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

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    River systems can be seen flowing near sand dunes in outback Queensland, Australia February 12, 2017. Picture taken February 12, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray - RTS10R7I

    Photo by David Gray/Reuters.

    River systems can be seen on Feb. 12, 2017, flowing near sand dunes in outback Queensland, Australia.

    The post Photo: A bird’s-eye view of Australia’s Outback appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The last "Supermoon" of 2016 appears in the night sky in the village of St Florence, Tenby,  Wales, 14 November, 2016.  A Supermoon is when the moon's eliptical orbit around the earth brings it closer than normal and thus it appears bigger and brighter than usual. This year's November Supermoon will not be surpassed in proximity until 2034.   REBECCA NADEN/Rebecca Naden  TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY   - RTX2UY0G

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to our Leading edge segment for this week: a potential return to the moon.

    Near the end of his address last night, the president made a reference to space travel, saying — quote — “American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.”

    It was only a line. But whenever a president speaks on the subject, the space community is closely trying to read the tea leaves. The sentence leaves a lot to interpretation, but all signs seem to indicate there is renewed focus inside the Trump administration, NASA and the private sector on travel to the moon, sooner than you might think.

    Our science correspondent, Miles O’Brien, is here.

    So, Miles, why the moon after all these years?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Aside from the “because it’s there” answer, it’s actually a good destination to go and learn about living and working on an encampment in space.

    You know, we went to the moon 50 years ago now. We left some footprints and flags behind, but we didn’t really learn how to live there on a sustained basis. So, while NASA would still like to go to Mars, there’s a lot of things you can learn about by setting up an encampment on the moon.

    And we have learned in the past 50 years there’s a lot of water ice on the moon. What is water? Hydrogen and oxygen. What is rocket fuel? Hydrogen and oxygen. So you can learn a lot about how to create rocket fuel on location and perhaps push deeper into space.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So this didn’t just spring up as an idea because they couldn’t think of anything else?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Well, there was one other factor. There was a mission planned at the end of ’18 for the Space Launch System, which is the next heavy lift that NASA is working — heavy lift rocket.

    One piece of it wasn’t going to be ready, built by the Europeans, a service module. And so NASA was faced with the possibility of delaying that mission, an unmanned mission, even later, or maybe doing something like we did with Apollo 8, something bold.

    In the case of Apollo 8, the lunar module wasn’t ready. And we decided to go around the moon. In this case, they’re thinking about putting astronauts on this flight maybe early ’19, and send them around the moon Apollo 8-style.

    So, a lot of things have lined up. And, all of a sudden, there is wide agreement in the space community, this might be the next step.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were telling me, Miles, there’s a private sector piece in all of this, Elon Musk announcing just the other day that two individuals, I guess, with some extra spending money …

    MILES O’BRIEN: To say the least.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … have told him they want to go around the moon and come back to Earth.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Yes.

    He got a lot of attention for that. He doesn’t have a rocket to do it yet. It’s just a design right now. It’s called the Falcon Heavy, which would have almost the thrust of the mighty Saturn 5 of Apollo days.

    It will fly for the first time, he hopes, by the summer. So saying there are going to be paying passengers on there by ’18 is optimistic, for sure. So, we will watch that with skepticism.

    But to the extent that the private sector and the government space enterprise sort of push each other toward this destination, a lot of space people are pretty excited about it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, remind us, Miles, why was the moon — it was on the agenda at NASA for a while, but it came off. What was that all about?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Politics.

    Of course, we lost the shuttle Columbia in ’03. President Bush at the time canceled the shuttle program and said, let’s go back to the moon, a program called Constellation. That got some traction.

    And then, of course, President Obama came in and said, we’re not going to the moon. We’re going to Mars.

    And he wouldn’t let anybody talk about going to the moon. There were a lot of people who said, you know, we should try the moon first before we move onto Mars, but that got shelved during the Obama administration.

    Politics now is different, obviously, with the Trump administration there. And I’m told the Trump administration would really like to have U.S. astronauts taking off from a U.S. spaceport some time in its first term. And so this idea of turning that unmanned Space Launch System flight into a crewed mission is gaining a lot of traction.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, Miles, there is this question of money. It costs money to go into space.

    This is a president who has talked about cutting back domestic discretionary spending. Where’s the money going to come from?

    MILES O’BRIEN: You know, it’s interesting.

    You have to look at the entire space enterprise here. NASA’s budget is a little more than $19 billion, but if you look at the budget for the military side of space, it’s about $40 billion. So, what if they reconsider this idea of a space council, which they’re doing, headed by the vice president, and they start looking at ways to carve out and eliminate some of the redundancies between the military and the civilian side?

    There may be some ways, even with NASA cuts, that they can borrow from each other, feed each other technology, as it were, military and civilian, which could be a bit of a force multiplier and could make it still possible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Interesting, because the president has talked about spending a lot more money on defense.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Exactly. So, that money might ultimately help NASA.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Miles O’Brien, taking us to the moon and back, thank you.

    MILES O’BRIEN: To the moon, Alice.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

    MILES O’BRIEN: You’re welcome.

    The post Human moon missions could be on the horizon under Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Uber drivers' cars are parked outside the Ministry of Transportation building during a protest in Taipei, Taiwan February 26, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu - RTS10DH2

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now: two high-flying companies whose value has soared and are the subject of intense scrutiny, Uber, and the parent company of Snapchat.

    For Uber, it’s about the culture and leadership of the ride-hailing service, valued at nearly $70 billion. It’s back in the spotlight following release of a video of its CEO berating an Uber driver. More on that in a moment.

    But, first, Snapchat is about to sell its stock to the public for the first time. The parent company announced it will offer its share at $17 a share, bringing its value to nearly $24 billion. The messaging app is used by nearly 160 million people each day, and is especially popular among teens and young adults.

    But there are big questions about whether it’s worth this kind of value.

    Mike Isaac is covering both these stories for The New York Times. He joins me now.

    Let’s start with Snapchat. What is the value that Snapchat is trying to sell investors?

    MIKE ISAAC, The New York Times: Yes.

    So, Snapchat’s big story is, it’s going to be its next Facebook and not the next Twitter, essentially. One of Twitter’s big struggles, if you remember, when it went public a few years ago, is, it sort of failed to grow fast enough for investors on Wall Street.

    And so, as far as Facebook is concerned, their growth was huge, but Snapchat just wants to say, like, look, this is the next big social network. You want to get in as quickly as possible on the ground floor of this IPO, and we’re going to have the success and strength and reach of Facebook, particularly with younger users.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How does it plan to make money? At one point, it calls itself now a camera company. So, is it a social network? Is it a camera company? Do they make money selling advertisements?

    MIKE ISAAC: Yes, so it’s primarily advertisements. They have little what they call Snapchat stories.

    And publications like The New York Times will show different things inside of their — usually video and photo-based. And then they sell ads against that.

    And then they’re kind of experimenting with other things, whether it’s like e-commerce-related things inside the app. And then who knows? They have what are called Snapchat Spectacles, which are glasses on your face, and maybe they can make money from that. I’m not really sure.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And so part of the reason that it looks like Wall Street is excited is because there hasn’t been a big tech IPO in a while.

    MIKE ISAAC: Yes, that’s right.

    I think a lot of investors feel like they missed out on Facebook a few years ago, especially when the IPO went really terribly for the company, and now Facebook is trading at over $100 a share. So I think everyone is really looking forward to a successful IPO from a tech company. And it has been a bit.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And these two founders have also decided to take a lot of the — I guess the voting control of the company. This seems to be the new thing. Mark Zuckerberg has a tremendous amount of control over his company. Is this the kind of template that now tech CEOs want?

    MIKE ISAAC: I think so.

    And I think investors kind of have a sense of trust that the founders tend to know best and what’s best for their company. Mark Zuckerberg really sort of became the pioneer or advocate for this approach, where, you know, he doesn’t really want to hear much of what investors have to say about how he should run his company.

    And investors are comfortable with that because he tends to be running it really well, and it keeps growing, and it keeps making them tons of money. So that might work.

    (CROSSTALK)

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Sorry.

    Let’s shift gears then to Uber. It’s been in the news recently after a former employee wrote on her personal blog that she had been sexually harassed at the company and that it was covered up.

    Yesterday, Bloomberg released a video of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in a heated exchange with an Uber driver over lowering fares for its black cars service. The argument took place in February.

    MAN: You changed the whole business.

    TRAVIS KALANICK, CEO, Uber: What? What?

    MAN: You dropped the prices.

    TRAVIS KALANICK: On black.

    MAN: Yes, you did.

    (CROSSTALK)

    MAN: We started with $20. We started with $20. How much is the mile now, $2.75?

    TRAVIS KALANICK: You know what?

    MAN: What?

    TRAVIS KALANICK: Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their…

    (CROSSTALK)

    TRAVIS KALANICK: They blame everything in their life on somebody else.

    (CROSSTALK)

    TRAVIS KALANICK: Good luck.

    MAN: Good luck to you, too.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Kalanick later apologized.

    He said in a statement: “It’s clear this video is a reflection of me, and the criticism we have received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.”

    That’s part of the statement.

    So, Mike, why is this apology to the driver and the company so important?

    MIKE ISAAC: If you followed the company for the past seven years, one thing you can say about Travis Kalanick, he’s pretty unapologetic. He’s aggressive. He’s pushed into markets where operating Uber was actually illegal.

    And it’s been a real no-holds-barred approach to operating a company. So, to see him say, I have to be humble, I have to change the type of leader that I am is a real big shift for them. And I’m really curious if he can actually do it at this point.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And this is also a company that is not public yet, but when it goes, if it goes, the valuations are staggering — $70 billion is currently where it’s at.

    Does this call into question perhaps the temperament of this individual and whether he is the right person to run such a big global company?

    MIKE ISAAC: Yes, I think that’s right.

    Almost a $70 billion valuation, I think investors, as well as employees, are wondering, we had this CEO who got us through the really tough early phases. Can this person lead us through an IPO, where people really want a more even keel?

    And I think everyone is still asking that question, but it’s not really clear at this point.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This is in the wake of the revelations of a woman who left the company, and she had this — part of this to say in her blog.

    “It became obvious that both H.R. and management had been lying about this being his first offense, and it certainly wasn’t his last. The situation was escalated as far up the chain as it could be escalated, and still nothing was done.”

    She’s not talking about Travis. She’s talking about one of her managers who she contends was harassing to her, and now there’s a large investigation. This is a big deal for the company.

    MIKE ISAAC: Yes, this is — you know, this is core to how the culture operates.

    You know, it’s very — to take it from Facebook, move fast and break things. But, at some point, you have to sort of clean things up on the inside and change, especially if you want to go public. And I think they’re really facing that question right now. It’s just a question of, can you do it and how long will it take?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For a little while, there was — and there might still be continuing — a delete Uber campaign. Did that have an impact on their business?

    MIKE ISAAC: Yes, it did.

    It was — I would say it’s not a material financial impact, but I have spoken to a number of people who were watching that go down inside. And, you know, there were hundreds of thousands of people that deleted their Uber accounts entirely, and probably hundreds of thousands more that just deleted the app.

    So, it worried Uber, and they definitely tried to curb it pretty quickly.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Mike Isaac of The New York Times, thanks so much.

    MIKE ISAAC: Thanks for having me.

    The post Why Snapchat and Uber are under intense scrutiny over values appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NARCAN48

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: the nation’s opioid crisis.

    Overdose deaths are on the rise across the country, in 2015, surpassing gun homicides for the first time. One of the hardest-hit states is Maryland, where the governor today declared a state of emergency to fight the epidemic.

    But, for more than a year, the city of Baltimore has been training everyday citizens in how to use a lifesaving antidote, an approach that’s catching on across the country.

    NewsHour producer Pamela Kirkland visited Baltimore to find out more.

