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

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    Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg addresses the audience during a meeting of the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Ceo Summit in Lima, Peru, November 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo  - RTSSE0D

    Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg addresses the audience during a meeting of the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Ceo Summit in Lima, Peru, on Nov. 19, 2016. Photo by Mariana Baz/Reuters

    After a week of accusations that fake news posts influenced the outcome of the presidential race, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg maintained Friday that, “the percentage of misinformation is relatively small,” but outlined how he is working to mitigate it.

    In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg mentioned prospects of stronger detection, options for users to flag potentially fake stories and also a warning system that would label them, as well as the possibility of raising the standards for related articles that are suggested after each post. He described the issue as complex because it puts him in a position to arbitrate freedom of speech.

    “We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or mistakenly restricting accurate content. We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties,” he wrote. “While the percentage of misinformation is relatively small, we have much more work ahead on our roadmap.”

    His statement came after media outlets reported on allegations by critics that fake news helped President-elect Donald Trump win the election. Initially, Zuckerberg dismissed the concept as a “pretty crazy idea.”

    Then he said in a longer statement that more than 99 percent of what people see is authentic, and that the other 1 percent is not always a political hoax.

    “Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Nov. 12.

    But Facebook’s top executives have stilll been questioning their role in the outcome.

    And the power of fake news on Facebook is hard to gauge.

    A Pew Research Center survey estimated that 44 percent of the general population gets its news from Facebook, which it also stated is by far the largest social networking site, reaching 67 percent of U.S. adults. And an analysis by BuzzFeed found that false election stories outperformed real news in engagement during the last three months leading up to the election.

    President Barack Obama said in Germany on Thursday that, “If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, and particularly in an age of social media, where so many people are getting their information in sound bites and snippets off their phones, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.”

    [Watch Video]

    A prolific fake news writer, who once made up news a story that Trump protesters were paid by saboteurs, shared his perspective with the Washington Post.

    “His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist,” he said. “I think Trump is in the White House because of me.”

    Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina who studies the social impact of technology, also told the New York Times that there is no denying the influence of fake news.

    “A fake story claiming Pope Francis — actually a refugee advocate — endorsed Mr. Trump was shared almost a million times, likely visible to tens of millions,” Tufekci said of a post on Facebook. “Its correction was barely heard. Of course Facebook had significant influence in this last election’s outcome.”

    Zuckerberg’s statement on Friday was the first to outline potential steps toward helping the problem. He published it after he landed in Lima, Peru for an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. He gave a keynote address there on Saturday, where he mostly talked about expanding access to the internet. But he also touched on the fake news issue.

    “We can work to give people a voice, but we also need to do our part to stop the spread of hate, and violence, and misinformation,” he said.

    You can read Zuckerberg’s full statement below.

    The post Zuckerberg says Facebook plans to crack down on fake news appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Injured boys react at a field hospital after airstrikes on the rebel held areas of Aleppo, Syria November 18, 2016. Photo By Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

    Injured boys react at a field hospital after airstrikes on the rebel held areas of Aleppo, Syria November 18, 2016. Photo By Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

    An onslaught of airstrikes this week on Syria’s war-gripped city of Aleppo forced the closure of most of the hospitals and left only a handful partially functioning in rebel-held territory where thousands of civilians are trapped amid a five-year civil war.

    Since the siege on Aleppo started in September, government forces and their backers have frequently targeted hospitals from the air. Russia, an ally of the Syrian government, this week denied accusations that it had participated in the hospital attacks.

    At least 150 civilians were killed by the airstrikes, including more than a dozen children, according to the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that every one of the city’s hospitals in eastern Aleppo have been closed this weekend, though some war monitoring and aid groups indicated some medical facilities may still be open. One WHO representative told Reuters “all hospitals in eastern Aleppo are out of service.”

    “This destruction of infrastructure essential to life leaves the besieged, resolute people, including all children and elderly men and women, without any health facilities offering life-saving treatment … leaving them to die,” the director of several hospitals said in a statement.

    On Wednesday, the WHO condemned “massive attacks” on five Aleppo hospitals that took place over three days earlier this week, and the Associated Press reported that four hospitals were targeted by the Syrian government and their allies on Friday.

    “Such attacks on health in Syria are increasing in both frequency and scale,” a WHO statement said.

    The U.S. on Saturday said the attacks on medical facilities and aid workers should end and demanded Russia do more to ebb the violence.

    “There is no excuse for these heinous actions,” Susan Rice, White House national security adviser, said in a statement.

    The post Airstrikes force hospitals to shut down in rebel-held Aleppo appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign event at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center in Jacksonville, Florida U.S. November 3,  2016.   REUTERS/Carlo Allegri - RTX2RT6V

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign event at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center in Jacksonville, Florida U.S. November 3, 2016. Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    BOISE, Idaho — Grassroots campaigns have sprung up around the country to try to persuade members of the Electoral College to do something that has never been done in American history — deny the presidency to the clear Election Day winner.

    Activists are circulating online petitions and using social media in hopes of influencing Republican electors to cast their ballots for someone other than President-elect Donald Trump and deprive him of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to become the next occupant of the White House.

    “Yes, I think it’s a longshot, but I also think we’re living in strange times,” said Daniel Brezenoff, who created a petition in favor of Hillary Clinton and is asking signers to lobby electors by email or phone. “If it was ever plausible, it’s this year.”

    Trump has won 290 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232, with Michigan undecided, but Clinton is on pace to win the popular vote by at least 1 million ballots. Trump’s opponents are motivated by the outcome of the popular vote and by their contention that the businessman and reality TV star is unfit to serve as commander in chief.

    Just one elector so far has wavered publicly on supporting Trump.

    Texas Republican Art Sisneros says he has reservations about the president-elect, but not because of the national popular vote. He told The Associated Press he won’t vote for Clinton under any circumstance.

    “As a Christian, I came to the conclusion that Mr. Trump is not biblically qualified for that office,” he said.

    He said he has heard from ecstatic Clinton supporters and even supportive Republicans, but also from outraged Trump backers writing “threatening and vile things.”

    Sisneros signed a state party pledge to support the GOP’s standard-bearer, but that was before Trump was the official nominee. He said one of his options is to resign, allowing the state party to choose another elector.

    Electors are chosen by party officials and are typically the party’s most loyal members. Presidential electors are not required to vote for a particular candidate under the Constitution. Even so, the National Archives says more than 99 percent of electors have voted as pledged throughout the nation’s history.

    Some state laws call for fines against “faithless electors,” while others open them to possible felony charges, although the National Archives says no elector has ever been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged. In North Carolina, a faithless elector’s vote is canceled, and he or she must immediately resign and be replaced.

    Layne Bangerter and Melinda Smyser, two of Idaho’s four Republican electors, said they have been flooded with emails, telephone calls and Facebook messages from strangers urging them to reconsider their vote.

    “It’s just not going to work,” Bangerter said. “I hope it dies down, but I don’t see that happening.”

    The volume and tone of the messages caught the attention of Idaho’s secretary of state, who urged the public to remain civil as electors prepare to cast their ballots on Dec. 19 while meeting in their states.

    Republican Party officials in Georgia and Michigan said their electors also have been bombarded with messages, and Iowa reported increased public interest in obtaining contact information for electors.

    Michael Banerian, 22, one of Michigan’s 16 Republican electors, said he has received death threats from people who do not want him to vote for Trump. But he said he is undeterred.

    “It’s mostly just a lot of angry people who don’t completely understand how the process works,” said Banerian, a political science major at Oakland University.

    P. Bret Chiafalo, a Democratic elector in Washington state, said he and a small group of other electors from the party are working to contact their Republican counterparts and ask them to vote for any GOP candidate besides Trump, preferably Mitt Romney or John Kasich.

