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

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    JOHN YANG: Americans took time out today to celebrate Thanksgiving with feasts, parades and football.  In New York, the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade went smoothly, amidst tight security.  Thousands of heavily-armed officers were in the streets, and police blocked intersections with dump trucks filled with sand.  Meanwhile in Washington, president Obama, in a recorded video message, called for unity.
    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thanksgiving reminds us that no matter our differences, we’re still one people, part of something bigger than ourselves.  We are communities that move forward together.  We are neighbors who look out for one another, especially those among us with the least.  We are always, simply, Americans.
    JOHN YANG: Overseas, U. S.  forces helping Iraqi troops fighting in ISIS-held Mosul enjoyed a welcome respite.  Soldiers gathered to play football and eat holiday dinners just south of the frontlines.
    The Islamic state also carried out a massive suicide bombing south of Baghdad today, killing at least 56 people, though some reports put the toll as high as 100.  20 of the dead were Iranian Shiite pilgrims.  Another 45 people were injured.  I’m joined now via skype by special correspondent Jane Ferguson, who’s reporting for us from northern Iraq.  Jane, what can you tell us about what happened today?
    JANE FERGUSON: John, among those killed in today’s bombing were many Iranian Shiite pilgrims on their way back to Baghdad for a religious occasion in the holy city of Karbala about 70 miles south of the capital.
    The suicide bomber detonated a huge truck bomb at a busy gas and restaurant where several buses of pilgrims were.  ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.  The group regularly target Shiites who they view as not true Muslims.  Meanwhile, it’s Shiites militias who have cut off the final root between ISIS held Mosul city and the rest of the so-called caliphate.  To the west of Mosul, Militia is known as batter brigade have taken control of a crucial road in and out of Mosul which effectively cuts off ISIS militants in Mosul city stopping them from resupplying or retreating.
    The Militias have made an unprecedented deal with Iraqi Kurdish fighters called Peshmerga to cooperate in cutting off Mosul.  In the east of the city, Iraqi troops have been battling ISIS since the launch of an offensive to retake the city over six weeks ago.  They have been engaged in street to street fighting as the militants have dug in to the heavily populated city.
    It’s a tough fight and progress is slow.  They expect it will be another two or three months before they can take the city.  Over 5,000 US Troops are in Iraq, advising and supporting the Iraqi military, in its campaign against ISIS rocket fire, artillery, surveillance and special forms.  John?
    JOHN YANG:  Jane Ferguson in Erbil, Iraq, thanks.  At least 67 workers died in southeast china today when scaffolding collapsed at a power plant construction site.  It happened in the city of Fengcheng, and is one of the country’s deadliest work safety accidents in more than two years.  Cement slabs and metal beams crushed all but three of the 70 workers when a support platform gave way.
    An investigation into what caused the collapse is underway.  In Syria, rebels in the besieged city of Aleppo have agreed to a UN plan to allow aid deliveries and evacuate the wounded.  But UN officials said they’re still waiting for approval from the Syrian government.  The UN’s humanitarian adviser said they’re poised to act once they get the go-ahead.  He spoke today in Geneva.
    JAN EGELAND, UN Humanitarian Task Force:  The trucks are ready, the humanitarian workers are ready, greatest humanitarian workers will be able to go with hundreds of truckloads of medical equipment, food and all of the other things needed in eastern Aleppo.
    JOHN YANG: Eastern Aleppo has been under siege since July.  Much-needed food and medical supplies haven’t been able to reach the area since then.  Separately, a US service member died when an improvised explosive device detonated in northern Syria.  A sixth child has now died from injuries suffered in a school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee earlier this week.  Police say, Johnthony Walker strayed from his route and was speeding on a curvy road when his bus ran into a tree.
    He faces six counts of vehicular homicide.  Five children remain hospitalized.  The bus company has had 346 crashes over the past two years alone.  Hurricane Otto gained speed and intensity today.  It slammed into Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast as a category 2 storm.  The unusually strong, late- season hurricane packed winds up to 110 miles an hour.
    Officials evacuated more than 10,000 people, including many who crowded onto buses bound for shelters.  Otto is expected to weaken to a tropical storm later today.

    The post News Wrap: ‘We’re still one people,’ says Obama in Thanksgiving message appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Protesters block highway 1806 in Mandan during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota on November 23. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    Protesters block highway 1806 in Mandan during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota on November 23. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump holds stock in the company building the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline, and pipeline opponents warn that Trump’s investments could affect any decision he makes on the $3.8 billion project as president.

    Trump’s 2016 federal disclosure forms show he owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock in Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners. That’s down from between $500,000 and $1 million a year earlier.

    Trump also owns between $100,000 and $250,000 in Phillips 66, which has a one-quarter share of Dakota Access.

    While Trump’s stake in the pipeline company is modest compared with his other assets, ethics experts say it’s among dozens of potential conflicts that could be resolved by placing his investments in a blind trust, a step Trump has resisted.

    The Obama administration said this month it wants more study and tribal input before deciding whether to allow the partially built pipeline to cross under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota.

    The 1,200-mile pipeline would carry oil across four states to a shipping point in Illinois. The project has been held up while the Army Corps of Engineers consults with the Standing Rock Sioux, who believe the project could harm the tribe’s drinking water and Native American cultural sites.

    The delay, which comes as protests unfold daily along the proposed route, raises the likelihood that a final decision will be made by Trump, a pipeline supporter who has vowed to “unleash” unfettered production of oil and gas. He takes office in January.

    “Trump’s investments in the pipeline business threaten to undercut faith in this process — which was already frayed — by interjecting his own financial well-being into a much bigger decision,” said Sharon Buccino, director of the land and wildlife program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.

    “This should be about the interests of the many, rather than giving the appearance of looking at the interests of a few — including Trump,” Buccino said.

    Trump, a billionaire who has never held public office, holds ownership stakes in more than 500 companies worldwide. He has said he plans to transfer control of his company to three of his adult children, but ethics experts have said conflicts could engulf the new administration if Trump does not liquidate his business holdings.

    Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, called Trump’s investment in the pipeline company “disturbing” and said it fits a pattern evident in Trump’s transition team.

    “You have climate (change) deniers, industry lobbyists and energy conglomerates involved in that process,” Grijalva said. “The pipeline companies are gleeful. This is pay-to-play at its rawest.”

    Besides Trump, at least two possible candidates for energy secretary also could benefit from the pipeline. Oil billionaire Harold Hamm could ship oil from his company, Continental Resources, through the pipeline, while former Texas Gov. Rick Perry serves on the board of directors of Energy Transfer Partners.

    Concern about Trump’s possible conflicts comes as protests over the pipeline have intensified in recent weeks, with total arrests since August rising to 528. A clash this past week near the main protest camp in North Dakota left a police officer and several protesters injured.

    North Dakota Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple, along with GOP Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer, called on President Barack Obama to authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to approve the pipeline crossing, the last large segment of the nearly completed pipeline.

    Kelcy Warren, CEO of Dallas-based Energy Transfer, told The Associated Press that he expects Trump to make it easier for his company and others to complete infrastructure projects.

    “Do I think it’s going to get easier? Of course,” said Warren, who donated $3,000 to Trump’s campaign, plus $100,000 to a committee supporting Trump’s candidacy and $66,800 to the Republican National Committee.

    “If you’re in the infrastructure business,” he said, “you need consistency. That’s where this process has gotten off track.”

    The Army Corps of Engineers granted Warren’s company the permits needed for the crossing in July, but the agency decided in September that further analysis was warranted, given the tribe’s concerns. On Nov. 14, the corps called for even more study.

    The company has asked a federal judge to declare it has the right to lay pipe under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in southern North Dakota. The judge isn’t likely to issue a decision until January at the earliest.

    The post Trump’s stock in oil pipeline company raises concern appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People shopping in the electronics department before sunrise inside a Super Target in Thornton, Colorado, U.S. Photo by Matthew Staver/Bloomberg.

    People shopping in the electronics department before sunrise inside a Super Target in Thornton, Colorado, U.S. Photo by Matthew Staver/Bloomberg.

    Black Friday is hyped as one of the biggest in-store shopping days of the year, with stores trumpeting giant sales and even bigger advertising campaigns.

    Some pundits claim that Black Friday is dying and is no longer relevant. However, the National Retail Federation issued a strong denunciation of these articles and declared that Black Friday is “far from gone.”

    Which is the true story? Is Black Friday dying or still relevant? These questions are important because some retailers believe Black Friday helps get people in the mood for spending over the holiday season, when U.S. companies make approximately one fifth of their annual sales.

    To answer them, let’s consider four important facts and data points concerning Black Friday. Together, they paint a mixed picture.

    Four facts to ponder

    First, lots of people go out shopping on Black Friday

    Each year the National Retail Federation issues numbers showing how many people plan to begin shopping the moment they finish devouring their Thanksgiving pie. Last year 66 million adults said they would definitely go shopping on Thanksgiving weekend, while another 70 million said “maybe.” And 74 percent of them planned to shop on Black Friday. When you have 136 million people intending to do the same thing at the same time, it’s clear the day remains important.

    Second, we are spending less time shopping.

    One measure of something’s importance is how much time is spent on the activity. Important things get attention and time. The latest data, however, show we are spending less time shopping, suggesting it’s becoming less important to us.

    The U.S. government began surveying people in 2003 to find out how much time we spend on daily activities, such as sleeping, working, taking care of children, watching television and countless other tasks, using the American Time Use Survey. The typical adult spent 146 hours per year shopping in 2003. By 2015, the figure had dropped to 131 hours, a reduction of 15 hours or 10 percent.

    To give some perspective on how much time we spend shopping, the average person in the U.S. spends about 250 hours a year showering, brushing their teeth, combing their hair and doing other personal grooming. Shopping comprises about half the amount of time we spend cleaning ourselves up.

    Where did we cut back? Of the total 15-hour drop, people in the U.S. spent five fewer hours shopping for groceries and food. Shopping for clothes, shoes, toys and all the other items people buy dropped by 10 hours, which bodes ill for Black Friday’s importance.

    Third, we are not spending less

    One potential reason we are devoting less time to shopping is that the average person is spending less. If you buy less, you do not need to spend as much time shopping. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Retail Trade Surveys show this reason is not true.

    After adjusting for inflation, the average person in the U.S. spent a bit under US$15,000 in 2003 on retail goods. That figure had budged a small amount a dozen years later but was still below $15,000. This fact is neither good nor bad for Black Friday’s fate.

    Fourth, internet shopping is taking sales away

    One big reason we are spending less time shopping is that instead of going to physical stores we are buying items online. Shopping online is often much faster than wandering the aisles aimlessly in a giant big-box emporium.