    MAN: Excuse me, sir, are you interested in Narcan training?

    PAMELA KIRKLAND: Each week, city health workers hit the streets of Baltimore, handing out an emergency medication that brings users back from the dead.

    JOHN HARRIS, Baltimore Health Department: This is the medicine. It reverses overdoses.

    PAMELA KIRKLAND: Naloxone, brand name Narcan, comes as a nasal spray or injection, and works by blocking the brain’s opioid receptors.

    In a city with 24,000 active heroin users, overdoses, and now increasingly this emergency antidote have become facts of life.

    KYRON BANTON, Baltimore Resident: I lost a friend of mine that was — at 25 years old.

    KENNETH SADIQ LEIGHTON, Baltimore Resident: I have just seen so many young people getting hooked on the opioids, or better yet, the fentanyl. And it’s definitely a killer.

    PAMELA KIRKLAND: In Maryland, deaths from opioids, which include heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers, doubled between 2010 and 2015, to just under 1,100 people a year. Meanwhile, heroin fatalities alone more than tripled.

    And in just the past three years, deaths in Baltimore from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid far stronger than heroin, are up 20-fold.

    DR. LEANA WEN, Baltimore Health Commissioner: We have an epidemic of people, fellow residents in our city, who are dying from opioid overdose.

    PAMELA KIRKLAND: In late 2015, Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore’s health commissioner, and a practicing emergency room physician, issued a standing order for naloxone to all 620,000 city residents.

    DR. LEANA WEN: What that means is that, if somebody goes through a very basic training — and we do trainings everywhere, including on street corners, in jails, in public housing, really anywhere that people are — they will immediately get a prescription for naloxone, and even get the medication in hand.

    PAMELA KIRKLAND: Just one dose of naloxone can bring someone back. Residents can buy it at a pharmacy, only $1 for Medicaid recipients. And thanks to a 2015 good samaritan law, there’s no risk of prosecution if citizens intervene and the victim dies.

    KENNETH SADIQ LEIGHTON: I have used it four times. I keep them in my bag. I always keep them in my bag, at least four or five of them in my bag.

    JOHN HARRIS: This is our mobile unit.

    PAMELA KIRKLAND: John Harris works on one of the Health Department’s vans which traverse the city offering sexually transmitted infection screenings, clean needle kits and naloxone training.

    JOHN HARRIS: Well, we tell people that, once you reverse an overdose, then not to use that.

    PAMELA KIRKLAND: He knows what addiction can do to a person, having spent 16 years addicted to heroin. But he sees something different today.

    JOHN HARRIS: There was a lot of fentanyl at first that we were hearing about. But now the clients are starting to come with medications that they use on an elephant, tranquilizers being cut with heroin. There are benzodiazepines. We’re hearing about all different types of drugs. It’s really becoming more complicated and dangerous.

    PAMELA KIRKLAND: Since January 2015, the Baltimore Health Department says over 20,000 residents have completed naloxone training and at least 800 lives have been saved.

    And many more states and municipalities across the country have moved to make naloxone more accessible to the public. But not everyone believes this is the right approach.

    MIKE GIMBEL, Maryland Addiction Recovery Center: We are selling it to the public as if it’s the answer. I mean, it’s an amazing drug, no doubt about it, but it doesn’t change the behavior of the addict.

    PAMELA KIRKLAND: For 25 years, Mike Gimbel was Baltimore County’s director of substance abuse. Now he’s a consultant for Maryland Addiction Recovery Center, a private treatment facility outside the city. And like John Harris, Gimbel is in recovery.

    MIKE GIMBEL: Heroin is the devil. It’s the devil. It makes you do things you would never do you in your life. It took a middle-class, good Jewish kid like me, and had me robing my own parents, carrying a gun.

    That’s what heroin does. That’s how powerful heroin is.

    PAMELA KIRKLAND: He argues that the city and state are spending too much time and money on Narcan training and outreach, and not enough on long-term recovery.

    And as a sign this approach isn’t working, he points to the city’s rising overdose fatalities, up 68 percent for the first three-quarters of 2016 over the same period the year before.

    MIKE GIMBEL: Sometimes, by having Narcan so available, it actually reinforces the addict’s behavior. Why should I stop using heroin, when, if I overdose, Narcan’s going to save my life? Where’s the motivation to stop? It’s not there. It’s not there.

    So, sometimes, yes — and we don’t want to see people die, but, sometimes, watching someone die and watching what happens with overdose and death wakes up a lot of addicts.

    TIMMY HALL, Former Baltimore Police Officer: It’s just a first-responder tool. That’s all it is.

    PAMELA KIRKLAND: Timmy Hall was with the Baltimore Police Department for 24 years, where he routinely saw opioid overdoses. He says officers often use Narcan to revive the same drug users over and over again.

    TIMMY HALL: A lot of times, they get upset with you when you bring them back, because they feel like you wasted the money they spent. You know, that’s the feeling that they wanted. That wanted that feeling, and you took it away from them.

    PAMELA KIRKLAND: But Hall doesn’t see an alternative.

    TIMMY HALL: As a police officer, your first job is to protect and serve, you know? And what officer would want to sit there and watch somebody die, if they got the tools to save somebody? So, Narcan, to me, is a great tool. It’s just a first-responder tool.

    PAMELA KIRKLAND: The Health Department attributes the continued rise in overdoses and fatalities to a rise in far more powerful drugs hitting the streets.

    Dr. Wen says there’s no evidence that denying naloxone to overdose victims helps users end their addictions. Naloxone is just one tool in this fight.

    DR. LEANA WEN: We are just treading water if all we’re doing is saving someone’s life right now. We also know that we have to get them the second part, which is access to long-term treatments, that it’s a combination of medications and some treatments, psychosocial treatments, like counseling. And then other services are important too, including housing.

    PAMELA KIRKLAND: Of course, those all cost money and political will.

    GOV. LARRY HOGAN, R-Md.: Heroin and opioid abuse has been taking lives and tearing apart families.

    PAMELA KIRKLAND: Just today, Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, announced a state of emergency to deal with the crisis, pledging 50 million additional dollars over five years for enforcement, treatment and prevention.

    JOHN HARRIS: It’s got to get better. It’s got to get better. And I believe it will get better. I don’t think perfection exists in anything, but I do believe Baltimore has done a lot of good work, will do some more good work, because we are saving lives.

    PAMELA KIRKLAND: Saving some lives amid a growing epidemic.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Pamela Kirkland in Baltimore.

    The post Baltimore turns to a life-saving opioid overdose antidote, but it’s no cure for the crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    yemenkhal1

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now views on the raid in Yemen and the decision-making behind it.

    We talk to two men with intimate knowledge of the process that authorized the use of military force during the Obama administration.

    Colin Kahl was deputy assistant to the president and national security adviser to the vice president during the Obama administration. He is now an associate professor at Georgetown University. Andrew Exum was deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy during the Obama administration. He also served in the Army form 2000 to 2004 in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Colin, let me start with you.

    We have heard the president say, this was a mission that was started before I got here.

    You were in the rooms where these mission have been discussed for the Obama administration before he left. What did the previous administration leave for President Trump to pick up?

    COLIN KAHL, Former Deputy Assistant to President Obama: Yes.

    Well, for years, the United States has been taking military action against this group, AQAP, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, predominantly through drone strikes, airstrikes.

    What came to the White House shortly before Christmas was a proposal from the Pentagon to expand the authorities and resources to allow special operations forces to more actively engage in direct raids to go after compounds, like the one that we saw in January.

    But a couple of things, I think, are important to note. First, they never briefed a particular raid. They didn’t say, we’re going to go after a particular target or a compound on this night or this day. Instead, they asked for a broad set of authorities to do this type of thing.

    And, importantly, when the deputies convened, kind of a sub-cabinet level of government convened in early January, they recommended that this decision get deferred to the Trump administration, so they could run their own careful process. And President Obama agreed on that, that he would make no decision whether to do things like this, and instead that Trump should run his own process.

    But, instead, Trump had a dinner party and decided it over dinner.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, you’re saying the category of raids was what was discussed, not this specific raid, because we saw reports that perhaps they were waiting for a moonless night, that was the opportune time, it couldn’t have happened in the Obama administration’s last few days.

    COLIN KAHL: I will defer to Andrew, who worked in the Pentagon, on this one.

    But my understanding is that there were a number of concepts of operations that were bouncing around the Pentagon for a long time, and this raid may have been one of them. It was never brought across the river to the White House.

    And as it relates to the moonless night issue, a Pentagon spokesperson said that that issue didn’t become relevant until after January 20, when they then asked for the authority to do the raid to Trump.

    And, importantly, that’s why I think it’s extraordinarily unfair to our men and women in the armed services for Trump to suggest, as he did on FOX yesterday, that somehow this is the military’s fault. He’s the commander in chief. The buck stops with him.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Andrew Exum, fill in that blank there. From the Pentagon’s perspective, what was left for the Trump administration?

    ANDREW EXUM, Former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense: Well, no, I think that that’s an accurate recounting of the way that things were presented to the Trump administration and to the Obama administration before the — before the Trump inauguration.

    I think that we in the Obama administration, those are of us who served in the Obama administration need to be very careful as we criticize the process that the Trump administration used to approve this.

    First off, to approve this raid, it would have gone through several hurdles just through the Department of Defense before being presented to the president. When we in the Obama administration brought these options to the president, it followed a very deliberate interagency process.

    It’s what worked for President Obama. Just because we have seen, quite frankly, a lot of a — lot of mess in the Trump administration thus far in their first month, I think we have got to be careful about saying that we had all the answers during the Obama administration.

    I think Colin would agree with that. This president’s going find a decision-making process that works for him. What happened in Yemen may cause him to rethink the way in which he approved this raid, because you can always delegate authority. You can never delegate the risk. Ultimately, you’re going to own that, as Dr. Gorka mentioned from the White House.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Andrew, I want to — you recently wrote that blaming the president is both inappropriate and counterproductive. You also described sometimes that the process can be paralysis by analysis.

    ANDREW EXUM: Yes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That it can take a very long time.

    ANDREW EXUM: No, that’s right.

    Colin remembers that, at one point in the waning days of the Obama administration, I think we were debating at the Cabinet level the movement of three helicopters from Iraq to Syria.

    Now, there are obvious, you know, political implications of anything you do on the ground. But at what point do you delegate authority down to your commander on the ground, I think, is the key question.

    The reason why I think putting the — putting real blame on the Trump administration here is dangerous is because you have the Benghazi effect. You remember, when the Republicans used Benghazi and what happened there as a cudgel to beat Hillary Clinton, and without — you know their effort was successful, it must be added, to weaken her as a political candidate.

    But it also had a chilling effect on the bureaucracy. It makes the bureaucracy risk-averse. And, quite frankly, that’s not something that we want from our diplomats. It’s not something we want from our special operators.

    We want them to be aggressive. We want them to take risks. And when we elevate the blame, when something goes wrong, all the way to the presidential level, we just have got to be very careful about how we do that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And, Colin, why does it take so long? What kinds of input factor into a decision like this?

    COLIN KAHL: Yes, look, I think that the Obama administration can be criticized for too much micromanagement of the Pentagon.

    I think, you know, the question is, did they swing the pendulum too far in one direction? But I worry that President Trump, in the first big decision that came to his, in this case, dinner table as commander in chief, he swung the pendulum all the way back in the other direction.

    Look, what President Obama insisted on is, every time that the military wanted to come forward to ask for authority to significantly escalate, especially to put ground forces into a conflict environment, where people can die, both our service members, but also civilians and others, that we needed to have a careful, deliberate process.

    It doesn’t have to take weeks. It oftentimes takes a couple of days. But it works its way through, and you get the inputs from all the various agencies.

