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

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    A research assistant works on a vaccine for Ebola at The Jenner Institute in Oxford, southern England January 16, 2015. Photograph taken January 16, 2015.    REUTERS/Eddie Keogh (BRITAIN - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY HEALTH) - RTR4M5YI

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, a long looked-for breakthrough in the battle against the deadly Ebola virus. One experimental vaccine has been shown to be 100 percent effective on humans.

    Hari Sreenivasan has the story.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The results of a two-year trial led by the World Health Organization were published in the journal “Lancet” yesterday. They showed that of nearly 6,000 people vaccinated in Guinea last year, none had contracted Ebola after a ten-day period. While in the group not vaccinated, 23 cases developed.

    The vaccine still needs regulatory approval, but is considered so effective that some 300,000 doses have already been stockpiled. The 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa killed 11,000 people.

    For more on this promising news, we turn once again to Dr. Anthony Fauci. He’s director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and has long been involved in vaccine development.

    Dr. Fauci, everyone’s pretty excited about the 100 percent efficacy rate. Let’s look under the hood a bit. This isn’t the same type of clinical trial that we’re used to in drug approval or vaccine approval, is it?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: No, it’s a bit unusual. The vaccine trial is referred to as a ring vaccine trial which means that cases were identified in Guinea that indeed had Ebola. Then, instead of preemptively ahead of time vaccinating whole groups of populations, the individuals were divided into two separate groups, groups that were vaccinated immediately who had contact with the index case or cases or contact of contacts, and another group that was vaccinated 21 days later.

    So, it was more of an acute response to an outbreak by trying to protect those people who were, in reality or potentially exposed to the index cases. That’s not the standard way that you do a vaccine trial.

    And so, although these results are really quite encouraging, there is still a lot more work to be done on vaccines for Ebola, and that’s exactly where we’re heading with this, to get many more people in a larger trial and to also determine, is the effect durable? In other words, if I vaccinate you now, will you be protected six months, eight months or a year from now and just how powerful that protective response would be.

    And that’s really the kinds of questions that still remain a bit unanswered, despite the fact that this finding now from the Guinea trial is really quite impressive.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There was one vaccine that was tested at the center of this, but there are multiple strains of Ebola.

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: That’s another question that needs to be answered and it’s a good point that you bring up. This vaccine that was tested in Guinea against the Zaire strain of Ebola.

    There are more than one strain, particularly, a second train called the Sudan strain, but maybe two other strains. And when we ultimately get the vaccine that what we would consider to be the optimal season, we would want one that, A, has a great durability of effect, that would be effective over a considerable period of time, and, B, something that would be able to protect essentially against all strains of Ebola, because there are different strains that pop up in different parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and we have clear-cut experience with that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, given the test that’s just been done with this specific vaccine, this is not like a polio vaccine where you get it once in your life and you’re vaccinated. You’re still going to need a lot more tests to figure out that combination of different viruses and how long they last.

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Absolutely. Those are critical questions that you ask. This — some people when they hear about how really impressive the results are, they think, OK, we’re done now with the Ebola vaccine, we’re going to move on because we’ve solved the problem.

    We haven’t come anywhere near solving the problem because there are still so many unanswered questions that we need to pursue before we get a vaccine that we feel would be universally able to be widespread administered to people to protect them from outbreaks of Ebola of multiple different strains. There’s a lot of work to be done.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. While we have you, I also wanted to just ask you about the avian flu that’s in Asia right now. We’re reporting about the millions of birds in Korea and other parts of Asia that have been culled already. How concerned should we about this?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: We need to pay attention to this. I don’t think there’s any real need to panic at all about it, because we have been following outbreaks of bird flu for decades. The first time we got involved with it here was back in the ’90s in Hong Kong when you had the H5N1 which are viruses that are influenza viruses that are fundamentally viruses of fowl, water fowl, or chickens, sometimes pigs and other animals. They rarely jump into species and infect humans, and when they do infect humans, they do not efficiently spread from human-to-human. That’s where most of the bird flu situation is right now.

    But having said that, we always have to be alert for the threat or the possibility that they may, when they jump species like from a chicken or another type of a fowl to a human, that they then become really efficient in spreading from person to person. We’ve not seen that thus far. Hopefully, we’ll never see it, but we’ve even begun trying to develop vaccines against some of these avian type flu. So, no need to panic but don’t just blow it off. We’ve got to keep our eye out on it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Dr. Anthony Fauci, thanks so much.

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Good to be with you.

    The post Ebola vaccine results are encouraging — but preliminary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    warofwords

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We return now to President-elect Trump’s comments about the need to build up the United States’ nuclear arsenal — and to John Yang for that.

    JOHN YANG: Are the president-elect’s tweets and comments signaling a change in U.S. nuclear weapons policy? And should the nation beef up its nuclear arsenal?

    For that, we turn to Matthew Kroenig, an associate professor at Georgetown University who’s written extensively about nuclear weapons, and Joseph Cirincione, the president of the Ploughshares Fund, a non-profit organization that advocates for disarmament. He, too, has written widely on the subject.

    Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us tonight.

    Mr. Cirincione, let me start with you, when you hear or read the president-elect saying that the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability and then tell Mika Brzezinski this morning, “Let it be an arms race,” what’s your reaction?

    JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, Ploughshares Fund: Stunned. An ill-considered, disrespectful and dangerous series of statements. This would upend decades of Republican and Democratic policy that ever since Ronald Reagan has been reducing nuclear arsenals, both in the United States and Russia and around the world, stopping other countries from getting nuclear weapons.

    By using that word “expand”, he says he wants to grow the arsenal or grow the capabilities. Look, nobody is against keeping a strong nuclear deterrent. If that’s all he said, we wouldn’t be having this debate.

    President Obama has put in train a trillion-dollar program to replace every single nuclear weapon we have over the next 25 years. Donald Trump seems to be saying he wants to go ahead with this. His advisors tried to walk it back, but he himself said this morning, let it be an arms race. That is an extremely dangerous posture, that’s why people all over the globe are worried and talking about this today.

    JOHN YANG: Matthew Kroenig, what’s your take?

    MATTHEW KROENIG, Georgetown University: Well, the statement is certainly controversial but I think Trump is basically right. U.S. nuclear policy in the U.S. can’t be static, it has to respond to international politics and all America’s nuclear armed rivals, Russia, China, North Korea, are expanding and modernizing their arsenals. So, it doesn’t make sense for the United States to continue reducing its arsenal as our adversaries are going in the other directions. And moreover, many of these countries, especially Russia, are relying more not less on nuclear weapons in their strategy.

    So, again, the United States needs to take that into account as it formulates its own nuclear posture. And so, I think some strengthening of U.S. nuclear strategy and U.S. nuclear posture has been long overdue.

    JOHN YANG: Matthew Kroenig, when you say the United States shouldn’t be reducing its arsenal, but isn’t that what’s called for under an existing treaty with Russia?

    MATTHEW KROENIG: Well, the existing treaty with Russia, the new START treaty was signed in 2011. According to the treaty, both countries can have 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons. Right now, the United States is actually well under 200 or so warheads under. The Russians are 250 warheads above.

    So, there is a gap of about 400 warheads that’s worrying in and of itself, and it raises questions about Russia — whether Russia actually intends to follow through on this agreement or not. So, this is one of the measures that a new president can take to strengthen America’s nuclear arsenal to increase the size of the arsenal, at least to the limits allowed for under new START.

    JOHN YANG: You’re shaking your head.

    JOSEPH CIRINCIONE: Well, that’s because he’s playing with numbers. Yes, it’s true, we both have about 7,000 warheads in our total inventory and the ones that the treaty counts, you know, we’re a couple hundred under. But we have more launchers, more missiles, more delivery vehicles. We’re a couple hundred over where the Russians are.

    But at these levels, those numbers don’t matter. We both have enough weapons to destroy the world several times over. We don’t need to expand this.

    And here’s the real problem, when the two big guys, the people with 95 percent of the world’s arsenals, U.S. and Russia together have 95 percent of all the weapons in the world, when we say we need more, what is China to think? They have about 200. Do they start building more? How about India and Pakistan?

    And that’s the big worry that you have here is this ill-considered tweet could launch a global arms race. Twitter is fine for criticizing Alec Baldwin, but don’t use it to make U.S. policy. Mr. Trump, step away from the Twitter.

    JOHN YANG: Go ahead.

    MATTHEW KROENIG: Three thoughts on that. One, there’s a 400 warhead difference, I do disagree, I do think that matters. And even if we don’t think it matters, the Russians pay close attention to nuclear weapons. They rely more on nuclear weapons in their strategy. And so, I think they think this difference matters and they say, see, this U.S. failure to respond to some of their actions as sign of weakness.

    And in terms of this idea that if we reduce our arsenal, somehow China and other countries are going to come along, that was the position that really underline the Obama administration nuclear strategy and we’ve seen that it hasn’t worked, as the United States reduced its arsenal, other countries have gone in the other directions.

    So, I don’t see this as the United States starting an arms race. Quite the contrary, it’s really responding to what’s going on in these other countries. And I think a failure to respond is what would be really dangerous. I think it would incentivize further nuclear aggression.

    JOHN YANG: And, Mr. Cirincione, even if this is a continuation of the Obama policy to modernize the arsenal, you think that even the Obama policy is a bad idea? Is that what I take from what you said?

    JOSEPH CIRINCIONE: Absolutely. The very first thing General Mattis is going to find out when he takes over as secretary of defense is we don’t have the money to pay for the programs that are on the books. For example, if the Navy goes ahead and builds a whole new fleet of ballistic missile submarines in the next decade, it has to cut its conventional navy by 50 percent. Who would make that kind of choice?

    So, these are some of the considerations that will face the new administration. And here’s the upside of this — let’s say this is all about negotiating leverage, this is Mr. Trump opening up closed issues, looking for bargaining in ahead of his meeting with Vladimir Putin, which will probably occur in the beginning of next year. Well, here’s where he could cash in, he should take a page from Ronald Reagan, and negotiate with Putin, deep cuts in both sides’ nuclear forces, get rid of these unnecessary weapons we don’t need, save hundreds of billions of dollars to use for conventional forces, and really make a name for himself.

    This could be the deal of a lifetime. This would put him in the history books and then we won’t be talking about these silly tweets.

    JOHN YANG: Matthew Kroenig, what about that? He’s a dealmaker, he’s businessman and he talks about trying to keep his negotiating opponents off balance and that sort of thing. Can we learn anything or take anything from this about what kind of foreign policy President Trump will be?

    MATTHEW KROENIG: Well, two points. First to Joe, first on the modernization. Joe has thought a lot about these issues, but he is outside the mainstream. There is a bipartisan consensus that the United States needs to modernize the arsenal. This was Obama administration’s policy. It has support from Republicans and that should go ahead under Trump.

    Joe also raised the issue of cost. But the cost of these modernization programs, you mentioned $1 trillion over 30 years, but that comes to about 5 percent of the U.S. defense budget.

    So, current Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has said this is the bedrock of our security. Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has said it’s the most important mission of the Department of Defense. So, I don’t think anybody thinks 5 percent is too much for the most important mission of the Department of Defense.

    On your question, what does this signal about Trump’s foreign policy? It’s difficult to know whether this means a change in U.S. nuclear policy or not. All we have to go on is a tweet and a couple of tweets and a couple of statements. It may mean just continuing Obama’s policy of modernization. But I am hopeful that it means strengthening the arsenal because I do think there are some things the United States can do within its international obligations to strengthen deterrence.

    JOHN YANG: I’m sorry, I’m afraid we have to leave there. Matthew Kroenig and Joe Cirincione, thanks for joining us.

    JOSEPH CIRINCIONE: Thank you.

    The post Donald Trump’s fighting words are worrying to some appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO:  A construction site is seen in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev, near Jerusalem, October 17, 2013. REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo - RTX2WC0Q

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, why did the Obama administration today abstain from voting on the United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem?

    We ask Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications to the president.

    Ben Rhodes, welcome.

    It is the case that the U.S. has long opposed these Israeli settlements but, at the same time, it has protected Israel in the U.N. against these condemning resolutions. Why the shift?

    BEN RHODES, Deputy National Security Adviser: Well, look, first of all, it’s bipartisan tradition to opposed settlements, as you mentioned. There have been many resolutions in the past under bipartisan administrations that address the Arab-Israeli conflict. The fact of the matter is, we vetoed a resolution that addressed settlements in 2011, and look what’s happened since. We’ve had failed peace processes after failed peace process, and the pace of settlement construction has accelerated significantly. And just recently, you had the Israeli prime minister saying that this is the most pro-settlement in administration in Israeli history, the Israeli government that is currently in place.

