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

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    liberia3

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The West African nation of Liberia has had more than its fair shares of challenges, a 14-year civil war and an Ebola epidemic that left nearly 5,000 people dead.

    But on a recent trip, special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro found one American woman trying to help the country rebuild, focusing on young girls.

    It’s part of Fred’s series Agents for Change.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Thirty-four year old Katie Meyler is a well-known figure in West Point, one of the poorest slums in Monrovia.

    With a freckled face, strawberry blonde hair, combat boots, and a dress, she stands out. But Meyler feels right at home here, and there’s no greater proof of that than her decision to remain here during the Ebola epidemic that ravaged the city two years ago.

    The virus took thousands of lives. Most outsiders who weren’t medical personnel were evacuated, including journalists. Meyler filled that void with regular social media posts and interviews.

    KATIE MEYLER, Founder, More Than Me Academy: I’d rather die at 30 years old, or 32 years old, living for what I really believe from head to toe in every single way possible than to live to be 90 years old and not really fulfill what I was born to do.

    Benu is actually number 1 in her classes.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For the past 11 years, Meyler has made young women like Benu her cause.

    She is the founder of the More Than Me Academy, a private school which provides free education for kindergarten through sixth-grade girls, and then scholarships for them to go on to high school.

    Most of the girls come from large families and would normally be selling food and water in the streets, or something worse. Meyler says the extreme poverty in Liberia leads to particularly insidious behaviors.

    KATIE MEYLER: How bad when you’re trying just every single day to get a cup of rice to stay alive?

    You know, I’ve seen and heard and know of mothers that have ended up prostituting their own children just to survive, and it sounds horrific to anybody on the outside. Of course. How can a mother do that? But how could a mother let her daughter die, too?

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Meyler’s passion for social justice began more than 20 years ago as a teenager in suburban New Jersey, where she was raised by a single mother. Often, the family was dysfunctional, she says. Often, they had to go on welfare. Meyler says she found solace at her church.

    KATIE MEYLER: It felt good to help others, and it helped me get out of my own things that were going on in my life. So, I got addicted to really making other people happy.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: She went on to graduate from college, the first in her family to do so, and took a paid internship with the charity Samaritan’s Purse, which assigned her to Liberia.

    KATIE MEYLER: I didn’t know where Liberia was on a map, and I Googled it.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So it was meant to be for six months?

    KATIE MEYLER: Yes.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It’s been 11 years.

    (LAUGHTER)

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: What happened?

    KATIE MEYLER: There’s a saying that nobody chooses Liberia, that Liberia chooses you. I think part of it is, you come here and you see the amount of need the place has, and the people are very warm and open, and you can make a big difference here.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: She saw a need for education. Ten years ago, more than half of all primary school-aged children didn’t attend, collateral damage from this country’s 14-year-long civil war.

    So, Meyler began raising money, at first mostly through her church for scholarships. But she quickly became disenchanted with the existing schools.

    KATIE MEYLER: They’re not really learning anything at school, because the teachers don’t come on time. Even — both in public and private schools, it’s very rare that teachers show up and they are accountable.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Meyler decided she had to start her own school, so she raised money from both small and large donors in the United States, purchased a building, and hired teachers.

    The school provides breakfast and lunch, medical services, and after-school programs. There’s a strong emphasis on empowering girls to stand up against sexual abuse. The school can accommodate 180 students. Hundreds more wish they could attend.

    We met one of them on our trip to West Point.

    KATIE MEYLER: But she stopped in third grade from going to school because her family doesn’t have any money.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: What can you do for a child like this?

    KATIE MEYLER: So, unfortunately, our school only has 180 spots, and so, at this point, we don’t have any space.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And her students are still playing catchup. Ebola shut down all schools in Liberia for a full year, a period when educating girls took a back seat to saving their lives, she says, even as she feared for her own.

    KATIE MEYLER: What defines you the most is what you do despite your fear. And so I was extremely afraid. I had — I signed my power of attorney away before I left, just in case something happened. There was a real, legitimate concern that I might not return home.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: She had to bribe her way into the West Point neighborhood where most of her students live. It had been quarantined and, she discovered, had virtually no health services or equipment. She raised money to buy ambulances and medical supplies and turned her school into a disaster response center.

    KATIE MEYLER: Our plan was, do everything you can to keep everybody alive, and then when you can’t do anything else, bring dignity in death, so we did a lot of that, too, like singing to people, praying with people while they died.

    Children that were dying outside, some of them were just laying outside of the overflow center. The ones inside were actually worse off, because they were the dead mixed with the living all there. And they could barely move, barely could speak.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: How do you recover from that?

    KATIE MEYLER: I don’t want to get over this, because we have to do something to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I think that remembering and feeling what it felt like and to see that national emergency, it motivates me and fuels me to fight to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Meyler believes one of the main contributors to the Ebola crisis was the lack of education, so she went to the government to propose that some private groups be brought into overhaul the system.

    A pilot project began this past fall using seven different organizations to revamp 94 schools. More Than Me was put in charge of six of those schools. We met up with Meyler at a back-to-school celebration in the rural village of Bogbeh.

    KATIE MEYLER: Most of the parents and the community members here don’t read or write and didn’t have basic education.

    So, they’re really excited that out of 2,750 public schools in the country that really aren’t functioning, barely functioning, if functioning at all, that their school was selected among a few.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Meyler and her staff have helped oversee school repairs, the development of new curricula and installation of teacher trainers at each of the six schools.

    The attention she earned during the Ebola crisis, including being named a “TIME” magazine Person of the Year, has opened the doors to philanthropists.

    Meyler hopes to raise $25 million over the next five years to expand to 500 schools. But, ultimately, she hopes the partnership project is so successful that the private partners can relinquish their roles.

    KATIE MEYLER: Our goal here is to go out of business.

    I mean, I can tell you, for us, we’re successful when we’re not needed anymore. We’re successful when Liberia’s government can run these schools, and the teachers are at capacity, and Liberia doesn’t need to have all these — the external support. And that’s what we working toward.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: While she hopes to go out of business in a more prosperous future Liberia, for her own future, Meyler says she has no plans to leave her adopted country.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Fred de Sam Lazaro in Monrovia, Liberia.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Fred’s reporting is a partnership with the Under-Told Stories Project at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

    The post How this educator is guiding Liberian girls toward school appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Registered Nurse Rebecca Moak poses for a photo in trauma center of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi October 4, 2013. Mississippi is one of at least 20 states that has decided not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, better known as "Obamacare". REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman  (UNITED STATES - Tags: HEALTH POLITICS BUSINESS) - RTR3FLS4 related words: nurse, health care, worker, workers,

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: Can Obamacare be repealed and replaced with a law without a mandate requiring health insurance coverage?

    That’s something the president and congressional Republicans seem to be trying to do, although just how is not at all clear yet. As the annual enrollment season for buying insurance has come to a close, there are very real questions about how this all would play out once the law is changed.

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, went to Kentucky to explore that further. It’s part of his weekly series, Making Sense.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Folks, folks, we want to end Obamacare. We want to go to a plan that is so much better and so much less expensive, right?

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    PAUL SOLMAN: Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So help me God.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And, sure enough, on Inauguration Day, he signed his first executive order, directing government agencies to begin scaling back the law.

    That was good news for Trump voter Perry Partin, a security guard from Corbin, Kentucky.

    PERRY PARTIN, Kentucky: It was forced on me, shoved down your throat, whether you wanted it or not.

    BOBBI SMITH, Kentucky: I’m with Perry.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Bobbi Smith, who owns an antiques store, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2015, a year in which, having missed the open enrollment deadline, she’d accidentally gone without health insurance. She waited until January to buy coverage on healthcare.gov and get treated.

    But, says this Trump voter:

    BOBBI SMITH: I think if I were to walk around here with no health insurance, and that’s what I choose to do, then that’s my right.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But you’re thankful you have that insurance?

    BOBBI SMITH: Oh, yes, I am, yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, you’re kind of torn here?

    BOBBI SMITH: That’s right.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Elizabeth Easton has no such conflicts.

    ELIZABETH EASTON, Kentucky: I love it. The only thing that Trump would be able to do for me would be universal health care.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Easton didn’t vote for Trump. She didn’t vote at all, she says, because she was high and suicidal, having relapsed into drug abuse following a painful spinal infection. She’s now in recovery, her addiction treatment covered by Medicaid, which was expanded under Obamacare.

    ELIZABETH EASTON: I have been a user since I was in high school. And I was able to check into treatment because of it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And you wouldn’t have been without the Affordable Care Act?

    ELIZABETH EASTON: It saved my life. It’s — yes, it’s great.

    PAUL SOLMAN: We came to this corner of Kentucky last week, famous as the birthplace of Colonel Sanders’ Kentucky Fried Chicken, because it’s seen one of the biggest drops in the uninsured rate due to the Affordable Care Act.

    Kathy Oller says she herself has signed up thousands, including, on this day, mall jewelry store worker Aaron Lewis.

    AARON LEWIS, Kentucky: To me personally, it was worth the peace of mind to have some sort of safety net. In case something did happen to me or in case some illness or accident happened, I would be a little bit more covered, rather than susceptible to bankruptcy.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But when we visited, with just over a week to go before the deadline for 2017 coverage, the enrollment rush had stalled, in part due to the Trump administration’s cancellation of ads urging people to sign up. But there’s another reason, says Oller.

    KATHY OLLER, Obamacare Enrollment Official: Some people feel that because Trump’s in office, why do we have to have it, because they’re hoping they don’t get fined.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In other words, they’re counting on repeal to kill the mandate, the requirement to buy health insurance, or else pay a penalty to the government.

    ANTHONY FLANNERY, Kentucky: We get this letter, you got to get insurance, which instantly infuriated me.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Don’t tread on me.

    ANTHONY FLANNERY: Yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Health care worker Anthony Flannery refused to buy insurance each of the last two years.

    ANTHONY FLANNERY: I was looking at like $280 with a $6,000 deductible that would then pay 60 percent of any medical expenses I may incur. And I was like, no, I’m not doing it. So I will pay the penalty. So, last year come tax time, I owed $652.

    PAUL SOLMAN: For tax year 2016, the fine will be higher. But so what, says Perry Partin?

    PERRY PARTIN: It’s cheaper to pay the fine than it is to pay for the insurance.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So are you going to pay the fine, instead of the insurance?

    PERRY PARTIN: I probably will, you know, because, I mean, my cup’s about run over with insurance.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But can whatever replaces Obamacare accommodate Perry Partin, while also caring for Beth Easton?

    ELIZABETH EASTON: This time last year, I was in the hospital, almost died several times.

    PAUL SOLMAN: With her many preexisting conditions?

    ROBERT FRANK, Economist, Cornell University: If you don’t have a mandate, you cannot have an insurance system.

    PAUL SOLMAN: To an economist like Bob Frank, cases like Easton’s make the logic behind the mandate crystal clear.

    ELIZABETH EASTON: The only way a system of insurance can work is if everybody’s in the pool together, healthy and sick people alike. And if you want healthy people in the pool, you have essentially got to mandate that they be a participant.

    PAUL SOLMAN: It’s simply how insurance works, he says.

    ROBERT FRANK: The insurance company needs a large number of people, only a few of whom are going to make claims against it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But if it were mainly sick people in the pool, the costs per person would skyrocket. Moreover, poorer people, who also tend to have poorer health, need financial help to pay their premiums.

    AARON LEWIS: There’s no way to insure people who have lower income are able to get it without increasing taxes on somebody.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In the case of Obamacare, increasing taxes on top earners, who help subsidize most of the 20-plus million people who gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

    ROBERT FRANK: And so there you have the three basic components of the Affordable Care Act, mandates — you have to buy insurance — the guarantee that if you have preexisting conditions, you can’t be denied coverage, and then subsidies if you can’t afford to buy insurance.

