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

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    U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with county sheriffs at the White House in Washington, U.S. February 7, 2017.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTX300SC

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The day’s top story — a federal appeals court hears arguments over President Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigration. The panel will have to decide whether to override a lower court that blocked enforcement nationwide. We will examine this in detail right after the news summary.

    The White House says it is confident of ultimate victory in the court fight. And the president made clear today he is willing to go to the mat.

    John Yang reports.

    JOHN YANG: President Trump has vowed to fight for his executive order all the way to the Supreme Court, if he has to.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to take it through the system. It’s very important. It’s very important to the country, regardless of me or whoever succeeds at a later date. I mean, we have to have security in our country.

    We have to have the ability when you take some place like Syria, you take all of the different people pouring all — and, if you remember, ISIS said, we are going to infiltrate the United States and other countries through the migration. And then we’re not allowed to be tough on the people coming in? Explain that one.

    JOHN YANG: The order temporarily stopped citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, and barred the admission of refugees.

    Friday, a federal judge in Seattle blocked enforcement.

    On Twitter, the president warned: “The threat from radical Islamic terrorism is very real. Just look at what is happening in Europe and the Middle East. Courts must act fast.”

    On Capitol Hill, Representative Bennie Thompson, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, pressed Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on whether any terrorists have entered the country.

    JOHN KELLY, Homeland Security Secretary: But it’s entirely possible that someone that’s coming in, whether it’s during this stay, during the court action or previous to this period, intend to do us harm.

    REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, D-Miss.: But you don’t have any proof at this point.

    JOHN KELLY: Not until the boom.

    REP. BENNIE THOMPSON: Not until what?

    JOHN KELLY: Not until they act and blow something up or go into a mall and kill people. So we won’t know until then.

    JOHN YANG: Kelly said Mr. Trump’s order was not a Muslim ban. He said it made an awful lot of sense, but acknowledged problems with the rollout:

    JOHN KELLY: In retrospect, I should have, this is all on me, by the way, I should have delayed it just a bit so that I could talk to members of Congress, particularly the leadership of the committees like this, to prepare them for what was coming.

    JOHN YANG: Kelly also told lawmakers the administration is not contemplating adding other countries for now.

    JOHN KELLY: This travel pause is all about countries that are not cooperative, or can’t be cooperative because of the conditions within the country, to provide us, to provide the president, to provide me now a confidence that the people that we’re dealing with are the people who, you know — who they say they are.

    JOHN YANG: Related to all of this, the president’s assertion that the new media has ignored some acts of terrorism. The White House released a list of 78 incidents. It said most of them were terrorist attacks that didn’t get enough news coverage.

    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer:

    SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: Part of this is to make sure that the American people are reminded how prevalent some of these attacks are, and how much time and attention they have or have not gotten, but, more importantly, to make sure that they understand the unwavering commitment that the president has and the actions that he will take to keep the country safe.

    JOHN YANG: Spicer said the list was assembled after the president’s statement.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang at the White House.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president also repeated a claim he’s made before, that the nation’s murder rate is the highest in 47 years. In fact, FBI figures show it is the lowest in decades.

    AUDIE CORNISH: In the day’s other news, the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos to be secretary of education by the slimmest of margins, 51-50. Vice President Mike Pence had to step in to cast the tie-breaking vote, part of his duties as president of the Senate, but it’s the first time that’s happened on a Cabinet nomination. We will take a closer look at DeVos and the battle over her nomination later in the program.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president’s choice to head the Veterans Affairs department, David Shulkin, sailed through committee today, and headed to the full Senate.

    And, overnight, the labor secretary nominee, Andrew Puzder, acknowledged that he once had an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper. In a statement, he said — quote — “When I learned of her status, we immediately ended her employment.”

    AUDIE CORNISH: House Speaker Paul Ryan now says Congress will finish the work of repealing and replacing Obamacare before the year is out, and he delivered a rough timeline today, this after President Trump said over the weekend that the process might take until next year.

    REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: So the question about how long it takes to effectuate the change, how long it takes to put these things in place, that’s a question that the HHS can answer. But far as legislating is concerned, we’re going to do our legislating this year.

    AUDIE CORNISH: Republicans voted last month to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, but they have missed their target date of January 27 to start drafting the legislation to make that happen.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cleared the way today for completion of the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline. The Corps notified Congress that it is granting the final easement in North Dakota. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says the pipeline’s route threatens its cultural sites and water supply, and it promised a new legal fight.

    AUDIE CORNISH: The governor of Louisiana has declared a state of emergency after tornadoes in and near New Orleans today. The storms damaged a number of homes and businesses, and knocked out power to thousands. There were no reports of deaths and most of the injuries were minor.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Afghanistan, a suicide bomber attacked an entrance to the country’s Supreme Court, killing at least 19 people. Officials say the attacker, on foot, targeted a side door as court employees were leaving the building in downtown Kabul; 41 people were wounded, including 10 critically.

    AUDIE CORNISH: Israel’s Parliament has touched off a new confrontation over Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but it may end up being largely symbolic. Last night, the Knesset voted retroactively to legalize thousands of homes built illegally on Palestinian land. It drew praise and condemnation alike.

    TOMER REHOVI, Israeli Settler (through interpreter): Both sides benefit, actually. The side who owns the land receives a respectable amount of money and can build somewhere else, and the side who already lives there won’t have to dismantle his life achievement.

    MAHMOUD ABBAS, Palestinian Authority President (through interpreter): The Israeli government passed a bill yesterday in the Knesset that legalizes stealing Palestinian private land in favor of settlers. This legislation is contrary to international law, and we will continue our efforts with international courts in order to protect our existence and land.

    AUDIE CORNISH: A number of Israeli legal experts predicted the nation’s Supreme Court will strike down the law.

    In Washington, the Trump White House said it will wait for the courts to rule before taking a stance.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, first lady Melania Trump has reached a settlement over a libel lawsuit she filed against a blogger. He had claimed falsely that she worked as an escort in New York in the 1990s. Attorneys for both sides say the settlement included his apology and a — quote — “substantial sum of money.”

    AUDIE CORNISH: Wall Street had another relatively quiet day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 38 points to close at 20090. The Nasdaq rose 10 points, and the S&P 500 added half-a-point.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Boston today, they turned out by the hundreds of thousands, as the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots paraded through the streets. With trophies in hand, players and fans braved snow, rain and wind to celebrate. New England beat the Atlanta Falcons Sunday for its fifth NFL title overall.

    AUDIE CORNISH: And another winner, the word of the year for 2016 is “surreal.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary people define it as unbelievable or fantastic. They say online searches for surreal spiked after last year’s terror attacks. The most popular day for that search term, though? The day after the presidential election.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you know?

    The post News Wrap: Trump vows to keep fighting in court for travel ban appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A general view of Vizio television during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The Federal Trade Commission says Vizio was collecting and selling data about its smart TV customers without their consent. Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images.

    A general view of Vizio television during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The Federal Trade Commission says Vizio was collecting and selling data about its smart TV customers without their consent. Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images.

    Beginning in 2014, consumer electronics company Vizio used its smart televisions to collect and later sell data on millions of its customers without their knowledge or consent, according to a new report by the Federal Trade Commission.

    Vizio has agreed to settle the complaint, filed by the FTC and the state of New Jersey, for $2.2 million. The money will be split between the FTC and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. The settlement also orders Vizio to destroy all data gathered before March 1, 2016 within the next 120 days.

    The complaint alleges that beginning in 2014, Vizio collected viewer data from more than 10 million of its smart TV sets, and sold it to analytics, media and advertising companies without consumers’ consent.

    The company monitored both what their customers watched and how they were watching it, in subsequent years also tracking the effectiveness of advertising across devices, the complaint says. The FTC said that Vizio “provided consumers’ IP addresses to data aggregators, who then matched the address with an individual consumer or household.” Income, age, education and homeownership information was also sold to third parties, according to the complaint. And in 2016, the company began selling customer data to third parties who wanted to better target their advertising to consumers on their digital devices, based on their television habits.

    With the growing number of smart devices — from cell phones and assistants like Alexa to refrigerators and thermostats — available to consumers, it can be hard to know what exactly happens to the data they collect. In early 2016, more than one in two American households had an internet-enabled television, and nearly half of those households use smart TVs, as reported by Variety.

    WATCH: Smart Devices That Make Life Easier May Also Be Easy To Hack, Says FTC

    Other consumer electronics companies have been criticized for how they’ve handled data, too. Samsung, for instance, updated the language of its privacy policy in 2015 after concerns that microphones in Samsung Smart TVs and remotes record consumers’ conversations, including speech unrelated to the functions of the TV.

    But in a separate statement, FTC acting chair Maureen Ohlhausen said the settlement could help redefine what’s considered sensitive information.

    “We have long defined sensitive information to include financial information, health information, Social Security Numbers, information about children, and precise geolocation information. We have also recommended that companies get opt-in consent before collecting and sharing the content of consumers’ communications,” she wrote. “But here, for the first time, the FTC has alleged in a complaint that “individualized television viewing activity falls within the definition of sensitive information.”

    Vizio ran the tracking function through Smart Interactivity, a feature the company described on its website as a feature that can collect information about your device and suggest bonus features, polls and advertising “related to the content you’re viewing.”

    The company’s website says customers can opt out of this feature at any time. But according to the complaint, marketing Smart Interactivity as a tool that enabled new features failed to disclose the tracking in consumer-friendly terms.

    WATCH: FTC urges more online privacy protection from data brokers

    In a statement on the company’s website, a Vizio attorney admitted no wrongdoing in the case and said the company was not accused of disclosing any personal data.

    “The ACR program never paired viewing data with personally identifiable information such as name or contact information,” Vizio general counsel Jerry Huang said.

    The company also said in its statement that it updated webpages to make information about data collection more clear — highlighting not only how to disable the feature, but also what its purpose is.

    Huang lauded the settlement as setting a new, higher standard for “privacy practices for the collection and analysis of data collected from today’s internet-connected televisions.”

    Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in an interview with PBS NewsHour that while the settlement is a win for consumers, it’s not clear whether this will hurt Vizio or encourage policy changes at other companies.

    “A $2.2 million dollar settlement for a company that sold 11 million TVs is a slap on the wrist,” Lynch said.

    Lynch also pointed out some of the data Vizio collected was being handed over to law enforcement officials. The settlement excludes data “requested by a government agency or required by law, regulation, or court order, including without limitation as required by rules applicable to the safeguarding of evidence in pending litigation” from the data deletion requirement.

    Meanwhile, Ohlhausen said the Vizio settlement “demonstrates the need for the FTC to examine more rigorously what constitutes ‘substantial injury’ in the context of information about consumers,” she wrote, adding she’d launch an effort to do so in the coming weeks.

    The post Vizio tracked, sold user data from millions of smart TVs, says FTC appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    This new electronic pill can harvest energy from inside a stomach for nearly a week. Photo by Diemut Strebe

    This new ingestible device can harvest energy from inside a stomach for nearly a week. Photo by Diemut Strebe

    We talk a lot about “brain power.” But your stomach might not be getting enough credit.

    A new electronic pill, equipped with a Wi-Fi transmitter, can harvest energy from inside a patient’s own stomach to record core body temperature and then beam the information to an external monitor. The prototype can power itself for nearly a week– much longer than current ingestible devices, which are only able to share health data for less than an hour. Indeed, this ingestible device carries the longest-lasting, most potent energy harvester to date.

    While you can’t make Skype calls with this Wi-Fi pill, it could yield fresh opportunities for drug delivery or real-time health monitoring from inside organs, said Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist and biomedical engineer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who co-led a study of the pill published Monday in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

    “It basically generates the same power level that a lot of Bluetooth devices use.”

    Maybe you’re thinking: “What’s the big deal? All the pill does is measure body temperature?” Well, despite our many medical advances, we’re pretty bad at measuring core body temperature. A recent study of 8,600 patients found mouth, armpit or skin thermometer readings did a lousy job of measuring core temperature. Why that matters: A inaccurate core temperature measure can imperil a patient under anesthesia, causing hypothermia, or complicate treatment for a patient with higher risk of developing an infection.

