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- 02/24/17--07:07: _Vulnerable Dems lay...
- 02/24/17--07:09: _WATCH LIVE: Preside...
- 02/24/17--07:31: _Officials: Trump ad...
- 02/24/17--09:12: _Photo: Deported fro...
- 02/24/17--09:46: _AP fact check: Trum...
- 02/24/17--10:44: _As fighting worsens...
- 02/24/17--12:27: _Democrats invite im...
- 02/24/17--13:15: _Texas man faces dep...
- 02/24/17--13:47: _Why does the Democr...
- 02/24/17--14:02: _This new Barbie hol...
- 02/24/17--14:08: _How one liberal gro...
- 02/24/17--17:13: _The teens caught in...
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- 02/24/17--22:32: _Mexico border wall ...
- 02/25/17--00:33: _Former Labor Secret...
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- 02/25/17--07:27: _Immigrants, fearing...
- 02/25/17--09:21: _Syrian who worked o...
- 02/23/17--16:14: View our complete series: Beyond the Red Carpet
- 02/24/17--06:42: Poll: GOP should keep money for Medicaid expansion
- 02/24/17--07:07: Vulnerable Dems lay low as town hall angst rages
- 02/24/17--07:09: WATCH LIVE: President Trump speaks to conservatives at CPAC
- 02/24/17--07:31: Officials: Trump adviser asked FBI to dispute Russia reports
- 02/24/17--09:12: Photo: Deported from the U.S., walking the border
- 02/24/17--12:27: Democrats invite immigrants to Trump’s first address to Congress
- 02/24/17--13:15: Texas man faces deportation after years of protected status
- 02/24/17--13:47: Why does the Democratic Party chair race matter?
- 02/24/17--14:02: This new Barbie hologram toy is actually an old magician’s trick
- 02/24/17--17:13: The teens caught in the middle of Austin’s Sanctuary City debate
- 02/24/17--22:32: Mexico border wall construction contract bids open March 6
- 02/25/17--00:33: Former Labor Secretary Perez voted DNC chairman
- 02/25/17--06:24: Malaysia warns North Korea to cooperate with investigation
- 02/25/17--09:21: Syrian who worked on nominated film can’t attend Oscars
WASHINGTON — Add Medicaid expansion to the list of Obama-era health care provisions that Americans want to keep. A new poll finds that 8 in 10 say lawmakers should preserve federal funding that has allowed states to add coverage for some 11 million low-income people.
The survey released Friday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation comes as the nation’s governors gather in Washington for their annual winter meeting, with Medicaid much on their minds. President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress want to repeal the 2010 health care law that expanded the program under former President Barack Obama.
Many congressional Republicans also want to rewrite the basic financial contract for Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program covering low-income and disabled people. Republicans are proposing to limit future federal funding in exchange for allowing states much more leeway to run their programs. The poll raises new questions about both ideas.
The survey found strong support across party lines for keeping the Medicaid expansion funding, with 69 percent of Republicans saying lawmakers should continue to provide the money, along with 84 percent of independents and 95 percent of Democrats. Overall, 84 percent of Americans said it’s important that any replacement for the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, continue to fund Medicaid expansion.
In 16 states that expanded Medicaid and also have GOP governors, 87 percent of residents said they want the additional funding to continue.
On the more complicated issue of Medicaid’s future financing, nearly 2 in 3 said the program should continue as is. Currently the federal government matches a percentage of each state’s Medicaid costs, with no upper limit on funding.
“This is going to turn out to be one of the biggest political issues of (Republicans) reaching agreement on ‘repeal and replace,'” said Robert Blendon of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who reviewed the poll results.
“Republican House members can take criticism from Democrats, but they really cannot take criticism from their own governors,” added Blendon. “Republican governors are going to feel like they are left holding the bag.”
The Obama-era law expanded Medicaid for those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $16,640 for an individual, or $28,180 for a family of three. Geared mainly to low-income adults with no children at home, the expansion was made optional for states by a 2012 Supreme Court decision that upheld the law. Thirty-one states, plus the District of Columbia have expanded their programs, taking advantage of a much more generous federal matching rate for the newly covered group. The federal government will pay about $67 billion this year for the expansion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
States are worried about the cost of the added coverage, particularly as the ACA starts to gradually reduce some of their federal matching funds for the expansion. But overall, Medicaid shed much of its social stigma during the Obama years, as it grew to cover more than 70 million people. “Medicaid now covers more people than Medicare,” said Trish Riley, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, a nonpartisan policy group that advises state officials.
The poll found that more than half of Americans said they had some personal connection to Medicaid, either because they have been helped directly, or a family member or close friend has.
Republican lawmakers have been getting an earful at town halls this week from constituents worried about losing coverage if the ACA is repealed. The poll found that the public is evenly split on repeal, but that favorable views of Obama’s law are on the rise, due mainly to a shift among political independents. Overall, 48 percent now view the law positively, while 42 percent have a negative perception.
The latest Kaiser poll was conducted from February 13-19 among a nationally representative random digit dial telephone sample of 1,160 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the full sample. For results based on subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher.
The post Poll: GOP should keep money for Medicaid expansion appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
NEW YORK — From Montana to West Virginia, the nation’s most vulnerable Senate Democrats are avoiding town hall meetings as their Republican counterparts get pummeled by an energized electorate frustrated with President Donald Trump’s early agenda.
Some Democrats prefer to connect with constituents over the telephone or using social media. Others are meeting voters in controlled environments with limited opportunities to ask questions. But few of the 10 Democratic senators facing re-election next year in states carried by Trump have scheduled in-person town hall meetings during this week’s congressional recess.
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill declined an invitation to attend a town hall organized by a group called Kansas City Indivisible this weekend, deciding to send a staff member in her place. The two-term senator, up for re-election next year in a state Trump won by nearly 19 percentage points, is scheduled to chat with voters next week on Facebook Live.
“Seems to me that all these members of Congress are afraid to face their constituents,” said Hillary Shields, a volunteer organizer with the Kansas City group.
The cautious approach comes as Senate Democrats work to limit risks ahead of a challenging 2018 election season. After claiming the Senate majority in 2014, Republicans could win a filibuster-proof 60-vote Senate majority next year in an election in which Democrats are defending 25 seats (23 held by Democrats, two by independents), 10 of them in states carried by Trump.
The GOP has a 52-48 edge in the Senate.
There are no easy answers for Democrats like McCaskill, pushed to stand up to the Republican president by their liberal base and pulled to cooperate with the GOP by independents and moderates.
McCaskill’s office noted she spent part of this week touring the U.S.-Mexico border and planned to host town halls later in the year.
The political pressure is particularly intense for West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Democrats whose states backed Trump by an average of 39 percentage points in November.
Both have avoided formal town halls this week, but Heitkamp’s office said she participated in a discussion about flood issues with constituents in northeastern North Dakota and attended a subsequent ribbon-cutting on Thursday. She planned to tour a local National Weather Service office on Friday.
Manchin’s office reported an equally busy schedule, but his constituents said he’s been hard to find this week. They’ve scheduled a protest outside the Democratic senator’s Charleston office on Friday to demand more access, according to Cathy Kunkel, an energy consultant who helped plan the protest.
“Here we are, and we’d like a town hall meeting,” Kunkel said. “His constituents have a lot of questions. This is the first recess of the new Congress in the Trump administration.”
As skittish Democrats dodge, many Republicans face an outpouring of anger in public meetings across the nation from constituents fired up over Trump’s first steps as president. Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton have been yelled at, heckled and booed in recent days.
Some Republicans have avoided such confrontations. Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert evoked the near-fatal shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to explain why he’s only holding telephone town halls. Giffords on Thursday urged members of Congress to “have some courage” and face their constituents.
