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

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    Photo of Chelsea Manning that was released to the public after it was submitted as evidence in court proceedings. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Records Management and Declassification Agency via Wikimedia Commons

    Photo of Chelsea Manning that was released to the public after it was submitted as evidence in court proceedings. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Records Management and Declassification Agency via Wikimedia Commons

    Amid President Barack Obama’s last-minute batch of pardons and commutations was Chelsea Manning, who is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking classified government records to WikiLeaks.

    The president commuted Manning’s sentence days before leaving office and the same week as President-elect Donald Trump’s planned inauguration. Manning is scheduled to be freed on May 17.

    Manning was convicted in 2013 of charges that included espionage and theft for her role in publishing a trove of classified Army documents to the website WikiLeaks.

    Shortly after her sentencing, Manning came out as a woman and announced she wanted hormone therapy to help with her transition. That hormone therapy was approved in February 2015 following a lawsuit that claimed the Army was not providing adequate medical care for her gender dysphoria.

    In April 2016, her psychologist recommended she receive gender confirmation surgery. In September, one week after Manning went on a hunger strike to demand the surgery, the U.S. Army approved the treatment. Only one person to date has received state-funded gender confirmation surgery while in prison.

    Manning formally petitioned Obama in November to commute her sentence to the more than six years she already served in confinement.

    “I am not asking for a pardon of my conviction,” she wrote in a letter. “I understand that the various collateral consequences of the court-martial conviction will stay on my record forever.”

    “The sole relief I am asking for is to be released from military prison after serving six years of confinement as a person who did not intend to harm the interests of the United States or harm any service members,” she added.

    Today’s announcement is a win for the American Civil Liberties Union and LGBTQ groups that have lobbied the president for years to commute Manning’s sentence.

    Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement that the decision “exemplifies the values President Obama has demonstrated throughout his presidency. He has been a staunch advocate for the civil rights and human dignity of all people, including transgender people.”

    In a statement following today’s announcement, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Manning’s commutation was “outrageous.”

    “Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets,” Ryan said. “President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes,” he added.

    The post Obama commutes Chelsea Manning sentence. She will be freed in May appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Video by PBS NewsHour

    In an interview with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power defended the decision to abstain from a UN Security Council vote in December to condemn Israeli settlements, saying it did not negatively impact the U.S.-Israel relationship, but that “the building has to stop.”

    “If a two-state solution stands a chance in allowing the people of Israel and Palestine to live in dignity side by side, the building has to stop, and the incitement has to stop, and the violence has to stop,” Power said.

    She also addressed the global challenge of fighting fake news, saying American media needed to stand up against disinformation put forward by Russian media.

    Video by PBS NewsHour

    “Mainstream regular news media does tend to just repeat Russian claims as if they are fact,” she said, including claims about Russia’s military interventions in Syria. “It’s harder to do the pound the pavement reporting that is required to ascertain what’s factual. But we have to be very careful to not just throw in and create on the one hand, on the other hand, stories,” she said.

    The post WATCH: U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power on Israel, challenge of fake news appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of President Barack Obama by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    File photo of President Barack Obama by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Embracing his clemency powers like never before, President Barack Obama is planning more commutations in his final days in office after a dramatic move to cut short convicted leaker Chelsea Manning’s sentence.

    Obama became the president to have granted more commutations than any other when he announced Tuesday that Manning will be freed in May, almost 30 years ahead of schedule. Manning, the transgender Army intelligence analyst who leaked more than 700,000 U.S. documents, was one of 273 people receiving clemency on a single day.

    Receiving pardons from the president were retired Gen. James Cartwright, who was charged with making false statements during another leak probe, and San Francisco Giants Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, sentenced in 1996 on tax evasion charges. Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera’s 55-year sentence was commuted.

    But Obama is not finished. The White House said Obama would grant more commutations Thursday — the day before his presidency ends — though officials said those would focus on drug offenders and would not likely include any other famous names.

    Neil Eggleston, Obama’s White House counsel, said the individuals were learning “that our nation is a forgiving nation, where hard work and a commitment to rehabilitation can lead to a second chance, and where wrongs from the past will not deprive an individual of the opportunity to move forward.”

    The actions are permanent, and cannot be undone by President-elect Donald Trump.

    With his last-minute clemency for Manning and Cartwright, Obama appeared to be softening what has been a hard-line approach to prosecuting leakers.

    Manning has been serving a 35-year sentence for leaking classified government and military documents to WikiLeaks, along with some battlefield video. She was convicted in military court of violating the Espionage Act and other offenses and spent more than six years behind bars. She asked Obama last November to commute her sentence to time served.

    Her case has pitted LGBT rights activists, who warned about her mental health and treatment as a transgender woman living in a men’s prison, against national security hawks who said she did devastating damage to U.S. interests. The former cheered Obama’s move, while the latter called it an outrageous act that set a dangerous precedent.

    Obama did not grant a pardon to another prominent leaker, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, whom the U.S. has been unable to extradite from Russia. Snowden hasn’t formally applied for clemency, though his supporters have called for it. Yet the White House drew a distinction between the unapologetic Snowden and Manning. Manning, officials noted, has expressed remorse and served several years already for her crime.

    Known as Bradley Manning at the time of her 2010 arrest, Manning came out as transgender after being sentenced. She was held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where she attempted suicide twice last year, according to her lawyers. Manning has acknowledged leaking the documents, but has said she did it to raise public awareness about the effects of war on civilians.

    “We are all better off knowing that Chelsea Manning will walk out of prison a free woman,” said Chase Strangio, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney representing Manning, adding that Obama’s action could “quite literally save Chelsea’s life.”

    House Speaker Paul Ryan called the move “just outrageous,” and added, “Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets.”

    Obama’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, told CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday that Obama believes Manning received “an appropriate punishment.” Earnest said the time Manning had served was consistent with the sentence imposed on others who committed similar crimes ‘but got less attention for committing them.”

    Manning, Lopez and many of the others will be released in May, in line with standard procedure allowing a period for re-entry. Obama also pardoned hotelier Ian Schrager, who was sentenced in 1980 to 20 months for tax evasion.

    Commutations reduce sentences being served, but don’t erase convictions. Pardons generally restore civil rights, such as voting, often after a sentence has been served.

    Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had pleaded guilty in October to making false statements during an investigation into a leak of classified information about a covert cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Prosecutors said Cartwright falsely told investigators that he did not provide information contained in a news article and in a book by New York Times journalist David Sanger, and said he also misled prosecutors about classified information shared with another journalist, Daniel Klaidman.

    The Justice Department sought a sentence of two years, saying employees of the U.S. government are entrusted each day with sensitive classified information.

    Puerto Ricans had long demanded the release of Lopez, who was sentenced to 55 years in prison for his role in a violent struggle for independence for the U.S. island territory. Lopez had belonged to the ultranationalist Armed Forces of National Liberation, which has claimed responsibility for more than 100 bombings at public and commercial buildings in U.S. cities during the 1970s and 1980s.

    The White House noted that absent a commutation, the 74-year-old Lopez likely would have died in prison.

    Obama’s commutation for Manning also raised fresh questions about the future of another figure involved in the Army leaker’s case: Julian Assange.

    WikiLeaks had earlier pledged, via tweet, that its founder would agree to U.S. extradition if Obama granted clemency to Manning. Holed up for more than four years at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Assange has refused to meet prosecutors in Sweden, where he’s wanted on a rape allegation, fearing he would be extradited to the U.S. to face espionage charges if he leaves the embassy.

    But the Justice Department has never announced any indictment of Assange. WikiLeaks lawyer Melinda Taylor said U.S. and British authorities refuse to say whether the U.S. has requested extradition. Though she praised the commutation for Manning, Taylor made no mention of Assange’s earlier promise to agree to extradition.

    White House officials said neither Assange’s fate nor separate concerns about WikiLeaks’ role in Russian hacking of the election factored into the decision to commute Manning’s sentence. The officials briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

    Any action that Justice Department officials may take regarding Assange “is something that they would do independent of the White House,” Earnest told CNN.

    ___

    Associated Press writers Vivian Salama, John Hanna, Darlene Superville, Kathleen Hennessey and Danica Cota contributed to this report.

    The post More clemency coming after Obama shortens Manning’s sentence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch President Barack Obama’s final press conference at 2:15 p.m. EST Wednesday.

    President Barack Obama will conduct today the final press conference of his presidency, scheduled for 2:15 p.m. EST. He is expected to address questions about his decision to commute the sentence of former U.S. Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of leaking classified information about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars to WikiLeaks.

    Manning was sentenced in August 2013 to a 35-year term, but Mr. Obama on Tuesday shortened her sentence to seven years dating back to her initial arrest. She is scheduled to be freed on May 17.

    Watch Judy Woodruff’s interview on the subject with Charlie Savage of the New York Times here:

    You can watch President Obama’s press conference live in the video above.

    The post WATCH LIVE: President Obama holds final press conference appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Rep. Tom Price’s first hearing beginning at 10 a.m. EST Wednesday.

    President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for health secretary is pledging a bipartisan approach if confirmed to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.

    Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., an orthopedic surgeon-turned-legislator, says in prepared remarks for his first nomination hearing that he’ll carry “an appreciation for bipartisan, team-driven policymaking” to his new job, if confirmed.

