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

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    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks as PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member Peter Thiel (C) and Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook look on during a meeting with technology leaders at Trump Tower in New York U.S., December 14, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton - RTX2V25H

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Short-term interest rates are moving up, for the first time in a year. The Federal Reserve Board’s decision today affects credit cards, home equity loans and adjustable-rate mortgages. Fed policy-makers announced they have increased the benchmark rate by a quarter-point. Several big banks followed suit, raising their prime lending rates to 3.75 percent.

    At a news conference, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the Central Bank now expects to raise rates three more times next year, instead of two.

    JANET YELLEN, Chair, Federal Reserve: Our decision to raise rates should certainly be understood as a reflection of the confidence we have in the progress the economy has made and our judgment that that progress will continue, and the economy has proven to be remarkably resilient.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We will take a closer look at the Fed’s decision and its potential effects later in the program.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Silicon Valley comes to Manhattan. Donald Trump received the biggest names in the U.S. tech world today, and praised their innovation. It came after most of the digital leaders invited had backed Hillary Clinton in the campaign.

    John Yang has our report.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), President-Elect: This is a truly amazing group of people.

    JOHN YANG: Today, President-elect Trump reached out to executives from tech giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook.

    DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to be there for you. And you will call my people, you will call me. It doesn’t make any difference. We have no formal chain of command around here.

    JOHN YANG: During the campaign, he had a different message, scolding the industry for sending jobs overseas.

    DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country, instead of in other countries.

    JOHN YANG: Earlier, Mr. Trump officially said he wanted Rick Perry to be energy secretary. He was the longest-serving governor of Texas, a leading oil and gas producer. He twice ran for president. During his 2012 bid, Perry called for eliminating the Energy Department, but famously couldn’t name it during a debate.

    FORMER GOV. RICK PERRY (R-Texas): It’s three agencies of government that, when I get there, that are gone, commerce, Education, and the — what’s the third one there? Let’s see.

    QUESTION: You can’t name the third one?

    RICK PERRY: I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Oops.

    JOHN YANG: Last night, at a rally in Wisconsin, the president-elect defended his choice of ExxonMobil chairman Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state. Critics say Tillerson’s too close to Russia.

    DONALD TRUMP (R): A great diplomat. A strong man. A tough man. A man who’s already earned an avalanche of endorsements and growing praise from our nation’s top leaders. Rex will be a fierce advocate for America’s interests around the world, and has the insights and talents necessary to help reverse years of foreign policy blunders and disasters.

    JOHN YANG: Of the fourteen Cabinet-level picks Mr. Trump has announced since the election, 10 of them are white men. So far, the president-elect has selected three women of color for top positions, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for U.N. ambassador, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to be transportation secretary, and Seema Verma to oversee Medicare and Medicaid. The lone African-American choice is housing secretary-designee Dr. Ben Carson.

    Yet to be announced by Mr. Trump, his choices for the secretaries of agriculture, interior and veterans affairs.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m John Yang.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This evening, the president-elect announced he’s chosen Ronna McDaniel to chair the Republican National Committee. She’s the niece of Mitt Romney, and currently chairs the Michigan Republican Party.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: The United Nations Human Rights Commission warned that South Sudan is on the brink of — quote — “all-out ethnic civil war.” The African nation has suffered years of brutal fighting, with tens of thousands killed and more than a million people displaced.

    Today, in Geneva, U.N. officials reported widespread atrocities and rapes, with some victims as young as 2 years old.

    YASMIN SOOKA, UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan: A U.N. survey found that 70 percent of women in the camp had been raped since the conflict erupted, the vast majority of them not by unarmed, unknown men, but by police or soldiers. And a staggering 78 percent of them had been forced to watch someone else being sexually violated.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The commission chief urged immediate deployment of another 4,000 U.N. peacekeepers to South Sudan.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In Syria, there’s word that a truce is back on in Aleppo, after it failed to take effect this morning. Instead, there was a long day of recriminations and fierce new attacks.

    From early morning on, gunfire and shelling blasted Eastern Aleppo. The cease-fire brokered yesterday by Russia and Turkey was supposed to allow rebels and civilians safe passage to Northern Syria. The first buses even arrived to ferry them away, but they left empty. U.N. officials, rebel groups and activists blamed Syria’s ally Iran for imposing new conditions, including a simultaneous evacuation of two villages being shelled by rebels.

    SALAH ASHKAR: Aleppo Activist: A missile just fell on the roof of my building.

    LINA SHAMY, Aleppo Activist: Criminal Assad regime and the Iranians have broke the cease-fire, and they are back to attack the civilians and continue the genocide.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faulted Syrian forces for breaking the cease-fire.

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey (through translator): We were hoping to evacuate civilians and opposition forces from East Aleppo, but, unfortunately, once again, rockets were fired.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Syrian state TV blamed rebel shelling. And President Bashar al-Assad rejected any criticism of his military in a Russian TV interview.

    PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD, Syria (through translator): It doesn’t matter what they ask. The translation of their statement is for Russia: Please, stop the advancement of the Syrian army against the terrorists. That is the meaning of their statement. Forget about the rest. You went too far in defeating the terrorists. That shouldn’t happen.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Late today, the U.N. Human Rights Office warned the Syrian government and its allies have almost certainly committed war crimes with the renewed assault on Aleppo.

    Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov predicted thousands will be able to leave Eastern Aleppo once it falls.

    SERGEI LAVROV, Foreign Minister, Russia (through translator): I expect that the rebels will cease resistance in the next two to three days. And the minority that declines to do so, it will be their own choice.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And in Washington, the White House charged that Russia could have prevented all this carnage by enforcing a truce last month.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Spokesman: The Russia couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain. I know they have got all kinds of explanations for why that may be the case. Most of them are rooted in the fact that they’re either unable or unwilling to control their client government.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Tonight came new statements from rebels and the pro-Assad alliance that the latest cease-fire is back on. They say evacuations will begin tomorrow at dawn.

    This evening, Turkey announced it will join Russia and Iran in a summit on Syria later this month.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, it was anything but a warm Wednesday across parts of the Plains and the Midwest. Arctic air triggered windchill advisories for 10 states, from North Dakota to Ohio. Commuters in Chicago bundled up to brave the colder-than-usual conditions, as windchills in that city plunged to minus-15 degrees. The cold wave is moving eastward, followed by snow.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There’s word of a huge new data breach at Yahoo. The company now says hackers stole information from more than one billion user accounts back in August of 2013. It’s separate from a 2014 breach at Yahoo involving 500 million accounts.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And the rally on Wall Street stalled today, as the Federal Reserve forecast more rate hikes than expected next year. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 118 points to close at 19792. The Nasdaq fell 27, and the S&P 500 slipped 18.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And the Library of Congress is out with this year’s 25 additions to the National Film Registry. They include the 1980s hits “The Breakfast Club,” “The Princess Bride,” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” Also added, Disney’s “The Lion King” and “Thelma and Louise.”

    The movies are chosen for special preservation based on their cultural, historic or artistic importance.

    The post News Wrap: Silicon Valley comes to Trump Tower appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Police lead Dylann Roof into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, on in June 2015. Photo by Jason Miczek/Reuters

    Police lead Dylann Roof into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, on in June 2015. Photo by Jason Miczek/Reuters

    After about two hours of deliberations, a South Carolina jury found Dylann Roof guilty on all 33 counts for fatally shooting nine parishioners of a historically black church last year.

    Jurors will decide whether the 22-year-old, convicted of federal hate crimes, will get the death penalty when sentencing begins Jan. 3. Roof, who is white, fatally shot nine black members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015.

    Jurors watched the self-declared white supremacist’s on-camera confession Monday, in which he conceded to killing the bible study attendees at the Emanuel AME church, also known as Mother Emanuel, Reuters reported.

    The same jury will decide whether Roof should receive the death penalty or life in prison without parole, The New York Times reported. Roof plans to represent himself during the proceedings.

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

    “The parishioners could not have seen the hatred in his heart,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams told the jury during closing statements Thursday. “He sat and waited until they were at their most vulnerable.”

    Williams argued Roof “needs to be held accountable for every bullet.”

    Defense attorney David Bruck pushed jurors to consider Roof’s mental state, saying he was an impressionable loner, reported WYFF 4, a local station. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled that Roof’s mental state should only be discussed during the sentencing phase of the trial.

    Jurors heard witness testimony this week from victims’ family members, saw photos of the victims’ bodies, heard Roof’s racist sentiments read aloud and watched footage of Roof laughing following the attack.

    The jury, made up of nine white and three black jurors, could watch as little or as much of the entirety of Roof’s two-hour confession as they wanted at Gergel’s request, WYFF 4 reported.

    About an hour into their deliberations today, the jury sent a note to Gergel asking to listen to Roof discussing how many people he killed in the confession. He believed he killed five and was surprised when told the number was nine.

    WATCH: Reflecting on the Charleston church massacre, one year later

    The post Dylann Roof found guilty in Charleston church massacre, could face death penalty appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    In schools, where companies enjoy a captive audience, food marketing is widespread — on pizza packaging, football game scoreboards and vending machines, for example. But the messages on healthy eating in the classroom often conflict with both that marketing and the quality of food provided, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    When it comes to healthy food and diet, where a student goes to school often determines the messages they get.

    Researchers analyzed survey responses from people working for more than 600 school districts throughout the country. Their central question: are students receiving mixed messages on healthy eating? Did school districts promote fruits and vegetables in health class, for example, but allow soft drink companies to set up vending machines in the cafeteria?

    They found that larger, urban districts were significantly more likely to ban ads for soft drinks on school grounds than smaller, rural districts. School districts where most students weren’t white also were more likely to report these bans.

    This report offers one of the first windows into messages school districts send students about healthy diets, said Caitlin Merlo, a health scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the report’s lead author. In future studies, Merlo said she wants to dig into the reason why some districts were better about coordinating healthy messages and marketing than others.

    Food companies spent $149 million to market products in schools in 2009, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2012 report that examined food marketing to youth.

    That figure represented 8 percent of the $1.79 billion that food companies spent that year to reach children and teens.

    “Food marketing works in terms of affecting preference, and schools are one place where students spend six to eight hours of a day in a school setting for a majority of the year,” Merlo said.

    Nationwide, federal campaigns are underway to prevent chronic diseases, such as diabetes or heart disease. “Food marketing in the school setting,” Merlo said, “is one piece of the puzzle.”

    The post The many mixed messages schools send students on healthy eating appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A customer waits to deposit 1000 Indian rupee banknotes in a cash deposit machine at bank in Mumbai, India, November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX2SM19

    A customer waits to deposit 1000 Indian rupee banknotes in a cash deposit machine at bank in Mumbai, India, on Nov. 8, 2016. Photo by Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

    Nov. 8, 2016 was a big day. Millions of citizens were stunned, literally unable to believe what had just transpired. Economists issued dire warnings, suggesting a negative shock to future growth. Many took to the streets in protest. Within a week, election commission officials started raising concerns over potential fraud. And over the next few weeks, dozens died. It will be a long time before the events of Nov. 8 are forgotten. Separately and completely unrelated, on the other side of the planet and on the very same day that spurred these events, America elected a new president.

    Nov. 8 will be remembered in India for a long time to come. In a televised speech to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that cash notes representing 86 percent of the country’s circulating currency would no longer be accepted as legal tender come midnight that same evening. The existing 500 and 1,000 rupee notes that he demonetized, Modi explained, could be exchanged for newly issued notes before the end of the year. For those willing to provide identification when exchanging notes, the exchange period would be open until March 2017. (At current exchange rates, a 500 rupee note was worth about $7.50; a 1,000 rupee note, $15.)

    And in a fast-growing economy with a large informal sector in which it’s estimated that around 90 percent of transactions take place using cash, trashing most of the cash in circulation was not unlike throwing sand into the gears of a machine running at full speed.

