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

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    File photo of President-elect Donald Trump by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    File photo of President-elect Donald Trump by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    NEW YORK — President-elect Donald Trump returned to his perch high above Manhattan on Monday, meeting with former rivals and longtime allies a day after he indicated he had worked out agreements to fill major posts in his administration.

    Trump, after spending the weekend receiving a parade of visitors at his golf course in New Jersey, was set to do the same at Trump Tower. Among his scheduled visitors: former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who ran against him in the Republican primary, longtime ally Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.

    “We’ve made a couple of deals,” Trump told reporters at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club on Sunday. He gave assurances that “incredible meetings” would be bringing “incredible people” into the government. “You’ll be hearing about them soon.”

    The president-elect apparently is working to get important Cabinet jobs settled before heading to Florida for Thanksgiving. Aides said Monday he will spend the holiday at his Mar-a-Lago estate. He is expected to fly there either Tuesday or Wednesday, while Vice president-elect Mike Pence will spend Thanksgiving in Mississippi, where his Marine son is stationed.

    Trump made a flurry of brief public appearances over the weekend, often with Pence at his side, to flash frequent thumbs-ups and provide quick updates on his progress in building a government. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, was “under active and serious consideration” for secretary of state, Pence said. Trump himself said retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis was an “impressive” prospect for defense secretary.

    Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser for the transition, said Monday the president-elect wanted to hear viewpoints from across the political spectrum, including from “Never Trumpers” who she said “are looking forward to having a say in what happens next.” She also said that Trump would receive a visit from Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who resigned her post in the Democratic National Committee after endorsing Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton.

    “Not all of them (his visitors) will be in his Cabinet and his federal government, but they are all incredibly important in offering their points of views, their experience and certainly their vision of the country,” Conway said.

    The businessman who is now the president-elect also apparently is considering options to lead the Commerce Department, meeting with billionaire investor Wilbur Ross. “Time will tell,” Ross told reporters when asked if he wanted a post.

    Between conversations Sunday, Trump revealed he was making transition plans for his family, too. He told reporters that his wife, Melania, and their 10-year-old son, Barron, would move to Washington when the school year ends.

    Trump also turned to Twitter to share some of his thinking. In between criticism of “Saturday Night Live,” the hit musical “Hamilton,” and retiring Democratic leader Harry Reid, he wrote 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 indicated Trump is looking outside his immediate circle as he works toward rounding out his foreign policy and national security teams. On Friday, he named a loyalist, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, as his national security adviser.

    Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Trump exchanged bitter insults during the campaign, and Mattis has not been considered a Trump confidant. The appointment of more establishment figures could offer some reassurance to lawmakers and others concerned about Trump’s hard-line positions on immigration and national security and his lack of foreign policy experience.

    Trump told reporters Sunday that one of his most loyal and public allies, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was also a prospect for secretary of state “and other things.” Giuliani at one point had been considered for attorney general, but Trump gave that job to Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

    Even as Trump and his team discussed pressing issues facing the country and how to staff the incoming administration, the president-elect’s Twitter feed suggested other issues, too, were on his mind.

    His targets Sunday included Nevada Sen. Reid. Trump tweeted that incoming Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, another media-savvy New Yorker, was “far smarter” than Reid and “has the ability to get things done.”

    Trump 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?”

    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.” Pence said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he wasn’t offended.

    The brouhaha over Hamilton dominated cable news over the weekend and was the latest example of Trump’s ability — whether intentional or not — to ignite one controversy to distract from another, in this case the announcement Friday that he had agreed to pay a $25 million settlement to end fraud cases against his now-defunct for-profit Trump University.

    ___

    Lucey reported from Bedminster, New Jersey. Associated Press writers Julie Bykowicz and Laurie Kellman contributed from Washington.

    The post Back in NYC, a parade of meetings at Trump Tower appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Police use a water cannon to put out a fire started by protesters during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    Police use a water cannon to put out a fire started by protesters during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    Law enforcement officials deployed water hoses in freezing temperatures Sunday against hundreds of protesters decrying the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

    Video of the clash between police and unarmed protesters at Backwater Bridge, not far from the Standing Rock encampments, emerged on social media Sunday evening.

    Activists can be heard on several Facebook Live videos shouting “No DAPL!” (Dakota Access pipeline) as law enforcement appeared to use water cannons, tear gas and sound weapons against the people amassed on the bridge.

    In its initial statement, Morton County Sheriff’s Department said its officers responded to an “ongoing riot,” involving an estimated 400 protesters who had attempted to remove a burned truck that has been used to partially form a barricade on the bridge. The truck, along with the rest of the barricade, has been there for weeks.

    Police confront protesters with a rubber bullet gun during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    Police confront protesters with a rubber bullet gun during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    Donna Hushka, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department, confirmed to journalist Jenni Monet that law enforcement had used water as “crowd control” against the protesters, who had also started multiple fires around the barricade. Fire trucks at the scene doused those fires and the land around them to prevent them from spreading, she wrote.

    Jade Begay, a spokeswoman for the Indigenous Environmental Network, told The Guardian that two bonfires were lit by activists for warmth and cooking, but that any others were started by weapons from law enforcement.

    Begay told The Guardian that more than 160 people were injured and another seven activists were transported to a local hospital.

    A protester gets warm by a fire during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    A protester gets warm by a fire during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    The Indigenous Environmental Network’s Dallas Goldtooth said the water cannons were an “excessive and potentially deadly use of force.”

    “Because of the police enforced road block, ambulances now have an extra 30 minutes to get to the hospital,” he wrote in a statement.

    When images from the incident started to appear online, critics, including the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council, called for law enforcement to stop using the water cannons against the protesters in temperatures reaching the low 20’s.

    “As medical professionals, we are concerned for the real risk of loss of life due to severe hypothermia under these conditions,” the council said in a post on Facebook.

    At least one person was arrested, the Associated Press reported.

    A protester is given medical attention during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    A protester is given medical attention during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    As protests against the pipeline continue across the country, the protesters who prefer to be called “water protectors” mobilized near the Missouri River have been bracing for a North Dakota winter.

    Opponents to the pipeline, including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, have said the project threatens the reservation’s main water supply and cultural artifacts of the land. The company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, has said those claims are baseless.

    The Dakota Access pipeline is nearly complete, except for one parcel of land owned by the federal government. Energy Transfer needs a final permit to tunnel beneath Lake Oahe on the Missouri River in rural North Dakota.

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the owners of that land, announced last week that it was delaying construction of the 1,170-mile pipeline until further analysis. The agency said it also welcomed input from the tribe.

    In response, Energy Transfer, said the Corps’ decision was “unjust,” adding the the ongoing ordeal over the pipeline’s construction was a “sham process” that send a “frightening message about the rule of law.”

    Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren told the NewsHour that the company was building the pipeline “to have minimal impact to all people concerned, and with great input from our government,” adding the “likelihood of a spill into Lake Oahe is just extremely remote.”

    [Watch Video]

    The struggle over the Dakota Access Pipeline has intensified, as more protesters have joined the standoff and the company building the pipeline filed suit to get its last permit issued. Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, joins William Brangham to defend the project and insist it’s going forward.

    Warren said he was optimistic the pipeline would get built under a Trump presidency. When asked about what happens to the protesters if that happened, Warren said the demonstrations have been “such a disruption to [North Dakota].”

    “This is not a peaceful protest. So, if they want to stick around and continue to do what they’re doing, great, but we’re building the pipeline,” he said.

    READ MORE: For Native ‘water protectors,’ Standing Rock protest has become fight for religious freedom, human rights

    The post Police deploy water hoses, tear gas against Standing Rock protesters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Pope Francis closes the Holy Door to mark the closing of the Catholic Jubilee Year of Mercy at Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican on Nov. 20. Photo by Tiziana Fabi/Pool via Reuters

    Pope Francis closes the Holy Door to mark the closing of the Catholic Jubilee Year of Mercy at Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on Nov. 20. Photo by Tiziana Fabi/Pool via Reuters

    Pope Francis on Monday extended the ability of Roman Catholic priests to absolve those who have had an abortion, while reiterating that it is still a sin.

    Pope Francis had granted priests the power temporarily during the Holy Year of Mercy from Dec. 8 to Nov. 20 — a period of time meant to draw attention to and actions of mercy, but he put in a letter Monday that it would be indefinitely extended.

    “I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion. The provision I had made in this regard, limited to the duration of the Extraordinary Holy Year, is hereby extended,” he wrote.

    He also reiterated “as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life.”

    Previously, only a bishop or a diocese’s designated chief confessor could grant absolution for an abortion.

    The pope also said in the letter that the Catholic Church would have a “World Day of the Poor” on a Sunday in November to draw attention to their needs.

    The post Pope Francis extends priests’ ability to forgive abortion appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The new brain-computer interface enables HB to select letters on a computer screen using her mind alone, spelling out words at a rate of one letter every 56 seconds, to share her thoughts. Photo by Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, University Medical Center Utrecht

    The new brain-computer interface enables HB to select letters on a computer screen using her mind alone, spelling out words at a rate of one letter every 56 seconds, to share her thoughts. Photo by Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, University Medical Center Utrecht

    SAN DIEGO—A wireless device that decodes brain waves has enabled a woman paralyzed by locked-in syndrome to communicate from the comfort of her home, researchers announced this week at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

    The 59-year-old patient, who prefers to remain anonymous but goes by the initials HB, is “trapped” inside her own body, with full mental acuity but completely paralyzed by a disease that struck in 2008 and attacked the neurons that make her muscles move. Unable to breathe on her own, a tube in her neck pumps air into her lungs and she requires round-the-clock assistance from caretakers. Thanks to the latest advance in brain–computer interfaces, however, HB has at least regained some ability to communicate.

    The new wireless device enables her to select letters on a computer screen using her mind alone, spelling out words at a rate of one letter every 56 seconds, to share her thoughts.

    “This is a significant achievement. Other attempts on such an advanced case have failed,” says neuroscientist Andrew Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

    HB’s mind is intact and the part of her brain that controls her bodily movements operates perfectly, but the signals from her brain no longer reach her muscles because the motor neurons that relay them have been damaged by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), says neuroscientist Erick Aarnoutse, who designed the new device and was responsible for the technical aspects of the research. He is part of a team of physicians and scientists led by neuroscientist Nick Ramsey at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Previously, the only way HB could communicate was via a system that uses an infrared camera to track her eye movements. But the device is awkward to set up and use for someone who cannot move, and it does not function well in many situations, such as in bright sunlight.

    Devices that couple neural activity to computers have been used experimentally before to help patients with a range of neurological disorders, including locked-in syndrome. In pioneering work in 1998 neurologist Phillip Kennedy, of Neural Signals, Inc., implanted an array of electrodes into a patient’s brain who was paralyzed by a stroke to control signals in an on-off manner, and in 2015 a team of researchers led by neuroscientist Leigh Hochberg of Brown University implanted a 96-channel electrode array into the cerebral cortex of a 58-year-old woman with locked-in syndrome. Those brain implants helped patients communicate by enabling them to select words displayed on a computer screen, and similar tech has helped patients accomplish other tasks as well.

