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

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    U.S. President Barack Obama holds his final news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2017.   REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTSW4QU

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He has given his final major speech, and now President Obama has also held his final news conference. He spent an hour before the White House press corps today, two days before his presidency ends.

    John Yang was there.

    JOHN YANG: In his 22nd and final time facing reporters in the White House Briefing Room, President Obama today defended his decision to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking U.S. military and diplomatic secrets.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence. So, the notion that the average person who was thinking about disclosing vital classified information would think that it goes unpunished, I don’t think would get that impression from the sentence that Chelsea Manning has served.

    JOHN YANG: Most of the news conference was spent looking ahead to the fate of his own accomplishments after president-elect Trump takes office.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My working assumption is that, having won an election, opposed a number of my initiatives and some aspects of my vision for where the country needs to go, it’s appropriate for him to go forward with his vision and his values. And I don’t expect that there’s going to be, you know, enormous overlap.

    JOHN YANG: He also shed light on the counsel he’s offered Mr. Trump.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is a job of such magnitude, that you can’t do it by yourself. You are enormously reliant on a team, your Cabinet, your senior White House staff, all the way to fairly junior folks in their 20s and 30s, but who are executing on significant responsibilities.

    That’s probably the most useful advice and most constructive advice that I have been able to give him.

    JOHN YANG: He said he hoped he could take a pause from politics, but made clear he will speak out when he feels compelled to.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake. I put in that category if I saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion. Efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and, for all practical purposes, are American kids, and send them someplace else, I think, would be something that would merit me speaking out.

    JOHN YANG: And he weighed in one last time on an issue that has dogged presidents for generations, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you do not have two states, then, in some form or fashion, you are extending an occupation. We have believed, consistent with the positions that have been taken with previous U.S. administrations for decades now, that it was important for us to send a signal, a wakeup call, that this moment may be passing.

    JOHN YANG: Mr. Obama also reflected on how America has changed during his presidency, on social issues, like attitudes on LGBTQ rights.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I don’t think it is something that will be reversible, because American society has changed. The attitudes of young people in particular have changed. That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be some fights that are important, legal issues, issues surrounding transgender persons. There are still going to be some battles that need to take place.

    JOHN YANG: The president lamented what he sees as undue restrictions on voting rights, which he said was a lingering vestige of slavery and Jim Crow.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This whole notion of election or voting fraud, this is something that has constantly been disproved. This is fake news, the notion that there are a whole bunch of people out there who are going out there and are not eligible to vote and want to vote.

    We have the opposite problem. We have a whole bunch of people who are eligible to vote who don’t vote.

    JOHN YANG: As Mr. Obama, the nation’s first black president, prepares to leave office, after the first female presidential nominee was defeated, he expressed confidence that more barriers will be broken in the future.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If, in fact, we continue to keep opportunity open to everybody, then, yes, we’re going to have a woman president, we’re going to have a Latino president, we will have a Jewish president, a Hindu president.

    You know what? Who knows who we’re going to have. I suspect we will have a whole bunch of mixed-up presidents at some point that nobody really knows what to call them.

    JOHN YANG: Once he becomes a former president, Mr. Obama says he is looking forward to writing, being what he called quiet. He said he doesn’t want to hear himself talk quite so much in the future, and also being a consumer of news, rather than the subject of news — Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: John, I also thought it was interesting that the president acknowledged the role that economic inequality played in the results of the election.

    JOHN YANG: That’s exactly right.

    He spoke about that in the context of a question about inclusion and diversity. He said it’s important for all Americans to feel a part of the growing economy. He said he thought there were a lot of people who voted for Mr. Trump because they felt forgotten and disenfranchised and looked down upon.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, John, you had a busy day, because I know, before the president’s news conference, you were — you attended a briefing by the Trump transition team, and they were talking about getting ready for the inauguration.

    JOHN YANG: That’s right.

    Sean Spicer, who is going to be the press secretary here at the White House on Friday, starting on Friday, said that Mr. Trump has been rehearsing his inaugural address. He said that he wrote it himself with some input from policy adviser Stephen Miller, from Kellyanne Conway, from Reince Priebus, who’s going to be White House chief of staff, from Steve Bannon, who’s going to be White House counsel — counselor, rather.

    He said that it’s going to talk about common goals that — and Mr. Trump himself said that the theme is going to be America first. Sean was asked — Sean Spicer was asked if any part of the speech is going to reach out to Americans who didn’t vote for Mr. Trump. He said that Mr. Trump doesn’t feel he should be judged on his rhetoric or symbolism, but wants to be judged on his actions and his successes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All really interesting.

    John Yang, keep holding down the fort for us at the White House and with the Trump transition team. Thank you.

    The post Meeting White House Press Corps for the last time, Obama looks ahead appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Libyan flag flies as fireworks explode during celebrations after Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government finished clearing Ghiza Bahriya, the final district of the former Islamic State stronghold of Sirte, Libya December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Hani Amara - RTSUY95

    A Libyan flag flies as fireworks explode during celebrations after Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government finished clearing Ghiza Bahriya, the final district of the former Islamic State stronghold of Sirte, Libya, on Dec. 6, 2016. Photo by Hani Amara/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — U.S. Air Force B-2 bombers attacked Islamic State military camps in Libya in a move aimed at eliminating extremists who had escaped the former IS stronghold of Sirte, a defense official said Thursday.