    Price faces a contentious hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee. Democrats are concerned that Trump and the Republican Congress will sweep away President Barack Obama’s health care law without putting in a replacement that covers as many people. They have also criticized Price for his stock trades involving health care companies. The Trump transition team says Price has complied with all applicable laws.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Tom Price’s hearing as health secretary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch the confirmation hearing of Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary starting at 10 a.m. EST Wednesday.

    Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross — in line to be commerce secretary — says the thing he’s proudest of during his career is working with union leaders to save thousands of jobs in the steel industry.

    Ross is facing a Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, and he’s citing his experience as an investor and business owner.

    If he’s confirmed, Ross will represent the interest of U.S. businesses domestically and abroad.

    Ross says in prepared testimony that he’s probably had more direct experience than any prior Cabinet nominee in dealing with unfair trade practices in the steel business and other sectors.

    He says other nations want access to the U.S. market and that America should only provide access to nations that agree to play “by our standards of fair trade.”

    The post WATCH LIVE: Confirmation hearing of Wilbur Ross for commerce appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh attends a meeting of the Economic Community of West African States in Senegal's capital Dakar on April 2, 2012. Photo by Joe Penney/Reuters

    Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh attends a meeting of the Economic Community of West African States in Senegal’s capital Dakar on April 2, 2012. Photo by Joe Penney/Reuters

    The Gambian National Assembly voted Wednesday to keep President Yahya Jammeh in power for three more months, one day before the scheduled inauguration of his successor Adama Barrow.

    Barrow won the presidency in a December vote, but Jammeh called the elections flawed and refused to accept the results. He has been in power for 22 years.

    Barrow, a former real estate agent, is currently staying in neighboring Senegal. Thousands of Gambians have fled there as well. The African Union said it would no longer recognize Jammeh’s authority after the end of his current term.

    File photo of Gambian President-elect Adama Barrow by Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

    File photo of Gambian President-elect Adama Barrow by Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

    “Everybody’s leaving,” a Gambian immigration official said, The Guardian reported. “They’re worried there might be war.”

    Barrow declared a 90-day state of emergency on Tuesday. He and his supporters in the National Assembly decried the “unlawful and malicious interference” of the African Union and Senegal.

    The post Gambian parliament extends president’s term despite loss appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    John and Mary Benbow, 67, and 68, respectively, of La Jolla, shown holding his finger over his social security number on his Medicare card, work hard to protect themselves from the scourge of identiy theft. They took their first names off their checks, they black out personal information and shred financial documents before putting them in the trash. There's just one area where they feel vulnerable and there's little that they can do about it. They must carry around their Medicare cards, which are emblazoned with their Social Security numbers, which experts say are a skeleton key to an individual's financial life. (Photo by Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

    Photo by Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via 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.


    As Congress continues to move toward repealing part or even all of Obamacare, it’s not surprising that other health care news has fallen off our radar. Last week, however, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the agency that oversees Medicare, released some very upsetting results of a study that reviewed the accuracy of the directories of health care providers in the networks used by Medicare Advantage plans.

    These networks are a central component of Medicare Advantage plans, and the accuracy of network details clearly is significant for people who enroll in the plans. Most Medicare Advantage plans either prevent people from using providers not in their networks or charge them higher rates for out-of-network care. It’s thus very important that people review a plan’s network directory and make sure it meets their needs before enrolling in the plan. Are their doctors, hospitals and other providers in the network? If not, the plan might not be their best Medicare option.

    There was at least one mistake in nearly 47 percent of the provider reviews and nearly that many among all locations.

    There have been widespread reports of inaccuracies in these directories. But the study nevertheless comes as a shocker. It found that nearly half of directory entries were inaccurate in the plans it reviewed. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reviewed more than 5,800 health care providers offering care at more than 11,600 locations. The directories were provided by 54 Medicare Advantage Organizations that represented about a third of all Medicare Advantage providers. The study reviewed entries for four widely used doctors — cardiologists, oncologists, ophthalmologists and primary care physicians.

    Each provider’s office was called to verify that their name and contact information was correct, they saw patients at the address contacted, accepted the Medicare Advantage plan that listed them in its directory and if the directory was accurate in describing whether the practice was now seeing new Medicare Advantage patients.

    There was at least one mistake in nearly 47 percent of the provider reviews and nearly that many among all locations. They were widespread and not concentrated among a few providers. And they were not clerical errors.

    The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said 85 percent of the deficiencies it found “were of the highest weighted, most egregious errors” that were “most likely to affect access to care.” Here’s an extended comment about providers who were not located at the listed address or perhaps not even in a plan’s network at all:

    We found that providers were not located at about 31 percent of the locations listed in the provider directory. This finding means that if a member were to look up a provider/location in an MAO directory, he/she would be unable to make an appointment with that provider because the provider did not work at that location. In about 1,162 of these cases, the provider associated with these locations did not work at any of the locations identified in the online directory. For example, if a provider were listed at three locations in the directory, CMS’s review found that the provider was not at any of the three locations identified. Given that the provider was not at any location listed in the directory, this finding raises concerns about whether these providers are even part of the network.

    The report did not identify specific Medicare Advantage insurers. A story by Kaiser Health News identified 21 insurers the agency warned to fix the problems. Overall, of the 54 Medicare Advantage Organizations whose networks were reviewed, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued 31 notices of non-compliance, 18 warning letters and three warning letters that asked that the agency be provided with a business plan.

    Medicare enrollees need to do their own due diligence here. Do not assume that a plan’s provider directory is accurate. Call the offices of your primary physician and any specialists you see. Make sure the hospitals they prefer are also in your plan’s directory.

    And now, on to this week’s reader questions.


    Debra – N.M.: I’ll turn 62 shortly and understand that I will not be eligible under the new Social Security law to file and suspend. I also know the severe downside of claiming before reaching my full retirement age. Therefore, I plan to wait until I’m 66 and two months to file, but I may not be able to wait that long, as I’m currently unemployed. I divorced over 10 years ago and do not have contact with my ex-spouse, who will turn 70 in July 2017. I believe he earned substantially more than me. My questions are: A) What is the most timely way for me to accurately determine when he dies? B) Without actually filing a claim for my benefit, will the Social Security Administration tell me when he filed? c) Will the Social Security Administration give me an accurate estimate of my spousal benefit (which I believe is 50 percent of his full retirement age benefit before his death and 100 percent after he’s deceased)?

    Phil Moeller: This is a great question, and I only wish I had a great answer. Unfortunately, personal privacy considerations can make getting this information from Social Security very difficult. Without filing a claim, you really can’t demand this information from Social Security, although I think it would be nice if you could.

    One approach I’d suggest is to call Social Security and tell them you’re thinking of filing a claim for your own retirement benefit. Tell them you understand that making this filing, even after you’ve reached your full retirement age, will also subject you to the new deeming rules enacted last year. Tell them you think your former husband has already filed for his retirement benefit, and you thus wonder whether deeming will provide you an excess spousal benefit in addition to your own retirement benefit. This will only happen if your ex-spousal benefit is higher than your own retirement benefit.

    Make it clear that this is only an informational call and that you can’t make the decision about whether to actually file for benefits until you know if you’re entitled to an ex-spousal benefit and if they tell you how much that would be.

    This information, of course, will also give you a clue as to what your ex-spousal survivor benefit would be. However, your ex-spousal survivor benefit is not 100 percent of his full retirement age benefit, but up to 100 percent of what he was actually collecting, or the amount he was entitled to collect at the time of his death. If he filed for retirement before his full retirement age, your survivor benefit will be reduced; likewise, if he deferred filing until after his full retirement age, your survivor benefit will be greater than his full retirement age entitlement.

    Do not expect Social Security to let you know when a former spouse has died. If you’re collecting ex-spousal benefits off of his earnings record, they should alert you to his death and to the possibility of getting an additional survivor benefit. However, there may be a long lag time between his death and this communication. And if you’re not collecting a benefit based his earnings record, the agency would have no basis for even knowing that you used to be married and that his death thus might affect your own benefits.

    I know this information can be confusing, and the process is difficult to navigate. You have learned a lot about how Social Security benefits work, and I urge you to keep working to get all the benefits to which you’re entitled.


    Ed: I suspended my Social Security until I turned 70 last November. I was paying $121.80 in monthly Medicare premiums, since I was not on Social Security and was not held harmless. Now that I am, my Social Security statement says I will be paying $132 for 2017. I thought once I received Social I would be “held harmless” and drop back to the $109 for 2017 like my spouse, who has been receiving Social Security since she was 65. Am I wrong? Also, why is my monthly premium not $134, which is what Medicare says it should be?

    Phil Moeller: My crystal ball for divining Social Security decisions has been cracked beyond repair by the nutty hold harmless rules for 2017.

    While people are being held harmless for 2017, this does not mean their Part B premiums won’t increase. It just means they can’t increase by more than the measly 2017 COLA of 0.3 percent. So, for example, if your benefit was $2,000 a month, the cost of living adjustment, or COLA, would raise it by $6 a month, and this is the maximum amount that your Part B premium would rise in 2017.

    It seems unlikely that this math would explain why your premium would rise from $121.80 to $132. That’s $11.20 more. Your monthly benefit would need to be nearly $4,000 a month to explain such an increase in terms of the 2017 COLA. And this would be larger than the current ceiling on benefits. So I assume something else is going on. Only I don’t know what!

    Under Social Security rules, the fact that you had Part B deducted from your December Social Security payment means that you should be in the hold harmless group for 2017. If your income was higher enough to trigger the high-income premium surcharge, which you say was not the case, the surcharge would be much larger than the increase you are being charged.

