Monday, December 05, 2016

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 12/2/2016

"Shields and Brooks on Mattis, the Carrier deal and Pelosi's re-election" PBS NewsHour 12/2/2016


SUMMARY:  A clearer picture of President-elect Donald Trump's administration took shape this week, and syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss.  Topics include their reactions to Mr. Trump's highest-profile nomination yet, whether the Carrier deal represents corrupt cronyism or a 'political masterstroke,' and Democratic strategy in Congress.

REPAIRING AMERICA - Our Crumbling Infrastructure

"Is crumbling infrastructure inhibiting American productivity?" PBS NewsHour 12/1/2016


SUMMARY:  In recent decades, American productivity growth has slowed.  Yale University's Jacob Hacker has a possible explanation:  the country's outdated and deteriorating infrastructure.  Hacker, co-author of “American Amnesia,” argues the U.S. has forgotten the role government plays in engineering prosperity, and that public investment got us where we are today.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports.

ANNOUNCER:  Attention, please, this is the last call.

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  Mid-morning at New York's Penn Station.  Throngs rush to the 10:00 a.m.  Acela to Washington, D.C. ridership is up and these highish-speed trains are at or near capacity as business travelers chug up and down the Northeast Corridor.

WOMAN:  Amtrak conductor 2153 to the heading.  All stations are cleared.

PAUL SOLMAN:  But they're hurrying up in an America of slowed-down productivity, the amount of output per hour of work rising at just 1.3 percent a year since 2007, compared to more than double that rate from 1947 to 1973.

One cause, America's crumbling infrastructure, like our passenger rail system, some of which dates to the Civil War, causing delays that hamstring the economy.

Wick Moorman worked his way to the top of the Norfolk Southern Freight Railroad, before retiring last year, returning to work recently, at a dollar a year, to steer and revive Amtrak.  Riding the Acela back to New York, he insisted it's not just our railroads that need work.

WICK MOORMAN, CEO, Amtrak:  When you look at the state of our highway system today, which we all get out and drive on every day, in terms of congestion, in terms of the surface conditions, in terms of the fact that we're seeing that more and more bridges have to be closed to rehabilitate, it has to be an economic drag, right?  Highway congestion alone costs this country an enormous amount of productivity.

PAUL SOLMAN:  So, why aren't we investing in infrastructure of the kind that made America great in the '40s, '50s, '60s, government investments that hiked our economy to unheard-of heights of productivity?

So asks Yale's Jacob Hacker.  His answer?

JACOB HACKER, Co-Author, American Amnesia:  We have forgotten the incredibly important role that government plays in our prosperity.

PAUL SOLMAN:  And thus the term “American Amnesia,” Hacker's new book, subtitled “How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper,” because, in the 19th and 20th centuries, prosper, we did.

JACOB HACKER:  We went from being from a relatively poor, relatively under-educated and relatively unhealthy society, to being the richest, the most well-educated and the healthiest society that the world had ever seen.

After World War II, we see the blossoming of this really active investing state that's investing on both non-defense and defense technology and really sowing the seeds for the productivity revolution that occurs during this period.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Government outlays of land for railroads, say, subsidies for airports and waterways that helped make the country one market, speed goods and labor from coast to coast.  Think of Republican President Eisenhower's interstate highway system.

JACOB HACKER:  The estimates are that it accounted for something like a third of productivity growth in the U.S. economy in the late 1950s, and around a quarter in the 1960s.

PAUL SOLMAN:  And what's true of hard infrastructure is true of what were once America's greatest soft productivity advantages:  health and education.

JACOB HACKER:  If you look at older Americans in the United States, they're the most educated older citizens in the world.  But if you look at younger Americans, we have fallen to the high teens in terms of college completion rates.

So, in a new economy that's based much more on knowledge and technology, we're not investing adequately or correctly to get kids through college the way other countries are.

AIDS - State of the Battle

"Despite advances, lingering challenges in the global fight against AIDS" PBS NewsHour 12/1/2016


SUMMARY:  On World AIDS Day, we take a look at efforts being made to improve prevention and treatment of the virus.  While encouraging advancements have been achieved, AIDS is still the number one killer of women ages 18 to 55.  William Brangham speaks with Jon Cohen of Science magazine about recent developments, why adolescents present a particular challenge and securing global funding to fight the disease.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Today is World AIDS Day.  While the death toll from AIDS has dropped dramatically, the virus still claims over a million people every year, and nearly 40 million remain infected.

William Brangham has an update.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  With the growing use of medications to treat and prevent the spread of HIV, some say ending the AIDS epidemic is actually within reach.  But AIDS is still the number one killer of reproductive-age women, and in many places, those lifesaving drugs are barely available.

Scientists are also seeking a vaccine.  A new trial is under way right now in South Africa.  But many remain skeptical.

I'm joined now by Science magazine's Jon Cohen, who's covered this epidemic for nearly 30 years and was a collaborator with us on our recent series about HIV and AIDS.

Jon Cohen, welcome back to the NewsHour.

Let's start off by talking about this vaccine trial in South Africa.  As you well know, you wrote a book about the hunt for an HIV vaccine.  What is happening in South Africa right now?  Is this as promising as some think it is?

JON COHEN, “Science” magazine:  Well, the AIDS vaccine is the Holy Grail.

People can come in, get a few shots, be protected for life.  That's the dream.  In Thailand in 2009, it was revealed that a vaccine being studied there protected people with about a 31 percent reduction in risk.

That's not very good.  That's extremely low, but it was something.  It was the first glimmer of hope.  The vaccine trial in South Africa is building off that Thai trial.  The results from the Thai trial were extremely controversial.  There are people who wonder why that vaccine strategy has moved forward in South Africa, and there are South Africans who argue very strongly that this is a great hope for them, and even if they get some protection, in addition to other protective measures, it could make a big difference.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  OK.  Now let's talk a little bit more broadly

Where are the successes currently in the fight against HIV?  And where are those happening?

JON COHEN:  Well, clearly, preventing mother-to-child transmission has been a huge success all around the world.  It's one of the easiest things to do in terms of prevention.

And some countries like South Africa have reduced it to below 2 percent of pregnant women who are infected passing on the virus.  That's a great success.  Treatment now has scaled up from basically being zero in poor countries around the world in the year 2000 to 18.2 million of the 36.7 million infected people.  Phenomenal success story.

People who are treated and stay on treatment fully suppress the virus and they rarely transmit to others.  So that is leading to hope that epidemics can stop petering out.

TRUMP NOT FILES - The 'King of Lies' Breaks Promise

"After populist campaign, Trump assembles economic team of elites" PBS NewsHour 11/30/2016

IMHO:  So much for 'draining the swamp.'  Looks more like opening the flood gates.


SUMMARY:  President-elect Donald Trump's proposed economic team suggests a preference for Wall Street veterans, in a reversal of his campaign promise to surround himself with establishment outsiders.  Judy Woodruff speaks with David Wessel of The Brookings Institution about the “elite” appointments, the controversial Goldman Sachs background of Steven Mnuchin and why Wilbur Ross carries so much influence.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Well, as we've been reporting, the president-elect began fleshing out his economic team today by announcing his choices to run the Departments of Treasury and Commerce.

In doing so, the candidate, who campaigned with a heavy dose of populism, elevated individuals mainly known for their connections to Wall Street and high finance.

David Wessel of the Brookings Institution and a contributing columnist to The Wall Street Journal joins me now.

And welcome back to the program.