    Under the Constitution, the House — currently under Republican control — decides the presidency if no candidate reaches the required electoral vote majority. House members choose from the top three contenders.

    This isn’t the first time electors have faced pressure to undo the results of Election Day.

    Carole Jean Jordan, a GOP elector from Florida in 2000, recalled the “unbelievably ugly” aftermath of the recount battle between George W. Bush and then-vice president Al Gore, a dispute that ended with the U.S. Supreme Court leaving Bush’s slim margin intact and handing him the presidency.

    Jordan said Florida’s electors were inundated with nasty letters from people saying they should not vote for Bush. Police kept watch over her home until the electors convened in Tallahassee to cast their votes. They stayed at the same hotel, guarded by security officers who also escorted them to cast their ballots at the state Capitol.

    Barrow reported from Atlanta.

    The post Trump opponents try to beat him at the Electoral College appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Read the full transcript below:

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: This is Erbil — the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan — an oasis of stability in the Middle East. It’s a semi-autonomous region in the northern part of Iraq.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Even after the 2003 U.S. invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein, when the rest of Iraq was in turmoil for years, Iraqi Kurdistan remained safe and prosperous. Today, life here seems peaceful.

    But war is less than 50 miles away on the road to Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which ISIS took over more than two years ago.

    Just inside Mosul’s city limits, in a neighborhood called Gogali, Iraqi forces are leading the fight to take the city back, and Kurdish military units known as “the peshmerga” are backing them up. The Iraqis acknowledge they could not attempt this fight without the help of the Kurds.

    Baraq Mokdad is with Iraqi Special Forces. His unit had set up a blockade to keep ISIS known in Arabic as Deash, from breaking through the front line.

    So this morning, he’s saying, Daesh sent a humvee packed with explosives that blew up right here on the other side of this blockade.

    And his soldiers with a 50 caliber machine gun, they were able to stop him.

    You can hear those 50 caliber machine guns right now in the background.

    You can actually see the remains of one ISIS fighter who was involved in that attempted breach of this blockade right here. He’s clearly been covered up by the debris.

    As we explored the front line, we found more evidence of ISIS’s battle strategy, using trucks reinforced with armour plating as battering rams. And in this abandoned warehouse, mass producing Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDs. The evidence was strewn around the floor.

    It’s a brutal fight the Kurds are especially anxious to win…fighting not only to stop ISIS but for greater legitimacy on the world stage in their struggle toward establishing greater independence from Iraq.

    NILUFER KOC: I think this is a historical moment for us as Kurds.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Nilufer Koc is co-chair of the Kurdistan National Congress, a group representing the often competing interests of Kurds throughout the Middle East. She says there’s a good reason why Iraqi Kurds stood up to ISIS from the beginning.

    NILUFER KOC: The patriotism to defend the country was the main reason, and I think that the global powers have seen the strength of Kurds and the continuity of Kurds defending, insisting on the defense of their country. That’s why Kurds became partners of the international coalition.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: The Kurds have made so many gains during the last several weeks in the assault on Mosul, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has publicly asked the leader of the Iraqi Kurds, Masoud Barzani, not to take advantage of the chaotic situation in Mosul to pursue Kurdish territorial ambitions. Al-Abadi says the aim of the battle for Mosul should only be freeing the citizens from ISIS.

    The United States military agrees. Colonel Brett Sylvia is commander of the second brigade of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, from Fort Campbell, Kentucky He says it’s a balancing act between former rivals, but it’s working.

    COLONEL BRETT SYLVIA:
    You’ve got the peshmerga camp, you got the Kurdish flag flying there. And when you look on the other side of that wall, you got the Iraqi camp with the Iraqis flying their flags. And so really it could kind of symbolic of what we’re doing here. We’re advising each one of these guys, and they are working together, we’re working with them in order to bring this whole thing together.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: His troops are in Northern Iraq to provide advice and assistance to the Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi army during the assault on Mosul. They’re part of the five thousand American troops still deployed in Iraq.

    COLONEL BRETT SYLVIA:
    The peshmerga have played a very helpful role in this Mosul counterattack. They had formed a Kurdish defensive line that they manned, that they maintained, that they defended. In cooperation with Iraqi security forces, they did push forward from that line in order to be able to support the offensive, all in agreement with the Iraqi government. And it is my understanding that once the offensive is over, then the Kurdish security forces will move back to that original defensive line.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: That’s the deal that they made?

    COLONEL BRETT SYLVIA: Yes.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: But some peshmerga on the front lines, like Colonel Arshad Galaly, seem to think the Kurds have a right to expand their territory and that Kurdish “independence” should be their eventual goal.

    So what happens next after ISIS is expelled from Mosul?

    ARSHAD GALALY: We want our independence.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Do you get that militarily, politically?

    ARSHAD GALALY: We’ve been fighting, making great sacrifices for a century. We’ve already earned it.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: It’s a sensitive question. He insists Kurdistan should be independent, but he won’t say how.

    But other Kurds are more candid, like Najmaldin Karim, the governor of the oil-rich province of Kirkuk. Officially, it’s outside the borders of Kurdistan. But two years ago, when the Iraqi army fled as ISIS approached, the Kurds came to the city’s defense, and they’ve been in charge ever since.

    GOVERNOR NAJMALDIN KARIM: The Kurds have proven they can govern themselves. We have proven that we can defend ourselves. We have every right like any other nation to be independent. We have to work on this with the government in Baghdad and talk to them openly. We want to be good neighbors. We need each other. We have to talk to the neighboring countries — Turkey, Iran, even Syria when there is a decent government there. I think the time is overdue.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: But the time for what? For a state? For a Kurdish state?

    GOVERNOR NAJMALDIN KARIM: Yes, for an independent Kurdistan.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: If that day comes, this 12-foot-tall concrete wall in the Kirkuk Province could become the new border. The Peshmerga built it to keep ISIS out. It extends 30 miles beyond the official borders of Kurdistan, becoming a de facto dividing line between their growing territory, and the rest of Iraq.

    Meanwhile, Kurdistan is playing another important role in the ongoing conflict, hosting more than a million refugees, most of them Arab Iraqis, like Hussein Fathel and his family.

    HUSSEIN FATHEL: My hometown could wind up in Kurdistan once the borders are redrawn, But it makes no difference, so long as I can raise my family and sheep in peace.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: As the Mosul offensive grinds on, Kurdistan is bracing for up to one million additional refugees. That’s straining resources in a region giving its all in the fight against ISIS.

    GOVERNOR NAJMALDIN KARIM: We have to feed them, we have to shelter them, we have to protect them.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: The U.S. has stepped in recently to help fund the Kurdish military and other crisis measures related to the battle with ISIS.

    So who are these other people?

    While she’s hopeful about the future, Kurdistan National Congress co-chair Nilufer Koc is warning her fellow countrymen not to go too far when it comes to independence. Iraqi Kurds she says, need to tread very carefully.

    NILUFER KOC:
    Politically more and more people are understanding that insisting on a nation state of Kurdistan would be catastrophic for the region. So what can be done, I think it’s a good time to get more rights through dialogue with Baghdad. The Kurdish dream of being more free is possible.

    The post Could the fight against ISIS give Kurds more autonomy? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney after their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTSSF5N

    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney after their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Nov. 19, 2016. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    BEDMINSTER, N.J. — President-elect Donald Trump and Mitt Romney met Saturday at the billionaire’s golf club in New Jersey, both emerging with smiles and a public handshake but no word on what, if any, role the 2012 GOP hopeful might play in the new administration.