    While overall spending has not increased, the Census Bureau’s retail data show people in the U.S. are steadily shifting away from buying things in stores toward buying on the internet. In 2003 the average U.S. person bought slightly more than $250 of goods on the internet. By 2015, the figure had jumped to almost $1,100 per person.

    This steady growth in e-commerce follows almost the same downward trend in sales at brick-and-mortar locations strongly suggesting people are just shifting from one method of shopping to another. This final fact is another ill omen for Black Friday (and shows the increasing prominence of Cyber Monday).

    So what is the answer?

    Black Friday sales will continue to pack in the crowds for three reasons.

    First, sales spike on Friday because of a catchup effect. Almost no one goes retail shopping on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, when large numbers of people are traveling. On Thanksgiving Day itself, most retail stores are closed. Even without special sales, this catchup effect ensures the day after Thanksgiving has a larger volume of traffic and more robust revenue than a typical Friday.

    Second, many people get the day after Thanksgiving off from work since most non-retail businesses, schools and government offices are closed or functioning only with skeleton crews. For people who have gotten their fill of family and turkey, going shopping is a welcome excuse to leave the house.

    Third, the media’s focus on the day helps ensure it is an experience that people want to join. No matter what the other trends in retail data show, the days after Thanksgiving are often very slow news days, since many business people and politicians, who generate news, take the day off. With less to report, journalists will continue to focus on Black Friday since it is something they know will happen and will attract attention.

    So is Black Friday dying or booming? The National Retail Federation’s data show lots of people went shopping just after Thanksgiving. Census data show steadily lower sales in bricks and mortar stores year after year, plus rising internet sales. Time use data show shopping is now taking less of the typical person’s day.

    My answer is that while brick-and-mortar stores are slowly becoming less relevant for daily purchases, people love events. Black Friday in the future will likely become more of a special occasion where many people go back to retail stores that in their day-to-day life they will typically ignore.

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

    The post Have reports of Black Friday’s death been greatly exaggerated? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Syrian refugee Mohammed Badran, 22, demands greater action to end crises driving refugees from their homes before the United Nations General Assembly Monday, Sept. 19. Photo by Laura Santhanam/NewsHour

    Syrian refugee Mohammed Badran, 22, demands greater action to end crises driving refugees from their homes before the United Nations General Assembly in September. Photo by Laura Santhanam/NewsHour

    Mohammed Badran’s first speech ever was in front of the United Nations General Assembly, where he demanded world leaders stop conflicts that force people from their homes.

    “‘We are living on the edge of hell. We have been waiting for so long for the day that the world would hear our voice. I hope it is today.'”

    For three minutes, the 22-year-old Syrian refugee spoke for millions of people who, like him, are “stateless and stuck with no possibility of escaping the war,” he said in September.

    “‘We are living on the edge of hell. We have been waiting for so long for the day that the world would hear our voice. I hope it is today,’” Badran said, quoting another Palestinian Syrian refugee named Zoher who asked that his last name be withheld.

    Badran is one of 65 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people worldwide, driven from their home countries by violence and persecution, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. That’s more than the population of the United Kingdom, and the highest number since World War II.

    And more than half of the world’s refugees have fled from three nations — the Syrian Arab Republic, Afghanistan and Somalia — according to the United Nations.

    When the United Nations General Assembly met on Sept. 19, 193 countries agreed to protect refugees and migrants. The resulting declaration lays the foundation for world leaders to adopt a global refugee compact for “safe, orderly and regular migration” in 2018, said Christopher Boian, press officer for the U.N. refugee agency.

    “It sends a very clear signal that business as usual is no longer an adequate response,” Boian said. “The world is now facing a refugee crisis of scope and nature that hasn’t been seen before. This is unprecedented.”

    Outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the agreement a “breakthrough.”

    “With you or without you, we are already doing something.”

    But Bill Frelick, refugee program director at Human Rights Watch, is less enthusiastic about the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. There’s no legal recourse if a nation backs out, and Frelick said what was missing from the string of speeches delivered by world leaders was a “sense of urgency.”

    “The international community has basically veered between vapid pronouncements of solidarity,” he said, adding that scratching the surface of the rhetoric reveals a containment agenda designed to keep refugees and migrants as close to their home countries as possible.

    “Putting an emphasis on orderly migration is not putting the rights of refugees and very vulnerable human beings at the forefront,” he said.

    In two years, Badran doesn’t know what will remain of his war-torn home country. But he wants no one to mistake him for a victim “begging people to do something,” he said: “With you or without you, we are already doing something.”

    Leaving a Mark

    Helping people always made sense to Badran, even if it marked him as an oddball in Damascus.

    When Badran was 12 years old, he volunteered to sort and shelve books. He later collected unwanted paper from his teachers, classmates and neighbors to recycle, filling huge bags he carried Santa Claus-style over his shoulder. He said his bewildered family would ask him: “It’s an unpaid job. Why are you wasting your time?” He never had a good answer, he said.

    And then the Syrian civil war broke out. In December 2012, a Syrian warplane bombed Yarmouk, the Palestinian community in Damascus where his parents worked. They fled to a farm two hours away, leaving Badran behind to focus on his college classes in interior design. He still volunteered, but people began to threaten him for his humanitarian relief efforts with Syria Trust and the United Nations.

    By June 2013, he decided it was too dangerous to stay in Syria. He was 19 years old.

    “I did really do my best to help people inside, but I couldn’t do anything more,” he told the NewsHour. “I really want to leave a mark, and I didn’t want to just to die in a bomb or shooting guns or something. That was the main reason why I left. I felt like maybe I could do something more from outside.”

    It took him five months to reach the Netherlands, and if you ask him what happened after he fled his homeland, he won’t go into specifics. A man seized his passport and smuggled him back and forth between Egypt and West Africa, including Ghana. Finally, Badran said he escaped, using a fake passport to board a commercial airplane in November 2013 that took him from Africa to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

    The morning he landed in the Netherlands, Badran said he nervously told Dutch police officers he was a refugee who needed asylum. By that evening, he was moved into a crowded camp without a job, home, friends or family.

    Syrians at the time already made up the largest portion of new asylum seekers in the Netherlands at 9 percent — trying to enter industrialized countries, including the United States, according to a recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

    Since then, the number of Syrians applying for asylum within industrialized nations nearly tripled to 24 percent and remains the largest group seeking refuge within industrialized nations.

    Picking Up the Pieces

    In Amsterdam, Badran spent years rebuilding his life. For 10 hours a day, he sold pre-made sandwiches at Simit Sarayi, a chain of Turkish cafes, working his way up to manager after two months and then hiring three more Syrians. He learned enough Dutch to qualify for remedial college courses in early 2015 and earned enough money to rent an apartment. His parents eventually reunited with him. In September, he enrolled at Free University in Amsterdam.

    Interior design classes no longer interested him. Bomb blasts had cratered Damascus, and civil war had driven him more than 2,600 miles from his hometown. For Badran, studying cultural anthropology and development became a more relevant choice.

    So he began to volunteer again. He and fellow refugees created a nonprofit group, Syrian Volunteers in the Netherlands. Since registering in February, organizers paired Syrian refugees and native Dutch citizens who together completed household chores for elderly residents, cared for children with disabilities and tended public gardens.

    More than 600 people have joined the organization, including refugees who want to “help out somehow” in their host country, even if they couldn’t do the same at home, Badran said. As tensions mount in Europe against refugees, Badran designed dialogue sessions where his nonprofit’s volunteers confront Syrian and Dutch stereotypes. He plans to expand his model to Germany and Sweden.

    In November 2015, he met Attila Kulcsar, a humanitarian media officer at Oxfam International, at a documentary film festival in Amsterdam. Kulcsar later suggested Badran apply to speak before the United Nations General Assembly and mentored him.

    Out of more than 400 applicants, Badran was selected in August. He had a month to prepare and three minutes to make the case for refugees to world leaders.

    “I’m a bit worried about the message and delivering it. If you can help, that would be great,” he wrote Kulcsar in an Aug. 20 email in his typical reserved style.

    “It seems inaction is the only thing that the international community can agree on.”

    For weeks, they drafted his speech and made countless revisions. Badran practiced, but his delivery was stiff and he stumbled over his words during rehearsal the day before the summit at the United Nations in New York City. In a nearby park, he and Kulcsar launched into an hours-long drama session to “help him reveal his power, reveal his emotion,” Kulcsar said.

    The next morning, Badran walked confidently to the podium, but for a moment, he was overwhelmed. Hundreds of the most powerful people in the world looked back at him.

    And then he spoke. His searing words demanded accountability and agreement “to end the violence now in Syria and protect civilians; to guarantee safe route for all refugees and to not put our lives on hold; to empower refugees to lead projects for refugees so that we can help our people.”

    “It seems inaction is the only thing that the international community can agree on,” he said. “If world leaders today are unable to find a solution for the refugee crisis and the Syrian crisis, then this summit is no different from all other conferences.”

    Mohammed Badran sits in Bryant Park in New York City near the United Nations headquarters where he addressed world leaders about the need to help refugees. Photo by Laura Santhanam/NewsHour

    Mohammed Badran sits in Bryant Park in New York City near the United Nations headquarters where he addressed world leaders about the need to help refugees. Photo by Laura Santhanam/NewsHour

    Supporting Themselves

    Two months have passed since Badran gave his speech at the United Nations. College classes and volunteer work consume his time.

    Syria remains besieged by war. The latest cease-fire talks fell apart. The World Health Organization recently reported 25,000 people are wounded each month, more than half of all public hospitals and primary care centers function in part or not at all. About two-thirds of all doctors and nurses are gone. This week, CNN aired video of hospitalized children choking to breathe after suspected gas attacks struck Aleppo.

    Badran said such unmet needs fuel his desire to “empower refugees to come up with solutions and new ideas to support themselves.”

    World leaders gave themselves two years to figure out how to help millions of refugees flee chaos. But Badran can’t wait that long.

    The post ‘Stateless’ with ‘no possibility of escaping war’: One Syrian refugee’s story appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Florence Henderson in May 2014.  The actress died on Thursday at age 82. Photo by Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports/ via Reuters

    Florence Henderson in May 2014. The actress died on Thursday at age 82. Photo by Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports/ via Reuters

    Florence Henderson, one of America’s most iconic TV moms, has died. She was 82.

    Her publicist confirmed that she died of heart failure at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to the New York Times.

    Henderson played the wholesome, always cheerful Carol Brady in the 1970s show, The Brady Bunch, which ran from September 1969 to March 1974, but has continued to air in endless reruns and multiple film remakes. The show, a comedy, featured a single mother with three girls who met, married and moved into a suburban California home with a widowed father and his three boys.

