Friday, March 30, 2018

AMERICAN VOTING SECURITY - Voting Machines, Main Threat is Old Age

"American Voting Machines Are Old and Vulnerable, But Who Will Pay for New Ones?" by Mac Schneider (Vox) and Kate Rabinowitz (ProPublica), ProPublica 3/29/2018

The main threat to American voting machines may not be hacking, but old age.

Congress has approved $380 million to fund state efforts to address the security of election systems ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.  What’s that all about?

If you’ve been paying attention to the news recently, you know there’s evidence that Russia tried to manipulate the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign.  How they did it and the degree to which those attempts were successful is the subject of intense scrutiny.  But the focus on foreign meddling has obscured another type of threat.  American electronic voting machines, many of which haven’t been replaced in over a decade, are being used well past their expected lifespan and are breaking down, leading to long lines and frustrated voters.

In her story on American election security, ProPublica’s Kate Rabinowitz revealed that many state and local election officials are suffering a funding crisis.  Without the money needed to maintain and update electronic voting machines, officials are having to make do with equipment that was manufactured in 2008 or even earlier.  By isolating machines from the internet and keeping them in secure locations, officials are able to reduce the threat of widespread hacking, but the machines are plagued with more mundane technical problems that states have been slow to address and could have major consequences for future elections.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

TRUMP AGENDA - Attack on Russia Investigation

"A Partisan Combatant, a Remorseful Blogger: The Senate Staffer Behind the Attack on the Trump-Russia Investigation" by Robert Faturechi, ProPublica 3/28/2018

Jason Foster, chief investigative counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, once blogged under the handle “Extremist,” expressing worry about a Muslim takeover and whether Joe McCarthy got a bum rap.  Today, as he helps lead an explosive investigation, he says the blogging was satire and asks for forgiveness.

Jason Foster, chief Investigative Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, fits a classic Washington profile: A powerful, mostly unknown force at the center of some of the most consequential battles on Capitol Hill.

For the last year, Foster — empowered by his boss, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) the committee's chairman — has been the behind-the-scenes architect of an assault on the FBI, and most centrally its role in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to interviews with current and former congressional aides, federal law enforcement officials and others.

With Foster in charge of his oversight work, Grassley has openly speculated about whether former FBI director James Comey leaked classified information as Comey raised alarms about President Donald Trump's possible interference in the Russia probe.  Grassley and the other Republicans on the committee have questioned the impartiality of a former member of Mueller's team, cast doubt on the credibility of the FBI's secret court application for permission to surveil a Trump campaign associate and called for a second special counsel to investigate matters related to Hillary Clinton.  A firm that conducted opposition research on Trump has made clear in court it believes Grassley's committee, with Foster as its lead investigator, had leaked sensitive information about its business.

Most recently, many of those interviewed by ProPublica said, Foster engineered Grassley's highly unusual public announcement asking federal authorities to consider criminal charges against Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy who compiled the dossier warning of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

For Foster's critics, and they include Republicans as well as Democrats, his provocative work on the Trump-Russia investigation is just the latest chapter in the career of a partisan combatant willing to discard norms and indulge in conspiratorial thinking as he pursues investigations favorable to Republicans.

Foster — who cut his teeth on Capitol Hill working on the staff of former Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind) who fueled the theory of foul play in a Clinton aide's suicide and called for required AIDS testing for all Americans — drew the ire of many for his role in various Judiciary Committee investigations of the Obama administration.

“That's the way it seemed to go every time with Jason, conspiracy to the point it was ridiculous,” said one Democratic aide who had dealt with Foster.  The aide was one of several interviewed by ProPublica, Democrat and Republican, who would not be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the inner workings of Congress.

Foster's career, including his work on the committee's Russia investigation, has caught the attention of the Trump administration.  Foster has twice been approached about a possible job, an Inspector General role, with the administration, a situation that some say should have required his recusal from work on the collusion inquiry.