    We believe that at this pace, a two-state solution could be put at risk. We believe that would be profoundly bad for Israel and its security. And so, that’s why the president took the position that he did.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It comes across, though, Ben Rhodes, though, as a parting shot at Israel on the part of President Obama.

    BEN RHODES: Well, look, we have a record that we’ll put up next to anybody in terms of support for Israel. In fact, we just concluded a $38 billion ten year MOU with respect to their security assistance from the United States.

    The fact of the matter is, though, I think if you look at the map of the West Bank, if you look at the future of the two-state solution, these settlements are encroaching further and further beyond the separation barrier that the Israelis themselves built, thousands of new settlements are being constructed and, frankly, if these trends continue, it will be impossible to realize a two-state solution.

    And the fact of the matter is, we can’t just have a peace process or a two-state solution as an empty talking point. If we really want to be able to have a prospect for peace, we have to be clear about what we’re against and that includes the type of settlements and I’d say as the resolution points out, the type of incitement to violence on the Palestinian side that have been obstacles to peace.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me just read you what — among other things the comments from Prime Minister Netanyahu after this happened. He said, “The National Security Council has disgracefully ganged up on the one democracy in the Middle East.” The Israeli government is saying this was a shameful resolution, they’re not going to abide by it.

    I mean, is the president — are you comfortable with what is now a really raw opening, a sore spot in the relationship with Israel as this president leaves office?

    BEN RHODES: Look, we’ve taken a lot of criticism from the Israeli government over the years. If you look at our record, unprecedented military intelligence cooperation, a significant security assistance upgrades.

    But again, let’s talk about what the resolution addressed — the settlement construction. That’s the conversation that the Israeli government is not having. And, in fact, you had this prime minister say this is the most pro-settlement Israeli government in history. Frankly, that statement is entirely inconsistent with the two-state solution that the Israeli government in the past has said they supported, that many members of Congress support.

    At a certain point, we all just have to stop and look at the map and look at the facts and say, if these settlements continue, is the two-state solution impossible? And that clearly is the trend line. It’s evident for everybody to see, and that’s what we should be talking about.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: President-elect Trump, as you know, had urged the White House to veto this resolution condemning Israel. We know that he was in touch with the president of Egypt to try to intervene. Was this appropriate on his part?

    BEN RHODES: Well, look, we believe that there is one president at a time. Frankly, after January 20, the president-elect will get to pursue this approach and whatever other one he wants on these issues.

    Again, I would say, it’s very important, this is bipartisan position to oppose continued settlements and it’s a bipartisan history that there’d been resolutions at the U.N. I keep hearing this is unprecedented. There were six resolutions under George W. Bush addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including one that embraced the road map the Bush administration put forward for a Palestinian state by 2005. That was over a decade ago.

    So, the question is, if we are against the continued settlement activity and for a two-state solution, why are we going to continue with the status quo, on which we see trends on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian trends, that are putting peace farther and farther away?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You say it’s bipartisan, but as you very well know, the leadership — Republican leadership in the Congress is raining down now with criticism, the incoming Democratic leader in the Senate, Senator Schumer from New York, is criticizing this decision. It sounds like the administration is, if not alone, certainly is in the minority on this position today.

    BEN RHODES: Well, look, we respect, of course, friends on both sides of the aisle who have expressed different views on this. Again, I think the question is going to be when history looks at these types of decisions, when people look back and they say, you saw tens of thousands of settlements being constructed, you saw as was addressed in the resolution, incitement to violence on the Palestinian side.

    The question is, do we not have responsibility to lay down a marker here about what we think is actual U.S. policy? You have a resolution like this that is entirely consistent with the policy, how can we continue to veto that over and over again?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, are you comfortable — is the president comfortable with this knowing that President-elect Trump is saying he’s going to undo this as soon as he takes office in a few weeks? Is it worth it?

    BEN RHODES: We believe it’s worth it. We believe it’s worth saying this is where we stand and it’s entirely consistent again with our policy for decades. Samantha Power in her explanation of the vote at the U.N. quoted Ronald Reagan in 1982 expressing opposition to settlements. This is not a new U.S. position. And the fact of the matter is, if we’re serious about achieving peace, we need to stand behind the things we believe?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser to the president — thank you very much.

    BEN RHODES: Thank you.

    The post Why didn’t the US veto the UN’s rebuke of Israel? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Italian Police officers work next to the body of Anis Amri, the suspect in the Berlin Christmas market truck attack, in a suburb of the northern Italian city of Milan, Italy December 23, 2016.   REUTERS/Stringer  FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES - RTX2WA23

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news, the FBI warned that Islamic State supporters are urging attacks on U.S. holiday gatherings and churches over Christmas. That’s in a bulletin from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. There are no specific threats, but a list of U.S. churches has been posted on a social media site used by the militants.

    Police in Italy have killed the man who allegedly plowed a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany. Monday night’s attack killed a dozen people. Early today, Anis Amri was shot dead in Milan. It came hours after the Islamic State group released a video statement that he made.

    Rohit Kachroo of Independent Television News reports from Berlin.

    ROHIT KACHROO, ITN: Where and when it was filmed is not clear, but the sentiment is emphatic — he pledges allegiance to the IS leader.

    A video selfie, apparent proof he was inspired by the group.

    This morning, his body lay on the ground in Milan after a shootout with police. Later, the Italian interior minister confirmed the manhunt was over.

    MARCO MINNITI (through translator): The person killed, and this is the result of the investigation, is without a shadow of a doubt Anis Amri, the suspect of the terrorist attack in Berlin.

    ROHIT KACHROO: After Monday’s attack at the Christmas market, he was spotted outside a mosque in the Moabit district in the early hours of Tuesday morning. He then left Germany for France, traveling to Chambery in the country’s southwest, making a train journey across the border to Turin, before boarding another train to Milan.

    From the city’s central station, it was then on to Chiasso-San Giovanni where he was shot dead by police as he opened fire during a routine check at 3:00 a.m. this morning.

    Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a review of security and all the issues this case exposed.

    ANGELA MERKEL, Chancellor, Germany (through translator): I told the president we will speed up the repatriation process and increase the number of people who will be repatriated.

    ROHIT KACHROO: He is no longer wanted, the man who slipped through net after net. And although the manhunt is now over, what investigators can’t see is whether there were more suspects involved in planning this plot.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This evening, President-elect Trump tweeted that the Amri video statement showed, quote, “such hatred,” and he asked, “When will the U.S. and all countries fight back?”

    In Libya, two hijackers seized an airliner today and threatened to blow it up with hand grenades. The plane was commandeered on a domestic flight to Tripoli, and diverted north to the island of Malta. The passengers were allowed to leave after lengthy negotiations. And after that, the hijackers surrendered. The two men declared loyalty to the late dictator Moammar Gaddafi.

    Russia’s President Putin has dismissed allegations that the Kremlin tried to influence the U.S. elections. At his year-end news conference today, he brushed aside complaints about Russian hacking.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through translator): The current U.S. administration and the Democratic Party leadership are trying to blame external factors for all their problems. They are losing on all fronts, and looking elsewhere for things to blame. In my opinion, it is humiliating. One must be able to lose with dignity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Putin also said that President-elect Trump won because he understood the mood of the American people.

    China warned today of a possible showdown with the incoming Trump administration over trade. The state-run “China Daily” strongly criticized Peter Navarro, named to lead a new White House National Trade Council. He has accused China of waging economic war. In an editorial, the newspaper said, quote, “Any move to damage the win-win trade relationship will only result in a loss for both sides.”

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained nearly 15 points to close at 19,933. The NASDAQ rose 15 points, and the S&P 500 added nearly three. For the week, all three indexes rose a fraction of a percent.

    The post News Wrap: FBI says ISIS is urging holiday attacks on the U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump leaves after talking to members of the media at Mar-a-Lago estate where Trump attends meetings, in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTX2W2E8

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama has broken with decades of the U.S. diplomatic practice of defending Israel at the United Nations by using the U.S. veto to squash resolutions of disapproval.

    Today, instead, the U.S. abstained from the latest such resolution, despite pressure from Israeli government and President-elect Trump. The vote was 14 to nothing, as the Security Council condemned Israeli settlement building on lands the Palestinians want.

    Ambassador Samantha Power defended the U.S. decision.

    SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. Ambassador To The United Nations: The United States has been sending a message that the settlements must stop privately and publicly for nearly five decades. Our vote today is fully in line with the bipartisan history of how American presidents have approached both the issue and the role of this body.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Israel rejected the resolution and the U.S. abstention, and so did top Republicans in Congress. House Speaker Paul Ryan called the administration’s action, quote, “absolutely shameful”. And South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said the president’s foreign policy “has gone from naive and foolish to flat-out reckless.”

    President-elect Trump who had urged the White House to veto the resolution tweeted that, quote, “things will be different after January 20th” — when he takes office.

    We’ll get the White House perspective, right after the news summary.

    The president-elect also added more fuel to the fire today over his views on nuclear weapons. John Yang has that story.

    JOE SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back to “Morning Joe.”

    JOHN YANG: A Christmas-themed cable morning show was the messenger for President-elect Trump’s latest salvo on the national’s nuclear arsenal.

    Mr. Trump called MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski during a commercial break.

    JOE SCARBOROUGH: The president-elect told you what?

    MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass.

    JOE SCARBOROUGH: And outlast them all.

    MIKA BRZEZINSKI: And outlast them all.

    JOHN YANG: Later, on NBC’s “Today,” newly named White House press secretary Sean Spicer tried to clarify.

    MATT LAUER: But if there’s going to be an arms race–

    SEAN SPICER, Incoming White House Press Secretary: There’s not going to be.

    MATT LAUER: That’s what he said, so be it? We will match them at every turn?

    SEAN SPICER: There’s not going to be ’cause he’s going to ensure that other countries get the message that he’s not going to sit back and allow that. And what’s going to happen is, they will come to their senses, and we will all be just fine.

    JOHN YANG: It was all part of the ongoing fallout from the president-elect’s tweet yesterday, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

    Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin had addressed top military officials in Moscow:

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through translator): We need to strengthen combat capability of strategic nuclear forces, first of all by reinforcing missile complexes that will be able to reliably penetrate existing and future missile defense systems.

    JOHN YANG: Today, Mr. Putin told a year-end news conference that Russia does not want “an arms race that we can’t afford.”

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (through translator): Regarding the newly elected President Trump, there is nothing new here. He was talking during his campaign about the importance of strengthening the nuclear aspect of the United States. There is nothing unusual.

    JOHN YANG: Today, Mr. Trump released a letter the Russian leader sent him on December 15th. “Relations between Russia and the U.S. remain an important factor in ensuring stability and security of the modern world.” President Putin called for “real steps” to restore “bilateral cooperation.”

    Mr. Trump said, “I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts, and we do not have to travel an alternate path.”

    Chinese foreign ministry officials said they’re watching closely, too.

    HUA CHUNYING, Spokeswoman, Chinese Foreign Ministry (through translator): We have noticed the relevant reports, and are also paying attention to what policies the new U.S. government will adopt. China always upholds and actively advocates the complete ban and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons.

    JOHN YANG: It’s not clear whether Mr. Trump is signaling a change in the four-decades-old U.S. policy of working for nuclear arms reduction. In 2010, President Obama signed a new arms-reduction treaty with Russia, placing further limits on each nation’s arsenal.

    In addition, the United States is moving forward with a program to upgrade America’s aging nuclear stock pile, at an estimated cost of $1 trillion.

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

    The post ‘Let it be an arms race,’ says Trump after controversial tweets appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Katherine Johnson, a NASA mathematician who calculated the trajectories that launched the first Americans into space, at Langley Research Center in 1980. Her story features in Hidden Figures, a book and film about contributions made by African-American women during the early days of American aeronautics. Photo by NASA

    Katherine Johnson, a NASA mathematician who calculated the trajectories that launched the first Americans into space, at Langley Research Center in 1980. Her story features in Hidden Figures, a book and film about contributions made by African-American women during the early days of American aeronautics. Photo by NASA

    This analysis is spoiler-free.

