force” is now a “deportation task force.” And most importantly, the candidate is making it clear that this task force would target specific groups of undocumented immigrants: criminals, visa overstays or those on public welfare. Otherwise, he notably says he is not targeting those without criminal records.

    Which raises the question, what is Trump’s plan for those people? He offered the next quotes, which seem to point in opposite directions.

    2. What To Do With Most Undocumented Immigrants


    “For those here today illegally who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and only one route: to return home and apply for re-entry.”


    “When we have accomplished all of our enforcement goals, and truly ended illegal immigration for good, including the construction of a great wall, and the establishment of our new lawful immigration system, then and only then will we be in a position to consider the appropriate disposition of those who remain.”

    Trump is trying to thread a needle here and say something appealing to each side of the immigration debate. But what does it mean?

    Trump would not allow undocumented immigrants to have any legal status while living here. They would remain in the shadows, unlawful. But — and this is the new, “softer” position — as long as they follow other laws, he would not forcibly remove them. Instead, once the border is secure and his enforcement system is in place, he would “consider” the status of “those who remain.”

    It is a combination of some of the most conservative ideas on immigration and some of the compromise plans (see “Gang of 8”) that proposed a legal status only once the borders were secure and the visa system improved. (Trump and other conservatives strongly disavowed the Gang of 8 proposal.)

    3. The Trump Doctrine


    “Not everyone who seeks to join our country will be able to successfully assimilate. It is our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish here.”

    This is a new piece of the Trump Doctrine. In two sentences, Trump outlines two noteworthy beliefs: 1) Successful immigration policy aims for assimilation into American culture and 2) the U.S., and all nations, have the right to choose immigrants; immigrants do not make the final choice.

    Supporter Jansen Tropf wears an American flag at a campaign rally for Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump in Salt Lake City, Utah March 18, 2016. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

    A Trump supporter wears an American flag at a campaign rally in Salt Lake City, Utah in March. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

    4. Hot and Cold Toward Undocumented Immigrants


    “While there are many illegal immigrants in our country who are good people, this doesn’t change the fact that most illegal immigrants are lower-skilled workers with less education who compete directly against vulnerable American workers.”

    This is a fascinating quote, containing two seemingly paradoxical thoughts from the past week. Trump has said he is “hardening” his immigration stance and other times he has insisted he’s “softening” it.

    Here, the GOP nominee goes out of his way to say he thinks many undocumented immigrants are good people (perhaps to soften his past words focused on rapists and criminals). But he is also defining them, toughly, as low-skilled, less-educated workers who are taking American jobs. It is a warm nod followed by a sharp rebuke.

    5. Deport Them “Great Distances” Away


    “Anyone who illegally crosses will be detained until they are removed and go back to country from which they came. And they will be brought great distances, we are not dropping them right across.”

    This was not in Trump’s prepared remarks. The planned speech contained only “anyone who illegally crosses will be detained until they are removed out of our country.” But looking out at the Phoenix crowd, Trump added that those deported will go back to their original country, and it will be a “great distance” from the U.S. border. Trump referenced the 1954 deportation plan under President Eisenhower known as “Operation Wetback,” not for the first time. What was new? The specific pledge to take deportees to home countries and “great distances” away.

    6. Fewer Legal Immigrants


    “The time has come for a new immigration commission to develop a new set of reforms to our legal immigration system in order to achieve the following goals: To keep immigration levels, measured by population share, within historical norms. To select immigrants based on their likelihood of success in U.S. society, and their ability to be financially self-sufficient.”

    Trump previously proposed a temporary freeze on all green cards, but this is much broader. The GOP candidate would lower the amount of all legal immigration to the U.S., which is currently at historic highs relative to population. And he would select immigrants based on measures of personal and financial ability. Trump has not offered which specific metrics he would use or who would determine them. But his words imply that, at least, some refugees may have a more difficult path than currently. Metrics aside, he is clearly calling for a more closed, more selective immigration system.

