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- 02/16/17--08:46: _Photo: In Thailand,...
- 02/15/17--09:51: At LA art show, immigrant portraits draw record attendance
- 02/15/17--10:48: Another West Virginia town sues drug wholesalers
- 02/15/17--11:52: Pipeline executive compares Dakota protesters to terrorists
- 02/15/17--12:18: Pentagon boss to NATO nations: Increase military spending
- 02/15/17--13:12: Puzder withdraws nomination for labor secretary
- 02/15/17--13:25: Trump’s orders on immigration rattle some educators
- 02/15/17--15:21: Democrats see disparity in handling of Clinton, Russia inquiries
- 02/15/17--15:20: How the concealed carry debate plays out on college campuses
- 02/15/17--15:25: How scientists are scrambling to safeguard vital environmental data
- 02/15/17--18:13: Column: Distinctly two states in every way possible
- 02/16/17--07:12: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Russia must honor Ukraine deal
- 02/16/17--08:05: Broad Institute wins heated dispute over CRISPR patents
- 02/16/17--08:12: AP fact check: Trump’s iffy grasp of autism research
- 02/16/17--08:46: Photo: In Thailand, police surround a Buddhist temple
When Bay Area artist Monica Lundy and Los Angeles gallery-owner Walter Maciel organized the massive group exhibition “With Liberty and Justice for Some,” they had no idea how prescient it was. The show of 113 artists, which opened in January with the highest attendance Maciel has seen in his 11 years of operation, centers around a group of 8-by-8-inch portraits of immigrants arranged to resemble an American flag. The symbolism is unavoidable.
Back when Donald Trump was still the President-elect, long before his Jan. 27 executive order became a flash point for pro-immigrant rallies at airports across the nation, Lundy, like many in her artistic community, felt both helpless and determined to do something in response to Trump’s presidency.
“We wanted the project to be supportive of some of the communities under attack by this incoming administration,” Lundy told KQED Arts. “That Mexicans are being threatened with deportation, and Muslims, of being shut out, it reminds me of the history of bigotry in this country.”
She found a willing partner for the project in Maciel, and the call for portraits of immigrants took shape quickly. Bay Area artists involved in the show include longtime Mills College professor and Chinese-born painter Hung Liu, Phillip Hua, Yulia Pinkusevich, Rodney Ewing, Dave Kim and Soad Kader. Each chose to represent either a close friend or family member, or in the case of Ewing, personal hero and pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey.
Immigrants represented in the 158 total portraits on view at Walter Maciel Gallery include well-known figures more regularly defined by their contributions to American society than their foreign birthplaces: former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Albert Einstein, Stokely Carmichael, Bela Lugosi, and naturalist John Muir.
Alongside the easily recognized faces are the immigrants known only to those who lovingly rendered their portraits: artists’ parents, neighbors, teachers and loved ones. Immigrants are ubiquitous, the portraits emphasize, and to delegitimize their presence in the United States tears at the fabric of democracy.
Putting, as Maciel says, their money where their mouths are, the gallery is donating 30 percent of all artwork sales to the ACLU, The Trevor Project, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood, the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the San Francisco LGBT Center. Twenty portraits have sold so far. “We are using our strength and capabilities to make a statement, but also directly supporting those organizations on the front line of taking on this administration,” says Maciel.
Video by Kelly Whalen, Text by Sarah Hotchkiss
The post At LA art show, immigrant portraits draw record attendance appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A southern West Virginia town in the state’s poorest county has joined other communities in seeking to recoup the costs of dealing with opioid abuse.
According to the CDC, West Virginia had the highest rate of opioid-related deaths of all states in 2015, at 41.5 per 100,000 people.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that the McDowell County town of Welch filed a lawsuit Monday against five of the largest out-of-state drug distributors.
The lawsuit claims the companies delivered huge amounts of prescription pain pills that created a “public nuisance” in the town of 2,200. Welch is the county seat of McDowell County, which has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation.
The McDowell County Commission sued drug distributors in December. Similar lawsuits have been filed by the cities of Huntington and Kermit.
“We believe that these copycat lawsuits do not advance any of the hard work needed to solve the opioid abuse crisis – an epidemic driven by addiction, demand and the diversion of medications for illegitimate use,” Ellen Barry, senior vice president of Global Corporate Communications at Cardinal Health, one of the five companies named in the lawsuit, told the PBS NewsHour.
An investigation by the Charleston Gazette-Mail found drug wholesalers shipped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to West Virginia in six years. The Gazette-Mail says McDowell County, population 28,000, received 9 million hydrocodone pills, and 3.2 million oxycodone tablets over six years, according to U.S. Drug Enforcement Records.
The same investigation found that three of the five companies named in the lawsuit “supplied more than half of all pain pills statewide.”
Welch alleges that the drug wholesalers didn’t do enough to stop prescription painkillers from getting into the wrong hands.
“The (companies) received compensation in the form of millions of dollars per year for shipping volumes of drugs well beyond what a reasonable company would expect,” Welch’s lawyers wrote.
Welch has had to pay for more emergency services and drug treatment programs in addition to dealing with an increase in litter, crime, housing code violations and clogged water and sewer lines, according to the lawsuit.
“We intend to defend ourselves vigorously against these allegations,” Barry said.
The newspaper reports that drug companies have denied wrongdoing, saying the drugs were shipped to licensed pharmacies, which were filling prescriptions from doctors.
Kristen Hunter, a spokesperson for McKesson, which is named in Welch’s lawsuit, said in an email that the company does not comment on pending litigation, but called the crisis “a serious, multi-faceted problem.”
West Virginia sits on the front lines of the opioid epidemic, which now affects every state in the U.S. The hardest hit include men “with annual incomes less than $70,000, those previously married, and with a high school-level education or less,” according to the National Institutes of Health. White and Native American men living in the Midwest and West had a higher rate of use.
Huntington, which has also filed a lawsuit, reported 26 overdoses in a span of four hours in August.
WASHINGTON — A top executive at the company building the controversial Dakota Access pipeline is comparing pipeline opponents to terrorists.
Joey Mahmoud, executive vice president of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, says protesters have “assaulted numerous pipeline personnel,” destroyed millions of dollars’ worth of construction equipment and even fired a pistol at law enforcement during months of demonstrations against the 1,200-mile pipeline, which will carry North Dakota oil to an Illinois terminal.
Mahmoud tells Congress that the protest movement “induced individuals to break into and shut down pump stations on four operational pipelines. Had these actions been undertaken by foreign nationals, they could only be described as acts of terrorism.”
The chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux, one of two tribes suing to stop the project, called Mahmoud’s comments unfair to project opponents.
“The majority of them are there in prayer,” Chairman Harold Frazier told reporters Wednesday. “From what I’ve seen (law enforcement officers) are the terrorists.”
Law enforcement has used tactics such as rubber bullets, tear gas and water sprays against protesters during clashes in southern North Dakota near the pipeline route, Frazier said, adding that he personally has been hit by rubber bullets and tear gas.
In testimony Wednesday for a hearing before a House energy subcommittee, Mahmoud also blasted the Obama administration, which twice delayed the project last year.
Mahmoud called the delays “politically motivated actions” that were “accompanied by a host of half-truths and misrepresentations in both social and mainstream media.”
Mahmoud also targeted the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation lies near the pipeline’s route and who say the pipeline threatens their water supply and tribal artifacts.
The pipeline developer reached out to the tribe more than two years ago but has been continually rebuffed, Mahmoud said.
“It was clear from their response they had no interest in discussing the project with us,” he said.
Mahmoud challenged the tribe’s objections and said the pipeline poses little threat to drinking water. The Dakota pipeline will be at least the 15th pipeline to cross the Missouri River, will employ state-of-the-art technology and will be buried more than 90 feet below the lowest part of the river, Mahmoud said.
“To cast this as a dispute about protection of water resources is, quite simply, at variance with the facts, and it ignores universally accepted scientific and engineering practices,” he said.
Chad Harrison, a councilman at-large for the Standing Rock Sioux, said the federal government and the pipeline company “ignored the concerns of the tribe” for almost three years before the Obama administration paused the project last September. On Dec. 4, then-assistant Army secretary for civil works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, declined to issue an easement, saying a broader environmental study was warranted.
“To be clear, the tribe does not oppose economic development, energy independence or protecting our national security,” Harrison said. “What we oppose is development that is undertaken without our consent and in such a way that it is our community, our people, our cultural sites and our natural resources that are put at the most risk, and when we are the ones who will pay the cost when something goes wrong.”
A federal judge on Monday refused to stop construction on the last stretch of the pipeline, which is progressing much faster than expected and could be operational as soon as next month.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled that as long as oil isn’t flowing through the pipeline, there is no imminent harm to the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River tribes, which are suing to stop the project. Another hearing is scheduled on Feb. 27.
Associated Press writer Blake Nicholson in Bismarck, N.D. contributed to this story.
The post Pipeline executive compares Dakota protesters to terrorists appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
BRUSSELS — In an ultimatum to America’s allies, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told fellow NATO members Wednesday to increase military spending by year’s end or risk seeing the U.S. curtail its defense support — a stark threat given Europe’s deep unease already over U.S.-Russian relations.
Echoing President Donald Trump’s demands for NATO countries to assume greater self-defense responsibility, Mattis said Washington will “moderate its commitment” to the alliance if countries fail to fall in line. He didn’t offer details, but the pressure is sure to be felt, particularly by governments in Europe’s eastern reaches that feel threatened by Russian expansionism.
Trump’s Russia policy remains a mystery for many of America’s closest international partners. As a candidate, the Republican president steered clear of criticizing Moscow for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he wanted a new era of cooperation between the former Cold War foes.
But that possibility grew murkier this week as Trump fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, over the retired Army lieutenant general’s communications with Russia before Trump took office. The departure of Flynn, who also promoted the idea of working with Moscow, has added to speculation about how the U.S.-Russian relationship might evolve.
Amid the uncertainty from Washington, the Kremlin may be testing the West’s resolve. A U.S. defense official said this week that Russia has deployed a cruise missile in violation of a Cold War-era nuclear arms control treaty. And violence has sporadically re-ignited in eastern Ukraine, where the U.S. and its partners say Moscow continues to back a separatist insurgency.
“No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of Western values,” Mattis told the alliance’s 27 other defense ministers, according to a text of his remarks. “Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do.”
The entire alliance seemed to hang on Mattis’ every word Wednesday. Officials crowded around televisions at the NATO meeting in Brussels to watch the retired general’s initial appearance with Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Defense ministers clustered around Mattis as he entered the meeting room.
Citing danger from Russia, Mattis told the closed meeting of ministers they must adopt a plan this year that sets dates for governments to meet a military funding goal of 2 percent of gross domestic product. He called the funding increase a “fair demand” based on the “political reality” in Washington, an apparent reference to Trump’s past criticism of NATO as “obsolete” and his much-touted “‘America First” mantra.
Noting the threat posed by the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, Mattis said: “Some in this alliance have looked away in denial of what is happening.”
“We have failed to fill gaps in our NATO response force or to adapt,” he added.
