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

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    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) holds a sheet of insurance premium statistics during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) holds a sheet of insurance premium statistics during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that Republicans would slash federal dollars for Planned Parenthood as part of the GOP effort to repeal the health care law.

    Ryan spoke a day after a special House panel issued a report criticizing the organization, which provides birth control, abortions and various women’s health services, for its practices regarding providing tissue from aborted fetuses to researchers. The Wisconsin lawmaker’s comments, while expected, were the first official word that repeal legislation would also renew the congressional assault on the group.

    “The Planned Parenthood legislation would be in our (repeal) bill,” Ryan said.

    Last year’s Obamacare repeal measure also contained the effort to defund the group, which receives government reimbursements from the Medicaid program for non-abortion health services to low-income women. It also receives reimbursements for contraception services from a different government account.

    The defunding measure would take away roughly $400 million in Medicaid money from the group in the year after enactment, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, and would result in roughly 400,000 women losing access to care. One factor is that being enrolled in Medicaid doesn’t guarantee access to a doctor, so women denied Medicaid services from Planned Parenthood may not be able to find replacement care.

    “Defunding Planned Parenthood is dangerous to people’s health, it’s unpopular, and it would leave people across the country without care,” said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. “They cannot afford to have basic reproductive health care attacked. Planned Parenthood has been here for 100 years and we’re going to be here for 100 more.”

    President-elect Donald Trump sent mixed signals during the campaign about the 100-year-old organization. He said “millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood,” but he also endorsed efforts to defund the group. Trump once described himself as “very pro-choice,” but now opposes abortion rights.

    Cutting off Planned Parenthood from taxpayer money is a long-sought dream of social conservatives, but it’s a loser in the minds of some GOP strategists. Planned Parenthood is loathed by anti-abortion activists who are the backbone of the GOP coalition. Polls, however, show that the group is favorably viewed by a sizable majority of Americans — 59 percent in a Gallup survey last year, including more than one-third of Republicans.

    The defunding effort could also complicate Obamacare repeal in the Senate, where at least one GOP member — Susan Collins of Maine — cited the defunding language in opposing the repeal effort in late 2015. Last year’s elections thinned Republican ranks in the Senate to 52, so only a handful of GOP defections are possible if the repeal measure is going to pass.

    [Watch Video]

    At the Capitol, President Obama met privately with Democrats, urging them to defend his signature health care law. At the same time, a few floors up, Vice President-elect Pence rallied Republicans to dismantle Obamacare. Lisa Desjardins reports on what we know so far about the Republican plan for repeal.

    Asked Wednesday about party efforts to tie the effort to defund Planned Parenthood to Obamacare repeal, Collins said, “that’s of concern to me as well, but I don’t want to prejudge what’s in the … bill.”

    Most GOP lawmakers have long opposed Planned Parenthood because many of its clinics provide abortions. Their antagonism intensified after anti-abortion activists released secretly recorded videos in 2015 showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing how they sometimes provide fetal tissue to researchers, which is legal if no profit is made.

    The House GOP report issued Wednesday accused the group of violating federal laws by altering abortion procedures to obtain fetal tissue, disclosing patients’ private information to firms that procure the tissue and “a general disinterest in clinical integrity.”

    Planned Parenthood has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and did so again Wednesday. The group has strong support from Capitol Hill Democrats.

    A supporter of the defunding effort said it may not have much of an effect on the number of abortions performed in the country, but that federal dollars to Planned Parenthood indirectly support abortion.

    “A lot of the ongoing support in the structural finances for Planned Parenthood goes to build the buildings, the infrastructure that provides abortion,” said Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.

    WATCH: Obama, Pence huddle with their parties on the fate of health care

    The post Ryan: GOP to ‘defund’ Planned Parenthood in Obamacare repeal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) stops to speak to the media after a meeting at Trump Tower with President-elect Donald Trump in New York. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    Former Illinois Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) stops to speak to the media after a meeting at Trump Tower with President-elect Donald Trump in New York. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump has selected former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats to lead the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, a role that would thrust him into the center of the intelligence community Trump has publicly challenged, a person with knowledge of the decision said Thursday.

    Coats served as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee before retiring from Congress last year. If confirmed by the Senate, he would oversee an agency created after 9/11 to improve coordination of U.S. spy and law enforcement agencies.

    The person with knowledge of Trump’s decision was not authorized to discuss the pick publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Since winning the election, Trump has questioned intelligence officials’ assessments that Russia interfered with the election on his behalf. On Friday, senior intelligence officials will brief Trump on the findings of a full report into the Russian hacking of Democratic groups. The report was ordered by President Barack Obama, who was briefed on the conclusions Thursday.

    Against that backdrop, Trump has been considering ways to restructure intelligence agencies to streamline operations and improve efficiency. Transition officials have been looking at changes at both ODNI and the CIA, but those plans are said not to be aimed at gutting the intelligence agencies or hampering their capabilities.

    The discussions are also independent of Trump’s public challenge to the intelligence community’s Russia assessment, the person said with knowledge of Trump’s transition decisions said. The Wall Street Journal first reported Wednesday night that Trump was looking at ways to streamline the intelligence agencies.

    Trump transition spokesman Sean Spicer denied Thursday that Trump was considering “restructuring the intelligence community infrastructure.”

    “There is no truth to this idea of restructuring the intelligence community infrastructure. It is 100 percent false,” Spicer said.

    Trump’s administration wouldn’t be the first to initiate an intelligence community reorganization.

    A few years ago, CIA Director John Brennan ordered sweeping changes to the CIA to make its leaders more accountable and close intelligence gaps amid concern about the agency’s limited insights into a series of major global developments.

    The aim was to break down barriers between the CIA’s operations and analytical arms. Historically, case officers who recruit spies and run covert operations have sometimes worked for different bosses in different offices than the analysts who interpret the intelligence and write briefing papers for U.S. officials.

    The CIA declined to comment on the potential changes, while outgoing National Intelligence Director James Clapper told a Senate panel Thursday that his office has not been engaged in such discussions with the Trump transition team. He noted that lawmakers created his office.

    “Congress, I think, gets a vote here,” said Clapper, who was testifying on Russia’s election interference.

    Intelligence agencies have concluded that there is no question that Russia was behind hacking of political computer systems — something they say could only have occurred with the approval of top Kremlin officials. That conclusion is detailed in the classified report Obama ordered up on Russia and other foreign influence in U.S. elections dating back to 2008.

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

    The post AP source: Trump selects former Sen. Dan Coats as director of national intelligence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo by Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from “Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations,” by Dan Ariely. For more on the topic, tune in to tonight’s Making Sen$e report, which airs every Thursday on the PBS NewsHour.


    A few summers ago, I was having dinner with a few old friends when my cellphone rang. A woman I didn’t know told me that she got my phone number from a mutual acquaintance. She asked me to stop by the local hospital as soon as I could. This woman had read about a trauma that affected me as a teenager and thought I’d be able to offer some helpful advice to her best friend, someone I’ll call “Alice.” I deeply dislike hospitals for reasons that will soon become clear, but my motivation to help was stronger than my aversion. I couldn’t refuse the request. I left my friends and headed to the hospital.

    "Payoff" by Dan Ariely

    “Payoff” by Dan Ariely

    When I met Alice there, I learned that she and her family had just suffered a terrible tragedy: two of her teenage children had been badly burned in a fire. After describing their condition to me to the best of her ability, the distraught mother asked me what I thought she should tell her kids about their injuries. They were drifting between consciousness and unconsciousness, suffering awful pain and fear. Alice wanted to understand what they would want to know about their injuries, about the treatments ahead and about their roads to recovery. She also asked me what they would not want to know.

    She asked me about these things, because she had heard of my personal story. Many years earlier, when I was a teenager, about 70 percent of my body was burned as the result of an accident. I spent about three years in a hospital. During that time, I underwent many treatments and surgeries. And I had been in a very similar situation to that of Alice’s kids.

    I did not know how to answer her questions, but I did my best to transport myself back in time to my own early days in the hospital. I remembered the noises. The hums and beeps of the machines. The equipment. The pain. The sounds of my fears. The phrase “pain person” echoed in my mind. It was a phrase that I must have heard at some point from the medical staff, and I took it to mean that I was someone who was completely engulfed in the intensity of the pain. Everything was defined by pain, and there was nothing else. No past and no future. There was only the pain of the moment. Nothing else.

    One memory that came rushing at me from those early days in the hospital was the daily removal of my bandages. Because I had no skin, the bandages adhered to my raw flesh. The nurses would rip off the bandages, then rub the freshly wounded flesh to remove the dead tissue until they saw bleeding — a sign that the underlying tissue was alive. They would then put ointment on the wounds and re-bandage my body. The next day, they would repeat this agonizing process. The only time I had a reprieve from the torture was on the days I had surgery, and sometimes the day after. Oh, how I looked forward to surgery, the bliss of anesthesia and the few days of recovery.

    The phrase “pain person” echoed in my mind. It was a phrase that I must have heard at some point from the medical staff, and I took it to mean that I was someone who was completely engulfed in the intensity of the pain.

    I did not share my memories of the bandage removal with Alice, but I did tell her that when I was in the hospital, I wanted to know the meaning of all the noises and beeps around me. I wanted to know my heart rate and blood pressure. I wanted to know the level of oxygen in my blood, the functioning of my lungs and so on. I wanted to know which sounds meant that my body was functioning and which indicated that things were not going well. I also wanted to know how long the pain would continue, when a treatment would cause the pain to increase and when I would have some relief. At the superficial level, it seemed that I yearned for information about what was happening to me, but what I really wanted — in contrast to my almost motionless experience in the hospital bed — was to have some feeling of control. I described all of these things to Alice before I left.

    A few days later, Alice called me, weeping. She asked me to return to the hospital. When I arrived, she told me that one of her kids had just passed away. She asked me whether she should tell her surviving son (I’ll call him “Bill”) about his brother’s death. I had no idea what to say, but again I tried to transport myself back in time. I tried to think about how — in that world of pain and difficulty, of breathing and falling in and out of consciousness, of machines and being intubated, of hallucinations and painkillers — I might have dealt with news of such magnitude. I couldn’t comprehend how anyone could handle the grief of losing a sibling on top of such pain and confusion, so I suggested that she keep the news from him as long as possible.

    A few months later, I got some better news. Bill was out of immediate danger, fully conscious, and more or less aware of his situation. She asked me to send her son an optimistic note about his recovery and his future. Her request overwhelmed me with sadness. I knew all too well that this kid was just beginning to heal and that the road ahead would be long and brutal. It was going to be much harder than any of them imagined.

    What could possibly motivate me to revisit the suffering I’d endured? As I reflected on Alice’s request, I remembered the first time I walked out of my hospital room by myself. I got out of bed and shuffled to the door, opened it and stepped out, proceeding very, very slowly and painfully. I was determined to make it all the way to the nurse’s station. When I got there, I saw a big mirror. Without thinking, I took another step and looked at myself. It was hard to believe that the creature in the mirror was 17-year-old me.

    Up to that point, I had seen different sections of my body from time to time, but this was the first time I had a full view. I saw legs that were deeply bent and covered with bandages and arms that appeared to be dangling lifelessly from my shoulders. My back was hunched over, and my face was a rainbow of colors.

    The right side was completely blue and red and yellow. Pus oozed from different places; pieces of skin hung from my face. My right eye was swollen shut. Only the left eye, stuck in this strange disguise, seemed recognizable. The rest was very, very different than the healthy person I once was. It didn’t look like an injured “me,” because there was almost no resemblance to how I remembered myself; it looked like someone else. Only it wasn’t.

    What could possibly motivate me to revisit the suffering I’d endured?

    After staring at the thing in the mirror for a few more moments, I couldn’t stand the pain in my legs anymore. I turned around and shuffled as fast as I could back to the bed, where I struggled with pain for the next few hours. This time pain was my rescue. Unable to think about anything else, I returned to being a pain person.

