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

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    U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), an advisor to U.S. President Elect Donald Trump, speaks to members of the Media in the lobby of Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York November 17, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX2U9ZH

    Senator Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearings for the position of U.S. attorney general begin on Tuesday. Photo by REUTERS/Mike Segar

    At his confirmation hearing this week, Sen. Jeff Sessions will face tough questions about his 20-year tenure in the Senate. But he’ll also be pressed on his record before he entered Congress, when he served as U.S. attorney and Alabama’s attorney general.

    Over the past several weeks, as supporters and opponents of the 70-year-old Alabama Republican sharpened their arguments, two strikingly different portraits of the man have emerged.

    To some, Sessions is a beloved public servant who has represented his constituents faithfully and has the utmost respect for the law.

    “He is a world-class legal mind and considered a truly great Attorney General and U.S. Attorney in the state of Alabama,” President-elect Donald Trump said last November, when he announced Sessions’ nomination to head the Department of Justice. “Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him.”

    But to others, Sessions is a stumbling block to progress— a man who has argued in court against civil rights, demeaned black aides in his office, and spoken out forcefully against immigration reform.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center went so far as to call him the “champion of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant extremists.” Last week, six people, including NAACP President Cornell Brooks, were arrested during a sit-in protest in Sessions’ Mobile, Alabama office.

    And in an extraordinary move last week, more than 1,200 faculty members, from 176 law schools in 49 states, signed a letter opposing Sessions’ candidacy for attorney general. They expressed concerns about his stance on mass incarceration, climate change, women, the LGBTQ community, immigration and civil rights.

    Specifically, the faculty members cited Sessions’ 1986 federal judgeship confirmation, in which he was accused of calling a black colleague “boy” and joking about the Ku Klux Klan. President Ronald Reagan had tapped Sessions to serve as a federal judge, but these comments and the controversy they stirred led the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote to reject his nomination.

    “Nothing in Senator Sessions’ public life since 1986 has convinced us that he is a different man than the 39-year-old attorney who was deemed too racially insensitive to be a federal district court judge,” the letter said.

    Who Jeff Sessions was before that controversial 1986 hearing depends on who you ask.

    Peter Nunez, who knew Sessions from their time as U.S. attorneys in the Reagan administration, described him as “modest” and called efforts to discredit his record a “smear campaign.”

    “Who Jeff Sessions was before that controversial 1986 hearing depends on who you ask.”

    “I find it totally unlike anything I’ve known about Sen. Sessions,” Nunez said. “He’s a strong advocate for the rule of law, who is trying to do what’s best for the country.”

    Nunez is now the chairman of the board at the Center for Immigration studies, a think tank that advocates policies that allow for fewer immigrants but “affords a warmer welcome for those who are admitted,” according to the organization’s website.

    “I have full confidence that he’s the man to lead the Department of Justice,” Nunez said.

    Not surprisingly, as an attorney practicing in the Deep South, Sessions’ early career in Alabama was marked by racially-charged cases.

    As U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama — a position Sessions held from 1981 to 1993 — his office prosecuted two members of the KKK for murdering a young black man, Michael Donald, in 1981. One of the men received the death penalty.

    Four years later, Sessions prosecuted three African-Americans in Perry County for voter fraud. The men, who were later acquitted, became known as the “Marion Three.” The case was a flashpoint in debates over voting rights, and Sessions’ critics still point to it more than 30 years later as a proof of his efforts to suppress minority voter turnout.

    Sessions’ supporters have long argued that the prosecution wasn’t racially motivated, because the initial complaints about voter fraud that led to the case came from local black officials.

    The questionnaire Sessions completed for his nomination as the nation’s top law enforcement official reiterated that view.

    Sessions wrote that African-American candidates told the district attorney that an election was being stolen from them because a large number of absentee ballots were being collected. The district attorney, who was white, then brought the case to Sessions.

    Hank Sanders, a Selma-based lawyer at the time who focused on civil rights in the 1980s, saw it differently. Sanders said the case gained visibility after white officials became involved.

    “I was in Perry County when blacks complained that whites were voting for dead people on absentee ballots and nothing was done,” he said. “But when whites complained, they threw everything in except the kitchen sink.”

    Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) waits for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to exit his plane after arriving for stop on his USA Thank You Tour event in Mobile, Alabama, U.S., December 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson - RTX2VHFQ

    Senator Jeff Sessions waits for President-elect Donald Trump to exit his plane after arriving for a stop on his USA Thank You Tour event in Mobile, Alabama last month. Photo by REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

    Sessions’ two years as attorney general of Alabama, from 1995 to 1997, were also marked by tension over race-related issues. Sessions defended the state’s education funding model, which opponents argued gave nearly twice as much money per student to those in more affluent, white neighborhoods as it did to students in poorer, largely minority communities.

    William Smith, the former chief counsel for Sessions on the Senate Judiciary and Budget Committees, said Sessions was only doing his duty.

    “The [Alabama] attorney general’s job is to defend the laws of the state, just like the U.S. attorney general’s job is to defend the laws of the country,” Smith said.

    In addition to his legal record, Smith, who is black, said his own interactions with Sessions over the more than dozen years he has worked with the senator have been only positive.

    “When I would go over to talk to him late in the afternoon about upcoming legislation, he might spend more time with me talking about my personal life to make sure my life was going well, because he simply cared about how I was doing,” Smith said.

    Smith cautioned people who have not spent much time with Sessions not to pass character judgments.

    “What’s been left out of [the] national conversation is that everyone bringing up attacks against him don’t know him,” Smith said. “They don’t like his policy points of view, but he’s not a racist.”

    Nonetheless, accusations of racism have dogged Sessions ever since the 1986 confirmation hearings. At the hearings, civil rights attorney Gerry Hebert famously testified that Sessions called the NAACP and ACLU “un-American” and “communist-inspired.”

    “Those were things that showed to me racial insensitivity,” Hebert said in an interview, recalling his testimony. Hebert said he was initially reluctant to testify, because he had a good working relationship with Sessions.

    When working on cases for the Justice Department in Alabama, Hebert said he would set up shop in Sessions’ U.S. attorney’s office. The two had several cordial interactions over coffee, Herbert said. But in the end, he said he decided he had to speak out about what he heard, and the Senate chose not to confirm Sessions.

    Today, there is little chance Sessions won’t be confirmed as attorney general. Ahead of his Sessions’ confirmation hearing on Tuesday, only one senator, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, has explicitly said he would not vote for Sessions.

    Also working in Sessions’ favor is the fact that senators rarely oppose fellow senators for cabinet posts. Sen. John G. Tower, President George H.W. Bush’s pick for defense secretary, was the last senator to be rejected in 1989.

    But that doesn’t mean Sessions won’t face intense criticism — from old and new foes alike — when he comes before his colleagues on Capitol Hill.

    Hebert has not spoken to Sessions since the judgeship hearing, but he said he thinks Sessions’ views have hardened over the years.

    He pointed to Sessions’ votes in the Senate against hate crime bills, the Violence Against Women Act, and Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be attorney general, and his comments that Obama nominees had “ACLU DNA.”

    “If someone called me a racist in 1986, I would have gone forward and made sure I had a record, so that if I was nominated today, I could say, ‘You were wrong,’” Hebert said. “For him to continue to use terms like that shows me he hasn’t grown.”

    The post Why Sen. Jeff Sessions’ record in Alabama could complicate his confirmation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Creative businessmen reviewing paperwork in meeting. Related words: diversity, black-white earnings gap, work, workers, employee, employees, collaboration. Photo by Caiaimage/Sam Edwards via Getty Images

    Photo by Caiaimage/Sam Edwards via Getty Images

    Making Sense/NBER logo

    Each month, the NBER Digest summarizes several recent NBER working papers. These papers have not been peer-reviewed, but are circulated by their authors for comment and discussion. With the NBER’s blessing, Making Sen$e is pleased to feature these summaries regularly on our page.

    The following summary was written by the NBER and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Making Sen$e.


    Since the end of slavery a century and a half ago, differences between the earnings of black and white Americans have been a reality of the U.S. labor market. Among working men, this gap narrowed sharply between 1940 and 1970 and has remained largely stable ever since. In “Divergent Paths: Structural Change, Economic Rank, and the Evolution of Black-White Earnings Differences, 1940-2014,” Patrick Bayer and Kerwin Kofi Charles point out that focusing only on those who are employed fails to account for the growing numbers of men who are not working for a number of reasons. This group includes those who are unemployed, disabled or no longer searching for work as well as the rising number of individuals who are incarcerated.

    Their analysis … “points to the incredible lack of progress and, in many cases, regress in closing the gaps in labor market outcomes for black and white men.”

    Among working men, the researchers report that “the median earnings gap between blacks and white[s] fell by almost 60 percent from 1940 to 1980 (with large decreases in the 1940s and 1960s) but has been essentially flat ever since, remaining in the 35-40 percent range in every sample from 1980-2014.” But when they consider the entire population of men, they find that the earnings gap has actually widened substantially in recent decades. In 2010, the gap in the population as a whole was comparable to that in 1950.

    Their analysis, which focuses on the black-white earnings differences among prime-aged men from 1940 through the Great Recession, “points to the incredible lack of progress and, in many cases, regress in closing the gaps in labor market outcomes for black and white men.”

    READ MORE: Why fund managers from poor families achieve better results

    The findings are most striking among median- and low-income blacks, whose position relative to median-income whites changed little in the seven-decade study period. In 1940, the earnings of a median-income black earner fell at the 24th percentile of the earnings distribution for whites. At the time of the Great Recession, the comparable black earners’ earnings fall at the 27th percentile of the earnings distribution for whites — only a slight improvement in rank over the entire 75-year study period.

    black-white earnings gap

    In contrast, a black earner at the 90th percentile of the distribution for African Americans saw progress relative to the earnings of whites. In 1940, the earnings of the 90th percentile black were comparable to those of the median white, but by the late 2000s, this earnings level had risen to the 75th percentile in the white earnings distribution.

    READ MORE: How ‘ban the box’ policies unintentionally cause discrimination against these workers

    The racial earnings gap around the median narrowed from 1940 to 1970, due largely to broad economic forces that reduced the income disparities among all workers. But since then, the relative gains made by low-skilled blacks through improved education have been countered by the growing overall connection between education and economic rank, the researchers find. “Racial convergence in educational attainment would have led to strong positional gains for black men at the median and below, except that these men faced strong structural headwinds from the simultaneously rising returns to education, both in terms of wages and in the probability of employment,” the researchers find.

    The findings are most striking among median- and low-income blacks, whose position relative to median-income whites changed little in the seven-decade study period.

    By contrast, high-skilled black men have moved closer to their white counterparts in income, which the researchers suggest is due to more equal access to quality higher education and high-skilled occupations.

    “While the entire economy has experienced a marked increase in earnings inequality, this increase has been even more dramatic for black men … with those at the top continuing to make clear gains within the earnings distribution, and those at the bottom being especially harmed by the era of mass incarceration and the failing job market for men with low skills,” the researchers write. The impact of rising incarceration is particularly striking: The incarceration rate tripled for black men between 1980 and 2010, from 2.6 percent to 8.3 percent of the population. The rate quintupled for white men, but remained much lower, at 1.5 percent of the population.

    The researchers conclude that education “has played a subtle but extremely important role in the evolution of the racial earnings gap,” both fueling and stalling progress.

    — John Laidler, National Bureau of Economic Research

    The post The earnings gap between black and white men has barely shrunk in 30 years. Why? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of Secretary of State John Kerry by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    File photo of Secretary of State John Kerry by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry publicly apologized on Monday for the State Department’s institutional discrimination in the past against gay and lesbian diplomats.

    In a statement, Kerry said discrimination suffered by homosexual State Department workers has gone on since the 1940s. He said denying some people jobs and forcing diplomats out of the foreign service was “wrong then” and “wrong today.”

    Speaking on behalf of the department, Kerry apologized to all those who were discriminated against and said the department was committed to “diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community.”

    The post Kerry sorry for past State Department discrimination against gays appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A girl walks past a house painted in the colors of the U.S. flag in Moneygall, Ireland REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

    A girl walks past a house painted in the colors of the U.S. flag in Moneygall, Ireland. Photo by REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

    The Jennifer Century
    America! Give to me your 200 years
    of names borrowed from the Bible. Anyone
    can be a Mary. Australians. A Canadian.
    Take instead the all-American sound
    of Jennifer. Feel how it Kansases
    in your mouth, a flat rectangle of democracy.
    Notice in it the guttural yearn,
    primal urge for curds, conspicuous consumption
    of the doubled-n. Leave for the limeys
    their Guinevere, to the Cornish Gwenhwyfar,
    the origin stories too. America
    did not rise, enfogged, from a lake,
    was not pulled from a stone by a king.
    We emerged from the stocked shelves
    of Spencer’s Gifts and More,
    from the aisle of black lights and St. Patrick’s Day
    shirts festooned with “I’m So Irish, My Liver Hurts”
    and “Erin Go Braless.” Give to our Jennifers
    the American J, so goddamned unique
    the Commies have nothing like it
    and which the French mispronounce.
    O beautiful Jennifers, for spacious Camaros,
    for amber waves of perms. May you crack
    your gum forever, the canyons and forests
    and food courts echoing with its snap,
    Haileys and Kaylees circling the edges,
    watching for the moment your fringed jackets drop
    to paw the ground and pounce


    “First, you are laughing. Then there is a knife.” That’s how a fellow poet once described the work of poet Erin Adair-Hodges.