    So I would think your 2017 Part B premium should be $121.80 plus 0.3 percent of your expected 2017 monthly Social Security payment. I’d calculate this amount and then get in touch with Social Security to try and change the amount of your Part B deduction. And, as you note, if you were mistakenly not held harmless, your monthly Part B premium for 2017 should be $134.

    Please let me know how things turn out. If there is a logical reason for the agency’s decision, I’d like to know what it is.


    Catherine: I now receive a Social Security spousal benefit and applied for Medicare in December. This has permitted me to be held harmless and shielded from those big Part B premium increases. However, when I switch to my own retirement benefit at age 70, will I be considered a new applicant and thus no longer in the hold harmless group? One person at Social Security told me that I would be subject to a higher premium and would be considered a new applicant filing under my own Social Security number and not my husband’s number. Another representative said no, that the premium would just come out of my new Social Security claim. I tried to answer this question by calling Medicare, but they referred me back to Social Security.

    Phil Moeller: Your “hold harmless” status is determined by your initial Social Security benefits claim. If you later file for another benefit, you should not be considered a new applicant. You will not be held harmless for 2017, however. It takes Social Security a month to begin withholding Part B premiums from your benefits. So, even though you may have filed for Part B last December, your first withholding payment shouldn’t have occurred until January, thus preventing you from being held harmless this year.


    Roberto – Calif.: My wife started receiving Social Security when she turned 62 last October. I am 60 years old now. My problem is that the Social Security office told me that I need about four more quarterly work credits to be eligible to receive Social Security, and I don’t think I will be able to work enough to earn them. Can I apply for spousal benefits when I turn 62 in 2018? Her monthly Social Security is $954. Would I be eligible to receive half of that amount, or $477, when I turn 62 years old?

    Phil Moeller: It’s unfortunate you won’t have enough credits to qualify for your own benefits. You can file for a spousal benefit based on your wife’s benefits, but it will be different than half of her age-62 benefit.

    There are two sets of calculations you need to understand or at least ask Social Security about. The first involves the basis on which your spousal benefit is calculated. It’s not what your wife is actually receiving, but what she would have been entitled to receive if she filed for retirement benefits at the age of 66, which is called her full retirement age. There’s a reduction for filing before this age, so the good news for you is that this figure is as much as a third larger than what she is actually collecting. The precise difference depends on how old she was when she filed.

    The maximum amount of your spousal benefit will be, as you noted, half of this figure. In order to collect this large of a benefit, however, you would have to wait to file for it until you reached your full retirement age. The full retirement age is getting later for anyone born after 1954, and this includes you. The crucial thing to note here is that if you file for a spousal benefit before reaching full retirement age, you will be hit with an early spousal reduction that could exceed 30 percent.

    I understand that you might need the money right away. But the longer you can wait to file past the age of 62, the higher this benefit will be for the rest of your life.


    Beth – Ga.: I have two questions about Medicare’s high-income surcharges. First, are these surcharges applied to Medicare Advantage plans, specifically a Medicare Advantage plan with drug coverage, or does this option exclude a surcharge? Second, if my employer offers a retirement package that includes a drug benefit equal to or better than a Part D drug plan, will there be a surcharge for the employer’s coverage?

    Phil Moeller: If your Medicare Advantage plan includes Part D drug coverage, and most Medicare Advantage plans do, you would have to pay an IRMAA surcharge. You didn’t ask, but you’d also have to pay an IRMAA surcharge on Part B premiums. You have to have Part B to even sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan and must pay those premiums.

    If your employer offers retiree drug coverage, and you pay for it separately and apart from any Medicare coverage or charges, you would not pay IRMAA surcharges on that drug plan.


    Terry – British Columbia: I have Part A of Medicare, and I receive Social Security payments. I’ve lived permanently in Canada since 2003. My question is: When I am traveling in the U.S., am I covered by Medicare (Part A) for hospital care should it become necessary? I have been buying supplemental insurance to make up the difference in costs between the Canadian and U.S. systems (which is huge).

    Phil Moeller: Welcome to my world! I get uninterpretable answers from Medicare all the time. And this is when they answer me at all. According to the Social Security Administration, which handles a lot of Medicare administrative work, your Part A will cover you for hospital expenses received in the United States. The last time I looked, however, it was impossible to be hospitalized without being treated by health care providers!

    Unless you have Part B coverage, either directly or in a Medicare Advantage plan, the expenses of healthcare providers who treat you in the U.S. would not be covered. I am not sure what kind of supplemental insurance you have purchased, but unless it specifically addressed this situation, you would be exposed to big health care bills.

    The post Care provider directories wrong nearly half the time in Medicare Advantage plan lists appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Sallie Krawcheck thinks women have been told to keep their heads down, but she hopes her relaunched women's network and mutual fund will help combat that tendency. Photo by Stuart Isett/Fortune Most Powerful Women via Flickr user Fortune Live Media.

    Photo by Stuart Isett/Fortune Most Powerful Women via Flickr user Fortune Live Media.

    Editor’s Note: Sallie Krawcheck is the author of the new book, “Own It: The Power of Women at Work,” published Tuesday. The book, described as “picking up the women and success conversation where Sheryl Sandberg left off,” tackles the pay gap, mentorship, networking, the investment gap, the need for flexibility and female entrepreneurship, among other issues facing women in the workplace.

    “The future is ours to seize. But we aren’t going to seize it by contorting ourselves into the male version of what power and success look like,” Krawcheck writes. “Instead, we’re going to do it by embracing and investing in our true female selves—and bringing those badass selves proudly, unapologetically, to work.”

    With that, here’s an excerpt from “Own It.”

    — Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor


    If you’ve picked up this book, I’m guessing this may not be the first one you’ve ever read on the subject of women and success. But before we go any further, let’s get one thing straight. This book is different. I’m not here to tell you how you can achieve the elusive work-life balance or make it straight to the top in today’s business environment. Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot of great advice out there.

    I’m not going to tell you how to contort yourself to yesterday’s expectations and assumptions (read: the guys’ expectations and assumptions) about how powerful people behave.

    But as you’ll read in the coming pages, the business world is changing—fast—and with it so are the qualities needed to be successful. So I’m not going to talk about how you can win at yesterday’s version (read: the guys’ version) of the game. I’m not going to tell you how to contort yourself to yesterday’s expectations and assumptions (read: the guys’ expectations and assumptions) about how powerful people behave. And I’m not here to teach you some not-too-hot-and-not-too-cold set of attributes or strategies or skills required to achieve yesterday’s version (read: the guys’ version) of career success.

    Nor am I here to “empower” you. Yes, you read that right. Because to be honest, I’m pretty over the whole notion of women being empowered. Look it up in the dictionary and you’ll see why:

    Empower (verb): to give power or authority to.

    That’s right, to empower women, power must be given to them. Well, this book isn’t going to be about how to look for someone—or maybe even wait for someone—to give you power and the slight sense of passivity that the definition implies.

    Instead, it’s going to be about how to take an active role in your future by owning the power you already have. I’m here to tell you that you already have the qualities and skills it takes to get ahead in the modern workplace, and, that in owning those qualities, you have more power and potential than you realize.

    So rather than looking to be “empowered,” this book is going to be about how to leverage our existing power to thrive and advance in our careers in ways that play to our strengths, how to turn our companies into places we want to work (or leave to start our own) and how to invest our economic muscle in making our lives and the world better.

    READ MORE: Column: Women, it’s time to ask for a raise

    Who am I to tell this story? Well, I’ve been around. I spent my career on Wall Street, starting out as a data-driven research analyst: I’ve run Smith Barney, at the time part of Citigroup, where I also served as chief financial officer. I’ve run Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, the “thundering herd.” I’ve run U.S. Trust and the Citi Private Bank. I’ve led teams of more than 30,000 financial advisors and bankers and reported directly to CEOs of multibillion-dollar organizations. I’ve sat on a number of corporate boards. Today, I chair Ellevate Network, the global professional women’s network. And most recently, I launched Ellevest, a digital investment start-up for women, funded with venture capital money.

    Two things have set me apart in all these settings. First: I’ve invariably been the only woman, or one of the only women, in the room.

    Second: I’ve often been the only person to question the status quo. I’ve often been the lone voice saying, “Hold on a second. Slow down. Maybe we should talk this out before jumping in.”

    And I’m going to drop a bomblet here: I believe that those two things—my being a female and my approaching business differently from the others in the room—are related.

    To understand this better, let’s go back to Wall Street, circa 2008. Because it was there that capitalism broke—nearly taking the global economy down with it—and I had a front-row seat. It was also then that I was fired (on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, no less); because, when the economy imploded, I alone at the big Wall Street firms fought to do the unthinkable: reimburse some of our clients’ investment losses.

    I know. Crazy, right?

    READ MORE: Why there aren’t enough businesswomen at the top, and what Sallie Krawcheck’s doing about it

    At Smith Barney, we had sold a set of investment products by the name of Falcon that were supposed to be low-risk. In a good market, the thinking went, their value would increase; in a down market, their value would drop, but not much. The downside was, we told our clients, maybe 8 cents on the dollar.

    Well, as we all know too well, in 2007 and 2008 the market did go down—a lot. Falcon? It went down, too, but not 8 cents. Not 15 cents or even 35 cents. It lost most of its cents on the dollar. Our team had misread the risk of the investment, and it had cost our clients dearly.

    I was sick over it.