    The official said the camps were located about 45 kilometers, or 28 miles, southwest of the central coastal city of Sirte. The official was not authorized to speak in advance of an expected Pentagon announcement and confirmed the strikes on condition of anonymity.

    The strikes were carried out overnight and were authorized by President Barack Obama, marking perhaps the final use of military force by a wartime president who intervened in Libya in 2011 as part of a coalition that ultimately toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

    The defense official said the latest strikes were aimed at hitting Islamic State militants who had escaped from Sirte after U.S. strikes largely eliminated the group’s presence in that coastal city in December. At the time, Pentagon officials said they would further support counter-IS efforts if asked by Libya’s provisional government.

    Libya fell into chaos following Gadhafi’s ouster and killing. The country remains divided between east and west, with no effective government and a multitude of rival factions and militias.

    The post U.S. bombers strike Islamic State camps in Libya appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary for President-elect Donald Trump, will hold a news conference at the Trump transition team’s D.C. offices around 9:30 a.m. ET. Watch PBS NewsHour’s live stream of the news conference. We will update this post as more information becomes available.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer holds news conference appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The confirmation hearing for Rick Perry, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for energy secretary, will begin Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET. PBS NewsHour will live stream the hearing.

    WASHINGTON — Rick Perry was for “all of the above” on energy production before President Barack Obama embraced the strategy.

    Years before the Democratic president endorsed all types of energy production — from oil and gas to renewable sources like wind and solar power — Perry was putting the policy into practice in Texas.

    During Perry’s record 14-year tenure as governor, Texas maintained its traditional role as a top driller for oil and natural gas, while also emerging as the leading producer of wind power in the United States and a top 10 provider of solar power.

    On Thursday, the Republican enters his confirmation hearing to become energy secretary as more than the punchline who famously forgot the department was the agency he pledged to eliminate as a presidential candidate in 2011.

    Neil Auerbach, CEO of Hudson Clean Energy Partners, an investment firm that specializes in renewable energy, called Perry’s nomination a “hopeful signal” that President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans “will remain true to Republican orthodoxy about ‘all of the above’ as the mantra steering U.S. energy policy.”

    Even as he maintains ties to oil and gas producers, a Perry-led Energy Department is likely to support renewable energy and the tax incentives that encourage its growth, Auerbach and other experts said.

    Perry, 66, left office in 2015 and then launched his second ill-fated bid for the GOP presidential nomination. He was a harsh critic of Trump, even calling the billionaire businessman a “cancer” on conservatism, but later endorsed the Republican nominee.

    Democrats and environmental groups have derided Perry’s nomination, calling him a steep drop-off from the two renowned physicists who preceded him as energy chief, Steven Chu and Ernest Moniz. Perry earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Texas A&M University, where he was also a member of the Corps of Cadets and a Yell Leader.

    Perry has received support from a surprising source: Moniz, who told reporters that Perry “is very intent on doing a good job.”

    Moniz said last week that he and Perry had discussed the “special role” of the Energy Department’s 17 national laboratories, which Moniz called the “backbone” of U.S. science.

    “I believe as he sees the range of significant missions and the centrality of the labs and the success, I think he will see the value added. And I trust that will lead to his strong support,” Moniz said.

    Democrats say Perry is likely to face questions about climate science, nuclear waste storage and cleanup, clean energy innovation and the national labs, among other topics.

    Perry also is likely to be questioned about his ties to energy companies, including two that are developing the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline. Perry resigned Dec. 31 from the boards of Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners. The 1,200-mile pipeline has sparked mass protests in North Dakota.

    Perry said he still owns stock in the two companies but will divest within three months of his confirmation and will not take part in any decisions involving the companies for at least two years.

    WATCH: Where things stand for Trump’s Cabinet amid tough questioning

    The post WATCH LIVE: Rick Perry confirmation hearing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Department of Agriculture Building in Washington DC, USA.

    Sonny Purdue will lead the Department of Agriculture, pictured here in Washington, D.C. Photo via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Donald Trump said Thursday that he expects that former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, his choice to lead the Agriculture Department, will “deliver big results for all Americans who earn their living off the land.”

    Agriculture secretary was the final Cabinet post to be announced by Trump, who is set to take office Friday.

    Perdue, 70, is a farmer’s son who built businesses in grain trading and trucking before becoming the first Republican governor of Georgia since Reconstruction.

    Perdue, from the small city of Bonaire in rural central Georgia, would be the first Southerner in the post in more than two decades. He is not related to or affiliated with the food company Perdue or the poultry producer Perdue Farms.

    “From growing up on a farm to being governor of a big agriculture state, he has spent his whole life understanding and solving the challenges our farmers face, and he is going to deliver big results for all Americans who earn their living off the land,” Trump said in a statement.

    Perdue, in a statement released by Trump’s transition team, said he began as “a simple Georgia farm boy,” and he pledged to “champion the concerns of American agriculture and work tirelessly to solve the issues facing our farm families.”

    Agriculture secretaries are often from the Midwest, where corn and soybeans dominate the markets. U.S. farm policy has long been favorable to those crops, and congressional battles over massive farm bills every five years often divide along regional lines. Southerners have pushed for subsidy programs that are more favorable to rice and cotton, which can be more expensive to grow.

    The last three agriculture secretaries were from Iowa, North Dakota and Nebraska.

    Many farm-state lawmakers and agriculture groups grew concerned as Trump approached his inauguration without having named an agriculture secretary candidate. Earlier Thursday, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley tweeted that he was frustrated with the process.