    I also remembered how, about a year and a half later, my scars were almost completely closed and I was in a much, much better state. But the improvements and the increased hope that came with feeling healthier were also accompanied by new and unexpected challenges. My scars — now red, thick and slightly raised — had somehow developed the ability to shrink very quickly. Every time I would sit with my arms or legs bent for an hour or two, maybe watching TV or just resting, I wouldn’t be able to straighten my limbs and neck because the scars would shrink just a little bit, limiting my range of movement. To get the scars to stretch back to their previous length, I would have to push and push against them, trying to straighten my arms and legs while almost tearing my skin. Sometimes I couldn’t completely regain my range of movement. When this happened, I’d have to undergo a new operation to remove some of the tightened skin and replace it with new skin, only to go through the whole process again. I hated fighting my body all the time. It was betraying me, and I loathed the daily, never-ending fight.

    Torturous as the memories were, they also drove me to try to help Alice and Bill. Alice wanted me to send Bill a hopeful, positive note, but knowing what I knew, I asked myself: How optimistic should I be? What could I tell him? How honest could and should I be? The reality was that he was probably going to have a deeply miserable life for a very long time. I thought about all the treatments that I still had to undergo 30 years after the accident. It was not clear to me whether he was better off alive or dead (thoughts that I had had for years about my own painful existence). And it was not clear to me that his prolonged agony (another thought that I had had about myself) was better for him or his family.

    Over the next 48 hours, as I relived my own experiences and struggled with what to say to Bill, I cried a lot. I wept more than I had in years. Finally, I came up with an outline for a message with which I was comfortable. Because I can’t use my hands very well, I recorded a voice message to him and emailed it to Alice. I started by telling Bill that his life was going to be tough and that progress would be slow, but there was a way to live with his injury. I told him that technology helps everyone, but that it helps people with disabilities even more. I also told him that the modern workplace makes it possible to work and function in new and flexible ways that fit people with our kinds of challenges. I said, “For example, I chose the life of a university professor because it creates tremendous flexibility in my life. I can work more when I feel better and less when I am in pain. On top of that, while I can’t use my hands very well, I can use voice technology to help me write my books and papers, and this technology is only getting better.”

    The whole process of creating my message for Bill was tremendously distressing, and I felt a great relief the moment I pressed the “send” button. Alice replied two days later, telling me how much my note had helped her son and how much she appreciated it. She asked me to send him another one, and — despite the difficulty of the first one — I have been sending him messages ever since.

    A few months later, I went to see Bill in the hospital. I didn’t get much sleep the night before, because I was torn between my desires to help, on one hand, and my deep worry about how I would react to seeing him. (I had been back to hospitals quite a few times, but only as a patient, not as a visitor.) To my surprise, the visit with Bill was quite good. We talked about all kinds of topics — the hospital, life outside its walls, family and the complexity of living with injuries and treatments.

    After a few hours, a nurse came in and told Bill that he was going to have a new type of treatment, one that I remembered having myself. It was clear to everyone in the room that this new treatment would be painful. “Can we put it off a little bit, maybe until tomorrow?” he asked plaintively.

    “I’m sorry, Bill, no. It has to be right now.”

    “Can’t we just wait an hour or so?”

    The nurse shook her head.

    “Do we have to do it all over? Can’t we just do one part of my body?”

    “No, I’m sorry, sweetie.”

    At that point, I couldn’t take it anymore. I became so anxious that I was unable to stand. I sat down, placed my hands on my knees and put my head down, trying to breathe slowly. I remembered all the times I tried to negotiate with the nurses myself — trying to delay the treatment, reduce the pain, asking for only certain parts of my body to be treated on that day. Like Bill, I failed almost every time. The nurses’ concession was not an option.

    As I walked away from the hospital, trying to contain my emotions, I realized something new about my injury and the way it changed my life. Up to that point, when I thought about my own suffering, I had just focused on the pain. I thought about shrinking scars. I wondered what I looked like to other people. I thought about the difficulty of being unable to regulate my body’s temperature, and the limitations of my movements—all the physical aspects of the injury. But observing Bill’s failed negotiation, I realized the devastating role that helplessness played in my own experience. It made me more deeply appreciate the challenges of being badly injured, the complexity of recovery and the ways that my experience had deeply changed me. I also realized how many of our motivations spring from trying to conquer a sense of helplessness and reclaim even a tiny modicum of control over our lives.


    From “Payoff,” by Dan Ariely. Copyright © 2016 by Dan Ariely. Excerpted with permission by Simon & Schuster, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

    The post Column: What I learned about motivation from being a teenage burn victim appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Vice President Joe Biden urged Donald Trump to “grow up” on Thursday, criticizing the incoming president’s attacks on the U.S. intelligence community and his grasp of health care policy, which is now up for debate on Capitol Hill as Republicans move to undo the Affordable Care Act.

    “Grow up, Donald. Grow up,” Biden said in an interview with the PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff. “Time to be an adult. You’re president. You’ve got to do something. Show us what you have.”

    Biden called the president-elect a “good man” but said Trump knew little about the country’s health care system. During the campaign, Trump said that repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement was a top priority.

    Now, as Republicans start the process of rolling back the law, Biden urged the party to work with Democrats in Congress to protect provisions that give coverage to young people and those with pre-existing conditions.

    At the same time, Biden, in a far-ranging interview at the Old Executive Office Building, said he was more concerned about Trump’s foreign policy than any changes the next president might make on domestic issues.

    Biden said it was “worrisome” that President-elect Trump has continued to question the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered with the election in an effort to undermine Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.

    A report on the hacking that the Obama administration is set to release in the coming days will make clear Russia’s role in trying to influence the U.S. election, Biden said.

    “There is overwhelming consensus in the [intelligence] community, and overwhelming evidence supplied by the community, that Russia did engage in an effort to impact” the race, Biden told Woodruff.

    Trump, who has criticized the intelligence reports, is slated to meet with top U.S. intelligence officials for a briefing on Friday.

    Biden also defended the Obama administration’s handling of the Syrian civil war, and weighed in on the fight to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court.

    Senate Republicans have blocked Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last year. But Biden said that Democrats should not repay the favor to Trump. Nominees deserve a hearing and vote, Biden said, noting that he never blocked votes on Supreme Court picks while he served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

    The comments come as Biden winds down a remarkable political career that spanned five decades and brought him to the center of political power in the U.S., though he fell short of his ultimate goal of serving as president.

    Biden was only 29 when he won a U.S. Senate race in Delaware in 1972. One month after the election, as Biden prepared to take office as one of the youngest senators in American history, his wife and their one-year-old daughter were killed in a car crash.

    The tragedy had a profound effect on the soon-to-be senator. Biden considered relinquishing his seat to take care of his two young sons, Beau and Hunter, who had survived the auto accident but were hospitalized with significant injuries.

    In the end, Biden chose not to resign, after Senate Democrats encouraged him to hold onto his seat. But once he took office, Biden began commuting each day from his home in Delaware to the Capitol, a ritual he maintained for the rest of his 36 years in the Senate.

    Biden became a fixture on the train line between Wilmington and Washington, D.C., earning the nickname “Amtrak Joe.” The commute, along with Biden’s blunt, plainspoken style and frequent references to his blue-collar upbringing in Scranton, Pennsylvania, came to define his public persona.

    The commute, along with Biden’s blunt, plainspoken style and frequent references to his blue-collar upbringing in Scranton, Pennsylvania, came to define his public persona.

    But Biden’s shoot-from-the-hip demeanor sometimes got him into trouble, especially later in his Senate career when he set his sights on the White House.

    Biden launched his first campaign for president in 1987, but the effort quickly derailed when he was caught plagiarizing part of a speech. After the scandal broke, prior plagiarism incidents from Biden’s past emerged and he was forced to end his campaign before the primaries began.

    Despite the setback, Biden continued climbing the ranks in the Senate. He served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995, presiding over the controversial Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Robert Bork, who was rejected, and Clarence Thomas.

    Biden later served two stints as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, the first time from 2001 to 2003, and again for two years beginning in 2007, after Democrats had retaken control of the Senate.

    In 2008, by then one of the most senior members of the Senate, Biden mounted a second White House bid. He dropped out of the race after finishing fifth in the Iowa Democratic Caucuses, far behind the winner and eventual nominee, Barack Obama.

    As a vice president, Biden became a trusted adviser to President Obama on foreign and domestic policy. He has also been a key intermediary between the White House and Congress, helping to secure a major budget deal with congressional leaders in 2011.

    Yet for all his accomplishments over several decades in Washington, Biden still kept his eye on a possible third White House run in the final years of the Obama administration.

    Biden flirted publicly with a run in the lead up to the 2016 election, before finally deciding to take himself out of consideration in October 2015. In a speech in the White House Rose Garden, flanked by his wife, Dr. Jill Biden and President Obama, Biden said his window to beat Hillary Clinton, the party’s front-runner, had closed.

    In deciding not to run, Biden also cited the emotional toll of losing his son, Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer at age 46 earlier in the year.

    Biden sparked new speculation about his political future after Donald Trump won the election, telling reporters during a visit to Capitol Hill that he would not rule out another presidential run in 2020, when he would be 78 years old.

    In the NewsHour interview, Biden said Democrats in 2016 failed to focus on the concerns of working and middle-class Americans. “We were not clear enough” in presenting an economic message, Biden said.

    Going forward, Biden said the party needed to expand its outreach to struggling Americans, without sacrificing on the progressive values that attracted the diverse coalition that helped elect President Obama twice.

    When asked if he thought he could have beaten Trump, Biden demurred. “I have no idea. It’s easy to say now. People say that, but who knows.”

    Biden said he would focus on non-political pursuits after leaving office later this month, including partnerships with the University of Delaware, which will center on domestic policy, and the University of Pennsylvania, where he will work on foreign policy issues.

    “Since I’ve been a 27-year-old kid, this has been the essence of my life, and I just know that I want to stay engaged,” Biden said.

    The post ‘Grow up, Donald… Time to be an adult,’ Biden says in PBS NewsHour interview appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Jupiter's Trojan asteroids are thought to be remnants of the material that formed the solar system's more distant planets. NASA plans to visit them in one of two upcoming missions. Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids are thought to be remnants of the material that formed the solar system’s more distant planets. NASA plans to visit them in one of two upcoming missions. Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech

    NASA has announced a pair of space exploration missions that will study asteroids vital to deciphering the origins of the solar system.

    The agency said Wednesday that the two missions will send spacecraft to several asteroids to investigate how planets and other bodies in the solar system formed roughly 10 million years after the birth of the sun.

    The first mission, known as Lucy, is set to launch in 2021. This robotic spacecraft will fly by and study the physical properties of the Trojan asteroids, which share Jupiter’s orbit. The Trojans are thought to be remnants of the material that formed the solar system’s more distant planets.

    These asteroids are considered “fossils” of planet formation and can provide clues about how the outer solar system came to be, said Lucy principal investigator Harold F. Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

    “The big outer planets had a profound effect, we believe, on how the Earth formed,” Levison told NewsHour. “So understanding how they formed has impacts on how we understand how the Earth got here.”

    The second mission will explore a large metal asteroid known as 16 Psyche. The asteroid measures about 150 miles in diameter and is made of metallic iron and nickel. Some scientists believe it is an exposed core from an early planet, which likely lost its rocky outer layers due to a series of collisions with other space objects.

    “We really do think that Psyche is the core of an early planet, and that means that it’s the only way that humankind will ever see a core,” Psyche mission principal investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University told the PBS NewsHour.

    Psyche, which is slated for take-off in 2023, will orbit the asteroid for 20 months, examining physical features on the surface, its magnetic field and chemical composition. The mission will help scientists understand how planets and other bodies in the solar system separated into their layers.

    The two missions were chosen by NASA from five finalists that submitted proposals for spaceflight investigations. They will be part of NASA’s Discovery program, which launches small, low-cost space exploration missions.

