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

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    In November, the unemployment rate fell from 4.9 percent to 4.6 percent — but for the wrong reasons.

    Huh?

    Let me explain. While the U.S. economy added 178,000 jobs in November, that didn’t offset the 226,000 people leaving the labor force. The labor force is made up of those looking for work (the unemployed) and the employed. And when people give up looking for work — often because they don’t think there are any jobs available for them — or retire, the labor force decreases. As a result, the unemployment rate drops.

    “We still see a lot of discouraged workers,” said Aparna Mathur, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “A lot of workers probably have part-time jobs that they are not happy with, and those are not turning into full-time jobs, so they are dropping out [of the labor force].”

    Wages were a sore spot as well. Average hourly earnings declined 3 cents after rising 8 cents in October. “Wages were down, but then again, if you average them over the last two or three months, they’re not too bad,” said Harry Holzer, an economist at the Russell Sage Foundation and author of “Where Are All the Good Jobs Going?”

    And if we look at the trend over the year, we see that wages have risen by 2.5 percent. As we always say here, never trust one month’s numbers.

    The jobs report isn’t all bad. “On the payroll side, 178,000 jobs is pretty good. It’s in line with what we have seen in the last several months,” Holzer said.

    If we continue to add jobs at this rate, we could see full employment as early as next year.

    Overall, “it’s a solid jobs report, although I think there are some mixed signals,” Mahur said.

    This jobs report is “somewhat mixed, not a dramatic departure from the pattern we’ve seen over the last several months,” Holzer said.

    In other words, don’t fret. The economy will keep chugging along. After all, this is the 74th consecutive month of job growth.

    “In the short term, we continue to recover from the Great Recession,” Holzer said. “But we still have these very serious, longer-term challenges for less educated workers — stagnant wages, declining labor force activity etc.”

    This is where our attention needs to go, he said, although he cautions against just blaming trade and points to a combination of technology and globalization as two things that have hurt all less-educated workers, not just the white working class.

    Mathur, too, is optimistic. She is hopeful that “the corporate tax rate cuts that the new administration is likely to bring in … will lead to some positive news for job creation.”

    The post Unemployment rate drops to 4.6 percent — for the wrong reasons appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Gambian President Yahya Jammeh holds a copy of the Quran while speaking to a poll worker at a polling station during the presidential election in Banjul, Gambia, December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

    Gambian President Yahya Jammeh holds a copy of the Quran while speaking to a poll worker at a polling station during the presidential election in Banjul, Gambia, December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

    The man who led the West African nation of Gambia for the past 22 years is expected to concede defeat in the country’s recent election.

    President Yahya Jammeh lost Thursday’s vote to opposing candidate and real estate developer Adama Barrow. Jammeh won 36.7 percent of the vote, compared to Barrow’s 45.5 percent, Reuters reported.

    The incumbent president has not made a public statement about his loss, but a spokesman confirmed he has agreed to hand over power.

    “It’s very unique that somebody who’s been ruling this country for so long accepted defeat even before it was announced by the returning officer,” the president of the country’s electoral commission, Alieu Momarr Njai, said at a press conference Friday.

    Some Gambians were seen cheering on the streets of the capital, Banjul, on Friday, celebrating what they perceive as a new era. Many had been concerned about the fairness of the elections, because Jammeh has previously declared he planned to stay in office for “one billion years.”

    Local newspapers reported the government shut down of the internet and international phone lines on election day in an attempt to block news from being reported around the world.

    A Human Rights Watch report last month also detailed Jammeh’s crackdown on political opponents and use of state media and resources in his reelection bid.

    The group welcomed the results of Thursday’s election but warned the process is not complete.

    “Given the Jammeh government’s past record of intimidating and targeting perceived opponents, the transition period also carries risks,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “It is essential that during the political transition Gambian security forces continue to show respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

    When Barrow takes office, he will be only the third president of the nation. After Gambia gained independence from the UK in 1965, Dawda Jawara ruled until Yahya Jammeh overthrew him in a 1994 coup.

    The post Gambia president to concede defeat after 22 years in office appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Taiwan President, Tsai Ing-wen speaks during a press conference at the Taipei Guest House on August 20, 2016.  President-elect Trump reportedly congratulated her for her election victory, this year.  Photo by Sam Yeh/Getty Images.

    Taiwan President, Tsai Ing-wen speaks during a press conference at the Taipei Guest House on August 20, 2016. President-elect Trump reportedly congratulated her for her election victory, this year.
    Photo by Sam Yeh/Getty Images.

    NEW YORK — President-elect Donald Trump spoke Friday with the president of Taiwan, a move that will be sure to anger China.

    It is highly unusual, perhaps unprecedented, for a U.S. president or president-elect to speak directly with a leader of Taiwan, a self-governing island the U.S. broke diplomatic ties with in 1979.

    Washington has pursued a so-called “one China” policy since 1979, when it shifted diplomatic recognition of China from the government in Taiwan to the communist government on the mainland. Under that policy, the U.S. recognizes Beijing as representing China but retains unofficial ties with Taiwan.

    A statement from Trump’s transition team said he spoke with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who offered her congratulations. It was not clear who initiated the call.

    “During the discussion, they noted the close economic, political, and security ties exists between Taiwan and the United States. President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year,” the statement said.

    A Taiwanese source with direct knowledge of the call confirmed it had taken place. The source requested anonymity to speak about it before an official statement was issued on it from Taipei.

    China’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Friday’s call is the most stark example yet of how Trump has flouted diplomatic conventions since he won the Nov. 8 election. He has apparently undertaken calls with foreign leaders without guidance customarily lent by the State Department, which oversees U.S. diplomacy.

    Over the decades, the status of Taiwan has been one of the most sensitive issues in U.S.-China relations. China regards Taiwan as part of its territory to be retaken by force, if necessary, if it seeks independence. It would regard any recognition of a Taiwanese leader as a head of state as unacceptable.

    Taiwan split from the Chinese mainland amid civil war in 1949. The U.S. policy acknowledges the Chinese view over sovereignty, but considers Taiwan’s status as unsettled.

    Although the U.S. does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it has close unofficial ties. Taiwan’s government has a representative office in Washington and other U.S. cities. The U.S. also has legal commitments to help Taiwan maintain the ability to defend itself.

    Tsai was democratically elected in January and took office in May. The traditional independence-leaning policies of her party have strained relations with Beijing.

    Diplomatic protocol dictates that Taiwanese presidents can transit through the U.S. but not visit Washington.

    The phone call was first reported by the Financial Times. The president-elect’s transition team confirmed the phone call:

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

    The conversation with Taiwan follows a New York Times report on several other calls President-elect Trump has held with foreign leaders that have been characterized as “freewheeling.”

    The post Trump’s call with Taiwan’s president could threaten China relations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People react as the caravan carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro passes them in Las Tunas, Cuba, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTSUE0C

    This video is not currently available.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: In Cuba, a procession with Fidel Castro’s ashes is approaching the city of Santiago, where the dictator who died last Friday began his revolutionary journey nearly 60 years ago.

    In partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, special correspondent Nick Schifrin and producer Zach Fannin look at Castro’s legacy and the future of the island, starting along the route of his final journey.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The road to Fidel Castro’s final resting place was lined with the revolution’s faithful, for whom it’s never too early to be wrapped in the flag.

    With the military that Castro created circling overhead and leading the way, his ashes drove by into the morning sun. For more than 55 years, Castro was Cuba’s indispensable force, and many here expressed a sense of loss; 93-year-old Zoila Andreu Sain needed help from her 66-year-old daughter, Ailsa. They live together on the parade route.

    They were joined by a third generation, 23-year-old Giselle Gallego. This family’s revolutionary faith hasn’t faltered.

    GISELLE GALLEGO (through translator): My admiration for Fidel comes above everything. He wasn’t just a leader for the Cuban revolution, but a leader for the world.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The two matriarchs show off their favorite photos, a younger son, Eugenio, at the commander’s side. Fidel made him the head of a housing development program, and provided the family with opportunities they have never forgotten.

    AILSA NEREY ANDREU (through translator): Women stopped being domestic objects and were given the chance to work, all thanks to the revolution and to Fidel.

    ZOILA ANDREU SAIN (through translator): I love Fidel. I love him very, very, very much. He fought for Cuba.