    “NEED Ag leader w dirt under finger nails 4farmers,” he wrote.

    Perdue began his political career as a Democrat in the Georgia Legislature in the 1990s. After switching his allegiance to the Republican Party, he was elected governor in 2002. The victory over an incumbent Democrat completed Georgia’s shift to a solidly Republican state, ending generations of Democratic control of state government.

    Despite that political change, Perdue showed little interest in pushing big programs or signature legislation during his two terms. Instead he focused on finding ways to save money while improving customer service by state agencies. He often referred to himself as Georgia’s CEO.

    Critics accused Perdue of failing to tackle some of Georgia’s biggest problems, such as struggling public schools.

    Perdue, who was re-elected in 2006, didn’t rely only on his business acumen as governor. A devout Southern Baptist, he also found a place for faith in his administration. In 2007, when a withering drought gripped Georgia and neighboring states, he held a prayer rally in front of the Capitol in Atlanta to pray for rain.

    Perdue brought an end to Georgia’s conflicts over a state flag that featured the Confederate battle emblem. The flag was replaced by lawmakers under Perdue’s Democratic predecessor, but the new design proved unpopular. Perdue insisted Georgia voters should pick the flag. A referendum was held in 2004, though Southern heritage groups were outraged that the options did not include the old flag with the Confederate symbol.

    Under Perdue’s watch, Georgia adopted tough food-safety regulations after a deadly U.S. salmonella outbreak was traced to Georgia-made peanut butter. He moved the state office that issues water permits for irrigation and other agricultural uses from Atlanta to rural south Georgia, where it would be closer to farmers. Perdue poured millions of state dollars into Go Fish, a program that aimed to lure bass fishing tournaments to the state.

    The ex-governor, whose full name is George Ervin Perdue III, was born in rural Perry, Georgia. He attended the University of Georgia, where he played football as a walk-on and earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine. Following a stint in the Air Force, he returned to Georgia and settled in Bonaire, a city of about 14,000 people.

    Perdue already has family serving in Washington. A cousin, former Dollar General CEO David Perdue of Sea Island, Georgia, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014.

    Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia. Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

    The post Trump expects ‘big results’ from his choice to lead USDA appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Treasury Department, Steven Mnuchin, built his reputation and his fortune as a savvy Wall Street investor. But one of those investments has put him in the crosshairs of Democrats as he heads into his confirmation hearing Thursday: sub-prime mortgage lender IndyMac bank.

    Mnuchin, who served as Trump’s finance chairman during the campaign, has defended his role in the purchase of the failed bank, whose collapse in 2008 was the second biggest bank failure of the financial crisis. Mnuchin, who assembled a group to buy the bank from the government, renamed it OneWest and turned it around, selling it for a handsome profit to CIT Group Inc. in 2014.

    But critics have cited the bank’s foreclosure policies under Mnuchin as a prime example of the kind of Wall Street greed that Trump, the candidate, campaigned against. They planned to question Mnuchin about the foreclosures during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.

    Mnuchin has called the criticism unjustified, saying in a CNBC interview right after Trump nominated him in November that buying IndyMac was “one of the most proud aspects of my career” because his successful efforts to turn the bank around saved jobs. He said the foreclosures reflected the fact that the bank before he took over had accumulated the one of the worst portfolios of bad mortgage loans “in the history of time.”

    A group of 10 Democratic senators led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren participated in a forum Wednesday to hear testimony from some of the people who lost their homes after Mnuchin’s bank foreclosed.

    “OneWest was notorious for its belligerence and for its cruelty,” Warren said, contending that OneWest gained a reputation as a “foreclosure machine.”

    Liberal groups began airing a television ad on the foreclosures seeking to bring pressure on five Republican senators, including Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Dean Heller of Nevada, who are both members of the Finance Committee, to vote against Mnuchin.

    “Steven Mnuchin, the foreclosure king, made millions by taking people’s homes with no regard to anything but his own bottom line,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, one of the groups running the ad.

    But Mnuchin’s supporters include Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. He called Mnuchin a “leader and a manager through his career, demonstrating an ability to make tough decisions and to be accountable.”

    Mnuchin, who as Treasury secretary would serve as the administration’s chief economic spokesman, is also expected to face questions about Trump’s ambitious plans to double the country’s growth rate through tax cuts, reducing government regulations and boosting government spending on infrastructure projects.

    Mnuchin said in November that the administration’s “No. 1 priority is tax reform. This will be the largest tax change since Reagan.”

    Trump during the campaign also vowed to target countries including China and Mexico that he contended are pursuing unfair trade practices that have cost millions of U.S. jobs. He has said one of his first actions after taking office will be to label China a currency manipulator. It would be Mnuchin’s Treasury Department that would make that finding.

    While Trump campaigned against Wall Street during the campaign, attacking Hillary Clinton for the speaking fees she earned from Goldman Sachs, Mnuchin is just one of a number of former Goldman Sachs executives tapped by the president elect for top economic jobs in his administration.

    Mnuchin worked at Goldman for 17 years, making partner in 1994 and overseeing the firm’s mortgage trading desk before becoming chief information officer. He left Goldman in 2002 and, after running an investment fund set up by billionaire investor George Soros, he and two former Goldman colleagues set up a new hedge fund, Dune Capital Management in 2004.

    Mnuchin led Dune into financing Hollywood movies including a number of blockbuster hits including “Avatar.”