    Given that the unexpected announcement came amid news reports that the U.S. election might affect the subcontinent’s relationship with America, Indians were caught completely off guard. In fact, many were stunned. And in a fast-growing economy with a large informal sector in which it’s estimated that around 90 percent of transactions take place using cash, trashing most of the cash in circulation was not unlike throwing sand into the gears of a machine running at full speed. Furthermore, because hundreds of millions of Indians lack formal bank accounts, the impact was felt most by the poorest. The gender impact was also uneven, given that 80 percent of women in India are unbanked, according to the UN.

    Long lines at banks and ATMs quickly became commonplace, generating what the BBC reported as widespread chaos. One laborer noted, “it was like someone had picked my pocket” as vendors refused to accept his currency. It’s estimated that at least 70 people have died as a result of the demonetization. Overworked bank officials, as well as those denied medical services because of inappropriate currency denominations, are among the dead. “Day of Rage” protests erupted across the country, and as they did, the terms of the demonetization changed on an almost daily basis, leading to even greater confusion and uncertainty.

    People queue to deposit or withdraw cash outside a bank on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Amit Dave - RTSTT88

    People queue to deposit or withdraw cash outside a bank on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, Nov. 29, 2016. Photo by Amit Dave/Reuters

    As a result, economic activity in India is plunging. According to the Wall Street Journal, home sales are stagnant, political discussion about the scheme has brought the Indian parliament to a standstill, and tourists are paralyzed by the inability to use the Indian currency in their possession. The cash crunch is also rippling through supply chains, leading manufacturers to cut jobs, lower production and reduce demand for raw materials. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has suggested India will suffer a drop in GDP of around 2 percent as a result of Modi’s “monumental mismanagement” of the demonetization effort.

    So what was Modi thinking? He noted his primary objective was “to break the grip of corruption and black money.” Modi further stated, “black money and corruption are the biggest obstacles in eradicating poverty.” Indians hoarding bills would be forced to deposit or exchange them, allowing tax authorities to delve deeper into the sources of such funds. More tax revenues might lead to greater social spending and government support.

    Indians hoarding bills would be forced to deposit or exchange them, allowing tax authorities to delve deeper into the sources of such funds. More tax revenues might lead to greater social spending and government support.

    To prevent fraud during the exchange process, the government imposed limits on the amount of currency that could be swapped by any individual. To keep track of the limits, banks began to mark the left index finger of those who had exchanged old notes for new ones with permanent ink. But because this is the same method used to prevent election fraud, the Election Commission noted the marks might disenfranchise voters in ongoing local elections.

    Another related goal of the effort, Modi noted, was to nudge the country towards “the realization of our dream of a cashless society.” According to research commissioned by MasterCard, India has one of the highest cash-to-GDP ratios in the world at around 12 percent, meaningfully above China (9.5 percent), the United States (7.5 percent), Mexico (5.3 percent), Brazil (3.9 percent), and South Africa (3.7 percent), but well below that of Japan (20.7 percent). Heading towards a cashless society would increase India’s effectiveness in monitoring tax compliance, tracking terrorist financing and of course spotting financial crime and corruption.

    India is not the only country to eliminate large-denomination notes to attack corruption. In 2000, Canada retired its $1,000 bill because of its frequent use in criminal transactions. But because the notes retained their status as legal tender, many of them remain at large. Separately, Singapore is phasing out its $10,000 note. And just this week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro made the 100 Bolivar note illegal in an attempt to thwart “Colombian smuggling mafias.”

    READ MORE: ‘Make In India’ promises manufacturing jobs for millions. Here’s why it won’t work

    Critics suggest that such efforts are ineffective at truly stopping large-scale corruption however. Arun Kumar, author of the “The Black Economy in India,” estimates that only 1 to 2 percent of illicit wealth is stored in cash. Most, he notes, is stored in gold, in property or in Swiss bank accounts. Further, Kumar notes that demonetization does not address the mechanisms or flow of dirty money — it only attempts to address the stock of prior gains from corruption. To truly target corruption, many believe essential policies include institutional reforms strengthening the rule of law, better law enforcement and public awareness campaigns.

    Nevertheless, arguments from academics to trash cash keep building. “The Curse of Cash,” a recent book by Kenneth Rogoff, supports the claim that a large portion of high-denomination paper currency is used to enable tax evasion, finance terrorist operations and support underground economies in illegal drugs and human trafficking. (Rogoff wants to phase out the U.S. $100 bill.) A paper by Peter Sands, a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, also recommended eliminating high-denomination notes to deter these activities. And Larry Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary, has called for a global agreement to stop issuing notes worth more than $50 or $100.

    We should of course insist on improved compliance and enforcement of a strong rule of law. But we should not dismiss trashing cash as a potentially useful tool to nudge better behavior.

    To understand how these decisions might impact those transporting large sums of money in cash, consider the weight of U.S. $10 million in various currency denominations. A criminal carrying such a sum in U.S. $20 bills would need to lug 500 kg (more than 1,000 pounds!) of paper notes. In U.S. $100 bills, the weight would drop by 80 percent to 100 kg, about the weight of a large man. If using 500-euro notes, a criminal would only have to carry slightly over 20 kg. And using the Swiss 1,000-franc notes could reduce the burden to a mere 11 kg.

    In a highly dynamic and uncertain global economy, there will always be nefarious actors trying to operate in the shadows. One way of targeting illicit activities is to increase the frictional costs of such doings by eliminating high-denomination notes. And although such efforts admittedly focus on symptoms more than the root causes of corruption, there is little downside in pursuing such an approach. We should of course insist on improved compliance and enforcement of a strong rule of law. But we should not dismiss trashing cash as a potentially useful tool to nudge better behavior.

    The post Column: Several governments are destroying their own bank notes. Here’s why. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX2SPX3

    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, on Nov. 9, 2016. Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    Editor’s Note: How did the pollsters get it so wrong? It’s a question that’s been on many minds since Nov. 9, when Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States. Leading up to Election Day, the grand majority of polls, pollsters and prediction markets had predicted a Clinton presidency.

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman posed this question to University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers, who also writes for the New York Times Upshot, which had predicted that Clinton had an 85 percent chance of winning. For more, tune in to tonight’s Making Sen$e report, which airs every Thursday on the PBS NewsHour. The following conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

    — Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor

    PAUL SOLMAN: So the outcome of the election has been pretty humbling for those of us who follow the prediction markets, no?

    JUSTIN WOLFERS: I’d just say it was a little humbling. I don’t want to overstate that case though. Remember the Chicago Cubs were two games behind in the World Series, and betting markets said that there was only a 30 percent to win the World Series. As history now records it, they went on and won the World Series.

    “But, you know, the truth is when the markets tell you something is a one-in-seven chance to happen, it’s going to happen one in seven times.”

    Well, betting markets said the same thing about Donald Trump. They said that there’s some chance he could win; he wasn’t the likely candidate by any means. But just as sports history has seen upsets happen, so has political history, and Donald Trump will go down as one of the unlikely candidates who won, perhaps the least likely. But, you know, the truth is when the markets tell you something is a one-in-seven chance to happen, it’s going to happen one in seven times.

    SOLMAN: And that’s I think what was so hard for people like myself and you who followed the betting markets to really fully internalize, don’t you think?

    WOLFERS: Yeah, so when the market says something has, say, an 83 percent chance of happening, it’s like a lot of people use an internal shorthand — “Well, that’s near enough that I think it’s pretty close to a sure thing.” So markets weren’t telling you it’s not a sure thing; there’s some risk this won’t happen.

     “… so we were surprised, but we should have been no more surprised than we were when the Cubs won the World Series.”

    You know, I was surprised the whole time actually that markets weren’t more confident that Clinton would win. They were worried that the polls might not get this right. That something else was going on out there. They pointed to that very real risk, and that very real risk turned out to be something that happened, so we were surprised, but we should have been no more surprised than we were when the Cubs won the World Series.

    SOLMAN: Sam Wang of Princeton said there was a 99 percent chance that Clinton would win, and that was days before and right up to the night of the election.

    WOLFERS: That’s Sam’s forecast, it’s Sam’s forecasting model; the betting markets told me it was maybe a one-in-six or one-in-seven chance Trump would win. We can’t say after the fact who was right. So the analogy my colleagues at the [New York Times] Upshot would use is this is like a 37-yard field goal. Well, what do we know after the fact? We know the field goal missed. What we don’t know was it a 37-yard field goal attempt, or was it, as Sam Wang would have it, a field goal attempt from right in front of the sticks? All we know at this point is the field goal missed.

    SOLMAN: When I first began to think that Donald Trump had a real chance was when the New York Times Upshot made that field goal analogy, and my favorite kicker from my team, the New England Patriots, missed field goals from a shorter distance than the odds were of Donald Trump winning. And at that point, I thought, “Hmm, I’d better realize that this is a possibility.”

    WOLFERS: Yeah, so I think one of the things that we learn here — and this is a lesson for both the media and for social scientists — is how difficult it is to communicate clearly probabilities. One of the nice things we’ve done in recent election cycles is we talk a lot more in terms of probabilities than we used to, but you need people to understand them. So what my colleagues at the Upshot were doing was try to find a way of making it concrete and understandable. And maybe they succeeded with you, Paul. A missed field goal reminded you that sometimes one in seven chances happen. But it also clearly failed with a large number of people who said that they didn’t see this coming, who thought there was no chance, [and who after the fact thought] we should get rid of polls, we should get rid of polling, we should ban the laws of math altogether.

    That says that when we told people it’s an 80 or 90 percent chance, they always thought it was a 100 percent chance, and we’re still going to try and convey the degree of uncertainty in a much richer way.

    “…the big difference here is that he’s going to get to continue to kick field goals, and he’ll do it over many seasons and kick dozens and dozens of them, and Hillary Clinton, she only had one chance. That one missed field goal is the end of her career.”

    WOLFERS: The big difference here is that he’s going to get to continue to kick field goals, and he’ll do it over many seasons and kick dozens and dozens of them, and Hillary Clinton, she only had one chance. That one missed field goal is the end of her career. Though he might miss one today, he’ll get three tomorrow, and by the end of the season, you can see that he’s going to get 80 percent of his kicks. With Hillary Clinton, she only had one chance. With politics more generally, election forecasters only get one chance every four years. So we’d like to know that if we say something is a 90 percent chance of happening it’s going to happen nine out of 10 times, but just figuring that out means we’re going to have to wait 10 election cycles, which is another 40 years. By the time we hit there, we got a whole new public to educate again.

    SOLMAN: What’s a better way of trying to communicate to people what a 20 or 30 percent chance of winning really means? When people would ask me, I tried by saying, “Hey look, I’ve got a little mole here on my finger, if you tell me it’s only a 20 or 30 percent chance that it’s a melanoma, I don’t sleep at night.”

    WOLFERS: So one of the things is to make sure you talk through all the scenarios. So you describe not only the possibility this could happen, but you tell a story about how it could happen. And if the story sounds plausible, then it enters the realm of imaginability. When people can imagine something, it becomes a little more concrete. I think it’s also important for us to talk more explicitly about doubts. The biggest story of the campaign really was that Clinton was dumping Trump. It was just as important that we talk about our doubts and our hesitations and the things we didn’t know as well. And my colleagues at the Upshot, bless them, came up with this idea of describing the election in terms of you know a 34-yard missed field goal attempt, there was another certain point Nate Silver described it as having the same odds of the Cubs winning the World Series when they were down 3-1. When the Cubs went on to win the World Series, that’s something that got people thinking. They understood unlikely things sometimes happen.

    So it appears that the numbers, the simple math is not enough. We’ve got to somehow use the power of storytelling, of narrative, of analogy. I teach my students, and some of them mathematically gifted, some of them respond to storytelling, some to analogy, and we need to make sure we describe uncertainty using all those different languages.


    The post How did the pollsters get Trump’s win so wrong? They didn’t, says economist Justin Wolfers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez stands as President Barack Obama (not pictured) introduced him to be his next labor secretary, at the White House in 2013. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez stands as President Barack Obama (not pictured) introduced him to be his next labor secretary, at the White House in 2013. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Labor Secretary Tom Perez officially announced his bid to head the Democratic National Committee on Thursday, casting himself as the candidate best able to speak to “the big tent” of a decimated and dispirited Democratic Party.