    NARRATOR: They had marched right across the island in a triumphant progress, joyfully acclaimed all the way.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: January 1959, Castro and his men seized Havana and overthrew the Batista dictatorship. So began the hero’s myth. He’d descended from the mountains and convinced people he was Cuba’s destined savior. For his fans, that origin story still holds.

    ZOILA ANDREU SAIN (through translator): He took everything that was bad, and made it better. He will continue to do so from the cemetery where he will rest.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: But 30 miles outside of Havana, Fidel Castro’s legacy is not as universally positive.

    This is Hershey, named after the American chocolate baron, today, population about 3,000. Castro’s 1959 revolution promised a better future. Here, as in many small towns across Cuba, the economic promises of the revolution have not been fulfilled.

    The train used to arrive here with Cubans from many towns. Today, it brings only a few locals, just enough to keep 29-year-old Carlos Gonzalez afloat. He sells tiny, folded pizzas for 20 cents.

    CARLOS GONZALEZ, Hershey, Cuba Resident (through translator): We struggle every day. I wake up at 3:00 a.m. to be able to afford food, afford clothes, and keep on going.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Garcia’s oldest client is the city’s oldest resident; 92-year-old Amparo Dejongh was the first person born here.

    Who’s this? That’s you?

    AMPARO DEJONGH: Yes.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Wow. Wonderful. And what kind of town was Hershey?

    AMPARO DEJONGH (through translator): It was conceived to be perfect, in housing, in education, in social order.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Her photos show a model town created exactly a century ago. Hershey’s sugar mill was one of the world’s most modern. After the revolution, Castro nationalized the factory and all other American property. Eventually, the economy collapsed. Today, the factory is a heap of rust. Once prosperous streets are dotted with homes long abandoned.

    Dejongh blames ineffective local government officials.

    AMPARO DEJONGH (through translator): The political machine is very big. Here, they appoint a leader and he does whatever he wants.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Residents are thankful for the revolution’s positive advances. The racial segregation that Hershey imposed on its workers has been replaced with apparent racial equality. Residents receive free health care, and students get free education.

    But, for many, the economic future remains bleak.

    When you think about 1959 and you think about what this country has been through since then, do you view the legacy positively or negatively?

    He didn’t want to answer that question. His fear, says dissident Carlos Millares Falcon, is widespread.

    What would happen to you if you criticized the government publicly?

    CARLOS MILLARES FALCON (through translator): Automatically, they would drive me to the headquarters of internal security very fast.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In his living room, Falcon keeps American and European flags. He says Cuba lacks Western freedoms of speech, participation, and multiple political parties. That keeps criticism rare and the opposition fractured.

    In March in Havana, President Obama spoke alongside current President Raul Castro. Obama argued that normalizing relations would force the Cuban government to liberalize. But from January to October this year, the government is reported to have detained 9,125 people, more than quadruple the 2010 number.

    CARLOS MILLARES FALCON (through translator): The pressure on us has increased. I don’t think Fidel’s death will create any policy change. The government will maintain the same policy of zero tolerance.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: But 22-year-old Alejandro Rodriguez says zero tolerance doesn’t mean zero evolution.

    ALEJANDRO RODRIGUEZ (through translator): For us young people, we do need a change. We’re tired of the same old, same old.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In Cuba, the Internet is rare and expensive. So he collects the entertainment people can’t get, and copies it onto hard drives, called packets. They’re full of local musicians who pay to be in the packet, alongside illegally copied TV shows, and bad shark movies.

    The packets are delivered by bike messenger. Unless the Internet opens, the packet will only get more popular, and Rodriguez predicts that’s not coming anytime soon.

    ALEJANDRO RODRIGUEZ (through translator): The packet will last. I don’t see an end to it right now.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In many ways, Cuba’s stuck in the past. But people seize whatever openings they can find; 80 percent of the country works for the government, but, in the last decade, Jesus Reyes and half-a-million others have been allowed to go private.

    He’s trained as a nuclear physicist. His wife’s a biologist, and, together, their job was finding a cure for cancer, but that only paid each of them $40 a month. So while she stayed in science, he’s driving a taxi.

    JESUS REYES, Taxi Driver (through translator): Unfortunately, we have an inverted pyramid here. The people who give more to society make less money, and those who give less make more.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: He and his 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air can make four or five times what he made as a government-paid physicist. He wishes that wasn’t the case. He still believes in the revolution’s principles, but he believes that Cuba needs to change.

    JESUS REYES (through translator): It’s one thing to hold static, like we are today, without perfecting or improving, and it’s another thing to slowly improve. That’s what people like me aspire to, where our individual values are acknowledged.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Castro always said that revolution was a process and that change was inevitable. But holding onto the revolution’s principles means that whatever change does come is likely going to come slowly.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Nick Schifrin in Havana.

    The post Cuban attitudes toward Castro range from devout to cynical appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Veterans have a confrontation with police on Backwater bridge during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith - RTSUA9V

    Watch Video

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Even as temperatures in North Dakota are plunging into the single digits, the fight over the Dakota Access oil pipeline is only intensifying.

    William Brangham is here with more.

    So, William, I understand there’s a deadline coming?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That’s right, Judy.

    Starting on Monday, anyone at that large protest camp in North Dakota will be considered trespassers and could be arrested. That’s according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    For months now, thousands of people calling themselves water protectors have gathered to stop the pipeline. They say it’s destroying lands that are sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux, and that an oil leak could threaten the tribe’s water.

    Despite the Army Corps’ order, and a similar one from the governor, protesters say they’re not going anywhere.

    Dave Archambault II is the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux. I spoke with him earlier today, and I asked, with the deadline looming, and reports of 2,000 veterans traveling to North Dakota to support the protesters, did he fear Monday could get out of hand?

    DAVID ARCHAMBAULT, Chairman, Standing Rock Sioux: No, I don’t. I don’t believe that anything will happen.

    I believe that the Corps of Engineers is not going to come in with force, and I don’t think the state government is going to come with force. And I know that the veterans are coming to stand with peace and prayer.

    Their presence is symbolic. It’s representing the men and women who fought for this nation’s freedom. And they’re coming here to let the nation know that it’s not right to treat indigenous peoples, to treat tribes in this way.

    We have to start listening to tribes. That’s very symbolic for us to know that our veterans, the ones who fought for this nation, are coming. And it’s not to — they’re not coming to start a war. They’re coming to let the world know that they, too, stand with us.

    And December 5, it’s not going to be a showdown. It’s just going to be another day.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, if protesters do stay there, I mean, the governor and many others have said that it is just not safe with subzero temperatures being out there to sleep out on the plains like this.

    DAVID ARCHAMBAULT: My comment to that is that it’s not safe for law enforcement to spray water on water protectors in subzero, subfreezing temperatures. That’s not safe.

    It’s not safe to fire concussion grenades at crowds. It’s not safe to fire rubber bullets and target people’s heads. That’s not safe. People are there, and they are ready for this. They knew that winter was coming. They have some temporary shelters that are very insulated and warm, and they are taking care of each other.

    They know how to check on each other, and they know what to do in case of an emergency. So, it is a safe place for individuals to gather and pray. What is not safe is the way law enforcement has been using aggression and weapons on unarmed people.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We spoke a few weeks ago with the CEO of the company that is building this pipeline, and he argues that your concerns over a leak into your water supply are overblown. He said, this is going to be brand-new pipeline, state-of-the-art, all safety measures, and that you need not worry as much as you seem to be.

    DAVID ARCHAMBAULT: And I understand where he’s coming from. And if that’s the case, then why not put it north of Bismarck, North Dakota?

    (CROSSTALK)

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That’s where it was originally going to go.

    DAVID ARCHAMBAULT: Right. If the safeguards are all there, then it can still go there.

    He will say that it can’t go there because of the population of the community, the environmental impacts, the sacred sites that are there, the wetlands that it has to cross. These are all the same concerns that we have. It’s just that we are a lot — the numbers show that we’re a lot fewer.

    And so if the pipeline — and if there is no worry, if the safeguards are there, then relocate it to that location. That’s OK.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But the company says the pipeline is not going to be rerouted. The governor says the pipeline is not going to be rerouted.

    President Obama will soon be out of office, and President-elect Trump has made it very clear that this pipeline is going to be built.

    DAVID ARCHAMBAULT: Well, the way I look at it is, as long as the pipeline isn’t under the river, there’s still a chance, there’s still hope.