    It’s a fitting description for “The Jennifer Century.” Adair-Hodges wrote the poem in 2014, but it reads as if in direct, irreverent dialogue with current questions and rhetoric around what makes America great.

    Erin Adair-Hodges' debut collection is called "Let's All die Happy." Photo by Sean McCullough.

    Erin Adair-Hodges’ debut collection is called “Let’s All Die Happy.” Photo by Sean McCullough.

    “[This poem] looks at the emptiness of American exceptionalism and concepts of our ‘greatness’ but by talking about the name Jennifer… a quintessentially American name,” said Adair-Hodges, who said the poem came out of “thinking about names as signifiers” — not just of cultures but also of specific time periods and value systems.

    The title of the poem, Adair-Hodges said, is a nod to the so-called “American Century” — a term coined by Time publisher Henry Luce to describe the era of America’s sweeping influence that began in the middle of the 20th century, and continues to the present day. “I’ve always been fascinated by the term… as it implies a finiteness to our global influence and dominance,” Adair-Hodges said.

    “Poetry asks that, for even a few moments, we become fully engaged.”

    There is humor too. In this poem, Adair-Hodges asks us to consider that America’s origins aren’t as noble, say, as the tale of Excalibur (“America did not rise, enfogged, from a lake”). Instead, she suggests that perhaps we are born more out of capitalism (the shelves of Spencer’s Gifts), borrowed holidays (“I’m So Irish, My Liver Hurts”) and the ephemeral trends of our decades (big perms, cracking gum, Camaros).

    Adair-Hodges said her work is not necessarily political, but always “motivated by a sense of urgency.” For eight years, she left poetry, but came back to it after suffering from postpartum depression following her son’s birth. The depression became anxiety, which led to a desire to regain control and find meaning again through writing.

    It is the responsibility of the poet, she said, to force people to slow down and think in an era of speed and multi-tasking. “The actual physical act of reading requires so much investment and attention that it cannot be done apathetically,” she said. “Poetry asks that, for even a few moments, we become fully engaged.”

    Listen to Adair-Hodges’ read “The Jennifer Century” below.

    This poem first appeared in the literary journal Boulevard.  


    Erin Adair-Hodges’ first book, “Let’s All Die Happy,” which is forthcoming with the University of Pittsburgh Press, won the 2016 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. She is a Bread Loaf-Rona Jaffe Foundation Scholar in Poetry and winner of the 2014 Loraine Williams Prize from The Georgia Review.  Her work can be seen in Green Mountains Review, Kenyon Review, The Pinch, and more. She teaches writing in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

    The post The all-American essence of Kansas, Camaros and ‘Jennifer’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Husband of Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, arrives outside offices of Republican president-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York, New York, U.S. November 14, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri - RTX2TO40

    Jared Kushner, President-elect Donald Trump’s son-in-law, was named as a senior White House adviser on Monday, Jan. 9. Photo by REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

    President-elect Donald Trump named his son-in-law Jared Kushner as a senior White House adviser on Monday, an official West Wing role that will raise further questions about conflicts of interest with Trump and his family’s business empire.

    Trump’s announcement ended weeks of speculation that Kushner, a prominent real estate developer, would land a top position in the White House.

    “Jared has been a tremendous asset and trusted advisor throughout the campaign and transition and I am proud to have him in a key leadership role in my administration,” Trump said in a statement.

    Kushner said in a statement that he was “humbled by the opportunity to join” the incoming Trump administration.

    But the appointment of Kushner to a formal role in the White House is already raising red flags among critics who say that it could violate federal anti-nepotism laws.

    A role in the White House could also lead to possible conflicts of interest for Kushner, 35, whose company is pursuing a real estate deal in China and other ventures that could benefit from his close relationship to the president-elect.

    The decision to give Kushner a formal White House position also comes as Trump struggles to disentangle himself from his own business dealings before taking office. The president-elect has said he plans to take steps to distance himself from his businesses, but has not provided details on how he might do that.

    Kushner played an important behind-the-scenes role in Trump’s campaign, emerging over the course of the race as one of Trump’s most trusted advisers.

    He is married to Ivanka Trump, the president-elect’s eldest daughter, who also served as a key campaign adviser alongside her husband and the president-elect’s adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.

    In the primaries, Kushner helped draft a high-profile speech that Trump gave to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last March. The speech was one of the first major campaign events where Trump stuck to a prepared text, and it won praise from many conservatives at a time when Trump was struggling to gain traction with the party’s establishment.

    Over the summer, Kushner, his wife and her siblings pushed Trump to replace his first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. The staff shakeup resulted in the hiring of Paul Manafort and Kellyanne Conway, who guided the campaign through the final months of the election.

    Kushner’s stature rose in recent months as his father-in-law sought the presidency. But he has been a well-known figure in New York City for years.

    Kushner is the son of Charles Kushner, a real estate developer who served time in federal prison for illegal campaign contributions, as well as witness tampering and tax evasion. The investigation was conducted by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was then serving as the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

    The election brought renewed attention to the history between the Kushner family and Christie.

    Christie endorsed Trump after dropping out of the Republican primaries. He appeared alongside the real estate mogul at campaign events and delivered a keynote speech in support of Trump at the Republican National Convention.

    During the campaign, Christie served as the chairman of Trump’s transition committee. But he was pushed out soon after the election, fueling speculation that bad blood remained between Kushner and the man who landed his father in prison.

    Kushner also gained notoriety for his purchase of the New York Observer in 2006. Just 25 years old at the time, Kushner became one of the country’s youngest and most prominent newspaper publishers.

    Ten years later, he used the newspaper as a platform to support Trump’s campaign. Kushner defended his father-in-law in an op-ed in the newspaper that appeared last July, insisting that Trump was not anti-Semitic or racist.

    The post Jared Kushner named senior White House adviser to Donald Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Sen. Jeff Sessions, an advisor to President-elect Donald Trump, speaks to members of the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York in November. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    Sen. Jeff Sessions, an adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, speaks to members of the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York in November. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    After weeks of filling out his Cabinet, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees must now face confirmation hearings this week before Senate committees.

    Starting Tuesday, Trump’s picks for attorney general, Homeland Security chief and secretary of state, among others, will testify before the Senate during a week marked by political debuts and goodbyes.

    President Barack Obama’s farewell speech will be held in Chicago on Tuesday, while Trump will hold his first news conference in months the following day.

    Here’s a quick guide to the week’s hearings and speeches. PBS NewsHour will live stream several of these throughout the week.

    TUESDAY, JAN. 10

    Jeff Sessions addressed accusations of racism in a 1986 confirmation hearing. Video by NBC News

    WHO: Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and Trump’s nominee for Justice Department chief.
    WHEN: Tuesday, 9:30 a.m. ET
    WHAT TO EXPECT: Sessions will face questions on his 20-year tenure in the Senate, including his staunch stances on immigration, mass incarceration and civil rights.

    Sessions’ record as a U.S. attorney and Alabama’s attorney general is also blemished by accusations of racism. He lost a federal judgeship in 1986 after a few of his former colleagues testified that Sessions once called the NAACP and the ACLU “un-American” and joked that the Ku Klux Klan were “okay” until he learned they smoked marijuana.

    Sessions will continue his confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

    President-elect Donald Trump appears with retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly outside the main clubhouse after their meeting at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, in November. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    President-elect Donald Trump appears with retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly outside the main clubhouse after their meeting at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, in November. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    WHO: Retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, Trump’s nominee for Homeland Security secretary
    WHEN: Tuesday, 3:30 p.m. ET
    WHAT TO EXPECT: Kelly is a long-serving four-star military officer who joined the Marine Corps in 1970 and served three tours in Iraq. Before he retired in 2016, he served for three years as commander of the U.S. Southern Command, which has helped the Department of Homeland Security to target drug and human smuggling operations. Kelly has also been a vocal opponent to the Defense Department’s plans to open all combat jobs to women.

    Kelly is also a Gold Star family member, meaning someone who lost an immediate relative who served during wartime. His son, Marine 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, died at age 29 after he stepped on land mine in Afghanistan.

    WEDNESDAY, JAN. 11

    Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, testifies about the company's acquisition of XTO Energy before the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in 2010. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, testifies about the company’s acquisition of XTO Energy before the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in 2010. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    WHO: ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state
    WHEN: Wednesday, 9:00 a.m. ET
    WHAT TO EXPECT: Trump has praised Tillerson, a U.S. oil and gas man, as one of the most accomplished “international deal makers in the world,” but critics see a potential red flag in the close connection between the ExxonMobil CEO and Russia. For one, Tillerson was awarded the Order of Friendship from Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013, after he secured deals with a state-operated oil company. His association with Russia will more than likely be questioned during the hearing, at a time when several federal agencies have suspected the country of meddling with the U.S. election in Trump’s favor.

    Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), an advisor to U.S. President Elect Donald Trump, speaks to members of the Media in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), an advisor to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, speaks to members of the Media in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    WHO: Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and Trump’s nominee for attorney general for the Justice Department.
    WHEN: Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. ET
    WHAT TO EXPECT: The second part of Sessions’ confirmation hearing follows very public pushbacks from the NAACP, whose members staged a sit-in at his Alabama office last week, and by more than 1,400 faculty members from 180 law schools in 49 states, all of whom signed a letter opposing his nomination for attorney general.

    Donald Trump stands with Betsy DeVos after their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey in November. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    Donald Trump stands with Betsy DeVos after their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, in November. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    WHO: Betsy DeVos, Michigan Republican and Trump’s nominee for secretary of education
    WHEN: Wednesday, 10:00 a.m. ET
    WHAT TO EXPECT: The former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman is a longtime supporter of charter schools and voucher programs. She also heads the American Federation for Children, a Washington, D.C., group that advocates for charter schools, a position that aligns with Trump’s education agenda. And although DeVos has supported Common Core education standards in the past, a position unpopular with Republicans, she has since clarified her stance, saying she now opposed them.

    Also, as teachers unions are quick to point out, DeVos doesn’t have a professional background in a school district. Critics of school voucher programs also say these policies hurt public schools and low-income students.

    The post A guide to this week’s confirmation hearings: Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson and more appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    polimon

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on the upcoming Cabinet confirmation hearings, the latest on the president-elect’s transition to the White House, and more, it’s time for Politics Monday with Tamara Keith of NPR and Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today.

    All right, welcome to both of you.

    So, Tam, we just heard from Kellyanne Conway. What do you expect from these confirmation hearings?

    TAMARA KEITH, NPR: They certainly will be interesting, but they will all be happening at the same time, so we will have to have split-screens to pay attention to everything.

    And add on that screen Donald Trump having a press conference on Wednesday on the same day that there are five confirmation hearings. It’s going to be information overload. Democrats will try to put up a fight, to draw out contrasts with Donald Trump potentially between his Cabinet picks and the president-elect. And they will try to make it as painful as possible, but there isn’t much the Democrats can actually do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan, do you expect this ethic — the lack of ethics review to be done for some of these nominees to continue to be an issue?

    SUSAN PAGE, USA Today: Well, I think the Democrats will try to make it an issue, but it’s not stopping the hearings.

    Now, Mitch McConnell on Sunday on “Face the Nation” did say that they wouldn’t hold votes on the floor until the ethics paperwork was done. So there is at least that. There is not a law that says they have to wait, but it’s certainly been the practice in the past not to confirm somebody.

    But the fact that the review won’t have been done before the hearings for some of these candidates is a serious one for Democrats, because there are questions they won’t be able to ask. There are things they don’t know that they may find out through these ethics reviews. So, that’s one reason Democrats are concerned about this issue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tam, are Democrats targeting in particular some of the nominees over others or how are they looking at this?

    TAMARA KEITH: Well, that’s the challenge that they’re facing is that they have targeted eight nominees.

    Well, eight is a very big number, and so they aren’t — it’s sort of a scattershot approach. There isn’t like one nominee that they are just going to take down, in part because they don’t have the votes to truly block anyone unless they get Republican help.

    And at the moment, it doesn’t look like they have it. Now, something could change. A hearing could go poorly. But at the moment, by the numbers, Democrats aren’t in a strong position. They don’t have much leverage.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan, what is your reporting telling you about who is going to get the most attention from Democrats, or are they just spreading it out equally among all of them?

