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- 12/06/16--15:35: Major health bill would fund medical research, hasten FDA approvals
- 12/06/16--15:38: Big antlers shouldn’t exist. This math model explains why they do
- 12/06/16--15:50: Trump says Boeing deal for Air Force One is too expensive
- 12/06/16--16:11: Here’s what’s happening with recount efforts in four states
- 12/07/16--12:22: Trump picks John Kelly as Homeland Security secretary
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HARI SREENIVASAN: While most attention has been focused on the action at Trump Tower in Manhattan, lawmakers at the U.S. Capitol are close to passing a major bill that would lead to big changes with drug approval, medical research and much more.
Lisa Desjardins kicks off our coverage with this report.
LISA DESJARDINS: Weeks from the end of its term, Congress is on the verge of passing a whopper of a bipartisan bill.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Majority Leader: This legislation promotes critical investments in research.
SEN. HARRY REID, Minority Leader: We’re going to pass the Cures Act.
LISA DESJARDINS: A godsend to supporters, a spending spree or corporate giveaway to critics, here’s a look at the 21st century medical cures bill. It is a mammoth $6 billion measure, now four major pieces of legislation packed in one, starting with a giant nearly $5 billion shot of funding to the National Institutes of Health for research.
That includes almost $2 billion for the Moonshot effort led by Vice President Joe Biden to find a cure for cancer praised in a White House Web video today.
VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: A lot of lives will be affected by this bill, God willing.
LISA DESJARDINS: That’s one reason many Democrats are on board. Another? The bill now includes $1 billion to address the opioid epidemic. It’s a national crisis that’s been in funding limbo for months.
A third major piece? Mental health reform, including a new assistant secretary position for mental health and substance use.
Republican Tim Murphy, a psychologist, has pushed for this for years.
REP. TIM MURPHY (R-Pa.): This doesn’t end the scourge of mental illness, but this puts us on a path to really make some substantial change and give people help.
LISA DESJARDINS: Now for what Republican leaders love, the bill’s core, reforming and speeding up the Food and Drug Administration’s drug approval process.
To some, that’s modernization that cuts red tape, but to others it’s a safety risk. And some lawmakers see it as a gift to drug companies.
Those voices are led by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-Mass.): I cannot vote for this bill. I will fight it, because I know the difference between compromise and extortion.
LISA DESJARDINS: But she is in the minority. The bill has received bipartisan support in Congress so far, and the president plans to sign it into law.
For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Let’s dive a little deeper now into this bill, what would change, and some of the criticisms around it.
For that, we’re joined by two reporters who have covered this field extensively, Sydney Lupkin of Kaiser Health News, and Ed Silverman, senior writer with STAT News, a site covering medicine and health care.
So, Sydney Lupkin, let’s start with what does or doesn’t happen to the FDA. There’s been a lot about that. What’s the biggest potential change?
SYDNEY LUPKIN, Kaiser Health News: Sure.
So, one of the things that happens for the FDA is, it gets another $500 million over 10 years. It also has more hiring power to fill the hundreds of vacancies that it has as a result of new initiatives, new laws other over the years. So, that’s one thing that does happen to it.
But the big thing is that it really sort of makes the approval standards a bit more flexible for drug and device manufacturers.
HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.
Ed Silverman, if this flexibility increases, is the FDA stick on the hook if something goes wrong?
ED SILVERMAN, STAT News: Yes, it’s a double-edged sword for the agency, because on the one hand there will be a new process that could be in place.
The agency will have to come up with a guidance, as it’s called, a program that will determine whether or not it can use different data to evaluate the approval process for new indications or new uses for existing medicines.
The catch with that could be that, if something goes awry, the agency is still on the hook. Let’s say there’s patient harm, for instance. So that’s the downside, because, at the end of the day, it’s the regulator who is typically blamed when something goes wrong.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And, Ed, this has already gotten pushback from the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
ED SILVERMAN: Right.
Well, the concern is that, in making the approval process more flexible for new uses for existing medicines, it’s actually lowering the standards, because of instead of using what is considered the gold standard, randomized control trial, the new approach would allow the agency possibly to look at other sorts of data, something like safety surveillance data, patient-reported outcomes, these observational studies.
These are the sorts of things that are legitimately useful and tell us real things, but they’re not the same as having a full-blown trial. And that’s the sort of tool that is used to determine the safety and effectiveness of any medicine. So, that’s a big potential difference.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And, Sydney Lupkin, that also affects the bottom line of pharmaceutical companies, because while the clinically approved double blind is the gold standard, it’s also pretty time- money-expensive.
SYDNEY LUPKIN: It’s more expensive.
So, this does stand to save them a lot of money, which is why they lobbied for it. There was a lot of lobbying activity on this bill, more than 1,400 registered lobbyists on it representing 400 different organizations, many of them pharma. Yes, it stands to save them a lot of money.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, a lot of people, whether it’s people who are dealing with the impacts of opioid abuse or hospitals that are focused on research, they have been for it. They stand to benefit from this.
SYDNEY LUPKIN: Right, because of the NIH funding in the bill.
The NIH is the National Institutes of Health, and, basically, a lot of that money will wind up going into grants that go to hospitals, that go to universities, that go to different labs to do research. Mostly — you have all heard of Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot. There’s also a — something called the brain initiative to sort of study the brain more, Alzheimer’s, understand more about how it works, that you can prevent things, and precision medicine, which is, to very much simplify it, a lot of genetics research.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Ed Silverman, how about the appropriations of this? If it’s not the Cancer Moonshot or brain research, and if it’s not one of those marquee things that people care about, what happens to the rest of these huge amounts of dollars, and is it a guarantee that it will happen year after year?
ED SILVERMAN: Well, it all sounds wonderful, but the money has to be appropriated.
So, from day one, we have that question hanging over the entire effort. Will that money actually go as intended to the right agencies, so it can do the work? Presumably, the FDA will get funds, so they can have more resources to take on things like different approval processes.
But the money’s got to be there. So, if it’s not appropriated, well, then where are we? The agency will end up having more work without the added resources. And I think that’s one of the struggles that has made the process over the past few weeks and months difficult to sort out and really feel comfortable that Congress is going to do what it says it will do.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Sydney Lupkin, there seems to be a shift away from preventative measures in parts of the bill.
SYDNEY LUPKIN: What the bill does is, is takes away, I believe, $3.5 billion in funding for preventative medicine, funds set up under Obamacare to study things like Alzheimer’s, chronic conditions, hospital-acquired infection.
And, of course, the goal of that fund is to study these things so that then it ultimately saves the health care system money. If you can prevent something, you don’t have to spend as much money treating it. And that had been mandatory funding.
So now it will get about 30 percent less than it had.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Ed Silverman, when it comes to big pharma companies, drug prices are something that consumers care about, something that even hospitals and different insurance companies are trying to figure out a way to decrease. Does this tackle that at all?
ED SILVERMAN: No, not really.
And I think that that’s one problem that Congress is going to have to face up to, whether it likes it or not. It may not be in this legislation, given that the Senate vote appears to be near, at this point anyway. So the bill doesn’t really address some of the fundamental challenges and issues that are inherently problematic right now in the pricing system in this country.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Is this just the general nature of such a large omnibus bill?
ED SILVERMAN: Yes. It’s almost the kitchen sink approach, but not quite, because Congress is trying to pick and choose a little bit of what’s easiest and what it’s most ideologically comfortable pursuing.
For all the detail — and there are close to 1,000 pages in this bill — it really doesn’t address everything. And, unfortunately, we discuss pricing. That’s not really mentioned here in a way that’s going to be meaningful for Americans. And while there may be portions that are helpful, there are portions that are also problematic, as I mentioned before, with concerns about the FDA approval process and what that means down the road for patient safety.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Ed Silverman of STAT News and Sydney Lupkin of Kaiser Health News, thanks so much.
SYDNEY LUPKIN: Thank you.
ED SILVERMAN: Thank you.
The post Major health bill would fund medical research, hasten FDA approvals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The biggest isn’t necessarily the best when it comes to deer antlers and lion manes, based on a new mathematical model from researchers at Northwestern University. The calculations address why animal ornamentation exists at all — a question that stumped evolutionary luminary Charles Darwin, who once wrote, “The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick.”
The new research, published in Proceedings of Royal Society B, shows that ornaments straddle a divide. Some animals go big, while the rest prefer small to protect a portion of the population from the negative ramifications of showing off.
Ornaments are costly. A peacock’s colorful train, for instance, expends lots of nutrients to grow and sustain its flush of feathers, which takes away energy for foraging and hiding from predators. It’s counterintuitive, and fewer should survive to reproduce.
Yet animal ornaments are attractive to the opposite sex, meaning in these cases, natural selection or survival is at odds with sexual selection. In 1975, biologist Amotz Zahavi explained this phenomenon in a hypothesis called the handicap principle: The fitter an animal, the more he can afford to waste on costly ornaments that signal his health status to potential mates.
Mathematician Danny Abrams and his colleagues at Northwestern decided to put this concept to the test by plotting ornament sizes from fifteen species onto graphs. The researchers used data on the length of dung beetle horns, the body size of salmon, the duration of fiddler crab fights, the antlers of roe deer and other ornamentation among birds, mammals, insects and fish.
“You would expect most measurements of animal characteristics to be sort of evenly distributed,” Abrams said. Take cat ears for example. If you examined random populations of cats, their ear sizes would most likely fit on what’s called a bell curve — with fewer on each side of the spectrum and a bulge caused by more landing in the middle.
“That’s why it was very surprising that for ornaments we came up with a different distribution, with two peaks,” Abrams said.
Rather than follow a bell curve, many ornaments among the species examined in the study followed a pattern marked by two pinnacles. Those peaks represented groups with large ornaments and those with small ornaments. Few members landed in the middle, with average-sized ornaments. This pattern applied to mature lions, great tits, yellow-breasted chats, dung beetles and earwigs.
The researchers argue this “bimodal distribution” — a dataset with two peaks — might exist in nature because individuals with smaller ornaments offer contrast to the impressive size of their counterparts. Abrams likens this idea to marketing: You can either spend a lot on advertising a product, or you can have a cheaper product, but it’s bad to be in the middle.
Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at University of Washington who wasn’t involved in the study, offered an alternative rationale.
“For whatever reason, there can be a slight female preference for some kind of ornament. So then males who have that ornament do better, and then the offspring of those males also inherit their mother’s genes for having a preference for that ornament,” Bergstrom said. “The trait and the preference evolve hand in hand and become more extreme.”
So the next time you see a buck with little antlers in the woods, don’t think him inferior. He may be less attractive to females, but he might live longer–with a smaller chance of getting his antlers caught in a tree and less of a chance to ending up as a trophy on your wall.
The post Big antlers shouldn’t exist. This math model explains why they do appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Every few years, Pentagon leaders conduct efficiency reviews, looking for ways to save money.
Two years ago, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work commissioned a study that looked at how much the Defense Department spent on things like its supply chain, property management and health care. But according to The Washington Post, when the results came back that said an estimated $125 billion could be saved over five years, the report was buried by top Pentagon officials.
Reporter Craig Whitlock broke the story for The Post, and he is here now to tell us more.
Craig Whitlock, tell us how all this started. Why did — why was the study ordered in the first place?
CRAIG WHITLOCK, The Washington Post: Well, a couple years ago, the Pentagon’s budget, the defense budget, was under a lot of pressure. It had been flat for a few years, and military leaders were worried that, under sequestration and the Budget Control Act, that they could actually be forced to stomach some pretty substantial cuts in the coming years.
So, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work ordered a federal advisory panel of private sector executives to start collecting a lot of data about how much the Pentagon spends on its back office functions as a way to find ways to save money.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And the work — the study got under way. They asked them to do it in a relatively short period of time, just a few months. It wasn’t easy to do. I gather there wasn’t a great deal of cooperation across the board.
But they did come back with a report. And what did it find?
CRAIG WHITLOCK: Well, what they found was pretty striking.
This is kind of hard, I think, for most folks to understand. But the Pentagon actually up until then had no idea how many contractors actually worked for it. So they were trying to figure out how many people worked in its business operations. And they found that more than one million people worked in these core business operations, like you said, health care management, human resources, property management, things that any organization needs.
But, you know, even for the Pentagon, one million is a lot of people. These are essentially desk jobs. And that compares to only 1.3 million active-duty troops. So the backing of the Pentagon was almost as big as, you know, the tip of the spear, so to speak.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Secretary Work, number two man at the Pentagon, when he and others saw this report, what did they do?
CRAIG WHITLOCK: Well, they had touted this in advance, saying this was going to be really important, and that they had asked these private sector executives to help them make sure that the report didn’t gather dust and that they would, you know, pass all these — or adopt these recommendations.
But when the numbers came back much bigger than they thought, and the recommendation that they could save $125 billion over five years, effectively, they buried and killed the study. The data that had been collected internally for the first time to pinpoint how many people worked in these jobs was kept secret.
It is still classified and confidential. We worked hard for months to get our hands on it. We were unable to. And I was working with Bob Woodward, my colleague here at The Post, who is pretty good at that stuff. To this day, they have kept that data confidential.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But the — and you write the reason it seemed that they wanted this buried was that they were afraid that, if this information came out, that Congress wouldn’t appropriate what he and others thought the Pentagon needed to get in terms of future appropriations.
CRAIG WHITLOCK: That’s right.
There’s a political calculation. They were worried that members of Congress would say, look, you have been asking us for more money. You have been saying the troops need more money, you need more funds for ships and tanks and airplane, but, look, your own report, your own data show that you could save $125 billion. Why are you asking us for more?
So they were worried Congress would cut the budget, instead of them giving them more. So that’s when they decided this wasn’t something they wanted to act on and that they wanted to keep it quiet.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Craig Whitlock, what’s the fallout from this today? How is the Pentagon dealing with this disclosure?
CRAIG WHITLOCK: Well, I think the Pentagon is — it’s very uncomfortable for them. They don’t dispute the numbers here. They don’t dispute that there’s a million people working in their back office jobs. They don’t dispute that the study found they could save that much money.
They do say it would take more time, that maybe it wasn’t practical to do this so quickly. But what they’re feeling today is some pressure from Congress, members of Congress, members of the Armed Services Committees. They’re saying at a minimum the Pentagon owes it to the American public to release this data showing how all this money could be saved.
And I think the Pentagon’s concerned. They want to see how president-elect Trump reacts. Here’s a guy who campaigned on a platform for a major military buildup, and he said he would pay for it by cutting waste and abuse in the military budget. He wasn’t very specific about how he would do that, but, you know, here’s a blueprint for how they could save a substantial amount of money.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of the president-elect and speaking of Pentagon spending, separately from all this, the president-elect today tweeted and then talked to the press — and we showed this just a moment ago — that he’s upset about how much he says it’s going to — the Boeing company is going to be charging to build two new Air Force Ones.
We know there are two of these airplanes that carry the president around. Do we know for a fact from Boeing that that’s how much these planes are now supposed to cost?
CRAIG WHITLOCK: Well, you know, he’s actually pretty close on that, Donald Trump, when he says $4 billion.
Now, that’s over the whole program. That’s the cost of developing and designing these airplanes and to build and to buy them. Boeing doesn’t have all those contracts yet, but it really is the inside track. It’s the only company the Pentagon has been dealing with to work on this.
But over the next several years, the Pentagon has projected or set aside $3.9 billion for these two airplanes. Now, one reason it costs so much is that these aren’t just Boeing 747 passenger planes. They have to be equipped as essentially an airborne command center for the commander in chief.
He has to be able to issue orders in case of nuclear war. It has to have anti-missile defenses, electromagnetic defenses. So, these are pretty fancy essentially warplanes and command centers. That said, president-elect Trump is saying, do we need to be spending that much on them?
JUDY WOODRUFF: And very quickly, Craig Whitlock, is it believed that Boeing will now hold the costs down as a result of the president-elect’s comments?
CRAIG WHITLOCK: Well, I think it’s fair to say it’s making a lot of people at Boeing and the Air Force squirm a bit.
Now they’re going — they have already had some scrutiny from Congress on this program. But they know now there is going to be a new commander in chief who, symbolically, one of the first things he’s done to point out alleged Pentagon waste is point at this program.
So, you know, I think they’re going to go back to the drawing board and they’re going to have to justify the projections.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Craig Whitlock, great reporting by you and Bob Woodward at The Washington Post. We thank you.
CRAIG WHITLOCK: Thank you.
The post Why the Pentagon ‘buried and killed’ a study on potential cost savings appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In the day’s other news: President Obama defended his record fighting terrorism in his last major national security speech before leaving office.
Mr. Obama traveled to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, home to the Special Operations and Central Commands. The president told the troops that he’s led a relentless assault on the Islamic State, but he also warned against targeting Muslims in the name of battling extremism.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The United States of America is not a place where some citizens have to withstand greater scrutiny or carry a special I.D. card or prove that they are not an enemy from within.
We are a country that has bled and struggled and sacrificed against that kind of discrimination.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The president also denounced any use of torture, defended drone strikes and urged again that the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, be closed.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In Iraq, army units made a new push toward the center of Mosul today. Islamic State fighters had tied up the Iraqi forces on the southeastern side of the city for nearly a month. But, this morning, an armored division launched a fresh assault. A senior commander says they moved within a mile of the Tigris River, backed up by U.S. airstrikes.
HARI SREENIVASAN: A human rights group is accusing China’s Communist Party of systematically using torture and coerced confessions against members accused of corruption. It’s part of President Xi Jinping’s sweeping anti-graft campaign, now in its fourth year.
Human Rights Watch says it found widespread abuse at interrogation and detention sites that are outside China’s official criminal justice system.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, crews have now searched nearly all of the Oakland, California, warehouse that went up in flames during a music party, leaving at least 36 people dead. Officials say they do not expect to find more bodies.
Overnight, firefighters stabilized parts of the gutted building to continue the search today. They say they hope to finish the job tonight. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. Supreme Court sided today with Samsung, in a high-profile patent fight with Apple. All eight justices voted to throw out a $399 million judgment against Samsung for copying features of Apple’s iPhone. The high court said the award was too large, and ordered a federal appeals panel to come up with a new amount.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Wall Street edged higher again today, with telecom companies leading the way. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 35 points to close at 19251. The Nasdaq rose 24, and the S&P 500 added seven.
The post News Wrap: In final national security speech, Obama touts fight against terror appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: He is spending most of his time out of public view, but, today, president-elect Trump was suddenly much more visible.
Items on his agenda: the cost of new presidential aircraft and prospects for new jobs in the telecommunications industry.
The day started with a surprise appearance in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. Mr. Trump lit into the Boeing company over its contract to build two new versions of Air Force One.
DONALD TRUMP (R), President-Elect: It’s going to be over $4 billion for the Air Force One program. And I think it’s ridiculous. I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Earlier, on Twitter, he had gone further, saying the government should cancel the order with Boeing. Boeing’s initial contract was for roughly $3 billion, but costs have been rising. Still, the White House said today it has no idea where the president-elect got his $4 billion figure.
Boeing said in a statement that it hopes to deliver the best planes for the president at the best value for the American taxpayer.
Later, another sudden appearance, this time with Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank, a Japanese tech and telecom company.
DONALD TRUMP: And he’s just agreed to invest $50 billion in the United States and 50,000 jobs. And he’s one of the great men of industry, so I just want to thank you very much.
MASAYOSHI SON, CEO, SoftBank: Thank you. Thank you.
DONALD TRUMP: Thank you very much.
JUDY WOODRUFF: There was also news that the president-elect has divested himself of his entire stock portfolio. His transition team said he sold it off back in June. The statement gave no details, amounts or documentation for the stock sales, all of this as meetings with potential staff and Cabinet nominees continued, including the CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, said to be a candidate for secretary of state, talk radio host Laura Ingraham, a possibility for White House press secretary, and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who could be up for a diplomatic post.
Mr. Trump will visit Iowa later this week as part of a thank you tour that began last week in Ohio. The tour also carried him to Fayetteville, North Carolina, for a rally this evening.