    The question I have with Trump’s decision-making process here is not that you have to do it exactly the way we did it, but he didn’t run a process at all. He just had dinner with Secretary Mattis and General Dunford and a handful of close advisers and was briefed about the raid and made a decision.

    And, as a consequence, he didn’t have the full benefit of his intelligence professionals, of his State Department. And that is a recipe for making mistakes and costing people their lives.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Andrew Exum, what about the idea that, when there are these different agencies, these different people weighing in on it, that they’re going to think about diplomatic consequences, political consequences, things that perhaps a commander in the field might not think about because, for him or her, they see a much different objective?

    ANDREW EXUM: Yes, it’s a valid point.

    I think the way Colin described things, I think he’s right that the pendulum swung back. I wouldn’t say it went all the way back, because, again, the decision-making process in this raid would have gone through a very rigorous process in the Pentagon. It would have been blessed off by all the Pentagon senior leaders before it would have been presented to the president.

    So it wasn’t completely without rigor. But I think what Colin is describing in terms of baking down the risk, that does happen in a deliberate process like that. The key question is opportunity cost.

    So, in the Obama administration, we had a very deliberate process that in many cases served the president and was what the president desired. It drew down a lot of political risks, as well as the physical risk, to the operators on the ground.

    The question is, was there an opportunity cost? The nature of these raids is, they go after time-sensitive targets. So do you lose opportunities the more that you hold things up in Washington? I think that’s the key question.

    And where Colin and I may disagree, but where I think we do agree, is that there has to be a balance. It’s just a matter of where you strike that balance.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Andrew Exum, Colin Kahl, thank you both.

    The post On Yemen raid planning, where did the Obama administration leave off for Trump to pick up? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: More than a month after a controversial special operations raid was launched on a moonless night in Yemen, questions persist about how that mission was authorized, what it accomplished, and how it’s been explained by the White House and by the president.

    Margaret Warner begins our coverage.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.

    MARGARET WARNER: Democrats and Republicans alike rose to their feet last night the widow of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, who was killed during a January raid in Yemen.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Ryan died as he lived, a warrior and a hero, battling against terrorism and securing our nation.

    MARGARET WARNER: The Trump White House says the raid was planned by the Pentagon during the Obama administration, and President Trump gave the go-ahead during his first week in office.

    The Pentagon intended as an intelligence-gathering mission against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the militant group’s most feared branches. But a gun battle erupted, and Owens was killed, reportedly along with as many as 30 civilians, including children.

    Last night, the president said Defense Secretary Mattis told him the mission would lead to victories in the future.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence.

    MARGARET WARNER: But others question that claim, and last month, Republican Senator John McCain suggested the raid was a failure.

    Mr. Trump respond by charging such criticism only emboldened the enemy, and White House spokesman Sean Spicer joined in.

    SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: I think anybody who undermines the success of that raid owes an apology and does a disservice to the life of Chief Owens.

    MARGARET WARNER: The SEAL’s father, William Owens, refused to meet with the president when his son’s remains were flown home.

    Instead, he told The Miami Herald that Mr. Trump shouldn’t — quote — “hide behind his son’s death to prevent an investigation.”

    The president again deflected criticism in an interview aired yesterday on FOX News, saying he followed the military’s advice.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This was a mission that was started before I got here. They explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected. And they lost Ryan.

    MARGARET WARNER: Today, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham offered this advice:

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Don’t oversell results. The only sin I think a commander in chief can make is exaggerating successes and not understanding the challenges.

    MARGARET WARNER: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Margaret Warner.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And joining me now from the White House, Sebastian Gorka. He is deputy assistant to the president. He advises the administration on national security issues.

    Mr. Gorka, thank you for being with us.

    Picking up on what we heard from senator Graham, did the president fully understand the challenges involved when he signed off on this?

    SEBASTIAN GORKA, Deputy Assistant to President Trump: Of course he did. He’s the commander in chief. He takes his job very, very seriously.

    If you look at the way he’s treated law enforcement, if you look at the way he’s treated the military, this is a man who fully understands the burden of leadership and the responsibility he has as the commander in chief.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, he suggested in that interview with FOX News yesterday that he did it mainly because the generals suggested that he do it, that they recommended it. Is that the case?

    SEBASTIAN GORKA: We don’t give our internal playbook away. That’s what the last administration did. That’s how people get in big, big trouble.

    These are classified operations by our tier one operators. So, he acted and made a decision based upon the best advice of our military. That’s the way it has to work, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, my question is, Mr. Gorka, because we just — again, looking at that FOX interview, referring to the generals, the president said, “They lost Ryan.”

    Does that mean he doesn’t accept responsibility?

    SEBASTIAN GORKA: Of course it doesn’t. And I find it quite churlish when the media focuses on half a sentence here, half a sentence there.

    Why would you even posit that of the president? It’s really unbecoming.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the president accepts, in effect, the buck stops with him?

    SEBASTIAN GORKA: Of course he does. He’s the president. This is a team effort, nevertheless.

    Nobody goes into battle alone, but he is the commander in chief.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We also heard the president say that the raid was highly successful, that it generated a large amount of intelligence that will be valuable, useful for the administration.

    But we also know that there are a number of news organization reporting that senior officials saying that is not the case, that there is not valuable intelligence from that raid. What are we to believe?

    SEBASTIAN GORKA: Is that the same kind of sources that reported all kinds of fallacious things inside the White House?

    The sad truth is, Judy, since I started working here six weeks ago, I find that more than 50 percent of the more sensational things I read are wholly fallacious and unfounded.

    I can tell you because I’m inside the building when those decisions are being taken. So, it’s easy to make up unnamed sources, but the fact is life is a little different from what you would read in the mainstream media inside the White House.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you say to the American people who are asking, why is the U.S. in Yemen in the first place?

    SEBASTIAN GORKA: Oh, very easy, very, very easy.

    As the president pointed out yesterday, we are facing a global threat. It is radical Islamic terrorism. Another great synonym is the global jihadi movement. And the idea that Yemen or another country that doesn’t have adequate governance is not potentially connected to the threat to the United States is, again, a very, very dangerous concept.

    These aren’t just events occurring 8,000 or 10,000 miles away. Remember, Omar Mateen, as he slayed 49 Americans in the Pulse nightclub, stopped to dial 911, not to call an ambulance, Judy, but to swear allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the Middle East.

    That’s just how interconnected the threat is today and how real the war is from the streets of Aleppo right to Orlando.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I want to pick up on the phrase you just used, radical Islamic terrorism. We heard the president say that last night.

    But it has also been reported, as you know, several news organizations, that the president’s new security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, has advised the president not to use that term, in effect because it suggests that all who believe in Islam as a faith, that there’s some strain there that’s connected to terrorism.

    SEBASTIAN GORKA: How does it — A, the reports are, again, false. It’s fake news. Not true.

    You need to talk to General McMaster, who I talked to yesterday before the speech. It’s not what he said. And, again, how does the phrase radical Islamic terrorism link all the believers of a faith to terrorism?

    If I said radical Christian terrorism, does that mean I as a Catholic are a terrorist?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, I’m just trying to understand. So you’re saying the president is not suggesting that there is something inherent in all of Islam that is at odds with Western values?

    SEBASTIAN GORKA: That would be asinine. Of course he didn’t.

    We are dealing with a version of Islam, with criminals, mass murderers, people who run slave markets, that use a religion, use a seventh century, atavistic, blood-curdled version of it to justify their actions.

    But I can tell you, the idea that you can separate jihadi terrorism from Islam is exactly what got us in the mess we are today, with 65 million refugees around the world and with ISIS controlling territory in multiple countries.

    If you talk to Muslims, as I do — I have trained hundreds of Muslim officers from our partner nations when I was in the Defense Department — they will tell you, Judy, this is a war inside Islam for the heart of Islam. We are not at war with Islam. That is a very dangerous and very fallacious idea.

    But we know that our Muslim allies are fighting a war for the heart of Islam. Ask the Jordanians. Ask the Egyptians. They understand the relevance of jihadist ideology in this war.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sebastian Gorka, who is a deputy assistant to President Trump, we thank you very much.

    SEBASTIAN GORKA: My pleasure. Any time, Judy.

    The post Questions persist about deadly Yemen raid and its results appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Donald Trump departs after delivering  his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives iin Washington, U.S., February 28, 2017.  REUTERS/Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool - RTS10VZC

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We take a longer look now at President Trump’s speech last night.

    He promised action on a long list of priorities, including Obamacare, the border wall, public works and regulatory reform. And all of it, he did in a more disciplined, upbeat way than before.

    Lisa Desjardins reports on the day after.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The president called in Republican leaders for a White House lunch, hoping to build on momentum from last night’s address.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It begins as of now, and we think we’re going to have tremendous success.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Vice President Pence took that theme on a one-man media blitz, with 11 interviews on his public schedule.

    VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: What the American people saw last night is the president that I serve with every day: broad shoulders, big heart, reaching out, focusing on the future.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Praise came from top Republicans in Congress as well.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: The president made clear last night he’s ready to work with Congress on policies that can actually move us forward. He will find many partners in Congress excited to get those things accomplished.

    LISA DESJARDINS: High on that list, repealing and replacing Obamacare. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a former Republican primary rival, lauded Mr. Trump for his broad outline.

    SEN. TED CRUZ, R-Texas: The principles he’s focused on are exactly the right principles: more choice, more competition, lower costs, lower premiums.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But Democrats say there was no real substance, and they accuse the president of misleading the public with statements like this:

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Obamacare premiums nationwide have increased by double and triple digits. As an example, Arizona went up 116 percent last year alone.

    LISA DESJARDINS: In fact, while it’s true Arizona’s premiums have gone up by that amount, the president ignored important context, that Arizona is an outlier, with increases four times the national average.

    On immigration, some Republicans say they’re encouraged by Mr. Trump’s comments ahead of his speech that he’d consider a legal status for some undocumented immigrants.

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: He’s showing some willingness to embrace a more practical immigration proposal. I want to give him credit for that. Any time he moves into the land of practicality, I want to encourage him, because that’s what it’s going to take to get a bill passed.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But in the actual speech, there was no mention of legalizing undocumented immigrants. Instead, the president spoke of crimes by immigrants and his plan to crack down on the undocumented.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That claim, too, was challenged.

    Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota spoke with the NewsHour last night.

    REP. KEITH ELLISON, D-Min.: This speech seems to blame undocumented immigrants for a crime. It indicated that clamping down on immigration was actually going to increase wages and make our economy better. The fact is, there’s no facts that support that.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Several of the presidents statements were declared inaccurate by fact-checkers today. Also getting attention, the generally positive tone of the speech.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Democrats and Republicans should get together and unite for the good of our country and for the good of the American people.

    (APPLAUSE)

    LISA DESJARDINS: But Democratic leaders say it’s all a facade.

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: You can’t just talk the talk, Mr. President. You have to walk the walk. And on issue after issue after issue, we haven’t seen anything, or negative things, for the working class.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The president and Congress both soon will see pressure for action increase soon. House Republicans have said they want a draft health care bill by the end of this month. At that point, Trump will be just one month away from the end of his first 100 days.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Lisa Desjardins.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Last night’s presidential address relayed an ambitious agenda. But how much of it will take shape, and does President Trump have enough support on Capitol Hill to find success?

    Joining me to discuss all of that are Dan Balz of The Washington Post and NPR congressional reporter Susan Davis.

    And we welcome both of you back to the program.

    Dan, I’m going to start with you.

    We just heard Lisa Desjardins talk about this was a different tone coming from the president. You wrote about that today in The Washington Post. It was a change from what we have been hearing.

    DAN BALZ, Chief Political Reporter, The Washington Post: It was a dramatic change from what we have been hearing.