    SUSAN PAGE: Well, I think there are some cases where there will be proxy fights.

    And I think Rex Tillerson is a good example of that. Senate Democrats and even some Republicans don’t have a chance to quiz Donald Trump about his policy toward Russia, but they can ask Rex Tillerson about it. And Rex Tillerson himself, as head of ExxonMobil, had a lot of dealings with Russia in general, with Vladimir Putin in particular.

    So, I think that will be a big source of debate there. In some cases, I think they are going to target the person. I think that may be the case with Jeff Sessions, who has the first hearing tomorrow.

    Now, you would think they would go easy on a senator, because it’s an old boys club. But in this case, I think some of the Democratic senators have real concerns about things he has said in the past, especially dealing with race relations, with voting rights and on immigration. So in that case, it may be taking a little more personal turn.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tam, Susan just mentioned what Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said over the weekend.

    I’m trying to understand. Is this really different from what happened eight years ago, when President Obama’s nominees were coming through, because he made it sound as if, oh, this is just the same thing we — same way we have always done it here.

    TAMARA KEITH: Well, they have typically tried to defer to presidents, and they have typically tried to have a big group ready to go when the president takes the oath of office.

    However, Donald Trump’s nominees, some of them, at least four of them, have not finished — who have hearings scheduled have not finished the ethics process, and that is out of the ordinary, as we heard in an earlier segment.

    The only precedent that Republicans are pointing to goes back to when George W. Bush was first coming into office. And they have one example. So it is the best practice to have the ethics review done, and it is also a practice that has largely happened in the past.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan, I want to turn to something that happened last night, the Golden Globes Awards. We reported it earlier.

    Meryl Streep, getting an award, uses her time to take on Donald Trump, and she pinned it on what she described as his mocking a reporter, news reporter, with disabilities, and we saw Mr. Trump come back and tweet about her today, calling her overrated and saying he didn’t mock him.

    Is this something that it’s smart for him to engage in? How do you see this?

    SUSAN PAGE: Well, it’s untraditional for a president to take on Meryl Streep when she criticizes him at the Golden Globes, or Arnold Schwarzenegger when he doesn’t get ratings as big as he did for that reality show that he took over.

    And I think, you know, most political pundits would say, but this is a big mistake, it’s not presidential. On the other hand, it’s pretty authentic. It’s what got — it’s the kind of attitude and the kind of swagger that got Donald Trump where he is today.

    So I guess we will have to see if voters are comfortable with this approach, because, believe me, I think we’re going to be seeing tweets like this for the next four years.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we shall see.

    Finally, I want to ask both of you, we know, tomorrow night, President Obama, Tam, gives his farewell address. We’re going to be covering it live here 9:00 Eastern. You have given some thought to the farewell of this president.

    TAMARA KEITH: Yes.

    Well, and I have given some thought to the farewells of lots of presidents. This is a long tradition going back to George Washington, who delivered the first farewell address.

    And there tends to be a mix of looking backward and looking forward. George Washington offered warnings for people to come. So did Dwight Eisenhower.

    President Obama, I imagine, and based on what his administration has said, is likely to fall into the category of people who — presidents who talk about American values and America’s role in the world. And so I think that we can — you know, as he did on the campaign trail, talked about — on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton, talked about what he sees as American values, that might be the message that he tries to send with his farewell.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan, what are you looking for tomorrow night?

    SUSAN PAGE: You know, the stakes got much higher when Hillary Clinton lost the election, because we now have President Obama trying to make his case that he’s done a lot, and it’s good, the country’s in better shape than when he took over, and that is a legacy worth preserving, because Donald Trump is going to come in and try to dismantle big parts of that legacy.

    So I think the stakes get higher for him. And also his party is a little bit in the wilderness, trying to figure out where they go. And what will the role of Barack Obama be for the Democratic Party going forward? That might be one thing to listen for tomorrow night.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I know a lot of people are asking that question, especially since he’s going to continue to live in Washington, D.C. He is not going to be able to hide. Or I guess he will try to hide, but we will see.

    Susan Page, Tamara Keith, thank you both.

    TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

    SUSAN PAGE: Thank you.

    The post How Democrats are preparing to challenge Trump nominees appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A short time ago, before the Jared Kushner announcement, I spoke with senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway about the concerns surrounding some of these Cabinet picks going before the Senate this week.

    I started by asking why the confirmation hearings should go forward before the Office of Government Ethics has fully vetted the nominees.

    KELLYANNE CONWAY, Senior Adviser to President-elect Trump: Judy, as I understand it, some of the materials just aren’t — have not been complete in the process.

    And so there is no reason to delay hearings that we expect will cover the substance of the duties that each of those men and women would have in those respective departments and agencies.

    In addition, it’s my understanding that some of the designees have been requested to turn over tax information that has not been part of the regular course of action in the past. So I’m not sure where that stands, but we really need a fully functioning government next week as we have the transition of power from President Obama to President Trump.

    And that necessitates having, if we can, secretary of treasury and state and defense and commerce and other agencies and departments in place. I’m sure that the senators can ask these appointees and designees under oath for information about the materials that haven’t yet been completed. But I assure you all of our appointees and designees have been complying with all of the requests and the ethical obligations that have been requested of them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you mentioned tax returns. Not all of them are required to do that, but by practice they are expected to.

    Does the president-elect think they should comply with these rules, when he himself has not provided his own tax returns?

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, the president-elect and his senior team believes that anything that is required by law should be handed over.

    And he knows that these men and women who, in some cases, are making enormous sacrifices to move to Washington, D.C., divest themselves out of their significant holdings and successful companies to do so, are now complying with the ethics rules.

    And, again, anybody can ask a question they want to ask, Judy. I just hope that the questions in the Senate confirmation hearings are not this big game of gotcha and hide the ball that we sometimes see, and this level of obstructionism that has been promised by some of the Democrats in the Senate.

    That would be unfortunate because we need the government to continue to function effectively. I’m sure that your viewers know President Obama had seven Cabinet appointees confirmed on Inauguration Day.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s right.

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: We would like the same courtesy and the same practice.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But I just would interrupt to say that a number of the individuals that the president-elect has nominated have very complicated business, financial backgrounds. It’s taking time. Doesn’t the public expect there to be a full vetting before they take office?

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: Yes, the public probably does expect that.

    And, of course, the process necessitates information and disclosure, and under oath, these men and women will be asking questions from these Senate committees who are overseeing the hearings.

    I think that’s incredibly important also, because people should realize that, in past confirmation hearings, sometimes, people are just asked to talk about how they will deploy different functions, what decisions they made in the past in hiring and firing, and certainly in their business practices.

    And sometimes they’re asked about personal financial information. But let’s just hope that it advances the ball forward for America in these questions that they’re asking and have something to do with the proper functioning of the government.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about several other things. You mentioned — we were talking about the tax returns.

    Are Mr. Trump’s tax returns still being audited by the IRS? Will that continue once he takes office as president?

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: This was discussed last week actually in my presence. And the fact is, the audit is ongoing. And so the answers are the same, that as long as there is an active audit, he will not be turning over his tax returns.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Will he turn them over once that audit is complete?

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, he said that he would.

    I just don’t know about the specifics of the audit. And, again, respectfully, this was vetted very often and talked about in the media constantly on a daily basis, and the American electorate decided they wanted Donald Trump to be their president notwithstanding.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about the news today, several news organizations reporting that the president-elect’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will come into the White House as a senior adviser.

    What exactly will his role be, and why is there not a concern about nepotism?

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, a few things.

    Jared will make that announcement formally when he and the president-elect are ready to do. I sure hope the news reports are true, Judy, because it’s an absolute privilege and pleasure to work with Jared Kushner on the senior team, and has been all along in the transition and the campaign.

    Jared Kushner offers a tremendous business acumen and experience as a very successful real estate developer and businessman himself. He has holdings in many of the companies that he has now promised to divest. He will sell his share at fair market value, and significant holdings like 666 Fifth Avenue, Thrive Capital, and other companies in which he has a stake.

    The nepotism law doesn’t — the anti-nepotism law doesn’t apply to White House appointments. The president can appoint the staff he wishes to. And he has had — Jared has had many lawyers look at this, and they have concluded, in concert with the Office of Government Ethics, the OGE, that Jared is able to have the special adviser appointment by the president.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Two quick questions. Given, though, that he’s the president’s son-in-law, will he be first among equals among the advisers in the White House? And, second of all, is Ivanka Trump, his daughter, coming into the administration in any…

    (CROSSTALK)

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: Excuse me, Judy.

    Jared Kushner has the trust and the ear of his father-in-law, and that’s most important in working in the West Wing in that capacity. And he has this combination of political instincts and business acumen that’s truly exceptional.

    He’s involved in many of the decision-making processes. That will continue in the White House. And Jared’s always been a fabulous team player on our senior team. He really respects the advice and counsel of all of us.

    And we’re also all very candid with each other. And we really try to play to everybody’s best and highest use. Ivanka Trump will make that decision and that announcement, I’m sure, in the coming days or coming weeks. And she, too, has significant success in the private sector, certainly as an executive in the Trump Corporation, but also with her own brand, which is quite successful.

    She tells me hundreds of millions of dollars in sales this year, the Ivanka Trump…

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Excuse me. It sounds like you’re saying she is coming in to the administration?

    KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, that would be the intent. That certainly would be wonderful news to me. And I believe that that is the intention and the goal.

    But Ivanka Trump also will make that decision and that announcement on her own terms. She, too, is working with ethics and compliance experts and lawyers to make sure everything is as it should be before those announcements are made and those jobs are taken.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Kellyanne Conway, thank you very much for talking with us.

    The post Conway says nominees’ lack of paperwork ‘no reason to delay hearings’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. president elect Donald Trump's appointees are seen in this combination image. Top (L-R) Wilbur Ross, appointed Commerce Secretary, Jeff Sessions, appointed U.S. Attorney General, James Mattis, appointed Defense Secretary, Rick Perry, appointed Energy Secretary, Scott Pruitt, appointed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. Bottom (L-R) John F. Kelly, appponted Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Price, Health and Human Services Secretary, Betsy DeVos, appointed Education Secretary, Ben Carson, appointed Housing and Urban development Secretary, Ryan Zinke, appointed Interior Secretary.  REUTERS/Files - RTX2VEEK

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The last day has seen a rise in both concern over and defense of President-elect Trump’s Cabinet nominees after news that some of them have not completed ethics reviews.

    Lisa Desjardins reports.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The president-elect walked out of Trump Tower with a business leader, Jack Ma of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, but his words were about politics and his Cabinet nominees.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), President-Elect: I think they will all pass.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That after Trump met with a key ally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who dismissed concerns about vetting.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Majority Leader: Yes, everybody will be properly vetted, as they have been in the past, and I’m hopeful that we will get up to six or seven picks of the national security team in place on day one.

    LISA DESJARDINS: All this ahead of a packed week, with two confirmation hearings set for tomorrow, five more set for Wednesday, and at least three slated for Thursday.

    But “NewsHour” learned that education secretary-designate Betsy DeVos and three other Trump nominees have not yet cleared an ethics review. Democrats with their Senate leader, Chuck Schumer, called it a rush job.

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, Minority Leader: Jamming all these hearings into one or two days, making members run from committee to committee makes no sense.

    Even if it takes a few weeks to get through them all in order to carefully consider their nominations, that is well worth it.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Schumer has threatened to slow down the Senate confirmation process if senators don’t have all the nominees’ information.

    Meanwhile, Republicans point to 2009, when the hearing schedule was nearly as packed, and 14 Obama nominees, like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder, were confirmed in the first nine days after inauguration.

    Now that is being called the Obama treatment, relatively fast confirmation. But Democrats say the difference is that President Obama’s nominees all cleared their ethics review process before their hearings, even before they were announced. The Office of Government Ethics says some Trump nominees have not even filed their paperwork yet.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, thank you for that report, but take us through this process. What exactly is required of these nominees?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Well, it depends on what committee you’re going in front of.

    Take you through what everyone is required of, first of all, three things. Every one of these nominees has to have an FBI background check, they have to have given financial disclosures to their committee of choice — or the committee that oversees their nomination, and they have to fill out a committee questionnaire.

    But, Judy, what depends on each committee is the following, whether or not an ethics review must be filed before a hearing or simply before a vote. It must be filed at some time. But that’s why we see these hearings this week before the ethics reviews are all in. Also, only three committees require tax forms from the past.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tell us a little more about what is missing for some of these nominees.

    LISA DESJARDINS: These ethics forms that we’re talking about are significant.

    There are two pieces to them. One is the financial disclosure, and the second is a letter in which each nominee has to state any potential conflict of interest with their future job and more importantly what they’re going to do to make sure the conflict of interest doesn’t matter.