    If you’re a person of color in America right now, it may feel like you’re riding a carousel of darkness. Viral stories of black killings, once occasional events, morphed into déjà vu in 2016 — potentially triggering PTSD-like trauma. The rise of the alt-right, a white nationalist movement, echoes sentiments of public segregation once thought long gone. Meanwhile, Jim Crow-era restrictions on social, economic and political mobility have evolved new facades, namely gentrification and gerrymandering.

    Hidden Figures offers a counter-narrative of hope and a prescient blueprint for unity against what feels like a vicious cycle of inequality. This bestselling biography-turned-Hollywood biopic reveals the untold story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and hundreds of black female mathematicians who made crucial contributions to America’s space program.

    But the narrative also charts how Hampton, Virginia emerged as a driving force for aeronautics innovation and racial integration — even as the state fought against the rise of civil rights.

    Hampton Haven

    Writer Margot Lee Shetterly decided to pursue Hidden Figures in 2010, while visiting her parents for Christmas. After church one day, she and her father began chatting about his days as a scientist at Hampton’s Langley Research Center — the first NASA field facility. Eventually, the conversation crossed upon the black and white women who worked as mathematicians — so-called human computers — during the center’s early years.

    “I knew the women. Many of them worked with my dad, and I’d seen them growing up,” Shetterly told NewsHour. “But I didn’t know much about their particular stories — how they had come to work at NASA, or why there were black women working there.”

    Shetterly spent the next three years combing through historical documents. She checked local newspapers, especially ones for the black community, where she found her canvass for describing daily life in Hampton. One clipping went as far as reporting on what Mary Jackson wore at her wedding, she said. Shetterly also sorted through heaps of archival material on NASA and its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).

    1,500 employees or so at NACA's Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory on November 4, 1943. Photo by NASA

    1,500 employees or so at NACA’s Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory on November 4, 1943. Photo by NASA

    “So a Langley historian, this woman named Mary Gainer, is amazing. She and her staff put so many of the early documents online — photos, badges, artifacts,” Shetterly said. At one point, Shetterly figured out which women had desks in the same room, based on a collection of phone books and floor plans. Meanwhile, she interviewed Katherine Johnson, now in her late-90s, Johnson’s children, the surviving family members of Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughn as well as people who worked with them.

    Had I known these women existed, maybe I would have dreamed to be a rocket scientist?

    The result is a time machine that marches, moment by moment, through the American aeronautics revolution. NACA and the Langley Research Center started during World War I, as planes began to flex their muscles in warfare. As the aviation industry expanded over the next two decades and into World War II, so too did the need for aeronautics research — and human computers.

    As the pool of qualified male candidates fizzled, NACA departed from sexist norms, and Langley hired its first female computers in 1935. After Franklin Roosevelt relaxed discriminatory employment practices for war projects, NACA trail-blazed once more in 1943 by considering applications from black women, as Shetterly catalogues in her book:

    “No photo advised as to the applicant’s color — that requirement, instituted under the administration of Woodrow Wilson, was struck down as the Roosevelt administration tried to dismantle discrimination in hiring practices. But the applicants’ alma maters tipped their hand: West Virginia State University, Howard, Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal, Hampton Institute just across town — all Negro schools. Nothing in the applications indicated anything less than fitness for the job. If anything, they came with more experience than the white women applicants, with many years of teaching experience on top of math or science degrees.


    The black female mathematicians who walked into Langley in 1943 would find themselves at the intersection of these great transformations, their sharp minds and ambitions contributing to what the United States would consider one of its greatest victories.”

    The move transformed Hampton and Langley into a bastion of aeronautical supremacy, while also eroding racial divides over subsequent decades. Virginia was one of the last state’s to abandon Jim Crow policies such as segregated schools, even after federal cases like Brown vs Board of Education and other legislation called for change. Shetterly traces Hampton’s trail to integration, showing how America struggled with racial reforms through the lens of one progressive city and the nation’s space race with the Soviet Union.

    Portrait of a young Dorothy Vaughan. Photo courtesy of Vaughan Family

    Portrait of a young Dorothy Vaughan. Photo courtesy of Vaughan Family

    Dorothy Vaughn joined NACA’s segregated West Area Computing Unit in December 1943 — a group she would run six years later thanks to her mathematical prowess and leadership tenacity. Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson landed at NACA in the early 1950s. All three were math whizzes at a early age, but Shetterly exposes how these women juggled their love for numbers with desires for family life and battles against segregation.

    Each would ultimately make major contributions to aeronautics. Vaughn mastered computer programming and helped the agency transition from human to IBM computers. Jackson became NASA’s first black female engineer and a leader in research on supersonic flight. And Johnson made the crucial calculations that guided the late John Glenn and America’s first manned missions into suborbit, orbit and beyond. Shetterly plans to keep documenting these biographies as part of a series called The Human Computer Project.

    Movie Trajectories

    The Hidden Figures movie took shape in 2014, soon after HarperCollins agreed to publish Shetterly’s book. Film producer Donna Gigliotti (Silver Linings Playbook, Shakespeare in Love) caught wind of the story, auctioned the book proposal and recruited director Theodore Melfi to the project. He was fascinated by the story, but also shocked given the typical depictions of life in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

    “You’ve never seen anything in film, or documentary, that tells you that women were involved in the space program at that time,” Melfi told NewsHour. “Everything you see is an image of a white male.”

    Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), flanked by fellow mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), meet the man they helped send into orbit, John Glenn (Glen Powell) in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo by Hopper Stone

    Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), flanked by fellow mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), meet the man they helped send into orbit, John Glenn (Glen Powell) in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo by Hopper Stone

    Gigliotti also recruited musician Pharrell Williams, who was raised in Hampton, to co-produce the film and soundtrack. Williams was drawn to the story given this untold story with three female African-American protagonists happened so close to his childhood home.

    “You recognize these three beautiful stories are victims of the era and circumstance. It’s the 1960s, and the era is not one that necessarily celebrated, or highlighted a woman’s contribution to a narrative.” Williams said. He also enjoyed the premise due to a childhood fascination with space, NASA and rockets. (This influence percolates in his music as well. One of his earliest acts was called The Neptunes, while later songs like Wonderful Place and Love Bomb carry space themes too.)

    For Hidden Figures’ music, Williams and his co-composers — Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch — call upon 1960s-era styles. Doo Wop and rock melodies — performed by Williams, Hidden Figures actress Janelle Monáe and Mary J. Blige — echo the civil rights storylines from the movie.

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

    Monáe said she leapt at the opportunity to play Mary Jackson when she first learned of the story. “It became a personal responsibility to me, to make sure that no young girl, no human being, no American went through life not knowing these true American heroes,” she said.

    Monáe, Taraji P. Henson (Johnson), Octavia Spencer (Vaughn) capture key elements of their characters, such as Vaughn’s leadership, Johnson’s knack with analytical geometry and Jackson’s barrier-breaking spirit. Spencer, whose performance is nominated for a Golden Globe, and the other members of the cast spent time with mathematicians to prep for their roles.

    “For me, it was about knowing who she was as a woman, knowing who she was at work,” Spencer said. “She not only had the mind of an engineer, but she was mechanically inclined. I was proficient at math, but this is rocket science.”

    Mary Jackson grew up in Hampton, Virginia and was a teacher in Maryland before joining Langley Research Center in 1951. She became NASA's first black female engineer in 1958. Photo by NASA

    Mary Jackson grew up in Hampton, Virginia and was a teacher in Maryland before joining Langley Research Center in 1951. She became NASA’s first black female engineer in 1958. Photo by NASA

    Henson said she felt robbed by not knowing about these pioneers as a child: “Had I known these women existed, maybe I would have dreamed to be a rocket scientist? But growing up there was a universal understanding that math and science wasn’t for girls.”

    Kevin Costner, who plays a forward-thinking NASA director, lamented that Katherine Johnson’s contributions remained outside the mainstream as America’s first rides into space were cemented into history. But he viewed Hidden Figures as a turning point.

    “You’d like to think the best ideas are getting to the top. I think the beauty of our movie is that when you’re done watching it, you can realize that, well, the best idea got to the top,” Costner said.

    Kevin Costner stars as Al Harrison, a fictional composite of NACA and NASA directors, in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo by Hopper Stone

    Kevin Costner stars as Al Harrison, a fictional composite of NACA and NASA directors, in HIDDEN FIGURES. Photo by Hopper Stone

    The film does takes liberties with timelines and events — creating amalgams of their mathematical achievements and the racial discrimination experienced across their careers. For instance, Johnson’s landmark paper from 1960 — that described rocket trajectories for Glenn’s historic ride — gets spread across multiple scenes with chalkboards…so many chalkboards. However, much of the film’s climax involving Glenn and Johnson is steeped in truth, according to Shetterly’s book.

    NASA engineer Shelia Nash-Stevenson, who wasn’t involved with film’s production, felt the depiction landed on solid ground even with the fudging.

    “It’s okay for them to take a few liberties, as long as they’re 90 percent accurate,” said Nash-Stevenson, who was the first African-American female in the state of Alabama to receive a PhD in physics. “Nobody wants to see you actually sit there for days on end calculating a formula or trajectory.”

    Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae, left), Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) in Hidden Figures. Photo by Hopper Stone

    Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae, left), Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) in Hidden Figures. Photo by Hopper Stone

    Plus, Nash-Stevenson said Hidden Figures would encourage children, especially young girls, to pursue science, technology, engineering and math.

    “Dorothy and the rest of the ladies, Katherine, and Mary were brilliant,” Nash-Stevenson said. “What these girls don’t realize these days is that they, too, are brilliant.”

    Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race is available through HarperCollins. The cinematic adaptation opens in select theaters on December 25, 2016. Stay tuned for NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown’s interview with the cast and crew, which will air before the wide release on January 6, 2017.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the Paris Agreement in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas - RTSQXLR

    U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the Paris Agreement in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., on October 5, 2016. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — In boasting about his tenure in the White House, President Barack Obama often cites numbers like these: 15 million new jobs, a 4.9 percent unemployment rate and 74 months of consecutive job growth.

    There’s one number you will almost never hear: More than 1,030 seats.

    That’s the number of spots in state legislatures, governor’s mansions and Congress lost by Democrats during Obama’s presidency.

    It’s a statistic that reveals an unexpected twist of the Obama years: The leadership of the one-time community organizer and champion of ground-up politics was rough on the grassroots of his own party. When Obama exits the White House, he’ll leave behind a Democratic Party that languished in his shadow for years and is searching for itself.

    “What’s happened on the ground is that voters have been punishing Democrats for eight solid years — it’s been exhausting,” said South Carolina state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who lost two gubernatorial campaigns to Nikki Haley, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for ambassador to the U.N. “If I was talking about a local or state issue, voters would always lapse back into a national topic: Barack Obama.”

    When Obama won the presidency, his election was heralded as a moment of Democratic dominance — the crashing of a conservative wave that had swept the country since the dawn of the Reagan era.

    Democrats believed that the coalition of young, minority and female voters who swept Obama into the White House would usher in something new: an ascendant Democratic majority that would ensure party gains for decades to come.

    The coalition, it turns out, was Obama’s alone.

    After this year’s elections, Democrats hold the governor’s office and both legislative chambers in just five coastal states: Oregon, California, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware. Republicans have the trifecta in 25, giving them control of a broad swath of the middle of the country.

    The defeats have all but wiped out a generation of young Democrats, leaving the party with limited power in statehouses and a thin bench to challenge an ascendant GOP majority eager to undo many of the president’s policies. To be sure, the president’s party almost always loses seats in midterm elections. But, say experts, Obama’s tenure has marked the greatest number of losses under any president in decades.

    “Obama just figured his important actions on policies like immigration and health care would solidify support, but that hasn’t really materialized,” said Daniel Galvin, a political science professor at Northwestern University and the author of a book on presidential party building. “He’s done basically the minimal amount of party building, and it’s been insufficient to help the party.”

    It’s a political reality that Obama has only been willing to acknowledge publicly after his party’s devastating November losses. He’s admitted he failed to create “a sustaining organization” around the political force that twice elected him to office.

    “That’s something I would have liked to have done more of, but it’s kind of hard to do when you’re also dealing with a whole bunch of issues here in the White House,” he said at his year-end press conference.

    It is perhaps not surprising that Obama — a politician who promised a post-party era — turned out not to be a party stalwart.

    Obama and his aides came into office neither beholden to his party’s establishment, nor particularly interested in reinforcing his party’s weak spots.