    Trump flashed a thumbs-up said the sit down “went great.” Romney said the two had a “far reaching conversation with regards to the various theaters in the world where there are interests of the United States of real significance.”

    The meeting alone was notable after the crackling rancor between the men all year.

    Romney assailed Trump in a stinging speech in March, calling him a “con man” and a “phony.” Trump responded by calling Romney a “loser” who “choked like a dog” during the 2012 election and let President Barack Obama win.

    But the two have started to make amends since the election. Romney called Trump to congratulate him after his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

    Romney was only one of a parade of officials pouring through Trump’ door as the president-elect tries to fill more members of his administration. On Friday, Trump picked Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo to head the CIA, signaling a sharp rightward shift in U.S. security policy as he begins to form his Cabinet. Trump also named retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.

    [Watch Video]

    Hosting the stream of visitors wasn’t Trump’s first public act of the day. First, there was Twitter.

    He rushed to the defense of Mike Pence on Saturday after “Hamilton” actor Brandon Victor Dixon challenged the incoming vice president from the Broadway stage after the show Friday night. “Apologize!” Trump tweeted to the actor. “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”

    Dixon tweeted back: “Conversation is not harassment sir. And I appreciate @Mike_Pence for stopping to listen.”

    Trump also bragged on Twitter about agreeing to settle a trio of lawsuits against Trump University, claiming: “The ONLY bad thing about winning the presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!”

    Trump then turned to meetings, perhaps about posts in his administration.

    Just on Saturday, Trump’s schedule included retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, a potential contender to serve as Trump’s defense secretary, as well as Michelle Rhee and Betsy DeVos, two well-known education activists. And on Sunday, Trump was due to meet with several people, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

    Trump’s announcement on Friday of Sessions, Pompeo and Flynn formed the first outlines of Trump’s Cabinet and national security teams. Given his lack of governing experience and vague policy proposals during the campaign, his selection of advisers is being scrutinized both in the U.S. and abroad.

    Trump’s initial decisions suggest a more aggressive military involvement in counterterror strategy and a greater emphasis on Islam’s role in stoking extremism. Sessions, who is best known for his hard line immigration views, has questioned whether terrorist suspects should benefit from the rights available in U.S. courts. Pompeo has said Muslim leaders are “potentially complicit” in attacks if they do not denounce violence carried out in the name of Islam.

    Pompeo’s nomination to lead the CIA also opens the prospect of the U.S. resuming torture of detainees. Trump has backed harsh interrogation techniques that President Barack Obama and Congress have banned, saying the U.S. “should go tougher than waterboarding,” which simulates drowning. In 2014, Pompeo criticized Obama for “ending our interrogation program” and said intelligence officials “are not torturers, they are patriots.”

    Sessions and Pompeo would both require Senate confirmation; Flynn would not.

    In a separate matter Friday, it was announced that Trump had agreed to a $25 million settlement to resolve three lawsuits over Trump University, his former school for real estate investors. The lawsuits alleged the school misled students and failed to deliver on its promises in programs that cost up to $35,000.

    Trump has denied the allegations and had said repeatedly he would not settle. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who announced the settlement, called it “a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.”

    Trump tweeted to his 15 million followers Saturday that he only settled to better focus on leading the U.S.

    Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Mark Kennedy, Errin Whack, Jonathan Lemire, Jill Colvin, Stephen Braun, Robert Burns and Jack Gillum and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.

    The post Trump, Romney, once bitter rivals, meet, smile, shake hands appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    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

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    Sharon Jones, a powerful soul and blues singer who achieved fame in midlife and returned to touring this year after fighting cancer, has died. NewsHour Weekend’s Christopher Booker has more.

    SHARON JONES:  I been late. Alone for hours.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Out in front was her voice — a master class in soul, rhythm and blues, and funk. Born in Georgia, raised in Brooklyn and the Baptist church, she was part Aretha Franklin, part James Brown, and all Sharon Jones.

    SHARON JONES: I never took vocal lessons, just practicing, just building up my lungs to be a singer.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: But it was a voice — if not for her will and determination — that was nearly overlooked. Jones sang in wedding bands but spent years making a living as an armored guard for Wells Fargo and a corrections officer at Rikers Island. But in 1996, at the age of 40, she met a bass player named Gabe Roth, who was forming a new record label Daptone.

    After that meeting, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings recorded six albums — celebrating and re-inventing a sound thought lost to the digital world. She received Grammy nomination and influenced singers like Amy Winehouse and Adele. In 2013, she began her fight against pancreatic cancer, and resumed performing the following year after receiving treatment.

    The post Sharon Jones, soul and blues singer, dies at 60 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    From left, Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump attend the ground-breaking of the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office Building in Washington July 23, 2014.   Photo By Gary Cameron/Reuters

    From left, Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump attend the ground-breaking of the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office Building in Washington July 23, 2014. Photo By Gary Cameron/Reuters

    NEW YORK — Nearly every morning since their father’s stunning victory on Election Day, three of Donald Trump’s grown children walk through the Trump Tower lobby and board an elevator. But are Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric going to the campaign office on the 5th floor? Their business offices on the 25th floor? The president-elect’s penthouse on the 56th floor?

    That uncertainty highlights the multiples roles the children play for their father. For the past year, the lines were constantly blurred between political campaign and business empire, raising questions about a possible conflict of interest between Trump’s White House and his sprawling business interests.

    The children are poised to wield incredible influence over their father, even if they don’t follow him to Washington. Trump said consistently during the campaign that if he won, those children would stay in New York and run his business. But the three — plus Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner — were all named to the transition team’s executive committee.

    So far, they’ve been heavily involved in shaping the new administration. They’ve sat in on meetings and taken late night calls from their father. They advocated for making Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, the White House chief of staff. They counseled against bringing back Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s first campaign manager, who was fired in June on their advice.

    On Thursday, Ivanka Trump and Kushner were present for the president-elect’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Trump Tower.

    Trump has insisted he will build a wall between his White House and his company by placing his holdings into a blind trust, but with his children as its trustees. Federal requirements are that independent outsiders run such trusts.

    “We are in the process of vetting various structures with the goal of the immediate transfer of management of The Trump Organization and its portfolio of businesses to Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump as well as a team of highly skilled executives,” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said. She said the structure “will comply with all applicable rules and regulations.”

    Trump’s company is the largest business portfolio to belong to a modern sitting president. Federal ethics rules would allow Trump to run his business interests from the White House, or, perhaps more likely, influence decisions made by his children.

    That raises conflict of interest concerns: For example, Trump could set domestic policy while making deals abroad that could affect his corporation, even if it were technically in his children’s hands.

    Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser, disputed the idea that the Trump children’s involvement in the transition could lead to a breach of trust.

    “You’re presuming that they are doing certain things that they should not be doing,” Conway said. “They are his children. And they’ve been his business colleagues for a long period of time. They obviously will support their father as president.”

    But the potentially problematic entanglement revealed itself this past week when Ivanka Trump’s company promoted a $10,800 bracelet she wore during a “60 Minutes” interview on CBS. The spokeswoman for the company later apologized.

    The children — who were not made available for interviews — are limited in what formal role they could take in a Trump administration.

    Congress passed an anti-nepotism law in 1967 that prohibits the president from appointing a family member to work in the office or agency they oversee. The measure was passed as a reaction to President John F. Kennedy appointing his brother Robert as attorney general.

    But the law does not appear to prevent the children — or Kushner, who is one of Trump’s closest aides and is said to be weighing a White House role — from serving as unpaid advisers or providing informal counsel.

    The three grown children — whose mother is Ivana Trump, Trump’s first wife — delivered well-received speeches at this summer’s Republican National Convention in which they tried to humanize their father.