    For instance, Rex Tillerson filed in his letter, which we now have, that he will go ahead and not just not get a salary from ExxonMobil, but any future bonuses which were significant, he’s going to now sever ties with altogether from ExxonMobil.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And as we have been saying, some of these nominees have these very complicated financial backgrounds.

    I want to ask you about what the director of the Office of Government Ethics wrote in a letter this weekend. He said, to his knowledge, never in the 40 years has a nominee gone before a hearing without having their ethics review completed.

    Is that your understanding?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s extraordinary coming from an ethics office, words like that.

    Almost. The Republicans say there is one example where a hearing has been held of a nominee who did not file their ethics paperwork. That is Rod Paige. He was George W. Bush’s education nominee way back in 2001. His ethics paperwork came eight days after his hearing, but, again, importantly, Judy, before the vote.

    But all of this, I think, Judy, the bottom line is senators are questioning nominees now before they have some of their paperwork.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And again only one in 40 years?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. And this Office of Government Ethics reviews thousands of government appointees, every Cabinet nominee in the last 40 years. And there is only one exception that we know of to this rule until now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I guess one bottom line, Lisa, is, could these nominees go ahead and be subject to a Senate vote if that approval material, or that ethics approval is not done?

    LISA DESJARDINS: The answer is no.

    And the reason is both Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, and the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, have said that they want all of this paperwork in before the full Senate vote.

    But, again, this is the review time. This is the chance when senators can actually scrutinize these nominees. And they’re doing it in some cases without the full set of information to ask questions from.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, a question you and I were discussing, we know Donald Trump talked in his campaign about changing the way Washington works. Is that what’s happening here, or are we seeing a tinkering with tradition?

    LISA DESJARDINS: I think that’s absolutely what’s happening here, because the way the Senate works is by tradition. And they are changing that tradition to some degree for Donald Trump.

    The Office of Government Ethics says the big problem here is that these are nominees who just didn’t get their paperwork as early as in the past. They’re complicated forms that they have to fill out, but the Trump transition team was aware of that.

    Now we have on the Senate all these hearings this week. By tradition, senators usually have this information in hand. This time, they don’t. That is changing the way Washington works and scrutinizes our future government.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Lisa Desjardins, thank you. We are going to be occupied with this all this week, into next week.

    We have got, what, five separate confirmation hearings on Wednesday, several every day this week.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Nine all week, yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Trying to follow it all and do the best job we can covering it.

    Lisa, thank you.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Pleasure.

    The post Some Trump nominees missing crucial ethics paperwork as confirmation hearings begin appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Jared Kushner, husband of Ivanka Trump, leave Trump Tower in New York U.S., December 7, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton - RTSV5XC

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A crush of confirmation hearings begins tomorrow for team Trump, but the focus tonight is on someone who’s not subject to Senate confirmation. He’s a close relative of the president-elect, and the transition announced this evening he’s getting a top White House slot.

    John Yang begins our coverage.

    JOHN YANG: Throughout the campaign, Jared Kushner had Donald Trump’s ear and now the president wants him to follow him to the White House as a top adviser.

    Like the president-elect, Kushner, who turns 36 tomorrow, is the son of a real estate magnate. He became CEO of Kushner Companies, his father’s multibillion-dollar business, in 2008. In 2009, he married Ivanka Trump. Trump insiders credit Kushner with restructuring and modernizing his father-in-law’s campaign.

    During the transition, he’s been involved in key personnel decisions. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told “Forbes” magazine: “Every president I have ever known has one or two people he intuitively and structurally trusts. I think Jared might be that person.”

    Even with President-elect Trump’s confidence, Kushner could face hurdles before he can assume a White House post. They arise from both who he is and what he owns. A 1967 federal law bars officials from appointing relatives to any agency they control. But it’s not clear whether it applies to White House jobs.

    Today, Kushner’s lawyer argues it doesn’t and said Kushner won’t be taking a salary. As for Kushner’s business holdings, a senior transition official said he will resign as CEO and divest from a significant number of assets, including foreign investments.

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

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We will get the Trump team’s perspective on this and other issues right after the news summary.

    In the day’s other news: Russia pushed back against a U.S. intelligence report that it meddled in the presidential campaign. The report last week said President Vladimir Putin personally ordered the effort. Today, a Kremlin spokesman said the investigation is “reminiscent of a witch-hunt,” echoing language that President-elect Trump used last week.

    MAN (through translator): We still don’t know what data those who make such unfounded accusations have. We still strongly reject any involvement of Moscow and accusations that Russian officials or institutions were involved in any hacker attacks. We are observing a serious fatigue with these accusations.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Trump today deflected questions today about the hacking. He said — quote — “We will talk to you about that at another time.” He holds his news conference since the election on Wednesday.

    China warned President-elect Donald Trump today that it will “take revenge” if he reneges on the so-called one China policy. That doctrine treats Taiwan as part of China. The threat from Chinese state-run media came after the Taiwanese president made a weekend stopover in Houston, Texas, and met with Republican lawmakers. Mr. Trump has spoken with the Taiwanese leader, and at one point, appeared to suggest that the one-China policy might need reconsidering.

    The man accused of killing five people at the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, airport had his first appearance in federal court today. According to court documents, Esteban Santiago has admitted to the fatal shooting last Friday. At the hearing today, the Iraq War veteran said he understood the charges against him, which carry the death penalty.

    Northern California and Nevada are facing what could be their worst flood disaster in the last decade. A powerful storm system moved in over the weekend, unleashing heavy downpours and strong winds. And it forced some 1,300 residents in Reno, Nevada, to evacuate after the Truckee River overflowed. The storm also blew down a giant California sequoia that is famed for a tunnel carved into its truck. It had stood for centuries.

    The musical “La La Land” swept seven Golden Globe film awards. And the ceremony also touched off a war of words with President-elect Trump. It started with actress Meryl Streep and her speech accepting a lifetime achievement award. She deplored Mr. Trump’s imitating a disabled reporter during the primaries.

    MERYL STREEP, Actress: And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president-elect fired back on Twitter today. He called Streep — quote — “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood” and — quote — “a Hillary flunky who lost big.”

    Mr. Trump also tweeted praise for Fiat Chrysler’s decision to build new jeeps and a truck in the Midwestern U.S., instead of Mexico. The company said it’s creating 2,000 jobs.

    On Wall Street, meanwhile, stocks followed oil prices lower. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 76 points to close at 19887. The Nasdaq rose 10 points, and the S&P 500 slipped eight.

    The post News Wrap: Trump son-in-law tapped for top White House role appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, to our “NewsHour” Shares, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you, too.

    The organization Back on My Feet uses running as a catalyst to combat homelessness. The group operates in 12 cities across the nation, including Boston, where Cristina Quinn from PBS station WGBH paid them a visit.

    CRISTINA QUINN: It’s 5:30 a.m. It’s dark and it’s cold. But none of that has discouraged this group from meeting up for their morning run.

    This is Team Hope. They meet up every three times a week outside of the Hope House Rehab Center in Roxbury. The group is made up of guys from various homeless shelters and recovery programs around Boston.

    The whole idea is that these morning runs will change their lives. That’s the core mission of the organization Back on My Feet, using running as a catalyst to move people out of homelessness and into jobs.

    And, as executive director, Theresa Lynn, puts it, showing up for these runs is just the beginning of charting a new course.

    THERESA LYNN, Executive Director, Back on My Feet Boston: The first step obviously is running or walking with a team three days a week. You do that for a month, then you’re eligible for what we call the next steps, which is really where the program gets started. It’s employment training, access to job resources, access to housing resources, more gear, more running clothes. We co-create a plan with you.

    CRISTINA QUINN: That includes counseling, updating skills, paying for exam books and certifications or finding an apartment.

    It worked for Curt Ronan, a recovering addict who still runs with Hope House three days a week. He says the program has been transformative.

    CURT RONAN, Team Leader, Back on My Feet: Running is part of my recovery, and I want to show that it does work.

    CRISTINA QUINN: He’s been clean for three years, and, in that time, has run both the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon. The stakes are even higher now that he has a baby on the way.

    Victor Rivera, just out of prison, is hoping the program can work the same magic for him. His teammates also say he’s the fastest runner.

    VICTOR RIVERA, Member, Back on My Feet: I look forward to it every day we run, because it’s like we have stories that we that are either similar or things that we can actually relate to, and that actually helps me stay with the group.

    CRISTINA QUINN: Rivera says the combination of community and routine are keeping him focused and on the right path. He’s now in a culinary arts program and is excited about the networking opportunities Back on My Feet provides.

    You sound like you are definitely on the right track. Do you feel like you are on the right track?

    VICTOR RIVERA: For the most part. You know, some days are better than others, but, for the most part, I feel like — I feel real confident about myself.

    CRISTINA QUINN: For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Cristina Quinn in Boston.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Remember that, Back on My Feet.

    The post How a morning run can be the first step out of homelessness appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A displaced girl , who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, stands behind the fence at Hassan Sham camp, east of Mosul, Iraq, January 2, 2017. Picture taken 2, 2017. REUTERS/Ari Jalal - RTX2XCMB

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Iraqi government forces are today engaged in heavy fighting against ISIS militants in the city of Mosul, battling neighborhood by neighborhood.

    Since the operation began last October, almost 130,000 of the city’s million-plus residents have fled. Many are living in nearby camps for internally displaced people in Iraqi Kurdistan. Half of them are children.

    For two-and-a-half years, all they have known is ISIS. Now they and their families are stranded, waiting out a long, cold winter.

    From Northern Iraq, special correspondent Marcia Biggs and videographer Eric O’Connor report.

    MARCIA BIGGS: It’s a scene of utter chaos. News of food arriving sends these civilians displaced by the battle for Mosul into a frenzy, charging this truck, as desperate hands reach out to catch bread and water, talk to a mob of hungry people.

    The camps were supposed to be temporary solution, yet families here are facing what now promises to be a very long winter. It’s painfully cold, down to freezing temperatures at night. Toxic fumes from the gas stoves and heaters permeate the tents.

    Yet, in this corner of the camp, we found a reason to smile. These are sounds most of these children have not made in almost two-and-a-half years. Every day, the children clamor at the gates of this child-friendly space. They get a precious six hours a week here to play, sing and learn, a far cry from the horrors of ISIS.

    We sat down with a few students in the drawing tent. Like most children, 13-year-old Zuha stopped going to school when ISIS came to Mosul and missed out on things like drawing. Now she draws her memories of home.

    ZUHA, Student (through translator): We had a garden, so I draw flowers.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Twelve-year-old Bishara did stay in school under ISIS, which used militarization and indoctrination as part of its lesson plan. In these pages of a math book, children are asked to solve problems about setting land mines and killing nonbelievers.

    BISHARA, Student (through translator): After ISIS came, I stayed in school one-and-a-half years. Everything changed. In math, the curriculum changed. Thy used bullets. Like, one bullet plus two bullets equals three bullets.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Was that scary?

    BISHARA (through translator): Yes, it was so scary.

    MARCIA BIGGS: She finally asked her parents to remove her from school, but she still has big dreams. I asked her what she wants to be when she grows up.

    You want to be a doctor?

    Like many of the children, she’s drawing an Iraqi flag.

    It says, “I love Iraq,” words forbidden under the Islamic State, where the Iraqi flag was banned and members of the Iraqi army executed.

    Twelve-year-old Mohamed wants to be an artist someday and is proud of his flag.

    He had two uncles in the Iraqi police force.

    MOHAMED, Student (through translator): They killed two of my uncles they worked for the police. ISIS killed anyone from the police.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Did you spend a lot of time with your uncles? Were you really close with them?

    MOHAMED (through translator): Yes. They loved me. They used to bring me toys. My father and I used to play hide and seek with them.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Were you get scared that maybe your father might be hurt too?

    MOHAMED (through translator): Yes. I am worried about my father and brothers. Almost all of my uncles were police, so my father was afraid.

    MARCIA BIGGS: It’s a familiar fear.

    As we spoke, 12-year-old Mahmoud was clearly distressed, but wanted very much to talk.

    MAHMOUD, Student (through translator): ISIS was in Mosul for about two-and-a-half years. When they came to the city, we thought they were good and they wouldn’t hurt us. But they began to kill and torture people. That’s why we hated them.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Anyone you know was hurt?

    MAHMOUD (through translator): I didn’t see, and I don’t want to see. It was horrible and scary.

    MARCIA BIGGS: He says he loved math and reading before ISIS came, and still wants to be an engineer.

    MAHMOUD (through translator): I’m comfortable now that I am back to learning and studying. I can study now, which is good. I’m relieved.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Do you feel safe here?

    MAHMOUD (through translator): Yes. Here, I feel safe. There are people protecting us, guarding us. But we still live in a tent, and it rains a lot. It’s really affecting us.