Yet few vulnerable Senate Democrats are expected to do so in settings that allow for unscripted questions.
In Montana, where Trump prevailed by 20 percentage points, Sen. Jon Tester made several public appearances this week, but he did not advertise any of them as town halls. He answered questions about Scott Pruitt, Trump’s new chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, at one event about climate change, said spokeswoman Marnee Banks.
In Pennsylvania, a spokeswoman for Sen. Bob Casey said he would host a town hall in early March, but the details hadn’t yet been set. In Florida, Sen. Bill Nelson addressed students at two Thursday appearances focused on education. And in Ohio, Sen. Sherrod Brown “has participated in several telephone conference calls recently” and his office “emailed surveys out to constituents” to gauge their priorities, said spokeswoman Jennifer Donohue.
For now, protesters’ angst is largely focused on Republicans. But only a few weeks ago, Democrats including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and liberal heroine Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren faced a sharp rebuke for backing one of Trump’s Cabinet picks.
“Grassroots Democrats won’t be shy about challenging their own leaders if they sense a whiff of cooperation with the Trump agenda,” said Ben Wikler, Washington director for the liberal group MoveOn.org.
It’s unclear if they’ll get the chance with certain Senate Democrats, however.
Shields noted that McCaskill made time to visit the Mexican border: “We’d like to have her back in Missouri.”
WASHINGTON — Six years ago, as the “money, money, money, money” chorus of his reality TV show’s theme song blasted, Donald Trump stepped out before the nation’s largest gathering of conservative activists for the first time. The crowd was less than adoring, occasionally laughing at and booing the longtime former Democrat.
The intro music is more likely to be “Hail to the Chief” when he takes the stage Friday morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference. The audience will have changed its tune, too.
Trump is expected to speak around 10:20 a.m. Watch live in the player above.
Trump’s upcoming speech is designed to be one of appreciation, White House senior strategist Steve Bannon said Thursday. “He understands, at CPAC there are many, many, many voices,” he said. “This is the room where he got his launch.”
Bannon said Breitbart News, which he led before joining Trump’s team last summer, and other conservative outlets first took note of the brash billionaire at his CPAC debut. And that’s where Trump first began understanding the conservatives who years later would help him win the presidency.
“He wasn’t familiar with CPAC when we introduced the concept to him,” said Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime informal political adviser. He said he thought Trump did quite well in that first appearance — “when you consider that he’s not a pure ideologue. He’s a populist with conservative instincts.”
Stone and a gay Republican group had arranged the last-minute appearance, which Trump locked in with a donation to the American Conservative Union, which hosts the conference.
Although Trump returned most years afterward, he was notably absent last year. ACU chairman Matt Schlapp said the presidential candidates were asked to participate in a question-and-answer session, but Trump wanted to make a speech.
He did show up in 2015, however, a few months before he announced his candidacy.
“I am really inclined. I want to do it so badly,” Trump said about the likelihood he’d run. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker were the top two choices in that year’s straw poll.
Now, CPAC is largely the Trump show — “TPAC,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway called it. She, Bannon and other administration officials spoke Thursday, and Vice President Mike Pence gave a keynote address.
Schlapp said Trump will be the first president to address the group during his first year in office since Ronald Reagan in 1981. He called that a “huge sign of respect.”
The post WATCH LIVE: President Trump speaks to conservatives at CPAC appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked top FBI officials to dispute media reports that President Donald Trump’s campaign advisers were frequently in touch with Russian intelligence agents during the election, according to three White House officials. Democrats accused Priebus of interfering in a pending investigation.
The officials said that Priebus’ Feb. 15 request to FBI Director James Comey and deputy director Andrew McCabe came as the White House sought to discredit a New York Times report about contacts between Russian intelligence officials and members of Trump’s 2016 campaign team.
As of Thursday, the FBI had not commented publicly on the veracity of the report and there was no indication it planned to, despite the White House’s request.
White House officials said it was the FBI that first raised concerns about the reporting, but told Priebus the bureau could not weigh in publicly on the matter. The officials said McCabe and Comey instead gave Priebus the go-ahead to discredit the story publicly, something the FBI had not confirmed as of Friday morning.
CNN first reported that Priebus had asked the FBI for help and a White House official confirmed the matter to The Associated Press Thursday night. On Friday morning, two other senior White House officials summoned reporters to a hastily arranged briefing to expand on the timeline of events.
The officials said Priebus had a previously scheduled meeting with McCabe the morning after the New York Times story was published. Priebus and Comey then spoke later in the day.
The officials would only discuss the matter on the condition of anonymity, despite the fact that Priebus has complained publicly that the initial stories about Trump advisers’ Russia contacts relied on anonymous sources.
Trump himself, however, complained early Friday that the “FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time.”
“They can’t even find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW,” Trump tweeted.
Priebus’ discussions sparked outrage among some Democrats, who said that the chief of staff was violating policies intended to limit communications between the law enforcement agency and the White House on pending investigations.
“The White House is simply not permitted to pressure the FBI to make public statements about a pending investigation of the president and his advisers,” said Michigan Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
A 2009 memo from then-Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is to advise the White House on pending criminal or civil investigations “only when it is important for the performance of the president’s duties and appropriate from a law enforcement perspective.” When communication has to occur, the memo said, it should involve only the highest-level officials from the White House and the Justice Department.
Trump has been shadowed by questions about potential ties to Russia since winning the election. U.S. intelligence agencies have also concluded that Russia meddled in the campaign to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Last week, Trump fired national security adviser Michael Flynn because he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Flynn, who was interviewed by the FBI about his contacts, is said to have talked with the ambassador multiple times during the transition, including a discussion about U.S. sanctions policy.
Still, Trump and his advisers have denied having had contacts with Russian officials during the election. Last week, Trump said “nobody that I know of” spoke with Russian intelligence agents during the campaign.
Priebus alluded to his contacts with the FBI over the weekend, telling Fox News that “the top levels of the intelligence community” have assured him that the allegations of campaign contacts with Russia were “not only grossly overstated, but also wrong.”
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Priebus’ comments opened the door for FBI Director James Comey to discuss the bureau’s investigation publicly.
“If the White House chief of staff can make public claims about the supposed conclusions of an FBI investigation, then Director Comey can come clean with the American people,” Wyden said.
Justin Shur, a former Justice Department public corruption prosecutor, said it was imperative that Justice Department investigations not be swayed by political considerations.
“As a general matter, investigations and prosecutions should be about gathering the facts and the evidence and applying the law,” Shur said.
During the campaign, Trump and other Republicans vigorously criticized a meeting between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton, husband of Trump’s general election opponent. The meeting came as the FBI — which is overseen by the Justice Department — was investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email address and personal internet server.
Associated Press writers Vivian Salama, Eric Tucker and Eileen Sullivan contributed to this report.
The post Officials: Trump adviser asked FBI to dispute Russia reports appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
A Mexican who was recently deported from the U.S. carries a black bag on Feb. 22, 2017, next to the Tijuana River, in Tijuana, Mexico. Photo by Edgard Garrido/Reuters.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday that his predecessor’s health care law covers “very few people” as he minimized the impact of replacing it. That’s only true if you consider more than 20 million people to be very few.
Here’s a look at his statements at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday and some other recent assertions:
TRUMP: “Obamacare covers very few people.”
THE FACTS: More than 20 million people are covered by the two major components of former President Barack Obama’s health care law: expanded Medicaid and subsidized private health insurance.
The Medicaid expansion, adopted by 31 states and Washington, D.C., covers about 11 million low-income people, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The fate of the expansion is a major sticking point as Republicans try to complete their repeal plan. Sixteen states with GOP governors have expanded their Medicaid programs.