Trump has challenged the alliance to take on a greater share of military costs, even rattling European nations by suggesting the U.S. might not defend allies unwilling to fulfill their financial obligations as NATO members.
Mattis didn’t go that far, and Wednesday’s focus appeared to be on simply increasing military funding if not fully reaching the target. Many European governments face hostility to more military spending, especially as their slow economic recoveries force belt-tightening elsewhere.
The United States is by far NATO’s most powerful member, spending more on defense than all the others combined. It devoted 3.61 percent of American GDP last year to military spending, according to NATO estimates — a level that has somewhat tapered off in recent years.
Germany, by contrast, spent 1.19 percent of its overall budget on defense. Ten countries commit even less, and seven — including Canada, Italy and Spain — would have to virtually double military spending to reach the target. Luxembourg would require a fourfold increase to get close.
Along with the U.S., the other countries that do reach NATO’s benchmark for military spending are Britain, Estonia, Poland and debt-ridden Greece.
British’s defense chief, Michael Fallon, said Mattis appeared to welcome a British proposal to create a road map for increased spending. “An annual increase that we’re asking them to commit to would at least demonstrate good faith,” he said.
Asked about Mattis’ ultimatum, NATO chief Stoltenberg said allies need time to develop plans. Many are already talking about increasing commitments, he said.
“This is not the U.S. telling Europe to increase defense spending,” Stoltenberg said, noting that allies committed three years ago already to increase spending over the next decade. He said: “I welcome all pressure, all support, to make sure that happens.”
Despite the sharpness of his demand, Mattis appeared to recognize Europe’s worries and its leaders’ desire for clarity on America’s commitment to NATO.
In a brief public statement, made while standing alongside Stoltenberg, Mattis called the alliance “a fundamental bedrock for the United States and for all the trans-Atlantic community.”
Associated Press writer Lorne Cook contributed to this report.
The post Pentagon boss to NATO nations: Increase military spending appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Andrew Puzder says he is withdrawing as President Donald Trump’s nominee for labor secretary.
The fast food executive says in a statement provided to The Associated Press that he was “honored to have been considered by President Donald Trump to lead the Department of Labor and put America’s workers and businesses back on a path to sustainable prosperity.”
I am withdrawing my nomination for Secretary of Labor. I’m honored to have been considered and am grateful to all who have supported me.
— Andy Puzder (@AndyPuzder) February 15, 2017
Puzder says “while I won’t be serving in the administration, I fully support the President and his highly qualified team.”
There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.
Puzder’s confirmation hearing was scheduled for Thursday. But some Republicans had raised concerns about his failure to pay taxes for five years on a former housekeeper who wasn’t authorized to work in the U.S.
Puzder has posted his full statement on his website.
Puzder is CEO of CKE Restaurants Inc.
President Donald Trump’s sweeping order that temporarily banned residents of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States sent shock waves through some of the nation’s schools, leaving educators scrambling to assure frightened refugee and immigrant students that their schools are safe places.
The order blocked citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from coming into the U.S. for 90 days. It blocked refugees from any country from entering the U.S. for 120 days and banned refugees from Syria indefinitely. A federal judge suspended Trump’s order earlier this month, allowing those who had been previously banned to enter. That decision was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit last week. But educators are still grappling with uncertainty, not knowing the next steps the White House will take on immigration and how it will affect their students.
“[There are] a lot of unknowns right now,” said Elizabeth Demchak, the principal at Claremont International High School in New York City. “Any time you’re talking about people’s status in the country, there will be fear. We have to try and give [students] as much stability as possible.”
The immigration ban is one of the actions by Trump that are concerning educators in his early weeks in office. Trump has also signed executive orders to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, strip federal funding from “sanctuary cities” that shield undocumented immigrants and establish new immigration enforcement priorities, which “could net hundreds of thousands of people without any convictions,” Politico says.
Demchak’s school, based in the South Bronx, is home to hundreds of Spanish, Arabic, and Bengali-speaking students. It also has a growing population of refugees from Yemen, whose citizens are banned from U.S. entry for now under Trump’s executive order. The school is part of The Internationals Network for Public Schools, a nationwide nonprofit that serves about 9,000 students newly-immigrated to the U.S.
Many educators — including those in the American Federation of Teachers — don’t support President Trump’s stance on immigration.
The orders “violate the moral and political direction,” AFT wrote in a message on its website, saying the actions “will harm many AFT members and millions of our students, patients, families, friends and neighbors.”
But a large number of Americans do support tighter restrictions around who is allowed into the country. In a poll conducted by Reuters/Ipsos a few days after the Jan. 27 order, 49 percent of Americans said they agreed with the ban; 41 percent said they opposed it. Those numbers have fluctuated between polling groups in the days since Trump has issued the order.
Immigrants in U.S. Schools
In 2015, more than 4.7 million foreign-born students were enrolled in U.S. schools — about 6 percent of the American school population, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Another 20 million are children of foreign-born parents.
Influxes of immigrant students—who may have large gaps in schooling and whose linguistic and cultural differences can present challenges for educators—have at times caused friction in communities where some parents raised concerns that new arrivals negatively impact their children’s education.
The anxiety over Trump’s actions are particularly acute for students and educators in immigrant-rich areas of the country, like Minnesota’s Somali strongholds, California’s Latino communities and a growing number of neighborhoods friendly to Syrian refugees.
The immigration ban also hit home for places like Houston and Nashville, Tenn., both with a growing number of Islamic students. The districts also have large Kurdish communities, many of whom come from countries targeted in the immigration ban.
In Nashville, at least 1,000 students from affected countries are in the city’s schools. While schools generally don’t track the immigration status of students, they often collect data about students’ country of origin and home language if it’s not English.
“The United States is supposed to be a country of opportunity and we believe that immigrants bring a richness to our country that we should maximize,” Nashville Superintendent Shawn Joseph said. “It starts with educating them.”
The Trump administration’s aggressive stance has made that job tougher, some educators say.
“It certainly does strain the ability of young people and their families to trust institutions,” said Roberto Gonzales, an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “It behooves schools to take a much more active role in sowing these seeds of trust and really growing them.”
As the daughter of Dominican immigrants, Principal Nedda de Castro relates to her students at the International School at Prospect Heights in Brooklyn. Like them, she learned English in school. She recalls school as where she explored what it means to be American.
But many of her students are constantly reminded that they’re not. And some are giving up on school.
“Some of the students are assuming that they’re just going to be deported anyway and starting to talk about how there’s really no point in coming to school anymore,” de Castro said. “It’s a lot of lost potential.”
Fate for Deferred Action
Nearly 39,000 Muslim refugees entered the United States in fiscal 2016, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. State Department data, and more than half hailed from Somalia and Syria. School districts from Southern California to Connecticut have seen a surge in Syrian enrollment in recent years. Somali refugees continue to flow to metro areas like Minneapolis and Seattle, where already established communities exist.
Minneapolis has more than 4,100 Somali students; many are refugees.
The district “recognizes and shares the pain and fear many of them have felt after recent events,” Minneapolis Superintendent Ed Graff wrote to Education Week.
Refugee students face similar obstacles common to some immigrant students new to the country—interrupted education and learning a new language, along with adjusting to stigma tied to their race, religion, and skin color, said Gonzales, the Harvard professor.
On February 3, a federal district court judge in Seattle temporarily halted Trump’s order to stop the flow of citizens from the Muslim-majority nations. Trump took to Twitter to lambaste the ruling and the judge who issued it. “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned.”
Initially, however, Trump’s effort to reverse the ruling failed, as a federal appeals court upheld the order of U.S. District Judge James L. Robart.
While Trump’s executive orders play out, many are awaiting the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an Obama-administration policy that gave temporary deportation reprieves to more than 740,000 undocumented youth.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump promised to repeal DACA. He’s also repeatedly said his administration will develop a plan for the young immigrants, but has yet to offer specifics. The uncertainty for DACA recipients—many of them immigrants from Mexico and Central America—is reverberating broadly in Latino communities.
“The fear … is very present, not just for those who are undocumented, but those who are Latino, as well as their teachers and loved ones who have also felt maligned by the rhetoric used throughout the election and since Trump won,” said Marisa Bono, a lawyer with the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
A broad array of K-12 education leaders have called on the Trump administration to continue protections for undocumented immigrant youth brought to the U.S. as children, popularly known as DREAMers.
Richard Carranza, the superintendent in Houston, is one. So is Joseph, the Nashville schools chief. Both men joined more than 1,000 other education leaders in signing a petition calling for saving the DACA policy. The list of supporters also includes Teach For America, the American Federation of Teachers, and charter school organizations.
“It’s important to be proactive in reassuring the community that the district is here to educate children, anyone that shows up to our doors,” Carranza said.
Federal Aid at Risk?
Trump’s order to punish jurisdictions that don’t cooperate with immigration authorities has put a target on cities that vow to protect their undocumented residents.
Los Angeles Unified is one district anticipating potential fallout for schools that pledge to shield their students. Its school board has been outspoken about its refusal to cooperate with any immigration enforcement efforts.
Slashing federal aid could deal a blow to any district. In L.A. Unified, roughly $700 million in federal funds flow into the district’s coffers each year. Chicago and Clark County, Nev., may also be at risk for declaring their districts as “sanctuary” campuses.
Seattle’s mayor allotted $250,000 for undocumented students in the city’s schools. The school board directed staff to ban immigration agents from school grounds unless they get permission from the superintendent or the district’s lawyers.
Even with a range of leaders pledging support for immigrant youth, it’s hard to allay their fears, said Bono, the MALDEF lawyer.
“We want to hope for the best,” she said, “but have to expect the worst.”
The post Trump’s orders on immigration rattle some educators appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller is here to provide the answers you need on aging and retirement. His weekly column, “Ask Phil,” aims to help older Americans and their families by answering their health care and financial questions. Phil is the author of the new book, “Get What’s Yours for Medicare,” and co-author of “Get What’s Yours: The Revised Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security.” Send your questions to Phil.
As predicted, people are understandably confused about how Social Security’s meager 0.3 percent 2017 cost of living adjustment, or COLA, is affecting their Part B premiums for Medicare. Today’s mailbag thus leads off with a couple of relevant questions that I hope will help address broader reader concerns.
Bob: I paid directly to Medicare from 2013 until mid-year 2016, because up to this point, I was not getting Social Security. Since I wasn’t getting Social Security at the start of 2016, I wasn’t “held harmless” and therefore had to pay $121.80 per month for Medicare Part B’s premium.
Halfway through 2016, I started getting Social Security. The Medicare monthly expense deducted, however, didn’t change from $121.80 to $104.90 per month, even though I was now “held harmless.” Furthermore, my increase in the Part B premium for 2017 was based on a starting point of $121.80 and is now $132. Is this correct, or should I apply for a refund starting when I took Social Security in 2016? And should the premium for 2017 be based on the increase from $104.90?
We contacted Medicare and they referred us to Social Security. Our attempts to get clarification from Social Security both on the phone and in their offices have not been fruitful.
