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

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    Uber CEO Travis Kalanick speaks to students during an interaction at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campus in Mumbai, India, January 19, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui - RTX231O2

    Uber CEO Travis Kalanick speaks to students during an interaction at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campus in Mumbai, India, January 19, 2016. Photo by Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Uber’s CEO quit President Donald Trump’s business council. Nordstrom stopped selling Ivanka Trump’s fashion. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Toyota, meanwhile, suffered through the discomfort of being on the receiving end of Trump Twitter tirades.

    The Trump era is a perilous new landscape for corporate America. Companies are feeling political pressure like never before, squeezed on one side by consumers who are boycotting products with any ties to the administration and on the other by the outspoken, social media-loving president.

    For most companies, the decision to get political used to be made after long, careful deliberations among a company’s leader, public relations team, lawyers and lobbyists. Now, in an increasingly divided America, companies may have no choice but to move quickly.

    “You have to understand your customers in real time because political ramifications are happening instantly,” said Matt Friedman, a crisis communications adviser based near Detroit who has worked with public and private companies. “Each business now has to look at where their customer fits into the political divide and how their company values align to what the president is doing on a day-to-day basis.”

    The predicament for companies was on display ahead of Trump’s first White House meeting Friday with his business forum, a group that includes General Motors CEO Mary Barra, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and a dozen others. The night before, Uber’s Travis Kalanick told his employees he’d decided to quit the council because his presence on it was being “misinterpreted” as an endorsement of the president.

    “I spent a lot of time thinking about this and mapping it to our values,” Kalanick told employees in an internal memo obtained by The Associated Press.

    Disney CEO Bob Iger didn’t attend either; instead he was at a company board meeting in California.

    A seat on a high-profile White House council, no matter the political party in power, has previously been a can’t-pass-up sign of prestige. It’s a direct way for a company to express opinions to the president – far less fraught than trying to gain access through lobbying or donating money.

    Trump said he intends to take advice from the council, which he said would meet regularly to discuss policies. Trump said he’d be seeking guidance on his plans to roll back the financial services legislation known as the Dodd-Frank bill from JP Morgan’s Dimon.

    “There’s nobody better to tell me about Dodd-Frank than Jamie,” he said Friday.

    But an audience with this president, at least at this stage, brings with it customer complications. No doubt weighing into Kalanick’s decision to give up that influence was the boycott the ride-sharing company, popular in urban, largely Democratic areas, had been experiencing all week.

    That campaign went viral on social media Saturday night when people perceived Uber as trying to break a taxi strike to and from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport that was in response to Trump’s executive order suspending the country’s refugee program. It didn’t let up even after Uber publicly condemned Trump’s executive order and contributed to relief groups.

    Shannon Coulter, one of the organizers of the “Grab Your Wallet” social media effort to encourage boycotts of companies tied to Trump, said she would only be satisfied when Kalanick resigned from the presidential forum, saying: “This is not a ‘seat at the table’ moment. This is a flip-the-table moment.”

    Grab Your Wallet claimed another victory Thursday night when Nordstrom announced it had stopped selling first daughter Ivanka Trump’s fashion line. The company cited the brand’s performance. The department store was one of Grab Your Wallet’s first targets. Neiman Marcus also appears to have stopped selling her jewelry.

    “Companies have been late to the game with realizing how much ire it can create to associate with a person like Donald,” Coulter said.

    While the anti-Trump boycotters cheered Nordstrom, angry Trump supporters deluged the company with angry messages on Twitter – some saying they were now prepared to begin their own boycott.

    READ MORE: Column: The rise and fall of the U.S. corporation

    Nordstrom spent the night responding to hundreds of them, with messages like: “We’re so sorry to disappoint you. It’s not a political decision for us.”

    Maine-based retailer L.L. Bean faced the flip side of that. Linda Bean, one of many family members involved in the company, gave money to a pro-Trump super PAC during the campaign, prompting Grab Your Wallet to call for a boycott, which in turn prompted Trump to weigh in with a bit of social-media marketing.

    “Thank you to Linda Bean of L.L. Bean for your great support and courage. People will support you even more now. Buy L.L. Bean,” Trump tweeted last month, a few weeks before taking office.

    When they make a move that could be perceived as a knock on the president, companies like Nordstrom must calculate not only the financial impact of angering Trump supporters but also the possibility that Trump himself could take notice – spiraling the crisis to another level.

    Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys Inc., said CEOs are especially vulnerable now because technology allows people to protest and vent their anger without organizing a march, or even leaving their home. Among those who can weigh in with a few finger taps: the leader of the free world.

    “The direct communication from the president of the United States, with attacks on specific brands and specific people, is not something we’ve ever seen before,” he said.

    Just how much this new, perilous environment for CEOs will actually affect business in the long term is difficult to know.

    Shares of Lockheed fell sharply after the president tweeted in December that the cost of its F-35 fighter jets was “out of control,” then fell again after he complained about the military contractor at a news conference the next month.

    The stock quickly recovered both times.

    Associated Press writers Bernard Condon in New York and Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post Boycotts, Trump’s tirades part of new business landscape appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    George Khallouf, who emigrated to the United States more than 40 years ago, favors a recent executive order issued by President Donald Trump, that bans Syrian refugees for an indeterminate amount of time. He is shown here at his home with a photo of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the background, along with a picture of Trump and American and Syrian flags. Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    George Khallouf, who emigrated to the United States more than 40 years ago, favors a recent executive order issued by President Donald Trump, that bans Syrian refugees for an indeterminate amount of time. He is shown here at his home with a photo of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the background, along with a picture of Trump, both of whom he supports, and American and Syrian flags. Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Allentown, Pennsylvania and the surrounding Lehigh County are home to one of the largest Syrian communities in the United States, with roots in the region dating back at least 100 years, and dozens flooding in more recently during Syria’s six-year civil war.

    President Donald Trump’s executive order last week banning refugees and immigrants from seven countries, including Syria, has ignited mixed feelings among some of the 4,200 Syrian residents who live in this area.

    During a recent interview in George Khallouf’s home in Allentown, his kitchen was adorned with a large photo of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a smaller image of Trump, with Syrian and U.S. flags draped on a wall. He immigrated to the United States from the city of Homs, Syria more than 40 years ago.

    Khallouf, who voted for Trump and describes himself as a “church man,” said he is afraid that the vetting system for those fleeing the war in his home country is not stringent enough to keep America safe. Yet Khallouf said he has not seen any signs of radicalism in the Allentown area.

    “They come with zero, they have nothing,” he said.  “But who knows what comes with them from ISIS?”

    Syrian refugees Mohamad Taleb and his 7-year-old son Obaida, moved to the U.S. in 2015.

    Syrian refugees Mohamad Taleb and his 7-year-old son Obaida, moved to the U.S. in 2015.

    Mohamad Taleb, a Syrian Muslim, moved to Allentown in 2015 as a refugee with his wife and four children. He said he spent three years in Jordan after fleeing his home city of Douma, north of Damascus.

    After more than a year awaiting a visa to the U.S., a process he said included heavy vetting by the U.S. authorities, he arrived in Allentown.

    “It’s such a rough thing to be in the middle of war and destruction and watch children dying in front of you,” Taleb said, in an interview with the NewsHour. “You just want to escape with your children. You’re more afraid for your children than you are for yourself.”

    Now settled, he began a job as a welder soon after he arrived in the country. His children are in school and he regularly attends English lessons with some of his family.

    The order, which was reversed on Friday in a Seattle federal court, has been chastised by organizations representing refugees and immigrants in Allentown along with the city’s Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

    “I think this has sparked a lot of fear in the community.” Pawlowski said on Thursday, also noting that the city has started an immigration office that includes pro bono legal services for immigrants of the city. “There’s a lot of confusion that’s out there.”

    Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski said the White House executive order blocking entry to Syrian refugees for at least 120 days has caused a lot of confusion. The mayor is setting up an office to handle residents' questions. Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski said the White House executive order blocking entry to Syrian refugees for at least 120 days has caused a lot of confusion. The mayor is setting up an office to handle residents’ questions. Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Rev. Twila Smith of Episcopal Church of the Mediator in Allentown, stands inside a center created for refugees of the city. In the background, about 25 refugees are taking English language classes, one of the many offerings at the center. "My sense from the refugees is that this has given them hope," she said of the center. Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Rev. Twila Smith of the Episcopal Church of the Mediator in Allentown, stands inside a center created for refugees of the city. In the background, about 25 refugees are taking English language classes, one of the many offerings at the center. “My sense from the refugees is that this has given them hope,” she said of the center. Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Despite the reversal, Taleb still worries about his sister who continues to live back in Syria and millions more who have fled the war-weary country.

    “I’m honestly very upset by it,” Taleb said of the president’s executive order. “People are trying to come over here to have a chance at a decent life, to live in a better country, to live well. He’s depriving people of that chance, and I wish he would reconsider and let people in again.”

    The Syrian Arab American Charity Association is an aid group providing support for immigrants, refugees and others in Allentown. The group helped the Talebs resettle in the city, where more than 4,200 Syrians live. The group's president, Ayoub Jarrouj, shown here with the Talebs, immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s. "If the ban is temporary, and if it is to check to see who's coming in, check the background, I am for it," said Jarrouj, who is Christian. "But to say ‘no more refugees, no more Muslim refugees,’ that's not fair. Because it's a fact that those Muslim refugees that came to Allentown, they are example citizen. And they are great people. They love this country. They are doing a great job, and they are respected and loved by their neighbors."

    The Syrian Arab American Charity Association is an aid group providing support for immigrants, refugees and others in Allentown. The group helped the Talebs resettle in the city, where more than 4.200 Syrians live. The group’s president, Ayoub Jarrouj, shown here with Mohamad Taleb and his 7-year-old son Obaida , immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s. “If the ban is temporary, and if it is to check to see who’s coming in, check the background, I am for it,” said Jarrouj, who is Christian. “But to say ‘no more refugees, no more Muslim refugees,’ that’s not fair. Because it’s a fact that those Muslim refugees that came to Allentown, they are example citizen. And they are great people. They love this country. They are doing a great job, and they are respected and loved by their neighbors.”