    The post The 6 new, significant things Donald Trump said on immigration appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    These stromatolites, wavelike patterns created by bacteria embedded in sediment, are 3.7 billion years old and may represent the oldest life on the planet. Photo by Allen Nutman

    These stromatolites, wavelike patterns created by bacteria embedded in sediment, are 3.7 billion years old and may represent the oldest life on the planet. Photo by Allen Nutman

    Scientists have discovered 3.7 billion-year-old fossils entrapped by Greenland’s ice, according to a study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

    The newly discovered remains may represent the oldest known evidence of life on earth and could guide the search for life on moons or others planets in our solar system, such as Mars.

    The fossils are stromatolites — sedimentary structures produced by microorganisms — and a team of Australian scientists found them in a western Greenland region known as the Isua Greenstone Belt. This remote research site is accessible only by helicopter, but it houses a portal into the past in the form of relatively well-preserved rocks.

    To the average person, the specimens might resemble hand-drawn waves scrawled into the brown stone. But the swirls represent areas where microorganisms shifted the sediments as they layered billions of years ago.

    Life at that nascent stage would have seemed vastly different compared to modern Earth.

    “Early Earth would have had small, black continents and an orange sky,” said Martin Van Kranendonk, an astrobiologist and study co-author from University of New South Wales, Australia.

    Geologist Allen Nutman of the University of Wollongong and geochemist Vickie Bennett of the Australian National University hold the 3.7-billion-year-old fossilized stromatolite that they found in Isua, Greenland. Photo by Yuri Amelin

    Geologist Allen Nutman of the University of Wollongong and geochemist Vickie Bennett of the Australian National University hold the 3.7-billion-year-old fossilized stromatolite that they found in Isua, Greenland. Photo by Yuri Amelin

    The burnt tinge in the air would have been due to increased levels of carbon dioxide and volcanic gases. Without plants or fungi, the continents would have been covered by black crust made of basaltic lavas. The seas would have been green thanks to dissolved iron, Van Kranendonk added.

    The study suggests microorganisms likely lived in shallow water, and the discovery predates the oldest prior evidence of life by approximately 220 million years. It shows that life may have formed quicker and easier than once thought.

    “Earth was bombarded by ocean-vapourising asteroids up until about 3.9 billion years ago,” Van Kranendonk said. “It appears that life may be able to develop relatively quickly on an Earth-like planet, possibly in as little as 200 million years.”

    This finding suggests that the conditions favorable for life don’t require a huge time period to become established.

    “This opens the window a bit further for finding the right conditions elsewhere in the solar system,” Van Kranendonk said.

    While exciting, this Greenland microbial tomb is not ironclad.

    “The case for a biological origin of the Greenland structures is limited by the information available in the tiny outcrop,” wrote NASA astrobiologist Abigail Allwood in a Nature op-ed. “There are very few structures available to study, and although the overall shape of the Isua structures has survived, textural and chemical details within them have degraded substantially.”

    The fossils also lack cellular features and organics, said Allwood, who found the previous oldest fossil in Australia in 2006. However, she wrote:

    If these are really the figurative tombstones of our earliest ancestors, the implications are staggering. Earth’s surface 3.7 billion years ago was a tumultuous place, bombarded by asteroids and still in its formative stages. If life could find a foothold here, and leave such an imprint that vestiges exist even though only a minuscule sliver of metamorphic rock is all that remains from that time, then life is not a fussy, reluctant and unlikely thing. Give life half an opportunity and it’ll run with it.

    The post 3.7 billion-year-old Greenland fossils are oldest yet, scientists say appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Community members attend a vigil after protests following the police shooting of 23 year-old Sylville Smith in Milwaukee. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    Twenty-three year-old Sylville Smith was stopped on August 13 for a traffic violation on Milwaukee’s north side. He fled on foot. Following a chase, Smith was shot dead after police say he turned toward them with a stolen gun. Officials haven’t provided additional details or released body camera footage pending an investigation, but the shooting sparked a weekend of protests that led to rioting in the city’s Sherman Park neighborhood.

    Those riots brought national attention to a long list of problems plaguing Milwaukee’s African-American population. The city is ranked by 24/7 Wall Street as the worst place to be black in America, and leads the nation in many negative indicators. Milwaukee is the most racially segregated metro area in the country and is the second most politically stratified, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Four-out-of-5 black children in Wisconsin are living in poverty — 42 percent in the city of Milwaukee. And a 2013 study found that one in every eight black men in Wisconsin was in state prison or jail.

