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

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    U.S. Republican President-elect Donald Trump appears at a campaign roundtable event in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., October 28, 2016. On Saturday, he tweeted a New Year's message critical of his "enemies."  Photo By Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    U.S. Republican President-elect Donald Trump appears at a campaign roundtable event in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., October 28, 2016. On Saturday, he tweeted a New Year’s message critical of his “enemies.” Photo By Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President-elect Donald Trump ditched his press pool once again, traveling to play golf at one of his clubs without a pool of journalists on hand to ensure the public has knowledge of his whereabouts.

    Before he went golfing Saturday, Trump tweeted an unusual New Year’s message to friends and foes: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

    The president-elect planned to spend New Year’s Eve at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach. He was throwing a private party expected to draw hundreds of guests, including action star Sylvester Stallone.

    A member of Trump’s golf club in Jupiter, Florida, posted a photo on Twitter of Trump on the greens Saturday morning and said about 25 U.S. Secret Service agents accompanied the president-elect. Reporters had not been advised of the visit to the club.

    Transition aide Stephanie Grisham confirmed that Trump had made a “last-minute trip” to Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, which is about a half-hour drive from his Mar-a-Lago estate, where Trump has been spending the holidays. He returned to the estate at midafternoon.

    Grisham said that she and other aides weren’t aware of the trip and “appreciate everyone’s understanding.”

    “We are in the home stretch of this transition period and don’t anticipate any additional situations like this between now and inauguration,” she said in a statement. “We hope this one incident doesn’t negate all the progress we have made and look forward to continuing the great relationships we have built.”

    Trump, both as a candidate and during the transition, has often scoffed at tradition, such as allowing a group of reporters to follow him at all times to ensure the public knows where he is. Not long after his election, Trump went out to dinner with his family in Manhattan without informing the pool of his whereabouts.

    The practice is meant to ensure that journalists are on hand to witness, on behalf of the public, the activities of the president or president-elect, rather than relying on secondhand accounts.

    The White House also depends on having journalists nearby at all times to relay the president’s first comments on breaking news.

    Trump aides appear to have made an effort in recent weeks to offer additional access, allowing reporters to camp out outside a doorway at Mar-a-Lago to document staff and Cabinet candidates’ arrivals and departures. Aides also are providing information about his meeting schedule.

    Every president and president-elect in recent memory has traveled with a pool of journalists when leaving the White House grounds. News organizations take turns serving in the small group, paying their way and sharing the material collected in the pool with the larger press corps.

    The post Trump tweets New Year’s message castigating ‘enemies’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Police work at the scene where a man was shot by police in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 15, 2016.  REUTERS/Andrew Kelly - RTSNYCC

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    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Yesterday on the “NewsHour”, we reported the number of U.S. law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty this year: 64, up from 56 last year.

    Today, we take a look at the number of people killed by police officers. This year the number is 957 people, down slightly from 991 in 2015, but still a very large number. It’s approximately three people a day, according to reporting done by “The Washington Post.” According to “The Post,” white men accounted for the most deaths, roughly half of them. However, when population rates were factored in, black men were three times as likely to be killed by police and they accounted for a third of the unarmed killed.

    Kimbriell Kelly is one of the authors of this year-end report, and was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of police shootings. And she joins me now from Washington.

    Kimbriell, this is the second year “The Washington Post” has tracked these numbers. What have been the most noticeable differences from 2015 to 2016?

    KIMBRIELL KELLY, THE WASHINGTON POST: One of the biggest differences is that the number of incidents that are caught on video. You see about a 63 percent increase in the deaths that occurred this year that were captured either on officers’ body cameras or by bystanders. And so, we see that there has been an increase over the last two years, but we know that there’s an increase, also, in the number of police departments across the country.

    There are roughly 18,000 departments, and from what we understand, nearly half of them have officers that are equipped with body-work cameras. And that’s important information, too, not just in documenting these incidents but in the prosecutions of officers as well, if they are investigated.

    ALISON STEWART: Now, the FBI also keeps track of these numbers, but their numbers are nearly half of “The Post’s” reporting. Why is that?

    KIMBRIELL KELLY: And that’s one thing that we had found as well. For the first year — those numbers are voluntarily reported. So police departments across the country aren’t required to give that information to the FBI. And so, what we found in our two years of reporting is that the number is still about 1,000 fatalities a year, but that our number is two times the number that the FBI is reporting.

    Now, the FBI, the year before last, when our numbers first started coming out, acknowledged that they have a problem with their documentation, and they have made efforts to improve that. And next year, they are planning to launch new efforts to try to streamline this process and have more accurate information.

    ALISON STEWART: Two factors in this data that are worth discussion — mental illness and domestic disturbances. What do the data tell you?

    KIMBRIELL KELLY The data tells us that those two things you talked about are some of the key indicators or key things that the buckets in which people who are killed by police fall into. And so, one in four of those cases are people who were in some sort of mental — had mental illness or were in some sort of mental illness crisis. And the second bucket has not been reported a lot, but it’s the same as it was roughly last year, which is domestic disturbances make up about one in six of those fatalities.

    ALISON STEWART: A small percentage of the people who were shot and killed by police were unarmed, just 5 percent. Most had guns or knives. So, what does this tell us about lethal force and what police face?

    KIMBRIELL KELLY: There are some disparities, particularly when you look at unarmed. And the unarmed percentage has gone down. So, last year was about 9 percent and this year is about 5 percent. But what it tells us, at least what the experts tell us, is that this is a universe of people who, with different training, through de-escalation, if officers are able to slow down the process, that these are lives that might be saved.

    And so, what has happened this year is a new training that was debuted a couple of weeks ago in New Orleans in which officers across the country gathered from 160 departments, and they’re being trained on new techniques to slow down a situation, to de-escalate situations, and they believe that if more police departments across the country employ these methods, that you would actually see the number of fatalities go down dramatically.

    And so, they’re estimating about 300 to 400 of the fatalities of the 1,000 people killed this year might, perhaps, not happen in the future with techniques like this.

    ALISON STEWART: Kimbriell Kelly of “The Washington Post” — thanks so much.

    KIMBRIELL KELLY: Thank you.

    The post The number of people killed by police dropped slightly in 2016 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump talks to reporters as he and his wife Melania Trump arrive for a New Year's Eve celebration with members and guests at the Mar-a-lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. December 31, 2016. Photo By Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump talks to reporters as he and his wife Melania Trump arrive for a New Year’s Eve celebration with members and guests at the Mar-a-lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. December 31, 2016. Photo By Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    PALM BEACH, Fla. — President-elect Donald Trump says that “no computer is safe” when it comes to keeping information private, expressing new skepticism about the security of online communications his administration is likely to use for everything from day-to-day planning to international relations.

    Trump rarely uses email or computers despite his frequent tweeting.

    “You know, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way. Because I’ll tell you what: No computer is safe,” Trump told reporters during his annual New Year’s Eve bash. “I don’t care what they say.”

    Trump has repeatedly cast aside allegations by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia tried to influence the presidential election through hacking. President Barack Obama earlier this week ordered sanctions on Russian spy agencies, closed two Russian compounds and expelled 35 diplomats the U.S. said were really spies. The Russian government has denied the allegations.

    Trump, who has said that he plans to meet with intelligence officials next to week to learn more about the allegations, said he wants U.S. officials “to be sure because it’s a pretty serious charge.” He pointed to intelligence failures over the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the U.S. invasion, and declared himself an expert in the area.

    “I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove, so it could be somebody else,” he said.

    He added, cryptically, that he also knows “things that other people don’t know. And so they cannot be sure of the situation.”

    Trump made the comments during his annual New Year’s Eve bash at his Mar-a-Lago club. Hundreds of guests gathered in the club’s grand ballroom, including action star Sylvester Stallone and romance novel model Fabio. Reporters were invited to watch as guests arrived.

    Earlier in the day, Trump ditched his press pool, traveling to play golf at one of his clubs without a pool of journalists on hand to ensure the public has knowledge of his whereabouts.

    A member of Trump’s golf club in Jupiter, Florida, posted a photo on Twitter of Trump on the greens Saturday morning and said about 25 U.S. Secret Service agents accompanied the president-elect. Reporters had not been advised of the visit to the club.

    Transition aide Stephanie Grisham confirmed that Trump had made a “last-minute trip” to Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, which is about a half-hour drive from Mar-a-Lago, where Trump has been spending the holidays. He returned to the estate at midafternoon.

    Grisham said that she and other aides weren’t aware of the trip and “appreciate everyone’s understanding.”

    “We are in the home stretch of this transition period and don’t anticipate any additional situations like this between now and inauguration,” she said in a statement.

    Trump, both as a candidate and during the transition, has often scoffed at tradition, such as allowing a group of reporters to follow him at all times to ensure the public knows where he is. Not long after his election, Trump went out to dinner with his family in Manhattan without informing the pool of his whereabouts.

    The practice is meant to ensure that journalists are on hand to witness, on behalf of the public, the activities of the president or president-elect, rather than relying on secondhand accounts.

    The White House also depends on having journalists nearby at all times to relay the president’s first comments on breaking news.

    Trump aides appear to have made an effort in recent weeks to offer additional access, allowing reporters to camp out outside a doorway at Mar-a-Lago to document staff and Cabinet candidates’ arrivals and departures. Aides also are providing information about his meeting schedule.

    Every president and president-elect in recent memory has traveled with a pool of journalists when leaving the White House grounds. News organizations take turns serving in the small group, paying their way and sharing the material collected in the pool with the larger press corps.

    Before he went golfing Saturday, Trump tweeted an unusual New Year’s message to friends and foes: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

    With the arrival of 2017, another New Year’s message moved on Trump’s Twitter account at about midnight.

    This one was decidedly more upbeat and carefully prepared — illustrated with a photo that included his holiday message next to it, including a hashtag and abbreviation referring to his campaign slogan: Make America Great Again.

    “To all Americans- HappyNewYear & many blessings to you all! Looking forward to a wonderful & prosperous 2017 as we work together to #MAGA.”


    The post Donald Trump says “no computer is safe” when it comes to privacy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    KARLA MURTHY: Twenty six year old Park Young Ho runs this food truck at a horse racetrack just outside Seoul, the capital of South Korea. With race fans streaming in all day, he’s well positioned to sell his sandwiches.

    PARK YOUNG HO: I sold about 200 sandwiches on Friday, 300 on Saturday, 500 on Sunday.

    KARLA MURTHY: Despite the ups and downs of the food business, Park enjoys the work- and is optimistic about the future. But 15 years ago, his life was very different. Park spent his childhood across the border in North Korea where a repressive totalitarian regime deprives its people of freedom and food.

    PARK YOUNG HO: We left North Korea, because we didn’t have enough food. I didn’t have any food eat for a week and I got really sick. My brother saw that and convinced me and my dad that we would all die unless we left the country. So I can imagine I might have been dead by now if we didn’t come here.

    KARLA MURTHY: When Park was 11, he fled with his 19-year-old brother through China into Thailand and finally, South Korea. They resettled in Seoul, where their lives changed dramatically.

    PARK YOUNG HO: When I first got here, it struck me the various, wide kinds of food that I had not seen in the north. So many kinds.

    KARLA MURTHY: But Park had a hard time adjusting to his new life. Because he didn’t know how to read or write at first, he was teased in school. He caught up and graduated high school. Now, he’s in college majoring in business and running his food truck on the weekends.

    PARK YOUNG HO: Hopefully, it will become then 10 trucks, then 100 trucks. I would like to try all different types of food trucks.  Also I would like to continue working with my friends, young people.