    And it’s unfortunate that this nation continues to treat our tribe and tribal nations around this country in this manner. We have every right to protest this pipeline. We have indigenous lands, we have ancestral lands, we have treaty lands. The pipeline is 500 feet from our reservation border.

    And history will show that the federal government, the state government has always built the economy, has secured energy independence and has secured national security off the backs of our nations. And this is another example.

    And so whether the government says, government — governor of North Dakota says it’s not going to be rerouted, whether Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, say it won’t be rerouted, and whether the president-elect says it won’t be rerouted, we still want to build awareness on the treatment of our nations, the first people of this nation, and how everybody benefits from the costs that we paid over history.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, David Archambault, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, thank you very much for being here.

    DAVID ARCHAMBAULT: Yes. You’re welcome.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You can find all the “NewsHour”‘s coverage of the Dakota standoff on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.

    The post Despite impending deadline, Standing Rock protesters vow to stay appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Marine Corps four-star general James Mattis arrives to address at the pre-trial hearing of Marine Corps Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich at Camp Pendleton, California U.S in a March 22, 2010 file photo.  REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files - RTSUDP4

    Watch Video

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, who is the man president-elect Trump has picked to be his secretary of defense? What’s his track record, and how does he think the United States should confront the threats that it faces?

    For that, we turn to two who know retired General James Mattis well. Steve Simon was the senior director for Middle Eastern and North African affairs on the National Security Council staff during the Obama administration. He’s now a visiting professor of history at Amherst College. And Michael Gordon, he has covered General Mattis as a reporter at The New York Times. For years, Gordon covered the Pentagon, and now the State Department.

    And we welcome both of you to the “NewsHour.”

    Let me start with you, Michael Gordon. Tell us what you know about James Mattis, beyond what we reported a moment ago.

    MICHAEL GORDON, The New York Times: Well, he’s certainly an unconventional choice for secretary of defense, simply because he’s only been out of the military for three years.

    He’s been a Marine in some of the — a Marine commander in the hottest wars that we have had over the past 10 years, Iraq, Afghanistan, and ran the Central Command, which oversees both those wars. And that’s a position that also involved him with a lot of diplomacy in the region, I think.

    But he’s famous also for a lot of his Mattis-isms, his kind of sayings. I remember, when I was in Barwana, Iraq, there was a sign on one of the outposts that said, “Be polite, be professional, have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”

    I mean, that pretty much expresses I think Mattis’ approach. He was prepared to use violence to achieve ends in war, but he also sought to work with the population and to, you know, constrain the violence as much as possible, which wasn’t always easy in an environment like Iraq.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Steve Simon, what would you add to that, and where did this nickname “Mad Dog” come from?

    STEVE SIMON, Former National Security Council Staffer: Well, look, I have never seen him in combat, so I don’t know how mad a dog he can be, but certainly in his capacity as commander and as a senior U.S. official dealing with national security issues, I never saw him as anything less than self-possessed and having a cool head.

    So, I’m not really sure where that epithet comes from. He’s also known by soldiers who worked with him and for him as the warrior monk because he does have a somewhat monkish temperament. You know, he’s in some ways really into, you know, self-denial and focusing on his troops.

    And that has won him a great deal of loyalty, which will stand him in good stead if he’s confirmed by Congress as secretary of defense.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Gordon, you said a moment ago he’s prepared to use violence, even as he cares about the troops. And as a leader, one would expect that he would.

    But what is his view of the role of the military in carrying out foreign policy?

    MICHAEL GORDON: Well, as Steve pointed out, he’s not a one-sided person. Every military person has to execute military operations, which means you have to fight.

    And fight to Baghdad or fighting in Afghanistan, all these environments wasn’t easy. And he’s also famous of his study of military history, his thousands of books, the fact that he claims not to own a television. That’s where the warrior monk comes from.

    But he has some views on foreign policy that really put him, I think, in the mainstream. For example, he doesn’t want to rip up the Iran agreement. He’s criticized the agreement. He said he wished it would impose stricter constraints on Iran’s nuclear program. But he said just walking away from it would work against American interests, that the allies would never go along with that. He’s against torture. And president-elect Trump has remarked on that.

    He has argued against using that. He argues that it’s simply not effective. And he’s wary of Russia, which, you know, president-elect Trump, at times, has implied that he’s sympathetic with Vladimir Putin or might want to work together with Vladimir Putin in Syria. I think Mattis would be extremely skeptical of that kind of approach.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, fill in more of that picture, Steve Simon. How do you see Mattis aligning with what we know of what Donald Trump thinks?

    STEVE SIMON: Well, he’s a bit of an awkward fit, primarily, I think, because he does support U.S. compliance with the deal negotiated with Iran to contain its nuclear program and to block its pathway towards a bomb.

    He has referred to it as providing what he’s called a nuclear pause, but not a nuclear halt, and said, in effect, a pause is better than nothing.

    Where he does differ, I think, from the outgoing administration is his view that, even as the United States maintains its commitment to the deal it negotiated, that it pushes back on Iran’s regional maneuvers. And I think, and, by that, Jim Mattis would point to do things.

    One is Syria, where the Iranians are very, very deeply involved. And the other is in Iraq, where the Iranians gained a great deal of influence after the U.S. overthrew the regime of Saddam Hussein. And I think, as commander of Central Command, General Mattis is probably quite sensitive to the fact that many of the deaths of U.S. servicemen in Iraq were attributable to weapons designed or provided by Iran.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about — Michael Gordon, people are talking, of course, about the fact that he’s going to — if he’s confirmed, he’s going to have to have this exemption from the law that says military people who are few than seven years out of the military can’t be secretary of defense.

    How do you see him running that department, coming from the military?

    MICHAEL GORDON: Well, first of all, I think the waiver will go through. Senator McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, has said he supports it. Senator Gillibrand said she opposes it, but I thinks he has sufficient support.

    I think that he has enough experience running large organizations, running the Central Command. He ran the Joint Forces command. That requires a certain amount of bureaucratic capability and finesse. So I think he, in his own mind, understands — I mean, he would be the first person since George Marshall to do this — that there is a responsibility on him to try to run the department as a civilian that he’s only been for three years and not as a military man.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Steve Simon, how do you see that? Because there has been this tradition — it’s in law — that someone who’s been in the military recently shouldn’t be running the Pentagon. How do you see him fitting into that?

    STEVE SIMON: Well, look, he’s going to have to deal with issues that he hasn’t had to deal with as a combatant commander or a unified commander, R&D, weapons acquisition, large-scale budget issues, you know, personnel issues of an immense scale.

    In addition to being a politician in his dealing with Congress in particular, he’s going to have to learn how to deal effectively with a White House staff. That can be a challenge, especially in an administration like the one that’s shaping up, I think.

    And he’s going to have to be a diplomat as well. Now, I have seen him work in a diplomatic mode, and I think he’s gifted in that domain. I don’t think he’s going to have a problem there. So, all in all, you know, I would say that he has good prospects for success.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Steve Simon, Michael Gordon, as we learn who General James Mattis is, and he heads for confirmation, thank you very much.

    MICHAEL GORDON: Thank you.

    The post Why James Mattis could be an ‘awkward fit’ for the Trump administration appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Computer illustration by Kacper Pempel/Files/Reuters

    A presidential commission has made recommendations on improving cybersecurity. Illustration by Kacper Pempel/Files/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A presidential commission on Friday made 16 urgent recommendations to improve the nation’s cybersecurity, including creating a nutritional-type label to help consumers shop wisely and appointing a new international ambassador on the subject — weeks before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

    The release of the 100-page report follows the worst hacking of U.S. government systems in history and accusations by the Obama administration that Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election by hacking Democrats.

    The Presidential Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity urged immediate action within two to five years and suggested the Trump administration consider acting on some proposals within its first 100 days.

    The commission recommended that Trump create an assistant to the president for cybersecurity, who would report through the national security adviser, and establish an ambassador for cybersecurity, who would lead efforts to create international rules. It urged steps, such as getting rid of traditional passwords, to end the threat of identity theft by 2021 and said Trump’s administration should train 100,000 new cybersecurity workers by 2020.

    Other ideas included helping consumers to judge products using an independent nutritional-type label for technology products and services.

    “What we’ve been doing over the last 15 to 20 years simply isn’t working, and the problem isn’t going to be fixed simply by adding more money,” said Steven Chabinsky, a commission member and the global chair of the data, privacy and cybersecurity practice for White & Case LLP, an international law firm.