Phil Moeller: Unfortunately, being held harmless does not mean that you qualify for the $104.90 monthly Part B premium. That’s what people held harmless had to pay last year. But when you joined the hold harmless club, for lack of a better term, it meant that the $121.80 premium you were paying last year would be the benchmark for the hold harmless rules taking effect in 2017.
If you also had not been held harmless in 2017, your Part B premium would have risen to $134. You say your premium will be $132. Premiums can rise this year even for people held harmless. That’s because the annual Social Security cost of living adjustment for this year is not zero, as it was last year, but 0.3 percent. This increase is small — about $4 more in benefits a month for the average beneficiary. The rise in Medicare premiums, by contrast, is much larger.
Being held harmless means that the Social Security benefits you receive this year cannot be smaller than what you got last year. For most people, this means that all of their 0.3 percent benefit increase will be used to pay higher Part B premiums. In your case, apparently, 0.3 percent of your benefit would have to equal the difference between $132 and $121.80 to make sense of you being charging $132 in Part B premiums this year.
As I wrote to a reader earlier this year:
In order for your premiums to actually decline, future increases in Social Security’s annual cost of living adjustment would have to be large enough for the program to raise premiums on the people who were held harmless in 2016 and 2017. As their premiums go up again, yours might go down. I say “might” because Medicare costs will continue to increase, requiring the agency to raise premiums. So, it’s possible any downward adjustments to which you’re entitled could be exceeded by annual premium increases. Is your head spinning yet?
Program rules envision everyone (except high-income beneficiaries) eventually paying the same Medicare premiums. But no one knows whether this will happen in one year or take several years. It all depends on future rates of inflation.
And, of course, Congress could step in and change these rules. No one is very happy with the unforeseen consequences of the hold harmless rule. I wouldn’t be surprised if changes were proposed, although opening up either Medicare or Social Security to even a modest rule change risks a much broader debate that defenders of both programs aren’t eager to have at this time.
Tom: My wife has been enrolled in Medicare Part B since 2015. She began to receive Social Security benefits in December 2016. Social Security has told us that her monthly premium for 2017 is $134. She paid $121.80 per month in 2016. From everything I’ve seen, I expected her premium to be about $109 under the “hold harmless” provision now that she is a Social Security recipient. Social Security told me that she had to be enrolled in Social Security no later than last November to qualify for a lower premium. Do you know if that’s the case? I can’t find a regulation or reference that cites the November date. If she does qualify for a lower premium, would they add any increase for 2017 to the $121.80 figure or add the increase to a smaller projected base premium and end up with something in the $109 range?
Phil Moeller: Unfortunately, the agency is correct, although I certainly wish it would explain these rules more clearly.
Medicare premiums don’t begin being taken out of Social Security payments until the month after Social Security begins. The agency is thus correct that your wife would have needed to enroll in Social Security no later than November of last year to have been held harmless in 2017.
Also, being held harmless does not mean her premiums would be reduced to $109. It just means her premiums going forward cannot increase by more than the amount of any annual cost of living adjustment in her Social Security.
Even if she had been held harmless for 2017, her Part B premium still would have increased. It would have been $121.80 plus 0.3 percent of her Social Security benefit (that’s the amount of this year’s COLA).
If and when future COLAs are large enough, these Part B premiums will be equalized, and everyone will pay the same amount, except for people hit with high-income surcharges. For this to happen, the COLA would have to be big enough to pay for any Part B premium increases and still have higher net Social Security payments. Inflation rates have been so low, however, that it’s not clear to me that this will happen soon.
John – Illinois: I get that I have to get on the Part D train. My question is when? What is the trigger that sets the 1 percent monthly penalty ticking? In other words, is it when I sign up for Part A or when I sign up for Part B or a Medigap plan, etc.? Every article I read says signing up for Part A is free. But if it starts the Part D train, it isn’t free, but can be very costly.
Phil Moeller: Part A usually does not start the Part D “train” or “clock.” It’s getting Part B that does this. If you need to get Medicare when you turn 65, you would have until three months after your 65th birthday to get Part B. If you continue to work and have employer health coverage, you wouldn’t need to sign up for Part B until you retire, and this enrollment period lasts for eight months following your retirement.
The main issue with maximizing the time until you get Part B or Part D, I want to emphasize, is that you risk not having any health insurance for a period that could last quite some time following the end of employer health insurance.
There is an exception that you at least need to be aware of. When a person turns 65 and continues to work, they do not need to sign up for Medicare unless their employer drug coverage is so bad that it’s not deemed “credible” — which means it’s not as good as a Part D plan. Most employer drug plans are credible. Employers are required to certify this, although you may need to ask.
If an employer drug plan is not credible, then the employee needs to get a Part D plan. However, in this limited case, he does not need to sign up for Part B first. Getting only premium-free Part A will qualify him to get a Part D plan.
I hope this helps clarify matters at least a bit.
Paul – Michigan: My wife and I both will turn 67 later this year. My wife has low lifetime earnings. It is our understanding that since my wife’s benefit is (and will be) less than half my benefit at age 70 (even at our age now, for that matter), she has nothing to lose by filing for her own retirement now and then filing for a larger spousal benefit at age 70.
Am I correct in assuming that the best strategy, given the above information, would be for my wife to take her full retirement age benefit now, for me to take a spousal benefit based on her earnings, for me to file for my own benefit when I turn 70, and then for my wife to replace her own benefit with half of mine then as a spousal benefit?
Also, as an aside, do you know if both of us stand to get retroactive benefits, and if so, when would they be paid?
Phil Moeller: Your strategy makes sense to me. A couple of clarifications: You would file what’s called a restricted application for just your spousal benefit. After you file for your own retirement benefit, your wife will not replace her own benefit, but will receive what’s called an excess spousal benefit — an increased payment equal to the amount by which her spousal benefit exceeds her own retirement benefit. And her spousal benefit will be half of your full retirement age entitlement, not half of what you actually collect at age 70.
As to retroactive benefits, you are both entitled to up to six months of retroactive benefits if you wind up filing for either benefit by up to six months after reaching your full retirement ages. Retroactive benefits are not paid for any claiming period prior to full retirement age.
When you file for your own retirement benefit, make sure you don’t unintentionally seek any retroactive benefits. Doing so would wind up costing you delayed retirement credits. For example, if you filed for retirement at age 70 and claimed six months of retroactive benefits, Social Security would consider your filing date to be at age 69 and a half. You thus would lose six months of delayed retirement credits, and your monthly retirement benefit would be 4 percent lower for the rest of your life.
Bill – California: Last July, I paid in advance and in full $1,131 for chiropractic services to be rendered over the next 12 weeks — a dumb move on my part, but I didn’t know any better at the time. Is the doctor, a California-licensed chiropractor who told me he accepts Medicare, even allowed to collect the full payment for 29 session in advance of rendering services?
I finished these treatments and am no longer under this doctor’s care, but I still haven’t been repaid by Medicare for these sessions. I called the agency and was shocked to learn that no claim on my behalf has been received! I then spoke with the doctor. He told me that a claim was attempted three times with various glitches and that he would submit it again in one or two weeks. He also told me in an unprofessional huff that he has a year to file my claim. What’s my recourse? Or have I been scammed?
Phil Moeller: Experts at the Medicare Rights Center say that doctors who accept assignment from Medicare should not be billing patients in advance for the entire sequence of their services. Assignment means the health care provider agrees to accept Medicare-approved charges as payment in full for their services.
Most doctors who accept Medicare also accept assignment, but it’s possible for a doctor to accept Medicare patients without agreeing to assignment. Such “non-participating” doctors can bill you more than the Medicare-approved amount for their services, although Medicare rules do limit such overcharges. These doctors also can bill you the entire charge for their service.
It sounds like your chiropractor is a non-participating provider. You should confirm this, and it’s hardly being pushy to do so. If he does accept assignment, you have the right to squawk to Medicare about being required to pay for all his services up front. Whether you do so or not may depend on whether you want to continue using him. After all, as you note, you’ve already paid him.
He also is correct that he has a year to file your claim and reimburse you. The Medicare Rights Center suggests that you closely track the quarterly Medicare Summary Notices you should be receiving from Medicare to see if the claim has been filed. If you haven’t done so already, you also can set up an online Medicare account and get your Medicare Summary Notices electronically. And if the claim has not been processed, you can either ask your doctor again to file it, or if the year deadline is approaching, you can file the claim yourself using Form CMS-1490S.
Nikki: I sold property in December 2015 that gave me huge income for one year. I will turn 65 this October. If I wait until January 2018 to sign up for Medicare, will they use my 2016 tax return to calculate my surcharges under IRMAA (income-related monthly adjustment amount)? Can I get the coverage to start that January?
Phil Moeller: The rules say that the Social Security Administration is supposed to use 2016 tax returns to calculate 2018 IRMAA surcharges. So, on paper, you’re good. However, they sometimes have to go back three years if the two-year-old return isn’t yet available. Because you want to file so early in 2018, I’m worried this might happen to you. If it does, you should appeal and seek to have your 2016 return used as the basis for 2018 IRMAA calculations.
In terms of when you sign up for Medicare, it will depend on when your enrollment period begins. If you turn 65 and do not have health insurance from a job where you’re still working, you will have a seven-month initial enrollment period for Medicare that begins three months before your 65th birthday. If you are working and older than 65, your Medicare enrollment period would last eight months, beginning when you stop working and no longer have employer health insurance. In either case, I would urge you to sign up for Medicare early during the enrollment period, so you don’t have a break in your insurance coverage.
If you are late in enrolling, you face lifetime penalties via higher Part B and Part D premiums. They equal 10 percent for each full year you are late enrolling in Part B and 1 percent a month for Part D. They are cumulative and do not go away.
So, even if you can wait to get coverage in early 2018, you may not want to.
Mary – New Hampshire: I will soon turn 65. I retired at 62 and already receive Social Security. My health insurance has been paid for largely by federal assistance, but I just received a letter from Social Security informing me that I will have $134 a month deducted from my Social Security to pay for Medicare. Can I tell Social Security not to deduct these funds and instead use the federal assistance to pay for my insurance? Social Security is my only source of income, so this is critical to me.
Phil Moeller: Medicare does not work exactly like Obamacare, but if you receive low-income assistance now, you should continue to do so under one or more Medicare Savings Programs. In this event, it’s possible that some or all of the money being deducted from your Social Security payments would be restored to you. To find out the details of how this would work for you, I suggest you call a Medicare counselor in New Hampshire who works with the free counseling services provided by the State Health Insurance Assistance Program.
That $134 Medicare premium in the letter from Social Security is only for Part B of Medicare, which covers doctors, outpatient and medical equipment expenses. You are entitled to premium-free Part A as well, which covers hospital expenses. But you also will need to have a Part D prescription drug plan. Medicare’s Extra Help program provides financial assistance to lower-income enrollees.
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WASHINGTON — Democrats are criticizing the FBI over its refusal to discuss potential contacts between Russian officials and associates of President Donald Trump, saying the bureau’s tight-lipped approach and its public disclosures about Hillary Clinton’s emails during the fractious election reflect a double standard.
