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

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    Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, then director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified during a hearing before the House (Select) Intelligence Committee February 4, 2014. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, then director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified during a hearing before the House (Select) Intelligence Committee February 4, 2014. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    NEW YORK — President-elect Donald Trump offered former military intelligence chief Michael Flynn the job of national security adviser as he began to build out his national security team Thursday, according to a senior Trump official. The move came as Trump made his most direct foray into foreign policy since the election, meeting with Japan’s prime minister.

    Flynn, who served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has advised Trump on national security issues for months. As national security adviser, he would work in the White House and have frequent access to the president. The post does not require Senate confirmation.

    The official wouldn’t say whether Flynn had accepted the job, which left open the possibility that the arrangement was not finalized. The official was not authorized to discuss the offer publicly and insisted on anonymity.

    Flynn, who turns 58 in December, built a reputation in the Army as an astute intelligence professional and a straight talker. He retired in 2014 and has been a fierce critic of President Barack Obama’s White House and Pentagon, taking issue with the administration’s approach to global affairs and fighting Islamic State militants.

    Trump is a foreign policy novice and his early moves on national security are being closely watched by U.S allies and adversaries alike. He’s said to be considering a range of officials with varying degrees of experience to lead the State Department and Pentagon.

    The president-elect held his first face-to-face meeting with a world leader since winning the presidential election, huddling privately with Japan’s Shinzo Abe. While Trump made no comments following the meeting, Abe said the president-elect was “a leader in whom I can have great confidence.”

    Trump also consulted with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and sat down with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a potential contender to lead the State Department.

    In Washington, Vice President-elect Mike Pence huddled with Republican leaders in Congress. He then met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, the newly elected leader of the Senate Democrats, seeking to convey respect as Democrats prepare for Republican rule of both chambers and the White House for the first time in a decade.

    “We look forward to finding ways that we can find common ground and move the country forward,” Pence said outside Schumer’s Senate office.

    In a separate gesture of reconciliation with establishment Republicans, Trump planned to meet with 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who lambasted Trump as a “con man” and a “fraud” in a stinging speech last March. Trump responded by repeatedly referring to Romney as a “loser.”

    The two began mending fences after Trump’s victory when Romney called with congratulations. They are to meet this weekend, a transition official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss Trump’s schedule publicly. Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said they were still “working on” the meeting.

    Trump’s actions Thursday aimed to show leaders both in the U.S. and overseas that he could soften his rhetoric, offer pragmatism in the White House and reaffirm longstanding American alliances. Since his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton last week, Trump has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and nearly three dozen other world leaders by telephone.

    Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, also visited the skyscraper and called Trump “a true friend of Israel.” He specifically cited as another “friend” Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon, whose selection as a top White House adviser has created a backlash among Democrats. Bannon’s news website has peddled conspiracy theories, white nationalism and anti-Semitism.

    “We look forward to working with the Trump administration, with all the members of the Trump administration, including Steve Bannon, in making the U.S.-Israel alliance stronger than ever,” Dermer said.

    Trump, a reality television star, business mogul and political newcomer, also rolled out new teams that will interact with the State Department, Pentagon, Justice Department and other national security agencies. The move is part of the government transition before Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

    Coordination had been on hold until Trump’s team submitted documents including a list of transition team members who will coordinate with specific federal agencies, plus certification that they meet a code of conduct barring conflicts of interest.

    White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said the minimum paperwork was finished Thursday, meaning agencies could start providing briefings and written materials to Trump’s team. Indeed, the departments of State, Defense and Justice say meetings are being set up.

    Conway said she expected initial announcements of Cabinet choices to come “before or right after Thanksgiving,” telling reporters Trump he was “loving” the transition. “He’s a transactional guy. He’s somebody who’s used to delivering results and producing.”

    One potential Cabinet member, Eva Moskowitz, said had taken herself out of the running to become education secretary. Moskowitz, a Democrat and advocate for charter schools, met with Trump this week, stoking speculation that she might inject a bit of bipartisanship in the new administration.

    Moskowitz, who voted for Clinton, suggested there were “positive signs” that Trump might govern differently than he campaigned, but she wrote in a letter to parents that many of her students, who are overwhelmingly black and Latino, would feel that “they are the target of the hatred that drove Trump’s campaign.”


    Thomas reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Erica Werner, Jonathan Lemire and Matthew Pennington contributed to this report.

    The post Trump offers former military intelligence chief Michael Flynn post as national security advisor appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Compilation photo by Dom Smith/STAT

    Compilation photo by Dom Smith/STAT

    Perhaps no presidential son-in-law has ever been more in the spotlight than Jared Kushner. He was President-elect Donald Trump’s “de facto campaign manager” and helps run the executive committee of Trump’s tumultuous transition team. And rumors are swirling that Trump’s team is trying to get him top-secret security clearance so he can attend the official presidential daily briefings.

    But here’s something you might not know: Jared Kushner’s younger brother, Joshua Kushner, is the cofounder of a startup created to capitalize on the promise of the Affordable Care Act — which Trump has vowed to move quickly to dismantle.

    Josh Kushner is not some anonymous, graying health insurance executive. A 31-year-old venture capitalist on the fast track, he’s been called “a modern day Vanderbilt,” “the boy wonder VC,” and “your mother’s dream man.” He’s dating the supermodel Karlie Kloss, who’s perhaps best known as Taylor Swift’s best friend — and who posted a photo of herself on Instagram last week voting for Hillary Clinton, with the hashtag #ImWithHer.” (Josh Kushner reportedly didn’t vote for Trump either.)

    If that’s not awkward enough, Josh Kushner counts Peter Thiel, the contrarian Silicon Valley venture capitalist, among his most loyal investors. Through his Founders Fund, Thiel has invested millions in both Josh Kushner’s health insurance startup and his venture firm.

    Thiel, you’ll remember, donated to Trump’s campaign, spoke at the Republican National Convention —and now sits alongside Jared Kushner on the executive committee of Trump’s transition team.

    READ MORE: Trump should be good medicine for the pharmaceutical industry. Here’s why

    It’s unclear whether the Affordable Care Act will be slightly tweaked or repealed and replaced with something unrecognizable. But changes seem certain, and they will surely affect Kushner’s Obamacare startup, Oscar Health, which sells individual policies to customers in several states.

    While the company was founded to take advantage of Obamacare — it sells policies in the marketplaces the law created — it’s also in many ways a poster child for the problems of the health care law. The company, which is privately held, has lost $128 million in three states so far this year, on top of a $105 million loss in 2015, according to Bloomberg. It’s bowing out of two Obamacare marketplaces, in Dallas and New Jersey, and restructuring its hospital and physician networks elsewhere.

    The company plans in February to begin selling insurance to small companies. Entering that market, which doesn’t depend on Obamacare, has been part of Oscar’s long-term plans from the start.

    But a large part of Oscar Health’s business still hinges on the law. So its fortunes will be shaped, in part, by the Trump administration’s decisions on the ACA.

    Josh Kushner does not hold a day-to-day management position at Oscar, but he participates in major business decisions and is often present in the company’s sleek Manhattan office.

    It remains to be seen whether he has or will seek his big brother’s ear when it comes to reforming the law that made his business possible.

    Instagram Photo

    An Obamacare startup, bleeding red ink

    Born into a New Jersey real estate dynasty, Josh Kushner was a freshman at Harvard when his father, Charles Kushner, went to prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion, witness tampering, and making illegal campaign contributions. The father’s absence left Jared Kushner — who’s four and a half years older than his brother — to run the family business.

    Josh Kushner, meanwhile, spent a brief stint at Goldman Sachs after graduation and then went to business school at Harvard, where he met the two men with whom he would start Oscar.

    They named the company after Josh Kushner’s Eastern European great-grandfather. (This is not the side of the family that survived the Holocaust — a story that Jared Kushner famously invoked during the campaign to defend Trump from charges of emboldening anti-Semites.)

    Investors love Oscar, pouring more than $700 million to date into the startup. Aside from Thiel, big-name investors from Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and China have joined the party. The company was recently valued at an eye-popping $2.7 billion.

    But the individual market has proven a tough nut to crack.

    READ MORE: 10 steps the Trump administration can take to make America healthy again

    “They’ve been met with the reality that it’s difficult to control health care costs, and it’s difficult to control people with chronic diseases, and just hanging out a shingle with a really cool logo is not enough to do it,” said Les Funtleyder, a health care investor at E Squared Asset Management, which has a holding in UnitedHealth, which competes with Oscar.

    Oscar did not respond to questions about specific policies it wants to see from the new administration. Josh Kushner, Jared Kushner, and the Trump transition team also did not respond to requests for comment. More than three dozen Oscar employees across many levels of the company also declined or did not return requests for comment.

    Instagram Photo

    A rising star in the venture world

    Despite the speed bumps Oscar Health has encountered, Josh Kushner’s star has rapidly risen in the venture capital world.

    He’s made 30-under-30, 35-under-35, and 40-under-40 lists. He’s closely watched by the tabloids, thanks to his four-years-and-counting romance with Kloss. And he’s something of a regular on the highbrow conference speaking circuit.