    Schwartz’s team at Pitt recently demonstrated that a paralyzed man could use a robotic arm controlled by electrodes implanted in the man’s cerebral cortex to shake hands with Pres. Barack Obama. But surgically implanting electrodes into the brain carries inherent risks.

    “Anytime there is a wire penetrating the skin there is risk of infection,” Schwartz says, and previous attempts at brain–computer interfaces could only be performed in the laboratory because of the bulky instrumentation required. “This new study is an advance because the implant uses wireless communication with the computer. It is really important to bring this capability home, and they have done that.”

    For HB, Aarnoutse and his collaborators created a simple, minimally invasive implant that she can use at home or outside to communicate using a familiar computer notebook. To achieve this, doctors lifted a small flap of her scalp in surgery and drilled two finger-size holes through her skull. Then they slipped a thin plastic strip, which looks something like cellophane tape with four tiny dots on it, through the holes to rest on the surface of the brain. The four spots are miniature electrodes that do not penetrate brain tissue, but because they are beneath the skull, they make good electrical contact with the brain to record brain waves with high fidelity.

    A new brain-computer interface (A, C) that connects to an electronic package in the chest (B) enables HB to select letters on a computer screen using her mind alone, spelling out words at a rate of one letter every 56 seconds, to share her thoughts in this artist’s impression (D). Photo by The New England Journal of Medicine 2016

    A new brain-computer interface (A, C) that connects to an electronic package in the chest (B) enables HB to select letters on a computer screen using her mind alone, spelling out words at a rate of one letter every 56 seconds, to share her thoughts in this artist’s impression (D). Photo by The New England Journal of Medicine 2016

    The surgeons then threaded tiny wires from the electrode under the skin to a small electronic control device that was implanted in HB’s chest. The device, made by the biotech company Medtronic, communicates wirelessly by a radio transmitter to an ordinary tablet computer. (Medtronic provided partial support for the research, and one of the study’s authors is employed at the company, although the study states he was not involved in interpreting the results.)

    Surgeons placed the electrodes over the part of the brain’s motor cortex that becomes activated when HB imagines closing her fingers. Analyzing the brain wave patterns, the researchers observed a simple but reliable pattern. Every time she imagined pinching her fingers, the power of certain frequencies of brain waves abruptly changed, as low-frequency “beta” brainwaves abruptly ceased and higher-frequency “gamma” brain waves whipped up.

    By measuring the ratio of gamma- to beta-wave power in ongoing brain waves sweeping through HB’s motor cortex, the computer could detect when she was imagining closing her fingers. In this way HB quickly learned to operate a cursor in a video game, mastering that task only two days after the surgery. Next the scientists presented her with an alphabet arrayed in rows and columns on a computer tablet. As the display swept over individual letters in sequence, the woman imagined selecting the appropriate letter as if she were clicking a mouse.

    The technology is not without controversy, however. Some experts believe that only noninvasive methods should be used to help people with locked-in syndrome communicate, for example by recording brain waves from scalp electrodes.

    “Implantations like the one reported here may carry an unknown risk for advanced ALS patients,” says Niels Birbaumer, an expert in brain–computer interfaces at Tübingen University in Germany who was not involved in the study.

    Recording brain waves through the skull, however, currently lacks the sensitivity needed to tap into the neural circuits that control fine voluntary movements. Moreover, that approach is not a practical solution, Aarnoutse says, because it takes a team of highly specialized technicians to attach the electrodes to the electroencephalography (EEG) cap and operate an EEG recording station. This is beyond the capabilities of most caretakers that assist people living with locked-in syndrome. Furthermore, the EEG cap, which looks like a swimming cap with dozens of wires sprouting from it, is something patients would likely never use in their everyday lives.

    “It would inhibit their interaction with others, and they would never use it outside their home,” Aarnoutse says.

    Still, some experts say the wireless new device may not justify the risks. “One to two letters per minute is not justifiable [for doing a craniotomy] unless they can improve it,” Kennedy says.

    Indeed, when HB was first learning to use the device, she told Aarnoutse, “Trying to communicate like this is like tacking a sailboat.”

    But many patients with locked-in syndrome choose not to use ventilators to breathe when their disease reaches an advanced stage because they cannot communicate and they feel they are a burden on their loved ones, according Schwartz. Studies suggest that locked-in people can lead meaningful and productive lives if they can communicate in some way. “We need to do anything we can to help these people,” he says. “We are talking about life and death.”

    Now, more than a year after the device was implanted, HB lives at home with her husband and one of her children, and she has gotten much faster at typing out her thoughts. Also, the device works outdoors in the sunshine where her eye tracker fails. “She’s happy,” Aarnoutse says. “The ability to communicate has given her more freedom and made her more independent.”

    Scientific American editor Tanya Lewis contributed reporting. R. Douglas Fields, Ph.D., is a neuroscientist and an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is author of Why We Snap, about the neuroscience of sudden aggression, and The Other Brain, about glia. Fields serves on Scientific American Mind’s board of advisers. This article is reproduced with permission from Scientific American. It was first published on Nov. 17, 2016. Find the original story here.

    The post Wireless brain implant allows paralyzed woman to communicate, but is it safe? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

    Photo by BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

    A new study finds that the prevalence of dementia has fallen sharply in recent years, most likely as a result of Americans’ rising educational levels and better heart health, which are both closely related to brain health.

    Dementia rates in people over age 65 fell from 11.6 percent in 2000 to 8.8 percent in 2012, a decline of 24 percent, according to a study of more than 21,000 people across the country published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

    “It’s definitely good news,” said Dr. Kenneth Langa, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan and a coauthor of the new study. “Even without a cure for Alzheimer’s disease or a new medication, there are things that we can do socially and medically and behaviorally that can significantly reduce the risk.”

    The decline in dementia rates translates to about one million fewer Americans suffering from the condition, said John Haaga, director of behavioral and social research at the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the new study.

    Dementia is a general term for a loss of memory or other mental abilities that’s severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease, which is believed to be caused by a buildup of plaques and tangles in the brain, is the most common type of dementia. Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia and occurs after a stroke.

    The new research confirms the results of several other studies that also have found steady declines in dementia rates in the United States and Europe. The new research provides some of the strongest evidence yet for a decline in dementia rates because of its broad scope and diverse ranges of incomes and ethnic groups, Haaga said. The average age of participants in the study, called the Health and Retirement Study, was 75.

    The study, which began in 1992, focuses on people over age 50, collecting data every two years. Researchers conduct detailed interviews with participants about their health, income, cognitive ability and life circumstances. The interviews also include physical tests, body measurements and blood and saliva samples.

    While advocates for people with dementia welcomed the news, they noted that Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss remain a serious burden for the nation and the world.  Up to five million Americans today suffer from dementia, a number that is expected to triple by 2050, as people live longer and the elderly population increases.

    “We’ve been saying now for several years that what’s good for your heart is good for your head.” — Keith Fargo of the Alzheimer’s Association

    The number of Americans over age 65 is expected to nearly double by 2050, reaching 84 million, according to the U.S. Census. So even if the percentage of elderly people who develop dementia is smaller than previously estimated, the total number of Americans suffering from the condition will continue to increase, said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach, medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association.

    “Alzheimer’s is going to remain the public health crisis of our time, even with modestly reduced rates,” Fargo said.

    Although researchers can’t definitively explain why dementia rates are decreasing, Langa said doctors may be doing a better job controlling high blood pressure and diabetes, which can both boost the risk of age-related memory problems. High blood pressure and diabetes both increase the risk of strokes, which kill brain cells, increasing the risk of vascular dementia.

    “We’ve been saying now for several years that what’s good for your heart is good for your head,” Fargo said. “There are several things you can do to reduce your risk for dementia.”

    Authors of the study found that senior citizens today are better educated than even half a generation ago. The population studied in 2012 stayed in school 13 years, while the seniors studied in 2000 had about 12 years of education, according to the study.

    That’s significant, because many studies have found a strong link between higher educational levels and lower risk of disease, including dementia, Lang said. The reasons are likely to be complex. People with more education tend to earn more money and have better access to health care. They’re less likely to smoke, more likely to exercise and less likely to be overweight. People with more education also may live in safer neighborhoods and have less stress.

    People who are better educated may have more intellectually stimulating jobs and hobbies that help exercise their brains, Lang said.

    It’s also possible that people with more education can better compensate for memory problems as they age, finding ways to work around their impairments, according to an accompanying editorial by Ozioma Okonkwo and Dr. Sanjay Asthana of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

    Yet Americans shouldn’t expect dementia rates to continue falling indefinitely, Haaga said.

    Although educational levels increased sharply after the World War II, those gains have leveled off, Haaga said. People in their 20s today are no more likely to have graduated from college compared to people in their 60s.

    “We have widening inequality in health outcomes in the U.S.,” Haaga said. “For people without much education, we’ve had very little improvement in health. The benefits really have gone to those with better educations.”

    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. KHN’s coverage related to aging & improving care of older adults is supported by The John A. Hartford Foundation, and coverage of end-of-life and serious illness issues is supported by The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. You can view the original report on its website.

    The post Dementia rates decline sharply among senior citizens appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    EpiPen auto-injection epinephrine pens manufactured by Mylan NV pharmaceutical company for use by severe allergy sufferers. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    EpiPen auto-injection epinephrine pens manufactured by Mylan NV pharmaceutical company for use by severe allergy sufferers. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Pharmaceutical company Mylan is refusing to testify at a congressional hearing next week on a settlement between the company and the Justice Department over its life-saving EpiPen.

    In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, an attorney for Mylan said company executives wouldn’t testify at the Nov. 30 hearing because the settlement is a pending matter and the Justice Department would also not be attending. Mylan has agreed to pay $465 million to settle allegations that it overbilled Medicaid for EpiPen. At issue was whether the product should have been classified as generic under a Medicaid program.

    In September, a House panel grilled Mylan CEO Heather Bresch about the skyrocketing cost of the devices, which many parents rely on when their children have allergic reactions. The list price of EpiPens had grown to $608 for a two-pack, an increase of more than 500 percent since 2007.

    In nearly four hours of questioning, Bresch declined to answer many questions about the company’s finances and profits, infuriating lawmakers. She defended the company’s business practices and signaled there were no plans to lower prices.

    Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the committee, said he would continue to investigate what happened, saying taxpayers have paid — and may still be paying — more for EpiPen than they have to.

    “This happened because either the agencies in charge dropped the ball, the company gamed the system, or both,” Grassley said.

    The senator on Monday released the letter dated Nov. 18.

    The post EpiPen manufacturer will be a no-show at Senate hearing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Two teepees are seen in the mist in an encampment during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    Two teepees are seen in the mist in an encampment during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    We are living in a “post-truth” world. In fact, Oxford Dictionaries crowned the compound adjective the 2016 word of the year.