    Traverso is a maker of origami-style ingestible devices. The devices fit inside a capsule but unfold when they hit the stomach and deliver drugs for long periods of time before they disintegrate and pass through the body. About two and a half years ago, he and some collaborators wondered if adding a power source to such a device could extend its working lifespan.

    “One of the things that we discussed early on was the potential to power systems using the gastric acid,” Traverso said. Ever build a lemon battery in grade school? If so, then you already know how this concept works.

    A lemon battery draws power from an electrochemical reaction. Two metal electrodes — typically a zinc rod and a copper penny — are thrust into the fruit. The metals react chemically with the acidic lemon juice and dissolve, creating an imbalance. The zinc behaves like a anode, building up negatively charged electrons. Meanwhile, the copper cathode fills with positively charged ions. Connect a wire between the metals, and the electrons — electricity — will flow between the two.

    To make their power-harvesting pill, the team used miniaturized pieces of copper and zinc. “These metals react with the stomach acid and generate electrons to flow in the external circuit,” said Philip Nadeau, an electrical engineer who co-designed the device.

    The electrodes were placed on the outside of a silicon capsule the size of an AirPod earbud, which housed all of the sensitive circuits and electronics. The device could harvest 100 to 200 millivolts directly from the stomach juices, a meager amount. So the engineers added an energy storage capacitor to boost the output to 2 to 3 volts.

    “We were generating about 15 microwatts, so you would need about six million [of these devices] to power a 100-watt light bulb,” Nadeau said. “But it basically generates the same power level that a lot of Bluetooth devices use.”

    To prove it, Nadeau and the others field tested the device in pigs. Each pill contained the electrodes, a temperature sensor and a Wi-Fi transmitter. The information beamed to a receiver hanging from the ceiling about 10 feet away, but Nadeau suspects the signal could reach as far as 32 feet.

    “The device was sending a temperature measurement and a few performance indicators of the system every 12 seconds,” Nadeau said. “So basically it would be almost like a tweet, maybe a bit shorter than a tweet.”

    For six days, the gadget tracked core body temperature, as the pill moved through the stomach and intestines of pigs. Until now, similar ingestible devices had only been able to harvest less than an hour’s worth of energy. Another version of the prototype used the harvested energy to deliver a dose of drugs.

    An X-ray scan reveals the circuitry within a electronic pill that can harvest energy and make core body temperature measurements. Photo by Jenny Haupt, Cody Cleveland and Phillip Nadeau

    An X-ray scan reveals the circuitry within a electronic pill that can harvest energy and make core body temperature measurements. Photo by Jenny Haupt, Cody Cleveland and Phillip Nadeau

    “It’s a pretty nice accomplishment” said John Rogers, a physical chemist at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and leader in medical nanoelectronics design. Rogers wasn’t involved in the study. “Not only were they able to sustain a power for a period of six days, but it was at levels of power that were practically useful.”

    In terms of safety, the pigs’ stomachs were exposed only to the zinc and copper electrodes; the silicone capsule encased the rest of the electronics. Zinc is a vitamin, and the amount released as the electrode dissolved was on par with the contents of an over-the-counter zinc supplement. The risks associated with the copper exposure are less clear, Rogers said. The electronic pill has low doses of zinc and copper, but it will need more biocompatibility studies before use by humans.

    Traverso and Nadeau said future editions of the pill may swap out copper for a friendlier biomaterial. They’re also aiming to shrink the pill to the size of a tablet.

    “When I show it to people they say, ‘I’m not going to swallow that!'” Nadeau said. “Now that we know how much power is available, miniaturization is definitely feasible.”

    Traverso thinks temperature tracking is just the first of many ways the medical community can use the device.

    “We’ve looked at measuring other vital signs like the heart rate and respiratory rate,” Traverso said. “Systems that could be powered like this and stay in the stomach for a long time could monitor vital signs and diagnose a whole host of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.”

    The post This electronic pill can send Wi-Fi updates from your tummy for days appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) listens to opening remarks prior to testifying before a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2017. Photo by Carlos Barria/REUTERS

    U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) listens to opening remarks prior to testifying before a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2017. Photo by Carlos Barria/REUTERS

    Health and Human Services secretary nominee Tom Price showed little restraint in his personal stock trading during the three years that federal investigators were bearing down on a key House committee on which the Republican congressman served, a review of his financial disclosures shows.

    Price made dozens of health industry stock trades during a three-year investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission that focused on the Ways and Means Committee, according to financial disclosure records he filed with the House of Representatives. The investigation was considered the first test of a law passed to ban members of Congress and their staffs from trading stock based on insider information.

    Price was never a target of the federal investigation, which scrutinized a top Ways and Means staffer, and no charges were brought. But ethics experts say Price’s personal trading, even during the thick of federal pressure on his committee, shows he was unconcerned about financial investments that could create an appearance of impropriety.

    “He should have known better,” Richard Painter, former White House chief ethics attorney under President George W. Bush and a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School said of Price’s conduct during the SEC inquiry.

    As Price awaits a Senate vote on his confirmation, Senate Democrats and a number of watchdog groups have asked the SEC to investigate whether Price engaged in insider trading with some of his trades in health care companies. Price has said he abided by all ethics rules, although he acknowledged to the Senate Finance Committee that he did not consult the House Ethics Committee on trades that have now become controversial.

    The SEC’s inquiry began in 2013, as it battled Ways and Means for documents to develop its case.

    A few weeks ago, the day before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the SEC quietly dropped its pursuit of committee documents without explanation, according to federal court records. No charges were brought against the staffer, Brian Sutter, who is now a health care lobbyist. Sutter’s lawyer declined to comment.

    Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist with Public Citizen, described Price’s volume of stock trades during the SEC inquiry as “brazen,” given the congressman’s access to nonpublic information affecting the companies’ fortunes.

    “The public is seeing this and they really don’t like it,” said Holman whose watchdog group recently filed complaints about Price’s stock trading with both the SEC and the Office of Congressional Ethics.

    Trump administration officials and Price have dismissed questions that news reports and lawmakers have raised about stock trades coinciding with official actions to help certain companies, saying Price’s brokers chose the stocks independently and all of his conduct was transparent.

    After acknowledging that he asked his broker to buy stock in an Australian drug company, he told the Senate Finance Committee that he did not direct his broker to make other trades.

    “To the best of my knowledge, I have not undertaken such actions,” he wrote in response to finance committee questions. “I have abided by and adhered to all ethics and conflict of interest rules applicable to me.”

    An analysis of Price’s trades shows that he bought health stocks in 2007, the first year Congress financial disclosures are posted online. In 2011, the the first year Price sat on the health subcommittee, he traded no health-related stocks, according to his financial disclosures filed with Congress.

    That same year, members were facing public criticism because of a book detailing how they could use inside information and a “60 Minutes” investigation focused on how members and staff could legally use inside information to gain from their own stock trades.

    In 2012, President Barack Obama signed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act to rein in insider trading by members and require more disclosure. Public watchdog groups suggested at the time that the law would curb the practice.

    That year, after his one-year break in health care trades, Price resumed investing in health care companies.

    Along with investments in technology, financial services and retail stocks, he also bought and sold stock in companies that could be impacted by actions of his subcommittee, which has a role in determining rates the government pays under the Medicare program.

    Health care firms spend heavily to influence members of Congress, lobbying on health matters, funding political campaigns and seeking favor with Medicare officials who decide how much the program will pay for certain drugs and devices. The Food and Drug Administration holds similar power, approving or putting conditions on drug and device use.

    Beyond his personal investments in health care companies, Price has also advocated their interests in letters to officials and proposed laws, government records show.

    In 2012, disclosure records show Price sold stock in several drug firms, including more than $110,000 worth of Amgen stock. Amgen’s stock price had steadily climbed out of a recession-level slump, but Price’s sale came a few weeks before the company pleaded guilty to illegally marketing an anemia drug.

    By 2013, the health subcommittee was at the center of a major conflict between Medicare, which sets Medicare Advantage rates, and the insurance industry. Medicare issued a notice early that year announcing its intention to reduce Medicare Advantage rates by 2.3 percent as part of a major cost-cutting initiative.

    That prompted fierce lobbying by the health insurance industry. Members of Congress, including Price, wrote a letter to Marilyn Tavenner, then acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, protesting the rate cut, saying the decrease would “disadvantage vulnerable beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions.”

    Ultimately, Medicare decided not to cut rates but instead, to increase them. Yet an hour before Medicare announced the change, a Height Securities analyst fired off a “flash” report to 200 clients that touched off a surge of trading.

    The analyst’s report said a political deal was hatched on Capitol Hill to prevent the cuts as a condition for moving forward on Tavenner’s confirmation. Medicare officials increased rates by nearly 4 percent, a change that would positively impact the bottom lines of health insurance companies.

    The SEC began looking for the leak’s source, and within weeks, FBI agents began interviewing staffers at the Ways and Means Committee, court records show.

    They discovered communications between Sutter and a health care lobbyist. The HHS Inspector General also began a probe, and federal prosecutors briefly examined the matter activity as well.

    As the case unfolded, Price bought more health care-related stocks, according to his financial disclosures. He has testified that his broker directed all of the trades, except for his investments in Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian company partly owned by Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), according to Collins’ disclosures. An HHS spokesman said Monday that Price held three broker-directed accounts.

    Ethics experts have said that Price should have further distanced himself by placing his assets in a blind trust.

    On April 30, 2013, Price bought $2,093 worth of stocks in Incyte, a company that develops cancer drugs; $2,076 in Onyx Pharmaceuticals, a drugmaker that would soon merge with a larger drug firm; and $2,097 in Parexel International, a consultancy that helps drugs and devices win FDA approval, according to the financial disclosure records.

    The same day, Price shed shares of Express Scripts, a drug management firm, and Danaher, which makes products hospitals and doctor’s offices using for testing and diagnostics. In August of that year, he bought a $2,429 stake in Jazz Pharmaceuticals, which makes sleep and cancer drugs.

    On May 6, 2014, the SEC served its first subpoena for the Ways and Means Committee documents. The committee launched a vigorous fight, appealing a federal district judge’s ruling that it should comply with the SEC subpoena.

    Price continued his health stock trades, including $1,000 to $15,000 in drug firms Amgen, Eli Lilly and Co., Pfizer, Biogen and Bristol-Myers Squibb. He also bought stocks in Aetna, a major health insurer, and Athenahealth, which sells electronic medical record and medical billing software. In 2016, he also increased his investment in Innate Immunotherapeutics.

    The purchase became controversial because both he and Collins bought stock in a private placement at a discounted price.

    “You’re asking for trouble if you have access to nonpublic information about the health care industry and you’re buying and selling health care stocks,” Painter said.

    This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation. Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 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 HHS pick Tom Price made ‘brazen’ stock trades while his committee was under scrutiny appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Poor women are four times more likely to be jobless by the end of treatment than their better-off peers, according to a study published Monday in Health Affairs. Photo by  Snowleopard1/via Getty Images

    Poor women are four times more likely to be jobless by the end of treatment than their better-off peers, according to a study published Monday in Health Affairs. Photo by Snowleopard1/via Getty Images

    In early 2013, Ayanna Kalasunas felt on top of the world. She’d just gotten engaged and was working in e-commerce operations at a Philadelphia-based retailer. “I was honestly at this pinnacle moment of my life,” she said. “I was like, ‘You did it. Way to go, Ayanna.’”

    The next month, she got diagnosed with breast cancer: stage 4, metastatic, just like her mother was battling.

    As she reeled from that news, many fears crossed her mind. But one that didn’t even occur to her was that after about three years she’d be unemployed and without her employer-provided health insurance.

    Between 20 and 30 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer will lose their jobs.