    In one appearance nearly two years ago sitting beside Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes and former President Bill Clinton, Josh Kushner provocatively declaredthat there are “a lot of people” in the health care industry who are “just evil.”

    READ MORE: A quick guide to the allies Trump might pick to lead HHS

    Despite all the glamour, he cultivates an image as a wonky and mild-mannered workaholic. He said in one interview that he moved to a new apartment just two blocks from his office because he was too often sleeping at his desk overnight.

    He’s also kept a low profile as Trump’s rise has spurred curiosity about the Kushner family. Through a spokesperson, Josh Kushner told Esquire magazinebefore the election that he has been a Democrat his entire life and would not be voting for Trump. The spokesperson also said that Josh Kushner loves his brother and did not want to say anything that would embarrass him.

    Instagram Photo

    An uncertain future under President Trump

    Josh Kushner and his partners timed the 2013 launch of Oscar Health with the implementation of Obamacare, which created state exchanges where consumers can enroll in insurance plans. The company sought an edge by targeting millennials with playful ads and a Silicon Valley vibe.

    Oscar Health has also built ties with Obama’s team. The company reportedly turned to several campaign operatives from President Obama’s successful reelection campaign to aid in canvassing before the open enrollment deadline in the company’s first year.

    And a year ago, the White House trumpeted an online video from Oscar seeking to highlight the affordability of health insurance. “We are incredibly motivated by the support the White House has shown us today on this initiative,” the company said.

    Oscar released a statement last week saying that “we can’t speculate” on what the election results mean for the industry and that “we hope and expect that the new administration will keep the spirit of consumer choice and competition alive in the marketplace.”

    READ MORE: ‘I just feel terrified’: Women pour support toward Planned Parenthood after Trump’s victory

    Obamacare experts said it’s unlikely that Trump’s win will spell either automatic doom or an automatic boon for Oscar Health.

    Its future, like that of other insurance companies, depends on how the market for individual insurance plans fares — and that depends on what the Trump administration’s replacement plan looks like, said Katherine Hempstead, a senior advisor at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation who specializes in health policy.

    The Trump administration could boost Oscar, particularly if Republicans can manage to fix some of the problems with the health care law that have stymied the company. But Oscar could take a hit if the GOP reduces the amount of public money spent subsidizing coverage. It could also be hurt if fewer people sign up for health plans. That hasn’t happened yet, since Obamacare is still the law of the land.

    Federal data released on Wednesday show that the first 12 days of this year’s enrollment is outpacing last year’s comparable period.

    The pace of enrollment has picked up considerably since Trump’s election.

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Nov. 17, 2016. Find the original story here.

    The post This Trump-in-law may lose millions if Obamacare is repealed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Donald Trump sits with U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 7, 2016. Photo by  Mike Segar/REUTERS

    Donald Trump sits with U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 7, 2016. Photo by Mike Segar/REUTERS

    WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump has selected Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as his pick for attorney general, signaling a sharp break in philosophical direction from the Obama administration’s Justice Department.

    The pick was disclosed Friday by a senior Trump official who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about it. The official wouldn’t say whether Sessions had accepted the job, leaving open the possibility that the appointment wasn’t final.

    Sessions, the first senator to endorse Trump and a Republican known for his support of tough immigration enforcement policies, would likely bring to the department a consistently conservative voice.

    The former federal prosecutor has questioned whether terrorism suspects should receive the protection of the American court system, objected to the planned closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and has given prominence to the specter of voting fraud, a problem that current Justice Department leadership believes is negligible.

    Sessions, 69, would face a confirmation hearing before his peers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, likely in January. His last confirmation hearing, in 1986 for a federal judgeship, was derailed over allegations that he made racist comments.

    As attorney general for a president who campaigned on a “law and order” stance, Sessions is likely to depart from the priorities of his predecessors in the Obama administration, Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder.

    Civil rights advocates who have seen their causes championed at the Justice Department for the last eight years have already raised concerns that a Trump administration would scale back those efforts, which have included forcing police departments to correct unconstitutional practices and suing North Carolina over a bathroom bill that officials said discriminated against transgender individuals.

    Sessions has said a “properly exercised” Civil Rights Division “provides tremendous benefit to American citizens” but should not be used as “a sword to assert inappropriate claims that have the effect of promoting political agendas.”

    It’s impossible to predict what actions Sessions would take as attorney general, but his questioning of current and former Justice Department officials offer clues about his perspective on some issues.

    He’s shown particular interest in national security, arguing as recently as June that the federal government is unable to fully vet refugees from countries including Syria.

    Sessions said the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policies had “emboldened our enemies” and failed to address border control, claiming that hundreds of foreign-born individuals have been charged with acts of terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001. But the culprit of the deadliest such attack in that period, a nightclub shooting in Orlando this year, was born in the United States.

    Sessions has warned against the administration’s efforts to close Guantanamo and has condemned the administration’s decision to afford the legal protections of American courts to terror detainees. And he’s been protective of certain surveillance powers, telling Holder in one committee hearing on warrantless wiretapping that “we’ve exaggerated the extent to which this is somehow violative of our Constitution.”

    Sessions was nominated in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan to be the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. He was elected state attorney general in 1995 and joined the Senate two years later.

    The last time he faced Senate confirmation, things did not go well.

    In 1986, the Judiciary Committee voted against confirming him for a federal judgeship after he was accused of making racially charged remarks while U.S. attorney in Alabama. Sessions later withdrew from consideration.

    According to transcripts of the hearings, Sessions was accused of calling the NAACP and the ACLU “un-American, Communist-inspired organizations,” joking that he thought was the Ku Klux Klan “was OK” until he learned they smoked marijuana, and calling a black assistant U.S. attorney “boy.”

    Sessions’ record as a U.S. attorney was heavily criticized by then-Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Democrat, who said he was unqualified to be a federal judge because of his attitude toward black people.

    “Mr. Sessions is a throwback to a shameful era which I know both black and white Americans thought was in our past. It is inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a U.S. attorney, let alone a U.S. federal judge,” Kennedy said. “He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position.”

    During the hearing, Sessions denied making some of the comments and said others were jokes that had been taken out of context. He said he didn’t mean any harm by the comment about the NAACP.


    Associated Press writer Chad Day contributed to this report.

    The post Trump offers attorney general post to Jeff Sessions, reports say appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., speaks during a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center, June 28, 2016, to announce the Select Committee on Benghazi report on the 2012 attacks in Libya that killed four Americans. Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/via Getty Images

    Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., speaks during a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center, June 28, 2016, to announce the Select Committee on Benghazi report on the 2012 attacks in Libya that killed four Americans. Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s pick to be director of the CIA, is a hard-line Republican congressman who shares the president-elect’s pugnacious worldview and, like Trump, spent years as a businessman before becoming a politician.

    Pompeo has heavily criticized the landmark Iran nuclear deal, blasted Hillary Clinton over the attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya and her use of a private email server, and believes Edward Snowden is a traitor who deserves a death sentence. He also supports restoring the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone metadata, a contentious terror-fighting tool Congress eliminated after Snowden’s revelations.

    Before taking over the spy agency, the Kansas lawmaker has to be confirmed by the GOP-led Senate. One issue that could dominate the confirmation hearing is Pompeo’s view on using harsh interrogation techniques on detainees. Trump has backed these techniques, saying, “We should go tougher than waterboarding,” which simulates drowning.

    During the campaign, Trump suggested that he would push to change laws that prohibit waterboarding and other harsh techniques. He said that banning those methods puts the U.S. at a strategic disadvantage against Islamic State militants.

    Pompeo two years ago rejected accusations that U.S. intelligence and military personnel were “torturers” for harshly interrogating terror suspects captured after 9/11. “These men and women are not torturers, they are patriots,” Pompeo said in 2014 after the Senate released its report on the enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA.

    In a statement Friday, Pompeo said he was “honored and humbled” to accept Trump’s nomination. He called the decision to leave Congress difficult but said the “opportunity to lead the world’s finest intelligence warriors” is a call to service that he could not ignore.”

    Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who will be the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence committee beginning in January, said in a statement that he would vigorously oversee the CIA to ensure it adheres “to America’s principles and international obligations.”

    Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and the National Security Agency, said Friday he was “heartened” by Trump’s decision to pick Pompeo, calling him a “serious man.”

    Pompeo, 52, was elected to Congress during the tea party wave of 2010. He served on the House Select Benghazi Committee to probe the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

    The panel’s final report this summer sharply criticized the Obama administration for a series of mistakes but produced no new evidence pointing to wrongdoing by Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time.

    Pompeo and fellow Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio, however, issued a separate report slamming Clinton and the administration. Pompeo called the former first lady and senator “morally reprehensible.”

    He also has been a fierce critic of the nuclear deal with Iran that President Barack Obama has championed. The accord granted Tehran sanctions relief for rolling back its nuclear weapons program. Pompeo has said Muslim leaders are “potentially complicit” in terrorist attacks if they do not denounce violence carried out in the name of Islam.