    Here’s how the dictionary used the word in a sentence: “In this era of post-truth politics, it’s easy to cherry-pick data and come to whatever conclusion you desire.” It would appear we’ve moved on from the “truthiness” of 2006 to post-truth.

    There’s the picked-over discussions over fake news on Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg said the company’s working on it. A fake-news writer told us why he peddles it. And The New York Times warned how all of this will come back to haunt traditional media.

    Look no further than LibertyWritersNews.com, a fake-new site The Washington Post profiled over the weekend.

    By Monday, LibertyWritersNews responded with its own article, saying the Post was “Just Caught in HUGE Fake News Lie!!” (Editor’s note: LibertyWritersNews has since taken down the story.)

    Meanwhile, President-elect Donald Trump, who has been “nearly invisible” to the public, has largely left journalists to speculate — often incorrectly — over his picks for Cabinet.

    Is it Nikki Haley? Is it Jeb Hensarling? Who knows? Guess Who!

    We invite you to distract yourself from the guesswork and falsehoods with five important stories you won’t find on World News Daily Report, one of many sites that traffic in fake news.

    1. Police deploy water cannons and tear gas against Standing Rock protesters

    Police confront protesters with a rubber bullet gun during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    Police confront protesters with a rubber bullet gun during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    During an hourslong standoff Sunday night, law enforcement officials used water hoses and tear gas against activists protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

    Protesters filmed the encounter, posting the live-streamed video on Facebook and Twitter. Across several videos, activists can be heard yelling “No DAPL!” (Dakota Access pipeline) and “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?”

    Although there are discrepancies over how the incident started, a spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that law enforcement used water as “crowd control.”

    The sheriff’s office said around 400 protesters were involved and called it an “ongoing riot.” Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said the water cannons were an “excessive and potentially deadly use of force.”

    Read the full story here.

    Why it’s important

    Since last spring, protests against the pipeline have swelled at the construction site in rural North Dakota, but also across the country. Now, protesters must prepare for winter.

    In October, journalist Jenni Monet, who has been closely covering the protests from the ground, said there was a noticeable increase of “intensity” with the law enforcement presence there.

    Reinforcements had come from other states to support the sheriff’s office, while protest camps expanded to welcome people who supported the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

    A rubber bullet and a rubber bullet wound are displayed for the camera during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    A rubber bullet and a rubber bullet wound are displayed for the camera during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    The sheriff’s office told The Bismarck Tribune that the overnight clash continued into Monday morning, adding that protesters threw rocks and burning logs at the police.

    Jade Begay, an IEN spokeswoman told The Guardian that more than 160 people were injured and another seven were transported to a hospital for treatment.

    At least one person was arrested, The Associated Press reported. The sheriff’s office also told Monet that it hasn’t received reports that any of the protesters were injured.

    2. An NSA hub code-named “TITANPOINTE” resides in the middle of Manhattan

    The Long Lines Building, a fortified, 550-foot-tall AT&T building located in Lower Manhattan. Photo by Flickr user Lars Plougman

    The Long Lines Building, a fortified, 550-foot-tall AT&T building located in Lower Manhattan. Photo by Flickr user Lars Plougman

    Known as the “Long Lines Building,” the windowless Brutalist building pictured above has been a fixture in the New York skyline since its completion in 1974.

    The 550-foot building, located on 33 Thomas Street in Lower Manhattan, was originally created to house AT&T phone lines and withstand a nuclear blast.

    Last year, the Times and ProPublica noted the close relationship between the telecommunications giant and the National Security Agency, with AT&T granting the intelligence agency access to billions of emails on its domestic networks, among other scores of data.

    [Watch Video]

    An article published jointly by The New York Times and ProPublica reports that AT&T demonstrated an “extreme willingness to help” the NSA, according to documents from Edward Snowden. Among other revelations, the article reports that AT&T forwarded a million emails and handed over a billion cell phone records to the NSA. Pro-Publica reporter Jeff Larson joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.

    However, The Intercept reported that the building’s primary purpose appeared to be “one of the most important NSA surveillance sites on U.S. soil.”

    Why it’s important

    The Intercept said the conclusion that the building was an NSA hub was gleaned from interviews, public records and documents provided by Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who leaked information about the agency’s vast surveillance programs in 2013.

    Their investigation, complemented by a 10-minute documentary film called “Project X,” revealed how NSA travel guides instructed their employees and contractors to coordinate a visit to the building, whose code name is “TITANPOINTE.” “Project X” was how the original architect referred to the building in his drawings.

    An excerpt from Henrik Moltke and Laura Poitras’s “Project X.

    “When traveling to TITANPOINTE, NSA employees are told to hire a ‘cover vehicle’ through the FBI, especially if they are transporting equipment to the site,” The Intercept reported. “In order to keep their true identities secret while visiting, agency employees are instructed not to wear any clothing displaying NSA badges or insignia,” their report added.

    The Intercept, however, stopped short of saying that the leaked documents proved that the NSA was able to control or directly access AT&T networks, “but they do make clear that the agency has placed its own equipment inside TITANPOINTE to tap into phone calls and internet data.”

    An AT&T spokesman told the Times that the company does not grant government agencies control of its networks to collect information from its customers.

    3. India’s surprise decision over the rupee creates chaos

    A man writes the serial numbers of 500 Indian rupee banknotes on the back of a form before depositing them in a bank in Kolkata, India. Photo by Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

    A man writes the serial numbers of 500 Indian rupee banknotes on the back of a form before depositing them in a bank in Kolkata, India. Photo by Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

    Almost two weeks ago, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced during a televised address that the country was discontinuing the circulation of 500- and 1,000-rupee notes in an effort to stop counterfeit money.

    “Black money and corruption are the biggest obstacles in eradicating poverty,” Modi is quoted as saying in a Reuters story.

    The surprise move from the prime minister provoked a mad dash of hundreds of thousands of people to line up outside ATMs and banks wanting to replace their now-banned currency with the new 500- and 2,000-rupee notes.

    “By making high denomination bank notes worthless overnight, the government hoped that those who had black money in this form would not be able to convert it into physical assets like gold,” BBC explained.

    The Times reported that nearly a third of all business in the country — from real estate to wedding services — rely on black money.

    Why it’s important

    A notice is displayed at a medical store stating the refusal to accept old 500 and 1000 Indian rupee banknotes in Lucknow, India. Photo by Pawan Kumar/Reuters

    A notice is displayed at a medical store stating the refusal to accept old 500 and 1000 Indian rupee banknotes in Lucknow, India. Photo by Pawan Kumar/Reuters

    The discontinued rupees accounted for more than 80 percent of the country’s circulated currency, Reuters reported. The lines also remained exceptionally long days after the initial announcement. People have until late December to exchange their rupee notes, but many of those affected said the government’s decision was a long-term one that didn’t keep regular people in mind.

    “I have three 500-rupee notes and only about 40 rupees (about 60 cents) in small change,” student Ankit Saini told AP shortly after the announcement. “I can either buy lunch or a bus ticket home … But what will I do tomorrow?” he said.

    There have also been dozens of reported “demonetization deaths” in the fallout of the decision, but many others have been difficult to verify.

    Last week, one Indian doctor held a news conference to say that reports of him dying of a heart attack amid the country’s cash crisis were wrong, BBC reported.

    4. A look at the front lines of the fight to retake Mosul from ISIS

    An Iraqi special forces soldier gestures in front of a burning house after an Islamic State suicide car bomb attack at Iraqi special forces during clashes in Mosul, Iraq. Photo by Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

    An Iraqi special forces soldier gestures in front of a burning house after an Islamic State suicide car bomb attack at Iraqi special forces during clashes in Mosul, Iraq. Photo by Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

    The mission to regain control of Mosul from Islamic State militants has now entered its sixth week.

    In October, Iraqi and Kurdish forces, supported by airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition, launched an offensive in the hopes of wrestling control of Iraq’s second-largest city from ISIS, which had two years to advance its battle strategy.

    In her report last week, special correspondent Jane Ferguson documented what she saw while shadowing Iraqi special forces over several days at the front lines. Ferguson said ISIS has resorted to deadly warfare techniques like car bombs, IEDs and planted bombs in an attempt to slow the army’s advance into the city.

    [Watch Video]

    As the mission to retake Mosul rages on, Iraqi forces and their allies must deal with extremely deadly warfare techniques, including car bombs, explosives hidden in underground tunnels and booby-traps. Special correspondent Jane Ferguson reports from Mosul.

    “The most dangerous thing ISIS is using is the car bomb,” Maj. Ziad Al Gubere told the NewsHour. “Also they have a new style, using drone-carried bombs. They can control them with the remote. They use a small amount of explosives. They target our cars and groups of us.

    Why it’s important

    The Iraqi Special Operations Forces, elite troops trained at an American base, are “not just the tip of the spear for the Iraqi forces [in Mosul], but the dominant group fighting block by block in the city,” NPR’s Alice Fordham reported.

    An Islamic State suicide bomber attacks Iraqi special forces soldiers with a car bomb during clashes in Mosul, Iraq. Photo by Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

    An Islamic State suicide bomber attacks Iraqi special forces soldiers with a car bomb during clashes in Mosul, Iraq. Photo by Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

    As one Iraqi special forces commander explained to NPR, once cities started to succumb to ISIS control, it was these elite troops who were asked to help out. But these soldiers weren’t originally trained to do day-to-day battles. They were meant to target ISIS leaders.

    Commander Major General Maan al Saadi said his men were the “only force capable of standing in the face of the enemy.”

    They’re also a “very finite resource,” Fordham added.

    5. Fact Check > Fake News

    A screenshot of the Snopes.com homepage on November 21, 2016.

    A screenshot of the Snopes.com homepage on November 21, 2016.


    Snopes.com, once the premiere spot to debunk urban myths, has expanded its scope the past few years to become a fake-checking operation, equipped with a news section that tackles conspiracy theories, email hoaxes and fake photos, including one that purportedly showed Donald Trump with “no wig or make-up.” (That one was false, by the way.)

    The website is owned and run by David and Barbara Mikkelson, who started the site when the internet was still in its infancy in the 1990s, before search engines were a go-to source for debunking.

    Why it’s important

    David Mikkelson told The Washington Post that Snopes.com largely began when he started collecting write-ups over Disney-related hoaxes. One entry from 1998 asked whether a disgruntled employee drew a penis amid the golden spires of the castle in the background on “The Little Mermaid” VHS cover. (Short answer: Yes, but it was accidental and not intentional. Thus, the rumor was deemed false.)

    As for politics, it “wasn’t until the 2000 election when I saw the first political pieces come out that lent themselves to debunking,” David Mikkelson said.

    A screenshot of an debunked story on Snopes.com.

    A screenshot of an debunked story on Snopes.com.

    “Technology changes, but human nature doesn’t,” he said. “People want to believe the same things for the same reasons, and spread the same kind of stories. It’s just, instead of talking over their back fence, they’re on Facebook or whatever, and it’s still the same function.”