    That sequence of events is all too common. Between 20 and 30 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer will lose their jobs, according to a study published Monday in Health Affairs, endangering their financial security as well as their insurance coverage. But the risk is heavily biased: Poor women are four times more likely to be jobless by the end of treatment than their better-off peers.

    And one of the most significant factors is the difference in workplace accommodations customarily offered to employees working well-paid, salaried jobs versus employees paid lower wages.

    The research team led by Dr. Victoria Blinder, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, followed 267 women through breast cancer treatment in New York City. They found that workers who described their employers as accommodating were twice as likely to keep their jobs — and lower-income women were half as likely to have accommodating employers. “I always use the example of a nanny,” Blinder said. “If that person says, ‘I can’t work for the next six months,’ it’s going to be very difficult for the employer to not replace that person.”

    READ MORE: Cemetery walks and playwriting: How I found healing after breast cancer

    Kalasunas, 37, found the routine of work comforting amid two rounds of radiation and over a year and a half of chemotherapy treatments. When she was first diagnosed, her supervisor spoke to her about what kind of flexibility she needed, and assigned her to longer-term projects so her work wouldn’t suffer if she woke up feeling too ill to work one day.

    “In the beginning, it was like — OK, it is really important for me to be able to control work.” she said. “It became wildly important to be able to control something. Because everything else around me, it felt like there was nothing I could do about it.”

    But in the years that followed she cycled through three supervisors, and her last boss took a different approach, asking her to stick to a more regular schedule. Ayanna started to feel as though her diagnosis — not her work — was the reason the company kept her on. “When someone says to you, ‘I can’t fire you,’ that lets you know that you’re only really there because they don’t have a choice but to put up with you,” she said. At the same time, her mother had recently died and Kalasunas was going through another round of radiation. “I had just been through what felt like a war zone,” she said. She decided to leave her job in 2016.

    Working is not just important financially; it is also central to many people’s psychological health, Blinder said. “For a lot of people across income levels, there’s just a sense of engagement in society that comes along with working. There’s a sense of psychological well-being,” she said.

    Laura Martin, 59, had a very different experience with her employer than Kalasunas did. Martin’s bosses at her employee benefits consulting company helped her switch her health insurance from an HMO to a no-referral plan, and a coworker who was a former nurse helped her administer injections she needed to take. She was allowed to be flexible with her schedule — critical as she went through five months of chemotherapy and a seven-week radiation regimen. “I mean, if I got tired at 1 p.m., I’d just go home,” she said.

    “They were very understanding. I know that might not be true for all employers.”

    Martin is still working at the same company and has been cancer-free for six years.

    Ayanna Kalasunas at a fundraising event for Living Beyond Breast Cancer in 2015. Photo courtesy of Ayanna Kalasunas

    Ayanna Kalasunas at a fundraising event for Living Beyond Breast Cancer in 2015. Photo courtesy of Ayanna Kalasunas

    Making an accommodating workplace

    Although the study did look at racial disparities — and researchers took pains to ensure its sample would be able to pick up any racially based differences — class-based differences were stronger predictors of a woman’s likelihood of returning to work. (That doesn’t mean they didn’t find any difference; Chinese women were significantly less likely to still have a job four months after treatment.)

    The paper’s diversity makes it particularly interesting, said Michael Feuerstein, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Cancer Survivorship and a professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. “It’s one of the first studies that I know of that looked at work and cancer survivors after treatment and really focused on diversity,” he said.

    READ MORE: Crowdsourcing effort takes aim at deadliest breast cancers

    Employees with cancer do have protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act. That means employers can’t discriminate against employees who disclose their diagnosis, and must guarantee reasonable accommodations — like a bit of flexibility for medical appointments — unless those accommodations would be too burdensome.

    But the ADA only applies to workplaces with more than 15 people. ADA exemptions “disproportionally affect lower-income workers,” Blinder said; 40 percent of people who work for exempt employers are in the bottom quarter of the income distribution.

    Based on what she’s learned, Blinder has consulted for a consortium including Anthem, Pfizer, and the nonprofits Cancer and Careers and the US Business Leadership Network to create a toolkit for employers of people with cancer. Among other things, it provides information for employers about their obligations, suggestions on how to talk about an employee’s diagnosis, and a planning template companies can use to lay out expectations in writing.

    Still, Kalasunas said, having designated help to navigate workplace benefits and legal rights would have helped, but it might not have kept her in her job.

    Today Kalasunas volunteers on the board of Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a Philadelphia-based charity focused on breast cancer survivors, but she hasn’t returned to the workforce. She considers herself lucky that her now-husband’s job extends health benefits to her and pays a salary off of which they can live. “My life is — I don’t want to say my life is too short, I don’t like to say stuff like that — but life is too short for everyone,” she said. “You’re not going to engrave my headstone, ‘Here lies the most loyal employee I’ve ever had.’”

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Feb. 6, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post Poor women more likely to lose jobs during breast cancer treatment, study finds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A member of the NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force patrols in Times Square in the Manhattan borough in New York, March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith - RTSBRMQ

    A member of the NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force patrols in Times Square. Credit: REUTERS/Stephanie Keith.

    WASHINGTON — A White House list of what it calls underreported terrorist attacks did not support President Donald Trump’s claim that the media are downplaying a “genocide” carried out by the Islamic State group. But it did shine new light on the difficulty in defining the scope, source and motives behind the violence carried out in the name of radical Islam.

    A close review of the 78 attacks listed by the White House shows almost all the attacks were reported by the news media and that many were widely covered by local and international outlets. The review, carried out by Associated Press reporters on four continents, found that more than half of the attacks, including most of those in the Middle East, were linked to the Islamic State group, as the White House suggested. Others were ruled IS-inspired, but carried out by lone wolf attackers. But in some cases, the motive was unclear, and investigations as to possible extremist links were inconclusive.

    The examples range from knife-wielding assailants in Texas to hostage-takers in Australia to the gunmen who killed at least 129 people across Paris in 2015. The magnitude of the attacks on the document circulated by the White House — which appeared to be hastily compiled and included several typos — ranges from several dozen dead to one or two people injured.

    It has some notable omissions. It did not include any attacks by Boko Haram, an Islamist insurgent group operating in West Africa that is responsible for far more deaths than the Islamic State. The group, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, has led an uprising that has killed more than 20,000 people and left 2.6 million homeless this decade in Nigeria and neighboring countries.

    It also pays little heed to the scores of terror acts that have plagued nations like Syria and Iraq that are close to the Islamic State’s caliphate and under near-daily siege.

    The list itself was created to bolster the case for Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and suspending the U.S. refugee program. But that ban would not have prevented any of the terrorist attacks on the list that occurred in the United States.

    Here’s a closer look at some of the attacks on the list:



    The inclusion of some of the attacks in the United States defies credulity.

    Among those on the White House’s list are a deadly rampage in San Bernardino, California, in 2015 in which 14 people were killed and 21 injured, and the June 2016 nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 dead, the biggest mass shooting in the nation’s history. Both of those attacks received blanket news coverage for days, and all of the attacks in the U.S. received at least some attention by the American media.

    A 2015 attack in Garland, Texas, took place outside a venue hosting a provocative contest for Prophet Muhammad cartoons. According to trial testimony, the suspect, Elton Simpson, was an American Muslim who became the subject of a criminal investigation in 2006 because of his association “with an individual whom the FBI believed was attempting to set up a terrorist cell in Arizona.” He was never found to have links to the Islamic State group or any other established radical groups.

    Non-fatal knife attacks on police officers in Boston and New York, a knife attack at a Minnesota mall and the shooting of a police officer in Philadelphia were also reported.

    “The notion that terrorism is an under-covered subject is preposterous,” said David H. Schanzer, director of Duke University’s Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. “It’s highly over-covered compared to the amount of violence that we face in society.”

    Citing a study his department recently published, Schanzer said, “one out of every 2,000 homicides since 9/11 have been linked to al-Qaida or ISIS-inspiration or control.”



    Two October 2014 attacks in Canada — one in Quebec and one in Ottawa — received media coverage in Canada, where attacks of this nature are rare. In Quebec, soldier Patrice Vincent was killed in an apparent act of homegrown terrorism. The suspect was known to police and had his passport seized to stop him from traveling to Syria. It was never determined whether the suspect had any ties to Islamic militant groups, though former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper described the suspect as an “ISIL-inspired terrorist,” referring to the Islamic State group by an acronym.

    In the Canadian capital, one soldier was killed at a war memorial and two were wounded in shootings at the Parliament building.

    Meanwhile, in Quebec last week, a gunman who reportedly held anti-immigrant views killed six men at a local mosque in an incident described by Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a “terrorist attack.” Trump has yet to personally comment on the attacks, although the White House did offer assistance to Trudeau. That attack wasn’t listed.



    Across Europe, attacks are increasingly being attributed to the flow of refugees across the continent — and it’s hard to find a single attack, large or small, that didn’t generate global coverage.

    Trump himself used a non-fatal knife attack outside the Louvre in Paris last week to underscore his efforts to ban migrants from entering the U.S., writing on Twitter, “A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down. France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.”

    All of the attacks cited on the list in Europe were widely reported both by international and local media — some in real time. A 2015 attack at a Paris supermarket was covered live as it was happening. When the attacker, Amedy Coulibaly, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, it was urgently reported by The Associated Press and others.

    Links between the attackers and terror groups were also reported, although at times that did not happen until they were unearthed by investigators days later.

    In London, a 2015 knife attack by a man shouting “this is for Syria” at an underground rail station made headlines in newspapers around the world. Police said they treated it as a terrorist incident, although a link was never drawn between the attacker and any particular group.

    A 2014 attack on a police station by a Muslim convert in Joue-les-Tours, France, was reported by The Associated Press at the time and followed up with his brother’s arrest in Burundi. AP did not report on any links to the Islamic State group, although British media later said he posted a black Islamic State flag on his Facebook page.



    The Muslim world is the front line in the battle against the Islamic State group, and civilians across the region have not been spared the group’s deadly campaign.

    A number of attacks cited on the White House list occurred in Egypt. A 2015 attack on a camp used by a multinational peacekeeping force was reported by several news outlets, as was the Islamic State group claim. Other attacks occurred in Cairo in 2015, including one that resulted in the kidnapping and beheading of a Croatian national, and a car bomb at the Italian Consulate that left one dead. Both were claimed by the Islamic State group and reported worldwide.

    Additional attacks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Tunisia and Turkey were also reported by various news outlets, citing officials who linked the attacks to the Islamic State group — a common claim by governments across the Middle East, even when dealing with lone wolf attackers.

    The White House list did not include any attacks in Iraq, Syria or Yemen, where civilians are targeted almost daily by militant attacks. Many of those attacks are covered by the media, despite the often-perilous conditions involved in reporting those stories.



    Included on Trump’s list is a standoff at a Sydney chocolatier in 2014. The incident drew round-the-clock coverage by the world’s news outlets. A request by attacker Man Haron Monis for an Islamic State group flag during the faceoff fueled anxiety about the group’s expanding influence across the globe.

    Monis himself was never determined to have had contact with the group.

    An incident shortly before that in Melbourne also made headlines when Numan Haider was shot dead by police in connection with the stabbing of two police officers. Photographs on Haider’s Facebook site included images of what appeared to be members of the Islamic State group.


    Lemire reported from New York. Geir Moulson in Berlin; Jan Olsen in Copenhagen; Jill Lawless in London; Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow; Dominique Soguel in Basel, Switzerland; Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Rob Gillies in Toronto; Lori Hinnant in Paris; Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg, South Africa; Rahim Faiez in Kabul, Afghanistan; and Leon Keith in Bangkok, Thailand, contributed to this report.

    The post Trump’s list of underreported terror doesn’t back up claim appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Newly-confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will address employees at the Department of Education for the first time since being sworn into office.

    Watch DeVos’ comments in the player above.

    The Senate on Tuesday confirmed DeVos, a school choice advocate, as Education secretary by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in a historic vote.