    KARLA MURTHY: Park got help starting his food truck business from a South Korean government program that aids defectors. Grants from its corporate partners covered the startup costs of his truck.

    The food truck phenomenon has only come to South Korea in the last couple of years, after the government lifted a ban due to safety and sanitation concerns. Now there are over 100 food trucks like these operating in the country and these two are owned by North Korean defectors.

    Kim Kyong Bin sells meat kebabs and snacks in this food truck. Despite the freedom and better quality of life, she says adjusting to South Korea was a challenge.

    KIM KYONG BIN: When you say you are from the north, people treat you differently, like an outsider. Also they might look down on you a bit. That was difficult – trying to be like a South Korean, so that you can be treated fairly.

    KARLA MURTHY: Kim and her husband are among the estimated 30-thousand North Korean defectors living in South Korea today, according to the South Korean government. After defectors arrive, the government trains them in social customs and job skills…and gives resettlement payments to assist with housing and education costs. Park hopes one day North Koreans like him will be able to enjoy the liberties he has found in South Korea.

    PARK YOUNG HO: In the north you’re not even allowed to visit neighboring villages freely, even if you have money.  You have to ask for permits from the government and you’re allowed to travel only on certain dates. We are the generation to prepare for the unification of the Koreas.

    The post North Koreans who escaped to south face difficulties appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    California Department of Public Heath workers treat the ground to ward off fleas at the Crane Flat campground in Yosemite National Park, California in the August 10, 2015 handout photo released to Reuters August 14, 2015. A second Yosemite National Park campground will be shut down for five days after a pair of dead squirrels were found to be infected with plague, park and California public health officials said on Friday. The closure of Tuolumne Meadows Campground comes a week after a child who camped elsewhere in Yosemite, one of America's top tourist destinations, was hospitalized with the disease. Photo by Reuters via California Department of Public Health

    California Department of Public Heath workers treat the ground to ward off fleas at the Crane Flat campground in Yosemite National Park, California in the August 10, 2015. A second Yosemite campground in Tuolumne Meadows was shut down for five days after a pair of dead squirrels were found to be infected with plague. The closure came a week after a child who camped elsewhere in Yosemite, one of America’s top tourist destinations, was hospitalized with the disease. Photo by Reuters via California Department of Public Health.

    After a spike of human cases of the plague in 2015 inflicted 16 people across portions of the western United States, the number of occurrences this year have dropped.

    Four cases of human plague in 2016 were reported in New Mexico, one of several western states where the infectious bacterial disease is commonly found, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Between 1900 and 2015, there have been 1,036 human plague cases in the U.S. On average about nine people in the country contract the plague, a disease known for ravaging populations around the world during Medieval times.

    The disease decimated an estimated 60 percent of Europe’s population in the 14th century and killed roughly 50 million more in Asia and Africa. The plague is now most prevalent in Madagascar, where 95 percent of the world’s human cases are found. In 2015 there were 320 cases reported worldwide, including 77 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

    Dr. Paul Mead, chief of Epidemiology, Bacterial Diseases Branch with CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, said the fluctuation in the number of human cases of the plague in the U.S. may be attributed to weather, when wet winters are followed by cooler summers.

    He said the bacteria that causes plague, Yersinia pestis, cycles naturally through rodents, and the fleas they carry, in western states. U.S. outbreaks of the disease occur most often in New Mexico, California, Arizona and Colorado. The first American epidemic happened in San Francisco, between 1900 and 1904, and the disease was likely imported from Asia.

    “Human plague is often preceded by an outbreak or epizootic in which large numbers of susceptible rodents die,” Mead told the NewsHour in an email. “When this happens, hungry infected fleas leave the dead rodents and seek blood from other hosts, including humans and domestic pets.”

    Mead said the CDC tested more than a hundred animals last year, of which 20 were found to have the plague. This year the CDC tested eight animals and only one was positive.

    “Historically, CDC tested hundreds of animals and fleas each year,” Mead said. “As state health laboratories, particularly in Arizona, California, Colorado, and New Mexico, gained the ability to do their own testing, we’ve tested fewer samples.”

    An archaeologist works March 10, 2015 at the site where eight mass graves, with more than 200 skeletons, were found under the Monoprix Reaumur Sebastopol store in Paris. The discovery, made during renovation work in the cellar of the branch of Monoprix, has revealed what experts believe are victims of a sudden illness resembling an outbreak of Bubonic plague and could prove useful to historians studying burials in the Middle Ages. Eight communal graves have so far been discovered, seven small plots and one much larger one in which 150 skeletons have already been unearthed. The supermarket stands on the site of the cemetery of the Trinity hospital, founded in the 12th century and destroyed at the end of the 18th, and experts say the organisation of the graves points to a "mass mortality crisis". Picture taken March 10, 2015. Photo By Philippe Wojazer

    An archaeologist works March 10, 2015 at the site where eight mass graves, with more than 200 skeletons, were found under the Monoprix Reaumur Sebastopol store in Paris. The discovery, made during renovation work in the cellar of the branch of Monoprix, has revealed what experts believe are victims of a sudden illness resembling an outbreak of Bubonic plague and could prove useful to historians studying burials in the Middle Ages. Eight communal graves have so far been discovered, seven small plots and one much larger one in which 150 skeletons have already been unearthed. The supermarket stands on the site of the cemetery of the Trinity hospital, founded in the 12th century and destroyed at the end of the 18th, and experts say the organisation of the graves points to a “mass mortality crisis”. Picture taken March 10, 2015. Photo By Philippe Wojazer

    While there are three forms of the plague, which stem from the organ infected by Y. pestis bacteria, the most common is a lymph node infection known as the Bubonic plague. Bubonic infections make up about 80 percent of the cases, followed by the septicemic (blood) plague. Most instances can be treated by antibiotics.

    The pneumonic plague is the most dangerous of the three with a 90 percent fatality rate. This form develops in the lungs, often because those who contract the disease wait too long to receive treatment or are not prescribed the correct antibiotics, according to New Mexico Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Paul Ettestad.

    Ettestad said despite the dangers and a history of the plague dating back to the 1940s in the state, there is only a 7 percent fatality rate among humans who contract the disease in New Mexico, often through their pets in semi-rural areas between the cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

    “If there’s rodents with dead the fleas, they make their living by getting a blood meal,” he said. “A lot of these dogs or cats, they let them inside the house, they sleep in bed with people. It really looks like that’s when it happens.”

    The plague has “found a home here in the four corners” region of the country, Ettestad said, also noting that the state is now largely focusing its efforts to combat the disease on prevention methods like flea control for pets.

    Dr. Vicki Kramer, chief of vector born disease for the California Department of Health, told the NewsHour in a telephone interview earlier this year that her agency has worked closely with federal partners and other jurisdictions to study the number of animals infected by the plague, particularly after the state saw an uptick in human cases in 2015.

    The summer of 2015, had an escalation of human plague cases in California, including two people who contracted the plague at campgrounds in Yosemite National Park.

    Since then, the department has collected blood samples from various dead rodents to look for signs of the plague, used flea control practices in portions of the Sierra Nevada Mountains where there was “high plague activity,” and in some cases treated rodents and their burrows for the disease with insecticides. Filtered paper strips are used to test for the presence of the plague in fleas and sent to a laboratory.

    “Most people, if they get a plague in infection, will be in a Bubonic form,” Kramer said. “Sometimes it can progress to the septicemic form.”

    Symptoms of the plague include fever, nausea and swollen lymph nodes and can be treated with antibiotics if discovered early on. Symptoms usually take about two weeks or less to kick in, officials said.

    The mortality rate for untreated plague once ranged from 66 percent to 93 percent but has been scaled back to 16 percent due to the advent of antibiotics, according to the CDC.

    The post Human plague cases drop in U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo via Flickr user Jon S

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    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER, NEWSHOUR WEEKEND: For nearly 80 years, this 19th century farm house just outside of Harvard University’s famed Cambridge, Massachusetts campus has quietly housed up with of the most well respected journalism foundations in the world. Established in 1938, the Nieman Foundation was designed in the words of its founder Agnes Wahl Nieman to promote and elevate journalism. Since then, the foundation has functioned as one of America’s preeminent spaces for journalist and industry leaders to study the news media. 2016, and the media ecosystem that surrounded the election has offered an entirely new chapter for journalism.

    JAMES GEARY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY’S NIEMAN FOUNDATION: The moment goes beyond just this election and this candidate and this president-elect. And I think it’s about something really essential about journalism and about society as a whole.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: James Geary is the editor of the Nieman Foundation’s “Nieman Reports” magazine. His post-election take on the media sounds like a seasoned sports broadcaster, analyzing how the game was played and what the industry must do if it hopes to improve.

    Like many others, Geary finds fault in the media’s emphasis on the constant ebbs and flows of the contest, the horse race, and the industry’s unwillingness or reluctance to report beyond the bubble of the campaign.

    JAMES GEARY:  The horse race aspect of the election, who is up, who is down at any given moment in the campaign is, you know, just like with the stock market. Whether the stock market is up or down at any given moment on any given day doesn’t really tell you a lot about the underlying trends. And I think for a lot of — for a lot of the media, we have mistook the polls for the actual trends and the actual trends requires reporting, requires talking to people, getting outside of the newsroom, getting outside of the office and interacting with voters.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Last month, Nieman published its fourth and final magazine of 2016, a collection of essays, part of an ongoing series examining what went write and what went wrong during the 2016 campaign coverage and what journalists should do next.

    Is there a responsibility amongst the consumers? And if so, where does that responsibility lie?

    JAMES GEARY: Yes, I think news consumers, voters have stopped seeking out alternative points of view. And are increasingly just focusing on what they already know and what they already agree with. Of course, technologies and platforms like Twitter and Facebook make that very easy to do.

    And I think one of the things that we as an industry can do is to become involved in news literacy programs to visit local high schools or local colleges, community colleges, VFW lodges and have those conversations and try and impart the — some of the professional skills that we as journalists have developed to report factually, report responsibility and share some tips for how news consumers can spot fake news, and also make it clear why fake news is so damaging.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: But there’s also a question of just who is doing the reporting.

    JAMES GEARY: I think a lot of the tension around diversity has been race-based and having more journalists of color in the newsroom and that’s absolutely vital and that’s nowhere near where it needs to be. And that work needs to continue. But I think we also need to understand diversity more broadly. That diversity is also socio and economic diversity.

    Most newsrooms, in addition to being mostly white and mostly male, are mostly college educated. And I think what we’ve seen is people without a college education who feel most alienated by the media, and most turned off by journalism.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: In so many ways, the landscape is like a giant buffet table. On one side, you’ve got the high fructose corn syrup, and on the other side, you’ve got your vegetables.

    JAMES GEARY: Right.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: So, how can we again convince the public to really beat this metaphor to death, the diet needs to be balanced?

    JAMES GEARY: Yes. What I think we do need to grapple with is that really great and really important journalism did not reach a significant portion of the population.

    Here at MIT, right down the road, there is a research project called The Electome, and they monitor twitter to see how political issues play out in a Twittersphere. Twitter is not at all a representative slice of the population but is a very representative slice of the media.

    And what they found in their research was that Republican-leaning people on Twitter stayed within those circles very, very clearly, and the same for Democratic leaning users of Twitter. And there was very little overlap.

    And I think if all the information we received is completely tailored to our preconceptions and our biases, then I think we as a society, we as an electorate have some serious problems.

    But I think there are things that can be — can be done to address that. And part of it could be a technological solution. Part of it could be more openness among journalistic outlets to collaborate.