    After years of myth-busting, eventually an email chain would surely end up targeting the website itself. In 2009, a widely circulated email chain claimed that the Mikkelsons were “very Democratic” proprietors who pushed a liberal agenda.

    But another fact-checker, FactCheck.org, took up that claim. The verdict? The so-called expose contained falsehoods.

    “We reviewed a sampling of their political offerings, including some on rumors about George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and Barack Obama, and we found them to be utterly poker-faced,” FactCheck.org wrote.

    According to public records, David Mikkelson never stated a political affiliation. Also, Barbara Mikkelson is a Canadian citizen.

    “You’d be hard-pressed to find two more apolitical people,” David Mikkelson told FactCheck.org.

    In a column on the Post website, Snopes.com’s managing editor Brooke Binkowski said the website is a source for people to do their own research.

    “We don’t pretend to be, nor do we want to be, the final word on any subject,” she wrote. “We would like to be a starting point, though. In cases where clickability and virality trump fact, we feel that knowledge is the best antidote to fear.”

    Now, read the story of Kyle.

    READ MORE: 5 important stories that got lost in the Clinton and Trump election chatter

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    The post 5 important stories that aren’t fake news appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Melissa Range's new collection of poetry is called "Scriptorium." Photo by Justis Poehls.

    Melissa Range’s new collection of poetry is called “Scriptorium.” Photo by Justis Poehls.

    Melissa Range left eastern Tennessee more than two decades ago but her Appalachian roots are evident every time she opens her mouth. “I refuse to have my Southern way of talking scrubbed off my tongue,” Range says with a laugh.

    Her recent collection, “Scriptorium,” is about language spoken by ordinary people and mingles the historical with the personal. In the book’s foreword, poet Tracy K. Smith writes “Range urges her readers to see and claim… who we are and who we’ve been.”

    “If Hillary Clinton would have won the election we wouldn’t even be talking about rural people and what they want and need. But because Trump won, people are closely looking and saying, ‘What just happened here?’”

    Range’s identity has very much to do with where she was raised. Although she left Appalachia when she became an adult, she says she is constantly exploring through poetry the deep connection she has to that area.

    “Those mountains have a pull on you. I don’t feel at home there, but I don’t feel at home anywhere else either. I don’t feel comfortable being where I grew up, but my heart wants to be there.”

    Since the election two weeks ago, much attention has been given to this “second America” where people have felt left behind from the rest of the country, Range says. She is quick to note that they didn’t all vote for Donald Trump. Many in her family voted for Hillary Clinton and were Bernie Sanders supporters before that.

    She does admit that folks in the region often feel ignored by the rest of the country.

    “If Hillary Clinton would have won the election we wouldn’t even be talking about rural people and what they want and need. But because Trump won, people are closely looking and saying, ‘What just happened here?’ Suddenly the spotlight is on rural people and trying to understand them.”

    And Range says she is sympathetic to some of the anger rural people have for the “liberal elite.”

    “I hear the way intellectuals disparage rural white people, saying things like ‘redneck’ and ‘white trash.’ When I open my mouth to speak— even though I have a Ph.D.— I’m made fun of because I have a twang. If people in rural America feel mad at the rest of the country sometimes, this is partly why.”

    READ MORE: A poet’s history lesson on Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood

    Range says she wrote “Crooked as a Dog’s Hind Leg,” a poem that defies gender expectations, as an elegy for her grandmother. Woven throughout is the image of her grandfather, whom she says was a good person, but could not be depended on because of his alcoholism.

    “What I saw growing up is that the women in my life were strong and they held it together. Like in many communities, women who don’t have much—working class women— sacrificed themselves and lived for their husbands, their brothers, their sons. I did not like what I saw, and I chose not to do that.”

    Crooked as a Dog’s Hind Leg

    Yanking my lank hair into dog-ears,
    my granny frowned at my cowlick’s
    revolt against the comb, my part

    looking like a dog’s shank
    no matter what she did, crooked
    as the dogtrot path

    out the mountain county I left
    with no ambitions to return,
    rover-minded as my no-count granddaddy, crooking

    down switchbacks that crack the earth
    like the hard set of the mouth
    women are born with where I’m from.

    Their faces have a hundred ways to say
    “Don’t go off,” “Your place is here,”
    “Why won’t you settle down?”—

    and I ignored them all like I was one
    of their ingrate sons (jobless, thankless,
    drugged up, petted to death), meandering

    like a scapegrace in a ballad,
    as a woman with no children likes to do,
    as a woman with crooked roots knows she can.

    “When you coming home?” my granny
    would ask when I called, meaning “to visit”
    but meaning more “to stay,”

    and how could I tell her
    that the creeks crisscrossing
    our tumbledown ridges

    are ropes trying to pull my heart straight
    when it’s a crooked muscle,
    its blood crashing in circles?

    Why should I tell her
    that since I was a mop-headed infant
    and leapt out of my baby bed,

    I’ve been bent on skipping
    the country, glad as a chained-up hound
    until I slipped my rigging?

    What could I say but “I’ll be home Christmas,”
    what could I hear but “That’s a long time,”
    what could I do but bless

    the crooked teeth in my head
    and dog the roads that lead all ways
    but one?

    Reprinted with permission from Beacon Press.


    Melissa Range has just published her second collection of poetry, “Scriptorium.” She is the recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Fine Arts Work Center and the Rona Jaffe Foundation. Her first book was called “Horse and Rider.” Originally from East Tennessee, Range currently lives in Wisconsin and teaches at Lawrence University.

    The post Through writing, a poet returns to the Appalachian home she left appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In the early morning hours Tuesday, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 struck off the coast of Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

    Shortly before 6 a.m. local time, the earthquake shook the Japanese east coast at a depth of 10 km. A tsunami warning was issued for waves up to three meters, or nearly 10 feet.

    The public broadcaster NHK reported that a 2-foot tsunami was observed at Onahama Port in Fukushima. The earthquake was also reportedly felt in Toyko.

    On its English Twitter page, Tepco said there were “no abnormalities” at any of its power plants. However, there have been some blackouts in the area, Reuters reported.

    Preliminary measurements from the U.S. Geological Survey placed the magnitude at 6.9.

    The warning said damage from tsunami waves was to be expected. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, the Associated Press reported.

    The post Magnitude 7.3 earthquake hits Japan’s east coast, triggering tsunami warning appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A worker at perforating company Bion uses a machine at the factory in Reading, Britain September 22, 2016. Picture taken September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/Files - RTX2RHTA

    A worker at perforating company Bion uses a machine at the factory in Reading, Britain September 22, 2016. Picture taken September 22, 2016. Photo by Peter Nicholls/Reuters

    U.S. trade agreements could be the first economic casualty of the 2016 election. One of President-elect Donald Trump’s signature campaign promises was to renegotiate NAFTA and even potentially pull the United States out of the World Trade Organization. And as Democratic leaders now contemplate their party’s future, they, too, are questioning the wisdom of such international deals.

    Existing U.S. trade agreements rose from the ashes of World War II and the Great Depression. Understanding how they protect the U.S. economy, American workers and consumers is critical to avoiding a repeat of the policy mistakes of the 1930s.

    International trade problems are separate from trade agreement problems

    The recent pace of globalization has led to disheartening job loss for some Americans, especially in certain communities that backed Mr. Trump in the election. While imports and exports indisputably contribute big gains to the U.S. economy overall, those resulting benefits have not been adequately shared.

    Even the largest estimates find international trade has caused only a fraction of the U.S. economic dislocation — including that likely suffered by Mr. Trump’s key voters.

    Rigorous economic research shows that these hardships are more than just anecdotal, one-off stories. But even the largest estimates find international trade has caused only a fraction of the U.S. economic dislocation — including that likely suffered by Mr. Trump’s key voters. Recognized studies led by economists David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson observe that the surge in imports from China is an important contributor to U.S. unemployment, for example, but it is responsible for less than 20 percent of the manufacturing job loss from 1999 to 2011. The other 80 percent of lost jobs were caused by something else entirely.

    Automation eliminated many routine blue-collar jobs. Americans have also begun to demand new goods, including cleaner energy, thereby shunning old standbys like coal. And after the financial crisis of 2007, the U.S. housing boom ended, wiping out construction jobs. There was a tsunami of change, and it attacked the livelihood of a concentrated set of U.S. workers and communities.

    Suddenly, a nimbler U.S. workforce was required; one that was more adept at engaging with the increasingly skill-intensive, computerized and service-oriented economy. The United States must now address two separate needs: It must help the currently displaced U.S. workers while preparing the broader U.S. labor force for the inevitable waves of change still to come.

    But solutions will not be found in any trade agreement. Nor should they, as that is not what trade agreements do.

    Trade agreements address a separate problem

    Today’s trade agreements arose as a reaction to the catastrophic government policies taken in response to the crisis of the 1930s. The U.S. stock market crashed in October 1929, and the American economy stumbled into the Great Depression. The unemployment rate began a steady upward climb and ultimately peaked at 25 percent in 1933. U.S. unemployment did not fall below 10 percent again for almost a decade, when the United States entered World War II.

    In 1930, U.S. politicians implemented the infamous Smoot-Hawley tariffs, first attempting to use trade policy to assist Americans in need. By forcing U.S. consumers to buy American-produced and farmed goods instead of those from foreign countries, their hope was to shift demand and generate some additional tax revenue.

    The U.S. policy experience of the 1930s pales in comparison to how the United States handled the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. In 1930, the U.S. government could have responded with fiscal stimulus – of new “shovel ready” government spending projects – like the Obama administration did through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In 1930, the U.S. government could have responded with monetary stimulus, like the U.S. Federal Reserve did through interest rate cuts and quantitative easing during the Great Recession.

    READ MORE: Column: How cities and states are leading the fight for more beneficial trade

    In 1930, the U.S. government did not choose either policy and went with tariffs instead. Modern trade agreements that might halt this from happening did not yet exist in 1930. The United States put off implementing the right policies, especially in the face of deflation and falling prices, for far too long.

    While the tariffs did not cause the Great Depression, they are now understood as being the wrong government response to fixing it. Tariffs attempt to address such a problem by pushing the policy’s costs onto foreigners, by reducing their sales and the price they receive for the goods that they export to the United States.

    And the foreign response to the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariffs, in this light, became understandable. Since the U.S. had attempted to shift the burden of its crisis onto foreigners, they had little choice but to reciprocate by attempting to do the same thing. Their retaliatory trade policies further reduced U.S. exports, and the recessionary decrease in worldwide demand meant a downward spiral of global trade.

    In the end, no 1930s government was successful at passing along the costs of its crisis-era policies onto any foreigners.

    Following World War II, the United States and 22 other countries finally rectified their mistakes by coming together to design the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. They negotiated basic rules for a trading system that would halt future governments from foolishly responding to economic panic by giving into the temptation to impose beggar-thy-neighbor policies. This system lives on today through the World Trade Organization, the institutional successor that took root in 1995.