Foster, 46, would not respond to questions about his work on the committee, and Grassley's office said its policy was not to comment on specific claims about individual staffers.

But the office offered a broad defense of both Foster and what it regards as the committee's efforts to aggressively investigate the FBI's handling of the Trump-Russia probe.  The office said Grassley has moved to examine potential misdeeds by Trump and his campaign and would be willing to do so even more vigorously if Democrats would agree to investigate the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton and the firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier.

Foster has admirers beyond his own office.  Some of those interviewed by ProPublica, including several suggested by Foster himself, describe him as a fierce and detail-oriented investigator who is protective of whistleblowers who come to the committee looking to tell their stories.  His tough approach with the FBI, they said, long predated the Trump-Russia investigation and he has been willing to take on Republican administrations.

“He isn't especially deferential but he's fair,” Hannibal Kemerer, a former judiciary aide, said of Foster's style.  “If he should retire or resign, nobody from the FBI is going to throw him a party.  He's not in it to make friends.”

In examining Foster's role in the committee's Trump-Russia investigation, ProPublica discovered that a decade ago he had written an anonymous blog, using the handle “extremist."  The posts by Foster, who was then working for Grassley on the Senate Finance Committee, made clear he was some sort of D.C. insider, and he came across as a knowing observer as the country navigated the thorny political fights of the Bush and Obama eras.

But there were also plenty of times “extremist” lived up to his chosen name.

He warned of an Islamic takeover.  He wrote that homosexuality was akin to incest.  He questioned whether waterboarding really amounted to torture.  He derided Obama's proposal to negotiate with the Taliban, and was particularly galled that the President doing so had the middle name Hussein.  Liberals?  They were anti-American.

He even mused about whether Sen. Joseph McCarthy, condemned as a demagogue for his 1950s anti-Communist crusade, should be remembered more kindly.

Foster, in an email sent this week to ProPublica, apologized for his inflammatory posts, saying his “pen name” had been satirical and that his writings had been “stupid and wrong.”

Taylor Foy, a spokesman for Grassley, said the office had no prior knowledge of the blog, but that the beliefs expressed by “extremist” were “not relevant” to Foster's professional work.

Foy, however, added of Foster's online opinions, “That persona does not represent the professionalism Jason has exhibited while working on behalf of a broad array of people across the political spectrum, including whistleblowers who face retaliation and discrimination in the workplace.”

None of those ProPublica spoke to about Foster, admirers or critics, were aware of his blogging.  Some, upon learning of his posts, said they were completely at odds with the public servant they knew.  Others, however, said they were disturbed, but not entirely surprised by his words, given his recent work.

“It's not a total shock,” a former Republican aide said.  “But it went beyond what I expected from the person I knew.”

Foster attended Georgetown Law School, and immediately after finishing went to work on Capitol Hill.  He started as a legislative assistant in the House of Representatives, but was quickly tapped to work on Burton's Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The Indiana congressman was known for outlandish beliefs: He frequently pushed the theory that vaccines cause autism and was said to avoid soup in restaurants for fear of contracting HIV.

Burton's investigations of the Clinton White House were so extreme many mainstream Republicans were repelled.  He aggressively pursued the theory that Clinton aide Vince Foster, who committed suicide, had been murdered and that the Clintons may have been involved.  Burton reenacted the alleged killing by shooting a melon in his backyard.  An expert at a conservative think tank called it all “investigation as farce.”

Foster eventually joined Grassley's staff in 2005, when Grassley was the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.  Grassley's office had developed a reputation for a willingness to conduct exacting oversight of both parties.  And Foster's team, by all accounts, found common ground with Democratic staffers.

But during those years, Foster privately expressed intensely partisan and controversial beliefs on his blog, which he maintained from 2005 to 2009.  He initially took the name “extremist,” an alias he described to his readers as a tongue-in-cheek joke, then later discarded it and wrote under his first name.