    If Samantha Bee and Glenn Beck can sit down together for a civil discussion wearing festive holiday sweaters as they most — as they recently did, then I think there’s hope for the rest of us, that news outlets could collaborate and cooperate to do the kind of work that they need to do and hopefully reach a wider audience.

    The post Post-election, how should news outlets shift focus? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Turkish police stand guard outisde the Reina nightclub by the Bosphorus, which was attacked by a gunman, in Istanbul, Turkey, January 1, 2017. Photo By Huseyin Aldemir/Reuters

    Turkish police stand guard outisde the Reina nightclub by the Bosphorus, which was attacked by a gunman, in Istanbul, Turkey, January 1, 2017. Photo By Huseyin Aldemir/Reuters

    At least 39 people were killed in a Turkish nightclub after a gunman opened fire early Sunday during a New Year’s Eve celebration.

    The attack took place at 1:15 a.m. in Istanbul along the Bosphorus waterway, where party-goers were celebrating, when the gunman began shooting inside the Reina nightclub. Authorities are currently searching for the assailant.

    Witnesses told Reuters survivors dove under tables and jumped into the waterway as the gunman fired an automatic rifle.

    “At first we thought some men were fighting with each other,” said one witness who was in the club with her husband and a friend. “Then we heard the sound of the gunfire and ducked under the tables.”

    Relatives react at the funeral of Ayhan Arik, a victim of an attack by a gunman at Reina nightclub, in Istanbul, Turkey, January 1, 2017. Photo By Osman Orsal/Reuters

    Relatives react at the funeral of Ayhan Arik, a victim of an attack by a gunman at Reina nightclub, in Istanbul, Turkey, January 1, 2017. Photo By Osman Orsal/Reuters

    Anadolu Agency, Turkey’s state-run news agency, told the Associated Press that at least 24 of the victims were foreign nationals. At least 70 other individuals were injured during the attack.

    Officials said a single attacker was responsible for the rampage, according to the AP. The U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul on Sunday warned in a statement that Americans should take caution.

    “Security operations are still ongoing in the aftermath of the January 1st gunfire attack at Reina nightclub,” it read. “U.S. citizens are advised to shelter in place and to limit movements to an absolute minimum.”

    The post At least 39 dead following New Year’s attack in Istanbul nightclub appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A senior citizen walks down the hallway at her independent living complex in Silver Spring, Maryland. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    A senior citizen walks down the hallway at her independent living complex in Silver Spring, Maryland. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Heart attacks and broken hips cause much suffering and worry as people grow older. This year, Medicare wants to start changing how it pays for treatment of these life-threatening conditions, to promote quality and contain costs. Beneficiaries and family members may notice a new approach.

    Hospitals and doctors in dozens of communities selected for large-scale experiments on this front are already gearing up. The goal is to test the notion that better coordination among clinicians, hospitals, and rehab centers can head off complications, prevent avoidable hospital re-admissions and help patients achieve more stable and enduring recoveries. If results back that up, Medicare can adopt the changes nationwide.

    The cardiac and hip fracture experiments are the latest development in a big push under the Obama administration to reinvent Medicare, steering the program away from paying piecemeal for services, regardless of quality and cost. It’s unclear whether Donald Trump as president will continue the pace of change, slow down or even hit pause.

    Trump’s Health and Human Services nominee, orthopedic-surgeon-turned-congressman Tom Price, has expressed general concern that the doctor-patient relationship could be harmed by Medicare payment changes seeking to contain costs. And the Medicare division that designed the experiments — the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation — is itself under threat of being abolished because it was created by President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law.

    Some outside groups, including AARP, worry that Medicare may be moving too fast and that focusing on cost containment could lead to beneficiaries being shortchanged on rehab care.

    Innovation center director Patrick Conway, who also serves as Medicare’s chief medical officer, is plowing ahead nonetheless. “Delivery system reform and paying for better care are bipartisan issues,” Conway said. And quality ranks ahead of cost savings in evaluating any results, he added.

    The cardiac and hip fracture experiments focus on traditional Medicare, which remains the choice of nearly 7 in 10 out of Medicare’s 57 million beneficiaries. The cardiac experiment involves both heart bypass and heart attack patients. The trials join similar ongoing tests involving surgery for hip and knee replacement, as well as care for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

    In the experiments, doctors, hospitals, and rehab centers get paid the regular Medicare rates. But hospitals are given responsibility for overall quality and cost, measured against benchmarks set by Medicare. If the hospital meets or exceeds the goals, it earns a financial bonus, which can be shared with other service providers. If the hospital falls short, it may have to pay the government money.

    “Now your doctor and hospital are working together to make sure they are well coordinated,” said Conway.

    Under the old system, if a patient was discharged from the hospital after a heart attack, “they might hand you a piece of paper that said please follow up with your primary care doctor,” Conway continued. “In this model, the hospital is going to have a strong incentive to make sure you follow up.”

    Overall, about 168,000 Medicare beneficiaries are treated for heart attacks in a given year, while 48,000 undergo heart bypass surgery for clogged arteries and 109,000 have surgery for broken hips.

    Around the country, hospitals in 98 metro areas will be involved in the cardiac experiment. The hip surgery experiment involves 67 areas that are also part of Medicare’s ongoing test with hip and knee replacements.

    Areas in the cardiac test include Boston, as well as Akron, Ohio; Charleston, South Carolina; Fort Collins, Colorado; Utica, New York; and Yuma, Arizona. A smaller group of communities will be involved in a related experiment that pays hospitals for coordinating rehab care for heart patients. Although the benefits of cardiac rehab are widely recognized, only a small share of patients receives it.

    The hip fracture test includes the Miami, New York, and Los Angeles metro areas, as well as Austin, Texas; Bismarck, North Dakota; Flint, Michigan, and New Orleans.

    Hospitals are not happy with the changes, though doctors have generally been supportive. A big concern for hospitals is that Medicare requires mandatory participation by all the facilities in areas selected for these tests. But Conway says that’s likely to lead to even better results. The idea is that hospitals will watch each other’s performance closely, and the ones that have room to improve will try to catch the high achievers.

    READ MORE: The surprising news about 2017 Medicare premiums and deductibles you may have missed

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    President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on his first day in office in 2009. Photo by Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on his first day in office in 2009. Photo by Pete Souza/White House

    WASHINGTON — His last vacation behind him, President Barack Obama is entering the closing stretch of his presidency, an eleventh-hour push to tie up loose ends and put finishing touches on his legacy before handing the reins to President-elect Donald Trump.

    Obama returned to Washington midday Monday from Hawaii with less than three weeks left. His final days will largely be consumed by a bid to protect his endangered health care law, a major farewell speech and the ongoing handover of power to Trump.

    In an email to supporters on Monday, Obama said his valedictory speech on Jan. 10 follows a tradition set in 1796 when the first president, George Washington, spoke to the American people for the last time in office. The speech will take place at McCormick Place, a giant convention center in Obama’s hometown of Chicago.

    “I’m thinking about them as a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you’ve changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here,” Obama said.

    Obama’s chief speechwriter, Cody Keenan, traveled with Obama to Hawaii and spent much of the trip working on the speech. The Chicago trip will likely be Obama’s last outside Washington as president and will be include a “family reunion” for Obama’s former campaign staffers.

    Obama is also planning last-minute commutations and pardons, White House officials said, in line with his second-term effort to cut sentences for inmates given unduly harsh sentences for drug crimes. Though prominent offenders like Edward Snowden and Rod Blagojevich are also asking for leniency, Obama’s final acts of clemency are expected to remain focused on drug offenders whose plight Obama tried but failed to address through criminal justice reform.

    After taking office eight years ago, Obama and his aides were effusive in their praise for how Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, helped his team take over the massive federal bureaucracy. Obama has vowed to pass on the favor to Trump. But the transition hasn’t been without incident.

    The two teams have clashed over the Trump team’s requests for information Obama aides fear could be used to eliminate government employees who worked on Obama priorities like climate change and minority rights overseas. Trump’s team, meanwhile, has been frustrated by Obama’s attempts to box Trump in with parting moves to block ocean drilling, declare new monuments and further empty out the Guantanamo Bay prison.

    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama depart Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam upon the conclusion of their vacation on Oahu in Hawaii. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama depart Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam upon the conclusion of their vacation on Oahu in Hawaii. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    While on his annual vacation in Oahu, Obama asserted himself forcefully on two foreign policy issues that put him in direct conflict with Trump. Obama directed the U.S. to defy tradition by allowing a U.N. Security Council resolution criticizing Israel on settlements to pass, then slapped Russia with sweeping penalties over U.S. allegations of hacking.

    The final days are Obama’s last chance to define his presidency before his loses the bully pulpit and cedes his legacy to historians. For Obama, helping Americans understand how his two terms have reshaped American life is even more critical amid concerns that Trump may undo much of what he accomplished, including the health law.

    As Trump and Republicans vow to gut the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are working to devise a strategy to protect the law by exploiting GOP divisions about how to replace it. To that end, Obama will travel Wednesday to the Capitol to meet with House and Senate Democrats, likely his last meeting with his party’s lawmakers as president.

    His administration is also working feverishly to finish up regulations in the pipeline that Obama hopes can be completed in the final days, perhaps increasing the likelihood his policies carry over. But the closer it gets to Trump’s inauguration, the harder those tasks become.

    Though Obama remains president until Jan. 20, the White House can’t process the departure of all its staffers on a single day. So this week Obama aides will start “offloading,” turning in their Blackberries and shutting down their computers for the last time, leaving a smaller staff on hand for the final days.

    Obama must also prepare to become a private citizen for the first time in two decades. An office of the former president must be stood up, and Obama’s family will be making arrangements to move into a rental home in Northwest Washington where they plan to stay until youngest daughter Sasha finishes high school.

    The Obamas have long lamented how the presidency denied them freedom and privacy, with first lady Michelle Obama likening the White House to “a really nice prison.” But on their last Hawaii vacation, the first family took time out to visit Breakout Waikiki, where visitors are “trapped” in a room together and must try, as a team, to escape.

    READ MORE: How Obama’s unique background shaped his outlook on race

    The post What’s on Obama’s to-do list in the closing stretch of his presidency? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a rally with supporters in Anaheim, California, U.S., May 25, 2016. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a rally with supporters in Anaheim, California, U.S., May 25, 2016. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Three weeks after Donald Trump won a historic victory to become the 45th president of the United States, the media postmortems continue.

    In particular, the role played by the media and technology industries is coming under heavy scrutiny in the press, with Facebook’s role in the rise of fake news currently enjoying considerable coverage. This represents a shift from earlier in the campaign, when the volume of media airtime given to Trump was often held culpable for “The Apprentice” star’s political ascendancy.

    In truth, a Trump presidency is – in part – a reflection of the status and evolution of the media and tech industries in 2016. Here are 10 ways that they combined to help Trump capture the White House in a manner not previously possible. Without them, Trump might not have stood a chance.

    Inside the tech industry’s role

    1) Fake news looks a lot like real news. This is not a new issue, but it’s a hot topic, given the social media-led explosion of the genre. As BuzzFeed found, fake news can spread more quickly than real reporting.

    President Obama has weighed in on the problem, as have investigative reporters. And The New York Times found that fake news can “go viral” very quickly, even if it’s started by an unassuming source with a small online following – who subsequently debunks their own false story.

    Watch: Bypassing media norms, Trump offers challenges for newsrooms

    2) Algorithms show us more of what we like, not what we need to know. Amazon, Netflix and Spotify demonstrate how powerful personalization and recommendation engines can be. But these tools also remove serendipity, reducing exposure to anything outside of our comfort zone.