    Trade agreements do not prevent the U.S. government from implementing needed domestic policies

    Before the Obama administration entered office in 2009, most American workers were forced to rely exclusively on employer-provided health insurance. This made it more difficult for a worker to seek out a new job, and it also made involuntary job loss of any kind more disruptive.

    The 2010 Affordable Care Act was the largest expansion of the U.S. social safety net in decades, and informed trade proponents hold it up as reducing one important impediment to worker mobility.

    The 2010 Affordable Care Act was the largest expansion of the U.S. social safety net in decades, and informed trade proponents hold it up as reducing one important impediment to worker mobility. Obamacare was a long overdue policy that supported the 21st century economy by making the U.S. labor market more responsive to all forces of change.

    Importantly, neither trade nor trade agreements impeded the ACA from coming into law in 2010.

    The only role of the trade agreement was to compel the writers of Obamacare to think twice about how — and not whether — they were structuring the policy. Trade agreements force policymakers to confront the rhetorical question: Are we willing to bear the full financial and efficiency cost burden of the policy?

    The trade agreement comes into play only if policymakers are implementing the policy because they think they can push its costs onto foreigners.

    READ MORE: Column: Why don’t we have free trade for highly paid professions in the U.S.?

    The job of the government’s trade lawyer, the U.S. Trade Representative, is to advise senior U.S. officials that a failure to take this cost-shifting into consideration will have economic consequences. In internal meetings, the U.S. Trade Representative will point out that additional costs will arise. They include the lost U.S. exports and jobs that result when trading partners receive legal permission to retaliate, because the United States has broken the trade agreement’s rules.

    Trade agreements can therefore impose a check on U.S. legislators and regulators, but only by forcing them to structure their policy so that it does not have a discriminatory impact on activity taking place outside of U.S. borders. This will be the job of the U.S. Trade Representative under the new administration as well.

    But again, trade agreements are needed, because they reciprocally protect U.S.-based exporting companies and their workers from foreign policymakers who would otherwise do the same thing.

    It matters how trade agreements are enforced

    Trade agreements are a voluntary form of international cooperation. If successful, they develop a world characterized by the rule of law. By itself, the rule of law is not enough. Laws can be written to protect the powerful at the expense of the weak. Laws can enshrine discrimination as opposed to equal opportunity. Even progressive laws can be neutered without enforcement.

    It matters how each U.S. administration chooses to enforce trade agreement violations. With limited budgets, the Trump administration must decide between which potential disputes to pursue.

    Most U.S. disputes follow a basic template: The U.S. Trade Representative works on behalf of an American company and its workers that are seeking to open or re-open a foreign market to sell its goods or services.

    Nevertheless, the difference in how the last two U.S. administrations have prioritized their enforcement resources is telling.

    READ MORE: Column: How to help workers laid low by trade — and why we haven’t

    The strategy of the George W. Bush administration was to focus enforcement resources on older and more mature markets, filing nearly half of its WTO disputes against Canada, the European Union and Japan. While important economic markets for U.S. exporters and workers, these were slower-growing and already relatively law-abiding economies.

    The Bush administration was also quite slow to build a pipeline of WTO enforcement cases against China. Despite China’s ever-growing economic importance, the country’s continued lack of transparency, and U.S. concerns that China’s undervalued currency unfairly promoted Chinese exports, the first U.S.-initiated dispute to reach a legal ruling arrived only in 2008. This was nearly seven full years after China’s permitted entry into the WTO.

    Quite differently, the Obama administration fought all its trade disputes against either China or some other emerging economy. These disputes are in line with the broader “pivot to Asia” that has sought expansion of American influence and economic opportunity in a fast-growing but underrepresented region. By picking these trading partners, the administration is enforcing the rights of U.S. workers and companies to sell in relatively new and important markets of the future, where the rule of law has lagged.

    Recent WTO cases have been brought on behalf of U.S. farmers, auto and steel companies while also pushing the interests of U.S. advanced manufacturing and clean energy industries.

    And in a groundbreaking case against Guatemala, the Obama administration used a separate trade agreement to file the first-ever formal U.S. legal challenge to the working conditions and labor standards of another country. The commitment to enforce higher labor standards abroad was important as the administration was simultaneously seeking to extend such standards, including to the NAFTA countries, through the new Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement it was negotiating with 11 other nations.

    Trade agreements do not prevent governments from directly helping address dislocated workers

    As President-elect Trump gets ready to enter office, many aspects of the U.S. job market show signs of improvement. At 5 percent, U.S. unemployment is less than half the Great Recession peak reached in 2009. Out of a U.S. labor force of 160 million, relatively few people that have been actively searching for a job are now unable to find one.

    The more acute problem is the steadily increasing number of working-age American men without a college education who have stopped looking for employment and who thus do not show up in the unemployment statistics. Some have transitioned off the rolls of unemployment insurance to receive benefits under the government’s disability insurance program. Some no longer receive any benefits at all. Too many are now on the outside of the U.S. economy looking in, and this hurts them, their families and their communities.

    The more acute problem is the steadily increasing number of working-age American men without a college education who have stopped looking for employment and who thus do not show up in the unemployment statistics.

    Nothing in U.S. trade agreements prevents fixing the U.S. social safety net to better assist those disadvantaged by automation, changes in the types of goods and services that the global economy now demands or even trade.

    Indeed, the Affordable Care Act of 2010 was one important step in this direction. Obamacare made health insurance portable for workers, even in the event of job loss. Repealing it would introduce a new source of economic uncertainty for millions of already anxious Americans.

    Other improvements to the responsiveness of the U.S. labor market are needed. Expanded educational opportunities, such as apprenticeship and employer-subsidized training programs, are important for continued maintenance and skill-building for the U.S. workforce.

    The existing Earned Income Tax Credit program tops-up the wages of low-income household in the workforce. However, its current coverage is limited by design; expanding coverage would help advance the prospects of the working poor.

    Wage insurance programs have been long proposed to assist displaced workers who are willing to transition to new employment that pays less than what they earned at their lost job. Dropping out for most any reason quickly leads to a decline in health outcomes and the costly atrophy of workplace skills. Making these programs available to all displaced workers – and not just those displaced by globalization — is important and would also incentivize remaining in the workforce.

    READ MORE: Column: Our infrastructure is in disrepair. Will Trump invest in it?

    Finally, it is also critical that the new administration and Congress make good on promises to fund needed investment in America’s decaying infrastructure. President Obama’s efforts were stymied during much of the last eight years; such investments are needed to raise productivity for the overall economy through easing the movement of workers, goods and services within the United States. A focus on smart public construction, maintenance and repair would also temporarily address the surfeit of non-college educated, working-age men who are currently on the outside looking in.

    Don’t renege. Renegotiate trade agreements

    Trade does not only benefit the titans of global corporations. An estimated 11.5 million jobs in the United States are supported by exporting companies, and they pass along substantial benefits of globalization to their workers. For example, wages are 18 percent higher at these firms relative to all others in the U.S. economy.

    A U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA or the WTO would lead to Mexico or other trading partners’ retaliation — as witnessed in the 1930s — and likely a sharp fall in U.S. exports. A new category of American workers at exporting companies would join those already suffering. And none of the existing problems would be solved.

    An estimated 11.5 million jobs in the United States are supported by exporting companies, and they pass along substantial benefits of globalization to their workers.

    If the incoming administration is serious about renegotiating the NAFTA, it would find it worthwhile to examine a few elements of the much-vilified Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP agreement — while now shelved by Congress — included efforts to help level the playing field for productive, albeit relatively costly, U.S. workers.

    The TPP’s innovation was to require a trading partner like Mexico to also have laws – like those found in the United States – that establish the rights of local workers to unionize and bargain collectively. TPP also required Mexico to pass legislation on safe working conditions and minimum wages and to end employment discrimination and forced labor. Similar requirements were written into the TPP on environmental standards.

    Suppose Mexico did not live up to the deal. TPP would have granted the United States the legal right to impose higher tariffs without concern for retaliation. Raising the costs of locating one’s business in Mexico would thus make investments on American soil more attractive. America’s blue-collar workers would implicitly benefit from raising labor and environmental standards abroad.

    Hopefully Mr. Trump and the new Congress will recognize the benefit of existing trade agreements and how these innovations and others provide important protections for both American workers and for the overall U.S. economy.

    Final lessons

    Globalization has led to a larger and richer U.S. economy. Trade is what makes it financially possible for the U.S. government to have more resources to address these other problems. Paying for the needed investment in U.S. workers, their communities and infrastructure is feasible economically if the United States remains open.

    Trade agreements remain critical because that beggar-thy-neighbor temptation for governments never goes away.

    As the 1930s revealed, U.S. trade agreements are mainly important because everyone — even Americans — are foreigners somewhere.  For U.S. companies and their workers in the 21st century economy, 95 percent of the world’s potential customers continue to live outside of our borders.

    Trade agreements remain critical because that beggar-thy-neighbor temptation for governments — in the United States, but especially elsewhere — never goes away.

    And that temptation will surely resurface if the United States is the first to rip them up.

    The post Column: The truth about trade agreements – and why we need them appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President-elect Donald Trump stands with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach before their meeting at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    President-elect Donald Trump stands with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach before their meeting at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — An immigration adviser to President-elect Donald Trump and a possible candidate for a top government post wants to make some changes at the Homeland Security Department, including recreating a system that required certain immigrants, including men and boys from 25 mostly Muslim nations, to register with the federal government upon their arrival.

    Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach met with Trump on Sunday and brought with him a detailed list of proposals for the agency tasked with enforcing immigration laws and securing the border. Kobach carried his “Department of Homeland Security Kobach Strategic Plan for First 365 Days” into his meeting with Trump. It was visible in a photograph from The Associated Press.

    The top suggestion was to “update and reintroduce” the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, for all foreigners from “high-risk” areas, a program he helped create while working for the Justice Department in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

    The effort, which ultimately included the registration of more than 80,000 foreigners, was widely derided by civil rights groups who said it profiled foreigners based on their race and religion.

    The document, which is partially obscured by Kobach’s left arm and hand, does not specify which foreigners would be required to register as part of an NSEERS update.

    Kobach did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    The Obama administration formally abandoned the system in April 2011, saying a newer data collection program would be sufficient to collect biometric information for all foreigners coming into the country.

    As the parading of possible cabinet members by President-elect Donald Trump continues, Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg Politics and Michael Schmidt of The New York Times speak with Judy Woodruff about what we know about Mr. Trump’s agenda, plus a new video laying out his priorities for his first 100 days. Video by PBS NewsHour

    Kobach’s plan also proposes adding “extreme vetting questions for high-risk” foreigners coming into the U.S. Those would include questions about a would-be visitor’s “support for Sharia law, jihad, equality of men and women, the United States constitution.”

    The Kansan’s list also included ending the flow of Syrian refugees into the United States. As a candidate, Trump proposed a temporary ban on all Muslims coming into the country.

    Several other suggestions for DHS were obscured in the photo, taken as Kobach was greeted by Trump.