    “They must cite the Quran as evidence that the murder of innocents is not permitted,” he said in a 2013 House floor speech.

    A member of the House intelligence committee, Pompeo denounced Snowden, a former NSA contractor who stole and leaked highly classified documents to journalists, revealing the agency’s program for gathering the phone records of millions of Americans.

    During an appearance on C-SPAN in February, Pompeo said Snowden should receive the death penalty for his actions.

    “He should be brought back from Russia and given due process and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence,” Pompeo said.

    Snowden, who spoke Friday from Moscow via a video link during an event of the Norwegian chapter of PEN in Oslo, Norway, criticized Pompeo’s selection to lead the spy agency. “In my country, the new CIA director believes dissidents should be put to death,” Snowden said.

    Pompeo also has fought against Obama’s attempts to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and opposed moving prisoners to the U.S., including Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. He has maintained the detainees at Guantanamo are well taken care off and in May 2013 downplayed the extent of a hunger strike by prisoners. Pompeo, appearing on MSNBC, said it looked to him like they had put on weight.

    Pompeo was born in Orange, California, and lives in Wichita, Kansas. He enrolled as a teenager at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and graduated first in his class in 1986. According to biographical information on his House web site, Pompeo served as a “cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

    He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and was editor of the Harvard Law Review.

    After college, he set up Thayer Aerospace and was its chief executive officer for more than 10 years. Later he was president of Sentry International, a company that sold equipment for oil fields and manufacturing.


    Associated Press writers Jack Gillum and Matthew Daly and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.

    The post Trump taps Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo for CIA appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The dress worn by Marilyn Monroe when she sang "Happy Birthday Mr. President" to US President John F. Kennedy in May 1962, is displayed in a glass enclosure at Julien's Auction House in Los Angeles, California on November 17, 2016, ahead of its auction this evening. Photo by Frederic J. BrownAFP/Getty Images

    The dress worn by Marilyn Monroe when she sang “Happy Birthday Mr. President” to US President John F. Kennedy in May 1962, is displayed in a glass enclosure at Julien’s Auction House in Los Angeles, California on November 17, 2016, ahead of its auction this evening. Photo by Frederic J. BrownAFP/Getty Images

    The skin-tight, crystal-covered gown Marilyn Monroe wore during her sultry 1962 performance of “Happy Birthday Mr. President” for John F. Kennedy’s 45th birthday picked up $4.8 million at auction Thursday night.

    Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum bought the dress at Julien’s Auctions for more than its $3 million asking price because it was “the most iconic piece of pop culture that there is,” the company’s vice president Edward Meyer said at a press conference.

    “In the 20th century I cannot think of one single item that tells the story of the 1960s as well as this dress,” Meyer said.

    If the sales price holds, it would set a new record for dresses sold at auction. Monroe’s white cocktail dress best known in the photo of her standing above a New York City subway grate held the previous record. It sold in 2011 for $4.6 million, according to the BBC.

    Monroe, who died at 36 of a drug overdose three months after the birthday performance, had to be sewn into the Jean Louis gown, according to the auction house. The mannequin at the auction house perfectly matches Monroe’s measurements, The Guardian reported.

    The dress is a part of the largest collection of Monroe’s possessions ever brought to auction. It consists of about 1,000 lots that Julien’s auction house offered over three days. The items, which could garner $5 million and were largely donated by Monroe’s acting coach Lee Strasberg, include Monroe’s famous gowns, hand-written recipes, poetry, personal home furnishings and even pots and pans.

    The 2,500 crystal-encrusted dress was previously purchased by Martin Zweig in 1999 for $1.3 million. It will be displayed at Ripley’s Believe It or Not in Hollywood before touring other locations.

    The post Marilyn Monroe ‘birthday dress’ fetches $4.8 million at auction appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The blueprint for drilling from 2017 to 2022 can be rewritten by President-elect Donald Trump, in a process that could take months or years. Photo by Tupungato/via Adobe

    The blueprint for drilling from 2017 to 2022 can be rewritten by President-elect Donald Trump, in a process that could take months or years. Photo by Tupungato/via Adobe

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is blocking new oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean, handing a victory to environmentalists who say industrial activity in the icy waters will harm whales, walruses and other wildlife and exacerbate global warming.

    A five-year offshore drilling plan announced on Friday blocks planned sale of new oil and gas drilling rights in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska. The plan allows drilling to go forward in Alaska’s Cook Inlet southwest of Anchorage.

    The blueprint for drilling from 2017 to 2022 can be rewritten by President-elect Donald Trump, in a process that could take months or years.

    Besides Cook Inlet, the plan also allows drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, long the center of U.S. offshore oil production. Ten of the 11 lease sales proposed in the five-year plan are in the Gulf, mostly off the coasts of Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Alabama.

    Confirming a decision announced this spring, the five-year plan also bars drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.

    “The plan focuses lease sales in the best places – those with the highest resource potential, lowest conflict and established infrastructure – and removes regions that are simply not right to lease,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

    “Given the unique and challenging Arctic environment and industry’s declining interest in the area, forgoing lease sales in the Arctic is the right path forward,” Jewell said.

    Industry representatives reacted bitterly, calling the decision political and not supported by the facts.

    “The arrogance of the decision is unfathomable, but unfortunately not surprising,” said Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, an industry group.

    “Once again, we see the attitude that Washington knows best — an attitude that contributed to last week’s election results,” Luthi said, referring to Trump’s surprise victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

    More than 70 percent of Alaskans, including a majority of Alaska Natives, support offshore drilling, Luthi said, as do the state’s three Republican members of Congress.

    Jacqueline Savitz, senior vice president of Oceana, an environmental group, hailed the announcement and praised Obama and Jewell for “protecting our coasts from dirty and dangerous offshore drilling.”

    The announcement “demonstrates a commitment to prioritizing common sense, economics and science ahead of industry favoritism and politics as usual,” Savitz said.

    Nearly 400 scientists signed a letter this summer urging Obama to eliminate the possibility of Arctic offshore drilling.

    The post Obama blocks new oil, gas drilling in Arctic Ocean appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    DETROIT — President-elect Donald Trump claimed Thursday that he convinced the chairman of Ford Motor Co. not to move an assembly plant from Kentucky to Mexico. But Ford never intended to move the plant, just production of one of the vehicles it makes.

    Trump said in a tweet that Bill Ford, the company’s executive chairman, telephoned him with the news that a “Lincoln plant” would stay in Louisville. Instead Ford decided to keep production of the Lincoln MKC small SUV at the Louisville Assembly Plant. Ford had previously said it would move production of the MKC out of the plant in order to build more Ford Escapes there.

    A factory in Cuautitlan, Mexico, was likely to get the MKC. Under a contract negotiated last year with the United Auto Workers, Ford agreed to invest $700 million in the Louisville plant in return for moving production of the MKC. Because Escape production would increase, no Louisville jobs would be lost.

    It’s possible the decision to keep the MKC in Kentucky was made before the election, because Escape sales have been falling since July and additional production capacity in Louisville may not be needed.

    On Friday, Ford would say only that the MKC decision was “recent,” but spokeswoman Christin Baker wouldn’t say exactly when it was made or whether Trump directly influenced it.

    The MKC and Escape are essentially the same vehicle and are now built by the same workers on the same assembly line. But while Ford has sold over 258,000 Escapes so far this year, it’s only sold about 21,000 MKCs. So, moving the MKC would have had little impact on the factory even if Escape production was not increased.

    Still, Trump claimed credit for saving a factory from moving to Mexico. “I worked hard with Bill Ford to keep the Lincoln plant in Kentucky. I owed it to the great State of Kentucky for their confidence in me!” Trump said in one of two tweets on the subject. His initial tweet said: “Just got a call from my friend Bill Ford, Chairman of Ford, who advised me that he will be keeping the Lincoln plant in Kentucky – no Mexico.”

    Ford Motor Co. and Trump have engaged in a yearlong feud over the automaker’s plans to move production south of the border. The company plans to shift small-car production from suburban Detroit to Mexico to improve profitability of the lower-priced cars. CEO Mark Fields said Tuesday that the presidential election didn’t change the company’s plan.

    Trump wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and has called for a 35 percent tariff on goods shipped from Mexico in an effort to preserve U.S. manufacturing jobs.

    Ford plans to move production of the Focus and C-Max small cars to Mexico from a plant in Wayne, Michigan. But jobs at the Wayne plant would be preserved because it’s getting a new SUV and small pickup truck.

    “We are encouraged that President-elect Trump and the new Congress will pursue policies that will improve U.S. competitiveness and make it possible to keep production of this vehicle here in the United States,” Baker said in an email.

    The post Contrary to Trump tweets, Ford wasn’t considering closing Kentucky auto plant appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Dr. Robert Schwartz of the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center meets with a patient as President Barack Obama speaks before signing the health care reform bill. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    Medicare announced roughly 10 percent increases in 2017 rates for many Part B premiums and the program’s annual deductible. This is a very big deal, writes Phil Moeller. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    Last week, as the shock and awe over Donald Trump’s election victory continued to consume us, Medicare announced roughly 10 percent increases in 2017 rates for many Part B premiums and the program’s annual deductible.