    “[The] community has been figuratively burning, has been downtrodden by economic blight and sparse educational options.” — Walter Bond, Teach for America – Milwaukee

    “[The] community has been figuratively burning, has been downtrodden by economic blight and sparse educational options,” says Walter Bond, chief of staff for Teach for America — Milwaukee.

    While the riots provide insight into the city’s current disparities, peeling back the complicated layers of segregation and discrimination uncovers decades of racial strife and a stark generational divide when it comes to finding solutions.

    Milwaukee’s history of police violence

    Tensions between African-Americans and law enforcement in Milwaukee aren’t exactly new. Just two years ago, protestors took to the streets after the county district attorney declined to charge a white police officer who shot 31 year-old Dontre Hamilton 14 times, killing him. The mentally ill, black man had been confronted by the police after employees of a coffee shop reported him sleeping on a bench in a nearby park.

    Protests over police killings in Milwaukee go back as far as the death of Daniel Bell in 1958. Similar to Sylville Smith, the 22 year-old was shot by police after fleeing from a traffic stop. It wasn’t until 20 years in later, in 1979, that an officer came forward revealing the shooting was racially motivated and covered up by the police department. As Marquette University professor Howard Fuller recalls, Milwaukee has experienced similar uprisings nearly every decade since.

    “There’s a long history of black people being killed by the police,” he says. “So whether [Smith] was justified or not, it’s taking place within a larger context of police shootings of black people in this city.”

    The tension in Milwaukee reached a boiling point in 1967, when black residents protested the city’s slow response to police brutality and housing discrimination. Black Milwaukeeans had fought for fair housing legislation for more than a decade, but exclusionary practices keeping African-Americans from living in parts of the city were still legal and common.

    In 2006, protests erupted following the verdict of the three former police officers who were charged with beating Frank Jude Jr. in October of 2004. An all-white jury acquitted the three white off duty officers of most charges. They were later found guilty in federal court. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

    In 2006, protests erupted following the verdict of the three former police officers who were charged with beating Frank Jude Jr. in October of 2004. An all-white jury acquitted the three white off duty officers of most charges. They were later found guilty in federal court. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

    Frustrations mounted and, that summer, protests sparked days of violent rioting. After 200 consecutive nights of protestors marching over the bridge that connected Milwaukee’s predominantly black north side with the mostly white south, fair housing laws were passed. But rather than ushering an era of integration to the city, it fueled a mass exodus of whites to the suburbs, a major contributor to Milwaukee being the most segregated U.S. city today.

    This year also marks 10 years since thousands of outraged residents gathered in front of the Milwaukee County courthouse to protest the acquittal of three off-duty white police officers who severely beat Frank Jude Jr., following an altercation at a house party in 2004. Jude suffered a cracked skull and punctured eardrums after the officers accused him and a friend of stealing a wallet and police badge. Neither were ever found, and the officers, although acquitted by the state, were later convicted in federal court.

    Many Milwaukeeans view the recent protests in the context of the city’s long history of tension between the black community and the police. But a frustrated Milwaukee County Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde says those outside the city are quick to view them as isolated incidents, ignoring the “longstanding challenges” Milwaukee faces.

    “There is almost an assault, if you will, on the dignity and humanity of black people, particularly black men throughout the city,” he says.

    New era of old problems

    “What the nation really saw is what happens when you inflict poverty on a group of people. What you saw was the young people retaliating,” says Andre Lee Ellis, a community activist and founder of the “We Got This” mentorship program.

    On a rainy Saturday morning, Ellis ushers neighborhood boys into his community garden on Ninth and Ring streets, in the heart of Milwaukee’s 53206 zip code. Nearly 50 percent of the residents in this area live in poverty. In this community alone, more than 60 percent of all men under the age of 34 have spent time in an adult correctional facility, contributing to Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin incarcerating more black men than anywhere else in the nation. The 53206 zip code, located in the center of the city, has come to symbolize many of Milwaukee’s contemporary hardships.

    Along the neighborhood’s blocks, many of the homes are boarded or abandoned. Teddy bears pinned to a tree mark the spot where a young man was killed in a recent drive-by shooting. But just a half-mile from the border of 53206 is development for new luxury townhomes and condominiums along the Milwaukee River. The city is in the midst of an urban revitalization that, many say, has excluded the communities that need it most.