    Immigration was a top issue for Trump in his campaign to win the White House. He has yet to provide specific details about his plans to carry out campaign promises on immigration but last week announced his intention to nominate Sen. Jeff Sessions to lead the Justice Department.

    Sessions, like Kobach, has helped Trump craft his stance on immigration and is also a hard liner on the issue.

    Associated Press reporter John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, contributed to this report.

    SUBSCRIBE: Get the analysis of Mark Shields and David Brooks delivered to your inbox every week.

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    Video by MSNBC

    WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump “doesn’t wish to pursue” further investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email practices, a top adviser said Tuesday, a turnaround from all the campaign rallies when Trump roused supporters to chants of “lock her up.”

    “I think Hillary Clinton still has to face the fact that a majority of Americans don’t find her to be honest or trustworthy, but if Donald Trump can help her heal then perhaps that’s a good thing,” Kellyanne Conway said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

    That comes after months of Trump nicknaming his Democratic rival “Crooked Hillary,” questioning whether the Clinton Foundation is a pay-for-play scheme and raging against the Justice Department for refusing to prosecute her for blending private and official business on her homebrew email server. He told her face-to-face at a presidential debate that if he won the presidency, she’d “be in jail.”

    Conway’s comments were striking because Justice Department investigations are historically conducted without the influence or input of the White House. Presidents do not dictate decisions on which criminal investigations are pursued or their outcome.

    The disparity between Trump’s taunts on the campaign trail and his approach now, Conway suggested, is part of a purposeful shift away from at least the tone, if not the substance, of his past rhetoric.

    Presidents do not dictate decisions on which criminal investigations are pursued or their outcome.

    “I think he’s thinking of many different things as he prepares to become the president of the United States and things that sound like the campaign aren’t among them,” she said.

    Trump himself has appeared to waver on whether he would want to seek further probes into possible wrongdoing by the Clintons.

    “I’m going to think about it,” he said in a “60 Minutes” interview, his first sit-down interview after the Nov. 8 election. “I feel that I want to focus on jobs, I want to focus on health care, I want to focus on the border and immigration and doing a really great immigration bill. We want to have a great immigration bill. And I want to focus on — all of these other things that we’ve been talking about.”

    Trump said in that interview that Clinton “did some bad things,” but ultimately the Clintons are “good people” and “I don’t want to hurt them.”

    As Donald Trump chooses members of his upcoming administration and begins to outline his plan for once he takes office, Judy Woodruff speaks with Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and NPR’s Tamara Keith about his avoidance of press conferences, his penchant for unpredictability and his first staff picks.

    Conway’s comments came as Trump abruptly canceled a meeting with The New York Times on Tuesday, accusing the organization of changing the conditions for the session “at the last moment.” The newspaper denied this and said Trump’s aides tried to change the rules. But Hope Hicks, speaking for Trump, said later the meeting was back on and he’d be “going to The New York Times” later Tuesday.

    Trump met privately Monday with representatives of the television networks.

    The president-elect heralded “more great meetings” in his Manhattan tower as he continues shaping his administration before heading to Florida for Thanksgiving on Tuesday.

    Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.

    WATCH: What we know about Trump’s plan of action

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    File photo of the Affordable Care Act signup website by Mike Segar/Reuters

    File photo of the Affordable Care Act signup website by Mike Segar/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Here’s the idea: Swiftly pass a repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care law, perhaps soon enough for Donald Trump to sign it the day he takes the presidential oath. Then approve legislation restructuring the nation’s huge and convoluted health care system — despite Republican divisions, Democratic opposition and millions of jittery constituents.

    What could go wrong?

    With Republicans controlling the White House and Congress in January, they’re faced with delivering on their long-time promise to repeal and replace “Obamacare.” Here are hurdles they’ll face:

    ___

    SPEED VS DELIBERATION

    Trump and congressional Republicans will be under intense pressure from their core conservative supporters to repeal Obama’s 2010 health care law — and fast. After all, Congress already sent Obama a repeal bill last January, which he vetoed, and many GOP voters will see no reason for delays this time.

    But there probably won’t be anything fast about Congress’ effort to replace Obama’s law, which is likely to take many months.

    While the replacement effort is underway, Republicans will risk aggravating up to 30 million people who are covered by the law or buy policies with prices affected by its insurance marketplace. Democrats will be sure to accuse the GOP of threatening the health care of millions.

    ___

    A SOLUTION

    Nothing’s been decided, but here’s one likely scenario:

    The new Congress, which convenes Jan. 3, tries to quickly approve legislation repealing Obama’s health care law, maybe completing it by Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration or soon after. But the repeal would not take effect until the future, perhaps a year later, to give lawmakers time to fashion a replacement. The version Obama vetoed had a two-year delay.

    Seemingly acknowledging that two-step process, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Sunday on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump “wants to focus out of the gate on repealing Obamacare and beginning the process of replacing Obamacare.”

    Because Republicans will control the Senate by just 52-48, Congress will first have to approve special budget procedures to prevent Democrats from stopping repeal legislation by filibuster. Bill-killing filibusters require 60 votes to end.

    But those special rules would apply only to items that affect the federal budget. Republicans, for example, would need a simple Senate majority to end IRS penalties against people who don’t buy insurance but would still need 60 votes — requiring Democratic support — for other changes such as raising limits on older people’s premiums.

    House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., says that will restrain Republicans’ ability to ram a “lock, stock and barrel” repeal through Congress.

    ___

    GOP RISKS

    One GOP danger: Congress and Trump might repeal Obama’s law, but while they’re laboring on a replacement, nervous insurance companies begin pulling out of markets and raising premiums. Insurers have been doing that under Obama, but now it would occur under a Republican government.

    Another hazard: Congress’ work could spill into the 2018 campaign season, when the entire House and a third of the Senate face re-election. Republicans will grow increasingly timid about anything that might anger voters.

    “We want to be the rescue party instead of the party that pushes millions of Americans who are hanging by the edge of their fingernails over the cliff,” says Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who chairs the Senate Health committee.

    ___

    GOP PATHWAYS

    Virtually all Republicans want to get rid of the health law’s mandates that individuals buy coverage or risk IRS fines, and that large employers insure workers.

    They also want to erase taxes on higher-earning people and the health care sector. And they’d like to retain parts of the law guaranteeing coverage for people with pre-existing medical problems and keeping children under age 26 on family plans.

    Unifying Republicans much beyond that is a work in progress.

    Trump’s health care views have varied and lack detail. His campaign website touts tax deductions for health insurance premiums and permitting policies to be sold across state lines. He’d also revamp Medicaid, which subsidizes health coverage for low-income people, directing fixed amounts of money to states and letting them structure benefits.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., last summer unveiled an outline of the House GOP’s solution, though it lacked cost estimates and details. It would provide tax credits, impose taxes on the most generous employer-provided health care plans, revamp Medicaid and let Medicare beneficiaries pick private plans instead of today’s fee-for-service coverage.

    Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has also advanced a framework relying heavily on tax credits.

    ___

    REMAINING QUESTIONS

    Thirty-one states — including Pence’s Indiana, where he is governor — plus the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid coverage to 9 million additional people under Obama’s law. Curtailing that program will divide Republicans.

    Taxing the value of some employer-provided health plans, aimed at curbing the growth of costs, is “a political land mine,” says GOP economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Republicans have long resisted tax increases.

    Obama’s law mandates coverage for individuals because without that requirement many healthy people would forgo policies, driving up costs for everyone else and destabilizing insurance markets. Ryan has proposed shielding people from higher premiums if they’ve had “continuous coverage,” allowing higher rates for people who have not had policies, but Republicans have yet to decide how to keep insurance markets viable.

    ___

    AP reporters Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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    NEW YORK — President-elect Donald Trump may be visiting with the New York Times after all.

    Spokesman Hope Hicks told reporters gathered in Trump Tower on Tuesday morning that Trump was “going to the New York Times” later in the day.

    The statement comes only hours after Trump tweeted that he would not be meeting with the newspaper.

    He wrote on twitter that he canceled the meeting “with the failing @nytimes when the terms and conditions of the meeting were changed at the last moment. Not Nice.”

    READ MORE: Trump adviser suggests he will not pursue charges against Clinton

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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

    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

    WASHINGTON — As a senator, Jeff Sessions became Congress’ leading advocate not only for a cracking down on illegal immigration, but also for slowing all immigration, increasing mass deportations and scrutinizing more strictly those entering the U.S. As attorney general, he’d be well positioned to turn those ideas into reality.

    Immigration laws are enforced by other agencies, but the Justice Department plays a crucial role in setting the policies and legal underpinnings that shape the system. And if Donald Trump sticks with his campaign promises, immigration will be a top priority for his administration.

    As the nation’s top law enforcement official, Sessions could execute maneuvers to limit which nationalities the U.S. would accept as refugees and to reverse a federal policy that protects young people from deportation.

    “The president has the clear power to suspend immigration to protect America,” Sessions said during the Republican convention when he was discussing the threat of terrorism and the need to scrutinize refugees more closely.

    The fourth-term Republican from Alabama was the first senator to support Trump’s candidacy, and he helped shape Trump’s positions on immigration. Sessions favors limiting the number of refugees coming into the U.S. and turning away children who arrive at the border alone who are attempting to reunite with families living in the U.S.

    The attorney general can direct federal prosecutors to boost the number of criminal cases brought against immigrants caught crossing the border; guide legal opinions to defend executive actions; prioritize hiring more judges for federal immigration courts; overturn key decisions made by a federal immigration appeals panel and challenge the legality of state immigration policies.

    “The attorney general has a lot of power when it comes to immigration,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor at Cornell law school. “He has a seat at the table when important decisions are being made.”

    Sessions favors limiting the number of refugees coming into the U.S. and turning away children who arrive at the border alone who are attempting to reunite with families living in the U.S.

    One of the most important legal opinions on immigration that came out of the Justice Department in the past eight years defended the Obama administration’s policy of formally shielding immigrants who arrive in the U.S. as children from being deported. This policy also gives those immigrants permission to work in the U.S.

    Sessions and other GOP lawmakers have called this “backdoor amnesty.” The Trump White House can rescind the policy that protects these young immigrants, and as attorney general, Sessions could provide legal guidance to defend Trump’s actions, which would put more than 700,000 people at risk of being deported.

    “Tweaks of the pen over there can have large implications across the country,” said Victor Cerda, a former Justice Department immigration attorney who led the Immigration and Naturalization Service after the 9/11 attacks. The agency has since become part of the newly created Homeland Security Department.

    The Justice Department’s Office of Immigration Litigation, housed in the civil division, is the force behind fighting state immigration actions like Arizona’s landmark immigration crackdown that required immigrants to carry identification and invited discrimination against Latinos. The Justice Department sued the state, along with immigration advocacy groups, and won.

    Given Sessions’ and Trump’s positions on immigration, it’s unlikely they’d use the department to fight such state laws.

    “The courts have always paid much greater attention when the United States is a party,” said Bill Hing, a professor at the University of San Francisco law school and director of its immigration and deportation defense clinic.