While distinctions between the two matters could help explain why they’re being treated differently, critics of the FBI’s approach say Director James Comey set a precedent with his unusually public accounting of the Clinton email case that roiled the final stretch of the presidential race. Congressional Democrats and former Clinton aides who seethed at the FBI’s actions last year say they’re upset a law enforcement organization that so publicly discussed one probe didn’t even hint at the existence of another.
Comey’s approach of not discussing any of the FBI’s work related to Trump associates and Russia — which has included an interview with former national security adviser Michael Flynn — hews closely to the bureau’s “by-the-book” protocol, but it deviates significantly from how the Clinton case was handled, said Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon, a former Justice Department press official.
“Once he has crossed the threshold of holding a press conference to publicly editorialize on her email arrangement, it then became untenable for him to retreat back to the norms and protocols that normally apply with respect to Trump,” Fallon said.
Comey acknowledged the extraordinary national interest in an election-year investigation into a presidential candidate when he took the unusual step in July of publicly announcing the bureau’s decision to not recommend charges for Clinton and of discussing evidence his agents had reviewed and the legal standard they were applying. His characterization of Clinton and her aides as “extremely careless” was condemned by Democrats as unnecessary editorializing.
That news conference was followed by hours of testimony before Congress and then, just 11 days before the November 8 election, a vaguely worded letter to Congress advising that new emails potentially connected to the case had been discovered and would need to be reviewed.
A follow-up letter nine days later said the email review had done nothing to change the FBI’s original conclusion, further angering Democrats about why a public disclosure was made before the FBI had even obtained a warrant to search the emails.
Now, amid reports of the FBI’s ongoing Russia inquiries, tensions have risen over the paucity of public information.
Tempers flared during a contentious closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill last month, when House Democrats angry over the public disclosures in the Clinton case confronted Comey over his silence. He maintained a similar stance earlier that week during an appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee, when he said, “I would never comment on investigations — whether we have one or not — in an open forum like this so I can’t answer one way or the other.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he’d been stymied by the FBI in his requests for information on any inquiries into Russian meddling in the presidential election or intercepted communications with Russian officials. Yet when it came to the Clinton case, he said, “it seemed like it was almost a blow-by-blow” account from the bureau.
“It’s placed Comey under significant scrutiny,” Cummings said, “and I think people will be looking very carefully at how he handles this entire situation.”
The FBI declined to comment.
Nonetheless, there are distinctions in the two cases that prevent them from being perfectly analogous.
A counterintelligence investigation that examines contacts with foreign officials is, by design, typically out of public view, and often information that is accumulated for intelligence purposes is never made public.
The intelligence community inspector general referred the Clinton email matter to the Justice Department in a letter that was released to members of Congress and subsequently made public. Law enforcement officials then took certain overt steps, such as taking from a law office a thumb drive containing Clinton’s emails, that made it virtually impossible to deny that an investigation was underway.
Comey himself was mostly tight-lipped as his agents reviewed whether Clinton had unlawfully mishandled classified information, except to say that the FBI was committing resources toward the matter and that he was receiving regular updates on it.
His first extensive comments came at a July press conference at FBI headquarters, when he acknowledged the unusual nature of the public statement he was about to make but said “the American people deserve those details in a case of intense public interest.”
People close to him have said he felt compelled to alert Congress about the discovery of additional emails — found on a laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner, the now estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin — after having previously testified under oath that he would update members if there was a need to revisit the investigation. There were also concerns that the FBI’s work could leak out.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Almost since the day President Trump was sworn in, members of a loosely aligned grassroots movement composed of academics, programmers, researchers and scientists have been archiving government data they fear could disappear.
Miles O’Brien looks in on one of those efforts for our weekly science series, Leading Edge.
JEROME WHITINGTON, New York University: Psyched to see everybody in the room. Really exciting.
MILES O’BRIEN: It’s early, cold, and Saturday, and yet this room at New York University is standing room only. A few hundred volunteers are here to download and save scientific data created and curated by the federal government.
JEROME WHITINGTON: Without the data, you don’t have environmental regulation.
MILES O’BRIEN: Anthropology Professor Jerome Whitington is one of the organizers of this data rescue event, the eighth in an ongoing, open-ended series which began after the election.
JEROME WHITINGTON: Now, one of the things we’re going to accomplish at this event is, we’re going to do a lot of work to get hard-to-access data sets, things that previous events have struggled to get.
MILES O’BRIEN: They are focused primarily on the essential science used to create environmental regulations. They worry the Trump administration’s anti-regulatory bent and outright denial of peer-reviewed climate science might put the data in jeopardy.
JEROME WHITINGTON: We’re less worried about it being outright deleted and disappearing, and more worried about it becoming unusable or inaccessible in specific ways.
MILES O’BRIEN: So, they are systematically building a data refuge in the cloud on servers hosted by Amazon.
Bethany Wiggin directs the University of Pennsylvania program in environmental humanities. She is an organizer of the data refuge project.
BETHANY WIGGIN, University of Pennsylvania: We have always thought of data refuge as providing an insurance policy. The situation is quite urgent. Events on the federal level are moving quickly. The changes being made to programs is happening quite fast. The situation is very uncertain.
MILES O’BRIEN: Federally funded science has been maligned and cut back before, but the Trump administration has upped the ante. While no huge data sets have completely disappeared, some have been made harder to access or even find.
The official White House Web site no longer contains any reference to climate change. A Trump space adviser threatened to pull the plug on earth science at NASA. Department of Energy scientists received a questionnaire asking what climate change conferences they attended and what materials they shared.
And the president’s choice to run the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, sued the agency 13 times and tried to block Obama administration climate change regulations.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders grilled Pruitt at his confirmation hearing.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-Vt.: Ninety-seven percent of the scientists who wrote articles in peer-reviewed journals believe that human activity is the fundamental reason we are seeing climate change. You disagree with that?
SCOTT PRUITT, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Nominee: I believe the ability to measure with precision the degree of human activity’s impact on the climate is subject to more debate on whether the climate is changing or whether human activity contributes to it.
MILES O’BRIEN: For his part, Mr. Trump has tweeted that climate change is a hoax cooked up by the Chinese, and repeatedly criticized federal environmental regulations.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I believe strongly in clean water and clean air, but I don’t believe that what they say — I think it’s a big scam for a lot of people to make a lot of money. In the meantime, China is eating our lunch because they don’t partake in all the rules and regulations that we do.
RUSH HOLT, American Association for the Advancement of Science: This is Benjamin Franklin’s grandson.
MILES O’BRIEN: Physicist and former New Jersey Democratic Congressman Rush Holt is CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
It is the world’s largest general scientific society, with more than 120,000 members.
RUSH HOLT: When they hear public officials talk about alternative facts, they’re aghast. And when they don’t know what a new administration is going to do in support for research, they get very apprehensive about their ability to continue to do the research that they think is so valuable.
MILES O’BRIEN: Holt was among the witnesses when the House Science Committee conducted its first hearing of the Trump era. No one was surprised that the Environmental Protection Agency was the focus.
The Republican chairman of the committee, Lamar Smith of Texas, is a longtime, staunch critic of the EPA.
REP. LAMAR SMITH, R-Texas: There is now an opportunity to right the ship at the EPA and steer the agency in the right direction. The EPA should be open and accountable to the American people and use legitimate science.
RUSH HOLT: Scientists are fiercely independent. They would resent horribly if they felt their work was being manipulated. It’s not.
MILES O’BRIEN: Also testifying that day, the EPA’s deputy administrator under George W. Bush, Jeff Holmstead. He is a partner at Bracewell, a Houston-based law firm that represents corporate clients in the energy sector.
JEFF HOLMSTEAD, Bracewell LLP: EPA tends to focus on the science that supports the regulatory role that it sees for itself, and sometimes doesn’t pay enough attention to science that cuts the other way.
I think it would be valuable to EPA if they had a more balanced perspective on a lot of these scientific questions that they’re looking at.
MILES O’BRIEN: While scientists wait to see what shoes might drop, a rumor mill echoes across the Twitterverse.
Most agencies are laying low, avoiding controversy in public channels. The EPA’s last official tweet was the day before the inauguration.
Meanwhile, alternative, or rogue, accounts emerge constantly, some apparently authored by worried employees inside agencies, others by sympathetic, connected outsiders. They are flares from a science community under siege.
Are scientists in a panic? Is that what it is? What’s going on?
KEITH COWING, NASA Watch: They know where the panic button is, and they look at it once or twice a day.
MILES O’BRIEN: Keith Cowing is a former NASA biologist who founded the watchdog Web site NASA Watch 20 years ago. He’s the proto-rogue, and now he says everybody seems to be joining in.
KEITH COWING: Nobody has said, shut that database down, take that off your Web site. But what’s going to happen when you have got this giant, bubbling, simmering social media crowd, and they go from being worried about things that might happen to things that are happening? There’s a colossal hair trigger waiting out there.
MILES O’BRIEN: In the meantime, data refuge is as much therapeutic as it is prophylactic.
Programmer Brendan O’Brien — no relation — showed me how they’re doing their work.
BRENDAN O’BRIEN, Programmer: The toughest part about this is figuring out what this all means and to be able to archive it in a sensible form.
MILES O’BRIEN: Data refuge organizers sent questionnaires to 65,000 scientists to determine how to prioritize the gargantuan task.
So far, they have received 7,500 responses. As they march through the databases, they are simultaneously developing tools to organize the effort, protect the integrity of the data, and make an app for widespread use.
BRENDAN O’BRIEN: If we have the foresight to back the stuff up now, we may be — maybe later generations will thank us.
MILES O’BRIEN: Scientists are also planning a public campaign to save their enterprise.
On April 22, Earth Day, they intend to march en masse on Washington, an experiment to test the volatile interaction between pressure, politics, belief, and facts.
Miles O’Brien, the PBS NewsHour, New York.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: But now to the president’s meeting with Israel’s prime minister at the White House today, and what it means for the U.S. role in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.
Hari Sreenivasan has that.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.
HARI SREENIVASAN: With that, President Trump served notice that he is not wedded to longstanding U.S. support for a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But, honestly, if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The president urged a wider peace pact as well, involving other Middle Eastern countries.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And it is something that is very different, hasn’t been discussed before. And it’s actually a much bigger deal, a much more important deal, in a sense.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Mr. Trump also left open the possibility of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, despite Palestinian demands that East Jerusalem be their capital.
Netanyahu called for the U.S. and Israel to seize this moment, and he laid out his conditions for peace.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israeli Prime Minister: First, the Palestinians must recognize the Jewish state. They have to stop calling for Israel’s destruction. Second, in any peace agreement, Israel must retain the overriding security control of the entire area west of the Jordan River.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The Palestinians vehemently oppose that second element. They also flatly reject Israel’s ramped-up construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. That point elicited this exchange today.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We’ll work something out. But I would like to see a deal be made. I think a deal will be made.
So let’s see what we do.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Let’s try it.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Doesn’t sound too optimistic, but he’s a good negotiator.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Netanyahu later added:
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I believe that the issue of the settlements is not the core of the conflict, nor does it really drive the conflict. I think it’s an issue that has to be resolved in the context of peace negotiations, and we also are going to speak about it.