    Prior to the Brady Bunch, Henderson amassed an impressive resume of stage credits, starring in “Fannie” and “Oklahoma” on Broadway and road productions of “South Pacific” and “The Sound of Music.” She was also the first female guest host for Johnny Carson’s “The Today Show” and acted as host and co-producer on the cooking and talk series, “Country Kitchen,” on The Nashville Network. In 1965, she unexpectedly lost her hearing while appearing in “The King and I” in Los Angeles, according to the Associated Press, and was diagnosed with a condition linked to heredity.

    “Corrective surgery in both ears restored my hearing,” she said in 2007.

    In a July 2015 episode of NPR’s “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell me,” the show’s host Peter Sagal, asked Henderson what it was like to raise her own four young children while starring as Carol Brady.

    “My youngest when we started was like, oh, gosh, 2 or a little less,” she responded. “And sometimes my kids would say to me, you know, how come you don’t scream at those kids on television like you do us?… I said because they’re not my real kids, and you are. And I want you to turn out to be wonderful human beings. And they have. I have four of the most incredible children, and I have five grandchildren.”

    Florence Agnes Henderson was born February 14, 1934 in Dale, Indiana, the 10th child of a sharecropper.

    She sang in school and in a nearby Catholic church choir, and after high school, enrolled in a program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, “her studies financed by a theatrical couple who had been impressed by her singing when they saw her perform in high school,” according to the AP.

    She later married and had four children with theater executive Ira Bernstein. The two were divorced 29 years later in 1985. Her second husband, John Kappas, died in 2002.

    When asked how she would like to be remembered in a 1999 Archive of American Television interview, Henderson answered, according to the New York Times, “Probably as someone who survived for a long time in a very tough business and, hopefully, managed to retain a sense of humanity.”

    She is survived by two daughters, Barbara and Elizabeth; two sons, Joseph and Robert; and five grandchildren.

    The post Florence Henderson, iconic TV mom of ‘The Brady Bunch,’ dies at 82 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Donald McGahn, lawyer and Trump advisor, exits the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City on June 9. Trump confirmed Friday that he has chosen McGahn to serve as White House counsel.  Photo by Brendan McDermid/ Reuters

    Donald McGahn, lawyer and Trump advisor, exits the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City on June 9. Trump confirmed Friday that he has chosen McGahn to serve as White House counsel. Photo by Brendan McDermid/ Reuters

    President-elect Donald Trump is connecting with foreign leaders and considering new Cabinet-prospects Friday as he gathers with family for the long Thanksgiving weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

    As the incoming president looked ahead, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein made progress on her push to force recounts in three Midwestern battleground states that fueled Trump’s stunning victory.

    Stein announced on her website that she has raised enough money to fund recounts in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and was pursuing additional funding to do the same in Michigan. A local Green Party official said she would file the Wisconsin recount request on Friday.

    While the recounts are unlikely to change the election result, they could complicate Trump’s calls for national unity as he tries to move past what may have been the nastiest presidential contest in the modern era.

    There were signs of discord even within the president-elect’s small inner circle as Trump weighed his choices for secretary of state. The options for the nation’s chief diplomat include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who lacks foreign policy experience, but was intensely loyal to Trump, and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who aggressively opposed Trump’s candidacy but is largely regarded as more qualified.

    Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway publicly highlighted the controversy, tweeting on Thursday that she had been “receiving a deluge of social media & private concerns re: Romney Some Trump loyalists warn against Romney as sec of state.”

    In a second Twitter post from her verified account, Conway referred to former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, both Cabinet officers in previous Republican administrations, as men who “flew around the world less, counseled POTUS (president of the United States) close to home more. And were loyal. Good checklist.”

    Trump made two new staff appointments on Friday, though neither was a Cabinet-level pick.

    He tapped Fox News analyst Kathleen Troia “KT” McFarland to serve as deputy national security adviser and campaign attorney Donald McGahn as White House counsel. In a statement, Trump cited McFarland’s “tremendous experience and innate talent” and said McGhan “has a brilliant legal mind, excellent character and a deep understanding of constitutional law.”

    McFarland served in various posts under former Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. McGhan, a veteran Republican election attorney, served as Trump’s attorney during the campaign.

    Neither position requires Senate confirmation.

    The president-elect also has meetings scheduled with eight prospective administration hires scheduled for Monday, a group that includes a handful of business leaders along with David Clarke, the Wisconsin sheriff who is an aggressive opponent of the Black Lives Matter movement.

    Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence also have meetings scheduled on Monday in New York with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., former Security and Exchange Commission commissioner Paul Atkins, World Wide Technology chairman David Steward and General Growth Properties CEO Sandeep Mathrani.

    Beyond secretary of state, two possible appointments loom: that of retired neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate Ben Carson as secretary of housing and urban development and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross Jr. as commerce secretary.

    The most recent Trump Cabinet-level picks to be announced were South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and charter school advocate Betsy DeVos to lead the Education Department.

    Trump is also continuing to connect with foreign dignitaries, according to spokesman Sean Spicer. Since arriving at his Palm Beach estate on Wednesday, the president-elect has spoken to the prime ministers of Greece, Hungary and Sweden, along with the presidents of Panama and Slovenia.

    Trump, according to his Twitter feed, is also pressing an Indiana-based air conditioning company not to send jobs to Mexico over the Thanksgiving holiday.

    During the presidential campaign he often cited Carrier’s decision last February to relocate some 1,400 jobs to its plant in Mexico as an example of jobs leaving the country — and how he as president would slap a tax on any units manufactured in Mexico and sold in the U.S.

    “I am working hard, even on Thanksgiving, trying to get Carrier A.C. Company to stay in the U.S.,” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “MAKING PROGRESS – Will know soon!”

    The company confirmed it had discussed the move with the incoming administration but said that there was nothing to announce.

    The post Trump taps campaign attorney Donald McGahn for White House counsel appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow on July 14. Photo by Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool/ Reuters

    Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow on July 14. Photo by Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool/ Reuters

    NEW YORK — A new report suggests a “sophisticated” Russian propaganda campaign helped flood social media with fake news stories leading up to the presidential election.

    The Washington Post, citing a yet-to-be published report from independent researchers, said the goal was to punish Hillary Clinton, help Donald Trump, and undermine faith in American democracy.

    The report comes from a nonpartisan group of researchers called PropOrNot. The group describes itself as “concerned American citizens” with expertise in computer science, national security and public policy. The researchers say they traced the origins of posts and mapped the connections among accounts that delivered similar messages.

    The findings show just how effective the bogus reports and propaganda were, according to the report. On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed 213 million times.

    While it’s not clear whether fake news and propaganda helped sway the election in Trump’s favor, millions of Americans get their news from what’s shared on Facebook and other social media. In recent months, fake and misleading stories have proliferated, even as Facebook has insisted that they make up a tiny fraction of the overall stuff users share on the site.

    Both Facebook and Google have said they are taking steps to stop the spread of misinformation on their sites, including by turning off access to advertising.

    PropOrNot’s report, provided to The Post in advance of its public release, identified more than 200 websites as “peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans.”

    PropOrNot did immediately not respond to a message asking for the report on Friday afternoon.

    The Associated Press wrote this report.

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    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders meets with the Rev. Al Sharpton at Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem the day after Sander's decisive win in New Hampshire. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders met with the Rev. Al Sharpton at Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    Editor’s Note: This Thanksgiving week, what better way to celebrate than with a chronicle of American food? That’s just what we did here at Making Sen$e with historian Paul Freedmans’s new book, “Ten Restaurants That Changed America.”

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman recently sat down with Freedman to discuss the 10 restaurants that shaped American food as we know it. Today we have a short excerpt from his conversation with Freeman on one of those restaurants: Sylvia’s, which serves “authentic, soul-food cuisine” and has become a go-to spot for politicians, pop-stars, tourists and locals alike.

    For more, watch Thursday’s Making Sen$e report here. You can also read Freedman’s column on how fast-food killed off Howard Johnson, the restaurant chain that made highway food popular.

    And from all of us at Making Sen$e, hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!

    — Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor


    PAUL SOLMAN: So finally, why Sylvia’s here on Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem?

    PAUL FREEDMAN: You can’t write a book about American food without giving a big place to African-American cuisine, which is arguably what American cuisine is at heart. Sylvia’s, founded in 1962, is a representative not only of Harlem, or soul food as the sign indicates, it is a representative of southern food, of the migration of black people from the South. Sylvia Woods grew up in South Carolina and came to New York during the second World War.

    “You can’t write a book about American food without giving a big place to African American cuisine, which is arguably what American cuisine is at heart.”

    It’s really an example of the migration of black people, the links between the South and the North, and the formation of so many dishes in American food. Their specialty is fried chicken, barbecued ribs, collard greens that are classics of both black and white southern and northern cuisine. It is among the most important restaurants on my list.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And does any of what we think of as soul food come from places other than the American South? Are there any African connections?

    PAUL FREEDMAN: Certainly a lot of products were brought from Africa – okra, yams – but also ways of preparing things, the kinds of stews, greens and the emphasis on greens. So it’s not that the African slaves who were brought against their will here simply reproduced the cooking that they were familiar with – they didn’t have the ingredients, they didn’t have the autonomy in many cases to do so – they used ingredients that Native Americans, that Europeans and that their own African heritage brought to create something that’s both new and a combination of known predecessors.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So how does this fit into the big picture of how American cuisine and American restaurants reflect the development of the American economy?

    PAUL FREEDMAN: The black influence on American food is more broad and diverse than just through restaurants. In this case, Sylvia’s is one of a number of restaurants, but also a number of things, facts that affect the development of American food. So black people working in restaurants that were not identified as African-American. Black people who owned businesses. Black people who catered events in the 19th century. The leading caterers of Philadelphia were all African-American. Black people who worked in white people’s kitchens in the South. All of this forms not just what’s been called soul food or African-American food, but the basic kinds of staples of what people eat in the United States.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So fried chicken, barbecued ribs, we think of that as generic American food but that’s initially African-American?

    PAUL FREEDMAN: Yes, and ways of preparing food like barbecue itself. If not invented solely by African-Americans would be inconceivable without the presence of African-Americans. The way of slowly marinating and cooking meat over a slow fire is derived at least in large part from African and African-Americans in this country.

    The post How this Harlem restaurant changed America appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Melania Trump takes the stage after her introduction at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on July 18, 2016. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    Melania Trump takes the stage after her introduction at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on July 18, 2016. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    DES MOINES, Iowa — It will be one of many unusual things about a Donald Trump administration: a long-distance first lady.