DAVID WESSEL, The Brookings Institution:  Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, David, fill out this picture a little bit more of who — let's start with Steve Mnuchin.  He's the pick to head the Treasury Department.  What more do we know about him?

DAVID WESSEL:  Well, it's just wonderfully ironic that Donald Trump, who railed against the elite, lambasted Hillary Clinton for giving paid speeches to Goldman Sachs, turned to a guy who not only was at Goldman Sachs for 17 years, but is the son of a Goldman Sachs lifer and has a brother who is at Goldman Sachs.

And so he's going — he went to Yale.  Wilbur Ross went to Yale.  It seems to be a very anti-populist kind of move to pick these rich financiers for these jobs.


JUDY WOODRUFF:  Excuse me.

So, we're seeing some comments from liberal Democrats today who put out statements saying this is somebody who made a lot of money at Goldman Sachs when the banks were bailed out by the federal government, and then he went on and there was another — he left Goldman, went on and bought a bank, was involved in buying a bank in California.  Tell us about that.


As you know, some of the Democrats, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, think anybody who has ever worked for a bank shouldn't be the treasury secretary.  I think other people feel — I'm among them — that really having some experience on Wall Street might be a good thing for a treasury secretary.

I think the reason Mr. Mnuchin is controversial is not only that he comes from Goldman Sachs, which is kind of the — has been the centerpiece of a lot of criticism, but he made a lot of money buying IndyMac when it was in trouble.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  This is the bank in California.

DAVID WESSEL:  The bank in California.

And then selling it, making a bundle.  And in between, he got a lot of grief because the bank was accused by consumer groups of being very aggressive on foreclosures.  So it looks like he is a guy who profited off of the financial crisis that caused so much harm elsewhere.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Is that clear that he did profit off the financial crisis?

DAVID WESSEL:  No.  But he profited because he bought a bank that was in trouble cheap, fixed it up and sold it.

So, to that extent, he did make money off of the financial crisis.  But he didn't — he comes from the mortgage business, but he was not at Goldman during the worst of the abuses.

CALIFORNIA - The 'Salad Bowl'

"California's ‘Salad Bowl' is cultivating more than crops" PBS NewsHour 11/30/2016


SUMMARY:  In California's Salinas Valley, known as the "Salad Bowl of the World,” a push is underway to expand agriculture's adoption of technology.  The mobile app HeavyConnect, for example, enables farm managers to track personnel and equipment efficiently.  Special correspondent Cat Wise reports on how such innovation is providing new opportunities for the Valley's largely Hispanic population.

CAT WISE (NewsHour):  As the sun rose over the fertile land of Salinas Valley, California, one recent morning, a group of farm workers waited to sign in for their shift, not on paper, as they normally do, but on an iPad, where an app has their name and job assignments already programmed in.

They are using HeavyConnect, a new mobile communication app designed to help farm managers keep better track of equipment and personnel.  And the team that developed it were out bright and early to check in one of their newest customers, farm manager Sam Brigantino, who works for a large grower called Tanimura and Antle.

Co-founder Jessica Gonzalez walked him through a new update.

JESSICA GONZALEZ, HeavyConnect:  You see the times they worked, and if they had any breaks and meals, it would be in between there.  The jobs they did here, the legal statement.

SAM BRIGANTINO:  Yeah, I like the pull-downs much better on this one.

JESSICA GONZALEZ:  Basically, the functionality and flow is all the same.  It's just an update to the U.I.

CAT WISE:  An app's U.I., or User Interface, is not a typical topic of conversation on most farms.  But scenes like this are becoming more common throughout Salinas.

That's because there's a effort under way by many in the community to make this valley a bit more like a certain high-tech valley to the north.  A very visible sign of that effort is this new Silicon Valley-esque office space.  It's an incubator for ag-focused startups that opened last December in downtown Salinas.

And it's where HeavyConnect and a number of other small companies are now coding away, hoping to break into the $50 billion-a-year fresh produce industry.  And that's just in California.

PATRICK ZELAYA, HeavyConnect:  We believe that, when it comes to ag-tech, if you can make it in the Salinas Valley, you're going to be able to have a product that will be adopted globally.

CAT WISE:  HeavyConnect co-founder Patrick Zelaya is a former John Deere sales manager who has spent a lot of time with farmers.  He says he started the company because he saw a big need for a product that would help farmers get back something they have very little of:  time.

PATRICK ZELAYA:  In large-scale farming, the job is a 14-hour-a-day six days a week.  What's not commonly known is that farmers spend more time on the administration, managing the operation, than they do farming.  So, HeavyConnect provides farmers the ability to know what's going on in their farm operationally without having to be there.

TRUMP NOT FILES - Tom Price vs 'Obamacare'

"Will Tom Price take a 'surgical approach' to revising Obamacare?" PBS NewsHour 11/29/2016

WARNING:  Price and the GOP will be using a meat cleaver for their 'surgical approach.'  You will be paying more or getting less.  Their plan (as always) puts money ahead of actually providing health care.  Their unmoral/unethical plan to just forget about those who NEED health care.


SUMMARY:  Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga) is an orthopedic surgeon and a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act.  He's also President-elect Donald Trump's choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services.  Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Sabrina Corlette of Georgetown University, Robert Moffit of The Heritage Foundation and Sarah Kliff of Vox about Price's background and how he might shape health care policy.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  As President-elect Trump's pick to lead the Health and Human Services Department, Congressman Tom Price would oversee programs as wide-ranging as Medicare and Medicaid.  But, first, he'd help lead efforts to carry out one of Mr. Trump's signature campaign pledges:  Repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

For more, we turn to Sarah Kliff.  She has written extensively on the topic for the Web site Vox.

What do we know about Congressman Price and the plans that he has already had in mind?

SARAH KLIFF, Vox:  So, he's a congressman who has spent a lot of time thinking about repeal and replace of Obamacare.  He's the author of a 242-page replacement plan for Obamacare.  He's the guy you would pick if you're quite serious about moving forward on Obamacare repeal.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Republicans have tried to do repeal and replace before.  Even Speaker Ryan has a plan.  What do these plans have in common?

SARAH KLIFF:  So, they generally cover fewer people than Obamacare.  They would leave a few million people uninsured.  The exact number depends on the plan.  They're generally better for young, healthy people and worse for sick, older people.


SARAH KLIFF:  They have a lot less protections for people with preexisting conditions.

They make it possible for insurance companies to charge more to those who are sick.  That would be a really big change from Obamacare, which outlaws those provisions.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  And then what does the pick say of Seema Verma, who is going to run Medicare and Medicaid, say about this new team that he's putting in place?  She's worked on Medicaid expansion as a consultant for different states?

SARAH KLIFF:  She's incredibly experienced in Medicaid policy.

It suggests to me that the Trump administration is thinking about making some big changes to Medicaid, possibly adding premiums into the program, which serves low-income Americans.

FRANCE - Their 'Alt-Right'

"France's far-right National Front party is on the rise" PBS NewsHour 11/28/2016


SUMMARY:  In France, right-wing populist party National Front continues to garner support, despite critics who say it punishes detractors and silences the press.  The party tailors its ideology to fit different populations; in the French Rust Belt, it has gained favor with the traditionally socialist working class by promising to push back against global elites.  Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports.

JOHN YANG (NewsHour):  France's center-right party has chosen social conservative Francois Fillon as its presidential candidate in next spring's elections.

Then, he could face Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front.  The deeply unpopular current president, Francois Hollande of the Socialist Party, has not yet said whether he'll seek reelection.