    “What I hope is that all the kinds of space missions that we do serve to inspire people to take more action in the word,” Elkins-Tanton said. “Hopefully, seeing people do risky, high-flying kinds of exploration efforts like what we’re doing can inspire people to take on bigger problems in their lives.”

    The post New NASA missions to study ‘fossils’ of the solar system appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Vice President, thank you for talking with us.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I’m delighted to be here with you, Judy. I really am.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me start with health care, the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans say they plan to repeal it this month and then figuring Democrats are going to help them come up with a replacement later. What do you think’s going to happen?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I don’t know what’s going to happen. I think, as I said last night, it was reported in the press speaking to Democratic members newly elected members of the House that I think they’re going to inherit the wind here. You know, all the things that they said they dislike about the Affordable Care Act, they are all able to be adjusted. And we knew when we passed the act that we’d have to constantly see how it worked and improve it. For example, making sure that their significant more — more subsidies for young people to be able to get into the Affordable Care Act, bringing down overall cost.

    But at any rate, I think they’re going to find when they repeal it, all of a sudden you’re going to be reporting on your program at night on PBS about so and so died because they got their insurance cut off, would no longer cover them. They — you’re going to find out that women are paying more than men again for the same insurance. You’re going to find out that pre-existing conditions are — are able to disqualify you or make the cost of insurance prohibited. And so they’re going to have a — that’s why they’re having a problem now. They have no replacement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So do you think Democrats should work with them to —

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well I think Democrats should say, look, let’s take a look at what you have right now. What don’t you like about it? Let’s see if we can fix it. Let’s — talk to us. Tell us what your ideas are. But, this wholesale, look, the fundamental disagreement most Republicans have is they don’t think health care is a right. They think it is a privilege, not a right. We believe health care is a basic right. If education — you’re entitled to an education, why wouldn’t you be entitled to adequate health care? Period.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But based on conversations of the President, we know the President has spoken with President-elect Trump —

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: — about this. Based on that, what parts of it do you think may actually survive?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: None of the good parts can survive with out the funding pieces of it. And the part they say they don’t like is the funding. There’s a reason why. There’s a reason why it’s constructed the way it is. You can’t go to insurance companies and say, you know what, we’re not going to change anything having to do with the pool from which you — you draw your people. We’re not going to do anything. But guess what, you can no longer allow for pre-existing conditions to disqualify somebody. And they go, oh. OK. How do I pay for that? So, you know, they talk — it’s obvious they don’t know much about it. But Mr. Trump’s a good man, but he doesn’t know much about the health care system.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But they’re very serious about undoing it —

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Oh, they’re very serious about undoing it. So, like I said, lots of luck in your senior year. Undo it. See what happens.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: More broadly Mr. Vice-President, the Republicans are talking about dismantling much of the legacy of the Obama-Biden Administration, legislation, regulation. What are you most worried that they will do?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: More broadly, the Republicans are saying they want to dismantle much of the entire Obama-Biden legacy, legislation, regulations. What are you most worried they may do?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I think they’re kidding themselves if they think they can do away with legislation relating to the progressive values we’ve built into law. The public has moved beyond politicians. For example, I’m not worried about them repealing protections for the LGBT community, because the public is beyond that. I’m not worried about them being able to change the way in which we have reached out and provided many more opportunities for women. And I — but here’s what does concern me. What concerns me is that they will make some judgments in the foreign policy area, without having thought it through that may cause a lot of problems. For example, Ukraine, or the Northern Triangle, here in the Hemisphere, or dealing with Columbia.

    Unless you are very sophisticated about what your actions or inactions — let me say it another way. I was asked to go down to Australia, several months ago, to meet with the new — same Prime Minister but with a new coalition. And to re — not re-establish, but make sure that we had close relationships. While I was there I got a call from the — from the President of Latvia saying you’ve got to come to the Baltic states because Mr. Trump, during the campaign said that, you know, they may not protect us against the Russians. So words matter. I’m not suggesting that’s his position. But you have a lot of folks around the — parts of the world that have relationships with us now that based on some of the rhetoric that’s occurred. If they follow through with the rhetoric by non-action, could cause, have some serious diplomatic and — and physical consequences. That’s what worries me most of anything.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re worried more about foreign policy than about domestic policy.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I am.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But what they can undo domestically —

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Because I — I —

    JUDY WOODRUFF: — the environment and the rest of it.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I — I — I, look, they will probably do some very rash things relative to the environment. But they again will reap the whirlwind. The public has moved beyond the positions that these fellows have taken. So, in the near term, that may happen, but they’ll pay a heavy price if they do that. For example, they could come along and decide that they’re not going to have, you know, enforce the clean air standards. They could do that, but there will be a backlash.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about the Supreme Court. You chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee for eight years so you know very well what it means in the Republican controlled Senate sat on the nomination of Merrick Garland to fill that ninth seat on the court, sat on it for almost 10 months.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: First time ever.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Once the president-elect, then President Trump chooses someone. Should the Democrats do the same thing and oppose and refuse to go along?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: No.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Or Should they, thinking you need to fill that vacancy on the court, go along?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I think they should, look, the Constitution says the President shall nominate, not maybe he could, maybe he can’t, he shall nominate. Implicit in the Constitution is that the Senate will act on its constitutional responsibility and give its advice and consent. No one is required to vote for the nominee. But they, in my view, are required to give the nominee a hearing and a vote. I — it’s been my policy since I’ve been in the United States Senate, I presided over more Supreme Court nominees than anyone in history, anyone living. And never once, even the ones that I’ve disagreed with, have they been denied a hearing. And so I think the Democrats should not take up, what I think is a fundamentally unconstitutional notion that the Republicans — Republicans initiated 10 months ago. I think they should see who they nominate and vote on them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you’ve seen the list of names that the President-elect Trump has put out there. Are any of them, to you, acceptable and are any unacceptable?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well I — I’m not going to comment on it — and to be honest with you, I don’t know all that he’s put out there. I’ve been having trouble enough following him on some other things. But, so, I’m not prepared to comment on any one of his nominees.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Come back to foreign policy. Have you seen now the report by the intelligence community on Russian hacking?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Yes I have. Yes I’ve read it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: There’s overwhelming consensus in the community and overwhelming evidence supplied by the community that Russia did engage in an effort to impact on the elections. There is no evidence that they actually tampered with voting booths, or tampered with voting rolls. But there is clear evidence that they, in fact, they were engaged in activities designed to try to impact in the outcome of the election.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Evidence of any American cooperation with the Russians in doing that?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I’m not going to comment on that Judy. I don’t want to comment on any of the detail of the report. There will be an unclassified version that will be released very shortly, and it will lay out in bold print what they know.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Will the American people learn something new from this?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I think it will probably confirm what a lot of the American people think. But, it will — it will state clearly that the Russians did, as a matter of policy, attempt to affect and, three things. One, it attempted to discredit the U.S. electoral process by implying that or laying the foundation for it is not on the level. Two, it — there’s evidence that — they — is there was an attempt to hurt Mrs. Clinton. But there’s also evidence that there was wider hacking than some people thought. So, the idea that the Russians were not involved in an effort to engage in our electoral process is simply not able to be sustained. They were.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Excuse me. In connection with that, the criticism by the president-elect of the intelligence community in this country, belittling of the intelligence community. Do you think that’s just politics or do you think it’s dangerous?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I think it’s dangerous. I hope, some very smart people around like General Mattis and some others. For a President not to have confidence in, not to be prepared to listen to the myriad of intelligence agencies from defense intelligence, to the CIA, etcetera, is absolutely mindless. It’s just mindless. How would you — now can you disagree? Can you ask for more detail? Can you question whether or not there is a disagreement among the various intelligence agencies? That’s all legitimate. But the idea that — that you know more than the intelligence community knows, it’s a little like saying, I know more about physics than my professor. I didn’t read the book, I just know I know. I mean, it’s — it’s not a, it’s — it’s worrisome. I’m assuming it will change.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: If — if what the Russians did is so serious, should there be more retaliation than what the administration has just enacted?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I, when the question was would we respond to the hacking over a month ago, I said at our — our time and choosing, we would. Some of what we did you will know and some you will not know. And we’ve done both. Things you do not know and things that are known, like expelling —

    JUDY WOODRUFF: that weren’t in

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Will we know those things that weren’t —

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Hope not.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Syria. Will that go down as one of the administration’s great failures do you think? And is the U.S. now impotent to affect the outcome?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: No. No. It is not a failure. The — to be a failure the — there was — you would assume there was an alternative that could have been offered. That would have benefited or been great — greater interest of the security of the United States. If you notice, there wasn’t anybody in either political party ever talking about putting troops on the ground. If you notice, there wasn’t anybody talking about — there was no plan put forward by anyone that demonstrated that there was a sufficient, coherent nucleus of Democrats with a small d. Who were in opposition to the Assad regime, who would, given a requisite training capability, have the ability to be able to take on both extreme elements of the Sunnis would mean Al-Qaeda as well as ISIS as well as Nusra, and take on the Assad regime at the same time.

    And so, our focus has been the dismantling of the so-called caliphate, the dismantling of ISIS being able to occupy territory, and govern like they were a nation-state like they were a government.

    They have lost enormous amounts of ground and I predict to you before June, there will be no such place where they occupy anywhere in Syria, as well as Iraq. The caliphate will have been dismantled. It will still be a problem, but that has been our focus because that is the greatest existential threat to U.S. interests.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And President — President Assad will still be in power?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: That remains to be seen. And why I say that is we’ve been saying from the beginning, like most others, that this needs to be a negotiated settlement. The Russians appear to be — appear to be in conjunction with the Turks, as well as the Iranians, appear to be at a point where they are realizing for their interests as well, Assad being in power indefinitely is not in their interests.

    So it remains to be seen. We’ve been trying to put together in multiple fora ability to bring a negotiated settlement to this. It’s still a reach, but we’ll see.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Looking back to the election, why did Hillary Clinton lose in middle-class, working-class places like Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, close to where you grew up? And what economic message could have changed the outcome?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well, first of all, I’m not — there’s a false choice being put forward by some Democrats now. Either we double-down on our progressive values, or we go out there and talk about the middle class and the working class. I’ve never found them inconsistent. They go together.

    The reason I’m a Democrat is because the essence of the Democratic Party is an abhorrence for the abuse of power on the one hand, and the notion that everyone’s entitled to be treated with dignity. That message never got through.

    I remember going — I was flying to Cleveland — I did 83 events — I was flying to Cleveland. I was wondering why I was so upset about the way the campaign was going. This was about three weeks out. And it hit me that because of the outrageous nature of the way in which the things that Trump was saying, we never got to substance.

    You can’t find me any of your viewers who can define for you what Hillary’s free tuition plan — college plan was about. We never got to it. And…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Whose fault was that?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well, I think it was — I think it was multiple faults. I don’t think that the campaign was clear enough. I don’t think you guys were ready to cover it. You know, you look at what the Annenberg School and other studies have shown. There’s hardly any coverage of a single issue, of a substantive issue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you also said the campaign wasn’t clear enough.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well, I don’t think — I — I’ve been the odd man out here. I — you know, I didn’t hear anybody talk about the plight of that guy who works on the assembly line and his wife is a hostess. They make 90,000 bucks a year, have two kids and they’re hurting. They’re scared.

    We don’t show enough respect. We don’t show enough — we don’t speak enough to the — my dad used to have an expression. He’d say, “I don’t expect the government to solve my problems, Joe, but at least I expect them to understand it.” We were not clear enough in making it clear we understood the pressure they were under and we had concrete solutions to it. We never got to them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Could you have beaten Donald Trump?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Oh, I don’t — that’s — I have no idea. I mean, you know, it’s easy to say now. People say that. But who knows? Who knows whether I could have beaten Donald Trump.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you seem very clear on what the message should have been.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Oh, I — I was…

    (LAUGHTER)

    … I’ve been clear on that message for a long time. This handle I’ve been given of “Middle Class Joe.” I know in Washington, that’s not meant to be a compliment. It means you’re not sophisticated. But the reason I talk so much about the middle class is it’s the glue that holds this country together. It really is. And we don’t speak enough to their legitimate concerns.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The future of the Democratic Party — you’re talking about it right now, but it’s now less — fewer seats in state capitals around the country.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Not only lost the Congress, but lost the White House. What does the party — what needs to happen?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I think we just have to remember who the heck we are and speak to who we are and what we believe. The American public agrees with us on most every basic issue. But here’s what’s going to happen, in my view, Judy.