    Trump will move into the White House after the Jan. 20 inauguration. Breaking with tradition, Melania Trump and 10-year-old son Barron plan to remain in New York City at least until the end of the school year.

    While the decision sets Melania Trump apart from other first ladies — both Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton moved with school-age children in tow — it seems in character. The former model and naturalized U.S. citizen from Slovenia was an elusive figure during the campaign and had no political experience before her husband’s stunningly successful outsider campaign.

    “We’re in a time when all the molds are being broken,” said Katherine Jellison, head of the history department at Ohio University and an authority on first ladies. “That may be the case where we have a redefining of a role that, after all, isn’t in the Constitution.”

    Trump spokesman Jason Miller cited “sensitivity” about pulling Barron from school midyear. In an interview with US Weekly earlier this year, Melania Trump said: “Barron is the priority for now and he needs me at this age. He needs a parent at home, and I like to keep it as normal as possible.”

    Anita McBride, chief of staff to Laura Bush during her time in the White House, noted that Michelle Obama also weighed delaying her family’s move for similar reasons, but “ultimately made a different decision and one that suited their family.”

    Just how Melania Trump will tackle the White House, and how she will be received by the public, is unclear. The first lady usually serves as the official hostess and typically undertakes some kind of advocacy work. Michelle Obama took on childhood obesity and other projects. But being first lady has no official duties or any clear playbook.

    Married to Donald Trump for nearly 12 years, Melania Trump is his third wife. A U.S. citizen since 2006, she will be only the second first lady born outside the country. Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams, wife of John Quincy Adams, was born in London to an American father and British mother.

    So far, Melania Trump’s few forays into politics have been a mixed success.

    Her speech at the Republican National Convention was widely panned after the discovery of striking similarities of portions of her speech to the one delivered by Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic convention. And she has had to defend her husband against accusations of sexual assault. She has challenged the veracity of reports that he imposed himself on women, despite his boasts in a 2005 video about doing so.

    In the couple’s first post-election interview, on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Melania Trump said: “I will stay true to myself. I’m very strong and tough and confident.”

    For now, McBride said, the professional staff at the White House can do much of the event planning, with the first lady weighing in remotely and traveling down from time to time.

    McBride noted one big event looming: the Governor’s Ball in February, a standing event on the calendar.

    Another possibility is that other family members, like Trump’s daughter Ivanka, could take hostess duties at times. There is plenty of historical precedent for that, according to Jellison. When Jackie Kennedy traveled, President John F. Kennedy’s mother or sisters would fill in. If Bess Truman was home in Missouri, her daughter, Margaret, would play hostess during Harry Truman’s presidency. Julie Nixon sometimes appeared on behalf of her mother, Pat Nixon.

    However the events are organized, Doug Wead, who worked for President George H.W. Bush and wrote a book about presidents’ children, said the Trumps are experts at event planning.

    “You have this unusual situation where you have a president who doesn’t have political experience, but he has business experience. They will know how to entertain,” Wead said.

    In terms of advocacy, Melania Trump has mentioned doing work that addresses bullying — a notable choice given the president-elect’s love of name-calling on social media. It can take some time for the first lady to launch personal projects. Michelle Obama began her “Let’s Move” initiative about a year into her husband’s first term.

    If Melania Trump tries to keep some distance from Washington even after she moves, she wouldn’t be the first presidential spouse seeking space. Bess Truman often fled Washington for her hometown of Independence, Missouri. And Jackie Kennedy liked to travel in Europe.

    “I’m not saying it has always been the case that first ladies and their families loved living in the White House,” Jellison said. “There were many who spent a great deal of time away.”

    The post For now, Melania Trump plans to be long-distance first lady appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump gestures from the front door at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 20, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar - RTSSIJK

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President-elect Donald Trump continues to fill positions in his administration over this Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

    John Yang has more on one with added significance.

    JOHN YANG: To examine the role of the White House counsel and the challenges Donald McGahn faces tackling president-elect Trump’s business holdings, we’re joined by Jack Quinn, who was White House counsel under President Bill Clinton.

    Jack Quinn, welcome.

    JACK QUINN, Former White House Counsel: Thank you, John.

    JOHN YANG: When a White House counsel approaches an issue like figuring out what to do with a president’s business holdings, is the client the president as a individual or the presidency as an institution?

    JACK QUINN: It’s definitely the latter.

    As White House counsel, you represent the office of the president of United States, not the individual, whether it’s Bill Clinton or Donald Trump.

    JOHN YANG: So, in this case, the counsel may be looking at having to tell the president as an individual maybe he can’t do what he wants or maybe what he wants to do isn’t a good idea?

    JACK QUINN: That’s right.

    And the White House counsel is the one who is in a position to invoke executive privilege, for example. A White House counsel cannot participate in a private litigation involving a president in his individual capacity and use that power to influence the outcome of the litigation.

    That would be inappropriate. And while it’s true that the president is exempt in certain senses from the conflict-of-interest rules, as are other federal officials, for good reason, that is not a blank check, so to speak. There are other governors on the conduct of the presidency.

    The president may not accept emoluments, or, in other words, economic benefits, from foreign powers, still has to file disclosure of his financial information, and, most importantly, ultimately, is governed by the impeachment provisions, which enable the Congress to remove a president if he commits high crimes or misdemeanors, which is generally understood to mean an abuse of power.

    JOHN YANG: So, is the standard — the standard is more than just the letter of the law? Is there something broader that a counsel looks at when advising the president on something like the business holdings?

    JACK QUINN: Sure.

    Well, the White House counsel and others need to look not just at the letter of the law, but also at the power of the Congress, which is equally broad, to invoke the impeachment provisions, for example, if a president does abuse the power.

    Remember, the conflict of interest provision simply says you can’t participate in a decision that would affect you or a member of your family financially. It doesn’t mean that you can use the power of government to influence this — to create decisions that would benefit you.

    We’re really in uncharted territory when it comes to that. That’s not to presume that anything of this kind will take place, but this is, as I say, not a blank check. I think it’s an appropriate metaphor in this case.

    JOHN YANG: So, in addition to sort of the ethics questions that the counsel looks at, what other areas in sort of representing the institutional interests of the presidency, what other areas is the White House counsel looking at?

    JACK QUINN: Well, look, ultimately what one wants to do is ensure that the American people have faith in their government, in their president, and everyone who works for their president.

    So it is awfully important that the White House counsel do everything possible to make sure that the appearance of conflict, the appearance of self-dealing is avoided. That’s critically important. As I say, other officials, and the White House counsel and the president himself need to provide that assurance to the American people as well.

    JOHN YANG: You have been — before you held the office, you had been counsel to the vice president, Al Gore at the time. You had experience on the Hill, political campaigns. Is there anything that really can prepare anyone for becoming White House counsel?

    JACK QUINN: No.

    There are so many things that come up in a job like that that — you know, when I walked into the office the first time, I thought there would be volumes on the shelves of prior decisions. It’s not like that at all.

    You do have the Office of Legal Counsel over at the Justice Department that is helpful, and you have a large staff of lawyers who help you do the research necessary to make good decisions. But decisions come up all the time that are novel, that have never come up before.

    And, you know, you have to exercise good judgment, again, remembering all of the time that you’re in a position of sacred trust, as are all the other people around you, and ultimately you have got to make a judgment that is in the interest of the American people and the conduct of good government.

    JOHN YANG: And there is no manual, no handbook.

    JACK QUINN: There is not.

    JOHN YANG: Jack Quinn, thanks so much for joining us.

    JACK QUINN: You’re so welcome.

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    Chemical experts inspect the site of a suicide truck bomb attack, at a petrol station in the city of Hilla, south of Baghdad, Iraq, November 25, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTST9C9

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President-elect Donald Trump has added two more names to his White House staff.

    The announcement came today from Palm Beach, Florida, where Mr. Trump is spending the holiday. Kathleen “KT” McFarland was appointed deputy national security adviser. She’s worked in several Republican administrations and as a FOX News analyst. And Donald McGahn will be White House counsel. He served as the Trump campaign’s attorney. Neither appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.

    In a separate development, Green Party leader Jill Stein filed a petition formally requesting a presidential vote recount in Wisconsin to ensure the results were not manipulated. It is expected to begin late next week. Similar challenges are also being prepared in Pennsylvania and Michigan.

    In the day’s other news: The death toll from a massive truck bombing in Southern Iraq rose to at least 73. At least 40 of the dead were said to be Shiite pilgrims from Iran. The Islamic State claimed that it carried out the suicide attack last night at a gas station near the city of Hillah. It is the worst ISIS attack in Iraq since July.

    A train collision in Northern Iran has killed at least 43 people, and injured 100 more. State TV reports that a moving train derailed and caught fire after striking a parked train on a main rail line. Injured passengers flooded an area hospital in zero — subzero temperatures.

    Firefighters in Israel worked today to contain the worst of more than a dozen wildfires. The largest forced 60,000 people to evacuate around the city of Haifa. Planes dumped retardant today, but it was too late to save hundreds of homes. Meanwhile, police arrested a dozen people, amid allegations of terrorism.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israeli Prime Minister (through translator): There are elements of terror here, no doubt, elements with great hostility toward the state of Israel. We cannot tell yet if this is organized, but we can see a number of cells operating. I don’t know if there is a connection between them, and such a connection isn’t even necessary. It could be a terror of knives, and it could be a terror of fires.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So far, there have been no reports of deaths or serious injuries.

    The president of Turkey threatened today to reopen the flow of Middle Eastern and African migrants into Europe. Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke a day after the European Parliament called for freezing talks to admit Turkey to the European Union. That Parliament vote was aimed at Erdogan’s political and news media crackdown since a failed coup in July.

    In Bulgaria, violent clashes broke out between migrants and police last night, leading to some 400 arrests. Officials said more than 2,000 asylum-seekers rioted after being confined to their camp over a health scare. Demonstrators threw rocks and set trash on fire. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Bulgaria’s prime minister vowed today to punish those responsible.

    BOYKO BORISSOV, Prime Minister, Bulgaria (through translator): We have everything filmed, and all these acts of vandalism committed. All migrants who took part will be charged. A small group will be banned and can immediately be extradited. The others, who all behaved brutally and violated public order, will be relocated to closed-door refugee camps.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, in Greece, two migrants, including a young boy, were killed in a fire at a camp on the island of Lesbos. Police said it was sparked by a gas stove.

    Hurricane Otto weakened to a tropical storm and headed into the Pacific Ocean after crossing Central America. The storm battered Nicaragua and Costa Rica and killed at least nine people. Otto was an unusually strong late-season hurricane. In some places, as much rain fell in a few hours as normally falls in a month.