Le Pen's National Front hopes to benefit from the so-called Trump effect, as special correspondent Malcolm Brabant discovered when he discovered one of its strongholds in northern France.

MALCOLM BRABANT, special correspondent:  Despite being labeled a medieval conservative, Francois Fillon won the Republican nomination in France's first ever U.S.-style primary by more than 2-1.

FRANCOIS FILLON, Republican Presidential Candidate (through translator):  Victory is mine.  It's a substantial victory built on convictions.  France wants the truth, and it wants action.

MALCOLM BRABANT:  According to analyst Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, Fillon is a fiscal conservative with a record of consistency.

ALEXANDRA DE HOOP SCHEFFER, German Marshall Fund of the United States:  He has strong positions in terms of reducing French public spending.  He wants to suppress around 500,000 public sector jobs.  He has always stuck to the same positions on many issues.  He's pro-Russian.  He says it very clearly.

MALCOLM BRABANT:  Most French commentators expect the Socialist presidential candidate to be eliminated early in next year's election.

At this bastion of the National Front, Henin-Beaumont, they now know who their main opponent is.  Steeve Briois is the town's mayor and the second most important person in the party.

MAYOR STEEVE BRIOIS, Henin-Beaumont (through translator):  There's a global phenomenon today, an awakening.  The people are rebelling against the elite.  So it's a good thing that Mr. Trump was elected.  It's a good thing that Brexit happened in Britain.  It bodes well for us for France.

MALCOLM BRABANT:  This is France's Rust Belt, northeast of Paris.  Slag heaps and heavy machinery preserved in industrial museums are all that remain of coal mines shut down two decades ago.  There's high unemployment.  The working class here have followed a familiar political route of abandoning socialists like President Francois Hollande for right-wing populists.

MARINE TONDELIER, Green Party:  The Front National is like a vulture party.  That's to say that it shows something that is decreasing, poor, complicated, and it tries to seize it, and it's exactly what they did here.

EUGENE BINAISSE, Former Mayor, Henin-Beaumont (through translator):  A wall of silence has descended on the town.  We think we're being observed by the National Front, and anything you say can come back and bite you.

TRUMP NOT FILES - In Violation of Our Constitution

"Why Trump Would Almost Certainly Be Violating the Constitution If He Continues to Own His Businesses" by Richard Tofel, ProPublica 12/2/2016

The meaning of the Emoluments Clause is fairly clear.  And it all goes back to a diamond-encrusted snuffbox Ben Franklin got from Louis XVI.

Far from ending with President-elect Trump's announcement that he will separate himself from the management of his business empire, the constitutional debate about the meaning of the Emoluments Clause — and whether Trump will be violating it — is likely just beginning.

That's because the Emoluments Clause seems to bar Trump's ownership of his business.  It has little to do with his management of it.  Trump's tweets last Wednesday said he would be “completely out of business operations.”

But unless Trump sells or gives his business to his children before taking office the Emoluments Clause would almost certainly be violated.  Even if he does sell or give it away, any retained residual interest, or any sale payout based on the company's results, would still give him a stake in its fortunes, again fairly clearly violating the Constitution.

The Emoluments Clause bars U.S. officials, including the President, from receiving payments from foreign governments or foreign government entities unless the payments are specifically approved by Congress.  As ProPublica and others have detailed, Trump's business has ties with foreign government entities ranging from loans and leases with the Bank of China to what appear to be tax-supported hotel deals in India and elsewhere.  The full extent of such ties remains unknown, and Trump has refused to disclose them, or to make public his tax returns, through which many such deals, if they exist, would be revealed.  Foreign government investments in Trump entities would also be covered by the clause, as would foreign government officials paying to stay in Trump hotels, so long as Trump stands to share in the revenues.

One misconception about the Emoluments Clause in early press coverage of it in the wake of Trump's election is being clarified as scholars look more closely at the provision's history.  That was the suggestion that it would not be a violation for the Trump Organization to conduct business with foreign government entities if “fair market value” was received by the governments.

This view had been attributed to Professor Richard Painter, a former official of the George W. Bush administration, and privately by some others.  But Professor Laurence Tribe, the author of the leading treatise on constitutional law, and others said the Emoluments Clause was more sweeping, and mandated a ban on such dealings without congressional approval.  Painter now largely agrees, telling ProPublica that no fair market value test would apply to the sale of services (specifically including hotel rooms), and such a test would apply only to the sale of goods.  The Trump Organization mostly sells services, such as hotel stays, golf memberships, branding deals and management services.

The Emoluments Clause appears in Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution.  It bars any “person holding any office of profit or trust under” the United States from accepting any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign state” “without the consent of the Congress.”  The word “emolument” comes from the Latin emolumentum, meaning profit or gain.  The language of the clause was lifted in its entirety from the Articles of Confederation which established the structure of the government of the United States from 1781 until the ratification of the Constitution in 1788-89.  The clause was derived from a Dutch rule dating to 1751.

The clause was added to the draft Constitution at the Constitutional Convention on Aug. 23, 1787 on a motion by Charles Pinckney of South Carolina.  As Gov. Edmund Randolph of Virginia explained to his state's ratification convention in 1788, Pinckney's motion was occasioned by Benjamin Franklin, who had been given a snuffbox, adorned with the royal portrait and encrusted with small diamonds, by Louis XVI while serving as the Continental Congress's ambassador to France.  As Randolph said,

“An accident which actually happened, operated in producing the restriction.  A box was presented to our ambassador by the king of our allies.  It was thought proper, in order to exclude corruption and foreign influence, to prohibit any one in office from receiving emoluments from foreign states.”

The Continental Congress in 1786 had consented, after a debate, to Franklin keeping the snuffbox, as it had earlier with a similar gift to envoy Arthur Lee.  At the same time, consent also was given to diplomat John Jay receiving a horse from the King of Spain.

The clause was part of the basis for Alexander Hamilton's defense of the Constitution, in Federalist 22, as addressing “one of the weak sides of republics”: “that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption.”

There is no question that the Emoluments Clause applies to the President.  President Obama's counsel sought an opinion in 2009 on whether it barred him from accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.  The Justice Department concluded that it did not, in part based on historical precedent (the Prize had also been awarded to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Vice President Charles Dawes and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger), but primarily because the Norwegian group that awards the prize was not deemed a governmental entity.

The clause does not seem ever to have been interpreted by a court, but it has been the subject of a number of opinions, over the years, of the Attorney General and the Comptroller General.

Nearly all of these opinions have concluded that the clause is definitive.  In 1902, an attorney general's opinion said it is “directed against every kind of influence by foreign governments upon officers of the United States.”  In 1970, a comptroller general opinion declared that the clause's “drafters intended the prohibition to have the broadest possible scope and applicability.”  A 1994 Justice Department opinion said “the language of Emoluments Clause is both sweeping and unqualified.”  Among the ties deemed to violate the clause was a Nuclear Regulatory Commission employee undertaking consultant work for a firm retained by the government of Mexico.

Congress has passed one law giving blanket approval to a set of payments from foreign government entities.  Known as the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, it is limited to gifts of “minimal value” (set as of 1981 at $100), educational scholarships and medical treatment, travel entirely outside the country “consistent with the interests of the United States,” or “when it appears that to refuse the gift would likely cause offense or embarrassment or otherwise adversely affect the foreign relations of the United States.”  The specificity of these few exceptions reinforces the notion that other dealings with foreign government entities is forbidden without congressional approval.