    Websites like AllSides, and the Wall Street Journal’s Red vs Blue feed experiment – which let users “See Liberal Facebook and Conservative Facebook, Side by Side” – show how narrow our reading can become, how different the “other side” looks, and how hard it can be to expose ourselves to differing viewpoints, even if we want to.

    3) Tech doesn’t automatically discern fact from fiction. Facebook doesn’t have an editor, and Mark Zuckerberg frequently says that Facebook is not a media company. It’s true that Facebook content comes from users and partners, but Facebook is nonetheless a major media distributor.

    More than half of Americans get news from social media; Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla. “The two-thirds of Facebook users who get news there,” Pew notes, “amount to 44 percent of the general population.” But its automatic algorithms can amplify falsehoods, as happened when a false story about Megyn Kelly trended on Facebook this summer.

    4) The rise of robots. It’s not just publications and stories that can be fake. Twitter bots can look the same as real Twitter users, spreading falsehoods and rumors and amplifying messages (just as humans do). Repeat a lie often enough and – evidence suggests – it becomes accepted as fact. This is just as true online as it is on the campaign trail.

    My mother always warned me not to believe everything I read in the papers. We need to instill the same message in our children (and adults) about social media.

    5) Tech has helped pull money away from sources of real reporting. Google, Facebook, Craigslist and others have created new advertising markets, diverting traditional ad revenues from newspapers in the process.

    Meanwhile, programmatic advertising, which uses computer algorithms to buy – and place – online ads, is changing the advertising dynamic yet again. This can mean companies unintentionally buy ads on sites – such as those from the alt-right – which don’t sit with their brand or values; and that they would not typically choose to support.

    The media played its part, too

    1) Fewer ad dollars means fewer journalistic boots on the ground. Data from the American Society of News Editors show that in 2015 the total workforce for U.S. daily newspapers was 32,900, down from a peak of 56,400 in 2001. That’s 23,500 jobs lost in 14 years.

    Though some of these roles have migrated to online outlets that didn’t exist years ago, this sector is also starting to feel the cold. A reduced workforce has inevitably led to less original journalism, with fewer “on the beat” local reporters, shuttered titles and the rise of media deserts. Cable news, talk radio, social networks and conservative websites – channels that predominantly focus on commentary rather than original reporting – have, in many cases, stepped in to fill these gaps.

    Watch: Post-election, how should news outlets shift focus?

    2) Unparalleled airtime helped Trump build momentum. A study by The New York Times concluded that in his first nine months of campaigning, Trump earned nearly US$2 billion in free media. This dwarfed the $313 million earned by Ted Cruz and the $746 million secured by Hillary Clinton. The Times noted this was already “about twice the all-in price of the most expensive presidential campaigns in history.”

    Wall-to-wall coverage wasn’t just beneficial to Trump. “The money’s rolling in,” CBS Chairman Les Moonves told an industry conference this year, noting that a Trump candidacy “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

    3) Did all the investigative journalism and fact-checking make a difference? Great work by NPR, The New York Times, the Atlantic, the Washington Post and others didn’t slow Trump’s momentum. Just two of the country’s 100 largest newspapers endorsed Trump, but more than 62 million people voted for him anyway.

    We need to understand whether these journalistic efforts changed any opinions, or simply reinforced existing voter biases. As Fortune journalist Mathew Ingram observed: “Trump supporters and the mainstream media both believed what they wanted to believe.”

    4) Many journalists were out of step with the mood of much of the country. We need a greater plurality of voices, opinions and backgrounds to inform our news coverage.

    A 2013 study from Indiana University’s School of Journalism revealed that journalists as a whole are older, whiter, more male and better-educated than the American population overall. This means journalists can be disconnected from communities they cover, giving rise to mutual misunderstandings and wrong assumptions.

    5) The jury’s out on whether Trump is a master of deflection. But despite his fabled short attention span, too often it’s the media that is distracted and dragged off-course.

    In March, the Washington Post’s editorial board astonishingly allowed Trump to play out the clock when he ducked a question on tactical nuclear strikes against ISIS by simply asking – with just five minutes of the meeting remaining – if people could go around the room and say who they were.

    More recently he led the press corps and Twitterati on a merry dance, after his “Hamilton” tweet got more coverage than the $25 million settlement against Trump University. He repeated the trick when tweets alleging illegal voters turned the spotlight away from discussions about potential conflicts of interest between his presidency and his property empire.

    The next four years

    There were other factors, of course, that helped Republicans win the Electoral College. These include a desire for change in Washington, Clinton’s ultra-safe campaign and Trump’s ability to project the image of “blue-collar billionaire” who understood economically and politically disenfranchised communities.

    Trump capitalized on these opportunities, prospering despite myriad pronouncements and behaviors (accusations of assault, unpublished tax returns, criticism of John McCain’s war record, feuding with a Gold Star family, mocking a disabled reporter and routinely offending Muslims, Mexicans and women) that would have buried any other candidate.

    Trump’s use of media and technology means his presidency promises to be like no other.

    In the past few days we’ve finally started to see discussions emerge about how the media should respond to this. Suggestions include focusing on policy, not personality; ignoring deflecting tweets; and a raft of other ideas. To these, I would add the need to promote greater media literacy, a more diverse media and tech workforce and improving the audience engagement skills of reporters.

    Journalists and technologists will need to redouble their efforts if we are to hold the White House accountable and rebuild trust across these two industries. This promises to be a bumpy ride, but one that we all need to saddle up for.

    The Conversation

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

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    The U.S. Capitol Building is lit at sunset in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    The U.S. Capitol Building is lit at sunset in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Congress ushers in a new era of all-Republican rule.

    On Tuesday at noon, with plenty of pomp and pageantry, members of the 115th Congress will be sworn in, with an emboldened GOP intent on unraveling eight years of President Barack Obama’s Democratic agenda and targeting massive legacy programs from Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson such as Social Security and Medicare.

    In the election, Republicans kept their tight grip on the House and outmaneuvered the Democrats for a slim majority in the Senate. In less than three weeks, on the West Front of the Capitol, Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the presidential oath to Donald Trump, the GOP’s newfound ally.

    First up for Republicans is repeal and delay of the health care law, expediting the process for scrapping Obama’s major overhaul but holding off on some changes for up to four years. The tax code is in the cross-hairs. Conservatives want to scuttle rules on the environment and undo financial regulations created in the aftermath of the 2008 economic meltdown, arguing they are too onerous for businesses to thrive.

    The only obstacle to the far-reaching conservative agenda will be Senate Democrats who hold the power to filibuster legislation, but even that has its political limitations. Twenty-three Democrats are up for re-election in 2018, including 10 from states Trump won, and they could break ranks and side with the GOP.

    Here are a few things to know about Congress:


    Vice President Joe Biden, in one of his final official acts, will administer the oath to 27 returning senators and seven new ones. Republicans will have a 52-48 advantage in the Senate, which remains predominantly a bastion of white men.

    There will be 21 women, of whom 16 are Democrats and five, Republicans; three African Americans, including California’s new Democratic senator Kamala Harris, and four Hispanics, including Nevada’s new Democratic senator Catherine Cortez Masto.

    Across the Capitol, the House is expected to re-elect Rep. Paul Ryan as Speaker, with all the campaign-season recriminations involving the Wisconsin Republican and Trump largely erased by GOP wins. Once sworn in, Ryan will then administer the oath to the House members.

    The GOP will hold a hefty 241-194 majority in the House, including 52 freshmen — 27 Republicans, including Wyoming’s Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and 25 Democrats.


    The Senate will exercise its advice and consent role and consider nominations of 15 department secretaries and six people tapped by Trump to lead agencies or serve in roles with Cabinet-level status, such as the EPA and U.N. ambassador.

    Democrats won’t make it easy.

    Several in the party have been highly critical of several of Trump’s choices, from Rick Perry, who forgot during the 2012 presidential campaign that the Energy Department was the one he wanted to eliminate, to Treasury pick Steve Mnuchin, the former Goldman Sachs executive whom Democrats have dubbed the “foreclosure king” for his stake in OneWest Bank that profited from the foreclosure crisis.

    READ MORE: Trump’s cabinet is mostly white and male. What will that mean for policy?

    Others nominees, such as retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis for defense secretary, should easily win confirmation. First, though, Congress must pass a law allowing the former military man to serve in a civilian post.

    There is a limit to what Democrats can do. Rules changes in 2013 allow some nominees, including Cabinet picks, to be confirmed with a simple majority, preventing Democrats from demanding 60 votes to move forward.


    Adding to the drama of the new Congress will be high-profile confirmation hearings for Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court.

    Justice Antonin Scalia died last February and Republicans refused to consider Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, insisting that the next president should fill the high court vacancy that’s now lasted more than 10 months.

    Trump released a list of potential choices during the campaign that included Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who clerked for Justice Samuel Alito. Since the election, the president-elect also has met with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who clerked for former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, prompting talk about a possible nomination for the onetime presidential rival.

    Trump has said he wants to nominate a justice who would help overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion. Cruz and Lee would fulfill that pledge.


    The point man for Senate Democrats is Brooklyn-born Chuck Schumer, who will be a chief antagonist to fellow New Yorker Trump.

    Schumer succeeds Nevada’s Harry Reid, who retired after five terms, and joins Congress’ top leaders — Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Speaker Ryan — in what is certain to be tough negotiations next year on spending and policies.


    The first public hearing on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the U.S. election is Thursday in the Senate Armed Services Committee, with James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, set to testify. Expect individual panels to investigate, but not a special, high-profile select committee. McConnell has rejected that bipartisan call.

    READ MORE: Trump still not sold on Russian link to hacking

    The post 5 things to know about the incoming Republican Congress appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Protesters hold up signs during a march and rally against the United States President-elect Donald Trump in Los Angeles this December. Kevork Djansezian/Reuters

    Protesters hold up signs during a march and rally against the United States President-elect Donald Trump in Los Angeles this December. Kevork Djansezian/Reuters

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As California lawmakers return to Sacramento on Wednesday, liberal dreams of expanding safety-net benefits and providing health coverage to immigrants are giving way to a new vision revolving around a feverish push to protect gains racked up in the past.

    After years of pushing forward a progressive agenda, legislative Democrats will be pushing back against conservative policies from President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican Congress.

    Instead of expanding Medi-Cal health coverage to adult immigrants who can’t prove they’re legally in the country, Democrats are now concentrating on how to retain health coverage for those who already have it. And anti-poverty groups are focused on preventing cuts to food stamp and welfare programs rather than trying to expand them as planned.

    “There is so much uncertainty at the federal level, because they’re talking about some really drastic policy choices that could have a really negative impact on California,” said Scott Graves, research director for the California Budget & Policy Center, a left-leaning research group.

    Last year was a particularly effective one for California liberals. The Legislature extended the nation’s most ambitious climate change programs, raised the minimum wage to $15 and toughened gun laws. Lawmakers boosted overtime for farmworkers, expanded welfare benefits and enacted a sweeping array of anti-tobacco measures.

    This year had all the makings of continuing the trend. Democrats will arrive Wednesday with supermajorities in both chambers — enough to advance their own agenda without GOP interference if they stand united.

    Notably, though, Democrats took their first action as a supermajority not to advance a contentious public policy objective but to send a message to Trump.

    Right after they took the oath of office last month, Democrats in the Assembly and Senate suspended legislative rules to immediately approve resolutions urging the incoming administration to keep a program allowing hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who are in the country illegally to stay.

    While the California Legislature has broad authority to chart its own agenda, it relies significantly on federal dollars. According to the state Department of Finance, California gets $96 billion from the federal government, a figure almost as large as the state’s $122 billion general fund.