    MARCIA BIGGS: He echoes a fear we heard again and again from the mothers in the camp, the terror of ISIS replaced by an unknown future in a tent at the beginning of a cold, wet winter.

    Twenty-old-year-old Hijran’s husband Fatih was an officer in the Iraqi police. When ISIS took Mosul, seven men came to their door for him.

    HIJRAN, Iraq (through translator): They executed my husband because he was a policeman working for the Iraqi government. And he wouldn’t give up his weapons and surrender. They killed all the policemen because they said they were nonbelievers. They finally gave us the body a month after he died, but they wouldn’t allow us to have a proper funeral.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Suddenly, a widow with two children, no money, and no job, she was devastated, but too afraid to speak out.

    If she ventured outside the house without strict Islamic clothing, ISIS would torture her male relatives. Hijran and her children are here with her older sister, Hiba, and her family. They fled Mosul after Iraqi forces backed by coalition airstrikes pushed ISIS from their neighborhood.

    They still have two sisters and three brothers in Mosul, so they have covered their faces to protect them from retribution — public torture and execution made routine under ISIS.

    How did you explain this to your children? How did you try to protect them from this?

    HIBA, Iraq (through translator): I didn’t let them do anything. I even banned them from going to school. I didn’t let them go outside. I would see torturing in the market, cutting off hands, cutting off a head. They used a lot of torture. But, thank God, I didn’t let the children see any of it.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Hiba became pregnant last year and entered a deep depression. She gave birth to baby Karam at home just over a month before we met, with her husband and sister by her side, as coalition airstrikes thundered down.

    HIBA (through translator): It was the hardest day in my life. I was so scared and confused. But God made it easy for me, and I gave birth. The houses were being bombed, and I was so scared.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Are you afraid of the life that he’s been brought into?

    HIBA (through translator): I’m worried about the weather and the cold temperatures here. Of course I’m afraid for him, for so many reasons.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Aid organizations expected more people at camps like these, but for a much shorter time. As the battle for Mosul continues to grind on with no end in sight, those fleeing the battle continue to arrive in droves, and it doesn’t look like they are going anywhere anytime soon.

    Maulid Warfa heads operations at UNICEF in Irbil, which runs the child-friendly space. He says his main concern is the duration of the battle and the fact that the camps were set up as emergency measures, without proper schools in the plans.

    MAULID WARFA, UNICEF: What worries me the most is to have these children roaming around with no proper schooling, with no proper protection, losing their future.

    Imagine if these were your children. What do you want your children to be? You want them to be going to school, you want them to be children again, you want them to be protected, you want them to be loved, you want them to be growing up as very peaceful human beings.

    MARCIA BIGGS: The longer the war grinds on, the longer these families remain trapped in what human rights organizations are calling de facto detention centers.

    As we drove up to the camps, we noticed parking lots filled with the cars of those who drove there when fighting again, but are now forbidden to leave.

    Brigadier General Halkwat Rafaat says they could be a security threat.

    BRIG. GEN. HALKWAT RAFAAT, Iraq (through translator): Leaving the camp is forbidden. They can’t leave the camp until Mosul is liberated. We keep their I.D.s with us. They will get their I.D.s when they go back to their homes.

    MARCIA BIGGS: So, there’s nowhere to go? They can’t go home until they’re told that they can go home?

    BRIG. GEN. HALKWAT RAFAAT (through translator): No, they can’t leave.

    MARCIA BIGGS: I asked the sisters, which was worse, life here or under ISIS?

    HIJRAN (through translator): Of course life here is better than ISIS. ISIS terrified people. They made us afraid of everything. But we are trapped here, and it’s like we traded one jail for another one. We simply want to leave and live our lives. We know nothing about our families in Mosul. We don’t know what is happening there.

    MARCIA BIGGS: And still they come, despite the harsh conditions. We were there when 6-year-old Dema arrived from Mosul with her family off, not even yet off the bus.

    “I want to say hi to my grandparents in Kirkuk and my grandparents in Irbil,” she told me, and then was overcome with emotions.

    They may be less than 100 miles away, but little does she know she likely has no chance of seeing them or of leaving this camp anytime soon.

    Like most of the resilient children we met, she was all smiles when we saw her again.

    Are you happy here?

    DEMA, 6 Years Old (through translator): Yes.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Why?

    DEMA (through translator): There is no bombing here.

    MARCIA BIGGS: So, what do you want to do now?

    DEMA (through translator): I want to play.

    MARCIA BIGGS: It was a universal desire. As we left, in their tattered clothes, most without proper shoes, the children wanted nothing more than to go with us. And it was everything we could do to drive away.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Marcia Biggs in Hassan Sham camp east of Mosul, Northern Iraq.

    The post Despite tough living conditions, kids who escaped Mosul are happy to be free appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON - MARCH 23:  U.S. President Barack Obama is applauded after signing the Affordable Health Care for America Act during a ceremony with fellow Democrats in the East Room of the White House March 23, 2010 in Washington, DC. The historic bill was passed by the House of Representatives Sunday after a 14-month-long political battle that left the legislation without a single Republican vote. Pictured is also Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI), U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Rep. George Miller (D-CA), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), Marcelas Owens, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Sen. Ted Kennedy's widow Victoria Kennedy, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first, we continue our series on President Obama’s legacy.

    The president has been making the case during the final days of his term to preserve his signature domestic achievement. It comes as congressional Republicans have already begun the process of dismantling the Affordable Care Act. More than 20 million Americans gained coverage through the law.

    But as special correspondent Sarah Varney reports, the nation remains deeply divided over whether it is the president’s greatest success or a massive failure.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is going to take a little while.

    SARAH VARNEY: When President Obama signed his landmark health care bill in March 2010, he achieved what presidents and members of Congress had long tried and failed to do.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are done.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    SARAH VARNEY: Provide near-universal health insurance to Americans. Democrats were jubilant. Those in Obama’s inner circle, like Bob Kocher, one of the law’s primary architects, celebrated their victory at the White House.

    BOB KOCHER, Former Special Assistant to President Obama: It was a moment of total joy. We felt like we’d accomplished something hard and amazing and important that would go down in history as being an important step forward in American health care.

    And the president felt that way, and I think we all celebrated and felt like the hardest part was perhaps behind us.

    SARAH VARNEY: Since Harry Truman, every Democratic president has dreamed about universal coverage. Jonathan Oberlander, a health policy historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says Obama succeeded in winning over health care interest groups that had fought previous reform attempts.

    But the bill became a flash point for bigger ideological battles.

    JONATHAN OBERLANDER, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: In key respects, it was a policy success, but it was also always a political failure since 2010. And that political failure reflects that partisan polarization, which Democrats and the Obama administration never figured out a way to overcome.

    SARAH VARNEY: The bill passed without a single Republican vote and would face unflagging opposition, explosive town hall meetings

    WOMAN: If you let the free market system work, everybody could have insurance.

    SARAH VARNEY: Angry Tea Party protests.

    PROTESTERS: Obamacare has got to go!

    PROTESTERS: What do we want?

    PROTESTERS: Health care!

    SARAH VARNEY: And a Supreme Court decision in 2012 that, despite upholding most of the law, weakened one of its central provisions by making the Medicaid expansion optional for states.

    Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa who was involved in the initial bipartisan discussions, said his side turned away after Democrats, who themselves were frustrated by the prolonged negotiations and felt they had a mandate, decided to move forward alone.

    SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-Iowa): It was a take it or leave it, and so, basically, we were pushed out of the negotiations. And, quite frankly, there was a lot of institutional knowledge among Republicans that would’ve probably prevented a lot of bad things that happened going wrong.

    I think it’s a perfect example of trying to do something in a partisan way.

    SARAH VARNEY: The Obama administration believed the law would eventually become popular as more Americans felt its benefits. But public opinion remained divided. Republicans voted to repeal or delay part or all of it more than 60 times, always facing the prospect of a certain veto from President Obama.

    Now president-elect Donald Trump has vowed to kill the law for good.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), President-Elect: Repealing Obamacare is one of the single most important reasons we must win on November 8.

    SARAH VARNEY: A promise that appealed to many voters around the country.

    Here in Mansfield, Ohio, once a booming manufacturing town, the Affordable Care Act has brought insurance coverage, new health care jobs and an influx of federal money. All told, nearly one million Ohioans are covered under Obamacare.

    But economic angst in Rust Belt states like this one handed the presidential election to Donald Trump, giving him the power to repeal President Obama’s signature domestic policy.

    KARI WESTFIELD: This area was –the kids would get older, graduate, and then leave and not come back.

    SARAH VARNEY: What happens next is up for grabs. Kari Westfield helps sign patients up for Medicaid in this Ohio county where Mr. Trump won nearly 70 percent of the vote.

    KARI WESTFIELD: The most recent was the GM closing, and that was a huge, huge hit to the economy.

    SARAH VARNEY: As manufacturing plants here have closed, nearly 30 percent of residents have had to enroll in Medicaid, which was expanded in Ohio to include most low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act.

    Since the health law took effect, the share of uninsured patients at Third Street Family Health Services, where Westfield works, fell from 30 percent to 10 percent.

    That includes Larry Avery, a 31-year-old basketball coach who has been rushing to get medical and dental care before Mr. Trump takes the law away.

    LARRY AVERY, Patient, Third Street Family Health Services: I just thought it was just a move that he was doing just to make it harder than what it already is, because, I mean, if it’s working, if it helps, why would you want to take that away? I don’t think it benefits the country at all.

    SARAH VARNEY: Among those trying to enroll in Obamacare’s expanded Medicaid are Trump supporters Mary and Jim Heenan. A nurse trying to recover from an opioid addiction, Mary Heenan says she and her husband need help. And though she says it can be difficult to reconcile, Heenan still despises the health law. She says it forced the surgeons she once worked with to provide shoddy medical care.

    MARY HEENAN, Patient, Third Street Family Health Services: I know I’m in this spot where I need help right now from the government, but the Affordable Care Act is the worst thing that’s ever happened to this country. And that’s exactly why I voted for Trump, because I knew Hillary was going to follow in Obama’s footsteps.

    SARAH VARNEY: But John Corlett, at the Center for Community Solutions, an Ohio think tank, says other voters didn’t take Mr. Trump’s promise to repeal the law seriously.

    JOHN CORLETT, Center for Community Solutions: I think people have a natural inclination to think that, once something starts, that it’s hard to stop,that it’s hard to take down. And I think a lot of people sort of approached it that way, said, well, no, they wouldn’t do that.

    SARAH VARNEY: Across Ohio, the health law has dramatically reduced the number of people without health insurance. At MetroHealth in Cleveland as elsewhere in the country, the influx of insured patients has allowed the health system to provide more preventive care and cut costs by nearly 30 percent.

    Despite strong opinions about what’s become known as Obamacare, elements of the law remain widely popular. Health plans can’t refuse to insure based on preexisting conditions, and young adults can stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.

    PROTESTERS: No repeal without replace.

    SARAH VARNEY: Mindy Hedges showed up at a rally outside Senator Rob Portman’s office in Columbus to show how vital the law has been for those with medical problems.

    MINDY HEDGES, Diabetes Patient: I’m scared for our country. I’m scared for a lot of reasons.

    SARAH VARNEY: Before the health law, she couldn’t get insurance.

    MINDY HEDGES: I was so grateful to President Obama. I owe President Obama my life. As a type 1 diabetic, I’m uninsurable as far as the insurance companies are concerned. And now they couldn’t take that into any consideration. And my age, they couldn’t take into consideration.

    SARAH VARNEY: Hedges has been calling her congressman and senators every day to make sure they hear her story.

    MINDY HEDGES: Will he be supporting keeping it at least until we have something better or at least something to substitute for it?

    SARAH VARNEY: But there are others, especially small business owners and the self-employed, who are frustrated by what’s been happening in the insurance marketplaces.

    ANIETRA HAMPER, Owner, ThreeWordPress: There do not seem to be a lot of options this year.

    SARAH VARNEY: Anietra Hamper is a travel writer who started her own business a few years ago, and says the law made a mess of her coverage.

    ANIETRA HAMPER: Every year, there have been fewer providers. There’s fewer plans by the providers that are left, higher monthly premiums, deductibles have skyrocketed, and the benefits have dwindled.

    SARAH VARNEY: Those frustrations drove Hamper to vote for Mr. Trump, who says he wants to keep the law’s more popular provisions and scrap the rest in favor of a less regulated insurance market.

    But health care experts say it will be impossible to pay for those benefits without a mandate that all Americans have coverage. Repealing it with no plan in place, they say, will create chaos in the insurance market and catastrophe at hospitals and clinics.

    But Hamper says the law has already done enough damage.

    ANIETRA HAMPER: This isn’t working. So, if Donald Trump says he wants to reinstate a free marketplace, where we have more choices, more competition, better care, more affordability, OK. And like every other American, you know, we have to hope that that’s what we get.