    He electrified the 2004 Democratic National Convention with a speech seeking common cause over party differences. Four years later, he defeated Hillary Clinton, the pick of the party insiders, to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

    In the White House, Obama’s failure to do the typical Washington schmoozing was a constant source of complaint among congressional Democrats, as was his reluctance to endorse down-ballot candidates and inability to parlay Organizing for Action, his grassroots organization, into a significant force.

    State parties languished and the Democratic National Committee struggled with dysfunction and debt.

    “We built this beautiful house, but the foundation is rotten,” said South Carolina Democratic Chairman Jaime Harrison, a candidate to lead the Democratic National Committee. “In hindsight we should have looked at this and said, ‘Maybe the state parties should be strong.'”

    Toward the end of his presidency, Obama began doing more, stepping in to assist more than 150 state legislative candidates in October and campaigning across the country for Clinton.

    He’s indicated he intends to make partisan politics a bigger piece of his post-presidential life. Aides say Obama will be closely involved in an effort to focus on drawing district lines more in the favor of Democrats.

    The president’s advisers blame the losses on such structural trends. They point to a flood of Republican super PAC dollars and a resurgence of Republican political power in statehouses. That state-level dominance has given Republicans the ability to redraw district lines and created voting rules that could benefit their party for years to come.

    The refusal by many Democrats to accept help from Obama in the 2010 and 2014 midterms was also a strategic mistake, they argue.

    “Frankly, when people have asked, the president has been more than willing to engage,” said David Simas, Obama’s political director.

    Some Democrats blame Obama for an executive agenda that highlighted social issues — such as transgender rights and access to birth control — over the economic anxiety still felt by many voters.

    “The backlash to the Obama presidency was perhaps bigger than any of us really realized,” said Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democratic Network, a Democratic think tank. “A lot of the story of this election was people feeling like the culture was evolving in a way that made it feel like they were no longer living in the country they grew up in.”

    Others are focusing on the one clear truth of the November defeats: What worked for Obama just did not work for this party.

    Perhaps the most remarkable twist of a shocking political season? Even as voters chose to elect a successor who vows to undo most of Obama’s legacy, his approval rating remains the highest it’s been since the spring of 2009.

    Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.

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    SAN ANSELMO, CA - NOVEMBER 23:  Antiretroviral pills Truvada sit on a tray at Jack's Pharmacy on November 23, 2010 in San Anselmo, California. A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine showed that men who took the daily antiretroviral pill Truvada significantly reduced their risk of contracting HIV.  (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    SAN ANSELMO, CA – NOVEMBER 23: Antiretroviral pills Truvada sit on a tray at Jack’s Pharmacy on November 23, 2010 in San Anselmo, California. A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine showed that men who took the daily antiretroviral pill Truvada significantly reduced their risk of contracting HIV. Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    LONDON — Will Nutland, a doctor in public health and research fellow in London, was in Amsterdam earlier this year when he decided to take his first tablet of a generic version of Truvada, the once-a-day pill that can help prevent HIV infection.

    Nutland bought the drug online from an Asian manufacturer. He didn’t know whether it would work, or harm him, or whether what he was sold was actually what had been advertised on the internet. But, like many others in the United Kingdom, he also didn’t feel like he had a choice.

    Although these pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs could be found elsewhere, in the UK, the brand-name and generic versions of Truvada were not yet available for preventive use. The National Health Service had rejected appeals to pay for the drugs because, it said, there was not enough evidence to roll out the therapy on a large scale.

    “My primary reason for taking that PrEP was as a guinea pig,” Nutland recalled.

    READ NEXT: A new approach to reducing HIV infections shows promise

    After a long legal battle over whether the NHS should be responsible for providing PrEP, the agency announced earlier this month that it would finally make PrEP available free of charge for at least 10,000 people. But that decision was preceded by a grassroots effort by Nutland and others who decided to take matters directly into their own hands, importing drugs and testing them on themselves — a testament to what happens when surging demand for protection from HIV outpaces the willingness of government agencies to respond.

    Drugs can be legally imported into the UK for personal use. But that doesn’t mean they come without risk. Still, Nutland and others believed those risks were outweighed by the fear of difficulties they would confront if they had contracted HIV.

    “People are going to do whatever it takes,” said Dan Glass, an activist with ACT UP, or AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. “The last thing I want them to do is go through the psychological trauma and the physical manifestations of having HIV.”

    There is little doubt that demand for protection from HIV has grown exponentially here. Among men who have sex with men, NHS prescriptions for emergency post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), a 28-day regimen used as a last resort against HIV, have risen by about 300 percent from 2011 to 2015.

    Unlike PEP, PrEP is used before possible exposure to HIV. It’s generally used by people who are HIV-negative but who have an elevated risk of contracting the virus.

    Truvada was first approved for preventive use in the United States in 2012, and has been shown to significantly reduce the chance of infection. In the US, PrEP is available through some private insurance plans, and Truvada’s manufacturer provides assistance to individuals with lower incomes.

    In addition to raising concerns about the evidence behind PrEP, the NHS resisted making the drug available for cost reasons, arguing that the financial burden should be carried by local authorities.

    The NHS is expected to pay up to £10 million pounds (about $12 million) over the next three years to cover the costs in its PrEP trial. But activists argue that providing PrEP is still a cost-effective public health measure when compared with the lifetime cost of care for people with HIV.

    Greg Owen, a native of Belfast who lives in London, had been tinkering with the idea of starting to take Truvada for years. In August 2015, after reading about the drug on US-based websites, he decided he would use pills given to him by a friend who was HIV-positive and had to switch medications.

    Owen announced to his online friends and followers that he was starting to take Truvada. The following day, he went to get an HIV test, and the “two dots” on the rapid testing kit revealed he was positive. It was too late for prevention.

    “Ah, the irony,” Owen recalled thinking. “I finally get the … drug, and I’m presuming I’m still negative, and then I ended up positive.”

    It was clear, Owen said, that PrEP should be more readily available to those who needed it in the UK.

    He and Nutland went on to cofound iwantprepnow and prepster.info, two websites to raise awareness about PrEP. The sites, which collectively saw nearly 13,000 unique users last month, also provide information to people who wanted to order generic versions of Truvada online, detailing specific manufacturers and online pharmacies whose products were deemed safe and effective after testing.

    Health experts say PrEP has proven to be a fundamentally important advance when it comes to HIV prevention.

    “People want PrEP because we know whatever prevention strategies we’ve got, they’re either not effective enough or they’re not utilized enough, or they’re not available enough,” said Dr. Laura Waters, a consultant at a sexual health clinic in central London and part of the executive committee at the British HIV Association. “We can preach about condoms all we like, but people don’t use them enough.”

    PrEP, experts say, allows individuals at risk to be empowered in the choices they make in their sex lives. Instead of simply relying on condom use and HIV status disclosure, they can be more consciously involved in health choices. And that, some say, could help relieve the burden of HIV, and one day even bring the spread of the pandemic, now in its fourth decade, to a halt.

    “I know the analogy with the contraceptive pill is a bit of a tired one, but that’s because it is such a fitting parallel,” Waters said. “For the first time women were given control over whether they experienced a life-changing event. A pregnancy and HIV diagnoses are very different things, but they are both preventable, if you don’t want them.”

    Despite the promise of PrEP, many health agencies remain reluctant to embrace it. Across Europe, only France, Norway, the Netherlands, and Belgium are currently conducting large-scale trials or sponsoring national PrEP programs.

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Dec. 23, 2016. Find the original story here.

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    The U.S. Capitol stands in Washington, U.S., November 7, 2016.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTX2SCMS

    The U.S. Capitol stands in Washington, U.S., November 7, 2016. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Republicans are poised to use their newly attained capitol dominance to make Missouri the 27th right-to-work state prohibiting mandatory union fees. That is unless Kentucky’s recently crowned GOP majorities can beat them to it.

    The race to expand right-to-work laws is just one of several ways that Republicans, who strengthened their grip on power in the November elections, are preparing to reshape state laws affecting workplaces, classrooms, courtrooms and more during 2017.

    As President-elect Donald Trump leads an attempted makeover in Washington, Republican governors and state lawmakers will be simultaneously pushing an aggressive agenda that limits abortion, lawsuits and unions, cuts business taxes and regulations, and expands gun rights and school choice.

    Republicans will hold 33 governors’ offices, have majorities in 33 legislatures and control both the governor’s office and legislature in 25 states — their most since 1952. Democrats will control both the governor’s office and legislature in only about a half-dozen states; the rest will have politically divided governments.

    “Really, the sky’s kind of the limit,” said Sean Lansing, chief operating officer at Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group bankrolled partly by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. “It’s really the best opportunity in quite some time to accomplish a lot of big ticket items — not just in one or two states, but in five, 10 or 15.”

    Democrats did make some gains in the recent elections, most notably by defeating Republican North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and winning both chambers of the Nevada and New Mexico legislatures. But in all three of those states, Republicans still control at least one branch of government.

    While officials in Democratic strongholds such as California and New York pledge a vigorous fight against Trump’s agenda, some Democrats elsewhere seem resigned to get steamrolled on policies they long have opposed, such as right-to-work laws that undercut the financial strength of unions, a traditional Democratic ally.

    In Missouri, term-limited Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon previously vetoed a right-to-work measure passed by the Republican-led Legislature. But he’s being replaced Jan. 9 by Republican Gov.-elect Eric Greitens, who promised to sign a right-to-work law. GOP legislative leaders have placed it atop their agenda. And their ranks are strengthened following a campaign season in which businessman David Humphreys poured more than $12 million into Missouri candidates and political committees that backed right-to-work.

    “Oh, it’s going to happen,” said Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh, a retired union laborer who is president of the Missouri State Building and Construction Trades Council. She added: “I’m not willing to lay down on it yet, but I’m also a realist.”

    Assuming right-to-work will become law, Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis already is preparing for the next battle. He has filed several versions of a proposed initiative petition that would ask voters in 2018 to approve a constitutional amendment reversing right-to-work by ensuring that unions can negotiate contracts requiring that employees pay fees for their representation.

    Republican Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin also hopes to sign a statewide right-to-work law in 2017, now that Republicans who already hold the Senate also have won control of the House for the first time in nearly a century. A dozen Kentucky counties already have passed local right-to-work laws.

    Right-to-work supporters also are targeting New Hampshire, where Republican Gov.-elect Chris Sununu will be paired with a GOP-led Legislature. And collective bargaining restrictions for public employees could be on the agenda in Iowa, where the Republican governor will work with a Legislature that will be under full GOP control when lawmakers reconvene in January.

    Bevin said Kentucky Republicans will pursue “things that have been bottled up for years and need to at least have votes on them,” citing school choice measures and “reform” proposals for pension, tax and litigation laws, among others.

    The aftermath of the November elections has particularly raised the hopes of school choice advocates. They support tax credits for families who opt for private over public schools and vouchers that allow public tax dollars to pay for private-school tuition. They also want to expand public charter and magnet schools to give parents additional choices.

    Trump pledged during the campaign to spend $20 billion during his first year in office to help states expand school choice programs, and he wants states to divert an additional $110 billion of their own education budgets toward the cause. His pick for education secretary is Betsy DeVos, chairwoman of the school choice advocacy group American Federation for Children.

    The federation’s political arm backed 121 state and local candidates this year, winning in 108 of the races, said spokesman Matthew Frendewey. Now it’s focusing on at least a dozen states— nearly all of which have Republican-led legislatures — where it believes school choice laws could be enacted or expanded in 2017.

    “The environment is ripe for this, and there’s a hunger for expanding choice and creating more educational options for families,” Frendewey said.

    Republican leaders also are planning to use their statehouse power to pursue a variety of pro-business proposals, including reduced regulations and taxes. Imposing limits on lawsuits that seek damages for product liability claims, injuries, medical malpractice and workplace discrimination is another priority.

    Since Republicans swept into control of many statehouses in the 2010 elections, the so-called tort reform movement has touted the passage of 170 bills in 38 states, including some where Democrats were at least partially in control.

    “We’re very bullish about our prospects,” said Matt Fullenbaum, the legislative director for the American Tort Reform Association.

    Republicans still could grapple with some internal dissention, because such issues as lawsuit limits, union powers and school choice don’t always split along party lines. But in states where they now control both the legislative and executive branches, Republicans no longer will have an excuse if their agenda stalls.

    “You could always blame it on a Democratic governor for killing it before,” said Republican state Sen. Brian Munzlinger of Missouri. Now “it’s up to us to get it done.”

    Associated Press writers Adam Beam in Frankfort, Kentucky, and Kathleen Ronayne in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.