    Born in Syria, Munzer Haddad, who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, and Aziz Wehbey, who came in the 1990s say they are in favor of President Trump's ban. They are shown here inside an Allentown restaurant. A picture of their village hanging on the wall in the background. Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Born in Syria, Munzer Haddad, who emigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, and Aziz Wehbey, who came in the 1990s say they are in favor of President Trump’s ban because they worry about national security. They are shown here inside an Allentown restaurant. A picture of their village is hanging on the wall in the background. Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Syrian refugee Mohamad Taleb, who moved to the U.S. in August 2015 with his wife and three children, helps organize boxes of food for more than 170 families at the Syrian Arab American Charity Association, a non-profit serving those in need. Micheal D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Syrian refugee Mohamad Taleb, who moved to the U.S. with his wife and four children as refugees, helps organize boxes of food for more than 170 families at the Syrian Arab American Charity Association, a non-profit serving those in need. Micheal D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    The post In Pennsylvania, Syrians react to Trump’s immigration ban 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, widely referred to as "Obamacare", outside the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health 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. 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 outside the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center in Jackson, Mississippi, on October 4, 2013. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

    As Congress weighs repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the home state of Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday sought to keep its conservative-style Medicaid expansion under the federal health law.

    Indiana applied to the Trump administration to extend a regulatory waiver and funding until Jan. 31, 2021, for its innovative package of incentives and penalties that are intended to encourage low-income Hoosiers on Medicaid to adopt healthy behaviors. Beneficiaries pay premiums, get health savings accounts and can lose their benefits if they miss payments.

    Though Pence now supports the health law’s repeal, the Healthy Indiana Plan that he established in 2015 as the state’s governor has brought Medicaid coverage to more than 350,000 people. The architect of the plan was health care consultant Seema Verma, who has been nominated to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

    Without Trump administration approval, federal money for Indiana’s expansion will run out Jan. 31, 2018. Indiana officials said the Medicaid expansion would continue even if Washington follows through on a Republican proposal to distribute federal Medicaid funds through a block grant program that would give states more flexibility in setting benefits and eligibility levels.

    State officials refused to say whether the expansion would continue if Congress repealed Obamacare and eliminated funds for Medicaid expansions. If that happened, it’s unlikely states would have the money to make up for the lost federal aid.

    Indiana’s effort to continue its Medicaid expansion demonstrates how states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act — even Republican-controlled ones — are counting on additional federal dollars to pay for those expansions. It also reflects deadline pressure: They can’t wait for Congress to finish its debate over the future of the health law because they need to set budgets and programs now for next year.

    According to Indiana’s request, continuing the Medicaid expansion will cost Indiana $1.5 billion but bring $8.6 billion in federal funding from 2018 to 2020.

    “Indiana has built a program that is delivering real results in a responsible, efficient, and effective way,” Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, said in a statement. “I look forward to maintaining the flexibility to grow this remarkably successful tool and to preserve our ability to respond to the unique needs of Hoosiers.”

    Several other states including Kentucky and Ohio are considering adopting features of Indiana’s Medicaid plan.

    Tuesday’s filing continues most core elements of the Healthy Indiana Plan, but also expands beneficiaries access to substance abuse treatment and adds incentives for members to quit smoking, use chronic disease management programs and take part in voluntary job referral and training programs.

    “Certainly I think the new administration would give the waiver a friendly reception,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University. “But again that doesn’t answer the question about whether the money is going away,” if Congress repeals the health law and the Medicaid expansion.

    Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., broke the news of the waiver submission plans at a House committee hearing on Medicaid on Tuesday.

    “It’s an outstanding program that I hope folks on both sides of the aisle see it is a way to save and help people who truly need it, and it can be replicated,” Brooks said.

    Some Republican plans to scrap and replace the Affordable Care Act don’t include a Medicaid expansion. Republicans have argued for years that the Medicaid program is broken and non-disabled adults who gained coverage under the expansion should not be covered.

    Under expansion, states received additional federal funding to expand eligibility to everyone with annual incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $16,000.

    Holcomb isn’t the only Republican governor counting on Medicaid expansion and the additional federal funding continuing at least through 2018.

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich proposed a budget Monday that maintains expansion coverage for 700,000 individuals.

    But Kasich plans to switch from a traditional Medicaid expansion to a more conservative version that will require beneficiaries to pay more out of pocket.

    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 Indiana, Pence’s home state, seeks federal OK to keep Medicaid expansion appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of the Federal Bureau of Investigation building in Washington, D.C. by Rich Clement/Bloomberg

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The way that employers perform background checks on employees is changing. Moving from traditional snapshots, employers can now receive ongoing, real time updates about things like protests an individual might participate in or encounters with law enforcement, even if it doesn’t result in an arrest. This according to a report posted online this week by “The Intercept”.

    Reporter Ava Kofman joins me now.

    So, tell me — I mean, from a practical standpoint, an employer wants to know whether or not their employers are getting into trouble. How does a background check change that piece of information?

    AVA KOFMAN, REPORTER: Yes. So, in a typical background check, an employer’s only getting a one-time snapshot, as you pointed out. And so, this has been something that’s kind of occurred to a lot of different employees and employers and federal agencies, you know, over the years that you might be hearing someone and five years down the line, they get into trouble, and you wouldn’t ever had a chance of knowing that.

    So, what the Rap Back system does it provides real time ongoing notifications, so that if someone has contact with law enforcement and is in a sensitive key position of trust, as the FBI calls it, such as a nurse or someone who works with children, or the elderly or disabled, their employer would actually get a notification, saying, hey, this person has had contact with law enforcement, since the background check happened, you know, say, five years ago.

    SREENIVASAN: So, who owns that Rap Back database and how does information get into it?

    KOFMAN: So, the Rap Back is owned by — I mean, I guess — I don’t know if “owned” would be the right word, but it’s, you know, maintained and operated by the FBI. But states, it’s worth noting, also have their Rap Back databases. And so, those are coordinated through their, you know, criminal database systems.

    And one of the kind of concerns with entering all of this information into the federal system is obviously, you know, the FBI is doing background checks, you know, for years. It’s the gold standard for background checks. However, the FBI usually gets a finger print submission and then they expunge that data. You know, they run the background check and they take that data away.

    With the Rap Back system, they’re actually keeping those finger prints on file, because they need them in order to scan them for ongoing notifications. And the concern is that that data can now be used for all kinds of other purposes. It’s entered this massive database, not just of civilian data submitted for background checks or, you know, data submitted from the DMV, but it’s in this massive database called the Next Generation Identification Database that also searches all of these criminal submissions alongside it.

    SREENIVASAN: OK. So, if somebody is keeping my fingerprints on file for a long time, how — how can that be used against me later on?

    KOFMAN: Well, one of the concerns is that because all of these fingerprints are now being submitted like subject to kind of searches alongside, you know, criminal fingerprints, the data that you’ve used for one purpose is all of a sudden subjecting you to what, you know, civil liberties advocates call a perpetual police lineup. It’s being searched when someone else’s databases are being scanned in a system for a criminal purpose.

    And so, one concern is false matches. But let’s not even — let’s pretend that false matches are never a problem and a database works well. Another concern is that you’re actually — you start to get the representation of people that are more subject to encounters with law enforcement kind of grows in that system.

    So, one concern is that African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by, you know, policing and by over-policing of their communities. And the increase submissions of, you know, their fingerprints or their facial photos subject them to more and more searchers.

    SREENIVASAN: What about the accuracy of the information going in? What if I didn’t do anything wrong but I just happened to have my fingerprint in the system anyway?

    KOFMAN: Yes. So, accuracy has already been a major concern with background checks and there have been a lot of movements, you know, asking the FBI before it continues to, you know, be the gold standard of background checks to fix their records. So, like the national employment labor project shown in 2013 that 50 percent of the — like information that the FBI has that it uses to run background checks doesn’t actually include the final disposition of the case.

    SREENIVASAN: Uh-huh.

    KOFMAN: So, what that means is that so many people’s records incorrectly indicate a link to a crime that A, they might have been not, you know, accurately charged with, B, those charges might have been dropped, or, C, that case might have been sealed.

    SREENIVASAN: And employers are for this, even though there’s that caveat that you just mentioned, that technically the screen could come back that Hari’s in the system and that might already preclude me from getting a second look or my resume going on to the next round. Well, he’s in the system, I don’t know whether he’s guilty or not, but he’s in the system, let’s move on.

    KOFMAN: Yes, it kind of seems like employers are split on background checks in a way, because we’ve seen a lot of movements and a lot of activism towards, you know, a kind of “ban the box” legislation across states and in a federal government. Obama and the Obama administration in 2015 decided that federal employees would not longer be asked about their criminal history. That’s what, you know, banning the box meant.

    And so, a lot of people have decided that, actually, you know, you want to encounter the background check process later in the system. So, while some employers might want, you know, to have more sensitive information about their employees, to receive more ongoing updates, there has been a large push towards understanding background checks as unfair and discriminatory practices especially in the early stages of hiring.

    SREENIVASAN: So, how does this get fixed?

    KOFMAN: Well, it seems like the one thing that everyone has agreed upon both for regular background checks and for something new like the Rap Back system is making sure that the records are accurate being they’re being given to employers, because the number one things that people encounter especially in times of great unemployment is, you know, incorrect background check information, making it really difficult for them to find a job. Studies have found this over and over again.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Ava Kofman, contributor to “The Intercept” — thanks for joining us.

    KOFMAN: Thank you so much.

    END

    The post Employers can use FBI database for real-time background checks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Born in Syria, Munzer Haddad, who emigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, and Aziz Wehbey, who came in the 1990s say they are in favor of President Trump's ban. They are shown here inside an Allentown restaurant. A picture of their village hanging on the wall in the background. Michael D. Regan/PBS NewsHour

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Syrian refugee Mohamad Taleb and his 7-year-old son Obaida are learning English at this class for refugees in eastern Pennsylvania.  

    Taleb arrived in the United States a year and a half ago with his wife and four children. They settled in Allentown, about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia, and far from the violence at home.