    This is a very big deal, because the increases had earlier been forecast at roughly double this size. However, Medicare says it had sufficient financial reserves to absorb half the expected 2017 rise in Part B expenses. It’s good news for consumers who might have expected to pay more.

    The agency also announced modest increases for Part A, which covers care in hospitals, nursing homes and some in-home care. Premiums and deductibles next year for Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans already have been set and are not affected by the Part A and Part B changes.

    Part B primarily covers expenses for doctors, other outpatient care and durable medical equipment. Its annual deductible will rise from $166 this year to $183 in 2017.

    Monthly Part B premiums are $104.90 a month this year for about 70 percent of Medicare enrollees. These premiums are deducted from monthly Social Security payments. Under a Social Security provision known as the “hold harmless” rule, Social Security payments cannot decline from one year to the next. Higher Part B premiums normally are funded by Social Security’s annual cost of living adjustment, or COLA.

    However, the COLA this year was zero, so most people saw their Part B premiums frozen for 2016. However, about 30 percent of Medicare enrollees are not held harmless, and the 2016 premiums for most of them rose to $121.80 a month. This group includes people who do not yet receive Social Security, those new to Medicare, people whose Medicare premiums are not deducted from Social Security, lower-income Medicare enrollees who also receive Medicaid and people who pay higher-income premiums for Medicare.

    For 2017, the COLA will be 0.3 percent. This amount is also too small to fully fund higher Part B premiums, so the hold harmless provisions will again be in effect. Instead of seeing their Social Security benefits rise by this amount, most people who are held harmless will instead see that increase applied to higher Part B premiums.

    The average amount of that increase will raise Part B premiums by an average of about 4 percent, from $104.90 to about $109.00 a month. Exact increases will be tied to a person’s actual Social Security benefits, so Part B premiums will be larger than $109 for high-income beneficiaries and lower for those with below-average benefits.

    For people who had to pay $121.80 a month this year but are now held harmless for 2017, their premiums will also rise by an average of about 4 percent. Again, specific changes will be tied to their actual Social Security payments.

    For people who are not held harmless in 2017, the standard monthly Part B premium will rise from $121.80 to $134.00.

    Roughly 5 to 6 percent of Medicare enrollees earn enough money to trigger the program’s high-income surcharges. Here are what these changes will look like for 2017:

    Screen Shot 2016-11-17 at 6.53.02 PM

    By comparison, the 2016 monthly Part B premiums for these income levels were $121.80, $170.50, $243.60, $316.70 and $389.80.

    Part A charges no premiums to anyone who has worked long enough to qualify for Social Security benefits. However, it does have an annual deductible and daily coinsurance charges. Here are details of the changes to Part A expenses:

    Screen Shot 2016-11-17 at 6.55.00 PM

    The post The surprising news about 2017 Medicare premiums and deductibles you may have missed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Motown legend Smokey Robinson accepts the 2016 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Photo by Shawn Miller

    Motown legend Smokey Robinson accepts the 2016 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Photo by Shawn Miller

    The Library of Congress will honor Smokey Robinson in a tribute concert, awarding the soul legend with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. PBS stations nationwide will air the event Feb. 10, 2017. Check your local listings.

    Smokey Robinson was honored this week for his miraculous contribution to the American songbook, more than 4,000 songs, including pop classics like “My Girl.”

    The Library of Congress awarded the 76-year-old Miracles frontman and singer-songwriter its Gershwin Prize for Popular Song at a ceremony in the nation’s capital Wednesday night. The award honors Robinson’s unparalleled career producing lasting Motown records.

    In his acceptance speech, Robinson said it was “unbelievable” to be mentioned in the same breath as George and Ira Gershwin, a songwriting team that ceremony host Samuel Jackson earlier referred to as “eternally cool brothers.”

    “This is such a wonderful, spectacular, incredible night in my life. I’ve had many of them, and this is right at the top of the list,” Robinson said.

    The Detroit native said he was exposed to a “great dose” of music growing up in a city where Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and the Four Tops were all neighborhood friends. Everything from “gutbucket blues” and gospel to classical and jazz and standards by the Gershwin brothers could be heard in his childhood home.

    “I tell people that the Gershwins were writers when the song was king.” Robinson told the NewsHour a day before the ceremony. “When they wrote a hit song, all of the popular artists of that day recorded that song,” he added.

    The audience sang and clapped along to “My Girl,” the night’s show closer, as a testament to Robinson’s enduring compositions. The pantheon of pop music is overstuffed with artists loving and longing, and yet, “My Girl” sticks out.

    All the night’s performers, including CeeLo Green, Ledisi, Tegan Marie, Esperanza Spalding, BeBe Winans, among others, joined Smokey Robinson on stage for an ensemble performance of The Temptations “My Girl,” a song Robinson co-wrote. Video by PBS NewsHour

    Robinson is the ninth artist to receive the award, following past recipients including Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, Carole King and Willie Nelson.

    Acting Librarian of Congress David Mao announced Robinson’s award and called him a “musical legend,” citing his contributions to music as a singer, songwriter, producer and record executive.

    “His rich melodies are works of art — enduring, meaningful and powerful. And he is a master at crafting lyrics that speak to the heart and soul, expressing ordinary themes in an extraordinary way,” Mao said in a statement. “It is that quality in his music that makes him one of the greatest poetic songwriters of our time,” he added.

    Smokey Robinson performs at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Photo by Shawn Miller

    Smokey Robinson performs at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Photo by Shawn Miller

    Throughout Robinson’s five-decade career, he has been a Top 40 machine. By 1970, he produced more than 25 hits with the Miracles, including “I Second That Emotion,” “Ooo Baby Baby” and “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me.”

    The Miracles first hit single “Shop Around” was Motown’s first million seller and lifted the young record company financially. Robinson also penned hits for Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells and The Temptations.

    Two of the crooner’s eye-watering ballads — “The Tracks of My Tears” and “The Tears of a Clown” — have been covered by generations of singers, cross-pollinated by artists in different genres.

    Video by YouTube user soulmusic87

    “Smokey was always a great poet who expressed ordinary themes in extraordinary ways,” Motown founder Berry Gordy said of his friend and collaborator of 50 years.

    It’s easy to underestimate the simplicity of Robinson’s lyrics. Sung in his trademark high tenor, there’s the emotional pleading embedded in how he tells a wronged lover that “I’m cryin.” This is all right before the falsetto “ooh”s, in the hook of the song, that grow increasingly desperate.

    “My theory of writing is to write a song that has a complete idea and tells a story in the time allotted for a record. It has to be something that really means something, not just a bunch of words on music,” Robinson said in a 1968 Rolling Stone interview.

    Video by YouTube user TheBillie HolidayExperience

    He wrote comic analogies like, “The way you swept me off my feet, you know you could have been a broom” in The Temptations’ “The Way You Do The Things You Do.” The simple rhyming scheme of “sad/bad/glad” in “Tears of a Clown” doesn’t undermine the heartbreak at the core of the song.

    And when underground hip hop producer and fellow Detroiter J Dilla sampled a lesser known Miracles song, he excised Robinson’s wordless harmonizing from “A Legend In Its Own Time,” a go-for-broke declaration of love.

    Video by YouTube user Clavon Stewart

    Robinson has also credited Gordy with fine-tuning his songwriting talent. In 1957, after the Miracles failed an audition, they managed to pique Gordy’s interest.

    “We had a book of about 100 [songs] I had written, and he liked only one, but he didn’t just say the rest were garbage,” Robinson told Rolling Stone in 1968. “I must of went through 68 of those songs with this cat and on every one I’d say, ‘What’s wrong with this one?’ and he’d say, ‘Well, you left off this or you didn’t complete your idea on that,’ which really started me to think about songs and what they were. Gordy, man, that cat more than anyone else helped me get my thing together.”

    Together, Gordy and Robinson defined the Motown sound. Robinson would remain the record company’s vice president into the late 1980s, years after he decided to go solo.

    Robinson told the NewsHour that the easiest songs would take 25 minutes to write at most. “Shop Around” took less than half an hour.

    But 1979’s “Cruisin,'” one of Robinson’s most successful solo numbers, took five years to write. Robinson said the titular word, also found in the chorus, remained elusive to him. It wasn’t “sensual or sexy” enough to match Marv Tarplin’s guitar riffs.

    “So I came up with the word cruisin’ because cruisin’ is your own interpretation. It’s whatever you think it is,” he told the NewsHour.

    Wednesday night, Jackson joked that Robinson’s music could “bring the country together.” “It’s like bipartisan karaoke over here,” he added, in front of a Washington, D.C. crowd embedded with Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

    “My Girl” is barely a three-minute song. It may have been brief, but Robinson’s falsetto appeared to rise above the fray.