    The Obama administration official, who was encouraged to run for the position by the White House, described an “atrophied” party apparatus and pledged to rebuild across the entire country — not just competitive swing states. He’s challenging front-runner Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who attracted early support from top Democrats and labor unions but also drew criticism from some Jewish groups concerned about past remarks about Israel.

    Perez, a Dominican-American who grew up in the Rust Belt, argued that he can represent the Democratic Party’s diversity and be an effective salesman for a liberal economic message that can engage the “big tent” of the party. A vocal backer of Hillary Clinton, Perez described himself as stunned by the election results and acknowledged that the party had failed to reach white, working-class voters during her campaign.

    “We got our ass kicked in a lot of these rural pockets because we weren’t there in sufficient force,” he said, during a conference call with DNC members.

    The entry of Perez into the race to rebuild the battered party may kick off a proxy fight between establishment Democrats and a more liberal wing seeking some significant changes in messaging.

    Ellison is backed by incoming Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. But he’s quietly opposed by the White House, which has spent several weeks speaking with Democratic donors and potential candidates to see who else might be persuaded to run, according to several Democrats familiar with the discussions.

    White House aides say President Barack Obama is unlikely to formally endorse a candidate, though they offered warm praise for Perez on Thursday.

    “It’s certainly true that President Obama thinks very highly of Secretary Perez,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. “He is somebody who has served at the Department of Labor for three or four years now, and he has been instrumental in advancing some executive actions of President Obama has prioritized.”

    Ellison, who rolled out a series of new endorsements from state party chairs on Thursday, said he welcomed Perez to the race.

    “I look forward to discussing how Democrats can speak to all Americans, harness the grassroots to turn out the vote, and strengthen our state and local parties,” he said in a statement.

    South Carolina’s party chairman, Jaime Harrison, and the party head in New Hampshire, Ray Buckley, have announced bids, though they haven’t gotten much traction.

    All the candidates are expected to formally woo nearly 450 voting Democratic National Committee members at four regional forums before the official election at the end of February.

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

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    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Now to another in our “Brief but Spectacular” series, where we hear from interesting people about their passions.  Tonight, entrepreneur Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen, a non-profit venture capital fund, talks about using the tools of business to address global poverty.

    JACQUELINE NOVOGRATZ, Founder and CEO, Acumen:  When I was six years old, my first grade nun, Sister Mary Theophane, beat it into my head to whom much is given much is expected.  And so, I always wanted to change the world.

    I moved to Rwanda to help start the first micro finance bank and soon thereafter realized that most people don’t want saving.  Most people want choice and opportunity, which is another way of saying dignity.

    In a funny way, I became an accidental banker and ended up in Latin America during the financial debt crisis of the early 1980s.  And there I saw that I love the tools of business.  The problem was that low-income people who were so industrious had no access to the banks and that’s why I went into international development and saw that on the other side, there was a great humanitarian ethos, but it lacked the efficiency, the effectiveness of the markets.

    We often say the market is the best listening device that we have.  So, if I give you a gift, you’re unlikely to tell me what you don’t like about it.  But if I try to tell you a solar light, you’re going to tell me exactly what you think.

    We created an organization with this idea that you could change the way the world tackles poverty by using something we call “patient capital.”  We took philanthropy and rather than give it away, we would invest it in intrepid entrepreneurs that were going where both markets and government aid had failed the poor, basic services like health care, education, agriculture, energy, workforce development.

    What entrepreneurs and others we’ve invested in have in common is what we call moral imagination.  Moral imagination starts with putting yourself in another person’s shoes and seeing the world through their perspective.  But it’s more than empathy.  It’s the ability to envision a world and build institutions in which all people matter.

    So, often, we look at poverty in terms of how much a person makes, rather than understand their contribution as a human being.

    When we see companies enable people to have access to clean drinking water or agricultural inputs that enable them to make a little more income, one of the first things they do is turn around and help somebody else.  It’s seeing that there is no one above you or below you.  And really that’s the world that we need on see right now when we are so divided, and yet have so much opportunity to become united.

    My name is Jacqueline Novogratz.  And this is my “Brief But Spectacular” take on dignity and the moral imagination.

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    Video by NASA

    Eight NASA microsatellites tasked with tracking hurricanes dropped out of an airplane above the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday and shot into orbit around the Earth.

    A carrier aircraft released the Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket at 39,000 feet above Florida’s east coast this morning. The 51,000-pound rocket ignited after a 5-second free fall, flying out of Earth’s atmosphere.

    Fifteen minutes later, four pairs of the GPS satellites shot off from the rocket to begin orbiting Earth, USA Today reported.

    All eight satellites successfully entered orbit at 4 p.m., Chris Ruf, the mission’s principal investigator, told the NewsHour.

    “I’m ecstatic and exhausted at the same time,” said Ruf, a professor of atmospheric science and electrical engineering at the University of Michigan.

    Ruf and his team plan to turn on the machines next week so they can begin receiving signals.

    The satellites use GPS technology to forecast hurricanes from outer space as a part of NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System. They fly in an equally-spaced line around the Earth, covering the tropical regions of the globe about every 12 minutes, Ruf said.

    Each one will measure wind speed through GPS signals bouncing between off of the ocean. If the waters are calm, the return signal will be stronger. If there are rough seas or high winds, such as those found in hurricane-like conditions, the signal will be weaker, Ruf said.

    The satellites are small and use a new cost-effective broadcasting system. With a $157 million price tag, they are also considered low-cost by NASA standards, USA Today reported.

    Ruf said that the GPS technology has existed for some time, but it has not been combined with smaller satellites in the past. Doing so is more cost effective and delivers more data, he said.

    The mission was initially planned for November, but Hurricane Matthew damaged the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station where the mission originated, NASA said.

    READ MORE: Under Trump, NASA may lose climate research

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    A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota Nov. 14, 2014. Photo by Andrew Cullen/Reuters

    A North Dakota depot used to store pipes for the Keystone XL oil pipeline. President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet could drastically change U.S. energy policy. Photo by Andrew Cullen/Reuters

    President Obama surrounded himself with officials who backed his agenda to promote clean energy and policies to curb global warming. Under his tenure, the departments of the Interior, Energy, State and the Environmental Protection Agency pushed plans to grow wind and solar power, reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and fight climate change.

    Both of Obama’s energy secretaries — Steven Chu and the current energy chief, Ernest Moniz — are prominent physicists. Sally Jewell, the current Interior secretary, is a vocal environmentalist.

    All of that is about to change. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees to lead energy and climate-related agencies like EPA hold views that could not be more different from the Obama administration.

    Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to head EPA, is a climate change denier who has spent years suing the Obama administration to block policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Rex Tillerson, the nominee for secretary of state, runs ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil and gas company.

    The contrast between Obama and Trump’s energy and environment teams are stark. It’s still too early to know what policies Trump’s cabinet picks would support if they get confirmed by the Senate. But they have histories of public statements that make clear where they stand.

    Here’s a guide to the things Trump’s cabinet picks have said on issues from natural gas fracking to wind energy to climate change science.

    Scott Pruitt, EPA administrator

    Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt departs after a meeting with U.S. President elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower New York, U.S., November 28, 2016.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson - RTSTQYT

    Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt departs after a meeting with President elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York last month. Photo by Lucas Jackson/REUTERS

    As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt joined other state attorneys general in suing the Obama administration over the Clean Power Plan, a federal rule aimed at curbing carbon emissions from power plants (which produce a third of the country’s emissions, more than any other source). Pruitt also joined a lawsuit to block an EPA rule on methane emissions, and has devoted his tenure in office to fighting the agency.

    “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming.”

    In a National Review column co-authored with Luther Strange, Alabama’s attorney general, Pruitt wrote that the evidence linking human activity to climate change was “far from settled.”

    “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress,” Pruitt wrote.

    Last June, Pruitt retweeted a story with the headline: “GOP AGs warn Dems that if climate skeptics can be prosecuted for ‘fraud,’ so can alarmists.”

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

    Pruitt slammed EPA regulations in his statement accepting the nomination earlier this month.

    “The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses,” Pruitt said.

    Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mt.), Interior secretary

    Montana state Senator Ryan Zinke addresses a pro-gun activist rally at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City, in 2013. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

    Rep. Ryan Zinke would be the next in a long line of Interior secretaries from Western states. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

    Freshman Rep. Ryan Zinke, Trump’s pick to lead the Interior Department — which oversees oil and gas development on public lands — has a mixed record of public comments on energy and climate change.

    In a 2014 debate during his failed bid for lieutenant governor of Montana, Zinke, who was elected to Congress last year, cast doubt on the evidence that climate change is real and driven by human activity.

    “It’s not a hoax, but it’s not proven science either,” Zinke said. “But you don’t dismantle America’s power and energy on a maybe. We need to be energy independent first. We need to do it better, which we can, but it is not a settled science.”

    In Congress, Zinke has backed the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal program that protects public lands and water. But he received a score of three percent — out of 100 — from the League of Conservation Voters for his voting record on environmentally-friendly legislation.

    Last July, Zinke resigned as a delegate to the Republican National Convention after the GOP’s platform called for the transfer of federal lands to the states. (Despite the move, Zinke did speak at the RNC). “Most Republicans don’t agree with it and most Montanans don’t agree with it,” Zinke said at the time about giving states control over federal lands. “What we do agree on is better management.”

    Accepting the Interior nomination this week, Zinke said he would “work tirelessly to ensure our public lands are managed and preserved in a way that benefits everyone for generations to come.”

    Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State

    FILE PHOTO -  Chairman and chief executive officer Rex W. Tillerson speaks at a news conference following the Exxon Mobil Corporation Shareholders Meeting in Dallas, Texas, May 28, 2008.  REUTERS/Mike Stone/File Photo - RTX2UQYG

    ExxonMobil chairman and chief executive officer Rex Tillerson would be a key player in international climate change negotiations. Photo by Mike Stone/REUTERS

    As Secretary of State, Tillerson would be a key player in international climate negotiations and some domestic energy projects, such as cross-border oil and gas pipelines.

    In a keynote speech at an energy conference earlier this year, Tillerson said the “risks of climate change are real and warrant serious action.”

    The “risks of climate change are real and warrant serious action.”

    Last month, ExxonMobil came out in support of the Paris climate agreement, an ambitious deal to curb global greenhouse gas emissions reached by 195 countries. “ExxonMobil supports the work of the Paris signatories, acknowledges the ambitious goals of this agreement and believes the company has a constructive role to play in developing solutions,” the company said in a statement.

    But the statement came as ExxonMobil faces a lawsuit from the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts claiming the company hid and deceived investors over decades about the dangers of climate change.

    Tillerson has also said he supports the Keystone XL Pipeline, a project critics say symbolizes the fossil fuel industry’s refusal to act on climate change. If he gets confirmed, Tillerson would replace John Kerry, a Keystone foe who has spent decades working on climate change action.

    Since Tillerson took over the world’s leading energy company in 2006, Exxon Mobil’s political action committee has donated more than $7 million to Republican candidates, many of them outspoken climate change skeptics who support industry-friendly bills in Congress.

    Rick Perry, Energy secretary

    Texas Governor Rick Perry, a possible Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential race, answers questions from reporters at a business leaders luncheon in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Aug. 22, 2014. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    At a presidential debate in 2012, Rick Perry forgot to name the Energy Department on a list of agencies he wanted to eliminate. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    During his tenure as governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015, Perry oversaw an expansion of oil and gas development. But under Perry the Lone Star State also became the country’s leading wind power developer — a point Trump transition officials noted when Perry was nominated for Energy Secretary earlier this week.

    While Perry’s energy record is complex, his position on climate change is unambiguous. Perry — who ran for president in 2012 and again in 2016 — has consistently questioned the existence of climate change. At a 2011 event in New Hampshire, Perry said the climate has been in flux “ever since the earth was formed.”