    If you take any one of those away, the whole system collapses.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And if the current system is repealed, but not replaced, at least 18 million people stand to lose their insurance within a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office, which might feel worse than never having had insurance at all.

    KATHY OLLER: I think it’s such a backwards step, because they are now excited because they have the opportunity to sign up for health care. And if they take it away, it’s just going backwards, instead of forward.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Behavioral economists call this loss aversion, illustrated in this YouTube cartoon.

    MAN: It’s more painful to lose something than it’s joyful to gain something.

    PAUL SOLMAN: To most people, it turns out, losing $1,000, say, hurts far more than the pleasure of $1,000 windfall. And Bob Frank applies this attachment to what we have to threats to Obamacare.

    ROBERT FRANK: Millions have coverage now for the first time. And if they take people’s coverage away from them with this new repeal measure, you’re going to see a political firestorm unlike anything we have seen in recent history.

    PAUL SOLMAN: It was enough to scare Elizabeth Easton straight.

    ELIZABETH EASTON: I had an epiphany, like, the world’s gone completely mad, and I have got to get better. Seriously. I’m not joking. So, thank you, Mr. Trump.

    (LAUGHTER)

    ELIZABETH EASTON: You got me sober, so I can try to save health care.

    PAUL SOLMAN: No wonder Republicans are having such a tough time coming up with a replacement plan, and how hard it is for working folks like Anthony Flannery, who finally joined the insurance pool this year.

    ANTHONY FLANNERY: If we want to look at this from a standpoint of doing my part to fit into this pool and this social responsibility, I can handle that.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But to Bobbi Smith and Perry Partin, it’s the very principle of a mandate that rankles, no matter the economics.

    How can there be health insurance if the healthier people don’t participate? Because then it’s just going to be the sicker people who are going to be insured, and then the cost is going to be too high, no?

    BOBBI SMITH: You made a point.

    (LAUGHTER)

    BOBBI SMITH: I didn’t say I necessarily agreed. You made a point I will think about.

    PERRY PARTIN: I would say you’re right. But I’m just like her. If you want insurance, it would be your option.

    PAUL SOLMAN: For the PBS NewsHour, economics correspondent Paul Solman, reporting from Corbin, Kentucky.

    The post The economics and potential emotional cost of repealing Obamacare appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Donald Trump speaks by phone with the Saudi Arabia's King Salman in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTSXXS6

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, barely two weeks into his term, President Trump has shaken up global affairs through a series of unilateral legal and diplomatic moves and some blunt talk and tweets.

    Longstanding American allies and adversaries are asking what the new administration has in mind for its relations abroad. One of several clues, Iran’s test-launch of a medium-range ballistic missile, which triggered a direct White House response from Mr. Trump’s national security team yesterday.

    And in a tweet this morning, the president wrote: “Iran has been formally put on notice for firing a ballistic missile.”

    It’s not clear just what “on notice” means, but Mr. Trump was asked today whether military action is off the table.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Nothing is off the table.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, dismissed it all today, saying: “The American government will understand that threatening Iran is useless.”

    By contrast, the administration has been relatively quiet about new fighting in Eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed rebels, though, late today, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, said the situation requires clear and wrong strong condemnation of Russian actions.

    Mr. Trump’s conciliatory talk about Russia and his critiques of the European Union have leaders on the continent concerned.

    Donald Tusk is president of the European Council.

    DONALD TUSK, European Council President: We should today remind our American friends of their own motto: United we stand. Divided, we fall.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, a phone call Saturday with Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is raising eyebrows. The Washington Post reports the president told Turnbull, “This was the worst call by far” that he’s had with a foreign leader.

    At issue, the Obama administration’s agreement to resettle refugees not allowed into Australia.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I love Australia as a country. But we had a problem where, for whatever reason, President Obama said that they were going to take probably well over 1,000 illegal immigrants who were in prisons.

    And I said, why? Why are we doing this?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Prime Minister Turnbull played down the incident.

    MALCOLM TURNBULL, Australian Prime Minister: The fact that we received the assurance that we did, the fact that it was confirmed, the very extensive engagement we have with the new administration underlines the closeness of the alliance.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Separately, the Associated Press reports Mr. Trump told Mexico’s president he might send U.S. troops to deal with — quote — “bad hombres down there.”

    The White House says the remark was lighthearted. Mexico denies it happened. The president’s take?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I fix things. We’re going to straighten it out. Believe me, when you hear about tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All this as the newly minted secretary of state tried to rally a work force, many of whom are already unhappy, following last weekend’s unveiling of extensive restrictions for travelers from seven majority-Muslim nations.

    REX TILLERSON, U.S. Secretary of State: We’re on the same team. We share the same mission.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary Rex Tillerson began today by discussing that policy with Germany’s foreign minister.

    We take a deeper look now at the president’s actions on the world stage with James Jeffrey. He served in several senior positions during his 35-year career as a diplomat, including U.S. ambassador to Turkey and to Iraq, and as President George W. Bush’s deputy national security adviser. He’s now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. And Wendy Sherman, she was undersecretary of state for political affairs during the Obama administration. She also held senior State Department jobs during the Clinton administration.

    And we welcome both of you back to the program.

    JAMES JEFFREY, Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq: Thank you.

    WENDY SHERMAN, Former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs: Great to be here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me just ask you first, Ambassador Jeffrey, what do you make overall of the approach we’re seeing from this president to foreign policy?

    JAMES JEFFREY: Well, you have to separate the drama from some of the decisions.

    As a longtime career guy, I like quiet diplomacy behind closed doors. This is not what we’re getting. At the end of the day, it’s what America does, how people perceive us, in the long run, our reliability and such, and, thirdly, the personal relationships presidents have with their counterparts.

    The tweeting and some of the explosive conversations can hurt the third and can have an impact on the second, but, in the end, what we really should focus on is the policies. Some of them have been bad, the rollout of the immigration ban. Others, we have to wait and see. The reaction to the Iranians, that was basically within normal boundaries.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes, and I want to ask you both about the specifics.

    But, overall, Wendy Sherman, how do you read what’s happening?

    WENDY SHERMAN: You know, I think that Republican analyst Steve Schmidt had a great line, which is, Americans clearly voted for change, but they didn’t vote for chaos.

    And I think people are feeling unnerved all around the world, because they see a chaotic set of directions coming out of the White House, and they’re not sure what it all means.

    Although I understand what Ambassador Jeffrey is saying about Michael Flynn saying, Iran, you are on notice, might have been a response to the missile launch, indeed, nobody knew what that meant. And it really roiled people to try to figure out what was happening.

    When the president has leaked out what happens in his phone calls, and he’s really taking on some of our dearest allies and partners around the world, people don’t know what to expect and whether they can rely on the United States anymore.

    And they need to be able to rely on us, just as we need to be able to rely on them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Jim Jeffrey, what about this comment the president made, reportedly, in the phone conversation with the prime minister of Australia, when he said, “This is the worst phone call I have had with any world leader”?

    Is this the kind of back-and-forth that lends itself, I guess, to, you know, good work happening between these two countries?

    JAMES JEFFREY: Secretary Sherman and I know that presidents often have really bad phone conversations. What they usually don’t do is go out and talk about it.

    That gets to my point about doing some damage on the periphery of our core policies.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you’re saying what he said is really no different from what other presidents — the kind of thing other presidents would have said?

    JAMES JEFFREY: No, presidents always — not always, but often have bad conversations with counterparts. They just don’t go out and embarrass their counterpart by talking about it.

    They find other ways to work it out, which is what we’re trying to do right now. It’s this public airing of the dirty laundry that is a problem.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And it’s not only that, Wendy Sherman. It’s the phone conversation, the hour-long phone conversation with the president of Mexico. We later learned the president said something to the effect of sending U.S. troops down there if you don’t take care of — quote — “the bad hombres.”

    WENDY SHERMAN: If you read Donald Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal,” you know that he likes to create leverage, he likes to have psychological advantage, he likes to be on the offense. He believes in what he calls truthful hyperbole.

    He thinks all press is good press. And I think he believes that he’s putting everybody on a psychological disadvantage, so that he can have some advantage in negotiations. NAFTA is high on his agenda.

    But if he goes too far, I think the president of Mexico and the Mexicans will decide they would just as soon get out of NAFTA, and we don’t want that either. There may need to be some changes, but to re-imagine the entire world, as Ambassador Jeffrey said, we have had an international order.

    It’s not perfect, but for 70 years, it has kept Europe whole and free and safe, and we need to keep it in place.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Ambassador Jeffrey, what’s the difference between having a vigorous conversation and doing real damage?

    I’m just looking again at what the president said this morning at the Prayer Breakfast. He said, don’t worry about the reports of the tough phone calls. He said, we have to be tough. It’s time that we’re going to be a little tough.

    JAMES JEFFREY: Well, again, it does some damage.

    But, as Wendy Sherman said, behind the fireworks, there are real issues that the president and particularly Steve Bannon, his political adviser, are pushing. It’s a vision, a rather dark vision, of a 19th century world where great powers do transactional issues.

    And it’s very different than what we have been doing for the last 75 years.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what are you referring to specifically? What concerns you?

    JAMES JEFFREY: I’m concerned about a relationship with Russia that ignores Russia’s aggressiveness in its near abroad.

    I’m concerned about the willingness to question alliances and the value of allies, or require them to pay more, or they don’t get to play.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Reference to NATO?

    JAMES JEFFREY: Exactly.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we just — we were just looking at a newswire report a moment ago, Wendy Sherman, where we are told that the vice president, Mike Pence, had a meeting with the German foreign minister today in which he — they discussed NATO.

    This just happened within the hour. And among other things, they talked about the importance of NATO members paying up.

    This is something Donald Trump talked about during the campaign.

    WENDY SHERMAN: Absolutely. And so did President Obama talk about it and push countries to pay what they should as their fair share in NATO.

    And we should all push every member to do that. But the NATO alliance is not just a transactional relationship, once again. That alliance serves our interests. That alliance has been critical to keeping security in Europe, so that we do not face another world war.

    So, it is in our national security interests. And, yes, we pay a lot for it, but, when we had Afghanistan, NATO troops were by our side from almost all of the NATO members. And they put their life and treasure on the line for us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, I come back to the question, Ambassador Jeffrey, at what point — how far can a president go with tough talk that’s helpful for the United States, that builds the reputation and stands the United States in good stead, and when does it go too far? Where to draw the line?

    JAMES JEFFREY: Again, it’s a judgmental question. Each of us have a different reaction to tough talk, and our friends abroad have a different reaction, too.

    At the end of the day, it is what he does or doesn’t do as crises come up and as he tries to advance his agenda. He can hurt it on the margins by this kind of talk. That’s my view. He could help it with a different approach to our allies and friends and our foes.

    But, at the end of the day, it’s going to be, what sort of decisions does he take in response to the really great threats we have in the world today?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And is there a risk — or how much of a risk, I should say, Wendy Sherman, is there to damaging personal relationships? Or is that not really an issue here?

    WENDY SHERMAN: No, I think that is an issue. I think that’s already happened.

    One should talk tough to friends in private, but, as the first phone call with the president of the United States, you’re trying to build your personal relationship. You’re trying to build on the alliance and the partnerships that we have. Usually, that tough talk doesn’t happen with your friends and partners.

    And people wonder why the tough talk is happening with Mexico and happening with Germany and happening with our pals, but it’s not happening with Russia.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that a concern for you?