    And I looked back to the inaugural address, which was described by so many people as dark or dystopian, the phrase American carnage being one that leaped out at people and has stayed with people, a very downbeat view of things in the state of the nation, the state of the world.

    The substance of last night wasn’t significantly or materially different from what he’s talked about all through the campaign and in his inaugural address, but the tone was so much different. He talked about unity repeatedly. He talked about cooperating with Democrats. He talked about a spirit of American renewal.

    And it was — it was a speech that was certainly aimed at reassuring his congressional Republican allies that he will be presidential, if you will, going forward, that he will be serious about trying to get these things done, and that he will not be seeking to create diversion and digression and controversies.

    Whether he’s able to stay with that, we don’t know. I mean, this was only one speech, and we know the history of Donald Trump is that there are moments when he — you know, he goes in directions that even his staff doesn’t want. But for that hour in the House chamber last night, he was the Donald Trump that a lot of elected officials have wanted to see for a long time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Sue Davis, it was a confident-sounding speech, as if he expects these things to happen. How much of what he’s done and what he said he’s going to do so far is actually taking effect?

    SUSAN DAVIS, NPR: Well, let’s start with the two top priorities for Congress that we know, health care and taxes.

    And his remarks in the speech last night, it’s like they could have been written by House Speaker Paul Ryan. And the speaker’s office has been saying, there’s no daylight between us. There’s no daylight between us.

    But the president is fairly erratic. He has tweeted different things on positions at different times that have contradicted the speaker. And they saw the speech as incredibly reassuring, as Dan said, not only that they’re on the same page, but that the president is capable of using the moment to show leadership to sort of build the case for these conservative ideas.

    Republicans say health care is on track. They expect to see a bill within weeks, not months. And they saw the president’s speech last night as an almost tacit endorsement of this plan that’s emerging from the House.

    The fight that’s going to be really interesting is that there is a group of conservatives in the Senate, namely Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Mike Lee of Utah, who are — could be an immovable force on this, who say it is not conservative enough.

    And we’re going to see this really interesting test of conservatism and the conservatives that bedeviled past leaders in Congress and Donald Trump, and who is going to win out this fight. And I talked to Rand Paul today, and he said, what has emerged from the House, he will not vote for.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Dan Balz, to what extent is the White House prepared for that kind of pushback from people in their own party?

    DAN BALZ: Well, I think they are prepared.

    I think they know it’s there. They have been getting pushback for some time. There is not only opposition from conservatives on Capitol Hill. There is division among the Republican governors — put aside the Democratic governors — over what to do with Medicaid.

    If you were a state that expanded Medicaid, you have got one view of that. And if you didn’t, you have got another view of that. There are divisions.

    I think the administration today feels that, as a result of the speech, people who have been reticent to support him or openly hostile to what is taking shape in the House might be a little more amenable to working with the administration.

    Secretary Price from HHS and the vice president, Mike Pence, are going to be the point people from the administration. I think one question is to what extent the administration will, in fact, put down a proposal and move toward Congress or wait for Congress to really do it and then come in at the end.

    I think Congress would like the president to lead as effectively as he can, in part, I think, to try to create the consensus that doesn’t exist today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And then, Sue Davis, there’s immigration, where — I happened to be at a lunch with the president yesterday where he was talking about he liked want idea of an immigration bill, if he could get the two sides to compromise. He didn’t talk very much about comprehensive immigration reform last night.

    He talked about the wall. And we know there’s that travel ban, renewed version of that. But what is the mood? What are the attitudes on the Hill about immigration?

    SUSAN DAVIS: Well, here’s what we know is going to happen.

    In a couple of weeks, he’s going to send a request to Congress asking for undetermined amounts of millions of dollars to start building that wall. But immigration — comprehensive immigration reform hasn’t really been part of the conversation on the Hill.

    It wasn’t part of the agenda outlined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Ryan at the beginning of the Congress. I talked to the speaker’s office today that said it’s still not necessarily at the top of the agenda. But if the president decides that he wants this to be a priority, he has tremendous power to make it a priority and upend what the congressional schedule is.

    I think, on that issue, where I think Congress is trying to take the lead on things like health care and taxes, on immigration, I think they’d like to see the White House be a little bit more assertive and outline specifically what the president would like to do, specifically because that issue was such a core, center point of his campaign.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just finally to the two of you — and I hate to ask you to do this quickly — but, Dan Balz, the president really mentioned tax reform only briefly last night, taxes at all.

    What does it look — what does the atmosphere look like? What are the realities in terms of getting tax reform done this year?

    DAN BALZ: Well, it will be very challenging.

    Just simply getting the health care bill through will be potentially a year-long effort, as we saw in the Obama administration. On taxes, they don’t have a plan at this point. And health care will have to go first. Taxes will have to follow. There are questions about what he really wants to do.

    He provided no details of that last night. He provided some principles on health care at least. On tax reform and tax legislation, he offered nothing of substance beyond kind of a generalized notion of what he wants.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Did you pick up anything on that, Sue?

    SUSAN DAVIS: I see the fates of health care and taxes linked.

    If the repeal and replace effort falls apart, I think tax reform falls apart. If repeal and replace, if they’re able to get something to the president’s desk, I think that that increase the chances that they can actually move on taxes this year.

    I don’t think they can be seen as separate tracks. I think they have to move together.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it is an ambitious agenda.

    SUSAN DAVIS: Extremely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re talking health care. We’re talking — and we didn’t even mention infrastructure, which is something the president has said he wants to get done too.

    But we’re going to leave it there for now. We thank both of you for talking to us, Dan Balz of The Washington Post, Susan Davis of NPR. We thank you.

    SUSAN DAVIS: Thank you.

    DAN BALZ: Thank you.

    The post After a confident speech, which priorities can Trump achieve? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump is looking to move ahead, in the wake of his address to Congress. He won praise today from Republicans, while Democrats warned that his more moderate sound belies his real intentions.

    Wall Street’s reaction to the president’s business-friendly tone was euphoric. The Dow Jones industrial average shot up 300 points to close above 21000 for the first time. The Nasdaq rose 78 points, and the S&P 500 added 32. We will take a closer look at what the president said and what comes next after the news summary.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There’s word the president’s revised travel ban will no longer include citizens from Iraq. It had been one of seven nations included in the initial ban that’s still tied up in federal court.

    The Associated Press also reports Syrian refugees will no longer be barred indefinitely under the revised order. And it drops any explicit exception for Christian and other religious minorities in Muslim nations. The White House now says the new order will come in the next few days.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tornadoes ripped across part of the Midwest last night, killing three people and damaging more than 100 homes. The National Weather Service says it had reports of more than 20 twisters. Some of the worst damage came in Illinois and Missouri.

    This morning, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner surveyed extensive damage in the town of Ottawa.

    GOV. BRUCE RAUNER, R-Ill.: We got to count our blessings. This could have been way worse. The warnings systems worked well. People were notified. And it’s wonderful the way the residents in the community helped each other. They got to elderly residents, gave them a warning that tornadoes were coming. People got into their basements.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Forecasters say about 95 million people are in the path of the same storm system as it moves east.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, a staggering statistic out of Chicago: The Windy City had no measurable snow during January and February for the first time in 146 years, while, in California, there’s been so much snow, that a five-year-long drought may finally be over. Crews already measured the state’s snowpack once, and did so again today, after one of California’s wettest winters on record.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Afghanistan, twin Taliban bombings, and a lengthy shoot-out, killed at least 16 people in the capital, Kabul. More than 100 others were wounded.

    In the first attack, a suicide car bomber targeted a police station, touching off a gun battle that lasted hours. Later, an attacker on foot blew himself up outside the Afghan intelligence service.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The United States today delivered a sharp rebuke to the U.N. Human Rights Council over Israel. Washington has long argued the 47-nation body unjustly focuses on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

    In Geneva today, U.S. envoy Erin Barclay said the council has — quote — “an obsession with Israel” that undermines the group’s credibility.

    ERIN BARCLAY, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Assistant: The United States will oppose any effort to delegitimize or isolate Israel, not just in the HRC, but wherever it occurs. When it comes to human rights, no country should be free from scrutiny, but neither should any democratic country be regularly subjected to unfair, unbalanced and unfounded bias.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The critique comes amid reports the Trump administration is considering quitting the council altogether.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, the U.S. Senate easily confirmed Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke as secretary of the interior. The 55-year-old Republican and former Navy SEAL has pledged to revitalize the country’s national parks. He has also said he will resist efforts to sell or transfer federal lands.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And Danish toymaker LEGO has announced plans for a new set honoring five women who were pioneers at NASA. The collection will feature computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, mathematician Katherine Johnson of “Hidden Figures” fame, astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, and astronomer Nancy Grace Roman. The set will be released later this year or early 2018.

    The post News Wrap: Deadly tornadoes rip across the Midwest appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump pledged to boost defense spending as he basked in the nation’s military might aboard a next-generation Naval aircraft carrier on Thursday.

    Wearing an olive green military jacket and blue ball cap, Trump vowed to mount “one of the largest” defense spending increases in history.

    “Hopefully it’s power we don’t have to use, but if we do, they’re in big, big trouble,” Trump said.

    Trump spoke from the Gerald R. Ford, a $12.9 billion warship that is expected to be commissioned this year after cost overruns and delays. He touted his spending plans, saying he would provide “the finest equipment in the world” and give the military the “tools you need to prevent war.”

    READ MORE: Trump budget will hike defense spending by $54 billion

    The president also toured the carrier and met with sailors and military leaders. He saluted the sailors as he arrived on the carrier.

    Before his remarks, Trump was asked about the revelation that Attorney General Jeff Sessions twice talked with Moscow’s U.S. envoy during the campaign, contact that seems to contradict Sessions’ sworn statements to Congress during his confirmation hearings.

    While there were mounting calls for Sessions to resign or recuse himself, Trump stood by Sessions on Thursday, saying he had “total” confidence in his attorney general. Asked if Sessions should recuse himself, Trump said: “I don’t think so.”

    Trump also said he “wasn’t aware” that Sessions had spoken to Russia and said that he “probably did” speak truthfully to the Senate.

    READ MORE: Should Jeff Sessions recuse himself from ongoing Russia investigation?

    During his trip to Newport News, Trump was joined aboard Air Force One by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

    A draft budget plan released earlier this week by the White House would add $54 billion to the Pentagon’s projected budget, a 10 percent increase. The U.S. currently spends more than half trillion dollars on defense, more than the next seven countries combined.

    “To keep America safe, we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war,” Trump said in his address to Congress on Tuesday night.

    Trump, in his 2016 campaign, repeatedly pledged to rebuild what he called the nation’s “depleted” military and told supporters at Regent University in Virginia Beach in October that the region’s naval installations would be “right at the center of the action with the building of new ships.”

    MORE: Who is H.R. McMaster, Trump’s new national security adviser?

    He often argued that the U.S. military is too small to accomplish its missions and pledged to put the Navy on track to increase its active-duty fleet to 350 ships, compared to the current Navy plan of growing from 272 ships to 308 sometime after 2020.

    The PCU Gerald R. Ford CVN 78, located at Newport News Shipbuilding, will be the first of the Navy’s next generation of aircraft carriers and is expected to accommodate some 2,600 sailors.

    Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress, his first as president, included his past calls for repealing the “defense sequester,” or across-the-board budget cuts instituted by Congress. He will need the repeal to achieve the kinds of increased defense spending that he is seeking.

    The post WATCH: Trump promises to boost defense spending appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is sworn in  before testifying at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Jan. 20. He was confirmed by the Senate on Mar. 2.  Photo by Carlos Barria/REUTERS

    Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is sworn in before testifying at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Jan. 20. He was confirmed by the Senate on Mar. 2. Photo by Carlos Barria/REUTERS


    The Senate has confirmed former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to serve as energy secretary under President Donald Trump.

    The vote was 62-37 on Thursday.