    And so I approached my boss, the new CEO of Citigroup, with the position, unorthodox on Wall Street, that we should share some of the pain of the mistake—of our mistake—with our clients. I proposed giving them back some of the money that our miscalculation had cost them.

    (Full disclosure: Clients for the investment included any number of senior managers of the company and the board, including yours truly. My stance was that employees of the company should be left out of any reimbursement.)

    My boss wouldn’t even meet with me to discuss it. Instead, he had one of his squad let me know that his answer was no — no way were we returning any of the money we had lost our clients. Not a cent of it.

    Surely, I reasoned, he hadn’t understood that we had made a mistake, which we should make right. So I tried again, appealing to him with a new analysis on how badly our clients had been hit as a result of costly miscalculations; he still said no.

    I became obsessed, totally consumed with thinking about the clients whom we had let down. The clients whom we had built relationships with, who had trusted us to make the right investment decisions for them. And when I couldn’t think about them anymore, I thought about the long-term harm that we were doing to our business. We had shaken those clients’ confidence in us, so why would they ever want to invest their hard-earned dollars with us again?

    READ MORE: Why women are often put in charge of failing companies

    So I went back to my boss, this time with my extensively researched analysis of the long-term risk to the business if we didn’t act to regain our clients’ trust; he said no once again.

    I sent another analysis and another, and he said no again and again. The message I was sent was to “sit down and shut up.”

    I remember at one point during this back-and-forth—this would be around the time the CEO stopped calling on me in executive committee meetings—thinking that if I took this one step further on, the best outcome would be that I would lose my job and we would return some of our clients’ money. The more likely outcome was that we wouldn’t return their money—and I would still lose my job.

    I took one more step.

    The board of directors of the company asked to be briefed on the debate. We met with them, played out the pros and cons, and they voted to partially reimburse the clients … and, no big surprise, within months my boss fired me—yep, I was out of the company and onto my backside. The company leaked the news to CNBC before it was finalized; I’ll never forget watching it come across the tape from what would soon no longer be my office.

    If you’d asked me in that moment, as I was putting framed photos of my kids into a cardboard box, if I’d been fired because I was a woman, I would have told you, Absolutely not! That’s ridiculous. It was a good old-fashioned business disagreement. How could you even imply such a thing?

    I don’t mean I was fired because I had different body parts; I mean I was fired for being different, for challenging the majority opinion, for speaking up, for daring to go against the grain.

    But now, as time has given me the distance and perspective—and the research analyst in me has replaced emotion with facts—I’d say, Yes, in a way, I believe I was. I know that’s a horrifying statement. But you’ll see my larger point in just a minute.

    I don’t mean I was fired because I had different body parts; I mean I was fired for being different, for challenging the majority opinion, for speaking up, for daring to go against the grain. I was fired for calling out the risk, prioritizing the long term and for putting client relationships ahead of the short-term bottom line.

    In other words, I was fired for some of the things that the research tells me were driven … at least in some part … by my being female.

    Maybe I was right in taking that stance; maybe I was wrong. One can certainly argue the point both ways. But what we can’t argue is this: It would have been better for Wall Street to have had more of those kinds of disagreements, rather than fewer of them.

    In the aftermath of my dismissal, some of the press predicted that the job offers would come flooding in for me, given my business track record and now pretty well proven client focus. But I had broken ranks with the industry, and the message was clear: I wasn’t “one of them.” So the phone didn’t ring; the emails didn’t come flooding in.

    Okay, so what next? As a “recovering research analyst” with time on my hands, I spent that downtime (on the sofa, in sweatpants, often with a glass of wine handy) thinking through—what else?—the causes of the 2008 financial crisis, where this had all begun.

    READ MORE: How ‘Lehman Siblings’ might have stemmed the financial crisis

    I thought and I thought. I dug through the reams of research, and then I dug some more. It seemed like my responsibility, given my front seat on Wall Street and how much spare time I now had, to examine the issue from a number of angles.

    So what did I conclude caused the crash? There is of course no single reason, or even a few reasons. And there are many theories: Much of the press blamed the downturn on corporate greed. Let’s concede the point that there is greed on Wall Street. But there is greed in other businesses as well, so that can’t be the whole story.

    Others chalk it up to dishonesty. They claim that the powers that be at the banks knew how much risk they were peddling to their clients and chose to deceive them about it. But if it was that simple, why did so many bankers actually seem to believe in what they were selling? Why did so many of them never sell their own shares of their companies’ stock when they started to tumble?

    Other oft-cited reasons include too much financial leverage, the increased short-termism of business and the mind-boggling complexity of these businesses. Yes to all.

    But there’s one more factor. Now, I have probably worked directly for more financial services CEOs than anyone else out there. Thus, I have worked on more senior management teams than anyone else out there, and this is my take from what I saw: most of the people working in finance were not cartoon-character evil. (In all my years on Wall Street, I never witnessed a crime among them.) But they were people who had worked together for years, went to the same universities, sent their kids to the same schools, attended the same training programs, dined at the same restaurants, got promoted together, vacationed together, played tennis together, drank together and sat on charitable boards together.

    So my conclusion: The economy was felled not just by greed, stupidity or even deliberate deception, but at its core, by a little discussed but insidious problem: groupthink.

    Therein lay the problem. The thinking converged. People approached decisions in the same way. Leadership teams imposed neither checks nor balances on one another. Individuals didn’t fundamentally challenge one another. I saw any number of executives finish one another’s sentences. As a result, Wall Street suffered from what I call the “false comfort of agreement.”

    As the 2008 economic crisis—as well as many crises of many stripes that came before it—shows us, it’s not good for anyone when the people in charge all see things the same way. When you all have the same blind spot, you can wind up in some pretty epic accidents.

    So my conclusion: The economy was felled not just by greed, stupidity or even deliberate deception, but at its core, by a little discussed but insidious problem: groupthink.

    And what’s the antidote to groupthink?

    Diversity. That means diversity of opinion. Diversity of perspective. Diversity of background. Diversity of disposition. Diversity of experience. Diversity of education. Diversity of orientation. Diversity of skin color.

    And diversity of gender.

    The post Column: Women in the workplace don’t need to be empowered. They need to own their power appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Near the small town of Marfa, Texas, a consortium led by Energy Transfer Partners is building the 148-mile Trans-Pecos Pipeline, which will cross under the Rio Grande to bring fracked natural gas to markets in Mexico. A group inspired by the Standing Rock movement is planning a new fight against the company building that pipeline. Photo by Jessica Lutz/Big Bend Conservation Alliance

    Near the small town of Marfa, Texas, a consortium led by Energy Transfer Partners is building the 148-mile Trans-Pecos Pipeline, which will cross under the Rio Grande to bring fracked natural gas to markets in Mexico. A group inspired by the Standing Rock movement is planning a new fight against the company building that pipeline. Photo by Jessica Lutz/Big Bend Conservation Alliance

    When the Obama administration temporarily denied a permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline in early December, tensions between police and water protectors eased somewhat. But more than 1,300 miles away, close to the Mexican border, a group inspired by the Standing Rock movement was planning a new fight against the company building that pipeline.

    Near the small town of Marfa, Texas, a consortium led by Energy Transfer Partners is building the 148-mile Trans-Pecos Pipeline, which will cross under the Rio Grande to bring fracked natural gas to markets in Mexico.

    “We realized it was the same company, and that it makes no sense for us to be in North Dakota and not address the issues here in our own backyard,” Frankie Orona of the Society of Native Nations said. “The Rio Grande is just as important and sacred as the Mississippi or Missouri Rivers.”

    Three weeks after the short-term win against Dakota Access, the Society of Native Nations and the Big Bend Conservation Alliance established the Two Rivers camp to stop Trans-Pecos. Orona said ranchers who had some of their property taken by eminent domain for the Trans-Pecos project invited the coalition of indigenous activists and environmentalists to set up a resistance and prayer camp on their land.

    So far, the gathering is small, with only a few dozen water protectors trickling through. But Orona says more are starting to trek from around the country, including from Standing Rock. They’re concerned about the environmental impact, loss of indigenous cultural history and use of corporate power to take lands, echoing their allies who are still camped on the frigid North Dakota plains fighting Dakota Access, where at least 14 people were arrested on Monday following a demonstration near the drill pad.

    The Trans-Pecos Pipeline would cross through the Big Bend region’s remote Chihuahuan Desert, considered to be the last of the unspoiled wilderness left in Texas. It’s one of the most biologically diverse places in the United States, home to more than 50 endangered or threatened species, and has at least 650 species of vertebrates. It is also archaeologically rich. Native American occupation of the region dates back 10,000 years.

    A cactus casts a shadow in the early morning sun against the wall of a building in the town of Marfa, West Texas. Photo by Epics/Getty Images

    A cactus casts a shadow in the early morning sun against the wall of a building in the town of Marfa, West Texas. Photo by Epics/Getty Images

    “It is always our goal to work closely with landowners, governments and neighboring communities to foster long-term relationships and to build the pipeline in the safest, most environmentally friendly manner possible,” ETP spokesperson Vicki Granado wrote in an email. “For the safety of our workers, the safety of local law enforcement, and the safety of the protestors exercising their right to protest peacefully, we respectfully ask that unauthorized people stay away from our equipment and off private property.”

    Opposition to Trans-Pecos escalated over the last two years. It started with local coalitions and landowners pressuring federal and state regulators, and challenging the use of eminent domain in courts. But tactics have shifted to mirror the example set by the Oceti Sakowin camp in North Dakota. Indigenous-led prayer ceremonies and lockdowns on machinery, all broadcast over social media, have stalled work in Texas and brought attention to the campaign. So far, police have arrested at least six people for attempting to stop construction.