    [Watch Video]

    As the parading of possible cabinet members by President-elect Donald Trump continues, Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg Politics and Michael Schmidt of The New York Times speak with Judy Woodruff about what we know about Mr. Trump’s agenda, plus a new video laying out his priorities for his first 100 days.

    Immigration advocates are preparing to go it alone.

    “Private organizations are going to have to rely on their own resources to pursue these kinds of cases,” said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

    The Justice Department also houses the immigration court system, which for years has been woefully understaffed and amassed a backlog of more than 500,000 pending cases. The parties in the case can wait years for a final ruling. The attorney general could ask Congress for a significant increase in funds to staff the courts and blast through the backlog.

    The Board of Immigration Appeals, which is the last stop in the immigration court system to challenge a judge’s ruling, is part of the Justice Department as well. The attorney general is responsible for appointing that 17-member board and can overturn a decision, which can then be challenged in federal court. The board’s decisions have widespread ramifications and are applied by judges across the country, Cerda said.

    And the attorney general can influence the grants the department issues annually for a range of state and local law enforcement programs. Sessions has criticized the government for not cutting funds to cities and jurisdictions that have refused to cooperate on enforcing immigration laws. As attorney general, Sessions could push such cuts.

    “For 40 years, no president and no attorney general has given a high priority to enforcing our immigration laws,” Sessions said in 2007. If confirmed by his peers in the Senate, he could change that.

    Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.

    READ MORE: Trump supporter pitches hard-line immigration plan for Homeland Security

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    At a conference over the weekend, alt-right ideologue Richard Spencer finished his speech, shouting “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” from a lectern. His audience of more than 200 people, mostly men, responded with cheers and a smattering of Nazi salutes.

    The remarks happened at the annual conference of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank, held Saturday at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. Spencer popularized the so-called “alt-right” movement, which aims to preserve white identity, block multiculturalism and promote so-called “European” values. The group holds bigoted views and is associated with Neo-Nazism.

    The Atlantic released a video Monday with excerpts from Spencer’s speech, which was laced with anti-Semitic rhetoric.

    “One wonders if these people are people at all, or instead soulless golem,” he said in his speech.

    Spencer also made a reference to media as “Lugenpresse,” invoking a German expression — meaning “lying press” — to attack media critics. At the end of his closing speech, several men held out their arms in a Nazi salute.

    When P.J. Tobia, NewsHour’s Foreign Affairs & Defense producer, texted Spencer about the Nazi salutes seen at his speech, Spencer said they were “clearly done in a spirit of irony and exuberance.”

    During an interview with President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday afternoon, Mike Grynbaum of the New York Times released the following tweets:

    When Times reporters also specifically asked Trump about the D.C. conference, he said, “I disavow and condemn them.”

    And yesterday, in response to the alt-right conference, the Trump transition team released the following statement: “President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he was elected because he will be a leader for every American. To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds.”

    Video by The Atlantic

    After footage from the conference surfaced yesterday, the Holocaust Museum issued a statement condemning the “hateful rhetoric” at the white nationalist conference, including the “direct and indirect” allusions to Nazism.

    “The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words,” the museum wrote. “The Museum calls on all American citizens, our religious and civic leaders, and the leadership of all branches of the government to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech.”

    The museum also said Nazism extended to other groups, targeting a mosaic of victims for racial reasons.

    On Friday, the NPI hosted a dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy, a restaurant in the District, before the start of the white nationalist conference. The restaurant said it closed for safety reasons when protesters arrived to confront the white nationalists. One photo, circulated on Twitter, showed attendees that night giving a Nazi salute.

    “This expression of support of Hitler is extremely offensive to us,” the restaurant said in an apology on Facebook on Monday.

    The restaurant also said that it was a “last-minute booking,” whose “reservation was made under a different name, therefore we were not aware that NPI was dining with us or what the group represents.” The restaurant added that it was donating $10,000, its Friday sales, to the Anti-Defamation League’s D.C. office.

    WATCH: Why white nationalists hear a political ally in Donald Trump

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    In October, Donald Trump arrived at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner to benefit Catholic charities in New York. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    In October, Donald Trump arrived at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner to benefit Catholic charities in New York. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump’s charity has admitted that it violated IRS regulations barring it from using its money or assets to benefit Trump, his family, his companies or substantial contributors to the foundation.

    According to a 2015 tax return posted on the nonprofit monitoring website GuideStar, the Donald J. Trump Foundation acknowledged that it used money or assets in violation of the regulations not only during 2015, but in prior years.

    The tax filing, first reported Tuesday by The Washington Post, doesn’t provide details on the violations. The filing’s release comes as the New York attorney general’s office investigates whether Trump personally benefited from the foundation’s spending, including several purchases detailed in reports by The Post.

    Questions sent via email to Trump’s transition team weren’t immediately answered Tuesday.

    The foundation’s admission in the tax filing isn’t the first time it has run afoul of laws and regulations governing charitable organizations.

    In October, the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, ordered the foundation to stop soliciting donations after it was discovered that the charity had been accepting outside contributions without the proper New York state registration.

    The foundation also gave an improper $25,000 check to a political committee supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2013.

    Charities are barred from engaging in political activities, and the president-elect’s staff says the check he signed was mistakenly issued following a series of inexplicable clerical errors. Earlier this year, the Trump Foundation paid a $2,500 fine to the IRS over the check.

    Trump had intended to use personal funds to support Bondi’s re-election, his campaign said. At the time, Bondi’s office was fielding media questions about whether she would follow the lead of Schneiderman, who had then filed a lawsuit against Trump University and Trump Institute.

    [Watch Video]

    Hillary Clinton has been scrutinized for questions about the Clinton Foundation. Now Donald Trump is catching heat for how his own foundation operates. Judy Woodruff speaks with The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, who has spent the past few months researching Trump’s charitable donations and seeming lack of personal contributions to his own cause.

    Scores of former students say they were scammed by Trump’s namesake get-rich-quick seminars in real estate. Bondi, who the AP reported in June personally solicited the $25,000 check from Trump, took no action against Trump University.

    Trump last week settled three lawsuits over Trump University days before the scheduled start of a fraud trial in California, agreeing to pay out $25 million with no admission of wrongdoing. Bondi, meanwhile, met with Trump in Manhattan last week and appears to be under consideration for an appointment in the Trump administration.

    Associated Press writer Julie Bykowicz contributed to this report.

    WATCH: What we know about Trump’s plan of action

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    Passengers embark on the U.S. side of the last hand-pulled ferry at Los Ebanos, Texas on the Mexico-U.S. border in 2008. Photo by Christa Cameron/Reuters

    Passengers embark on the U.S. side of the last hand-pulled ferry at Los Ebanos, Texas on the Mexico-U.S. border in 2008. Photo by Christa Cameron/Reuters

    LOS EBANOS, Texas — All along the winding Rio Grande, the people who live in this bustling, fertile region where the U.S. border meets the Gulf of Mexico never quite understood how Donald Trump’s great wall could ever be much more than campaign rhetoric.

    Erecting a concrete barrier across the entire 1,954-mile frontier with Mexico, they know, collides head-on with multiple realities: the geology of the river valley, fierce local resistance and the immense cost.

    An electronically fortified “virtual wall” with surveillance technology that includes night-and-day video cameras, tethered observation balloons and high-flying drones makes a lot more sense to people here. It’s already in wide use and expanding.

    If a 30- to 40-foot concrete wall is a panacea for illegal immigration, as Trump insisted during the campaign, the locals are not convinced. And few were surprised when the president-elect seemed to soften his position five days after the election, saying that the wall could include some fencing.

    “The wall is not going to stop anyone,” said Jorge Garcia, who expected to lose access to most of his 30-acre riverside ranch after the U.S. Border Fence Act was enacted a decade ago.

    Under the law, 652 miles of border barrier were built, mostly in Arizona. The 110 miles of fences and fortified levees that went up in Texas are not contiguous but broken lines, some as much as a mile and a half from the river.

    Eight years after government surveyors marked Garcia’s land, he and his wife, Aleida, are still waiting to see if the Border Patrol will sever their property.

    “This lets me know that whenever they want to build the wall, they can,” said Aleida, holding up a tax bill that shows the nominally expropriated sliver of property.

    If a fence or wall goes up, the couple will be paid $8,300. So far, the Garcias and the rest of the village of Los Ebanos have been spared because the erosion-prone clay soil is simply too unstable, she believes.

    The Los Ebanos Ferry Crossing checkpoint is seen along the Rio Grande river in Los Ebanos, Texas March 28, 2013. Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters

    The Los Ebanos Ferry Crossing checkpoint is seen along the Rio Grande river in Los Ebanos, Texas March 28, 2013. Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters

    Geology conspires against wall-building up and down the Rio Grande Valley. So does a boundary water treaty with Mexico and endangered-species laws. Catwalks and tunnels had to be built into existing fences to accommodate endangered ocelots and jaguarundi, two species of wild cat.

    The gaps in the border barrier include an entire flank of the River Bend golf club and resort in Brownsville. University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley political scientist Terence Garrett calls them “gaps of privilege” because many landowners were politically connected.

    Other landowners fought the Border Patrol in court.

    “The wall might make mid-America feel safer, but for those of us that live on the border, it’s not making us feel any safer when we know that people can go over it, around it, under it and through it,” said Monica Weisberg-Stewart, security expert for the Texas Border Coalition, a consortium of regional leaders.

    The coalition wants federal dollars to go instead to bolstering security at border crossings, where heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine are smuggled in. A poll conducted in Southwest border cities in May found 72 percent of residents opposed to building a wall. The Cronkite News-Univision-Dallas Morning News poll had a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points.

    The wall is popular in distant cities “because you can see, feel and touch it. But politically it just doesn’t make sense,” said J.D. Salinas, the coalition’s chairman.

    As commissioner of the border county of Hidalgo from 2007 to 2009, Salinas won public backing for 20 miles of border barrier by reinforcing an existing levee with concrete and topping it with a fence. In 2010, the project paid off. The levee held back flooding from Hurricane Alex. The cost was about $10 million a mile, though.

    Then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a sign supporting his plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico that he borrowed from a member of the audience at his campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Photo by Jonathan Drake/Reuters

    Then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a sign supporting his plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico that he borrowed from a member of the audience at his campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Photo by Jonathan Drake/Reuters

    In the Nov. 8 election, only three Texas border counties — all sparsely populated — went for Trump. The rest are solidly Democratic, at odds with the Republicans who control most state capitals and have been demanding more border barriers.

    Rural ranchers worried about drug traffickers and other criminals are less likely to benefit from border walls and fences than city-dwellers, said Adam Isacson, a security expert with the nonprofit advocacy group Washington Office on Latin America.

    “What a wall ultimately does is slow a border crosser for 10 to 15 minutes,” Isacson said. “In an urban area, that 15 minutes is crucial.” Border patrol agents can arrive quickly. In rural areas, they may be an hour or more away.