    The very issues that didn’t get covered are going to get covered extremely thoroughly now. You know why? This is going to be the most contentious Congress you’ve seen since you and I have been doing this business. And so what’s going to happen, just like their initial effort to do away with an oversight, you know, committee on — on ethics.

    Well, guess what? If they had talked about that during the campaign, they’d pay no price for it. But now they’re going to implement it. When they go and take on healthcare, when they take on Medicare, when they take on aid to education, when they take on college tuition, when they take — we’re going to — you’re going to cover it. You’re going to be — you’re going to maybe even have an old-timer like me talking about it on your program.

    And people are going to, “Oh, that’s what these guys want to do? This is what the Democrats are?”

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Excuse me. But you referred to this a minute ago. Democrats are dealing with a new reality in how this new president will communicate. The tweets — just today, he tweeted — he called the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, “the head clown.” Last week, he said — he said just, like, “doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks; thought it was going to be a smooth transition; not” — in all caps.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Grow up, Donald. Grow up. Time to be an adult. You’re president. You gotta do something. Show us what you have. You’re going to propose legislation. We’re going to get to debate it. Let the public decide. Let them vote in Congress. Let’s see what happens.

    It’s going to be much clearer what he’s for and against and what we’re for and against, now that it’s going to get down to actually discussing in detail these issues that affect people’s lives.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Two quick things — the cancer moonshot…

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Yes?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … you started that in memory of your son Beau. You’re now going to be launching a nonprofit. You, among other things, look at the cost of cancer drugs. What would you consider success when it comes to the price of cancer medicine?

    (CROSSTALK)

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well, look, that’s a small part of this. The overwhelming part of this is to continue to instill this overwhelming sense of urgency and cooperating in terms of breaking down silos; in terms of — look, the medical — when Nixon declared the war on cancer, he had no army. He had no tools. He had no anything, except good intentions.

    And there was one model — institutional model — in Jonas Salk in a library, excuse me, in a laboratory — it was finding the silver bullet. We’ve now found out 45 years later that it’s enormous collaboration that’s required. But the institutional instruments have not changed.

    Judy, if I could get every single cancer genome sequence that has been sequenced; if I could ever put it in one repository, we have the capacity to do a million billion calculations per second. We’ll be able to find out more in 10 minutes more than it would take 10 Nobel laureates 10 years to find out about the patterns of cancer and the cures for cancer.

    These are the things that I’m working on most. Drug prices are a problem. Access is a problem. But because it is so celebrated, that issue, I — I want to put it in perspective. If I could solve everything but that, I would solve everything but that. We’re going to work on that as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You’ll be doing Cancer Moonshot affiliating with two universities?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You’ll be, I guess, lunch pale Joe is gonna become Ivy League professor?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well, I’m gonna…

    (CROSSTALK)

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I’m going back to my alma mater where my heart is, University of Delaware. They’ve been so good to me. I’m gonna be doing all domestic policy out of there and I’m gonna be doing diplomatic informative policy out of Penn.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Less time for politics?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well, that is politics to me, they’re the issues. Look, every single morning since I’ve been 27 years old, I’ve got up and someone’s handed me a card like the one I have in my pocket with the schedule on it, of all the things I’m gonna do. I don’t know what to do if I didn’t have that card.

    I mean these are the things I care about and it’s a — my dad in another expression says a lucky person gets up in the morning, puts both feet on the floor, knows what they’re about to do and thinks it still matters. I think this stuff really matters.

    So I’m gonna be able to take some of the intellectual horsepower out of the vice president’s office, I’m gonna have two platforms in which I can hire those people in at Delaware and at Penn and work on the issues that are an overwhelming concern to me still.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So leaving government after, what almost half a century?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Oh geez, don’t say — that’s an awful thing to say — but you’re right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What — how does that…

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I — I — I don’t know. I must tell you, it was — like I said, since I’ve been a 27 year old kid, I’ve — this has been the essence of my life. And — and I — I just know that I want to stay engaged and I think that I will have a platform to do that. And that also effect public policy. That’s what — what’s why I got involved in government in the first place.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You won’t be shy about speaking out?

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: No, I won’t be shy about speaking out. I never got involved in it for the money as my net worth would show you. So, and I still don’t have that interest, I’m interested in doing the things that I’ve been doing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Vice President Joe Biden, thank you very much.

    VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Thank you Judy, I appreciate it.

    The post Biden: Trump’s belittling of U.S. intelligence agencies is ‘dangerous,’ ‘mindless’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a sign supporting his plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico that he borrowed from a member of the audience at his campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Photo by Jonathan Drake/Reuters

    Then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a sign supporting his plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico that he borrowed from a member of the audience at his campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Photo by Jonathan Drake/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and Donald Trump’s transition team are exploring whether they can make good on Trump’s promise of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border without passing new legislation, officials said Thursday.

    Under the evolving plan, the Trump administration would rely on existing legislation authorizing fencing and other technology along the southern border. Congress would be asked to ensure that enough money is appropriated to take additional new steps — but would not pass a stand-alone bill authorizing a big new wall.

    The potential approach was confirmed by two congressional officials and a senior transition official with knowledge of the discussions; all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Details were scarce and the officials emphasized that no final decisions had been made.

    The approach could come as a surprise to some but could avoid a legislative fight Trump might lose if he tried to get Congress to pass a stand-alone bill authorizing the kind of border wall he promised during the campaign.

    It’s not clear how much could be done along the 2,000-mile border without additional actions by Congress. Lawmakers passed the Secure Fence Act of 2006, but most of those 700 miles have already been built, although some areas are in much better shape than others.

    But whatever steps might be taken without Congress’ approval would be likely to fall short of the extravagant new wall on the border that Trump repeatedly said Mexico would pay for. And despite Congress’ involvement in approving any spending, such an approach might also open Trump to charges of going around the House and the Senate to take unilateral actions, something he repeatedly criticized President Barack Obama for doing.

    Several lawmakers and congressional officials said the administration could have significant flexibility in taking additional steps without Congress’ approval.

    “There’s a lot of things that can be done within current law,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., a longtime proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, though he emphasized that a lasting solution on immigration would take Congress. “You cannot minimize the potential impact of the administration doing what they can do under the law.”

    However, some immigration hard-liners have already expressed the desire to see Congress take a vote given how prominent the wall was during Trump’s presidential campaign, and their desire to act on the issue.

    READ MORE: Americans who live near border say Trump’s wall is unwelcome

    The post Trump may pursue border wall promise without new legislation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    ALISON STEWART: Finally tonight: A movie opening widely this weekend tells a little known piece of history about the history of the early days of spaceflight and the crucial role played behind the scenes by African-American women who acted as mathematicians and engineers.

    The film is called “Hidden Figures.” It’s up for a number of honors during this awards season, including two Golden Globes on Sunday night.

    Jeffrey Brown has a look at the film and that history.

    ACTOR: You have identification on you?

    TARAJI P. HENSON, “Katherine Johnson”: We’re just on our way to work.

    OCTAVIA SPENCER, “Dorothy Vaughan”: At NASA, sir.

    ACTOR: I had no idea they hired.

    OCTAVIA SPENCER: There are quite a few women working in the space program.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s a story about an agency that reached for the stars, but was mired in racial and gender barriers still prevalent on the ground.

    “Hidden Figures” is based on the real-life stories of three black woman who worked in mostly segregated quarters at NASA’s Langley Center in Virginia in the 1950s and ’60s.

    The film focuses on efforts to launch the first American, the late John Glenn, into orbit.

    ACTOR: Let me ask you, if you were a white male, would you wish to be an engineer?

    JANELLE MONAE, “Mary Jackson”: I wouldn’t have to. I would already be one.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Janelle Monae, the singer-turned-actress, plays Mary Jackson, struggling to get her license as an engineer. Like the others involved, this history was new to Monae.

    JANELLE MONAE: I was excited. I said, wow, we’re going to finally be celebrating women not just for their beauty, but for their brilliance. And I got excited. And then once I found out that they indeed were part of the space program at NASA, it became a personal responsibility to me to make sure that no young girl, or no human being, no American, you know, went through life not knowing of these true American heroes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Mary Jackson would spend 34 years at NASA and help many who followed.

    JANELLE MONAE: She found out that the women and minorities were being paid significantly less than their male white counterparts. And she, along with a couple of other colleagues, took this to NASA. And, you know, NASA being the progressive place and the place that listened, she helped advance more women’s careers and more minorities’ careers in STEM at NASA during that time.

    So, I thought that was just so remarkable, and I’m so honored to play such a woman.

    TARAJI P. HENSON: This one is important. This one is important on a deep level, because it’s a part of history that has been overlooked. You know, this is more important than anything I have done in my career.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Taraji P. Henson plays Katherine Johnson, a math prodigy who worked as a so-called computer. This was just as machine computers were arriving, executing by hand the difficult and tedious equations needed to make the science of spaceflight work.

    When she first read the script, Henson saw the story in very personal terms.

    TARAJI P. HENSON: I was upset, because a dream had been stolen from me. Had I known these women existed, maybe I would’ve dreamed to be a rocket scientist. But growing up, there was a universal understanding that math and science wasn’t for girls. It was for boys.

    And then I felt a great responsibility for all the little girls who thought math or had been told raise a baby, get in the kitchen and cook, or don’t dream to be a rocket scientist.

    MAN: Katherine G. Johnson refused to be limited by society’s expectations.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The real Katherine Johnson is still alive, and in 2015 received the Medal of Freedom from President Obama.

    In the film, she is assigned to an all-white department run by Kevin Costner’s character, a composite of three NASA administrators.

    KEVIN COSTNER, “Al Harrison”: Would she handle analytic geometry?

    ACTRESS: Absolutely. And she speaks.

    TARAJI P. HENSON: Yes, sir, I do.

    KEVIN COSTNER: Which one?

    TARAJI P. HENSON: Both, geometry and speaking.

    KEVIN COSTNER: Ruth, get me — you think you can find me the Frenet frame for this data using the Gram-Schmidt…

    TARAJI P. HENSON: Orthogonalization algorithm? Yes, sir.

    I prefer it over Euclidian coordinates.

    KEVIN COSTNER: When you’re done watching it, you can realize that, while the best idea got to the top, how many ideas aren’t getting there? What do we keep down?

    My job was to keep NASA going. And I naively was thinking that the best idea was getting to me, that we were somehow above this. But, certainly, we weren’t.

    So, you can look at our movie, see where we’re at, and you can come out of the movie and you can turn the mirror around and ask yourself where you think we are.

    OCTAVIA SPENCER: What’s not fair is having the responsibility of a supervisor, but not the title or pay.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Octavia Spencer received a Golden Globe nomination for her supporting role playing Dorothy Vaughan, a mathematician who became an expert in an early electronic computing language.

    In the film ,she’s effectively managing the department of African-American women without being recognized for it.

    OCTAVIA SPENCER: Have some respect. Get your damn feet off my dashboard. This isn’t your living room.

    I sound like a supervisor, don’t I?

    JANELLE MONAE: A mean old, salty one.

    TARAJI P. HENSON: With authority, no question.

    OCTAVIA SPENCER: It still resonates. There’s unfinished business in our society.

    We could talk about gender parity all day, women in positions that aren’t really being recognized financially. And so, no, it didn’t feel like it was an idea whose time had passed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s a human story revolving around complicated math and aeronautics.