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    File photo of a cannabis plant by Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

    Photo by Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

    The seven lucky balls that popped out of the Arizona Department of Health Services lottery machine in October produced big winners — not in the state’s Powerball game, but in the competition to make money in the medical marijuana industry.

    The prize winners were granted licenses to open a medical marijuana dispensary in a state where patients with prescriptions to treat conditions such as glaucoma and cancer spent $215 million last year on marijuana products. Arizona’s public health officials awarded most licenses based on rules designed to place new dispensaries within range of the greatest number of medical-marijuana patients. But when it wasn’t clear which applicant was in the most patient-dense area, they used a lottery to randomly select the winners, hoping to sidestep conflict.

    States have struggled with how to give out potentially lucrative medical marijuana licenses — trying to balance public health concerns against an entrepreneurial spirit and avoid a bevy of lawsuits. Many want to ensure the businesses are well run and are supplying quality products. But even in states like Arizona where dispensaries are required to be nonprofits, competition for licenses can lead to a gold rush mentality and lawsuits as entrepreneurs eye a medical marijuana industry with $4.2 billion in sales in 2014.

    “There’s a lot of cash that goes through these businesses,” said Kris Krane with 4Front Ventures, a medical marijuana consulting firm. “As [marijuana] becomes more legitimate and more legal, it’s only going to be a growth industry. People are looking to get in now because as the industry grows and expands they’re positioned to be market leaders.”

    Medical marijuana businesses often have between $1 million and $5 million in sales annually, Krane said, though he’s seen some that do more than $20 million.

    Twenty-eight states have medical marijuana programs, but Arizona is rare in that it awards some licenses by a lottery. About a dozen states have strict merit-based systems that award a small set of licenses to businesses viewed as the most qualified. Several have no limit on the number of licenses they give out and review companies through a rolling application process. Others are still developing their programs or have combined the licensing of medical marijuana with that of recreational marijuana businesses.

    Those involved in the cannabis industry, including legalization advocates and business consultants, say there’s no perfect system for deciding who gets a license. States that grant them based on applicants’ business proposals produce intense competition and often bring cries of cronyism. Lawsuits pending in Maryland contend the system there unfairly factored in geography as part of its qualifications.

    Massachusetts switched from granting a few medical marijuana licenses to granting an unlimited number of licenses in 2015, but found its requirement that applicants get support from local leaders to open an outlet was leading to pricy contracts between businesses and the towns.

    Arizona has mostly avoided lawsuits by turning to the lottery to choose between applicants, but critics say infighting often begins among license winners with poorly vetted business plans.

    Luck of the Draw

    States have encountered many headaches in creating a legal, state-sanctioned business from what was the underground trafficking of a drug the federal government still considers illegal. When Florida first proposed awarding medical marijuana licenses through a lottery, in 2014, the state was sued.

    “This ensures only that the luckiest eligible applicant, not best qualified eligible applicant, is approved,” wrote Costa Farms, a nursery that grows marijuana, in its suit against the state. The suit prompted Florida to scrap its lottery and evaluate applications based on their businesses qualifications.

    But Arizona figured that using a lottery to dole out licenses was a way to avoid lawsuits, and it has used the system both times it has awarded licenses.

    The number of potential patients served by a business location wasn’t a factor when the state began its medical marijuana program, in 2012, and that year more than 90 licenses were awarded by lottery. In both years, the application process has required potential dispensary owners to have basic qualifications, such as showing they can provide inventory tracking and security, but Arizona doesn’t analyze business proposals the way other states do.

    “We stress that we’re not doing a merit-based process. We’re doing it by chance,” said Tom Salow, who is in charge of licensing for the state health department, which oversees medical marijuana.

    Taylor West with the National Cannabis Industry Association said lotteries have some benefits. They make the decision less subjective and help allay concerns of political influence. But, she said, “The problem with the lottery is it doesn’t always get you your best results.”

    The businesses “have to all be meeting minimum requirements, but there’s certainly an argument for trying to get the best,” West said. “A lottery doesn’t reward the really diligent actors who give a lot of thought to the application and have done a lot of planning ahead of time and focused on building the best business possible.”

    Ryan Hurley, a lawyer with the Rose Law Group who has represented several marijuana businesses in Arizona, said the lotteries have been successful in largely insulating the state from lawsuits. But, he said, they don’t guarantee that businesses are ready to operate smoothly. He said he’s seen conflict between partners once they get a license.

    Many applicants don’t take the time to figure out and document their venture, Hurley said, and questions arise afterward over the investment, the order in which people will get paid, and even who’s in control of decision-making.

    “They rush, but then don’t think what will happen if they actually won,” he said. “They’ve got dollar signs in their eyes. Then they get a license and think they’re millionaires and start fighting over who gets what.”

    Krane, the industry consultant, said a “qualified lottery” system, such as the one the state of Washington used when it legalized recreational marijuana sales in 2014, lets states screen businesses before choosing the qualified candidates through a lottery. Though more subjective, the qualified lottery gives states a chance to closely review security plans, operational procedures and owners’ backgrounds.

    On the Merits

    Though many in the marijuana industry, such as West of the Cannabis Association, see a competitive, merit-based application process as a better selection method, trying to evaluate and pick the best businesses brings its own complications.

    West said factors that allow states to look at the nuances of applications, such as judging business and security plans, also can expose states to complaints that personal connections have dictated some decisions. States such as Maryland have faced lawsuits challenging the criteria for judging applicants or how they were applied.

    Although states typically have tried to make the selections anonymous, West said, it’s not always possible and makes it harder to find the most-qualified applicants. “If part of the judgment is whether you have experienced people on your team, you can’t do that anonymously,” she said. “But it does interject personalities and conflicts and the potential for political influence.”

    Maryland tasked Towson University with ranking anonymous applications for growing marijuana on factors such as financing and plans for storing data and providing security. But the system ran into trouble when the state’s medical marijuana commission chose some lower-ranked companies to have better geographic diversity.

    Edward Weidenfeld, a partner with Maryland Cultivation and Processing, one of the companies suing the commission, said the state’s system is good in that applications are ranked by a disinterested but knowledgeable third party. But he said the state erred in giving the commission too much power to ignore the rankings. Commissioners, he said, should only step in to ensure the identifying information from an application doesn’t disqualify a business, such as including someone with a criminal record.

    How an application is designed can have unintended consequences. In Massachusetts, for example, the state required medical marijuana dispensaries to form as nonprofits and get letters of support from the towns where they were hoping to open. In some cases, the nonprofits, which don’t pay property taxes under state law, agreed to make payments to the towns or turn over a percentage of sales to help cover a town’s costs, such as extra policing.

    Those agreements became expensive for some businesses. According to reporting by the Boston Globe, a dispensary in Worcester agreed to pay $450,000 over three years, and another in Salem agreed to pay more than $82,000 the first year. A dispensary in Southborough agreed to pay a portion of its sales and contribute $50,000 annually toward substance abuse and mental health programs.

    “Word got out fairly quickly,” among mayors and city councilmen, industry consultant Krane said. “They all started trying to outdo each other in terms of how much they could get in hosting agreements. It’s where some people have been crying extortion.”

    Massachusetts voters also recently approved recreational marijuana in a ballot measure that many elected officials said was flawed. A new commission created by the measure is directed to give licenses to companies with “the most experience operating medical marijuana treatment centers and then by lottery among qualified applicants.”

    Limited Licenses

    The number of licenses states choose to award can change the way businesses pursue them.

    States that don’t limit their licenses may give out hundreds of them to businesses the state views as qualified. Krane said these states regulate marijuana more like a pharmacy, making sure applicants meet strict standards before they are allowed to open. Colorado has given medical marijuana licenses to more than 500 centers and nearly 800 growers, which are licensed separately from those in the recreational market. States with a cap on licenses often give out fewer than 10 in a highly competitive process.

    “It creates these incentives for organizations to spend more time drumming up capital and political influence so that they can corner these licenses that give them this huge market share, rather than developing the best business or best model for taking care of patients,” West of the Cannabis Association said. “In other states, it’s a little less clear that any one license is a golden ticket worth bending the rules to get.”

    Costa Farms, the company that sued over Florida’s plan for a lottery, later became one of the companies on a panel designed to help write Florida’s medical marijuana regulations. According to the Miami Herald, a last-minute addition to a House bill requiring that licensees be in business since 1984 — the earliest year Costa Farms has documentation of being a registered nursery — would have made it difficult for other companies to get a license. Pedro Freyre with Costa Farms said the company did not lobby for the provision.

    Industry advocates say the most important thing is just having enough licenses that patients don’t have to travel far to get the medicine they need.

    Florida initially planned to have five licenses, though more are being added as nurseries sue the state. Krane said just a few licenses for a state can make sense when prescriptions are limited to noneuphoric marijuana for a small set of diseases, as is the case there.

    But Freyre said such restrictions also help ensure the program stays strictly medical.

    “Policymakers’ approach has been, ‘We don’t want recreational by another name,’ which is what has happened in other states with sort of a wink, wink, nudge, nudge,” he said.

    This story was produced by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

    The post Licensing medical marijuana stirs up trouble for states appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    OthelloRemix0127

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    By Ivette Feliciano and Zachary Green

    OTHELLO: “I never knew my pops, moms was a junky / raised in the streets with the beats that are funky. / Concrete and metal. A child of the ghetto. / Lookin’ for the loot, but there was none for Othello.”

    IVETTE FELICIANO: In their production of “Othello: The Remix,” rap and theater artists, the Q Brothers, reimagine the classic William Shakespeare play for a modern, hip-hop audience. For real-life brothers GQ and JQ, hip-hop is more than a music style, it’s a way of life.

    JQ: If I go to a workout class, I would rather it be in rhyme. I want everything in life to rhyme. Ordering a sandwich, everything, I want to be in rhyme. You know what I mean?

    IVETTE FELICIANO: The only Shakespeare play featuring a black protagonist, “Othello” tells the story of a military general who becomes convinced by his resentful underling, Iago, that his wife is cheating on him. The Q Brothers’ production transforms Othello into a rising hip-hop star and Iago into a jealous member of his entourage.

    IAGO: “Othello’s rich, but he keeps me poor. / AH! / Well now it’s time to settle the score. / HEY! / He never lets me get my foot in the door / and this is why I hate the Moor.”

    IVETTE FELICIANO: GQ plays Iago.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: What do you think hip-hop brings out of Shakespeare that just a straight performance wouldn’t?

    GQ: If you boil Shakespeare down, and you boil hip-hop down, to what’s left in the pot, the essence, the grit, is storytelling through poetry and musical language. That’s it. That’s all you have. When you bring it to a basic level, that’s what Shakespeare is; that’s what the best hip-hop artists are doing.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: This isn’t the first time the Q Brothers have fused hip-hop with Shakespeare. 17 years ago, they created and co-starred in “The Bomb-itty of Errors,” based on the Bard’s “Comedy of Errors.” They’ve been performing hip-hop adaptations of Shakespeare ever since.

    JQ: What Shakespeare was doing is exactly what we were doing. And we realized that, early on. Like, he took the Greeks and rewrote them. And we realized, ‘Oh, we’re just taking the classics from our day and rewriting them, too.’ So I think he’d be a big proponent of what we do.

    OTHELLO: “O-to-the-T-H-E-double-L-O, / they stick with the swell flow like it’s velcro. / Classic as a shell-toe sneaker on a b-boy. / Take a trip with this star. I’m Leonard Nimoy.”

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Postell Pringle plays the show’s title character.

    POSTELL PRINGLE: It requires a certain level of participation back from the audience. When we tell you to, like, get your hands up, like, we are actually speaking to you. We’re telling you to get your hands up. You know what I mean? Just like you would in any other hip hop show that you, hip hop concert, that you would go to.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Jackson Doran plays Othello’s right hand man, Cassio.

    JACKSON DORAN: I think what we provide is something that people can tune into that makes more sense in a contemporary context. And also, we’re doing something that traditional musical theater doesn’t do, which is we rap the entire thing from start to finish. We have a DJ onstage. We’re trying to change the game a little bit, in the sense of trying to do something different with traditional American musical theater and traditional Shakespeare.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Pringle believes the story of Othello’s rise and fall is heightened by the hip-hop setting.