    The post Honored for songwriting, Motown legend Smokey Robinson proves he really got a hold on pop music appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by grandriver/via Getty Images

    Hydraulic fracturing drives earthquakes in western Canada, according to research published Thursday in Science. Photo by grandriver/via Getty Images

    Hydraulic fracturing drives earthquakes in western Canada, according to research published Thursday in Science. The results defy the often-touted belief that the disposal of wastewater is the sole source of man-made earthquakes with fossil fuel extraction technique.

    The small earthquakes “were always during or right after fracking, and they’re also confined to a limited area,” University of Calgary geophysicist, and co-author of the research paper David Eaton told NewsHour. Before fracking, the sparsely populated area in Alberta, Canada did not have a history of seismic activity.

    Hydraulic fracturing involves drilling a long steel pipe — a vertical wellbore — into the earth until it hits the ground layer containing oil or natural gas. The wellbore then turns and extends horizontally, before “fracking fluid” is pumped through the pipe at high pressure. Fracking fluid, which contains water, salt, sand and additives, cracks the underground rocks to release natural gas and oil.

    The U.S. Geological Survey has maintained that fracking is not the cause of most induced earthquakes. However, earthquakes have occurred in Oklahoma and nearby states as a result of wastewater disposal. Some hazardous wastewater returns to the surface, so speculators inject back into the ground in deep disposal wells.

    Fracking for gas diagram Photo by jaddingt/via Adobe

    Fracking for gas diagram. Photo by jaddingt/via Adobe

    Eaton and his co-author Xuewei Bao demonstrated hydraulic fracturing itself caused earthquakes in western Canada, by adding pressure to tectonic faults. When the pressure builds up enough, the tectonic plates slip. Other studies in Canada, including papers in Geophysical Research Letters and Seismological Research Letters had found correlations between fracking and timing of earthquakes, but Eaton and Bao’s research provides a blueprint for how fracking induces seismic activity.

    Most of the tremors studied by Eaton and Bao’s team were too small to cause damage in the sparsely populated area. One incident registered 4.6 magnitude, though it happened after fracking and wastewater disposal had occurred. By comparison, in 2013 and 2014, the Oklahoma Geological Survey and USGS warned the state may see earthquakes as strong as 5.5-magnitude.

    “I think the activities in that area are highly regulated to reduce the impact on wildlife, but nevertheless there are always concerns,” said Eaton. “I think that the government regulators in western Canada are very diligent in trying to reduce the impact of these activities.”

    So why have Canadian researchers found fracking-related earthquakes, whereas in the U.S. wastewater disposal has been thought to be the culprit?

    “I don’t think we have a perfect answer yet,” said Han Kao, a research scientist at the Geological Survey of Canada who wasn’t involved in the study. “One possibility is that the geological setting is different.”

    Another possibility is that both actions trigger earthquakes, but some are measured better in one area over another.

    “The neat part about this story is that [it demonstrates] that when you inject into the ground and you elevate the pore pressure, the pore pressure can prime a fault, to prime it to slip,” said Kao. Even once a fracking operation has ceased, the pressure remains and can still induce seismic activity.

    The post Earthquakes triggered by fracking, not just wastewater disposal, study finds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn arrives to meet with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York City, NY, U.S. November 17, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo - RTX2U7GW

    Donald Trump has named retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, pictured here arriving at Trump Tower on Thursday, as his national security adviser. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    President-elect Donald Trump named retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his national security adviser on Friday, adding a loyal supporter with hard-right views on Muslims and Islam to his emerging intelligence and foreign policy team.

    The position, which does not require senate confirmation, is tasked with providing the president daily national security briefings and coordinating foreign policy and military efforts. Trump on Friday also named Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama as attorney general, and Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas as director of the CIA. Both positions require senate confirmation.

    Flynn, who has spent more than 30 years in the military, was a steadfast supporter of Trump throughout the campaign. He had long been considered a favorite for a top position in the Trump administration.

    “I am pleased that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn will be by my side as we work to defeat radical Islamic terrorism, navigate geopolitical challenges and keep Americans safe at home and abroad,” Trump said in a statement announcing the appointment.

    Flynn, 57, entered the Army in the early 1990s. In 2012, he was tapped by President Obama to serve as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Flynn was fired from that position in 2014, amid reports that his views and management style were disruptive and chaotic.

    In a column published in the New York Post earlier this year, Flynn said he was fired because of his stance on “radical Islamism and the expansion of al Qaeda.”

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (L) speaks along side retired U.S. Army Lieutenant  General Michael Flynn during a campaign town hall meeting in Virginia Beach, Virginia, U.S., September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX2U8SX

    Donald Trump and Flynn addressed supporters at a town hall meeting in Virginia on Sept. 6. Photo by Mike Segar/REUTERS

    Flynn said he favored a more aggressive approach to defeating ISIS than that of the Obama administration. He repeated his hard-line approach at the Republican National Convention in July.

    “There is no substitute for American leadership and exceptionalism. America should not fear our enemies,” Flynn said in his RNC speech. “In fact, we should clearly define our enemies, face them head on and then defeat those that seek to defeat our country and our way of life.”

    He went on to criticize the Obama administration for reducing the United States’ influence in the world, worrying about being politically correct and acting too hesitantly when it came to using military force.

    But that criticism has been mixed with controversial statements on Muslims and Islam that critics say are offensive and show a narrow world view. Earlier this year, Flynn said on Twitter that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL”, one of several comments that drew criticism during the campaign. He also spoke recently at a conference hosted by anti-Muslim groups.

    Aside from his views on national security, Flynn has come under criticism in recent months for his ties to foreign governments, including Russia. Flynn has reportedly lobbied for the Turkish government, and has been paid to appear at an event for RT, the English-language television network funded by the Russian government.

    Flynn also sat two seats away from Russian President Vladimir Putin at RT’s tenth anniversary dinner last December.

    In interview with The Washington Post earlier this year, Flynn dismissed any concerns over conflicts of interest. He compared RT to CNN and MSNBC, saying he regularly appeared on a number of television programs and was not paid for doing so. When it came to his proximity to Putin, Flynn said he was not concerned about the optics.

    The post Who is Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), an advisor to U.S. President Elect Donald Trump, speaks to members of the Media in the lobby of Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York November 17, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX2U9ZH

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now for our in-depth look at President-elect Trump’s latest picks for his top jobs in his administration.

    We start with Senator Jeff Sessions, one of the most conservative U.S. lawmakers, and potentially the nation’s next top law enforcement official.

    John Yang begins.

    JOHN YANG: Nine months ago, Jeff Sessions became the first senator to back candidate Donald Trump.

    SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-Ala.): I am pleased to endorse Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States.


    JOHN YANG: Today, President-elect Trump picked him to be attorney general.

    Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was first elected to the Senate in 1996, and is known to have good relations across party lines. In the 1980s, as a Reagan-appointed U.S. attorney in Alabama, he had made his name as a tough, aggressive prosecutor. In 1994, he was elected Alabama attorney general.

    In the Senate, Sessions became a member of the Judiciary Committee, the same panel that rejected his nomination to be a federal judge in 1986 over accusations he had made racially insensitive comments.

    SEN. JEFF SESSIONS: I am not a racist. I am not insensitive to blacks.

    JOHN YANG: Sessions denied making some of the comments and said others were taken out of context.

    He’s been a leading voice against illegal immigration. In 2007, he dealt President George W. Bush a painful blow, helping defeat a bipartisan bill that would have created a guest-worker program for undocumented immigrants.

    SEN. JEFF SESSIONS: You have got to have this amnesty. You have got to give up, and we will have amnesty. And in exchange for that, you guys, we will have a legal system that will work in the future. But it won’t work.

    JOHN YANG: Last year, he opposed the nomination of Loretta Lynch, whom he would replace as attorney general, over her support for President Obama’s executive orders on immigration.

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

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on the president-elect’s pick for attorney general, we are joined by Carrie Johnson. She is the justice correspondent for NPR.

    Carrie, welcome back to the program.

    CARRIE JOHNSON, NPR: Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what is Senator Jeff Sessions’ reputation in Washington?

    CARRIE JOHNSON: He’s a 69-year-old senator. He’s been a member of the Senate for more than — about 20 years now, Judy. And he’s pretty well-liked across the aisle.

    He also has a significant law enforcement background, serving as U.S. attorney in Alabama for about 15 years earlier in his career. But he’s very tough on immigration, as your setup piece mentioned, and pretty tough as well on law and order, the kind of message we have been hearing from Donald Trump on the campaign trail.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, fill out the picture a little.

    Who are some of the groups who are saying nice things about him, who support him?

    CARRIE JOHNSON: The Heritage Foundation, very conservative think tanks here in Washington, and people who oppose immigration and opening up the immigration system.

    On the other hand — and also Donald Trump’s team, I should say that they point out that he has been a close ally of President-elect Trump for a long time, and they call him a great legal mind.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And he is — as we should point out, and I think we have, he was is first U.S. senator to come out for Donald Trump.

    But talk about now some of the groups, civil rights organizations, pro-immigration reform groups that have come out against him. What are they saying?

    CARRIE JOHNSON: So, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU all have come out and said that this is a very inflammatory pick at a time when racial tensions are already high in the country because of police-involved shootings of unarmed African-Americans, that to pick somebody with this record of making racially insensitive statements is going backward, not moving forward.