    “There are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects,” Perry said. Other examples of Perry’s climate skepticism abound.

    Perry’s main task at the Energy Department would be overseeing the county’s nuclear weapons, storage and scientific research programs. But Perry would have a hand in energy policy as well; under Obama, the department has backed renewable energy development and other initiatives to reduce domestic emissions.

    And of course if Perry is confirmed, he would take over an agency he vowed to eliminate during a disastrous 2012 debate performance that sunk his presidential ambitions. Perry said he would cut three federal agencies. He listed Commerce and Education, but couldn’t remember Energy.


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    A fully budded marijuana plant ready for trimming is seen at the Botanacare marijuana store ahead of their grand opening in Northglenn, Colorado, in December 2013. Photo by Rick Wilking/File Photo

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  With recreational marijuana now legal in eight states, a serious health and safety question about the potency of the psychoactive drug in cannabis, known as THC, are emerging.  In Colorado, some marijuana products contain 90 percent pure THC, with little research documenting the physical and mental effects on consumers.

    This week, the state’s health department announced more than $2 million in grants to study the impacts on driving and cognitive functioning.

    As John Ferrugia of Rocky Mountain PBS in Denver reports, there are concerns that the effects on some users could be deadly.

    MARC BULLARD:  2016 is a year of something new.

    JOHN FERRUGIA:  In December 2015, Marc Bullard felt on top of the world.  He had landed a good job in Denver after graduating magna cum laude from Southern Methodist University.

    MARC BULLARD:  It’s been a good year.

    JOHN FERRUGIA: He made video diaries to keep his family and friends updated on his life, looking forward to the New Year.

    MARC BULLARD:  It’s time to start planning projects.

    JOHN FERRUGIA:   But just four months later, in April 2016, Marc Bullard took his own life.  His written diary shows severe depression seems to have taken a quick hold on him.

    MIKE BULLARD, Marc Bullard’s Father:  You know, December, he’s fine, he comes home for the Christmas holiday.

    JOHN FERRUGIA: And Mike and Ginny Bullard say he spent time with family and friends and showed no sign of being down.

    MIKE BULLARD:  And what we saw in the in the diary later was by January the 16th, I guess, he’s talking about suicide.

    JOHN FERRUGIA:  It was only after his death that his parents began reading his written diaries.

    When did you first see the first entry about dabbing?

    MIKE BULLARD: That was in the March the 5th.  And that’s where he talks about you know, I think I’ve been dabbing too much.

    JOHN FERRUGIA:  Dabbing, Mike and Ginny had never heard of it.  For the uninitiated, dabbing is a way to smoke a potent form of highly concentrated THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.  It’s known as wax, shatter, and honey.  It gives the rush of an instant high.  And in Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, there are no limits on THC concentration levels in a dab.

    Dabbing was becoming part of the subculture looking for an ever increasing THC high.

    GINNY BULLARD, Marc Bullard’s Mother:  Yes, we heard that marijuana was legal but we’re thinking about people smoking cigarettes.  This is a very potent marijuana concentrate.  And some people have told us that the THC levels are 80 to 90 percent.  We had no idea that this was something that was legal in Colorado.

    JOHN FERRUGIA:  Not only is high potency THC legal in Colorado, there has been an ever increasing effort to extract THC in its purest form.

    RALPH MORGAN, CEO, Organa Labs:  The sophistication in labs like this is so high, that we can achieve near perfect purity, 98 percent, 99 percent THC or CBD or any cannabinoid that we’re isolating and extracting to the crystalline form.

    JOHN FERRUGIA:  Ralph Morgan is the CEO of Organa Labs, a company that extracts THC from marijuana for use in a smoking device.  His solution used by consumers is almost 90 percent pure THC.

    RALPH MORGAN:  The industry is chasing purity for the benefits of that.  Those benefits are a product that’s repeatable, that’s safe, and has an effect that’s consistent.  With purity comes potency.

    JOHN FERRUGIA:  While Morgan and others in the industry provide an ever purer product, and high potency, it is not their job to worry about how much consumers use, or how they use it, nor is it their responsibility under Colorado law.  Even so, the industry knows that adverse reactions are bad for business.

    RALPH MORGAN: Cannabis is very safe but it’s not foolproof.  And no one is going to — no one is going to defend not exercising moderation.  And anything in life can fog your judgment or can be detrimental if it’s not done in moderation.

    JOHN FERRUGIA:  Ginny and Mike point to Marc Bullard’s own words in his diary indicating that he was suffering from a dabbing addiction.

    GINNY BULLARD:  “I found out I was dabbing too much which I already knew and had cut back in February, but apparently if you overdo it, you can get almost like poison and experience some negative effects.”

    JOHN FERRUGIA:  People have said well you know you can’t get addicted to marijuana.

    KARI FRANSON, University of Colorado School of Pharmacy:  Oh, you can.  Oh, definitely, you can.

    JOHN FERRUGIA:   Dr. Kari Franson is associate dean at the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy and has been studying cannabis for years, including human studies in the Netherlands where marijuana consumption was allowed long before Colorado.

    KARI FRANSON: It’s because marijuana stimulates dopamine in this part of our brain that we call the reward center.

    JOHN FERRUGIA:   In the case of 23- year-old Marc Bullard, his death certificate lists a contributing factor to “use of concentrated marijuana products”.  And the autopsy report showed high levels of active THC in his body.

    But even Marc’s parents realize there is no way to know if it was THC that caused his slide into despair.

    KARI FRANSON:  Low doses of THC, we know what happens.  These super high concentrations of THC, we don’t know what happens because we have not been studying it.  And when they smoke that, they’re getting in the 600 to 800 milligrams of THC.

    JOHN FERRUGIA:  That’s compared to a limit of 10 milligrams in each serving of an edible in Colorado, or maybe 25 milligrams of THC in a typical marijuana cigarette.

    But it’s not just mental health that is of concern.

    Brandon Cullip was 17, had only had his driving permit for a week, and his friends in the car told him he was too high to drive, but that didn’t stop him.  Cullip pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, and reckless driving in the death of 16-year old Chad Britton.  Cullip is serving a two-year sentence in youth corrections.  Police say he had been dabbing high concentrate THC before getting behind the wheel.

    Chad Britton is one of 36 people who died in 2014 in automobile accidents that the Colorado Department of Transportation attributed to fatalities where THC was the only substance inhibiting the driver.  2014 is the year marijuana was legalized for recreational use. That is compared to 107 people who died that year in alcohol- only crashes. The percentage of marijuana-only fatalities is small but has been edging up since 2013.

    KARI FRANSON:  Dabbing has become very popular, very quickly, without any kind of understanding how much is actually getting into the brain and what are the effects of a typical user.

    DR. LARRY WOLK, Colorado Department of Health and Environment: The credible research that exists was all done on THC potency. That’s very low compared to what we see being made available through products today.

    JOHN FERRUGIA:  Dr. Larry Wolk is director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. His agency is tasked with ensuring marijuana products are safe for consumption.

    Wolk says the many delivery systems of high-potency cannabis products complicate its study.

    DR. LARRY WOLK: You can smoke it, you can eat it, you can dab it, you can do whatever. And we don’t know what all of those different forms do with regard to absorption and the effect it has on people’s health.

    MIKE BULLARD: We didn’t know about the concentrated marijuana products and the different levels of the THC. Everybody thinks it’s innocent, you know, just kind of relax people, it’s going to make him mellow, it’s not going to do any danger to him.

    GINNY BULLARD: After reading through these and seeing the significant changes in his patterns, this is the only thing that we feel that it points to, is the dabbing.

    JOHN FERRUGIA:  But voters here, and in other states, have approved recreational marijuana, despite any potential harmful effects. In southern Colorado, a center of production and sale of cannabis, voters rejected a measure that would have shut down operations. The message: legal marijuana is here to stay in Colorado and across the country. The only question now is whether states might tighten regulation for the ever increasing number of consumers.

    For the PBS “NewsHour”, I’m John Ferrugia in Denver.

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    A man is silhouetted against a video screen with a Facebook logo as he poses with a Samsung S4 smartphone in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo - RTSUXXI

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    HARI SREENIVASAN:  It was a stunning finding, even in a digital age where stories of all kind go viral.  During the last three months of the presidential campaign, fake or false news headlines actually generated more engagement on Facebook than true ones.  Facebook and other social media platforms were criticized for not doing enough to flag or dispute these posts.

    Today, Facebook launched several new tools to flag and dispute what it calls the “worst of the worst” when it comes to clear lies.  Those tools are essentially embedded in your individual feed.

    Here’s a bit of a video the company posted about how it will work.

    NARRATOR:  You may see an alert before you share some links that have been disputed by third-party fact checkers.  You can then cancel or continue with the post.  If you suspect a news story is fake, you can report it.  It just takes a few taps.  Your report helps us track and prevent fake news from spreading.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Let’s learn more about this effort to detect and slow the spread of fake news, part of our occasional series on the subject.  Will Oremus has been writing about this extensively for “Slate” and working on that site’s own new tool for identifying false stories.

    First, Will, let’s talk a little bit about what Facebook announce today.  How is it going to work?

    WILL OREMUS, Slate,  So, Facebook’s approach to fake news has several components.  One thing it’s going to try to do is make it easier for users to report it when they see fake news in their feeds.  The next thing they’re going to do is they’re going to take that information about stories that are being reported as fake, and they’re going to use some software, run some algorithms and create a dashboard of stories that might be fake and give access to that dashboard to third-party checking organizations.  So, these are like Snopes or PolitiFact, Factcheck.org.

    Those fact checkers are going to have their human editors evaluate some of the most viral of the stories that have been flagged as fake, and if they determine it is in fact a fake news story, Facebook is going to treat it differently.  It’s going to show it to fewer people in its feeds.  It’s going to make it go less viral and it’s also going to give people a warning before they try to share that story, saying this story has been disputed.  It will still let you share it.  It’s not censoring or filtering out anything.  But it is downgrading it in the ranking algorithm and it is letting people know that this has been disputed.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, Facebook is not the arbiter of the truth.  There are third parties checking this for them, right?

    WILL OREMUS Yes, and Facebook has been incredibly reluctant to become the arbiter of what’s true for good reason.  Facebook, the value of its business, depends on appealing to people on both sides, all across the political spectrum.

    So, it doesn’t want to be a media company.  It has said this many times.  What it is doing here is shrewd, I think.  It is delegating the responsibility to respected, non-profit, third-party organizations whose whole job is to figure out what’s true and what’s not.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  You have been covering this space for a while.  You want to draw a distinction between what’s fake news and what are just outright lies and conspiracies.  There is a distinction.

    WILL OREMUS:   Yes, the term “fake news” is relatively news.  A few years ago if somebody said, “fake news,” you wouldn’t know necessarily what they are talking about, maybe they were talking about a satire site like “The Onion “or “The Daily Show.”  It came in to currency in recent months because of the rise of a particular type of thing, which is a story that’s basically made up.  It was very popular during the election season for people to– for hoaxsters to make up stories that played to people’s political biases.

    So, something like, you know, Hillary Clinton is about to be arrested by the New York Police Department for email crimes.


    WILL OREMUS:  They would just make that up.  They would publish it.  And it would get shared widely on Facebook.  Since then, the term has become applied — it has become a political football.  And people call — you hear people on the right calling the “New York Times” fake news, people on the left saying Breitbart is fake news.  But originally, it was actual hoaxes that were made up out of whole cloth.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Now, people have been trying to fix the fake news problem.  There was a recent hack-a-thon, and some Princeton students came up with what they thought was a fix.  Your folks at “Slate” had actually worked on a tool.  You guys just launched this, not coincidentally on Monday.

    Let’s take a look at how this works.  We’re going to put this up on the screen here.  So, if I come across a fake news story in my feed, and there’s this big red banner saying, “This news story is fake.  Here’s how we know.  Share the proof.”