    SARAH VARNEY: Senator Grassley says it’s too soon to lay out what comes next.

    SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY: Obviously, repeal is very much what’s going to happen. Whether it’s a transition period that it takes a period of time to get total replacement, or whether it’s done incrementally, those decisions have not been made at this point.

    SARAH VARNEY: Whatever the outcome, many observers say President Obama’s legacy will forever include his ambitious attempt to solve one of the nation’s most intractable problems.

    BOB KOCHER: I think, forever, we have changed the conversation that we need to have an approach to cover all Americans. And, if nothing else, this law now leads Republicans to agree that we need to have an approach to cover all Americans with high-quality insurance. So I think that’s a real accomplishment, and that wouldn’t have happened without this law.

    JONATHAN OBERLANDER: Some of the most gifted presidents in the 20th century tried comprehensive health care reform, and they failed. President Obama succeeded. This is not a footnote in history. It will go down as a landmark.

    SARAH VARNEY: And one of the most important legacies of the Obama years.

    For the “PBS NewsHour” and Kaiser Health News, I’m Sarah Varney.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tomorrow, we continue our series on the Obama years with a look at the president’s efforts to reform the nation’s criminal justice system.

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    (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)

    (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)

    One in three women with breast cancer detected by a mammogram is treated unnecessarily, because screening tests found tumors that are so slow-growing that they’re essentially harmless, according to a Danish study published Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine, which has renewed debate over the value of early detection.

    The study raises the uncomfortable possibility that some women who believe their lives were saved by mammograms were actually harmed by cancer screenings that led to surgery, radiation and even chemotherapy that they didn’t need, said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, who wrote an accompanying editorial but was not involved in the study.

    Researchers increasingly recognize that not all breast cancers pose the same risk, even if they look the same under a microscope, Brawley said. While some early tumors turn into deadly monsters, others stop growing or even shrink. But assuming that all small breast lesions have the potential to turn deadly is akin to “racial profiling,” Brawley wrote in his editorial.

    “By treating all the cancers that we see, we are clearly saving some lives. But we’re also ‘curing’ some women who don’t need to be cured.”

    “By treating all the cancers that we see, we are clearly saving some lives,” Brawley said in an interview. “But we’re also ‘curing’ some women who don’t need to be cured.”

    Although experts such as Brawley have long discussed the risks posed by “overdiagnosis,” relatively few women who undergo cancer screenings are even aware of the debate.

    The American College of Radiology, which strongly supports breast cancer screenings, acknowledges that mammograms lead some women to be treated unnecessarily, but said the problem is much less common than the new study suggests. Another study from Denmark – whose national health program keeps detailed records – estimated the overdiagnosis rates at only 2.3 percent.

    “The amount of overdiagnosis really is small,” said Dr. Debra Monticciolo, chair of the American College of Radiology’s Commission on Breast Imaging. “Articles like this aren’t very helpful,” she said, because they leave women confused about how to be screened for breast cancer.

    Yet treating women for cancer unnecessarily can endanger their health, said Fran Visco, president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, an advocacy group. Radiation can damage the heart or even cause new cancers. Visco notes that breast cancer activist Carolina Hinestrosa, a vice president at the coalition, died at age 50 from soft-tissue sarcoma, a tumor caused by radiation used to treat an early breast cancer.

    Women should understand these risks, Visco said. Instead, women often hear only about mammograms’ benefits.

    “Women have been inundated with the early detection message for decades,” Visco said.

    “Women have been inundated with the early detection message for decades.”

    The risks of overdiagnosis and false positives, which can lead women with benign growths to undergo biopsies and other follow-up tests, have caused some experts to reevaluate breast cancer screenings. Although mammograms don’t find all tumors, they reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer by 25 percent to 31 percent for women ages 40 to 69, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

    Medical groups now offer differing advice on mammograms:

  • The American College of Radiology takes the most aggressive stance, recommending annual mammograms beginning at age 40. Tumors should be found when they’re “smaller and easier to treat,” Monticciolo said.
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent expert panel that advises the federal government on health, provoked a firestorm of criticism in 2009 when it bucked that advice, recommending that women get mammograms every other year beginning at age 50. The group noted that breast cancer risk rises with age, so mammograms are more likely to discover cancer – as opposed to benign growths – after age 50.
  • The American Cancer Society also scaled back its screening advice in 2015, recommending women get annual mammograms from 45 to 54, followed by screenings every other year after that.
  • In the new study, Danish researchers estimated the rate of overdiagnosis by comparing the number of early-stage and advanced breast tumors before and after the country started offering mammograms. If screenings work as intended, the number of small, curable breast tumors should increase, while reducing the number of large cancers by about the same amount.

    Although mammograms in Denmark detected a lot more breast cancers, these were mostly small, early-stage tumors, said study coauthor Dr. Karsten Jorgensen, a researcher at the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen, Denmark. The number of advanced cancers did not fall.

    The debate about overdiagnosis illustrates the limits of medical technology, Brawley said.

    Although researchers can estimate the statistical rate of overdiagnosis, doctors treating actual patients can’t definitively tell which breast tumors need treatment and which might be safely ignored, Brawley said. So doctors tend to err on the side of caution and treat all breast cancers with surgery and, in many cases, radiation and chemotherapy.

    An estimated 253,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in U.S. women this year, with nearly 41,000 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

    An additional 63,000 women will be diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, also known as DCIS, which has some, but not all, of the typical traits of cancer. Although DCIS cells have changed to appear malignant under the microscope, they haven’t invaded surrounding tissue.

    The American Cancer Society defines DCIS as the earliest stage of breast cancer, and women with the condition typically undergo the same treatment given to women with early invasive cancers. Although DCIS isn’t life-threatening, doctors recommend treating it to prevent it from becoming invasive.

    Other experts note that DCIS carries such low risk that it should be considered merely a risk factor for cancer. Researchers are conducting studies to measure whether it’s safe to scale back treatment of DCIS.

    The post Mammograms may do more harm than good for many women with breast cancer, study says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Two men wearing Klu Klux Klan costumes were removed from the confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, after they caused a disruption.

    As security took them out of the room, they yelled, “you can’t arrest me, I am white!” and “white people own this government!”

    Civil liberties advocates have seized on Sessions’ voting record and his appearances before groups that espouse harsh views on Muslims and immigrants. He was rejected for a federal judgeship by the Senate Judiciary Committee 30 years ago amid accusations of racial insensitivity.

    In a prepared opening statement, Sessions says he understands “the history of civil rights and the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters.”

    Sen. Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, will outline his conservative priorities for the Justice Department as his confirmation hearings open Tuesday. He faces a tougher task in persuading skeptical Democrats he’ll be fair and committed to civil rights as the country’s top law enforcement official.

    “The office of the Attorney General of the United States is not a political position, and anyone who holds it must have total fidelity to the laws and the Constitution of the United States,” Sessions said in prepared testimony that also outlines goals of beefed-up drug, gun and immigration enforcement.

    Sessions also said he understands “the history of civil rights and the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters. I have witnessed it.”

    Democrats are expected to use the two days of hearings to challenge Sessions’ commitment to civil rights, a chief priority of the Justice Department during the Obama administration. They also are likely to press him on his hard-line stance on immigration policy. But Republicans have expressed strong support and are expected to secure more than enough votes needed to confirm him, including from some Democrats in conservative-leaning states.

    The Alabama lawmaker is known as one of the most staunchly conservative members of the Senate, and has already drawn opposition from at least two Democrats, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.

    In a dramatic turn, Booker — one of three black senators — said he will testify against Sessions on Wednesday, marking a rare instance in which a senator has testified against a colleague seeking a Cabinet post. In a statement, Booker accused Sessions of having a “concerning” record on civil rights and criminal justice reform and called his decision “a call to conscience.”

    If confirmed, the four-term senator would succeed outgoing Attorney General Loretta Lynch and would be in a position to dramatically reshape Justice Department priorities in the areas of civil rights, environmental enforcement and criminal justice.

    Sessions was first elected to the Senate in 1996 and before that served as state attorney general and a United States attorney. He’s been a reliably conservative voice in Congress, supporting government surveillance programs, objecting to the proposed closure of the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility and opposing as too lenient a 2013 bipartisan immigration bill that included a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

    He will look to turn the page from a failed confirmation hearing in 1986, when his nomination for a federal judgeship was derailed by accusations he had made racially insensitive comments as a federal prosecutor.

    Civil rights advocates have rallied against his nomination, with protesters staging a sit-in last week at a Sessions office in Alabama and circulating letters opposed to his nomination. Advocacy groups have drawn attention to positions from Sessions they fear could weaken legal protections for immigrants, minority voters and gays, lesbians and transgender people.

    Sessions’ supporters have pointed to bipartisan work in the Senate and to supportive statements from some Democrats and even the son of a civil rights activist whom Sessions unsuccessfully prosecuted for voter fraud in Alabama. One of the two senators introducing him at Tuesday’s hearing is a moderate Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, suggesting a concerted effort to try to cement his appeal beyond the more conservative members.

    Sessions may be asked whether the Justice Department would investigate again Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. Trump said during the campaign that he would ask his attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton, but suggested after he won that he had changed his mind.

    Witnesses on Wednesday include former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, NAACP President Cornell Brooks and David Cole, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

    The post Jeff Sessions to face Sen. Corey Booker and civil rights questions at confirmation hearing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo illustration by REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

    Photo illustration by REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

    Early last year, hackers launched a cyberattack against the state of Michigan’s main website to draw attention to the Flint water crisis. In May, they targeted North Carolina government websites to protest a controversial state law requiring transgender people to use bathrooms that match the sex on their birth certificate. And in July, they took aim at the city of Baton Rouge’s website after the fatal police shooting of a black man.

    It’s called “hacktivism,” a blend of hacking and activism for a political or social cause, and state and local governments are increasingly finding themselves targets. Unlike cyber criminals who hack into computer networks to steal data for the cash, most hacktivists aren’t doing it for the dollars. They’re individuals or groups of hackers who band together and see themselves as fighting injustice.

    “It’s digital disobedience. It’s hacking for a cause,” said Dan Lohrmann, chief security officer for Security Mentor, a national security training firm that works with states.

    “It’s digital disobedience. It’s hacking for a cause.”

    Hacktivists have gone after everyone from foreign governments and corporations to drug dealers and pedophiles. Police departments, hospitals, small towns, big cities and states also have come under attack. Online activists have successfully frozen government servers, defaced websites, and hacked into data or email and released it online.

    “Some take this as being harmless and think it’s another form of protest,” said Doug Robinson, executive director of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO). “But it can be highly disruptive. It’s criminal trespassing.”

    Robinson said he has seen a “significant growth” in the number and severity of hacktivist attacks on state and local governments in the past five years. For the public, it can mean being unable to log on to government websites to get information or conduct business. And for taxpayers, it can mean having to pick up the tab for staff time and additional technology needed to combat such attacks.

    When Baltimore was rocked by protests over Freddie Gray’s death from injuries sustained while in police custody in April 2015, for example, hacktivists knocked out the city’s main website that gives the public information about government services for at least 16 hours.

    “Some take this as being harmless and think it’s another form of protest. But it can be highly disruptive. It’s criminal trespassing.”

    “Hacktivists are almost like vigilantes. They’re looking to disrupt,” said Brian Calkin, a vice president of the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, a federally funded group that tracks cybersecurity issues for states and local governments.

    Calkin said his group tracked 65 hacktivist incidents involving state and local governments in 2015; the number jumped to 160 last year. And a 2014 survey of state information technology security officials listed hacktivism as one of their top three cyber concerns.

    “Hacktivism is becoming more and more of a serious issue,” said Srini Subramanian, a state cybersecurity principal at the consulting firm Deloitte & Touche LLP.

    Subramanian said hacktivists don’t just want to disrupt services; they also want to undermine public trust. “That is what is going to move the hacktivists to continue to do this.”

    Hacktivist Attacks
    Hacktivists are an amorphous group. While some may be individuals unhappy with a perceived social injustice, many are linked to loosely associated networks such as Anonymous, a major hacktivist group responsible for attacking government, corporate and religious websites.

    Anonymous describes itself on its website as a “relatively small vigilante cyber group” that has “expanded and transformed into a continuation of the Civil-Rights movement.”

    Hacktivists use various tools: Sometimes, they hack into private email or confidential records and make them public. Sometimes, they compile personal information about targets such as police officers from the internet or government record breaches and post it online, which is called “doxing” (a derivative of “docs,” slang for documents). The information can include a person’s home address, phone number and even the names of his children. Hacktivists see it as transparency; security experts see it as harassment.