The post Trump says Boeing deal for Air Force One is too expensive appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
DETROIT — Michigan’s presidential recount expanded to several new counties on Tuesday, including its largest one that includes Detroit. Meanwhile, the fate of a statewide recount push in Pennsylvania must wait at least until Friday, when a federal judge has scheduled a hearing on it.
President-elect Donald Trump narrowly defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in both states and Wisconsin, which started its recount last week. The recounts requested by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein were not expected to change enough votes to overturn the result of the election.
Stein, who received about 1 percent of the vote in all three states, says her intent is to verify the accuracy of the vote. She has suggested, with no evidence, that votes cast were susceptible to computer hacking.
Here’s what’s happening in each state and in Nevada, where a partial recount of the race was requested by independent presidential candidate Roque De La Fuente:
Trump had widened his victory margin over Clinton in Wisconsin by 146 votes, with 23 of the state’s 72 counties having finished their recounts as of Tuesday. In those counties, Trump gained 105 votes and Clinton dropped 41 votes.
Trump defeated Clinton in Wisconsin by about 22,000 votes.
A federal judge has scheduled a hearing for Friday in a lawsuit filed last week by a Trump voter and two super PACs seeking to stop the recount.
A federal judge in Detroit ordered an immediate statewide hand recount of roughly 4.8 million ballots that started in two of the state’s 83 counties on Monday. Six more started recounting Tuesday, including the largest, Wayne.
A spokesman for Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said it’s possible not all votes will be recounted in Wayne because of improper seals on ballot boxes and other issues. In such cases, the original vote would stand. Clinton won 67 percent of Wayne County’s vote.
Trump won the state by about 10,700 votes, or two-tenths of a percentage point, over Clinton.
Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, the Trump campaign and super PACs have filed separate lawsuits asking state courts to prevent the recount, arguing that Stein, as the fourth-place finisher, is not “aggrieved” because she has no chance of winning in a recount. A three-judge panel at the state appeals court heard arguments Tuesday but didn’t make an immediate decision.
Also Tuesday, a Republican-controlled committee approved legislation that would require candidates who lose by more than 5 percentage points to pay 100 percent of the estimated recount cost. Those candidates now pay $125 per precinct, which is Stein’s case is nearly $1 million. Johnson has said the recount may cost $5 million. The bill would retroactively apply to Stein, though Democrats questioned the constitutionality of changing the rules “in the middle of the game.”
U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond in Philadelphia on Tuesday scheduled a hearing Friday on the request for a recount. The Republican Party and Trump warned that the case threatens Pennsylvania’s ability to certify its election before the Dec. 13 federal deadline. Stein’s team hasn’t produced evidence of hacking, but calls Pennsylvania’s election system “a national disgrace.”
Also Tuesday, Pennsylvania election officials updated the state’s vote count to show that Trump’s lead over Clinton had shrunk to about 44,000 out of more than 6 million votes cast. That is still shy of Pennsylvania’s 0.5 percent trigger for an automatic statewide recount. A state spokeswoman said 15 provisional ballots remain uncounted.
A partial recount is underway in Nevada at the request of De La Fuente, who finished last with a fraction of 1 percent of the vote. He paid about $14,000 for the recount to provide what he called a counterbalance to the recounts sought by Stein. Most of the 92 precincts being re-counted are in the Las Vegas area, with eight of the precincts in four other counties. If the sample shows a discrepancy of at least 1 percent for De La Fuente or Clinton, a full recount will be launched in all 17 Nevada counties. Clinton defeated Trump in Nevada by 27,202 votes, out of 1.1 million votes cast. Nevada Secretary of State spokeswoman Gail Anderson said the recount will be finished by the end of this week.
Associated Press writers Ed White in Detroit; Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin; and Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
The post Here’s what’s happening with recount efforts in four states appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, whose last command included oversight of the Guantanamo Bay detention center, to run the Department of Homeland Security, people close to the transition team said Wednesday.
Kelly, who joined the Marine Corps in 1970, retired earlier this year, wrapping up a final, three-year post as head of U.S. Southern Command, which spanned some of the more fractious debate over the Obama administration’s ultimately failed pledge to close Guantanamo.
He served three tours in Iraq, and holds the somber distinction of being the most senior military officer to lose a child in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. His son, Marine 1st Lt. Robert Kelly was killed in November, 2010, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
That makes Kelly a member of a so-called Gold Star family, those who lost a relative in combat. Trump verbally attacked the Khan family, Pakistani immigrants who lost a son in U.S. Army combat in Iraq, after they criticized him at the Democratic National Convention last summer.
Highly respected, often outspoken, and known as a fierce, loyal commander, Kelly will take over the nation’s newest federal agency, with responsibilities from airport security and terrorism to immigration and the Coast Guard. The department was formed after the Sept. 11 terror attacks to get the U.S. government better-positioned to prevent and respond to future attacks.
If confirmed by the Senate, Kelly would be the fifth person to lead the department, which includes agencies that protect the president, respond to disasters, enforce immigration laws, protect the nation’s coastlines and secure air travel.
His selection bolsters concerns about an increase in military influence in U.S. policy in a Trump White House — and as Trump moves forward on his signature issue to build a wall along the southern border and go after people living in the country illegally.
Transition officials confirmed Trump’s pick of Kelly on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly before any official announcement.
In Kelly, Trump would have another four-star military officer for his administration. James Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, is Trump’s pick for defense secretary.
Immigration enforcement is a familiar issue for Kelly. Southern Command, based in South Florida, regularly works with DHS to identify and dismantle immigrant smuggling networks. It has partnered with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in an operation targeting human smuggling into the U.S. and helped with the rescue of children arriving alone at U.S. borders.
If immigration enforcement is prioritized the way Trump promised during his campaign, the department will be challenged with beefing up the screening of immigrants allowed to come into the U.S., and finding additional resources to track down and deport people living in America illegally. It will also need to find a place to house these immigrants while they’re waiting for deportation.
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi noted that Kelly could be responsible for carrying out some of Trump’s most divisive campaign promises: the southern border wall and mass deportations among them.
“We hope that General Kelly is willing to stand up for facts, families and the Constitution. America will not be made great by dragging parents away from their children, by squandering billions of dollars on a wall that does little to secure the border, or by rejecting freedom of religion and echoing the darkest chapters of persecution.”
Scraping for federal funds and equipment to battle such problems will not be a new challenge for Kelly. As the head of Southern Command, he was often blunt about his need for more resources to fight the drug trade that sweeps into the U.S. from South America.
During a 2014 hearing, he told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he didn’t have the ships or surveillance assets to get more than 20 percent of the drugs leaving Colombia for the U.S. He said he often had “very good clarity” on the drug traffickers, but much of the time “I simply sit and watch it go by.”
The most contentious issue Kelly faced, though, was the Obama push to close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center, and proposals to bring detainees to a facility in the U.S. if they could not be returned to other nations. Members of Congress stridently opposed any move to close Guantanamo, arguing that it is the ideal location for terror suspects gathered up in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
The Pentagon faced criticism for not moving more quickly to release detainees to other countries. Those decisions largely rested with the defense secretary, but Kelly absorbed some of that anger even though his job was simply to carry out the transportation of the detainee after the decision was made. He also raised concerns about the costs of moving the detention center to the U.S. and the expanse of security that would be needed.
In his final Pentagon news conference, he spoke openly about the loss of his son — a topic he didn’t often raise in a public setting.
“To lose a child is — I can’t imagine anything worse than that. I used to think, when I’d go to all of my trips up to Bethesda, Walter Reed, I’ll go to the funerals with the secretaries of defense, that I could somehow imagine what it would be like,” said Kelly.
But, he added, “when you lose one in combat, there’s a — in my opinion — there’s a pride that goes with it, that he didn’t have to be there doing what he was doing. He wanted to be there. He volunteered.”
Kelly said he gets “occasional letters from gold star families who are asking, ‘Was it worth it?’ And I always go back with this: It doesn’t matter. That’s not our question to ask as parents. That young person thought it was worth it, and that’s the only opinion that counts.”
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WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump is expected to nominate Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, a source close to Pruitt said Wednesday. Environmental groups quickly denounced the choice.
Pruitt, 48, has been a reliable booster of the fossil fuel industry and an outspoken critic of what he derides as the EPA’s “activist agenda.”
The person close to Pruitt who provided the information about Trump’s pick spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly.
Though his academic degrees are in political science and law, Pruitt has been a vocal public denier of the overwhelming consensus of the world’s climate scientists that the Earth is warming and that man-made carbon emissions are to blame. In an opinion article published earlier this year by National Review, Pruitt suggested that the debate over global warming “is far from settled” and claimed “scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.”
Representing his state as attorney general since 2011, Pruitt has repeatedly sued the EPA to roll back environmental regulations and public health protections. He joined with other Republican attorneys general in opposing the Clean Power Plan, which seeks to limit planet-warming carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. Pruitt has argued that curbing carbon emissions would trample the sovereignty of state governments, drive up electricity rates, threaten the reliability of the nation’s power grid and “create economic havoc.”
He also filed court briefs in support of the Keystone XL Pipeline project blocked by the Obama administration, which would have run through his state. Pruitt also sued the EPA over the agency’s recently expansion of water bodies regulated under the federal Clean Water Act, which has been opposed by industries that would be forced to clean up contaminated wastewater.
“Respect for private property rights have allowed our nation to thrive, but with the recently finalized rule, farmers, ranchers, developers, industry and individual property owners will now be subject to the unpredictable, unsound and often byzantine regulatory regime of the EPA,” Pruitt said last year.
As word of Pruitt’s nomination spread Wednesday, environmental groups quickly responded with condemnation.
“Scott Pruitt has built his political career by trying to undermine EPA’s mission of environmental protection,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. “He is a deeply troubling choice to head the agency that protects the clean air all Americans breathe and the clean water we drink.”
Business leaders in his home state, however, lauded Pruitt’s selection, especially those in the oil and gas industry.
“Scott Pruitt is a businessman and public servant and understands the impact regulation and legislation have in the business world,” said Jeffrey McDougall, chairman of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association. “His appointment will put rational and reasonable regulation at the forefront.”