    MOHAMAD TALEB (VOICE OF INTERPRETER):
    It’s such a rough thing to be in the middle of war and destruction and watch children dying in front of you. You just want to escape with your children. You’re more afraid for your children than you are for yourself.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Allentown and surrounding Lehigh County are home to around 42-hundred residents of Syrian descent, one of the largest Syrian communities in the nation.  They began arriving a century ago, working in silk and steel mills. About a hundred are refugees from the current civil war.

    ED PAWLOWSKI: It falls on us as a local government…

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Allentown mayor Ed Pawlowski, a Democrat, says he’s had to set up a new office to handle the flood of questions about the recent White House executive order on immigration.

    ED PAWLOWSKI: I think that has sparked a lot of fear within the community not even in the Syrian community, but the community in general, among immigrants that what does this all mean and where is this going?

    MEGAN THOMPSON: President Trump’s executive order also worries Mohamad Taleb.  His sister and her family remain back in the Middle East.

    MOHAMAD TALEB: I’m honestly very upset by it. People are trying to come over here to have a chance at a decent life, to live in a better country, to live well. He’s depriving people of that chance, and I wish he would reconsider and let people in again.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Taleb is Muslim, as is his friend and fellow Syrian refugee, Abdul Kader Aldalati. Aldalati says he thinks Trump has every right to protect his country. But, even though the executive order doesn’t mention specific religions, Aldalati feels Muslims have been singled out.

    ABDUL KADER ALDALATI (VOICE OF INTERPRETER): Before we came here, the first thing they taught us was that America doesn’t tolerate racism whatsoever.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Now that you’re here, are you seeing something different?

    ABDUL KADER ALDALATI: Definitely.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: While Aldalati and Taleb are Muslim, many of the Syrians in Allentown are Christian.  …and they’re not all completely opposed to the executive order. Like Ayoub Jarrouj. He came to the U.S. in the 1960’s and now runs the Syrian Arab American Charity Association, which helped Taleb’s family resettle in Allentown.

    AYOUB JARROUJ: If the ban is temporary, and if it is to check to see who’s coming in here, check the background, I am for it. But to say ‘no more refugees, no more Muslim refugees,’ that’s not fair. They love this country. They are doing a great job, and they are respected and loved by their neighbors.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Other Syrian Christians we met are more wary of those who want to come here.

    AZIZ WEHBEY: We are not against bringing the refugees over here, but we are against bringing the wrong refugees over here.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Aziz Wehbey came to the U.S. in the 1990’s and Munzer Haddad immigrated in the 1960’s. They strongly support the executive order.

    So you see a difference between the people who are coming here now through our refugee program and people who immigrated here under circumstances like you did?

    AZIZ WEHBEY: Yes. Like the Syrian refugees who are coming from Jordan or from Turkey. We do not know their background, their relations, while they were in Syria, because we have no intelligent information from the Syrian government since we have no communication with the Syrian government. Are the family been recruited by ISIS? Do they have the radical mentality?

    MUNZER HADAD: If anything happen, God forbid.

    AZIZ WEHBEY: We don’t want to lose our good reputation.

    MUNZER HADAD: And good standing. And good standing. We established a record in here since the 1800s. We established a good record- the Syrian community in here- especially in the Lehigh valley.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Both Wehbey and Haddad voted for President Trump. They say their greatest wish is for him to help end the war in Syria and improve relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom they also support.  

    AZIZ WEHBEY:
    Helping the refugees really, mainly is to help their country being stable again.

    MEGAN THOMPSON:
    For refugee Mohamad Taleb, waiting for the war to end was not an option. His family went through a year of interviews and investigation before the U.S. granted them visas. In Allentown, Taleb says, they now have more opportunities- he works as a welder, and his four kids are all in school. Obaida says his favorite subject is math.

    Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?

    OBAIDA TALEB: A doctor.

    MOHAMAD TALEB: It’s my hope that the doors of immigration will open for refugees again, and I hope the American community won’t frame things in terms of labels like Muslim or Christian or Jew, or any other religion for that matter.

    The post Allentown Syrians divided on Trump travel ban appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Fuad Sharef Suleman (R) and two of his children arrive at Terminal 1 at JFK airport in Queens, New York City, New York, U.S. February 5, 2017. The Iraqi family were previously prevented from boarding a plane to the U.S. following U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to temporarily bar travelers from seven countries, including Iraq.  REUTERS/Joe Penney - RTX2ZQ56

    Fuad Sharef Suleman (R) and two of his children arrive at Terminal 1 at JFK airport in Queens, New York City, New York, U.S. February 5, 2017. The Iraqi family were previously prevented from boarding a plane to the U.S. following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to temporarily bar travelers from seven countries, including Iraq. Photo by Joe Penney/Reuters

    BOSTON (AP) — Travelers from the seven predominantly Muslim countries targeted by President Donald Trump enjoyed tearful reunions with loved ones in the U.S. on Sunday after a federal judge swept the ban aside.

    Airlines around the world allowed people to board flights as usual to the United States. One lawyer waiting at New York’s Kennedy Airport said visa and green-card holders from Iraq and Iran were encountering no problems as they arrived.

    “It’s business as usual,” said Camille Mackler, of the New York Immigration Coalition.

    Fariba Tajrostami, a 32-year-old painter from Iran, came through the gate at Kennedy with a huge smile and tears in her eyes as her brothers greeted her with joyful hugs.

    “I’m very happy. I haven’t seen my brothers for nine years,” she said.

    Tajrostami had tried to fly to the U.S. from Turkey over a week ago but was turned away.

    “I was crying and was so disappointed,” she said. “Everything I had in mind, what I was going to do, I was so disappointed about everything. I thought it was all over.”

    Tajrostami said she hopes to study art in the U.S. and plans to join her husband in Dallas soon. He moved from Iran six months ago, has a green card and is working at a car dealership.

    Similar scenes played out across the U.S. two days after a judge in Washington state suspended the president’s travel ban and just hours after a federal appeals court denied the Trump administration’s request to set aside the ruling.

    The U.S. canceled the visas of up to 60,000 foreigners in the week after the ban on travel from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen took effect, according to the State Department. Trump also suspended nearly all refugee admissions for 120 days and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely.

    The order triggered protests and a multitude of legal challenges around the country and blocked numerous college students, researchers and others from entering the U.S.

    Mahsa Azabadi, 29, an Iranian-American who lives in Denver, was forced to put her wedding plans on hold after her fiance, Sorena Behzadfar, was turned away when he tried to board a plane to travel from Iran to the U.S. on Jan. 28.

    Over the weekend, though, Behzadfar was cleared for travel and was expected to arrive at Boston’s Logan Airport on Sunday afternoon.

    “He got the visa, so I was planning the wedding. Then all of a sudden, it stopped, and I didn’t even know if he’d be allowed to come here. It’s been a really tough week to figure out what will happen to us,” said Azabadi, who has lived in the U.S. for 11 years and is now a U.S. citizen.

    The couple are hoping to keep their wedding date of May 12.

    “Seeing the support from the lawyers and different people trying to help, it was really nice,” she said. “We want to be the best and do the best for the people and for this country. We would love to have the opportunity.”

    Iranian researcher Nima Enayati, a Ph.D. candidate at a university in Milan, was prevented from boarding a flight to the U.S. on Jan. 30. He had a visa to conduct research on robotic surgery at Stanford University.

    On Sunday, he said his check-in went smoothly on a flight to New York, where he was expected to arrive Sunday evening.

    At Cairo Airport on Sunday, officials said a total of 33 U.S.-bound migrants from Yemen, Syria and Iraq boarded flights.

    Lebanon’s National News Agency said airlines operating out of Beirut also began allowing Syrian families and others affected by the ban to fly. Beirut has no direct flights to the U.S.; travelers have to go through Europe.

    Mackler, the immigration attorney, enjoyed what she saw at Kennedy Airport.

    “This is what it should be. You sit in an airport day in and day out, and you see all these moments of great joy and unification,” she said. “It was so sad to see that and know some people weren’t having that. Now it feels good.”

    The post Travelers arrive in US to hugs and tears after ban is lifted appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to announce his nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the empty associate justice seat of the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 31, 2017.   REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX2Z38C

    U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 31, 2017. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    President Donald Trump has taken 18 executive actions since being sworn into office on Jan. 20. Some of the papers he signed were executive orders that dealt with building the wall he promised along the U.S.-Mexico border; temporarily banning entry to the U.S. by refugees and people from seven majority-Muslim nations; and beginning to chip away at the Affordable Care Act.

    For other actions, he signed presidential memoranda that covered withdrawing the U.S. from a multinational, Pacific-Rim trade agreement; giving his defense secretary a month to deliver a plan to defeat the Islamic State group; and advancing a pair of stalled but controversial oil pipeline projects.

    A look at an “executive order,” a “presidential memorandum” and an “executive action.”

    EXECUTIVE ORDER

    Executive orders are one of the ways a president has to exercise his authority. Presidents use the orders to establish policies and manage federal government operations, and they are binding only on the executive branch.

    Executive orders are numbered and published in the Federal Register, the government’s daily publication of proposed and final regulations, meaning anyone can look them up.

    Most executive orders last for years or decades without being rescinded. Some orders that are more ideological in nature sometimes are put in place by presidents of one party and rescinded by presidents from the opposing policy.

    Some of the orders Trump signed are intended to undo actions taken by his predecessor, Barack Obama, such as on health care. On the Affordable Care act, an executive order Trump signed shortly after being sworn in to office gives executive branch agencies broad leeway to chip away at parts of the health care law that they oversee.

    PRESIDENTIAL MEMORANDUM

    Not all of a president’s executive authority comes by way of an executive order. They sometimes issue presidential memoranda, which still amount to orders from the president.

    Presidential memoranda carry the same weight as an executive order, but tend to be more regulatory in nature.

    They are not numbered, but are sometimes published in the Federal Register, which gives the paperwork a little bit more status.

    PROCLAMATION

    Proclamations are mostly ceremonial in nature. For example, upon the death of a public figure, presidents may issue a proclamation to order that U.S. flags on federal property be flown at half-staff. Presidents also issue proclamations to declare special days, weeks or months, such as National Public Lands Day, Save Your Vision Week and National Family Caregivers Month.