    Don and Eric Jr. were staples on conservative radio and on the road, trekking to campaign offices and small rallies across battleground states like Ohio and North Carolina. Ivanka Trump, meanwhile, was utilized in some of the campaign’s biggest moments, including introducing her father before his convention speech, unveiling his family leave plan and campaigning across the crucial Philadelphia suburbs.

    Another daughter, Tiffany Trump, a recent college graduate whose mother is Trump’s second wife, Marla Maples, also made appearances on her father’s behalf. Trump’s youngest child, 10-year-old Barron, whose son is the president-elect’s current wife, Melania, is enrolled at a private Manhattan school.

    There were bumps in the road.

    Eric and Ivanka were the subject of some embarrassing headlines when it was revealed that they were not registered to vote in time for their father in the New York primary. An African big-game safari Eric and Don Jr. took drew criticism from animal rights activists. And Don Jr. has received criticism for tweeting images likening Syrian refugees to a poisoned bowl of Skittles candy and a cartoon character appropriated by white supremacists.

    But now they stand poised to be the most influential presidential children in decades, as recent White House offspring have been far younger than the eldest Trump children, who are all in their 30s. During the campaign, Eric Trump insisted that the children’s main “focus was the company,” but “We’d always be one phone call away if needs it,” the younger Trump told The Associated Press in May. “We’d do anything for the man.”

    The post Trump children’s roles blur line between transition, company appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Rogers, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, arrives to testify at a hearing held by the Senate Armed Services on Capitol Hill in Washington April 5, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTSDOFM

    U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Rogers, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, arrives to testify at a hearing held by the Senate Armed Services on Capitol Hill in Washington April 5, 2016. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The GOP chairman of a top committee in Congress on Saturday asked the nation’s intelligence chief and defense secretary to appear and answer questions about reports that they recommended the ouster of the director of the National Security Agency.

    In a statement issued late Saturday, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he sent a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter and National Intelligence Director James Clapper asking them to appear before the committee to “discuss the veracity of press reports” that they recommended the removal of Adm. Mike Rogers, who oversees NSA and the new U.S. Cyber Command.

    Nunes referred to a report in The Washington Post, saying that Carter and Clapper wrote a letter to President Barack Obama last month recommending Rogers’ removal. It’s unclear why they would recommend dismissal. The Defense Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on the news report.

    Rogers has been mentioned as a candidate for a position in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, an idea that gained traction when Trump met with Rogers, whose tenure at the NSA has been tainted by breaches of classified material from the agency.

    Rogers took the helm at NSA in 2014 after former contractor Edward Snowden stole massive amounts of classified documents and shared then with journalists, who disclosed widespread surveillance. Reforms to prevent future thefts were imposed, but more recently, the FBI arrested NSA contractor Harold Martin III, who they say had stolen enough classified material to fill roughly 200 laptop computers.

    [Watch Video]

    He has also been in the middle of a debate over whether the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command should be run by two people, not one.

    Nunes defended Rogers.

    “Since Adm. Rogers was appointed as NSA director in April 2014, I have been consistently impressed with his leadership and accomplishments,” Nunes said in the letter.

    Nunes asked Carter and Clapper to provide the committee with times and dates the two could testify by 5 p.m. Monday. He also said he planned to hold an open hearing soon to discuss how the intelligence community would be affected by a proposed separation of the NSA and Cyber Command.

    The post GOP lawmaker asks officials to answer questions on NSA chief appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks to members of the media after their meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar - RTSSF7G

    Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks to members of the media after their meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Nov. 19, 2016. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    BEDMINSTER, N.J. — Mitt Romney is a key contender to become the nation’s next secretary of state and Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis was an “impressive” prospect for defense secretary, President-elect Donald Trump and his No. 2 Mike Pence said Sunday.

    “Gov. Romney is under active and serious consideration to serve as secretary of state of the United States,” said Pence, the vice president-elect who is leading the search for Trump’s cabinet members, in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

    The remark made clear Trump and Romney’s meeting a day earlier in New Jersey was more than a public attempt to bury the hatchet after trading ferocious insults during the campaign.

    Trump met with Ret. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis a few hours after Romney. On Sunday, the billionaire interrupted his tweeted criticisms of “Saturday Night Live,” the hit musical, “Hamilton” and Democrats to write that, “General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, who is being considered for secretary of defense, was very impressive yesterday. A true General’s General!”

    The comments were indications that Trump could be nearing additional Cabinet announcements soon as he works toward rounding out his foreign policy and national security teams. He took a hard line on both subjects during the presidential campaign, proposing a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country and more.

    But even as Trump and his team discussed some of the weightiest matters facing the country, the president-elect continued tweeting about an array of matters.

    His targets Sunday included incoming Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, another media-savvy New Yorker, who Trump said was “far smarter” than retiring Democratic Leader Harry Reid. He also complained that “Saturday Night Live,” which thrives on making fun of politicians, is “biased” and not funny. The night before, actor Alec Baldwin portrayed Trump as Googling, “What is ISIS?”

    [Watch Video]

    Trump also insisted again that the cast and producers of “Hamilton” should apologize after the lead actor addressed Pence from the stage Friday night, telling the vice president-elect that “diverse America” was “alarmed and anxious” about the incoming administration. Pence said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he enjoyed the show and wasn’t offended.

    Meanwhile, Trump received more visitors to his golf club in New Jersey Sunday. His schedule in Bedminster was to include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

    Trump said he may announce some of his picks on Sunday.

    Both Romney and Trump put on a show of smiles, a public handshake and a thumbs-up Saturday, a marked shift in tone after a year in which Romney attacked Trump as a “con man” and Trump labeled him a “loser.” But the two have started to mend fences since Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

    Trump started filling key administration positions on Friday, picking Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo to head the CIA, signaling a sharp rightward shift in U.S. security policy as he begins to form his Cabinet. Trump also named retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.

    Trump’s initial decisions suggest a more aggressive military involvement in counterterror strategy and a greater emphasis on Islam’s role in stoking extremism. Sessions, who is best known for his hard line immigration views, has questioned whether terrorist suspects should benefit from the rights available in U.S. courts. Pompeo has said Muslim leaders are “potentially complicit” in attacks if they do not denounce violence carried out in the name of Islam.

    Pompeo’s nomination to lead the CIA also opens the prospect of the U.S. resuming torture of detainees. Trump has backed harsh interrogation techniques that President Barack Obama and Congress have banned, saying the U.S. “should go tougher than waterboarding,” which simulates drowning. In 2014, Pompeo criticized Obama for “ending our interrogation program” and said intelligence officials “are not torturers, they are patriots.”

    Sessions and Pompeo would both require Senate confirmation; Flynn would not.

    Kellman reported from Washington.

    The post Trump, Pence address potential of Romney, Mattis in Cabinet appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Lima, Peru November 20, 2016.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  - RTSSHZ0

    U.S. President Barack Obama talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Lima, Peru November 20, 2016. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    LIMA, Peru — President Barack Obama spoke briefly with Russian President Vladimir Putin about Syria and Ukraine on Sunday as an economic summit got under way in Peru, in their first known conversation since Donald Trump was elected the next U.S. president.

    The two leaders were seen chatting at the start of the opening session of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima. They stood off to the side together momentarily with aides close by before shaking hands and then taking their seats around a table.

    The White House said the conversation lasted four minutes.

    Although reporters present couldn’t hear what they said, the White House said Obama encouraged Putin to uphold his country’s commitments under the Minsk deal aimed at ending the Ukraine conflict. The White House said Obama also called for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to keep working in initiatives with other countries to lower violence in Syria and alleviate suffering.