    JAMES JEFFREY: Absolutely.

    Russia is the biggest threat right now to the international order, not the Islamic State, not Iran, although I have problems with Iran, and not China. It’s Russia.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we’re hearing a lot more about the Islamic State and al-Qaida, in fact, this week.

    All right, well, a subject very much to be continued.

    Ambassador Jim Jeffrey, Wendy Sherman, we thank you.

    WENDY SHERMAN: Thank you.

    JAMES JEFFREY: Thank you.

    The post When does tough diplomatic talk go too far? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    yemen1

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump has made clear that he will aggressively target terror groups like ISIS and al-Qaida.

    On Sunday in Yemen, U.S. special forces assaulted an al-Qaida compound. It was the first such raid authorized by the new president. But details of the planning and the execution of the raid have come under scrutiny this week.

    Hari Sreenivasan has that story.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In the early morning hours on Sunday, members of the elite SEAL Team Six approached a village in the Yakla region of Yemen’s Bayda province, their target, an al-Qaida stronghold known to U.S. intelligence since the Obama administration.

    A firefight ensued, and the commandos had to call in air support from fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships. A Navy SEAL, Chief Petty Officer Ryan Owens, was killed in the battle and a transport aircraft suffered a hard landing and had to be destroyed.

    The U.S. military acknowledged last night that it had also likely killed civilian noncombatants during the fight.

    White House spokesman Sean Spicer spoke of the mission today:

    SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: It’s hard to ever call something a complete success when you have a loss of life or people injured.

    But I think when you look at the totality of what was gained to prevent the future loss of life here in America and against our people and our institutions and probably throughout the world in terms of what some of these individuals could have done, I think it is a successful operation by all standards.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For more on the raid and the strength of the al-Qaida branch there, I’m joined by David Sanger of The New York Times and Richard Atwood of the International Crisis Group, which released a report today on the strength and capabilities of al-Qaida in Yemen.

    David, I want to ask you first, most presidents say this is the toughest decision that they have, to send a member of the armed forces into harm’s way. What was that decision-making process like this time?

    DAVID SANGER, The New York Times: Well, the process was somewhat unusual, Hari.

    Usually, a president goes down in the Situation Room, is presented with what they call a full package for the attack. There’s a legal assessment of the legal authorities under which they’re doing these. There’s a risk assessment to the commandos who would be doing it. There is a risk assessment of what could happen to civilians who are in the area.

    This particular attack had been set up by the Obama administration. They had debated it, and President Obama decided about 10 days before the end of his term that he couldn’t approve it because the Pentagon really wanted to go in under the complete cover of darkness, a moonless night. And the next moonless night wasn’t going to be until after he was no longer in office.

    So, they kicked this one over to the new administration. And it looks like President Trump got briefed on it, by and large, at a dinner, not in the Situation Room, not with legal advisers around. His secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, was there. Vice President Pence was there. Stephen Bannon, who has emerged as the newest member of the National Security Council, known really more for his political advice than military, was there.

    So was his new national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who is a veteran of many of these.

    But the discussion took place in a dinner situation. And he approved the raid at that dinner.

    And I think one of the questions, given how many things have gone wrong, is, would it have been different if he had been in the Situation Room and perhaps had a different set of briefings?

    The White House insists not. It’s hard to call this much of a success yet, because we don’t know what the value was of the information they were trying to exploit, which came mostly from computers and cell phones.

    And from everything we have heard, they haven’t had a chance to assess that yet.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Richard Atwood, put this in perspective for us.

    How strong is al-Qaida in Yemen?

    RICHARD ATWOOD, International Crisis Group: We — as you said, we published a report today that looks at the evolution of al-Qaida in Yemen.

    And, obviously, there’s a lot of talk about the Islamic State, but, in Yemen, it’s really al-Qaida that’s done well over the last few years. Really, the civil war — it’s been the main beneficiary of the civil war.

    And as fighting has escalated between the two sides, between President Hadi’s government and its Saudi-backed international coalition on the one hand against the Houthis and former President Saleh, as fighting has escalated, al-Qaida has really been able to exploit the chaos.

    It’s been able to control territory and control the town of Mukalla on the Gulf of Aden for some time. It’s strengthened its ties to some communities. It has very ties, close ties with some of the other armed groups that are fighting in the anti-Houthi Saleh alliance.

    It’s undoubtedly got much richer. It’s been able to raid banks in Mukalla. It was embedded in the economy in Mukalla for a long time. And it’s much better armed. It’s been able to gain guns and weapons that have been passed into other armed groups in which it’s in an alliance.

    So I think it’s stronger than ever. And, frankly, the longer the war continues in Yemen, the stronger al-Qaida is likely to get.

    I would just — on the operation yesterday, you know, I think I agree with David that it’s very difficult to know whether it’s a success until we know what information was retrieved.

    On the other hand, I think there’s aspects of it that are clearly not a success. There’s a lot of tribesmen at the moment in Yemen. And an operation like this is more likely to radicalize them, more likely to push them into the arms of al-Qaida, particularly then if it has a high civilian cost, if it kills women, if it kills children, particularly if U.S. forces are involved.

    It tends to feed anti-Americanism and strengthen those alliances between the tribes in al-Qaida, which is what al-Qaida profits from.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: David, did any of thing from officials or anybody else that you spoke to say that that factored into the Trump administration or President Trump’s decision to do this?

    DAVID SANGER: We don’t have a lot of view into the decision — discussion that they had at the dinner table.

    But I think Richard raises one of the most important points. Over time, presidents learn that the biggest risk out here is not only the civilian risk and the risk to American forces, but whether — as Donald Rumsfeld used to say, whether you’re creating terrorists faster than you’re killing them.

    And certainly, if you have a case like this where there appear to have been considerable civilian casualties, that may well be the case, especially because, even if some of those civilians may have taken up arms and fired against the SEALs, in the mythology of what went on, you’re going to hear a story of SEALs who dropped out of the sky and suddenly attacked a remote village in Yemen.

    And you can imagine the recruiting capability of that. So, you know, part of what’s going on here, Hari, is that you have in the Trump administration a group that believes that the decision-making in these kind of cases has to be shortened, that more of the power has to be devolved down to the Pentagon, the commanders.

    And yet, in the first case that the president approved, things went very badly wrong. And you have to wonder whether or not that is going to have the effect of making them think that they need to slow down and think more about the effects of these and get fuller briefings, or whether they’re simply going to say, look, this happens sometimes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, David Sanger, Richard Atwood, thank you both.

    RICHARD ATWOOD: Thank you.

    DAVID SANGER: Thank you.

     

    The post What went wrong in the deadly raid on al-Qaida in Yemen? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The New Jersey State House in Trenton. New Jersey and Virginia are the only two states with gubernatorial races in 2017.

    The New Jersey State House in Trenton. New Jersey and Virginia are the only two states with gubernatorial races in 2017. Photo by Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    When North Carolina’s Republican-led legislature passed laws curbing incoming Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s authority last year, critics said the move created a partisan blueprint for other states around the country.

    North Carolina’s GOP-controlled General Assembly stunned political observers last December with its decision to target Cooper after he beat Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in an unusually rancorous election that ended in a recount.

    But a similar post-election power grab likely won’t happen in New Jersey and Virginia, the only two states with gubernatorial elections this year, officials there said.

    WATCH: In North Carolina, new laws to limit governor’s power

    New Jersey lawmakers said the state legislature would have a harder time stripping authority from a governor in a state with a powerful executive branch.

    New Jersey’s governor is “probably one of the strongest chief executives in the nation,” State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-N.J.) said.

    Virginia legislators also said they didn’t think the state would follow North Carolina’s example. Convening a special session to pass partisan bills aimed at blocking an incoming governor’s power would be politically challenging, several state lawmakers said.

    “[That’s] not the Virginia way,” said State Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Va.), who is running for governor.

    “The Virginia legislature is stronger than North Carolina’s,” State Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Va.) said. “We just don’t pass the kooky bills they do. We do pass our share of silly things, but we have a good checks and balances system.”

    The fight in North Carolina played out in a special session as McCrory was preparing to leave office. The state legislature passed two laws limiting Cooper’s power before he entered office earlier last month.

    READ MORE: What North Carolina’s power-stripping laws mean for new Governor

    One law subjected the governor’s cabinet appointments to approval by the state senate and stripped the governor’s ability to appoint members to the influential University of North Carolina board of trustees, among other measures. The other law gave Republicans and Democrats equal control over North Carolina’s state and county elections boards, changing a 1901 law that allowed the governor to pick a majority of the elections boards’ members.

    Combined, the laws left Cooper significantly weaker — and led him to sue the legislature to overturn the laws even before he took office. Cooper expanded the lawsuit after becoming governor, and the suit hasn’t been settled yet.

    North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (pictured) is locked in an election battle for governor with incumbent Republican Pat McCrory. Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

    Roy Cooper at a campaign event in 2016. Cooper, who won the North Carolina governor’s race last year, is now locked in a legal battle with the state’s GOP-controlled legislature. Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

    The partisan fight has fueled speculation that the losing parties in New Jersey and Virginia would try something similar in 2017, after elections to replace outgoing Govs. Chris Christie and Terry McAuliffe. Both Christie, a Republican who sought the party’s 2016 presidential nomination, and McAuliffe, a Democrat, cannot seek reelection.

    In New Jersey, the fight to replace Christie is already taking shape. On the Democratic side, Phil Murphy, a former Obama administration official and Goldman Sachs executive, and State Assemblyman John Wisniewski have entered the race.

    The Republican field so far includes State Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, Nutley Commissioner Steve Rogers, and businessman Joseph Rullo.

    In Virginia, Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam is running against former representative Tom Perriello for the Democratic nomination. Republican strategist Ed Gillespie, Wagner, and Corey Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, have all thrown their hats in the ring in the GOP primary. Stewart also ran President Trump’s Virginia campaign operation last year.

    Republicans control both chambers of Virginia’s state legislature. Democrats are in control in New Jersey, with a majority in the state senate and general assembly.

    The gubernatorial contests will be closely watched in the run-up to the 2018 mid-term elections, and could serve as an early referendum on a range of Trump administration policies, from immigration to health care.

    The Trump presidency is “going to inform the atmosphere one way or the other and we don’t know yet how it is going to develop,” State Sen. John Edwards (D-Va.) said. “The politics of Washington are likely to have spillover effect.”

    Though Edwards downplayed the chances of a North Carolina-style power grab in Virginia, he noted that the state has seen its share of partisan battles in recent years, including McAuliffe’s move to restore voting rights to thousands of ex-felons.

    Ciattarelli, the New Jersey state assemblyman and gubernatorial candidate, said he expected the Garden State wouldn’t take North Carolina’s lead. But anything could happen, he added.

    “This isn’t the first or last time that a legislative body will look to curtail the executive powers of a governor or a president,” he said.

    The post North Carolina’s legislature tried to strip power from the new governor. Will other states do the same? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    SYDNEY — Amid the drama over a refugee resettlement deal between Australia and the United States, the White House has issued a series of conflicting statements on whether the agreement is still on, how many refugees it involves, and who, exactly, are the refugees. A look at what’s at stake.

    AUSTRALIA DOESN’T WANT BOAT REFUGEES

    People hold placards and Australian national flags Jan. 29 as they attend a rally organised by the right-wing group called Reclaim Australia in central Sydney, Australia,  Photo by REUTERS/Aaron Bunch     .

    People hold placards and Australian national flags Jan. 29 as they attend a rally organised by the right-wing group called Reclaim Australia in central Sydney, Australia, Photo by REUTERS/Aaron Bunch .