The other more visible component is HealthCare.gov. The federal website and state-run online insurance markets have signed up 12.2 million people for this year, according to an Associated Press count earlier this month, based on federal and state reports.
This is lower than the 12.7 million who initially enrolled for 2016. But it is not dramatically lower when considering the problems the markets have had with rising premiums and dwindling insurer participation, not to mention Trump’s vow to repeal the program.
Altogether, since Obama’s law passed in 2010, the number of uninsured people has dropped by about 20 million and the uninsured rate has declined below 9 percent, a historic low.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48.6 million Americans were uninsured in 2010. Through the first nine months of last year, that figure was down to 28.2 million.
Although employers also added coverage as the economy recovered, experts say the vast majority of the coverage gains are due to Obama’s law.
However, the progress in reducing the number of uninsured people appears to have stalled. The 28.2 million uninsured last year, from January to September, is not statistically different from the 28.6 million uninsured for all of 2015, according to the CDC.
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The Iraqi-led operation to retake the western part of Mosul from Islamic State fighters began this week. Despite the hardships, many people are choosing to stay in their homes, making it challenging for humanitarian groups to give them aid.
The militant Islamic State group, or ISIS, took over the northern oil-rich Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014, in an attempt to set up a caliphate governed by strict sharia law.
After forcing ISIS from eastern Mosul in January, coalition forces started their campaign to free the rest of the city on Sunday. Iraqi forces have taken hold of the city’s airport, and on Friday, started to push into ISIS-held western neighborhoods.
International and local aid workers can’t enter the western part of the city, but they are helping residents of the eastern section return to normal life, opening schools and fixing water systems.
Su’ad Jarbawi, the Iraq country director for Mercy Corps, said this week from the northern city of Erbil that she was pleasantly surprised to see people venturing out in the streets. During a recent visit, markets in eastern Mosul came to life. But in the ISIS-held portion of the city, it’s a different story.
“We’re not able to get into western Mosul, but we can only predict that the situation there remains dire. Food is becoming scarce, and prices are inflated to an unprecedented degree,” she said. An estimated 750,000 civilians remain inside that portion of the city, according to Mercy Corps.
When the battle for the eastern part of the city began, aid groups expected a tidal wave of residents to flee. They set up camps and handed out cash cards — in three monthly installments of $400, $360 and $360 — to help those who did leave, Jarbawi.
Not only does cash “offer freedom of choice, it also allows [the recipients] to maintain their dignity,” she said. “They’re not standing in line to receive a food or hygiene kit that they don’t need. They can spend it on what they want,” such as transportation and rebuilding their homes.
Aid groups are finding that many people want to stay in their homes, rather than venturing to temporary camps. The phenomenon is occurring not only in Iraq but in other war-torn areas, too, Jarbawi said. It makes the humanitarian response more complicated, she said, but aid workers are committed to providing civilians help wherever they are.
The post As fighting worsens in Mosul, aid groups struggle to help those who choose to stay appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Democrats have invited immigrants and foreigners to President Donald Trump’s first address to Congress in an effort to put a face on those who could be hurt by the Republican’s policies.
Lawmakers typically get one guest ticket apiece for presidential addresses, as they will for Tuesday’s prime-time speech, and the invites often go to family, friends or someone from back home. To send a message to Trump, Democrats have invited the Iraqi-American doctor who discovered elevated levels of lead in the blood of many children living in Flint, Michigan; a Pakistani-born doctor who delivers critical care to patients in Rhode Island and an American-born daughter of Palestinian refugees who aids people like her family in their quest to come to the United States.
“I want Trump to see the face of a woman, the face of a Muslim, and the face of someone whose family has enriched and contributed to this country despite starting out as refugees,” said Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., whose guest Tuesday will be Fidaa Rashid, a Chicago immigration attorney.
Soon after taking office, Trump issued an executive order temporarily banning all entry to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority nations and pausing the entire U.S. refugee program. The order sparked worldwide confusion about who was covered by the edict, with thousands gathering at airports and in other settings to protest. An appeals court blocked the order.
Trump has said he will issue another order along similar lines. Trump has also expanded the range of immigrants living in the country illegally who have become a priority for removal. The president has argued that the steps are necessary to protect the nation.
One of the people caught up in Trump’s executive order was Sara Yarjani, a 35-year-old Iranian graduate student studying in California. She was held at Los Angeles International Airport for nearly 23 hours before being sent back to Vienna, Austria, where she had been visiting family. She was able to resume her studies at the California Institute for Human Sciences after a judge halted implementation of Trump’s order. She’ll attend Trump’s speech as a guest of Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif.
“Mr. Trump needs to see the people he has hurt,” Chu said.
The focus on welcoming immigrants will also extend to the response that Democratic leaders plan for Trump’s speech. Astrid Silva, who was brought into the United States as a young child, will provide the Spanish-language rebuttal; former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will give the standard opposition-party response. Under President Barack Obama, hundreds of thousands of unauthorized youth brought into the country as children were given a reprieve from deportation.
While Trump vowed to immediately end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program during the campaign, he has kept it in place as president.
All will be on high alert for any Joe Wilson moments in Trump’s first speech to a joint session of Congress since his inaugural address. Wilson, a longtime Republican congressman from South Carolina, shouted, “You lie!” as Obama addressed Congress in 2009 about his health care plan. The debate over “Obamacare” sparked strong emotions on both sides of the aisle, much as Trump’s executive order and statements on immigration have done.
Trump’s comments on immigration play well with his supporters, but unnerve some Republicans who represent congressional districts with quickly growing immigrant populations.
Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., invited a constituent he describes as a hero for helping to expose the Flint water crisis. He said Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha came to the United States with her Iraqi parents, who were fleeing the regime of Saddam Hussein. She has recently questioned whether her family would have been allowed into the country under the policies of the Trump administration.
A group of Democratic lawmakers recently wrote a letter to colleagues earlier this month urging them to invite guests who have, despite discrimination, made positive impacts on their communities. One of the leaders of that effort, Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., asked Dr. Ehsun Mirza, the Pakistani-born doctor, to be his guest.
“I am proud to call Dr. Mirza a friend, and I hope that his presence on February 28th will serve as a reminder to the president that true Americans come in every color and creed – and not all are born here,” Langevin said.
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HOUSTON — Immigration officials began deportation proceedings this week against a Houston-area father of two who says he had lived for years in the U.S. under a protected status given to some immigrants.
Jose Escobar, a 31-year-old construction worker, was arrested Wednesday when he went to federal offices in Houston to provide immigration officials with an annual update on his work status.
His wife, Rose Marie Ascencio-Escobar, said although her husband is not a citizen, he was in good standing with immigration authorities as long as he appeared for an annual review. But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement counters that Escobar had been ordered years earlier to leave the country after getting his affairs in order.
Ascencio-Escobar said immigration agents told them the agents were complying with new rules enacted by President Donald Trump.
“But we haven’t done anything wrong,” the Houston Chronicle reported her as telling the agents. “He’s not a criminal. I thought you were focusing on criminals.”
The Trump administration announced Tuesday that any immigrant in the country illegally who is charged with or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, will now be an enforcement priority. That could include people arrested for shoplifting or other minor offenses.
Jose Escobar was a 15-year-old from El Salvador when he was sent to join his mother in Texas, according to the Chronicle. Federal authorities at the time granted him temporary protection, which is provided to immigrants from El Salvador and other countries because they may not be able to safely return to their homes.
His mother mistakenly assumed his immigration permit would automatically renew and in the meantime the family moved so they didn’t receive the paperwork informing him that he had missed the deadline for renewal. A judge in 2006 ordered him removed, but his case didn’t appear to be a priority and Escobar continued to work and raise a family. He was detained by immigration agents again in 2011 but later released under the condition that he report to them once a year, according to Ascencio-Escobar.