    He said the group wanted the burden of cybersecurity “moved away from every computer user and handled at higher levels,” including internet providers and product developers who could ensure security by default and design “for everyone’s benefit.”

    [Watch Video]

    The White House requested the report in February and intended it to serve as a transition memo for the next president. The commission included 12 of what the White House described as the brightest minds in business, academia, technology and security. It was led by Tom Donilon, Obama’s former national security adviser.

    The panel studied sharing information with private companies about cyber threats, the lack of talented American security engineers and distrust of the U.S. government by private businesses, especially in Silicon Valley. Classified documents stolen under Obama by Edward Snowden, a contractor for the National Security Agency, revealed government efforts to hack into the data pipelines used by U.S. companies to serve customers overseas.

    One commissioner, Herbert Lin of Stanford University, said some senior information technology managers distrust the federal government as much as they distrust China, widely regarded as actively hacking in the U.S.

    President Barack Obama said in a written statement after meeting with Donilon that his administration will take additional action “wherever possible” to build on its efforts make progress before he leaves office next month. He urged Trump and the next Congress to treat the recommendations as a guide.

    “Now it is time for the next administration to take up this charge and ensure that cyberspace can continue to be the driver for prosperity, innovation, and change both in the United States and around the world,” Obama said.

    It was not immediately clear whether Trump would accept the group’s recommendations. Trump won the election on promises to reduce government regulations, although decades of relying on market pressure or asking businesses to voluntarily make their products and services safer have been largely ineffective.

    Trump’s presidential campaign benefited from embarrassing disclosures in hacked emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff and others, and Trump openly invited Russian hackers to find and release tens of thousands of personal emails that Clinton had deleted from the private server she had used to conduct government business as secretary of state. He also disputed the Obama administration’s conclusion that Russia was responsible for the Democratic hackings.

    Though Trump is a prolific user of online social media services, especially Twitter, he is rarely seen using a computer. His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, tweeted a photograph Monday of Trump working on an Apple laptop inside his office at Trump Tower. He testified in a deposition in 2012 that he did not own a personal computer or smartphone, and in another deposition earlier this year said he deliberately does not use email.

    Trump has already promised his own study by a “Cyber Review Team” of people he said he will select from military, law enforcement and private sectors. He said his team will develop mandatory cyber awareness training for all U.S. government employees, and he has proposed a buildup of U.S. military offensive and defensive cyber capabilities that he said will deter foreign hackers.

    The new report suggested that the government should remain the only organization responsible for responding to large-scale attacks by foreign countries.

    Obama has a mixed legacy on cybersecurity.

    Under Obama, hackers stole personal data from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on more than 21 million current, former and prospective government employees, including details of security-clearance background investigations for federal agents, intelligence employees and others. The White House also failed in its efforts to convince Congress to pass a national law — similar to laws passed in some states — to require hacked companies to notify affected customers.

    But the Obama administration also became more aggressive about publicly identifying foreign governments it accused of hacking U.S. victims, arrested some high-profile hackers overseas, successfully shut down some large networks of hacked computers used to attack online targets, enacted but never actually used economic sanctions against countries that hacked American targets and used a sophisticated new cyber weapon called Stuxnet against Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities.

    Congress passed a new law in late 2015 to encourage companies and the government to share information about online threats.

    The post Panel urges better cybersecurity to President-elect Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2016 (SPIEF 2016) in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 17, 2016.   REUTERS/Grigory Dukor/File Photo - RTX2H4NL

    Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2016 in St. Petersburg, Russia, on June 17, 2016. Photo by Grigory Dukor/File Photo/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Russia’s government denies that it tampered in the U.S. election or even took sides. But now that the results are in, members of President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party aren’t holding back.

    “It turns out that United Russia won the elections in America,” Viktor Nazarov, the governor of Omsk, Russia, declared in a radio interview.

    Long before Donald Trump was on the radar of American voters, Russia had deep interests in the outcome of elections around the world. But 2016 presented a unique window.

    Motivated by years of crippling economic sanctions and decades of post-Soviet setbacks, the Russians were keener than ever to pounce; the race for the White House, plagued by party infighting and scandal, was easy bait.

    For Putin, sanctions relief is a gateway to the ultimate goal of establishing Russia as the political and economic equivalent of the United States. Trump, who has extolled Putin’s leadership and called for a tempered approach to U.S.-Russia relations, may be a conduit to achieving that.

    “It’s much more about institutions, not about personalities,” said Robert Amsterdam, an international attorney who has a number of high-profile Russian clients. Putin “was seriously impacted by the sanctions because it targeted his closest friends and now they think Trump is going to change that.”

    U.S. intelligence agencies said in October they are confident that the Russian government hacked the e-mails of U.S. citizens and institutions, including political organizations, and handed them over to DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks for distribution. Hacked Democratic National Committee emails in July, indicating that DNC leaders were favoring Hillary Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primaries, prompted the resignation of chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

    “Weaponizing information is really about who gets to write the truth, who gets to write the narrative and who benefits from that narrative — and that is incredibly powerful,” said Laura Galante, director of intelligence analysis at cybersecurity firm FireEye, Inc.

    [Watch Video]

    Russia has sought to put itself on an equal footing with the U.S. since the collapse of the Soviet Union, extending its territory where it can, countering U.S. military action and positioning itself as a rival to the world’s biggest economy.

    But its ambitions suffered a setback in 2014 when the Obama administration authorized sanctions against sectors of the Russian economy, including financial services, energy, mining and defense. The administration also sanctioned people in Putin’s inner circle accused of undermining peace in Ukraine. Add to that falling oil prices and a weak ruble, and Russia’s economy was shackled.

    The impact has been extensive. Russia’s sovereign wealth fund had $87 billion in assets in December 2013, according to the Russian Finance Ministry. As of June 1, it was down to $38 billion, following sell-offs by the Russian government to make up for budget deficits. U.S. trade with Russia tumbled to $23 billion in 2015, from about $34 billion the previous year.

    Sanctions that impede Russia’s ability to acquire equipment for Arctic offshore drilling are of particular concern because they hold the key to Russia’s rapid expansion in that sector.

    “Lifting restrictions on exports of technology, software, things that really help their energy industry extract oil and gas” would be the top priority, said Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert at the Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

    “Production is dwindling over time, so they’re going into new, offshore, deep-water drilling in the Arctic and so on, and to do that, they really need Western technology,” he said.

    Sanctions relief is important to Russia’s broader objective of superpower status, shown by its bullish Syria policy. Syria’s Russian-backed military made major gains in rebel-held eastern Aleppo in recent days and rebel resistance appeared to be crumbling. While Moscow and Washington are continuously at odds over Syria, the Obama administration has not imposed any Syria-related sanctions.

    Trump’s promise of closer cooperation with Russia has created worries that the U.S. will have diminished leverage. He said during the campaign that under his leadership the U.S. might not come to the defense of some NATO members if Russia were to attack them, indicating he would make that decision based on whether those Baltic republics “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

    But Trump’s positions are hard to assess because he’s often stepped away from his more controversial proposals. Trump’s choice as defense secretary, retired Gen. James Mattis, has called Russia’s aggression in Ukraine a problem “much more severe, more serious” than Washington and the European Union are treating it.

    Putin and Trump spoke soon after his victory and a statement from Trump’s transition team said the president-elect told Putin he looked forward to “a strong and enduring relationship.” Observers caution that Putin’s interests are self-motivated and Russia’s incentive to interfere in U.S. politics won’t go away with Trump’s victory.

    “It’s not that Putin is against the Democratic Party,” Zilberman said. “He’s more against the United States and (for) whatever may push Russian interests.”

    He added: “There’s nothing saying that next time they won’t hack Republicans and expose Trump administration emails if it benefits them.”

    Associated Press writers James Heintz and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

    The post Russia sees Trump as conduit for eased sanctions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Facing up to life in prison, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl talks about his decision to walk off a base in Afghanistan in the first episode of the "Serial" podcast. Photo by U.S. Army via Getty Images

    Facing up to life in prison, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl talks about his decision to walk off a base in Afghanistan in the first episode of the “Serial” podcast. Photo by U.S. Army via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the former prisoner of war who’s accused of endangering comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan, is asking President Barack Obama to pardon him before leaving office.