One Attorney General opinion from the Reagan administration offers the possibility of a more permissive interpretation of the Emoluments Clause, indicating it could be limited to “payments which have a potential of influencing or corrupting the recipient.”  But whatever the meaning of this, it was the same Reagan Justice Department that banned the NRC employee from the Mexican-funded consultancy a year later.

Ironically, an “originalist” reading of the clause — usually favored these days by conservatives as exemplified by the late Justice Antonin Scalia and current Justice Clarence Thomas — would seem to bind Trump more stringently, while a “living constitution” approach — exemplified by liberals such as the late Justices Louis Brandeis and Thurgood Marshall — might offer him greater latitude.

Clearly, deciding what the Emoluments Clause means in a specific case is a complicated legal question.  (The opinion on Obama's acceptance of the Nobel Prize runs to 13 printed pages.)  But just as clearly, the judges of its meaning with respect to President Trump will be politicians rather than the Supreme Court.

The controversies that swirled around Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton established a number of key points.  Among them are that the sole remedy for a violation of the Constitution by a President in office is impeachment, and that the House of Representatives is the sole judge of what constitutes an impeachable offense, while the Senate is the sole judge of whether such an alleged violation warrants removal from office.  (Impeachments are very rare: articles of impeachment have been voted against only two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Clinton, both of whom were acquitted by the Senate, while Nixon resigned ahead of likely impeachment.  Fifteen federal judges have also been impeached, and eight removed, while four resigned.)

The arguments of scholars and lawyers on the meaning of the Emoluments Clause may influence the public, and their elected representatives.  But if Trump decides not to dispose of his business, it will be up to Congress to decide whether to do anything about his apparent violation of the Constitution.

"Is there a line between Trump's business and political interests?" PBS NewsHour 11/28/2016


SUMMARY:  Donald Trump's business dealings with companies around the world have raised questions of possible conflicts of interest once he takes office.  The New York Times recently published a lengthy piece on potential issues; William Brangham speaks with one of the investigation's reporters, Eric Lipton, for details on separating political and economic power, Trump-branded properties and more.

GAMING THE SYSTEM - Trump Played Sucker

"Carrier is 'Gaming the System' and Trump Just Played into Its Hands" by Steve Horn, In These Times 12/2/2016

As one of their first orders of business, President-elect Donald Trump and Mike Pence, his vice president, helped strike a deal between the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) and the Carrier Corporation to keep more than 1,000 jobs at Carrier's Indianapolis manufacturing plant.

The company had originally planned to send all but 300 research and headquarters jobs at the facility to Monterrey, Mexico, where workers reportedly earn $3 an hour.  Carrier later decided to keep an additional 800 or so jobs in Indiana in exchange for a reported $7 million in tax breaks over 10 years.

Carrier was a frequent target of Trump during his presidential campaign, in which he promised to protect jobs and penalize companies for leaving the United States.  After tweeting about a deal in the works with Carrier on Thanksgiving, Trump and Pence spent the next several days hashing out its parameters before the president-elect announced on Twitter on November 29 that they had reached an agreement.  Trump took a victory lap at Carrier's plant in Indianapolis this week.

Mixed reactions

Though controversial, it's important to note that workers at Carrier have lauded the Trump-Pence deal.  That's the case even though the actual terms and conditions of the deal, as it applies to workers who get to keep their jobs, have yet to appear in fine print and the union representing the plant was not involved in the negotiations.

Looked at as a whole, the Trump-Pence announcement has received mix reviews.  Some have celebrated Trump's “art of the deal,” others have questioned whether this is a model that can be replicated as a way to keep jobs in the United States, while Bernie Sanders decried it as a bad deal for taxpayers and a potentially disastrous precedent moving forward. 

Even Trump admitted his own sense of surprise at a press conference celebrating the agreement.

During the presidential campaign, in which he made an example of the Carrier plant as the dark side of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Trump told the public that he would use his business prowess to force Carrier and companies like it to keep jobs in the United States.  If not, Trump said, there would be economic hell to pay.

But in his speech in Indianapolis, he said his campaign promise to bring Carrier jobs back was a “euphemism,” not an actual promise to cut a deal at that particular plant.  With Pence uniquely situated to help foster a deal through the IEDC, though, the stars aligned and the deal was cut.  (Pence chairs the IEDC board.)

Workers at a nearby plant in Huntington, Indiana, however, may not be as lucky.

That facility, which is also owned by Carrier's parent company, will soon lay off 700 workers.  Many of them made the two-hour drive south to Indianapolis to protest.  They held signs that read, “What about our jobs?”

“All of our jobs are leaving.  Why isn't he saving some of our jobs if not all of them?” asked Bill Davis, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 983.  “I'd love to keep the whole facility, but even if we can keep some of our jobs – because I think some of the people would be glad to retire and some of the younger ones stay – so I think our membership could be satisfied even if it was just 50 percent that got to stay.”

Offshoring jobs and taxes

Missing in the many media stories that have tackled the Carrier deal is the fact that Carrier's parent company—United Technologies—isn't just in the business of offshoring U.S. jobs.  It also likely skirts paying its share of federal and state income taxes by maintaining offshore tax havens.  Carrier, itself, is incorporated in the domestic tax haven of Delaware.

Though a company with taxable income at the level of United Technologies has a corporate tax rate of 35 percent at the federal level, United Technologies only paid an 11 percent tax rate between 2008-2012, according to numbers crunched by Citizens for Tax Justice.  It has done so while also securing billions of dollars of U.S. government contracts and receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal tax subsidies.

Matthew Gardner, a senior fellow at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, who has critiqued the Trump-Pence Carrier deal in a series of blog posts, told In These Times he sees this entire saga as an example of Carrier “gaming the system” for its own ends on the backs of taxpayers.

“Companies competing with United Technologies that haven't as brazenly threatened to move jobs offshore will have to pay higher tax rates than United Technologies,” says Gardner.  “And, of course, in the balanced-budget setting of state budgets, every tax break for a specific company ultimately has to be paid for by the rest of us, including smaller businesses and working families.  This deal is a poke in the eye for the many business and individuals who already pay their fair share.”

Like Sanders, Gardner sees Carrier as a worrisome case moving forward in the sense that if it can be repeated or modeled at other workplaces in other cities and states, it will only harm working-class communities.

“The more such deals are carved out, the more unfair—and unsustainable—the tax system becomes,” says Gardner.  “From a broader economic development perspective, and from the perspective of the public interest, there's nothing to cheer about here and certainly nothing to replicate.”

Thursday, December 01, 2016

SATAN'S ARMY - Iraq, More ISIS Mass Graves

REMINDER:  'ISIL (aka ISIS) is a theocracy, proto-state and a Salafi or Wahhabi group.  It follows an extremist interpretation of Islam, promotes religious violence, and regards Muslims who do not agree with its interpretations as infidels or apostates.'

The members of ISIS are NOT mainstream followers if Islam, and DO NOT represent the vast majority of Muslims.

"Another Mass Grave Dug by ISIS in Iraq, and a Ghastly Ritual Renewed" by Tim Arango, New York Times 11/30/2016

The battle was over in Hamam al-Alil, Iraq, an old spa resort town that the country's security forces had wrested from the Islamic State a few days ago, but one Iraqi soldier was still on a very personal mission.

The soldier, Zaman Mijwal, was looking for his older brother, Munther, a former policeman he described as “a quiet man, a poor man,” who lived in a nearby village but hadn't been heard from in weeks.