    Those federal funds cover a massive share of the budget for health care, food stamps, welfare and other safety-net programs.

    Liberals are particularly worried that the budget prepared by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, will lead to severe cuts in those programs through block grants or other methods of shifting responsibility to states, while also giving them more flexibility.

    “Block granting … is just not what’s in the best interests of the recipients of those programs,” said Sen. Holly Mitchell, a Los Angeles Democrat who will lead the state budget committee next year. “We’re dealing with hungry people, which we cannot ignore.”

    Graves noted that before the election, he hoped the Legislature would take a serious look at boosting subsidized child care and Supplemental Security Income payments for seniors and people with disabilities. That seems less likely now.

    Congressional Republicans also are eager to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, which provides $20 billion for the Medi-Cal program and private insurance subsidies. Preserving that coverage, much less expanding it to cover more people, would be extremely expensive.

    The California Endowment has provided millions of dollars for an advocacy campaign called Health4All to expand Medi-Cal coverage for immigrants who can’t prove they’re legally in the United States. In December, it announced a new initiative: Fight4All. The $25 million effort reflects a shift in focus from creating new rights to defending existing ones.

    “A whole host of areas where significant progress has been made in California in the last five or six years or so, we feel that work is now in jeopardy,” said Dr. Tony Iton, the endowment’s senior vice president.

    Still, conservatives in the state aren’t optimistic that Trump’s presidency will give them a reprieve from lawmakers’ persistent push to the left.

    California’s Legislature is “sort of like its own nation-state,” said Tom Scott, California director of the National Federation of Independent Business, a small-business advocacy organization that often is at odds with legislative priorities including labor and environmental mandates.

    “Quite frankly, whatever the Trump administration does, it will not stop Gov. Brown and the state Legislature from moving forward on their political agenda,” Scott said. “So I’m on one level expecting sort of business — or un-business — as usual, and I don’t see that changing.”

    READ MORE: 5 things to know about the incoming Republican Congress

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    French firefighters on small boats evacuate residents from a flooded area after heavy rainfall in Nemours, France, in June. Photo by Christian Hartmann/Reuters

    French firefighters on small boats evacuate residents from a flooded area after heavy rainfall in Nemours, France, in June. Photo by Christian Hartmann/Reuters

    Droughts, wildfires, heat waves, intense rainstorms—these are all extreme weather phenomena that occur naturally. But climate change is now increasing the frequency and magnitude of many of these events. Flooding in Paris and the Arctic heat wave are just two instances where climate change contributed to extreme weather in 2016—and there are many more examples.

    Yet how do scientists know that global warming influenced a specific event? Until recently, they couldn’t answer this question, but the field of “attribution science” has made immense progress in the last five years. Researchers can now tell people how climate change impacts them, and not 50 or 100 years from now — today.

    Scientific American spoke with Friederike Otto, deputy director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, about how attribution science works and why it’s a critical part of helping communities prepare for and adapt to climate change.

    (An edited transcript of the interview follows.)


    Whenever an extreme event happens, usually people ask, “Did climate change play a role?” We aim to provide scientific evidence to answer that question within the news time frame—so within two weeks of the event occurring.


    They’re doing both. My work focuses on specific extreme events—for example, the last attribution study we did was on the heat wave in the Arctic that’s currently happening.

    All extreme events have different forcings [factors that influence Earth’s climate], and one of the forcings can be climate change. With this research, we can now say an event of this magnitude has been made more or less likely due to climate change, or we can say what was once a one-in-150-year event in the past is now a one-in-50-year event.


    It’s kind of like when you roll a die and you roll 10 sixes in a row. You become suspicious that something’s wrong with that die, but from these 10 rolls, you can’t determine that it’s a loaded die. To be able to do that, you have to roll over and over again, do statistics on the numbers you roll, and only then will you be able to get an answer.

    That’s the same way we study an extreme weather event. We simulate what is possible given the current forcings, and we figure out the likelihood of this event occurring in today’s climate. Of course we don’t have observations of the world that might have been without climate change — what would be the normal die. So we have to simulate that world by removing the anthropogenic warming from the climate models, or by doing statistical modeling on observations of the late 19th and early 20th century. Then we determine what would have been possible weather in a world without climate change.

    If the likelihoods of the extreme weather event we’re interested in are different [between these two worlds], then we can say climate change caused this difference. It can be a difference in intensity or frequency.


    We use peer-reviewed methods, so we basically just apply the same methods used in previous studies to a new event. It’s a little bit like doing a seasonal forecast. We also have all the model simulations done in advance, so that if an extreme event happens, we just need to do the analysis.


    In our experimental set-up, we simulate the event in today’s world, and then we remove anthropogenic emissions from the climate model’s atmosphere, and do the same experiment again. So the only thing we have changed is the anthropogenic forcing. In the simulations, the world we live in and the world that might have been have the same large-scale patterns, like El Niño. So we’re asking, “Assuming everything else being equal, what is the influence of greenhouse gas emissions?”


    This result is not unexpected and not inconceivable. For example, we know that increased global mean temperature raises the risk of heat waves, just because the baseline is warmer. But it’s not just the temperature that is influenced by climate change. For instance, in the recent two-year São Paulo drought, there was more precipitation and more evaporation. In the end, these two effects canceled each other out, and the drought risk itself did not change. Climate change had no impact on the overall risk of drought in this case—but it had an impact on the individual components.

    We also look at what’s the influence of climate change today. It may well be that for some events we don’t see an influence today in a world that is one degree warmer. But just because we don’t see a signal now, doesn’t mean that this is an event that will never be affected by climate change.


    There are events where we expect to see an increase, like heat waves and extreme rainfall. In particular, the signal is already quite large with heat waves. Other events are much more complicated. With droughts, for example, the feedback with the land surface plays a huge role, and the atmospheric circulation plays a much more important role. There are also events like hurricanes, where you need very high-resolution models to be able to say something about it—that’s a situation where the technology is just not there yet.


    The science really only came into existence within the last five years. We first had a technical breakthrough—you need to be able to simulate weather over and over again, and that was technically impossible even in the 1990s. Only in the 2000s did it become an option because of greater computing power.

    Then in 2003 the methodology to do this kind of research was suggested—the idea that we could use advanced computing power to look at extreme events in this way. But it still needed some conceptual work. In the last five years, we really had a conceptual breakthrough.


    The next big challenge is to work on disaster-risk reduction, and on the impacts of extreme events. Because the question people ask is not, “What is the risk of three-day rainfall in Paris?” The question they ask is, “What’s the risk of flooding in Paris?” And that depends not only on the meteorological event, but also on other factors, like the size of the river catchment, the management of the river, and all these aspects of vulnerability and exposure.


    Three things: one is that we don’t currently know very well what the actual impacts of climate change today are. We can predict the large-scale changes, but global average temperature increase does not kill people. What kills people are extreme weather events. This research allows us to get a more comprehensive picture of what climate change actually means.

    Second, it provides scientific evidence to the public discourse. When extreme events happen, people ask if climate change played a role. Quite often in the past it has been a politician who has answered that question, and it was completely independent of any scientific evidence.

    This research also allows us to make better planning decisions. When we know a drought is becoming more likely by a factor of 10 because of climate change, then we know we need to focus our adaptation efforts on that.


    The heat wave in the Arctic that’s ongoing. It has been made orders of magnitude more likely due to climate change.

    This article is reproduced with permission from Scientific American. It was first published on Jan. 2, 2017. Find the original story here.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    NewsHour shares web small logoIn our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.

    READ MORE: The rising opera star who traded layups for librettos

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Now we turn to our “NewsHour” Shares, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you as well.

    When J’Nai Bridges’ dream of playing professional sports suddenly fell apart, she focused intently on developing her singing voice. Now the mezzo-soprano is performing major roles for some of the world’s most renowned opera companies.

    She recently spoke with Claudia Escobar and Chloe Veltman of KQED in San Francisco.

    J’NAI BRIDGES: I fell in love with classical singing.

    And I like to say that opera chose me, because I didn’t grow up listening to it or going to the opera. My basketball career ended kind of dramatically, and it was the same time that I discovered singing. And it just opened up this whole new world.

    I was in high school, my last year in high school, and I had to take an elective, an arts elective. And so I chose to be in the choir. I joined the choir. And my choir teacher, she noticed that I had a gift.

    From having not grown up singing classically, I think most people would probably — just wouldn’t even give it a chance or a thought. But my parents did everything that they could for us, and one of them being that we just stay open to whatever life brings us.

    Channeling the different emotions of these characters is a lot like channeling emotions of myself.

    Practice. Practice, practice, practice, because there is a lot of luck, but when opportunity meets being prepared, that’s what luck is. I mean, you just have to be ready.

    Music is so healing. And I think it’s this universal language that, that even if you don’t understand the language, you don’t really have a background in music, everyone can identify with it.

    I love the fact that I have this gift to sing and touch people.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And that’s the “NewsHour” for tonight.

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    Dark office with many computers, one lit up

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    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We’re increasingly cataloging our lives online, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, seemingly endless YouTube videos. It’s a digital-first and often digital-only world.

    The advantages of this unlimited digital storage seem obvious, but how permanent are some of those records? How do we preserve digital history?

    Jeffrey Brown has the story, part of our ongoing series Culture at Risk.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, this is like an ancient temple come to life in a modern age.

    BREWSTER KAHLE, Founder, Internet Archive: In a modern day. It’s a Greek-style building, which we loved, because the whole idea is the Library of Alexandria reborn now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s an ancient idea: to gather and preserve the world’s knowledge. But now that library will look like this.

    These stacks of servers, Brewster Kahle told me recently, represent a 20-year and running effort to build a kind of digital library, and to essentially back up the ever-expanding World Wide Web.

    BREWSTER KAHLE: In one of these would be 100 years of a channel of television. Or this much is all of the words in the Library of Congress.

    We need to be able to preserve our digital history.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Kahle was an early Internet entrepreneur who in 1996 founded the Internet Archive, a nonprofit that operates out of an old Christian Science church in San Francisco.

    It was designed to address a fundamental flaw in the original creation of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989.

    BREWSTER KAHLE: The wonder of it is, it’s very, very simple. Anybody could go and set up a web server on their computer and make it available to the world.

    Unfortunately, it’s too simple. It’s fragile, that if something happens to that piece of equipment, that Web site just, blink, is gone.

    JEFFREY BROWN: If it’s online, it lives forever, right? Well, no.

    Kahle says the average lifespan of a Web page is just 92 days. Information is altered and deleted all the time for all kinds of reasons.

    A 2013 Harvard study, for example, found that half the hyperlinks in Supreme Court cases, today’s equivalent of footnotes, are broken, a phenomena known as link rot. Government agencies remove documents, and companies fail, and with them the sites they host. Think of GeoCities, Yahoo! Video, and, more recently, the news site Gawker.

    ABBY SMITH RUMSEY, Author, “When We Are No More”: People mistake the fact that the Internet is ubiquitous with the fact that it’s permanent.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Abby Smith Rumsey is the author of “When We Are No More: How Digital Memory Is Shaping Our Future.”

    She began her scholarly career studying how information was purposely deleted in the totalitarian Soviet system. These days, she thinks, we have a new kind of storage and retrieval problem.

    ABBY SMITH RUMSEY: It isn’t permanent at all. And, in fact, the thing about digital technology is, you can inscribe something onto a computer, but you can’t put it on a shelf and expect to pick it out at random at 50, let alone 500, years, and be able to read it.

    In fact, you won’t have the hardware or the software to do that. So, it’s very fragile, indeed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And while there might be plenty online not worth saving, Rumsey sees much higher stakes.