    Two Republicans joined Democrats in the unsuccessful effort to derail the nomination of the wealthy Republican donor. The Senate historian said Pence’s vote was the first by a vice president to break a tie on a Cabinet nomination.

    Despite the win, DeVos emerges bruised from the highly divisive nomination process. She has faced criticism, even ridicule for her stumbles and confusion during her confirmation hearing and scathing criticism from teachers unions and civil rights activists over her support of charter schools and her conservative religious beliefs.

    More: How Betsy DeVos could shape education policy

    The Associated Press contributed to this report. PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post WATCH: Betsy DeVos makes first speech as education secretary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order in Washington D.C. Credit: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

    U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2017. Credit: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

    WASHINGTON — The president’s order was issued on Jan. 30 and required federal agencies to repeal two existing regulations for every new regulation proposed or issued.

    Trump had promised during his presidential run to place a moratorium on new federal regulations not compelled by Congress or public safety. Soon after his victory, he issued a video mapping out his first 100 days that included the 2-for-1 curb on government regulations.

    The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It underscores the limits of governing through executive action as opponents turn to the courts to block implementation, just as they did with Trump’s travel ban. Former President Barack Obama faced similar roadblocks when his administration sought to expand overtime pay and block millions of people from deportation.

    The lawsuit contends that Trump’s order exceeds his constitutional authority and directs federal agencies to illegally repeal regulations needed to protect the health and safety of Americans and the environment.

    The organizations filing the lawsuit are Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, the Communications Workers of America and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    The NRDC’s Rhea Suh said in announcing the lawsuit that new efforts to stop pollution don’t automatically make old efforts unnecessary.

    “This order imposes a false choice between clean air, clean water, safe food and other environmental safeguards,” Suh said.

    The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Republicans in Congress have been supportive of the president’s calls for reduced regulation and have moved to repeal several of the final regulations issued during Obama’s presidency affecting the environment, education and financial disclosure.

    The post Groups sue to block Trump’s order on government regulations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Business people shaking hands in office

    “No matter what the rules are and no matter how tight a grip the HR department has on the hiring process, a manager is not going to ignore a good recommendation from a trusted colleague,” writes Nick Corcordilos.

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

    In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

    Question: You always advocate bypassing the personnel department and approaching the manager of the department that you would be working for. Many job postings now specifically rule out making any approach to anyone working in the firm. What action would you recommend in cases like this?

    READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: I can’t network for a job! It’s too awkward!

    Nick Corcodilos: Maybe it’s because I came of age during a time of social activism, but I always question authority. You should do the same when job hunting, because the system behind recruiting and hiring is an unreasonable obstacle that hurts you.

    If job postings warn you not to call anyone, consider who wrote the posting. It’s almost always a personnel clerk — not the hiring manager. So how do you know what that manager wants?

    I’ve never encountered a manager who would hang up on a good job candidate who called to discuss a job in a knowledgeable and respectful way. So it’s really up to you: Is it worth it to you to take a calculated risk?

    I’ve never encountered a manager who would hang up on a good job candidate who called to discuss a job in a knowledgeable and respectful way.

    Maybe you don’t want to rile anyone who will be involved in the hiring process, and it’s possible that a manager doesn’t want to be called by applicants for fear of getting 50 calls a day. Nonetheless, it’s still to your advantage to bypass personnel and get to the manager.

    You can do that without contacting the manager yourself. Go through someone who knows the manager. Someone who will open the door.

    This is not the first time I’ve suggested that personal contacts are a crucial part of winning a job. (See “How can shy people make job contacts?”) No matter what the rules are and no matter how tight a grip the HR department has on the hiring process, a manager is not going to ignore a good recommendation from a trusted colleague.

    The colleague may be an employee, another manager, a respected vendor, a customer or anyone the manager and the company do business with. Those are the people you must get to know. They can always get you in the door ahead of your competition — no matter what the job posting says.

    I can see you cringing. How am I going to do that?

    I didn’t say it was easy. But neither is the job you want. So do the hard work now. The person who gets the job will likely be the person recommended by someone the manager knows.

    I strongly suggest you sit down where it’s quiet and think this through. The best way to figure it out is by yourself — it’s a business challenge, and you’re good at your business, right? At least try. How can you find and talk with people connected to this company, people who can introduce you to someone who can introduce you to the manager?

    Okay, here’s a cheat sheet: “Getting in the door.”  But do yourself a favor. Before you read that article, try to figure it out. Your own method might be more potent, because it’s customized to you.

    My advice is to find better ways to get to the manager than the blind channel that was set up by HR. In almost every case, the candidate who can talk with the manager in advance has the edge.

    Dear Readers: Do you follow all the rules when you apply for jobs? How do you go around the system? What works?

    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

    The post Ask the Headhunter: How to make a personal connection with an employer even if the job listing forbids it appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Supreme Court Nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch arrives for a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 1, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/REUTERS

    Supreme Court Nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch arrives for a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 1, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/REUTERS

    WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee has told a Democratic senator that he found the president’s attacks on the judiciary “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

    Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut disclosed the comments from Judge Neil Gorsuch after meeting with the nominee Wednesday.

    Trump referred to a Seattle judge who put a stay on his immigrant travel ban as a “so-called judge.” Gorsuch’s confirmation team confirmed that Gorsuch was referring to that comment and described it as disheartening.

    Gorsuch is making the rounds in the Senate, drawing praise from Republicans but skepticism from many Democrats, including Blumenthal.

    The post Gorsuch disheartened by Trump attacks on judges appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

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

    AUDIE CORNISH: Now to our NewsHour Shares, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you, too.

    For more than 60 years, British researchers have monitored changes in the world’s atmosphere from a remote lab in Antarctica.

    Now, for the first time ever, this facility will close, at least temporarily, to protect the safety of its residents.

    The NewsHour’s Julia Griffin explains.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: At the bottom of our planet, on top of more than 400 feet of ice, sits a state-of-the-art research station called Halley VI.

    DAVID VAUGHAN, Director of Science, British Antarctic Survey: It’s an extraordinary place to be, sitting in this, what feels like a large ship on the ice, looking out across the vast expanse of essentially nothingness.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: David Vaughan is director of science for British Antarctic Survey, which runs Halley VI.

    DAVID VAUGHAN: The science that we do at Halley isn’t just about exploring. It’s actually making measurements that really inform how we interact with our planet, about the risk of severe space weather storms that might knock out our satellite GPS systems.

    It’s about looking at the emissions of carbon dioxide and methane at the last place on Earth that is seeing those emissions.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: To do that, Halley VI is a feat of engineering in one of the most extreme environments. Its eight interlocking pods shield up to 70 researchers and support staff from freezing. Special hydraulic legs lift the pods as snow accumulates, and when the time comes, the pods can be towed on their ski-like feet.

    DAVID VAUGHAN: The ice shelf itself moves. So if we’re going to maintain the same geographical position, we have to be able to move across the ice.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: Another reason they might want to move? Should that ice shelf threaten to become an iceberg.

    This summer — yes, it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere — Halley VI was already being towed 15 miles inland to avoid this decades-old chasm, when a new, nearly 30-mile-long crack opened suddenly on its other side.

    DAVID VAUGHAN: The crack that you are seeing goes all the way down to the ocean. And if you can look deep enough in there, you would see seawater. Really, the potential interaction between those two cracks and how then the ice shelf would respond as a whole, that we actually find very unpredictable.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: The agency has decided to vacate the station altogether before winter.

    DAVID VAUGHAN: In the summer, we have the opportunity to remove people relatively rapidly from the station, but, during the winter, when it is cold and dark and stormy for many months at a time, that’s the point at which we would find it quite hard to get people out.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: While other ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula have been impacted by climate change, Vaughan thinks this might be part of a natural cycle.

    DAVID VAUGHAN: Maybe the ice shelf will go back to a new equilibrium in time, but, at the moment, we just can’t predict with any certainty how long that will take.

    JULIA GRIFFIN: This marks the first time scientists will be removed from a Halley station. British Antarctic Survey hopes they will return next November.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Julia Griffin, slightly warmer in Arlington, Virginia.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Nice place to take a vacation.

    AUDIE CORNISH: Right, only slightly warmer.


    The post Massive ice shelf break forces Antarctic researchers to evacuate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: the emerging field of immunotherapy, and its potential to help fight cancer in some patients.

    Hari Sreenivasan has a conversation about its promise and limits in a minute.

    We begin with the story of a cancer patient who was told at one point that she only had six months to live. She has now lived several years beyond that, thanks to her novel treatment. Those kind of treatments are the focus of our weekly segment, the Leading Edge.

    MELINDA WELSH, Cancer Sufferer: My name is Melinda Welsh. I’m a writer, and was editor of The Sacramento News and Review for around 25 years.

    And when I was diagnosed with cancer, it just came naturally, I guess, to write about it. It was shocking to hear. I felt stunned.

    It is squamous cell carcinoma. And after we learned that the cancer had metastasized, we went to see some specialists. I asked each of them how much time I had left, and that’s when they told me, you know, six to nine months, months to a year, a year-ish.

    You know, I started writing again, and I felt I had something to say that might mean something to other people because of the lessons I was learning facing death.

    “The enormity of the news didn’t sink in fully, not at first, even after my doctor uttered the words, ‘I’m sorry, we did find cancer.’ I have turned my attention to the question, how do I best spend the time that I have left? My answer is writing, family and friends, the pleasures of small things. I was told, don’t skip dessert, so we don’t. We have taken to getting up a few early mornings a week and driving out to see the sunrise over the flatlands of our mostly rural county.”

    I can’t believe this. It is going to be a great day.

    “I will take solace in the idea that, once gone, I may come to occupy a small space in the hearts of the people who loved me most, and perhaps from there, I will be the source of a few simple reminders: Time is limited, life is miraculous, and we are beautiful.”

    I always loved my life. I felt very lucky, my meeting up with Dave, my love of my life, best friend. So, having cancer, it just made me want my life, but more so.

    After that first piece was published, we had a breakthrough. I started immunotherapy. And Dr. Algazi, who is our — my oncologist, surprises us by showing up in the infusion room. And he says, “I just talked to the radiologist. The neck tumor has vanished. And so have the other tumors.”

    DR. ALAIN ALGAZI, Skin Cancer Specialist: My name is Alain Algazi. I’m an oncologist.

    I specialize in head, neck cancer, and melanoma. I work at the University of California, San Francisco. Melinda presented with squamous cell cancer in a lymph node. It was metastatic, but she was diagnosed at a time when we had access to several new drugs. And those drugs turn the immune cells back on that are in the tumor, and allow them to fight more effectively against the cancer.

    So, basically, they’re taking your native immune response and enhancing it. So, we caused the tumors to regress and go away.

    MELINDA WELSH: I think it actually took a day or two to fully sink in that my calendar had expanded. Instead of the coming demise that we expected, I was feeling fine, and the cancer was retreating.

    So, on the anniversary of all the doctors giving me a year to live, it was time to write part two.

    “In the weeks that followed my public coming out about the grim news, a benevolent tidal wave of comments and e-mails washed over me from friends, co-workers and many thousands of strangers. Now when I run into friends on the streets of my town, they hug me and tell me I look great. But I can see it in their eyes; what they really want to say is, aren’t you dead yet?

    “Well, no. As it turns out, I became a terminal cancer patient at a time of sea change in research on the disease. What changed? Immunotherapy, a new set of medicines that help patients like me use our bodies’ natural defenses to fight cancer.”

    DR. ALAIN ALGAZI: Basically, there are brake pedals on immune cells, so when you turn off the brake pedal, you allow the immune system to function, you allow it to fight. But I think the cancer is always there, and it’s a battle between the immune system and the cancer.

    MELINDA WELSH: “Nobody knows how long the good news will last for me or other cancer patients who are responding to immunotherapy. Like me they probably feel a miraculous gift — unanticipated time of unknown duration — has been dropped into their laps.”