Mr. Mijwal's circuit had taken him to a stretch of road flanked by two dirt fields.  He pointed to one side, where decaying, headless corpses were lying in heaps of trash on a barren plot of land that had once been a shooting range for the Iraqi Army.

“He may be there,” he said.

He pointed to the other side of the road, just an expanse of earth that looked freshly moved.

“Or he may be there.”

With every mile of territory the Iraqi security forces retake from the Islamic State, it seems another mass grave is uncovered.  It has become nearly ritual, and despairingly regular.

The legacy of the mass grave in Iraq is long, stretching back further than the Islamic State to the times of Saddam Hussein's industrial-scale killings.  It is the horrible symbol of what has been for decades a gut-wrenching constant of Iraqi life, the disappearance of loved ones into the machinery of despotism.

For Iraqis, the Islamic State, for which the mass grave is as much a part of the group's infrastructure as makeshift prisons and slave-holding houses, is just a new form of tyranny with direct links to Mr. Hussein's regime.  Many former Baathist officers from Mr. Hussein's security forces populate the top ranks of the Islamic State, mimicking the former dictator's tactics.

Lately, with the Islamic State under pressure from Iraqi security forces, the group's cruelty has gone into overdrive: Many of the mass graves recently uncovered, the biggest of which was in Hamam al-Alil, contain the bodies of local men.  Most of the buried were former members of the security forces who were executed only in recent weeks, after the campaign for Mosul began.

There are those, like Jamal Abul Younis, who count themselves as lucky.  Mr. Younis is a former policeman from Hamam al-Alil who was also marked for execution, but survived by hiding in a hole in the ground, obscured by an air cooler, in his dirt-floor house.  Of his time hiding out, he said, “Each one hour was like one year.”

He is now one of just a few surviving witnesses to the Islamic State's killings in Hamam al-Alil.  One evening around 8 p.m. several weeks ago, he said, he watched from his rooftop as eight minibuses drove toward the area where the mass grave was discovered, and he heard gunshot after gunshot.

“I saw DAESH bury 200 bodies over here,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL.  (The official government estimate is that roughly 100 people were killed in Hamam al-Alil.  But Human Rights Watch, after carrying out its own investigation, believes that at least 300 were killed there.)

In the days before the killings, he said, Islamic State militants herded hundreds of people — perhaps thousands — from nearby villages and took them to Hamam al-Alil, using them as human shields against the possibility of American airstrikes.

In the city, he said, the militants gathered the people, reciting verses of the Quran and praying to God to protect them from Iraq's Shiite militias and army.  Then they separated out the former policemen, many of whom, after the Islamic State conquered their lands more than two years ago, repented for their service and made peace with their new rulers.

Now, as government forces waged an offensive to reclaim these territories, the Islamic State saw them as potential spies, or a fifth column preparing to rise up and join the security forces, and ordered them killed.

“I cannot believe I am still alive,” Mr. Younis said.

For Iraqis, the pain of not knowing can be the worst of all.  The International Commission on Missing Persons, a Netherlands-based organization, has estimated that up to a million Iraqis have gone missing in recent history.  That encompasses the war between Iran and Iraq, the mass killings ordered by Mr. Hussein after a Shiite uprising in 1991, the Iraqi government's Anfal chemical-weapon strikes against the Kurds in the late 1980s, and the more recent sectarian civil war of the last decade.

The commission noted on its website that there are “millions of relatives of the missing in Iraq who struggle with the uncertainty surrounding the fate of a loved one.”

Go anywhere in Iraq, especially in the south where Shiites dominate, and knock on almost any door, and you will hear a story of a lost loved one and, improbably, of a remaining shard of hope.

Nihad Jawad, a teacher from the southern city of Hilla, said that one night in 1991, her brother left home and was never heard from again.  She has heard all sorts of rumors — that he was seen being apprehended by the military, that he was shot.  “We searched everywhere for him, and we have found nothing,” she said.  “We still have hope that he is still held in one of the secret prisons.”

The Islamic State's brutality has written a new chapter in that dark history.  The number of bodies has overwhelmed the capacity of the Iraqi government, and very few of them are ever identified by DNA testing.

In Diyala Province, where the Islamic State was once strong, a father who lost his son about two years ago said he scours jihadist websites for videos that might show his missing child.  He rushes to the scene of every mass grave uncovered in the province.

“The most difficult thing is when my grandson asks me about his father,” said the man, who gave his name as Abu Marwan.  “I answer, ‘He is on a trip and will return one day.'”

Mr. Mijwal, the soldier, like millions of others here who have endured the same painful ritual, has found no answers about what happened to his brother.

“We have no information about him,” he said.  “So I came here.  It's very difficult for me.  I don't know his destiny, his fate.  At the very least, I need to find his body.  This is the important thing for us.  So we can have a funeral.”

He added, “Thousands of people don't know the fate of their loved ones.”

There is a well-known Iraqi novel called “Saddam City,” by Mahmoud Saeed, in which the protagonist disappears into one of the old Hussein regime's many prisons, leaving his loved ones scrambling for information.

In the novel, pondering his own fate as a prisoner, he recalls “the futility of trying to help a neighbor find her husband, who had disappeared.” They visited a hospital, where “we were no more than the latest link in a long chain of people who visited hospitals inquiring about missing loved ones.”

A few pages later, Mr. Saeed wrote, “Events like this happened routinely.”

Just up the road from the Hamam al-Alil killing grounds where Mr. Mijwal searched for his brother, others were looking for answers, too.

A former policeman named Muneer Muhammed, 37, said that he hid on the night of the killings, but that his brother, Anmar, another former policeman, was among the hundreds rounded up.  “They took the former policemen because they were afraid they would rise up,” he said.

Tears were streaming down his cheeks.

“I'm crying because I was able to save myself, but I couldn't save him,” he said.

Monday, November 28, 2016

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 11/25/2016

"Shields and Brooks on cabinet picks and conflicts of interest" PBS NewsHour 11/25/2016


SUMMARY:  In the past week, President-elect Donald Trump has announced several White House appointments and policy ideas.  Judy Woodruff speaks with syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks about Trump's choice to oversee the Department of Education, his interview with the New York Times, possible conflicts of interest and the top contenders for secretary of state.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  But first to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

And we welcome both of you on this day after Thanksgiving.

MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist:  Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  David is in Philadelphia.

Let's talk about — we're getting — beginning to get a sense, Mark, of Donald Trump's administration, a little sense.  He has named two more people today to the White House.  What are we learning from this?  What are we — what do you now understand about him that we didn't understand before?

MARK SHIELDS:  Not much.

I mean, I would say that there's been the small Donald, the petty, vindictive Donald, who can be rather mean-spirited, as he was on display at The New York Times editorial board meeting, where he gratuitously took out after Kelly Ayotte, the former Republican — senior Republican senator in New Hampshire, who had — after the “Access Hollywood” tape had refused to support Donald Trump and said she couldn't get a job.

And then we see the little bit larger Donald in hiring Nikki Haley, who had, in fact, backed both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and in the national address, in response — the official Republican response to the President's State of the Union, had warned the party against following the siren call of those — it was a direct allusion to Donald Trump at the time.

So he was larger in spirit in choosing her.  And she certainly is a person who has demonstrated leadership and character under stress at the time of the massacre, the racial massacre at the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston and leading in lowering the Confederate Battle Flag over the state — on the state capitol grounds.



JUDY WOODRUFF:  Excuse me.  I didn't mean to interrupt.