    Back in this country, a federal judge ruled the man accused of a massacre at a Charleston, South Carolina, church is competent to stand trial. Dylann Roof allegedly killed nine black churchgoers in June of 2015. He faces federal counts of hate crimes and obstruction of religion. He will eventually face a separate trial on state murder charges.

    Wall Street worked a half-day, but hit more record closes, as the post-election rally continued. The Dow Jones industrial average gained almost 69 points to finish at 19152. The Nasdaq rose 18 points, and the S&P 500 added eight. It is up 4 percent this month. For the week, all three indexes grew about 1.5 percent.

    And one of television’s most beloved moms, Florence Henderson, has died in Los Angeles of heart failure. She gained enduring fame as Carol Brady on the 1970s sitcom “The Brady Bunch,” but she also had success on Broadway. Her roles included the female lead in “Oklahoma” and “The Girl Who Came to Supper.”

    Florence Henderson was 82 years old.

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    The Oceti Sakowin camp is seen in the morning shrouded in mist during a protest against the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    The Oceti Sakowin camp is seen in the morning shrouded in mist during a protest against the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a letter Friday announcing its plan to close land that has been the campsite for months-long protests against the North Dakota Access oil pipeline, according to Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

    Protesters, or “water protectors,” were notified that land north of the Cannonball River will be closed on Dec. 5, in roughly 10 days, he said.

    The Oceti Sakowin camp, which rests on the banks of the river, contains a loose collective of tribal nations and out-of-state supporters opposing the 1,172-mile pipeline. The camp is about 45 minutes south of Bismarck, the state capital.

    The chairman said he was “deeply disappointed” by the Army Corps’ decision, “but our resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever.”

    “It is both unfortunate and disrespectful that this announcement comes the day after this country celebrates Thanksgiving — a historic exchange of goodwill between Native Americans and the first immigrants from Europe,” Archambault wrote. “Although the news is saddening, it is not at all surprising given the last 500 years of the mistreatment of our people.”

    The Army Corps did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its supporters have said the $3.7-billion pipeline threatens the reservation’s main water supply and cultural artifacts, all claims the company behind the project, Energy Transfer Partners, has denied.

    Dakota Access Pipeline protesters are seen at the Oceti Sakowin campground near the town of Cannon Ball, North Dakota in an aerial photo provided by the Morton County Sheriff's Department. Photo handout via Reuters.

    Dakota Access Pipeline protesters are seen at the Oceti Sakowin campground near the town of Cannon Ball, North Dakota in an aerial photo provided by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department. Photo handout via Reuters.

    Archambault said the Army Corps closed public access to the land over “safety concerns,” adding that the agency plans to allow a “free-speech zone” south of the Cannonball River.

    Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, posted what appeared to be the Army Corps’ statement on Facebook.

    The decision comes days after law enforcement deployed water hoses, rubber bullets and tear gas against hundreds of unarmed Standing Rock protesters. Camp organizers said more than 300 protesters were injured in Sunday’s standoff, and 26 were hospitalized.

    The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement’s response in the encounter, saying it was a “catastrophe with serious human rights implications.”

    The sheriff’s department defended the decision to douse protesters in freezing temperatures, saying that protesters were “very aggressive.” An initial statement from the department said it was an “ongoing riot.”

    Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren told the NewsHour that the pipeline was built “to have minimal impact to all people concerned,” adding that “we’re building the pipeline.”

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

    New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker on Friday called on Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Department of Justice to investigate tactics that police are using against protesters at Standing Rock.

    “I call on the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to promptly and thoroughly investigate all credible reports of inappropriate police tactics and, if DOJ has not already done so, to send federal monitors to Standing Rock to ensure that protestors can peacefully assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights,” he wrote.

    The post Army Corps issues eviction notice to Standing Rock protest camp, tribe chairman says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Cuban leader Fidel Castro, pictured during a rally in Havana in 1961, came to power in 1959 after an armed guerilla struggle. He died today at age 90. Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images

    Cuban leader Fidel Castro, pictured during a rally in Havana in 1961, came to power in 1959 after an armed guerilla struggle. He died today at age 90. Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images

    Fidel Castro, the fiery communist politician and Cuban revolutionary who led his country for almost half a century, has died, the Associated Press reported. His health had been deteriorating since 2006, when he suffered from intestinal bleeding. He was 90 years old.

    By 1959, Castro had established the first communist state in the Western hemisphere. He had been revered as a savior by many across the country, and yet Human Rights Watch listed Castro’s Cuba as a gross violator of basic and free standards of living. Regardless of how Castro was perceived in his life, he leaves behind a legacy of shaping the history of a small Latin American country in its fight for an identity, and its struggle in standing up against the greatest superpower on Earth.

    Castro’s revolutionary spirit had its beginnings when he was a law student at the University of Havana. It was there that his interest in politics began.

    In 1952, the young and enthusiastic lawyer ran for election to the Cuban House of Representatives. But the election never took place. Fulgencio Batista, the former president of the country, staged a coup with the backing of the army, and seized power that March. For Castro, this was the moment he realized an uprising was imminent.

    But before Castro’s revolution was to take hold, there was another Latin American figure he’d befriend who would help shape rebellion in Cuba and across the region — the Argentinian doctor, Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

    Fidel Castro, right, and Ernesto “Che” Guevara in a picture taken in the early 1960s. Photo by OFF/AFP/Getty Images

    Fidel Castro, right, and Ernesto “Che” Guevara in a picture taken in the early 1960s. Photo by OFF/AFP/Getty Images

    With Che by his side and a small rebel army backing them, the revolutionaries descended from their stronghold in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, and took on Batista’s U.S.-backed forces. Castro was able to topple the right-wing dictator on Jan. 1, 1959, after Batista had ruled in and out of power for 25 years.

    The scene on the streets of Havana just a week later was one of jubilation, as Castro and his brigade rolled into the capital atop tanks and trucks. Thousands of Cubans met them, cheering and waving flags from cars and from balconies.

    For Castro, the revolution meant a distinct reordering of society. Through what’s known as the Agrarian Reform Laws, he redistributed land to the peasants that worked them. He placed an emphasis on health care, education, housing and road-building in rural areas.

    Then, in 1960, he ordered all U.S.-owned companies in Cuba to be nationalized without compensation. They included oil refineries, factories and casinos. Everywhere around the country, U.S. flags were taken down, and signs for corporations were replaced with the stamp of the Cuban government. Angered by this move, the United States government decided to retaliate, in the form of a trade embargo, which lasted more than five decades.

    Castro’s stated goal was simple: to resist against the “imperial” world, and infuse a sense of nationalism across all aspects of Cuban life. But along the way, he compromised civil liberties, forcing many Cubans to flee the country, and head north, to Miami. The country has long been criticized for its human rights abuses of anyone opposing the government since Castro assumed power, including arbitrary imprisonment, unfair trials and extrajudicial execution. In addition to these abuses, civil liberties in the country were almost nonexistent during Castro’s tenure, with severe limitations on freedom of the press, religion and general political dissent.

    In 1985, the NewsHour’s Robert MacNeil sat down to speak with President Castro. He pressed Castro on the restrictions placed on society, the cracking down of political dissidents, and the lack of a free press.

    [Watch Video]

    “Well, you are right,” Castro admitted. “We do not have a press system like that of the United States. In the United States, there is private property over the mass media. The mass media belongs to private enterprises. They are the ones who say the last word. Here, there is no private property over the mass media. There is social property. And it has been, is, and will be at the service of the revolution.”

    But the U.S. blockade crippled Cuba’s economy. In order for the regime to stay afloat, Castro developed an alliance with America’s superpower rival, the Soviet Union – distancing his country even more from the U.S., and leading American President Dwight D. Eisenhower to sever all links with Cuba.

    Still, Castro stood firm in his opposition of the States.

    [Watch Video]

    “We are a small country,” Castro told MacNeil in 1985. “But we are also a country with a lot of dignity, and no one can suppose that we would beg the United States for an improvement of relations. We have never done so, and we shall never do it.”

    Castro’s persistently defiant attitude, along with a deteriorating Cuban economy and the continued repression of political dissidents, led to a mass exodus of Cubans following the 1959 revolution.

    On April 17, 1961, America’s new president, John F. Kennedy, administered a covert CIA operation commonly known as “The Bay of Pigs” invasion — in which 1,200 Cuban exiles were trained as an army to invade Cuba and conduct an armed overthrow of Castro.

    But the small, counter-revolutionary force was no match for Castro’s supporters, who rallied to counter the invasion. It turned out to be a disaster and an embarrassment for the new Kennedy administration, and Cuba’s revolutionary spirit was nourished yet again.

    One of the first images of missile bases under construction shown to President Kennedy on the morning of October 16, 1962. Image from the The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

    One of the first images of missile bases under construction shown to President Kennedy on the morning of October 16, 1962. Image from the The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

    The U.S. and Cuba hit another contentious point the following year, after it was discovered that Castro had secretly allowed the Soviets to build sites for nuclear missiles, leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

    The CIA made several other attempts at Castro’s life, following the Bay of Pigs Invasion. But none were successful, and Castro’s revolutionary fervor remained strong throughout the years.

    Castro was one of many international political figures who, following the global shifts of World War II, threw themselves into spurring movements for justice and an egalitarian society. And despite his adamantly enforced Marxist-Leninist ideals and dictatorial style of government that suppressed so many who opposed him, his popularity remained high throughout his reign.

    Hugo Chavez, President of Venzuela, embraces Fidel Castro after Chavez spoke in Havana in February 2006. Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo Photography/Getty Images

    Hugo Chavez, President of Venzuela, embraces Fidel Castro after Chavez spoke in Havana in February 2006. Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo Photography/Getty Images

    But after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of Soviet aid, the continued economic crisis in Cuba was hard on even those who supported Castro. It forced him to seek aid elsewhere, and forge alliances with other leaders in Latin America, namely with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales.

    In 2008, after almost 50 years as the head of his nation and amid deteriorating health, Castro passed the role of president onto his younger brother, Raul Castro, who remains in power today.

    It was not until December 2014 that the U.S.-enforced restrictions on Cuba were finally lifted.

    Fidel Castro in 1977 in Havana. Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

    Fidel Castro in 1977 in Havana. Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

    “These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked,” President Obama told the American people. “It’s time for a new approach.”

    This momentous development has meant expanding economic ties with Cuba, and easing travel restrictions. Washington has reopened the U.S. Embassy in Havana and taken other steps to bolster ties, including a prisoner swap between the two countries. In July, the U.S. government approved scheduled commercial airline service to Havana from 10 American cities, further bridging the gulf.