    The short interaction came amid intense speculation and concern about whether Trump’s election might herald a more conciliatory U.S. approach to Russia. Under Obama, the U.S. has enacted severe sanctions on Russia over its aggressive behavior in Ukraine and has sought unsuccessfully to persuade Moscow to stop intervening in Syria’s civil war to help prop up Syrian President Bashar Assad.

    Trump and Putin have already signaled they may pursue a less antagonistic relationship after Trump takes office in January. In a phone call shortly after Trump was elected, Putin congratulated him and expressed readiness for a “partner-like dialogue,” the Kremlin said.

    In the run-up to the election, the U.S. also accused Russia of trying to interfere in the election, including by hacking into Democratic Party email systems. Obama has raised concerns directly to Putin ahead of the election about Russian hacking, and the U.S. also registered complaints through a hotline set up to avert accidental nuclear war.

    Throughout the campaign, the Kremlin insisted that it had no favorites and rejected the claims of interference in the U.S. election.

    The meeting came as Obama prepared for planned separate talks with the leaders of Australia and Canada before wrapping up the final foreign trip of his presidency.

    Both countries helped negotiate a multinational trade agreement with the U.S. and nine other Pacific Rim countries. But Congress is unlikely to ratify the deal, dealing a blow to Obama’s once high hopes of having the agreement become part of his presidential legacy.

    Trump says trade deals can hurt U.S. workers, and he opposes the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

    Besides participating in meetings Sunday with other world leaders attending the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Forum taking place in Peru’s capital, Obama was sitting down first with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia, a U.S. ally and partner in the trans-Pacific trade deal.

    The president also planned to speak with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose nation is another TPP partner.

    Before boarding Air Force One for the flight to Washington, Obama was to answer questions from the journalists who accompanied him to Greece, Germany and Peru.

    Trump’s election overshadowed every stop on Obama’s trip. The president went to once unimaginable lengths to defend the real-estate mogul and reality TV star who he had repeatedly denounced during the campaign as “temperamentally unfit” and “uniquely unqualified” to be president.

    “I think it will be important for everybody around the world to not make immediate judgments, but give this new president-elect a chance to put their team together, to examine the issues, to determine what their policies will be,” Obama said in response to a question about Trump during a forum here Saturday with some of Latin America’s future leaders.

    “As I’ve always said, how you campaign isn’t always the same as how you govern,” he added.

    Obama’s suggestion is that Trump could soften some of his more hard-line positions on immigration, terrorism and other issues once he confronts the reality of having to run the country. But the candidates Trump announced this past week for key national security posts — Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn for national security adviser and Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo to lead the CIA — sent a signal that Trump intends to lead exactly as he said he would during the campaign.

    Leaders in every region of the world have expressed concern about Trump’s stances on immigration, trade, NATO and other matters.

    Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.

    The post Obama and Putin speak at economic summit in Peru appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Rescue workers search for survivors at the site of a train derailment in Pukhrayan, south of Kanpur city, India November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash - RTSSH46

    Rescue workers search for survivors at the site of a train derailment in Pukhrayan, south of Kanpur city, India November 20, 2016. Photo by Jitendra Prakash/Reuters

    Emergency responders continued to dig through the carnage of a train wreck in northern India on Sunday that killed more than 100 people in the country’s worst crash since 2010.

    Most of the victims were being pulled from two carriages near the engine that flipped around 3 a.m. local time, while the majority of people were sleeping. It was on an express railway train with 14 carriages that leapt from the tracks while on its way from Indore in Madhya Pradesh to Patna in the state of Bihar.

    Rescue workers search for survivors at the site of a train derailment in Pukhrayan, south of Kanpur city, India November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash - RTSSHVE

    Rescue workers search for survivors at the site of a train derailment in Pukhrayan, south of Kanpur city, India November 20, 2016. Photo by Jitendra Prakash/Retuers

    While the cause remained unclear, it happened halfway into the 26-hour train ride, about 400 miles east of its destination, near the city of Kanpur in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

    “The death toll has reached 120. At least 200 others are injured,” Zaki Ahmad, the police inspector general of Kanpur Zone, told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

    Desperate family members were trying to break their way into the carriages to find unaccounted family or friends as well as gather belongings, according to Reuters. Rescue officials with yellow helmets and orange jackets were cutting through the mangled blue metal and carrying survivors through the crowd.

    Rescue workers search for survivors at the site of a train derailment in Pukhrayan, south of Kanpur city, India November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTSSGOB

    Rescue workers search for survivors at the site of a train derailment in Pukhrayan, south of Kanpur city, India November 20, 2016. Photo by Jitendra Prakash/Reuters

    “We are using every tactic to save lives but it’s very difficult to cut the metal carriages,” Pratap Rai, a senior railway official told Reuters from the accident site.

    The Ministry of Railways posted a preliminary list names of those who died.

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

    Ruby Gupta, who was travelling for her wedding, was searching for her father.

    “I have been looking everywhere for him,” she told an NDTV reporter. “Some people told me to look in hospitals and in morgues, but I am clueless as to what to do.”

    Meanwhile, people in a nearby village set up temporary kitchens and tents for rescuers and survivors, Reuters reported.

    India’s vast railway system is the fourth largest in the world, running 11,000 trains that are mostly for passengers that carry more than 20 million people. The system is intrinsic to life in a country with more than 1 billion people, but it has come under scrutiny for its safety record – more than 17,000 people died from falling off the roofs or crossing tracks alone in 2014.

    In 2010, a passenger train crashed into a freight train in the eastern state of West Bengal, killing 146 and injuring over 200.

    Earlier this year railway officials announced a $137 billion plan to upgrade the aging infrastructure.

    Officials also said on Sunday they would compensate the bereaved and those who were injured.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that his prayers were with those who were injured.

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

    The post More than 100 die in northern India train wreck appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Voters cast their votes during the U.S. presidential election in Elyria, Ohio, U.S. November 8, 2016. Photo By Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters

    Voters cast their votes during the U.S. presidential election in Elyria, Ohio, U.S. November 8, 2016. Photo By Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters

    The vast majority of ballots have been counted nearly two weeks after one of the biggest political upsets in modern U.S. history catapulted Donald Trump to the presidency.

    Estimates show more than 58 percent of eligible voters went to the polls during the 2016 election, nearly breaking even with the turnout rate set during the last presidential election in 2012, even as the final tallies in states like California continue to be calculated, according to statistics collected by the U.S. Elections Project.

    But among those figures were stark contrasts in key states that helped swing the election to Trump — in Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and elsewhere — indicating the President-elect’s leap from long-shot candidate to the most powerful political position in the world may have happened in part because of apathy toward Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, especially among the Democratic base, several political scientists and organizations monitoring voter turnout told the PBS NewsHour.

    While Clinton is leading the popular vote by more than 1.5 million over Trump as of Sunday, she trails President Obama’s 2012 totals by more than 2 million ballots — a chasm that may have cost her the election, said David Becker, co-founder of the Center for Election and Innovation and Research.

    “Several million voters didn’t come out to vote,” Becker said. “Which is telling me that this idea of the Trump wave, a huge number of voters shifting over to Trump, is certainly not the story.”

    Nationally, the number of people who voted for Trump were only slightly ahead of those who supported the last Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, in 2012.

    But Becker said that while turnout in purple states like Florida and Pennsylvania had a slight uptick this year, at least 19 other states saw lower turnout rates compared with 2012, a scenario that is antithetical to presidential-year voting that tends to increase each cycle when an incumbent is not a part of the race.

    According to Becker, turnout rates dropped by 1.3 percent in Iowa, 3 percent in Wisconsin and nearly 4 percent in Ohio in 2016, a combination that became a death knell for Clinton’s presidential hopes in areas where Obama performed well during his two terms.