JUDY WOODRUFF:  What are you learning about Donald Trump from these appointments or announcements?

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  Well, I guess it's — yes, of some comfort, I guess.

Sometimes, the campaign seemed to be, as Mark said, vindictive, but sort of a depraved three-ring circus.  The transition period has not been that.  He's nominated people like DeVos or Haley who are competent people, who are more or less professional, experienced people.

They may not be, on substantive ground, all of our cup of tea.  They are very consistent with the way he campaigned, a nationalist campaign on education policy, a campaign that is enthusiastic about school choice.

But they are more or less the sort of professional version of Trump's ideology.  And I do think there is just this animating spirit here to create a sort of nationalist, populist conservatism that will in some ways stretch the Republican Party and in some ways offend a lot of conservatives.

But I think there is an animating vision here to try to create a movement that will last post-Trump, a populist movement that may even try to span some of the dividing lines that have existed so far through large economic policies, through infrastructure policies, through a tough anti-terror policy that nonetheless keeps American troops out of war.

There's an animating vision here, and it's being executed, at least in the appointments so far, in some intellectually coherent way.


PS:  Personally, I do not do drugs, not even marijuana.

"What's next for marijuana legalization" PBS NewsHour 11/25/2016


SUMMARY:  On November 8, multiple states legalized the use of marijuana for either recreational or medicinal purposes -- thus marking a major shift in U.S. drug policy.  William Brangham speaks with Taylor West of the National Cannabis Administration and Jonathan Hudak of the Brookings Institution about marijuana law and how it might evolve under President-elect Donald Trump's upcoming administration.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  Legalizing marijuana was on the ballot in nine different states in this past election.  And except in Arizona, they all passed.  Four states, Montana, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Florida, voted to legalize use of marijuana for certain medical conditions.  And four other states, Maine, Nevada, Massachusetts, and California, legalized marijuana for anyone 21 years and over.

This means that millions more people will be able to purchase marijuana in sanctioned state-approved shops, but, according to federal law, the drug is still illegal, and the Trump administration could choose on day one to start enforcing that law.

To help us understand the complexity of all this, I'm joined now by Taylor West, who is the deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, and John Hudak, who studies drug policy, among other things, at the Brookings Institution.

Welcome to you both.

Taylor, I would like to start with you first.

Election Day had to be an enormous day for your industry.  Do you think of this as a tipping point going forward?

TAYLOR WEST, Deputy Director, National Cannabis Industry Association:  Absolutely.  This was a watershed day for the industry of cannabis, but also for cannabis policy in the U.S.

We saw, as you said, eight states vote for some form of legal, regulated marijuana program.  We now have 20 percent of the country living in a state that has access to legal marijuana, and more than 60 percent of the country living in a state that has legal access to medical marijuana.

This is in line with what we have seen from public opinion polls, so it really does reflect the direction that the country is moving on these issues.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  John Hudak, tipping point?  Do you think this is just the inevitable roll of this sort of policy going out across the country?

JOHN HUDAK, Brookings Institution:  This was absolutely the biggest day of the marijuana reform hands-down.

In terms of it being a tipping point, it's a bit hard to tell.  I think, in the short term, we're not going to see much movement at the federal level.  What happened in this election was big for marijuana.  But what also happened was the status quo in Congress, the same leadership in Congress, who, frankly, is opposed to reform.

But what this change in the landscape of marijuana policy can do is to start to embolden the industry, to start to get the industry having a stronger voice, a more powerful voice, and a more powerful economic voice to eventually move policy in the right direction toward their interests in reform.

SOUTH AFRICA - Cape Town's Vineyard

"Cape Town's urban vineyard could revitalize the city's poor" PBS NewsHour 11/24/2016


SUMMARY:  South Africa is known for its breathtaking vineyards -- but the poor urban settlements of Cape Town are not.  Yet here, too, farmers are relying on growing grapes to support themselves, in a community where the average annual income is only $1800.  The Township Winery represents an experiment that could revolutionize the socio-economics of the city.  Special correspondent Martin Seemungal reports.

JOHN YANG (NewsHour):  From food to drink, our Thanksgiving meal theme continues with a story about a new vintage from South Africa.

Special correspondent Martin Seemungal brings us the story of some fledgling vintners trying their hands at the ancient craft in the unlikeliest of places.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL, Special correspondent:  South Africa`s breathtaking vineyards near Cape Town, perfectly manicured estates spreading for miles in every direction, famous for world class wines.  But a world away, from the sprawling townships on the outskirts of the city — infamous for forced resettlement of mixed race and black South Africans, for crime and poverty — you have to look pretty hard to find a common link — but it is there, one little square among a sea of shacks,  a man planting a vineyard.

Manelisi Mapukata is part of an innovative collective; growing wine grapes in small plots that will one day make wine.  `The township winery started production using grapes from those traditional winemaking areas, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinotage, but the labels are unique… The Flats, Philippi, names from this part of town.  Ultimately, more and more of the grapes will come from these tiny township plots.

MANELISI MAPUKATA, Vineyard Farmer:  I feel proud about it because if just give me enough time also I will learn more about grapes.  How it`s important to have in our townships.  People can learn.  People can come to visit also to see what is happening.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:  The vines he is planting here won`t actually be ready to bear fruit for another three years, but after that, he will have a guaranteed harvest every year, and that means a guaranteed income.

That guaranteed income is an enormously important project to the farmers.  Many have spent years growing and selling vegetables and have been at the mercy of fluctuating prices.  Those empty rows in a section of this small plot will soon be growing grapes and ultimately earn annually as much as all vegetables combined.
Lulama says it will change their lives.

LULAMA, Vineyard Farmer:  It means that we want to generate more income so that we can put bread on the table for our children and the generations to come.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:  They stand to double what they are making now.  The average income here is roughly $1,800 a year.  Easy to understand why people are energized, why word is spreading.

Nomhle Zondani is marketing the Township Winery internationally, and here in South Africa, she also has to manage expectations among these first time growers.

NOMHLE ZONDANI, Marketer, The Township Winery:  Its not going to be an easy money making scheme.  You`re not going to get rich in like two years.  So, within that five years, you will get exposure.  We will bring people to say this is an idea that we have we would love to grow it and after five years, we would then we will have this whatever grape we can harvest from those vines.

ADDICTION CRISIS - Surgeon General's Report

"Surgeon General's report calls for response to addiction crisis" PBS NewsHour 11/24/2016


SUMMARY:  U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is warning Americans of the prevalence of substance abuse and the risks of not addressing it.  His new report describes the lethal impact and widespread scope of addiction.  William Brangham speaks with Murthy for more on why so few people find effective treatment, the stigma around addiction and the corresponding medical and legal costs of the problem.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  According to the Surgeon General's report more than 27 million Americans have problems with prescription drugs, illegal drugs or alcohol.  But just a fraction of those people, only 10 percent, get meaningful help.  The report cites missed opportunities for prevention and treatment and it says our substance abuse costs the country a staggering 440 billion a year.  I'm joined by the US surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy.  Doctor, thank you very much for being here.

VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. Surgeon General:  Really glad to be with you.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  This is a pretty sobering report.  Millions of people suffering, very, very few people are getting help.  When you compiled all this data, were you surprised by what you had found?

VIVEK MURTHY:  Well, I had seen the problem up close as a doctor practicing medicine.  When I came into medicine, I expected as an internal medicine doctor to primarily see people with diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.  And I was shocked by the number of patients who came under my care who actually had substance abuse.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  You were seeing this in private practice before being tapped to be in the federal government?