    Associated Press reporter Martin Crutsinger wrote this report.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Steven Mnuchin confirmation hearing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HOUSTON, TX - MAY 03: Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 3, 2013 in Houston, Texas. More than 70,000 peope are expected to attend the NRA's 3-day annual meeting that features nearly 550 exhibitors, gun trade show and a political rally. The Show runs from May 3-5. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 3, 2013 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday he regrets his infamous statement about abolishing the Energy Department and insisted that the federal agency performs a critical function.

    Perry, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to head the department, told a Senate committee that if confirmed, he will be a passionate advocate for the department’s core missions and will seek to draw “greater attention to the vital role played by the agency.”

    In remarks for his confirmation hearing, Perry also said he believes the climate is changing.

    “I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by man-made activity,” Perry said in his prepared testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “The question is how do we address it in a thoughtful way that doesn’t compromise economic growth, the affordability of energy or American jobs.”

    In 2011, at a Republican presidential primary debate, Perry was something of a punchline who famously forgot the department was the agency he pledged to eliminate.

    Perry, who served 14 years at Texas governor, was for “all of the above” on energy production before President Barack Obama embraced the strategy.

    Years before the Democratic president endorsed all types of energy production — from oil and gas to renewable sources like wind and solar power — Perry was putting the policy into practice in Texas.

    During Perry’s record 14-year tenure as governor, Texas maintained its traditional role as a top driller for oil and natural gas, while also emerging as the leading producer of wind power in the United States and a top 10 provider of solar power.

    READ NEXT: Perry brings oil industry ties to Energy Department

    Neil Auerbach, CEO of Hudson Clean Energy Partners, an investment firm that specializes in renewable energy, called Perry’s nomination a “hopeful signal” that President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans “will remain true to Republican orthodoxy about ‘all of the above’ as the mantra steering U.S. energy policy.”

    Even as he maintains ties to oil and gas producers, a Perry-led Energy Department is likely to support renewable energy and the tax incentives that encourage its growth, Auerbach and other experts said.

    Perry, 66, left office in 2015 and then launched his second ill-fated bid for the GOP presidential nomination. He was a harsh critic of Trump, even calling the billionaire businessman a “cancer” on conservatism, but later endorsed the Republican nominee.

    Democrats and environmental groups have derided Perry’s nomination, calling him a steep drop-off from the two renowned physicists who preceded him as energy chief, Steven Chu and Ernest Moniz. Perry earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Texas A&M University, where he was also a member of the Corps of Cadets and a Yell Leader.

    Perry has received support from a surprising source: Moniz, who told reporters that Perry “is very intent on doing a good job.”

    Moniz said last week that he and Perry had discussed the “special role” of the Energy Department’s 17 national laboratories, which Moniz called the “backbone” of U.S. science.

    “I believe as he sees the range of significant missions and the centrality of the labs and the success, I think he will see the value added. And I trust that will lead to his strong support,” Moniz said.

    Democrats say Perry is likely to face questions about climate science, nuclear waste storage and cleanup, clean energy innovation and the national labs, among other topics.

    Perry also is likely to be questioned about his ties to energy companies, including two that are developing the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline. Perry resigned Dec. 31 from the boards of Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners. The 1,200-mile pipeline has sparked mass protests in North Dakota.

    Perry said he still owns stock in the two companies but will divest within three months of his confirmation and will not take part in any decisions involving the companies for at least two years.

    The post Perry says he regrets call to eliminate Energy Department appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Michigan Republican Party chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, chair for the Republican National Committee nominee for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, attends the electoral college vote at the state capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. The Electoral College's 538 members are assembling across the nation with all signs pointing to their affirmation of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president, ending the hopes of some Democrats for an unprecedented rebellion that would overturn the Nov. 8 election results. Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Michigan Republican Party chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, chair for the Republican National Committee nominee for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, attends the electoral college vote at the state capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. Photo by Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee on Thursday unanimously elected Ronna Romney McDaniel to serve as its chairman, tapping a woman to lead the national GOP.

    The hand-picked choice of President-elect Donald Trump, McDaniel was elected by RNC members from across the nation who gathered in Washington on the eve of Trump’s inauguration. McDaniel, a 43-year-old mother of two, is the niece of prominent Trump critic, 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

    “I am a mom from Michigan,” she said. “I am an outsider. And I am going to do everything I can to make sure Donald Trump and Republicans everywhere are successful.”

    McDaniel had previously served as chairman of the Michigan GOP, helping to deliver an unexpected victory in a state that proved critical to Trump’s election. She also earned credit with Trump by supporting him despite pointed criticism from her famous uncle.

    Massachusetts GOP chair Kirsten Hughes said McDaniel’s election is part of “an honest effort” to improve the party’s standing with women and minorities. Four years ago, the RNC released a post-election autopsy encouraging party leaders to “grow the ranks of influential female voices in the Republican Party” in addition to embracing a more welcoming and inclusive message.

    READ NEXT: What the Women’s March wants

    McDaniel marks a break from the vast majority of Trump’s Cabinet and his senior staff, who are white men.

    “I think that those issues will continue to be a focus at the RNC,” Hughes said of the party’s outreach to women and minorities. “We’ll have to see. Time will tell.”

    McDaniel takes over for outgoing chairman Reince Priebus, who led the RNC for six years and will serve as Trump’s White House chief of staff.

    “She is the right woman to lead the RNC,” Priebus said in his final address to the RNC. “And it is time for a woman to lead the RNC.”

    McDaniel becomes the first female RNC leader in three decades.