Two juveniles have been charged with arson in connection to the fatal wildfires that swept through East Tennessee last week, a state law enforcement agency said on Wednesday.
During an investigation into the wildfires, “information was developed that two juveniles allegedly started the fire,” the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a press release.
The agency did not release more details on the suspects or the investigation, which is ongoing. The two juveniles were charged with aggravated arson and are being held at the Sevier County Juvenile Detention Center, the agency said.
The wildfires killed 14 people and left roughly 150 people injured.
The Chimney Tops 2 fire started on Nov. 23 and swept through 17,000 acres inside of and around Great Smokey Mountains National Park, the nation’s most-visited national park. The fire has been roughly 64 percent contained, officials said on Wednesday.
A second blaze, the Cobbly Nob fire, started on Nov. 28 and is 67 percent contained, officials said. That fire burned nearly 900 acres.
More than 1,700 homes were destroyed or damaged in the fires.
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President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday selected Linda McMahon, the co-founder of the pro wrestling empire WWE, to run the Small Business Administration.
Trump said McMahon would help drive job growth by cutting federal regulations that stymie small businesses.
“Linda has a tremendous background and is widely recognized as one of the country’s top female executives advising businesses around the globe,” Trump said in a statement. Trump added that McMahon, 68, would be a “champion for small businesses and unleash America’s entrepreneurial spirit all across the country.”
“I am honored to join the incredibly impressive economic team that President-elect Trump has assembled to ensure that we promote our country’s small businesses and help them grow and thrive,” McMahon said in a statement.
Trump has also nominated billionaire businessman Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary, and financier Steve Mnuchin as treasury secretary.
McMahon was a vocal Trump supporter during the campaign. She founded the WWE with her husband, Vince McMahon, in the early 1980s, growing the business into a multinational company now worth more than $1 billion.
McMahon stepped away from the WWE to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut as a Republican in 20010, losing to the Democrat Richard Blumenthal. McMahon lost a second Senate bid to Chris Murphy in 2012.
Trump has ties to the WWE. He appeared on Wrestlemania XXIII in 2007, while promoting his reality T.V. show The Apprentice, and is in the pro wrestling company’s hall of fame.
The president-elect’s selection of McMahon comes as he moved to fill other top positions in his administration on Wednesday.
Trump signaled plans to nominated John Kelly, a retired Marine general, as Homeland Security secretary. He also picked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and tapped Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to serve as U.S. ambassador to China.
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As The PBS NewsHour continues to mourn the loss of our beloved co-anchor, Gwen Ifill, women journalists of color offer a special reflection on her impact in an industry once dominated by white men.
For many, Ifill was a pioneer for young women and would-be journalists of color. Yamiche Alcindor of the New York Times, Hannah Allam of McClatchy, Kat Chow of National Public Radio, Krissah Thompson of the Washington Post, as well as Nia-Malika Henderson and Tanzina Vega of CNN join the NewsHour’s Kenya Downs, Pamela Kirkland and Jasmine Wright to honor Ifill, a woman whose own successful career inspired a generation of women of color to pursue journalism.
Each journalist’s letter to Gwen can be found below.
Thank you for telling me to know my name. The first time I met you, I said my name was Yamiche but that you could call me “Miche.” And you said, “Do you really want to be called ‘Miche?’ Don’t let people give you nicknames.” That stuck with me, because I think as I get older and as I look at all the breadth of your work, I think of knowing myself and knowing my name and owning who I am. It was so important that you told me that.Growing up wanting to be a journalist, the fact that you were covering the White House, that meant something. That meant that I could go and pursue the career and become a journalist. As a black woman working for the New York Times and then also doing stuff on TV, I could talk to you about how to navigate these spaces that are still so overwhelmingly white. I learned how to navigate my own career, make smart choices, own up to who I am and to not be ashamed of pitching stories that are important to black people. I could write about politics, I could write about crime, or I could write about whatever I wanted but not be pigeonholed into one certain thing.
Dear Gwen, I am going to really, really, really, really miss you. But I’m also going to really, really, really, really try to make you proud. You knew who you were, you knew how to tell the truth, and you knew that you were here for a purpose. I just hope and pray that I can also walk in my purpose and use the lessons that you’ve given me to make you proud.
— Yamiche Alcindor
Politics reporter – New York Times
Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for always putting substance over style and for elevating what matters. For the time that I showed up to your studio with straight hair, because everybody knows [naturally curly hair] isn’t polished, [it] isn’t ready for the newscast. I showed up with my hair straightened to your show, and you gave me a look, and then you said, “You know you don’t have to do that here.” That meant the world to me.
The confidence that it instilled in me, and what it meant to be invited somewhere, not because you cared about my hair, but because you wanted me to explain U.S. involvement in the Yemen conflict and how ISIS could or could not be a threat to the U.S. homeland was tremendous. Those were the issues that mattered. It was not about what the person delivering that message looked like, not in that superficial way.
I remember at the Gridiron dinner a few years ago, you pulled me aside and said, “What are you covering now?” I said foreign policy, and your eyes lit up. You said, “Great! I need more people of color to come on the show and talk about foreign policy.” Because we know what it’s like to live in that rarefied world where these are the biggest decisions on national security, on foreign policy, and there weren’t and aren’t too many people who look like you or who look like me at that table — to just to have a place at the table, a place at your table, meant so much.
Before me was one of the most formidable journalists of our time, Gwen Ifill, looking at me and telling me, “Great point,” “Wrap it up,” “Bring it home” or “Good job.” That meant the world to me.
So as I stand here with tears in my eyes, thinking of how much we’ve lost with your passing, what a wonderful gift to have had, what a lesson it was for a young journalist to see this boss woman in power calling the shots, that’s the essence of a leader to me: someone who was intellectual, composed, compassionate, fair and empathetic.
We will miss your journalism, all of us. I and other women journalists will miss having that calm and steady presence of yours, that take-charge, I-got-this attitude that reassures all of us on days when we’re not sure we have it.
— Hannah Allam
Foreign affairs reporter – McClatchy
We never had the chance to meet, but ever since I was a young girl, when watching the news, I only saw older white guys on TV behind that anchor desk.The first time I even knew you existed, I was a teenager in high school, and I didn’t really know much about journalism besides the fact that, all of a sudden, I saw a woman of color behind the anchor desk. When you’re young, you don’t really think about how important it is to see people who are a woman or a woman of color in those positions. I didn’t know that was something that I could even expect. But it made it seem like it was possible to even just enter this field.
You really cared about diversity in journalism, and you talked specifically about what it meant for you to be a black woman in journalism trying to make it. To me that was really powerful, because it showed that you care about these things really deeply. For me, it legitimized the fact that you really are a worthy role model. You were someone to really look up to.
Now the world of journalism has one less role model there for us. Now, if not more than ever, we’re at a place where we need journalists like us. But we’re going to have to work much harder at filling your shoes and the holes that you’ve left, because the journalism that you did was that powerful.
It wasn’t just the fact that you existed, and what your life represented. You were a phenomenal journalist, too.
Thank you for that, Gwen.
— Kat Chow
Code Switch reporter – National Public Radio
Thank you for reminding me that as a young, black, female journalist I am part of a continuum.
You from your perch always looked back, saw my work and let me know that you were proud of what I was doing. When I was in South Africa writing about First Lady Michelle Obama’s trip, you tweeted at me that my post reminded you of your days covering Hillary Clinton through Africa when she was the First Lady. Just the fact that you, as successful as you were and as prominent, read my work and took the time to encourage me, it meant everything.
When I came to Washington, I immediately knew that you were a force in journalism here. There still weren’t many journalists of color, especially in the political space. Just your presence let me know that I could do it. It let me know that there was a lane that had already been carved and it brought me a level of freedom to know that there was no ceiling, that I could continue to press and push even higher.
The legacy that you have left young women and journalists of color is huge. We know that, because of you, we have a seat at the table and deserve a seat at the table. We know that because of you there’s nothing that we cannot do. We can do that all while not forgetting the joy of just the work that we’re doing, taking pleasure in it, remembering who we are and how we got here through it all.
— Krissah Thompson
Feature writer – Washington Post
You inspire me like no one else. I look to you as an example and literally looked to you when I was a Baltimore Sun reporter many years ago.
I had a little picture of you that I taped to my computer. I’d gotten it off the internet because I so admired the path that you took: the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, the New York Times, NBC and all of your wonderful work at The PBS News Hour and with Washington Week as well. I loved the way you asked questions. You asked tough questions in such a causal, warm way. It was almost like you were throwing a curve ball at someone but they would in some ways be thankful after that curve ball hit them in the face.
All of the young journalists of color, women particularly, all look to you as an example of what we could do. I remember coming to be on your show and seeing you there as the boss, having a staff and being the authority. It was so inspiring to so many of us. I remember when you invited me to be on Washington Week. What a huge moment that was for me. I just knew I had made it when I was on Washington Week with Gwen Ifill, because you knew the folks on Gwen Ifill, that you respected them. To have your respect in that moment on those shows was everything.
We will miss you. We will miss your voice. But we’re going to mentor the folks who are coming up behind us the way you did, because you always treated people like they belonged at the table. We’re going to pass on everything that you taught us.
—— Nia-Malika Henderson
Senior political reporter – CNN
I remember how I felt each and every time that I saw you on television: proud, amazed, in awe. But mostly I felt seen.
Women like you have helped pave the way for so many of us in the some of the toughest news organizations in the world. It hasn’t been easy for many of us, and I know it wasn’t easy for you. We owe you our gratitude and we need to channel your excellence now more than ever.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
— Tanzina Vega
National reporter – CNN
You were the first person I had ever seen at an anchor desk who looked like me. As someone who knew since she was five years-old that she wanted to be a journalist, that meant so much to me. For the first time, it seemed like it was possible. It seemed real.
I have followed your career throughout my own, and it was such an honor to then go from admiring you from afar to working with you here at The PBS NewsHour. It mattered to me how dedicated you were to underrepresented communities. As someone who has a passion for reporting on the Caribbean, and you being the daughter of Panamanian and Barbadian immigrants, you encouraged me to go for it. You encouraged me to find the stories that no one else was reporting on, or angles that weren’t covered. You listened, and that meant so much to me.