    Trans-Pecos is nearly complete, and ETP expects the pipeline to be operational by March. Orona acknowledged it might be too late. The coalition has exhausted most of their legal options.

    ”If we can’t stop the pipe then we’ll move to stop the gas at the frack site to cost them more money,” Orona said.

    ETP is building a second pipeline through Texas. The 195-mile Comanche Trail Pipeline, named after the Comanche Nation of the Great Plains, would also deliver fracked natural gas to Mexico. Completion was expected this month, but lawsuits by federal and local regulators delayed the project.

    North Dakota, Texas and beyond

    The fight in Texas is part of a larger, mostly indigenous-led environmental movement gaining momentum across the country. High-profile successes against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines created a playbook.

    Other battles against existing or proposed pipelines are happening in other states, including Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Michigan, Virginia, New Jersey and New York. Indigenous activists have a leading role in many of these fights.

    In Louisiana, Cherri Foytlin, a Native writer from the area, has been opposing ETP’s proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline that would cross the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest river swamp in the country. She said Native people have always had a role in protecting the environment.

    “Indigenous people have always been the original caretakers of Turtle Island,” Foytlin said referring to the name some Native people use for North America. “It’s our job to protect.”

    Archeologist David Keller watches a bulldozer at ancient indigenous site Trap Springs in the Big Bend region of Texas. Photo by Jessica Lutz/Big Bend Conservation Alliance

    Archeologist David Keller watches a bulldozer at ancient indigenous site Trap Springs in the Big Bend region of Texas. Photo by Jessica Lutz/Big Bend Conservation Alliance

    On Monday, at least eight people were arrested near Live Oak, Florida, for protesting the $3 billion Sabal Trail Pipeline, owned by Spectra Energy, NextEra Energy and Duke Energy. It would span three states over 515 miles to carry natural gas under the the Suwannee River. More than a dozen people have been arrested since those protests started in December.

    Andrea Grover, director of stakeholder outreach of Sabal Trail Transmission, said the company has held more than 50 meetings over the last three years to address community concerns and that the project complies with environmental rules.

    “I will note that the project has been developed and evaluated publicly over the past three years to ensure that environmental permitting agencies, all levels of local, state and federal government, communities and landowners’ questions were addressed and impacts along the pipeline route minimized,” Grover wrote in an email to NewsHour.

    Also on Monday in Arkansas, up to 40 people were arrested for blockading a fuel terminal in Memphis, Tennessee. They represent Arkansas Rising, a group opposing the 440-mile Diamond Pipeline, a joint venture between Plains All American Pipeline and Valero. The Diamond Pipeline would transport up to 200,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Oklahoma to Tennessee.

    NewsHour reached out to Diamond Pipeline LLC for comment, but at the time of publishing had not received a response.

    Nicole Williams, an indigenous environmentalist in Florida who was arrested at a Sabal Trail protest in November, said Standing Rock sent a message of unity to native communities.

    “Standing Rock showed us what’s possible,” Williams said. “This is unity and it’s growing. All of the things that make us different, they’re all falling away.”

    The post New pipeline clashes call on Standing Rock playbook appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, a conversation about changing the way we think about health care.

    In an article in the latest issue of The New Yorker, Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon and author, makes the case for the value of what he calls incremental medicine to deal with chronic conditions. It’s the kind of medicine less heralded than that using heroic measures.

    William Brangham spoke with Dr. Gawande recently and asked him how health care is changing.

    DR. ATUL GAWANDE, The New Yorker: When you think about the future of health care and where we’re going at this moment of debate, there’s a transformation going on that involves a recognition that our focus in medicine has been on heroic interventions, like the kind that I do now as a surgeon.

    But the biggest gains are coming right now from incremental medicine, from a commitment to the kind of steady, overtime management of complex problems like chronic illnesses that can add years to people’s lives. But that’s work done by some of the people with the least resources in our health care system.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, who practices incremental medicine in our health care system today?

    DR. ATUL GAWANDE: Well, good examples, just look at the list of who the lowest-paid people are.

    Pediatricians are at the bottom. You would also look at internists. You would look at psychiatrists. You would look at family physicians, HIV specialists. People who take care of chronic illnesses by seeing people carefully over time, those are the people who get the least money.

    The people who have the most are people like orthopedic surgeons, interventional cardiologists. And my point isn’t that — you know, that we’re — that there is something wrong with heroism.

    My own son has a congenital heart condition, where his life was saved by a cardiac surgeon stepping in at 11 days of life to save his life. But he is now 21 years old because of constant monitoring and working with him with a primary care physician and people who controlled his blood pressure, recognized problems before they arose, dealt with learning issues that were related to his condition.

    And that’s the only reason now that he’s getting to live a long and healthy life. That’s what we’re not rewarding. They don’t have the kind of resources and commitment that we are giving to people like me. I have millions of dollars of equipment available to me when I go to work every day in an operating room.

    The clinicians who keep my son going are lucky if they can have a nurse.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, if that care is so valuable, why are the incentives seemingly going in the opposite direction?

    DR. ATUL GAWANDE: It’s mainly because our health system was built at a time when we couldn’t really do this kind of work.

    Go back to the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and it was the discovery of heroic interventions, the ability to cure people with penicillin or do an operation to stop disease that was what saved the day. Primary care physicians couldn’t do all that much that really demonstrated a difference.

    Now we have had the data to track people for a long time, the computational power that recognized, you know what, high blood pressure, which we didn’t even know was a huge problem, we discovered that it afflicts a third of all Americans, and it’s our biggest killer, that years down in the future, that that is our cause of everything from not only heart disease, but dementia and of kidney disease.

    So, you know, the people who control and work with you to control your blood pressure, they’re not rewarded for doing that or to be innovative about doing that. So, the result is half of Americans have uncontrolled high blood pressure, despite seeing clinicians.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The Affordable Care Act tried to move the needle in this direction, to put more incentives towards the exact kind of care that you’re talking about. How successful has that been, that effort been?

    DR. ATUL GAWANDE: Here’s what I would describe it as.

    We now have 30 percent, for example, of Medicare patients who are seeing doctors who are rewarded for doing this kind of work, which is a dramatic change from six or seven years ago. So, the Affordable Care Act has pushed this direction down the road.

    It has also offered protections that allow for preexisting conditions, as people know, that if you have preexisting conditions like my son does, that you’re provided coverage and you can maintain steady coverage. And that’s an important part of being able to stay in care and do better over the long run.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, do you think — if the Republicans and president-elect Trump go forward and repeal this, do you think that some of these incentives will stay in it? Or what do you fear coming down the road?

    DR. ATUL GAWANDE: My biggest fear — so, first of all, where we are right now, 27 percent of Americans under 65 have an existing health condition that, without the protections of the ACA, would mean they would — could be automatically excluded from insurance coverage.

    Before the ACA, they wouldn’t have been able to get insurance coverage on the individual market, you know, if you’re a freelancer or if you had a small business or the like.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Because of preexisting conditions?

    DR. ATUL GAWANDE: Now that — because of preexisting conditions. So, the first thing is that the ACA protections have to be preserved, or those people get pitched out.

    But the big thing that’s happened is, in the time since the ACA has been going on, our medical science has been advancing. We have now genomic data. We have the power of big data about what your living patterns are, what’s happening in your body. Even your smartphone can collect data about your walking or your pulse or other things that could be incredibly meaningful in being able to predict whether you have disease coming in the future and help avert those problems.

    That is the transformation that’s coming. But one of the consequences of if the ACA is repealed, is that all of us now are at risk of being a preexisting — of having a preexisting condition waiting to happen. Life, increasingly, is a preexisting condition waiting to happen, now that we have more and more of this data available.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Dr. Atul Gawande of The New Yorker magazine, thank you so much.

    DR. ATUL GAWANDE: Thank you.

    The post Reassessing the value of care for chronic health conditions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A New York City Police (NYPD) car is parked outside the security perimeter for the Trump Tower following President-elect Donald Trump's election victory, in New York City, U.S., November 10, 2016.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid - RTX2T3Q9

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: With just a couple days left until the inauguration, much of the nation’s attention is on president-elect Trump’s move into the White House.

    But Midtown Manhattan residents are still focusing on the gold skyscraper of Trump Tower, which will continue to be a home for the Trump family.

    Producer Rhana Natour looks at the unprecedented challenges of securing that residence and the financial fallout.

    RHANA NATOUR: This is the new reality along the storied Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, dogs, chains, and intense security.

    The president-elect has used Trump Tower as a base for transition meetings since the election, and while he will relocate to the White House after the inaugural, his wife, Melania, and 10-year-old son Barron plan to stay in Trump Tower through the end of the school year.

    Evy Poumpouras is a former Secret Service agent. For 12 years, she was part of the presidential detail for Presidents Obama, Clinton and both Bushes.

    We are seeing delivery truck after delivery truck being searched in and out. What is happening here?

    EVY POUMPOURAS, Former Secret Service Agent: So, we want to control what’s coming into the area of Trump Tower.

    And one of the biggest issues are large vehicles that can actually have large amounts of an explosive. And a truck would be a perfect thing, a perfect IED, a vehicle device, to use.

    So, what they will do is, you will typically have the vehicle stopped. They will search the vehicle, make sure there’s nothing inside the vehicle, underneath the vehicle, make sure it’s clean.