The U.S. government is getting tougher on illegal immigration, starting with moves by the Department of Homeland Security to expand its criteria for prioritized deportation. Judy Woodruff speaks with Nancy Montoya of Arizona Public Media and USA TODAY’s Alan Gomez for more details about how it likely affects undocumented immigrants.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement Thursday that Escobar previously was ordered to leave the country.
“An immigration judge ordered Escobar removed from the United States in 2006, but instead of departing the country, he became an immigration fugitive,” according to the statement. “ICE re-arrested him in 2011, and he entered ICE custody. Mr. Escobar failed to comply with his removal order, and in January 2012, the Houston ICE field office director exercised prosecutorial discretion and released Mr. Escobar on an order of supervision so he could get his affairs in order prior to his removal to El Salvador.”
Lawyers in many places say they’re struggling with how to advise their clients on whether they should attend scheduled appointments with immigration agents or even show up to court.
“You have people who have no criminal history who have been complying with (ICE) check-ins and then once they go, they are getting scooped up,” Alyson Sincavage, a legislative associate at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told the Chronicle.
The post Texas man faces deportation after years of protected status appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
ATLANTA — National Democrats will elect a new chair whose task is to steady a reeling party and capitalize on the widespread opposition to Republican President Donald Trump.
Leading contenders in the Saturday vote are former Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison. Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, is a longshot hoping he can rise to the top if neither of the two front-runners can capture majority support from the Democratic National Committee.
Here’s an explanation of why an election among party insiders has drawn so much attention.
WHAT DOES THE PARTY CHAIRMAN DO?
The chair is the Democratic National Committee’s top executive. Outgoing Chairwoman Donna Brazile says her successor “must be fearless … must have courage,” but there’s no absolute job description.
The post is part cheerleader, part fundraiser, part organizer and recruiter, part public messenger. It’s a much more visible role when a party no longer occupies the White House, since the president is de facto leader of his own party. Presidents also name their own party chairs, with the national committee operating essentially as a political arm of the Oval Office. The losing party’s chair, though, is elected by its national committee members.
Ellison, Perez and Buttigieg have all committed to oppose the Trump administration with gusto, but concentrate on nuts-and-bolts rebuilding of party infrastructure that helps win elections.
The new chair won’t be an undisputed “leader of the party.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California will remain the highest ranking Democrats in Washington, but the DNC chair will play a major role in framing the party’s arguments and identity, while charting a strategy to turn those into votes in upcoming elections.
WHY DOES IT MATTER SO MUCH THIS TIME?
Neither major party has had such a competitive chair election in recent history, but there’s a reason for Democrats’ existential lurching: They have as little actual political power around the country as they’ve had in 90 years. That means virtually no American voter has ever seen Democrats so removed from controlling the nation’s policies.
Republicans run both houses of Congress, sit in 33 governor’s chairs, control 32 state legislatures and, if Neil Gorsuch is confirmed by the Senate, will enjoy a conservative Supreme Court majority. The GOP has absolute control — the governor and legislature — in 24 states. For Democrats, that number is seven, with none between the West Coast and the Northeast.
The chair also comes to the job after an election marred by Russian hackers stealing the DNC’s internal communications.
New Hampshire Chairman Ray Buckley puts it plainly: “Our party has a long way to go.”
WHO ACTUALLY VOTES?
Leading contenders have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars traveling and wooing the 442 eligible voters who make up the Democratic National Committee (a handful of the 447 DNC seats are vacant).
Winning requires a majority of those voting Saturday, with as many rounds as it takes to identify the winner. Perez’s campaign insists he’s nearing that threshold, though Ellison disputes that notion. Buttigieg acknowledges that his strategy is to hope neither Perez nor Ellison can reach a majority after several ballots, leading DNC members to turn to him as an alternative.
IS THIS CLINTON VS. SANDERS II?
There are undertones of the 2016 presidential primary, but Ellison, Perez and their backers say framing the race that way is wrong.
An unapologetic liberal, Ellison has highlighted his endorsement from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent whose strong grass-roots support nearly upended the Democratic primary.
Perez got in the race at the urging of then-President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton allies, and he has the endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden. That makes him the perceived establishment candidate at a time many rank-and-file Democrats want a house-cleaning at the party’s top echelon.
But Texas Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa explains, “I come from the left, left, left wing of the Democratic Party, and I fully support Tom Perez.” Noting Perez’s career work for organized labor and as a civil rights attorney, Hinojosa adds, “Tom is absolutely a progressive.”
Wisconsin Chairwoman Martha Laning says her delegation includes “many strong Hillary Clinton supporters backing Keith Ellison.” Laning backs Ellison not because he is a “progressive champion” but because of his plans for rebuilding state and local parties.
It’s also worth noting that Ellison has an endorsement from Schumer, the Senate leader who’s not exactly a hero in liberal Democratic circles.
“This isn’t about Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders,” said Laning. “You have to look at whether somebody is going to be more about just supporting the (presidential) nominee or truly about a 50-state strategy.”
Brazile, meanwhile, scoffed at the idea of a 2016 redux. “I was for her. I was for him,” she quipped. “Hell, no! We are for them, the people of America!”
Last week’s New York Toy Fair introduced a number of new toys to consumers. One of the biggest hits: Toys that play with light.
The Hello Barbie Hologram was perhaps the most visible of the bunch.
Think of this virtual doll as a peppier version of Amazon’s Alexa. It is capable of following commands and providing basic information, such as setting up a calendar, taking notes and checking the weather … but for kids.
The prototype, a bright multicolored box, projects a floating effigy of the classic doll. The virtual Barbie is highly customizable, so the youngsters who play with it can select from a variety of hairstyles, skin tones and, of course, clothes.
This device doesn’t use a “true” hologram, though — it’s actually based on an old stage effect known as Pepper’s Ghost, a technique that’s been used since the 1850s. It uses reflections through transparent glass to project an image to the viewer. The Tupac Shakur “hologram” that played at Coachella in 2012 was actually a Pepper’s Ghost.
The Hello Barbie Hologram is part of Mattel’s push into making toys that draw on tech, as evidenced by their hiring of former Google executive Margaret Georgiadis as their new CEO earlier this year.
The Toy Fair did feature real holograms in the form of Litiholo, which has engineered a full color holography kit. The kit, intended for schools and hologram hobbyists, has everything you need to create both single color and multiple color holograms.
Why were holograms so big this year?
“[What makes holograms captivating] is that we are confronted with a visual reality is at the same time immaterial, it’s made of structured light. So there’s a totally amazing visual experience that we are confronted with,” said Seth Riskin, who works with holograms at the MIT Museum. “There’s a profound mystery that is presented to us, whether we understand it consciously or not.”
But if you want both of these products, be ready to lighten your bank account. The Hello Barbie Hologram may cost up to $300, while the Litiholo full color kit is $329. (though a single color hologram kit is only $100).
The post This new Barbie hologram toy is actually an old magician’s trick appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Ethan Todras-Whitehall was disappointed when Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. After his victory, “sitting on your hands and just reading the news was intolerable,” said Todras-Whitehall, a 36-year-old freelance writer and GMAT tutor from Amherst, Massachusetts. “It still is.”
So in the weeks after the election, Todras-Whitehall called two friends, Joshua Krafchin and Miriam Stone, and proposed a plan of action: creating a grassroots organization aimed at helping Democrats win back control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections.
The result is Swing Left, part of a loosely-connected network of liberal groups, like Indivisible, that pundits across the political spectrum are calling the left’s answer to the conservative Tea Party movement that emerged after President Barack Obama’s victory in 2008.