    How do you know?  Identify by this as fake.  This is the tool.

    WILL OREMUS:  Yes, that’s right.  So, what we wanted to do was not just flag stories as fake when they appear in your Facebook feed.  We actually wanted to give users the power to do something about it, because — I mean, it’s so frustrating, right?  You try to be a good consumer of the media, you try to evaluate what’s true and what’s credible, but then you see friends and relatives sharing this stuff.

    So, what we do is we actually provide a link to a reputable debunking of that particular story that will appear automatically.  And then we prompt you to share that link with the person who posted the fake news so that they and all of their followers can see that that story is fake or they can go to the debunking site and judge of the evidence for themselves.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Now, there’s a tool you can actually add to your browser.  It’s kind of an extension, a Chrome extension and a button that works there.  We can look at other examples of stories as well.

    Who is the arbiter of truth in your system?  Who decided that this story was false, even though it looks just like an ABC news site?

    WILL OREMUS:   Yes, I mean, that’s a good question, and this is really the trickiest question on this whole thing.  This is going to be an issue for Facebook, too.  I mean, if one of these fact check organizations says this story has some parts that are true, some parts that are false.  Is that a fake news story?

    I think what we’ve done and in fact it seems what Facebook has done as well is to try to set a really high bar for what counts as fake. It’s not just a story that might be misleading.


    WILL OREMUS:  Or has a couple of factual errors in it. It’s a story intentionally designed to mislead people and it’s just — you know, it’s a hoax, basically. So we have human editors who are going to be reviewing the posts that are flagged by our users as potentially fake and they’re going to be looking for, again, a reputable third-party site that has used evidence to debunk that. We’re not going to be, you know, doing the debunking ourselves.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Can technology solve this problem? There is a recent Pew study saying 14 percent of people out there shared a fake news story, even after they knew it was fake.

    WILL OREMUS:  Yes. No, technology can’t solve the whole problem. I think technology can be a part of the solution. And that’s because it’s not just a technological problem or just a human problem.

    And there are human issues at work here in why fake news is shared. There’s confirmation bias. There’s the desire for something to be true. I mean, you want something to be true.


    WILL OREMUS:  What’s your incentive to go and check it out. But there is also a technological component, which is that Facebook in particular has had this leveling effect on the media where a story from abcnews.com, which is a big, reputable news site, looks just the same in your Facebook feed as a story from abcnews.com.co, which is a hoax site designed to trick people.

    And so, Facebook has created the conditions for this fake news to thrive. And that’s why I think, you know, technology, whether it’s Facebook or a tool like ours, technology can be part of the solution. But it has to be human, too.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That and a wonderfully informed citizenry and who are media literate.

    Will Oremus from “Slate” — thanks so much.

    WILL OREMUS:  Thanks for having me.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next Monday, the Electoral College meets to finalize the election of Donald Trump as president. His victory was a shock to many. Pollsters are asking if they need to rethink their methods for surveying the public. Betting markets had been a good predictor, but this year was different for them as well.

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, explores what happened, part of his weekly series, “Making Sense.”

    PAUL SOLMAN:  The race is over. The long shot won. And yet pundits, pollsters and punters in the prediction markets had all been so sure.

    MAN:  A lot of people have no idea that Trump is headed for a historic defeat.

    REPORTER: Most analysts are saying Hillary Clinton is going to win in a landslide.

    MAN:  The odds are overwhelming of a Hillary Clinton victory on Tuesday.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium became famous for his forecasting acumen in the 2012 election. Now, prophets like Wang are eating crow, or worse.

    MAN:  Dr. Wang, you tweeted recently that you were so sure of the result, you’d eat a bug if Donald Trump pulled this thing out.

    SAM WANG:  See this? Here it goes.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  On the prediction markets, they actually bet money on the outcome. One of the largest, Paddy Power, an Irish bookie, paid out a million dollars to people who bet on Clinton 20 days before the election. That was just after, Skyped Paddy Power’s owner, whose real name is “Paddy Power,” the Access Hollywood tape surfaced.

    PADDY POWER:  The one where he was grabbing certain parts of women’s anatomy, or boasting about that. And, and then we just thought that has to be it. We took an absolute conkers on it to be fair. We were left with our pants around our ankles at the end of it.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  An absolute conkers, pants around the ankles. On the other hand: a jackpot of PR.

    In the U.S., we have two betting markets, only legal because they provide results for academic research and limit bets to modest amounts. As late as election night, at the office party of one of them, Predictit in Washington, D.C., the consensus among traders: Clinton at 80 percent.

    MAN:  Everything’s invested in Clinton winning tonight.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  Among America’s academic prognosticators, however, there were dissenters.

    RAY FAIR, Yale University: This is the website that I put all the results on.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  Economist Ray Fair first forecast the Democrats would lose in November of 2014!

    RAY FAIR:  The prediction I made two years ago was that the Republicans had a huge head start and were favored by quite a bit.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  His model is based on past history, period.

    RAY FAIR:  So, there’s no polls, there’s no surveys, this is all just fundamental economic events that you’re talking about.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  Fundamental events, and to an economist, there’s nothing more fundamental than the rate of economic growth.

    RAY FAIR:  A good economy helps the incumbent party, a bad economy doesn’t. What the opposition party should do if the economy is poor is to keep hammering the economy.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  Fair’s model considers just a few factors: if an incumbent is up for re- election, voters tend to give the president a second term. After eight years, voters tend to be itching for a change. But most important: the state of the economy in the four years before an election.

    RAY FAIR:  In the 15 quarters of the second Obama administration, only two quarters had strong growth, growth bigger than 4 percent at an annual rate. That’s very low historically and the growth rate of this year, which counts a lot for the equation, was only 1.7 percent at an annual rate in the first three quarters of this year.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  By the end, Fair’s model predicted that the Democrat would get only 44 percent of the two-party vote. Since Clinton beat Trump by 2 percent, and wound up with 51 percent of the two-party total, he thinks Clinton actually did much better than she should have, given the economy, and his model did much worse.

    RAY FAIR:  Had the Republicans nominated some mainstream person, they probably, most people would think, they probably would have done much better than they did.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  But Fair did get the winner right, unlike so many of the pros.

    Why did the prediction markets do so badly?

    RAY FAIR:  I think they overestimated the polls and underestimated the fundamentals about the economy.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  So pretty humbling for those of us who follow the prediction markets, no?

    JUSTIN WOLFERS:  It was a humbling for a lot of us in a lot of different ways, yeah.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  Economist Justin Wolfers studies the prediction markets, and swears by them. Neither the polls nor the markets were really so far off, he told me by Skype from Michigan.

    JUSTIN WOLFERS:  Remember the Chicago Cubs were two games behind in the World Series and betting markets said that there was only a 30 percent to win the World Series.

    As history now records it, they went on and won the World Series. Well, betting markets pretty much said the same thing about Donald Trump.

    So, we were surprised, but we should have been no more surprised than we were when the Cubs won the World Series.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  “The New York Times” Upshot was another prediction site on which many relied. It expressed Clinton’s odds of losing in terms of an NFL kicker missing an easy field goal.

    When I first began to think that Donald Trump had a real chance was when “The New York Times” Upshot made that field goal analogy, and my favorite kicker missed field goals from a shorter distance than the odds were of Donald Trump winning.

    JUSTIN WOLFERS: One of the things that we learn here, and this is a lesson for both the media and for social scientists, is how difficult it is to communicate clearly about probabilities.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  David Rothschild tends the website PredictWise, which tracks the prediction markets and makes forecasts of its own, as on election night.

    DAVID ROTHSCHILD, Economist, Microsoft Research: Right now, we have the presidency at about 89 percent for Hillary Clinton.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  So, every day, I went to your site and I was certain that Donald Trump was going to lose and I told everybody who asked me, you misled me.

    DAVID ROTHSCHILD: Look, the website PredictWise had a bunch of different data up there, and it was important to take the best available historical data-based approach and that really is the prediction market data and that’s what we led with the top line numbers for, because that is what we know has worked historically.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  But Rothschild also had a model based on the economic fundamentals.

    DAVID ROTHSCHILD:  It showed the Republican candidate getting 282 electoral votes for a narrow Electoral College victory. I’m not going to sit here and tell you I was right because I like everyone else who looked at the idiosyncratic information coming out from the election and said look, “This is a year in which the fundamentals were going to be off.”

    RAY FAIR:  And that’s why I didn’t want to talk to people like you.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  One last time, Professor Fair:

    RAY FAIR:  Because it was kind of embarrassing to come in and say Trump looks like he’s going to win and this and that when I — that’s what the equation said.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  Were you surprised by the outcome?

    RAY FAIR:  Yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  So you didn’t have the courage of your own conviction.

    RAY FAIR:  I didn’t have the courage of the equation’s prediction, OK?

    PAUL SOLMAN:  And so, even Professor Fair didn’t heed the simple punch line of his model, of this story, and perhaps of this election.

    RAY FAIR:  “It’s the economy, stupid,” would be the very simple answer to that.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  Oh by the way, the prediction markets like Paddy Power are now giving odds on Donald Trump’s re-election.

    PADDY POWER:  Four to one odds to be returned next time so that means he’s got like a 20 percent chance of retaining the presidency next time around. When Obama was elected for the first time, it would have been more like a 50 percent chance of him getting reelected. So, we’re still underestimating the man.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  Unless, I suppose, the economy tanks in the interim.

    In New York, for the “PBS NewsHour”, this is economics correspondent Paul Solman, who lost $200 to the producer of this story, it went to charity, and a bottle of very good sherry I still owe someone by following the prediction markets.

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    A woman walks past a mural of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Belgrade, Serbia, December 4, 2016. The text on the mural reads in Russian, Serbia and English "Kosovo is Serbia".  REUTERS/Marko Djurica - RTSUKLY

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    HARI SREENIVASAN:  But first, Donald Trump took to Twitter this morning to attack the Obama administration’s handling of Russia’s alleged hacking during the election.  He wrote, quote, “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act?  Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?”

    In fact, the U.S. intelligence community said in early October that it was confident Russia directed the hacks of the DNC.  Today, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved in efforts to disrupt the election and help Donald Trump win.

    We look at Putin’s role now with Angela Stent.  She served in the State Department during the Clinton administration.  She’s now a professor at Georgetown University.

    Does it make sense that Vladimir Putin would have a role?

    ANGELA STENT, Georgetown University:  I think we have to go back to 2011.  In the fall of 2011, there were mass demonstrations in Moscow, protesting falsified elections and protesting Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he was coming back to the Kremlin.  He directly accused Hillary Clinton at that point of paying the demonstrators to go on to the streets in Moscow.  So, he, apparently, and his colleague in addition the Kremlin, believe there was U.S. interference in 2011 in the election, and, therefore, it’s fair game to interfere in the U.S. election because that’s, you know, what can big countries do.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Can something like this — it’s a big government, like all governments are — can something like this happen without his knowledge or approval?

    ANGELA STENT:  I think he must have known on some level that this was happening.  I mean, hackers couldn’t just have done this freelance without at least having a sense that this was permitted.  Whether he personally directed it, I think that’s much more difficult to say.  I haven’t seen the evidence.  None of us have.  We’ve had contradictory statements from our own officials.

    So, I think we’d have to know more about the personal direction.  But, clearly, there was an environment that encouraged this to happen.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Well, what about the assessment by the intelligence community that this was an effort to help Trump win?  Was it, as you said, perhaps revenge against Hillary Clinton, or was it that other element, too, to actually help Donald Trump?

    ANGELA STENT: Well, clearly on the campaign trail, Donald Trump consistently praised Vladimir Putin.  It was only world leader that he consistently praised.  He said we need to do a deal with Russia.  We shouldn’t have such bad relations with Russia.

    Whereas Hillary Clinton took a pretty tough line, as she had since leaving secretary of state.  So, I think it’s credible to believe the Russians wanted Donald Trump to win.  I’m not sure they expected him to win, but I think they saw an opportunity there.  Also, really, to help muddy the waters here and to have Americans questioning what was really going on.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  What could the U.S. do in response?