HARI SREENIVASAN: As the two leaders talked at the White House, Palestinian officials say President Mahmoud Abbas met secretly Tuesday night with CIA Chief Mike Pompeo in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Joining me to delve further into the news out of today’s White House news conference, and where the Israeli-Palestinian issue stands at the beginning of the Trump administration, are Shibley Telhami. He’s the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland. And Tamara Cofman Wittes, she’s a senior fellow in the Middle East Policy Center at the Brookings Institution, and she served as deputy assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs in the Obama administration from November of 2009 to January 2012.
Shibley, I want to start with you.
What did both of these leaders get out of this, before they even begin to having conversations?
SHIBLEY TELHAMI, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development, University of Maryland: First, domestically.
Mr. Netanyahu is obviously looking back home. He is in trouble in an investigation on corruption. He is being pressured from the ultra-right. So, he wants to show, at a time when Israelis are uncertain about where the president is going to, where President Trump is going to go, he wants to show that he can make a deal with the president, that he can have a working relationship with him, that he can deliver. It helps him at home.
With Mr. Trump, Mr. Netanyahu is very popular in the Republican Party. In my polls actually, he’s up there with Ronald Reagan as one of the most popular leaders in the world, and especially among the evangelical right.
So, just by virtue of looking like they’re cordial in the photo-op, they both score points at home. Obviously, they also score points on some issues that we knew they would score points on, for example, the stated American support for Israeli security, the fight on terrorism, the Iran issue.
Those are issues where there isn’t much difference, at least rhetorically. And those obviously are the ones that register. But, then, of course, we turn to the more central question where there will be inevitably some disagreements, the Israel and Palestinian question.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes. That’s right.
Tamara Wittes, I want to get to you with that, the one-state, two-state statement by the president today. The U.S. has always been committed to a peaceful resolution to this, but why is the president’s announcement today so important?
TAMARA COFMAN WITTES, Brookings Institution: Well, look, I think it’s always been the American position, enunciated previously by the U.S. presidents, that we can’t want peace more than the parties themselves, and that the parties have to agree to a solution of their conflict, and we will support them in doing that.
What’s changed here is that, for a long time, under President George W. Bush, and then under President Obama, the U.S. has agreed with both parties that a two-state solution, that is, independent, sovereign states for Israel and for Palestine, is the only stable, lasting solution for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Today, Donald Trump suggested that there might be some other outcome that could deliver a lasting peace. And that does throw into question the objective of any negotiations.
SHIBLEY TELHAMI: If I may add on this one, just in terms of what is missing here, what is missing is, when the statement is, it’s up to the parties to negotiate, with no reference to international law or previous agreements or some framework, you’re leaving it up to the Israelis and Palestinians, a very unequal relationship.
They’re not going to be able to do this on their own, without reference to what has been agreed or some ground rule. That’s number one.
Number two, the president throws in there the one state. He only gives two alternatives, two states, one state. Well, if you have one state, it can be only one of two days ways, not a Jewish state, democratic states for Arabs and Jews, but not a Jewish state, or an apartheid state.
By the way, if Obama had put that proposal on the table just like Trump stated it, he would have been attacked from all over the place from the right by suggesting the one-state solution could be on the table.
So, this one is really interesting, because you have got some agreements both on the left and right about the impossibility of a two-state, but what they want is something completely different.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Shibley Telhami, just staying with you for a second, is a one-state solution a nonstarter for the Palestinians?
SHIBLEY TELHAMI: No, it’s not a nonstarter, even though, I think, for many of them, obviously, they don’t think it as realistic. When you ask them, do you think it’s going to happen, most say no.
But if they think they can — if they can have a full, equal relationship with Israel, well, of course they would, because, ultimately, that will be a majority. That’s not a nonstarter. But it’s a nonstarter if they’re not going to have equal relations.
But it is a nonstarter for the Israelis, undoubtedly.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Tamara Wittes, both men said that the goal might be more achievable if more regional partners got involved. What are the possible repercussions if there are more people at the table?
TAMARA COFMAN WITTES: Well, look, I think this is an idea that has actually been tossed around for a while. It’s something that President Bush and Secretary Condoleezza Rice tried to do at their Annapolis conference, bring together the region as a whole, partly to compensate for Palestinian weakness, and to put more on the table that’s attractive to Israel, in terms of regional security and stability and regional cooperation.
So, in principle, expanding the pie actually does give you more options for resolving the conflict. In practice, however, the Arab states have made clear over and over again that they are not going to get in front of the Palestinians in solving this conflict. They are going to go where the Palestinians are willing to go, and not beyond.
I still don’t see any reason to think that that has changed. And so I think this sort of outside-in approach will last only as long as the Arab governments think that the Palestinians want it to last.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Shibley Telhami, is there — Prime Minister Netanyahu started saying today that basically there are lots of things that he has in common with Arab states, say, for example, their fear of a more powerful Iran.
Would all of these Arab states, in that shared fear or concern with Israel, would they put the Palestinian state on the back-burner?
SHIBLEY TELHAMI: First, he’s right that there are a lot of common interests. And that shows. And, obviously, you know, the president of Egypt, the king of Jordan, the leader of the UAE, they have some cooperative relationships strategically, whether it’s on Iran or fighting terrorism.
And, also, they all have working relations with Trump, and even with Putin, as the president of Russia. So, in some ways, you have this kind of strategic picture.
But the big elephant in the room is the Israel-Palestine question. It always has been. As Tamara said, you can put — if it weren’t for that, of course, then you can have it.
Now, what Netanyahu wants to do is to show to the Israeli public that he can build settlements and not really make the concessions that are needed on the Palestinian issue, and still make peace with the Arab states. And he wants Trump to help him.
Now, one of the — that’s the way that Arabs have interpreted historically. Well, interestingly, in the news conference today, look at the body language. Netanyahu was the one to say, this is essentially my plan that I taught Trump to advocate, instead of letting it even look like a Trump plan, because his interest is ultimately to send a message at home that he’s the one who is making Trump do it, rather than to have the Arabs have a fig leaf to come on board.
I think many of them might play with Trump. They don’t want to say no to him. They have their own self-interests to want to play. The Saudis remain a big question. But, ultimately, I think, when push comes to shove, the Palestinian issue may be just a fig leaf for something other than Israeli-Palestinian peace.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Shibley Telhami.
TAMARA COFMAN WITTES: Yes.
HARI SREENIVASAN: I’m sorry.
Tamara Wittes, very quickly, you want to wrap up?
TAMARA COFMAN WITTES: Sure.
Just to add, I think that what is really bringing Israel and the Arab states together right now is a common sense of threat. It’s not necessarily a common vision for the region’s future.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Tamara Wittes, Shibley Telhami, thank you both.
SHIBLEY TELHAMI: Thank you.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And now we turn to a former member of the Trump campaign foreign policy team, among those alleged to have been in contact with Russian officials.
Carter Page manages an energy investment company, and he joins me now.
Mr. Page, thank you for joining us.
So, briefly, start out by telling us how you knew or know Donald Trump. And what kind of work did you do on the campaign last year?
CARTER PAGE, Former Trump Campaign Foreign Policy Adviser: You know, I — it’s funny. You were just talking about leaks with your former — former interviewee.
I don’t talk about the internal works that I did to help the campaign. I — I was a junior member of the campaign’s foreign policy advisory group, and I didn’t — had — you know, compared to other people that were much — had much more direct interaction with Mr. Trump, who I never actually briefed or was in any small meetings with.
I went to many rallies with him, but never any direct meetings. So, you know, I think there’s a tendency to talk about a lot of internal dealings in the U.S. government, as you were talking about.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me just …
CARTER PAGE: And I think — yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me just move on by saying, but you were a member of his foreign policy team. We were just talking about that a moment ago.
CARTER PAGE: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But my first question, then, after that, Carter Page, is to ask you, you’re aware of these reports out there that there were officials in the Trump campaign who were in repeated contact with Russian officials, Russian intelligence officials during 2016.
Were you one of those campaign officials?
CARTER PAGE: Well, Judy, you know, that — going back to the question to Sean Spicer about fake news, I mean, this — yes, I’m aware of the reports, which I saw on the front page of The New York Times today.
But I think I can actually answer that question as to why that was fake news. That was just a regurgitation of old reports, based on the dodgy dossier that the Clinton campaign came out with.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, in other words …
CARTER PAGE: So, yes, I’m aware — I’m aware of these ongoing public relations attacks against the administration and people who have supported it. But …
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me just stop and say the reports are citing intelligence agencies. So, we’re talking about the CIA, the FBI.
So, you’re saying these agencies are not to be believed, or the news media is making this up, or what?
CARTER PAGE: Well, what I’m saying, what I’m saying is, you know, at least last year, they were responding to false evidence, which is an obstruction of justice, false evidence given to the Intelligence Committee — intelligence community by the Clinton campaign.
Now that’s pretty well-established, you know, with this dodgy dossier that came out last month. So, I think it’s pretty clear evidence.
And, you know, in terms of it being fake news today, the big front-page story on The New York Times, I actually sent them a copy of a real dossier that I submitted to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice over the weekend.
And, unfortunately — to one of the authors of that front-page article — and that never got included at all. So, you know, it’s — it’s very one-sided.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We only have a limited amount of time here, so I want to use this time to everyone’s advantage, and ask you, you were in Russia. You have worked in Russia for a number of years. You clearly know Russian officials.
Where do you think this comes from? Were you in any kind of contact last year with Russian government officials?
CARTER PAGE: It comes from deep animosity and deep negative feelings against the Russians.
And I think, you know, you just have to look back at the history of the last 70 years, and it’s pretty clear where that originates from.
And Mrs. Clinton and her team did a great job of ramping that up. And it continues to this day, with the help of the likes of Sally Yates and others that were holdovers from the Obama administration.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you’re saying — so, you’re saying that that, whatever you — what you describe as animosity toward the Russians is not deserved.
We just heard Senator Amy Klobuchar talk about the Russians having the kind of an agenda that the U.S. could never share, that they’re undermining democracies across Eastern Europe.
You don’t agree with that view of Russia?
CARTER PAGE: I view it as a two-way street.
And, you know, what I talked about in my speech in Moscow in July, and what President Trump and President Putin talked about in their initial call, was the concept of mutual respect.
I think, if both sides are acting respectfully and really thinking through and understanding the other side’s perspectives, that takes care of a lot of it.
So, you know, absolutely, there — you know, the senator is right that there’s a lot of things that need to be repaired. But I think continuing these fake news, fake intel reports is only going to continue driving us into the gutter.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Did you have any meetings — I will ask again — did you have any meetings last year with Russian officials in Russia, outside Russia, anywhere?
CARTER PAGE: I had no meetings, no meetings.
I might have said hello to a few people as they were walking by me at my graduation — the graduation speech that I gave in July, but no meetings.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, in other words, these reports that are citing, in very specific detail, what intelligence agencies say they have discovered, continuous, repeated contacts between the campaign and Russia, you’re saying that’s entirely made up? Is that what you’re saying?