    RHANA NATOUR: Trump Tower stretches 57 stories, with 26 floors of offices, three retail stores and hundreds of tenants. It is also surrounded by other skyscrapers, compounding the security challenge.

    EVY POUMPOURAS: Right now, planes aren’t allowed to fly over Trump Tower, same thing that happens over at the White House. But then you have that variable. He’s up top. He’s high on the floor. Planes are a concern.

    RHANA NATOUR: And, as technology evolves, there are ever greater risks.

    EVY POUMPOURAS: Drones. Can somebody use a drone, not just to go up there and, you know what, I want to see the future president? You can actually strap explosives, weapons to those drones, fly them up, and then cause harm in that way.

    And then also even cyber-security, radiation, contamination in the air, chemical — any type of chemical airborne attack, that’s also an issue. The tower itself, one of the things we look at is what we call the HVAC system, which is where the air intake system is. That’s super dangerous as well.

    RHANA NATOUR: While the Secret Service is working on threats from within the tower, the New York Police Department guards the exterior and directs traffic in the four-block radius where the vehicles are being limited.

    The protective measures are causing a dramatic slowdown in business here, where the rents are among the highest in the world.

    Tiffany and Company reporting this week that its Fifth Avenue store dropped 14 percent at the end of 2016, in part due to the traffic disruption.

    Robert Smith runs operations for Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse, which has developed a faithful following for years on West 56th Street, within view of Trump Tower. The owner was so excited by the Trump win that he named menu items after him.

    ROBERT SMITH, Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse: We were down 20 percent right off the bat, right after the election. Once the security came in, barricades went up. People weren’t allowed to walk into the restaurant or even near the block.

    RHANA NATOUR: What have you been hearing from your regular customers?

    ROBERT SMITH: Obviously, my regular clientele isn’t coming in as often as they used to. I had bar clientele at lunch that would come every day, but that don’t.

    We have a lot of tourists that come, very tourist-central-located neighborhood. And a lot of them don’t even want to get anywhere near barricades and dogs and giant police bomb trucks. And it doesn’t make anybody want to come near the place.

    RHANA NATOUR: A short distance away, on Sixth Avenue, Jimmie Tarzy at Allen M. Jewelers says he has been losing 30 to 50 percent on any given week. He worries about what will happen to business if Trump returns to his penthouse residence each weekend.

    JIMMY TARZY, Allen M. Jewelers: You have to take precautionary measures. And I can understand that. I really do. But being the president, or president-elect, you have to say to yourself, you’re supposed to do for the people. Go live in Washington.

    RHANA NATOUR: Some are calling Trump Tower White House North. Exactly how security will be transformed here is still a work in progress.

    At a New York City Council meeting last week, questions on how to prepare and who should pay went unanswered by NYPD officials.

    MAN: Does the Secret Service have the right to close down a street on its own?

    MAN: I’m not sure.

    MAN: If the NYPD were to decline to provide service in and around Trump Tower because of cost or lack of reimbursement or whatever, what would happen then?

    MAN: I’m unable to answer that question.

    WOMAN: We have to have some idea of how much is it going to cost, because, right now, we are just spending with an unlimited credit, really, and hoping that maybe the federal government will pay, maybe not.

    RHANA NATOUR: The NYPD estimates that, for every day the president resides in Trump Tower, it costs the city $500,000. So far, Congress has agreed to reimburse New York City $7 million for the cost of providing NYPD security to Trump Tower and the surrounding area.

    This is far less, however, than the $35 million the city initially requested.

    Councilman Dan Garodnick, who represents the Trump Tower neighborhood, objects.

    DAN GARODNICK, (D) New York City Council: Why is New York City bearing the cost of security for the president-elect? We have some very significant businesses on Fifth Avenue that employ hundreds of New Yorkers each. And we want to make sure that these jobs and these businesses do not become a casualty of the Trump presidency here.

    RHANA NATOUR: It’s a balancing act between keeping the legendary business district humming and protecting the first family living at the heart of it.

    In New York City, I’m Rhana Natour for the PBS NewsHour.

    The post The towering challenge of protecting the Trumps in New York appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: the hunt to create fusion energy. While many people remain worried about pursuing further development of nuclear power, some researchers believe nuclear fusion could hold the key to clean and plentiful energy.

    There have been many false starts before, but some scientists see real reason for hope that this path will eventually pay off.

    Miles O’Brien has a report for our weekly segment The Leading Edge, a co-production in this case with NOVA and his special, “The Nuclear Option.”

    MILES O’BRIEN: In Southern California, this complex, power-hungry machine is hard at work on a seemingly quixotic mission, akin to catching lightning in a bottle. It is a plasma generator. Its builders hope it’s a key step in the long journey to the Holy Grail of energy production: fusion.

    MICHL BINDERBAUER, Tri Alpha Energy: Fusion is nature’s preferred way of making power.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Michl Binderbauer is chief technology officer for a startup called Tri Alpha Energy that is making a $500 million bet on fusion.

    MICHL BINDERBAUER: Think of this like a mini-sun, a very hot mini-sun, and it radiates. And it’s that radiation that is intercepted on the surface of the machine, and then it becomes heat, and then you can process that into electricity.

    MILES O’BRIEN: The promise, no less than limitless power, with virtually no greenhouse gases or radioactive waste. If that sounds too good to be true, it is. No one knows that better than nuclear engineer Steve Dean.

    STEVE DEAN, Fusion Power Associates: Fusion is not low-tech. It’s not going to be easy to prove that it’s reliable, maintainable, cost-effective, because it is complicated.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Dean is president of Fusion Power Associates, a foundation focused on research and education. He joined the fusion industry in 1962, working for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, which coordinated and funded the U.S. fusion effort.

    STEVE DEAN: To me, it seemed like it was something I could spend my career on, and we would have electricity on the grid by the time I retired.

    (LAUGHTER)

    STEVE DEAN: That’s what I thought. So, it didn’t happen that way.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Fusion is as old as the cosmos. It is the nuclear reaction that takes place in our sun and all the other stars in the universe. In a fusion reaction, hydrogen atoms collide at high speed, fusing together, forming a helium atom, releasing one neutron.

    Since the mass of the helium atom is less than the combined mass of the two atoms that collided in the first place, energy is released.

    The dawn of man-made fusion broke over the Pacific in 1952, with the first explosion of a hydrogen bomb.

    MICHL BINDERBAUER: The hydrogen bomb was a quick success. And so a derivative of that was euphoria. In a few more years, we could do civilian energy production out of fusion. And while there were glimmers of hope along the way, we all now know, painfully, that hasn’t happened.

    MILES O’BRIEN: In the 1950s and ’60s, researchers looked for ways to control, confine and sustain fusion so that it could be used as an energy source. They tried newly invented lasers, a U.S. design called stellarator, and then a Russian design called tokamak, a big circular racetrack that uses powerful electromagnets to suspend and accelerate particles, prompting fusion-generating collisions.

    Over the years, they have gradually answered many of the questions.

    STEVE DEAN: Right now, there are still physics issues that have to be proven, but the physics is very well-known. The only thing that isn’t known is, when you do something that’s a little bit more closer to a power plant, whether something new will show up in the physics. You can’t really predict that.

    MILES O’BRIEN: That’s what this huge project is all about. It is the biggest tokamak ever designed, under construction in France, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, a joint project of 35 nations, including the U.S.,

    It is the first engineering test of a fusion power plant. ITER is a $14 billion endeavor that is six years late and $10 billion over budget. It is designed to one day use 50 megawatts of electricity to generate 500 megawatts for 15 minutes.

    STEVE DEAN: At some point, in order to get to a power plant, you have to build what we call an engineering test reactor, or something that really works, that’s putting out lots of fusion energy and has a lot of the engineering that’s needed for a power plant. And ITER and the tokamak are the — is the only track that’s at that stage.

    MAN: Three, two, one, zero.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But there is a lot of fusion progress on a smaller scale. Teams in Germany, China and South Korea have recently reported longer, sustained fusion reactions than ever before.

    Tri Alpha is the largest of about a dozen startups trying to make it work.

    MICHL BINDERBAUER: We partner up with some of the best and brightest in the field.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Michl Binderbauer began his work in academia, but believes the private sector might have a better chance of success.

    MICHL BINDERBAUER: It made us lean. It made us focused. It made us an organization that was nimble to react to small changes quickly and think on our feet very quickly. And I would attribute part of our success to exactly that.

    STEVE DEAN: And they’re also building on many more years of physics understanding and progress. And so they can be smarter now, whereas, in the past, a lot of times, their ideas were interesting, but there wasn’t any physics basis for having confidence.

    MILES O’BRIEN: The fundamental fusion problem is, it is not easy to get nuclei to collide and fuse. They are all positively charged, so they naturally repel each other, like two magnets.

    MICHL BINDERBAUER: So, we use magnetic fields to provide that magnetic bottle, if you will, into which you put the charged clouds of particles.

    The gas wants to escape and distribute out, and we’re holding that in with magnetic force. This is not like how it’s done in the sun, where you have massive gravity, it does the same job. So, here, it’s all electromagnetic fields.

    MILES O’BRIEN: It takes a lot of energy to create those magnetic fields. In fact, the real challenge in fusion is creating plasma that generates more energy than it takes to make it in the first place. Historically, scientists have opted to go big, like ITER.