    Perry — who once pledged to eliminate the department — has repeatedly promised be an advocate for the agency and to protect the nation’s nuclear stockpile. Perry also has said he’d rely on federal scientists, including those who work on climate change.

    Perry has said he’ll work to develop American energy in all forms — from oil, gas and nuclear power to renewable sources such as wind and solar power.

    READ MORE: Scientists give Rick Perry mixed grades on his confirmation hearing

    Democrats say they accept Perry’s disavowal of his 2011 pledge to abolish the Energy Department. But they’re worried he may not stand up to GOP proposals to slash the department’s budget.

    Perry served 14 years as Texas governor. He said he was for “all of the above” on energy production, from oil and gas to renewable sources like wind and solar power, before former President Barack Obama embraced the strategy.

    The post Senate confirms former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as energy secretary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he will recuse himself from a federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 White House election.

    Democrats and Republicans have called for Sessions to recuse himself from the DOJ’s investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections, after reports Wednesday indicated Session had twice met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2016, while serving as a senator and also an adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign. Sessions’ conversations with the ambassador seem to contradict his sworn statements to Congress during his confirmation hearings.

    READ MORE: Should Jeff Sessions recuse himself from ongoing Russia investigation?

    At a news conference Thursday, Sessions says he should not be involved in investigating a presidential campaign he had a role in.

    Sessions told reporters he didn’t lie when he testified during his confirmation hearing that he had no interaction with Russians during the 2016 election campaign.He rejected any suggestion that he tried to mislead anyone about his contacts with the Russian, saying, “That is not my intent. That is not correct.”

    But he says he “should have slowed down and said ‘but I did meet with one Russian official a couple of times.'” Sessions continued to draw a distinction between his conversations with the Russian ambassador in his role as a senator and his role in the Trump campaign.

    Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente will handle any matters related to investigation.

    READ MORE: What we know about U.S. investigations into Russia and possible ties to Trump’s campaign

    The Justice Department said there was nothing improper about the meetings. Sessions insisted he never met with Russian officials to discuss the campaign.

    President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday aboard the USS Gerald Ford — before Sessions’ news conference — that he didn’t think Sessions needed to recuse himself. House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a news conference earlier in the day that Sessions should recuse himself only if he is the subject of a DOJ investigation.

    Congress has been “presented with no evidence that anyone on the Trump campaign or an American was involved in colluding with the Russians,” Ryan said.

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    Boys fight for the ball during their soccer practice at a park in Mumbai, India March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade - RTS112XC

    Photo by Shailesh Andrade/Reuters.

    Boys fight for the ball on March 2, 2017 during soccer practice at a park in Mumbai, India .

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    collins

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally, our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask interesting people to share their passions.

    Tonight, comedian Michelle Collins on the abundance of white men hosting late-night talk shows.

    MICHELLE COLLINS, Comedian: I’m tall. I come from tallish people. I’m 6’1”. In roller blades, I’m like 6’9”.

    Its great for dating. I have a lot of guys who are like, we love she’s so big. We love that so much.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MICHELLE COLLINS: What if I had a full meltdown and just, Barbara Walters, started sobbing?

    I am so happy with how life turned out for me. It’s great. I found a place that sells long jeans. You know, ever since then, it’s been just like really, really wonderful.

    Like namaste, but classy.

    I love makeup. I’m a Sephora rouge member. That means they just take it directly out of my paycheck.

    When people are like, what’s your look, I always say slutty panda. Like, smoke me out here to the hairline. Do like a pop of gloss, Amadeus-style, center of the lips, and just push me into traffic.

    I love a contour. Men are very unlucky, because, if you are like a bloated man, well, you’re pretty much (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

    You have to bleep it. It’s PBS.

    Women, we can paint a day of the dead skull on top of our own face and pretend that that is what we look like.

    My mom is my biggest publicist. She is in Miami. She used to work at J. Crew. Her name is Judy. They called it Judy Crew.

    Every time people came into J. Crew, she, with their pants, would like submit a head shot of mine, be like, enjoy your cashmeres. This is my daughter. She lives in New York. She’s very successful.

    The big picture for me has always been having my own late-night show. Let me do that again late-nighty. It’s all white guys hosting late-night shows right now. It’s fine. I don’t think it’s a problem.

    I love that Samantha Bee is hosting “Full Frontal” on TBS.

    I just feel like talking about white guys in late night is the new white guy on late night. It’s so boring. It’s so played out. We all know what’s happening. Let’s just move on and change it.

    If you’re a really funny woman, of course it’s a great time right now. I think it was a great time 10 years ago, when you had Kathy Griffin; 20 years ago, you had Joan Rivers.

    Can I be honest? I find it annoying that funny women always have to talk about being a funny woman. It’s frustrating to me, because I feel like I’m above that. I’m a funny person. Like, why do I have to now harp on how many funny women there are? We’re not charity cases. We’re talented. It’s, like, done.

    I am Michelle Collins. And this is my Brief But Spectacular take on stop asking me what it’s like to be a woman in comedy.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You can find more Brief But Spectacular videos on our Web site. That’s at pbs.org/newshour/brief.

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    The classic metal Slinky. Photo: Roger McLassus

    The classic metal Slinky. Photo by Roger McLassus/Creative Commons

    You know the Slinky, but have you ever wondered how it walks down stairs, or why it appears to hang in midair when dropped? Scientists have peered into these phenomena for decades, but now a Princeton professor has mathematically proved that the answers can be found in your junior high physics class.

    Slinkies gets their “walking” ability from two properties: wave motions and Newton’s laws. When a Slinky sits atop a staircase, gravity acts on the toy, keeping it still. Knock over the Slinky, and Newton’s second law comes into play. As middle school physics class may have taught you, this law states that providing force to an object increases its acceleration. Gravity begins to provide this force, as soon as the Slinky is cast down a stairway. This motion is sustained through a directional wave that ricochets throughout the coil and stops when the toy hits the bottom of the stairs. Contrary to how it looks, the Slinky doesn’t walk, it somersaults.

    A rainbow Slinky somersaults down a staircase Photo: Getty

    A rainbow Slinky somersaults down a staircase Photo via CRC_Studio/Getty Images

    “This is all simple Newtonian physics. Force equals mass times acceleration,” said Bob Vanderbei, a mathematician at Princeton University. But the Slinky captivates both scientists and YouTube stars alike because when dropped from a great height, it appears to “float” for a split second. Scientists have been researching this phenomenon for more than 25 years using high speed cameras, mathematical proofs and lots of Slinkies.

    Vanderbei recently wrote an article for American Mathematical Monthly that quantified the reasons why the falling slinky acts this way.

    “It’s the combination of the Slinky pulling upward and gravity accelerating downward, and those two effects cancel each other out,” Vanderbei said. Both of these effects can be explained by relatively simple algebra, and some not so simple calculus.

    Vanderbei illustrates the falling Slinky. Photo: Robert Vanderbei

    Vanderbei illustrates the falling Slinky. Photo by Robert Vanderbei

    You can think of the Slinky coils as being 98, loosely connected objects. When one coil hits another, the center of mass is transferred down the slinky as it begins to bunch together. You can see an interactive model of this on Vanderbei’s website.

    “There is no floating effect,” said Michael Wheatland of the University of Sydney, who has also studied the Slinky. “The center of mass falls with acceleration g. It’s just that the coils above the center of mass fall faster, and the ones below slower.”

    Because the falling slinky is governed by simple Newtonian physics, the force of gravity is really the only constant you need. This concept means if you dropped a slinky from a helicopter, barring the fact that there would be wind from the rotors blowing in every direction, these falling slinky physics would still apply.

    “The scale of things doesn’t matter, as long as we are here on Earth,” Vanderbei said. “Things don’t change if gravity is constant, but if we were extending [the Slinky] from the moon to the Earth, that would be a very different setup.”

    In this scenario, the collapse of this 238,000-mile long Slinky would take hours or maybe even days at such a large scale, and that’s not to mention the effect of the moon’s gravity tugging on the Slinky too. Also, given that the Earth is spinning once per day, things would get messy. Good luck untangling a Slinky wrapped from Beijing to Beirut.

    Vanderbei couldn’t really think of any practical applications for the falling Slinky, but he believes the toy is great for getting people interested in the field of mathematics.

    The post Click this linky and learn the secrets of the Slinky appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    artofwar

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: This April marks 100 years since the United States joined the side of the Allies in World War I. The Great War wasn’t only joined in the trenches, but in the culture in different ways as well.

    An exhibit in Philadelphia explores how American artists grappled with a divisive conflict that produced powerful images for and against it.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I Want You, about as direct as it gets, an iconic image from World War I.

    The Flower of Death, an evocative title for a painting by an American soldier named Claggett Wilson, that captures some of the close-up horror of the war.

    Just some of the ways American artists responded to a cataclysmic, world-shattering and -shaping event, the subject of a major new exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia titled World War I and American Art.

    Co-curator Robert Cozzolino:

    ROBERT COZZOLINO, Co-Curator: At heart, this is a human interest story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You mean the whole war, as big as it was?

    ROBERT COZZOLINO: You have these artists who are thinking, basically, here’s this huge global conflict going on. How do I make sense of it? And how do I also bring it down to a human level and express either dissent, an urgency for America to take part in it, or to just express what’s at stake?

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Great War began in Europe in 1914. The U.S. didn’t join until three years later, after an intense public debate over entering a foreign conflict.

    Artists weighed in on both sides. John Sloan’s After the War, a Medal, Maybe a Job in 1914 was one of the earliest anti-war drawings.

    Marsden Hartley was conflicted. He lived in Germany and fell in love with a German military officer killed in the war, who Hartley depicted in a series of paintings.

    Childe Hassam on the other hand, active in the pro-interventionist movement in New York, streamed flags across his canvasses in support of the allies.

    And George Bellows, an early opponent of the war, was moved to support it by a U.S. government report, later disputed, of German atrocities.

    ROBERT COZZOLINO: He’s swayed that he has to show what happened.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And he swayed, big time, because this is an atrocity painting, right, on a large scale.

    ROBERT COZZOLINO: Yes, he makes these history paintings about this contemporary event, and he’s showing the brutality of these atrocities being committed to citizens. He’s showing it at its most visceral.

    JEFFREY BROWN: More directly, the U.S. government commissioned artists to create propaganda posters as part of an agency to influence public opinion, calls to enlist in the military, and invest in the war effort, questioning the masculinity of fighting age men, and the consequences of inaction.

    Anne Classen Knutson is another of the show’s curators.

    ANNE CLASSEN KNUTSON, Co-Curator: You have seen this image a hundred different times, and this is where it begins.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    ANNE CLASSEN KNUTSON: James Montgomery Flagg, a famous illustrator, created Uncle Sam. He loved himself so much, he created Uncle Sam in his own visage, so this is James Montgomery Flagg as Uncle Sam.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Oh, really?

    ANNE CLASSEN KNUTSON: “I want you.”

    And it was so well-known, it was reused over and over again in the 20th century.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right next to it, though, a very different kind of image.

    ANNE CLASSEN KNUTSON: One of the subtexts of this, people before the war were very worried that immigrants were going to come — and these are not my words — these are their words — and dilute our white American bloodlines.

    So this is an image of that, that fear of immigrants.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Immigrants, and also African-Americans, I assume.

    ANNE CLASSEN KNUTSON: Also using — Tarzan was a hot topic at the time. The novels were coming out, and he was using caricatures of African- Americans as well. And they were very feared during the war and not treated well.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Other work from the era countered that imagery, showing a normalized, patriotic black life in a culture that continued to discriminate against it.

    Kelli Morgan is a curatorial fellow with academy.

    KELLI MORGAN, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts: We have families.