    Under the Obama administration, the U.S. agreed to resettle a group of refugees who are being held at detention camps on the impoverished Pacific island nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

    WATCH: Migrants to Australia by sea face harsh conditions, reports find

    The Australian government pays both countries to house the refugees, because it refuses to settle any of them in Australia. That has resulted in many of them languishing inside the detention facilities for years. The conditions at the camps are grim and reports of detainees suffering abuse and attempting suicide are frequent.

    UNCLEAR HOW MANY ARE GENUINE REFUGEES

    President Donald Trump has repeatedly described the refugees as “illegal immigrants” and said in a tweet that there are “thousands” of them. The refugees are, in fact, among around 1,250 asylum seekers who were transferred to the island detention centers after being intercepted while trying to reach Australia by boat.

    Another 370 who came to Australia for medical treatment and then refused to return to the islands are also eligible for resettlement to the United States. Australia will not say how many of the asylum seekers have been deemed genuine refugees, and thus it’s unclear exactly how many refugees the U.S. agreed to ultimately accept.

    Most of the asylum seekers come from the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Australia’s previous center-left government called them “irregular maritime arrivals,” because a refugee can legally seek asylum in a country such as Australia that is a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention — which calls on nations to take in people fleeing war.

    The current conservative government changed the terminology to “illegal maritime arrivals,” presumably because people smuggling is illegal and most pay people smugglers to ferry them to Australia.

    THEIR PREFERED DESTINATION IS AUSTRALIA

    Demonstrators hold aloft placards during a 2015 rally in support of refugees that was part of a national campaign in central Sydney, Australia. Photo by REUTERS/David Gray.

    Demonstrators hold aloft placards during a 2015 rally in support of refugees that was part of a national campaign in central Sydney, Australia. Photo by REUTERS/David Gray.

    Asylum seekers who attempt to reach Australia by boat generally travel to Indonesia, where people smugglers jam them into overcrowded, barely seaworthy vessels that then head south to Australia.

    READ MORE: Nauru defends refugee policies after abuse allegations surface

    In 2013, Australia imposed tough policies toward asylum seekers in a bid to discourage the dangerous and often deadly journeys. Under the strict rules, any asylum seeker who tries to reach Australia by boat can never be settled in Australia, and is instead sent to the detention camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea where their refugee claims are assessed. Prior to the U.S. deal, the only option given to those deemed genuine refugees was for them to resettle in Papua New Guinea or Cambodia.

    Few refugees have accepted those offers, opting instead to remain in detention in the hopes that Australia will eventually take them in.

    CONTRADICTING STATEMENTS

    Over the weekend, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Trump had a tense telephone call in which they discussed the agreement.

    On Monday, Turnbull told Australians that Trump had vowed during the call to honor the deal. But a report from The Washington Post that subsequently emerged suggested the agreement might be in doubt.

    The newspaper reported that during the call, Trump ranted to Turnbull that it was “the worst deal ever.” Shortly after that report was published, Trump took to Twitter to slam the agreement as “dumb” and said he would review it. Meanwhile, the State Department offered reassurance that the agreement would, in fact, stand — “out of respect for close ties to our Australian ally and friend.”

    White House spokesman Sean Spicer also confirmed that Trump had agreed to honor the deal, though he said all the refugees would be subjected to “extreme vetting.”

    Later, Trump told reporters that he has to “respect” actions of the previous administration, yet quickly added: “But you can also say, ‘Why are we doing this?'”

    Spicer then gave another press conference in which he said that Trump was “unbelievably disappointed” in the agreement and had “agreed to continue to review that deal.”

    On Thursday, a Trump administration official described the president as “very strong” in the phone call with Turnbull and said it had ended early, after about 30 minutes.

    But on Friday, Trump tweeted, “Thank you to Prime Minister of Australia for telling the truth about our very civil conversation that FAKE NEWS media lied about. Very nice!”

    The post Why the Australia-US refugee deal is contentious appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    National security adviser General Michael Flynn delivers a statement Feb. 1  the White House in Washington, D.C.   Flynn said the U.S. was "officially putting Iran on notice." Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria  .

    National security adviser General Michael Flynn delivers a statement Feb. 1 the White House in Washington, D.C. Flynn said the U.S. was “officially putting Iran on notice.” Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria .

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Friday imposed sanctions on 13 people and a dozen companies in response to Iran’s recent ballistic missile test, increasing pressure on Tehran without directly undercutting a landmark nuclear deal with the country.

    Those targeted by the Treasury Department’s action include various agents, companies and associates involved in procuring ballistic missile technology for Iran. Iranians, Lebanese, Chinese and Emirati individuals and companies also are now blacklisted from doing any business in the United States or with American citizens.

    “Iran’s continued support for terrorism and development of its ballistic missile program poses a threat to the region, to our partners worldwide and to the United States,” John E. Smith, the Treasury Department’s acting sanctions chief, said in a statement.

    “We will continue to actively apply all available tools, including financial sanctions, to address this behavior,” Smith said.

    The sanctions are the first against Iran in Donald Trump’s new presidency, reflecting his desire to take a tougher stance toward Tehran. Throughout his campaign, Trump accused the Obama administration of being weak on Iran and vowed to crack down if elected.

    In a tweet Friday morning, Trump said: “Iran is playing with fire — they don’t appreciate how ‘kind’ President Obama was to them. Not me.”

    None of the new sanctions appear to reverse the Obama administration’s suspension of sanctions as part of the 2015 nuclear deal.

    Nevertheless, the action will almost surely increase tensions with Iran.

    The Islamic republic has insisted that new sanctions violate the deal and that it has the right to conduct ballistic missile tests now that its nuclear program has been sharply curtailed. The U.S. and Western countries argue otherwise, noting that Tehran agreed to an eight-year extension of a ban on ballistic work in nuclear negotiations two years ago. That agreement was concluded in parallel, but separately to the nuclear accord.

    WATCH: Enforcing Iran sanctions still tangles Iranian-Americans in ‘spider’s web of laws’

    “This is fully consistent with the Obama administration’s commitment to Congress that the nuclear deal does not preclude the use of non-nuclear sanctions,” said Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which advocates for a hard-line U.S. position on Iran.

    The sanctions come after Trump and his aides issued cryptic warnings about potential retaliation against Tehran for testing a ballistic missile and for supporting Shiite rebels in Yemen known as the Houthis. The U.S. accuses Iran of arming and financing the rebels, who this week claimed a successful missile strike against a warship belonging to a Saudi-led coalition fighting to reinstall Yemen’s internationally recognized government. Iran denies arming the Houthis.

    “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice,” Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, said earlier this week. Trump then backed up that statement in a tweet.

    The Associated Press’ Matthew Lee also wrote this report

    The post U.S. hits 13 people, dozen companies in new Iran sanctions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    [Watch Video]

    President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration — which temporarily bans refugees and those traveling from seven Muslim-majority countries — misunderstands the overall threat facing the United States, national security experts say.

    The executive order suspends travel for citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. Refugees trying to enter the United States will be put on hold for 120 days; refugees traveling from Syria have been put on hold indefinitely.

    Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said the way the U.S. vets individuals coming directly from those seven countries — including years of background checks and interviews — is already strong.

    “Given that we have vetting, it’s really going after a red herring,” Leiter told the NewsHour.

    Between 1975 and 2015, individuals from these seven countries (either refugees or visa holders) have killed no Americans in terror attacks on U.S. soil, according to immigration expert Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato institute. In that same period, nobody from Libya or Syria has been convicted of plotting an attack in the U.S., according to Cato’s report.

    A larger issue arises, Leiter and others said, when citizens of Europe and other ally countries travel to those seven countries and then gain entry to the U.S. using the Visa Waiver Program. Trump’s executive action doesn’t address that threat, they said.

    Why the Visa Waiver Program matters

    Michael Leiter, former director of the United States National Counterterrorism Center, tells Judy Woodruff that President Trump's executive order may alienate counties against the U.S.

    Michael Leiter, former director of the United States National Counterterrorism Center, tells Judy Woodruff that President Trump’s executive order may alienate counties against the U.S.

    Trump’s order draws on the seven nations listed as countries “of concern” in an act Obama signed after the Paris attacks of November 2015. The goal was to better address travelers like some of the attackers in Paris, who were French and Belgian citizens, but traveled to Syria for training to carry out their attacks.

    “Our assessment was that the better place to look was Visa Waiver Program,” former Deputy Homeland Security Advisor on the National Security staff Amy Pope told the NewsHour.

    The Visa Waiver Program is an agreement between 38 countries and the United States, which allows “travel to the United States for business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days without a visa.”

    Pope, who recently left the NSC after four and a half years and was involved in Obama’s revision of the Visa Waiver Program in 2015 and early 2016, said the focus was on Europeans traveling to the designated countries.

    “Especially all the foreign terrorist fighters who were leaving European countries and returning to them,” she said.

    Obama’s action changed the visa waiver program by saying citizens of those ally countries who traveled to Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Sudan — and later Libya, Yemen, and Somalia — after March 2011 were not eligible for a visa waiver

    For instance, If a citizen of the United Kingdom traveled to Yemen, they would have go through a more intense visa review process, Leiter said.

    Missing the ‘greatest threat’

    A group of security experts testify during a 2015 hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The meeting was called  to explore how to strengthen the visa waiver program after the Paris attacks. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

    A group of security experts testify during a 2015 hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The meeting was called to explore how to strengthen the visa waiver program after the Paris attacks. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.


    In the days since Trump signed the order, the White House has pointed to Obama’s revision of the visa waiver program, and a six-month freeze on visas for Iraqi refugees in 2011, as precedent for restricting who is allowed into the country.

    In fact, Trump’s order does not name the seven countries subject to the travel ban. It only mentions Syria by name, and then references the 2015 law Obama signed that lists the other six nations.

    “It’s seven countries previously identified by the Obama administration where, frankly, we don’t get the information that we need for people coming into this country,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday in a White House news conference.

    WATCH: Sean Spicer address questions about immigration ban rollout

    But it’s more complicated than that, Leiter says, a point explored in depth in this post from Politifact.

    The key difference, Leiter and others say, is that Trump’s order bans people from the list of seven countries, while Obama’s action just directed them to a more aggressive vetting process.

    Another nuance: Trump’s order addresses citizens from those countries, while Obama’s action dealt with those who had visited the list of seven countries in recent years, Leiter said.

    “So I think there’s some correlation, but it’s really using it for a very, very different purpose. And it misses, again, what the greatest threat was, which is people coming from visa waiver countries where the reviews are much less,” he added.

    Those kinds of European travelers pose the most immediate terror threat to the United States, said Matthew Olsen, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center from 2011 to 2014.

    “Because of the ease of traveling to the U.S., that is the biggest vulnerability,” Olsen told the NewsHour.

    Pope said the consensus among the national security and counterterrorism community is that Trump’s order does more harm than good.

    “I don’t know anybody who thinks this is a good use of our resources or will make us safer,” she said.

    Pope also said that there are opportunities to improve national security, but that requires looking more toward Europe. She cited working with visa waiver partners, enhancing European borders controls, improving communication channels with European allies and implementing systems to report lost and stolen passports as more realistic goals.

    The U.S. doesn’t have Europe’s migrant problem
    Olsen also thinks drawing a line between Europe’s migrant dilemma and U.S. refugee screening is a false comparison, because refugees are the most thoroughly vetted group that arrive to the U.S.

    “We ought to be putting our resources and efforts to where the threat is and it ought to be fact based.”

    The White House has backed off on part of the executive order that required green card holders from all seven countries to be granted a waiver before they could enter the U.S. Spicer announced Wednesday that waiver was no longer needed.