    EXECUTIVE ACTION

    Executive action is an umbrella term used to include executive orders, presidential memoranda and proclamations.

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    US Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy (L), John Roberts and Clarence Thomas arrive for the inauguration ceremonies to swear in Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTSWHJZ

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: One federal appeals court has weighed in on the Trump administration’s immigration ban, and should another appeals court in another region of the country offer a competing view, that could set the debate on a direct path for the U.S. Supreme Court.

    To discuss the legal ups and downs of the immigration ban, I’m joined now from Austin, Texas, by University of Texas Law School Professor Steve Vladeck, who’s also the co-editor-in-chief of the “Just Security” blog.

    So, first of all, a little bit of legalese to clarify for the audience, what’s the meaning of a temporary restraining order versus an injunction, it looks like Seattle’s one thing but not the other.

    STEVE VLADECK, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS LAW SCHOLL PROFESSOR: Sure.

    Yes, the a temporary retraining order or a TRO in legal parlance is a very preliminary order that’s supposed to be, as it says temporary. Basically, it’s supposed to freeze the status of the parties for long enough for the court to decide whether to take the next step, which is whether to issue what is called a preliminary injunction. Preliminary injunction could be indefinite and the idea behind the preliminary injunction is to keep that going for long enough for the courts to actually settle the merits of the underlying dispute and eventually to decide whether we should have a permanent injunction if the underlying policy is illegal or lift the injunction and let the order go into effect.

    SREENIVASAN: But the White House has already went in and said that this temporary restraining order doesn’t work for them. So, what’s the next appeal? What’s the step that they take?

    VLADECK: Sure, so they actually have now appealed to the Ninth Circuit, this is the federal appeals court in San Francisco, and they basically said, “Dear Ninth Circuit, we’d like you to lift the temporary restraining order imposed by the federal district judge in Seattle,” in effect, “We’d like the Ninth Circuit to put back in place the executive order so we can continue to enforce it.” The Ninth Circuit very late Saturday night denied the government’s request for an emergency stay, but is now considering whether it should keep that order by the district court in place, briefs are due all throughout the day on Sunday and we might get a ruling from the Ninth Circuit as early as Monday.

    SREENIVASAN: So, the Ninth Circuit has jurisdiction over the Seattle judge, right? But can the White House look for one of the other cases in the other parts of the country to go to an appeals court that might be more favorable to their point of view?

    VLADECK: They certainly can. So, for example, there have been orders issued in Brooklyn, in Boston, in Detroit. There’s also now a case in Los Angeles and a new one in Hawaii, although those last two, of course, are also in the Ninth Circuit, the problem is that it’s the Ninth Circuit that is by far the furthest along. So, it’s going to be very hard for the government to pick a different battlefield. I think at least for the moment, it’s the Ninth Circuit case where we have a nationwide stay in effect that’s preventing the government from enforcing this executive order, that’s really going to be where all of the fighting is and potentially the first candidate for getting this case up to the Supreme Court.

    SREENIVASAN: And how long does it take for the Ninth Circuit to sort through this? They have to get a larger panel of judges to look at this now, right?

    VLADECK: Well, it depends. I mean, so, it only takes two judges to act on these kinds of emergency applications, and indeed the order that was signed very, very late Saturday night was signed by exactly two judges. The Ninth Circuit could decide perhaps as early as Monday to leave intact or to lift the order that the Seattle district judge issued on Friday, if they’re going to decide on very narrow grounds.

    The more broadly the ninth circuit wants to rule, if they actually want to reach out and decide whether we’re going to have some kind of preliminary injunction going forward, the longer we might expect. I think we’ll probably see a ruling maybe Tuesday or Wednesday. Then the question becomes whether whoever loses that round, which quite likely is going to be the Trump administration, tries to go to the Supreme Court.

    SREENIVASAN: And even this morning, we heard Vice President Pence go out on all of the Sunday shows and say, the president has the authority to do this, this is in the Constitution. Does he?

    VLADECK: Well, I think it’s worth stressing — we haven’t answered that question yet. So, even the Seattle order that was issued Friday night was not based on the district court’s conclusion that the executive order is illegal. It was based on the district court’s conclusion that there is enough of a chance that it is illegal that to preserve the status quo, we have to take this preliminary step.

    I think at the end of the day, when we finally get to the merits of these cases, some parts of the executive order will likely survive, others will almost certainly be invalidated. But we’re a long way off from that as opposed to this very preliminary stage, where the question simply is, how do we balance the equities, how do we preserve the status quo to allow the courts to reach those issues on a floor schedule with more time and with more care?

    SREENIVASAN: All right. UT Austin Law School Professor Steve Vladeck — thanks for joining us.

    VLADECK: Thank you.

    END

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    President-elect Donald Trump arrives for the inauguration ceremonies swearing him in as the 45th president of the United States on the West front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson  - RTSWI5B

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: To help us analyze the latest political developments surrounding the Trump administration, I’m joined from Santa Barbara, California, by “NewsHour Weekend’s” Jeff Greenfield.

    Jeff, you know, FOX News made it a point to tease out some of what was going to come out in the interview before the Super Bowl with the president. We’ve had a chance to see at least a good chunk of that excerpt that’s been broadcast nationally.

    The comments about President Putin and possibly almost a moral equivalence on the behavior on the part of America or American leadership, ever heard anything like that?

    JEFF GREENFIELD, NEWSHOUR WEEKEND: From Republicans, not counting Pat Buchanan and maybe Ron Paul — no. That’s what’s so striking about it, the notion that, you know, we’re not the moral leaders of the world. We do bad things. You kind of expect from Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn or maybe at times Bernie Sanders.

    But it’s but such a core belief am knowledge GOP conservatives that Democrats aren’t sufficiently wedded to American exceptionalism, all the way back to Gene Kirkpatrick at the ‘84 Republican convention saying Democrats always blame America first, or the notion fact that Obama was on an apology tour. And that’s why the reaction has been so strong. I mean, Liz Cheney, new congressperson and daughter of ex-Vice President Cheney, very tough on Trump because as in a lot of other areas, Trump is a heretic about some core Republican beliefs and I don’t know how this plays out, but it certainly is going to cause him a lot of grief. I can’t wait to see the “Wall Street Journal” editorial page on this one.

    SREENIVASAN: Jeff, let’s talk a little bit about the comments the president made about the judge in Seattle.

    GREENFIELD: This is what’s going to spill out, I think, in the coming days and weeks — the fact that Trump attacked the judge, calling him a “so-called judge”, a George W. Bush nominated judge, confirmed unanimously by the Senate, with a conservative record, is going to create questions in the Senate Judiciary Committee to Judge Gorsuch, how independent do you pledge to be from Trump or any other president?

    And I think Gorsuch’s record suggests that he is less deferential to presidential power than, say, late Justice Scalia was. But I think once again, that kind of comment, when you link it to what he said about the judge last year who was presiding over the Trump University case, suggests a kind of willingness to not just say that the judge was wrong, but to go right after the judge on grounds of either core competence or even integrity, and I think Judge Gorsuch is going to be asked a lot of questions about that.

    SREENIVASAN: Is the court in one of these scenarios is going to be more unified in protecting its own turf or from perhaps the overreach of the executive branch?

    GREENFIELD: That’s the question that Chief Justice Roberts probably is wrestling with. You know, the one time he broke with the conservatives on upholding the Affordable Care Act, I think if he’d been an associate justice, he wouldn’t have voted that way. He was trying in my view to protect the court from being thrown into the political thicket.

    But one thing I think we know is that every conservative who backed Trump with reservations did so because he was going to deliver them the Supreme Court. And so, I think the idea that there’s going to be any hesitancy to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” is misplaced. They’re going to do whatever they can to get that court back in a conservative majority.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Jeff Greenfield, thanks for joining us.

    GREENFIELD: Thank you.

    END

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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers farewell remarks to State Department employees Jan. 19 at the State Department in Washington, D.C. Kerry is joining former top U.S. national security officials in asking the courts to continue blocking President Donald Trump's recent immigration order.  Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers farewell remarks to State Department employees Jan. 19 at the State Department in Washington, D.C. Kerry is joining former top U.S. national security officials in asking the courts to continue blocking President Donald Trump’s recent immigration order. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.


    WASHINGTON – John Kerry and Madeleine Albright, both former secretaries of state, are joining former top U.S. national security officials in asking the courts to continue blocking President Donald Trump’s recent immigration order.

    Most of the former officials served under President Barack Obama. They said travel restrictions on seven Muslim-majority nations would disrupt “thousands” of lives,” while likely “endangering U.S. troops in the field” and hurting partnerships with other countries to combat terrorism.

    The group wrote that the order will aid the Islamic State group’s “propaganda effort and serve its recruitment message by feeding into the narrative that the United States is at war with Islam.” They add: “Blanket bans of certain countries or classes of people are beneath the dignity of the nation and Constitution that we each took oaths to protect.”

    The six-page document was provided to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The San Francisco-based appeals court has already turned down a Justice Department request to set aside immediately a Seattle judge’s ruling that put a temporary hold on the ban nationwide.

    Lawyers for Washington state and Minnesota have told a federal appellate court that restoring President Donald Trump’s ban on refugees and travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries would “unleash chaos again.” The filing with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco came early Monday after the White House said it expected the federal courts to reinstate the ban.

    READ MORE: Court denies Trump request to immediately restore travel ban

    Washington and Minnesota said their underlying lawsuit was strong and a nationwide temporary restraining order was appropriate. If the appellate court reinstated Trump’s ban the states said the “ruling would reinstitute those harms, separating families, stranding our university students and faculty, and barring travel.”

    The rapid-fire legal maneuvers by the two states were accompanied by briefs filed by the technology industry arguing that the travel ban would harm their companies by making it more difficult to recruit employees. Tech giants like Apple and Google, along with Uber, filed their arguments with the court late Sunday.

    Trump’s executive order was founded on a claim of national security, but lawyers for the two states told the appellate court the administration’s move hurts residents, businesses and universities and is unconstitutional.