    DR. ALAIN ALGAZI: It’s like working for NASA in the 1960s. You know, can you imagine? That sense of discovery, that sense that you’re changing the world, or at least there while the world is changing, and you’re able to really help.

    MELINDA WELSH: Unfortunately, many people have cancers that there’s no immunotherapy for, they can’t get access to trials. The drugs are very expensive. Also, a lot of people who do qualify for immunotherapy simply don’t respond.

    DR. ALAIN ALGAZI: Melinda is, in a sense, an example of both the potential and the limitation.

    We have seen so much progress with her with immune therapy. But the cancer didn’t go away.

    What we’re trying to do is increase the chances that you’re going to stay in remission indefinitely.

    A few years ago, she wouldn’t survive. Now she might survive. We don’t know what’s going to happen for certain, but there’s this enormous potential.

    MELINDA WELSH: We don’t want to hope for too much. We don’t want to go into denial that I have got this deadly disease that’s trying to kill me. I do. But I’m making milestones that I didn’t think I would make.

    I didn’t think I would be alive to reach my 60th birthday. I didn’t think I would make it to my 35th wedding anniversary, which is coming in April, and I’m assuming I will still be here.

    I want to live fully in the present. At the same time, just a little bit of future is awfully wonderful mixed in with that.

    DR. ALAIN ALGAZI: People come to me, and they have low expectations. People think, I’m going to die. And my thought is, it doesn’t have to be that way. We have now ways of keeping people well, not just for a few months, but for potentially years. So this is a time of hope.

    MELINDA WELSH: “I am still coming to terms as best I can with my own unequivocal transience. But, no, I’m not dead yet. When people are surprised to see me, I tell them I’m among the early fortunate. Facing death on a close horizon has heightened my awareness that our time on Earth is finite. But quite unexpectedly, it has also made me a living, breathing advertisement for humanity’s hopeful new edge on cancer.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That was Melinda Welsh with her story.

    Let’s get a broader look at what these treatments may offer and their limits.

    Jeffrey Bluestone is a leading researcher in this field. He is the president and CEO of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. He’s also a professor of metabolism and endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. And Matt Richtel is a science writer who has covered this extensively for The New York Times.

    Mr. Bluestone, I want to start with you before all of our viewers start to call their oncologists if they’re facing this. This is still not quite at the phase where we’re seeing it effective in, say, lung cancer, and prostate cancer, and breast cancer and the major cancers that so many people face.

    JEFFREY BLUESTONE, CEO, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy: Well, actually, we have made a tremendous amount of progress, for instance, in lung cancer.

    These so-called immune drugs, these checkpoint inhibiters, are now treating a lot of non-small cell lung cancers with great success, in 30 to 40 to 50 percent response rate, so very high, as in melanoma, as in some head and neck cancer.

    Yes, there are a lot of cancers we still have a long ways to go, but in some of the cancers you mentioned, we have actually made tremendous progress.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That’s great to hear.

    Matt Richtel, you have covered this. You have chronicled people who have fought through their cancers, had this sort of immunotherapy work, and also some who haven’t. What are some of the shortcomings or limitations?

    MATT RICHTEL, The New York Times: Yes.

    First of all, that was a marvelous piece that captured just how remarkable this science is on the very edge of life and death.

    And you have asked a great question. And the answer is the very thing that makes this therapy so potentially powerful or powerful also causes some challenges. And that is this. When you soup up or unleash the immune system, you have an opportunity to have it attack healthy organs, healthy cells.

    And so sometimes you see very challenging stories where a cancer — a tumor will disappear, but the person will become sick with the equivalent of an autoimmune disorder. And, in fact, we have with Dr. Bluestone just an amazing authority to probably elaborate on that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mr. Bluestone, go ahead.

    JEFFREY BLUESTONE: Yes. So, I think that what Matt said is absolutely true.

    The immune system is an incredibly powerful force. It’s designed to recognize everything that is foreign. And in the process of doing that, and when you unleash it the way these new drugs do, you can often, not that often, rare compared to the response rate get these autoimmune diseases.

    At UCSF, we have had several cases in the last couple years of patients who developed type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that causes the destruction of your insulin-producing cells. And trying to understand how to control these side effects is one of the key areas for the Parker Institute, at UCSF as well.

    And so the goal here is to have this unleashing of the immune system, which is key to eliminating the cancer, while moderating this unwanted attack on your own tissues.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Matt Richtel, with all of the different scientists that you have spoken to, where are we in this arc? Some of the people who have been profiled in your story say this is almost like where NASA engineers were in the ’60s.

    MATT RICHTEL: Yes. I love that comparison, and I have heard various ones along the same lines.

    I can’t tell you how wide the breadth of potential is. It’s somewhere on the continuum from, you know, marvel of science to change the world. Here’s what I mean, and then I will answer your question directly.

    Absolutely, we are seeing at least a marvel of science, in that people who were not previously savable from cancer are being saved. That alone is marvelous.

    On the change-the-world end of the continuum, we’re certainly not there yet, but the potential exists to attack one of the biggest killers in the world. We have done away with a lot of the low-hanging fruit of what kills us through things like antibiotics. So now cancer, which many people never survived to even get, is the second leading killer in this country.

    It could change the world if this hangs on. Why are we just still at the beginnings of that? Because, as Jeff — as Dr. Bluestone underscored and as lots of scientists have told me at this point, we can’t yet tell if more people will either suffer side effects or relapse ultimately than we know of now. And it’s so early on that we just can’t answer that question and we probably won’t be able to for a decade or so.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Jeffrey Bluestone, is that about the right timeline? There are still those hurdles, as we heard in the piece, that the drugs are still expensive, that there are still lots of nonresponsive patients.

    And then, as you mentioned, how do you calibrate the immune system per patient, so that it doesn’t kind of go overboard and attack what we need to survive?

    JEFFREY BLUESTONE: Yes, we’re certainly at absolutely the change inflection point.

    The world has changed for cancer therapy with immunotherapy. It’s hard to even explain how different this approach is. Instead of using poisons to kill cancer or to wipe out the cancer cell, we’re actually using our own body to do this.

    So, in this kind of transformational science, there’s a lot to learn. We have to learn, what are the fundamental rules? And we have to learn how to moderate the drugs in a way that maximize the efficacy and minimize the toxicity.

    But I cannot imagine that, over the next 10 years, we don’t start see a dramatic change in the long-term survival of many of the patients with many of the cancers. You have already seen it in melanoma. We have gone from 5 percent five-year survival to 40 percent five-year survival.

    We have seen it in certain lung cancers. So, yes, we’re right at the beginning. But we’re already seeing a dramatic change in a lot of these patients. And I believe this new science — and it truly is — bringing together the science of the immune system and immunology with the science of cancer in ways that we could never have believed we would be at, at this point.

    So, sure, I’m optimistic. I’m excited. I’m — every day I go to work, I just can’t believe we’re in this world we live in now.


    MATT RICHTEL: Could I just underscore something Dr. Bluestone said?

    You mentioned I have chronicled patients. One of them was a good high school friend named Jason Greenstein. And when Dr. Bluestone says treatments have changed, let me just tell you a quick anecdote that underscores how much.

    Over several years, this friend of mine, Jason, went through the traditional chemotherapy. And it ate him alive, just as chemotherapy can do, because you’re giving someone toxins.

    Over the course of literally weeks when he took an immunotherapy drug, you could watch what was like a pumpkin-sized tumor in his back disappear by the day in picture after picture.

    And so that’s the kind of quantum leap. Now, ultimately, he — my friend succumbed. But that’s the kind of quantum change that Dr. Bluestone is describing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Matt Richtel of The New York Times, Jeffrey Bluestone of UCSF and the Parker Institute, thanks so much.

    MATT RICHTEL: Thank you.


    The post Cancer immunotherapy has life-saving powers — and limits appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Elizabeth Warren

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    AUDIE CORNISH: Moving over to the Senate, where the debate over the nomination of Jeff Sessions ran deep into the night and partisan tensions spilled over.

    Lisa Desjardins starts us off.

    MAN: The senator from Massachusetts.

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, D-Mass.: Thank you, Mr. President.

    LISA DESJARDINS: She was midway through her speech opposing attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions.

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Coretta Scott King also wrote to the Judiciary Committee about the Sessions nomination in 1986.

    LISA DESJARDINS: When Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren turned to a decades-old letter by the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., opposing Sessions’ nomination to a judgeship. Mrs. King called his record on race at that point, reprehensible.

    Warren read out loud:

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge. This simply cannot be allowed to happen.”

    LISA DESJARDINS: Warren was interrupted multiple times.

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: … enforcement of those laws.

    MAN: The senator is reminded that is a violation of Rule 19.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Told she’d broken a rule.

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: I ask leave of the Senate to continue my remarks.

    MAN: Is there objection?

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: I object.

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: I appeal the ruling.

    MAN: Objection is heard. The senator will take her seat.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The rarely-invoked rule bans senators from criticizing one another directly in the chamber.

    Republican Leader Mitch McConnell:

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: The senator has impugned the motive and conduct of our colleague from Alabama.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Now, this led to an unusual vote over whether to silence Warren. She lost, and now cannot speak again during Sessions’ confirmation debate.

    Senator McConnell later told reporters — quote — “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

    It is a time of rancor. That rare vote to silence a sitting senator came as Democrats have forced two overnight debates in a row. It is their protest of Trump’s nominees. And those overnights may continue into the weekend.

    President Trump weighed in on it all last night on Twitter. He tweeted: “It is a disgrace that my full Cabinet is still not in place.”

    Trump’s critics point out, several of his nominees didn’t complete their paperwork quickly. Labor nominee Andrew Puzder submitted his final ethics documents to a committee today.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Lisa Desjardins at the U.S. Capitol.

    AUDIE CORNISH: I spoke with Senator Elizabeth Warren a short time ago to get her take on the 11th-hour drama in the Senate.

    I began by asking if she believed Jeff Sessions would use his power as attorney general to work against minority voters.

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: What I know is what Jeff Sessions has actually done, and I think it is an important part of the record.

    I was shut down for saying exactly that sentence, repeating it out of Coretta Scott King’s letter. But I urge everybody, read the whole letter, because what it talks about is, when Jeff Sessions was U.S. attorney for Alabama, he prosecuted civil rights workers for doing what? For trying to help elderly African-Americans vote.

    And when he came up then for a federal judgeship, both Senator Ted Kennedy and Coretta Scott King said no. And Coretta Scott King sent a letter to the United States Senate, which was Republican-controlled, and ultimately that Republican-controlled Senate said no to his nomination to the federal bench.

    And I assume at least part of the reason for that was the information contained in Coretta Scott King’s letter.

    AUDIE CORNISH: But the Republican-led Senate right now is planning to say yes, right? This is the discussion you’re locked out of. What aspect of the attorney general’s power do you think that Jeff Sessions could use against the voters? What are you most concerned about?

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: I’m concerned about every part of it.

    The attorney general, as the ultimate law enforcement official in the United States, is the one who decides whether or not you prosecute violations of the Voting Rights Act. He is the one who ultimately will have the word on how our immigration laws are carried out.

    He’s the one who will make the decision whether or not the Justice Department is there for African-Americans, whether it’s there for Latinos, whether it’s there for women, whether it’s there for people whose rights are being violated, or whether it’s a Justice Department who just stands on the side of the rich and the powerful.

    AUDIE CORNISH: Now, recently speaking before progressive activists in Baltimore, you said that Democrats who are focused on just kind of changing the party message need to grow a backbone. What do you mean by that and are you seeing them grow that backbone now?

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Look, I think we have to get out and fight for what we believe in.

    I get it. We don’t have the tools in the Senate to be able to stop the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be the attorney general, unless we can get some help from the Republicans. We don’t have the tools to be able to stop someone like Betsy DeVos, who doesn’t believe in public education, to become the secretary of education.