Although we didn’t get to work together long, I cherish every moment that we had. I’m very grateful from the moment I first saw you, years ago on Meet the Press and on anchor desks since then, that you have had such a big impact on my career and my growth as a woman of color who aspired to be a journalist.
And I promise to uphold your legacy by being a hand or a model for some other woman who one day may see me, or may see a woman who looks like me or like you, and know that she can too.
I thank you so much for that.
— Kenya Downs
Digital reporter – The PBS NewsHour
When I was growing up, I knew I wanted to be a journalist, and I remember doing book reports on pioneer journalists like Nellie Bly and sitting in my grandmother’s living room watching Tom Brokaw deliver the nightly news. What I also remember is not seeing very many faces that look like mine. But there you were, a beacon of hope in a sea of white faces.You gave me hope that this was a career that I could pursue, and that perhaps the differences and the colors that I didn’t see on TV could end up being a strength. Somehow I ended up getting the chance to work with you every day. I can remember when I interviewed for this job at the NewsHour, and they asked me why I wanted to work here. For me the answer was simple: it was you.
I’ve admired you and Judy Woodruff for showing me that two female co-anchors could be a norm instead of the exception. And I also admire that when people describe you, they describe you as a prominent political journalist rather than as a prominent, black political journalist.
I remember my very first day at the NewsHour. I wanted you to like me so much it hurt. You were never cold, but I could tell that you were studying me. You wanted to see what kind of ideas I had and then push me to go further and deeper in my research. You taught me to keep digging, that even when I thought I had found the answer or concluded the story that there were always more questions that could be asked. There was always another layer to go beyond.
America lost one of its all-time great journalists, and I lost a mentor, a friend and a phenomenal anchor. There will never be another Gwen Ifill. There will never be another you. But I will forever strive to cover stories in a way that will make you proud.
— Pamela Kirkland
Politics producer – The PBS NewsHour
The impact that you’ve had on me is infinite.
I remember when we were preparing for the Democratic debate that you moderated. We were going over questions to ask, grappling with how to ask questions about race. We wanted the golden questions, a question where the candidate couldn’t go back to their talking points. They had to give a real answer.
I looked to you, because I knew that if no one else that was in that room, youwere the one that could tell me whether or not my question hit the mark. And you just looked at me and smiled with your 1,000-watt smile and you said, “That’s it. That’s our question.”
In that moment I felt validated. You saw me. You saw me for who I was, and you were proud of me. You were proud that I spoke up, that I voiced my opinion, that I knew that this was the question that we had to ask. You as a woman who I have admired for the better part of my life, as a woman who showed me what journalism really could be, in that moment all of my dreams came true, because you saw me, and you were proud of me, and that’s all that I could ask for.
So thank you for that memory, because I’ll remember that for the rest of my life. And thank you for the legacy that you left us black women and us women of color and women all over the world of how we can be fair, but hard. How we can be compassionate but thorough and how we can be our best selves in this field of journalism.
Thank you, Gwen.
— Jasmine Wright
Production assistant – The PBS NewsHour
The post ‘You were a beacon’: Letters to Gwen Ifill from female journalists of color she inspired appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Dylann Roof planned the killing of black worshippers in Charleston, South Carolina, months in advance, federal prosecutors told a jury in opening statements Wednesday.
Roof faces 33 federal counts of hate crimes for fatally shooting nine members of the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on June 17, 2015.
“He chose to execute nine good, innocent men and women, and he chose to do so out of a callous hatred of the color of their skin,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Julius Richardson said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Roof’s court appointed attorney David Bruck did not deny any of the facts presented by the prosecution, instead focusing on his motivation.
“You will see a crime that is driven by fear,” Bruck said.
The Associated Press reported that Bruck was setting the stage to argue for a life sentence instead of the death penalty, which prosecutors are seeking.
Lawyers also warned the jurors, of whom nine are white and three black, that the trial would be particularly difficult because of the stark and gruesome nature of the crimes.
Law enforcement officials said the 22-year-old self-proclaimed white supremacist stayed through a prayer session at the church before pulling out his gun and shooting his victims while they were praying.
After the shooting, photographs on social media emerged of Roof posing with the Confederate flag. He also allegedly wrote a manifesto of racial hatred that he posted online.
The opening statements in Roof’s trial come as racial tensions in Charleston remain high after a judge declared a mistrial in the case of Michael Slager. Slager, a white Charleston police officer, shot and killed an unarmed black man during a traffic stop last year.
Roof’s attorneys requested the trial be postponed in the wake of the mistrial, citing fears that the mistrial would influence the jurors’ outlook on Roof’s case.
Roof plans to represent himself in the penalty phase of the trial after the judge in the case granted him the right to do so.
In addition to the federal charges, Roof will face state charges in a separate trial.
In our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Now to our NewsHour Shares, something that caught our eye, that might be of interest to you, too.
As we noted earlier, today marks the 75th anniversary of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The ensuing battle claimed the lives of more than 2,400 Americans, and triggered U.S. involvement in World War II.
An unknown NBC reporter in Honolulu spoke by telephone that day in a dispatch that was broadcast live across the nation.
Here’s an excerpt:
REPORTER: One, two, three, four.
Hello, NBC. Hello, NBC. This is KGU in Honolulu, Hawaii.
I am speaking from the roof of the Advertiser Publishing Company building. We have witnessed this morning a distant view of a brief full battle of Pearl Harbor and a severe bombing of Pearl Harbor by enemy planes, undoubtedly Japanese.
The city of Honolulu has also been attacked, and considerable damage done. This battle has been going on for nearly three hours. One of the bombs dropped within 50 feet of KGU tower. It is no joke. It is a real war.
The public of Honolulu has been advised to keep in their homes and await results from the Army and Navy. There has been fierce fighting going on in the air and on the sea. The heavy shooting seems to be — one, two, three, four. Just a moment. We’ll interrupt here.
We cannot estimate yet how much damage has been done, but it has been a very severe attack. And the Navy and Army appear now to have the air and the sea under control.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It certainly brings us back to that terrible day.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes, I wonder what it was like to hear that on the radio everywhere. I’m sure it was one of those moments where everyone knew exactly, if they were alive at that point to hear it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Seventy-five years ago this day.
The post Hear the breaking news report from Pearl Harbor, 75 years later appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a perspective on the benefits of learning and speaking a foreign language.
Lauren Collins is a correspondent for “The New Yorker” magazine, and she brings us the latest installment in our series IMHO: In My Humble Opinion.
LAUREN COLLINS, The New Yorker: (SPEAKING FRENCH)
What I just said is that, five years ago, I didn’t speak a word of French. And why would I have? I was born and raised in a small town in North Carolina. In high school, I took Spanish, and like a lot of people who take high school Spanish, I failed to retain much more than “hola” and “gracias” and, “habla Inglés?”
I guess at the time, it didn’t seem all that important. But I have come to believe that learning a foreign language is a quietly revolutionary act and that there’s never been a better time to do it.
My French revolution started when I met a man named Olivier at a party. Besides the fact that we were both living in London, we had exactly zero in common, but somehow we got to talking and neither of us wanted to stop. Olivier spoke beautiful English, so it wasn’t a big deal that I didn’t speak his language.
But then things got serious, and we got married. And I told his mother I had given birth to a coffee machine. And we moved to French-speaking Switzerland, and eventually it became clear that I was going to have to learn French.
I signed up for an intensive class. My fellow students came from all over the world, Germany, Argentina, Japan. The funny thing about French classes, they’re the one place that, by definition, you’re never going to find someone who speaks French.
But I kept at it. We all did. And, very slowly, I found myself getting the hang of things. One day, something clicked, and I heard my husband’s voice for the first time.
There are so many advantages to learning a language. Being bilingual improves your memory. And several studies have suggested that it may even stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia.
But, for me, most incredible thing was being all of a sudden privy to a parallel world I hadn’t even known existed, a world in which there was a word for a person who got cold easily, where a man’s shirt was feminine, but a woman’s shirt was masculine, where there wasn’t just one past tense, but two.
Each time, I had to decide whether a person was a vous or a tu, an acquaintance or an intimate, which is to say basically every time I encountered someone. I felt my boundaries shifting, my relationships being recategorized into public and private.
What if, in this moment of rising intolerance, nationalism and xenophobia, we could all put ourselves in another person’s tongue?
When you learn a language, you benefit not only yourself, but also society. Botching conjugations and brandishing your ridiculous accent, you develop empathy. You start to see that the world looks different, depending on where you stand and what you speak.
The post Learning a foreign language revealed a world I never knew existed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the charged atmosphere at this time around the role of Muslims in America comes what is billed as the first major exhibition on in the United States on the Quran.
Jeffrey Brown reports.
MASSUMEH FARHAD, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution: This is one of the great highlights of the exhibition. It’s a Quran from the early 14th century, from about 1330, signed by a great master.
JEFFREY BROWN: Signed?
MASSUMEH FARHAD: Signed.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.
A holy book, as a work of art, the Quran, sacred to some 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. A new exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution’s Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., presents 68 of the most important and exquisite Qurans ever produced.
Dating from the late 7th to early 17 centuries, they come from many parts of the Islamic world and are part of the collection of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul. That’s where Sackler chief curator Massumeh Farhad first saw them.
MASSUMEH FARHAD: I realized that these were true works of art, that every single one of them was astounding in its sort of mastery of calligraphy, of the styles, and also of the scale of the works.
And that is something that, to me, was very important, and motivated me in trying to organize this exhibition, because I thought it really shifted my perception of what these works are. And I’m hoping that it will also shift the perception of the visitors who come to the museum to see the exhibition.
JEFFREY BROWN: For Muslims, the Quran is a divine text, a series of revelations transmitted from the angel Gabriel to the Prophet Mohammed between 610 and 632. It includes references to earlier figures, including Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
The term itself means recitation. The Quran stems from an oral tradition. But the text was written down and codified in a fixed form not long after the death of Mohammed.