While examining Foster's record on the Hill, ProPublica discovered the blog by conducting web searches for various usernames Foster had employed online.  Its contents were publicly accessible.

But after we contacted Foster for this story, the blog was set to private, requiring permission from the site's owner to enter.  (Foy, Grassley's spokesman, initially declined to answer questions about the blog, saying the office did not have access to its contents.)

On the blog, one of Foster's primary targets was Islam.  He described Muhammad as a rapist and child abuser who had spawned “a religion that tends to lead large numbers of its followers to excuse the murder of innocents as God's will.”

After the mayor of London spoke out against vilifying Muslim residents of the city in the wake of a foiled car bomb attack there, Foster labeled him a “Dhimmi” — a historic term that describes non-Muslims in Muslim-controlled lands.

While Foster acknowledged that most Muslims “are not terrorist sympathizers,” he referred to “the Islamic propensity for violence” and declared that “some cultures are better than others, no matter what the multicultural fetishists say.

Foster took a more forgiving tone with Christian extremists: “Are there a couple of isolated violent nuts who call themselves 'Christian.'  Sure.  Do you see posters and t-shirts of these people on sale throughout the Bible belt?  No.”

Foster also held forth on a variety of other subjects.  For instance, he dismissed criticism of the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina: “Some here are complaining that hurricanes don't practice affirmative action.”

On multiple occasions, he drew parallels between same-sex marriage and incest: What neutral principle,” he asked, “distinguishes brother-sister marriage from homosexual marriage?”

Foster called former Attorney General Eric Holder's stance that waterboarding was torture “more than just wrong.  It's dangerous.”

He also described immigration as one of his top concerns, framing the state of play in stark terms: “I'm not willing to go so far as to say that we are under invasion,” he said, but he worried that it sure seemed like “we want to be annexed.”

In multiple posts, he questioned the patriotism of liberals, who he accused of “anti-American tendencies.”

Of Joe McCarthy, he opined that history's condemnation of the disgraced Wisconsin politician may have been too harsh, suggesting his excesses were less of a problem than the Communist threat he was fighting.

For weeks, Foster did not respond to ProPublica's questions about the contents of his blog.  On Monday night, however, he sent a lengthy explanation.  He said he thought he had taken the blog offline years ago “after people in my life helped me learn from my mistakes.”

“I regretted it then and thought I had put it behind me,” Foster said in an email.  “I was mortified to learn recently that an old copy was still accessible and have since taken it down as well.”

Foster said he believed the blog was “read mostly, if at all, by a small group of friends, family, and acquaintances with a shared religious tradition and philosophical interests."  He said his writings were not meant to be taken seriously, and were not “part of my professional demeanor then or now.”

“It's embarrassing to re-read some of the overly-provocative comments many years later with their tortured logic, dumb analogies, sarcasm, and self-righteousness,” he wrote.  “Especially in the context of a vigorous discussion about controversial topics, trying to make points through excessive exaggeration was unwise and unproductive.  It reminds me of why I stopped and is reinforcing the lessons I learned from the experience.”

Foster said that in certain instances, concerning harsh comments on Islam, he had been quoting others and merely wondering about the implications if such ideas were true.

“Regardless,” he wrote, “I do not excuse my poor judgment.  To those hurt by what I said, I am sorry and ask for your forgiveness.”

It's impossible to determine how large a following the blog had.  Comments on the posts make it clear Foster had fans as well as detractors, some of whom challenged him on his more controversial ideas.

Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, contacted ProPublica Tuesday to vouch for Foster's integrity.  Kohn said Foster was responsible for Grassley's intervention on behalf of an FBI agent of Egyptian Coptic Christian descent, who accused the bureau of freezing him out of terrorism investigations after 9/11 because of his ancestry.  Asked about the contents of the blog, Kohn said:

“In my dealings with him on this case, not only was there no evidence of discrimination, he was the driving force to defend him on the Hill,” Kohn said of Foster's support for his client.