VIVEK MURTHY:  Yes, I have always seen this — we even — starting in medical school itself and then on throughout my medical career, the experience was not unique to me but many of my clinician colleagues were seeing the same thing and they were really surprised.

When I became Surgeon General and had the privilege of travelling around the country and hearing people's stories firsthand, I found that every community was touched in some way by substance abuse disorders.  I went to a small fishing village in Alaska called Napaskiak which is accessible only by boat and no roads to go there and even in this small village of less than 500 people, the small little building where they kept medications had been broken into multiple times by people seeking out prescription painkillers.

CHANGING TASTES - 10 Restaurants to 'Home Cooking'

"These 10 groundbreaking restaurants changed how we dine" PBS NewsHour 11/24/2016


SUMMARY:  Can you imagine life before restaurants?  Or brunch?  Or convenient roadside dining?  In his new book, "Ten Restaurants That Changed America," historian Paul Freedman chronicles the pioneering establishments that changed American food.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman takes a tour with Freedman.

JOHN YANG (NewsHour):  Now, on this Thanksgiving day, we devote the rest of our broadcast to food, and a little wine.  First, economics correspondent Paul Solman explores the histories of some of this country`s most iconic restaurants, and how they reflected the cultural, social and economic development of their times.

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  In the heart of Harlem, Sylvia`s, where for 50-plus years, Presidents and pop stars, tourists and locals, have feasted on down home cooking.

TREN`NESS WOODS-BLACK, Sylvia's:  What we serve here at Sylvia`s is authentic, soul-food cuisine, rich in heritage that goes back over five generations.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Tren`ness Woods-Black is a granddaughter of the late Sylvia Woods from South Carolina.

TREN`NESS WOODS-BLACK:  So, you`re going to get the original farm to table, which is what soul food is.

PAUL FREEDMAN, Yale University:  You can`t write a book about American food without giving a big place to African American cuisine, which is arguably what American cuisine is at heart.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Medieval historian Paul freedman, who turned an academic fascination with Middle Ages cuisine into a new career in his middle ages, chronicling American food.  His new book, “Ten Restaurants That Changed America,” begins at Delmonico`s in New York`s financial district, the new nation`s first real restaurant.

PAUL FREEDMAN:  By real, I mean a place that offered a choice.  A large menu, and a fairly wide range of times when the place was open instead of saying we serve at 1:00, take it or leave it.

PAUL SOLMAN:  What fascinated me, as a money buff, was how our restaurants track our economic growth.

So, when Delmonico`s opens in the 1830s, that`s the beginning of what we now know as the American economy?

PAUL FREEDMAN:  It coincides with an America of railroads, of rapid expansion to the West, of industrialization and of increasing contact with the rest of the world.  It`s not a place for people who fancy themselves as squires or aristocrats.  It`s a place for enterprising people.

PAUL SOLMAN:  But they are wealthy.

PAUL FREEDMAN:  Definitely.

PAUL SOLMAN:  The new money wanted food that was fancy French, with new world twists.  Delmonico`s steak, a rib-eye

PAUL FREEDMAN:  They invented Lobster Newburg.  They invented Baked Alaska.

PAUL SOLMAN:  They even invented brunch.

TV HOST:  Delmonico`s is credited with creating this brunch dish — Erin.

CONTESTANT:  What is Eggs Benedict?

TV HOST:  Good.

PAUL SOLMAN:  This was the place to meet and eat, well into the 20th century.

MALE:  We`re going to Delmonico`s for supper, won`t you join us?

MALE:  What will it be tonight, Delmonico`s or the Plaza?

MALE:  Lunch at Delmonico`s!

PAUL FREEDMAN:  And men and women would show up together at night, but at lunch, it would be men only.

"In a Long Island kitchen, refugees offer the flavors of their native lands" PBS NewsHour 11/24/2016


SUMMARY:  New York City is known for the stunning variety of ethnic cuisines available on its street corners, and one local entrepreneur is looking to expand that breadth even further -- by leveraging the city's most recent arrivals.  William Brangham reports from a Long Island kitchen (Eat Offbeat) where refugees prepare meals using the flavors of their native lands and deliver them to Big Apple foodies.

QUESTION - Reverse Radicalization?

"Can we reverse radicalization with counseling?" PBS NewsHour 11/22/2016


SUMMARY:  Can aggressive counseling bring someone back from the brink of radicalization?  Science correspondent Miles O'Brien explores the psychological basis for why people are drawn to extremist groups and how a bold experiment in criminal justice and clinical psychology taking place in Minnesota may offer a solution.

MILES O'BRIEN (NewsHour):  In a federal courtroom in Minneapolis, they are facing the threat of homegrown terrorism in a manner that has never been tried before in this country.  It is a bold experiment in criminal justice and clinical psychology.  The question?  Can aggressive counseling bring someone back from the brink of radicalization?

MANNY ATWAL, Federal Defender:  What we have started here is revolutionary.  I think it's great.

MILES O'BRIEN:  Manny Atwal is a federal public defender representing 20-year-old Abdullahi Yusuf.  He (Yusuf) is one of eight first-generation Somali Americans, all in their teens or early 20s, convicted in May of plotting to go to Syria and fight for the Islamic State.

MANNY ATWAL:  I know we punish juveniles.  I get that, and I understand that.  And I know we punish young adults, and I get that and understand that.  But, at the same time, to say let's just lock them up for a lifetime is not the right solution.

MILES O'BRIEN:  While he was in jail awaiting sentencing, Abdullahi Yusuf became the nation's first convicted terrorist to undergo terrorism rehabilitation.  He has two mentors who counsel him regularly and a wide-ranging reading list.

MANNY ATWAL:  He will have like a week to read this, write up a book report and then discuss it with us.

MILES O'BRIEN:  So, it's a real assignment for him?

MANNY ATWAL:  Yes.  Yes.

Learning American civics, learning about American culture, learning about the East and West just — it just opened up his eyes.  And that, I think, is the disengagement that I speak of, to try and get these kids to disengage from some of their thinking that's been put in their heads, and to get them back to be good citizens that they were before this all happened.

MILES O'BRIEN:  It appears the effort might have held sway with the judge.  Yusuf, who also testified against his friends, was sentenced to time served.  Most of the others received long prison terms.  The case of these men is one chapter in a long, sad story.

CHIEF JUDGE JOHN TUNHEIM, District of Minnesota:  Minnesota has the greatest number of terrorism prosecutions of any of the federal districts in the United States.

MILES O'BRIEN:  John Tunheim is the chief federal judge for the District of Minnesota, home to the largest Somali American community in the U.S.

He watched from the bench as a tragic exodus began in 2007; 23 young Somali Americans from Minnesota joined the ranks of the al-Qaida-linked Al-Shabaab terror group as it tried to topple the government of Somalia.  More recently, the call to arms has come from the Islamic State.

For judges trying to mete out fair sentences, it is uncharted territory.  There are no guidelines.

CHIEF JUDGE JOHN TUNHEIM:  They're different from a bank robber or someone who sells drugs.  I mean, we understand those cases.  We have had many of those cases in our courts.  We haven't had many terrorism cases.  We need to understand them.  We need to make sure that we can keep them, to the best effort that we possibly can, from becoming terrorists again.