    POSTELL PRINGLE: Coming from nothing and making something out of yourself, that’s the story of hip hop all in itself. Making something from nothing. That’s what this character does. When somebody starts to corrode that, then you get to play with– the jealousy and the paranoia, as an actor– you dream for the opportunity to, like, play that scale of emotion. And then to get to the point where you get– where you descend into rage. Which– I don’t know, speaking somewhat personally, like, is something very cathartic as a black man in America.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Although race isn’t a prominent feature in “Othello: The Remix”, the show explores the idea of being an outsider in society, especially in its final song….

    FULL CAST: “In a cold, dark, and unforgiving system, we struggle with our destiny. / When the world is crumbling, emerge from the rubble, and your love is gonna set you free. / I’m an extraterrestrial watching the world spin. / What am I supposed to do? Feel like I’m on the outside looking in.”

    IVETTE FELICIANO: For the Q Brothers — who are part Indian — the song exemplifies their own personal experiences growing up as people of color on Chicago’s northwest side.

    GQ: We create this stuff on the stage, but it’s all a representation for our lives. We were born and raised as aliens in a world, like, on the north side of Chicago where our dad was the darkest guy for miles and miles around. Like, we were camel jockeys and dot heads. We don’t look like it. But actually, that’s what we were called, many times. I’m figuring this out as we — as we do that last, final song to everyone in the audience. We look everyone in the eye, as much as we can, until the final phrase. And then we look up. But every time I say it, I find something new and different about it.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: The Q Brothers and their cast mates are hopeful that in a year full of tensions and divisions, their take on “Othello” can help bring audiences of all different backgrounds closer in their experience of the show.

    JQ: I think it’s important to find ways to connect with people who may not look or seem like you, always. And you look at our cast and you got two brown kids, a black kid, and a white kid. It’s like if we all think it’s funny, you’re all probably gonna think it’s funny, you know, or good, or interesting or whatever the adjective you wanna put on it.

    OTHELLO AND CAST: “And I made it to the top! / No, we’re never gonna stop. / We ain’t gonna stop! / Yeah, we’ll always be around. / We’ll be around! / ‘Cause we made it to the top. / To the top! To the top! / And we’re never comin’ / Down, down, down!”

    The post ‘Othello: The Remix’ gives Shakespeare the hip-hop treatment appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Portland, Oregon  Burnside skate park

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    By Christopher Booker and Connie Kargo

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Underneath Portland, Oregon’s Burnside Bridge is one of the nation’s meccas for skateboarding.

    What started 26 years ago, this “do it yourself” concrete skatepark has become part of the Portland lore. It’s included in many Portland travel guides, regularly appears in advertisements and was featured in a best selling video game franchise.

    BURKE MORRIS: The first little bit of concrete was poured on Halloween 1990.

    Burke Morris sits on the Burnside skatepark’s board of directors.

    BURKE MORRIS: Burnside is the birth of the DIY skatepark movement. Since all the skateparks in the ’70s closed down, almost all of them, there was a rebirth in the ’90s largely due to here.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: All of this started without knowledge, sanction, or financial assistance from the city.

    And that very first pour was, was where?

    BURKE MORRIS: Just the back wall back there. Two little, one little piece, and then another little piece. Then on from there.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: It’s evolved into– to this.

    BURKE MORRIS: Yeah.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: While Burnside grew out of a long-neglected corner of Portland, in a city undergoing rapid transformation, what has become a subculture cornerstone is under pressure.

    We hear this all the time in Brooklyn. We hear about it in Austin and places like that, places that have real unique identities and spaces.

    BURKE MORRIS: Well, it’s kind of a weird situation spaces like Burnside and spaces of made by the artistic creative community are often the forefront, the first step of gentrification and I personally am very aware of that. I see that Burnside came into the neighborhood, cleaned it up, but it remained an industrial neighborhood up until recently. And that’s about to change, along with much of Portland. We’re just trying to hold onto what we have at this point.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Now looming above gritty Burnside, a sleek, new modern living space and a sign of changing city.

    Known simply as “Yard” the 284 luxury apartment rentals are advertised as a place where friends gather to unwind, exchange ideas and make new connections. There is parking for electric cars, its fitted with an eco-friendly roof and each apartment will have a bike rack.

    But developer Jeff Pickhardt says, the plan for this new living space, always envisioned a peaceful coexistence with Burnside.

    JEFF PICKHARDT: When we bought the lot, we had to have a conversation about scaling the skate park back, and then, what happens when the building goes up and how do we phase the skate park back in? So initially a bit- contentious. We wanted to tread lightly on the work that they had done. You know, they’ve been here for 25 years and we’re the new guys on the block.I mean, 25 years ago, imagine this place. It was it was blighted 25 years ago.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: The mixed use residential tower is another turn in Portland’s move from its industrial past to 21st century hipster haven, another chapter in this city’s redevelopment.

    During the past three years, United Van Lines reports moving more people to Oregon than any other state in the country.

    At the same time, Portland rents have been experiencing the highest percentage growth rates among the nation’s top 50 housing markets.

    People are moving here en masse. There are cranes in the sky everywhere. Where does this little tiny bit of real estate fit within what’s happening here?

    JEFF PICKHARDT: Yeah, I think the interest in Portland right now is the authenticity, and I think the skate park is authenticity sort of at the max. And for people to come in and do this work without a permit originally, and create what they’ve created and have it stand the test of time, it says a lot. And it says a lot about a community that’s willing to go along with that too.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: With the arrival of Yard, Burnside did not lose any square footage of the skatepark, but they did lose some sunlight. In return, the developer agreed to install lights in the park to compensate for the light lost by the high-rise.

    BURKE MORRIS: But Jeff has worked with us to a large degree. And we’re thankful of that. It could be a lot worse. That being said, I’m still, nothing’s set in concrete, if you forgive the pun until it’s there, you know? So we’ll, you know.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Jeff said he thinks you guys, what you have built is far more culturally important than a building. Do you agree with that?

    BURKE MORRIS: It’s hard to convey the importance of Burnside to anyone in the non-skateboard world. But it’s incredibly important worldwide.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: And you did it yourselves?

    BURKE MORRIS: Yeah, and it’s our spot. We continue to build.”

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Tenants began moving into Yard this past July, and soon after a spa and wellness club opened it doors. According to the building, a restaurant is set to open next year selling a new “Burnside burger”, of which partial proceeds, will to go to the skatepark.

    The post Iconic Portland skate park on the front lines of gentrification appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. first lady Michelle Obama smiles after speaking during the first session at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young - RTSJMIH

    U.S. first lady Michelle Obama smiles after speaking during the first session at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., July 25, 2016. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    NEW YORK — Healthy food and plenty of exercise. The challenges military families face. Education for girls around the globe.

    The feel-good initiatives of first lady Michelle Obama have served as both inspiration and eight years of teaching moments for many families. So what, exactly, do they think is her legacy over a period that spans much of the lifetime of today’s kids?

    “I think she stands for kindness in America,” said Alexis Shenkiryk, a 12-year-old in Del Mar, California. “She really encouraged me to try harder, and she promoted a lot of good things for everyone, not just certain people.”

    Alexis was jealous when her 24-year-old sister got to attend President Barack Obama’s 2008 inauguration. Over the years, said Shenkiryk’s mom, Rhonda Moret, the goodwill the first lady was able to pass on to her girls overflowed from the White House.

    “We’re a biracial family,” Moret said. “We’ve had numerous conversations discussing how one’s race or background are truly irrelevant and how we should value one’s character above all else.”

    Inara Abernathy, a 17-year-old in Nashville, Tennessee, has absorbed many life lessons of her own from the first lady.

    “She’s strong and beautiful and she makes me feel beautiful, too,” Inara said. “I feel like I can accomplish things when I think about her.”

    Then there’s bullying.

    “I was bullied a lot when I was little and she taught me how when I got bullied to just don’t think about it,” Inara said. “Ignore them. Live your life and be happy.”

    Her dad is a retired Army colonel and the teen admires Mrs. Obama’s shout-out for military families. And when the first lady put in the White House garden, “it made me think about eating better food and losing weight,” Inara said. “Without her I’m not sure I would have done that.”

    Norfolk, Virginia, 10th-grader Kassidy Carey canvassed for Hillary Clinton and has volunteered to advocate for various social causes through the site DoSomething.org. She was too little to remember the president’s first inauguration, but she loved watching the second one. She’s a regular first lady watcher.

    “Oh, I love her,” said Kassidy, who has already decided on law school when the time comes. “I just think she’s really well composed, and she’s an empowering person.

    “I really appreciate that the first lady tries to make young girls feel like more than just girls, you know,” she said. “She makes us feel like people who actually have opinions that matter and who can fight for what we believe in.”

    Kiki Emordi is 8 and in the third grade in Richmond, Texas, outside Houston. Her parents are originally from Nigeria and her mother, Ngozi Emordi, teaches English as a second language.

    “She’s a bold woman,” said the elder Emordi, who also has two older girls and a son. “Any black girl can just see Michelle and know she can dream big. She says to these girls it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you look like, you can be anything that you want to be.”

    Lesson learned, as far as Kiki is concerned. She is forever on the hunt for any news of Mrs. Obama, whether it’s about a fresh speech or fabulous outfit.

    “I really look up to her as a role model,” she said.

    At 7, Jordan West of Rochester, New York, has already met her hero, Mrs. Obama, at a White House-hosted event. She helps her two older brothers run the family’s Champions of Change, a nonprofit they started to urge young people to become “change agents” in their communities. She recently spoke at another Washington event for girls.

    “One of her goals is to help little girls,” said Jordan, who was inspired by the first lady to do the same.

    Jordan hosted a party for girls in foster care and wrote a book about how she hit on the idea, “Princess for a Day.” She also got together with other girls to make real bags for foster kids who would otherwise have to transport their belongings in trash bags.

    “She’s a black person like us and she’s an author and she went to Harvard,” Jordan said. “I was so excited.”

    Rebecca Briscoe teaches second grade to Kiki Emordi and classmate Maya Babu.

    “For over 10 years now I have taught in underserved communities,” Briscoe said. “Michelle is like their Beyonce because she grew up hard like them.”

    As for Maya? Mrs. Obama, she said, “makes me want to be a better girl.”

    The post Michelle Obama’s legacy spans from healthy food to girls’ empowerment appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President-elect Donald Trump talks to members of the media at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    President-elect Donald Trump talks to members of the media at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President-elect Donald Trump said Saturday he will dissolve his charitable foundation amid efforts to eliminate any conflicts of interest before he takes office next month.

    The revelation comes as the New York attorney general’s office investigates the foundation following media reports that foundation spending went to benefit Trump’s campaign.

    Trump said in a statement that he has directed his counsel to take the necessary steps to implement the dissolution of the Donald J. Trump Foundation, saying that it operated “at essentially no cost for decades, with 100 percent of the money going to charity.”

    “The foundation has done enormous good works over the years in contributing millions of dollars to countless worthy groups, including supporting veterans, law enforcement officers and children,” he said in a statement.

    “I will be devoting so much time and energy to the presidency and solving the many problems facing our country and the world. I don’t want to allow good work to be associated with a possible conflict of interest,” he said.

    Trump said he will pursue philanthropic efforts in other ways, bu didn’t elaborated on how he’d do so.

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

    Those regulations prohibit self-dealing by the charity. That’s broadly defined as using its money or assets to benefit Trump, his family, his companies or substantial contributors to the foundation.

    The tax filing doesn’t provide details on the violations. Whether Trump benefited from the foundation’s spending has been the subject of an investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

    In September, Schneiderman disclosed that his office has been investigating Trump’s charity to determine whether it has abided by state laws governing nonprofits.

    Documents obtained by The Associated Press in September showed Schneiderman’s scrutiny of The Donald J. Trump Foundation dated back to at least June, when his office formally questioned the donation made by the charity to a group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

    Amy Spitalnick, press secretary for Schneiderman’s office, said Saturday that the foundation “cannot legally dissolve” until the investigation is complete.

    Trump’s announcement to dissolve his own foundation came a day after the president-elect took to Twitter to declare it a “ridiculous shame” that his son Eric will have to stop soliciting funds for his charitable foundation, the Eric Trump Foundation, because of a conflict of interest.

    “My wonderful son, Eric, will no longer be allowed to raise money for children with cancer because of a possible conflict of interest with my presidency,” Trump tweeted. “He loves these kids, has raised millions of dollars for them, and now must stop. Wrong answer!”

    Trump was in his South Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, on Saturday, his retreat for most holidays. He spent the week meeting advisers and interviewing candidates for a handful of Cabinet positions that remain unfilled.

    Associated Press writer Karen Matthews in New York contributed to this report.