“Democrats haven’t been as focused on the House because we’ve held the presidency,” Todras-Whitehall said. But now that Republicans control the White House along with both chambers of Congress, he said, regaining control of the House “went from the last thing [liberal activists] think about” to being a top priority.
To that end, Swing Left was specifically designed to target competitive House races, while leaving “safe” Democratic seats alone. Volunteers sign up by entering their ZIP code. From there, Swing Left points them to the closest swing district, in the hopes of boosting engagement in areas where Democrats have the most potential to pick up seats.
The model is based on the idea that it’s easier for people to volunteer close to home, where they feel they can “make a difference on a regular basis,” Todras-Whitehall said.
The group is targeting 52 House districts where the winner’s margin of victory in 2016 was 15 points or less. If the party wins 80 percent of those races, Democrats can regain a majority in the House, the group says.
Republicans currently hold 238 seats in the House, the GOP’s largest majority in eight decades. Democrats control 198 seats; there are four vacancies.
Given those numbers, flipping control in the House is a tall order for groups like Swing Left, whose founders don’t have much political organizing experience. Krafchin and Stone have never worked on a campaign; Todras-Whitehill did some phone banking for John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004 and ran a small get-out-the-vote campaign in Ohio in 2008.
Most political experts agree the Democrats’ chances of regaining control of the House and Senate next year are slim.
“No one thinks they can take back the House or the Senate in 2018,” Republican strategist Brendan Steinhauser, a former Tea Party organizer, said.
Congressional Republicans have taken note of the energy on the left since Trump’s election, said Matt Gorman, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP’s campaign arm.
But House Republicans plan to stick to their agenda in the face of the “top-down effort from liberal activists” to oppose Trump’s presidency and make gains in Congress, Gorman said.
Despite Swing Left’s long odds, the group is gaining traction. Roughly 300,000 volunteers have signed up with the group, Todras-Whitehall said.
Linda Keuntje said when she saw an advertisement for Swing Left on her Facebook newsfeed after the election, she immediately signed up to volunteer in Virginia’s 10th congressional district, a swing seat now held by Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock.
“My coping strategy is to act,” said Keuntje, a Democrat who lives in Arlington, Virginia. “I feel like I’m doing something to improve the situation.”
Experienced organizers — including some former Clinton campaign staffers — have also signed up with Swing Left, Todras-Whitehall said.
Swing Left is helping volunteers plan house meetings next week so activists can meet in person and start organizing. After that, Todras-Whitehall said he hopes volunteers will begin canvassing, knocking on doors and registering voters in swing communities.
“I want people to know their local swing district better than they know their own [district],” he said.
In addition to targeting swing districts, Swing Left also plans to play defense in Democratic seats where voters shifted right and voted for Trump, like Rep. Matt Cartwright’s district in eastern Pennsylvania. Obama carried the district in 2008 and 2012. But in 2016, Trump won the district and Cartwright was narrowly re-elected by a 7.6 percent margin.
Voters in his district “are desperate for economic change” and backed Trump because he “effectively painted himself as the economic candidate,” Cartwright said in a phone interview.
Nevertheless, “I don’t intend to change my messaging one iota,” Cartwright said. “Those are core values for me, and they’re not going to change ‘cause the wind changed directions.”
Political observers said it was too early to tell if liberal groups had the kind of organizing Democrats need to defend districts like Cartwright’s and make further gains in the House.
“It’s really easy to join a march, sign a petition,” said Emily Ekins, a research fellow at the right-leaning Cato Institute. It’s “quite another [thing] to do the hard tedious work of local and political activism.”
But Steinhauser, the Republican strategist, said he saw some similarities between the Tea Party movement and the grassroots activism growing on the left today.
“When [voters think they] see a disaster coming, you fight like hell to say no,” Steinhauser said.
The post How one liberal group is trying to help Democrats win back the House in 2018 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
It’s late Wednesday evening when Kandace Vallejo, director of Youth Rise Texas, starts passing out chips and salsa to a group of teenagers gathered in an East Austin community space.
The eight young people sit in a circle, some on couches and others on the floor, under a large hand-painted sign on the wall that says “Migration is a Human Right.” She asks how their week is going. Their energy is heavy. The week before, federal immigration and customs enforcement agents arrested more than 680 people in raids across five cities. Austin wasn’t listed as a target by Homeland Security. But the teens worry that next time, it could be.
“I’m worried,” Jordy Balderas, 16, said. “My sister heard something on the radio that said that ICE raids are happening in this area.”
The teens meeting with Vallejo are all members of Youth Rise Texas, a leadership development organization for teens directly impacted by parental incarceration, immigrant detention and deportation.
They’ve spent the last two months lobbying against Texas Senate Bill 4, which says officials in towns, cities and, college campuses in Texas must cooperate with any request by federal immigration officials.
That night, Texas lawmakers passed the bill through the Senate.
“I feel emotionally drained, with everything that is going on,” Silvia Zuvieta-Rodriguez, 18, said from her perch on the couch.
Austin is a “sanctuary city,” one of several across the country that say they will not prosecute undocumented immigrants for violating federal immigration rules. They also guarantee all residents, regardless of immigration status, can access city services.
Texas’ SB4 would strip local governments of state grant funding if their law enforcement agencies fail to honor all requests from federal I.C.E. officers to hand over undocumented immigrants for possible deportation. Jurisdictions and department heads could also face civil and criminal prosecution if they violate the provisions of the bill.
The legislation came three weeks after President Donald Trump ordered the construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and signed executive actions to ramp up federal immigration and custom enforcement, including more detention facilities and border patrol agents. He also called for stripping federal funding from sanctuary cities. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has also called on Texas legislators to make sanctuary cities illegal.
I.C.E said in a statement Feb. 13 that the types of raids they carried out last week are routine, and only target those “who pose a threat to public safety, border security or the integrity of our nation’s immigration system.”
But for those living or working in undocumented communities, these raids feel like Trump’s first step towards fulfilling campaign promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.
“One thing that is really clear to me is that young people whose families have been impacted by separation from the criminal justice system or by deportation carry the trauma and the impacts of that separation for the rest of their lives,” Vallejo said. “We are living in a moment where we are [sending a message to] millions of children across the United States who have every right to be here and who are born here that they are not important enough or worth fighting for to keep their families with them.”
Thirty-seven percent of Americans support a wall along the southern border with Mexico, according to a new CBS poll. But 61 percent said they believed immigrants already in the U.S. should be able to stay in the country and apply for citizenship.
The divide over immigration reform is stark in border states like Texas. This week, Trump tweeted that an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose sanctuary city policies, according to a Harvard-Harris Poll. The survey found that 80 percent of voters say local authorities should have to comply with the law by reporting illegal immigrants they come into contact with to federal agents.
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Though there has been an outpouring of demonstrations against Senate Bill 4 in the capitol, there remains strong support for the bill throughout the rest of the state.
“Immigration is not a right, it is a privilege,” says Jathan Young, the 21-year-old chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas at Baylor University.
Baylor University is a private Baptist college in Waco, Texas. Halfway between Austin and Dallas, it’s home to a more religious and rural community. Last week, when a petition was filed by religious groups to make Baylor a sanctuary campus, Young mobilized several conservative organizations to print and pass out brochures against the motion. They also emailed the University president to voice their opposition to the petition. He says he supports SB4 because it supports the idea of the law being applied equally.
“You can’t just ignore laws that you don’t like and follow ones that you do like,” he says.
Another common argument cited by those who want to see SB4 pass the legislature is the number of undocumented residents who go on to commit multiple crimes after being released from county jails. One such incident resulted in the death of Kathryn Steinle, a 32-year-old California woman who was shot in San Francisco by Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez. Lopez-Sanchez, a Mexican immigrant who entered the country illegally, had been convicted of seven felonies and deported five times before his encounter with Steinle.