    ABBY SMITH RUMSEY: I think we’re losing obviously the past, but by saying that we’re losing the past, the record of the past, we’re saying that, in a sense, we’re losing our own memory and sense of who we are.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Brewster Kahle’s answer? The Wayback Machine, fancifully named for a feature on the old “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.”

    There, a genius dog named Mr. Peabody took his adopted boy, Sherman, back in time to better understand key historical events.

    MARK GRAHAM, Director, The Wayback Machine: We have been collecting captures of the public Web for the last 20 years.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Mark Graham, director of the new Wayback Machine, says it’s already saved more than 500 billion Web captures in its 20-year history.

    MARK GRAHAM: We have software that’s referred to as crawlers or spiders that go out and go to individual Web pages, look at those Web pages, look at all of the links on those pages and then go to those pages, look at all the links on those pages, and then goes to those pages, et cetera, et cetera. So, kind of like a spider crawling on the Web, the software goes out and discovers what’s available.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Users can then visit Web pages at different points in their history, seeing how they looked before they were altered or deleted.

    MARK GRAHAM: We’re a library, and so we don’t really try to like figure out what it is people may want. We just want to have as much as we can of what’s available, because we know that people are probably going to want these things.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Exactly what the archive saves is determined by popularity, the number of references or links to that page, and by some 1,000 librarians and experts around the globe working in concert with the Internet Archive.

    Case in point, in July 2014, Russian-backed rebels claimed to have shot down a military plane over Ukraine, until it became clear the jet was a passenger airliner, with 283 people killed.

    MARK GRAHAM: So, what we’re seeing here is a capture, actually one out of the 38 captures of a post made on a Russian social media site by a pro-Russian rebel who was boasting about shooting down a plane at the same time that MH-17 was shot down.

    And this was removed within a few hours after it was posted. And as far as we know, these are the only captures of this Web page that exist.

    JEFFREY BROWN: These kinds of pages have in some cases even been used as evidence in courts.

    The Internet Archive’s home is a strange world: several generations of media and technology, stained glass windows and church pews, and almost eerie rows of sculptures of the many people who’ve worked on the project. Its motto is universal access to all knowledge, and Kahle’s aspirations could hardly reach higher.

    BREWSTER KAHLE: The idea is to build the Library of Alexandria, version two. Could we make all the published works of humankind, books, music, video, Web pages, software, available to anybody who wanted to have access to them anywhere in the world?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Today, the project is digitizing films, books, video games, software, even round-the-clock television news channels.

    The original Library of Alexandria is thought to date to around 295 B.C. When and how it was destroyed is still much debated, but the loss of so much of the classical world’s greatest works is beyond debate.

    BREWSTER KAHLE: The best thing to learn from the Library of Alexandria, version one, is don’t just have one copy. If we had had another copy in India, or in China, we’d have the other works of Aristotle, the other plays of Euripides. But we don’t.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Not to mention so many other things that were just lost. We don’t even know what we don’t have.

    BREWSTER KAHLE: We don’t even know what they were. And they’re just — they’re — they’re gone. And some people think it’s — say it’s good to forget. And I’m sure there’s good things to forget, but there’s a lot that we should have remembered and kept alive.

    JEFFREY BROWN: There’s a lot more to be done.

    Kahle and his group are teaming with companies like Mozilla and Wikipedia to make preservation of Web pages more automatic. They’re also working on ways to make the Wayback Machine more easily searchable.

    And, of course, copyright reform remains an important ongoing question in any attempt to create a true global library. Twenty years in, Kahle is impatient.

    BREWSTER KAHLE: Why aren’t all of the books in all of the libraries already digital?

    JEFFREY BROWN: And why aren’t they?

    BREWSTER KAHLE: I think it’s that institutions don’t know what roles they’re supposed to play going forward. They knew what it was when they were supposed to buy books and put them on shelves, but now, do they do their own digital services? Do they wait for somebody else to do it and subscribe to it?

    I’m hoping that, by at least 2020, all right, so in three, four years from now, we’re not talking about, wouldn’t it be great to build a complete digital library of the Library of Congress online? We say, OK, that’s done. Now what do we do? How do we go and make the next better services? How do we make a global brain? How to we go and make it so that Nobel scientists are using these vast resources to go and make new discoveries?

    I think we only have pieces now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Billions of pieces, with billions more being collected all the time.

    From San Francisco, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the “PBS NewsHour.”

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    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The discovery of mass graves or other evidence of war crimes poses several challenges, chief among them, bringing the alleged war criminals to court.

    According to former United States Justice Department official Allan Ryan, the recent introduction of what’s known as universal jurisdiction has made it easier to prosecute these suspected war criminals.

    ALLAN RYAN, Former Attorney, U.S. Justice Department: Universal jurisdiction is not a universal concept yet. It allows trials to be held where otherwise they might not be.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In France, universal jurisdiction has made it possible for a husband and wife to pursue alleged war criminals behind the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

    Special correspondent Jonathan Silvers has that story.

    JONATHAN SILVERS: For the past 15 years, Dafroza Gauthier has risen at first light to probe the Rwandan genocide and track down fugitive perpetrators, notably the slaughter’s architects and executioners.

    Gauthier was born and raised in Rwanda and, until recently, worked in the chemical industry. But she has become a formidable war crimes investigator, by necessity.

    DAFROZA GATHER, Rwandan Genocide Investigator (through translator): We began by collecting information and testimony from our close friends and families. But the more we heard their stories, the more we knew that something had to be done.

    JONATHAN SILVERS: Dafroza Gauthier has only one memento of her family, this photo of her mother, who was murdered along with scores of relatives in the spring of 1994. Gauthier was living in Belgium when the genocide began, and she learned about her family members’ demise in real time, via a series of phone calls to her native village in Rwanda.

    The violence was rooted in longstanding ethnic division between the governing Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority. In the space of 100 days, roughly 800,000 men, women, and children were killed, mostly ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutus.

    DAFROZA GAUTHIER (through translator): One day, people should ask the question why the world abandoned the Tutsis in Rwanda. There are nation, states, politicians who should ask forgiveness of the Rwandan people.

    JONATHAN SILVERS: To date, Gauthier and her associates have tracked down roughly 30 fugitive perpetrators of the genocide in France and its territories. The dossiers on these perpetrators, known here in France as genocidaires, grow larger by the week.

    DAFROZA GAUTHIER (through translator): One case can take two, three or four years by the time we collect the evidence. But what has to be denounced today is why is the public prosecutor is not investigating. Why is the public prosecutor waiting for civil plaintiffs like us to find the evidence? The public prosecutor should do its job of justice. It shouldn’t be our job.

    JONATHAN SILVERS: The investigative work is a partnership, consecrated by 37 years of marriage.

    Alain Gauthier met Dafroza in Rwanda, where Alain taught French in a foreign aid program. A native Frenchman and retired high school principal, he’s learned to navigate the bureaucracy that is the French legal system. Together, he and wife established an organization, the Civil Parties Collective for Rwanda, to secure legal status as plaintiffs in civil suits.

    ALAIN GAUTHIER, Rwandan Genocide Investigator (through translator): We were forced to investigate ourselves, because the public prosecutor never pressed charges. All the cases concerning the murder of Tutsis in Rwanda came solely through the will of the plaintiffs.

    JONATHAN SILVERS: After years of legal wrangling, a senior figure in the Rwandan genocide faced French justice for the first time in February 2014.

    The Gauthiers have filed a civil action that led the justice ministry to prosecute the defendant, Pascal Simbikangwa. Simbikangwa held a senior position in the Rwandan state security service in the 1990s. Despite being paralyzed from the waste down during the genocide, he helped arm the Hutu militia and organized roadblocks where thousands of fleeing Tutsi were murdered.

    The Gauthiers found him living under an assumed name in the French territory of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean. He’d fled there after the genocide and survived by forging identity documents. French authorities arrested him in 2008.

    ALAIN GAUTHIER (through translator): In some cases, we had to travel three, four or five times to Rwanda to take as much testimony as possible. Then, all that testimony had to be translated. The testimony has to be organized and given to our lawyers to draft a complaint.

    Every case requires a large amount of work. That’s hard for plaintiffs like us, who are not trained for this type of work.

    JONATHAN SILVERS: The Gauthiers’ pursuit of fugitive perpetrators has forced France to examine its conduct both during and after the genocide. France had close relations with the Hutu-led regime that carried out the slaughter. In the aftermath, Rwanda’s post-genocide government has accused France of complicity, obstructing the escape of Hutu killers, and harboring fugitives.

    Most recently, the European Human Rights Court condemned France for excessive delays in investigating suspected genocidaires. Preliminary investigations against one suspect took nine years to reach court.

    These chronic delays outraged Rwandan survivors in France, like Marcel Kabanda, a historian specializing in genocide studies.

    MARCEL KABANDA, Genocide Historian (through translator): For 20 years, we asked ourselves if France wasn’t becoming a paradise for Rwandan war criminals. France must not be the country that gives impunity to the killers behind the genocide.

    JONATHAN SILVERS: The effort to bring Rwanda genocidaires to justice was bolstered in 2010 by a modification to the French penal code permitting the prosecution of major crimes committed outside France.

    This type of prosecution is better known as universal jurisdiction, according to Allan Ryan, the U.S. government’s former chief war crimes prosecutor.

    ALLAN RYAN: Universal jurisdiction is a concept and in some countries a law that says, this country will have jurisdiction over genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, no matter where in the world they might have taken place, no matter where in the world or in the world they might have involved.

    It’s a departure from what international jurisdiction has been from the beginning of the international system 350 years ago that says there has to be some connection between the country and the trial, the victims have to be your citizens, or the venue of the trial has to be where the crime took place, or in some way there has to be a tie between the country and the crime.

    JONATHAN SILVERS: Pascal Simbikangwa was the first Rwandan prosecuted for genocide in France under the new universal jurisdiction law.

    The landmark trial attracted legions of survivors and their supporters. Throughout the trial and appellate process, the defendant maintained his innocence.

    As the defendant’s public advocate, Fabrice Epstein crafted a defense based on reasonable doubt, emphasizing the 20-year interval between the alleged crime and the French trial.

    FABRICE EPSTEIN, Public Advocate: This is, for me, an act of courage to say that I believe this person. I believe that, when there’s a genocide, there could be innocent people. This one is, so I will defend him.

    JONATHAN SILVERS: The case has particular significance for Epstein. He’s Jewish and the grandson of a Holocaust survivor.

    FABRICE EPSTEIN: I spoke with the client about my origins, about my family, of course. And he knows that it’s really important for me that he doesn’t lie, because, when we’re talking about genocide, it’s something really deep. It reminds me what my people went through.

    JONATHAN SILVERS: The first trial ended in 2014 with Simbikangwa’s conviction for genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity.

    The appellate court upheld the conviction. Simbikangwa will now serve a 25-year prison sentence. Following the Simbikangwa trial, two more Rwandan fugitives located by the Gauthiers have been prosecuted in France. Both were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

    These legal victories have energized the Gauthiers. They now devote all of their time to tracking down fugitive genocidaires and filing new cases with the court system. A small amount of funding provided by the state and their supporters has proven inadequate, and they have depleted their own savings to continue this work.

    DAFROZA GAUTHIER (through translator): Is justice possible? Yes. But, like mankind, it’s not perfect. We accept it so we can continue our work for everyone, for future generations, for victims, and even for the executioners.

    JONATHAN SILVERS: Reporting from France, this is Jonathan Silvers for the “PBS NewsHour.”