Maria Dakake teaches Islamic religious thought and history at George Mason University.
MARIA DAKAKE, George Mason University: One of the things that is rather striking about the Quran when people read it for the first time is that it often takes the form of direct address.
So, it will say sometimes, oh, you who believe. Sometimes, it will address all human beings, oh, humankind. It is a series of moral exhortations, exhortations to virtue. It includes many stories of prophets before the time of Mohammed.
It is an attempt to grab the listener, or grab the reader, to wake them up, to make them think about their life, about the world around them. It’s a lot of passages with rhetorical sentences, right? Did you not consider this? Didn’t you think about this? How did you get here?
JEFFREY BROWN: The exhibition includes furniture, stands to hold manuscripts, and chests to store them.
Many of these Qurans were originally commissioned and donated or collected by rulers. Early manuscripts, on parchment, feature plain ink and simple designs. Later, artists and calligraphers developed ever more elaborate and ornate script, illumination, and geometric patterns, in light of Islam’s proscription against figurative images, to make each manuscript a singular work.
MASSUMEH FARHAD: It’s how they sort of use their individuality is really quite remarkable. And the greater master, the better they can sort of manipulate the style without breaking the rules, because you could not break the rules of a particular style of calligraphy, but you could sort of stretch them, and sort of introduce your own sort of touch to a particular style or a particular type of writing.
JEFFREY BROWN: Some of these masters are well known to scholars, like the maker of this Quran, Abdullah Sayrafi, who spent most of his life in Tabriz in Northwestern Iran.
MASSUMEH FARHAD: What is remarkable about Abdullah Sayrafi is the fact that he was able to write in more than one style of calligraphy, because, usually, most calligraphers specialized in one style and one particular size alone.
It was clearly a Quran that was meant for display. It is so lavish in its use of both illumination, in terms of that very rich black ink, the fact that every gold line is outlined in black. I mean, this is a visual feast, and it’s supposed to be viewed and looked at. So, it was meant as a display copy.
JEFFREY BROWN: How long would it take to do something like this?
MASSUMEH FARHAD: Many years.
JEFFREY BROWN: Years for each one?
MASSUMEH FARHAD: For each one.
JEFFREY BROWN: Even amid a highly contentious and politicized atmosphere today concerning Muslims in America, the curators say this exhibition was long in the works, and the timing is coincidental.
For her part, Maria Dakake hopes it will shine a different kind of spotlight on Islam and the Quran.
MARIA DAKAKE: You will hear sometimes Islamophobic comments about Islam. And they will say, well, you know, why would I want to know anything about this text? I see what kinds of things it produces, right? It produces people who behave in these violent ways or something like that.
But when you come here, you see the larger reality of what it produced, right? It produced beauty. It produced scientific inquiry. It inspired literary endeavors.
And in a time of Islamophobia, I think what’s so valuable about this collection is to see the kind of artistic elements, the beauty that the Quran really brought.
JEFFREY BROWN: “The Art of the Qur’an” is on exhibition through February.
From the Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., I’m Jeffrey Brown for the “PBS NewsHour.”
HARI SREENIVASAN: One thing that’s become clear since the election is the very different approach president-elect Trump is taking toward dealing with the media and his efforts to talk to the American public more directly.
To start, let’s look at the last 24 hours.
It was a most unusual appearance for a man whose unpredictability is now signature. President-elect Trump showed up unannounced in the lobby of his Manhattan skyscraper yesterday. Less than an hour earlier, he tweeted that costs for a new Air Force One were out of control, and said the order should be canceled.
He spoke to journalists who’ve gathered in the Trump Tower entrance for weeks.
DONALD TRUMP (R), President-Elect: It is going to be over $4 billion for Air Force One program. And I think it is ridiculous. I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The White House later questioned the figure Mr. Trump cited. The president-elect later appeared in the lobby again to announce an investment by a Japanese tech mogul.
Since his stunning election night upset, Mr. Trump hasn’t held a single formal press conference. Instead, he’s communicated with the public directly, often 140 characters at a time. He called the protesters who took to the streets immediately after his election — quote — “very unfair.” He said burning the American flag, which is protected under the First Amendment, should be punishable by loss of citizenship or a year in jail.
He has made announcements about the plans for his business interests. Late last month, he challenged the results of the popular vote with a false claim that — quote — “millions of people voted illegally.”
He even used the platform to float names for potential Cabinet picks, like Dr. Ben Carson as the head of Housing and Urban Development. In a video statement released on Twitter and YouTube, Mr. Trump laid out plans for his first 100 days in office.
DONALD TRUMP: My agenda will be based on a simple core principle: putting America first. Whether it’s producing steel, building cars, or curing disease, I want the next generation of production and innovation to happen right here, on our great homeland, America.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The president-elect’s choice to control his own public communication is driven, at least in part, by his open disdain for the mainstream media.
On Monday, he tweeted: “If the press would cover me accurately and honorably, I would have far less reason to tweet. Sadly, I don’t know if that will ever happen.”
To be sure, past administrations have had their disagreements and even hostile relationships with the press. During his two terms, President Obama has, on occasion, used his social media channels to circumvent reporters.
But no leader has taken to such platforms like Mr. Trump. Last week, during a post-election review at Harvard, Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, spoke about how the president-elect sees the press.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, Former Trump Campaign Manager: Donald Trump understands the media and he understands the American electorate and he understands how to drive a message. However, Donald Trump also has the ability to bypass the mainstream media by going directly to social media.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The president-elect did hold an off-the-record meeting with television anchors and executives last month and on-the-record conversations with The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, but he has also repeatedly traveled without notifying the press pool assigned to cover him.
That’s led reporters to voice concerns about a lack of access. Mr. Trump is, however, expected to hold his first press conference as president-elect next Thursday.
We take a broader look at the president-elect’s unprecedented relationship with the press and unique communication style with Micheline Maynard, a veteran journalist who is covering Trump and the media for Forbes.com.
Micki Maynard, this isn’t the first time the president, any president has wanted to go talk directly to the people or go around the pesky press in the middle. What’s so different about this?
MICHELINE MAYNARD, Forbes: Well, I think what’s so different about this is the unpredictability, and also the fact, you know, with many presidents, you could just take — if they had a tweet — this is really our first tweeting president — president-elect.
Mr. Obama tweets a little bit, but it’s fairly structured. This is not structured at all. You almost have to take the information as the starting point, because you can’t simply repeat what he’s tweeted. You have to give it a little bit of context.
So, you were talking about the Boeing situation and the over-$4 billion number. Well, those of us who cover aviation who have kept track of the Air Force One replacement program had never heard a number like $4 billion.
And the GAO, the General Accounting Office, had never even said that the program would be $4 billion. So it’s a little bit of a puzzlement where some of this information is coming from.
But it does at least give you something to go on.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So how do newsrooms decide where to put their resources, chase down the fact behind every tweet, or figure out what the policy will actually be and what the actual impact on Americans will be?
MICHELINE MAYNARD: The interesting thing about Mr. Trump’s tweets is that they’re often in response to a news story that he doesn’t like.
So, the Boeing tweet in particular came a little while after The Chicago Tribune ran a story quoting the CEO of Boeing as saying he was a bit concerned about trade policy under the new Trump administration.
So, it’s almost like — I don’t know how you guess which company he might criticize next. But it’s almost as if you have to write the tweet down on one side of a ledger and then go look for a link to the story on the other side of the ledger and see where the mesh comes in.
HARI SREENIVASAN: There also seems to be a gap inside the newsrooms, the political reporters on one side and the business reporters on the other side not necessarily seeing the connections.
MICHELINE MAYNARD: Right. They’re two different specialties.
So, business journalists, like myself, we spend years learning how the Securities and Exchange Commission works. We take classes in business journalism. Political reporters probably take political science classes, spend years in Washington or in their local state governments. The two don’t cross that often. Sometimes, they do.
We have great publications like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, where you have politically savvy business reporters, and vice versa. But it’s two separate sets of DNA.
And now the challenge for newsrooms will be to school reporters who are trained in politics in business, and school business reporters to look for the politics in whatever Mr. Trump does.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Inherently, is anything that comes out of a president’s mouth automatically newsworthy? If he wants to say a tweet like the flag-burning one, where he’s essentially challenging the constitutionality of how we express ourselves, isn’t that newsworthy, in and of itself, or is someone making an editorial decision, saying, well, this is a distraction and we shouldn’t put resources on it?
MICHELINE MAYNARD: Well, so far, I haven’t seen anyone not repeat the tweets.
Because he’s the president-elect, because everybody is looking for clues about what kind of president he will be, anything he says right now is newsworthy. But I am watching news organizations that just repeat it like they’re stenographers, and news organizations that say, wait a minute, the flag-burning thing, you know, we’re constitutionally protected if we want to burn the flag.
So I’m looking for people giving the right context to their audiences, whether it’s on the air, in print, or on social media.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Some of the complaints about limited access, about the traveling press pool or not so many press conferences, I mean, some of that is a violation of tradition or it’s personnel preference, but how does it actually matter in the day-to-day coverage of the presidency? Why is that important for the public to have and to know?
MICHELINE MAYNARD: Well, right after Mr. Trump was elected, he went to Washington, and he left the pool that was following him behind.
Then he went to dinner, and he left the pool that was following him behind. In fact, those reporters had been told that there was a lid on movement for the night. That means that he’s not going to do anything newsworthy. And, in fact, he went out for dinner with his family.
I don’t know how newsworthy that was, but people have made the point that we had the 9/11 attacks, people needed to know where President Bush was. President Reagan, sadly, there was an assassination attempt, and the pool needed to know what was going on with that, and on and on.
So we have certainly had instances in our history where unexpected events happened, and a group of reporters, broadcast, print, now digital, photographers needed to be there. So the pool is important. But I think we’re seeing that Mr. Trump is either not aware of traditions or has his own opinion about them.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Micheline Maynard, I’m sure we will have more conversations about this in the future. Thanks so much.
MICHELINE MAYNARD: Thank you for having me.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: a pioneer in the traditionally male-dominated world of sports writing.