    Also, Judy, the Human Rights Campaign, the biggest LGBT advocacy in the country, has given him a zero for his voting rights record on those issues in the Senate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Carrie, how unusual was it for the Senate to reject his nomination to the federal — there was a federal court appointment back in 1986, 30 years ago. He was rejected for that. How unusual was that?

    CARRIE JOHNSON: Breathtaking.

    As you know more than anyone, the Senate usually takes care of its own. And it has a strong record of backing picks from the president. This was a Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee that voted him down.

    The irony is, Jeff Sessions now sat on that committee, including as its top Republican.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about since then? He’s — over the years, he’s had time. He served in public life. He went on to serve in the United States for, what, almost 20 years.

    What has he done? How has he voted that would help us understand what his position is today on civil rights?

    CARRIE JOHNSON: Well, the Trump team today on a call with reporters pointed out that he helped sponsor a congressional medal for civil rights hero Rosa Parks.

    They point out he did vote in favor of Attorney General Eric Holder under President Obama, the first black man to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement officer. And they say he has voted to authorize the Voting Rights Act in the past.

    However, civil rights groups would tell you what, when the Supreme Court, in their view, gutted the act three years ago, Jeff Sessions celebrated that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is the worry in the civil rights community about him?

    CARRIE JOHNSON: The worry is that the voice of the Justice Department over the last eight years in trying to calm the nerves of the country and very aggressively investigate police departments for excessive force and racial discrimination, the worry is, under Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department Civil Rights Division would stop doing that work, it would stop doing work to protect voters, and instead perhaps focus on disability cases, religious freedom cases and the like, and move away from what their view is as the center of the lane for civil rights in this country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Carrie, what about with regard to immigration? What’s the concern there on the part of the immigration reform people?

    CARRIE JOHNSON: So, Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions have both been anti-immigration for a long time. The difference is, the White House and the attorney general have a lot of power in this regard.

    And if Donald Trump gets his way and Jeff Sessions is confirmed, Jeff Sessions will control the immigration courts in this country, which hear deportation proceedings, decide whether people can be granted asylum and whether they have to remain detained while their cases are pending.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You have said several times the president and the attorney general have the power without the involvement of Congress to undo, to make a lot of decisions that potentially could undo what we have seen coming out of this administration.

    Is there a speculation about what could happen quickly in this administration, the new administration?

    CARRIE JOHNSON: Yes, absolutely.

    Among the things, Judy, that civil rights groups are talking about now is sort of assertive interpretation of laws that the Justice Department and the Education Department in this administration use to extend protections to transgender students in schools. That could be wiped away with the change of power in the White House and the Justice Department.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you mentioned it with regard to civil rights. And I think we were talking to you also about with regard to police use of force and the steps that have been taken by this administration to work with police departments to do more community policing, for example.

    CARRIE JOHNSON: Well, my sense is that Senator Sessions and President-elect Trump will want to partners with local police, not overseers or investigators of them.

    And that means some of these investigations and potentially some criminal charges go away in the federal system.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Carrie Johnson, justice correspondent for NPR, thank you so much.

    CARRIE JOHNSON: Thank you.

    The post Sessions known for tough stance on immigration — and failed judgeship appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Trump University DVDs are displayed at The Trump Museum near the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 19, 2016.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo - RTX2UAW1

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Trump transition is accelerating this evening. The president-elect announced his choices for three top positions today.

    They are Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama for attorney general, retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn for national security adviser, and U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, Republican of Kansas, for director of the CIA. We’ll take a closer look at all three men after the news summary.

    Separately, the president-elect has reached an agreement to resolve three lawsuits over his Trump University. New York state’s attorney general announced the $25 million settlement today. Mr. Trump’s lawyers have squared off with students who say the for-profit school failed to deliver the real estate investing education that it promised.

    The U.S. Justice Department has begun looking into charges of harassment and intimidation since the election and whether they constitute federal hate crimes. There’ve been incidents targeting Muslims and blacks, including in schools and churches.

    Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke about the situation in a video statement today.

    LORETTA LYNCH, Attorney General: We need you to continue to report these incidents to local law enforcement, as well as the Justice Department, so that our career investigators and prosecutors can take action to defend your rights. We will continue to enforce our nation’s hate crimes laws to the fullest extent possible. We will continue to uphold our conviction that all men and women deserve to lead lives of safety and dignity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lynch pointed to a new FBI report showing a 67 percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims in 2015. She called it deeply sobering.

    There’s been a surge of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean this week. The U.N.’s International Organization for Migration said today that 365 people have been lost trying to make the crossing from Libya to Italy. Hundreds of others have been rescued, after at least six incidents, mostly involving flimsy rubber rafts. U.N. officials call it a calamity in plain sight. For the year, more than 4,600 have died, up sharply from last year.

    The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus is no longer an international emergency. But it said it was still working on containing the virus, calling it a long-term problem. The CDC urged pregnant women to continue to avoid traveling to areas with local Zika transmission.

    The legendary Texas heart surgeon Dr. Denton Cooley has died. Cooley performed the first successful human heart transplant in the United States in 1968. And he implanted the world’s first artificial heart a year later. In all, Cooley performed some 65,000 open-heart surgeries over four decades. Denton Cooley was 96 years old.

    In economic news: Volkswagen announced plans to cut 30,000 jobs worldwide, as it tries to recover from an emissions cheating scandal; 23,000 of the jobs will be in Germany. Volkswagen says it expects to save more than $4 billion in the restructuring. The company also said it’s adding 9,000 jobs to work on electric-powered cars.

    Stocks closed lower on Wall Street today, led by losses in the health care sector. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 36 points to close under 18868. The Nasdaq fell 12, and the S&P 500 slipped five. For the week, the Dow gained a faction of a percent, and both the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 rose around 1 percent.

    The post News Wrap: President-elect settles Trump U. lawsuits for $25 million appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A woman stands near a poster explaining about the Zika virus at the Ministry of Health office in Jakarta, Indonesia September 2, 2016. REUTERS/Iqro Rinaldi/File Photo - RTX2R83H

    A woman stands near a poster explaining about the Zika virus at the Ministry of Health office in Jakarta, Indonesia September 2, 2016. Photo by REUTERS/Iqro Rinaldi/File Photo

    The World Health Organization declared Friday that the Zika virus is no longer a global emergency.

    After a nine-month emergency designation, the WHO reclassified Zika as a long-term epidemic similar to other mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and yellow fever.

    Dr. Peter Salama, WHO’s emergency program executive director, stressed at a press conference the announcement was not “downgrading the importance of Zika,” rather “sending the message that Zika is here to stay and the WHO response is here to stay.”

    The WHO issued a public health emergency for the virus in February after a surge in reports of microcephaly, a neurological defects in newborns that has since been linked to Zika.

    Nearly 30 countries have reported instances of the virus. Brazil was hit the hardest with nearly 2,100 cases, according to the Associated Press.

    Dr. David Heymann, who heads the WHO emergency committee on Zika, said the emergency was put in place to contain the spread and boost resources to study the virus. The immediate needs have since been addressed, but he noted the disease is still a viable threat, particularly as Brazil and other countries in the southern hemisphere enter their summer season in the coming months.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise pregnant women to continue avoiding infected regions.

    The post No longer an emergency, Zika virus is a long-term problem, says WHO appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    NEW YORK — President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday demanded an apology from the cast member who gave Mike Pence an onstage earful from about equality.

    Actor Brandon Victor Dixon told Pence after the curtain call that multiracial and multicultural cast is concerned about the Trump administration.

    “We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” said Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr, the nation’s third vice president. “We truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us.”

    Pence ducked out before Dixon finished the unprecedented message but heard the full remarks from the hallway outside the auditorium.

    “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “The theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

    The atmosphere was tense from the time the vice president-elect arrived at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, triggering both cheers and boos as he slipped into row F in the prime orchestra seats. After the curtain-call, Dixon called Pence out from the stage, with the cast behind him.

    “Vice President-elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us, just a few more moments. There’s nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen,” Dixon said.. “We’re all here sharing a story about love.”

    Outside, many protesters jeered, including one woman who held up a sign with a line from the musical that always gets a cheer: “Immigrants, we get the job done.” Dixon’s speech, which ended with a plea to donate to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, brought down the house.

    “Hamilton,” which won 11 Tony Awards, has been praised by politicians and rap stars alike, influenced the debate over the nation’s currency and burst through the Broadway bubble like none other.

    The first family has been big boosters of the show. President Barack Obama took daughters Sasha and Malia to see it last year after first lady Michelle Obama caught it last spring. Pence’s predecessor, Vice President Joe Biden, also has seen it.

    The show is by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the musical’s book, music and lyrics. It stresses the orphan, immigrant roots of Hamilton and has a terrifically varied score, ranging from pop ballads to gospel to sexy R&B. It has been cheered for reclaiming the nation’s founding story by a multicultural cast.