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Jonathan Silvers is the producer and director of “Dead Reckoning,” a PBS documentary series on postwar justice that’s premiering on March 28.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the National Park Service at Yosemite National Park, California, U.S., June 18, 2016.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTX2GYBQ

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    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But, first, we begin our series on the legacy of President Obama’s time in office.

    Our series is called The Obama Years. And over the next two weeks, we will examine the successes, review his administration’s failures, and highlight the battles that will continue during president-elect Trump’s tenure.

    Tonight, we start with President Obama’s legacy on conservation.

    In his eight years in office, President Obama has permanently banned oil and gas drilling on hundreds of millions of acres of federally owned land in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. He’s canceled oil and gas leases on land owned by the Blackfeet Nation in Montana. He’s also used his executive power 29 times to create new national monuments, protecting more than 553 million acres of water and land. That’s more than the last 18 presidents combined.

    In August, he more than quadrupled the existing marine national monument in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, creating the largest protected area on Earth.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Nature is actually resilient, if we take care to just stop actively destroying it.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Last week, the president set aside two new national monuments, Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada.

    Environmentalists and Native American groups love the move, but critics have called it an egregious and arrogant federal land grab. With a new Republican Congress and administration coming in just a few weeks, there are questions about whether these efforts might be rolled back.

    Last week, I talked with The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin about Obama’s legacy. And I began by asking her about the significance of these two most recent monuments.

    JULIET EILPERIN, The Washington Post: They’re both, for slightly different reasons.

    Gold Butte is an area. It’s roughly 300,000 acres, just about an hour’s drive from Las Vegas. And it’s got incredible petrified sand dunes, rock art. It’s a very important habitat for the imperiled desert tortoise.

    And while it’s this area where people go to hike and enjoy, it’s also right at the heart of where Cliven Bundy and his family live. This is a family that’s been at odds with the federal government for years.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This is the family that was involved in the standoff in 2014 in Nevada and then the other in Oregon.

    JULIET EILPERIN: Exactly, and then also the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

    And so they have failed to recognize federal authority for over — well over a decade. They have been illegally grazing there. And so their property is right adjacent to this area that was declared a national monument. So it’s quite an interesting area for that reason.

    Bears Ears, in southeastern Utah, which is a larger parcel of land we’re talking about, 1.35 million acres, is an incredibly important ancestral Pueblo site. And so…

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: A Native American site.

    JULIET EILPERIN: So, it’s a Native American site where there are many tribes, some of whom live near there and some of whom have actually moved to other areas, who consider it an incredibly important and significant place.

    People still go there to collect firewood and collect herbs for ceremonies. They see it — it has been a literal refuge over the years, as well as obviously kind of a spiritual refuge. And so that’s very important.

    But there are real divisions there. While a lot of people think it should be protected, there are real questions about, again, the role of the federal government.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, these both are considered two of the more controversial of Obama’s designations, right?

    JULIET EILPERIN: Absolutely.

    Essentially, he spent many years doing ones that — where there was broad consensus on the ground, where there was very little controversy. And we have seen, as he gets towards the end of his term, he’s been making slightly riskier designations.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: With regards to the criticism, particularly in Utah, there was a lot of blowback there. Orrin Hatch, both of the senators, it seems like every elected official in Utah was against this.


    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: What about the criticisms that they have? What are they arguing that Obama shouldn’t have done?

    JULIET EILPERIN: What they were arguing wasn’t that this area didn’t deserve protection, but that they felt that the president shouldn’t do it unilaterally.

    Lawmakers there had been working for over three years to draft legislation that would have included that area, as with well as six other counties, where they were trying to do a mix of development and protection, give some lands to the state that they could use, some lands would go to the federal government.

    And so they were looking for a broader land compromise. That bill stalled in the House and didn’t pass, and that’s why the White House argued it had the right to, at this point, move on its own.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: President Obama used this fairly old act, the Antiquities Act, to designate these. Are these on pretty good legal footing going forward?


    One of the things that’s really interesting about this act that dates back to 1906 is that it’s fairly broadly worded and that you have had presidents from both parties use it frequently and to protect areas. And when — usually, it has stood up to challenges in court, that basically the presidents are given broad latitude to exercise the authority.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, is there any sense, though, that if the Trump administration comes in — and there’s a lot of very pro-drilling interests in the potential Cabinet of the Trump administration — is there any way that they could carve these back?

    JULIET EILPERIN: They could.

    So, one thing that would be very straightforward, where there is really no legal controversy, is that Congress could pass a bill reversing these moves. And if the president signed it, that would effectively end — kill off the monuments. So, that could be done.

    What Republicans are asking President Trump to do is do it on his own. That has never been done. Presidents have on occasion altered the boundaries. In one case, Woodrow Wilson cut a monument that Teddy Roosevelt created in half. But there is kind of no court precedent for what would happen if a president on his own reversed it.

    There is a legal opinion dating to 1938 which says the president can’t do it, but that’s not been tested in court.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: More broadly, how do you see these particular designations fitting into Obama’s overall conservation legacy?

    JULIET EILPERIN: I think they are very interesting and significant for a couple of reasons.

    The first is that the president has tried to broaden the definition of what is American history and what is our heritage. And so he really has focused on recognizing areas that, for example, recognize everything from black history, to LGBT history, women’s history, and Native American history.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In designating national parks?

    JULIET EILPERIN: Yes, and highlighting it as part of the Park Service.

    And these two are a mix, but, primarily, they’re a land management land, but basically trying to say, this is all of our history and this is part of what it means to be American.

    So, in many ways, that’s what’s most important. In other senses, it does connect to his more — his legacy, because he’s talked about climate change. When they were describing this monument, White House officials talked about, this will create resiliency to climate impacts, corridors for wildlife.

    So, there are other reasons why it matters. And he’s really come to focus more on public lands and public waters in his second term. While he’s done climate change from the beginning, this was not as much of a priority in his first term.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I know that not all conservationists think that Obama gets an A-plus. How do you think his legacy is going to be measured by history?


    Of course, on one level, we certainly do need to see whether things get reversed over time. And that applies whether you’re talking about some of his climate policies regarding power plants, or whether you’re talking about this.

    I think there is no question that he is one of the most consequential presidents when it comes to the environment. He has really made it a centerpiece of his domestic policy and even his foreign policy.

    And so I think that, when people look back, they will see that he really focused on this intently, particularly as he saw his term coming to a close.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: There is only a couple more weeks left. Do you think he’s done designating lands?

    JULIET EILPERIN: I don’t think he’s done yet.

    There are a few different ones they’re looking at. They’re looking at expanding a couple existing monuments that were created earlier, including the California Coastal National Monument, as well as the Cascade-Siskiyou Monument in Oregon.

    And there are certainly, if I had to lay bets there, a couple of historic monuments they’re looking at, including one that would highlight civil rights history in — two in Alabama that would speak to that. There’s also a long-shot one in South Carolina addressing Reconstruction.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post, thank you so much.

    JULIET EILPERIN: Thanks so much, William.

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    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The new Congress starts work this week, and Republicans will have majorities in the House and Senate. And very soon they will have a Republican president as well.

    So, what’s high on the GOP’s agenda?

    It’s Politics Monday. And I’m joined, as always, by Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR. And this week, they are also joined by our very own Lisa Desjardins.

    Happy new year. Welcome to you all.

    AMY WALTER: Happy new year.

    TAMARA KEITH: Happy new year.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Glad to be here.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Lisa, I want to start with you. You were just up on the Hill.

    What is high on the GOP’s list?

    LISA DESJARDINS: I could go into a lot of details, but essentially dismantling the eight years of the Obama presidency.

    And they’re going to start right away with actions that lead toward the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. It’s complicated. In the end, it’s going to be a three-step process, but they are going to start with the process this week with votes Tuesday, Wednesday.

    They’re also going to try and set up a process where they can start immediately rolling back some Obama regulations. Think about the environment in particular. And then there is going to be potentially a drawn-out fight over some of these Cabinet nominees.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Let’s talk about the ACA there in particular.

    How is that going to look?

    AMY WALTER: Well, that’s really — we all are going, well, nobody quite knows. Even Republicans don’t quite know.

    Ever since the Obamacare passed, Republicans have campaigned on dismantling it. And yet here we are, with a Republican Congress about to come in, a Republican president about to come in. They have a dismantling plan, but not a how to replace it plan.

    And that is…


    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: They have got the repeal part down.

    AMY WALTER: The repeal part, not the replace part down, which is where all of the real action, when Lisa talks about how complicated it is, the replacing it.

    I will tell you, just in talking with voters, even post-election, and I’m sure you saw this too during campaign, the frustration that voters have about Obamacare, especially in the last week before the election, when notices went out that their premiums were rising, is cost, very simply.

    And I think, for Republicans, the danger is that, at the end of the day, if they repeal this and do not replace it with something that helps to bring costs down, that they are then going to get blamed for not fixing something that they also didn’t feel particularly good about what Obama did to it.


    TAMARA KEITH: And something like 43 percent of Americans actually support the Affordable Care Act. Now, that’s obviously not a majority of Americans, but that’s 43 percent of people who you really don’t want to upset.

    Also, there are something like 20 million people who have gotten health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act. There are people who have gotten expanded Medicaid, even in Republican states. And you have seen some Republican senators say things like, well, we don’t want — let’s not rush to do that just yet. You know, we need to find something for these people who’ve gotten health coverage who didn’t have it.

    So, the most unpopular parts of Obamacare also come with popular parts of the law that aren’t necessarily advertised as part of the Affordable Care Act or things that people realize are part of it. And repeal gets rid of all those things, which is why there is a lot of fuzziness about replace or like whether they would phase in the repeal.

    And maybe even — I have seen the idea that it could be pushed as far back as past the next presidential election.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, they would repeal it perhaps this week on paper…

    TAMARA KEITH: On a delay.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: … but then push off the actual replace part.

    LISA DESJARDINS: It’s even more complicated than that, thank goodness.


    LISA DESJARDINS: The repeal probably will be at the end of the month.

    There are three steps. But we don’t even need to get into that. The problem is they have — in this whole conversation — I’m sure our viewers are picking up on it — a space-time continuum problem with how they do this, because there are people who want the repeal to happen right away.

    The truth is, a system like this Obamacare or any health care system takes a lot of time, and there are many Republicans who want to say, we want to take our time figuring out the replacement. There are many other Republicans who say, no, we have to do it in this first year for a couple of reasons.

    One is the pressure on them. Second is, they know, the first year of the new president is one of the only times in recent history that you can get anything done.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, let’s move on to Trump’s nominees. He’s put forward almost all of his nominees for Cabinet positions.

    The Democrats are obviously going to have to pick which fights they want to have here. Who do you think? Who are you likely to see stand out as a place where the Democrats try to hold their ground?

    AMY WALTER: Well, they are going to pick on pretty much everybody, it looks like, at this point, with the Democratic leadership saying, we’re going to picking eight people and we’re going to spend all of our time and energy poking at them.

    Look, they don’t have the votes to deny his Cabinet picks. What they can do is try to slow-walk the process, make it painful. The question is, is there some sort of backlash to that? Is the American public going to be interested in seeing a food-fight on Capitol Hill, when they said what we voted for was to see the American public — or to see Congress move ahead?

    The American public is tired of watching the dysfunction in Washington. At the same time, you have got a bunch of Democrats who no longer have any leadership position. Right? They don’t control the House or Congress.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: They’re in the wilderness.

    AMY WALTER: Right. They’re totally in the wilderness without an obvious leader. They need to have something to cling to and to give to their base to fire them up and keep them motivated.


    TAMARA KEITH: These fights could definitely — they could be very good for the base. They could make the base feel good.