Jonathan Gaspard, the policy director for the Young Republicans of Texas, feels that incidents like the shooting of Steinle prove that it is important to allow local officials the authority and the option to turn undocumented criminals over to I.C.E. if they deem them a threat to the community.
Gaspard says that while Democrats have brought up valid arguments against the bill, he still supports the majority of the legislation. He has many family members from Mexico, some who live in Durango and others who immigrated here legally, and he feels for families that might be split apart if this legislation goes into effect.
“I believe that that emotion is valid among people who feel it, but I believe that you have to get down to the root,” he said. “The law is the law. If somebody hasn’t done anything wrong then they have nothing to worry about.”
Texas SB4 now heads to the House for consideration. It’s not clear when legislators will review the bill, or whether they will make changes. PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs sat down with teens from Youth Rise Texas to hear about their reaction to the legislation in Texas as well as Trump’s executive orders on immigration. Here’s what they shared with us.
Silvia Zuvieta-Rodriguez, 18
Silvia Zuvieta-Rodriguez was born in the U.S. But, as the daughter of parents with mixed immigration status, she remembers growing up with the fear that her father would be deported.
“I knew about deportation and immigration at the age of 6 or 7,” she says. “I just grew up with that constant anxiety.”
Her worst fears became reality when her father was deported to Mexico four years ago. Her mother, a U.S. resident, was left alone to raise the family. Her brother, then two, asked every day about his father. Rodriguez became suicidal. She says Youth Rise has helped her move forward from the pain and trauma. But it’s still there. Tears well in her eyes when she talks about him missing her quinceanera and upcoming graduation.
“It hurts. I had to be a second mom to my brother,” she said. “I’ve had to take care of him, I’ve had to raise him,” she says, while dealing with her own depression and diabetes.
Silvia dreams of one day becoming a politician, so that she can work on behalf of people like her in Texas who have been impacted by ICE. She wants politicians to know how policy affects local communities, and feels there is a need for politicians to communicate directly with those impacted by legislation.
“Activism has been one of the things that have most helped me in terms of dealing with my anger and frustration and sadness,” she says. “Just talking about it and making sure that politicians know the reason that I’m dealing with all of this is because of [the policies they create].”
She says it feels good to “know that I’m making sure that other families don’t go through what I go through.”
Briceida Aviles, 16
Briceida Aviles’ parents both came to the United States from Mexico when they were young and integrated into American culture from an early age. So she didn’t grow up with the same kind of anxiety Rodriguez did.
That changed a few years ago, when her father was stopped for driving with a broken tail light. His car was searched and police found his son’s ID. Since he wasn’t carrying his own identification, they thought he was using his son’s card illegally. He spent two months in jail awaiting deportation proceedings while his family hired lawyers to fight the case.
Ultimately, Aviles’ father avoided deportation. Now, even though she doesn’t have her driver’s license, she tries to drive her father to places he needs to go whenever she can.
“It’s better they catch me than if they catch him,” she said.
She wants to become a criminal justice lawyer because she has seen first hand how the legal system can affect immigrants’ lives.
Aviles respects police officers. But she says she wishes she could trust more within her own community. She knows some law enforcement officials are trying to work with Latino communities in Austin to improve community policing. But she has also seen how racial profiling has impacted people she knows. She’s frustrated that American citizens can be let go with a fine for crimes that,for an undocumented person, would lead to deportation proceedings.
“Not everybody views us the same way as they view other people,” she says.
In November, Austin-area voters elected Sally Hernandez to be the next Sheriff of Travis County. Hernandez campaigned on a promise to stop federal immigration and customs officials from interfering in local law enforcement. Villez likes the policies Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez is trying to pursue in Austin, and hopes they survive challenges like Texas SB4.
Jordy Balderas, 16
Jordy Balderas was born in the United States to undocumented parents. When he was 3, his mother grew ill. She returned to Mexico, Balderas in tow, to seek medical treatment. He was raised mostly in Mexico, but returned to the United States last year to live with his sister and father because of increased gang violence. His mother stayed behind.
Since moving back to the states, he has developed a close relationship with many other immigrants in his community. He now sees them as family. Being far away from his mother has been tough on him, and he hopes to one day be reunited with her.
His goal for now: Help his people any way he can.
“With all that is going on, I feel they are being abandoned by the government,” he says.
Balderas says he was drawn to Youth Rise because the organization helps him have a voice and speak up for his family that cannot be heard. He speaks fondly of the school walkout organized by Youth Rise on Jan. 20 to protest the inauguration of President Trump– it was the first time he felt powerful.
Balderas also attended the public hearing on Senate Bill 4 at the Texas State Capitol, where more than 500 people — largely in opposition to the legislation — testified about the effects of the bill. Though Balderas says attending these events made him proud, the passage of SB4 from the Senate to the House has left him feeling frustrated and pessimistic.
“Right now I’m just thinking about a plan for what happens in case my family gets deported,” he tells us, staring off into the corner of the room.
His father isn’t a U.S.citizen. Neither is his sister, who has two little girls.
“I don’t know what is going to happen to my nieces if she is deported,” he said. “I don’t know if we go with them or we stay, because here I have no one who can take care of me.”
About Student Reporting Labs: The PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs initiative is building the next generation of public media. By connecting middle and high school students to PBS stations, mentors and role models in their communities, the program creates transformative educational experiences. Students engage in a powerful form of journalistic inquiry, media production and student-centered learning that builds critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, information and communication skills. By giving them a voice and the opportunity to reach millions of people via the PBS NewsHour broadcast and digital platforms, the program inspires youth to speak up and be part of the solution. These interviews were produced in collaboration with the Student Reporting Labs project, “New Americans: Stories of immigration, identity, and community through the eyes of teenagers.
The post The teens caught in the middle of Austin’s Sanctuary City debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
When the 89th Oscars award ceremony airs Sunday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hopes to avoid the #OscarsSoWhite backlash it’s seen in the last few years.
The movement was born from an effort to highlight the lack of diversity in the actors and films nominated for prizes at the annual award ceremony. But this year, a record-tying seven minorities are nominated in best acting categories, after two years in which the list of nominees for the awards didn’t include a single non-white actor.
In 2016, Academy Awards president Cheryl Boonie Isaacs said she was both “heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion” in the nominations, and vowed to make changes. For this year’s awards, the Academy invited a record number of new voting members. Forty-six percent of them were female; 41 percent were people of color. The Academy did not reply to a request for comment about this year’s awards.
But in categories outside of acting, historically underrepresented groups remain largely unrecognized. Directing continues to stand out: In the Best Director category, one of the five biggest awards of the night, five men are nominated. Four of them are white.
This is nothing new, of course. In 2005, Ang Lee became the first person of color to win Best Director. Mexican directors Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro G. Iñárritu have also picked up the award. The three of them hold all five Best Director wins by people of color.
But the category’s issue with diversity goes beyond just the Academy. A study this month by USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism called “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair,” which looked at race, gender and age among film directors, revealed that the problem may be opportunity. Between 2007 and 2016 there was no percentage change in the number of female, Black or Asian directors making top movies, the study found.
The study examined the top-grossing 100 films each year from 2007 to 2016 — 1,000 films in total. Minorities of all genders directed less than 10 percent of these films, it says. Just 5.1 percent of the 1,114 directors were black or African American. Three percent were Asian or Asian-American. In each of these two groups, three directors were women. Only one Latina was identified as a director of the 1,000 films.