    African-American people are, like I said, a very integral piece of the American fabric, that we are meant to be here. This is our country, just as much as it is anybody else’s. And also to really show — or to play up that narrative of, these are America’s sons. These are America’s husbands. These are America’s fathers, just like their white counterparts.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Blacks served with distinction abroad, but faced renewed discrimination back home. And soon after the war, race riots broke out around the country, a kind of backlash, says Morgan.

    KELLI MORGAN: Because there was a sense that African-American men, particularly veterans, had kind of gotten out of their place, so this idea of bravery and subjectivity and autonomy in particular couldn’t stand.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The war would be represented in numerous other ways.

    Georgia O’Keeffe, conflicted about the U.S. role and worried about a brother about to be sent to fight, painted this red flag enveloped in smoke.

    Official artists, including George Harding, were embedded in the fighting, a first for the U.S. military in a foreign war.

    ROBERT COZZOLINO: You get this heightened sense of what it must have felt like to have a tank running towards — moving towards the trench you’re in.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Edward Steichen served as an aerial photographer, as planes were used on a wide scale in war for the first time.

    Photographs like these, shown in newspapers, influenced abstract paintings by the likes of John Marin. One strikingly direct and haunting use of art in the war, masks made by sculptor Anna Coleman Ladd for disfigured soldiers.

    The painter Horace Pippin fought, was injured, and wrestled with the aftermath of his experience for years to come. An African-American, he served with the famed Harlem Hellfighters, a renowned infantry of black soldiers.

    ROBERT COZZOLINO: The war has these echoes for all the people who lived through it into the 1920s and ’30s. It stays with them and it becomes an integral part to the kinds of art that they’re making.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Perhaps the most famous artistic image of World War I is the epic, 20-foot-long painting by John Singer Sargent titled Gassed, a line of wounded soldiers blinded in a gas attack, a mustard yellow pallor, a game of soccer in the background, as life goes on, while figures writhe in the foreground.

    ROBERT COZZOLINO: And it seemed to him the perfect analogy for the way people have been talking about the First World War, the blind leading the blind.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In all, some 17 million soldiers and civilians would die in the war, including more than 100,000 American military personnel.

    It brought huge changes, but wasn’t, as first claimed, the war to end all wars. The exhibition’s final room shows work from its aftermath, and two that bookend its heights and depths, the flag-waving celebration of George Benjamin Luks’ Armistice Night and John Steuart Curry’s Parade to War allegory from 1938, as soldiers again march toward a great foreign war, their faces already becoming skeletons, images of war that reverberate to today.

    From the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the PBS NewsHour.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The World War I exhibition will travel next to New York in the spring and then to Nashville in the fall.

    The post How American artists captured the Great War up close appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Jon Snyder. Courtesy: Pop Up Magazine

    Photo by Jon Snyder. Courtesy: Pop Up Magazine

    The year 1991, journalist Kelley L. Carter argued Tuesday before an audience of 1,000 in Washington D.C., was the best and worst year ever for black America.

    It was the year of Jamie Foxx in “Living Color,” of Michael Jordan’s first appearance in an NBA final, of an explosion of rap and hip hop and Michael Jackson. Images of Foxx and Jordan flashed on a giant screen as she spoke; Jackson’s album “Dangerous” played underneath her. It was also the year of the Rodney King beating, the Clarence Thomas nomination, and the arrest of Mike Tyson for rape. As images of those men appeared, Carter dropped her light-hearted, irreverent tone in favor of something more like a spoken word poet. It was the year, she said, that white people had to wrangle with “how to evaluate the acts of black men.” By the end of her essay, as the screen went dark, the audience applauded loudly — some wondering how they could have missed how much had happened that year .

    Carter’s performance was part of Pop Up Magazine, a touring, performative, live magazine experience that showcases the work of journalists, filmmakers, photographers and other storytellers. The magazine began in 2009 in San Francisco as a sort of experiment. Could a series of shows, structured like a magazine and performed live by journalists, pack performance halls across the country?

    It turns out it could. It’s filled auditoriums and theaters in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, among other places. A physical magazine, California Sunday, has also grown out of the show.

    On Tuesday night, at D.C.’s Lincoln Theater, Pop Up Magazine opened with a radio journalist’s audio tale of the hilarious voicemails left for liquor company customer service lines by intoxicated callers (voicemails, it turns out, that are almost never complaints). It closed with the story of a former Broadway singer who had become homeless and was trying to get past addiction — and then with that singer appearing on stage to belt out “The Man of La Mancha’s” “Impossible Dream,” to a standing ovation.

    It was the live magazine’s first appearance in the city, and over the course of the 100 minute performance, it veered from constitutional law to pop culture, from explainers to advice columns, from true love to true crime. It was live, curated storytelling, but it was not The Moth, because it hung not on the extraordinary stories of ordinary people, but on the reported work of journalists, many at the top of their game. Journalists like science writer Laurel Braitman, who on Tuesday night performed a piece called “Dirty Birds,” in which she recounted a reporting trip to the Aleutian Islands to study the bald eagles that lived there. What she found was that the real-life bird was wild, feral, mostly disliked by locals, and possibly “of bad moral character.” “Is it possible to respect a national symbol once you get to know them?” she asked.

    Like any good magazine, Pop Up Magazine asks you to think. And like any magazine with a prayer for the future, it pushes the boundaries of format: telling stories not only through words but also photos, video, animation, illustration — even a live score from an onstage orchestra.

    For the jaded, the busy, or the distracted, Pop Up Magazine also forces you to pay attention. In part, this is because the show is put on, and then disappears. The show is not filmed. It is not made available online. Like the ephemeral nature of — it must be said — the structures of the Burning Man Festival, the magazine is meant to pop up, hold you for awhile, and then vanish, so that it has your full engagement in that moment. Douglas McGray, the California-based journalist who co-created Pop Up Magazine and also serves as editor-in-chief of California Sunday, said this was the intention from the beginning.

    “We thought it would be interesting to say: we’re going to devote all our attention to the people in the room,” he said. “When you know you can’t rewatch it later, you watch in a different way, you pay attention in a different way, because you know that this is it.”

    Throughout the show, almost no one in the audience seemed to use their phones. The exception was when several ads played — this was, it must be remembered, a magazine. But the moment the ads were over, phones were re-stashed, and people leaned forward in their chairs, entranced again. It felt like a publication meant to be consumed at night, which McGray also said was intentional.

    Instead of fighting for people’s attention to good journalism during their workday, he said, he wanted people to be free to relax, listen, savor. It brought to mind for me an essay I’d once read about the sights and sounds of Grand Central Station, where in the morning, people were harried, unseeing, but at night, they were loose and open to the world.

    Pop-Up Magazine Contributor Jamie Meltzer. Photo: Jon Snyder. Courtesy: Pop Up Magazine

    Pop-Up Magazine contributor Jamie Meltzer. Photo: Jon Snyder. Courtesy: Pop Up Magazine

    Laney Monroe, a photographer who heard about Pop Up Magazine from a friend, told me before the show that she came to see it with no idea what it’d be like and no expectations of what she’d get out of it. But she said that in “skimming through [a magazine] you miss details.” Hearing it, “different details might pop out, and resonate,” she said, in the same way that radio or podcasts can be more intimate.

    Resonate, and then be told again. After the show, people gathered around the theater’s bar to talk about what they’d just heard. Many retold or unpacked stories they liked, such as one about how a student’s C-graded paper motivated him to push — successfully — for the 27th amendment to the constitution. Meghan Keane, a radio producer who attended the performance, said each story felt to her “like a delicious encounter with a stranger that you can’t wait to tell someone about.”

    I went home and recounted at least five of the 11 performances to a friend, spending extra time retelling the haunting-funny performance of New York Time Magazine’s Jon Mooallem, called “About Face.” In his piece, Mooallem told of how he’d discovered he had a doppelganger in a dead Spanish matador, who, unfortunately, was so ugly a book described his face as being “as dreary as a third class funeral on a rainy day.”

    There was the funny ha ha, self-effacing power of Mooallem’s story. But there was also a deeper exploration of what it meant to accept versus try to transform oneself, both for Mooallem and the matador. And all of this was conveyed in under 10 minutes. The performance was also accompanied by Spanish music from the live orchestra, an illustration of Mooallem with an appropriately Picasso-esque face and historical photographs of the matador with his bulls.

    It’s important to note that Pop Up Magazine is gaining ground as most national magazines are struggling for readers, forced to slash newstand prices or shut down all together. But in many ways it seemed that it wasn’t just format of the night that made the magazine something special, but the quality of the stories it put out. Almost every performance was carefully-structured, deeply reported and, in some way, surprising.

    “I feel like storytelling is one of those terms that describes an art, a science, and lately, a cliché too,” Daniel Stone, a magazine writer who attended Tuesday’s event, said “Everyone does it and the market feels flooded. But that seems to allow for really good stories really well told to stand out … Tonight struck me as that.”

    McGray told me he and his team work hard on every piece’s structure, going back and forth on edits, just as any magazine would. “We do that until we get to a point where it moves quickly and it’s entertaining and it takes you somewhere and surprises you and it’s interesting,” he said — and then they add music and art direction. They edit and re-edit the overall structure of the show, too, just as a magazine would. And so the order of a show can change from city to city. McGray said he thinks of the performance like a music playlist — he re-evaluates what people want to hear first, next and last.

    And, just like any magazine, the show had its drawbacks. Some pieces were stronger than others. The ads at times felt disruptive. And there were subjects with which some audience members didn’t connect. But overall, the stories felt like they’d stick. Gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson once complained it was a “damned shame” that a field as “potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks… and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.”

    Journalists have learned in recent, cash-starved years that mediocrity will not suffice. Pop Up Magazine suggests another way.

    Pop Up Magazine, which is on its Winter tour, travels next to New York, Austin, Portland and Seattle. Another show is also in the works.

    The post How a pop-up magazine experiment is turning journalism into performance art appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A screen shows the Dow Jones Industrial Average soon after the market opened on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTS10ZPU

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now let’s turn to the markets and the remarkable rally of late, one that’s led to new records since President Trump was elected.

    William Brangham has the story.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The Dow Jones and other indexes were already doing well when Donald Trump won the presidential election. In fact, from the lows of the 2008 financial crisis through President Obama’s time in office, the Dow climbed back by about 150 percent.

    And while markets closed lower today, the overall jump of recent weeks has accelerated mightily, rising from just over 18000 on Election Day to breaking 21000 this week. In fact, it jumped by 1,000 points in just 24 days. That’s the quickest rise since 1999.

    For some analysis of what’s happening, I’m joined now by Neil Irwin. He’s an economics writer for The New York Times.

    Welcome.

    NEIL IRWIN, The New York Times: Thanks.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Pretty amazing market out there right now. Can you explain? What is going on?

    NEIL IRWIN: So, the simplest version is, Donald Trump is president. His agenda is to cut corporate taxes. His agenda is to deregulate. These are things that are good for the bottom line for major companies.

    Throw in some more military spending, maybe some infrastructure spending, that’s good for the bottom line for corporate America. Add in also, this is a global economy the is kind of getting on its feet after a rough couple of years, rough patch.

    And you combine those things into one period of a few months, and that’s how you get these kinds of rallies that we have seen.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As you say, Donald Trump certainly would like to take credit and has taken credit for this. Does he deserve credit for this?

    NEIL IRWIN: Yes, there is no question that the Trump agenda is something that’s making stock investors confident, that’s leading them to believe that after-tax profits, which is what matters if you’re a stock investor, are going to be on the rise in the years ahead.

    Some of the math is pretty simple. If you’re a bank and you can — your capital requirements gets dropped, if you’re a military contractor and your military spending gets increased, that is going to go straight to your bottom line. Lower taxes, good for the bottom line. That’s all good for stocks.