    You have somebody like a Steven Mnuchin for Treasury, who headed a bank, helped take over a bank that had failed, and that bank ultimately foreclosed on thousands of homes. Lots of banks were foreclosing on thousands of people’s homes.


    TAMARA KEITH: But you have the potential for Senate Democrats to bring out people who lost their homes because of that bank that he headed.

    They can make it very painful. They can — they can use this — Democrats can use this to try to poke some holes in the idea of a Donald Trump as populist. That’s why also they are particularly interested in these very, very wealthy people that Trump has nominated for positions like Commerce.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: His Cabinet of billionaires.


    LISA DESJARDINS: And, William, the Democrats are pushing especially hard to try and get tax returns for all of these nominees. They are probably not going to get them.

    That’s not a requirement. And it wasn’t required of the Obama nominees, Republicans like to point out. So Democrats are holding these nominees to a higher standard than the Obama nominees, they say, but these are billionaires. They have complicated financial dealings.

    Rex Tillerson, nominee for secretary of state, we want to know his exact relationship with Russia. The question is, like Amy is saying, how much do you — how much do they go out there — how many of these battles do they pick? What do they lose with the public as a new president with sort of a wind at his back is coming in by choosing right now eight of these battles?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But you don’t think really that no one is going to get derailed?

    LISA DESJARDINS: No, it doesn’t sound like it.

    Tom Price, the HHS nominee and current member of Congress, is someone to watch, because The Wall Street Journal and others have reported that he invested in health care stocks while he was writing health care law. That’s something to watch. But other than that…

    AMY WALTER: But I think that Lisa raises a really good point, which is, there is always something that is unexpected, surprises, if we can recall 1992 and the so-called nanny problem that…


    TAMARA KEITH: There was an outbreak of nanny problems.

    AMY WALTER: There were outbreaks of nanny problems.

    And remember this was a president-elect who wasn’t necessarily expecting to win, and people around him not necessarily expecting it. A lot of these people have been moved very quickly through this process. Maybe not a whole lot of vetting had been done early enough, and when the vetting comes out in public, it is a lot messier.

    LISA DESJARDINS: It’s a question.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: One of the things that Trump talked about soon after the election was he wanted to put forward a big infrastructure spending plan.

    And President Obama tried the same thing right after he was elected, and the GOP had no appetite for it at the time.

    Do you think, Tam, that there is going to be a change of heart now, now that it’s Trump in the driver’s seat and he wants to spend a lot of money? Are they interested?

    TAMARA KEITH: Not necessarily.

    Just because Donald Trump campaigned on it doesn’t mean that he’s going to get open arms from Congress. And even Mitch McConnell has said, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. You know, this is not a front-burner issue for a lot of Republicans in Congress. It’s sort of a back burner.

    And so it’s not the thing that is going to be pushed through quickly, because it is big government spending. And, you know, there is an argument that could be made that the stimulus that President Obama pushed through was very large, very hard to communicate to the public. A lot of people didn’t understand it, thought their taxes were going up, when they were actually being cut, and that that was an albatross around him that lasted throughout his presidency, that even though it actually created jobs, it ultimately set up the Republicans to sort of be oppositional from the beginning, that maybe he overreached.

    And so there is not a lot of appetite.

    LISA DESJARDINS: A quick note on that, something I’m watching for, is I wonder, because what is front burner for Republicans in Congress is they have been — it’s almost like the turkey has been on the table and they just couldn’t carve it for years — is tax reform.

    AMY WALTER: Yes.

    LISA DESJARDINS: They have felt so close to tax reform, and it just hasn’t happened. They think it can happen.

    They are dying to do it. And there’s a possibility that perhaps we see some sort of tax credit incentive that helps build infrastructure, rather than a classic stimulus plan, at least to start. We will watch.

    AMY WALTER: And think back to where President Obama was at this point when he was coming in, a lot of expectations about what he was able to do.

    Eight years later, really, you look back, to Lisa’s point, he was able to get most of it done, almost — any of it done in his first two years. And even then, he spent the last four years defending it.

    Trying to push through more than one or two things is really, really difficult. They will be lucky if they get — and I think the priority, from what I’m hearing from folks on the Hill, is pretty much simple. It’s taxes and it’s Obamacare.

    What will be interesting, what we’re not hearing about is something that Donald Trump talked a lot about, whether it’s infrastructure or building that wall. Those are two things that you’re not hearing about in Congress.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Tam, Amy, Lisa, thank you all very much for being here.

    TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

    The post How the GOP plans to begin dismantling Obama’s legacy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A woman reacts outside the Reina nightclub by the Bosphorus, which was attacked by a gunman, in Istanbul, Turkey, January 2, 2017.     REUTERS/Yagiz Karahan  - RTX2X7YJ

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    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We return now to Turkey and this weekend’s deadly attack in Istanbul.

    What’s behind that terror incident and the string of terror attacks in Turkey that have taken place over there over the past year?

    We drill down on this with Bulent Aliriza. He directs the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


    ISIS has claimed responsibility for this latest attack on New Year’s Eve. Do you think the evidence will point that they’re in fact the perpetrators?

    BULENT ALIRIZA, Center for Strategic and International Studies: Well, we do have a statement by ISIS that, in fact, it was responsible for this outrage in Istanbul.

    It’s actually the first time that ISIS has claimed responsibility for terrorist acts in Turkey, although a number of acts of terrorism have been attributed to ISIS.

    The method of operation by the gunman — apparently, it was a single gunman involved — very much suggests that this was ISIS. And, as I said, there is a statement by ISIS that it did it.

    And, also, it’s important to note that, back on November 2, soon after the assault on Mosul began, Baghdadi, the leaders of ISIS, made a statement, part of which was devoted to Turkey, in which he asked his followers to move against Turkey because Turkey had become, as he called it, an apostate state and, therefore, attacks against Turkey were warranted.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Turkey has obviously been suffering attacks not just from ISIS, but also from Kurdish militant groups.

    For those people who haven’t been following this closely, can you explain this sort of two-front attack on Turkey?

    BULENT ALIRIZA: Well, it’s exactly as you put it, a two-front attack on Turkey.

    Turkey has been grappling with Kurdish separatist terrorism all the way back to 1984. There have been efforts to actually solve the problem, the Kurdish problem within Turkey. But they essentially collapsed in the middle of 2015.

    Since then, Turkey has been reengaged in fighting against the PKK, which is the Kurdish separatist terrorist organization. More recently, it’s been challenged by ISIS. Now, either of these challenges would be daunting for any state around the world. The scourge of terrorism bedevils the entire world.

    But for a country to have to fight two very potent terrorist organizations within its borders, within its capital city, within its most important city, Istanbul, the way that it’s been forced to during the past 15, 18 months, is frankly very, very difficult.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: How has Erdogan been responding to these attacks thus far?

    BULENT ALIRIZA: Well, he and his ministers have been saying that the security forces will eventually defeat terrorism.

    Now, that’s a daunting task, as I said, for any state around the world. Even the U.S. has not actually — with all the effort that is made to deal with terrorism, not got to the position where it says the terrorist threat to the U.S. is over.

    Now, in Turkey’s case, the fact that it’s to the north of two ongoing wars, in Syria and Iraq, where some of the terrorists who are actually also intent on harming Turkey are active makes it so much more difficult for Turkey to try to solve the problem within its borders, given the fact, as I said, that it comes from without.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, Erdogan is also, as we speak right now, going through this very lengthy purge of officers up and down the government that he argues were involved in this recent coup attempt. How does that complicate their fight against terrorism within their own borders?

    BULENT ALIRIZA: Well, it complicates it immensely, because dealing with these two threats was difficult enough, and then we had a failed coup attempt on July 15.

    The government has moved against the followers of Fethullah Gulen that it alleges were involved in this.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This is the religious figure who is here in the U.S. that Erdogan argues was behind the coup.

    BULENT ALIRIZA: And the Turkish government has asked for his extradition, and that has not happened so far.

    It’s one of the reasons why there is tension between Ankara and Washington currently. Now, there has been a purge. The attention of the government has been directed at rooting out of the system those it believes to be involved or are somehow implicated or are sympathetic to the coup.

    And parallel to that, you have the twin threats, the unprecedented twin threats from ISIS and the PKK, and that is taxing the capabilities of the Turkish state.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Syria is also involved in these — I’m sorry — Turkey is also involved in some of the cease-fire that has been going on in Syria.

    Is there any sense that you have that, if things were to calm down there and the cease-fire were to really hold, that that might ease some of the pressure on Turkey?

    BULENT ALIRIZA: Well, it could, but the Turkish position, which is now coordinated with Russia, is predicated on Turkey’s ability to persuade the opposition fighters, many of whom Turkey has been backing for the past five years, to essentially lay down their guns and to accept Bashar al-Assad as — at least for the foreseeable future, as the president of Syria.

    And that clearly is going to be difficult for some of the opposition groups to accept. And the ability of Turkey and Russia to actually hold the cease-fire and bring lasting peace to Syria is something that I have grave doubts about.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Lastly, very quickly, we obviously have a new administration coming in. Do you think the Trump administration, this will change the calculus for him?

    BULENT ALIRIZA: Well, inevitably, there will be a different emphasis once the president-elect takes office.

    There has been growing tension between President Erdogan and President Obama. The U.S.-Turkish relationship has been going through a very difficult period. Clearly, there are hopes in Ankara that it will be easier with a new administration. But it’s unclear exactly which way the new administration is going to go with Turkey or with the Middle East or, frankly, with the rest of the world.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Bulent Aliriza, thank you very much for being here.

    BULENT ALIRIZA: Thank you.

    The post Turkey faces daunting two-front terror threat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    People look at a burned vehicle at the site of car bomb attack in a busy square at Baghdad's sprawling Sadr City district, in Iraq January 2, 2017. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad - RTX2X7UQ

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    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In the day’s other news: The new year is off to a deadly start in Iraq. A suicide bomber detonated a truck bomb today at a busy Baghdad market, killing at least 36 people. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility. The bomber pretended to be looking to hire day laborers and then set off the explosion. In addition to the dead, 52 people were wounded.

    Later, appearing with the visiting president of France, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi vowed to beat ISIS.

    HAIDER AL-ABADI, Prime Minister, Iraq (through translator): I ask the security forces and the Iraqi people to be alert. The terrorists are again attacking civilians. I promise the Iraqi people and the French president and all the countries suffering attacks by the Islamic State group that we are fighting to finish them.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This was the third attack claimed by ISIS in as many days in and around Baghdad. Sixty miles to the north, in Samarra, gunmen wearing suicide vests attacked police stations late today, killing at least seven officers.

    In Brazil, a riot at a prison left at least 60 inmates dead. There were chaotic scenes outside the prison in northern Amazonas state as the killings erupted inside. Authorities said several of the inmates were beheaded or dismembered. Others escaped. Officials blamed a fight between members of two crime gangs for the attacks.

    Back in this country, 2016 ended as one of the most violent years ever in Chicago. The city saw 762 homicides, the most in two decades. That’s more than New York and Los Angeles combined. And there were 1,100 more shooting incidents in 2016 than the year before.

    President-elect Trump tweeted his reaction to these numbers, saying: “If mayor can’t do it, he must ask for federal help.”

    In another series of tweets, the president-elect also dismissed those who questioned whether he’d win last fall. Trump said he thought he’d easily get more than the 270 electoral votes needed. He ended up with 304. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million.

    Also today, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer played down findings about Russian hacking. He told FOX News — quote — “There is zero evidence that they influenced the election.”

    The post News Wrap: ISIS claims responsibility for Baghdad suicide bombing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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