    With Trump himself serving as the face of the GOP, McDaniel is expected to play a behind-the-scenes role focused on fundraising and maintaining the nationwide data and field operation constructed under Preibus’ leadership. She will serve alongside co-chair Bob Paduchik, who led the Trump campaign’s efforts on the ground in Ohio last fall.

    “For far too long, Democrats have hailed themselves as the party of women,” McDaniel said. “As Republicans, we know their so-called monopoly on being the party of women is false, and it is a mindset I intend to change.”

    She added, “I am committed to working for a unified and inclusive Republican Party.”

    The post GOP selects Ronna Romney McDaniel to lead party operation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general picked by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, immediately drew blowback during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday for saying that he “hasn’t looked into the scientific research” on precisely how much lead exposure is unsafe for children.

    Critics slammed Pruitt’s response as an uninformed and dangerously naive perspective on a critical environmental health issue. But, in fact, Pruitt’s not alone in his uncertainty on this question. There’s an ongoing debate among scientists and regulators about how much lead is too much for kids to have in their bodies.

    Just this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was scheduled to hold a meeting to discuss that very question.

    That didn’t stop Democrats from using Pruitt’s quote, out of context, as a talking point:

    First, here’s what Pruitt actually said:

    Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD): To continue on clean water for one moment, we’ve had significant problems with safe drinking water and clean water. Let me ask you a preliminary question: Do you believe there is any safe level of lead that can be taken into the human body, particularly a young person?

    Pruitt: Senator, that’s something I’ve not reviewed, nor know about. I would be very concerned about any level of lead going into the drinking water, or obviously human consumption. I’ve not looked into the scientific research on that.

    Pruitt’s statement that he would be concerned about “any level” of lead ingestion reflects the existing consensus. Both the CDC and the EPA say on their websites that there is no level of lead known to be safe in a child’s bloodstream.

    But regulators have to prioritize which situations warrant a public health response; after all, barely traceable levels of lead pose a less imminent health threat to kids than higher ones. And it’s possible that the tiniest levels of lead may not be harmful for kids. Though the CDC and the EPA agree that 0.000001 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood has not been proven safe, we don’t know that it’s unsafe, either

    So that’s why the CDC relies on a “reference level” of 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to identify which children under age six have an elevated level of blood. That’s been the standard since 2012. Before that, the “level of concern” was 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. The change reflects increasing awareness about the damage that can be caused by even tiny levels of lead in the blood.

    And the threshold may still be shifting. Reuters reported a few weeks ago that the CDC was considering lowing the threshold by 30 percent — down to 3.5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood — at a meeting scheduled for earlier this week.

    The CDC did not immediately respond to STAT’s request for comment Wednesday afternoon on the outcome of that meeting.

    All of which is to say: Pruitt probably deserves some slack on this point. We don’t know what level of lead is safe to be taken into children’s bodies, or if there even is such a threshold. And the level that warrants regulatory action is actively being debated.

    But still, the critical tweets keep coming.

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Jan. 18, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post EPA pick is unclear about toxic lead levels. So are scientists appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former President George H.W. Bush (right) and his wife Barbara attend a golf tournament at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, on July 4, 2007. File photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Former President George H.W. Bush (right) and his wife Barbara attend a golf tournament at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, on July 4, 2007. File photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    HOUSTON — Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, on Thursday remained hospitalized in Houston, where he was in intensive care for pneumonia and she was being treated for bronchitis.

    The 92-year-old former president went into the ICU on Wednesday and underwent a procedure “to protect and clear his airway that required sedation,” family spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement.

    Bush was stable and resting comfortably at Houston Methodist Hospital, McGrath said.

    The 41st president was placed in the ICU to address “an acute respiratory problem stemming from pneumonia,” McGrath said. He later told The Associated Press that doctors were happy with how the procedure went. Bush was first admitted to the hospital Saturday for shortness of breath.

    “I don’t think there’s a whole lot of money to be gained betting against George Bush,” McGrath said. “We’re just kind of in a wait-and-see mode.”

    McGrath said Barbara Bush, who is 91, had not been feeling well for a couple of weeks and decided “to take it out of committee and have the experts check it out.” She had complained of fatigue and coughing and doctors were treating her for bronchitis, he said Thursday.

    Physicians initially believed the former president would be released later this week following several days of treatment, but his stay has been extended, McGrath said. There is no timetable for his release.

    Doctors want to see how the former first lady responds to treatment before allowing her to return home, he said.

    The Bushes, who were married Jan. 6, 1945, have had the longest marriage of any presidential couple in American history. At the time of their wedding, he was a young naval aviator. She had been a student at Smith College.

    After World War II, the pair moved to the Texas oil patch to seek their fortune and raise a family. It was there that George Bush began his political career, representing Houston for two terms in Congress in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

    Bush, who served as president from 1989 to 1993, has a form of Parkinson’s disease and uses a motorized scooter or a wheelchair for mobility. He was hospitalized in 2015 in Maine after falling at his summer home and breaking a bone in his neck. He was also hospitalized in Houston the previous December for about a week for shortness of breath. He spent Christmas 2012 in intensive care for a bronchitis-related cough and other issues.

    Despite his loss of mobility, Bush celebrated his 90th birthday by making a tandem parachute jump in Kennebunkport, Maine. Last summer, Bush led a group of 40 wounded warriors on a fishing trip at the helm of his speedboat, three days after his 92nd birthday celebration.