    Often, hacktivists launch “denial-of-service” attacks, in which they try to knock a website offline by flooding it with traffic. To do that, they take control of a large group of computers — sometimes tens of thousands or more — using malware that unsuspecting people have launched on their home or office computers by clicking on an email with an attachment or a link to a website. The hacktivists then control the so-called “zombie” computers and direct them to bombard a specific website with traffic at the same time, causing it to freeze.

    “A given website can only handle so many visitors,” Calkin said. “When you exceed that number, the server will crash. When you keep that attack up, there’s no way to recover it while it’s happening.”

    If a government computer system doesn’t have the protections to block such attacks, a website can be knocked offline anywhere from several minutes to 24 hours or longer.

    Experts generally don’t consider cyber espionage by foreign governments or intelligence agencies to be hacktivism. But some do include groups such as WikiLeaks, an international organization that publishes secret or classified information, some of which has been hacked by others with political or social agendas.

    “Hacktivism isn’t just about crashing systems or bringing down websites,” Lohrmann said. “It’s hacking to achieve the ends of social or political causes. It could be stealing information or publishing information to embarrass or discredit people.”

    Some hacktivist attacks have been successful; others haven’t.

    In North Carolina, the May attacks over the transgender bathroom law were a bust because the state’s main websites continued to operate normally during and after the attacks, said Katie Diefes, a state Department of Information Technology spokeswoman. The only websites affected were some older ones that simply redirected users to the main ones.

    Hacktivists were more successful when they sounded off against the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, Aug. 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, which prompted protests and riots.

    Within a week of Brown’s death, Anonymous began its assault, using denial of service tactics and doxing high-level state, local and law enforcement officials, said Michael Roling, the state’s chief information security officer. The group targeted the state’s main website as well as those of the revenue and public safety departments.

    While IT staff was quick to launch its defenses and help blunt the attacks, Roling said state websites suffered brief outages in August 2014 and again three months later, after a grand jury decided not to indict the officer who shot Brown. “Fortunately, we were able to get controls in place before they had the opportunity to do damage or affect the delivery of state services,” he said.

    But Roling noted that his team worked for weeks defending the state’s computer network against hacktivists. And it came at a cost: at least $150,000 for services to protect the network.

    “We have the resources but we’ve seen some local governments across the country that don’t have the funding or have no way of quickly procuring services to fight these attacks, and their services are knocked offline,” Roling said.

    Fending Off Attacks
    Cybersecurity experts warn that state and local governments need to prepare to fight all sorts of online attacks, including those by cyber activists. Calkin said his group recommends that if government computer systems aren’t equipped to handle hacktivist attacks, officials should work with their internet providers to install programs that help block illegitimate web traffic.

    Or they can turn to global cybersecurity companies that offer services to combat massive assaults and scrub out “bad” traffic headed toward websites while keeping “good” traffic.

    That’s what Minnesota did, said Christopher Buse, the state’s chief information security officer. “We’re seeing more of these attacks than ever,” he said. “They’re bigger and they’re becoming more complex and more costly to defend.”

    “We are all vulnerable, and hacktivism is going to continue as long as we have these crises or events where political activists want to make a statement, whether it’s a police shooting or a city’s decision to remove camps for the homeless.”

    NASCIO’s Robinson agrees states should step up their game and make sure they have the tools to thwart hacktivist assaults. But he admits it’s hard to fight a threat that can come from anywhere at any time and for any reason.

    Robinson also worries that as hacktivism gets more sophisticated, the consequences could become more serious. Instead of potentially affecting citizen services such as revenue collection or driver’s license renewals for a brief period, he said hacktivists could do far greater damage by knocking out the electric grid, water systems or other utilities.

    “We are all vulnerable, and hacktivism is going to continue as long as we have these crises or events where political activists want to make a statement, whether it’s a police shooting or a city’s decision to remove camps for the homeless.”

    The post Hacktivists launch more cyberattacks against local, state governments appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn will be the next national security adviser under President-elect Donald Trump. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn will be the next national security adviser under President-elect Donald Trump. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    WASHINGTON – Syria and South Sudan suffer from internal fighting. Threats of broader conflicts loom, including Russia looking to expand its borders, North Korea test-firing missiles, and China and its neighbors vying for resources in the South China Sea. Add to that the estimated 65 million people displaced by violent conflict in the world, and humanitarian needs have never been greater.

    On Tuesday, national security adviser Susan Rice will symbolically “pass the baton” to her successor, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, at a ceremony held at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

    The ceremony, which the institute is hosting for the third time, is meant to represent a smooth transition between administrations, said Nancy Lindborg, president of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

    After a particularly fractious election, there is some healing to do. But with the current level and complexity of crises in the world, “we don’t really have the luxury of just disagreeing and not acting in a way that is going to address the security challenges,” she said.

    Watch Nancy Lindborg respond to Twitter questions about foreign aid and security.

    In addition, “it’s often something that no one’s thought of that erupts in the first days of a presidency. Those are the tests of a new administration,” said Lindborg. “The challenge will be how quickly the (Trump) administration can build out their national security teams because we need those teams to be on their game.”

    People can’t seem to agree on what America’s role in the world should be. Some, weary from U.S. involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, prefer a more isolationist role, letting the oceans and borders protect the United States. Others feel the U.S. is better protected by taking an active leadership role, Lindborg said.

    The best way to come to agreement is through conversations that identify a common interest and engage participants in a way that enables better solutions to emerge, she said. In general, the foreign policy community tends to approach issues in a bipartisan way, and, hopefully, that will continue, she added.

    Arlington Memorial Bridge crosses from Washington, D.C., into Arlington, Virginia. Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Arlington Memorial Bridge crosses from Washington, D.C., into Arlington, Virginia. Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Lindborg said all she has to do is look out her office window to remember how the nation has recovered from division in the past. She sees the Arlington Memorial Bridge connecting Washington, D.C., and Virginia. It’s a steel and stone reminder of bridging the North and South after the Civil War.

    “We’ve seen conflict be extraordinarily transformational, in civil rights, in women’s rights,” she said. “We’ve been through far greater divisions in our history” and have come out the other side.

    The post How can the foreign policy community get past a bruising election? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Now an elder statesman, Barack Obama is returning to Chicago where he launched his unlikely political career for one final speech: a parting plea to Americans not to lose faith in their future, no matter what they think about their next president.

    Obama’s final speech as president, before thousands who will gather at McCormick Place, is his last chance to try to define what his presidency meant for America. It’s a fitting bookend to what he started eight years ago. It was in Chicago in 2008 that the nation’s first black president declared victory, and where over the years he tried to cultivate his brand of optimism in American politics.

    “We’ve run our leg in a long relay of progress, knowing that our work will always be unfinished,” Obama wrote Tuesday in a Facebook post previewing his speech. “And we’ve reaffirmed the belief that we can make a difference with our own hands, in our own time.”

    “We’ve run our leg in a long relay of progress, knowing that our work will always be unfinished. And we’ve reaffirmed the belief that we can make a difference with our own hands, in our own time.”

    Obama has said he’s leaving his eight years in office with two basic lessons: that Americans are fundamentally good, and that change can happen. “The system will respond to ordinary people coming together to try to move the country in a better direction,” he said ahead of the speech.

    The system did respond, in November, to Americans who by and large rejected Obama’s policies by electing Republican Donald Trump.

    Obama and Democrats had warned against a Trump presidency in apocalyptic terms. So now Obama’s daunting task — the closing act of his political career — is to explain how his vision of America remains relevant and achievable for Democrats in the Trump era.

    No stranger to high-stakes speeches, Obama rose to national prominence on the power of his oratory. But this speech is different, White House officials said.

    Determined not to simply recite a history of the last eight years, Obama directed his team to craft an address that would feel “bigger than politics” and speak to all Americans — including those who voted for Trump.

    His chief speechwriter, Cody Keenan, started writing it last month while Obama was vacationing in Hawaii, handing him the first draft on the flight home. By late Monday Obama was immersed in a fourth draft, with Keenan expected to stay at the White House all night to help perfect Obama’s final message.

    Ahead of his speech, Obama acknowledged that the chaos of Washington makes it easy to lose sight of the role American citizens play in democracy. He said that while he leaves office with his work unfinished, he believes his administration made the U.S. “a stronger place for the generations that will follow ours.”

    Seeking inspiration, Obama’s speechwriters spent weeks poring over Obama’s other momentous speeches, including his 2004 keynote at the Democratic National Convention and his 2008 speech after losing the New Hampshire primary to Hillary Clinton. They also revisited his 2015 address in Selma, Alabama, that both honored America’s exceptionalism and acknowledged its painful history on civil rights.

    Former aides were brought back to consult on the speech, including advisers David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, and former speechwriter Jon Favreau, said the officials, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the private discussions.

    The president, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will all travel to Chicago for the speech at McCormick Place, a sprawling convention center along Lake Michigan. For Obama, it will be his final trip aboard Air Force One as president, though he’ll use the plane to depart Washington for an unspecified destination next week just after Trump is inaugurated.

    In his hometown of Chicago, the prospect of witnessing Obama’s last presidential address brought thousands out in single-digit temperatures over the weekend in hopes of securing tickets. They showed up well before sunrise and waited in lines that stretched for blocks.

    “He acted very presidential, but he just couldn’t get things done.”

    Though he and his party were dealt a devastating blow in November’s elections, Obama leaves office as a relatively popular president viewed favorably by 57 percent of Americans, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released the day before his speech. That puts Obama on par with former President Bill Clinton’s popularity as he left office.

    Yet Americans remain deeply divided over Obama’s legacy, with fewer than half saying they’re better off eight years later — or that Obama brought the country together. Two in three Americans said he didn’t keep his promises, though most of those Americans said he tried to, but could not.

    “He acted very presidential, but he just couldn’t get things done,” said Dale Plath, 86, a retired sales manager from Mason City, Iowa. He said he voted for Obama the first time, voted against him the second, and this year, Plath said: “I voted for change, frankly” — in the form of Trump.

    The post WATCH LIVE: President Obama delivers his final speech from Chicago appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Mature adult looking at Social Security documents Photo by Jim McGuire/Getty Images

    Mature adult looking at Social Security documents Photo by Jim McGuire/Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller, who writes widely on aging and retirement, is here to provide the answers you need. Phil is the author of the new book, “Get What’s Yours for Medicare,” and co-author of “Get What’s Yours: The Revised Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security.” Send your questions to Phil.


    The Social Security Administration just announced it would curtail sending paper statements to many people in order to save money. This is as bad an idea now as it was the last time the agency did this several years ago. After that move, public pressure caused it to reverse course. Let’s hope something similar happens this time around. I would like to believe the agency is smarter than this, and I’m cynical enough to even wonder if it might have planned this action to draw attention to its continued funding shortfall.

    And that certainly is the bigger story here. Congress has continued to refuse to properly fund the agency, causing it to cut back on its services at just the time when record numbers of baby boomers are aging into the program and badly need all the information they can get.

    The Social Security Administration just announced it would curtail sending paper statements to many people in order to save money. This is as bad an idea now as it was the last time the agency did this several years ago.

    The agency has far fewer employees to serve the public than it did a few years ago. And while online information services can be a great way to save money without compromising customer service, Social Security is too complex and too important to be trusted to a smartphone app.

    Social Security statements are the primary status reports that consumers receive from the agency. They show a person’s official wage history, which is the basis for their retirement benefits. They also provide estimates of key Social Security benefits to which a person will be entitled at different claiming agencies. The Social Security Administration provides online versions of these statements, and these certainly are useful to many people. But the paper statement is better, and it’s relatively cheap to provide.

    Here’s what the agency said earlier this week: “Paper statements will only be sent to people age 60 and over, who are not getting benefits and don’t have a my Social Security account. This will bring down the costs of processing and mailing paper statements by $11.3 million in FY 2017.”

    This is not even a rounding error for an agency that forks over roughly $900 billion a year in benefits and covers more than 170 million workers in this country. Millions of those workers are not able to save nearly enough money to afford even barely adequate retirements. They will depend almost entirely on Social Security benefits for their retirement spending, and they need all the help they can get to understand these benefits and make informed decisions.

    Before reading this week’s reader questions, please consider protesting this decision to your U.S. representative and senators.


    Mark – Calif.: What was the rationale behind the Windfall Elimination Provision that reduces Social Security pension amounts if one is receiving other public pensions? I’m a school teacher, have worked for a railroad and have enough quarters for Social Security. I worked for all those pensions, yet my Social Security and the railroad pensions are being reduced. My teacher pension isn’t. The total of all these pensions amounts to about half of my full-time pay. I’m grateful I’m getting an income for retirement, yet I don’t believe I’m getting all the benefits that I have earned.

    Phil Moeller: No one likes the Windfall Elimination Provision, or WEP. But there is a rationale for it. Here is an abbreviated explanation (a fuller take can be found in our Social Security book, “Get What’s Yours”).