    ANGELA STENT:  It’s very difficult to respond in kind.  I mean, we may be retaliating in ways that we don’t know.  It would be very hard to prosecute the hackers themselves.  And to do what they did, which is to then hack into people’s e-mails, and then release information that might help another candidate in an election.

    I mean, Vladimir Putin is going to run for president in 2018, but it’s not going to be a competitive election.  So, we can’t — we couldn’t respond in kind anyway.

    And so, I think, you know, that — there’s the possibility of sanctions that’s talked about in the Congress.  I’m not sure that that would do any good.  And I don’t think a Trump administration would want those sanctions.

    So, I actually think one of the things that we should do, once the next administration is in office, is to try and work out with the Russians, as we have with the Chinese, at least some kind of a cyber agreement, some rules of the game, which — which we don’t have now with the Russians.  I’m not saying this would prevent this from happening again, but I think we need to at least try and work on out rules of the game with them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  I was going to say, do these kind of agreements hold?

    ANGELA STENT:  Well, with the Chinese, there are different views on this.  I mean, some aspect of it, apparently, have worked.  Others haven’t.  It’s really the best one can do because we’re in a very shadowy world there.

    I mean, it’s very hard to know exactly who did the hacking and then, you know, who directed them.  As I said, it’s very difficult to prosecute.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Before the administration leaves — I mean, that’s a very small window of time.  If President Obama, with his existing authority, wanted to launch any sort of counter-offensive.  I mean, what’s that conversation like on January 20 — “By the way, here’s this operation I’ve begun, here are the keys”?

    ANGELA STENT:   I mean, that’s possible, but, again, we have an incoming administration that has vowed to improve relations with Russia, and it’s very — one wonders whether they would really continue with it.  Plus, we have a president-elect who questioned what the intelligence — our intelligence services have said about this.

    So, I think it would be very difficult to do it even if we started something now.  And I think, obviously, that’s what the Russians have been figuring would happen, too.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.  Angela Stent, thanks so much.

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    People walk as they gather to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Syria December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail - RTX2V626

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    HARI SREENIVASAN:  The brutal fight for Aleppo seems to now be over.  Evacuations of civilians and fighters from the rebel-held east began today, as the pitched four-year battle ends.

    Dan Rivers of Independent Television News is there.

    DAN RIVERS, ITN:  After so many false dawns, the siege of Aleppo is over.  But even this morning, President Assad’s artillery couldn’t resist one last go at killing those still trapped.

    Inside the rebel enclave, those he targeted for four and a half years prepared to leave.  And these pictures show that while fighters were among them, most appeared to be civilians.  They included women, children, the injured and the vulnerable, all caught up in the catastrophe of this conflict.

    The scale of the destruction they were leaving was laid bare, as was the enmity with which they regard those who’ve besieged them.

    CHILD (translated):  It’s true we’re leaving Aleppo.  But once we grow up, we’re going to come back and liberate Aleppo, god willing we’re going to come back and liberate Aleppo, me and all of my brothers.  All of us.

    DAN RIVERS:   Outside, the regime buses were lined up and ready.  A solitary vehicle carrying a Red Crescent flag emerged from rebel lines.  Terms agreed.  It was time to end the suffering.

    The buses threaded their way through the debris to start the evacuation.

    The call to prayer cut through the silence as a tense city held its breath and hoped for peace.

    Then, the first sign.  Flashing lights, a convoy of ambulances and buses emerging onto Aleppo’s ring road.  The occupants of the buses came almost face to face with the men who’d sought to kill them.  But they were allowed to leave unhindered.  And it didn’t take long for President Assad’s supporters to start their celebrations.


    MAN:  I feel very happy.  I feel that this victory will continue to all Syria.

    DAN RIVERS:  But after so much bloodshed, this shouldn’t have been a day of celebration.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Dan Rivers joins me from Aleppo.  You can imagine, it’s not the easy satellite connection.  So, please excuse the interference on the line.

    Dan, you were there the last month.  Tell me the main differences between then and now, beyond the obvious victory by the Assad forces, especially among members supportive of the regime.

    DAN RIVERS:  When we were here a month ago, this war was waging outside the window I’m standing in front of.  But in the intervening time, they have lost, day after day, chunks, districts have fallen week after week, until they have just been reduced to about one square mile.

    And the devastation across the city is absolutely jaw-dropping.  To see today, finally, the battle coming to an end, seeing a piece of history and a watershed in this conflict.

    We didn’t manage to speak personally to anyone who came out because we were prevented from doing so.  We’ve spoken to people in refugee camps.  Many of them were terrified coming over into government-controlled Aleppo.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: We’ve seen pictures of the destruction over the last few weeks.  What’s left of the city?  What have Assad and his allies actually won?

    DAN RIVERS: They’ve won a shell of the city in the east.  The destruction is epic.  That’s the only word I can use to describe it.

    We were taken to the old city the other day, and just the loss of heritage, of this, a city that claims to be one of the oldest in the world.  I can only liken it, I guess, to something you would see in maybe the Second World War.  People have talked about it being Syria’s Stalingrad.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Dan Rivers of Independent Television News joining us tonight from Aleppo, Syria — thanks so much.

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    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks to members of the news media in the main lobby at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid - RTSUY59

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Today was supposed to be the day President-elect Trump held a news conference, to spell out what role, if any, he would play in the future of his business empire.  He’s since postponed talking to the press about it, at least until January.  Instead, today, he tweeted with a push back against all of speculation about potential conflicts of interest.  He wrote, quote, “The media tries so hard to make my move to the White House, as it pertains to my business, so complex — when actually it isn’t!”

    But there’s also this from one of his top aides, Kellyanne Conway.  She told MSNBC this morning that there was still work to be done.

    KELLYANNE CONWAY, Senior adviser, Trump transition team:  Getting this right, before you announce it, is what’s important.  That’s what I’ve been told by the legal experts and the other protocol experts — to make sure that the structure that’s put in place shows the complete separation, so that Donald Trump himself as the president of the United States, Steve, can focus 100 percent on being president of the United States.  It’s going to take a little bit longer.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, there’s new pressure today from a group of Senate Democrats, who unveiled a bill that would require Mr. Trump to divest from his businesses, and put his assets in a blind trust.

    Here now to unpack those possible conflicts of interests are Marilyn Geewax.  She’s senior business editor for NPR.  And Richard Painter, he’s a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and he was a White House ethics adviser for President George W. Bush.
    And we welcome both of you to the program.

    Marilyn Geewax, let me start with you, what do we know about why this announcement is being postponed?

    MARILYN GEEWAX, NPR:  We know very little, other than what he tweets but one can speculate.  He had said several weeks ago that he would have this press conference today, on the 15th, and on Monday, he said, never mind.  I’m not really going to do that.

    So, people are speculating that some think he wanted to wait until after the Electoral College votes.  Others say the business is just so complicated that it’s going to take more legal work to figure out how to pull him out of it.  And others just say that this is just kind of a general smokescreen, that you could say you’re going to do this, you stall for two weeks, then he says he’s going to do it, but now, he’s going to stall longer.  And by the time he does get to this topic, it will be January, and we’ll be focused on the inauguration and it will seem smaller.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, Richard Painter, as we just reported, Mr. Trump tweeted today.  You know, it’s not complex.  On the other hand, we just heard Kellyanne Conway, we’ve heard some of his other advisers say, well, there is more work to be done here to sort it all out.

    RICHARD PAINTER, University of Minnesota:  Well, it isn’t that complex to sell businesses, particularly if you have the advice of some of the best lawyers and investment bankers in New York.  They buy and sell businesses all the time.  He could have a public offering.  He could find a private equity firm.  Sell it to a private equity firm.

    There are a number of different options.  I don’t think it’s that complex, but it does need to be done correctly.
    But I wish he would assure us at this point that he is going to sell off his business interests, and in particular, he needs to be in compliance with the Constitution, and the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution which prohibits payoffs from foreign governments to United States officials.  They simply cannot receive payments from foreign governments.  The businesses doing businesses with foreign governments, he can’t own them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, Marilyn Geewax, is there agreement among ethics experts — and I know, you know, professor Painter is one of them — is there agreement about what Donald Trump needs to do?

    MARILYN GEEWAX:  I think there really is broad agreement.  There’s — I can’t think of anybody, really, who would say, “No, it’s a great idea to keep owning hotels a couple of blocks from the White House and having people feel pressured to stay at your hotel when” — I mean, it just — it’s pretty much second grade stuff to see that there could be all sorts of conflicts of interest.

    He’s going to be shaping foreign policy, and he has businesses in something like 20 countries.  He literally has some position in hundreds of companies over all of these different parts of the world.  It would be impossible to separate out when is someone trying to win his favor, or curry favor by boosting his business and when aren’t they?  It’s really pretty obvious that you need to have a big, very high wall — if you’re going to build a wall, that’s the one you want to build — between your business and your job as president.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, we don’t know what he’s going to do for sure, but, Richard Painter, one of the things he said is that he wants his sons — or suggested that he wants his sons to take over the business.  Would that provide a measure of separation?

    RICHARD PAINTER:  Well, no, particularly if he’s still going to own the businesses.  In order to give them to his son, he’d have to pay the gift tax.  I don’t think he likes paying taxes.

    So, if he just has his sons manage the businesses, that’s not going to solve any of these problems.  If the businesses taking money from the foreign governments, he’s going to be in violation of the Constitution on January 20 if he owns the businesses

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Is there a precedent, Richard Painter, for a president — and we know — we don’t typically have billionaires assuming the office of the presidency.  But is there any precedent — what is the precedent for a — someone coming into office and figuring out some way to keep his family involved?

    RICHARD PAINTER:  Well, we’ve had family members of the president involved.  Usually, of course, it’s the spouse.  And — but the involvement is informal, and giving advice to the president about how to do his job.  But running a business on the side and trying to profit from the presidency, that’s what’s inappropriate.  And I do not think we have family members who are both attending official meetings and then on the other hand running a business.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And this week, Marilyn Geewax, we’ve seen the children just yesterday in that meeting with technology executives.  Both of his sons were there, his daughter, Ivanka, her husband, Jared Kushner.  Mr. Trump has talked about bringing Ivanka and Jared Kushner into the administration.

    What’s the precedent there?  I mean, everybody refers back to John Kennedy and his brother Bobby as attorney general.  But that was back in the 1960s.

    MARILYN GEEWAX:   Right.  And there are rules that are supposed — ethics that have grown up in the post-Watergate era, since 1978, where you really were trying to address these kinds of problems of nepotism and conflicts of interest where Congress did spell it out.  It’s pretty clear what the will of the Founding Fathers was.  They didn’t want you to take money foreign governments and they didn’t want people to have conflicts of interest.

    When you’re the president, you should be focused on doing only what is right for all Americans, not for your family business.  But what we’ve seen this week is really an aggressive push-back to that.  I mean, rather than have this press conference and talk about solving conflicts of interest, he had a meeting with a bunch of tech executives.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Right.

    MARILYN GEEWAX: There were 25 people at the table and four of them were Trumps.  I mean, that’s pretty aggressive on his part.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s right.  And his daughter, Ivanka’s husband.

    But, Richard Painter, if there is some arrangement say where Ivanka Trump was involved– obviously not the first lady.  That would be Mrs. Trump.  But if she is there in a semiofficial role as daughter of the president, if Jared Kushner is involved, as has been suggested, maybe advising on national security, the Middle East, and they’re not paid, could an agreement like that work?

    RICHARD PAINTER: Well, I think you probably have to work out with Congress because the anti-nepotism statute, which came in after the Bobby Kennedy appointment, is quite clear about not allowing someone to appoint relatives to positions in the government.  And I don’t think the fact that it’s not a paid position would — would affect that.