MEDAL OF FREEDOM - President Obama Awards 21

"‘I am the president, he is the Boss':  Obama pays tribute to, jokes with Medal of Freedom recipients" PBS NewsHour 11/22/2016


SUMMARY:  At the White House, President Obama handed out the Medal of Freedom to twenty-one notable American figures; from Kareem Abdul Jabbar, to Bill and Melinda Gates, Diana Ross, Michael Jordan, Vin Scully, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Redford, and many others.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Twenty-one people received the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year, from artists and entertainers, to philanthropists and scientists.

President Obama handed out the medals at the White House this afternoon.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  Extraordinary Americans who have lifted our spirits, strengthened our union, pushed us towards progress.

These two have donated more money to charitable causes than anyone ever.

Many years ago, Melinda's mom told her an old saying:  To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is success.

By this and just about any other measure, few in human history have been more successful than these two impatient optimists.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  Ellen DeGeneres has a way of making you laugh about some thing, rather than at someone, except when I danced on her show.  She laughed at me.



It's easy to forget now, when we have come so far, where now marriage is equal under the law, just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  Now, every journalist in the room, every media knows the phrase Newt Minow coined:  the vast wasteland.

But the two words Newt prefers we remember from his speech to the nation's broadcasters are these:  public interest.  That's been the heartbeat of his life's work.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  The game of baseball has a handful of signature sounds.  You hear the crack of the bat.  You have got the crowd singing in the seventh inning stretch.  And you have got the voice of Vin Scully.

When he heard about this honor, Vin asked, with characteristic humility, “Are you sure? I'm just an old baseball announcer.”


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  And we had to inform him that, to Americans of all ages, you are an old friend.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  Here's how great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was; 1967, he had spent a year dominating college basketball.  The NCAA bans the dunk.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  They didn't say it was about Kareem, but it was about Kareem.



Full ceremony (1:01:43):

POLITICS - Bernie on Trump

"Bernie Sanders on how to hold Donald Trump accountable" PBS NewsHour 11/21/2016


SUMMARY:  In “Our Revolution,” Bernie Sanders discusses this year's election and what he sees as the future of American politics.  Jeffrey Brown sat down with Sen.  Bernie Sanders at the National Book Festival in Miami to discuss the election of Donald Trump and building a progressive movement in the U.S.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  This weekend, Jeffrey Brown sat down with Senator Bernie Sanders at the Miami Book Fair to talk about his new book, “Our Revolution,” to discuss the presidential election, and to get his take on the future of American politics.

Jeff began by asking the senator why he thought Donald Trump's message attracted so many voters.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Va.):  I think he understood that there are many millions of people in this country, the working middle class, who are really hurting.  They are in pain.

They are working longer hours for lower wages, can't afford child care, scared to death of retirement because they have no money in the bank.  They have seen decent-paying jobs leave their community, go to China and Mexico.

And he said:  I, Donald Trump, yes, I am going to take on the entire establishment.  I'm going to take on the political establishment.  I am going to take on the economic establishment.  I'm going to take on the media establishment.

And I think a lot of people responded positively to that message.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  I was telling you I was in Iowa, North Carolina seeing a lot of the things that I think you were seeing of people around the country and the desperate shape that they were in.

But why then would Donald Trump become that champion?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:  Now, how many hours do we have to discuss that issue?  That's the question that needs a lot of discussion.

And I think it speaks to a large degree to the failure of the Democratic Party.

JEFFREY BROWN:  The failure?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:  Yes, which is something I'm trying to deal with right now.

The Democratic Party has been very strong in a lot of areas, in fighting to make our country a less discriminatory country.  And that is enormously important.  And, by the way, on that issue, there cannot be any compromise.  Trump's language has been atrocious, his behavior toward women.

We cannot go back to a racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic type of society.

But, on economic issues, I think there are many people in the working class who say, you know what?  Yes, maybe we are better off than we were eight years ago, but I am still working two or three jobs, my kid can't afford to go to college, I can't afford child care, my real wages have been going down for 40 years.  The middle class is shrinking.  Who's standing up for me?

The Democratic Party there for me?  Are they going to take on Wall Street?  Are they going to take on the drug companies that rip me off?  And the perception was, no, they will not.

JEFFREY BROWN:  But when you look at the election, and you think about those issues as drivers in the election, did you feel — do you feel that you could have won if it was you against Donald Trump?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:  I have been asked that question about 48 million times.

JEFFREY BROWN:  I know, so make it 48 million, plus one.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:  There you go.

And the answer is, who knows?  I mean, I think what we can say is that the polling when I was running against Secretary Clinton during the process, primary process, had me doing better against Trump.  And some recent polls suggest that I would have won.

But, you know, you don't know what a three- or four-month campaign is about.  But I will say, I would very much have loved the opportunity.

Bernie would have won!

DIPLOMACY - Kissinger on Obama/Trump and China

"What Henry Kissinger thinks about Obama, Trump and China" PBS NewsHour 11/21/2016


SUMMARY:  At 93, Henry Kissinger is still one of the most influential -- and controversial -- foreign policy figures in America, says Jeffrey Goldberg, Atlantic editor-in-chief.  The former secretary of state recently joined Goldberg for a conversation about the Obama legacy, the president-elect and more.  Judy Woodruff reports as part of a collaboration between The Atlantic and the PBS NewsHour.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Earlier this year, we reported on “Atlantic” magazine editor Jeffrey Goldberg's article “The Obama Doctrine.” The lengthy piece gained widespread attention, including that of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who quietly let it be known that he'd like to share some thoughts of his own about President Obama's foreign policy.

So, Jeffrey Goldberg and Kissinger sat down to talk.

This is a report on part of an ongoing partnership between the NewsHour and The Atlantic.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, The Atlantic:  He's still really the most influential foreign policy thinker in America in a lot of ways.

And so, in my experience with him, there's always something to learn, even at the age of 93, maybe especially at the age of 93.  There's always something to learn from him.  And so we wound up spending hours talking about not just the Obama doctrine.  We talked about the order of the world currently, and we talked a lot about the election.

He, like a lot of people, thought Hillary Clinton was going to win.  We talked about both candidates.  And, well, here we are.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, the news right now is the election of Donald Trump, and we're going to talk about that.

But let's go back to how your conversation with Henry Kissinger came about.  What does he think about the legacy of Barack Obama's foreign policy?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:  He thinks that the President is too passive in his approach to foreign policy, that the American President has a responsibility to make more order in the world, especially as it relates to the other great powers, Russia and China in particular.

He also thinks that the President is too burdened by the alleged sins of the past — Kissinger would think of them more as alleged sins — of American behavior during the Cold War in various places, including Vietnam and Cambodia.

But, mainly, it has to do with a passivity that he sees in the present, a lack of strategic thinking, a lack of assertion.  And, obviously, the President, when I was interviewing him on these subjects, Kissinger was almost sort of a specter in the room at various points, because the President would talk about the red line in Syria, for instance, and talk about how one of the worst reasons to bomb someone is to prove that you're willing to bomb someone.

And I felt as if he were addressing Henry Kissinger and Kissinger's role in Cambodia, using bombing to enhance American credibility at the negotiating table.

So, I found — it was a totally fascinating process for me, because I was moderating, non-chronologically, an argument between President Obama and the most important and most controversial foreign policy statesman of the modern era.  And so — and so there was that piece.

The other piece is that Obama, in some ways, resembles Henry Kissinger.  Kissinger recognizes this to some degree.  I think the President recognizes it to some degree.  Neither man particularly obsesses about human rights as a key issue in the way America organizes its relationship with other countries.