    Social Security is, in economic terms, a very progressive program. This means its benefits are skewed to be very generous to low-earning folks. They get a much higher percentage of their wages back in benefits than do people who make more money.

    READ MORE: Column: What can we do to protect Medicare and Social Security?

    This form of income redistribution is a fundamental part of Social Security. It is accomplished by splitting up a person’s earnings record into three tiers. People get 90 percent of the first tier in their Social Security payment and smaller percentages of the second and third tiers. People with low earnings often don’t even make enough to reach the second or third tier.

    No one likes the Windfall Elimination Provision … But there is a rationale for it.

    The thinking was that a person with a public pension who has paid some Social Security taxes could be quite well positioned for retirement, but would be seen as a low-wage earner in terms of Social Security’s records. When they applied for Social Security, therefore, they’d get 90 percent of their earnings back in the form of Social Security payments. A person whose entire lifetime wages had been subject to Social Security payroll taxes might also be entitled to a private pension, but their Social Security payments would be fair and fully supported by the payroll taxes they had put into the system.

    To deal with this, the WEP takes that 90 percent first-tier benefit calculation and reduces it to 40 percent for people with public pensions that are not tied to Social Security payroll taxes. This penalty begins disappearing when a person has been paying payroll taxes for 30 years and totally disappears at 40 years.

    Whether you think it’s fair or foul, that’s the rationale.


    Helen – Tex.: I’m so worried about Medicare Part B going up and how I’m going to manage every month. I’m 70. All I have to live on is my Social Security of $862 and a part-time job that brings in less than $400 a month. I’m still paying a mortgage, my vehicle is 10 years old, and I’m just barely able to make it each month after utilities and food. If I start my retirement, which I’m required to do now, how will that affect my Social Security and Medicare? If I quit the part-time job would that keep me from losing any of my Social Security? I don’t know what to do. I lie awake at night worrying about all this.

    Social Security and Medicare do protect seniors from poverty, but there often is not much extra to go around.

    Phil Moeller: Millions of older Americans are struggling to get by just like you. I know this doesn’t make it any easier to pay the bills, but your problems help explain why these benefits are so important. Social Security and Medicare do protect seniors from poverty, but there often is not much extra to go around.

    Medicare has programs to help lower-income people. You can get free Medicare counseling from the State Health Insurance Assistance Program. Call them, and see if they can help. They may ask you about your income and financial situation, so make sure you have those records with you when you call.

    READ MORE: Column: Social Security needs to be reformed, not have its funding cut

    At your age, your Social Security will not be reduced or, most likely, affected at all by whether you are still working and earning wage income.


    Tammy – Calif.: Can Republicans cut Social Security and medical benefits for the disabled? I have a severe condition which doesn’t allow me to ever work again, and I’ve been very stressed and concerned thinking my benefits are going to be cut or privatized. I have been reading online articles that Republicans want to “gut” Social Security and “end Medicare as we know it.” How realistic are these claims?

    “Can Republicans cut Social Security and medical benefits for the disabled?”

    Phil Moeller: Yes, Congress can change these programs, and I have seen the same stories you have about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid being on the cutting block, along with the Affordable Care Act.

    I can’t tell you not to worry. I can tell you that proposals to change any of these programs will trigger a major congressional battle. The GOP majorities in the House and Senate have a lot of power, but Democrats have promised to resist changes to these programs, and enough Republican senators have voiced reservations to jeopardize the GOP’s 52-48 Senate majority. Further, it’s not yet clear where President-elect Trump actually will stand when rhetoric yields to action. So far, he has only said he supports Social Security and Medicare and doesn’t want to change the programs. He has, of course, promised to end Obamacare. And many of his key appointees support changes to these programs as well.

    READ MORE: How plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act could affect Medicare

    Once the new president, his appointees and the new Congress take office, we will see if these claims come to pass. I can understand that you are stressed, and you have every right to be. You also have the right to complain to your congressman and senators. People need to stand up and be heard on these matters.


    GW – N.C.: I am a vet and have medical coverage, but pay for copays and medicine. Do I have to enroll in Medicare, or is there a different coverage for vets?

    Phil Moeller: There is different coverage for vets, but you may still need to enroll in Medicare. I am not clear whether you’re still working or are already retired. You say you already have medical coverage. Do you know who is providing this coverage? If it’s from an employer, and you’re going to keep working, you probably don’t need to change coverage just because you’ve turned 65.

    If you already are retired, the major coverage for retired military personnel is called Tricare For Life. And you may also be eligible for Veterans Affairs coverage at its facilities.

    Once you’ve determined your eligibility for either or both of these programs, I suggest you speak with their representatives about what they cover and how they work with Medicare. Some vets find VA is fine, and some supplement it with Tricare, which includes a Medicare component. It depends on their health care needs and often on their financial situation.

    After you’ve looked into this, please feel free to get back to me with detailed questions.


    Kevin: I have read “cover to cover” “Get What’s Yours” and have browsed the internet and attended some seminars that offer cocktails, dinner or whatever to get you into a meeting with a financial adviser. We do have wealth managers helping with investments; they are good at the investing, but weak in knowledge of Social Security. I think we have formulated a plan using the “restricted application” filing. We originally wanted to use “file and suspend,” but that window was closed to us as of last May.

    My birthdate is Jan. 27, 1951, and my wife was born April 6, 1952, so we meet the 1954 birthdate test. Our plan:

    I will file and suspend Social Security in January 2017, allowing me to reach the maximum payout in January of 2021. My wife will wait until April 2018 and also file and suspend until she turns 69 in 2021 or 70 in 2022. We want her to claim spousal benefits during my wait for 2021. We believe they would total about half of what I would get at my full retirement age of 66. When I start taking my full benefit she can either take her age-69 benefit or wait another year to get the full benefit.

    READ MORE: Column: Under a President Trump, Medicare reforms are a matter of when, not if

    Does she need to wait until she is 66 to file for spousal benefits? She would still file and suspend at full retirement age. Could she get a spousal benefit when I file and suspend? Is this a solid plan? Do we understand correctly how this could work for us?

    Phil Moeller: Your note correctly notes that “file and suspend” is no longer possible for you. But then you later say your plan includes both you and your wife filing and suspending. So I hope you can understand that I am confused about your plans!

    The fact is that anyone who had not turned 66 before the end of last April can’t file and suspend.

    Therefore, your options are limited. Both of you can wait until age 70 to each receive your respective maximum retirement benefits. Or, one of you can file before this time and thus make the other spouse eligible to file a spousal benefit. In that situation, the second spouse would be able to file a restricted application when they reach full retirement age at 66. They would receive only a spousal benefit and defer their own retirement benefit to age 70, earning four years of delayed retirement credits.

    If a restricted filing made sense to you, it would normally be better for the lower-earning spouse to file for their retirement on or after reaching full retirement age. The higher-earning spouse then would file the restricted application, preserving their maximum benefit.

    This can be especially important if the higher-earning spouse dies first. In this event, the lower-earning spouse would get a survivor benefit equal to the higher-earning spouse’s age-70 benefit.

    Figuring out the best strategy often requires more computational power than I have. My co-author Larry Kotlikoff offers Maximize My Social Security software that will let you run all the scenarios and figure out your best option. You will need to know details of all relevant Social Security benefit projections to get the most from the software.


    Jane – Mo.: Once you become eligible for Medicare, it covers 80 percent of the medical bill, and my existing employer plan drops to 20 percent coverage. Why wouldn’t they each pay half? This wouldn’t cost Medicare so much and would not let my private insurer off the hook for paying its fair share of claims. As a retired federal employee, my private insurer premiums didn’t go down when I retired, and now I have to pay Medicare premiums as well. Why are the insurance companies getting away with paying only 20 percent of covered claims?

    Phil Moeller: I have heard complaints from other federal retirees who think their federal premium should decline when this insurance moves from being primary to secondary. There also are some federal insurance plans where the person does not have to get Medicare, but can stay fully on their federal plan. I assume this was not possible for your plan.

    Part B of Medicare pays only 80 percent of covered expenses when it is the primary insurer. Because of this “hole” in coverage, many people get either a Medigap private insurance policy or a Medicare Advantage plan. These policies can plug that hole.

    In cases such as yours, where Medicare becomes the primary insurer and the employer plan moves from being primary to secondary, it’s the employer plan that steps up to fill that 20 percent hole. I do not know if anyone at Medicare has ever considered or proposed a 50-50 split in such situations.


    Christopher: Are Part B excess charges the same as balance billing charges, or are these separate phenomena?

    Phil Moeller: These terms are related. They often are used interchangeably, but this can be misleading. According to Medicare experts at Aetna, balance billing refers to the amount by which charges by health care providers exceed Medicare-approved payment amounts.

    Nearly all providers accept Medicare assignment, meaning they have agreed to accept Medicare-approved charges as payment in full. In this case, balance billing is prohibited by federal law.

    However, health care providers who do not accept Medicare assignment but agree to treat Medicare enrollees may engage in balance billing. If they do, these amounts are called excess charges. Here is how Aetna describes them:

    While non-participating providers are allowed to balance bill, there is a limit on how much they can balance bill. Federal law sets the limit (known as the ‘limiting charge’) on the amount that the provider may balance bill (some states prohibit or limit balance billing as well). The limiting charge is based upon a percentage of the Medicare approved charge. In most cases, non-participating providers may not charge or balance bill more than 115 percent of the Medicare approved charge.

    These excess charges are not covered by basic Medicare, but are covered by two types of Medigap, or Medicare supplement plans: letter F or G plans.

    I also have seen balance billing described as the practice of billing patients the difference between what an insurance company would pay for a health procedure and the “retail price” that an uninsured patient would pay for the procedure.

    The post Column: Social Security will reduce paper statements in 2017. Here’s why it shouldn’t appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates with linebacker Shaq Smith (5) during the fourth quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

    Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates with linebacker Shaq Smith (5) during the fourth quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

    The Clemson Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide in a 35-31 turnaround victory to win its first NCAA College Football National Championship in three decades.

    Fireworks go off during the National Anthem prior to the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Fireworks go off during the National Anthem prior to the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Pre-game predictions favored the Crimson Tide to win as they rolled into Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Alabama had gone all season without a loss, and for three quarters, the Crimson Tide’s performance honored those expectations.

    Alabama Crimson Tide running back Bo Scarbrough (9) scores on a 25 yard touchdown past Clemson Tigers defensive back Ryan Carter (31) and defensive lineman Christian Wilkins (42) in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    Alabama Crimson Tide running back Bo Scarbrough (9) scores on a 25 yard touchdown past Clemson Tigers defensive back Ryan Carter (31) and defensive lineman Christian Wilkins (42) in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    But, in the championship’s last quarter, Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams caught a four-yard pass to score a Tiger touchdown and narrow Bama’s lead to 24-21 on the scoreboard. Then, Tiger running back Wayne Gallman built on that gain, scoring a one-yard touchdown to secure a 28-24 lead and move Clemson ahead of its opponent for the first time.

    Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) is hit short of the first down against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the third quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) is hit short of the first down against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the third quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Alabama struggled to regain control of the game and snatched back the lead for 31-28 after quarterback Jalen Hurts’ 30-yard touchdown run. But Bama couldn’t hold on.

    Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) scores a touchdown after getting past Clemson Tigers linebacker Kendall Joseph (34) in the fourth quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) scores a touchdown after getting past Clemson Tigers linebacker Kendall Joseph (34) in the fourth quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    In the game’s final moments, Tiger wide receiver Hunter Renfrow completed a two-yard pass for a touchdown, bringing Clemson a 35-31 winning score.

    Clemson Tigers wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (13) catches a touchdown pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the fourth quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Clemson Tigers wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (13) catches a touchdown pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the fourth quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Eight years ago, Clemson football head coach Dabo Swinney told reporters he set out to bring a national championship to Clemson after playing “the best team in the country up until the last second of this game.”

    “It was our night. It was our time,” said a visibly emotional Swinney after the win.

    Confetti flies on the field after the Clemson Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Confetti flies on the field after the Clemson Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

    Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

    Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Anthony Averett (28) reacts during the fourth quarter against the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Anthony Averett (28) reacts during the fourth quarter against the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Clemson Tigers wide receiver Kanyon Tuttle (81) celebrates after beating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Clemson Tigers wide receiver Kanyon Tuttle (81) celebrates after beating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban after the game against the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban after the game against the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (13) celebrates with tight end Jordan Leggett (16) after making a touchdown catch against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the fourth quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Clemson Tigers wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (13) celebrates with tight end Jordan Leggett (16) after making a touchdown catch against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the fourth quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Clemson Tigers linebacker Ben Boulware (10) celebrates with teammates after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Clemson Tigers linebacker Ben Boulware (10) celebrates with teammates after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    The post Photos: Clemson clinches top college football title in historic win over Alabama appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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