    “A pocket of the worst place to be as a black man is centralized around all of the money in the city of Milwaukee. That’s scary. Because anything jeopardizing that money is subject to be targeted for oppression and suppression.” — Khalil Coleman, community activist

    Nationally, as whites move from the suburbs back to the cities, Milwaukee isn’t exempt from the effects of the gentrification that creates. The stark contrast is evident between the mostly white Lakeshore and downtown neighborhoods that are just blocks away from the signs of abject poverty on the north side. As the city constructs a new $524 million arena for the Milwaukee Bucks — $250 million of that paid by taxpayers – the influx of investment into the city’s downtown is reigniting some of the historic racial tensions between African-Americans, whites and law enforcement.

    “A pocket of the worst place to be as a black man is centralized around all of the money in the city of Milwaukee,” says community activist and educator Khalil Coleman. “That’s scary. Because anything jeopardizing that money is subject to be targeted for oppression and suppression.”

    Coleman — as well as many of the men NewsHour spoke with — recalls increasing instances of random stops and searches by police. On the Saturday NewsHour joined him while volunteering with the “We Got This” program, Milwaukee County Sheriff squad cars tailed Coleman and the groups of young men as they canvassed the neighborhood for a community clean up event.

    A generational divide

    Despite rioting and protests dating back several generations, this era of young people taking to the streets was met with criticism not only from city officials and law enforcement, but also by many of Milwaukee’s older black residents and community leaders – even those who led similar social justice movements in the past. The immediate fallout underscores what some say are ideological differences between the city’s older black residents and the youth’s approaches to reform.

    “It is a canyon of a divide,” says State Representative David Bowen, “We can’t come together to agree on even the way out of this turmoil.”

    While older people tend to see the riots as what Bowen calls “angry young people who can not calm down,” he says younger people are just more skeptical of government’s role in instituting change. For many, upward mobility of Milwaukee’s small black middle class into positions of political power has yielded little progress in addressing the city’s racial disparities.

    “There’s a difference between those who are elders and those who are just old,” says Milwaukee County Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde. At 37, he often finds himself in the middle, balancing the more radical approaches of the youth with the conventional methods of the city’s black political elite. “Elders are always reaching back, looking for somebody to hand the baton off to. Old folks just want to use their age and position to gain more. They don’t mentor.”

    A lot of times, Moore Omokunde says, “the youth don’t know who is who.” Walter Bond, chief of staff for Teach for America-Milwaukee, agrees and says when Milwaukee’s young people are already subject to poverty and over-policing, being silenced by older black leadership is like adding gasoline to a fire, sparking the riots of mid-August.

    “If you’re a young black boy who is trying to find a way and make a path in his community, you’ve got few allies in terms of institutions across our city who have your back,” he says.

    But not everyone sees the issue as a rift between young and old.

    “[The elders] are our wise council. We depend on them to lead us in the right direction,” says Khalif Rainey, the newly elected Alderman of the city’s Sherman Park neighborhood — where the riots took place.

    Rainey says many of Milwaukee’s youth may not recognize that the fight for equality isn’t new, and is the same fight they’re in now “occurred right here 30, 40 years ago on the very same corner.”

    Looking to the future

    Many of Milwaukee’s new generation of emerging leaders and community advocates recognize an irony in the criticism. While the community grapples with increased national scrutiny, the uproar may have forced a city and nation to listen to the cries of a community that has long suffered from the effects of systemic racism, segregation and discrimination.

    “It did accomplish people coming to the table and saying ‘we do have some deferred maintenance on quality of life issues that affect some of our community’s most vulnerable people.’ And that’s good,” Rainey says.

    But community activist Andre Lee Ellis has heard this talk before, from the riots in the ‘60s to protests today. Decades of the same issues resurfacing and a blame game between generations makes him pessimistic about potential progress. He says until Milwaukee is willing to acknowledge that many of its problems stem from historic and systemic racism, the city can expect to see the same uprisings in the future that have marked its racially tense past.

    “You weren’t going to stop what happened [last month] because it hasn’t been fixed since the ‘60s,” he says. “There’s nothing we could have done to stop it. But there’s some thing we can do to make it not happen anymore.”

    The post Milwaukee’s problems span decades, but solutions divide generations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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