    And I could continue to go through the list. So, what we have got to do is, we have got to get in there and make our case. We have got to make our case for the fact that, you know, I get it that Donald Trump and I are not of the same party, we don’t see the world the same way.

    But he is not nominating people who are just conservative Republicans. He’s going out to the way fringes. He’s bringing in someone to run the EPA who doesn’t believe in climate change, someone to run the Treasury Department who made money by foreclosing against families who had been cheated on mortgages.

    We have got to make our case. And, ultimately, this one’s going to be about democracy, getting enough people around this country to say, I’m watching, I care what happens in Washington, and I’m going to be pushing back on any of my senators, any of my representatives, and on the president of the United States if they do not represent the values of the people of this country.

    AUDIE CORNISH: What do you think the next step should be? There are going to be votes on Tom Price to be health and human services secretary, Steve Mnuchin, as you mentioned, for Treasury.

    As you said, the Democrats can’t stop these nominee from going forward. What do you have in the power — in the way of oversight to effectively watch over these people that you have really raised the alarm about?

    SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Well, part of it is why I wanted everyone to read Coretta Scott King’s letter.

    It’s a deeply moving letter. It lays out the facts about Jeff Sessions, but it also reminds us of a moment in history when people came together and said, I don’t care how many times you knock us down, we’re going to get back up and we’re going to fight for what is right, we’re going to change this wasn’t country into a better country, a country that works not just for those at the top, a country that works for all of us.

    I think that’s what we have to do now. That’s what we’re called on to do, to use every possible tool that we can to do that. And that means, for example, with Jeff Sessions.

    Right now, I hope everyone will go read her letter. I put it on my Facebook. I tweeted about it. But I hope that, even if the Republicans lock arms and go ahead and confirm him as attorney general of the United States, that everybody stays involved, that we are there every day to look over his shoulder, to look at every judgment made by the Department of Justice and make sure that this government works, not just for those who have already made it, but this government works for everybody.

    AUDIE CORNISH: Democrat and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, thank you for speaking with us.


    The post Silenced by the Senate, Elizabeth Warren explains why she opposes Jeff Sessions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to my interview with the speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan.

    We sat down at the Capitol. And I began by asking about his relationship with President Trump, after some tension during the campaign.

    REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: We’re doing fine. We’re getting along very well, speak fairly frequently. Mike is coming up for lunch today. So, we have spent a lot of time together coordinating our strategy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The vice president.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, the vice president. So, we get along very well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you speak often, but do they consult you not just on the routine things like the legislative calendar, but, for example, did you know ahead of time about the immigration ban?

    REP. PAUL RYAN: On that one, I didn’t.

    But we have decided, on a go-forward basis, that we are going to have more consulting and make sure that no one’s caught by surprise on things. We have basically mapped out what 2017 looks like from a legislative perspective.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Already?

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Absolutely. That’s what you do when you’re running a legislature. You plan your year.

    And so Senator McConnell and I walked the president through basically what we see 2017 looking like. And there is a lot of deadline-driven events, statutory deadlines that you have to meet. And then there are plenty of other priorities that we’re working on.

    And so just that planning process gets you talking about the big issues, the big picture and all the things we’re trying to get done and when we’re trying to get them done.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I want to stay with the immigration ban for just a moment, because former CIA Director Michael Hayden, whom you know…

    REP. PAUL RYAN: I know Mike well, yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … joined a legal brief with a number of other national security experts in saying that they not only don’t think this is going to make the United States safer, they don’t see a threat from these seven countries, but they think it could make the country less safe, because it is going to be easier to attract people who want to work with terrorist groups against the U.S., to say the U.S. is anti-Muslim.


    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes.

    I think the rhetoric is damaging, no two ways about it. Let’s back up for a second. After the Paris shooting, we brought the Department of Homeland Security and FBI up to Capitol Hill to say, what is happening? Could this happen here?

    Because, if you remember, at the Paris shooting, there was an infiltration of ISIS among the Syrian refugee population into Europe.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But it turned out there were not refugees involved.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: But that was the issue at the time.

    And so what Homeland Security and the FBI told us was, they can’t vet these people. There — there isn’t a Siri to talk to, to vet these people.

    And so what we discovered was, there was a hole in the vetting process to guard against people trying to infiltrate the refugee population. And so that is why we passed legislation then about a year ago. The bill passed the House, but it got filibustered in the Senate. So it never actually went into law.

    So, we have been long on record on a bipartisan basis that we need to get these vetting standards right and we need to take a pause in these programs to make sure that we have the vetting standards right. The reason these seven countries, which were identified by the Obama administration, are listed is because we have a hard time corroborating the veracity of people’s claims coming from those countries.

    Those countries in particular, we have a hard time discerning who exactly these people are that are coming into the country. That is why it’s totally reasonable and rational to have a pause in this program, so that we can update and upgrade our vetting standards, so that we can be better secured to make sure that we don’t have somebody trying to infiltrate the network.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But there haven’t been terrorist incidents perpetrated by people from these countries. I mean, that’s …

    REP. PAUL RYAN: From these countries or from — through the refugee population? From these countries, absolutely, from the refugee population.


    REP. PAUL RYAN: But the point is we know that ISIS is trying to infiltrate refugee populations. That is intelligence that has already been unclassified.

    So, the question is, are we doing everything we need to guard against that? The point — I think you made a good point, though, which is, this isn’t a Muslim ban. If it were, I would be opposed to it. But the rhetoric surrounding it makes it look like it’s a ban on a religion or a religious test. And I think that rhetoric is inflammatory and doesn’t help us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that raises the question, because the president himself and others around him have talked about — they have talked about their preference for a Muslim ban.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, and I disagree with that. I disagree with that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you confident that there will not…

    REP. PAUL RYAN: I disagree with it now and I disagreed with it then. But that’s not what this is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I understand that. But my question is, are you confident this administration is not going in the direction ever of a Muslim ban?

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, because we will — we will — I and many others around here would oppose that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A little bit more about your relationship with the White House.

    We know that you are good friends with fellow Wisconsinite Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: He’s my constituent.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s right.

    My question is, how is your relationship with Steve Bannon, who, when he was at Breitbart News, took a special interest in you, called you the enemy after you became speaker?

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, I don’t really know him. I have gotten to know him two or three times. We have had a few meetings. We have gotten along fine.

    He’s not someone I have a history with. Obviously, I didn’t know him when he was opposing me all those times. We’re different kinds of conservatives. That’s something I can safely say, I think. But we’re serving a purpose, which is to get this agenda passed.

    And on this agenda that we have rolled out, that we ran on, on that, we agree. So I see a person in which I have a common cause and purpose with. We’re different kinds of conservatives. We really don’t know each other, but we’re all trying to get this agenda enacted. And that’s why I don’t see a problem here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Russia. You have said on a number of occasions you want to see the sanctions against Russia continued. President Trump, though, has made some not just conciliatory, but even complimentary comments in the last few days about President Putin. Were you shocked by that?

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, I just don’t see it that way. I just see it differently.

    I think, first of all, I don’t subscribe to relativism, whether it’s in political philosophy, foreign policy or in life. So, I don’t think there is a moral equivalency here at all. So, I just disagree with any kind of notion of a moral equivalency.

    There’s a gaping difference between the United States of America and Putin’s Russia. That’s point number one.

    Point number two, I think what the president is trying to do is not unlike what the past two presidents did with Russia. I just don’t think it’s going to work. Remember when George W. Bush said I could see through his soul or something like that?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Trying to get close to Russia.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, he was trying to get close to Russia and trying to get close to Putin. George Bush did that. I don’t think it worked.

    Remember Hillary Clinton with the reset button on behalf of Barack Obama, trying to get close to Russia, trying to smooth things out with Russia? New administrations do this. Now, it’s logical as to why they want to do this.

    There are instances in which our interests align with Russia and there are those where they don’t. And so the question is, can we help steer Russia to being something that doesn’t conflict with our interests and something that — and a country that aligns with our interests?

    I don’t personally — I’m not going to hold my breath on that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if this president were to relax sanctions against Russia…

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, I don’t support that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … would you support legislation to prevent it?

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, no, I think the advantages were overdue. I think President Obama should have done them a year ago.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you would support legislation to keep them strong?

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, I do support — yes, I have long supported sanctions on Russia.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Turning domestic, to a subject that I think is close to your heart, tax reform. It has been your top legislative agenda.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, you see the smile? I just — I love the issue of tax reform. We haven’t done it since 1986. So, we think it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, here we are, however many years that is later, 31 years.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, I got my driver’s license the last year we did tax reform.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Will the individual and the corporate tax cuts that you’re interested in the House passing be permanent? And will these cuts be revenue-neutral or will they require offsets?

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes and yes.

    Well, to be revenue-neutral, they will require offsets. So, we’re planning revenue-neutral tax reform, which means you have to take away loopholes and special interest deductions if you’re going to lower tax rates. That’s clearly what we’re working on doing. That’s what the House blueprint that we ran on does do.

    It does affect both what we call the individual side of the tax code and the business side of the tax code. And we propose it on a revenue-neutral basis. And we also propose permanent tax reform.

    When we did the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts in the Bush administration, those were only individual tax cuts, which you can actually make those temporary. You can’t do that on the business side of the code. It actually doesn’t work.

    It produces a lot of uncertainty for businesses. You can’t completely redesign the budget tax system for nine-and-a-half years, and then flip it back in 10 years. It doesn’t work like that. So, it has to be permanent.

    So, we do envision revenue-neutral tax reform that is permanent. With good comprehensive across-the-board tax reform, we really believe we can get the kind of economic growth we need which will solve so many problems we have in this country. And fundamental tax reform is critical, because now we have the worst tax code in the industrialized world, bar none.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, no domestic spending cuts? I ask because a Republican study group last year was talking about $7.5 trillion in spending cuts for 10 years.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: That’s to balance the budget. That’s not to pay for tax reform.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I understand. But the public, the voters are going to look at this as connected.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, we have a budget problem, which is, we have a big budget deficit. And we have a debt crisis in the future because of spending.

    So you have to reduce spending and reform the spending programs in and of themselves. Put tax reform aside. There’s no way — it’s mathematical. We are not going to be able to raise the kind of tax revenues to chase the kind of spending that is coming in the future.

    So you have to get spending under control if you’re going to avert a debt crisis down the road.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Affordable Care Act, you have committed to repealing, replacing Obamacare.

    One of your colleagues, Congressman Jim Jordan, has said — and I’m quoting him — “It’s so bad.” He said, Congress has to get rid of — quote — “every bit of it, every tax, every regulation, every mandate. It all has to be eliminated.”

    Given that view, which a lot of Republicans share, would any piece of the current Affordable Care Act stand?

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, so the reason Jim Jordan says that is because the architecture is just so wrong.

    So, I think that was in reaction to some suggesting that we should sort of tinker around the edges and try and refine and repair the existing law. It is collapsing. And that’s not viable.

    And so what we propose — and we ran on a replacement plan, by the way. So we have had a — long had a replacement plan for Obamacare. And that’s exactly what we’re focused on right now is building a replacement plan, so we repeal Obamacare and replace it with patient-centered health care, which we are convinced will give us a better system at the end of the day.

    Remember the promises of Obamacare, lower prices, more choices. Those things didn’t happen. We believe we can make good on those kind of promises, which is improve access to affordable health care coverage. Right now, people aren’t getting affordable health care coverage.

    And so we really do believe, to get this right, you have to repeal and replace this law with something better. And that’s exactly what we ran on in 2016.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Including preexisting conditions are covered?

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Absolutely, yes. We have long supported …

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Not something called continuous coverage, which isn’t the same thing?

    REP. PAUL RYAN: No, no, there’s different ways of achieving preexisting conditions reform.

    We think Obamacare went about it the exact wrong way to guarantee that people with preexisting conditions can get good affordable coverage. The goal here is, can people with preexisting — can a woman who got breast cancer when she was 45 still afford her health insurance?