    In his final years, Castro rarely appeared in public. He assumed the role of an elder statesman, completely removing himself from any official role in Cuba’s government. After President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba in March 2016, Castro penned a letter publicly criticizing the U.S. president. Obama did not meet with the former Cuban leader during his three-day visit to the island nation.

    On Saturday, he issued a statement offering condolences and support while acknowledging discord, saying that for nearly six decades the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba was marked by “profound disagreements.”

    “During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends – bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity,” he said. “In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”

    Donald Trump reacted to Castro’s death on Twitter.

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    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump gestures from the front door at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 20, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar - RTSSIJK

    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump gestures from the front door at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Nov. 20, 2016. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    MADISON, Wis. — His inauguration less than eight weeks away, President-elect Donald Trump was confronted by new developments Saturday in recount efforts in three states pivotal to his Nov. 8 victory, even as he worked to fill foreign policy and national defense jobs in his incoming administration.

    The New York billionaire, whose defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton surprised even some loyalists, has scrambled to fill his Cabinet as the Jan. 20 inauguration approaches. Still, in many ways, he has barely scratched the surface of creating the massive team needed to run the government.

    Experts say presidential transitions are periods of great vulnerability for the nation, and among the vacancies on the Trump team are leaders of the departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security.

    Trump, who has virtually no experience in foreign affairs, offered a one-line tweet Saturday morning in reaction to the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro — “Fidel Castro is dead!” — before issuing a more detailed statement.

    “While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve,” Trump said.

    His transition team did not immediately respond to requests to clarify his Cuba policy, which was inconsistent during the campaign.

    Also Saturday, Clinton’s camp said it was supporting Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s push to force recounts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania in Michigan. Trump narrowly carried those Democratic strongholds.

    Clinton leads the national popular vote by close to 2 million votes, but Trump won 290 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232, with Michigan still too close to call. It takes 270 to win the presidency.

    Wisconsin officials are moving forward with the first presidential recount in state history following Stein’s formal request. Stein, who drew 1 percent of the vote nationally, is raising millions of dollars to pay for the effort.

    “Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology, we had not planned to exercise this option ourselves,” Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias wrote Saturday in blog post. “But now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides.”

    Elias said Clinton would take the same approach in Pennsylvania and Michigan if Stein were to follow through with recount requests those states, even though that was highly unlikely to change the election outcome.

    “Regardless of the potential to change the outcome in any of the states, we feel it is important, on principle, to ensure our campaign is legally represented in any court proceedings and represented on the ground in order to monitor the recount process itself,” Elias wrote.

    Trump was spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with family at his Palm Beach estate, Mar-a-Lago. On Friday, he named Fox News analyst Kathleen Troia “KT” McFarland as deputy national security adviser and appointed campaign attorney Donald McGahn as White House counsel.

    McFarland has worked for three presidents, although none since Ronald Reagan. Fox News said Saturday that her contract has been terminated in light of the appointment.

    Trump planned to return to his New York home on Sunday ahead of a series of Monday meetings with prospective administration hires, including Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. He’s seen as a possible Homeland Security pick. Clarke’s vocal opposition to the “Black Lives Matter” movement has made him popular with many conservatives.

    Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence also have Monday meetings scheduled with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., former Security and Exchange Commission commissioner Paul Atkins, World Wide Technology chairman David Steward and General Growth Properties CEO Sandeep Mathrani.

    Internal divisions over his choice for secretary of state have delayed that critical decision. The options include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who lacks foreign policy experience, but was intensely loyal to Trump, and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who aggressively opposed Trump’s candidacy but is largely regarded as more qualified. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker is also a possibility.

    With the world’s attention on Cuba on Saturday, Trump indicated his administration would do “all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty.”

    During the campaign, Trump initially suggested he supported President Barack Obama’s moves to loosen the U.S. trade embargo. Trump reversed himself less than a month before the election, and said he would reverse Obama unless Cuba met demands including “religious and political freedom for the Cuban people and the freeing of political prisoners.”

    His Saturday statement offered no more clarity.

    The post With recounts looming, Trump adds new administration picks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican Donald Trump delivers remarks at the Shale Insight energy conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo - RTX2TIKE

    Republican Donald Trump delivers remarks at the Shale Insight energy conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. September 22, 2016. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/File Photo/Reuters

    ATLANTA — Donald Trump’s disavowal this week of white supremacists who have cheered his election as president hasn’t quieted concerns about the movement’s impact on his White House or whether more acts of hate will be carried out in his name.

    Members of the self-declared “alt-right” have exulted over the Nov. 8 results with public cries of “Hail Trump!” and reprises of the Nazi salute. The Ku Klux Klan plans to mark Trump’s victory with a parade next month in North Carolina. Civil rights advocates have recoiled, citing an uptick in harassment and incidents of hate crimes affecting African-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Muslims, Latinos, gays, lesbians and other minority groups since the vote.

    The president-elect has drawn repeated criticism for being slow to offer his condemnation of white supremacists. His strongest denunciation of the movement has not come voluntarily, only when asked, and he occasionally trafficked in retweets of racist social media posts during his campaign.

    Further, Trump has named Stephen Bannon, the conservative media provocateur who shaped the final months of Trump’s campaign, as a White House chief strategist who will work steps from the Oval Office. Bannon’s appointment has become as a flashpoint for both sides.

    Trump’s detractors and his “alt-right” supporters broadly agree on one thing: It may not even matter what Trump himself believes, or how he defines his own ideology, because his campaign rhetoric has emboldened the white identity politics that will help define his administration.

    “Those groups clearly see something and hear something that causes them to believe he is one who sympathizes with their voice and their view. … Donald Trump has to take responsibility for that,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, a black Democrat. He was among 169 members of Congress who signed a letter opposing Bannon’s White House appointment.

    White nationalist leader Richard Spencer said he believes Trump, Bannon and the “alt-right” are “all riding in the same lane.” Spencer explained that neither Trump nor Bannon is a movement “identitarian,” Spencer’s preferred term for his racially driven politics. But Spencer said Trump’s election validates Spencer’s view that America must reject multiculturalism and “political correctness” in favor of its white, Christian European heritage.

    [Watch Video]

    Spencer’s group, the National Policy Institute, drew headlines for their recent gathering where some attendees mimicked the Nazi salute as they feted Trump. Spencer told The Associated Press the salutes were “ironic exuberance” that “the mainstream media doesn’t get.”

    READ NEXT: Nazi salutes ‘done in a spirit of irony and exuberance,’ alt-right leader says

    But at the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks incidents of anti-Semitism, Oren Segal said it is part of a disturbing postelection atmosphere tied to Trump’s 17-month campaign.

    Before, Segal said, it wasn’t “surprising” for the ADL to get calls about a swastika, the Nazi insignia, defacing public or private property. “What’s surprising now,” he said, “are the references to the campaign” in the incidences. “‘Make American White Again’ … ‘Go Trump’ with the swastika,” he said. “That is unique.”

    Trump was asked about the rash of incidents during a postelection interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” Trump said he was “saddened,” and he looked into the camera and said, “Stop it.” But Trump has steadfastly defended his hiring of Bannon, who previously led Breitbart News and in July described it as a “platform for the alt-right” — just a month before he took the job running the Republican nominee’s campaign.

    Jared Taylor, editor of the white supremacist magazine “American Renaissance,” said Trump bears some responsibility for his pitched rhetoric, which included describing Mexican immigrants as “rapists” at the outset of his campaign and proposing a ban on all Muslim immigrants. But Taylor said Trump is still unfairly maligned as a white supremacist and racist because he “cares about Americans already here.”

    But white supremacist imagery was a common sight at Trump rallies. Pepe the frog, a cartoon character appropriated by the white supremacist movement on social media, appeared on dozens of T-shirts and signs. The “Make America Great Again” motto was seen by some as a call back to the nation’s simpler, whiter, past. While the businessman’s campaign never actively courted votes from the movement, it did recognize the long-term fears that some whites feel about immigration.

    Taylor insisted, “There’s nothing Ku Klux Klan about any of this.”

    But, in fact, Trump drew Klan backing.

    As part of his prolific Twitter use, he has retweeted white nationalist accounts and a famous quote of Benito Mussolini, the 20th century fascist leader of Italy, saying “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.” In February, Trump declined to repudiate former Klan leader David Duke during a CNN interview. Afterward, Trump blamed the move on a faulty earpiece, only to come back days later and offer an explicit condemnation.

    He has several times fallen back on the excuse of merely retweeting when asked about his controversial social media behavior. In February, he retweeted a message from the account of a neo-Nazi, which came shortly after he retweeted false crime statistics that dramatically overstated the number of whites killed by blacks.

    “Bill, am I gonna check every statistic?” he asked Fox News host Bill O’Reilly at the time. “All it was is a retweet. It wasn’t from me.”

    While Trump is quick to blast his foes on Twitter — in recent days that includes The New York Times and the cast of the Broadway musical “Hamilton” — he has yet to proactively condemn racist acts his win has inspired. His eldest son, Don Jr., has used Twitter to liken Syrian refugees to a poisoned bowl of Skittles candy, and he has posted images of Pepe. And Trump’s rise to political celebrity came as he peddled the falsehood that the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama, was born in Africa, not in the United States.

    In an interview Tuesday with The New York Times, Trump did denounce the white supremacist movement when asked, saying “I condemn them. I disavow, and I condemn.” But he has yet to convene the traditional news conference held by a president-elect in the days after winning where he could potentially face more pointed questions about it.

    The ADL’s Segal called Trump’s answers when questioned an important step to “allay any illusions” white supremacists have about their place in a Trump administration.

    But Ben Jealous, a former national president of the NAACP, went a step further, saying Trump should “pull a George Wallace.” The segregationist Alabama governor ran for president on white identity politics but years later publicly apologized for his views.

    Trump “shouldn’t just disavow the worst behavior of others,” Jealous said, “but take accountability for the worst behavior he’s engaged in him himself.”

    Lemire reported from New York.

    The post Trump disavowal of white supremacists doesn’t quiet concerns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People celebrate the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, in Little Havana, Miami, Florida, U.S. November 26, 2016.  REUTERS/Gaston De Cardenas  - RTSTDCS

    People celebrate the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, in Little Havana, Miami, Florida, on Nov. 26, 2016. Photo by Gaston De Cardenas/Reuters

    The streets of Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood were celebrating early Saturday morning the death of Fidel Castro, a Cuban revolutionary whose dictatorial style defined Cuban politics for nearly 50 years and triggered mass waves of migration to the U.S.