Claire Smith has been covering baseball for more than four decades. She was the first African-American female reporter to cover the game for a newspaper. Working for The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Hartford Courant during her career. She’s now with ESPN.
And, yesterday, she was awarded the top honor for a baseball writer. Smith is the first woman to get that prize from the Baseball Writers Association of America.
And she joins me now from covering baseball’s winter meetings in Oxon Hill, Maryland, where off-season trades and other business is being discussed.
Claire Smith, congratulations. And what does this mean to you?
CLAIRE SMITH, J.G. Taylor Spink Award Winner: It means the world.
I look around this hotel lobby, I see my peers out there hard at work. I see so many that I watched grow up in the industry, so many that I have worked with for three-plus decades. And I — they chose me. They chose me to be the 68th winner of this award.
And previous winners were named Grantland Rice, Damon Runyon, Red Smith, Wendell Smith, Sam Lacy.
And they said, you are the 68th winner, the first female, the first African-American female.
It’s so humbling. I’m overwhelmed. I really am.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Why baseball? Why did you want to write about and cover baseball?
CLAIRE SMITH: Two words: Jackie Robinson.
I was a child when my mother told me that story. And in those two words, I thought, this is a great country. Anything is possible. And within this sport, this sport taught this country how to grow up and move on. It integrated 20-some years before the United States of America.
I was in elementary school when the nuns at Saint James took a third-grade class down to the church in the basement of that Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, school, and showed us “The Jackie Robinson Story.” And Ruby Dee as Mrs. Rachel Robinson, and Jackie Robinson as Jackie Robinson, they took my breath away.
They reminded me of my parents, young and proud. And I wanted to know more about this couple and that game and that man named Branch Rickey. I loved storytelling. My parents bought me an old Olympia typewriter and gave me paper as a child, a preteen. I loved pecking on that.
But that story captured my imagination, and I still wear Jackie’s number a lot. I loved the idea of baseball and what it did for this country, what Jackie and the Dodgers did.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It is so inspiring.
But once you got into writing about and covering baseball, as a woman, you found out it wasn’t as easy as maybe you might have thought going in? I mean, I’m particularly interested in what happened in 1984.
CLAIRE SMITH: Well, Judy, I had a long career with one bad day.
And that was in 1984 in the postseason, Padres at Cubs, a playoff game. And I was pushed out, physically pushed out of the clubhouse because the Padres didn’t adhere to the National League’s edict that the National League controlled the clubhouses once the postseason started.
I had so many people jump to my defense, not necessarily the Padres club, but Padres player, first baseman Steve Garvey, who left the clubhouse to make sure that I had quotes, so I could do my job.
And he reminded me, as I started to falter, that he would stay in that damp, small area in Wrigley Field while I pulled myself together. He would stay as long as I needed for him to stay.
But he said, “But you have a job to do.” And he — that one phrase made me pull myself together and do my job.
My peers came to my defense. And the commissioner, Peter Ueberroth, who was in his first week in office, the next day passed an edict: All credentialed — properly credentialed reporters, no matter gender, race, religion, whatever planet they came from, get access in Major League Baseball.
He couldn’t believe that it really hadn’t happened before. But on his watch, from that day forward, it was going to happen.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were not deterred, and you have kept on ever since then.
Has it been harder, though, as an African-American? Or have you just not looked back and thought about that since then?
CLAIRE SMITH: It was no contest.
It was harder because of gender than race. I have always said that, because a sport had — at that time had a much larger representation of African-Americans in uniform, and still to this day is a very diverse sport, albeit more Latin American players of color than African-Americans of color, it would be very hard to be overtly racist towards anyone in a clubhouse.
However, it’s still very easy to be an idiot.
CLAIRE SMITH: It might not be in a club’s best interest to push people out because of gender, because the commissioner’s office will come down on you very hard, but that doesn’t stop a player from being obscene, from being a degenerate, from just being a jerk.
And that happens occasionally, sadly. If a woman is isolated in a town where a team has a laissez-faire attitude, it makes it very difficult.
I was very lucky. I covered a team that was aggressive in its approach. The Yankees were very proud to say that none of that happened in the clubhouse. By the time I came along, the Yankees were just ferocious in policing their own clubhouse, from the players on up. I had friends who were severely scarred by incidents elsewhere in the country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Wow.
Well, I hope that a lot of young women who are thinking about going into sports writing and sports news are watching this and being inspired by it.
CLAIRE SMITH: Well, thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Claire Smith, congratulations.
CLAIRE SMITH: Thank so much, Judy. I appreciate that. Thank you very much.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The movie industry has its Oscars, the music world the Grammys, and, sure, there are Nobel Prizes in science, but the world of science would like to connect with the popular culture.
This weekend, there were some notable awards in that field held in a makeshift hangar at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and that’s the focus of our weekly segment about the Leading Edge of science and technology.
Miles O’Brien is here to tell us a little bit more about who won and for what achievements.
So — but what is this and who’s behind it?
MILES O’BRIEN: Hari, it’s called the Breakthrough Prizes.
They were founded five years ago by a few Silicon Valley moguls. They wanted to recognize scientists with the largest cash prizes in science, glitzy gala, big-name stars from tech and entertainment.
The scientific rock stars were honored by some Hollywood celebrities, Morgan Freeman, Alicia Keys, Jeremy Irons, Black Eyed Peas star Will.i.am, who probably put it best.
WILL.I.AM, Musician: When somebody graduates and plays basketball from the NBA who just came from UCLA, there’s a show about that. There’s a show called the draft. And people tune in.
But when someone graduates from MIT and then ends up working at Google, nobody knows. So I think, in popular culture, like, we do a very poor job celebrating the right things.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, I see three different categories here, fundamental physics, life sciences, and math.
Let’s start with life sciences.
MILES O’BRIEN: Life sciences is the largest of the five topics for recipients. Each person or awardee group gets a $3 million prize for major contributions to the understanding of the inner workings of life.
Now, for example, Stephen Elledge, a scientist at Harvard and he’s affiliated with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as well, was recognized for his research into how DNA detects when it is damaged. Here he is explaining it.
STEPHEN ELLEDGE, Harvard Medical School: DNA has this incredible ability to sense its own integrity. It’s a molecule, but it knows when it’s damaged. And it has built a signaling apparatus that’s a little bit like sort of a radio station. It sends out signals when there’s a problem and calls in the troops and it organizes everything. So it’s really about communication inside the cell.
MILES O’BRIEN: This is key because disruptions of this mechanism are linked to cancer, and there are already some cancer treatments being implemented that are based on this research. So it’s very exciting, Hari.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, there was a special category — award in the category of physics. Tell us about it.
MILES O’BRIEN: Yes, physics is always interesting.
There were some awards which got into string theory, which would be too hard to explain in the time we have. But this one is very interesting. And you have about it, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO. It earned a special prize in fundamental physics.
What is LIGO? Well, this 1,000-plus-member team will be splitting that $3 million prize for their detection of gravity waves caused by the merging two of black holes. LIGO uses lasers to precisely measure the position of mirrors separated from each other by about 2.5 miles.
Now, in addition, it takes these measurements at two locations about 1,900 miles apart, one in Louisiana, one in the state of Washington. LIGO is so sensitive, it actually measures the compressing and stretching of space itself. It is the most precise measuring device ever built.
It can detect a disturbance of — now, listen to this — one part in 1,000 billion billion, or something like 1/1,000 of the diameter of a proton. That is hard to — it’s mind-boggling. All right? We’re deep in the quantum world here.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, we don’t talk about math that much, but what about the math prize?
MILES O’BRIEN: Yes. I know folks might have some flashbacks to middle school right now, but this is interesting.
Jean Bourgain of Princeton was awarded for contributions to high-dimensional geometry and some other branches of that. Now, his main innovation was expanding the Fourier analysis, which I know you know well, Hari. It’s a method to break down messy signals into basic repeated components like a sine or cosine graph you might remember from high school.
Now, this makes it easier to understand the underlying structures of complex mathematical situations, both physical and theoretical.
And I think we better to end it there, because it’s going to get deep very quickly.
HARI SREENIVASAN: I remember the tension in my geometry classes were whether or not you should have those Texas Instruments calculators. Oh, it’s cheating. You should do these sine graphs yourselves.
Now, speaking of life back in the old days, there are also prizes for younger scientists. What were they getting prizes for?
MILES O’BRIEN: Yes. And this is exciting stuff.
Two high school students, Deanna See from Singapore and Antonella Masini from Peru, also won the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. It’s a competition in which students from around the world submitted videos explaining some very tough scientific concepts, probably better than I am right now.
Deanna chose antibiotic resistance in bacteria. And Antonella discussed quantum entanglement — quantum entanglement, not bad for a high schooler.
So, what does the award mean to her? Fewer entanglements with scholarships and student loans. Let’s listen.
ANTONELLA MASINI, Breakthrough Junior Challenge Winner: I have a little economical problems at home. And now with this prize, I can choose any school that I want, any college that I want. And it’s unbelievable. I’m really grateful — grateful for this opportunity. And will never forget it.
MILES O’BRIEN: And I have a feeling, Hari, we won’t forget her either.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Miles, we were such slackers compared to just those two kids, much less probably all the kids that were nominated there.
MILES O’BRIEN: It’s why we’re here.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Thank you, Miles O’Brien, joining us from Boston tonight.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: We get the view from Trump Tower now on the president-elect’s transition from Sean Spicer. He’s spokesman for the Republican National Committee.
Sean Spicer, welcome back to the “NewsHour.”
Let me start with some of the announcements already made today just in the last hour or so. Linda McMahon, with the professional wrestling organization, she and her husband made a huge success of that, appointed to run the Small Business Administration.
This now makes, I think, the fourth or fifth billionaire appointed to the Trump Cabinet. What are we to make of this? What are ordinary Americans to make of this?
SEAN SPICER, Chief Strategist, Republican National Committee: I think you look at the people, like Linda McMahon. She started a company with 13 people. She ended up with 800.
What I think Donald Trump has shown is that he wants to surround himself with people who are successful, who understand how to make change and make things happen. Americans want more jobs. They want to put America first. They want American businesses, they want American families to be put first and foremost.