    Fourteen states installed new restrictive voting laws, which have historically targeted minorities, before the 2016 election, including in Wisconsin and Ohio. And this general election was the first since the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 that required federal approval on any state election law.

    Neil Albrecht, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, said voter identification laws hurt turnout in the city’s high-poverty districts this month, noting that 41,000 fewer people voted there in 2016 than in 2012.

    However, the Brennan Center for Justice, nonpartisan law and policy institute, said there has not been enough data collected to determine the laws’ impact on the election.

    Robert Alexander, a political science professor at Ohio Northern University, said many of the scenarios across the country that led to Trump’s victory also played out in Ohio, a crucial swing state.

    “You saw turnout spike in more rural counties,” Alexander said. “If you take a look at a lot of the larger cities you did see depressed turnout there. It certainly was more consequential for Hillary Clinton than it was for Trump.”

    He added: “Trump held firm in a lot of those cities. He didn’t lose ground relative to Romney.”

    According to a Pew Research Center analysis, Trump and Romney shared about the same number of white voters during the last two presidential elections, and Clinton captured a percentage of women close to Obama. Clinton also did not perform as well as Obama with core Democratic blocs, including blue collar people.

    “I don’t know if it’s so much this fleeing of the blue collar people to Donald Trump,” Alexander said. “But I think there’s a lot of blue collar individuals that the Democrats typically rely on. Those are the folks who didn’t show up.”

    Clinton also pulled in a lower share of voters between ages 18 and 29 than Obama did during his two campaigns, Becker said.

    Preliminary national exit polls released in the days after the election showed the contest was divided by race, gender and education, though black and Latino minorities did not turn out like they had for Obama and women did not show up for Clinton to the extent that many had predicted. While Clinton’s took 88 percent of African-American votes to Trump’s 8 percent, Obama defeated Romney among African-Americans by 93 percent to 6 percent, exit polls showed.

    “Trump gave people who did show up a reason to vote for him,” Alexander said, noting that Clinton’s lead in the polls in the weeks leading up to the election was likely a factor for turnout rates. “People didn’t see that urgency. The people that did support her did not see her losing.”

    Clinton contends that a letter sent by FBI director James B. Comey to Congress about the agency’s inquiry into her use of a private email server lost her the election.

    But Becker said the difference in votes between Obama and Clinton may have been due to Obama’s “remarkable” ability to turn out voters. The president has been lauded for bringing people to the polls despite the fact the U.S. is ranked among the worst in developed nations in voter turnout, according to one analysis. And his takeaways from this year’s election are one of disenchantment among both Republicans and Democrats.

    “I think there’s warning signs in both parties,” Becker said. “Obviously Democrats are losing votes and Republicans aren’t really building their base. The numbers they’re getting are holding pretty consistent. That should be troubling when the electorate is on the older side.”

    The post What does voter turnout tell us about the 2016 election? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A scientific researcher extracts the RNA from embryonic stem cells in a laboratory. Photo by Getty Images

    A scientific researcher extracts the RNA from embryonic stem cells in a laboratory. Photo by Getty Images

    Grim stories about the abuse of regenerative medicine and stem cell therapies have been in the headlines. Hundreds of international stem cell clinics now hawk unproven, unregulated therapies to desperate people. Such stem cell tourism often does more harm than good. But while these stories — and there are many — deserve our attention and regulatory oversight, we shouldn’t let them detract from the positive forward motion of regenerative medicine and the very real potential for individual patients and the national economy.

    With the public storyline dominated by unproven stem cell therapy disasters, the FDA has moved to curb these unproven therapies and recently wrapped up hearings on increased regulation to protect patients from the latest generation of snake oil purveyors. The life science community should embrace the discrediting of unproven therapies promoted without data for economic gain, and instead focus on the promise of research held to the highest standards.

    The next wave of regenerative medicine research is tackling head-on enormous health care issues: AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, blood cancers, blindness — the list goes on. Despite the complexity of the investigative issues, regenerative medicine, which encompasses stem cell research, tissue engineering, and gene therapy, has the potential to positively affect many clinical areas.

    Academic institutions and responsible companies are working hard to unlock the potentially transformative impact of stem cells. In the process, they could validate and secure the next branch of the biomedical industry.

    Many academic institutions, private organizations, and state governments have dedicated resources to the development of responsible regenerative medicine. Along with accountable, funded companies, they are the responsible stewards of regenerative medicine. Their successes as they find new ways to tackle the immense, costly diseases that stifle our economy and affect our communities personally, socially, and fiscally will mean a more sustainable health care system.

    READ NEXT: FDA weighs crackdown that could shut hundreds of stem cell clinics

    In the past few months alone, academia has uncovered a host of potential new applications for regenerative medicine with the potential for widespread economic and clinical impact. A few worth noting:

    Accelerated drug discovery can lead to faster drug development timelines and increased patient and societal benefit. Last month, researchers announced a muscle-on-a-chip platform, built using stem cells from patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This is a boon to researchers struggling to understand how this disabling disease works and to pinpoint treatments. This is a potential model for diseases where the lack of a large patient base and the challenges of animal models create limitations in bench and clinical research.

    New focus on economically crippling diseases can take aim at conditions that weigh down our economic growth and depress populations. In October, researchers announced they are closer to a “truly effective treatment” for type 1 diabetes using embryonic stem cells as a starting point to produce the massive quantities of cells needed for cell transplantation. Rockefeller University scientists hailed this as “one of the most important advances to date in the stem cell field.” Though it will take plenty of work to translate this discovery into clinical efficacy, after many years of efforts in this area we are now seeing the fruit of extensive scientific labors.

    Lower costs to treat disease may be achieved through precision diagnostics and better understanding of disease progression. Last month, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of Tokyo announced research showing that withholding the amino acid valine depleted blood stem cells in mice, making it possible to perform a blood stem cell transplantation. In the lab, human cells also responded to valine restriction, suggesting the potential for this approach in humans to circumvent the need for radiation and chemotherapy in advance of bone marrow transplantation. This is just a single promising example of stem cell-related research which could have an impact on cost, safety, and efficacy compared to our current standards of care.

    Every day, positive advances are quietly being put forth by academia and industry: Stanford researchers repaired the gene that causes sickle cell disease; researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have identified a human lung stem cell that is self-renewing; an international team of top-notch researchers identified a new mechanism to sharpen memory during aging.

    The list of successes should, I hope, eclipse the painful stories of rogue cell stem clinics taking advantage of vulnerable patients. We must prevent charlatans from clouding the picture and undermining the future of biomedical research just as we must prevent false therapies from entering the marketplace.

    Medical and scientific advances often take decades from initial concept to proof of clinical efficacy. Success requires perseverance, funding, and continual insight and hard work. We have been hearing about the potential of cell-based therapeutics and regenerative medicine for many years. Now, recent advances and the collective efforts being made that parallel the remarkable scientific progress in many other fields give us reason to hope and believe that the years of research are closing in on a meaningful clinical and societal contribution.

    Jonathan Gertler, MD, served for many years as an academic vascular surgeon and investigator. He is the managing partner and CEO of Back Bay Life Science Advisors in Boston and is a frequent speaker and writer on strategic issues facing life science companies at all stages. This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Nov. 18, 2016. Find the original story here.

    The post Column: Reviving optimism for regenerative medicine appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    iraq

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    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Iraq’s Nineveh Plains lie between the Kurdish north and the Arab south. The area is home to a variety of ethnic minorities, including a group of people known as Assyrians.