    Bush’s office announced earlier this month that the couple would not attend Donald Trump’s inauguration because of the former president’s age and health.

    “My doctor says if I sit outside in January, it likely will put me six feet under. Same for Barbara. So I guess we’re stuck in Texas,” Bush wrote in a letter to Trump.

    His son George W. Bush, the 43rd president, still expects to attend the inauguration and does not plan to travel to Houston, spokesman Freddy Ford said.

    Trump and President Barack Obama sent their well wishes — via Twitter and a news conference respectively. Former President Bill Clinton also tweeted: “41 and Barbara — thinking about you both and sending wishes for a speedy recovery. Love, 42.”

    George Herbert Walker Bush, born June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts, also served as CIA director and Ronald Reagan’s vice president.

    George W. Bush was elected president in 2000 and served two terms. Another son, Jeb, served as Florida governor and made an unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination in 2016. Only one other U.S. president, John Adams, had a son who also became president.

    The post 41st President Bush battles pneumonia, wife has bronchitis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A crowd gathers outside the Gambian embassy in Dakar, Senegal, for the inauguration of Gambian President-elect Adama Barrow on Jan. 19. Photo by Emma Farge/Reuters

    A crowd gathers outside the Gambian embassy in Dakar, Senegal, for the inauguration of Gambian President-elect Adama Barrow on Jan. 19. Photo by Emma Farge/Reuters

    Updated at 2:50 p.m. EST | Senegalese troops entered the Gambia Thursday evening in a show of force against Gambian ruler Yahya Jammeh, who refused to relinquish power after the swearing in of the next president.

    Original story:

    The Gambia’s new president, former real estate agent Adama Barrow, took the oath of office on Thursday — but in neighboring Senegal.

    He was sworn in at the Gambian embassy in Senegal’s capital Dakar at a brief ceremony that was broadcast on television screens as people gathered around outside to watch.

    Current President Yahya Jammeh, who has ruled the Gambia for 22 years, at first said he would accept December’s election results. But just two weeks later, he reversed course, later declaring a state of emergency, and is now refusing to leave office.

    The National Assembly voted this week to extend Jammeh’s term, which expired at midnight, for another three months.

    A regional force made up of troops from Nigeria, Mali, Togo, Ghana and Senegal has amassed at the Gambian border. The bloc of West African nations, known as ECOWAS, sent a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council allowing them to use “all necessary measures” to remove Jammeh.

    Sara Wilkins (center) of Britain consoles fellow passenger Ebrima Jagne of the Gambia after they were evacuated from the Gambia to Manchester Airport in England on Jan. 18. Photo by Phil Noble/Reuters

    Sara Wilkins (center) of Britain consoles fellow passenger Ebrima Jagne of the Gambia after they were evacuated from the Gambia to Manchester Airport in England on Jan. 18. Photo by Phil Noble/Reuters

    Gambians and tourists flowed out of the country this week by the thousands, fearing possible violence.

    The atmosphere on Thursday shortly after the inaugural ceremony remained calm, and people were waiting to see what would happen, said Carla Fajardo, a Catholic Relief Services representative for Senegal and the Gambia.

    She said by phone from Dakar that mostly women and children were leaving, staying with families and friends either in the countryside or in Senegal, which wraps around the much smaller Gambia in West Africa.

    Her organization and other aid groups are monitoring the movement of people. “You don’t have refugee or [internally displaced person] camps, but stresses related to increased households,” said Fajardo.

    “Local communities have been really gracious to open their doors, but resources are scarce … so it will be very important to support these host families,” she said.

    The post Gambians flee as new president is sworn in, fearing violence from political showdown appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON- President-elect Donald Trump made a stop at Arlington National Cemetery as he continues his countdown to inauguration.

    Trump was joined in a ceremony at the cemetery by Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

    The pair silently placed a wreath in front of the Tomb of the Unknowns—a monument dedicated to service members whose remains were never identified.

    After placing the wreath, the two men put their hands on their hearts as solemn music played.

    Trump’s family, including his wife, Melania, and adult children and grandchildren were also present. Fields of white gravestones rolled into the distance under the warm winter sun.

    Later in the day, Trump and his family are making an appearance at the “Make America Great Again Welcome Concert” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

    Thousands of people are expected to attend the event, many donning Trump’s signature red “Make America Great Again” campaign hats.

    Trump is expected to deliver remarks at the event.

    Also expected to make appearances are country singer Toby Keith, actor Jon Voight and the band 3 Doors Down, among others.


    The Associated Press wrote this report. Erica R. Hendry contributed.

    The post WATCH: Trump lays wreath at Arlington National Cemetery appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON-Donald Trump kicked off inauguration weekend Thursday with a welcome concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

    The two-hour concert, open to the public, promised headliners including country star Toby Keith, soul singer Sam Moore and The Piano Guys. But not singer Jennifer Holliday: She backed out after an outcry from Trump critics.

    “This is some day, dear friends,” actor Jon Voight told the crowd, casting Trump’s impending inauguration as evidence of divine intervention after “a parade of propaganda that left us all breathless with anticipation, not knowing if God could reverse all the negative lies against Mr. Trump.”

    Trump is also expected to speak. Watch his remarks here. This story will be updated as it develops.