CARTER PAGE: Judy, I don’t think they said discovered. I think they — that they’re looking at it.
So, it’s a nice way for the enemies of the administration and the enemies of positive U.S.-Russia relations to keep stirring this negative pot over and over again.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well …
CARTER PAGE: And, admittedly, they have done quite a good job over the last year. So, I have to — I have to hand it to them as excellent politicians.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And are you cooperating with any federal investigators who are looking into this? Have you been asked, for example, by the FBI or another agency to answer questions?
And if you were called on to go before, say, a Senate committee investigation, would you be willing to do that?
CARTER PAGE: I have never been asked by anyone in the FBI or any of the other agencies over the last year.
And I think, yes, I would love to have the opportunity to speak with the Senate. And I have offered to a few of the senators to speak with them and maybe offer them some realistic views of actually what’s happening in the world. But I think, you know, there’s — there’s a great level of ignorance.
And so one question to ask your other senators you speak to is, have they ever actually stepped foot in Russia or talked to Russian people? And I think, you know, that’s very strong correlation with the ignorance that you see today …
JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly, finally …
CARTER PAGE: … due to the lack of knowledge.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Sorry. Excuse me.
Just very quickly, finally, what should the U.S. relationship with Russia be? You’re clearly arguing for something far more positive than what exists right now.
CARTER PAGE: I’m not saying positive.
I’m saying more practical and realistic and just having a open, respectful dialogue, in which you really think about the other side and, you know, look to build your own country up here in the United States through better, positive relations, and not getting swirled out of control with these ongoing distractions, which are taking away attention from bigger national security threats and causing disruptions, great — very unfortunately, for the United States.
So, I think there’s a lot of work to be done. And I think Russia can be a tremendous ally for helping in that regard.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Carter Page, former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, thank you very much for talking with us.
CARTER PAGE: Thanks, Judy.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The swirl of questions surrounding General Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser, and the new reports of regular contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, has Democrats on Capitol Hill, as we heard, calling for an independent investigation.
One of them is Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
I spoke to her a short time ago, and started by asking what questions she has.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, D-Minn.: Well, I believe this is much more than the resignation of one national security adviser.
You already had the Trump campaign chairman step aside because of contacts with Russia, and now this new report that there were multiple contacts between people in the campaign and Russian intelligence people. So, that’s why I think we have to get to the bottom of it.
This is about a fundamental concept, and that is a free democracy that should be free from foreign influences. And we already have had our 17 intelligence agencies tell us that there’s been an attempt to influence our election. And now we’re finding out that these contacts were ongoing.
So, we need to know, who did Flynn work with? Who did he talk to? What did he talk about to the Russian ambassador? And, also, why was this happening? I think that’s the biggest overriding question for our national security. Why was the Trump administration so eager to placate the Russians and make friends with them, when they have done so many horrific things, including invading countries that are our allies?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you have information beyond what’s been reported in the press about that?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, I will say, when I was out with Senator McCain and Graham in the Baltics and Ukraine and Georgia, I spent a significant amount of time with President Poroshenko in Ukraine.
I don’t have the classified information for you to share, but I do have just my experience of learning that 10,000 people were killed there, of seeing that these cyber-attacks have been happening for years, where it’s really the modus operandi of Russia, where they have infiltrated Estonia’s system, Lithuania’s system.
This is what they do. They try to bring down these democracies with cyber-attacks.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you think this should be investigated? We know that the Senate Intelligence Committee, the bipartisan Intelligence Committee, is looking into this. Are you prepared to leave it at that, because some Democrats have said that it should be an outside, independent commission?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: I think we can do both at the same time.
The Intelligence Committee is important because they’re going to be able to get underneath the surface with classified information. Hopefully, they can declassify some of it. And then, secondly, this independent commission — I was one of the early sponsors of this bill and announced it with the leaders of the bill, because I think you need an 9/11-type commission to really look at what happened, so that you can also make recommendations so it doesn’t happen in the future.
I think we can do both things at once.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Why do you need an outside commission? I mean, I talked yesterday with Senator Mark Warner, who, of course, is vice chairman of that Intelligence Committee. He said, at this point, he thinks that the Intelligence Committee itself can handle it.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, Senator Warner and I are very good friends. And I have full faith in his leadership and those of the other senators on the committee.
But the advantage of starting this up, which will, by the way, take a much longer period of time, is that you can put in place some experts that can look at this really from a different perspective. And that’s like the 9/11 Commission did. What happened, and what steps can be taken, so we can protect our democracy and others in the future?
JUDY WOODRUFF: You also were telling me, Senator Klobuchar, that you and other Democrats want to see the new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recuse himself from any investigation going on inside the government. Why?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, there’s actually a specific rule on this, Judy.
And it says, no DOJ employee may participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation or prosecution or would be directly affected by the outcome.
Senator Sessions, who have I worked with extensively on the Judiciary Committee, while I have had a good working relationship with him, he has made it clear that he’s not going to take on cases where there’s conflicts.
While he hasn’t said that about this case, I don’t know how you get around it. He was an early supporter of President Trump. He was involved in the campaign. Flynn was involved in the campaign. And I just think it’s better that he recuse himself, as does Senator Feinstein and many other members of the Judiciary Committee.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, one other thing. I’m sure you know President Trump is saying that so much of this is fabricated by the news media. He’s saying the news media is blowing this out of proportion, that the facts just are not there to bear this out.
And he’s more upset about the leaking on the part of the intelligence community than he is about what the leaks purportedly show.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: You know, he has every right to go after that leaking. As you know, President Obama did that as well, although, as Senator Corker said yesterday, President Obama ran a pretty tight ship.
And there are more leaks going on than we have during the — practically the entire Obama administration. So, the president has a right to look into that.
That is not the big story here, though. The big story here is that the national security adviser resigned after only 26 days, and that, in this sea of problems with Russia and the fact that we have got to stand tall with our allies, and that we have 17 intelligence agencies — no one is making that up.
Then you would have to discount the clear evidence from 17 intelligence agencies of the U.S. government that this had actually occurred.
It occurred. It’s a fact. And the only question now is how we respond to it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, we thank you very much.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Judy. It was great to be on.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: The Russians rejected any notion of returning Crimea to Ukraine. Just yesterday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said President Trump expects exactly that. The Russians annexed Crimea in March of 2014, and, today, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said, “We never give back our territory.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a pointed warning today to NATO allies on defense spending. He said they will have to do more, or run the risk that the U.S. will — quote — “moderate its commitment to the alliance.”
Mattis attended his first NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels and argued President Trump’s case that the allies share more of the burden.
JAMES MATTIS, U.S. Secretary of Defense: It’s a fair demand that all who benefit from the best defense in the world carry their proportionate share of the necessary costs to defend freedom. And we should never forget, ultimately, it is freedom that we defend here at NATO.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Trump administration wants NATO members to meet an established target of spending 2 percent of their economic output on defense. The U.S. spends more than 3.5 percent.
In Malaysia, police arrested a woman in the apparent assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s supreme leader. Malaysian news accounts say two women splashed a chemical on him at the Kuala Lumpur Airport on Monday. U.S. and South Korean officials say they were North Korea agents. Meanwhile, an autopsy on Kim’s body began today at this medical institute in Malaysia. That’s despite North Korean objections.
The European Union’s Parliament approved a landmark trade deal with Canada today after years of negotiations. Supporters at the Parliament, in Strasbourg, France, argued that the deal will counter rising protectionism, while, outside, hundreds of protesters warned it will do more harm than good.
ARTIS PABRIKS, European People’s Party: We made now a very historic trade deal between the best partners in the world, actually, which we can find, because I really believe that, apart from Canada, there are very few who match the standards of common values outside the European Union.
WOMAN: It’s a threat to democracy, a threat to human rights, a threat to the environment. And I suppose that what we can do now from here is to put pressure on our governments, put pressure on our MEPs to do their job, you know? And it’s not over. It’s not over until it’s over.
JUDY WOODRUFF: To be fully implemented, the trade deal will also need approval from various regional and national parliaments across Europe.
China formally announced today that it has granted President Trump a 10-year trademark. He now has the exclusive right to use his name for building construction services there through 2027. Mr. Trump already has 77 trademarks in China. He has been trying to gain this one for the last decade.
Back in this country, nearly 3,000 workers at Boeing voted on whether to unionize their plant in North Charleston, South Carolina. It is a key test for unions trying to organize in factories across the South, where most workers are non-union. The vote at Boeing involved the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
And, on Wall Street, stocks rallied again on upbeat news about consumer prices and retail sales. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 107 points to close at 20611. The Nasdaq rose nearly 37, and the S&P 500 added 11.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump’s Cabinet in the making is reeling tonight from another body blow.
Andrew Puzder withdrew today as the nominee for labor secretary, two days after National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned under fire.
Our Lisa Desjardins is at the Capitol, where she’s been covering this story.
Lisa, what happened?
LISA DESJARDINS: Well, it was Republicans. They didn’t have enough Republican votes to pass this confirmation — to have this confirmation happen. And it was fast-moving today, Judy.
Just this morning, John Cornyn, who is in charge of the vote counting for Republicans here, told reporters he will be confirmed. Just hours later, they didn’t have the votes. Why?
I spoke to one of the senators, Jeff Flake, who wasn’t yet a yes vote, and he said the main problem was Puzder’s revelation that he had hired an undocumented worker and had failed to pay back taxes until he was nominated. Flake told me, Judy, for a labor secretary, you just can’t ignore that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, with Puzder now out of the picture, we’re hearing from Republicans, from the White House that they think Democrats are slow-rolling all the rest of the president’s Cabinet nominees. Where does all that stand?
LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. This is the slowest confirmation process in history, but Democrats point out that, in fact, many of Trump’s nominees did not get their paperwork in as quickly as in the past.
Let’s look at where we are right now in the general. So far, the Senate has confirmed 12 of President Trump’s Cabinet nominees. One has been withdrawn, as we mentioned, Mr. Puzder tonight. Judy, that leaves eight more Cabinet nominees waiting in line to go through the Senate.
The next one is (AUDIO GAP). There was a hiccup on Mick Mulvaney just today, as Senator John McCain of Arizona said he, a Republican, will oppose him. Looks like he will have the votes, but that’s not something — they want all the Republicans on board his nomination. They don’t have them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, we know that’s not the only set of issues that’s roiling Congress right now. The aftermath of the departure of General Flynn at the White House is certainly still drawing reaction.
What are you hearing about that?
LISA DESJARDINS: Another wild day. Until just three hours ago, the main issue dominating the news up here on Capitol Hill about the Trump White House was Russia.
After a tumultuous 24 hours, President Trump ignored reported contacts between campaign advisers and Russian intelligence. Instead, at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he went after the media and those giving the media information.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Papers are being leaked. Things are being leaked. It’s criminal actions, criminal act, and it’s been going on for a long time — before me. But now it’s really going on, and people are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.
LISA DESJARDINS: Meanwhile, Mr. Trump also defended ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The initial concern surrounded Flynn’s phone calls with Russia’s ambassador last year, but after revelations that he misled the White House about those calls, Flynn was forced out this week.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media — as I call it, the fake media, in many cases. And I think it’s really a sad thing that he was treated so badly.