    The next opportunity for Trump’s team to argue in favor of the ban will come in the form of a response to the Washington state and Minnesota filings. The 9th Circuit ordered the U.S. Justice Department to file its briefs by 6 p.m. EST Monday. It had already turned down a Justice request to set aside immediately a Seattle judge’s ruling that put a temporary hold on the ban nationwide.

    WATCH: After court rulings, Syrian refugees board flights to U.S.

    In the latest filing, lawyers for Washington state and Minnesota said: “Defendants now ask this Court to unleash chaos again by staying the district court order. The Court should decline.”

    Bob Ferguson, Washington state’s attorney general, said “we don’t argue” that Trump has authority to act in the interest of national security. But in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show, he also said “we have checks and balances” in the country, maintaining the president’s order was “unconstitutional” and saying president’s don’t have “unfettered authorization” in these cases.

    That ruling last Friday prompted an ongoing Twitter rant by Trump, who dismissed U.S. District Court Judge James Robart as a “so-called judge” and his decision “ridiculous.”

    Trump renewed his Twitter attacks against Robart on Sunday.

    “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!” He followed with another tweet saying he had instructed the Homeland Security Department to check people coming into the country but that “the courts are making the job very difficult!”

    Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday that “we don’t appoint judges to our district courts to conduct foreign policy or to make decisions about the national security.”

    Trump himself had offered an optimistic forecast the previous night, telling reporters during a weekend at his private club in Florida: “We’ll win. For the safety of the country, we’ll win.”

    The government had told the appeals court that the president alone has the power to decide who can enter or stay in the United States, an assertion that appeared to invoke the wider battle to come over illegal immigration.

    Congress “vests complete discretion” in the president to impose conditions on entry of foreigners to the United States, and that power is “largely immune from judicial control,” according to the court filing.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, predicted the appeals court would not have the last word. “I have no doubt that it will go to the Supreme Court, and probably some judgments will be made whether this president has exceed his authority or not,” she said.

    In his ruling, Robart said it was not the court’s job to “create policy or judge the wisdom of any particular policy promoted by the other two branches,” but to make sure that an action taken by the government “comports with our country’s laws.”

    WATCH: Trump’s immigrant ban could lead to U.S. Supreme Court

    Whatever the outcome and however the case drags on, a president who was used to getting his way in private business is finding, weeks into his new job that obstacles exist to quickly fulfilling one of his chief campaign pledges.

    “The president is not a dictator,” Feinstein, D-Calif, said. “He is the chief executive of our country. And there is a tension between the branches of government.”

    The Twitter attacks on Robart — appointed by President George W. Bush — prompted scolding from fellow Republicans as well as Democrats.

    “We don’t have so-called judges,” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said. “We don’t have so-called senators. We don’t have so-called presidents. We have people from three different branches of government who take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.”

    However, Pence defended the president, saying he “can criticize anybody he wants.”

    The vice president added that he believes the American people “find it very refreshing that they not only understand this president’s mind, but they understand how he feels about things.”

    Trump’s order applied to Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — Muslim-majority countries that the administration said raise terrorism concerns. The order had caused unending confusion for many foreigners trying to reach the United States, prompting protests across the United States and leading to multiple court challenges.

    The State Department said last week that as many as 60,000 foreigners from those seven countries had had their visas canceled. After Robart’s decision, the department reversed course and said they could travel to the U.S. if they had a valid visa.

    The department also advised refugee aid agencies that refugees set to travel before Trump signed his order would now be allowed in.

    The Homeland Security Department no longer was directing airlines to prevent visa-holders affected by Trump’s order from boarding U.S.-bound planes. The agency said it had “suspended any and all actions” related to putting in place Trump’s order.

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    Queen Elizabeth II visits Goodenough College, the leading residential community for British and international postgraduate students studying in London, Britain December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Stuart C. Wilson/Pool - RTSU9IG

    Queen Elizabeth II visits Goodenough College, the leading residential community for British and international postgraduate students studying in London, Britain on Dec. 1, 2016. Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Pool via Reuters

    LONDON – On Monday, Queen Elizabeth II marks her Sapphire Jubilee, becoming the first British monarch to reign for 65 years. It’s just one of many milestones the queen has marked in her nine decades. Here’s are some other significant numbers about her record-breaking life and reign:

    Elizabeth assumed the throne on the death of her father, King George VI, on Feb. 6, 1952. On September 9, 2015, she became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, passing her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.

    Queen Elizabeth II watches a carnival parade as she attends 'The Patron's Lunch' celebrations to mark her 90th birthday on June 12, 2016 in London, England. Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images.

    Queen Elizabeth II watches a carnival parade as she attends ‘The Patron’s Lunch’ celebrations to mark her 90th birthday on June 12, 2016 in London, England. Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

    She turned 90 on April 21, 2016, and has been the world’s oldest monarch since the death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah in 2015.

    READ MORE: 8 things you didn’t know about Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II

    She has had 13 British prime ministers serve during her reign, from Winston Churchill to Theresa May.

    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are greeted by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh upon their arrival for lunch in 2016 at Windsor Castle in Windsor, Britain. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are greeted by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh upon their arrival for lunch in 2016 at Windsor Castle in Windsor, Britain. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    She has met 12 U.S. presidents, from Herbert Hoover (after he had left office) to Barack Obama more than a quarter of all the U.S. presidents since Independence. The only president during her reign that she did not meet was Lyndon B. Johnson. She is due to meet President Donald Trump when he comes to Britain for a controversial state visit later this year.

    READ MORE: 5 leadership lessons we can learn from Queen Elizabeth II

    She has traveled more than 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) on official trips, visiting 106 of the 193 current official members of the United Nations. She has visited Canada 22 times, the largest number of trips to any nation.

    Britain's Prince William and his bride Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (C), pose for an official photograph with their families on the day of their wedding, April 29, 2011, in the throne room at Buckingham Palace in central London. Photo by REUTERS/Hugo Burnand/Clarence House/Handout.

    Britain’s Prince William and his bride Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (center), pose for an official photograph with their families on the day of their wedding, April 29, 2011, in the throne room at Buckingham Palace in central London. Photo by Hugo Burnand/Clarence House/Handout via Reuters

    She has four children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

    She has cut back on her official duties in the past few years, but Elizabeth still conducted 341 official engagements in 2015.

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    A pro-government supporter shouts slogans Tuesday in front of the presidential office in Bucharest, Romania. Photo by Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea/via REUTERS.

    A pro-government supporter shouts slogans Tuesday in front of the presidential office in Bucharest, Romania. Photo by Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea/via REUTERS.

    The leader of Romania’s ruling center-left coalition said Monday the government won’t resign following the biggest demonstrations since the end of communism against a measure that would ease up on corruption.

    There were signs, however, that the government may not push ahead immediately with a measure to decriminalize official misconduct — which ignited the protests.

    Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu acknowledged that “the act had led to division,” and suggested he may fire the justice minister later this week.

    Unrest continued in Monday evening, with hundreds of government supporters massing outside the presidential palace in the Romanian capital blaming President Klaus Iohannis for the crisis. The president has strongly opposed the measure.

    Elsewhere, protesters began gathering outside the government offices for the seventh consecutive evening in Victory Square, the site of the biggest protests Romania has had since communism was overthrown in 1989.

    Protesters use phones and flashlights during a protest in Victoriei Square, in Bucharest, Romania, February 5, 2017. Inquam Photos/Adriana Neagoe/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. ROMANIA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN ROMANIA. ROMANIA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN ROMANIA. - RTX2ZQ82

    Protesters use phones and flashlights during a protest Feb.5 in Victoriei Square, in Bucharest, Romania. Inquam Photos/Adriana Neagoe/via Reuters.

    Social Democratic chairman Liviu Dragnea emerged from a morning meeting with governing partners Monday saying that “we unreservedly expressed our support for the government … and the prime minister.”

    On Sunday, the government backed down following six days of street protests from an emergency ordinance that would decriminalize abuse in office by officials if the amount involved was less than about $48,500. It plans to introduce another version of the law in Parliament, where it has a majority.

    However, in a sign of second thoughts, Justice Minister Florin Iordache later said in a statement he was “not preoccupied” with drawing up a draft law.

    “Currently, the justice minister is focusing on the decisions published by the Constitutional Court…which will be analyzed in the near future,” the statement said.

    The Constitutional Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the decriminalizing proposal later this week.

    Dragnea, the major power broker in the government, is banned from being prime minister because of conviction in April 2016 for vote rigging.

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    Paul Levely, a child sex abuse victim, wears a t-shirt that says "no more silence" outside of a 2016 testimony on child sex abuse by a Vatican official in Rome, Italy. A new report says 7 percent of Australia's Catholic priests have been accused of child sex abuse. Photo by Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters.

    Paul Levely, a child sex abuse victim, wears a t-shirt that says “no more silence” outside of a 2016 testimony on child sex abuse by a Vatican official in Rome, Italy. A new report says 7 percent of Australia’s Catholic priests have been accused of sexually abusing children. Photo by Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters.

    Seven percent of priests in the Australian Catholic Church have been accused of sexually abusing children between 1950 and 2010, according to a new report released Monday.

    The report from Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which since 2013 has been investigating how the Catholic church and others have responded to abuse, says 4,444 people had reported being sexually abused at more than 1,000 Catholic institutions across Australia between 1980 and 2015.

    Victims’ ages averaged 10.5 years old for girls and 11.5 years old for boys. Most survivors were male, the study said; schools and homes for children were the places children were most likely to experience abuse.

    “The accounts were depressingly similar,” authors of the report wrote. “Children were ignored or worse, punished. Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious were moved. The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew 16 nothing of their past. Documents were not kept or they were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed as did cover ups. Priests and religious were not properly dealt with and outcomes were often not representative of their crimes. Many children suffered and continue as adults to suffer from their experiences in some Catholic institutions.”

    Of the 1,880 alleged perpetrators identified in the report, 32 percent were religious brothers, 30 percent were priests, 29 percent were lay people and 5 percent were religious sisters.

    Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Truth Justice and Healing Council, which coordinates the Catholic Church’s response to the inquiry, called the situation a “massive failure on the part of the Catholic Church in Australia to protect children from abusers.”

    “These numbers are shocking. They are tragic and they are indefensible,” Sullivan said at a public hearing Monday. “As Catholics, we hang our heads in shame.”