    The Associated Press wrote this report.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Trump kicks off inauguration weekend with Lincoln Memorial concert appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senior Caucasian woman with chin in hands. Photo by Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

    In “Fifty-Five, Unemployed, and Faking Normal,” White offers advice to those baby boomers who, instead of facing cushy retirements in Florida, are facing financial ruin and the shame that comes with it. Photo by Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: “Friends wonder privately how someone so well educated could be in economic free fall,” Elizabeth White wrote in a column for PBS’ Next Avenue. “At fifty-five, she has learned how to fake cheeriness and to appear to be engaged, but her phone doesn’t ring with opportunities anymore.”

    The article about the growing number of women facing retirement and struggling to make ends meet hit a nerve, receiving thousands of likes and comments on Facebook. People resonated with the reality White faced herself. She had had a comfortable upper-middle-class lifestyle and a good-paying job, but after a failed entrepreneurial endeavor and the Great Recession, she was facing a stark reality. She was broke.

    In “Fifty-Five, Unemployed, and Faking Normal,” White offers advice to those baby boomers who, instead of facing cushy retirements in Florida, are facing financial ruin and the shame that comes with it. The following is an excerpt from her book. For more on the topic, tune in to tonight’s Making Sen$e segment, which airs every Thursday on the PBS NewsHour.

    — Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor


    I have been fortunate. I have been poor for quite a long time now, so I’m pretty good at it. The simple no-frills life is fine by me. — Debie

    Millions of us are trying to wrap our brains around futures that look nothing like the ones we imagined. How do we walk up that hill? It’s about letting go of what used to be and figuring out what we need to do and to change now so that we can have a shot at a more satisfying life in our fourth quarter.

    You may not like all of the things that I invite you to consider and take on in the chapters ahead. Adaptation is hard at any age, but it’s especially hard now, as all of the rules changed just as we baby boomers are planning our end games. It would be so much easier to just do what we’ve always done.

    All of those “wouldas, couldas and shouldas” are just a waste of precious time at this point.

    But we can’t. We’re anxious, uncertain about the future and just scraping by for the next 30 years is just not going to cut it. Nor is being mired in some old stuck story or feeling mad, bitter and crotchety. All of those “wouldas, couldas and shouldas” are just a waste of precious time at this point.

    The bottom line is that we are where we are. And it’s from here that we start. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges we’re facing, there is much we can learn from our peers who are experimenting with unconventional approaches and innovative ways of relating to others, consuming goods and working to find security and happiness.

    If we’re in denial, resistant to change or unwilling to consider anything new or outside of our comfort zones, we might as well close up shop now. How we start this exploration matters. Staying open and hanging loose are important.

    I have to say one thing. You cannot have a victim mentality, or you might as well not get up in the morning. The days of cushy desk jobs, ordering lunch every day and fat paychecks might be over, but you have to keep pushing. If you have ‘friends’ who go to bars and restaurants that you can’t afford, find some new friends who enjoy a cup of coffee and a chat instead. Learn how to be self-sufficient and enjoy the things in life that cost less. Stop reading the don’t-want-you ads, and try to do something else. — Tracy

    The cavalry ain’t coming

    Where we start is by recognizing that the cavalry is not coming to rescue us. There is no national bailout—no prince charming on a white horse.

    In the short to medium term, we’re going to have to save ourselves and one another.

    Why? Well, with few exceptions, our politicians are not offering comprehensive solutions to the retirement-income crisis. Most are focused on Social Security as though it were the answer and the magic bullet. But what if you’re one of the millions of boomers under the full-retirement age, of between 65 or 67 depending on when you were born? Then for now, you’re out. Receiving the full Social Security benefit isn’t even an option.

    READ MORE: Column: Questionable Social Security and Medicare policies put seniors in a bind

    And even when you are eligible for it, the full benefit will only replace about 40 percent of your preretirement income, if that. Most financial advisors say you’ll need 70 to 80 percent of it to maintain your standard of living. For tens of millions of Americans, that small Social Security check is the only money coming in. Our lawmakers can pretend all they want that that’s enough to live on. Give me a break.

    And while we welcome the recent talk in Washington about increasing the Social Security benefit, we also know that the wheels of change turn slowly. We’re living in the meantime.

    And exhorting us to simply save more without telling us how to do it doesn’t help us either.

    I went with my sister to one of those financial-planning seminars and had to leave the room a few times because I was so upset by what I was hearing. It was just so sobering. I have no savings. The planner kept talking about putting 30 percent of your assets into this or that thing. Well, 30 percent of zero is zero. — Chris

    The truth is that Americans are saving less, not more.

    It will take years for our government and institutions to find and scale solutions to the myriad of problems that underlie the retirement-income crisis. And as those most affected by the crisis, part of our job is pressuring them to do more and to do it faster.

    But in the meantime, with no big interventions in the works, our immediate focus should be on what we can do for ourselves.

    Saying goodbye to magical thinking

    So where do we start? We start by dismantling the belief that if we just tough it out, things will return to normal. The truth is that we’re not going back. The normal we knew is gone.

    In “normal land,” we could zig and zag, move, change jobs or spouses, try new things and still recover from our mistakes. We had time. Now, in our late 50s, 60s and beyond, we don’t have that time anymore.

    “Normal” was when we had money and did not have to weigh our every decision against its affordability.

    Normal was before we knew anyone trapped in their homes, unable to move because their mortgage was underwater.

    It was before we were outsourced, merged downsized, rifted and surplused.

    READ MORE: Can you guess how many Americans have absolutely no savings at all?

    In normal land, the “sharing economy” had mostly not been invented yet. Instead, there were good IRS W-2 jobs with pensions and benefits.