    Cuban President Raul Castro announced his brother’s death on Cuban state television just after 12 a.m. EDT. Following the announcement, at least a thousand people filled Calle Ocho near “iconic exile hangout” Versailles Cuban restaurant, the Miami Herald reported. They marched, banged pots and pans, danced and chanted, “Cuba si! Castro no!” Others gathered in Hialeah and and Kendall in Miami-Dade County.

    Since the Castro-led communist revolution in Cuba toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, several waves of Cuban migration have formed a strong community in Miami. Some of the first arrivals in 1959 were exiled Batista supporters, followed by Cubans who saw their property confiscated under Castro’s rule.

    Over the years, as Cuba’s economy deteriorated, political dissidents faced harsh punishment and repressed political freedoms forced thousands more Cubans to flee to the U.S., many of them settling in Miami.

    People celebrate after the announcement of the death of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, in the Little Havana district of Miami, Florida, U.S. November 26, 2016. REUTERS/Javier Galeano - RTSTCUX

    Celebrations continue in Miami, Florida, on Nov. 26, 2016. Photo by Javier Galeano/Reuters

    Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, who was born in Cuba, joined the crowd outside Versailles restaurant. “I think what’s happening right now is a sign of solidarity with the people of Cuba,” he told the Miami Herald.

    Reporters tweeted from the scene of the celebrations.

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

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

    “After decades of oppression, the Cuban people deserve freedom, peace and democracy. I have met so many Cubans who have come to Florida to flee the tyranny, brutality, and communism of the Castro brothers’ oppressive regime,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement.

    Castro will be cremated and mourned for nine days in Cuba, with an official funeral scheduled for Dec. 4 in Santiago de Cuba.

    See more photos from celebrations in Miami below.

    People celebrate the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, in Little Havana, Miami, Florida, U.S. November 26, 2016.  REUTERS/Gaston De Cardenas  - RTSTDC8

    Cubans gather in Miami, Florida, on Nov. 26, 2016. Photo by Gaston De Cardenas/Reuters

    People celebrate after the announcement of the death of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro in the Little Havana district of Miami, Florida, U.S. November 26, 2016. REUTERS/Javier Galeano - RTSTDDB

    People celebrate after the announcement of the death of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro in the Little Havana district of Miami, Florida, on November 26, 2016. Photo by Javier Galeano/Reuters

    Cubans in Miami celebrate the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Little Havana, Miami, Florida, U.S. November 26, 2016.  REUTERS/Gaston De Cardenas - RTSTD8R

    People dance in the streets in Miami, Florida, on Nov. 26, 2016. Photo by Gaston De Cardenas/Reuters

    People celebrate the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, in Little Havana, Miami, Florida, U.S. November 26, 2016.  REUTERS/Gaston De Cardenas  - RTSTDBJ

    Celebrations follow the death of Fidel Castro in Little Havana, Miami, Florida, on Nov. 26, 2016. Photo by Gaston De Cardenas/Reuters

    People celebrate after the announcement of the death of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro in the Little Havana district of Miami, Florida, U.S. November 26, 2016. REUTERS/Javier Galeano - RTSTDDG

    People celebrate after the announcement of the death of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro in the Little Havana district of Miami, Florida, U.S. November 26, 2016. Photo by Javier Galeano/Reuters

    The post Exuberant Cubans in Miami flood streets, celebrate Castro’s death appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An eyeball with whole attached optic nerve of a rat in the lab of Dr. Kia Washington, a plastic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center pioneering the research into whole eye transplants. Photo by Jeff Swensen for STAT News

    An eyeball with whole attached optic nerve of a rat in the lab of Dr. Kia Washington, a plastic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center pioneering the research into whole eye transplants. Photo by Jeff Swensen/STAT News

    PITTSBURGH — Scientists have strived for successful eye transplants for centuries. Early attempts read like the diary of Mary Shelley: implanting a dog’s eye into a rat’s groin, transplanting a rat’s eye onto the neck of another rat, plucking the eye of a sheep from one socket and placing it into the other.

    But never has a whole-eye transplant been successfully done in a living person. The eye’s complex web of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves — connected directly to the brain — has doomed past experiments to failure.

    Now a team of Pittsburgh transplant surgeons aims to turn that tide, and they’re hopeful they can do so in just the next decade, using donor eyes to restore sight in people who have suffered traumatic eye injuries.

    “I’m hopeful that in 10 years we will be doing eye transplants in humans,” said Dr. Kia Washington, plastic surgeon at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and head of the research team. “There are people who are very skeptical, obviously, for obvious reasons. It is kind of a moonshot.”

    And it’s a moonshot that’s of special interest to the Department of Defense, which is the main funder of the project. Traumatic eye injuries are the fourth most common combat wound for American soldiers. Counting both soldiers and civilians, nearly 1 million Americans are living with impaired vision due to eye injury. With donor eyes, Washington and her colleagues believe, many could one day see again.

    PITTSBURGH- November 16: Dr.Kia Washington, a plastic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center pioneering the research into whole eye transplants,in her lab in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Jeff Swensen for STAT News)

    PITTSBURGH- November 16: Dr.Kia Washington, a plastic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center pioneering the research into whole eye transplants,in her lab in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Jeff Swensen/STAT News

    Suturing sight

    The first reported eye transplant attempts in animals began in the 19th century and peaked during World War II. As recently as 1977, a task force at the National Eye Institute concluded, after thoughtful laboratory investigation, that whole eye transplants could not be successful. These experiments were plagued with issues of immune rejection, inadequate blood flow, and lack of nerve function.

    If the transplanted eye is ever to see, nerve connections are essential — and also the most complicated part of an eye transplant. The optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, is part of the central nervous system, along with the brain and spinal cord. While nerves elsewhere in the body — say, those in the fingers, or on the scalp — survive injury and regenerate easily, the central nervous system is not so resilient.

    But Washington and team have begun to crack the code of the optic nerve, keeping its cells alive outside the body and coaxing it to regrow in a donor animal.

    And recent decades have seen tremendous advances in other aspects of transplant medicine, including immunosuppressive drugs and microsurgical techniques, Washington said, which have allowed transplants that were previously impossible.

    “Ten years, 20 years before hand transplantation occurred, there was a lot of skepticism and simply the technology wasn’t there,” Washington said. “You can argue the same thing with eye transplantation.”

    The team took a major step forward last month with a paper showing the successful transplant of a rat’s eye into another rat, including joining the optic nerves. The organ was healthy and alive up to two years later. The next stage, with the DoD funding, is to regenerate the nerves to actually restore sight in rodents, primates, and, eventually, people.

    “The development of the rat [eye and partial face transplant] model, by Kia, is a huge advancement in being able to conduct the complex science needed to successfully transplant a whole eye,” said Rob Nickells, a collaborator with Washington who is a professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at University of Wisconsin. “I would confidently say that given success of the [nerve] questions, she will be the first surgeon to accomplish this feat.”

    PITTSBURGH- November 16: An ERG machine used to check nerve viability in transplanted rat eyes in the lab of Dr. Kia Washington, a plastic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center pioneering the research into whole eye transplants.(Jeff Swensen for STAT News)

    PITTSBURGH- November 16: An ERG machine used to check nerve viability in transplanted rat eyes in the lab of Dr. Kia Washington, a plastic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center pioneering the research into whole eye transplants. Photo by Jeff Swensen/STAT News

    A question of nerve

    The key to these eye transplants, team members say, is the problem of the delicate optic nerve. The first hurdle was simply keeping the nerve alive.

    “Just harvesting an eye for transplant is telling all the [optic nerve] cells that they’ve gotta die,” Nickells said.

    In tests on mice, Nickells zeroed in on the BAX gene, a key player that orchestrates cell death. In 2010, he discovered that mice without this gene didn’t lose any of their optic nerve cells after injury, even years later — whereas in a normal mouse all of the cells were dead within three weeks.

    Since then, Nickells has been working on how gene expression — not just the mere presence of BAX or other genes — impacts neuron survival. In the future, he plans to begin searching for a drug candidate that could block BAX, which could theoretically be added to the solution that preserves the donor eye until it can be transferred to its recipient.

    The second hurdle, after keeping the cells alive, is actually spurring the nerve to grow. The donor nerve can’t simply join together with the recipient stump, but instead has to regrow all the way from the eye to the brain. In an adult, nerve cells lack this ability for growth, but Harvard Medical School professor of neurology Zhigang He has been working with Washington to try to turn back the clock.

    “We need to find a way to reprogram old neurons to be young neurons,” He said. “Adult neurons don’t have growth ability. Somehow we have to make them able to regrow.”

    In January, He and his team published a paper showing that a novel drug cocktail can do exactly that in mice. The drug disables a tumor suppression pathway and allows neurons to grow. When researchers cut the optic tract just outside the brain, the nerve regrew to bridge the gap within 28 days.

    But could the mice actually see? To answer this question, eight weeks after injury the researchers showed the mice a rotating drum painted with vertical black and white stripes. A normal mouse naturally turns its head to follow the stripes. The mice with regenerated nerves didn’t budge, indicating that they couldn’t see.

    He realized that this failure to restore sight happened because the freshly grown nerves differed in a key way from normal nerves: They lacked insulation, so electrical signals from the eye diminished before reaching the brain.

    This, He knew, is the exact same problem as is seen in the nerves of people with multiple sclerosis. So the researchers gave these same mice the MS drug 4-AP, and three hours later tested them again. Suddenly the animals started moving their heads in response to the rotating drum. Blind mice could once again see.

    PITTSBURGH- November 16: Dri Kia Washington  and Dr. Chiaki Komatsu , plastic surgeons at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center pioneering the research into whole eye transplants, inspect an eye and optic nerve of a rat in their lab. (Jeff Swensen for STAT News)

    PITTSBURGH- November 16: Dri Kia Washington and Dr. Chiaki Komatsu , plastic surgeons at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center pioneering the research into whole eye transplants, inspect an eye and optic nerve of a rat in their lab. Photo by Jeff Swensen/STAT News

    Seeing the future

    Accomplishing a similar feat in humans could be possible within 10 years, said Stanford associate professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology Andrew Huberman, who is not involved with Washington’s research. But he says that it’s a route that makes less sense than using newer additions to the biomedical toolkit.

    “I don’t think we’re just going to take an eye from a recently deceased person and put it on someone else … and that person’s going to see,” Huberman said. “I think it’s going to be a combination of biologics and engineering” — like, for instance, combining a donor eye with neural stem cells.