    STEVE DEAN: One event makes a very small amount of practical energy. You have to have billions of these events. That means you have lots of things — these things happening in a large volume.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Tri Alpha is taking a different approach that wouldn’t require such a huge structure. The idea is to fire two football-shaped plasma clouds at each other at supersonic speeds.

    At the center of the chamber, they collide violently, fusing into a larger football. Additional particles are fired at right angles, making the plasma ball spin like a well-thrown pass.

    MICHL BINDERBAUER: The particles always come in like this, and they go into the rotation of the main object. So, it feeds in like this to maintain that rotation rate.

    MILES O’BRIEN: The rotation suspends the plasma in place. They are testing constantly, sometimes 50 times a day. Each shot requires about 20 megawatts of electricity, enough to power all the lights and appliances in 5,000 homes, but for only a few-thousandths-of-a-second.

    Gleaning data from a hot ball of nothing that lasts for much, much less than the blink of an eye requires a lot of clever testing tools.

    MICHL BINDERBAUER: Ultimately, physics is an experimental science, right? And, as such, it relies on hard-core evidence coming out of an experiment. At the stage where we are at, we are dabbling a fine line between learning what works and tweaking that and advancing it another step.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Binderbauer believes a commercial fusion system will be available in a decade.

    MICHL BINDERBAUER: Our great-great-great-grandkids are going to live in a world powered by fusion almost exclusively.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But industry graybeards like Steve Dean are less willing to make such predictions. After all, fusion energy has remained decades away for many decades.

    Is it inevitable, in your view?

    STEVE DEAN: Yes.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Just a matter of time?

    STEVE DEAN: I think it’s just a matter of time. I used to say, in my lifetime. Then I started saying in my children. And now I think, before it’s of wide-scale use, it being at least my grandchildren.

    (LAUGHTER)

    STEVE DEAN: I can’t predict.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Right now, we do not have an energy crisis to spur the effort, but we do have a climate crisis. Fusion remains an alluring, yet still elusive way to power the planet the same way nature does.

    Miles O’Brien, the PBS NewsHour, Foothill Ranch, California.

    The post Is alluring but elusive fusion energy possible in our lifetime? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2017.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTSW3S9

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn now to the confirmation hearings for the president-elect’s Cabinet.

    One of Mr. Trump’s most repeated pledges is to repeal and replace Obamacare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act.

    His nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department, Representative Tom Price, faced aggressive questioning today when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

    Lisa Desjardins has our report.

    LISA DESJARDINS: When Tom Price, doctor, congressman and hopeful health secretary, today faced the Senate Health Committee, the spotlight fell equally on the fate of the Affordable Care Act he wants to repeal and on Price’s own history.

    Sen. Patty Murray launched a Democratic theme.

    SEN. PATTY MURRAY, D-Wash.: You purchased stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics, a company working to develop new drugs, on four separate occasions between January 2015 and August 2016. You made the decision to purchase that stock, not a broker, yes or no?

    REP. TOM PRICE, R-Ga., Health and Human Services Secretary Nominee: That is a decision that I made, yes.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Price stressed that other health stocks he owned were chosen by his broker. The questions arise from his financial disclosures, showing Price invested in health-related companies in the past two years, as he pushed legislation in Congress that benefited those companies.

    SEN. PATTY MURRAY: Your purchases occurred while the 21st Century Cures Act, which had several provisions could that could impact drug developers like Innate Immunotherapeutics, was being negotiated, and, again, just days before you were notified to prepare for a final vote on the bill.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Price insisted those bills were consistent with what he’s done for years, and that while he did get a private stock offer, he had no special knowledge of the company.

    REP. TOM PRICE: I had no access to non-public information.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Minnesota Sen. Al Franken pointed to a recent Wall Street Journal report finding that Price traded more than $300,000 of health-related companies while simultaneously working on policy affecting those companies.

    SEN. AL FRANKEN, D-Minn.: These sound like sweetheart deals, and I think that our job in this body and in Congress and in government is to avoid the appearance of conflict. And, boy, you have not done — done this.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The exchanges moved from calm to tense. Price pushed back, insisting he would never use his office for financial gain.

    REP. TOM PRICE: What I did was comply with the rules of the House in an ethical and legal and above-board manner and in a transparent way.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Republican Orrin Hatch called the Democratic push for an investigation hypocrisy, pointing out no rules in Congress prevent stock trades.

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH, R-Utah: In fact, there are members on this committee who have — as I understand it, who have traded individual health stocks while serving on this committee. Now, this appears to be nothing more than a hypocritical attack on your good character.

    REP. TOM PRICE: Thank you, sir. Everything that we have done has been above-board, transparent, ethical and legal. And, as you know, and the members of this committee know, there’s an organization that’s called the Office of Government Ethics that looks at all of — for every Cabinet nominee, looks at all of the possessions, all the holdings and the like, and makes a recommendation as to what that Cabinet member must do in order to make certain that there’s no conflict of interest.

    The Office of Government Ethics has looked at our holdings and given advice about what would need to be done in terms of divesting from certain stock holdings.

    LISA DESJARDINS: As part of the nomination ethics process, Price has pledged to divest from 43 companies, including those the Democrats raised, within 90 days of his confirmation.

    REP. TOM PRICE: I think some of the things that have occurred with the passage of the ACA have improved certain areas. The coverage is certainly improved.

    But the consequences of that, I mean, that many people, as I have mentioned before, have coverage, but they don’t have care. I think that the more involvement that patients and families and doctors can have in medical decisions, the higher-quality care we will have.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Mr. Price, who practiced as an orthopedic surgeon for more than two decades, proposed his own detailed plan last year, offering some tax credits and repealing the Medicaid expansion.

    To him, that means less government interference, but to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, it means cuts to needy populations.

    REP. TOM PRICE: What we believe is appropriate is to make certain that the individuals receiving the care are actually receiving care.

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, D-Mass.: I understand why you think you’re right to cut it. I’m just asking the question. Did you propose to cut more than a trillion dollars out of Medicaid over the next 10 years?

    REP. TOM PRICE: You have the numbers before you.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Mr. Price insisted that a Republican replacement plan would ensure widespread access to care.

    REP. TOM PRICE: My role in Congress was to always make certain that individuals had the opportunity to gain access to the kind of coverage that they that they desired and that they had the financial feasibility to do so.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But access, Sen. Bernie Sanders said, is not the same as coverage.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-Vt.: I have access to buying a $10 million home. I don’t have the money to do that.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Price next goes before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Scott Pruitt also took his turn in the hot seat today. If confirmed, he would be the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the president-elect has said he wants him to reverse eight years of what he calls of President Obama’s environmental policies. Democrats wanted to see just how far he plans to go.

    Jeffrey Brown has that story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As the hearing began, Democrats focused on today’s announcement from NASA scientists that the Earth had seen record temperatures for a third straight year. This exchange followed.

    SEN. EDWARD MARKEY, D-Mass.: Donald Trump has called global warming a hoax caused by the Chinese. Do you agree that global warming is a hoax?

    SCOTT PRUITT, EPA Administrator Nominee: I do not, Senator.

    SEN. EDWARD MARKEY: So, Donald Trump is wrong?

    SCOTT PRUITT: I do not believe that climate change is a hoax.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, in his opening statement, Scott Pruitt had an important caveat.

    SCOTT PRUITT: Science tells us that the climate is changing and that human activity in some manner impacts that change. The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continued debate and dialogue, and well it should be.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Pruitt made clear he does believe strongly in states’ rights, and said he’d work to return the federal watchdog to what he considers its proper role.

    SCOTT PRUITT: Federalism matters. It matters because Congress says so. And because we need it to achieve good outcomes as a nation for air and water quality, we need the partnership of the states to achieve that. It is our state regulators who oftentimes best understand the local needs and the uniqueness of our environmental challenges.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt filed 14 lawsuits against the EPA and an array of Obama administration environmental rules. And, in the past, he’s said he will work to repeal the president’s centerpiece climate regulation cutting carbon emissions from power plants.

    Today, several Democrats raised concerns over the health ramifications.

    SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, D-N.Y.: We have had children die in New York City because none of their teachers, no administrators in the schools knew what to do when a child has an asthma attack. It’s a huge problem.

    So, I need you to care about human health and really believe that the cost when human health is at risk, when people are dying is far higher than it is the cost to that polluter to clean up the air and change their processes. I need you to feel it as if your children sitting behind you are the ones in the emergency room. I need you to know it.

    SCOTT PRUITT: And, Senator, I would say to you there are certain instances where cost can’t even be considered, as you know. Those criteria pollutants under our NAAQS program, cost is not even a factor, because human health is the focus.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Environmental protesters interrupted the proceedings several times. One was forcibly removed into the hallway.

    At various points, some Democrats showed their irritation at what they saw as Pruitt’s vague responses. For their part, though, Republicans praised Pruitt for his work in Oklahoma, including his handling of a dispute involving poultry industry runoff into the Illinois River. Pruitt negotiated a deal and ordered further study, ending the legal fight.

    Democrats pointed to campaign contributions Pruitt had received from poultry company officials. But Republicans focused on what they see as economic harm and bureaucratic barriers raised by the EPA.

    Republican Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska:

    SEN. DEB FISCHER, R-Neb.: As a result of the activist role the EPA has played for the past eight years, families are concerned about the futures of their livelihood. What steps will you take as the EPA administrator to provide relief for American families that are faced truly with an onslaught of EPA rules?