    Individuals from the seven countries who do not have green cards will still be barred from the U.S. for at least 120 days. All travelers from Syria, including refugees, are banned indefinitely from entering the United States.

    Olsen said refugees – who go through a rigid and extensive security evaluation — aren’t the biggest threat, Olsen said. Where Trump’s administration is allocating resources is at a disconnect from where the true danger is, he said.

    “I’ve always thought this focus on refugees as a source of people engaged in terrorist activities is misplaced in the U.S.,” he said. “We ought to be putting our resources and efforts to where the threat is and it ought to be fact based.”

    The post These are the threats experts say Trump’s immigration ban missed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Men pray during a protest by ethinic Yemenis and supporters over President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Yemen on February 2, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    Men pray during a protest by ethinic Yemenis and supporters over President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Yemen on February 2, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    Editor’s note: In his first week in office, President Donald Trump showed he intends to follow through on his immigration promises. A major focus of his campaign was on removing immigrants who, he said, were increasing crime in American communities.

    In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump named victims who were reportedly killed by undocumented immigrants and said:

    “They are being released by the tens of thousands into our communities with no regard for the impact on public safety or resources…We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities.”

    Now as president, he has signed executive orders that restrict entry of immigrants from seven countries into the U.S. and authorize the construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. He also signed an order to prioritize the removal of “criminal aliens” and withhold federal funding from “sanctuary cities.”

    But, what does research say about how immigration impacts crime in U.S. communities? We turned to our experts for answers.

    Across 200 metropolitan areas

    Robert Adelman, University at Buffalo, and Lesley Reid, University of Alabama

    Research has shown virtually no support for the enduring assumption that increases in immigration are associated with increases in crime.

    Immigration-crime research over the past 20 years has widely corroborated the conclusions of a number of early 20th-century presidential commissions that found no backing for the immigration-crime connection. Although there are always individual exceptions, the literature demonstrates that immigrants commit fewer crimes, on average, than native-born Americans.

    Also, large cities with substantial immigrant populations have lower crime rates, on average, than those with minimal immigrant populations.

    In a paper published this year in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, we, along with our colleagues Gail Markle, Saskia Weiss and Charles Jaret, investigated the immigration-crime relationship.

    We analyzed census data spanning four decades from 1970 to 2010 for 200 randomly selected metropolitan areas, which include center cities and surrounding suburbs. Examining data over time allowed us to assess whether the relationship between immigration and crime changed with the broader U.S. economy and the origin and number of immigrants.

    The most striking finding from our research is that for murder, robbery, burglary and larceny, as immigration increased, crime decreased, on average, in American metropolitan areas. The only crime that immigration had no impact on was aggravated assault. These associations are strong and stable evidence that immigration does not cause crime to increase in U.S. metropolitan areas, and may even help reduce it.

    There are a number of ideas among scholars that explain why more immigration leads to less crime. The most common explanation is that immigration reduces levels of crime by revitalizing urban neighborhoods, creating vibrant communities and generating economic growth.

    Across 20 years of data

    Charis E. Kubrin, University of California, Irvine, and Graham Ousey, College of William and Mary

    For the last decade, we have been studying how immigration to an area impacts crime.

    Across our studies, one finding remains clear: Cities and neighborhoods with greater concentrations of immigrants have lower rates of crime and violence, all else being equal.

    Our research also points to the importance of city context for understanding the immigration-crime relationship. In one study, for example, we found that cities with historically high immigration levels are especially likely to enjoy reduced crime rates as a result of their immigrant populations.

    Findings from our most recent study, forthcoming in the inaugural issue of The Annual Review of Criminology, only strengthen these conclusions.

    We conducted a meta-analysis, meaning we systematically evaluated available research on the immigration-crime relationship in neighborhoods, cities and metropolitan areas across the U.S. We examined findings from more than 50 studies published between 1994 and 2014, including studies conducted by our copanelists, Adelman and Reid.

    Our analysis of the literature reveals that immigration has a weak crime-suppressing effect. In other words, more immigration equals less crime.

    There were some individual studies that found that with an increase in immigration, there was an increase in crime. However, there were 2.5 times as many findings that showed immigration was actually correlated with less crime. And, the most common finding was that immigration had no impact on crime.

    The upshot? We find no evidence to indicate that immigration leads to more crime and it may, in fact, suppress it.

    The Conversation

    Charis Kubrin is professor of criminology, law and society at University of California, Irvine; Graham C. Ousey is professor and chair of sociology at College of William & Mary; Lesley Reid is professor and department chair of criminology and criminal justice at University of Alabama; Robert Adelman is associate professor of sociology, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

    The post Fact check: Immigration doesn’t bring crime into U.S., data say appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    French police secure the area Feb. 3 near the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, France after a French soldier shot and wounded a man armed with a machete as he tried to enter the Paris Louvre museum. Photo by REUTERS/Christian Hartmann.

    French police secure the area Feb. 3 near the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, France after a French soldier shot and wounded a man armed with a machete as he tried to enter the Paris Louvre museum. Photo by REUTERS/Christian Hartmann.

    French police launched a terror investigation Friday after a man tried to attack soldiers on patrol outside the Louvre Museum in Paris.

    French prosecutor Francois Molins said the attacker was a 29-year-old Egyptian man who was a resident of the United Arab Emirates and arrived in Paris in late January after obtaining a tourist visa. Authorities have yet to officially identify the suspect.

    Officials say a man carrying two bags tried to enter an underground shopping mall near the Louvre Museum around 10 a.m. Friday. Guards stopped the man, who then rushed at the soldiers wielding a machete and shouting “God is great” in Arabic.

    Paris Police Chief Michel Cadot told reporters that one of the soldiers stationed outside the museum fired five bullets, wounding the man, whom Cadot said “represented a direct threat.”

    One of the soldiers sustained a minor scalp injury as a result of the attack.

    From an EU summit in Malta, French President Francois Hollande said there was “no doubt” the attack was terrorist in nature. He said that the situation is now “totally under control,” but added that the threat to France remains.

    France has been under a state of emergency since the Paris terror attacks in November 2015, which left 130 people dead.

    READ MORE: A visit to Paris one year after devastating terror attacks

    There have been a number of attacks in the country since then, including one by a man who killed 86 and wounded more than 400 people last year when he rammed a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice.

    French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the anti-terrorism section of the Paris judicial police and the General Directorate for Internal Security are investigating Friday’s incident.

    Brandet said tourists who were inside the museum were held in safe areas before they were allowed to leave.

    The attacker has been hospitalized with life-threatening conditions and is expected to be interrogated.

    Authorities found spray paint cans in his bags, but no explosives. Molins said authorities have searched a Paris apartment the suspect rented and are investigating the motives behind his actions.

    Luc Poignant, a police union official, said police had conducted a raid in Paris near Champs-Elysees Avenue.

    Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo praised the actions of the soldiers, who are part of the “Sentinel Operation,” an anti-terror security operation instituted after the 2015 terror attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

    “I would like to pay tribute the extreme reactivity and efficiency of police forces and military forces of the ‘operation Sentinelle,’” said Hidalgo, who also thanked the injured soldier, saying his actions likely prevented a future attack.

    The post Louvre Museum attacker in life-threatening condition, French prosecutor says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at a press conference Jan. 26 during the 2017 GOP Retreat in Philadelphia. GOP leadership has said repealing the ACA is a priority, though what might replace it isn't clear.  Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

    Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at a press conference Jan. 26 during the 2017 GOP Retreat in Philadelphia. GOP leadership has said repealing the ACA is a priority, though what might replace it isn’t clear. Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images


    Through years of acrimony over Obamacare coverage for the poor and other individuals lacking health policies, one kind of insurance has remained steady, widespread and relatively affordable.

    Employer-sponsored medical plans still cover more Americans than any other type, typically with greater benefits and lower out-of-pocket expense. Recent cost increases for job-based coverage have been a tiny fraction of those for Obamacare plans for individuals.

    Now, as President Donald Trump promises a replacement for the Affordable Care Act that will provide “insurance for everybody,” employers worry Republican attempts to redo other parts of the insurance market could harm their much larger one.

    “We’re deeply embedded” in the health law, said Neil Trautwein, vice president of health care policy for the National Retail Federation, a trade group. “Pick your analogy — it’s like being tied to the railroad tracks or having a bomb strapped across your chest. It’s tough to disarm these things.”

    Business dislikes many parts of the ACA, including its substantial paperwork, the mandate to offer coverage and the “Cadillac tax” on high-benefit plans that takes effect in 2020. But large companies in particular — those that have always offered job-based insurance — say a poorly thought-out replacement might turn out to be worse for them and their workers.

    “Whatever the Republicans are going to do, they’ve got to make it look as different from the ACA as they can” for political reasons, said Edward Fensholt, a senior benefits lawyer at Lockton Companies, a large broker. “There are some pieces that aren’t broken, and the more you … make something different from the ACA, the more you risk screwing up things that look OK.”

    Any new health law needs substantial revenue to replace the Cadillac tax as well as ACA taxes on health insurers, medical devices and high-income households that paid for care expansion — assuming those measures are repealed. Otherwise, it risks stranding the millions getting government-subsidized Obamacare coverage.

    One tempting solution for Republicans, big business worries, is to limit the exemption from income and payroll taxes that job-based coverage has enjoyed for decades. Taxing workers and employers for health benefits could raise billions to pay for a replacement plan.

    Such a measure has occasionally been floated by Republicans since the days of President Ronald Reagan, often under the argument of leveling the field between employer plans and other coverage that the tax code treats far less generously.

    READ MORE: Congress takes first step toward dismantling the Affordable Care Act

    Republicans are far from consensus on what a replacement should look like.

    But capping the tax exclusion for employer plans is in replacement legislation introduced by Rep. Tom Price, the Georgia Republican poised to become secretary of Health and Human Services. It’s also in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Better Way plan. A third proposal would keep the ACA taxes.

    Depending on how it’s structured, limiting the employer-plan loophole could add hundreds of dollars to workers’ tax bills as a portion of their expensive health insurance is counted as taxable income.

    “I can’t understand why nobody has asked the president about this,” said James Gelfand, the top health policy official at ERIC, a lobbying group of very large employers focused on benefits and pay. Taxing employer insurance to subsidize non-employer insurance, he said, “is a 100 percent redistribution of wealth.”

    The argument is a self-interested one for big business. A tax on health benefits would be a pay cut for its workers. Corporate payroll taxes would also rise if the value of worker health benefits counted toward required employer contributions to Social Security and Medicare.

    But independent experts share their concern.

    Taxing medical benefits could spur employers to erode or drop them and make workers less likely to accept them, said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president with the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

    More concerning, he said, are proposals such as Price’s that could give workers on company plans the option to buy outside individual coverage using tax credits. While offering workers more choice — a Republican goal — it would also erode the ACA’s “firewall” protecting employer coverage from market turbulence.

    “There could be much more movement from employer coverage to individual plans, especially among younger and healthier workers,” Levitt said.

    That could leave company plans with the same “adverse selection” problem experienced by many individual plans sold via Obamacare’s online marketplaces — too high a portion of older, sicker, more expensive members, Fensholt said.

    The federal government forms for applying for health coverage are seen at a rally held by supporters of the Affordable Care Act. There is enormous interest and concern among benefits executives in what a Republican plan to replace the ACA might look like. Photo by  REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman.

    The federal government forms for applying for health coverage are seen at a rally held by supporters of the Affordable Care Act. There is enormous interest and concern among benefits executives in what a Republican plan to replace the ACA might look like. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman.

    “What the administration and Congress must do immediately is stabilize the individual insurance marketplace and not destabilize the employer marketplace,” said James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, which advocates for large companies.