LISA DESJARDINS: The president got no direct questions during the news conference about the new turn in the story, and ignored shouted questions afterward.
QUESTION: Mr. President. can you guarantee that nobody on your campaign had any contacts with the Russians? Mr. President, any questions on Russia?
LISA DESJARDINS: That followed a report in The New York Times that aides working in the Trump campaign had — quote — “repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.”
Reporter Matt Apuzzo worked on that story.
MATT APUZZO, The New York Times: It’s really the volume of those calls that really caught U.S. intelligence by surprise, because they didn’t see anything like that in other countries. And, of course, it’s the timing that’s the issue. Is there collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russia hacking efforts?
They don’t have evidence to back up, you know, any charges of collusion.
LISA DESJARDINS: While the White House said relatively little, Capitol Hill was abuzz. Democratic senators canceled their schedules to hold a quickly convened meeting. Their leaders emerged calling for an independent counsel at the Justice Department.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: And the reports of constant contact between the top officials in the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence are chilling. I have been in Congress for a long time. I have never seen anything like this.
LISA DESJARDINS: Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is pushing for three things: preservation of all White House e-mails and records dealing with Russia, public testimony by Trump officials like Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, and for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a top Trump supporter in the campaign, to recuse himself from any Russia-related probe.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., House Minority Leader: It just points to the need for us to have an outside independent commission, nonpartisan commission outside, with subpoena power to find the truth and what this means to our national security. The president is flirting with danger.
LISA DESJARDINS: Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are watching closely. Senator Lindsey Graham told FOX News today that, if there were inappropriate contacts, Congress should launch a bipartisan investigation.
For now, Republican leaders are signaling they don’t want any new investigations. On MSNBC, House Speaker Paul Ryan endorsed the Intelligence Committee investigations already under way.
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: Russia has been trying to meddle with our country in our last elections. That’s established. We know that. No one has — no one has made evidence, no one has made the claim that evidence exists that Donald Trump or his people were in on it, were involved in that.
LISA DESJARDINS: The issue is made more difficult for Republicans by the large number of unknowns and unanswered questions about relationships between Russia and the Trump world.
Again, Matt Apuzzo of The New York Times:
MATT APUZZO: Was anybody in Trump world aware of or colluding with Russian efforts to hack Hillary’s advisers or the DNC and influence the election? What were these people talking to senior Russian intelligence authorities about? Were they knowingly talking to people in the intelligence world?
One of them, Paul Manafort, told us he never knowingly spoke to anybody in Russian intelligence, and said, you know, it’s not like these guys are wearing badges.
LISA DESJARDINS: As for the Kremlin, Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters today, “Let’s not believe anonymous information.”
Now, there does seem to be some potential bipartisan agreement. Senators, Democratic and Republican, that we talked to today seem to agree that they want to have Michael Flynn come to the Capitol to testify in public.
When could that happen? I asked Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, and he said he hasn’t been invited yet because — quote — “We don’t even know what we would ask him yet” — Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol.
Meanwhile, our own John Yang is at the White House.
Now, John, it was noted — and Lisa just reported this — the president today, when asked about Michael Flynn, went out of his way to praise this man who essentially he just fired yesterday, and we were told he’d lost faith in him.
JOHN YANG: That’s right, Judy.
He made it sound as if the press had fired him. And Sean Spicer, the press secretary, said that there’s no contradiction between admiring a man who served his country in the military, but losing trust in him.
He also went after the media, calling it fake news. We asked Sean Spicer, if it hadn’t been for the stories, would Michael Flynn still be in the job? He said no, because he had misled the vice president, never mind that the vice president only learned about that from reading it in the newspapers.
Asked what was fake about the stories, Sean Spicer responded, “I will have to get back to you on that.”
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, John, we know separately that — now I’m trying to remember what you and I were going to talk about — separately — oh, I know — about the successor to General Flynn. What you have learned about that?
JOHN YANG: Indications are that the leading contender is former Vice Admiral Bob Harward. He’s a former Navy SEAL. He was a deputy to the current defense secretary, James Mattis, when then-General Mattis ran Central Command for President Obama.
I’m told that an announcement could come as soon as the end of this week.
JUDY WOODRUFF: John Yang reporting for us from the White House, thank you.
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We sat sipping slushy mojitos. It was the kind of night that makes you want to throw away your heels and dance without a care in the world. Swaying to the electro house music at Kuli Alma in south Tel Aviv, were the young, insatiable night owls of the city. On my way there, my Israeli friend Etay, a 21-year old ballet dancer walked me through the Ruppin street talking excitedly about his current role as Billy in the musical Billy Elliot and admiring the Bauhaus architecture that dotted the city.
My mind raced back to earlier in the day when I zipped along Highway 1, connecting Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and then crossed a checkpoint to enter West Bank. I had carefully hid my keffiyeh, the Palestinian chequered black and white scarf, under the car seat to avoid suspicion by the guards. Once the first hurdle was cleared, I drove through beautiful, mountainous, brown landscapes until I reached Nablus and the home of Bashar.
Even after 10 years of being a journalist and documentary filmmaker, I still don’t know what is the right question to ask a family member who has lost a loved one. A picture of Bashar and another one of Yasser Arafat, the former leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, on the wall welcomed us along with a bunch of enthusiastic young men in the room. Abu Ashraf, Bashar’s brother and the only older man in his 50s in the room, turned to my camera and started talking about how he didn’t know a thing about his brother’s plans to carry out the suicide bombing attack that killed seven people in 1997 at the Ben Yehuda street. Fumbling a little and nervously turning a rosary that was the Palestinian flag colors – red, green, white and black in color, he said he understood the loss of the families who had lost their loved ones in the attack. He had a lost a brother too. No one’s loss was bigger, he added thoughtfully. They had equally suffered because of the occupation.
Soon the younger men in the room chimed in. In his late twenties, Ashraf, the son of Abu Ashraf started talking passionately about how being related to a suicide bomber had taken away almost all their liberties. “None of us even our children’s children’s children will ever be allowed into Israel. The guard at the border told us that we should try in 100 years.” So two years ago when his wife from East Jerusalem holding an Israeli ID card, was giving birth to their first born in Jerusalem, Ashraf risked his life by jumping the 438 km long wall dividing Israel and the West Bank to be by his wife’s side and welcome their son into the world.
As Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Trump, with clear warnings from his far-right minister Naftali Bennett to not mention the word ‘two states’ or ‘Palestinian state’, I wonder how the politics and the balancing act of Trump and Netanyahu–of neither sounding too right nor displeasing their right leaning supporters–will play out in the lives of the people there.
So when Rami, whose 14-year-old daughter was killed by Bashar in 1997, took a stand against the occupation and said that he is curious about the meeting of these two leaders, I knew it would resonate with the millions others who defy the politics of divisive walls and borders. “There is no point in debating the two state solution. The question is not the number of states. That is irrelevant. It was irrelevant 50 years ago. The question is about equality, respect and dignity. The state is just a technical issue”, said Rami to me, sounding very calm as we discussed U.S.- Israel over a skype call.
On the other hand, my other young Jewish friend living in Jerusalem sounds worried. “I’m not so worried by the discussion over the U.S. embassy moving to Jerusalem. Trump may or not actually do that and it may or may not impact our lives but the Muslim ban by Trump might very well affect us.” Married to a Palestinian Muslim and struggling to even rent a house in West Jerusalem, since no one wants to lease their house to an Arab man, this couple wants to move to the U.S. Though she now fears that even the U.S. will be hostile to her husband because of his religion. “We just returned from a visit to Auschwitz with our one-year old son. When I hear about the ban, it feels like history is repeating itself. What will my son learn – his mother a Jew, his father a Muslim, both with a history of persecution. Is this what we want?”
“Is this what you want?” “What does this mean to you?” – A strong, broad-shouldered man interrogated me at the Ben Gurion airport. A little startled and shaken I asked, “What Sir? What do you mean?” Pointing to the neatly folded keffiyehs in my camera tripod bag, he asked again “what does this mean to you?” I wanted to answer that to me as a non – practicing Hindu from India, living in the U.S. the keffiyeh meant nothing cultural, religious or political, but as a citizen of this world, the ability to carry a piece of cloth, just any piece of cloth, meant celebrating the freedom to choose what I want to wear, who I want to be, where I want to travel and how I want to live. It meant not being boxed in by stereotypes.” But I needed to board that flight to Washington D.C. in the next 40 minutes, so instead I said, “Sir, the keffiyeh to me is just a fashion accessory”. He smiled approving of my answer, stamped my boarding pass and I was soon on a flight back to the ‘land of the free’, as they say.
Priyali Sur is an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker. She is currently studying International Public Policy at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University. Her new film ‘sahbak’ that captures unlikely stories of love and friendship between Israelis and Palestinians releases next month. For more details log onto www.sahbak.org.
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BONN, Germany — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that Russia must abide by a 2015 deal aimed at ending fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists as the Trump administration searches for ways to work cooperatively with Moscow.
The former Exxon Mobil CEO spoke after meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for the first time, in the highest-level face-to-face contact between representatives from the two countries since Trump took office on Jan. 20.
Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, and Russian-speaking separatists in Ukraine’s began protests that escalated into a war, with thousands killed. A deal two years ago known as the Minsk agreement was intended to end the conflict, but skirmishes have continued.
“As we search for new common ground, we expect Russia to honor its commitments to the Minsk agreements and work to de-escalate the violence in the Ukraine,” Tillerson said after talks with Lavrov.
Also Thursday, U.S. Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was set to meet with his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. It was to be first meeting between the two countries’ senior members of the military since Trump was sworn in.
Tillerson has taken a low-key and reserved approach in his first two weeks on the job and declined the opportunity to speak with reporters traveling with him aboard his plane to Germany. He did not respond to reporters’ questions at his first three meetings in Bonn and, until Thursday, had yet to comment publicly on developments with Russia, its alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or its actions in Syria and Ukraine.
“As I made clear in my Senate confirmation hearing, the United States will consider working with Russia where we can find areas of practical cooperation that will benefit the American people,” Tillerson said following the Lavrov meeting.
“Where we do not see eye to eye, the United States will stand up for the interests and values of America and her allies.”
The meeting, on the sidelines of a larger foreign ministers conference in Germany, came amid turmoil inside the Trump administration over Russia and the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn over misleading White House officials on his contacts with Moscow.
Asked whether the chaos in Washington was a concern to Russia, Lavrov replied: “You should know we do not interfere in the domestic matters of other countries.”
In his opening remarks, Lavrov said he and Tillerson had “plenty of issues to discuss” and that they would “discuss and establish the parameters of our future work.”
Trump chose Tillerson for the job in part because of his business experience and relationship with Russia while he was at Exxon. His meeting with Lavrov was seen as a first test of whether that business acumen — which led to great profits for the oil company and Russian President Vladimir Putin bestowing a friendship award upon him — can translate into success in a high-stakes diplomatic arena.