    A man who claims to have been sexually abused by the Catholic Church holds a placard last year as he stands outside the venue for Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney, Australia. Photo by   REUTERS/David Gray.

    A man who claims to have been sexually abused by the Catholic Church holds a placard last year as he stands outside the venue for Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney, Australia. Photo by REUTERS/David Gray.

    Of the 309 cases the commission made to the Australian police, 27 have been prosecuted and another 75 are under investigation. The other cases are either pending or the people involved have died, the report says.

    Other senior officials in the Catholic Church will testify over the next few weeks, the Associated Press reported.

    “The coming weeks will be traumatic for everyone involved, especially the survivors,” Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney said in a statement released by the Vatican. “Confronting as it will be, I remain determined to do all we can to assist those who have been harmed by the Church and to work towards a culture of greater transparency, accountability and safety for all children.”

    The commission plans to compile a final report by the end of the year.

    A similar report detailing abuse in the U.S. was released in 2002. That report found 4 percent of priests serving between 1950 and 2002 were accused of sexually abusing children, an investigation later dramatized by the movie “Spotlight.”

    A separate review by the Boston Globe revealed sexual abusers of minors within the Catholic Church were hidden away and allowed to remain in the church for years. The Globe later reported 271 clergy were publicly accused of child sexual abuse in the Boston area.

    The Globe’s Spotlight investigator Michael Rezendes turned to Twitter today, writing, “It seems to be the same story all over the world, alas.”

    The post 7 percent of Australia’s Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing children appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Monarch butterflies fly at the Sierra Chincua butterfly sanctuary on a mountain in Angangeo, Michoacan November 24, 2016. Credit: REUTERS/Carlos Jasso - RTST7B7

    Monarch butterflies fly at a butterfly sanctuary in Angangeo, Michoacan. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

    A few days after the presidential election, poet Kim Stafford was driving east from his hometown of Portland, Oregon, when he was struck by a motto on a passing truck filled with Peruvian soft drinks. El sabor que nos hace únicos, it said. The flavor that makes us one. 

    “I thought, I want this in my life, in my writing,” Stafford said. “Personally I am troubled by the outcome of the election, but I am more troubled by the divisions” in the country post-election, he said. “What ‘made America one’ seemed like what we all need to seek.” 

    This idea led to Stafford’s post-election chapbook “The Flavor of Unity,” which begins with a poem he wrote on election morning (“We have not done enough to spare our country / this avalanche of foolishness”) and ends with recommendations on how to respond in times of change (“be not afraid… do right / Dark times brighten the life of witness.”)

    Throughout the book, Stafford seems to wrestle with two antithetical urges: one, to convince and persuade readers, and explicitly criticize the new president, and two, to unify and move forward.

    The first, more strident tone is present in his poem “How to Raise a President,” which gives prescriptions on how to help President Donald Trump as a leader, and which Stafford said he based on the management theory of “leading from below.” “When your leaders acts the bully: silence. / When your leader does something right — no matter how small — celebration,” he writes.

    But a very different feeling is put forth in the poem “The Flavor of Unity,” which Stafford said he wrote to answer the question the motto had raised for him: What is the flavor of unity? What is it that really unifies people?

    “For me it’s something about home ground, the earth, our common treasure of wind and tree and grass and light and water,” Stafford said. “Because we are all earth citizens.”

    In recent weeks, Stafford said he has noticed with some disappointment that local bookstores have begun adding “resistance” sections in addition to their regular subject headings like”nature” and “religion.” He said he’d rather see a “peacemaking” section, or something that was “come one come all” — a section that could attract any reader. Stafford is a professed pacifist, as was his father William Stafford, who was also a poet and served as the U.S. poet laureate in 1970.

    “I think my practice as a writer has become a search for how to be a good citizen in a troubled country,” Stafford said. “What I’m really trying to do with my poetry these days is search for common ground.”

    Read and listen to “The Flavor of Unity,” below.

    Kim Stafford teaches writing at Lewis and Clark College.

    Kim Stafford teaches writing at Lewis and Clark College.

    The Flavor of Unity

    By Kim Stafford       

              El sabor que nos hace únicos.

                           — Inca Kola slogan

    The flavor that makes us one cannot be bought

    or sold, does not belong to a country, cannot

    enrich the rich or be denied to the poor.

    The flavor that makes us one emanates from the earth.

    A butterfly can find it, a child in a house of grass, exiles coming home at last to taste wind off the sea, rain

    falling into the trees, mist rising from home ground.

    The flavor that makes us one we must feed

    to one another with songs, kind words, and

    human glances across the silent square.

    Kim Stafford directs the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis and Clark College, and is the author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, including “Having Everything Right” and “100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do: How My Brother Disappeared.” His poetry chapbook “How to Sleep Cold” is forthcoming in fall 2016 from Limberlost Press. He has taught writing in in Scotland, Italy and Bhutan.

    The post A poet’s quest to find the ‘flavor of unity’ in divisive times 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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    Smart phone

    If the backlash against globalization is successful, “The hunger for power will drop as economies sputter, demand for appliances falls and the forthcoming middle-class boom remains indefinitely on the horizon,” writes the author.

    Our hunger for power is insatiable. In the United States, Russia, China, the world is filled with power-hungry people from all walks of life. Leaders and ordinary citizens alike are seeking more and more power. And no matter how you analyze the data (and there’s tons of it), this trend is likely to intensify in the weeks, months and years ahead.

    I’m referring, of course, to our insatiable appetite for electric power.

    A rapidly growing global middle class is generating rising demand for refrigerators, computers, televisions, air conditioners, smartphones and many other power-hungry goods. Further, because fossil fuels are used to generate a large portion of the power produced in the world, many are justifiably concerned about the impact of power generation on the environment.

    READ MORE: Could lithium become the new oil?

    Alternative energies like solar and wind offer some hope, but they’re fundamentally unreliable. The sun doesn’t always shine; the wind doesn’t always blow. To make alternative energies a truly viable source of power production, the world needs a robust, cost-effective means of storing energy. And while there are many different approaches to power storage, battery technology is among the more promising of the options. Sure, we’re all aware of the batteries in our smartphones and our laptops, but the possibility of batteries storing enough energy to power thousands of homes is not particularly intuitive.

    To make alternative energies a truly viable source of power production, the world needs a robust, cost-effective means of storing energy.

    Yet just such a venture got underway last week in California. On Jan. 30, Tesla launched a project near Los Angeles that takes excess power generated from solar during the day and stores it until the evening, when it can be used to offset production that’s less green. Batteries offer a path to viability for alternative energies.

    Batteries are heavy users of lithium, an ingredient that can be accessed from subsurface brines or via hard-rock mineral ores. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Chile has the world’s largest reserves of lithium, followed by China, Argentina and Australia. Lithium demand is poised to skyrocket, driven by growth in the electric vehicle market. Just think about the fact that one electric car uses roughly the same amount of lithium as 10,000 mobile phones. Yowser!

    Last month, I was in Chile to address the country’s Mining Council. Given my fascination with energy storage and lithium, I took a trip to Salar de Atacama, the country’s largest salt flat and site of the world’s lowest cost lithium producers. I met with managers at Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A., or SQM, who showed me around the company’s operations. Over the course of my three-hour visit, I developed a deep appreciation for the complexities and scale of the business as well as a respect for how thoughtful SQM had been about protecting the environment.

    While touring the operations, I couldn’t help but note the amazing global supply chain. It had taken the lithium, containing salt brine I had run through my fingers, from below the world’s driest non-polar desert to Asian battery factories and eventually turned it into the affordable smartphone so fundamental to my day-to-day existence. Globalization and trade, I realized, works.

    The author running his fingers through salt brine.

    The author running his fingers through salt brine.

    READ MORE: Column: Its copper industry dulled, Chile’s future still looks bright as a penny

    But it clearly doesn’t work for everyone — hence the current backlash against free trade, open borders and global markets.

    What if the backlash works, however? World trade reverses; the lithium battery supply chain breaks. Is there any likelihood that robotics and automation won’t continue to replace human jobs? And how likely is it that the world’s leaders will adopt more inclusive policies, stronger safety nets and more progressive approaches to helping those left behind by globalization and technology?

    Not doing so may lead to an unappetizing outcome: The hunger for power will drop as economies sputter, demand for appliances falls and the forthcoming middle-class boom remains indefinitely on the horizon.

    The post Column: How the backlash to globalization could hurt the middle class appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump is welcomed as he speaks to commanders and coalition representatives during a visit to U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    President Donald Trump is welcomed as he speaks to commanders and coalition representatives during a visit to U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — President Donald Trump on Monday vowed to allow into the United States people who “want to love our country,” defending his immigration and refugee restrictions as he made his first visit to the headquarters Monday for U.S. Central Command.

    Trump reaffirmed his support for NATO before military leaders and troops and laced his speech with references to homeland security amid a court battle over his travel ban on people from seven majority-Muslim countries. He did not directly mention the case now before a federal appeals court after a lower court temporarily suspended the ban.

    “We need strong programs” so that “people that love us and want to love our country and will end up loving our country are allowed in” and those who “want to destroy us and destroy our country” are kept out, Trump said.

    “Freedom, security and justice will prevail,” Trump added. “We will defeat radical Islamic terrorism and we will not allow it to take root in our country. We’re not going to allow it.”

    Trump touched upon various alliances in his remarks, noting, “we strongly support NATO.”

    He spoke Sunday with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. A White House statement said the two “discussed how to encourage all NATO allies to meet their defense spending commitments,” as well as the crisis in Ukraine and security challenges facing NATO countries.

    Trump once dismissed the trans-Atlantic military alliance as “obsolete,” and he would decide whether to protect NATO countries against Russian aggression based on whether those countries “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

    Earlier, Trump sat down for lunch with a room full of troops in fatigues from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, as well as senior members of his White House staff.

    Trump made small talk with some of the soldiers, discussing everything from football to military careers.

    “Gonna make it a career?” Trump asked one person.

    “C’mon, you have to stay,” he urged another.

    Trump also hailed New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, saying he “cemented his place” in football history after his fifth Super Bowl win Sunday.