    Director Theodore Melfi said he took some dramatic liberties, but worked hard to get the science right.

    THEODORE MELFI, Director: We took great pride in how much NASA was involved and how much we paid attention to what they had to say. They read script draft after script draft, pored through every single line in the movie. I was — I’m very proud of the fact that NASA says they’re very proud how legitimate it is.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The music, too, references the era, but it’s all new, written by superstar musician and producer Pharrell Williams, who grew up in this part of Virginia and felt a personal connection to the subject.

    PHARRELL WILLIAMS, Producer/Composer: Space and NASA, two subjects that I have been obsessed with since I was a child. I used to stare out of the windowpane at the stars every night, every night.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Thinking?

    PHARRELL WILLIAMS: I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t understand it. I used to ask my mom all the time, you know, what are the stars? How many are there? How far does the black part go?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Pharrell Williams is also one of the film’s producers. And it’s an important one to him.

    PHARRELL WILLIAMS: Oh, man, the success in this film is when young girls, no matter what color, can receive this message beyond the suppression that they endure everyday, to see that they can do anything that they want, including science, including technology, engineering and math. That’s like — that’s the success.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The new film comes in the year following the Oscars-so-white controversy at the Academy Awards, in which no people of color were nominated in leading or supporting roles.

    Does one film make a big difference? Or what do you think has to happen within the world you work in?

    TARAJI P. HENSON: Just got to keep working.

    OCTAVIA SPENCER: Yes.

    And I think the emphasis is placed in the wrong spot. The Academy is at the very end of the whole cycle of the year and how movies get made. I think what people fail to understand is, it’s not the Oscars. It’s the decision-makers who green-light movies. That’s what needs to change.

    TARAJI P. HENSON: So, it just goes to show, we still have work to do. I’m not going to complain about it. I see the issue. What am I going to keep doing? Leading movies. You’re not going to ignore me. I’m not going anywhere, right, Kevin?

    (LAUGHTER)

    TARAJI P. HENSON: Kevin’s putting me in his next movie.

    JEFFREY BROWN: “Hidden Figures” opens nationwide this weekend.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Jeffrey Brown.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Not one to miss.

    Learn more about the NASA heroes of “Hidden Figures” and the discrimination they faced on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.

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    genes

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As Vice President Biden said earlier, innovations in genetics could be crucial to finding cures for diseases like cancer.

    One of the most significant developments in this field is the newly discovered ability to modify the very genes in our DNA. The technique is known by the acronym CRISPR.

    William Brangham has our conversation.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: CRISPR is a technique that allows scientists to go into the DNA of a plant or an animal or even a human being and remove or replace a small part of that organism’s genetic code.

    This technique, which can be used to improve crops, eliminate genetic diseases, or specifically target the viruses and pathogens that have killed billion, could be a revolutionary advancement.

    The potential for CRISPR is described in the recent issue of The New Yorker. The story is called “Rewriting the Code of Life.”

    And I’m joined now by its author, New Yorker staff writer Michael Specter. He joins me from California.

    Michael Specter, welcome.

    In your story, you profile a young scientist named Kevin Esvelt. And I want to quote a line from your story. You say that Esvelt directs the — quote — “sculpting evolution group at MIT, where he and his colleagues are attempting to design molecular tools capable of fundamentally altering the natural world.”

    I mean, that’s a pretty extraordinary set of ambitions. What are they trying to do?

    MICHAEL SPECTER, The New Yorker: You know, they’re trying to look out the problems we have in health, in crops in a variety of ways, and rewrite DNA, which is the basic code of life, so that it can make us healthier, safer, protect crops, protect trees, protect endangered species.

    It’s a tremendously energetic and ambitious idea. And it has — like all wonderfully ambitious ideas, it has great risks, too.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You report on a particular experiment they’re running up in Nantucket trying to target Lyme disease.

    Can you explain what they’re hoping to do there?

    MICHAEL SPECTER: Mostly, people think about Lyme disease in deer. And there is a relationship.

    But the real reservoir for Lyme is the white-footed mouse. At Kevin Esvelt at MIT said, gee, let’s rewrite the DNA of the mouse so that it is resistant to the Lyme tick, so when a Lyme tick bites it, it doesn’t matter.

    And when you do that, you sort of break this chain of transmission between mice and deer and humans. And if you did that enough, and if you really rewrote the DNA — mice are not that rapid, but they’re relatively rapid at reproducing — and you can quite easily see a way in which you would get rid of that disease.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, as you describe it in this piece, CRISPR is really putting us in the driver’s seat for evolution, and not only to control, in some ways, evolution, but to accelerate evolution.

    Am I understanding that this just seems to be a tremendously — tremendous potential for this?

    MICHAEL SPECTER: I think the particularly revolutionary thing here is the combination of CRISPR, which is an editing program — it’s like editing something on your computer so that you can cut and paste words — combining that with this phenomenon called gene drive.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Gene drive? And gene drive…

    MICHAEL SPECTER: Yes.

    Gene drive is something that scientists have known about for a long time. We all are supposed to get one copy of a gene from each of our parents. And that’s usually what happens. That’s Mendelian genetics.

    But every once in a while, there’s something called a selfless gene. A gene figures out a way to be tricky, to be counterfeit, to cram itself in where it ought not be.

    And a guy named Austin Burt, who teaches at Imperial College in London, figured this out sometime ago. And he basically said, gee, if we could use those selfish elements the way we wanted, we could interrupt some things. We could make malarial mosquitoes unable to carry malaria.

    And he named a bunch of things like that. But it was theoretical then, because they didn’t have this fantastic tool. Now you have the tool and you have this phenomenon. And when you put them together, you can really envision doing this. And, in fact, it’s being done in labs.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As you write in the piece, you say that CRISPR could enormously improve the world, but it could also endanger the world.

    How could gene editing endanger the world?

    MICHAEL SPECTER: Well, I am not an alarmist, but if you can reedit the genes of a mosquito so that it can’t carry malaria, you can also reedit the genes of a mosquito so that it carries something really bad and…

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Use it as a weapon?

    MICHAEL SPECTER: Sure.

    You don’t have to be a science fiction writer anymore to believe that it would be possible to engineer a species — and the mosquito, our deadliest foe, is an excellent example — to transmit something bad.

    We’re very focused on being able to break the transmission of this terrible thing, malaria, and also Zika and dengue and many other things, but the truth is, that could happen.

    And another thing that could happen is mistakes get made. When you’re talking about editing DNA, you’re talking about changing a species. And that’s not a minor thing. That’s a fundamental, powerful choice. And it will require some tremendous forethought.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, how are researchers, policy-makers talking about this, thinking about this? How do they propose that we manage this awesome technology?

    MICHAEL SPECTER: Well, I actually think researchers are doing a fairly good job of trying to think this out.

    And what that mostly means is, they’re working in the labs, but they’re very aggressively reaching out to communities. I don’t think policy-makers so far have a clue. I mean, they don’t know what’s coming. They’re so far behind in regulation, it’s even difficult to understand how you would even talk about regulating this technology.

    But with the malaria, Austin Burt, who I mentioned, runs something called Target Malaria. And he and a large group of people are working on editing enough of these mosquitoes so that they wouldn’t be able to transmit malaria.

    And he’s in Africa already, years before he would ever send a mosquito there, talking to people, teaching people on the ground what the choices are, so they themselves can make this choice.

    This isn’t a case where a bunch of Western scientists are going to fly in somewhere with 400 million mosquitoes and release them and say, congratulations.

    But there is the possibility of getting people to understand this and make their own decisions. And if it worked, getting rid of malaria is a big deal, and it would also actually be cheap, because there’s no vaccines, there’s no drugs, there’s no coming back.

    We’re not there yet, but it’s certainly possible.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, the article is “Rewriting the Code of Life.”

    Michael Specter, thank you so much.

    MICHAEL SPECTER: My pleasure.

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    Workers on the assembly line replace the back covers of 32-inch television sets at Element Electronics in Winnsboro, South Carolina, U.S. on May 29, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Keane/File Photo - RTX2QCX9

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    ALISON STEWART: But first: With a new year comes new resolutions both at home and at work, but many of us aren’t motivated enough to get through our to-do lists. In fact, more than half of American workers feel disengaged at their jobs.

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, looks at what could motivate us into action. It’s part of his weekly series, Making Sense, which airs Thursdays on the “NewsHour.”

    DAN ARIELY, Author, “Payoff”: I think we could get people to both be more productive and happier.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Behavioral economist Dan Ariely, who’s joined a chorus of economists bemoaning America’s productivity slowdown.

    DAN ARIELY: We’re less productive as individuals. We’re less productive as companies, and we’re more miserable.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But Ariely thinks there’s something corporate America can do to boost productivity: better understand human motivation.

    DAN ARIELY: Motivation, basically getting people to be happy at work, everybody — everybody benefits.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Thus his new book, “Payoff.”

    But before the specifics, a bit of backstory. As a teen, Ariely spent three years in the hospital, horribly burned. But it was just recently, when a stranger called him after her son suffered a similar fate, that he realized why people make an effort.

    DAN ARIELY: And she asked me to send her son an optimistic note about life. I didn’t know what to say. You know, I — he was so badly burnt and…

    PAUL SOLMAN: As badly burned as you had been?

    DAN ARIELY: Worse.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Even worse?

    DAN ARIELY: Worse — worse than I was.

    And I wasn’t sure that staying alive is better for him than not. Pain is just terrible, pain and desperation and hopelessness. And if it happened again today, I wouldn’t want to continue.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Recalling his own cruel trial, Ariely broke down, out of the patient’s sight.

    DAN ARIELY: And, eventually, I said, you know, life is going to be difficult and complex, and you will never have a normal life. But I also told him that technology is on the side of the disabled, because we can do things that we wouldn’t be able to do without it.

    Even though it was a very difficult time with this kid, right, it gave me a sense of, I’m giving back, I’m helping somebody else, and I’m connecting with this kid, and I’m doing something that I’m supposed to do in some ways.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The lesson for Ariely: Our behavior is driven by emotion, not the conventional rewards like money.

    ALEC BALDWIN, Actor: Have I got your attention now?

    PAUL SOLMAN: And he thinks corporate America would do well to take note.

    ALEC BALDWIN: We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? The second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is, you’re fired.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Money, threats of no money, Ariely has found they don’t inspire hard work.

    Consider this experiment he ran at a computer chip production line in Israel. Workers who made their chip quota got either $30 or a voucher for pizza to take home to the family or a “well-done” text from the boss.

    We asked New Yorkers to guess the experiment’s results. Which do you think would be most motivating?

    WOMAN: The voucher for the pizza.

    MAN: Cash in the wallet. It always works.

    MAN: The text from the boss. That would motivate me more.

    WOMAN: The bonus.

    MAN: Well done more often is definitely more motivational.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In the actual experiment, workers who made the quota and received the $30 and those that got a pizza voucher and the group that got a compliment were all more productive than workers who received nothing.

    DAN ARIELY: Money was slightly worse than the other two, but they were all much better.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But, on the second day, when the workers who’d gotten the $30 were not paid a bonus, regardless of how many chips they turned out, their productivity actually dropped below those who’d gotten zilch.

    DAN ARIELY: In total, by giving people $30 bonus, Intel lost almost 5 percent of productivity. That’s a lot. Now, think about it. You give money because you think this would increase motivation. It actually decreases motivation.

    The real issue is, how much goodwill do you invest in the work? And goodwill is not something that we can buy with money. It’s very hard to buy goodwill with money.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Ariely has highlighted another payoff using, of all things, origami.

    It’s already a little sloppy.

    DAN ARIELY: Indeed.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But you have got time constraints, so…

    DAN ARIELY: I see. You’re doing it for me. You’re being sloppy for me. That’s so kind of you.

    PAUL SOLMAN: I am. I am.

    There’s pride in your own hard work, regardless of outcome.

    Anyway, that’s good enough.

    DAN ARIELY: You put some effort into it. It doesn’t look like the one in the book.