    White House and Justice Department officials said Saturday that Bergdahl had submitted copies of the clemency request seeking leniency. If granted by Obama, it would allow Bergdahl to avert a military trial scheduled for April where he faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The misbehavior charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

    If the pardon isn’t granted, Bergdahl’s defense team said it will expand its legal strategy to the new administration by filing a motion arguing President-elect Donald Trump violated his due process rights with scathing public comments about the case.

    The pardon request to Obama, first reported by The New York Times, was confirmed by White House and Justice Department officials who weren’t authorized to discuss the matter by name.

    Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, walked off his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held captive by the Taliban and its allies for five years.

    The Obama administration’s decision in May 2014 to exchange him for five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prompted criticism that included some Republicans accusing Obama of jeopardizing nation’s safety. Some lawmakers were outraged that the administration didn’t give Congress a 30-day notice about transferring the detainees, as required by law.

    Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump was Bergdahl’s most vocal critic, saying repeatedly the soldier is a traitor who would have been executed in the “old days.”

    During a July speech in Indiana, Trump lamented that Bergdahl could wind up with a light punishment.

    “Remember the old days? A deserter, what happened?” he said before pantomiming pulling a trigger and adding: “Bang.”

    Bergdahl’s lead defense lawyer, Eugene Fidell, declined to comment Saturday on the pardon request.

    But Fidell said he plans to file a motion seeking dismissal of the charges against Bergdahl shortly after the January inauguration, arguing Trump violated Bergdahl’s constitutional due-process rights.

    The defense has been noting Trump’s comments about Bergdahl in what they’ve dubbed the “Trump Defamation Log.” A version included in the court record lists 40 such instances as of August.

    “All of these things put together and repeated rally upon rally for basically a year have a cumulative effect that I think is totally at odds with the right to a fair trial,” Fidell said in a phone interview.

    A spokeswoman for Trump didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.

    There is precedent for a military judge to decide a president’s comments have tainted a military prosecution.

    In 2013, a Navy judge cited comments by Obama when he issued a pretrial order that two defendants in sexual assault cases couldn’t be punitively discharged if they were found guilty. The judge wrote that Obama’s public comments about cracking down on sexual assault, specifically referencing dishonorable discharges, appeared to be demand particular results from military courts.

    “People in the military do what their commanders tell them to do,” said Eric Carpenter, a law professor at Florida International University who served as an Army lawyer. He said there’s a risk that military jurors could punish Bergdahl because they think it’s what their commander-in-chief wants, rather than deciding strictly on the evidence.

    Carpenter said he’d be surprised if the Army judge dismissed the charges entirely, but he could give the defense leeway to question potential jurors and reject them based on their answers about Trump.

    Bergdahl, who faces trial at Fort Bragg, has said he walked off his post in Afghanistan because he wanted to cause an alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.

    Drew reported from Raleigh, North Carolina. Associated Press writers Darlene Superville and Hope Yen in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post Bergdahl seeks pardon from Obama to avert desertion trial appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Chairman of the House Budget Committee Tom Price (R-GA) announces the House Budget during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2015.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo - RTSTR8O

    Chairman of the House Budget Committee Tom Price (R-GA) announces the House Budget during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2015. Photo by Joshua Roberts/File Photo/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The public spotlight may be on President-elect Donald Trump’s conflicts of interests, but his nominee to be secretary of health and human services, Rep. Tom Price, could have conflicts of his own.

    Price’s wealth pales in comparison with Trump’s. The orthopedic surgeon, first elected to Congress from Georgia in 2004, is ranked as only the 50th richest member of Congress by the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call.

    But his stock portfolio includes investments in pharmaceutical, medical device, and health insurance companies, the heart of the industries he would be overseeing as secretary.

    Federal ethics rules do not require that Price automatically divest himself of stock. As part of the nomination process, his holdings will be reviewed by the White House counsel’s office, the Office of Government Ethics, and the ethics division at HHS.

    READ NEXT: Who is Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s pick for HHS Secretary?

    Experts say the outcome of that process depends on whether Price owns stock in companies whose fate he could directly affect.

    Jan Baran, an expert in federal election law, said conflicts would have to involve specific decisions he might make that could benefit himself or his family.

    “It depends on whether he’s likely to encounter, as secretary of HHS, any decision that might affect any of those types of companies he owns,” Baran said. “Even if selling it is not seen as something that’s required, he can establish a so-called blind trust, and put all their assets into a blind trust. That would insulate him from future conflicts of interest.”

    Neither Price nor Trump’s transition team responded to requests for comment.

    Lawmakers are required to report their holdings in broad categories, although some give specific amounts.

    Among Price’s holdings are some in Innate Immunotherapeutics, Ltd., a biomedical company in which another lawmaker is a major shareholder. According to his financial disclosure statements, on Aug. 31 he bought between $50,001 and $100,000 worth of stock the firm.

    Representative Chris Collins, a New York Republican, is a director of the company, which develops drugs to treat multiple sclerosis. He lists assets in the firm worth between $5,000,001 and $25 million. Price also purchased a smaller amount of stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics in 2015.

    Collins is also a member of Trump’s transition team.

    In March, Price invested between $1,001 and $15,000 in Amgen; Eli Lilly and Co.; Pfizer; Biogen; Bristol-Myers Squibb; Zimmer Biomet, a medical device company; Aetna; and Athenahealth. Also that month, Price sold the same amounts in Gilead, Abbott Laboratories, and Thermo Fisher Scientific.

    Some of these same companies donated to Price’s campaign, During the current 2015-16 election cycle, for example, health care political action committees contributed $414,493 to his campaign committee. Donors included Abbot Laboratories, Pfizer, and Zimmer Biomet PACs.

    At least one lawmaker, Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), who opposes Price’s nomination for other reasons, including his goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act, has called on Price to eliminate any potential conflicts of interest by divesting and putting his assets in a blind trust.

    “I hope that Mr. Price will hold himself to a higher ethical standard than his new boss,” DeLauro said. “Mr. Price must set his business dealings aside and work for the American people, not the pharmaceutical industry.”

    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit group, has called for any potential Cabinet picks to take such measures.

    “We would encourage any potential Cabinet pick to divest potential conflicts stock, just so the American public does not have to worry whether it’s a conflict,” said Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for CREW.

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Dec. 2, 2016. Find the original story here.

    The post Investments by Trump’s HHS pick raise questions over conflict of interest appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Christopher Watkins

    “On the Inside,” an exhibit at the Abrons Art Center in New York City, shows a glimpse of artistic creation inside prison. Photo by Christopher Watkins

    At the age of six, more than 20 years before she was incarcerated for the first time, Jennifer Mayo received her first easel.

    It was too tall for her, so her father shortened its legs. She wasn’t the only artist in her family — her mother painted ceramics, but she wanted to do her own work, she told the NewsHour. “I remember begging for canvas and watercolor paper,” she recalled to the NewsHour.

    In 2005, after forging checks and invoices for her financial gain, Mayo entered a Texas state prison, where she would remain for two years. Eighteen months after her release, she was incarcerated again, this time for six years and two months. During that time, she continued to produce work in the confines of prison, drawing pictures and creating crafts for other prisoners with No. 2 pencils, colored pencils and a children’s watercolor set.

    Today, Mayo’s work is on display at “On the Inside,” an exhibition at the Abrons Art Center in New York City that showcases work produced by LGBTQ prisoners. The exhibition is the culmination of a four-year project by writer and director Tatiana von Furstenberg, who collected thousands of submissions by mail after placing an ad in Black and Pink, a magazine distributed to LGBTQ prisoners across the country.

    At the "On the Inside" exhibition, a small box in the center of the room demonstrated the size of a typical solitary confinement cell. Photo by Christopher Watkins

    At the “On the Inside” exhibition, a small box in the center of the room demonstrated the size of a typical solitary confinement cell. Photo by Christopher Watkins

    Von Furstenberg said at the exhibition’s opening on Nov. 4 that she was struck by a shared style between many of the folks who submitted.

    “It’s all portraiture. Everybody wants to be seen. And that’s what struck me the most,” she said. “Everybody wants to be seen for who they really are.”

    Photo courtesy of Abrons Art Center

    Photo courtesy of Abrons Art Center

    It is difficult to estimate how many LGBTQ adults are currently incarcerated in the U.S. But a 2011 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality of more than 11,000 trans adults reported that 16 percent of respondents had been incarcerated at least once. These numbers were higher for transgender women (21 percent) and black transgender people (47 percent) — and trans people make up only a portion of the LGBTQ community.