    The post Trump says he will dissolve foundation amid NY investigation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People pay tribute to passengers and crew members of Russian military Tu-154 plane crashed into the Black Sea, near a makeshift memorial outside the headquarters of the Alexandrov Ensemble, also known as the Red Army Choir, in Moscow, Russia December 25, 2016.  REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin - RTX2WFC3

    People pay tribute to passengers and crew members of Russian military Tu-154 plane crashed into the Black Sea, near a makeshift memorial outside the headquarters of the Alexandrov Ensemble, also known as the Red Army Choir, in Moscow, Russia December 25, 2016. Photo by Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

    A Russian military aircraft headed for Syria crashed into the Black Sea on Sunday morning, killing all 92 people on board, including dozens of people from the Red Army Choir planning to entertain troops.

    The Tupolev Tu-154 disappeared from the radar around 5:30 a.m. local time, two minutes after it left the resort town Sochi, where it had stopped for fuel after leaving from Moscow, according to news reports. Fragments of the plane were found in the ocean about a mile off Sochi’s shore as emergency responders scoured for survivors and clues.

    Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said none of the passengers — at least 60 from the armed forces’ official army choir, 9 Russian reporters and 8 crewmembers — survived.

    Russian Emergencies Ministry members push a cart with remains of Russian military Tu-154 plane which crashed into the Black Sea, at a quay in the Sochi suburb of Khosta, Russia, Russia December 25, 2016.  REUTERS/Yevgeny Reutov FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. - RTX2WEVE

    Russian Emergencies Ministry members push a cart with remains of Russian military Tu-154 plane which crashed into the Black Sea, at a quay in the Sochi suburb of Khosta, Russia, Russia December 25, 2016. Photo by Yevgeny Reutov/Reuters

    “The area of the crash site has been established. No survivors have been spotted,” Konashenkov said.

    Russian agencies said it is too early to determine the cause and that they are investigating all possibilities, including terrorism.

    Russian President Vladmir Putin ordered an investigation and declared Dec. 26 a national day of mourning.

    The post 92 dead after Russian military plane headed to Syria crashes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump claps at the USA Thank You Tour event at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., December 8, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo - RTX2WCFR

    FILE PHOTO: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump claps at the USA Thank You Tour event at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., December 8, 2016. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Donald Trump spent the past two years attacking rival Hillary Clinton as crooked, corrupt, and weak.

    But some of those attacks seem to have already slipped into the history books.

    From installing Wall Street executives in his Cabinet to avoiding news conferences, the president-elect is adopting some of the same behavior for which he criticized Clinton during their fiery presidential campaign.

    Here’s a look at what Trump said then – and what he’s doing now:

    GOLDMAN SACHS

    Then: “I know the guys at Goldman Sachs,” Trump said at a South Carolina rally in February, when he was locked in a fierce primary battle with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. “They have total, total control over him. Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton.”

    Now: A number of former employees of the Wall Street bank will pay a key role in crafting Trump’s economic policy. He’s tapped Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn to lead the White House National Economic Council. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary nominee, spent 17 years working at Goldman Sachs and Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist and senior counselor, started his career as an investment banker at the firm.
    [Watch Video]
    Trump is following in a long political tradition, though one he derided on the campaign trail: If Cohn accepts the nomination, he’ll be the third Goldman executive to run the NEC.

    BIG DONORS

    Then: “Crooked Hillary. Look, can you imagine another four years of the Clintons? Seriously. It’s time to move on. And she’s totally controlled by Wall Street and all these people that gave her millions,” Trump said at a May rally in Lynden, Washington.

    Now: Trump has stocked his Cabinet with six top donors – far more than any recent White House. “I want people that made a fortune. Because now they’re negotiating with you, OK?” Trump said, in a December 9 speech in Des Moines.

    The biggest giver? Incoming small business administrator Linda McMahon gave $7.5 million to a super PAC backing Trump, more than a third of the money collected by the political action committee.

    NEWS CONFERENCES

    Then: “She doesn’t do news conferences, because she can’t,” Trump said at an August rally in Ashburn, Virginia. “She’s so dishonest she doesn’t want people peppering her with questions.”

    Now: Trump opened his last news conference on July 27, saying: “You know, I put myself through your news conferences often, not that it’s fun.”

    He hasn’t held once since.

    Trump skipped the news conference a president-elect typically gives after winning the White House. Instead, he released a YouTube video of under three minutes. This week, Trump abruptly canceled plans to hold his first post-election news conference, opting instead to describe his plans for managing his businesses in tweets. “I will hold a press conference in the near future to discuss the business, Cabinet picks and all other topics of interest. Busy times!” he tweeted in mid-December.

    FAMILY TIES:

    Then: “It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins. It is now abundantly clear that the Clintons set up a business to profit from public office. They sold access and specific actions by and really for I guess the making of large amounts of money,” Trump said at an August rally in Austin.

    Now: While Trump has promised to separate himself from his businesses, there is plenty of overlap between his enterprises and his immediate family. His companies will be run by his sons, Donald Jr and Eric. And his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have joined Trump at a number of meetings with world leaders of countries where the family has financial interests.

    In a financial disclosure he was required to file during the campaign, Trump listed stakes in about 500 companies in at least 25 countries.

    Ivanka, in particular, has been caught making early efforts to leverage her father’s new position into profits. After an interview with the family appeared on “60 Minutes,” her jewelry company, Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, blasted out an email promoting the $10,800 gold bangle bracelet that she had worn during the appearance. The company later said they were “proactively discussing new policies and procedures.”
    [Watch Video]
    Ivanka is also auctioning off a private coffee meeting with her to benefit her brother’s foundation. The meeting is valued at $50,000, with the current top bid coming in at $25,000.

    “United States Secret Service will be Present for the Duration of the Experience,” warns the auction site.

    Trump on Saturday said he would dissolve his charitable foundation amid efforts to eliminate any conflicts of interest before he takes office next month.

    CLINTON INVESTIGATIONS

    Then: “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. There has never been anything like it, and we’re going to have a special prosecutor,” Trump said in the October presidential debate.

    Now: Since winning office, Trump has said he has no intention of pushing for an investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of State or the workings of her family foundation. “It’s just not something that I feel very strongly about,” he told the New York Times.

    “She went through a lot. And suffered greatly in many different ways,” he said. “I’m not looking to hurt them.”

    The post Comparing Trump’s criticisms of Clinton to his behavior now appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by RunPhoto via Getty Images

    Lawmakers who support expanding health coverage are using data to fight the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Photo by RunPhoto via Getty Images

    The statistics are encouraging: In the half a year since the state expanded access to Medicaid, doctors in Louisiana have diagnosed 1,770 cases of high blood pressure, 728 cases of diabetes and more than 90 cases of cancer.

    That’s good news. It’s also a potent political weapon.

    As the incoming Trump administration and Republican congress ponder the swiftest path to repeal Obamacare, lawmakers who support expanding health coverage are using data to fight back.

    In states across the country, supporters of expanding Medicaid are trumpeting improved screening for chronic diseases and other gains in an effort to preempt GOP efforts to cut the $545 billion program.

    Louisiana’s data, which the state displays on a handy online dashboard, prompted a rallying cry this week from Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS. Slavitt jumped on Twitter to highlight the impact of the state’s expansion 5 ½ months ago.

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

    But the fight over Medicaid also centers on cost, and whether taxpayer dollars are being adequately protected.

    In a letter to Slavitt this week, Republican lawmakers, including Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, raised concerns about Louisiana’s expansion. They demanded answers within the next month to a flurry of questions, including what CMS is doing to ensure that taxpayers are not still paying Obamacare subsidies for residents who switched to Medicaid coverage. “When do these [individuals’] federal subsidies end?” the letter asked.

    A spokesperson for CMS declined to comment on the letter.

    READ NEXT: Where hepatitis C rates are seven times the US average — and a cure is kept out of reach

    Beyond Louisiana, other states are also highlighting their Medicaid expansion data.

    In Kentucky, advocates of expanded coverage tout increases in primary care visits, cancer screenings, and other services for nearly 500,000 people who gained coverage. More than 3,700 people in that group received hepatitis C screenings between April and June alone, according to a report by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center, a research institute.

    “We were blown away by the data and changes in utilization,” said Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health. “All of these things point to people getting the care that they need earlier and more consistently, and that means we will have better health outcomes down the road.”

    Her group is battling a Medicaid waiver proposal, advanced by Governor Matt Bevin, that would require recipients to pay small premiums and hold jobs in order to maintain coverage. Bevin, a Republican, has argued that the changes will encourage people to take responsibility for their own health and keep the program’s spending in check.

    In releasing his plan in late August, Bevin said it “will allow us to continue to provide expanded Medicaid coverage, but unlike the current Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, it will do so in a fiscally responsible manner.”

    Kentucky’s waiver request is still under review by CMS. Its fate could end up being decided by the consultant who helped draft it, Seema Verma, who was plucked by president-elect Donald Trump to helm CMS after she spent years consulting for states on efforts to curb Medicaid spending.

    READ NEXT: Want a glimpse into the possible future of Medicaid? Head to Indiana

    In Ohio, led by Republican Governor John Kasich, the state Medicaid department also compiles a dashboard that show the state’s uninsured rate has been cut in half since 2012, largely due to Medicaid expansion.

    The state conducts a survey every few years to track changes in spending and services used. In 2015, the survey showed that just over half of Medicaid recipients in the state hold jobs, and that far fewer people reported trouble accessing health care services than in 2012, before the state expanded Medicaid.

    Kasich, who launched an Office of Health Transformation, has sought to institute cost control measures that emphasize new ways to deliver care. For example, in January, the state is launching a primary care model that rewards providers for lowering costs by improving coordination of patients’ medical services.

    In Alaska, meanwhile, the state Department of Health and Social Services operates a Medicaid dashboard that tracks how many people gained coverage and how they’re using the services.

    Through the end of November, it highlighted $288 million in additional claims paid for medical services to the expansion population. The biggest increase in spending, about $80 million, has been for inpatient hospital stays, followed by increases in visits to medical clinics and outpatient centers.

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Dec. 23, 2016. Find the original story here.

    The post Fearing Medicaid cuts, states wield health data as a political weapon appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    filmmakers

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    Read the full transcript below.

    KARLA MURTHY, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND: In the early part of 20th century, with racial segregation still in place in much of the U.S., black filmmakers made movies for black audiences, outside the white hollywood mainstream. They produced around 500 so-called “race films,” but most are lost to history.

    To preserve America’s first “independent” cinema, this year, the company Kino Lorber released a five disc collection combining 20 hours of these films called The Pioneers of African-American Cinema.

    The collection of 16 feature films and shorts — mainly from the 1920s and 30s — includes comedies, dramas, and documentaries. They not only starred black actors, the films were often written, directed, and produced by african-americans.

    Executive Producer Paul Miller, a musician also known as DJ Spooky, raised money for the project initially through a kickstarter campaign.

    PAUL MILLER, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF THE PIONEERS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN CINEMA: We helped them raise a little bit under maybe $100,000 just, (snaps) you know, in like a week and some change. And I love to think of it as a festival in a box.

    KARLA MURTHY: So the New York Times called this project– this is what it said about it, “From the perspective of cinema history, and American history for that matter, there has never been a more significant video release than Pioneers of African American Cinema. So why is this collection so significant?

    PAUL MILLER: Well, the interesting thing about American history is we have what I call selective amnesia. And Americans love to forget. Like, people, what Korean War? Did we ever occupy the Philippines? So putting the box set together was kind of a situation of reclaiming these hidden histories of very positive, and pro what I call multicultural visions of this history of American cinema, which is usually again very white white-washed.

    KARLA MURTHY: How revolutionary was it at that time that these films were actually able to get made and seen?

    PAUL MILLER: You’ve got to remember it was incredible that African-Americans saw themselves on the screen. Usually most portrayals of African-Americans in the larger white culture were meant to be very derogatory. So by reclaiming that space in the culture you could show positive images of black people outside of the white context.

    KARLA MURTHY: Miller says mainstream movies portrayed African-Americans – often by whites in blackface – as unintelligent and bumbling, or evil, dangerous villains.

    By contrast, in the African-American-made race films, black characters often were heroic, intelligent, and romantic…teachers, detectives, pilots, cowboys… roles Hollywood reserved for whites.

    Take the earliest film in the box set, the 1915 slapstick comedy called Two Knights of Vaudeville. In the 11-minute short, the two main characters find theater tickets and end up in the best seats in the house, which would have been for whites.