    If scientists were able to grow a new retina on the donor eye from stem cells, Huberman said, those fresh retinal neurons might more easily grow projections that can stretch all the way to the brain.

    Regardless of the approach, many challenges lie ahead. Nickells has been working with mice whose optic nerves were crushed, so it remains to be seen whether the same principles will work when the nerve is cut. And He’s team has been able to regrow the rodent optic nerve at most 1 centimeter; by comparison, the distance from the eye to the brain in a human is a chasm.

    For Washington, the next steps involve finding noninvasive ways to monitor possible rejection of the donor eye in both rats and primates. This will prevent her from having to biopsy the eye to look for rejection, which is the standard way to monitor other kinds of transplants. Once she identifies rejection, she wants to see how the eye responds to the standard immunosuppressive drugs.

    The first human recipients of whole eye transplants, Washington predicts, will be those already slated for a face transplant. Many of these patients are blind and will have to take immunosuppressive drugs regardless, so the risk versus reward ratio of transplanting the eye is very low.

    And despite the hurdles ahead, Washington believes transplantation is the best way forward in treating vision loss from eye injury. “Particularly in the traumatic setting, it’s really about being able to restore form and function combined in one procedure.”

    Erin Hare is a freelance science writer in her final year of a neuroscience PhD program at the University of Pittsburgh. This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Nov. 23, 2016. Find the original story here.

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

    President-elect Donald Trump. Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    NEW YORK — President-elect Donald Trump looked at hundreds of marble samples before selecting one for the lobby of Trump Tower. He can recall, in painstaking detail even decades later, how he stood in the cold and oversaw the ice-making process at Central Park’s rink. And, during the campaign, he personally reviewed every single campaign ad, rejecting some over the smallest of perceived flaws.

    The hands-on, minutiae-obsessed management style that Trump has relied on for decades in the business world will now be tested by the presidency, an overwhelming job in which his predecessor says only the most challenging decisions even make it to the Oval Office.

    “Somebody noted to me that by the time something reaches my desk, that means it’s really hard,” President Barack Obama has said. “Because if it were easy, somebody else would have made the decision and somebody else would have solved it.”

    The president-elect, at times, has been reluctant to delegate. But while his multinational business is indeed vast, the scope of the federal government exceeds any of his previous endeavors.

    Those close to him are gently suggesting that he will have to do some more delegating given the sheer volume of decisions needed to get his administration up and running, according to a person familiar with private discussions but not authorized to speak about them by name. Trump has chafed at that, but he has signaled willingness to relinquish some personal control.

    [Watch Video]

    Over his career, Trump has been highly involved with the decisions he cares deeply about. When building Trump Tower, the Manhattan skyscraper he calls home, he settled upon a rare marble, Breccia Pernice, for the building’s lobby.

    But when he inspected the pieces that had been tagged for use, he found some blemishes — prompting a personal trip to Italy.

    “So we ended up going to the quarry with black tape and marking off the slabs that were the best,” Trump wrote in his 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal.” ”The rest we just scrapped — maybe 60 percent of the total. By the time we finished, we’d taken the whole top of the mountain and used up much of the quarry.”

    At the New York State Republican Dinner in April, Trump stood in front of a group of tuxedo-clad, moneyed, Manhattan peers, confidently pointing out the details in the Grand Hyatt hotel ballroom’s ceiling, remembering how he oversaw the construction process. He then recalled his push to fix Central Park’s Wollman Rink, going into remarkable detail about the contract negotiations, the depth of the concrete, the need to switch from copper piping to rubber hose to keep the ice frozen, and even the conversation he had with the Montreal Canadiens’ head ice-maker to make sure the process went smoothly.

    “I hope that’s an interesting story,” Trump told the crowd. “Who the hell wants to talk about politics all the time, right? Politics gets a little boring!”

    But Trump almost certainly won’t be able to exert that same of control over his new employees: The federal workforce is more than 2 million people.

    Obama frequently cites an observation by his first defense secretary, Robert Gates: “One thing you should know, Mr. President, is that any given moment, on any given day, somebody in the federal government is screwing up.” While Obama praises federal workers, he adds: “Even if you’re firing at a 99.9 percent success rate, that still leaves a lot of opportunity for things not to go as planned.”

    Other aspects of Trump’s management style may also not easily translate to the White House. His inner circle is famously small, consisting of longtime allies and his grown children, and his first key West Wing hires — chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen Bannon — bring no policy experience to their new roles.

    Trump works long hours and expects those around him to do so as well. He can be quiet and disengaged in discussions about subjects with which he is unfamiliar but is prone to flash his temper and bark at aides. He is also known to go with his gut, is often swayed on positions by the last person he spoke to, and sometimes swoops in late and orders a change in plans, blowing up a travel schedule or policy rollout.

    Aides also often float suggestions to him through the media, knowing that Trump is a voracious watcher of cable TV and might be persuaded by what he sees and hears.

    Trump, whose TV catchphrase was “You’re fired,” is prone to pitting staffers against each other in both the business world and during his insurgent campaign. Over the summer, he hired Paul Manafort to prepare for the GOP’s convention and watched as staffers loyal to his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, repeatedly clashed with Manafort’s allies. Lewandowski lost the power struggle and was fired. Later, Manafort was dismissed, too, replaced by Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

    Trump, in his 2004 book “How to Get Rich,” described his intense, loyalty-driven style. “I rely on a few key people to keep me informed,” he wrote. “They know I trust them, and they do their best to keep that trust intact.”

    AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.

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    U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) takes part in a news conference after a meeting with representatives from the Chambers Senators and Deputies of Mexico, in Mexico City, Mexico, May 2, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido - RTX2CIJQ

    U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) takes part in a news conference after a meeting with representatives from the Chambers Senators and Deputies of Mexico, in Mexico City, Mexico, May 2, 2016. Photo by Edgard Garrido/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi moved Friday to broaden her leadership team by naming three junior lawmakers to chair the party’s messaging arm.

    Pelosi also named two-term California colleague Eric Swalwell to co-chair the panel responsible for making committee assignments.

    The announcement comes days before a leadership election in which Pelosi is being challenged by Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan for the party post she has held since 2002.

    Pelosi is likely to retain her post, but Friday’s moves come amid restiveness in the Democratic caucus, especially among junior members, after the elections.

    “This team of new and experienced leaders is dedicated to working with their entire caucus to make the future better for the American people,” Pelosi said in a statement.

    The core of Pelosi’s leadership team will remain in place, including 77-year-old Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, 76. Elderly Democrats also remain atop several important committees.

    Pelosi has named Illinois’ Cheri Bustos, New York’s Hakeem Jeffries and Pennsylvania’s Matt Cartwright to the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, noting they would take a role in fighting GOP proposals to cut Medicare. They would replace Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., who is retiring.

    Pelosi also is retaining Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., as chairman of the campaign and fundraising arm for House Democrats. Rep. John Yarmouth will replace Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., as the top Democrat on the Budget Committee.

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    U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton attend campaign events in Hershey, Pennsylvania, November 4, 2016 (L) and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 22, 2016 in a combination of file photos.   REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/Carlos Barria/Files - RTX2SE03

    President-elect Donald Trump and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters – RTX2SE03

    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.– President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday condemned a growing push to force recounts in three states pivotal to his Nov. 8 victory, confronting the Green Party-backed effort for the first time even as he worked to address key Cabinet vacancies.

    The New York billionaire, who charged the election was “rigged” on a daily basis before his victory, called the developing recount effort “a scam” in a statement released by his transition team.

    Trump had been ignoring Green Party nominee Jill Stein’s fight to revisit vote totals in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Wisconsin officials announced late Friday they are moving forward with the first presidential recount in state history.

    “The people have spoken and the election is over,” Trump declared Saturday. He added, “We must accept this result and then look to the future.”

    At the same time, Trump was scrambling to address unfilled administration jobs, having barely scratched the surface of creating the massive team needed to run the government before his Jan. 20 inauguration.

    Experts say presidential transitions are periods of great vulnerability for the nation, and among the vacancies on the Trump team are leaders of the departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security.

    Trump, who has virtually no experience in foreign affairs, offered a one-line tweet Saturday morning in reaction to the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro – “Fidel Castro is dead!” – before issuing a more detailed statement.

    “While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve,” Trump said.

    His transition team did not respond to requests to clarify his Cuba policy, which was inconsistent during the campaign.

    The incoming president paid little if any attention Stein’s recount push, but Democratic rival Hillary Clinton forced his hand on Saturday by formally joining the effort. Stein, who drew 1 percent of the vote nationally, is raising millions of dollars to fund the recounts.

    “Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology, we had not planned to exercise this option ourselves,” Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias wrote Saturday in blog post. “But now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides.”

    Elias said Clinton would take the same approach in Pennsylvania and Michigan if Stein were to follow through with recount requests those states, even though that was highly unlikely to change the election outcome.

    “Regardless of the potential to change the outcome in any of the states, we feel it is important, on principle, to ensure our campaign is legally represented in any court proceedings and represented on the ground in order to monitor the recount process itself,” Elias wrote.

    Clinton leads the national popular vote by close to 2 million votes, but Trump won 290 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232, with Michigan still too close to call. It takes 270 to win the presidency.

    Trump, who repeatedly challenged the integrity of the U.S. election system before his win, called the recount push “a scam by the Green Party for an election that has already been conceded.”

    “The results of this election should be respected instead of being challenged and abused, which is exactly what Jill Stein is doing,” he said in the statement, which didn’t mention Clinton’s involvement.

    Trump was spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with family at his Palm Beach estate, Mar-a-Lago. He had planned to focus on filling key administration posts over the working vacation. On Friday, he named Fox News analyst Kathleen Troia “KT” McFarland as deputy national security adviser and appointed campaign attorney Donald McGahn as White House counsel.

    McFarland has worked for three presidents, although none since Ronald Reagan. Fox News said Saturday that her contract has been terminated in light of the appointment.

    Trump planned to return to his New York home on Sunday ahead of a series of Monday meetings with prospective administration hires, including Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. He’s seen as a possible Homeland Security pick. Clarke’s vocal opposition to the “Black Lives Matter” movement has made him popular with many conservatives.

    Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence also have Monday meetings scheduled with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., former Security and Exchange Commission commissioner Paul Atkins, World Wide Technology chairman David Steward and General Growth Properties CEO Sandeep Mathrani.

    Internal divisions over his choice for secretary of state have delayed that critical decision. The options include former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who lacks foreign policy experience, but was intensely loyal to Trump, and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who aggressively opposed Trump’s candidacy but is largely regarded as more qualified. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker is also a possibility.

    The post Clinton joins ballot recount effort, Trump calls it ‘a scam’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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