    PAUL SOLMAN: No.

    DAN ARIELY: But it’s uniquely yours. And the effort that’s gone into folding it and crumpling it is uniquely a combination of this magical moment between you and this piece of paper.

    (LAUGHTER)

    PAUL SOLMAN: Right.

    DAN ARIELY: Now, in the experiment, we came to people, we said, look, so, this origami actually belongs to us, but, if you’re interested, we will sell it to you.

    So, for example, if it was 10 cents, would you buy it or not?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Yes. Yes.

    DAN ARIELY: Ninety cents?

    PAUL SOLMAN: A buck. It’s got character. It’s got a little runny nose. It’s definitely unique, I would say.

    (LAUGHTER)

    PAUL SOLMAN: Unique.

    DAN ARIELY: There you go.

    And then if I came from the outside and I look at it, I would look at the same unique features in a different way, and I would basically say, I’m willing to pay maybe 10 cents.

    What we found is that people who build it were willing to pay more than five times more than the people who didn’t.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Ariely has dubbed this attachment to things we have made ourselves the Ikea effect, and he says it can be harnessed by employers.

    DAN ARIELY: If you get people to feel that they are putting something, that they are creating it and so on, their love for the project would increase. The more something is yours, the more you’re willing to invest in it.

    So, these are Bionicles, little LEGO robots.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But it’s then more demotivating when others devalue that hard work, as in this experiment in which Ariely paid participants to build these characters.

    And one of these is like a wrap-around thing here. Hold on. Where do these go? Oh, these guys go at the end of this.

    What ages is this for, by the way?

    DAN ARIELY: Seven to 14.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Seven to 14, so I’m out of the age range, so…

    DAN ARIELY: Yes, after 14, it becomes increasingly harder.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAN ARIELY: And let’s say you finished, right?

    PAUL SOLMAN: OK.

    DAN ARIELY: I have it. And as you start building the second one, I break this into pieces.

    I’m just doing it here next to you. And then I say, would you like to build another one, the third one?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Right.

    DAN ARIELY: And if you say yes, I don’t bring a third box in. I give you the one that you just built, and I disassembled.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Oh, that’s cruel.

    In-your-face Bionicle dismemberment sure demotivated me, and, it turns out, the study’s participants.

    DAN ARIELY: Very quickly, they said no more, this is not worth my time.

    This is what happens when we destroy people’s work in front of their eyes, or when we don’t let their work reach any fruition. So, imagine that you’re working on some PowerPoint presentation, and I say, we’re not going to present it to anybody, or you’re working on a project, and I cancel your project. I just basically let you work, but I don’t let the product of the work shine.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Too often, says Ariely, firms kill motivation by failing to notice what workers really care about. And yet it’s so obvious.

    DAN ARIELY: The things that motivate us are to help other people, to feel that we’re useful, to feel that we’re getting better, to feel that we are kind of living to our potential, to get a sense of meaning. All of those things are positive.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And, above all, connection to others. Just ask people what most gratifies them, Ariely suggested.

    MAN: Watching my wife do things that are completely outrageous.

    MAN: Taking care of my family.

    WOMAN: My children.

    WOMAN: Watching my son dance.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And, in my own case, what keeps me doing this job, connecting with folks like Dan Ariely.

    That’s cute.

    DAN ARIELY: How come the Japanese didn’t think about this, right?

    (LAUGHTER)

    PAUL SOLMAN: This is economics correspondent Paul Solman, trying to connect with you from New York.

    It’s a swan displaying. I have got a whole story in my mind now.

    ALISON STEWART: Online, we have more from Dan Ariely. Read an excerpt from his book where he recalls helping a burn victim by sharing his experience.

    That’s at PBS.org/NewsHour.

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    Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on foreign cyber threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 5, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTX2XNWT

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    ALISON STEWART: The director of national intelligence says he has — quote — “very high confidence” that Russia hacked Democratic Party computers in a bid to interfere with the U.S. election.

    James Clapper spoke at a Senate hearing today with Admiral Mike Rogers of the National Security Agency. He also addressed President-elect Trump’s criticism of U.S. intelligence agencies.

    SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-Miss.): Who actually is the benefactor of someone who is about to become the commander in chief trashing the intelligence community?

    JAMES CLAPPER, Director of National Intelligence: I think there is an important distinction here between healthy skepticism, which policy-makers, to include policy-maker number one, should always have for intelligence, but I think there’s a difference between skepticism and disparagement.

    ALISON STEWART: Clapper confirmed that President Obama has now received a final report on the issue.

    Meanwhile, it was widely reported that former Indiana Senator Dan Coats is the president-elect’s choice for the next director of national intelligence.

    Mr. Trump also walked back from his criticism of intelligence agencies. He tweeted — quote — “The media lies to make it look like I’m against intelligence, when, in fact, I’m a big fan.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Turkey, a senior official says police are closing in on the gunman who killed 39 people at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Eve. The deputy prime minister said today he’s likely a member of the Muslim Uighur minority in China and part of a specialized terror cell.

    Meanwhile, in Iraq, new bombings killed at least 27 people today in Baghdad.

    ALISON STEWART: The Obama administration released four more prisoners from Guantanamo today. That’s despite President-elect Trump’s vow to keep the military prison open. Those released were from Yemen, and had been held more than 14 years, but never charged. They were sent to Saudi Arabia; 35 inmates remain at Guantanamo.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The battle over the fate of Obamacare’s had President-elect Trump firing barbs today at Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. In a series of tweets, Mr. Trump criticized Democrats in general and branded Schumer the — quote — “head clown.”

    The New York senator answered during a morning news conference.

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, Minority Leader: I would say to the president-elect and the Republicans that this is not a time for calling names. It’s time for them to step up to the plate if they want to repeal and show us what they’d replace it with.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Vice President Biden also commented, and you will see that shortly in our interview.

    Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan said today that Republicans plan to act this year on both repealing and replacing the president’s health care law.

    ALISON STEWART: An assault in Chicago that was live-streamed on Facebook drew national attention today. Police charged four black suspects with hate crimes against a mentally challenged white male. The video showed the victim being threatened with a knife and shoved down. He was later beaten and forced to drink from a toilet. As the attack progressed, the assailants yelled obscenities about whites and President-elect Trump.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama is touting progress on criminal justice reform during his tenure and urging more. He wrote about it today in The Harvard Law Review and said — quote — “How we treat citizens who make mistakes, pay their debt to society reflects who we are as a people.”

    Mr. Obama served as The Law Review’s first black president in 1990.

    ALISON STEWART: On Wall Street today, big banks and department stores struggled, but online retailer Amazon surged. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 43 points to close at 19899. The Nasdaq rose almost 11 points to a new record close, and the S&P 500 slipped a point.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And there’s word that living near a lot of traffic could make you more prone to dementia. A Canadian study found the risk is 7 percent greater for people living within 55 yards of high-traffic roads. Researchers say that it could come from breathing the pollution in car exhaust fumes. The findings appear in the medical journal “The Lancet.”

    The post News Wrap: Top U.S. intelligence official addresses Trump criticism over Russia hacking appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican president-elect Donald Trump's Trump Tower is seen in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., November 27, 2016. Photo by Darren Ornitz/REUTERS

    Republican president-elect Donald Trump’s Trump Tower is seen in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., November 27, 2016. Photo by Darren Ornitz/REUTERS

    Just over two weeks from taking office, President-elect Donald Trump gave a videotaped deposition stemming from a lawsuit he filed after celebrity chef José Andrés backed out of plans to open at a restaurant at one of his hotels.

    Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten says the deposition lasted about an hour and was “routine.”

    It’s rare for a president or president-elect to be deposed. It happened most recently to Bill Clinton in 1998 during the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit.

    Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Ulysses Grant are the only other sitting presidents to face a deposition.

    Trump sued Jose Andres after the chef cancelled plans to open a Spanish-themed restaurant at a new Washington hotel after Trump’s inflammatory comments about Mexicans during the campaign.

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    Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on foreign cyber threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 5, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX2XNPT

    The nation’s top intelligence officials will brief President-elect Trump on their classified report Friday in New York. A day earlier, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on foreign cyber threats on Capitol Hill. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    WASHINGTON — The nation’s top intelligence officials are making their most detailed and persuasive case yet to President-elect Donald Trump that Russia interfered in this year’s U.S. political process.

    The officials — Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey — are preparing to point to multiple motives for Moscow’s alleged meddling as they brief Trump on their classified report Friday in New York. President Barack Obama received a briefing on Thursday, and a declassified version of the report is expected to be released at some point.

    Since winning the election, Trump has repeatedly questioned intelligence officials’ assessments that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and individual Democrats like Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

    Trump remained dubious about the assertion even on the eve of his intelligence briefing, asking how officials could be “so sure” about the hacking if they had not examined DNC servers.

    “What is going on?” he wrote on Twitter.

    A senior law enforcement official said the FBI repeatedly stressed to DNC officials the importance of obtaining direct access to the servers “only to be rebuffed until well after the initial compromise had been mitigated.” The official said the FBI had to rely on a “third party” for information, but did get access to the material it needed.

    The Washington Post, citing anonymous U.S. officials, reported Thursday that intelligence agencies have identified parties who delivered stolen Democratic emails to WikiLeaks. The officials also said there were disparities between efforts to infiltrate Democratic and Republican networks, and said the U.S. intercepted communications in which Russian officials celebrated Trump’s victory. It was not clear which of those details were included in the classified report.

    Sean Spicer, whom Trump has chosen as White House communications director and press secretary, said the billionaire business will go into Friday’s meeting “prepared to listen and understand how they got to the conclusions.” Asked on ABC’s “Good Morning America” if Trump would have an open mind, Spicer replied, “100 percent.”

    “The president-elect, I think, has a healthy skepticism on everything,” the spokesman said, adding that “a rush to judgment is not in the country’s best interest.”

    “I think the idea that he’s approaching this in a very logical, very methodical way … is the right way to go about it,” Spicer added.

    Ahead of the briefing, Trump moved to fill out his own intelligence leadership team, tapping former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats to lead the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.

    Coats served as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee before retiring from Congress last year. If confirmed by the Senate, he would oversee the umbrella office created after the 9/11 attacks to improve coordination of U.S. spy and law enforcement agencies. The person with knowledge of Trump’s decision, as well as others who spoke to The Associated Press about intelligence matters involving Trump, were not authorized to discuss the matters publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Coats, a 73-year-old Capitol Hill veteran, served eight years in the House before moving to the Senate in 1989 to take Dan Quayle’s place when he became vice president. He stayed in the Senate until 1998, then left to become a lobbyist. After a stint as ambassador to Germany under President George W. Bush, he returned to Indiana for a Senate comeback bid in 2010. He did not seek re-election last year.

    Coats was a harsh critic of Russia and pushed the Obama administration to punish Moscow for its annexation of Crimea in 2014. When the White House levied sanctions, the Kremlin responded by banning several lawmakers, including Coats, from traveling to Russia.

    Coat’s nomination is likely to quell concerns that the president-elect is seeking a sweeping overhaul of intelligence agencies. Trump’s transition team has also been considering ways to restructure agencies to streamline operations and improve efficiency. Transition officials have been looking at changes at both ODNI and the CIA, but those plans are said not to be aimed at gutting the intelligence agencies or hampering their capabilities.

    The person with knowledge of the discussions said they reflected the views of intelligence officials who have told Trump’s team that there is room for streamlining within the multi-agency intelligence community.

    The Wall Street Journal first reported Wednesday night that Trump was considering changes at the intelligence agencies. Trump transition spokesman Sean Spicer disputed the report Thursday morning.

    “There is no truth to this idea of restructuring the intelligence community infrastructure. It is 100 percent false,” Spicer said.

    The scope of the changes discussed by some in Trump’s transition team was unclear. But the prospect of a sweeping overhaul still created blowback, contributing to former CIA Director James Woolsey’s decision to step aside as a senior adviser to the president-elect.