    And I think that that he could work something out with Congress, maybe to — if he wants to maybe disclose his tax returns and do some of the other things that we care about, I would not have an objection to Jared Kushner.  I mean — or other family members being given a position.  They’re very talented people, and in some ways I think more talented than some of the people he’s brought in.
    But you have to work it out with Congress.  The statute is quite clear on nepotism.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And yet, the first lady, Marilyn Geewax, you know, typically does play some role.  The modern first lady takes on a clause.  Hillary Clinton, it was health reform.

    MARILYN GEEWAX:  But think about the roles they took on.  I mean, in Mrs. Clinton’s case, she was pushing a health care agenda.  With Mrs. Obama, it was about children and obesity and nutrition.  But what if, you know, if Mrs. Obama had come out with a new line of jewelry and she started selling Obama-wear, and was holding up her new bracelets, that would have seemed peculiar.  I mean, I think people would have been very shocked to see, you know, a little Obama fragrance or — you know —


    JUDY WOODRUFF: But we’re not — we don’t know that it’s going to happen.  So —

    MARILYN GEEWAX:  But, I mean, it didn’t happen while they were in office.  But we do know the Trumps plan to continue — it appears — to sell all sorts of products.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We will see.  Marilyn Geewax, Richard Painter, thank you both.

    RICHARD PAINTER: Thank you very much.

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    U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) arrives for a meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 12, 2016.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid - RTX2UQLW

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Convoys of buses carried some 3,000 people out of eastern Aleppo in Syria today, under a cease-fire arrangement.  Their evacuation to Idlib province effectively marked the end of rebel resistance in that city.

    In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry called again for peace talks, as he blasted the Syrian government.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State:  The Assad regime is actually carrying out nothing short of a massacre.  And we have witnessed indiscriminate slaughter, not accidents of war, not collateral damage, but frankly purposeful.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The White House said President Obama spoke with Turkey’s President Tayyip Recap Erdogan by phone and thanked him for brokering the truce.

    And Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad likened the fall of Aleppo to the birth of Christ or the revelation of the Koran.  We’ll get a report from Aleppo later in the program.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  In the day’s other news, President-elect Trump checked another box on his cabinet list.  He chose Congressman Ryan Zinke for interior secretary.  The Montana Republican is a former Navy SEAL who is finishing his first term in the U.S. House.  Zinke has pushed for energy independence and voted to expand oil and gas drilling.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  A jury in Charleston, South Carolina, has convicted Dylann Roof, in the killing of nine black church-goers last year.  The white supremacist was found guilty today of federal hate crimes and other counts.  In closing arguments, the prosecution called Roof a cold, calculated killer, full of hate.  The defense admitted his guilt, but focused on trying to prevent a death sentence.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Bitterly cold air swept down from Canada and engulfed the Upper Midwest today, spreading to the East Coast.  Temperatures were frigid and fell below zero in parts of North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, where wind chills made it even colder — 15 to 30 degrees below zero.  The Arctic blast also brought snow from the Great Lakes to the Northeast, and caused a pileup of about 60 cars in Western Pennsylvania.

    JUSTIN ROSS, Driver:  Traffic was stopped.  I tried to stop.  I got pushed over into another lane, and I stopped and other cars started coming along, truck passed over.  He was going about 60, got into the ditch and it just started piling up after that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Overnight, light snow from another storm system caused commuter havoc in Portland, Oregon, with multiple crashes and traffic backed up for miles.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The 320,000 residents of Corpus Christi, Texas, are being urged not to drink their tap water until further notice.  City officials say it might be contaminated with chemicals from an industrial leak yesterday.  The warning has caused a run on bottled water, with long lines at grocery stores across the city.  Schools are also closed, and it’s not clear when the drinking supply will be safe again.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: An ex-police officer in Milwaukee has been charged with reckless homicide in a fatal shooting that sparked riots.  A criminal complaint released today says the victim was armed, but threw away his gun moments before he was killed.  The officer was fired later, over a separate incident.

    And in Pasco, Washington, a coroner’s jury cleared three state police officers.  They shot and killed an unarmed Mexican farm worker after he threw rocks at them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States today renewed sanctions against Iran for another 10 years.  The extension became law automatically when President Obama declined to sign or veto the bill.  The White House says the president will waive most of the sanctions, but it’s warning Congress against doing anything else to undo the nuclear deal with Iran.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:  The president did not veto this bill because it does not undermine the deal.  But there’s been plenty of rhetoric and plenty of legislative work done on legislation that would blow up the deal.  And this is a message that if the United States Congress blows up the deal that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, they will have to deal with the grave consequences that ensue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Iran says the sanctions renewal does violate the nuclear deal, and it vows to respond.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Investigators in Egypt say they’ve found traces of explosives on victims of an Egypt Air crash in May.  All 66 people on board died when the flight plunged into the Mediterranean Sea.  Search crews were able to recover a variety of wreckage from the sea floor.  The plane had been on a flight from Paris to Cairo.  There has been no claim of responsibility for downing the airliner.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Back in this country, U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez announced he’s running for chair of the Democratic National Committee.  He’ll take on Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota.  The state party heads in South Carolina and New Hampshire, Jaime Harrison and Ray Buckley, are also running.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  As of today, recreational use of marijuana is officially legal in Massachusetts.  It’s the first state on the Eastern Seaboard to take that step, and one of eight states nationwide.  The ballot measure, passed last month, allows adults to grow and use limited amounts of marijuana at their homes.  It will be another year before retail pot shops are allowed to open.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  And, Wall Street rebounded some from yesterday’s losses.  The Dow Jones industrial average gained 59 points to close at 19,852, the NASDAQ rose 20 points, and the S&P 500 added eight.

    The post News Wrap: Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke chosen for Interior Department appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Sean Murphy/The Image Bank via Getty Images.

    Photo by Sean Murphy/The Image Bank via Getty Images.

    A report by the National Employment Law Project estimates that American workers will gain $62 billion in wage increases due to state and local minimum wage increases advocated by the Fight for $15 movement. Where did it get that number?

    Although calls and emails to NELP to get the methodology behind its figures went unanswered, it’s clear that the study made a number of assumptions. NELP states in the report that, “Total income increase estimates [were] derived by multiplying the number of workers affected, by the per-worker income increase at the end of the phase-in period.”

    In other words, NELP estimated the number of workers at different wage levels in areas that passed minimum wage increases, calculated the difference in their former incomes and new incomes under the new minimum wage when that wage was completely phased in and added those increases to get to $62 billion.

    READ MORE: Column: Fight for $15 has brought $62 billion in raises and counting to underpaid workers

    NELP assumed that the increase in these wages comes only from increasing the minimum wage — not from any increase in experience or skill — and that no workers were laid off or replaced after the higher minimum wage passed.

    Clearly, none of these assumptions hold water.

    Only 1.8 percent of American workers earned the federal minimum wage or below in 2015.

    Wages increase over time without minimum wage laws. Only 1.8 percent of American workers earned the federal minimum wage or below in 2015. This is because employers have to offer above minimum wage pay to retain talented workers. Those who start at the minimum wage generally find that their pay increases.

    When employers are required to pay more, they choose workers with more skills and combine them with technology, such as digital ordering. As a result, low-skill workers lose their jobs.

    A National Bureau of Economic Research paper by economists Jeffrey Clemens and Michael Wither of the University of California-San Diego documents this. The authors found that increases in the minimum wage were responsible for 14 percent of the decline in the share of the working-age population employed between 2006 and 2012. Minimum wage increases significantly reduced the probability of low-skill workers reaching the middle class.

    In addition to reducing employment, the binding minimum wage increase makes it more likely that people work without pay — such as in unpaid internships.

    Clemens and Wither looked at the change in the minimum wage across states that had different minimum wage laws. Some states have raised their minimum wage above the federal minimum wage. The authors divided states into those in which the federal minimum wage was binding and those in which it was not. They used data from the 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation and assessed the extent to which increasing the minimum wage affected the wage distribution of minimum wage workers.

    READ MORE: Column: $15 minimum wage won’t hurt workers? Don’t take it seriously

    Not surprisingly, they found that some low-skill workers who earned the old minimum wage were employed at the new minimum wage. But the professors found that a minimum wage increase substantially reduced employment. By the second year, the authors estimated that employment of low-skill workers declined by 8 percent more in states with the binding federal minimum wage than in states with a higher minimum wage. For teenagers and food service workers, employment declined by 4 percentage points.

    Young people would be harmed the most by increasing the minimum wage. Almost half of minimum wage workers are under 25, and 19 percent are teens. This group’s unemployment rate is already higher than the 4.9 percent overall unemployment rate. The teen unemployment rate is 15.6 percent, and the African-American teen unemployment rate is 27.6 percent.

    People might respond to pollsters saying that they favor raising the minimum wage, but they are rarely willing to pay more for services when prices rise. Increasing the minimum wage reduces both the likelihood of employment and average income. The research should be a warning to those who seek to conjure miraculous cures for poverty by artificially raising wages. It sounds compassionate to alleviate poverty by mandating an increase in wages, but employers won’t necessarily cooperate. Instead, they’ll only hire those workers who can produce $15 per hour — that is, higher-skilled workers — and they’ll hire fewer workers than they hire today.

    In short, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour makes a good soundbite, but the people who will be hurt are those who are least able to look after themselves.

    Denying work opportunities to those whose skills don’t add up to $15 per hour is not compassionate; it’s manifestly unfair. The government would be essentially mandating that workers below a given level of skill have no right to work.

    These low-skill workers include many who need to get their foot on the bottom rung of the career ladder, such as teenagers getting their first jobs and people with poor job histories. Today’s minimum wage teenage waiters are gaining the job skills to become tomorrow’s professionals. Almost all of us remember the minimum wage jobs we had in our youth. And data show that the majority of minimum wage workers move onto better jobs within a year.

    READ MORE: Column: Why a $15 minimum wage should scare us

    With the U.S. unemployment rate at 4.9 percent, most U.S. employers have to pay more than the minimum wage just to attract workers. Over 142 million workers are now earning above minimum wage — not because of government regulation, but because that is the only way that firms can attract employees.

    In short, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour makes a good soundbite, but the people who will be hurt are those who are least able to look after themselves.

    The post Column: Raising the minimum wage lowers employment for teens and low-skill workers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team have received scathing criticism for putting together one of the least diverse cabinets in recent history. The cabinet is nearly all-white and all-male — and mostly older and affluent.

    This lack of cabinet diversity could have concrete consequences on everything from criminal justice to health care policy, according to advocates and experts who study diversity and interviews with current and former cabinet officers.

    “There are many white men who are extremely savvy and sensitive and understanding of diversity. There is no question about that,” said Marc Morial, the head of the National Urban League. “The question is, do people feel their voices are heard? That’s really important, that communities feel someone is at the table with my point of view.”

    So far, only three of Trump’s 13 cabinet picks are not white men: Ben Carson, Trump’s nominee for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Elaine Chao for labor secretary and Betsy Devos for education department.

    Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.), who is Indian-American, has also been named ambassador to the United Nations, and Linda McMahon was tapped to head the Small Business Administration. Both of those positions are not in the immediate cabinet but are considered cabinet-level. Trump has not yet chosen his secretary of agriculture or secretary of veterans affairs.

    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) and Vice President-elet Mike Pence (R) greet retired Marine Gen. James Mattis for a meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTSSFDF

    President-elect Donald Trump has put together one of the least diverse cabinets in recent U.S. history. Photo by Mike Segar/REUTERS

    Trump has also been criticized for not choosing a diverse range of people when it comes to wealth and age. According to a Quartz analysis, the president-elect’s 17 cabinet-level picks have a net worth of at least $9.5 billion — that’s more money than the poorest third of Americans, or 43 million households, combined.

    “[The President-elect’s] selections are more of a reflection of what he values, which is money,” said Lauren Burke, a political analyst at Politic365.

    “He’s hiring by the mirror image rule,” said Morial, by opting almost entirely for cabinet members whose backgrounds are similar to his.