    That’s a goal we absolutely share. And we think there is a better way of achieving that goal than Obamacare, which just so you know, Judy, five states only have one plan left to choose from. One out of three counties in America have only one plan to choose from. Those are monopolies.

    Seventy percent of counties in America have one or two plans to choose from. Those are duopolies.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you’re also …

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Massive price increases, massive deductible increases. The law is collapsing while we speak.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You have talked about a split between — a trillion-dollar infrastructure split between the federal government and the private sector. What would the split be? Are we looking at a 50/50?

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, I don’t know the answer to that.

    That’s something we would have to develop. We have asked our Transportation Committees. We have Elaine Chao, who just got sworn in as secretary of transportation, who has a long history and experience in transportation, to figure out how best we can maximize private sector dollars and leverage private sector dollars with public money to get the best bang for our buck on building out our infrastructure.

    And so that’s something that we’re trying to figure out how best we can do for part of our legislative agenda later this summer.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But to the extent you’re counting on the private sector to get involved, it’s known — we talk to the experts — they say private businesspeople don’t get involved in something like this unless there is an incentive, that they get some tax breaks.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: That’s right, absolutely.

    That’s what we believe. We believe, instead of just having a dollar of taxpayer money go to pay for a dollar of road construction, why don’t we take a dollar of taxpayer money to try and leverage many dollars of private sector money, so we have more money, federal, you know, taxpayer money, private sector money combined, so that we have even more impact on upgrading and modernizing our infrastructure?

    The point is, how much bang for our buck can we get to have the best impact on modernizing American infrastructure? That’s what we’re trying to figure out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A couple of questions about you in this position.

    Michael Gerson, conservative thinker, writer …

    REP. PAUL RYAN: We used to work together for Jack Kemp. He’s an old friend of mine.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s right. That’s right.

    Admires you, has written positively about you for years. He wrote yesterday that, with your acceptance of President Trump, he said you have embraced what he calls a Faustian bargain with open eyes, he said, a chance to enact legislation important to you, as long as you occasionally ignore your conscience.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Oh, I — that’s just a bunch of bull.

    First of all, acceptance. The man got elected president of the United States. We live in a constitutional republic. So, what’s the suggestion here, that we should just ignore democracy, ignore the will of the people, ignore the Electoral College, and not work with who was elected president?

    I worked with the last president, Barack Obama. I didn’t agree with him on much, but I worked with him. Now I have a president who agrees with and embraces the agenda that we ran on in 2016, who gives us a great chance of fixing really big problems in America.

    Have we seen eye to eye on everything over the last year? Of course not. No two people do. But — so I just — I reject the premise of this notion that the head of the legislative branch of government should just reject the duly elected head of the executive branch of government. That makes no sense to me.

    I think what people want to see happen in government is people work together to solve problems. People work together to iron out their differences, to make good on making a difference in people’s lives and fix this country’s problems. That is what I believe I was elected to do. And that’s what I’m doing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What came through to me in what Michael Gerson wrote was that he doesn’t sense that you’re standing up to this president on things that he thought, Michael Gerson thought you believed in.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: I’m just not going to comment on the tweet of the hour, the comment of the day.

    I’m focused on getting an agenda done. I’m focused on making Congress work. I’m focused on making good on our promises that we made when we ran that I’m trying to implement now that we have — now that the election is over.

    So I’m just not going to spend my days focusing on things that are outside of my control as speaker of the House. I’m going to focus on my days focusing on making progress on the issues that care to people and not on the random comment of the day.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In connection with that, your great mentor was the late congressman, New York Congressman Jack Kemp, described himself as a big-tent Republican.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of people look at Donald Trump, they don’t see a big-tent Republican. How do you reconcile?

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, well, I think he is. He’s just a different kind of a big-tent Republican.

    I am more of the Jack Kemp aspirational, inclusive. I believe in the Kempian philosophy and the style of politics. But Donald Trump brought a whole bunch of blue-collar — I can tell you, just in Wisconsin, just the numbers, he won Wisconsin for the first time since 1984.

    That’s expanding the Republican tent. He won Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. That’s expanding the Republican tent. We used to call them Reagan Democrats. Now they’re Trump Democrats. These are people I grew up with, went to high school with, worked at the GM plant that’s gone now in Janesville, blue-collar, union households that just now voted for a Republican for president.

    That’s expanding the tent, I would say.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, the only thing that I am told that Paul Ryan of Wisconsin might like as much as tax cuts and the Republican Party is the Green Bay Packers.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: That’s right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, after the Sunday Super Bowl …

    REP. PAUL RYAN: I’m one of the team owners.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, after the Sunday Super Bowl, do you now acknowledge that …

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Oh, you’re going to put me in this position. This is the hardest question.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tom Brady, best NFL quarterback ever?

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Look, the Lombardi Trophy is what you get. I will concede that Bill Belichick is probably the best coach ever.

    Brady and Rodgers aren’t done with their careers yet. So, ask me when the two of them are done with their careers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you’re not ready to concede that?

    REP. PAUL RYAN: I’m not ready to concede, because neither of them are done with their careers. But I will concede Belichick.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, thank you.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Thank you, Judy.

    The post Paul Ryan on working with Trump, Russia sanctions and GOP goals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The Senate will hold its final confirmation vote Wednesday night for Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions.

    Watch the vote live in the player above. PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    Sessions faced a firestorm of Democratic criticism over his record on civil rights and other issues throughout the confirmation process. Wednesday’s confirmation vote comes amid rising tension between Republicans controlling the chamber over what they call delaying tactics by minority Democratic members that have left fewer of Trump’s picks in place than President Barack Obama had eight years ago.

    Democrats contended Sessions is too close to Trump, too harsh on immigrants, and weak on civil rights. They asserted he wouldn’t do enough to protect voting rights of minorities, protections for gay people, the right of women to procure abortions, and immigrants in the country illegally to receive due process.

    WATCH: Warren forbidden from speaking on Sessions’ nomination after breaking Senate rule

    Republicans say Sessions has demonstrated over a long career in public service — and two decades in the Senate — that he possesses integrity, honesty, and is committed to justice and the rule of law.

    “He’s honest. He’s fair. He’s been a friend to many of us, on both sides of the aisle,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Wednesday. “It’s been tough to watch all this good man has been put through in recent weeks. This is a well-qualified colleague with a deep reverence for the law. He believes strongly in the equal application of it to everyone.”

    WATCH: In hearing, Sessions says he’ll put law above his own views

    The Alabama Republican was expected to prevail on a near party-line evening vote over nearly unanimous Democratic opposition.

    “There is simply nothing in Senator Sessions’ testimony before the Judiciary Committee that gives me confidence that he would be willing to stand up to the president,” said Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt. “He has instead demonstrated only blind allegiance.”

    Sessions enjoys unanimous backing from fellow Republicans and cleared a procedural vote Tuesday afternoon by a 52-47 margin.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Chief Executive Officer of Intel Brian Krzanich in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 8, 2017.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTX306PD

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the legal fight over President Trump’s seven-country travel ban remains unresolved tonight. A trio of federal appeals court judges spent this day considering whether to uphold a district court judge in Seattle who blocked the order last Friday.

    Meanwhile, the president wasn’t holding back.

    John Yang reports from the White House.

    JOHN YANG: Today, President Trump escalated his war of words with the federal judges considering challenges to his immigration order.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don’t ever want to call a court biased, so I won’t call it biased. But courts seem to be so political, and it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what’s right.

    JOHN YANG: What’s right, both Mr. Trump and Justice Department lawyers say, is that immigration law gives the president the authority to bar any foreign citizen from entering the United States if it’s in the national interest.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You don’t have to be a lawyer. If you were a good student in high school or bad student in high school, you can understand this. And it’s really incredible to me that we have a court case that is going on so long.

    JOHN YANG: Two state attorneys general say the order is unconstitutional because it discriminates against Muslims. The president said they don’t realize the risk to the nation’s safety.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think our security is at risk today, and it will be at risk until such time as we are entitled and get what we are entitled to as citizens of this country. I have learned a lot in the last two weeks. And terrorism is a far greater threat than people of our country understand. But we’re going to take care of it. We’re going to win. We’re going to take care of it, folks.

    JOHN YANG: Hours later, he followed up with a tweet: “Big increase in traffic into our country from certain areas, while our people are far more vulnerable.”

    At a House Democratic retreat in Baltimore, Leader Nancy Pelosi called the president’s order dangerous and immoral.

    REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., House Minority Leader: As long as the president continues down this path, there’s nothing Democrats can work with him on. To protect the security of our nation, to future of our working families, and the sanctity of our Constitution, Democrats will fight this administration every day, with every fiber of our being.

    JOHN YANG: Also today, an Oval Office announcement the White House says advances another signature campaign promise: creating U.S. jobs. Standing next to the president, Intel chairman Brian Krzanich announced plans to build a $7 billion factory in Phoenix, which he said would create up to 10,000 new jobs. White House officials said the plant had been in the works for four years.

    BRIAN KRZANICH, CEO, Intel: It’s really in support of the tax and regulatory policies that we see the administration pushing forward, that really make it advantageous to do manufacturing in the U.S.

    JOHN YANG: Krzanich opposes the immigration order, but White House officials said it didn’t come up in his meeting with Mr. Trump.

    Mr. Trump’s attacks on federal judges has now drawn a response from his own Supreme Court nominee. An administration official who’s working on the confirmation process confirms that in a meeting on Capitol Hill with the senator, Neil Gorsuch said that the attacks are demoralizing and disheartening.

    And Mr. Trump also took to Twitter to attack Nordstrom, the retailer, for dropping his daughter Ivanka’s fashion line. They cited poor sales for that decision. He said on Twitter that they treated her unfairly.

    Asked about the propriety of a president supporting or getting involved in a child’s private business affairs, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was said that Mr. Trump as a father was within his rights to stand up for his family — Judy.

    AUDIE CORNISH: In the day’s other news, the Senate wrapped up an all-night and all-day debate to confirm Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Democrats argued that the Republican senator from Alabama is too close to President Trump and is hostile to minorities. Republicans defended him as a man of integrity. We will look at the confirmation fight later in the program.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This was the first day on the job for Betsy DeVos as the U.S. secretary of education, and she used it to try to rally the troops. It took a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Pence yesterday to get DeVos confirmed. The Michigan billionaire faced criticism over her lack of experience with public schools. Today, she appealed to department staffers for unity.

    BETSY DEVOS, U.S. Education Secretary: Let us set aside any preconceived notions and let’s recognize that while we may have disagreements, we can and must come together, find common ground, and put the needs of students first. And when we do disagree, let’s set an example by being sincere and honest, passionate, but civil.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: DeVos has championed charter schools and other alternatives to public education.

    AUDIE CORNISH: In Afghanistan, an ambush by suspected Islamic State militants ended in the deaths of six Afghan workers for the International Red Cross. The Red Cross team was trying to deliver supplies to a northern town paralyzed by snowstorms. After the attack, the agency suspended operations in Afghanistan.

    MAN: It was a region we knew very well, and it’s really very experienced colleagues. And then knowing that they have been killed, attacked directly, is the worst possible news. And, of course, the shock is first to realize what it means for our actions in Afghanistan, what it means for Afghans, for the family, for the colleagues.

    AUDIE CORNISH: The Taliban denied it had anything to do with the attack, and promised to help find those responsible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A United Nations report warns that more than 120,000 people in Nigeria will likely face “catastrophic famine” this summer. More than half live in Borno state, where the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has disrupted food supplies. Overall, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization says 11 million Nigerians face severe food shortages in a nation of more than 170 million.

    AUDIE CORNISH: Once again, a Russian court has found opposition leader Alexei Navalny guilty of fraud. An earlier conviction had been overturned by the European Court of Human Rights. This new decision formally disqualifies Navalny as a candidate for president next year. He says the Kremlin engineered the verdict to sabotage his bid.