    They are descendants of the world’s first Christians, whose presence here dates back to the first century A.D. They speak a dialect of Aramaic similar to the language spoken by Jesus. Anwar Esho is a book printer. Could you read something for us?

    ANWAR ESHO: Yeah, of course. It’s speaking about the mother of Jesus.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: About Mary?

    Today, there are fewer than 250-thousand Christians living in Iraq, down from more than a million at the start of the US-led war in 2003.

    The latest threat to them has come from ISIS. The militants invaded the Nineveh Plains two years ago, occupied Mosul, and many of the surrounding towns.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: They destroyed ancient, pre-Islamic art, razed Assyrian archaeological sites to the ground, and issued Christians a chilling ultimatum: Convert to Islam, pay taxes to us or die. Thousands of Iraqi Christians fled Mosul, including Mayada Abd Ghany, her husband, and their four children. ISIS gave them only three days notice to leave their home, enough time to pack some clothes and family pictures.

    They live now in an old school building converted into refugee housing in the nearby Christian town of Alqosh, which ISIS had in its sights before Iraqi and Kurdish forces pushed them back. Now she listens to the radio for news about home, where ISIS kidnapped her brother two years ago. She hasn’t heard from him since.

    This is a radio station that takes phone calls from anti-ISIS people inside of Mosul. They phone in and let people on the outside know exactly what’s going on in the city, and it’s really dangerous. If ISIS catches them they could hang them. Apparently they just hanged four people for doing things like that.

    Before they set out to retake Mosul last month, the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish fighters known as the peshmerga, both with support from the U.S. military, began liberating small towns on the way, including several majority Christian towns like Batnaya that had been occupied by ISIS.

    And when did they leave?

    EMANUEL YOUKHANA: Three days ago.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Three days ago? This is fresh.

    We walked through Batnaya with Father Emanuel Youkhana. We’ve got to watch our step, because there could be IEDs around here.

    Youkhana is a leader in the Assyrian church. He runs a local Christian charity. He was anxious to inspect the town’s historic church to see what damage ISIS had done. This was his first time back in two years. Is there one word to describe how you felt when you stepped through that door?

    EMANUEL YOUKHANA: Joy that the church had survived. But sadness for what has been done in the church.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Holy books were burned. The book of psalms?

    EMANUEL YOUKHANA: Yes.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: ISIS, or Daesh, as it’s known here, left its mark. This symbol over here. I’ve seen this before.

    EMANUEL YOUKHANA: This is by Daesh. Allah, Islamic slogans.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: During our visit, an improvised explosive device ISIS left behind as a booby trap detonated outside the church.

    EMANUEL YOUKHANA: We are in danger.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Okay, okay. We were just told we have to get out of here, because there are a lot of explosions happening, so it’s time to go.

    EMANUEL YOUKHANA: We have to go.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Even if these towns become safer, that doesn’t mean the Christians who were forced out will be willing or able to come back, according to Father Emanuel.

    EMANUEL YOUKHANA: One of our immediate concerns is what will happen in these Christian towns when they are liberated? Because we have concerns that they’ll be occupied.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Occupied by non-Christians. Father Emanuel says there are signs that Iraqi Muslim troops, in particular Shiites, are showing their colors in some Christian towns in an attempt to intimidate Christians. He’s counting on Christian militias to protect Christian property.

    Doglas Aziz is a soldier in a Christian militia called Dwekh Nawsha, meaning “those who sacrifice.” An air-conditioning repairman and father of three little girls, Aziz helped liberate Batnaya.

    DOGLAS AZIZ: It was a fierce battle.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Aziz says ISIS had snipers and grenades and suicide bombers on motorcycles. He shot this video while on patrol…showing how ISIS dug tunnels under the church to protect themselves from American-led air strikes. In the end, the militiamen helped drive ISIS out.

    It was a proud moment when Aziz himself climbed to the top of the church in Batnaya to replace the cross.

    DOGLAS AZIZ: We’re very happy we are winning. We want Assyrians to control this area.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Still, some in the Assyrian Christian community, like printer Anwar Esho are pessimistic about the future. He doesn’t trust the Kurds or the Iraqi government to protect them.

    What’s the future look like for Christians in this area?

    ANWAR ESHO: It seems very dark, yeah, really. If they don’t have any power, and they don’t have anyone to support them, they can do nothing. The only thing they can do, they will leave. So they are going to Europe or to America or to Australia or to other places, so they are vanishing.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Mayada Abd Ghany, whose family has found refuge in the Christian town of Alqosh, doesn’t know what she will do when the fighting stops in Mosul. Although she was comfortable living among Muslims before, she says some collaborated with ISIS, and now she’s fearful of having Muslim neighbors again.

    MAYADA ABD GHANY: That’s in the past. I don’t trust them anymore.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: She and the rest of Iraq’s Christians will have to pick up the pieces as ISIS retreats.

    Just last week, ISIS surrendered the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud but not before laying waste to its vast cultural heritage dating over 1,000 years before Jesus.

    Father Emanuel says ultimately the future of Christianity in Iraq will be determined by those who decide to come home to the Christian ghost towns of the Nineveh Plains.

    Hundreds of thousands of Christians have left Iraq. If this trend continues, aren’t you worried there may be no Christians here?

    EMMANUEL YOUKHANA: It’s a challenging question to keep the Christian church alive here. And we can. We can. We will never, never give up. We might be helpless, but we are never hopeless.

    The post Survival and sadness in Iraq’s Christian towns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A San Antonio police detective was shot dead in his squad car on Sunday as he was writing a traffic ticket, and a suspect is still at large, the department’s police chief said.

    Chief William McManus said during a press conference that Detective Benjamin Marconi, 50, had stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation when another vehicle drove up behind his squad car, approached the window of the police car and shot him in the head, the Associated Press reported.

    “This is everyone’s worst nightmare,” McManus said.

    The suspect also shot Marconi a second time before leaving the scene. Marconi was a member of the department for 20 years. The incident took place about 11:45 a.m. local time, McManus said. Marconi was pronounced dead at a hospital, according to the AP.

    A motive for the shooting is unknown.

    The post San Antonio police officer shot dead during traffic stop appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    MSG: President-elect Donald Trump talks with his son Barron (C), his wife Melania (2nd R) and his daughter Ivanka (R) at his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX2SQ31

    MSG: President-elect Donald Trump talks with his son Barron, center, his wife Melania and his daughter Ivanka at his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, on Nov. 9, 2016. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    BEDMINSTER, N.J. — President-elect Donald Trump says he’s moving to the White House soon, but his wife and young son will follow him at the end of the school year.

    Trump spoke Sunday to reporters gathered at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, during a day of private meetings with potential administration officials. He said he will live in the White House and wife Melania Trump and 10-year-old son Barron will move “right after he finishes school.”

    Trump lives with his wife and son in the penthouse apartment at Trump Tower in New York City. Barron attends a private school in the city.

    The New York Post reported Sunday that Trump’s wife and son would not immediately be moving with him to Washington.

    Trump is not the first recent president to move to the White House with school age children. When President Barack Obama took office, daughters Sasha and Malia were 10 and 7. When Bill Clinton came to Washington, Chelsea Clinton was 12. All three White House kids moved during the school year and attended the Sidwell Friends, a private school in northwest Washington.

    Trump has continued to spend most of his time in Trump Tower since winning the presidential election, which has prompted a massive security effort around the luxury building with bomb-sniffing dogs, security checkpoints and police barricades.

    The post Trump says Melania, son will move to White House after school year appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Wearing a Peruvian shawl, U.S President Barack Obama poses for a family photo at the APEC Summit in Lima, Peru November 20, 2016.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTSSIC5

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    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: President Barack Obama completes his last scheduled major foreign trip of his presidency when he flies home tonight from the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Peru.