    Take Freshman Rep. Ryan Zinke, (R-Mt.), Trump’s choice for interior secretary. Zinke got the nod after reportedly connecting with Donald Trump Jr. over their shared interest in hunting. News outlets previously reported that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), R-WA, a member of the House Republican leadership team, was the top contender for the job.

    Omarosa Manigault, the Trump transition team’s director of diversity initiatives, said Trump is committed to diversity.

    “He wants an administration that looks like the country, that looks like America,” Manigault said. “He really wants to make an impact in terms of his vision by appointing and selecting the best that America has to offer.”

    “Our country is getting blacker and browner,” Burke said, “And now, come January, we’re going to have a cabinet that isn’t going to reflect that at all.”

    Manigault said she could not speak to the president-elect’s selection of his top cabinet members, but added that 80 percent of the administration is made up of lower-level posts.

    The cabinet Trump assembled stands in marked contrast to President Obama’s first-term cabinet. Eight of Obama’s cabinet appointments were women or minorities. But even then, Obama’s administration was harshly criticized for becoming a “boys club.” In his second term, Obama appointed fewer women than the first time around.

    While Obama will end his tenure with one of the most diverse cabinets in history, according to Burke, his appointments in top-level positions aren’t as progressive as many of his supporters had hoped.

    “It matters when a president names an African-American to a top-level position like the Secretary of State more than when it’s the U.S. trade representative,” she said. “[President Obama] started out really slow. Had Trump selected two more African-Americans, he’d be ahead of the president in his first four years for top level positions. It shouldn’t even be close considering African-Americans support Democrats 90 percent of the time.”

    In his last two years in office, though, the president put together the first administration where the majority of top policy positions were held by minorities or women and has since been credited with the most diverse cabinet in U.S. history, according to an analysis by the University of California at Berkeley. The process has not been without hiccups. Berkeley’s lead researcher, Anne O’Connell, points out that Senate confirmations of women and minorities “took longer on average than their white, male counterparts.”

    The 15 possible cabinet appointments a president can make tend to be the most visible leadership positions. While diversity at the top matters, O’Connell said it’s also the lower-level positions within government departments that play a role in policy.

    “An administration that is more actively nominating top positions that represent gender or race and ethnic diversity are more likely to reflect that in staffing the department itself,” she said, noting that the departments of agriculture, defense and treasury have been the least diverse throughout several presidential administrations.

    “With top level positions under President-elect Trump being less diverse, it’s likely that lower level positions will be even worse,” she added.

    Cabinet members under the Obama administration, including white men, took the president’s commitment to diversity to heart, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in an interview.

    “[President Obama] has created an opportunity for America to understand that diversity is a blessing,” Tom Vilsack told the NewsHour. “I think at the end of the day we’re going to learn that this country operates best when it surrounds itself and appreciates diversity and doesn’t shun it.”

    Vilsack said when he took office he inherited 14,000 civil rights cases against the Department of Agriculture that went back decades. Since then, he has made major changes.

    “We’ve created a cultural transformation in which we’ve made a concerted effort to cast a wider net for talent, so now we have a much more diverse workforce,” Vilsack said. “Our senior leadership team at the USDA is one of the most diverse if not the most diverse in the federal government.”

    Vilsack receives monthly reports on hiring practices and launched initiatives to diversify the agribusiness workforce, which is predominately white.

    Both Burke and O’Connell noted that, often, Republicans don’t face the same pressure to assemble a diverse cabinet, mainly because the makeup of the GOP is mostly inconsistent with the demographics of the American population overall — skewing more white, wealthy and male. Political gesturing often results in Democrats being held more accountable to reflect the diversity of their constituents, sometimes with disappointing results.

    “All too often, the constituency that puts Democrats in power is not the constituency that is seen getting these jobs,” Burke said.

    Before Obama took office, George W. Bush held the record for the most diverse group of top advisors in history. The Associated Press reported at the time that President Bush matched President Bill Clinton’s record for diversity in the cabinet. Bush also had more minorities and women advisers overall than Clinton.

    One of those appointments was Alphonso Jackson, who served as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2004 to 2008. Jackson had spent decades working with the St. Louis and Dallas housing authorities before he became deputy HUD secretary in 2001.

    “Because of my skill set and personal firsthand knowledge of urban issues, I was able to provide tangible advice to the president on issues faced by urban areas,” Jackson wrote in an email to the PBS NewsHour.

    Jackson made minority homeownership a key part of his mission, telling the NewsHour in a 2008 interview that he was focused on making communities more inclusive socially and economically. His tenure was later marred by the housing crisis and accusations of cronyism, though no charges were ever filed.

    When looking at the Trump cabinet picks, Jackson said the president-elect is off to “a good start,” but encourages him to go further.

    “I humbly would advise President-elect Trump and his team to select individuals who are committed to serving our country and implementing his vision based on diversity of thought and opinion,” Jackson said.

    Manigault, who worked in the Clinton administration and sits on the Trump transition executive committee, said the team is working to find the most qualified individuals for the job. “We choose the best candidates, and if by chance that candidate is a Latino or a woman, we celebrate that too,” she said.

    Manigualt said those criticizing the president-elect should consider his current business, which she said is made up of a wide range of people.

    “Look to what he’s already done in his organization in terms of diversity, and then you have an indicator what he’s going to do in his administration,” she said.

    But when it comes to embracing diversity, some say the early signs are discouraging.

    “Our country is getting blacker and browner,” Burke said, “And now, come January, we’re going to have a cabinet that isn’t going to reflect that at all.” Burke expects the Trump administration to miss the mark by a wide margin for his entire presidency, an issue that will harm vulnerable communities she says are most affected by policy decisions.

    “The defining thing we’re going to see here is a massive effort toward privatization that doesn’t reflect 99 percent of the country,” she said. “But when you do see these types of major policy shifts that most polls would indicate Americans don’t want, there will be a backlash to that. Whether that backlash is seen in the next two or four years is uncertain.”

    Morial, of the National Urban League, pointed to protests that erupted after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. Even though racial tensions flared in Ferguson, Morial said it could have been a lot worse had it not been for then-Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s first African American justice department chief, who provided a “calming influence.”

    Morial said he is not giving up on Trump though, noting that the president-elect still has many positions, including a number of deputy undersecretaries, to fill.

    “I would encourage Trump to realize how important this is if you are going to truly make America great for everyone,” Morial said.

    The post Trump’s cabinet is mostly white and male. What will that mean for policy? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Image by Getty Images

    Image by Getty Images

    As of Friday, three days before electors gather in state capitals to elect the next president, President-elect Donald Trump is poised to receive 306 electoral votes to Secretary Clinton’s 232. Many of her supporters point to Clinton’s 2.8 million popular vote lead over Trump, but that number is mostly symbolic.

    Here’s why.

    As “School House Rock” put it back in 2002, “the folks who wrote our Constitution had the idea for this plan. And it’s been used in our elections since our government began.”

    Video by YouTube user Kevin Bullock

    When the Founding Fathers ratified the Constitution in 1788, they decided that the president would be selected by electors appointed by the individual states. The number of electors — and therefore electoral votes — would be equal to the state’s congressional delegation.

    For example, Pennsylvania has two U.S. senators and 18 U.S. House members, giving the Keystone State 20 electoral votes.

    The Constitution goes on to say that the winner of the presidency is the candidate with a majority of the electoral votes, which — right now — is 270 votes.

    That brings us to election night, when Trump won Wisconsin. He had picked up enough states to earn 270 electoral votes, making him the president-elect. But that result does not become official until the 538 electors cast their votes during the third week of December.

    So do the electors have to vote according to their states popular vote result? Yes, in 28 states, which have passed state laws requiring it; no in all the others.

    On Monday, the electors will meet to cast their votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. If there is a tie or no one receives a majority of the vote, the decision is sent to the U.S. House of Representatives.

    But this scenario is incredibly unlikely. The House deciding the election hasn’t happened since the 1800s and has only happened twice ever, with Thomas Jefferson in 1800 and John Quincy Adams in 1824.

    But if it did come down to the House, each state would get exactly one vote, and whichever candidates gets a simple majority becomes president. So with a Republican majority in 32 of the Congressional delegations, Trump would likely remain the winner.

    The post The Electoral College votes Monday. Here’s why Trump will likely remain the winner appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The Trump Hotel Rio de Janeiro is seen in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, December 14, 2016. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares - RTX2V3BM

    Trump Hotels said this week it will no longer operate a Rio de Janeiro luxury hotel that’s being investigated in a criminal probe. Photo by REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

    NEW YORK — The Trump Organization has canceled a licensing deal for a hotel in Azerbaijan and is taking steps to do the same for a project in neighboring Georgia, part of a string of recent efforts by the president-elect to extricate his business from thorny relationships five weeks before he takes office.

    Trump lawyer Alan Garten said Friday that developers in both projects failed to meet terms of licensing deals. He described the moves as “normal housekeeping” and not part of a strategy to reduce potential conflicts of interests.

    WATCH: Can Trump ‘build a wall’ between his presidency and his business?

    The moves by the Trump Organization follow a cancellation earlier this week of a licensing deal for a hotel in Brazil. The New York-based company also recently shut down four companies registered in Delaware that appear connected with a possible Saudi Arabia business venture.

    President-elect Donald Trump has faced criticism for investments overseas that government ethics experts say present conflicts of interest. He has stakes in about 500 companies in more than 20 countries around the globe, though many of the foreign ventures just involve him lending his name to buildings owned by others.

    Trump’s Azerbaijani partner drew the scrutiny of The Associated Press and other news outlets amid questions about corruption and the country’s status as a waypoint for money laundering.

    Trump’s Azerbaijani partner drew the scrutiny of The Associated Press and other news outlets amid questions about corruption and the country’s status as a waypoint for money laundering. The partner, Anar Mammadov, is the son of Azerbaijan’s transportation minister who was described in leaked American diplomatic cables as “notoriously corrupt, even for Azerbaijan.”

    Though the exterior of the project had been largely constructed last year, it disappeared from a list of planned Trump Organization projects on the company’s website last year amid construction delays and questions about the strength of Anar Mammadov’s finances.

    Trump earned between $2.5 million and $2.8 million in hotel management fees from the unopened hotel, according to the financial disclosures filed by his campaign. Trump licensing deals generally involve the receipt of a significant minority stake in the property, too.

    The Georgia project is for a tower in the Black Sea resort town of Batumi. Trump lawyer Garten said the president-elect’s company sent a “default notice” earlier this month to the developer because it had not lived up to terms of the licensing deal. He described the move as typically a first step to canceling a deal.

    Just last week, Trump’s development partner told Bloomberg News that that the long-stalled project would go ahead, and that “talks are on.”

    Trump Hotels said this week it will no longer operate a Rio de Janeiro luxury hotel that’s being investigated in a criminal probe. It’s also pulling its name off the property.

    The decision was made because the project is behind schedule, Trump Hotels spokeswoman Christine Lin told The Associated Press in a statement. The change took effect on Thursday.

    “Unfortunately, the developers of the Rio de Janeiro hotel are significantly behind on the completion of the property, and their vision for the hotel no longer aligns with the Trump Hotels brand,” said Lin, who did not answer follow-up questions on whether the investigation prompted the decision.

    In Brazil, the hotel in the upscale suburb of Rio de Janeiro was supposed to be finished in time for the Rio Olympics in August. Today only a portion of it is operational.

    In October, prosecutors said they were investigating millions of dollars in questionable investments in the hotel by two small Brazilian pension funds. The probe is part of a larger investigation into corruption in Brazilian pension funds.

    The Rio hotel is owned by LSH Barra. The company has not responded to several requests for comments about Trump pulling its name.

    When the investigation was launched, the company denied any wrongdoing.

    In a statement Friday, the company said the parting was amicable, and the hotel’s new name would be LSH Barra Hotel.

    AP Writers Peter Prengaman and Mauricio Savarese contributed to this report from Rio de Janeiro. Horwitz reported from Washington D.C.

    The post Trump moves to cancel business deals in Azerbaijan, Georgia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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