    ALEXEI NAVALNY, Russian Opposition Leader (through interpreter): What we saw now is a sort of telegram which was sent from the Kremlin, saying that they believe that the people whose views I voice are too dangerous to allow us to take part in the election campaign. Nevertheless, we don’t recognize this ruling. I have every right to take part in the election, according to the constitution, and I will do so.

    AUDIE CORNISH: Navalny was convicted for the embezzlement of $270,000 worth of timber. He was given a five-year suspended sentence.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, a North Carolina court temporarily blocked a state law that stripped the new Democratic governor of some of his powers. The Republican-controlled legislature passed the measure after the November election. It requires state Senate confirmation for Cabinet members. The court still has to rule on the merits of the law itself.

    AUDIE CORNISH: Former Republican Secretary of State James Baker went to the White House today. He wants the administration to embrace a carbon tax to combat climate change. Baker and another former secretary of state, George Shultz, wrote in The Wall Street Journal — quote — “There is mounting evidence of problems with the atmosphere that are growing too compelling to ignore.”

    Other former Reagan and Bush administration officials back the idea, but it’s not clear Republicans in Congress will join them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost about 36 points to close at 20054. The Nasdaq rose eight points, and the S&P 500 added one point.

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    House Speaker Paul Ryan speaking with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff at the Capitol on Feb. 8.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday he did not think President Donald Trump would succeed in bringing the United States closer to Russia, arguing that the past two administrations tried and failed to improve relations with the country and its leader, Vladimir Putin. Trump has frequently argued the U.S. could benefit from a friendlier relationship with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, despite the history of tension between the two nations.

    “The last two presidents tried this,” Ryan said in a PBS NewsHour interview, referring to former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “I think this president’s trying to do the same thing. I just don’t, personally, think it’s going to work,” he added.

    WATCH: The full interview with House Speaker Paul Ryan

    Ryan told the NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff that he did not expect Russia to work more closely with the U.S., a goal at the center of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy agenda.

    “If we could actually be friendly with Russia, wouldn’t that be a good thing?” Trump said in a campaign speech last summer.

    He echoed that sentiment in an interview Sunday on Fox with Bill O’Reilly, saying “it’s better to get along with Russia than not.”

    The president’s praise of Putin has placed him at odds with much of the American foreign policy establishment and congressional lawmakers from both parties. Ryan said it was “logical” for a new administration to try and establish a stronger relationship with Russia. Ryan said the question before Trump is whether America can “help steer Russia to being something that doesn’t conflict with our interests.”

    “I’m not going to hold my breath on that,” Ryan said.

    The House speaker also distanced himself from a comment Trump made in the Fox News interview over the weekend, where he appeared to equate the U.S. with Putin’s authoritarian regime. When O’Reilly called Putin a “killer” in the interview, the president said: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?”

    Ryan strongly rejected that view.

    “I just disagree with any kind of notion of a moral equivalency” between the two countries, Ryan said. “There’s a gaping difference between the United States of America and Putin’s Russia.”

    Ryan also addressed Trump’s executive order on immigration during a wide-ranging interview at the Capitol, one day after a panel of federal appeals judges heard oral arguments in a case challenging the order.

    LISTEN: Appeals court hears arguments over Trump’s immigration ban

    Critics of the order, which temporarily barred refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S., have argued that it was a thinly disguised ban on Muslim immigrants.

    Trump called for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration as a candidate, though he wavered on that proposal over the course of his campaign.

    Since signing the order last month, Trump and his some of his top aides have described it as a travel ban. At other times aides have disputed that description, while also dismissing claims that the policy encourages religious discrimination.

    Ryan said he supported strengthening the country’s vetting process for immigrants, and did not think Trump’s executive order was a “Muslim ban.”

    “If it were, I would be opposed to it,” he said.

    But the speaker acknowledged the outcry over the executive order.

    “The rhetoric surrounding it makes it look like it’s a ban on a religion or a religious test, and I think that rhetoric is inflammatory and does not help us,” Ryan said.

    Ryan also touched on his relationship with Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist and the former chairman of Breitbart News, a conservative website that has frequently criticized Ryan in the past.

    “We’ve had a few meetings. We’ve gotten along fine,” Ryan said of Bannon.

    But Ryan drew a distinction between himself and Bannon, who has been criticized for leading a website that has published articles that promote white supremacist and anti-semitic views.

    “We’re different kinds of conservatives. That’s something that I can safely say, I think,” Ryan said.

    Nevertheless, Ryan said he and Bannon shared a “common cause and purpose” in trying to enact the agenda on which Trump and other Republicans campaigned in the 2016 election.

    “We really don’t know each other, but we’re all trying to get this agenda enacted, and that’s why I don’t see a problem here,” Ryan said.

    Ryan also said he had a good relationship with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who served with Ryan in the House before serving as the governor of Indiana.

    But Ryan said he had not been consulted before Trump signed the executive order on immigration, which caught many lawmakers and federal officials by surprise.

    Ryan said he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have spoken with Trump about their legislative plans for the year, in order to communicate their goals and priorities to the president.

    Moving forward, “we’re going to have more consulting and make sure that no one’s caught by surprise on things,” Ryan said.

    The post Paul Ryan doubts Trump’s efforts to improve Russia relations will work appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Starting next fall, the City College of San Francisco will offer free tuition to all residents. By Umi [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

    Starting next fall, the City College of San Francisco will offer free tuition to all residents. By Umi [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

    San Francisco is partnering with a community college to offer free tuition to city residents starting next fall.

    On Monday, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced it would start setting aside $5.4 million per year to cover enrollment fees and other expenses for City College of San Francisco students, making it the first city in the nation to offer free tuition to residents.

    The college will use $2.1 million of that total each year to cover the cost of credit classes for California residents who have lived in San Francisco for at least a year. At $46 per credit, the funding will cover around 45,000 credits, City College spokesperson Jeffrey Hamilton said. Because course loads vary widely, it’s hard to tell how many students will receive free tuition until registration closes in the fall.

    The remaining $3.3 million in funding will go toward covering books, transportation, supplies and health fees for low-income students who have Board of Governors (BOG) tuition waivers.

    Overall, the program could provide some form of assistance to 28,000 to 30,000 students, Hamilton told the NewsHour, though it’s not clear how many will enroll.

    “This commitment will provide our residents the opportunity to attend college, continue to learn and create better lives for themselves,” Lee said. “This is an investment in our youth, in our city and in our future.”

    Mayor Lee’s announcement comes as the idea of free college has gained popularity, both on the national stage, as a cornerstone of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign for president, and also within state legislatures.

    Several other states already have tuition-free programs in place, some of which came after President Barack Obama’s push for free community college in 2015. Kentucky, Oregon, Tennessee and Minnesota already have last-dollar scholarship programs that cover any remaining tuition fees after state and federal grant aid, with varying eligibility requirements. The plan announced by Mayor Lee on Monday, however, is different: It allows all residents to enroll, regardless of age, with no income eligibility requirements.

    Last month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed making all New York state, city and community colleges tuition-free for New York residents of households that earn less than $125,000 a year. And in Rhode Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo put forward a similar proposal: two years of free tuition at state colleges, with the benefit coming in the first two years for community college students and the last two for those at four-year institutions. Like Mayor Lee, Raimondo put no income requirements on her plan.

    The New York and Rhode Island plans both need legislative approval.

    Supporting Cuomo at his press conference about the plan last month, Sanders hailed the New York plan as a model for the nation.

    “It’s an idea that’s going to reverberate not only throughout the State of New York, but throughout this country,” he said.

    City College of San Francisco, like many supporters of free tuition programs, is also hoping the new initiative will boost enrollment. The college’s enrollment has dropped from 90,000 to 65,000 since 2012, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

    Critics of free tuition programs worry the programs will give unnecessary handouts to wealthy families, or duplicate programs that already offer financial assistance to low-income students. Some private institutions have also worried how free state and community college tuitions will affect their own enrollment.

    Those fights are likely to play out in New York, Rhode Island and several other states where the issue is on the agenda for 2017. Lawmakers in Minnesota have proposed a bill that would expand on programs already in place by providing free two- and four-year college tuition for families making less than $125,000, similar to the New York legislation. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslem has also proposed expanding the existing tuition-free program to include adults as well as recent high school graduates.

    The post San Francisco becomes first city to offer free community college tuition to all residents appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Ohio voters cast their votes at the polls for early voting in 2012. A number of states are proposing legislation in the 2017 session to tighten voting rules. Photo by REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk.

    Ohio voters cast their votes at the polls for early voting in 2012. A number of states are proposing legislation in the 2017 session to tighten voting rules. Photo by REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk.

    CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE — As President Donald Trump hurls unfounded allegations of colossal fraud in last fall’s election, lawmakers in at least 20 mostly Republican-led states are pushing to make it harder to register or to vote.

    Efforts are underway in places such as Arkansas, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska and Indiana to adopt or tighten requirements that voters show photo ID at the polls. There is a move in Iowa and New Hampshire to eliminate Election Day registration. New Hampshire may also make it difficult for college students to vote. And Texas could shorten the early voting period by several days.

    Supporters say the measures are necessary to combat voter fraud and increase public confidence in elections. But research has shown that in-person fraud at the polls is extremely rare, and critics of these restrictions warn that they will hurt mostly poor people, minorities and students — all of whom tend to vote Democratic — as well as the elderly.

    They fear, too, that the U.S. Justice Department, under newly confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, will do little to intervene to protect voters.

    Some election watchers see voting rights under heavy attack.

    Trump to launch investigation into unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud

    “What is really happening here is an attempt to manipulate the system so that some people can participate and some people can’t,” said Myrna Perez, director of the Voting Rights and Elections project at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

    Even so, there are more bills around the country aimed at making it easier to vote, according to the Brennan Center. Starting or expanding early voting and creating automatic voter registration are two popular proposals.

    Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, for example, is backing a proposal to automatically register people to vote using their motor vehicle paperwork and to offer early voting for 12 days before Election Day.

    Many of the restrictive laws became possible after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a key provision of the federal Voting Rights Act that required certain states and counties, largely in the South, to get Justice Department approval before changing their election laws. The 2016 presidential election was the first without those protections, and voters in 14 states faced new restrictions on voting or registration.

    WATCH: What do recent court decisions on identification requirements mean for voters?

    Kevin Hall, spokesman for the Iowa Secretary of State, said the voter ID legislation proposed there would provide for photo identification cards to anyone who needs one and would also update voting system technology.

    “This is a common sense approach just to protect the integrity of our election,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s secure and boost voter confidence as well.”

    In addition to eliminating same-day registration, New Hampshire Republicans want to add a residency requirement that critics say could prevent college students from voting. People can now vote in New Hampshire if they consider it their home. Proponents say the new measure would ensure that only people who truly live in the state can take part in elections.

    Many of these measures are certain to face court challenges.

    Before the presidential election, federal courts rolled back some of the toughest restrictions in North Carolina and Texas. Those cases are still working their way through the legal system, and voting rights groups are worried the new attorney general will abandon efforts made under the Obama administration to fight the restrictions.

    READ MORE: Appeals court blocks proof-of-citizenship voting requirement

    Over the past few years, “states and localities were emboldened unlike ever before in employing a wide range of tactics to deny voting rights to people of color and people with disabilities,” said Scott Simpson with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “We expect that this will get much worse with a Justice Department that is hostile to voting rights.”

    Trump has claimed without evidence that as many as 5 million people voted illegally in the presidential election, complaining that the voter rolls include dead people, non-citizens and people registered in multiple states. He has called for an investigation.

    Election experts are more concerned about the age of the nation’s voting systems and their vulnerability to tampering.

    A federal commission responsible for working with states on those very issues is facing an uncertain future, after a House committee this week voted to eliminate it. The Election Assistance Commission was created after the “hanging chad” debacle in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. Republicans say the agency is a prime example of government waste.

    The commission is scheduled to make recommendations later this year on new standards for voting equipment.

    Associated Press writer Barbara Rodriguez in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.

    The post Republican state lawmakers push for restrictions on voting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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