    READ MORE: How Trump’s executive order impacts future of the Affordable Care Act

    Job-based coverage has remained stable even as annual premium increases reached double-digit percentages and enrollments missed expectations for individual plans, pressuring the market despite the support of government subsidies.

    Employer health plans cover some 150 million people, while last year individual plans covered about 20 million, according to Mark Farrah Associates, a data firm. That included some 10 million who bought coverage through the health law’s subsidized exchanges.

    The portion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-sponsored plans has stayed almost unchanged since the health law was passed.

    Recent premium increases for job-based plans have been below 5 percent on average, less than the historical trend and far lower on average than premium hikes for individual insurance. Employers still pay most of the premiums.

    One way companies have contained premiums is by shifting to high-deductible plans in which the insurance covers little until workers have incurred thousands in medical bills. Even so, benefits in employer plans are generally richer than those in the average individual plan, experts say.

    In the contentious political climate, executives at individual companies were reluctant to be interviewed for this story. More than a half dozen employers declined to comment.

    But there is enormous interest and concern among benefits executives in what a Republican plan might look like. A post-election session on repeal and replacement drew the biggest webinar audience ever for the National Business Group on Health, said Steve Wojcik, the advocacy and research group’s vice president of public policy.

    If the audience was anything like the experts at the American Staffing Association, it had some catching up to do.

    “We ignored lots of the talk of the Republicans about repeal,” said Edward Lenz, senior counsel at the group, which advocates for temp and recruiting firms. “First of all there was no chance of that happening with the president [Obama] in the White House. And frankly no one here counted on President Trump’s victory.”

    This story was published by Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website.

    The post Employers fret job-based coverage is vulnerable to fallout from GOP health overhaul appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The federal government forms for applying for health coverage are seen at a rally held by supporters of the Affordable Care Act in Jackson, Mississippi, in 2013. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

    The federal government forms for applying for health coverage are seen at a rally held by supporters of the Affordable Care Act in Jackson, Mississippi, in 2013. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Republicans are increasingly talking about repairing President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, a softer tone that comes as their march to fulfill a keystone campaign promise encounters disunity, drooping momentum and uneasy voters.

    GOP lawmakers insist they haven’t abandoned their goal of repeal, though they face lingering disputes about whether that should come before, after or simultaneously with a replacement effort.

    Republicans triumphantly shoved a budget through Congress three weeks ago that gave committees until Jan. 27 to write bills dismantling the law and substituting a Republican plan. Everyone knew that deadline meant little, but now leaders are talking about moving initial legislation by early spring.

    And as the party struggles to translate its long-time political mantra into legislation that can pass Congress, some Republicans are using gentler language.

    “It’s repairing the damage Obamacare has caused. It’s more accurate” than repeal and replace, said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who chairs the Senate health committee. He noted that President Donald Trump and many Republicans like popular provisions like requiring family policies to cover children up to age 26 and said, “We’re not repealing all of Obamacare.”

    Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Republicans are “laying the foundation to rebuild America’s health care markets as we dismantle Obamacare.”

    The refined phraseology is endorsed by Frank Luntz, the longtime GOP rhetoric guru. He credited Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., with the idea, saying by email, “He was right. Americans want the ACA repealed and repaired,” using the Affordable Care Act’s acronym.

    The shifting language comes with battles raging over Trump’s Supreme Court and Cabinet nominees. That and controversies surrounding his temporary refugee ban have sapped energy from the health care drive.

    It also comes with polls spotlighting GOP risks. A recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found 53 percent want to keep Obama’s law in some form, and 56 percent concerned that repeal means many will lose insurance.

    Vice President Mike Pence stood by the tougher sounding “repeal and replace” language on FOX News Channel’s “Hannity” Thursday, saying “We are absolutely committed” to doing both simultaneously.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., says Republicans want to “rescue” the health system and Thursday embraced all of the competing phraseology.

    “The best way to repair a health care system is to repeal and replace Obamacare,” he said.

    Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act was a top priority for President Donald Trump during his campaign. But there are hurdles — both economic and in the expectations of the millions who are now covered. Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports from Kentucky, a region that’s seen one of the biggest drops of the uninsured rate in the country due to Obamacare.

    Talk of repair dismays other Republicans, including hard-line conservatives. They say the GOP pledge since Democrats enacted the 2010 law was to repeal it, later amended to “repeal and replace.”

    “You’ve got to repeal the law that’s the problem. That’s what we told the voters we were going to do,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

    Jordan cites problems that have accompanied the statute, including rising premiums and deductibles and diminished choices in some individual insurance markets. He says health care would improve if Obama’s law vanishes.

    “If you start from that premise, repair shouldn’t be your mindset,” Jordan said.

    Democrats say the GOP’s evolving language signals retreat. They say Republicans will threaten health care’s availability and raise rates, angering the 20 million people who gained insurance under the law and tens of millions of others who benefit from the statute’s coverage requirements.

    “It puts the burden on them to come up with the so-called repairs,” said No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois. “What a departure from repeal it, walk away from it and America will be a better place.”

    Republicans continue shaping proposals to void Obama’s statute. Potential targets include the law’s requirement that people without coverage from work buy policies, the subsidies many of them receive and the tax increases on higher-income people and the health industry.

    Some Republicans want to reshape and cut Medicaid, which provides health coverage to lower-earning people, but others represent states that expanded it under Obama’s statute. Most want language blocking federal payments to Planned Parenthood but some don’t, and some would let states choose to keep Obama’s law intact.

    There are also disputes over how to provide money so people don’t abruptly lose coverage and to entice insurance companies fearing losses to keep selling policies.

    With insurers crafting their 2018 rates over the coming two months, the industry’s leading trade group expressed its jitters to Congress this week. Marilyn Tavenner, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, told Alexander’s committee that insurers must know soon whether lawmakers will continue federal payments that let companies reduce out-of-pocket costs for many lower-earning customers.

    Losing those subsidies “would further deteriorate an already unstable market and hurt the millions of consumers who depend on these programs,” she warned.

    At a hearing Thursday before a House health subcommittee, Republicans revealed four drafts of potential bills. One would let insurers charge older customers higher rates. Another would replace the law’s unpopular individual mandate with a requirement that people maintain “continuous” coverage if they want to avoid more expensive policies.

    AP Congressional Correspondent Erica Werner contributed to this report.

    WATCH: The economics and potential emotional cost of repealing Obamacare

    The post GOP mulls ‘repairing’ Obamacare law it vowed to repeal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    BALTIMORE, Md. — Most people stop when they see Mansoor Shams on the street nowadays.

    A former U.S. Marine who served from 2000 to 2004, Shams has been traveling around the country with a sign that reads, “I’m a Muslim and a U.S. Marine, Ask Me Anything.”

    “It’s very hard to predict what someone is going to ask,” Shams said recently, as he stood with his sign in downtown Baltimore near the Inner Harbor. Being open to questions from strangers is “not the easiest thing in the world to do. There are times you feel like a target.”

    Yet Shams believes that one-on-one dialogue with other Americans about his faith is crucial to combating Islamophobia. “Never would I have thought that we would have reached a state in our nation that we would be troubled, or confused, or frustrated, or divisive when it came to people who follow my faith,” he said.

    “Some of the questions that I get as I’m out and about relate to Sharia law. That’s a very big one,” said Shams. “A lot of people do not know that it literally means a path to life-giving water. It’s sort of like my ‘10 Commandments,’ the moral code that I follow as an individual.”

    He said he also gets many questions on homosexuality, women’s rights, why Muslim women cover themselves and even why he has a beard.

    On the street, several people stopped to talk to him about President Trump’s recent executive order that placed travel restrictions on citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations.

    “There’s a lot of misconceptions out there, and I want to remove those myths,” Shams said. “The Muslim world is comprised of 1.6 billion-plus people.”

    Shams recently traveled to Houston, Denver, Portland, Ore., and Seattle. He says that his whole goal is simply to have conversations with as many people as possible.

    “I sincerely believe that if I influence one person’s life that I’ve made a difference,” Shams said.  “We all have a circle of people that we interact with everyday and if I can influence one person, there’s a trickle effect. They just might change someone else as well.”

    He plans on continuing his campaign in the coming weeks with visits to New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

    Shams urges people with questions to visit his website and to email him at mansoor@muslimmarine.org.

    The post Ask him anything: This Muslim Marine wants to bust myths about his faith appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Up to 60,000 foreigners from seven majority-Muslim countries had their visas canceled after President Donald Trump’s executive order blocked them from traveling to the U.S., the State Department said Friday.

    That figure contradicts a Justice Department lawyer’s statement Friday during a court hearing in Virginia about the ban. The lawyer in that case said that about 100,000 visas had been revoked.

    The State Department clarified that the higher figure includes diplomatic and other visas that were actually exempted from the travel ban, as well as expired visas.

    Trump’s order, issued last Friday, temporarily bans travel for people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. It also temporarily halts the U.S. refugee program.

    The hearing was focused on Virginia’s efforts to join a legal challenge from legal permanent residents. Erez Reuveni, a lawyer with the Justice Department’s Office of Immigration Litigation, urged U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema to keep the lawsuit focused only on lawful permanent residents, who were the subject of the initial lawsuit. Virginia sought to intervene in the case, and expand the case to include other people traveling to the U.S. on visas.

    Brinkema asked Reuveni how many people were affected by the executive order. He said the number of cases involving lawful permanent residents is a very small. But including all visas covered by the order, he said, “over 100,000 visas have been revoked.” He did not provide details.

    Lawsuits have challenged President Donald Trump’s executive order that temporarily prohibits immigrants and visitors from seven countries. Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University and Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general under President Obama, join Miles O’Brien to discuss whether Trump’s policy violates the law or Constitution.

    Will Cocks, a spokesman for the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, clarified the figure after the court hearing.

    “Fewer than 60,000 individuals’ visas were provisionally revoked to comply with the executive order,” Cocks said. “We recognize that those individuals are temporarily inconvenienced while we conduct our review under the executive order. To put that number in context, we issued over 11 million immigrant and nonimmigrant visas in fiscal year 2015. As always, national security is our top priority when issuing visas.”

    Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said after the hearing that “there is no legal justification to cancel all these visas.”

    Associated Press reporters Matthew Barakat in Alexandria, Virginia, and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post State Dept: Fewer than 60,000 visas canceled by Trump order appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee confirmation hearing to be next Secretary of Education on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee confirmation hearing to be next Secretary of Education on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Betsy DeVos moved closer toward confirmation as education secretary Friday after clearing a major hurdle in the Senate, even as Democrats and labor unions fervently sought another Republican vote against her.

    Tensions flew on the Senate floor during an early-morning session, with a senior Republican saying DeVos will make an “excellent” secretary and a top Democrat calling her “one of the worst nominees.” Republicans overpowered Democrats, voting 52-48 to cut off debate on the nomination, setting the stage for a final vote on Tuesday.

    DeVos, a billionaire Republican donor, has faced fierce criticism from labor unions for her promotion of school choice. Democrats and teachers’ organizations have accused her of seeking to dismantle public education and divert taxpayer money to charter schools and private school vouchers.

    Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have said they would vote against her nomination, and others are being bombarded by phone calls and letters from parents and teachers across the country. If all Democrats vote against her and no other Republicans dissent, Vice President Mike Pence would have to break a 50-50 tie to gain DeVos’ confirmation.

    Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, praised DeVos’s work in reforming the school system through charter schools.

    “Teachers have more freedom and parents have more choices, they are public schools and Betsy Devos is in the forefront of helping create that opportunity for public education,” Alexander said shortly after Friday’s vote limiting debate. He said DeVos will seek to diminish federal control over education and give more power to states and locales on such issues as academic standards, teacher evaluations and vouchers.