    The Alexander Hamilton that Pence saw was Javier Munoz, an openly gay actor. Pence supported numerous efforts to ban gay marriage as governor of Indiana and opposed unfettered federal funding for HIV and AIDS treatment.

    After Pence left, Jeffrey Seller, the show’s lead producer, said he hopes the politician would share the show’s message of empathy: “I hope that maybe it inspires him to feel for those not like him.”

    Seller, a Tony Award winner who has produced such shows as “Rent” and “Avenue Q,” said such notable Republicans as former Vice President Dick Cheney and presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan have come to “Hamilton.”

    “This show is absolutely for Republicans as well as Democrats, and we would like to host any Republican who would like to see the show,” he said.

    Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press wrote this report.

    The post ‘Hamilton’ cast to Pence: ‘We, sir, are the diverse America’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) delivers a nominating speech for Republican U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo  - RTX2U9ZI

    Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) delivers a nominating speech for Republican U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 19, 2016. Photo by Mike Segar/File Photo/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmation hearing of Sen. Jeff Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, is likely to rehash racially charged allegations that derailed his efforts to become a federal judge and made him a symbol of black-voter intimidation under the Reagan administration.

    The expected focus on Sessions’ record on race, policing and immigration comes as the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has surged in prominence under the Obama administration. If confirmed, Sessions would have broad latitude to define how federal prosecutors across the country wield their powers and make changes to the Justice Department’s priorities.

    Lawmakers and advocates expressed concern Friday that Sessions could sideline or undo the Obama administration’s civil rights efforts, which have included investigations of police departments for unconstitutional practices and lawsuits meant to protect the rights of transgender individuals and black voters.

    “Given some of his past statements and his staunch opposition to immigration reform, I am very concerned about what he would do with the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice and want to hear what he has to say,” incoming Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said in a statement.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said he strongly supported Sessions, who he said “has worked tirelessly to safeguard the public and to improve the lives of Americans from all walks of life.”

    Sessions’ peers on the Senate Judiciary Committee will almost certainly delve into the Alabama senator’s past statements on race. The panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, hinted as much on Friday, saying the “American people deserve to learn about Senator Sessions’ record.”

    Leahy voted against Sessions for a district judgeship when he last came before the Judiciary Committee in 1986.

    [Watch Video]

    During that hearing, Sessions was criticized for joking in the presence of a Civil Rights Division attorney that the Ku Klux Klan was “OK” until he learned they smoked marijuana. He was also said to have called a black assistant U.S. attorney “boy” and the NAACP “un-American” and “communist-inspired.”

    Gerry Hebert, a former Justice Department lawyer who worked with Sessions in the early 1980s, said he remembered Sessions making racially offensive remarks.

    “I filed all these things away thinking, ‘God, what a racist this guy is,'” Hebert said.

    Sessions, a former prosecutor, has said the racially charged allegations against him have been painful to him and an unfair stain on his reputation. He called the matter “heartbreaking” in a 2009 CNN interview and described the allegations as “false charges.”

    In defending his record, Sessions is likely to point to his vote to confirm Eric Holder as the country’s first black attorney general and to his co-sponsorship of the Fair Sentencing Act, which sought to reduce racial disparities in how black and white drug offenders are treated.

    When he was U.S. attorney in Alabama, his office investigated the 1981 murder of Michael Donald, a black man who was kidnapped, beaten and killed by two Klansmen who hanged his body in a tree. The two men were later arrested and convicted.

    “He couldn’t have been more supportive of making sure we got convicted the murderers of the last black man who was lynched by the Klan,” said former Justice Department attorney Barry Kowalski, who worked with Sessions.

    But “those incidents don’t obliterate the well-established record of hostility to civil rights enforcement in other areas,” said Wade Henderson, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

    Sessions’ civil rights record matters because, if confirmed, he would have oversight of a division that Holder has described as the Justice Department’s “crown jewel.”

    Sessions himself has said a “properly exercised” Civil Rights Division “provides tremendous benefit to American citizens” but should not be used as “a sword to assert inappropriate claims that have the effect of promoting political agendas.”

    As attorney general, he’d have the power to depart significantly from the priorities of his Democratic-nominated predecessors.

    The Obama administration Justice Department, for instance, has opened 23 investigations of law enforcement agencies, including police departments in Baltimore, Chicago and Ferguson, Missouri, for unconstitutional practices and has reached court-enforceable consent decrees with many of them. It sued North Carolina over a bathroom bill it said discriminated against transgender individuals, and has challenged state voting laws that it said disenfranchised minority voters.

    As a supporter of Trump, who campaigned on law and order, Sessions is likely to pursue fewer civil rights investigations of troubled police departments. He may also elevate voter fraud as a priority, something the current Justice Department leaders see as negligible.

    In the mid-1980s, Sessions was criticized over the prosecution of three civil rights activists on charges of vote tampering in Perry County, Alabama. The activists, who included Albert Turner, a former adviser to Martin Luther King Jr., were acquitted.

    During his confirmation hearing Sessions defended the case, citing evidence of absentee-ballot tampering. Democrats and civil rights groups called it an example of the Reagan administration intimidating black voters.

    As a senator, Sessions criticized the Justice Department in 2009 for dismissing three defendants from a voting rights lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party after allegations of voter intimidation outside a Philadelphia polling place. The department’s Office of Professional Responsibility found no evidence politics played a role in that decision.

    He’s also defended the lawfulness of state voter identification laws.

    Policy differences aside, the Civil Rights Division is expected to continue enforcing civil rights laws, such as prosecuting police officers for egregious acts of violence.

    “The challenge for an incoming administration is always to make those policy changes without making law enforcement look like a purely political undertaking,” said William Yeomans, who worked in the division for more than two decades. Otherwise, “it hurts the legitimacy of the institution.”

    Associated Press writer Eileen Sullivan in Washington and Kim Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama contributed to this report.

    The post Racial issues likely to come up at Sessions’ Senate hearing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The 33rd annual Miami Book Fair, hosted at Miami Dade College, has gathered hundreds of authors and readers for a three-day event that lasts Nov. 18-20. The NewsHour’s chief arts and culture correspondent is there to interview dozens of authors about their work along with Book View Now’s Rich Fahle. Jane Alexander, Andrés Reséndez, Heather Ann Thompson, Ibram X. Kendi and others will join Brown and Fahle.

    Watch a live broadcast of their conversations in the player above.

    The post WATCH: Jeffrey Brown interviews authors at the Miami Book Fair appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 18: Sharon Jones performs on stage at Palau De La Musica on November 18, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jordi Vidal/Redferns via Getty Images)

    Sharon Jones performs on stage at Palau De La Musica on November 18, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. Photo by Jordi Vidal/Redferns via Getty Images

    Sharon Jones, whose albums and electrifying live performances with her band the Dap-Kings helped lead a soul and funk revival, died Friday at the age of 60 after battling pancreatic cancer.

    “We are deeply saddened to announce Sharon Jones passed away today after a heroic battle against pancreatic cancer. She was surrounded by her loved ones, including the Dap-Kings,” read a statement on the singer’s Facebook page.

    Jones was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 but continued to perform live, even as she underwent chemotherapy this summer, according to The New York Times.

    Sharon Jones was born in Augusta, Georgia, in 1956 and moved with her family to Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood as a child. She began performing at a young age as a gospel singer and with funk bands in Brooklyn, and continued to work as a wedding singer during the 1970s. She also held jobs as a corrections officer at Rikers Island and a guard for Wells Fargo before gaining mainstream attention as an artist.

    Jones told Rolling Stone in July that she had difficulty finding success in the music industry. “I wasn’t what they was looking for,” she said. “They just looked at me and they didn’t like what they saw: a short, black woman.”

    Singers Ledisi (L) and Sharon Jones perform during the "VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul" at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York December 18, 2011.     REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT) - RTR2VFNV

    Singers Ledisi (L) and Sharon Jones perform during the “VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul” at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York December 18, 2011. Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    In 1996, Jones met Gabriel Roth, Gabriel Roth, co-founder of Daptone Records, who hired her as a backup singer before featuring her as a frontwoman on “Damn It’s Hot.” Jones and the Dap-Kings joined forces to release the debut album “Dap Dippin’ With Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings” in 2002, when she was 46. It was the first of six albums that they would record together.

    The independent label was important to Jones, who helped build the Daptone Records studio in the early 2000s. “A major label’s going to do what?” she told Billboard. “I sing one or two songs, they give me a few million dollars, which they’re going to want back, and then the next thing you know, the next record don’t sell, and then they’re kicking me to the curb. With us, this is our label, this is our project.”

    But it was her live shows that distinguished her as a uniquely vibrant performer, functioning “as equal parts Baptist church revival, Saturday night juke joint and raucous 1970s Las Vegas revue,” wrote Jason Newman of Rolling Stone.

    Jones told the NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown in 2010 that she deeply connected to the work of James Brown and the retro-soul sound that marked her work. “To me, soul music is not something you can pick up and play. You have to feel that,” she said.

    In the same conversation, Roth said that Daptone Records “never came into it with an agenda that we were trying to revive something. It was very natural,” he said. “This is the music that makes sense to us.”