The nation’s top film schools often feed those directors’ chairs. While some schools say they’ve made progress, it’s unclear in other cases how student demographics are changing, or what strategies programs are pursuing to diversify their student bodies.
The nation’s top film program, the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California — which published the study — said it does not share information about students’ gender, race or ethnicity.
At the American Film Institute, one of the nation’s top film schools, 34 percent of fellows — their name for students — are non-white, which reflects the average minority enrollment in graduate programs overall, according to the National Center on Education Statistics. AFI did not respond to request for comment on whether the number of non-white fellows at the institute has increased over time. But they have started a directing workshop for women that offers “intensive training” in narrative filmmaking.
At New York University, another consistently-top rated film school, the undergraduate program achieved gender parity for the first time in 2016, Shonna Keogan, a public affairs officer for the arts program, told the NewsHour.
“Fifteen years ago, there were two guys to every female student,” Keogan wrote in an email. “The progress has been incremental and steady.” NYU could not provide a breakdown by race or ethnicity.
Beyond what’s happening at universities, April Reign, who coined the hashtag “OscarsSoWhite,” said the time was “long past due” for Hollywood executives to do their part in hiring from marginalized communities. Reign believes more opportunities are needed not only for actors and actresses of color, “but also those people behind the camera,” such as directors, editors and cinematographers.
“If the studio’s argument is ‘we want to work with people who are traditionally underrepresented but we can’t find them,’ well then go look for them,” she said. “Create an opportunity for them to come and apply to your program and then, you know, reap the benefits. They’re out there, they’re hungry, they’re talented.”
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SAN DIEGO — U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Friday that it plans to start awarding contracts by mid-April for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico, signaling that he is aggressively pursuing plans to erect “a great wall” along the 2,000-mile border.
The agency said it will request bids on or around March 6 and that companies would have to submit “concept papers” to design and build prototypes by March 10, according to FedBizOpps.gov, a website for federal contractors. The field of candidates will be narrowed by March 20, and finalists must submit offers with their proposed costs by March 24.
The president told the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday that construction will start “very soon” and is “way, way, way ahead of schedule.”
The agency’s notice gave no details on where the wall would be built first and how many miles would be covered initially. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has sought employees’ opinions during border tours of California, Arizona and Texas.
Republican leaders in Congress have said Trump’s wall would cost between $12 billion and $15 billion. Trump has suggested $12 billion.
An internal Homeland Security Department report prepared for Kelly estimates the cost of extending the wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border at about $21 billion, according to a U.S. government official who is involved in border issues. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the report has not been made public.
The Homeland Security report proposes an initial phase that would extend fences 26 miles and a second wave that would add 151 miles, plus 272 “replacement” miles where fences are already installed, according to the official. Those two phases would cost $5 billion.
The price tag will depend largely on the height, materials and other specifications that have not yet been defined.
Granite Construction Inc., Vulcan Materials Co. and Martin Marrieta Materials Inc. are seen as potential bidders. Kiewit Corp. built one of the more expensive stretches of fencing so far at a cost of about $16 million a mile, a project in San Diego that involved filling a deep canyon known as Smuggler’s Gulch.
Cement maker Cemex SAB is also seen as a potential beneficiary even though it is based in Mexico.
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WASHINGTON — Democrats elected former Labor Secretary Tom Perez as their new national chairman on Saturday over a liberal Minnesota congressman after a divisive campaign that reflected the depths of the party’s electoral failures as well as the energy from resistance to President Donald Trump.
Perez, the first Latino to hold the post, edged Rep. Keith Ellison on the second round of voting by Democratic National Committee members gathered in Atlanta.
A nod to his margin of 35 votes out of 435 cast, to say nothing of the lingering friction between old-guard Democratic brokers and outspoken liberal upstarts, Perez tapped Ellison to serve as deputy chair.
“We are all in this together,” Perez said, calling on Democrats to fight “the worst president in the history of the United States.” He added, “I am confident when we lead with our values and we lead with our actions, we succeed.”
Perez had led on the first ballot among six candidates, but fell just short of the required majority.
Earlier Saturday, Perez told DNC members the party was facing a “crisis of confidence” and a “crisis of relevance.”
“We need a chair who cannot only take the fight to Donald Trump but make sure that we talk about our positive message of inclusion and opportunity and talk to that big tent of the Democratic Party,” Perez said.
Both top candidates had promised aggressive rebuilding efforts for state and local Democratic parties.
The chair campaign was uncharted territory as Democrats face a power deficit not seen in nine decades. Republicans control the White House, Congress and about two-thirds of U.S. statehouses. The GOP is one Senate confirmation fight away from a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
With Democrats in agreement in their opposition to Trump, the race turned on who was able to convince enough DNC members to believe his promises of rebuilding party infrastructure that withered under President Barack Obama despite his personal electoral success.
Ellison told voting members he had signatures from 750,000 rank-and-file Democrats who support his chairmanship bid. He promised to “convert them from demonstration energy to electoral energy.” He pledged to prioritize small donations to finance the party, while working to “organize this whole country.”
Perez said he would “rebuild strong parties” and “organize, organize, organize” so Democratic nominees could win “from the school to the Senate in all the states.”
Perez got into the race at Obama’s urging, but he pushed back on the notion that represented the same “establishment” label that dogged Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Ellison had endorsements from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who challenged Clinton for the Democratic nomination, and also from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
For their parts, Ellison and Perez had praised each other and promised unity regardless of the outcome.
The winner succeeds outgoing Chairwoman Donna Brazile, who led the party as interim chief in the fallout from disclosure that internal party communications were stolen by hackers and leaked during the 2016 presidential campaign.
U.S. intelligence officials have blamed Russian agents and said Moscow’s intention was to help Trump win.
Brazile said Saturday the party has worked with cybersecurity experts to address vulnerabilities. She chided Trump for his mockery of DNC cybersecurity and his doubts that Russians are at fault.
“No, Donald Trump, you can’t go to Staples and buy anti-Russian hacking software,” she said, urging Congress to investigate whether Russians hacked the Republican National Committee.
No RNC emails were leaked during the 2016 campaign. Republican officials insist their party communications were not breached.
Brazile suggests that proves Russians wanted to help Trump.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian police said Saturday that they would issue an arrest warrant for a North Korean diplomat if he refuses to cooperate with the investigation into the deadly attack on North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un’s exiled half brother.
The investigation has unleashed a serious diplomatic fight between Malaysia and North Korea, a prime suspect in the Feb. 13 killing of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur’s airport. Friday’s revelation by Malaysian police that the banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent was used to kill Kim raised the stakes significantly in a case that has broad geopolitical implications.
Police said Saturday that they would conduct a sweep of the airport terminal where Kim was killed to check for possible traces of VX.
Experts say the nerve agent used in the attack was almost certainly produced in a sophisticated state weapons laboratory and is banned under an international treaty. But North Korea never signed that treaty, and has spent decades developing a complex chemical weapons program.
Kim was not an obvious political threat to his estranged half brother, Kim Jong Un. But he may have been seen as a potential rival in North Korea’s dynastic dictatorship, even though he had lived in exile for years. North Korea has denied any role in the attack.[Watch Video]
Malaysia said earlier in the week that Hyon Kwang Song, a second secretary at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, was wanted for questioning. But authorities acknowledged at the time that he has diplomatic immunity and that they couldn’t compel him to appear.
On Saturday, Malaysia’s tone changed.
Abdul Samah Mat, the police chief leading the investigation, said authorities would give the diplomat “reasonable” time to come forward. If he doesn’t, he said, police will issue a notice compelling him to do so.
“And if he failed to turn up … then we will go to the next step by getting a warrant of arrest from the court,” Abdul Samah told reporters.
Lawyer Sankara Nair, however, noted that diplomats have immunity privileges even in criminal cases.