And I think what Donald Trump is showing: I’m going to get the best, most qualified, most successful people to be part of a Trump-Pence administration, because the one thing that has ended, Judy, is business as usual in Washington, D.C.
You look at someone like Linda McMahon, who not only built an unbelievably successful business, but then went on to mentor young women and others to help them grow and flourish. And I think that’s what we want. We want people who have a track record of success to come into Washington, to shake things up, and get the country back on track, to get jobs moving, to fix a health care system that is not working.
But all of those things that people are talking about that they want, he is surrounding himself with successful people that are going to get the job done.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, there is another pick being confirmed by news organizations, not yet by the Trump transition, and that is to run the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of the state of Oklahoma.
The environmental community is already up in arms, reacting very negatively to this, saying he is not only a climate change denier, that he’s very, very close to the fossil fuel industry.
SEAN SPICER: OK, well, look, here’s what I would argue.
First of all, no announcement has been made on that position. Second of all, everybody that comes into a Trump-Pence administration, from the lowest to the highest person in the administration, is here to carry out Donald Trump’s vision and agenda and to get the things that he wants done accomplished.
So, you know, regardless of what somebody’s personal positions are, what they’re signing on to is Donald Trump’s vision, his agenda, his philosophy, and the things that he wants to succeed at.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the environmental community shouldn’t read this as somebody who is — doesn’t believe in anything, essentially, in their agenda being put in charge of the agency that’s supposed to look after the environment?
SEAN SPICER: Well, look, I think that there’s a big difference between environmentalists on the left and people who care about the environment.
And I know that sounds like a distinction, but the reality is, is that, you know, two of Donald Trump’s kids, Eric and Don Jr., are very avid hunters. They understand and appreciate the wilderness and the outdoors. They love to be out there.
But I think that there’s a big difference between appreciating and wanting to preserve and protect the environment, something — whether it’s clean water or clean air, something that we all cherish, or the agenda pushed by the far left.
And there is a big difference. And so I think that there’s — it is a very big difference to care about whether or not we’re toting to the agenda of the far extreme left that is a job-killing, regulation-type agenda that wants to step out of — put businesses out of business, or people who actually care about the environment and whose goal is clean air, clean water, making sure that we preserve our natural resources and things like that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Two other appointments I want to ask you about, one was announced, the ambassador to China, the governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad.
We know Mr. Trump has stressed, I think what you have to say, is a get-tough with China approach, is one way to describe it. And today, though, he is emphasizing someone who has a close personal relationship with the leader of China. Is he undermining the get-tough message somehow with this?
SEAN SPICER: No, I think what Mr. Trump understands is, he’s been successful at business through negotiation and relationship. He understands how to get what he wants, how to advance a goal.
And what Terry Branstad brings to it this, he’s the longest serving governor in the United States. He has a huge, extensive relationship with the president of China, something that he can leverage to make sure that it is not — it starts that relationship off on a good foot, to make sure that China understands that we have an agenda of putting American workers first.
That’s going to be the agenda here. But it allows that relationship to start from the beginning, as opposed to having a get-to-know-you phase. They have a long, extensive relationship, and that’s going to benefit the United States to advance the Donald Trump agenda and make sure that America gets back some of that — some of those jobs and some of that manufacturing that has gone to China.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly, another appointment, or potential appointment I want to ask about — again, news organizations have this — and that is retired General John Kelly to run the Department of Homeland Security.
If he’s named, he would be the third general to play a major role in this administration, heading the third largest department in the federal government. What is Mr. Trump saying by naming all these top military — people with top military roles?
SEAN SPICER: Well, first of all, no announcement’s been made.
Second, General Kelly is an outstanding public servant, somebody who understands the threats that we face and knows how to tackle them and keep America, you know, our homeland, safe. He would be an excellent choice if Mr. Trump eventually chooses him.
But I think most importantly, again, you’re talking about 4,000 or 5,000 jobs. Yes, he’s focused on these two and potentially third top-ranking military officials, but he’s also looked to successful businessmen, Governor Branstad, as you just mentioned, Governor — excuse me — Linda McMahon, a successful businesswoman.
This is a very, very broad group, diverse group of high-quality, high-caliber people who, in their own respective fields, whether it’s academia, business, or government, have shown that they know how to get the job done.
And that’s what Donald Trump wants, is people who understand how to be successful, how to move this country in the right direction, how to lift up the American worker and put America first.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about something that first lady Michelle Obama is saying today. She said in an interview she stands by what — the criticism she made of Mr. Trump on the campaign trail, but she said, like her husband, she’s prepared to help him as he transitions. She said, “We want him to be successful.”
My question to you is, after the conversations Mr. Trump has had with President Obama, is he prepared, in any way, to apologize or pull back the many, many tough criticisms he made of President Obama, in effect saying he’s harmed this country by his leadership?
SEAN SPICER: Well, I think there’s a lot of things that’s said on the campaign trail in the heat of a political campaign.
President Obama said very similar things about Mr. Trump. But I think since election night, Mr. Trump extended that olive branch, talked about uniting this country, bringing us all together and moving forward as Americans to move the country forward and lift up everybody.
They have had great meetings. They have developed a great relationship. He said earlier today he continues to enjoy the president’s counsel and has grown to really respect the job that he has and the toughness of it, his commitment and love for this country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, Sean Spicer, does Mr. Trump stand by his tweet of a couple of days ago that three million votes cast in this election were cast illegally, and, if so, what does he base that on?
SEAN SPICER: Of course he does.
And that’s based off several academic reports that show the number of people. If you extrapolate the percentages in the reports, come out to about that much. So, you know, there are a lot of reports that point to that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we know there’s a dispute about many of them, but more time to talk about that later on.
Sean Spicer, thank you very much.
SEAN SPICER: Thank you, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And later in the program, we will explore president-elect Trump’s relationship with the news media.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: A Charleston, South Carolina, jury heard opening statements in the trial of Dylann Roof, the man charged with murdering nine black churchgoers. It happened in June 2015. Today, a federal prosecutor declared Roof had a cold and hateful heart. The defense conceded Roof’s guilt, and focused on preventing a death sentence.
Later, a survivor broke down as she testified about seeing her son die in the gunfire.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Authorities in Tennessee have charged two juveniles with setting a deadly wildfire that roared through the Great Smoky Mountains two weeks ago. Fourteen people died and more than 1,700 buildings were damaged or destroyed as high winds blew the flames into the Gatlinburg area. Prosecutors left open the possibility that others could be charged as well.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Recovery efforts came to an end today at the scene of the deadly warehouse fire in Oakland, California. The death toll from the weekend tragedy stands at 36. Investigators have turned their attention to a refrigerator as a possible cause.
The fast-moving fire ripped through the warehouse, where a dance party was under way.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In Indonesia, the earth shook before dawn today, knocking down buildings, and sending terrified people into the streets. At least 97 were killed, with hundreds more injured.
It was a picture of desperation, rescue crews using bare hands to dig through twisted wreckage, while excavators removed heavier debris.
SUTOPO NUGROHO, Spokesman, National Disaster Management Agency (through translator): We estimate the number of casualties will continue to rise, as some of the residents are still likely under the rubble of the buildings. The search-and-rescue operation is still under way.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The quake hit shortly after 5:00 a.m., registered 6.5, and was centered around the northern tip of Aceh province on Sumatra Island. But it was too shallow to trigger a tsunami.
Still, it was all too reminiscent of the far more powerful quake and tsunami that devastated the same region in 2004, killing more than 100,000 people in Aceh alone. That disaster prompted efforts to improve warnings and readiness.
But Kanupriya Kapoor with Reuters said the quake-prone country still has a long way to go. She spoke to us via Skype from Jakarta.
KANUPRIYA KAPOOR, Reuters: If I were to speak to the readiness of these communities, the preparedness to deal with a quake, I wouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t as prepared, if, you know, structures in this area, you know, were clearly not built to withstand even a 6.5-magnitude earthquake.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Indonesia’s disaster agency estimates some 245 buildings, including 14 mosques, were either seriously damaged or destroyed in today’s quake, leaving thousands of people homeless.
The Indonesian government has officially declared a two-week state of emergency in Aceh.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the mountains of Northern Pakistan, no one survived an airplane crash today. The head of Pakistan International Airlines says 48 people were on board. Witnesses said the plane burst into flames and went down about 50 miles outside Islamabad.
Junaid Jamshed, a well-known Pakistani-singer-turned-evangelical-Muslim-cleric, was among those who perished. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. and five other Western nations are calling for a new cease-fire in Aleppo, Syria, in a bid to get civilians out. They also accused Russia today of blocking efforts to end the bloodshed.
Meanwhile, Syrian government troops and their allies pushed deeper into Eastern Aleppo. They now control about 75 percent of what was the rebel-held area of the city.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, a bipartisan bill to speed federal drug approvals and bolster research overwhelmingly passed the Senate today. President Obama promised to sign the $6 billion measure. It includes funding for Vice President Biden’s Moonshot effort to find a cure for cancer and for a stepped-up campaign to fight opioid abuse.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Senators also paid tribute today to Vice President Biden. He served there for 36 years representing Delaware. He was back today in his official role as president of the Senate, listening as lawmakers praised him for compassion, strength and humor.
And Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski gave her farewell speech after serving 30 years. That makes her the longest serving female senator ever.
SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D-Md.): Though I was the first Democratic woman, I wanted to be the first of many. I wanted to help women get elected to the Senate and do what I could to be able to help them to do that. It has been just wonderful to see that now there are over — there are 20 women that are currently serving in the United States Senate.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Mikulski also served 10 years in the House before coming to the Senate.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Wall Street soared today on mounting expectations of faster growth. The Dow Jones industrial average reached another record, gaining nearly 300 points to close at 19549. The Nasdaq rose 60 points, and the S&P 500 added 29, for its own record close.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And thousands of people converged on Pearl Harbor today, marking 75 years since the Japanese attack that brought the United States into World War II. Elderly survivors highlighted the crowd that gathered across the harbor from where the battleship Arizona sank. They observed a moment of silence and then listened to tributes to all those killed on December 7, 1941.
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