    “New York Times” White House correspondent Gardiner Harris is traveling with the president and he joins me now via Skype from Lima.

    Gardiner, last night, President Obama to some young people out of University in Lima, and he mentioned the incoming administration will likely concentrate on trade. What did he say?

    GARDINER HARRIS, NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did. He basically has spent this whole week during this last trip abroad as president trying to reassure his audiences. Obviously, Trump’s presidency has caused an enormous amount of anxiety amongst America’s traditional allies, although, of course, Mr. Obama actually met today with President Putin. And amongst the Russians and President Putin, Trump is a great hero. But for most of the audiences, there’s been a lot of anxiety. So, he is trying to reassure them.

    On trade, though, he said that it is likely to be the one issue where there’s going to be a lot of uncertainty and perhaps some disagreements around the world, because if, he said, that Trump had most of his campaign had been about trade and making a change in the United States policies towards trade.

    STEWART: Earlier in the week when he was in Greece, which obviously has gone through austerity and economic issues, he warned against, and this is a quote, “a crude sort of nationalism”. We’ve obviously seen far right movements in Germany and France.

    First of all, what was he talking about specifically? And who’s his audience here? What was his point?

    HARRIS: Right. So, it’s a little unclear what his specific point was. The president started the week in Washington on Monday, giving a very reassuring press conference. His aides filed out of the White House and they were basically weeping around the White House that day, and he tried to be reassuring not only to the American people, but to his own staff that everything is going to be fine and we didn’t have to worry that much, that presidents have a hard time making dramatic changes from their predecessors.

    So, over the course of the week, you would have seen him occasionally diverged from that reassuring message and say some things that made clear that he himself is worried. And one of the earliest occasions was when he said we have to watch out for the rise of a crude nationalism.

    Now, was he talking about in the Middle East? Was he talking about in the United States? He didn’t make that clear then. But we all interpreted it, of course, as a worry about appointments such as Steven Bannon in the White House who has described as a nationalist. Others have described Steven Bannon as a white nationalist.

    Steven Bannon, of course, was the CEO of Breitbart News, an alt-right website where there are many views that are anti-Semitic, that are anti-minority and other fairly alarmist views for much of the American public.

    So, the president’s remarks, while vague, instantly went into that maelstrom of controversy about Steven Bannon’s appointment and those of others within the Obama administration.

    STEWART: President Obama headed back to the United States and in 60 days, Donald Trump will take the presidency, the role as president of the United States. The two men met. We all saw that.

    Is there anything on the schedule for these two men to meet and work together in the next 60 days?

    HARRIS: There’s not. President Obama has, of course, said multiple times that his greatest priority over the next two months is to ensure that there’s a smooth transition between his administration and the Trump administration. The Trump administration has obviously gotten off to a fairly rocky start. Donald Trump denies that, but officials throughout the government have said for days that they were not hearing from anybody in the Trump administration.

    That seems to be changing. The Trump administration seems to be finding its feet. They are starting to make obviously some high level appointments. More are expected in the coming days, and one would expect that Mr. Trump would come back to Washington multiples times over the next several weeks and perhaps see the president.

    The two actually seemed to have a very productive meeting in the Oval Office more than a week ago as you mentioned, Alison. So, I think the expectation is that Mr. Trump and perhaps his wife Melania will again appear at the White House in the coming weeks.

    STEWART: Gardiner Harris from “The New York Times”, thanks for sharing your reporting.

    HARRIS: Sure. Thanks for having me, Alison.

    The post Obama discusses Trump on last foreign trip appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Demonstrators rally against President-elect Donald Trump in Seattle, Washington on Nov. 20. Photo by David Ryder/Reuters

    Demonstrators rally against President-elect Donald Trump in Seattle, Washington on Nov. 20. Photo by David Ryder/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — During the course of the 2016 campaign, Republican Christine Todd Whitman compared Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. She warned that a Trump administration would bring the country into “chaos.” And a month before Election Day, the former Bush Cabinet official proclaimed her support for Hillary Clinton.

    Now, when young Republicans ask her whether they should join the Trump administration, Whitman struggles to find a simple answer.

    “I’d sound a note of caution,” says the former Environmental Protection Agency head. “They’re going to have to carry out what the president wants done.”

    Dozens of Republican foreign policy experts, business leaders and elected officials broke party ranks to come out against Trump during the contentious presidential race. Now, they’re facing a difficult choice: Get on the Trump train or watch it leave from the station.

    “Look, he’s the president,” said Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, a Trump backer. “People are going to want to do everything they can to work closely with him.”

    The 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, who once called Trump “a phony” and “a fraud,” is a leading contender for secretary of state. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, long Trump’s loudest critic in the Senate, has urged his Republican followers to root for Trump And South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, also under consideration for secretary of state, met with Trump on Thursday. While she eventually voted for him, Haley had criticized his Muslim travel ban and complained that she was “not a fan.” Trump, in turn, tweeted that she “embarrassed” her state.

    Sasse and other Trump antagonists in Congress are looking to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, a former Indiana congressman and the state’s governor, as a possible conduit to the administration.

    The bridge-building is far more challenging for generations of Republicans who have spent eight years biding their time at think tanks, universities and corporations. But unlike in a typical campaign, when the party rallies behind their nominee, a number of these experts had spent months publicly blasting Trump.

    Whether Trump will welcome these former opponents into his administration remains unclear. Trump and his team must fill more than 4,000 jobs, a daunting task for a president-elect with no experience in federal government. And the real-estate mogul is known for his ability to hold a grudge — a trait that worries some job-seekers.

    Those concerns are particularly acute for national security experts, dozens of whom signed letters warning that Trump would “put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”

    Peter Feaver, a Bush era White House aide who signed both letters, did not expect that Trump would hire anyone involved with the effort, saying they were “effectively on a blacklist.” But he said that the new administration could still pick from a sizable group of former Republican foreign policy officials who were not signatories.

    He’s urging them to consider taking a post, both to shape the policies of the new administration and advance their own careers.

    “He is our president and if he asks you to serve the country, you shouldn’t reflectively say ‘no,’ ” said Feaver, a professor at Duke University. “I have actively encouraged people I know who are good to throw their name in the hat because I want to help this team assemble the best team they can.”

    Since the election, there’s been some informal contact between those who spoke out against Trump and the people trying to staff his administration. The conversations haven’t always gone well.

    “I’m a little leery from what I have heard of the reaction of the people around him who seem to be a little more of the, ‘We won. You lost. Don’t try to horn in on our act,'” Whitman said. “That’s just counterproductive.”

    Those reports have sparked a debate within some Republican circles about whether patriotic duty should outweigh concerns about Trump’s management style.

    Eliot Cohen, the former State Department official who coordinated the first letter, said he was asked by a friend close to Trump’s team to suggest potential appointees who might be willing to work in the administration.

    He was so turned off by the response to his advice that it prompted him to pen an op-ed declaring that he’d changed his mind: Conservatives, he wrote in The Washington Post, should opt out of serving.

    “For a garden-variety Republican policy specialist, service in the early phase of the administration would carry a high risk of compromising one’s integrity and reputation,” he wrote.

    Not everyone agrees. Eric Edelman, a national security adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney, said he didn’t expect to get a call from the new administration given that he was a vocal critic of Trump during the campaign.

    He’s advising others to at least hear out the offer, saying that “patriotism requires you to do it.” But he isn’t offering any recommendations.

    “I don’t want to pick out any names,” he said. “I don’t want to run the risk of damaging them with my association.”

    The post As Trump prepares for White House, Never Trumpers say maybe appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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