    SCOTT PRUITT: Well, it’s very important that that process be adhered to, to give voice to all Americans in balancing the environmental objectives we have, but also the economic harm that results. And the Supreme Court has spoken about that rather consistently of late. And I would seek to lead the EPA in such a way to ensure that openness and transparency.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Scott Pruitt is expected to confirmed by the full Senate, with support from all 51 Senate Republicans.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We also want to follow up on the confirmation hearing for the president-elect’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

    Last night, we told you about some of her ideas, but after our broadcast, we learned more, as her hearing continued into the evening.

    When pressed, she said she wouldn’t rule out using public funds for private schools. She also seemed opposed to free tuition for community college.

    She was asked about her commitment to civil rights for students who are LGBTQ and past contributions to groups that are opposed to same-sex marriage. She also faced a tough exchange from Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut on whether guns should be carried on schools campuses.

    SEN. CHRIS MURPHY, D-Ct.: One final question: Do you think that guns have any place in or around schools?

    BETSY DEVOS, Education Secretary Nominee: I think that’s best left to locales and states to decide. If the underlying question is…

    SEN. CHRIS MURPHY: You can’t say that — you can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?

    BETSY DEVOS: Well, I will refer back to Sen. Enzi and the school that he was talking about in Wapiti, Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.

    SEN. CHRIS MURPHY: If President Trump moves forward with his plan to ban gun-free school zones, will you support that proposal?

    BETSY DEVOS: I will support what the president-elect does.

    But, Senator, if the question is around gun violence and the results of that, please know that I — my heart bleeds and is broken for those families that have lost any individual due to gun violence.

    SEN. CHRIS MURPHY: I look forward to working with you, but I also look forward to you coming to Connecticut and talking about the role of guns in schools.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: DeVos was also asked repeatedly about how she would enforce the disabilities law for education. At times, she didn’t seem certain about some of the law’s provisions.

    Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a Democrat and the former vice presidential nominee, led off this exchange.

    SEN. TIM KAINE, D-Va.: Should all schools that receive taxpayer funding be required to meet the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act?

    BETSY DEVOS: I think that’s a matter that’s best left to the states.

    SEN. TIM KAINE: So, states might — some states might be good to kids with disabilities, and other states might not be so good, and then, what, people could just move around the country if they don’t like how their kids are being treated?

    BETSY DEVOS: I think that’s an issue that is best left to the states.

    SEN. TIM KAINE: Let me state this. I think all schools that receive federal funding, public, charter, or private, should be required to meet the conditions oft Individuals With Disabilities and Education Act. Do you agree with me or not?

    BETSY DEVOS: I think that’s certainly worth discussion. And I would look forward to…

    SEN. TIM KAINE: So, you cannot yet agree with me?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That was at DeVos’ hearing last night.

    So, let’s wrap up all of this with a look at where things stand for the Trump Cabinet.

    And, for that, we’re joined once again by the NewsHour’s Lisa Desjardins on Capitol Hill.

    So, Lisa, there is also news today about President-elect Trump’s pick to be head of the Office of Management and Budget.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. Someone not even with a hearing today is making the headlines.

    That’s Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina. We now know that Rep. Mulvaney in the early 2000s failed to pay taxes for one of his household employees. It was a baby-sitter, a child care provider for he and his wife’s three triplets at the time.

    Mulvaney disclosed this information to the Senate Budget Committee about a month ago, we are told. And he has then paid some back taxes, about $15,000. He’s waiting for the bill from his state as well.

    Of course, I don’t need to tell our viewers this is significant, because issues like this have completely scuttled nominations for others, including also another former member of Congress, Tom Daschle, who was the nominee for HHS secretary, and also Zoe Baird, under President Clinton, who was the nominee for attorney general.

    We are not hearing anything yet from Senate Republicans. Senate Democrats are going after this very strongly. I did talk to Sen. John McCain, who is the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He told me he thinks this is fairly serious.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, one other thing. You were telling me earlier that there are some pretty serious negotiations going on right now between the Democratic and the Republican leaders in the Senate over the order that these nominees will have a confirmation vote.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right, and specifically how many of these Cabinet secretaries are confirmed on day one.

    We know that is something that President-elect Trump has been measuring. And we know that he’s been looking at President Obama’s number, which was seven confirmations on day one. Right now, Judy, it doesn’t look like he will come close to that.

    In fact, Democrats are negotiating over whether they will allow any nominees to be confirmed on day one. They can hold up a nomination over the course of a single day or more. And they’re talking about the doubts they have and the problems they have with what they say the way these confirmation hearings have been rushed through.

    Republicans say that’s not fair, and they want the same treatment the Obama nominees received.

    I think what’s important to watch for, Judy, is especially the Defense or Homeland Security positions. Those are the most important to Republicans. We will see if any of those are confirmed on day one. Those are all — all of that is in the air even just two days out from inauguration.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot to follow, Lisa Desjardins.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Correct.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins, thanks very much.

    The post Where things stand for Trump’s Cabinet amid tough questioning appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A field of dead almond trees is seen in Coalinga in the Central Valley, California, United States May 6, 2015. Almonds, a major component of farming in California, use up some 10 percent of the state's water reserves according to some estimates. California ranks as the top farm state by annual value of agricultural products, most of which are produced in the Central Valley, the vast, fertile region stretching 450 miles (720 km) north-sound from Redding to Bakersfield. California water regulators on Tuesday adopted the state's first rules for mandatory cutbacks in urban water use as the region's catastrophic drought enters its fourth year. Urban users will be hardest hit, even though they account for only 20 percent of state water consumption, while the state's massive agricultural sector, which the Public Policy Institute of California says uses 80 percent of human-related consumption, has been exempted. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson - RTX1BWM5

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This was a day for Team Trump also to talk health and environment at two Senate hearings.

    The health secretary-designate, Tom Price, defended his investments in medical stocks and played down talk of overhauling Medicare. And Scott Pruitt, nominated to run to run the Environmental Protection Agency, said that he doesn’t believe climate change is a hoax, as the president-elect has suggested.

    We will have full reports on all that after the news summary.

    Regarding climate change, there is news that global temperatures hit a record high in 2016, for the third straight year. The data is from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the British. They say the average last year was more than 1.5 degrees higher than in the mid-20th century. They say it was caused by man-made greenhouse gases and an El Nino event.

    The nominee to be U.N. ambassador says Russia committed war crimes in Syria and cannot be trusted. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley offered a harsher assessment today than Mr. Trump has at her own Senate hearing.

    GOV. NIKKI HALEY, R-S.C.: Russia is trying to show their muscle right now. It is what they do. And I think we always have to be cautious. I don’t think that we can trust them. I think that we have to make sure that we try and see what we can get from them before we give to them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Haley also blasted a U.N. resolution last month that condemned Israeli settlements, and she voiced support for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

    Meanwhile, the nominee to run the Commerce Department, Wilbur Ross, put China on notice today. The billionaire investor told his confirmation hearing that the Chinese are — quote — “the most protectionist country among the major economies.”

    WILBUR ROSS, Commerce Secretary Nominee: They have both very high tariff barriers and very high non-tariff trade barriers to commerce. So, they talk much more about free trade than they actually practice. We would like to levelize that playing field and bring the realities a bit closer to the rhetoric.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ross also said the Trump administration will focus on renegotiating the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement very early on.

    Separately, the Senate Armed Services Committee easily approved the nomination of James Mattis for defense secretary. It goes now to the full Senate.

    In West Africa, a suicide attacker drove a car bomb into a camp in Northern Mali, killing at least 60 people and wounding 115. The attack struck a base in the city of Gao, where soldiers and former rebels are trying to enforce a 2015 peace treaty. Later, an Islamist group linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility.

    In Nigeria, the International Red Cross now says that at least 70 refugees and aid workers died Tuesday when the Nigerian air force accidentally bombed a U.N. camp. Military officials say they meant to hit the militant Boko Haram group. At least 46 severely wounded people remained at the camp today, near the border with Cameroon. U.N. officials have called for a full investigation.

    Iraqi government troops announced today that they have taken full control of eastern half of the city of Mosul. The military said it drove Islamic State militants out of the last neighborhoods after a three-month operation. Today, people cheered and took pictures with soldiers.

    And commanders talked of the coming operation to liberate western Mosul.

    LT. GEN. TALIB SHAGHATI, Iraq (through interpreter): In the last few days, our forces’ movements became quicker and the clearing of districts became faster. The reason is that, when they were defeated, they retreated. I think the western side will be easier to liberate from the eastern side.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Despite the military’s announcement, there were reports of continued fighting in Mosul’s eastern half.

    Back in this country, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether barring racially offensive trademarks violates free speech. The justices heard arguments today over a 70-year-old law. It is being challenged by an Asian-American band named The Slants. The ultimate decision could also affect the National Football League’s Washington Redskins.

    The U.S. Secret Service has agreed to pay $24 million to settle a long-running racial discrimination lawsuit. More than 100 African-American agents are part of a suit filed back in 2000. They say the agency group routinely promoted whites over qualified blacks. Under the settlement, the Secret Service doesn’t admit any wrongdoing.

    On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 22 points to close at 19804. The Nasdaq rose nearly 17 points, and the S&P 500 added four.

    And former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, are both hospitalized in Houston this evening. Mr. Bush was admitted Saturday with pneumonia, and he moved into the intensive care unit today. A spokesman says he’s stable. Mrs. Bush entered the same hospital today, as a precaution, they said, for fatigue and coughing.

    The post News Wrap: Global temperatures hit record high in 2016 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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