    So, there’s no question that’s part of the Trump agenda. Now, that said, most of those policies haven’t actually happened yet. So there is still the question of, will the Trump administration deliver the things that Wall Street is now expecting?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It’s an anticipatory effect.

    NEIL IRWIN: Exactly.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You wrote recently that the real question is, how much slack is there in the economy? What do you mean by slack, and why is that important?

    NEIL IRWIN: Every economy, every country has some kind of economic speed limit. There’s only so many people. They can only produce so much stuff.

    The question for the economy is how close we are to that speed limit in the United States. How low can the unemployment rate go? How many more — how much unused capacity is there in the manufacturing sector?

    And that’s the big question going forward. Is there room for the economy to grow 3 percent or 4 percent, like Donald Trump said he wanted to see during the campaign? Or are we pretty much as fast as we can — are we growing as fast as we can, something like 2 percent?

    And that’s the big question of whether this kind of outstanding growth that is being priced into financial markets really can be delivered in the years ahead.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Do you know the answer to that question? If you had to guess, where are we?

    NEIL IRWIN: We’re getting close.

    Look, we’re at under 5 percent unemployment. Now, there’s a lot of people outside the labor market who might come back in. So there is some slack out there. There is some room to grow, but probably not as much as there was a year or two ago. And that will become the binding constraint in these next couple of years.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: A booming market is certainly great if you’re in that market, but not all sectors are booming equally.

    How does this booming market translate, though, for people — does it add to growth that makes a real impact in people’s lives?

    NEIL IRWIN: Look, stock wealth is held predominantly by the affluent, so the distributional effects of a higher stock market are definitely not even across the population.

    That said, to the degree that a higher stock market, a rising sense of confidence in corporate America leads to more hiring, more capital expenditures, that can have broad impacts.

    So, there is reason — if these numbers hold up, if what markets are pricing in, in the Trump administration actually happens, that’s a good sign for growth, for job growth, for expansion of all kinds of businesses.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Given this economy and what you know of Trump’s proposed policies, what specifically about those policies are you looking most closely at?

    NEIL IRWIN: I think it’s execution.

    Is this big corporate income tax cut that the president says he wants to see, is that really going to happen? How soon will it happen? How big will it be?

    On the regulatory front, how much of the shift away from regulation really will be things that benefit corporate America? How much — is there going to be new infrastructure spending? He wants a trillion dollars. Is that actually going to happen? Congress isn’t so sure.

    So seeing if some of these things go from an idea on a chalkboard to actual legislation, actual policy, that’s the big question right now.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I know you’re an analyst and an economics writer, and you don’t buy and sell stocks, but if you had to be advising me, do you think this rally is going to continue? Can it keep up like this?

    NEIL IRWIN: Look, stocks are priced for protection right now. They’re very — they’re highly priced relative to earnings. It’s all prospective.

    So, you’re not buying current earnings. You’re buying the future. And the future is as uncertain as it’s ever been. That said, is there plenty of reason to think that earnings could grow as the market is now predicting? Certainly. To count on it, think it’s assured makes it a bit of a risky bet.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Neil Irwin of The New York Times, thank you very much.

    NEIL IRWIN: Thank you.

    The post Trump’s agenda is fueling investor confidence. Will it last? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    zappos1

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: But first: You might know retailer Zappos for the shoes it sells and its emphasis on customer service. What you may not know about is its quirky corporate culture, and why the company is banking on that for its long-term success.

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, reports, as part of his weekly series, Making Sense, which airs every Thursday.

    WOMAN: Definitely the best port-a-potty experience I have ever had.

    PAUL SOLMAN: From its Porta Party P.R. to its campus in downtown Vegas, Zappos, the online shoe monger, is devoted to different.

    JASON BROWN, Zappos: Let me give you these three rules about wearing wallflowers, as we like to call them.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Wallflowers?

    JASON BROWN: Wallflowers, because you see we have got the wall? And we call them wallflowers.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Front desk dress code enforcer Jason Brown gives visitors three options.

    JASON BROWN: First one is to take it off if it holds sentimental value to you. The next one is to wear it around your head in a bandana, John Rambo-style. And then the last one is to cut, and it becomes part of the collection.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Thankfully, my tie was deemed passably peculiar and thus spared a spot on the wall. Amidst decor both seasonal, lanterns for Chinese new year, and longstanding, like the ShoeZaphone.

    Tony Hsieh took over Zappos 17 years ago, after selling his online ad network, LinkExchange, to Microsoft for a cool $265 million.

    TONY HSIEH, CEO, Zappos: What a lot of people actually don’t know is the real reason why we ended up selling the company.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And that is?

    TONY HSIEH: And it’s because the company culture just ended up going completely downhill. I myself dreaded getting out of bed in the morning to go to my own company.

    PAUL SOLMAN: History wouldn’t repeat itself, Hsieh vowed. So, at Zappos, culture comes first. And that starts with hiring people who will fit.

    PAUL BROWN: I remember coming in, and one of the things was, we’re not trying to hire based off of your education. We want to hire based off of someone I would want to go have a beer with after lunch.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Well, I would want to have a beer with you, and I barely know you.

    PAUL BROWN: Yes. I wouldn’t have a beer. We could have a shot.

    (LAUGHTER)

    PAUL SOLMAN: Zappos’ core values are an obsession: embrace change, be humble, create fun and a little weirdness.

    Musician Tyler Williams heard it was harder to get into Zappos than Harvard. So to be more than a face in the crowd, he sent a video valentine. And when it earned him an interview:

    TYLER WILLIAMS, Zappos: I think one of the craziest questions is they asked, on a scale of one to 10, how weird are you? So, I’m a definitely a 10 on that scale, so I was worried I was a little too weird for Zappos.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Nope, Williams is now a fungineer, the brains behind company galas and other so-called experiences, like Tutu Tuesdays.

    TYLER WILLIAMS: We — probably at the pinnacle of its popularity, we had 50, 60 people that would wear tutus on Tuesday.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Another core value, build a positive team and family spirit.

    TYLER WILLIAMS: So, we put these games on the elevator to hopefully …

    PAUL SOLMAN: Ah.

    TYLER WILLIAMS: That was good — to hopefully stop and play the game, have collisions, have conversations, and get off on the wrong floor, so people would visit different areas that they normally wouldn’t.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Zappos invests lavishly in morale.

    Impress a colleague and H.R. will pay you Zollars to redeem for Zappos swag. Each month, employees can reward a co-worker with a $50 company bonus for going above and beyond. And company largess begets acts of random kindness.

    LETHA MYLES, Zappos: I took a picture of a particular bouquet that I liked, and I posted on Facebook, like, oh, I love flowers.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Letha Myles started in customer service nine years ago.

    LETHA MYLES: The next day, there was a bouquet of flowers sitting on my desk, along with a note saying: “You make us smile, so we thought we would make you smile.”

    PAUL SOLMAN: Birthday balloons abound. Cubicle self-expression is de rigueur.

    But, look, what can the business rationale be for all this? Why would Amazon pay more than a billion dollars for Zappos in 2009 and then let it spend so generously for so long just to make its employees happy?

    TONY HSIEH: I think it’s pretty hard to give great, amazing service if you’re an unhappy employee.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Turns out Zappos’ business is service. It started with shoes, as Amazon did with books, aims to branch out.

    TONY HSIEH: We have talked about one day there could be a Zappos airlines or a Zappos hotel that’s just about the very best customer service and customer experience.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Well-known service, like the 365-day free shipping return policy, managed by customer service reps who start at $14 an hour and comprise a third of all employees and above-and-beyond service. Two flight attendants told me Zappos, when asked, sent pizza to an auditorium full of new JetBlue hires.

    TONY HSIEH: In fact, we just had our longest phone call ever, which was well over 10 hours’ long.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Ten hours?

    TONY HSIEH: Yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But what were they talking about?

    TONY HSIEH: I wasn’t there, but I think they — they bonded.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, for you, to hear that somebody spent 10 hours on the phone with a customer bonding, that’s a good thing, not a waste of time?

    TONY HSIEH: That’s an amazing thing.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But what’s the payoff?

    TONY HSIEH: 2008 was the first year we hit a billion dollars in gross merchandise sales. We’re doing several times that now. And the number one driver through all that history has been through repeat customers and word of mouth.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, Amazon has kept hands-off, while Zappos proselytizes its happy, weird ways, offering daily tours and advising companies that want to emulate it.

    Now CEO Hsieh can be impish.

    TONY HSIEH: Rachel, do you want me to leave? Get it? Leave?

    PAUL SOLMAN: But he can also be seriously controversial. He’s introduced a system called holacracy that, among other things, does away with bosses entirely.

    All Zappos’ 1,500 employees now belong to some 500 self-governing teams called circles.

    CHRIS PEAKE, Zappos: We’re going to start like we do every holacracy meeting with a check-in round. Just call out your distractions. Get here, get ready to process some tensions today and share what you know with others.

    WOMAN: I’m only distracted because I have a super long day of meetings.

    WOMAN: I’m super, super distracted because the application window is open for intern candidates again for the summer, which means we have thousands and thousands of applicants, in the span of a week, up to like 5,000.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So-called tactical meetings are run by a facilitator, according to a rigid format, using holacratic lingo.

    CHRIS PEAKE: Let’s move on to triage, you guys. You can just go ahead and yell those tensions out. And, Rachel, as our secretary, will go ahead and capture those for you.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In the closing round, kudos for efficiency.

    CHRIS PEAKE: A ton of actions. We covered seven items in less than a half-an-hour, and we have like a zillion outputs, which is really great, but, with that, everyone have a great day.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Chris Peake helped with the holacracy rollout.

    CHRIS PEAKE: I would say the best thing about this process is the commitment to action and projects and the transparency to those. I would say probably the most challenging, with Zappos’ culture, you introduced a really rigid process within meeting spaces.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Hsieh believes self-management is key to Zappos’ longevity, allowing it to grow not like a top-down corporation, but a city.

    TONY HSIEH: Most companies, as they get bigger, they become less nimble, less innovative, less productive. Every time the size of a city doubles, innovation or productivity per resident increases by 15 percent.

    When you get more people in a relatively smaller area in a city, then you get this crossover of ideas from different creative types and entrepreneurs and businesses.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But self-organization wasn’t for everyone. So, two years ago, Hsieh offered a liberal severance package to those not sold on the new structure, in fact, to everyone. Eighteen percent took buyouts, hiking the firm’s yearly turnover rate for 2015 to almost 30 percent, though there’s plenty of turnover at customer service firms and plenty in Las Vegas, period.

    But Letha Myles is sticking with it.

    LETHA MYLES: The people who stayed are pretty much saying that they’re willing to commit to learning it and practicing it. You know, let’s still remember, we’re friends, we’re family, and I think that helps us stay true to the process.

    TYLER WILLIAMS: It felt like it took the humanity out of it. But we have worked that back into the process, I feel. And everybody’s voice gets heard, which, usually, in the past, it was just the loudest person in the room, right?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Williams points out that Zappos is now canine-friendly, because it was deemed safe enough to try, a key idea in holacracy.

    TYLER WILLIAMS: In the past, that had been shut down multiple times. And through holacracy, we were able to push that through. I know that’s not a huge deal, but it’s a big deal to our employees.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But Hsieh thinks self-management will accomplish something much bigger: saving Zappos from the fate of most large companies.

    TONY HSIEH: If you look at the Fortune 500 list, which I think came out in 1955 originally, something like 85 percent, maybe more, are no longer on that list. The default fate for most companies is actually death. I want this company to still be around 500 years from now.

    PAUL SOLMAN: This is economics correspondent Paul Solman, still wearing my tie, reporting from Las Vegas.

    The post Zappos is a weird company — and it’s happy that way appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas - RTS117JI

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Questions about Attorney General Sessions’ meetings with the Russian ambassador aren’t limited to Capitol Hill.