    Trump, who is also commander in chief of the U.S. military, stopped at the base on the way back to Washington after his first weekend away from the White House. Trump spent the weekend at his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, with first lady Melania Trump, who had not appeared in public since shortly after her husband took office.

    At MacDill, the president was briefed by CENTCOM and SOCOM leaders. A number of his advisers, including Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, also attended.

    Trump met with Florida Gov. Rick Scott before delivering his remarks, telling the crowd at CENTCOM that Scott’s endorsement of his candidacy for president “makes him a better friend of mine,” adding that with those who don’t offer their endorsement, “it’s never quite the same.”

    CENTCOM oversaw a recent raid by U.S. special operations forces on an al-Qaida compound in Yemen, the first military operation authorized by Trump. A Navy SEAL, Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois, was killed, making him the first known U.S. combat casualty under Trump.

    Three other U.S. service members were wounded in the operation. More than half a dozen suspected militants and more than a dozen civilians were also killed, including the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical cleric and U.S. citizen who was targeted and killed in 2011 by a U.S. drone strike.

    Trump made no mention of Owen or the raid in Yemen during his remarks Monday, but he paid recognition to the sacrifices of American military families and the spouses of American soldiers, vowing his support to those who risk their lives for the country.

    “We protect those who protect us, and we will never ever let you down,” he said.

    READ MORE: Travelers arrive in U.S. to hugs and tears after ban is lifted

    The post Trump: Allow those into U.S. who ‘want to love our country’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People gather for the Women's March in Washington U.S., January 21, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton - RTSWP7L

    People gather for the Women’s March in Washington D.C. last month. Photo by REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

    Two weeks after hundreds of thousands of protesters flooded cities across the country, in a massive show of support for women’s and human rights, the organizers behind the Women’s March on Washington and its offshoots are searching for ways to turn that enthusiasm into real and lasting change.

    President Donald Trump’s actions have energized his opponents in the opening days of his presidency. But the fast pace of events in the two weeks since the Women’s March have also underscored the political challenges inherent in organizing a wide-ranging opposition movement.

    Last week, for example, the Women’s March organizers’ newly-formed “rapid response” team, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations, used email, Facebook and text messages to help spark spontaneous protests at airports around the country, after President Trump signed an executive order stopping refugees from entering the United States.

    As members of the Senate Judiciary Committee weighed the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions last week, a handful of opponents protested outside. Critics have mounted similar protests against several other cabinet nominees, and a fight is brewing over Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s top choice for filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

    The demonstrations have garnered attention. But it’s less clear if they will help bring about actual policy changes in Washington, D.C.

    After taking office, President Trump swiftly signed executive actions beginning the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and ordering the construction of a wall on the Mexican border. His administration has doubled down on the controversial refugee order, which is now mired in a legal battle after a federal judge ordered a nationwide stay on the ban.

    Despite strong Democratic opposition, the Judiciary Committee gave Sessions its stamp of approval, paving the way for a full Senate vote. None of the president’s other cabinet nominees have been blocked.

    President Trump himself has repeatedly dismissed the protesters.

    “Watched protests yesterday, but was under the impression that we just had an election! “Why didn’t these people vote?” President Trump tweeted on the day after the Women’s March. Later in the day he tweeted that peaceful protests are a “hallmark of our democracy.”

    Since then, he has blamed protesters against his immigration order for delays at airports and called others “professional anarchists, thugs, and paid protestors.”

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

    Still, protest leaders said they aren’t discouraged.

    “This is a marathon not a sprint,” said Bob Bland, one of the national co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington. “We need to be responsive, not reactive, to the challenges ahead.”

    Successful social movements are usually built over time, said Zeynep Tufekci, a professor at the University of North Carolina who studies how technology impacts politics and social movements.

    Yet Tufekci also warned against complacency. While the bigger-than-expected attendance at the Women’s March last month was viewed as a success by its organizers, Tufekci said that putting together large groups of people on short notice is much easier today than ever before thanks to social media.

    “In the past, you would see a protest this size, and you would say it’s going to do lots of things,” she said. “Now, it’s easy to hold this big of a protest.”

    Historically, large-scale marches represented the culmination of years of dissent, oftentimes started at the local level, she said. Today, that formula has flipped. The national Women’s March, held the day after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, seemed to be the first step in a broader movement against his presidency.

    Demonstrators gather in Copley Square for the "Boston Protest Against Muslim Ban and Anti-Immigration Orders" to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. January 29, 2017.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTSXY4O

    Demonstrators gather in Boston to protest President Trump’s immigration ban on January 29, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Brian Snyder

    On Monday, the Women’s March organizers tweeted they were planning another large-scale protest, called “General Strike: A day without a woman.” What the strike might look like isn’t clear, though some supporters are calling for the strike to take place March 8, International Women’s Day.

    But if organizers want to keep their momentum going, Tufekci said they’ll need to start connecting with people on the local level.

    The Women’s March organizers appear to be heeding that advice. The group put out a call last week urging its network of supporters to hold small brainstorming sessions to formulate a longer-term plan. The leaders billed the meetings as the next big “action” in their campaign against President Trump’s first 100 days in office.

    Less than a day after the call to action was issued, hundreds of meetings were scheduled across the country.

    Amanda Forman, one of the organizers for the March on Oklahoma, which took place the same day as the national march in Washington, D.C., said her first priority was to connect people who came to the march with existing organizations in her community.

    “We don’t have an interest in recreating the wheel.”

    “We don’t have an interest in recreating the wheel,” Forman said. “But there is not current a system or organization in place that has the captive audience we have right now.”

    Even before the Women’s March, organizers said one of their main goals was to connect people to established organizations that have avenues to influence policy. The failure to do so, Tufekci said, could cause momentum to stall as it did with Iraq war protests in 2003 or, more recently, Occupy Wall Street.

    MomsRising, a Seattle-based organization, is one of such established groups that’s hoping to harness the energy of the anti-Trump movement.

    Last week alone, the group asked volunteers to voice their opposition to Betsy DeVos’ nomination as education secretary, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and President Trump’s immigration policies, while also pushing for criminal justice reform and a local minimum wage increase.

    Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, the group’s executive director and co-founder, said she was excited about the amount of work to be done. But Finkbeiner said she could also see that members of her organization are already being pulled in multiple directions.

    “Take action in the time you have, knowing that it all adds up,” Finkbeiner said she tells her members. “When other people take actions in different ways with the same message, that’s how we’ve seen wins happen in a big way.”

    Organizers in Washington, D.C. said they are already trying to protect volunteers from burnout by encouraging them to maintain a healthy balance between protesting and going about their daily lives.

    “In the long term, we need to take care of ourselves,” Bland said.“Turn off the news, exercise, go to the doctor, get enough sleep. There will always be another challenge around the corner.”

    The post Can the Women’s March organizers maintain momentum? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Children, who were recently evacuated from their residencies due to shelling, laugh while sitting in front of a wall painting commemorating the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two at a dormitory in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Feb. 2. Photo by Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

    Children, who were recently evacuated from their residencies due to shelling, laugh while sitting in front of a wall painting commemorating the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two at a dormitory in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Feb. 2. Photo by Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

    The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl, coming back from a record deficit to send the game into overtime for the first time in the sport’s history. Before half time, the Atlanta Falcons were favored to win. With that kind of whiplash, the world turned upside down.

    Then again, the Kremlin is demanding that Fox News apologize for describing Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “killer” during Sunday’s interview with President Donald Trump.

    So, in honor of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s five Super Bowl wins, here are five stories that ought to get more attention than any awkward interaction between Brady and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

    1. Worst fighting in years flares up in Ukraine

    Tanks are seen in the government-held industrial town of Avdiyivka, Ukraine, on Feb. 1. Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

    Tanks are seen in the government-held industrial town of Avdiyivka, Ukraine, on Feb. 1. Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

    Both Ukrainian government forces and separatist rebels said they suffered fatalities this weekend, capping a week-long renewal of fighting in the country that began last Sunday.

    The pro-Russia rebels blamed government forces for a car bombing that killed two people in their ranks, including a top rebel commander, the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military said three of its soldiers were killed in shelling over the weekend.

    These latest fatalities came after the worst violence in eastern Ukraine since 2015. In the past week, at least 33 people, including civilians, have been killed and dozens of others wounded, with much of the mounting hostilities centering around the Ukraine-controlled town of Avdiivka.

    According to U.N. figures, almost 10,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in 2014, after Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea and backed the separatists in the region.

    Why it’s important

    A woman inspects a hole in a damaged building, which was caused by shelling, in the rebel-held city of Donetsk, Ukraine, on Feb. 3. Photo by Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

    A woman inspects a hole in a damaged building, which was caused by shelling, in the rebel-held city of Donetsk, Ukraine, on Feb. 3. Photo by Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

    In a letter to Trump, Sen. John McCain, a vocal opponent of Russia, said that “Vladimir Putin is moving quickly to test you as commander-in-chief,” adding that the country’s response “will have lasting consequences.”

    The Republican senator also referenced Trump’s call last weekend with Putin, which coincided with the surge in violence in eastern Ukraine.

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

    The Kremlin said in a statement that the call focused on joint efforts of the U.S. and Russia to fight international terrorism — “a top priority” — and improving economic ties between the two countries.

    The Kremlin also said Putin and Trump discussed the “main aspects of the Ukrainian crisis,” but an anonymous U.S. official told The New York Times that Ukraine was briefly mentioning in passing.

    On President Donald Trump’s call list Saturday was Ukraine President Poroshenko. The conversation comes after a week of some of the worst fighting in the last two year between Ukrainian and pro-Russia separatist fighters killed 30 people. Alison Stewart is joined by Professor Timothy Frye, chair of the political science department at Columbia University, to talk about international relations.

    In her first address to the UN Security Council, Nikki Haley, UN ambassador, condemned and called for an end to Russian occupation of Crimea, adding that sanctions against Russia would remain in place until it relinquished control of the region.

    As Politico once pointed out, days after the start of the conflict, Trump had appeared on the March 13 taping of NBC’s “Today” show, saying Russia’s aggression in the region “should never have happened,” adding that, “We should definitely do sanctions.”