“If he is a Korean diplomat with a diplomatic passport, then he has immunity no matter a criminal case or otherwise,” he said. “Police can apply for a warrant, but it can easily be set aside by the embassy.”
Malaysia hasn’t directly accused the North Korean government of being behind the attack, but officials have said four North Korean men provided two women with poison to carry it out.
The four men fled Malaysia shortly after the killing, while the women — one from Indonesia and the other Vietnamese — were arrested.
On Saturday, the Indonesian suspect, Siti Aisyah, met with her country’s deputy ambassador to Malaysia, saying she had been paid the equivalent of $90 for what she believed was a harmless prank.
Aisyah, 25, said she had been introduced to people who looked like Japanese or Koreans who asked her to play a prank for a reality show, Deputy Ambassador Andriano Erwin said.
Asked about whether she knew what was on her hands at the time of the attack, Erwin said: “She didn’t tell us about that. She only said that it’s a kind of oil, baby oil, something like that.”
The Vietnamese woman who was arrested, Doan Thi Huong, also thought she was taking part in a prank, Vietnam’s foreign ministry said Saturday, after a representative from the Vietnamese Embassy in Malaysia met with Huong.
An odorless chemical with the consistency of motor oil, VX is an extremely powerful poison, with an amount no larger than a few grains of salt enough to kill. It can be inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin. Then, in anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours, it can cause a range of symptoms, from blurred vision to a headache. Enough exposure leads to convulsions, paralysis, respiratory failure and death.
The killing of Kim Jong Nam took place amid crowds of travelers at Kuala Lumpur’s airport and appeared to be a well-planned hit. Kim died on the way to a hospital, within hours of the attack.
In grainy surveillance footage, the women appear to smear something onto Kim’s face before walking away in separate directions. Malaysian police said the attackers had been trained to go immediately to the bathroom and clean their hands.
Aisyah has said previously that she was duped into the attack, but Malaysian police say the suspects knew what they were doing. Experts say the women must have taken precautions so the nerve agent wouldn’t kill them.
An antidote, atropine, can be injected after exposure and is carried by medics in war zones where weapons of mass destruction are suspected.
Tens of thousands of passengers have passed through Kuala Lumpur’s airport since the apparent assassination was carried out. No areas were cordoned off and protective measures were not taken.
Late Saturday, however, police said they would begin a sweep of the budget terminal where Kim was attacked to check for traces of VX.
The sweep was scheduled to start at 1 a.m. Sunday and was to involve officers from the police’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear teams, as well as the fire department’s hazardous materials unit and the government’s atomic energy board. Although VX is not radioactive, police said the radiological team and the atomic energy board would be involved as a precaution.
Also Saturday, police confirmed that a raid earlier in the week on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur was part of the investigation. Abdul Samah, the police official, did not specify what authorities found there, but said the items were being tested for traces of any chemicals.
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As President Trump continues to step up immigration enforcement, medical centers say the changes are indeed keeping immigrants out — of hospitals and clinics.
The deportation guidelines, first outlined in an executive order on Jan. 25, took more concrete form this week with a pair of memos from the Department of Homeland Security.
The executive order broadly expanded the categories of people targeted for deportation. Previously, agents were directed to focus on convicted criminals; individuals who were merely in the United States illegally were not prioritized for deportation. The executive order scrapped that policy.
Medical centers have traditionally been considered “sensitive locations,” like schools and places of worship, where federal agents usually would not enter. But individual immigrants are still scared to go to the doctor.
“There’s just a lot of fear that ICE would raid our facility,” said Alex Armstrong, CEO of Alliance Medical Center, a community health center with a large Hispanic population north of Santa Rosa, Calif. He said that twice as many patients as normal canceled their appointments last week, some saying they were afraid of immigration officials. One man, who is a US citizen, missed an oncology appointment because his caretaker wouldn’t drive him, fearful of being stopped.
In Brooklyn, N.Y., rumors circulated last week that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were prowling the halls of the Kings County Hospital; while the rumors were false, a hospital spokesperson said that patients canceled appointments because of it.
Evidence that undocumented immigrants are avoiding clinics or hospitals because of the new guidelines is only anecdotal. But researchers have previously found that tightening of immigration policies have resulted in at least some increased fear in immigrant communities, with residents reluctant to leave their homes, go to the doctor, or take other actions they think might put themselves at risk.
In 2010, in the midst of an Arizona study on childhood obesity, which initially had nothing to do with immigration policy, the state legislature passed a bill expanding the authority of police officers to investigate individuals they suspected of being in the United States illegally — and the researchers noticed that people stopped showing up for medical care. (A later study also found that the passage of the bill was associated with less health care utilization.)
“Several providers described a drop in health maintenance, such as regular doctor visits, diabetes education, vaccines, prenatal care, HIV education, and procurement of medications, as the result of [the law],” the authors of the 2010 paper wrote.
It is unclear whether the recent spate of immigration raids is directly related to the executive order, the New York Times reported; Trump is claiming credit for fulfilling campaign promises, while DHS officials say it’s just business as usual.
At a clinic in Everett, Mass., Dr. Elisabeth Poorman, a primary care physician who sees mostly immigrant patients, said that fewer new patients are coming through the door — normally, she sees three or four a day, but in the past few weeks, there might only be one. And others are skipping follow-up appointments.
“On a day-to-day level, I have people who need to be on Coumadin and aren’t coming in,” Poorman said. “I have people who have diabetes, who need insulin, who aren’t getting it. I have people who had bad asthma and are too afraid to apply for insurance, so they’ll stay out for a while, but they’re going to get sicker and end up in the hospitals.”
“I think the implications of what’s going on right now are going to be felt by the health community for decades to come,” Poorman said.
This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Feb. 24, 2017. Find the original story here.
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WASHINGTON — U.S. immigration authorities are barring entry to a 21-year-old Syrian cinematographer who worked on a harrowing film about his nation’s civil war, “The White Helmets,” that has been nominated for an Academy Award.
According to internal Trump administration correspondence seen by The Associated Press, the Department of Homeland Security has decided at the last minute to block Khaled Khateeb from traveling to Los Angeles for the Oscars.
Khateeb was scheduled to arrive Saturday in Los Angeles on a Turkish Airlines flight departing from Istanbul. But his plans have been upended after U.S. officials reported finding “derogatory information” regarding Khateeb.
Derogatory information is a broad category that can include anything from terror connections to passport irregularities. Asked for comment, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, Gillian Christensen, said, “A valid travel document is required for travel to the United States.”
“The White Helmets,” a 40-minute Netflix documentary, has been nominated for Best Documentary Short. If the film wins the Oscar, the award would go to director Orlando von Einsiedel and producer Joanna Natasegara. Khateeb is one of three people credited for cinematography; Franklin Dow is the film’s director of photography.[Watch Video]
The film focuses on the rescue workers who risk their lives to save Syrians affected by civil war. Many of the group’s members have been killed by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s air forces. The group also was nominated for last year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
“The White Helmets” includes emblematic scenes of the deadly 6-year-old conflict: people digging through destroyed homes looking for survivors, at constant risk of “double tap” attacks that target first responders after they’ve arrived at the scene of a strike.
Khateeb had been issued a visa to attend the ceremony with Hollywood’s biggest stars. But Turkish authorities detained him this week, according to the internal U.S. government correspondence, and he suddenly needed a passport waiver from the United States to enter the country.
Reached by telephone, Khateeb said he was currently in Istanbul and had not been detained. He declined to speak further about his situation.
The correspondence indicated he would not receive such a waiver. There was no explanation in the correspondence for why Turkey detained Khateeb.
Associated Press writer Sarah El Deeb in Beirut contributed to this report.
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