    The documentary “Miss Sharon Jones!” followed the singer from her diagnosis in 2013 to her performances in 2015. That same year, she and the Dap-Kings were nominated for a Grammy for the album “Give the People What They Want.”

    Celebrities and fans paid tribute to Jones online.

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

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    The post Sharon Jones, who led a soul revival as Dap-Kings frontwoman, dies at 60 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama waves during his meeting with Peru President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski at the APEC Summit in Lima, Peru November 19, 2016.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  - RTSSE7C

    U.S. President Barack Obama waves during his meeting with Peru President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski at the APEC Summit in Lima, Peru November 19, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque – RTSSE7C

    LIMA, Peru — President Barack Obama is wrapping up a three-country, post-U.S. election tour the same way it began: by trying to reassure leaders from around the world that U.S. democracy isn’t broken and everything will be fine when Republican Donald Trump succeeds him next year.

    Obama is in Lima for a final appearance at an annual Asia-Pacific summit.

    But global concerns about Trump’s pending ascension to the world’s most powerful office after a surprise win in last week’s presidential election were expected to be a key topic during Obama’s meetings Saturday and Sunday. The Trump issue overshadowed the president’s interactions with world leaders during his earlier stops this week in Greece and Germany.

    Trump opened what was an unlikely presidential bid by blasting Mexicans as criminals and rapists, and vowing to build a wall along the Mexico border to keep them and other Latinos from entering the U.S. illegally. During the campaign, he rattled U.S. allies by questioning the value of multinational organizations like NATO, and he opposed international trade deals, including a pending Pacific trade pact that Obama negotiated with 11 other countries.

    Since Obama opened the final foreign trip of his presidency with a stop in Greece on Tuesday, he has tried to reassure his counterparts that the U.S. will uphold its partnerships and obligations despite the divisive rhetoric of a campaign that ended with the election of a real estate mogul and reality TV star with no political or government experience.

    Obama probably offered additional reassurance during his meeting Saturday with Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who took office as Peru’s president earlier this year. The leaders made no public comments as they appeared before a contingent of U.S. and Peruvian news media.

    [Watch Video]

    On Friday, before Obama’s late-night arrival in Peru’s oceanfront capital, Kuczynski warned that the U.S. presidential election is a sign of intensifying hostility toward free trade that threatens the global economy. He told delegates gathering for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum that global trade had stopped growing in the past two years, and would only worsen if nations wall off their economies.

    “It is fundamental that world trade grow again and that protectionism be defeated,” said Kuczynski, who did not mention Trump by name.

    Obama has argued for some time that globalization is here to stay and governments must address fears about what the changing economics mean for them.

    Obama was also meeting Saturday with leaders of 11 APEC countries that joined the U.S. to negotiate the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which Trump opposes. The agreement appears all but dead in the U.S., given that top Republican and Democratic congressional leaders have said lawmakers will not vote on it before they adjourn for the year.

    Obama supports international trade deals as a way both to boost U.S. exports and create jobs domestically. The Pacific deal was a key component of his strategy to “pivot” U.S. policy toward Asia to take advantage of the region’s fast-growing marketplaces and, at the same time, to create a counterweight to China’s growing influence in the region.

    Trump leveled harsh criticism at China during the election, threatening the Asian powerhouse with hefty import tariffs over alleged trade and currency violations. Obama was also holding talks Saturday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, one of many world leaders who spoke with President-elect Trump in recent days.

    Trump’s team said he told Xi during their telephone conversation that he believes they will have one of the “strongest relationships for both countries moving forward.” Xi told Trump that cooperation between the world’s two biggest economies was necessary.

    The White House said Obama wants to review progress the two presidents have made on a range of issues.

    Obama has carved out time in between meetings for one of the staples of his overseas travels: a town hall-style forum with the region’s future leaders.

    He also was attending a dinner welcoming leaders from APEC’s 21-member countries.

    Associated Press writer Ben Fox contributed to this report.

    The post Obama to reassure leaders in Peru on successor’s presidency appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Defense Intelligence Agency director U.S. Army Lt. General Michael Flynn testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on "Worldwide Threats" in Washington February 4, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX2U9YI

    Defense Intelligence Agency director U.S. Army Lt. General Michael Flynn testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on “Worldwide Threats” in Washington February 4, 2014. Photo by Gary Cameron/File Photo/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Michael Flynn, the retired Army lieutenant general and intelligence officer who is Donald Trump’s pick to serve as his national security adviser, is a harsh critic of Muslim extremism and the religion itself, calling “radical Islam” an existential threat to the United States.

    In strident speeches and public comments, including a fiery address at the Republican National Convention, Flynn has aggressively argued that Islamic State militants pose a threat on a global scale and demanded a far more aggressive U.S. military campaign against the group.

    In a June interview with CNN, Flynn complained the U.S. needs to “discredit” radical Islam, but that “we’re not allowed to do that right now.” But his comments about Islam, a religion practiced by more than 1.5 billion people worldwide, have at times gone beyond condemning radicals inside the faith.

    In Flynn’s book, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies,” he condemned U.S. leaders who have called Islam a religion of peace. “This insistence on denying the existence of jihad led President Obama to the absurd claim that the Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam,” Flynn wrote.

    In August, he spoke at an event in Dallas hosted by the anti-Islamist group Act for America, calling Islam a “cancer” and a “political ideology” that “definitely hides behind being a religion.”

    Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group based in California, said in a statement that Flynn’s appointment “signals support for anti-Muslim policies and sentiment that will undermine our nation’s security and exacerbate an already unsafe climate for Muslims and all Americans.”

    The role of national security adviser has varied by administration, but usually centers on coordinating the policy positions of the secretaries of state, defense, justice and other members of a president’s national security team.

    It is an especially powerful position because of the national security adviser’s access to the president in the West Wing of the White House. The adviser acts as a gatekeeper on a wide range of issues, including matters of war and peace as well as diplomacy and intelligence.

    Flynn, who turns 58 in December, served for more than three decades in the Army following his commissioning in 1981 as a second lieutenant in military intelligence. His career included a stint as director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and intelligence chief for the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

    It ended, however, when he was forced to resign from his post as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 after two turbulent years leading the Pentagon’s top spy agency.

    Flynn traveled last year to Moscow, where he joined Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials in a celebration of the RT network, a Russian government-controlled television channel. Flynn later explained that he had been paid for taking part in the event, but brushed aside concerns that he was aiding a Russian propaganda effort.

    Flynn has became a harsh critic of the Obama administration’s prosecution of the fight against the Islamic State group and emerged as one of Trump’s most vocal backers. Throughout the campaign, Flynn championed many of Trump’s foreign policy provisions, including renegotiating a seven-country agreement with Iran aimed at curbing its nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of economic sanctions.

    Yet while Flynn has publicly issued dark warnings about the risks of Islamic violence, his private consulting firm has lobbied for a company headed by a Turkish businessman tied to Turkey’s authoritarian, Islamist-leaning government, which cracked down on dissent and jailed thousands of opponents after a failed coup in July against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    The businessman, Ekim Alptekin, told The Associated Press on Friday that he had no relationship with Erdogan’s government, even though he is member of a Turkish foreign economic relations board managed by the country’s Economic Ministry.

    In an op-ed for the Washington newspaper The Hill just before the election, Flynn wrote that Turkey needs support and echoed Erdogan’s warnings that a “shady” Turkish Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania should not be given safe harbor in the U.S.

    Erdogan has accused the cleric, Fethullah Gullen, of orchestrating the July coup attempt and called for his extradition. The Obama administration has not complied.

    Alptekin said Friday that Flynn’s editorial supporting Erdogan was not connected to his company’s lobbying or the Turkish government. “The Turkish government did not order that,” he said.

    The Flynn Intel Group also lobbied Congress even as Flynn joined Trump in a presidential intelligence briefing in August – a possible security misstep, according to several ethics law experts.

    “If the general was receiving classified information that could affect his business interests, that would be an obvious concern,” said Joe Sandler, a campaign ethics lawyer and expert on the law that requires lobbyists for foreign governments to register their activities.

    Sandler and others also questioned why Flynn’s firm registered as lobbyists with Congress instead of the Justice Department’s stricter Foreign Agent unit, which requires more detailed reporting of activities under the federal Foreign Agent Registration Act.

    “If a foreign entity is lobbying Congress with the aim of influencing U.S policy, they’re required to file under the foreign agent act,” said Lydia Bennett, an expert in foreign agent work with the non-partisan Project on Government Oversight in Washington.

    Flynn’s consulting group registered with Congress as a lobbyist in September for Inovo BV, a company Alptekin set up in the Netherlands in 2005. Alptekin said the lobbying project was designed to support an energy firm that he declined to identify.

    Kelley and Flynn Intel Group did not respond to calls and emails from the AP, and the Trump transition team did not respond to requests for comment. Flynn said in a statement Kelley provided to Yahoo News that if he returns to the government, “my relationship with my company will be severed.”

    The post Flynn is a harsh critic of Muslim culture, extremism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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