    “We will be swapping a national school board for what she believes in, which is a local school board,” said Alexander, who served as education secretary under President George H.W. Bush.

    But Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the senior Democrat on the committee, said she strongly opposes DeVos because of her tangled finances and potential conflicts of interest, her lack of experience in public schools and knowledge of basic education issues. Murray complained that the confirmation hearing was rushed and that DeVos didn’t answer all the questions from Democrats.

    Even if she is confirmed in what some experts say is the most divisive nomination battle in the department’s history, DeVos is off to an uneasy start.

    “Betsy DeVos is committed to privatizing public schools, and diverting public funds into private taxpayer-funded vouchers that would leave far too many students behind,” Murray said.

    In addition to the statements of opposition by the two Republican senators, billionaire philanthropist and public education backer Eli Broad also has come out against her.

    American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said that Republican senators are under pressure to oppose DeVos.

    “This grassroots outcry crosses party and geographic lines,” Weingarten said. “If the DeVos vote was based on the merits, including what constituents are telling their senators, rather than senators being scared of President Trump, DeVos would not be confirmed.”

    DeVos, 59, is the wife of Dick DeVos, heir to the Amway marketing fortune. She has spent more than two decades advocating for charter schools in her home state of Michigan and elsewhere around the country. Her support of anti-LGBT organizations and her advocacy for conservative religious values have also caused concerns that she will be a weak advocate for the LGBT community and other minorities.

    Even if she is confirmed in what some experts say is the most divisive nomination battle in the department’s history, DeVos is off to an uneasy start.

    “It’s definitely been contentious in an unprecedented way,” said Elizabeth Mann, an education policy fellow at Brookings. “Not having a majority vote when her party controls the Senate and when a member of her party is the White House does not send a signal bipartisan support of her agenda.”

    Patrick McGuinn, a professor of political science and education at Drew University said that while DeVos will emerge as “somewhat damaged goods” from the nomination process, that is unlikely to derail her work going forward.

    “There is not as much need for the Secretary DeVos to seek compromise across the aisle,” McGuinn said. “Where she may be starting under controversial conditions, the fact remains that Democrats will have a very difficult time blocking her agenda and actions as education secretary.”

    WATCH: With DeVos pick, school choice is likely Trump education priority

    The post DeVos moves closer to confirmation as education secretary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Credit: Cassidy DuHon photography

    Politics & Prose. Credit: Politics & Prose

    It’s been an eventful, chaotic few weeks in politics.  

    How best to understand all the changes going on? At the arts desk, we often turn to books for insight and reflection. So this week, we went to our local independent bookseller, Politics and Prose, for their thoughts on what to read right now. Here are eight books — both old and new — recommended by the P&P staff, who chose to focus on the themes of democracy and the power of the presidency, and on the genres of dystopian and satirical fiction. In their words:

    The Plot Against America, Vintage Books

    The Plot Against America, Vintage Books

    1. “The Plot Against America” – Philip Roth

    In this seminal novel, Philip Roth plausibly dismantles the assumption that American democracy is too powerful to be undermined by any one individual.  It’s a disturbing alternative history that begins with Franklin Roosevelt losing the 1940 election to the more authoritarian Charles Lindbergh. The narrative follows a Jewish family in Newark, warily observing that their president is more willing to cooperate with Hitler than condemn him, while anti-Semitism underlies a new brand of folksy patriotism. In a chilling demonstration of what the “tyranny of the majority” could entail, it becomes increasingly clear that “America First” (the name of Lindbergh’s party) doesn’t mean that all Americans come first.

    What We Do Now, Melville House Books

    What We Do Now, Melville House Books

    2. “What We Do Now” – Edited by Dennis Johnson and Valerie Merians

    Released in early 2017, publisher Melville House has assembled an array of contributors for this guide to “Standing up for your Values in Trump’s America,” as the subtitle puts it. Featuring practical and heartfelt guidance from ACLU head David Cole, NAACP president Cornell William Brooks, Gloria Steinem and Elizabeth Warren, to name just a few, these brief essays collectively chart a way ahead for progressives on issues ranging from climate change to LGBTQ rights.

    The Presidency in Black And White, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

    The Presidency in Black And White, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

    3. “The Presidency in Black and White – April Ryan

    Author April Ryan has been diligently reporting from the White House on behalf of Urban American Radio Networks for two decades, ensuring that issues of race and racism in the U.S. could not be sidelined. Bringing a rare minority perspective to the White House Press Corps, “The Presidency in Black and White” is a candid, personal reflection on her lived experience of the Clinton years to Obama’s second term, by way of the Bush administration.

    The Populist Explosion, Columbia Global Reports

    The Populist Explosion, Columbia Global Reports

    4. “The Populist Explosion” – John Judis

    If there’s a single message to take from Judis’ straightforward, insightful guide to our current reality, it’s that populism as a political force is here to stay, on the left as well as on the right. Written in a dispassionate tone and sticking with plain facts throughout, the former New Republic editor depicts a mood of widespread public anger and resentment toward the “establishment” in the U.S and across Europe.

    The Handmaid's Tale, Anchor Books

    The Handmaid’s Tale, Anchor Books

    5. “The Handmaid’s Tale” – Margaret Atwood

    Currently enjoying a resurgence ahead of an upcoming movie adaptation from Hulu, Margaret Atwood’s dystopic sci-fi classic was also a popular reference point on protesters’ handmade signs at the Women’s March. Some see parallels to today: a society traumatized by terror falls under the sway of a brutal regime that holds to allegedly Old-Testament Christian values. In Handmaid Offred’s world, women’s rights have been relinquished for the promise of law and order, and her role is simply asa vessel to produce a baby for a powerful husband and wife. Yet even within her bleak reality, acts of resistance bring a spark of hope to those trapped in a desperate situation.

    All The President's Men, Simon & Shuster

    All The President’s Men, Simon & Shuster

    6. “All the President’s Men” – Carl Bernstein & Bob Woodward

    This is the book that brought down a president and defined its era. An extraordinary work of investigative journalism from two Washington Post reporters, “All the President’s Men” laid bare the Watergate scandal in unprecedented detail more than 40 years ago, and described the journalistic process behind headlines that, at the time, were still causing shockwaves around the world. The role played by the whistleblower known as “Deep Throat” was revealed for the first time, giving this book all the urgency of a detective thriller. President Nixon resigned shortly after its publication, and “All the President’s Men” remains the definitive example of how a determined journalist can expose the secrets of even the most powerful.

    The Freelance Pallbearers, Dalkey Archive Press

    The Free-Lance Pallbearers, Dalkey Archive Press

    7. “The Free-Lance Pallbearers” – Ishmael Reed

    Famed satirist Ishmael Reed doesn’t pull any punches in his first novel. The eponymous kingdom of HARRY SAM is made up of a wild and contradictory jumble of black nationalists, white liberals, cops, beatniks, hippies… perhaps Reed’s trick is making a quasi-realistic depiction of mid-’60s America seem like such an outlandish proposal. The young African-American hero of the piece, Bukka Doopeyduk, must confront a chaotic society that simply doesn’t make sense. Meanwhile, for reasons never explained to the reader, HARRY SAM is both a tyrant and a grotesque used-car salesman who has been ruling his kingdom from the toilet for the past 30 years.

    Primary Colors, Random House

    Primary Colors, Random House

    8. “Primary Colors” – Anonymous (later revealed as Joe Klein)

    “Primary Colors” is ostensibly a work of fiction, but nobody was fooled when this barely disguised account of Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign — told from the perspective of an idealistic congressional aide — was published in 1996. Jack Stanton, a Southern governor, is charismatic and calculating and an outrageous flirt who’s willing to put aside personal values to take whatever stance necessary to win. This book caused quite a stir, and the identity of the author was the subject of frenzied speculation. After repeated denials, political columnist Joe Klein eventually owned up to writing a “novel” that wound up successfully (and hilariously) capturing the tone of the Clinton era.     

    The post 8 books on politics to read right now, from indie bookstore Politics & Prose appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Antitrust Subcommittee Mike Lee (R-UT) speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee Antitrust Subcommittee hearing on the proposed deal between AT&T and Time Warner in Washington, U.S., December 7, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTSV40X

    Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is working with House Republicans to reintroduce a religious freedom bill this year. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    Congressional Republicans are planning to reintroduce a bill aimed at protecting religious groups and individuals who oppose same-sex marriage.

    Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) are planning to reintroduce an “updated version” of the First Amendment Defense Act in the House and Senate, an aide to Lee said Friday.

    The bill, which was first proposed in 2015, would limit the federal government’s ability to punish individuals and organizations who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds. Supporters say the bill protects religious freedom, while critics have argued it opens the door for discrimination against same-sex couples.

    Lee’s spokesman, Conn Carroll, said the Utah Republican and Labrador did not have a timeline for when they plan to reintroduce the legislation, known as FADA.

    “We plan to reintroduce an updated version of the bill, but no date has been set yet,” Carroll said.

    Dan Popkey, Labrador’s spokesman, said his boss planned to introduce the bill “early this year.”

    The bill, as introduced in 2015, would block the federal government from taking punitive action, like issuing fines, to people and organizations who discriminate based on a “religious belief or moral conviction,” according to language from the bill introduced two years ago.

    That bill included provisions protecting people who believe that “sexual relations are properly reserved” for married couples consisting of a man and a woman.

    It’s not clear how Republicans plan to update that legislation, if at all.

    The measure got 172 Republicans co-sponsors in the House. The Senate bill drew 37 Republican co-sponsors, including Lee and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

    The proposal received a hearing in the House but not in the Senate, and died at the end of the congressional session last year. Supporters acknowledged the bill wouldn’t pass while President Barack Obama was in office.

    “Lee and Cruz have expressed hope that the bill will gain new momentum in the 115th Congress.”

    But Lee and Cruz have both expressed hope that the bill will gain new momentum in the 115th Congress. President Donald Trump endorsed the bill last September, raising the prospects that he would sign it into law if it reaches his desk.

    Yet despite Republican control of Congress and the White House, some conservatives said they didn’t think the bill would be a slam dunk.

    The uncertainty around same-sex marriage policy and LGBTQ rights under President Trump was underscored earlier this week, when the White House announced that it would enforce an executive order signed by President Obama that protects gay and transgender people working for federal contractors.

    “President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election,” the White House said in a statement. The statement noted that President Trump was “proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech.”

    When it comes to the religious freedom bill, Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the right-leaning Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies, said the bill goes further than other religious freedom laws that states, like Mississippi and Indiana have attempted to pass in recent years.

    “[FADA] tries to do a lot of stuff that has never been done anywhere,” Olson said. “It is very radical, and would startle and scare middle-of-the-road Republicans.”

    Olson argued that the law, as it was originally written, would protect people like Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who grabbed headlines in 2015 when she denied a marriage license to a same-sex couple. The bill also extended protection to pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions for unmarried women if they cite that “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”

    Because of those high-profile cases, some said parts of the legislation that would protect religious groups from losing federal funding and carrying out services that have nothing to do with marriage were overlooked.

    Critics have characterized FADA as “a bill that encourages or allows discrimination,” said Richard Garnett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame. But it also “allows religious institutions to continue participating in charitable public service,” Garnett added.

    Still, progressive groups that opposed the original are gearing up for a new fight. The proposal “would legalize state sanctioned discrimination,” the Human Rights Campaign wrote in a memo last December.