At his confirmation hearing last month, Tillerson voiced conventional concerns about Russia’s behavior and said they should be addressed by projecting a forceful and united front. Like others in the administration, he hasn’t been specific about how to repair damaged ties or whether doing so might involve lifting U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia after its annexation of the Crimea region.
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The US patent office ruled on Wednesday that hotly disputed patents on the revolutionary genome-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9 belong to the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, dealing a blow to the University of California in its efforts to overturn those patents.
In a one-sentence judgment by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, the three judges decided that there is “no interference in fact.” In other words, key CRISPR patents awarded to the Broad beginning in 2014 are sufficiently different from patents applied for by UC that they can stand. The judges’ full
“The Broad landed a knock-out punch,” said Jacob Sherkow of New York Law School, an expert on patent law who has followed the CRISPR case.
The ruling means that, in the eyes of the patent office, breakthrough work by UC biochemist Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues on CRISPR — an ancient bacterial immune system that they repurposed to easily and precisely edit DNA — was not so all-encompassing as to make later advances “obvious.” That is at odds with how much of the science world has viewed their work. Doudna and her chief collaborator, Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in the life sciences in 2015, the $500,000 Gruber Genetics Prize in 2015, and the $450,000 Japan Prize in 2017.
The patent board said in its decision that the achievement of the Broad’s Feng Zhang in inventing a way to use CRISPR to edit the genomes of mouse and human cells “would not have been obvious” from the invention by Doudna and Charpentier “because one of ordinary skill in the art would not have reasonably expected a CRISPR-Cas9 system to be successful” in those higher-order cells.
Although today’s molecular biologists, especially those doing genome editing, have a good idea of who made which seminal discoveries, the patent decision will likely shape how history views the CRISPR pioneers: now, Zhang will be the scientist who invented the form of CRISPR that has revolutionized humans’ ability to make wholesale changes in an organism’s blueprint of life, for purposes ranging from cancer therapy to turning pigs into organ donors for humans on transplant waiting lists.
The ruling also has big consequences for a phalanx of biotech startups racing to commercialize CRISPR technology. Companies that backed the wrong horse will have to scramble to shore up their intellectual property portfolio. Berkeley-based Caribou Biosciences, Inc., holds the exclusive license on the CRISPR-Cas9 inventions made by Doudna and her colleagues, while Basel, Switzerland-based CRISPR Therapeutics licensed essentially the same inventions from the University of Vienna, where Charpentier once worked and which sided with UC in the patent case.
But champagne corks should pop at the dozen-plus companies that won non-exclusive licenses from the Broad for its CRISPR patents, ranging from GE Healthcare and Monsanto to German drug-developer Evotec and, arguably the biggest winner, Cambridge, Mass.-based Editas Medicine. Co-founded by the Broad’s Zhang (and also by Doudna, in more collegial days), Editas holds the exclusive license on what may be the most lucrative prize of all: applications of Zhang’s CRISPR-Cas9 inventions to diseases. Only if Editas passes on a certain disease-related application can another company license the Broad’s patents.
Shares of Editas jumped 29 percent by the close of trading.
In a statement, the University of California said it was pleased that its patent application, which it described as covering “the invention and use of CRISPR gene editing in all cells,” can move forward. “We continue to maintain that the evidence overwhelmingly supports our position that the Doudna/Charpentier team was the first group to invent this technology for use in all settings and all cell types,” it said, “and that the Broad Institute’s patents directed toward use of the CRISPR-Cas9 system in particular cell types are not patentably distinct from the Doudna/Charpentier invention.”
UC said it is considering its legal options, including the possibility of an appeal, but it contended that anyone who wants to develop CRISPR-based treatments for human diseases would have to license not only the Broad’s patents but also those that UC expects to be awarded. “Ours,” Doudna told reporters, “is for the use [of CRISPR] in all cells,” including human ones.
The Broad said in a statement that the decision “confirms that the patents and applications of Broad Institute and UC Berkeley are about different subjects and do not interfere with each other.”
The CRISPR case began in January 2016, when the patent office granted UC’s request to launch an “interference” proceeding. That means the patent office was willing to entertain the possibility that the CRISPR-Cas9 patent application that UC filed in May 2012, but which the patent office had not issued, claimed essentially the same invention as the patent awarded to the Broad in April 2014. The award to the Broad might therefore have “interfered” with UC’s application.
The case therefore turned in large part on whether UC’s claims about what Doudna and Charpentier invented were essentially the same as the Broad’s claims about what Zhang invented, as detailed in the Broad’s December 2012 patent application. Although the Broad filed months after UC, it paid a small fee for accelerated review and got its patents — eventually, 13 of them. UC has not challenged the other 30 or so CRISPR patents that the office has awarded, including those to Harvard for inventions by geneticist George Church, largely because they cover narrower innovations. Zhang’s patents are considered foundational, covering virtually all uses of CRISPR-Cas9 in mammalian cells.
UC’s application described how Doudna, Charpentier, and their team constructed CRISPR-based molecules able to cut DNA in a test tube, which they reported in 2012. The gist of UC’s legal argument was that constructing such molecules to edit DNA inside living eukaryotic cells (those whose DNA is inside a cell nucleus), as scientists led by the Broad’s Zhang and, separately, by Harvard’s Church did in two 2013 papers, was an obvious extension of Doudna’s work — even though her feat wasn’t performed in living cells. It could have been accomplished, UC argued, by “persons of ordinary skill in the art” of molecular genetics.
CRISPR is a powerful gene-editing tool with transformative potential. Feng Zhang, a scientist at the Broad Institute, explains how it works. Video by Matthew Orr/STAT
In other words, Doudna worked out the recipe, Zhang just applied and extended it. An obvious add-on would not be eligible for patents. If the three judges on the Patent Trial and Appeal Board agreed that extending CRISPR to eukaryotic cells was obvious, then key patents awarded to the Broad would have essentially been clawed back.
After 13 months, the judges did not agree with UC. In their decision, they concluded that using CRISPR-Cas9 to simultaneously edit the genomes of eukaryotic cells at multiple locations represented an invention that could not have been made by just any scientist of ordinary skill. What Zhang accomplished was therefore separately patentable: The patent office’s decision to award the Broad CRISPR patents did not interfere with UC’s pending patent applications.
Neither the commercial consequences nor the reputational ones will hit immediately. While UC said it was weighing an appeal, experts on intellectual property said they couldn’t imagine the university not appealing, given the stakes. If the use of CRISPR to treat genetic disorders, including cancer, lives up to the hopes that scientists and biotechnology companies have for it, this form of genome editing is expected to be a multibillion-dollar annual market. Agricultural uses, from tweaking mushroom genes so the fungi never turn brown to editing corn genes so its oil is as healthful as olive oil, are expected to be another billion-dollar market.
PTAB appeals are heard by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which sits in Washington. In recent years, more than half of PTAB’s decisions have been upheld.
“The Federal Circuit heard three appeals of interferences in 2016,” said Sherkow. “All three were at least affirmed in part. It’s completely unclear whether that’s meaningful — it’s an N of 3–but there you go.” Overall, on 155 appeals since PTAB was created in 2012, the Federal Circuit affirmed 120 on every issue, dismissed or reversed 21 on every issue, and issued partial decisions (that is, upholding parts of a PTAB decision and reversing others) in the other 14.
An appeal would, of course, keep the legal bills growing. The Broad’s legal costs, paid by Editas, topped $15 million last summer. UC’s, paid by Caribou, have passed $5 million. Neither party has said what they have spent since then.
The dispute turned ugly quickly. Last summer, UC found a former member of Zhang’s lab who, in asking Doudna for a job, claimed that he could document “the [Zhang] lab’s failure process,” and that Zhang succeeded in making CRISPR edit human and mouse genes only after he read Doudna’s 2012 paper. In March, UC argued that the Broad obtained its patents fraudulently, because it “withheld or misrepresented material information with the intent to deceive the USPTO” into believing that Zhang had accomplished more than he really did. The Broad disputed all of this, and PTAB denied UC’s motions to take testimony of these points.
Close watchers of the CRISPR patent fight have expected the Broad to prevail since early December, when, during the only oral arguments in the case, the three-judge PTAB panel directed many more skeptical questions at UC’s attorney than they did at the Broad’s. At the time, Sherkow said the grilling “was bad for UC.”
The patent battle has caused entire rivers of bad blood between the institutions. A year ago, Broad president Eric Lander wrote a history of CRISPR that critics perceived as giving too little credit to the UC group, leading Doudna to call his account “factually incorrect.” When STAT asked Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, whether the patent decision cemented the Broad’s preeminent reputation, he joked, “Eric would say it never needed cementing.”
This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Feb. 15, 2017. Find the original story here.
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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has weighed in on child autism, apparently without a complete grasp of the research.
Trump in the past has promoted debunked theories linking vaccines to autism, and shortly before his inauguration was considering a commission on the matter. Such comments have alarmed health professionals. Just last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics and dozens of other health organizations signed a letter to Trump saying claims that vaccines aren’t safe “have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature,” and offering to meet with him to explain that science.
A look at his statement at a forum Tuesday and what is known about the prevalence of autism in children:
TRUMP: “Tremendous increases … really a horrible thing to watch the tremendous amount of increase.”
THE FACTS: About 1 in 68 school-aged children has autism or related disorders, a rate that has stayed about the same for two years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in March.
That’s far more than in 2000, when the CDC estimated that about 1 in 150 children had autism. That increase is explained in large part by more awareness of the developmental disorder and changes in practice that broadened the definition for an autism diagnosis.
Labeling also is an issue, as parents became more likely to seek out the increasing services for autism and related disorders that are available in schools and other settings. Still, the CDC says that a true increase in the number of people with autism cannot be ruled out.
WHY IT MATTERS: While Trump during one primary debate insisted he was “totally in favor of vaccines,” he has subscribed in the past to theories unsupported by scientific evidence linking vaccines to autism. He tweeted in 2012: “Autism rates through the roof–why doesn’t the Obama administration do something about doctor-inflicted autism. We lose nothing to try.” In 2014: “If I were President I would push for proper vaccinations but would not allow one time massive shots that a small child cannot take – AUTISM.”
A similar assertion in a 2015 presidential primary debate brought a rebuke from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which said it is “dangerous to public health” to suggest that vaccines are linked to autism.
Although Trump has not made such categorical statements about vaccines and autism as president, he met during the transition with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent critic of an ingredient sometimes used in vaccines. Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said at the time that Trump was considering a panel on the subject.
More broadly, those who attribute autism to vaccination seize upon any rising numbers as an argument against vaccination. That has proven worrisome to public health officials because it could divert money away from things that should be a higher priority.
Associated Press writer Jim Drinkard contributed to this report.
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Credit: LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images
A woman trying to take her children to school is refused passage due to a police blockade Feb. 16 in front of Wat Dhammakaya temple, just north of Bangkok. Soldiers and police surrounded the Buddhist temple on Bangkok’s outskirts early Thursday, in apparent preparation for a raid to arrest an influential monk. The forces surrounded the temple after Thailand’s junta leader invoked special powers to put the site under military control. The temple is among few institutions in the country that have defied the junta leader since a coup in 2014.
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