    At the exhibition’s opening on Nov. 4, several panelists — including von Furstenberg, Black and Pink Director Rev. Jason Lyndon, and Janetta Johnson, executive director of the TGI Justice Project, a group that advocates for transgender prisoners — spoke about the elevated risks that LGBTQ prisoners face of assault, harassment and solitary confinement. Black and Pink’s 2015 survey of 1,100 LGBTQ prisoners found that respondents were six times as likely to be sexually assaulted as average prisoners. Data suggest that these numbers are even higher for transgender people — a survey that the Bureau of Justice Statistics collected from 2011-12 showed that transgender people are 10 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the general prison population.

    Following harassment or an assault, transgender people are often placed in solitary confinement, The New York Times reported. The U.S. Bureau of Statistics found in 2015 that a higher number of lesbian, gay or bisexual people than heterosexual people reported they had been placed in solitary confinement in the last year.

    In Black and Pink’s survey, 85 percent reported having been placed in solitary confinement, with black, Latino, mixed‐race, and Native American/American Indian respondents about twice as likely to spend time in solitary confinement as white respondents. The exhibition brought this reality to the gallery space with a small room roughly the size of a 80 square-foot solitary confinement cell, where, some estimates, suggest upwards of 80,000 people in the U.S. live.

    A drawing by Jennifer Mayo appears at "On the Inside" at the Abrons Art Gallery in New York City. Photo by Corinne Segal

    A drawing by Jennifer Mayo appears at “On the Inside” at the Abrons Art Gallery in New York City. Photo by Corinne Segal

    While in prison, Mayo’s role as an artist defined her time there and provided an outlet for her energy, she said. “That was my identity there. I was the artist. I was the one you went to when you needed something,” she said.

    Her chief source of income was drawing portraits, cartoon characters and other pieces for fellow prisoners, some of whom would send her work home to their families. “I often would try to remind myself that that is the only thing these women can do for their children,” she said.

    Mayo submitted nine paintings to the project, and seven were accepted, one of which is now on view at the exhibit. Prisoners received a $50 donation for each accepted piece.

    Photo courtesy of Abrons Art Center

    Photo courtesy of Abrons Art Center

    Lyndon of Black and Pink told the NewsHour that creative and artistic outlets in prison empower prisoners through self-expression.

    “Prisoner art is an opportunity for the artist to have a moment when they can escape. That while they’re not physically getting out of their cells … it is an opportunity [for] creation, that they’re part of something bigger than just themselves,” Lyndon said.

    Now out of prison for more than a year, employed and living in south Texas, Mayo said the project and exhibit helped her move past it.

    “To know that somebody valued my art that much was amazing,” she said. “I’m overwhelmed. I’m very overwhelmed and grateful.”

    See below for more photos of the exhibition.

    Photo by Angela Pham/BFA.com

    Photo by Angela Pham/BFA.com

    Photo by Christopher Watkins

    Photo by Christopher Watkins

    Photo by Christopher Watkins

    Photo by Christopher Watkins

    A painting of Sojourner Truth appears at the "On the Inside" exhibit. Photo by Angela Pham/BFA.com

    A drawing of Sojourner Truth appears at the “On the Inside” exhibit. Photo by Angela Pham/BFA.com

    “On the Inside” is on view at the Abrons Art Center at 466 Grand St in New York City through Dec. 18.

    The post ‘Everybody wants to be seen’ — exhibit showcases LGBTQ artists in prison appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A general view shows the Eiffel Tower and the Paris skyline through a small-particle haze March 18, 2015. The French capital and much of northern France awoke to a spike in pollution on Wednesday.   REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes (FRANCE - Tags: ENVIRONMENT TRAVEL CITYSCAPE) - RTR4TW7E

    A general view shows the Eiffel Tower and the Paris skyline through a small-particle haze March 18, 2015. Photo by Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

    Citing millions of deaths linked to air pollution worldwide every year, four major cities – Paris, Madrid, New Mexico and Athens, Greece – made an agreement on Friday to remove diesel vehicles from their streets by 2025.

    The cities’ mayors made the announcement during the sixth C40 Mayors Summit in Mexico City – an annual meeting with leaders from as many as 90 of the world’s major cities. The four mayors on Friday vowed to create incentives for alternatives to diesel, an about-face from years of government encouragement in Europe for automakers to advance diesel technology, which can be more efficient than gasoline.

    “Today, we also stand up to say we no longer tolerate air pollution and the health problems and deaths it causes – particularly for our most vulnerable citizens,” Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris said in a statement.

    Europe has long grappled with striking an environmentally friendly balance with automakers. Diesel engines account for half of new car sales there, according to Bloomberg, and have led the world in advances to the fuel-efficient alternative to gas.

    But some 3.7 million deaths are linked to outdoor air pollution every year, in addition to 4.3 million from indoor air pollution, according to the World Health Organization, making it the world’s single largest environmental health risk.

    And while the vast majority of them occur in low- and middle-income countries, the WHO estimates that 92 percent of the population lives somewhere that does not meet its standards for healthy air. People who live in cities with high levels of outdoor air pollution have higher rates of heart disease, respiratory problems and lung cancers.

    Diesel — the predominant fuel used to ship goods all over the world — presents a difficult trade-off because it can get more mileage and emit less carbon dioxide than gas, but the pollution it produces when it is burned creates more nitrogen oxide.

    Such emissions are usually in the form of particulates or black soot and can pollute crops, animals, water resources and human lungs.

    While the WHO continuously releases information about its impact on global health, it also gets easier every year to see firsthand how potent diesel pollution has become. In Paris it has been blamed for obscuring views of the Eiffel Tower. Air quality is also deteriorating famous world monuments in Rome.

    “Big problems like air pollution require bold action, and we call on car and bus manufacturers to join us,” Hidalgo said in a statement on Tuesday.

    But with pressure to reduce carbon emissions, automakers in Europe who have heavily invested in diesel have fired back against the prospect.

    “The industry cannot reach the carbon-dioxide emission targets without diesel technology,” Carlos Ghosn, chief executive officer of Renault and president of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, said at a news conference in June.

    The post Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City are quitting diesel appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People stand on balconies prior to a fashion show displaying creations by German designer Karl Lagerfeld as part of his latest inter-seasonal Cruise collection for fashion house Chanel at the Paseo del Prado street in Havana, Cuba, May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini  - RTX2CPT7

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    AMY GUTTMAN: Visitors to Cuba may find the lack of modernization part of the country’s charm, but if Cuban farmers and American investors get their way, oxen that still till these fields may finally be replaced.

    Cuban-American entrepreneur Saul Berenthal owns Cleber, an Alabama-based tractor manufacturing business. He’s among the first to obtain a U.S. license to export agricultural machines, like the ones seen here, to Cuba.

    SAUL BERENTHAL: This is an opportunity for us to go back and see, in my mind, how do we help the two communities together? Because I believe, through commerce, through business, and not politics, is the best way of bringing the peoples together.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Berenthal also believes better machines will help Cubans decrease their dependence on imports, which account for 80 percent of the island’s food supply.

    SAUL BERENTHAL: What we chose was a tractor that was designed in the late 1940s for the U.S. family farm. Very much like what you see here and very much like what you see throughout the whole country.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Cuba has yet to approve the sale of Berenthal’s tractors. When it does, he plans to ship them assembled, but one day he hopes to set up a factory here so Cubans can build them. Berenthal was born and raised in Havana, the son of European immigrants who fled the Holocaust. His parents were successful merchants who imported American products until the Cuban Revolution in 1959 when they left Havana for Miami.

    SAUL BERENTHAL: The socialist economic model is to keep the land in the hands of the people who work the land, and therefore every Cuban that is willing to, is given X amount of land, for them to cultivate and they get the government to buy their crop, and what we’re doing is trying to bring some technology that will allow them to be more productive with what they do.

    AMY GUTTMAN: The Cuban Government buys a portion of what farmers produce to stock bodegas where Cubans use ration cards to buy food. Farmers can sell the rest at produce stands for cash.

    Agriculture is one of the biggest sectors targeted for stronger trade with the U.S. Since a sanctions reform act in 2000, thirteen states led by Virginia, Alabama, and Louisiana have exported to Cuba limited amounts of products like soybeans, apples, and poultry. Those shipments topped $150 million in the first nine months of this year.

    At the same time, the U.S. allowed Cuban imports of coffee for the first time and a greater range of textiles. But Cuba’s largest exports to other countries like rum, tobacco, exotic fruit, and honey have yet to make it to the U.S. market due to the continuing embargo.