    The post Republicans plan to bring back religious freedom bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Construction workers are seen at a new building site in Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S. June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron - RTX2FCR7

    “[Wage growth] has been the unfinished work of this economic recovery,” said Hamrick. “It helps to explain the remaining level of dissatisfaction among Americans with the economy.” Photo by REUTERS/Gary Cameron

    The gains were better than expected, outpacing the 2016 average of 187,000 jobs a month. And with January marking the 76th month of straight job growth — the longest in U.S. history — it’s clear that the economy is continuing a trend of slow, steady growth.

    Our Solman Scale U7 — which in addition to the officially unemployed, includes part-time workers for economic reasons and anyone who wants a job, no matter the last time he or she looked — ticked up to 11.6 percent from 11.3 percent.

    READ MORE: The economy is steadily improving, but wages aren’t. Could unions be the answer?

    The increase our Solman Scale U7 and in the unemployment rate was the result of more people entering the labor force, looking for work. The only issue is that they haven’t all found work yet, notes economist Elise Gould of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.

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

    Overall, January’s jobs report was solid and exhibited some recognizable characteristics.

    “We’re seeing familiar themes — steady job creation and the ‘Is that all there is?’ question when it comes to workers’ pay,” said Mark Hamrick, Bankrate’s senior economic analyst.

    WAGES

    After a .06 cent increase in December, wages increased a mere .03 cents in January.

    “The very small wage increase was a surprise, especially because the minimum wage increases were expected to boost average hourly earnings,” said economist Jed Kolko of Indeed.com, referring to the minimum wage increases that went into effect in 2017 in 19 states across the nation.

    Wage growth “has been the unfinished work of this economic recovery,” said Hamrick. “It helps to explain the remaining level of dissatisfaction among Americans with the economy.”

    As we’ve discussed before, wages have been the puzzle of the U.S. economy, or as Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the conservative American Action Forum called it last month, the “Achilles heel of [Obama’s] tenure.”

    Economists generally expect wages to rise once the economy has hit full employment — that is, an unemployment rate at or below 5 percent. With a lower unemployment rate, workers become harder to come by, and employers have to offer more money to retain and attract talent. That’s the idea at least, but we’re not seeing that happen today.

    Over the year, average hourly earnings rose by a mere 2.5 percent. What would economists like to see? Growth between 3.5 and 4 percent, said Hamrick.

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

    Wage growth “has been the unfinished work of this economic recovery,” said Hamrick. “It helps to explain the remaining level of dissatisfaction among Americans with the economy.”

    While it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on with average hourly earnings, “it’s possible that there is more slack in the workforce than what is widely acknowledged,” said Hamrick. Pointing to the 584,000 people entering the labor force in January, Hamrick noted that there may be more people on the sidelines waiting to jump back into the labor force once they think their job prospects have improved.

    CONSTRUCTION

    The retail trade, financial activities and construction industries all saw increases in employment in January, with construction job gains catching the eye of many economists.

    The industry, which suffered major losses after the housing bubble burst, has been steadily recovering. And in January, construction jobs grew by 36,000 — nearly triple the amount from the previous month, said Hamrick.

    READ MORE: 4 economists evaluate Obama’s economic legacy

    Most of the increases have been in residential construction, said Kolko, noting that there has been an increase in home building.

    “The American dream of owning a single family home hasn’t been killed; it’s been delayed,” said Hamrick.

    At least, that’s what the construction industry hopes. We’ll see whether growth in the industry is sustainable.

    The post With steady job creation in January, slow wage growth still puzzles appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mansoor Shams served in the United States Marine Corps from 2000 to 2004. Recently, he has been traveling around the country with a simple sign that reads: “I’m a Muslim and a U.S. Marine. Ask anything.”

    NewsHour producer Mike Fritz joined him while he was on the streets of Baltimore to listen in to some of the conversations he was having.

    MANSOOR SHAMS, Former U.S. Marine: Do you know that I have to believe in Jesus Christ in order to be a Muslim? He’s a very special person to us.

    MAN: Oh, yes. But he’s more than a prophet.

    MANSOOR SHAMS: But that’s OK. That’s where we differ.

    My name is Mansoor Shams. I’m a former U.S. Marine. I was born in Pakistan, came to the United States at age 6. I’m now 34 years old.

    MAN: So, how are you Muslim and a Marine if they hate you?

    MANSOOR SHAMS: Because that’s what I am.

    MAN: It doesn’t make sense.

    MANSOOR SHAMS: How did I start this project?

    Well, it’s interesting, because never would I have thought that we would reach a state in our nation where we would be troubled or confused or frustrated or divisive when it came to people who followed my faith.

    The more conversations that we have, the better.

    Recently, I got to visit the cities of Houston, Denver, Portland, and Seattle. It’s always a new experience in general, because you don’t know how people are going to react, and how they are going to take it.

    MAN: ISIS, I thought they just chopped the heads off. They don’t chop your head off. They even have little children. I couldn’t even…

    MANSOOR SHAMS: They’re horrendous people. I agree with you.

    If ISIS caught me, they would put me — break me up into pieces.

    Some of the questions that I get as I’m out and about relate to Sharia law. That’s a very big one. So, they will say, do you believe in Sharia law as a United States Marine, as a Muslim? Of course, my answer is, yes, I do.

    But it’s not the way that you believe in it. It’s the way I believe in it.

    I tell them that it’s literally a path to life-giving water. It’s a moral code. It tells me not to commit adultery. It tells me not to fornicate. It tells me not to drink, not to gamble. This is all forms of Sharia law.

    A lot of people are scared of perhaps people who follow my belief system or even look like…

    MAN: I love Muslims. I love everybody, brother. I love you.

    MANSOOR SHAMS: Hey, man. Thanks, man. You motivate me, man.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MANSOOR SHAMS: I think Americans do not understand Islam.

    It’s been among — amongst America for 200 years. It’s always been there.

    MAN: And, see, that’s what he’s trying to protect us from is the radical Muslim, the ones that are intending to come over here and kill us.

    MANSOOR SHAMS: In the larger scheme of things, when you paint an entire religion or an entire nation, for that matter, with a broad brush, and anyone who is an immigrant who’s come to this country, ask them how hard it is to come to this country. OK?

    My feelings of Donald Trump, or President Trump, has been mixed. It’s helped me to see another America that I thought we had gone far past.

    However, I did take the time to write him a letter and to say that he could use me as a potential resource. I don’t know if he’s received it. It wasn’t a partisan letter. It wasn’t a negative letter. It wasn’t not a not-my-president letter, because not my president technically goes against my faith as well.

    The Koran teaches me to be loyal, not only loyal, but to obey people in authority above me. He is our president, and there’s no doubt about that.

    Everybody met a Muslim and a U.S. Marine?

    I feel that, at the end of the day, if we don’t fix these things, this is going to have a — create a larger problem for our country. The trajectory we’re headed on right now doesn’t seem like a very good one.

    We’re not that different.

    MAN: That’s right.

    MANSOOR SHAMS: No need to be scared.

    MAN: Right.

    MANSOOR SHAMS: You know?

    The post Why one Muslim Marine is inviting questions about his faith appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, James Baldwin was one of the nation’s most prominent authors, public speakers, social critics and civil rights activists.

    A new Oscar-nominated documentary opening today explores his life and legacy.

    Jeffrey Brown has our look. It’s part of our series Beyond the Red Carpet.

    And a warning: It contains offensive language.

    JAMES BALDWIN, Author/Civil Rights Activist: There are days — this is one of them — when you wonder what your role is in this country and what your future is in it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: His words never really went away, but the writer James Baldwin, speaking here on public television in 1963, feels as relevant as ever.

    JAMES BALDWIN: I’m terrified at the moral apathy, the death of the heart, which is happening in my country. These people have deluded themselves for so long, that they really don’t think I’m human.

    NARRATOR: “The story of the Negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: The clip is from a new documentary that draws a portrait of the artist, though not as a traditional film biography, and of the fractured and racially divided world he shone a searing light on.

    NARRATOR: “I was free only in battle, but never free to rest.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s called “I Am Not Your Negro.”

    RAOUL PECK, Director, “I Am Not Your Negro”: James Baldwin is probably, for me and for many other people, one of the most extraordinary authors in this country, black or white. And he is somebody who changed my life.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Director Raoul Peck is best known for documentaries and dramas about the Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba, and “Sometimes in April” about the Rwandan genocide.

    Born in Haiti and raised in the Congo, Peck says that, for him, James Baldwin was an early and abiding influence about how to see and encounter the world.

    RAOUL PECK: It gave, suddenly, an explanation to feelings that I had towards racism, toward opportunities, toward politics and justice and injustice, you know, a lot of things that, as a young man, that you have, but because there are not so many authors where you feel you are represented, or the same on cinema. There were not so many films where you saw your own narrative on the screen.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, that voice.

    RAOUL PECK: That voice, and to feel you belong.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Baldwin was born in Harlem in 1924 and spent his youth there. He later lived for years in France, where he felt he could live more freely as a black gay man.

    He became known for essays, such as “Notes of a Native Son” and “The Fire Next Time,” novels including “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “Giovanni’s Room,” and much more, including his role as a public commentator, debater and witness.

    JAMES BALDWIN: Again, like most white Americans I have now encountered, they have no — I’m sure they nothing whatever against Negroes. That’s really not the question.

    No, the question is really a kind of apathy and ignorance, which is a price we pay for segregation. That’s what segregation means, that you don’t know what’s happening on the other side of the world because you don’t want to know.

    NARRATOR: “I was in some way in those years, without entirely realizing it, the great black hope of the great white father.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: The film uses Baldwin’s own words and writings read by Samuel L. Jackson, particularly a short manuscript he never completed about three men he’d known, all of them assassinated before the age of 40, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Martin Luther King.

    As a film credit puts it, the film is, in a sense, written by James Baldwin.

    RAOUL PECK: So, my job is to find the book, and to recreate it, and which is then the film for me. That was, of course, the line and the storyline that I needed to construct that film.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That’s interesting. So, to make the film that he set out to do, but wasn’t able to finish.

    RAOUL PECK: Yes, exactly. Exactly.

    So, that’s why, as a filmmaker, I feel that I was just the messenger. I was just the person in charge to put it together, but he already wrote it. That’s why I was very proud to be able to put “directed by Raoul Peck, but written by James Baldwin,” because he wrote every single word in the film. I didn’t add anything. I deconstructed, but I didn’t — wrote it.

    JAMES BALDWIN: What black people have to do is try to find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place, because I’m not a nigger. I’m a man.

    But if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In his film, though, Peck has done what Baldwin, who died in 1987, could not: connect his time to ours through images of Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, and more.

    RAOUL PECK: When I started 10 years ago to work on this project, it was because I already felt that something was wrong. It was for us, you know, scary, because it was actually something we were working on.

    And now we have visual of that, images. And it made the film more urgent for us, but it didn’t really change the origin or the needs for this movie and the need to go back to Baldwin, because Baldwin gave us the fundamentals.

    NARRATOR: “Well, I am tired. I don’t know how it will come about. I know that, no matter how it comes about, it will be bloody. It will be hard. I still believe that we can do with this country something that has not been done before. We are misled here because we think of numbers. You don’t need numbers. You need passion. And this is proven by the history of the world.”

    RAOUL PECK: He was already a classic, and he wrote those things 40, 50 years ago.

    And watching the film, you think that he would have — he wrote that in the morning, the morning before watching the film, because those words are so accurate. They are so prescient, you know?

    And so it back-fold, that you can do it better.

    JEFFREY BROWN: “I Am Not Your Negro” will compete in the best documentary category at the Academy Awards on February 26.

    From Washington, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the PBS NewsHour.

    The post Oscar-nominated film brings the prophecy of James Baldwin into today’s world appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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