    In normal land, we measured our worth by our incomes, props and credentials. For some of us, working hard assured a nice retirement “dessert” of travel and kicked back living.

    Normal was when we weren’t worried about our children’s futures. As one friend put it, we figured we’d done our jobs if our adult children were employed and could afford their own therapy.

    Normal land had material perks too. There was stuff and more stuff. Back in those days, designer labels mattered more than the factory workers who made those labels.

    Before marketers coined the term HENRY, or “high earners not rich yet,” there were yuppies and buppies. A good life of achievement and acquisition was what most of us aspired to and sought.

    Magical thinking is believing that the old normal is coming back.

    The new normal of financial vulnerability

    Right now, depending on your work situation or bank account, you may feel like a tourist in the land of the poor people. At this stage, your main goal is to avoid getting trapped and having to take up permanent residency there. It is a paralyzing thought. I know.

    This happened to me in my 40s, and it took me a good 10 years to get back to a normal wage. It took periods of working three jobs at crummy wages and doing whatever I had to do to keep going. The truth is, your friends don’t notice the struggle, because they fear it will happen to them. Decide who your genuine friends are, and come clean to them. If nothing else, it will help to talk about it and frees you up from pretending. This is more widespread than most people think. — Linda

    You see friends who used to be at or near the top of the food chain off ramped with no clear path back to normal. You see it in their faces. It’s like they have dematerialized.

    Most of the women (and men) I worked with who suffered a similar fate never seemed to quite get back to where they were even though they worked as hard as I did and even in the booming tech market. And I pretty much expect every day that this could happen to me again, no matter how hard I work or how many points I put on the board. The worst part is the isolation. This is the first time I have ever let on how bad it was (is), and it still feels extremely risky to do so in a valley rife with swagger. — J

    And you know that if it happened to others, it could happen to you. No longer in denial now, you actually begin to contemplate what would happen if the bottom totally fell out. What would you do? How would you survive?

    And millions of us aren’t contemplating it—we’re living it.

    I am at the 15-year mark of my uphill climb out of my hole. I am living tiny, but it is mine, and I am able to live within my means. — Lesa

    Many of us won’t be making the money we’re used to making. For the first time, we will be facing the prospect of significant downward mobility, with our accustomed earnings cut by 20, 30, 40 percent—or more.

    I never had to resort to food stamps but was headed that way and am still rattled to the core by that. — Linda

    And the truth is that if we lose our jobs in our 50s and 60s, we’re unlikely to be reemployed at the same salaries we had before. This is even true for those whose career choice privilege has, until now, firmly established them in the high five- or six-figure salary range.

    READ MORE: Poverty makes financial decisions harder. Behavioral economics can help

    Sure, a few of us will manage to find traditional W-2 jobs paying that long bread like before. But many more of us can expect months or even years of unemployment that deplete our savings and shake our confidence.

    And when we do work again, we’ll likely do contract work in the gig economy or some part-time jobs in new professions.

    I am single, 64, getting Social Security and working whatever jobs I can find that pay the bills. I’m finally in a job I like now, but it has taken years to get to this place. During those years, I worked in factories, in retail and at a gas station, and I did home care. You name it, and I’ve done it. I’m tired of job hopping to survive. — Anita

    I drive a school bus, have a class B CDL with a passenger/school-bus endorsement and feel lucky to have a job. I was a music-ed teacher. You gotta lose your pride and get out there and start somewhere. I am 57 and was married to a doctor for 20 years, and I got divorced 16 years ago. Pull up your big-girl pants, and take whatever job(s) you can find. — Mary

    Some people start entrepreneurial ventures to try to make ends meet. Whatever we do, we’re looking at a lot less money to live on at least in the short term—and maybe forever.

    That’s why a big first step in securing our futures is adopting live-low-to-the-ground mind-set which means that we have to drastically cut our expenses to fit our new income realities.

    I know, I know … that sounds easy peasy. You’re thinking, how hard could it really be to live within your new means?

    It’s true that reality forces most people to make the needed changes eventually. But that click down from the standard of living that you assumed you’d always have to one that is much more modest is … well, it’s an adjustment. And it’s a big adjustment if you were living large and are now scrambling just to cover the basic necessities.

    The real question is can we cut way back and still have good quality of life, still find ways to be connected to who and what we love?

    But a downgrade in lifestyle is not hard only for the people who were doing well; it’s hard for everybody. The truth is that most folks just don’t have that much of a cushion. A recent Pew Charitable Trust Survey of American Family Finances found that “the median household does not have enough in liquid savings—money held in checking and savings accounts, unused balances on prepaid cards, and cash saved at home — to replace one month of income.”

    And the average family in the lowest income quintile is even worse off, with less than two weeks of financial reserves—or, to be exact, enough to cover about nine days’ worth of expenses.

    So as we look into the future, the key question will not be how to tighten our belts or live within our means in the conventional sense. In the new normal of financial insecurity, a lot of us are already doing that.

    The real question is can we cut way back and still have good quality of life, still find ways to be connected to who and what we love?

    I believe that the short answer is yes. But to have a shot at something other than being old and poor in America, we can’t just do what we’ve always done and be what we’ve always been. The world as we knew it has changed forever. And if we want better futures, we’re going to have to change too.

    The post Column: Broke baby boomers, it’s time to face reality appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Join us as we interview outgoing Obama administration officials, review his presidency’s record on foreign policy, the climate, race relations and more.

    The post Watch our coverage looking back at Obama Years appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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