    We explore some of those now with John McLaughlin, a career intelligence official. He was a former deputy director of the CIA. He was also acting director of the agency in 2004. And Michael Mukasey, he served as President George W. Bush’s attorney general from 2007 to 2009.

    Mr. Mukasey, I want to start with you.

    At those hearings, at the confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions, I noticed you sat right behind him. I am assuming that you are in support of his recusal today.

    MICHAEL MUKASEY, Former U.S. Attorney General: Yes.

    I think that the step he took was quite routine. What he said is, if there is a criminal investigation, then I should recuse myself, and I do recuse myself. And he pointed out that there is — there are regulations and there’s law on that subject, as contained in the code of federal regulations. And that was quite supportable and quite routine.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mr. Mukasey, staying with you for a second, Attorney General Sessions is somebody who is known for his specificity of word choice, and he expects that, especially of the people that are testifying in front of him.

    So what do you think accounts for either the forgetfulness or not answering the question? Really, what’s gotten us into this?

    MICHAEL MUKASEY: There was neither forgetfulness nor not answering oft question.

    And if Senator Blumenthal is looking for an explanation of the response, he ought to look in the transcript of the hearing before his committee. I hope he was paying attention.

    The question that was asked by Senator Franken was related to contacts between the Russians and the Trump campaign relating to the campaign. And I have got the paper in front of me. He, among other things, quoted a report that said: “There was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries of the Russian government. Now, again, I’m telling you this as it’s coming out, so you know, but, if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”

    It’s all related to that kind of communication. His response was: “Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of these activities. I have been called as a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians. I’m unable to comment on it.”

    The kind of communication that Senator Franken was asking about, that other members of the committee asked about, he didn’t have. He had a meeting in September with — not only with the Russian ambassador, but with about 20 or 21 other ambassadors from other countries, all discussing what the possible foreign relations of the United States would be in the Trump administration going forward.

    This was only one of a number of meetings. And if he wants to find out what the content of that meeting was, maybe he can get a transcript of the attorney general’s press conference today, where he disclosed that he had an argument with the Russian ambassador about Russian activities in the Ukraine.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: John McLaughlin, was this recusal enough?

    JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, Former Acting CIA Director: I think it’s the minimum that the attorney general can do in this circumstance. And I think it was the right thing to do.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Should there be more?

    JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: At this point, I wouldn’t recommend more.

    I think Attorney General Sessions is an honorable man. I think he made a mistake here. One can argue endlessly about whether it was really a mistake or not. The point is, the perception has taken root, and I think he had no choice but to do a recusal.

    I don’t think that that is the end of this story. And I don’t think that the administration can investigate itself on this issue.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Michael Mukasey, I want to ask you. Then-Senator Sessions was one of a group of Trump supporters who took out an op-ed and said that they would like a special counsel to investigate then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch about her conversation with President Clinton on a tarmac, again, during the campaign.

    Why is this different?

    MICHAEL MUKASEY: It’s different for a couple reasons.

    Number one, her conversation with the former president on a tarmac was anything but routine. He got onto her plane, I don’t know how, and had a conversation, to which there were no witnesses, at a time when his wife was under investigation. This is light years from that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: John McLaughlin, the attorney general said today that, look, he — as a senator — and I asked this of Richard Blumenthal as well — this is commonplace for them to meet with ambassadors.

    Why is this particular conversation with this particular individual, why should that be treated differently?

    JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think this is entirely about context. They’re right. People meet with ambassadors all the time all over Washington, and certainly senators do.

    The context here is one that of a president who has been elected in an environment where he clearly spoke favorably often about Russia, where there are questions that remain about his relationship with Russia.

    Leave aside whether there’s anything to it or not, those questions are there. There’s an evidentiary base for raising them. And it’s in that context that the meeting with Ambassador Kislyak gains salience and prominence and stands out and is worth talking about.

    I think it’s entirely that. And I think, ultimately, we will need either a special prosecutor or a 9/11-type commission to get to the bottom of this. And I think those options would be ones that would actually favor the fortunes of the Republican Party and the nation as a whole.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How so?

    JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I think, you know, this is going to hang around the party’s neck and around the president’s neck unless there is an absolutely, certain, dispassionate view by independent observers of what happened here, a determination.

    Among other things, at some point — and I think the president has the right idea when he says, our relationship with Russia needs to be improved. I was in Russia in October, and I saw just how bad it is. It really is very close to a second Cold War. At that time, I came back and said, look, we’re only one miscalculation away from a shooting war somewhere with these people. It’s that tense.

    So, the problem is, for the president, though, in trying to maneuver into a different kind of relationship, a more effective, cooperative relationship with Russia, it’s going to hang around his neck. And people will not trust whatever he comes up with in that relationship with Russia, unless this is all put to rest.

    And I doubt, personally, that the Congress can do this, because it’s too politically hot.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Michael Mukasey, what about that point? For the good of the party, for the integrity of the office, should there be an independent counsel or a special prosecutor assigned to this?

    MICHAEL MUKASEY: A special prosecutor would have to specially prosecute a crime.

    And so far as I’m aware, nobody has identified any crime that was committed here. We don’t have people who are independent of a government. We have a Constitution that establishes three branches of government. One is Article I. That’s the Congress. Article II is the executive. And Article III is the judiciary.

    You have got to be in one or the other. There’s no such thing as a free-flying independent investigation. You can have an investigation that’s conducted by a special counsel, if that’s warranted, but first somebody has to identify the commission of a crime and identify evidence of a crime. And so far that hasn’t happened.

    The only crime that was committed here is the hacking by the Russians. Nobody is denying that. But that’s not the subject, as I understand it, of the current dispute.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mr. Mukasey, staying with you for a second, something I sort of asked Mr. McLaughlin as well.

    Adam Entous of The Washington Post said today they reached out to all — they reached all 26 members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sessions was the only one that met with Kislyak from Russia. Does that raise any flags?

    MICHAEL MUKASEY: No, because he met also with about 20 or 25 other ambassadors.

    I think the reason they sought out those meetings — and it was Kislyak who sought out the meeting, as did the other ambassadors — was that, by that time, Senator Sessions was involved in the campaign. They wanted to know what the American foreign policy would be.

    And all of those ambassadors met sequentially, one after another, with Senator Sessions to dope out what the foreign policy of a Trump administration would be if Mr. Trump were elected and to see if they could press their points of view.

    Apparently, Kislyak pressed his point of view on the subject of Ukraine with no great success, as was reported today by the attorney general.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mr. McLaughlin, I finally want to ask you, what about reports that members of the Obama administration left essentially an intelligence trail of bread crumbs or made sure that certain matters were at different levels of clearance, so that they could be accessed later on?

    JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, I have heard that reporting.

    Of course, we don’t know from the reporting precisely what they were leaving, the nature of the reports, other than the allegation by, I guess, anonymous sources again that they somehow showed a relationship between campaign officials of Trump’s campaign and the Russians.

    I think what the Obama administration was doing here is, I don’t think they had come — this is my view — I don’t think they had come to a firm conclusion that there was complicity, but they saw enough to raise the question in their mind and to convince them that some further investigation was required.

    And I suspect they believed, once again in that context that I described, that, should Trump be elected, someone would have an impulse to not pursue this. So, I think they were just trying the guarantee that it would continue to be pursued.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: John McLaughlin, Michael Mukasey, thank you both.

    The post Why Sessions’ Russian diplomat meetings are raising questions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    blumenthal1

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The reaction to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement late this afternoon was swift. Critics say his decision to recuse himself from any current and future investigations into the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russia doesn’t go far enough.

    One of those critics, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, he serves on the Judiciary and Armed Services Committee and joins us now.

    Senator Blumenthal, why isn’t it far enough?

    SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-Conn: It is nowhere near far enough, because he owes an explanation to the Judiciary Committee. He should be brought back to the Judiciary Committee and give an explanation as to why he omitted and denied key relevant facts in the course of our hearing on his nomination.

    If he fails to provide a credible explanation, he should resign. And it’s also nowhere near enough, because the scope of his recusal is still somewhat undefined. He referred to the campaign, but really the investigation from which he should recuse himself relates to the entire cyber-attack and act of cyber-warfare on our democratic institutions and the potential complicity, connection, contact between the Trump transition, as well as the campaign, and the administration since the inaugural with the Russians.

    And, as more news develops, the Jared Kushner meeting, for example, the need for that broader recusal becomes all the more necessary.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Senator, if you can get the attorney general back in front of your committee, what more do you hope to learn from him?

    SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: First and foremost, why he denied meetings that clearly he recalled and that were relevant to the investigation. What was said during those meetings? What does his staff recall, and what do their notes reflect, and what connection was to the Russians involving those conversations involving the cyber-attack on the United States, our democratic institutions?

    Make no mistake. This cyber-attack was an act of warfare on the United States. And the potential complicity of Trump Organization or campaign or administration officials is very, very serious. And the American people deserve the truth. It needs to be uncovered. The cover-up, if there is one, would be as bad or worse than the crime itself, because we need to deter this kind of attack going forward.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about the attorney general’s defense that he was answering the question that he was asked and nothing more?

    SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Looking at the record, he was asked that question not just once, but several times during his testimony. He was asked that question not just once, but several times in writing.

    And to say that he may have misunderstood the question, when, in fact, everybody knows he had to have been prepped for that question, it was an obvious and challenging question that had to be briefed to him, and he had to go through that preparation.

    And remember also Jeff Sessions is a prosecutor, as I was United States attorney for Connecticut, the chief federal prosecutor, state attorney general of Connecticut. We know the importance of every word under oath. And so I find that explanation inadequate.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: If the recusal is not enough, is a special counsel necessary?

    SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: A special prosecutor is absolutely necessary.

    And that raises another question: How will that special counsel or prosecutor be chosen? And it should be someone who is completely independent, impartial, objective, a professional who can uncover the truth and follow the facts and the evidence wherever they lead.

    And they may lead to the attorney general. They could lead higher and to other administration officials. That appointment or designation will be critical to the trust and credibility of the Department of Justice. Remember, the attorney general of the United States and the Department of Justice are not just any Cabinet position or agency in the government. They are responsible for law enforcement.

    They are the legal conscience and moral compass of our federal enforcement establishment and even of the nation in many respects. And they need to be beyond doubt or reproach.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Should there be an investigation into perjury of your former colleague?

    SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: The investigation should be into any violation of law that has occurred by anyone. And it should be by a special prosecutor who will uncover the truth, so that the American people know about the cyber-attacks on this nation and know about any cooperation or complicity or support the Russians received from anybody in the United States.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The attorney general today, along with Speaker Ryan and others, said, listen, this is part of the job as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. They meet with ambassadors all the time.

    SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: This ambassador was from Russia at the height of the political campaign and of the Russian interference and cyber-attack on this nation, through not only hacking into the Democratic and Republican National Committees, but also the campaign propaganda and misinformation and fake news.

    So, the contacts with the ambassador in terms of timing, who it was, what country and what was going on is certainly more than just routine. I have never met with the Russian ambassador. And the meeting here is certainly more than just a passing occurrence.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But how do you fix this in the future? If members of Congress should be meeting with diplomats or foreign dignitaries when they’re interested or in the interest of their constituents, should there be a public record of every one of these meetings?

    SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: The safer course might have been to have a public record or to postpone the meeting.

    One of the questions to be asked of Attorney General Sessions is, why then, what was discussed? If it was as a member of the Armed Services Committee, what purpose was there in the discussion? Was it to discuss the Russians’ violation of the 1987 ballistic missile treaty, which they are doing now?

    Was it to discuss other acts of aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world? What was discussed? We have a right to those explanations.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, thank you very much.

    SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

     

    The post Blumenthal: Sessions needs to give ‘credible explanation’ or resign appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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