    A person with direct knowledge of Woolsey’s decision said the former CIA chief had not been significantly involved in the Trump team’s discussions on intelligence matters and became uncomfortable being labeled as an adviser. In an interview on CNN, Woolsey said he did not want to “fly under false colors.”

    In other recent television appearances, Woolsey — he was CIA director under President Bill Clinton — said he believed Russia was involved in the election-related hackings, though he also said others may have been as well.

    The CIA declined to comment on the potential changes. Clapper told a Senate panel Thursday that his office has not been engaged in such discussions with the Trump transition team. He noted that lawmakers created his office.

    “Congress, I think, gets a vote here,” said Clapper, who was testifying on Russia’s election interference.

    Associated Press writers Eileen Sullivan, Eric Tucker and Josh Lederman in Washington, Tom Davies in Indianapolis and Jonathan Lemire in New York contributed to this report.

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    Then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a sign supporting his plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico that he borrowed from a member of the audience at his campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Photo by Jonathan Drake/Reuters

    Then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a sign supporting his plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico that he borrowed from a member of the audience at his campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Photo by Jonathan Drake/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump on Friday tweeted that Mexico will reimburse American taxpayers for a new border wall and that U.S. money spent will be for the “sake of speed.”

    His tweet came as congressional Republicans and his top aides consider a plan to ask Congress to ensure money is available in U.S. coffers for the wall without passing any new legislation. Instead, they would rely on existing law that already authorizes fencing and other technology along the southern border.

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

    The potential approach was disclosed Thursday by two congressional officials and a senior transition official with knowledge of the discussions; all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

    Trump said in a tweet early Friday: “The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!” Mexico’s president and other senior officials have repeatedly insisted that Mexico won’t pay for a wall.

    During his campaign, Trump repeatedly told voters if elected he would build a wall along the U.S. southern border and make Mexico pay for it.

    But Trump never settled on a mechanism for how Mexico would pay. He floated various options, including compelling the country to cover the cost through higher visa and border crossing fees and threatening to target billions of dollars in remittances sent home by immigrants living in the U.S.

    Trump transition spokesman Sean Spicer said putting U.S. money up-front “doesn’t mean he’s broken his promise.” In an interview Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Spicer said: “I think he’s going to continue to talk to them (the Mexican government) about that.”

    The approach could also stave off a legislative fight that Trump might lose if he tried to get Congress to pass a measure authorizing the kind of border wall he promised during the campaign.

    It’s not clear how much could be done along the 2,000-mile border without additional actions by Congress. Lawmakers passed the Secure Fence Act of 2006, but most of those 700 miles have already been built. Some areas are in much better shape than others, though, and long stretches are made up of fencing that stops vehicles but not pedestrians.

    But whatever steps might be taken without Congress’ approval would be likely to fall short of the extravagant new wall on the border that Trump repeatedly said Mexico would pay for during his campaign for the White House. And despite Congress’ involvement in approving any spending, such an approach might also open Trump to charges of circumventing the House and the Senate to take unilateral actions, something he repeatedly criticized President Barack Obama for doing. A spending bill including money for border construction could also provoke a legislative showdown given potential opposition from Senate Democrats.

    Still, several lawmakers and congressional officials said the administration could have significant flexibility in taking additional steps without Congress’ approval.

    “There’s a lot of things that can be done within current law,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., a longtime proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, though he emphasized that a lasting solution on immigration would take action by Congress. “You cannot minimize the potential impact of the administration doing what they can do under the law,” he said.

    However, some immigration hard-liners have already expressed the desire to see Congress take a vote, given how prominent the wall was during Trump’s presidential campaign, and their desire to act on the issue.

    Trump’s vow to build an impenetrable, concrete wall along the southern border was his signature campaign proposal. “Build the wall!” supporters would chant at his rallies. “Who’s going to pay for it?” Trump would ask them. “Mexico!” Trump often promised the wall would be built of hardened concrete, rebar and steel as tall as his venues’ ceilings, and would feature a “big, beautiful door” to allow legal immigrants to enter.

    Most experts viewed such promises as unrealistic and impractical, and Trump himself sometimes allowed that the wall would not need to span the entire length of the border, thanks to natural barriers like rivers. After winning the election, he said he’d be open to stretches of fencing.

    The post Trump on border wall: Mexico will pay us back for ‘sake of speed’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Arminda Murillo, 54, reads a leaflet on Obamacare at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, California. Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

    President Obama said the uncertainty of a repeal with no replacement could lead insurance companies to bail on the health care marketplaces during the phase-out years, leaving millions without insurance. Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama derided as “reckless” on Friday a Republican plan to repeal his health care law now and replace it later, predicting that the replacement may never come.

    In an opinion piece in the New England Journal of Medicine, Obama sought to dispel the notion that Republicans could fulfill their campaign promises to gut the Affordable Care Act immediately without risking devastating consequences for consumers. Calling that approach “irresponsible,” Obama urged Republicans to do the work now to develop an alternative.

    “Given that Republicans have yet to craft a replacement plan, and that unforeseen events might overtake their planned agenda, there might never be a second vote on a plan to replace the ACA if it is repealed,” Obama wrote. “And if a second vote does not happen, tens of millions of Americans will be harmed.”

    In his final days in office, Obama has been ramping up a public push to pressure Republicans over their plans to undermine “Obamacare,” his signature legislative achievement. He traveled Wednesday to Capitol Hill to strategize with Democratic lawmakers, and on Friday he will answer questions on health care during a live-streamed interview at Blair House, the government guest house across from the White House.

    Although Democrats are largely resigned to the likelihood the GOP will succeed in repealing the law, they are seeking to exploit divisions among Republicans who for years have been unable to unite behind an alternative.

    President-elect Donald Trump’s team has said repeal is the first order of business, and leaders in Congress hope to deliver a bill voiding much of the law to Trump by late February. Yet with no replacement ready to go, they’ve been discussing a repeal that wouldn’t take effect for 18 months or longer, giving them time to devise a new plan.

    Although House Speaker Paul Ryan said this week that lawmakers will vote on a replacement this year as well, it’s unclear how Republicans could move that quickly to replace a law that took more than a year to craft — especially given GOP disagreements about how to pay for popular parts of the law they hope to preserve.

    But Obama said the uncertainty of a repeal with no replacement could lead insurance companies to bail on the health care marketplaces during the phase-out years, leaving millions without insurance. He said it would set up a “cliff” with harmful consequences if lawmakers fail to approve a replacement in time.

    The post GOP plan to repeal ACA now, replace later is ‘reckless,’ says Obama appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Congress certified Donald Trump’s presidential victory Friday over the objections of a handful of House Democrats, with Vice President Joe Biden pronouncing, “It is over.”

    House Democrats objected to the votes from at least 10 states, raising issues of voter suppression as well as American intelligence showing that Russia tried to sway the election in favor of Trump. In each case, their objections were denied because they didn’t have the support of any senators.

    All 538 electors met in their respective state capitals in December to cast their votes. Friday’s vote count made it official. Biden presided over the count in his role as president of the Senate.

    READ MORE: House Democrats plan to raise objections during Electoral College vote count

    Trump finished with 304 electoral votes and Democrat Hillary Clinton got 227. There were seven protest votes for other candidates. It takes 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency.

    As expected, Mike Pence was elected vice president.

    Trump and Pence are to be sworn in on Jan. 20.

    As the votes were announced for state after state, Democratic members of the House stood up to object. But in each case, no Democratic senator would join them, and Biden cut them off.

    “There can be no debate,” Biden said repeatedly.

    Under federal law, if at least one senator and one House member object to the vote from any state, the House and Senate will meet separately to debate the merits of the objection.

    Toward the end of the count, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., pleaded for a senator to join her in objecting.

    “Is there one United States senator who will join me in this letter of objection?” Waters said to boos from Republicans. None did.

    Several protesters were ejected from the public gallery as the vote count concluded.

    Trump won even though Clinton received nearly 2.9 million more votes. His election has generated much angst among Democrats and others who oppose the billionaire businessman. But they have been powerless to change the outcome.

    Despite rumblings of a revolt, only two Republican electors — both from Texas — cast protest votes for someone other than Trump. Clinton lost four Democratic electors in Washington state and one in Hawaii.

    On Friday morning, Trump went on Twitter to provide another assessment of the election.

    “Hillary and the Dems were never going to beat the PASSION of my voters. They saw what was happening in the last two weeks before the (election) and knew they were in big trouble — which is why they cancelled their big fireworks at the last minute. THEY SAW A MOVEMENT LIKE NEVER BEFORE,” Trump wrote.

    Associated Press reporter Stephen Ohlemacher wrote this story. AP writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

    The post WATCH: Congress certifies Donald Trump’s victory appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a video link, dedicated to the start of natural gas supplying from mainland Russia to Crimea, in Moscow, Russia. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters

    Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a video link, dedicated to the start of natural gas supplying from mainland Russia to Crimea, in Moscow, Russia. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a hidden campaign to influence America’s presidential election in favor of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, U.S. intelligence agencies declared Friday in the government’s first formal allegation supporting sensational claims that Trump and his supporters have staunchly resisted.

    The intelligence report, an unclassified version of a more-detailed classified account given earlier to Trump, the White House and congressional leaders, withheld any evidence to back up its assertions. The president-elect said after his own meeting with the nation’s top intelligence officials that it was clear Russian email hacking did not deliver him the presidency.

    The unclassified version was the most detailed public account to date of Russian efforts to interfere with the U.S. political process, with actions that included hacking into the email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and individual Democrats like Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta. Russia also used state-funded propaganda and paid “trolls” to make nasty comments on social media services, the report said. There was no suggestion that Russia affected actual vote counting or tampered with ballot machines.

    Read the full report below:

    Unclassified version of intelligence report on Russian hacking during the 2016 election by PBS NewsHour on Scribd

    The report, for the first time, explicitly tied Putin to the hackings, called it the “boldest effort yet” to influence a U.S. election, and said the Russian government provided emails to WikiLeaks — something the website’s founder, Julian Assange, has repeatedly denied. The intelligence agencies also said Russia will continue to try to influence future events in the U.S. and worldwide, particularly among U.S. allies.

    Since Election Day, the intelligence agencies said, Russia has launched a “spear-fishing” campaign to try to trick people into revealing their email passwords, targeting U.S. government employees and think tanks that specialize in national security, defense and foreign policy.

    The report lacked details about how the U.S. learned what it said it knows, such as any intercepted conversations or electronic messages among Russian leaders, including Putin, or about specific hacker techniques or digital tools the U.S. may have traced back to Russia in its investigations.

    Exactly how the U.S. monitors its adversaries in cyberspace is a closely guarded secret, since revealing such details could help foreign governments further obscure their activities.

    The unclassified version included footnotes acknowledging that it “does not include the full supporting information on key elements of the influence campaign.” It said its conclusions were identical to the classified version, which was more detailed.

    The unclassified report said the Russian effort was both political and personal.

    “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency,” it said. “We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

    Putin most likely wanted to discredit Clinton because he blames her for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he resents her for disparaging comments she has made about him, the report said. It said the Russian effort was the “boldest yet” intended to affect a U.S. election.

    The report was released shortly after intelligence officials finished briefing Trump — a move probably intended to bolster the intelligence findings against pushback from the president-elect.

    Trump could use the lack of supporting details in the public version to fuel his dismissiveness of the findings, even though he has now been briefed on the classified portion.

    Trump has been dismissive of the intelligence agencies’ claims of Russia’s involvement for months, long before he saw the classified information Friday.

    Just hours before he was briefed, Trump dismissed the assessment and told The New York Times the focus on Russia’s involvement is a “political witch hunt” by adversaries who are embarrassed they lost the election. “They got beaten very badly in the election,” Trump said. “They are very embarrassed about it. To some extent, it’s a witch hunt. They just focus on this.”