    PAUL MILLER: At that time, it must have been shocking and wild. And it must have also been very tickling to the audience. And people must have thought it was hilarious. So, it was a real treasure to find that one.

    KARLA MURTHY: The Blood of Jesus, from 1941, is a deeply religious film about a woman on her deathbed who’s having a crisis of faith. Shot on location in Texas, it was written and directed by Spencer Williams, who also starred in the film. The Blood of Jesus was one of the most successful race movies ever made and was added to the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress in 1991.

    KARLA MURTHY: So was that kind of film just nonexistent at the time?

    PAUL MILLER: Those kinds of portrayals of African Americans within the context of spirituality and within the context of a positive image of community and religiosity, they weren’t around.

    KARLA MURTHY: The set also contains nine films by director Oscar Micheaux, a one-time pullman train porter turned self-taught, prolific, filmmaker.

    PAUL MILLER: Oscar Micheaux was mostly considered to be the foundation DNA of African American cinema, because again he was independent. He dealt with topics and themes that were directly related to black experiences and with a powerful statement.

    KARLA MURTHY: Micheaux tackled issues like racism, lynchings, interracial relationships, and poverty from a black perspective. His films were often a direct response to the earlier, monumental film by D.W. Griffith, The Birth of Nation, which negatively portrayed blacks and glorified the Ku Klux Klan.

    By contrast, Micheaux’s Within Our Gates, from 1920, the earliest surviving feature film directed by an African-American, the heroine is a mixed race woman named Sylvia, who goes to the north to raise money for a school for poor black children in the south.

    PAUL MILLER: In Within Our Gates, the mixed race character really is viewed as a warm, and supportive person. In Birth of a Nation, a mixed race person is viewed as betraying both races. The mulatto, the mixed race person. They’re fooling the Whites, and they’re using the Blacks. And the idea of being biracial or multiracial was viewed as kind of a disruption of the established order.

    KARLA MURTHY: What kind of role do you see the films in this collection playing, in America today within this context?

    PAUL MILLER: I think post-2016 election, we really need to all take some perspective about racial politics and the anxiety of different segments of the population about being left behind, or lower income Whites who one could argue the election was about their economic anxieties. On the other hand, with African-American culture, after seeing an eight years of an African-American president, we also need to understand that there’s been a long history of positive images of African-Americans.

    So the box set is more important than ever precisely because it looks at the archive. And many of these films were lost. Many of these films were difficult to find. And by restoring them, and putting them in a boxset, one place, one stop shop, I think it gives people a powerful tool to look at the history of cinema, again not just African American, but overall.

    The post Preserving the history of America’s first black filmmakers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) introduce Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH), Representative Jason Smith (R-MO) and Representative Luke Messer (R-IN) as new members of the House Republican leadership team after their caucus held leadership elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX2TUMR

    U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) introduce Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH), Representative Jason Smith (R-MO) and Representative Luke Messer (R-IN) as new members of the House Republican leadership team after their caucus held leadership elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. November 15, 2016. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans are planning a massive overhaul of the nation’s tax system next year, a heavy political lift that could ultimately affect families at every income level and businesses of every size.

    Their goal is to simplify a complicated tax code that rewards wealthy people with smart accountants, and corporations that can easily shift profits – and jobs – overseas. It won’t be easy. The last time it was done was 30 years ago.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have vowed to pass a tax package that would not add to the budget deficit. The Washington term is “revenue neutral.”

    It means that for every tax cut there has to be a tax increase, creating winners and losers. Lawmakers would get some leeway if non-partisan congressional analysts project that a tax cut would increase economic growth, raising revenue without increasing taxes.

    Nevertheless, passing a massive tax package will require some tough votes, politically.

    Some key Republican senators want to share the political risk with Democrats. They argue that a tax overhaul must be bipartisan to be fully embraced by the public. They cite President Barack Obama’s health law – which passed in 2010 without any Republican votes – as a major policy initiative that remains divisive.

    Congressional Democrats say they are eager to have a say in overhauling the tax code. But McConnell, who faulted Democrats for acting unilaterally on health care, is laying the groundwork to pass a purely partisan bill.

    Both McConnell and Ryan said they plan to use a legislative maneuver that would prevent Senate Democrats from using the filibuster to block a tax bill.

    McConnell says he wants the Senate to tackle a tax plan in the spring, after Congress repeals Obama’s health law. House Republicans are more eager to get started, but haven’t set a timeline.

    Some things to know about Republican efforts to overhaul the tax code:

    THE HOUSE PLAN

    House Republicans have released the outline of a tax plan that would lower the top individual income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 33 percent, and reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three. The gist of the plan is to lower tax rates for just about everyone, and make up the lost revenue by scaling back exemptions, deductions and credits.

    The plan, however, retains some of the most popular tax breaks, including those for paying a mortgage, going to college, making charitable contributions and having children.

    The standard deduction would be increased, giving taxpayers less incentive to itemize their deductions.

    The non-partisan Tax Policy Center says the plan would reduce revenues by $3 trillion over the first decade, with most of the savings going to the highest-income households.

    That’s not revenue neutral.

    Small business owners would get a special top tax rate of 25 percent.

    Investment income would be taxed like wages, but investors would only have to pay taxes on half of this income.

    SENATE PLAN

    Senate Republicans have yet to coalesce around a comprehensive plan, or even an outline.

    TRUMP’S PLAN

    Trump’s plan has fewer details. He promises a tax cut for every income level, with more low-income families paying no income tax at all.

    The Tax Policy Center says Trump’s plan would reduce revenues by a whopping $9.5 trillion over the first decade, with most of the tax benefits going to the wealthiest taxpayers. Trump has disputed the analysis.
    [Watch Video]

    Like the House plan, Trump would reduce the top income tax rate for individuals to 33 percent, and he would reduce the number of tax brackets to three. He would also increase the standard deduction.

    Trump has embraced two ideas championed by Obama but repeatedly rejected by Republicans over the past eight years. Trump’s plan would cap itemized deductions for married couples making more than $200,000 a year. It would also tax carried interest, which are fees charged by investment fund managers, as regular income instead of capital gains.

    CORPORATE TAXES

    The top corporate income tax rate in the U.S. is 35 percent, the highest in the industrialized world. However, the tax is riddled with so many exemptions, deductions and credits that most corporations pay much less.

    Both Trump and House Republicans want to lower the rate, and pay for it by scaling back tax breaks.

    Trump wants to lower the corporate tax rate to 15 percent. Ryan says 20 percent is more realistic, to avoid increasing the budget deficit.

    BORDER ADJUSTMENT TAX

    This is one of the most controversial parts of the House Republicans’ tax plan. It is also key to making it work.

    Under current law, the United States taxes the profits of U.S.-based companies, even if the money is made overseas. However, taxes on foreign income are deferred until a company either reinvests the profits in the U.S. or distributes them to shareholders.

    Critics say the system encourages U.S.-based corporations to invest profits overseas or, more dramatically, to shift operations and jobs abroad to avoid U.S. taxes.

    House Republicans want to scrap America’s worldwide tax system and replace it with a tax that is based on where a firm’s products are consumed, rather than where they are produced.

    Under the system, American companies that produce and sell their products in the U.S. would pay the new 20 percent corporate tax rate on profits from these sales. However, if a company exports a product abroad, the profits from that sale would not be taxed by the U.S.

    There’s more: Foreign companies that import goods to the U.S. would have to pay the tax, increasing the cost of imports.

    Exporters love the idea. But importers, including big retailers and consumer electronics firms, say it could lead to steep price increases on consumer goods. The lobbying has already begun.

    The post Republicans plan tax overhaul, grapple with budget deficit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    bugs

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    Read the full transcript below.

    AMY GUTTMAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND: At this food truck in Brussels, there are healthy portions of protein in their kabobs, burgers, and nachos, but one ingredient may surprise you: crickets.

    Yes, these are skewers of roasted crickets with tomatoes.

    Increasingly, in Europe, adventurous eaters, entrepreneurs, and scientists are touting insects like crickets, mealworms and grasshoppers as a new “super” food…for humans…because some insects provide more protein than meat, plus high levels of iron, essential amino and Omega-3 fatty acids.

    NIKOLAAS VIAENE, CO-FOUNDER, LITTLE FOOD: I truly believe that it can be an alternative for meat, because it’s much more ecological to breed insects than other meat, and it tastes good.

    GUTTMAN: Nikolaas Viaene farms crickets indoors — in the basement of this Belgian business park. It takes him just 40 days to raise them from larvae to adults, and because crickets are so tiny, Viaene can breed tens of thousands in this small space, as long as he’s able to control the heat and humidity: 31 degrees Celsius, or 88 degrees Fahrenheit, is ideal.

    What are some of the benefits of both eating and breeding crickets?

    VIAENE: To make the same amount of protein as a cow, crickets need 25 times less food, 300 times less water, and they produce 60 times less greenhouse gases.

    Viaene says another benefit of breeding crickets is they feed on by-products normally thrown away – like soybean hulls and corn husks.

    Breeding and selling crickets for food is so new, different countries have different rules. It’s not allowed in Italy, Iceland, or Denmark. It IS legal in Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK — and the U-S.

    With all that uncertainty, in York, England, scientist Adrian Charlton is studying the use of insects in animal feed as a replacement for soybeans and fishmeal.

    The nutritional profile of insects for use in chicken feed, as an example, are absolutely perfect. As you can imagine, chickens have evolved to eat insects.

    Charlton says more than two billion people – mainly in Africa and Asia — already eat bugs as part of their diet, but despite the health benefits, he isn’t convinced Western taste buds are ready to swallow crickets and grasshoppers like vitamins. Charleton thinks incorporating insects into other products is the place to start.

    ADRIAN CHARLTON, BIOCHEMIST, FOOD ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH AGENCY: I can see, for example, cricket flours — food products that are produced from insects that may not have legs and wings, and what have you, being a little bit more acceptable than eating whole insects as a bulk dietary supplement.

    GUTTMAN: A United Nations report three years ago cited nearly two-thousand species of edible bugs as a potential, partial solution to world hunger.
    CHARLTON: But I’m not entirely convinced myself that we‘ll see insects // as a mainstream food. Now, insect protein or insect products within food, i think, is much more realistic // i would estimate that we’re not going to see a huge dent in either market, the animal feed or the food area, within the next 5 to 10 years.

    GUTTMAN: Crickets and other insects have already cracked the kitchen at London restaurant Archipelago. Chef Daniel Creedon says ten to fifteen percent of his customers order his quinoa, kale and cricket salad every week.

    GUTTMAN: YOU’RE ACTUALLY TRYING TO GET PEOPLE TO GET OVER THE ICK FACTOR?

    DANIEL CREEDON, CHEF, ARCHIPELAGO: We’re trying to be bold about it. We want people to see what they’re eating and to get over the nerves, ‘cause it’s only a psychological block.

    GUTTMAN: For dessert, Creedon serves chocolate-covered locusts and mealworms in caramel sauce, he jokingly named “cavierr.”

    CREEDON: I do think they are going to become a part of our diet. i don’t think it’s necessarily going to be how we serve them — whole insects right up. For example, you can extract the protein from insects. So you could end up with something very similar to tofu made from insects.
    If an insect meal is too much to fathom, there are snacks made of insects.

    GUTTMAN: Some were on display at the annual specialty and fine food show in London.
    There were barbecue-roasted bugs…

    WOMAN: For the grasshopper, we just recommend to remove the wings because the wings are very small.

    It’s like a prawn.

    And insect bars.

    GUTTMAN: Danish entrepreneur Christine Spliid makes these Crobars — cocoa and peanut butter protein bars made with cricket flour. Since starting her business last year, she’s added raspberry and coffee flavors.

    Despite having a slightly earthy taste, Spliid detects a shift in public acceptance.

    It’s really tasty.

    CHRISTINE SPLIID, OWNER, CROBAR: Many more people have heard about the trends of insects in food, and that’s both at the kind of health shows we’ve done, also the more commercial shows.

    GUTTMAN: Back in his lab, Adrian Charlton envisions a world where insects not only supplement human diets, but also medicine, with the potential to extract proteins and fats to develop pharmaceutical products.

    CHARLTON: Insects live in some very terrible places, and their immune system stands up to that. well, why is that? There’s a whole body of research around some of the molecular defense mechanisms that insects have against disease that might provide us with new compounds and new solutions for the future.

    The post Chefs in Europe experiment with insects appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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