    Isis Salcines runs a 125-acre or 300 hectare organic cooperative farm called Vivero Alamar. 140 people work here.

    ISIS SALCINES: I need tools, I need implements, I need infrastructure for support.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Is the trade embargo the obstacle here to developing that land?

    ISIS SALCINES: when you have 300 hectares, and you have a pair of oxen. We need tractors.

    AMY GUTTMAN: American trade delegations regularly visit the farm, which raises cows and grows lettuce, sugarcane, and Moringa trees, whose leaves are packed with protein, calcium, and other nutrients.

    ISIS SALCINES: You can eat the leaves, the flower, everything. Has more calcium than milk, more protein than meat.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Without modern tools, the farm uses arduous techniques. For example, it doesn’t have PH meters to test whether the soil is too acidic or alkaline, so workers count out 100 worms before placing them in the ground for a few days. If the majority survive, the PH levels are good.

    So what are some of the things that you would buy from the American market if you were able to import them?

    ISIS SALCINES: Any supplies, the more simple things. The gloves for the workers, the shoes, the boots, the irrigation system. I need everything.

    AMY GUTTMAN: How much could you increase your production here at this farm if you had a few of the things on your wish list, PH meters as an example?

    ISIS SALCINES: I think that maybe between 20 and 30 percent.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Since Raul Castro succeeded his brother, Fidel, as President in 2008, the Cuban Government has taken small steps away from Communist dogma that defined its Revolution…softening the state monopoly on distributing agricultural goods, allowing Cubans to own their homes, and permitting them to run their own shops and restaurants.

    Despite an increase in small businesses, greater access to the Internet and other changes here, Cubans I’ve spoken to fear the path toward trade with the United States isn’t developing fast enough.

    HUGO CANCIO: As an American businessman, I’d like to see, and as a consultant for some American companies, I would like to see more progress.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Hugo Cancio fled Cuba for Miami with his mother and sister in 1982, when he was just 16. In the 1990s, when the U.S. and Cuba let Cuban-Americans visit relatives on the island, Cancio set-up a travel agency in Miami. Today, he also publishes the English-language bi-monthly magazine “On Cuba,” with offices in Havana.

    HUGO CANCIO: I have been focused 100 percent on Cuba. I’ve put all of my emotions and energy into this whole process that we’re experiencing today.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Cancio says in the past year, the arrival of Western Union in Cuba and the approval of commercial airline flights from nine American cities has made it easier for Cubans to access cash. In addition, remittances from friends and family in the U.S. hit a record $3.3 billion last year. With travel restrictions eased, Americans spent more than a billion dollars in Cuba in the first six months of this year, the number of U.S. tourists nearly doubled.

    To meet the growing demand, American and international hotel chains are building or remodeling properties, typically co-owned by the Cuban government, like the La Manzana complex near Old Havana.

    HUGO CANCIO: This park represents the old and the new, and I think will continue to do so.

    AMY GUTTMAN: And now, it’s the foreground for the many cranes and building works going on.

    HUGO CANCIO: Cranes mean prosperity, you know, something’s brewing in the economy. There are companies that used to be here prior to 1959 whose properties and businesses were nationalized or confiscated or expropriated, and they’re willing to forgive and forget their claims against the government to be the first one to get in here. It’s taking a bit too long and people are readjusting their expectations.

    AMY GUTTMAN: American companies expecting to do business in Cuba exhibited at Havana’s annual International Business Fair in October, including General Electric and NAPA Auto Parts. They join a queue of foreign companies from Canada to China that have been investing in Cuba for decades. Cancio warns the Cuban Government is cautious to avoid the over-dependence on America that helped fuel the revolution.

    HUGO CANCIO: Remember, part of the whole process that led to the Cuban Revolution was the fact that back in 1959, the Cuban economy was in the hands of American businesses and American interests. That Cuba is not coming back.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Despite that concern, Ricardo Torres, an Economist at the University of Havana’s Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy, says the U.S. and Cuba are natural trading partners.

    RICHARD TORRES: Culturally speaking, those two countries are much closer than probably other countries and the fact there are almost two million Cubans living in the United States, means that there is a powerful force out there that will, you know, stick the two countries very close.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Is there any concern that interest from foreign investors will wane if it takes too long?

    RICHARD TORRES: Yes, there might be a problem with that. We need facts to tell people that we are ready and we are open for business.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Torres says Cuba’s crumbling infrastructure is an area ripe for deals with American investors.

    RICARDO TORRES: I think there are billions of dollars to be invested in that sector over the coming decades. We are talking about roads, we are talking about railroads, we are talking about airports, talking about ports, we are talking about telecommunications.

    AMY GUTTMAN: Torres points to the special economic zone established at the Port of Mariel, an hour outside of Havana, which has drawn foreign investment mainly from Brazil and Singapore. It’s a state of the art deepwater port with huge container terminals and warehouses.

    Port officials from several American states have been making visits here. Already, government officials from Virginia and Louisiana have made future agreements to facilitate trade between the U.S. and Cuba.

    Those agreements envision ramping up imports and exports when the existing trade restrictions with Cuba are eased. Mariel port official Wendy Barroto says the Cuban Government has offered tax breaks, expedited permits, and built a monorail line to attract more foreign companies.

    WENDY BARROTO: The total completion for this area is estimated in about 30 years.

    AMY GUTTMAN: What industries are you hoping to attract here?

    WENDY BARROTO: They are basically logistics services, pharmaceutical industry, biotechnology, and advanced manufacturing, with priority given to food processing and packing, and steel works.

    AMY GUTTMAN: While American companies wait for these deals to go through…Saul Berenthal is optimistic his tractors will one day plough Cuban soil. Berenthal says he understands why Cuba has been slow to trust the U.S.

    SAUL BERENTHAL: The difficulty lies between developing a trust with a country that on one side says we want to do business with you and on the other side has an embargo that forbids practically any activity in the business world.

    AMY GUTTMAN: So you’re hopeful that eventually your tractors will come to Cuba.

    SAUL BERENTHAL: In time, with the proper political changes that must be put in place, yes.

    The post Embargo remains for some Cuba sectors, as trade grows slowly appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Molly Riley/Reuters

    Photo by Molly Riley/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is returning to the familiar intersection of race and politics, in a pair of cases examining redistricting in North Carolina and Virginia.

    The eight-justice court is hearing arguments Monday in two cases that deal with the same basic issue of whether race played too large a role in the drawing of electoral districts, to the detriment of African-Americans.

    The claim made by black voters in both states is that Republicans packed districts with more reliably Democratic black voters than necessary to elect their preferred candidates, making neighboring districts whiter and more Republican.

    A lower court agreed with the challengers in North Carolina that two majority-black congressional districts were unconstitutional because their maps relied too heavily on race. The state appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing in part that it made districting decisions based on partisan politics, not race.

    The justices have been more forgiving of maps based on partisan advantage, though they soon may confront the issue of whether overly partisan districts can themselves violate the Constitution, in a case from Wisconsin.

    In Virginia, a court upheld 12 state legislative districts and rejected a constitutional challenge, even though lawmakers made sure that at least 55 percent of the eligible voting-age population in each district was African-American. Redistricting follows the once-a-decade census, when population shifts require the adjustment of political districts to keep them close to equal in numbers.

    The Virginia residents challenging their state districting plan said the lower court ignored a 2015 Supreme Court decision about Alabama in which Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the four more liberal justices to order a review of state legislative districts. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the court that the Alabama Legislature and the federal court that ruled on the plan had taken a “mechanically numerical” view, instead of trying to figure out what percentage of black voters were needed to elect a candidate of their choice.

    The cases involve the use of a landmark voting rights law that led to the election of African-Americans across the South and Supreme Court decisions that limited the use of race to draw electoral maps. The 1965 Voting Rights Act requires states to create and preserve districts in which minority voting groups can elect their candidate of choice.

    In 2013, Kennedy sided with more conservative justices to effectively block a key component of the law, although its provisions prohibiting states from diluting minority voting rights remain in effect.

    Both North Carolina and Virginia said they were trying to preserve majority-black districts in their maps. “There is a line between too little consideration of race and too much,” said John J. Park Jr., a lawyer in Gainesville, Georgia, who wrote legal briefs in support of the states. “Courts need to be cautious of getting involved because they’re not good at it.”