    After finally seeing the intelligence behind the claims of the outgoing Obama administration, Trump released a one-page statement that did not address whether Russia sought to meddle. Instead, he said, “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

    Clapper told Congress on Thursday that intelligence agencies had no way of gauging what influence this meddling had in the outcome of the election. It was unclear Friday what evidence Trump had to support his claims.

    As Trump met in New York with intelligence officials for his briefing about Russia’s campaign, Congress tallied the Electoral College votes, officially confirming Trump’s November victory.

    Trump acknowledged in his statement that “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people” are consistently trying to hack U.S. networks, including the Democratic National Committee’s.

    He said, as did the intelligence report, that “there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”

    Trump said that as president he would appoint a team to develop a plan to “aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks.”

    Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Chad Day and Jack Gillum contributed to this report.

    READ MORE: Russian interference in election a ‘hostile act,’ John Kerry says in PBS NewsHour interview

    The post Russian President Putin ‘ordered’ campaign to influence U.S. election, report finds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with PBS NewsHour co-anchor Judy Woodruff at the State Department in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6. Photo by Abbey Oldham/PBS NewsHour

    Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with PBS NewsHour co-anchor Judy Woodruff at the State Department in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6. Photo by Abbey Oldham/PBS NewsHour

    Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday said the war in Syria, while a profound failure on the part of the international community, is not a U.S. failure alone.

    “We brought Iran to the table, we brought Russia to the table. We had assurances that Assad would do certain things, and he didn’t,” Kerry told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff. “He chose not to, so the Russians failed, actually, to deliver Assad in the way that they said he would.”

    He went on to say that history will debate the choices made, “but I don’t think it falls exclusively on us that this problem hasn’t been solved.”

    Kerry also called Russian attempts to interfere in the U.S. election a “hostile act,” though he would not speculate on other reports that senior Russian officials celebrated President-elect Donald Trump’s win.

    A classified intelligence report issued Friday confirmed Russian interference in the U.S. election. “It has serious consequences, and we’re going to have to work that through,” Kerry said.

    Trump, who has been skeptical of the intelligence community’s assessment thus far, met earlier in the day with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey in New York.

    Before being briefed, Trump told The New York Times that the focus on hacking was a “witch hunt.” After the briefing, he said the meeting was “constructive” and emphasized he had tremendous respect for the intelligence community. He also reiterated that any attempted cyber-influence had no effect on the election.

    “While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations, including the Democratic National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election, including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines,” Trump said. “There were attempts to hack the Republican National Committee, but the RNC had strong hacking defenses and the hackers were unsuccessful.”

    Kerry called U.S. relations with Russia “complicated” and said that both nations have a track record of working together on issues such as removing chemical weapons from Syria and on the Paris climate change agreement.

    But on other issues, such as the separatist movement in Ukraine, the two countries are far apart, Kerry said. “My hope is the next administration will approach Russia strategically with a clear purpose of trying to find more common ground but without giving up on fundamental values and principles that are at the core of the United States foreign policy.”

    Last month, President-elect Trump tapped ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, after a lengthy selection process in which he also considered former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, a former mayor of New York City and top Trump surrogate during the campaign.

    Kerry told the PBS NewsHour he plans to sit down with Tillerson next week to discuss key foreign policy issues.

    The secretary of state would not disclose the exact issues he plans to discuss.

    But there are a number of issues on which Tillerson could reverse course from Obama administration policies.

    For one, foreign policy watchers have criticized Tillerson for his ties to Russia. The oil executive conducted extensive business in the country for Exxon, and Putin awarded him the Order of Friendship in 2012. Others have come to Tillerson’s defense, saying his vast knowledge of Russia could be a major asset.

    Kerry, in contrast, has sparred with Russia on a range of issues, from the annexation of Crimea to Russia’s support for President Bashar Al Assad in Syria’s ongoing civil war.

    If confirmed, Tillerson could also represent a break from Kerry on another key issue: climate change.

    Kerry worked on climate change issues throughout his Senate career, and as secretary of state pushed for the Paris climate agreement, a major international accord aimed at curbing global greenhouse gas emissions.

    Kerry also opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, after a lengthy State Department review of the proposed oil project.

    Tillerson has said he supports the pipeline, and has spent the past decade at the helm of the world’s largest oil and gas company.

    Exxon said earlier this week that if Tillerson, who stepped down as CEO on Jan. 1, is confirmed, the company would place an exit package of 2 million shares — worth roughly $181 million — in a blind trust. Tillerson has also said he would sell his current shares in the company.

    Tillerson’s senate confirmation hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

    Kerry joined the Obama administration in 2013, replacing Hillary Clinton after she stepped down as secretary of state.

    Before taking the top job at the State Department, Kerry served in the U.S. Senate for 28 years, including as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry was the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, losing a close election to President George W. Bush.

    Kerry has not announced exactly what he will do after leaving the Obama administration, but he said he plans to continue in public service.

    You can watch Judy Woodruff’s full interview with Sec. of State John Kerry on Friday’s broadcast.

    The post Russian interference in election a ‘hostile act,’ John Kerry says in PBS NewsHour interview appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    That’s a wrap. December’s jobs report is the last for the Obama administration, and it ends on a high (if also predictable) note: The U.S. economy added 156,000 jobs in December, and the unemployment rate changed little at 4.7 percent.

    The number of jobs added in October and November were revised down 7,000 and up 26,000 respectively, for a total 19,000 more jobs than previously reported.

    Wages also rose, with average hourly earnings gaining 10 cents in December after a 2 cent decrease in November. Over the year, wages have increased 2.9 percent. As economist Elise Gould noted, despite room for improvement, that growth is the fastest so far in the recovery.

    So overall, how was 2016 for the economy?

    The U.S. economy added nearly 2.2 million jobs — on average, 180,000 jobs a month. The unemployment rate fell from 5 percent to 4.7 percent, hitting a post-recession low of 4.6 percent in November. The number of involuntary part-time workers fell by 459,000, and the number of discouraged workers fell by 237,000. Our Solman Scale U7, a more comprehensive measure of un- and underemployment, hit a low of 11.3 percent down from 12 percent a year earlier.

    And as economist Justin Wolfers points out, December was the 75th month of straight job growth.

    All of this begs the question: Was it really the sour state of the U.S. economy that put President-elect Donald Trump in the White House?

    “Wage growth has been the Achilles heel of [Obama’s] tenure,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the conservative American Action Forum. Throughout the recession and subsequent recovery, roughly “90 percent of the people were employed the entire time, and they did not get a raise.” The wage growth in 2016 was too little, too late.

    University of Michigan economist Betsey Stevenson points to the hit in manufacturing — a loss of 45,000 jobs in 2016 — to explain the frustration with the economy.

    While manufacturing gained 17,000 jobs in December (perhaps in reaction to a Trump presidency), “Manufacturing jobs never really came back,” said economist Mark J. Perry of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Some of the economic anxiety felt in 2016 comes from a “misplaced expectation that all of these manufacturing jobs are going to come back,” but, because of gains in productivity and technology, that’s highly unlikely, he added.

    The gendered characteristics of the manufacturing industry are telling, says economist Kate Bahn of the progressive Center for American Progress. “We are losing male-dominated jobs,” — in coal, construction and manufacturing — “and we’re gaining feminine-dominated jobs” — in health care and education, she said.

    “Male jobs we see as more important to the economy,” said Bahn. “We don’t value feminine jobs the same.” One of the successes of the economic populist message, she added, was how economic anxiety was linked to a loss of masculinity, as blue-collar men were faced with unemployment or “feminine” jobs.

    So while the economy has recovered, some people have yet to reap the benefits.

    And the black unemployment rate, while hitting a post-recession low of 7.8 percent in December, is still almost twice that of white unemployment.

    On the whole, Bahn notes, December’s jobs report was indicative of the economy under Obama administration with it’s “slow, steady, progressive tightening of the labor market.” The smoothness of the recovery, she added, is a “testament to progressive economic policies.”

    And what can the next president expect?

    “He’s inheriting an economy that’s on solid ground, a stock market that’s at an all time high, and the mood of the country has turned in a positive direction,” said Perry.

    “Basically we’re back to full employment,” said Holtz-Eakin. Going forward, the question for Trump will be: “Can he generate better productivity growth, and can he generate more wage growth?”

    The post Final jobs report under Obama shows slow, steady growth appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A newspaper left as a sign of support is pictured at a makeshift memorial at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old with a criminal record, faces sentencing after he was convicted of killing nine people at a Bible-study meeting in the historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in an attack U.S. officialsinvestigated as a hate crime. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

    A newspaper left as a sign of support is pictured at a makeshift memorial at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old with a criminal record, faces sentencing after he was convicted of killing nine people at a Bible-study meeting in the historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in an attack U.S. officialsinvestigated as a hate crime. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

    On June 17, 2015, just after 8 p.m., 21-year-old Dylann Roof walked into a bible study session at the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina with a .45-caliber Glock pistol and seven extra loaded magazines. He sat in the prayer meeting for nearly an hour before opening fire on the worshippers, murdering nine people, including the pastor.

    A website discovered shortly after the shooting and registered under Roof’s name showed him posing with the confederate flag, embracing Nazi symbols and included a manifesto that supported segregation and criticized black people as inferior.

    “You need to prove not just the incident, but the state of mind of the defendant — that what they intended was hate-motivated.”

    On Dec. 15, Roof was found guilty on 33 counts of federal hate crimes. He now faces the death penalty. The sentencing portion of his trial resumed this week. Prosecutors convicted Roof on the hate crimes charges by pointing to a documented history of racial bias both from character witnesses and internet activity. In this case, the strength of circumstantial evidence played a major role in Roof’s conviction.

    A hate crime is defined by the FBI as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

    But prosecuting these criminal incidents is often a complicated and arduous process. No national agency tracks conviction rate data nationwide, said Michael Lieberman, who directs the Anti-Defamation League’s Civil Rights Policy Planning Center: “No one does it, and we would really like it if they would.”

    However, a handful of states do monitor how often prosecutors secure convictions in hate crimes cases, Lieberman said. California, he said, is one of them.

    In California, there were 837 hate crime incidents in 2015, up 10 percent from the previous year, according to a report from the California Department of Justice. California prosecuted 189 hate crime cases in 2015 (these crimes were not necessarily committed that year). When California issued its 2015 hate crime report, the state confirmed that of those 138 cases with final court rulings, less than half — 59 cases — resulted in hate crime convictions.

    hatecrimes2

    Benjamin Wagner, former U.S. Attorney for California’s Eastern District, has prosecuted dozens of hate crimes throughout his nearly 25-year career. “It’s notoriously difficult,” said Wagner, who is now in private practice.

    “You need to prove not just the incident, but the state of mind of the defendant — that what they intended was hate-motivated,” Wagner said. “That’s never easy and often involves not just looking at the incident, but going back and investigating the background of the defendant.”

    According to the Anti-Defamation League, 45 states and the District of Columbia have passed hate crime laws, but they vary widely in how a hate crime is defined and prosecuted. Congress attempted to bolster the nation’s existing federal hate crime laws by passing the Shepard Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009. The legislation is named after two hate crimes victims, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old college student from Wyoming and James Byrd Jr., a 49-year-old African-American man from Texas. Both men were killed in 1998 following brutal attacks — Shepard was targeted for his sexual orientation and Byrd was murdered by white supremacists.

    A November FBI report concluded there were more than 5,800 hateful incidents involving 7,100 victims in 2015 alone. Police departments voluntarily submit these reports through the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program database. Despite measures to streamline hate crimes prosecutions, these reports likely still don’t present the full picture of how widespread hate is in the United States.

    When hateful incidents erupt, law enforcement response is critical in determining how safe a community feels, but police must first realize what they are up against, Lieberman said: “The most important thing is training police departments to identify, report and respond to a hate crime.”

    “If the cop says, ‘These are just kids. Nothing to do here. Move along,’ then that’s terrible,” Lieberman said. “We need police to say, ‘This is wrong.’”

    The post Why hate crimes are so difficult to convict appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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