    The U.S. side of the border is quite safe, said Weisberg-Stewart. “We are not in a war zone.”

    In fact, cross-border trade has been booming. In 2014, more than $246 billion worth of goods and 3.7 million trucks crossed the Texas-Mexico border, according to coalition figures.

    Trump needs to remember that Mexico is the second-largest U.S. export market, said Rep. Filemon Vela, a Texas Democrat whose district includes most of the valley. Only Canada buys more American goods.

    “There’s no way in hell he’s going to see his great wall,” Vela said.

    The region bears the usual hallmarks of American prosperity: strip malls, well-maintained interstates, prosperous gated communities with hacienda-style McMansions. Cold-storage warehouses proliferate for northbound Mexican okra, avocados and tomatoes while other warehouses brim with southbound used clothing. Cotton, grapefruit and corn fields abound.

    Much of the Mexican side of the border has been afflicted by drug cartel-related violence, but crime in the Rio Grande Valley, which is home to 1.3 million people, has been consistently lower than other Texas cities.

    If lots of “bad hombres” are crossing the border, as Trump has claimed, they are mostly taking their lawbreaking elsewhere. Further, there’s no record of anyone sneaking across the border to commit acts of terrorism.

    The Border Patrol’s buildup after 9/11 is one reason, argues David Aguilar, who was named to the agency’s top job in 2004 by a fellow Texan, then-President George W. Bush, and is now a private consultant. Since then, the number of agents has climbed from 9,500 on the southwest border to 17,500 in 2015.

    Meanwhile, the number of apprehensions along the border is down from a peak of 1.6 million in 2000 — when Aguilar said at least as many got away — to 409,000 in the year ended in September. Nearly half were caught in the Rio Grande Valley.

    Many analysts believe the Great Recession was a bigger factor than Border Patrol enforcement in making the U.S. less attractive to Mexican migrants in particular.

    Since tower-mounted video surveillance cameras began going up in 1999 in the Brownsville area, illegal cross-border traffic in the area “dried up by 85 to 90 percent,” said Johnny Meadors, the sector’s assistant chief for technology. He said the traffic moved west, where there were no cameras.

    Seventy-two more of the towers, which are 80 to 120 feet tall, are to be installed in the valley by 2021, and could include motion sensors and laser pointers, Meadors said.

    Since 2013, the Border Patrol has also had five blimp-like aerostats that float from 1,000 to 5,000 feet above the valley on tethers. High-flying Predator drones have patrolled vast areas of southwest borderlands since 2011. The agency also has underground sensors along the border. How many, Meadors wouldn’t say.

    All the gadgetry has been a bonanza for defense contractors. The government spent $450 million last fiscal year on border security fencing, infrastructure and technology.

    “If you had a sensible immigration policy, there would be no need for all this,” said Garrett, the political scientist.

    What Trump’s policy will be remains a mystery.

    During the campaign, he said he would deport all the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States. Days after the election, he appeared to back down somewhat, saying he would expel the criminals among them.

    Whether fear of a Trump victory has anything to do with a recent spike in arrivals from violence-wracked Central America isn’t clear. They account for more than half of Border Patrol apprehensions in the Rio Grande Valley, where many migrants turn themselves in at frontier bridges.

    After processing, released migrants are given court dates in destination cities where relatives typically await. Others are sent to detention centers.

    An average of 350 migrants, some adults wearing ankle monitors, now arrive daily at the Sacred Heart parish community center in the border city of McAllen, up from 100 a day in August, said Gaby Lopez, a volunteer at the makeshift shelter that opened in June 2014.

    New arrivals get a shower, a hot meal and can pick through donated clothing.

    Ingrid Guerra, 21, a Guatemalan who is eight months’ pregnant and bound for Kansas, said she was fleeing an abusive relationship and didn’t tell the father. The father of her other child, a 2-year-old who stayed behind with Guerra’s mother, was killed in a drunken brawl, she said.

    Sitting with her is Erika Machuca, a 19-year-old Salvadoran.

    Machuca, also eight months’ pregnant, is bound for Dallas, where her husband lives. She says two of her brothers and three uncles were killed in El Salvador in violence she did not understand.

    Both women said they merely want to earn a living and raise families in peace.

    “Back there,” Guerra said of Guatemala, “they kill at the drop of a hat.”

    READ MORE: Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, could influence immigration policy

    The post Americans who live near border say Trump’s wall is unwelcome appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Nurse writing on medical record in examination room. Photo by Hero Images/Getty Images

    Nurse writing on medical record in examination room. Photo by Hero Images/Getty Images

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

    In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


    Question: As a health care professional, I’m fed up with the “talent shortage.” If there’s a shortage, why do nurses like me also work as waitresses, and make more than we could make nursing, which I’m certified in? I also have a college degree, because I was told it was a necessity to compete today. One interview after another is a waste of time, with HR telling me I look good and to expect a callback that never comes. I got a couple of actual offers and one contract assignment, but I could walk dogs and make more. Hospitals just wait for somebody who will work for peanuts. And they are rude. My dream was to build a good career as a nurse and to get paid. Does anybody want to hire a registered nurse for a living wage?

    Does anybody want to hire a registered nurse for a living wage?

    Nick Corcodilos: Another reader just sent me the answer to your question. It’s from a pair of articles published by Stateline, a media outlet of the Pew Charitable Trusts, and you’re not going to like the answer. Take a look at “Why Does It Take So Long To Hire A Nurse?” and “Why the ‘Skills Gap’ Doesn’t Explain Slow Hiring.”

    Perfect Candidates Only!

    A lot of hospitals want to hire a registered nurse with experience and a degree. They just don’t want to pay you for your experience and college degree. Here are some choice quotes from these Pew reports — I suggest you share them with your representatives in Congress:

    Hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies and doctor’s offices, like a lot of employers across the country, have a specific resume in mind. Employers often want new hires to have experience in a specialty such as operating room nursing.

    That is, they want the perfect candidate. (See “The Training Gap: How employers lose their competitive edge.”)

    The problem is clear: Employers don’t want to invest in training, on-the-job experience and development or in a learning curve. They want someone who’s been doing the exact job for three years already. The question is: Why would someone like that change jobs for the same job?

    Where are competitive wages?

    Pew offers this suggestion:

    A long-term solution for the nursing workforce also would have to resolve critical pay issues, including whether Medicare and Medicaid fee schedules support competitive wages, and figure out how to make sure nurses don’t get burned out and quit.

    Employee burnout is the “Duhhh…” moment in this story:

    Employers also have a retention problem. Being a nurse is demanding, and new nurses, like new teachers, are particularly likely to leave their jobs: About 20 percent of new nurses quit within a year, according to a 2014 study.

    Do you think it has something to do with the fact that you can make more money waiting tables at a good restaurant? (For some tips on how to negotiate a job offer upwards if you manage to get an offer at all, see “Negotiate Even The Worst Job Offers: Say Yes, IF.”)

    This is not a problem just in health care. The Pew reports cover all kinds of jobs and industries.

    To Steve Hine [the head of Minnesota’s Labor Market Information Office] … the focus on work experience suggested that employers were being too picky. They wanted to hire someone who could be fully productive on day one. But at the same time they weren’t willing or able to pay enough to attract that perfect candidate.

    Now we get to it — there’s a shortage of talent only when employers don’t want to pay to get the talent on board. And Pew delivers the proof:

    It’s worth noting that employers can’t always diagnose their own problems. Only 22 percent of employers surveyed by Utah’s Department of Workforce Services last year named low wages as a hiring problem, but 68 percent of those employers were offering below average wages.

    “We prefer unnecessary college degrees!”

    Then there’s the claim employers make that today’s workforce just isn’t well-educated. Or is it possible that employers want more education than jobs require?

    “The overwhelming majority of open production jobs across south central Minnesota don’t require a college degree, in fact. Nor do almost two-thirds of openings statewide,” Pew reports.

    Yet employers ask for a degree — because they can. It used to be a nurse needed only a certification to get a job in a hospital. It seems now hospitals want education they don’t need — but aren’t willing to pay for. Pew reports:

    In New York, for instance, there are more licensed RNs [registered nurses] in the state than there are jobs for them. “So employers are raising the bar, saying, ‘Hey, if I can get a [nurse with a] bachelor’s degree, why not?’” said Jean Moore, director of the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University of Albany.

    So there you have it. Pew seems to suggest that employers are the problem, not nurses or anyone else. (Those reports should be taped to every legislator’s forehead.) While more training and education can certainly be beneficial to anyone who wants to excel in their line of work, it seems employers think training, education and talent shouldn’t cost much to hire.

    It seems employers think training, education and talent shouldn’t cost much to hire.

    I wish I could give you an answer to your problem. And I wish the Pew reports covered the other elephant in the room — recruiting tools that make it easier for employers to reject good applicants than to hire them. For more about that, see “Employment In America: WTF is going on?”

    Dear Readers: Does your own experience suggest there’s a talent shortage, or a shortage of good pay for good workers? Are modern recruiting systems — job boards, Applicant Tracking Systems, video interviews — part of the solution, or do these just make it easier for employers to reject “imperfect” job applicants who won’t work for peanuts?


    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

    The post Ask the Headhunter: Top talent wanted to work cheap? That’s an employer problem appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor to 21 groundbreaking actors, musicians, athletes and innovators who inspired him over the years and “helped make me who I am.”

    “Everybody on this stage has touched me in a very powerful, personal way, in ways that they probably couldn’t imagine,” Obama said in concluding an hour-long ceremony Tuesday in the White House East Room.

    The Presidential Medal of Freedom recognizes especially meritorious contributions to the national interests of the United States, its security and its culture. Obama called the 2016 group a “particularly impressive class.”

    In the film world, Obama honored Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Robert Redford and Cicely Tyson.

    Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, two of the greatest basketball players ever, were also among the honorees. Obama noted how Jordan’s name is synonymous with excellence.

    “There is a reason you call somebody ‘the Michael Jordan of,'” Obama said. “The Michael Jordan of neurosurgery, or the Michael Jordan of rabbis, or the Michael Jordan of outrigger canoeing. Everyone knows what you’re talking about.”

    Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross were recognized for their music.

    Other honorees included philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, comedian Ellen DeGeneres and broadcaster Vin Scully.

    Obama said the people receiving the medal helped push America forward and inspired millions around the world.

    Posthumous honors went to Native American advocate Elouise Cobell and Rear Adm. Grace Hopper.

    Others receiving the award included:

    — Richard Garwin, an inventor and polymath physicist who made pioneering contributions to the nation’s defense.

    — Frank Gehry, one of the world’s leading architects.

    — Margaret H. Hamilton, a mathematician and computer scientist.

    — Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

    — Lorne Michaels, producer of “Saturday Night Live”

    — Newton Minow, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman devoted to numerous public and charitable causes.

    — Eduardo Padron, president of Miami Dade College.

    The post Obama awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to Michael Jordan, Ellen DeGeneres, others appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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