    But when Trump sat down for a recent interview with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, the president said he admired the Russian leader, something’s he’s said since the 2016 election. The conciliatory sentiment didn’t quell fears that the administration would ease sanctions against Russia.

    When O’Reilly pressed the president, saying that Putin was a “killer,” Trump said, “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, you think our country’s so innocent?”

    Video by Fox News

    Some Republicans disagreed with the president’s response, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said he didn’t “see this issue the same way he does.”

    “I obviously don’t see this issue the same way he does,” McConnell said.

    “I don’t think there’s any equivalency between the way the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does,” he told CNN’s State of the Union.”

    With Republican leadership not aligning with the president’s own words, it’s unclear what is Trump’s exact position on Russia.

    After a Saturday call between Trump and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, the White House released a statement saying, “We will work with Ukraine, Russia, and all other parties involved to help them restore peace along the border.”

    2. An inquiry into child abuse allegations in Australia’s Catholic Church leads to “tragic” statistics

    Photo by St. Mary's cathedral in Sydney in 2008. Photo by Tim Wimborne/Reuters

    Photo by St. Mary’s cathedral in Sydney in 2008. Photo by Tim Wimborne/Reuters

    Afters years of investigations, the royal commission in Australia released its findings into the widespread allegations of sexual and physical abuse against Catholic priests and figures across the continent.

    Between 1950 and 2010, 7 percent of priests belonging to 75 Catholic Church authorities were alleged perpetrators, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse found.

    In the same time frame, there were 4,444 victims of child sexual abuse, the commission said. The average age of victims at the time of the abuse, for both boys and girls, was around 11.

    In a hearing Monday, Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, said the statistics were “shocking.”

    “They are tragic, and they are indefensible,” he said almost in tears.

    ABC News Australia

    “Each entry in this data, for the most part represents a child who suffered at the hands of someone who should have cared for, and protected them,” he added in his opening statement.

    Why it’s important

    The commission’s years-long look into the sexual abuse allegations follow other high-profile efforts to document the church’s abuse globally, including in the U.S.

    Bernard Barrett of Broken Rites, a website that monitors abuse within the Catholic Church said the statistics are “very seductive.”

    “People think that it’s an exact figure when, in reality, it’s indicative,” Barrett told Guardian Australia. “The church has covered up a lot of the abuse, as they have done for 2,000 years.”

    The commission said at least 1,880 alleged perpetrators were identified in claims. Also, there was, on average, a 33-year gap between the time of abuse and when it was reported.

    Paul Levely, a child sex abuse victim, wears a t-shirt that says "no more silence" and shows a tattoo on his arm as he stands in front of the Quirinale hotel in Rome, Italy, in 2016. Then, Australian Cardinal George Pell became the highest-ranking Vatican official to testify on sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church. Photo by Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

    Paul Levely, a child sex abuse victim, wears a t-shirt that says “no more silence” and shows a tattoo on his arm as he stands in front of the Quirinale hotel in Rome, Italy, in 2016. Then, Australian Cardinal George Pell became the highest-ranking Vatican official to testify on sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church. Photo by Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

    In an interview with CNN, Sullivan said it was not about the statistics. “We’re talking children,” he said. The scope of the abuse problem in the church’s institutions are because of a culture that give priests “extraordinary power over the lay people.” The church culture holds them in high regard, but “were never questioned. They were never in any way accountable.”

    And “people in positions of privilege covered it up,” Sullivan said. “They were more interested in protecting the image of the Catholic Church than they were in protecting children and believing victims,” he said.

    Sullivan said going forward, the Catholic Church cannot investigate itself, adding that an independent unit needs to be created to evaluate to resolve claims.

    A three-week hearing will be held to hear testimony from six archbishops.

    3. The world’s most endangered marine mammal is going extinct

    Photo by Paula Olson/NOAA via Wikimedia Commons"

    Photo by Paula Olson/NOAA via Wikimedia Commons”

    You’ve probably never heard of the vaquita, a small porpoise that lives almost exclusively in the northern part of the Gulf of California in Mexico. They’re easily spooked by humans and boats, so it can be hard to spot the stocky dolphin-like mammals, with small skulls and tall, sickle-shaped fins.

    Vaquitas weren’t even discovered by scientists until 1958. Now, a half a century later, the animals known as the “pandas of the sea,” for rings around their eyes, are close to disappearing forever.

    In 1997,conservationists estimated there were 567 vaquitas living along the shallow coastlines of the gulf coast. Last week, a new report estimated just 30 vaquitas are still alive, half the number still living in 2015.

    Why it’s important

    Scientists have been trying to slow down the rate of dying vaquitas for the last decade, without success.

    What makes vaquitas so special? The animals, whose name means ‘little cow’ in Spanish, share some genetics with ancient species, which helps scientists better understand evolutionary history. The vaquita plays an important role in the northern Gulf’s marine ecosystem: Their disappearance could affect the region’s sharks, who feed on the porpoises. The vaquitas themselves feed largely on fish, crustaceans and squid, so their disappearance could lead to overpopulation of those species, too.

    And the rapidly disappearing vaquitas illustrate a problem that has worried conservationists across the globe for decades: over-fishing. Since vaquitas have few predators, the rapid decline in population is almost entirely due to illegal fishing. International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), a group founded by Mexico to try to save the mammals, estimates that gillnets, walls of netting used to capture fish and shrimp, kill between 39 and 84 vaquitas a year.

    Most fisherman aren’t actually after the vaquita. They’re after totoabas, another endangered fish. Gangs pay fisherman to catch totoabas so they can harvest their bladders, which have become a Chinese delicacy. The bladders — which some believe also have medicinal powers — go for tens of thousands of dollars on the black market. Vaquitas ensnared in fishing nets are often just a casualty of that market.

    The Mexican government has spent millions of dollars on trying to solve this problem. They’ve incentivized fisherman to use alternatives to gillnets, though there aren’t many options available, and to avoid fishing in the areas frequented by vaquitas altogether. In 2015, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced an emergency gillnet ban for 5,000 square miles along the coast, enlisting the Navy to help enforce it. And in 2016, Former President Barack Obama signed on to help with the effort, too. But scientists say local fishermen still haven’t changed their behavior.

    Scientists have one last rescue effort ahead, New Scientist reports: A short-term sanctuary that would protect the animals while researchers figure out how to save them. The only problem: Vaquitas are skittish, which means gathering them by boat may not be possible. Researchers will try to use dolphins to steer vaquitas toward safety. Even then, they aren’t sure whether the vaquita will be able to reproduce, and survive, in a confined environment.

    4. Taiwan one step closer to legalizing same-sex marriage

    Supporters of same-sex marriage take part in a rally outside Presidential Office Building in Taipei, Taiwan, in December. Photo by Fabian Hamacher/Reuters

    Supporters of same-sex marriage take part in a rally outside Presidential Office Building in Taipei, Taiwan, in December. Photo by Fabian Hamacher/Reuters

    Same-sex marriage may soon become a reality in Taiwan under a new piece of legislation introduced by a politician in parliament.

    In December, a legislative committee in the Taiwan Parliament approved an amendment to its civil code. Lawyer and writer M. Bob Kao, who is based out of Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, said the code’s language is now indiscriminate. Essentially, all clauses with heteronormative language such as “husband and wife, now apply equally to same-sex couples.

    The bill’s trajectory is anticipated to be discussed further beginning in April or May, in light of the legislature’s current recess, Focus Taiwan reported. And although an attempt to pass the bill fell flat in 2013, Taiwan’s political climate has since changed.

    Why it’s important

    Thousand of supporters of same-sex marriage take part in a rally outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan, in November. Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters

    Thousand of supporters of same-sex marriage take part in a rally outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan, in November. Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters

    With this new bill, Taiwan may become the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage.

    However, overall opinion concerning the bill is still divided, where in Taipei, demonstrations and protests occur in favor and against the new legislation.

    Galvanization for the bill partially came after the death of National Taiwan University professor Jacques Camille Picoux committed suicide in 2016, after losing his partner to cancer.

    In a way, his death created a rallying cry to bolster same-sex legalization, Jay Lin, 43, of Kaohsiung, South Taiwan told the NewsHour. Furthermore, Picoux’s suicide highlighted the injustice some same-sex couples experience when attempting to care for loved ones medically or financially, he said.

    “Asia is the only continent in the world that doesn’t have a country with marriage equality,” Lin said. “But it has almost three-fifths of the world population and so this would be a big step for Asia as a whole, and provide inspiration for other countries around Asia to consider amending laws to be more accommodating to their diverse citizens.”

    5. FCC’s latest move complicates efforts to lessen the digital divide

    Then-FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai (L) testifies at a House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in 2015. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Then-FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai (L) testifies at a House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in 2015. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Shortly after becoming the new chairman for the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, a Republican, said he’d work with the American public “to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans.”

    However, one of Pai’s decisions as the new FCC chairman appears to contradict that beginning statement.

    Late last week, he reversed the approvals of nine companies to participate in Lifeline, a federal program designed to subsidize internet access for low-income consumers. A $9.25 credit would have been given to qualifying households every month, which could be used for cheap internet access.

    Citing “program integrity,” the FCC wrote that the decision would provide agency with “additional time to consider measures that might be necessary to prevent further waste, fraud and abuse in the Lifeline program.”

    Why it’s important

    The Lifeline program, approved in 2015, aimed to lessen the digital divide for Americans who are unable to have access to broadband service at home.

    According to a 2015 Pew Research Center report, 69 percent of U.S. adults — up from 56 percent in 2010 — said the lack of access to high-speed internet at home can be a major inhibitor to job searches and looking up other important information.

    Also, 33 percent of Americans, in the same Pew report, said the cost of having broadband at home was the main reason why they didn’t have it.

    That lack of access can also affect children at low-income households. According to Pew, as many as 5 million households with children in school do not have internet at home, complicating tasks such as doing their homework.

    One of the planned participants in the in Lifeline program was Kajeet, a broadband company that partners with school districts in 41 states and the District to provide internet to children from low-income homes.

    READ MORE: 5 important stories that aren’t getting much attention this week

    The post 5 important stories you may have missed during last week’s news deluge appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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