    But J. Gerald Hebert, director of the Voting Rights and Redistricting Program at the public-interest Campaign Legal Center in Washington, said the states drew districts with more black voters than necessary to “dilute their voting strength in order to achieve a partisan gain.” Hebert signed on to briefs supporting the black voters in both states.

    In North Carolina, the federal court also struck down some state House and Senate districts, and those judges recently ordered new districts drawn and special elections held next year.

    North Carolina Republicans have used the current districts to achieve veto-proof majorities in both chambers. In addition, they hold 10 of the state’s 13 congressional seats. By contrast, statewide contests suggest a narrower gap between the parties. Two Republicans won statewide elections last month — President-elect Donald Trump with just under 50 percent of the vote and Sen. Richard Burr with 51 percent. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory trails in his undecided re-election bid.

    Both Hebert and Park said they would be surprised if the court were to rule differently in the two cases since they are so similar. If the justices are evenly split, they could let the cases sit until a ninth justice joins them, possibly in the spring, and hold a second round of arguments.

    The cases are Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 15-680, and McCrory v. Harris, 15-1262.

    The post Supreme Court to hear cases about use of race in redistricting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A charred wall is seen outside a warehouse after a fire broke out during an electronic dance party late Friday evening. Photo By Stephen Lam/Reuters

    A charred wall is seen outside a warehouse after a fire broke out during an electronic dance party late Friday evening. Photo By Stephen Lam/Reuters

    A warehouse fire that broke out late Friday night during a party in Oakland, California has killed at least nine people.

    The Alameda County Sheriff’s office told reporters on Saturday that emergency workers are preparing for a “mass casualty situation” with as many as 40 people killed.

    Fire officials have yet to determine the cause of the blaze that took place in a building used to house artist studios and locally called “the Oakland Ghost Ship.” One fire official said the studios were separated by curtains and that there appeared to be no working smoke detectors, Reuters reported.

    Witnesses who attended the party described a fast-moving fire in a two-story building that had no working fire sprinklers. Images posted on social media showed the blaze protruding through the roof of the structure before it collapsed.

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

    Many of the dead were discovered on the second floor of the building, which the city’s fire chief described as having only a single point of entry with a staircase constructed of pallets, according to Reuters. An event page created on Facebook showed 176 people had planned to attend the party, which included a performance by electronic musician Golden Donna.

    More than 50 people were inside the building when the blaze started, Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach-Reed told the Washington Post.

    “This is pretty tragic for us,” Deloach-Reed said. “It is hitting this community pretty hard. I don’t even want to talk about how the families and friends are feeling. We have a community that’s hurting.”

    In a statement, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said she was “grateful to our first responders for their efforts to deal with this deadly fire.”

    “Our focus right now is on the victims and their families and ensuring that we have a full accounting for everyone who was impacted by this tragedy,” she said.

    The post At least nine dead following Oakland warehouse fire appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    White bowls on a white table in front of a white wall: a clean, quiet setting. Two women sit at a table, facing their food, in alternate scenes. It’s the setting for a casually devastating domestic scene.

    “When you go to Korea, relearn everything. Relearn makeup, learn how a girl should behave,” says an off-camera woman, presumably a mother figure, in Korean. “Just start losing weight now. [Then, we can go to Korea and] fix your eyes, raise your nose and shape your face.”

    “Are you still hanging out with that gay guy?” asks another mother figure in Mandarin. “You need to stop making friends with people like that.”

    The women don’t make eye contact with the camera, looking anywhere else but straight ahead, eating quietly.

    The work — titled “Have You Eaten?” — is the creation of “Sad Asian Girls,” a team of Rhode Island School of Design students Esther Fan and Olivia Park who describe themselves as Asian femme creatives. Feeling unrepresented in coursework and in general Western media, they have carved out an inclusive space online for Asian femmes who live in white-dominant societies.

    In 2010, Asian Americans made up 4.8 percent of the population, and experienced a population increase of 43.4 percent since 2000, the greatest of any racial demographic, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. But in 2015’s 100 top-grossing films, Asians made up just 3.9 percent of speaking roles, and there was just one Asian female director among the top 800 films from 2007 to 2015 (excluding 2011), according to a study by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. In the top 100 grossing films of 2013, women, in general, comprised 30 percent of all speaking roles, and just 3 percent of those female speaking roles were played by Asian women, according to the study “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World” by Martha Lauzen, who is the executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

    “Have You Eaten?,” originally created for a class assignment, has reached nearly 70,000 views on YouTube.

    “[T]hat video was a list of words our mothers actually said to us,” said Park. “[When] I showed it to my parents, they didn’t really fully understand what the bigger message of it was. They were just like laughing, like, ‘Oh yeah, I do call you fat while you’re eating — isn’t that funny, ha ha ha.’”

    Olivia Park and Esther Fan

    Olivia Park and Esther Fan. Photo courtesy of Olivia Park and Esther Fan

    Park and Fan said they are frustrated with the lack of modern and diverse representation of Asian art in established museums in the U.S. and Canada.

    “I think as creatives, we go and visit these museums, thinking that we’re going to get some type of inspiration or see our type of voice and people,” said Park.

    “There’s always an Asian art section,” Fan said, laughing.

    “[But] we’re tired of seeing ink paintings of mountains and Buddha sculptures in a modern or contemporary art space,” Park said.

    “Have You Eaten?” launched their official partnership as “Sad Asian Girls,” but the duo has gone on to do other projects, including a YouTube series where they had participants discuss the model minority myth. However, Fan and Park found that there was much less of a response to that series than there had been for their other projects.

    “I feel like it wasn’t as strong as the projects where it was us telling our own personal experiences,” Fan said. “At one point, we were trying to be the voice for every single Asian identity. And we realized we couldn’t do that.”

    Though most of their work is digital, last year, Fan and Park took over the outer walls of the school’s Fleet Library.

    They posted onto the walls 100 posters, on which they printed statements that began with “ASIAN WOMEN ARE NOT.” All statements were submissions that Fan and Park took online.

    Posters installed by Olivia Park and Esther Fan onto the walls of the Rhode Island School of Design's Fleet Library. Photo courtesy of Esther Fan and Olivia Park

    Posters installed by Olivia Park and Esther Fan onto the walls of the Rhode Island School of Design’s Fleet Library. Photo courtesy of Esther Fan and Olivia Park

    Fan and Park have received a lot of input on their “Sad Asian Girls” work – especially from people online who often say it resonates with them.

    Commenting on “Have You Eaten,” one YouTube user said it was “painfully accurate.” Another said, “It was like they pulled lines out of my own mother’s mouth.”

    One of the submissions printed onto a poster. Photo courtesy of Esther Fan and Olivia Park

    One of the submissions printed onto a poster. Photo courtesy of Esther Fan and Olivia Park

    But they also get input from people at school including some professors, many of whom are white and found it difficult to understand, they said.

    “They don’t understand it on a conceptual level,” Park said. “They can critique the formal aspects, but they don’t know what the experience is or that there was even an issue in the first place.”

    “Like our ‘Have You Eaten?’ video,” Park said. “There were two languages, Korean and Chinese, and they didn’t understand that they were two different languages.”

    Sometimes, the comments online are sexually violent and threatening.

    “I think we see [all comments] on the web, but it almost doesn’t faze us anymore. After so many, you’re just like ‘ok but they don’t really matter to us’,” said Park. “Who does matter? It’s the Asian femmes reaching out. So, we take most of their criticism pretty seriously.”

    Fan and Park's zine submission for the Yale Odds and Ends Book Fair, which they also sold as merchandise to followers. Photo courtesy of Esther Fan and Olivia Park

    Fan and Park’s zine submission for the Yale Odds and Ends Book Fair, which they also sold as merchandise to followers. Photo courtesy of Esther Fan and Olivia Park

    Fan and Park said they do not plan to continue “Sad Asian Girls” work after graduating. Fan, who is Canadian, will be returning to Vancouver. Since realizing this, they have created a Facebook page to help connect Asian femmes doing similar work and plan to use their “Sad Asian Girls” Instagram page to promote the projects of other Asian femmes.

    “What we want to encourage now is all the [people of] other identities who are inspired to make their own work and tell their own stories,” Fan said.

    “We’re not trying to speak for other voices,” said Park. “And we want to release the concept of ‘Sad Asian Girls’ out into the wild.”

    The post ‘Sad Asian Girls’ collective takes on stereotypes of Asian women appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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