Foster had set aside the blog by the time he went to work on the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2011, when Grassley traded in his leadership role on the Finance Committee to become the top Republican on the panel.

Judiciary Committee investigators such as Foster enjoy broad authority to probe the Justice Department and its various components, such as the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Initial leads for investigations can come from whistleblowers or news reports.  Investigators have the power to demand agencies turn over documents, to subpoena witnesses who don't cooperate or cite them for contempt.  Ultimately, they chronicle their findings in public reports, refer their targets for criminal prosecution or shape legislative reforms meant to address problems they discover.

Foster was credited for his commitment to protecting whistleblowers.

Peter Forcelli, who had been a supervisor in the Phoenix field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, described being “radioactive” at work after he testified before Congress about problems with the agency's “Fast and Furious” operation.  Foster led the congressional probe into the Obama-era scandal, in which federal authorities lost track of hundreds of firearms, including two found at the scene of a shootout that killed a Border Patrol agent.

“Jason kept his word throughout the entire time.  When I had problems, they were very responsive in keeping me protected,” said Forcelli, who now heads up the agency's Miami field office.

But Foster's investigation, done in conjunction with Rep. Darrell Issa's staff in the House, was also marred by leaks of sensitive law enforcement information and allegations of partisan mischief directed at both Grassley and Issa.  The probe seemed to generate outlandish accusations, unsubstantiated by evidence but aired publicly.

One theory was that the Obama administration had somehow purposely sabotaged the Fast and Furious program to win support for tougher gun control restrictions.  Former aides recall that soon after Foster shared such suspicions privately, his boss began raising them publicly, even though the committee had found no proof of the claim.

“My suspicion is they don't like the Second Amendment the way it is, and they want to do everything they can to hurt guns and restrict guns,” Grassley said at the time.  “So they could have been building a case for that.  But I can't prove that.”

Foy, Grassley's spokesman, denied being responsible for leaks about the Fast and Furious inquiry and defended the office's practice of airing allegations publicly.

“When Senator Grassley seeks answers from government agencies about allegations his office receives from others, it is often misreported as the Senator accusing an agency of wrongdoing,” Foy said.  “However, his letters give agencies an opportunity to respond, and making the correspondence public incentivizes them to do so.”

Following Trump's inauguration, Grassley, as the judiciary chairman, found himself and his staff at the center of a series of explosive events.

The FBI was investigating potential links between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had been an adviser for that campaign, and recused himself from overseeing the FBI's investigation.

Then FBI director James Comey was fired, raising questions of whether the President was attempting to obstruct the Russia probe.

Some held out hope that as complicated and fraught as the issues were, the Judiciary Committee might be able to conduct a bipartisan investigation.

But as Mueller's team has brought charges against 19 people, including former Trump campaign officials, and the President has pushed back with claims of a “witch hunt” and made repeated attacks on the FBI, Democrats have accused Grassley's office of helping to muddy the waters.

Danielle Brian, director of the Project on Government Oversight, a good government group that has worked closely with Grassley's office, said she was initially optimistic because Grassley and Foster had shown a willingness to take on the White House.

When the Trump administration, for example, allowed federal agencies to essentially stop responding to requests for information from Democrats in Congress, Grassley blasted the decision and said the Justice Department's legal rationale supporting the policy showed a “shocking lack of professionalism and objectivity.”

“That was Jason,” said Brian.  “It's deeply ingrained in Grassley and his team: They are institutionalists, they remember being in the minority.  They care about the institution of Congress.”

But Brian and others have been baffled by what has happened in the months since – by the open hostility between the committee's two sides, the unusual criminal referral, the seemingly disproportionate scrutiny Grassley and Foster have been applying to those involved in the investigation of Trump and his team.

“It's impossible for me to reconcile,” she said.  “It doesn't make sense.”

In addition to questioning Comey's handling of classified material and calling for another investigation of matters related to Hillary Clinton, Grassley's office took aim at Fusion GPS, the firm that commissioned what became known as the Trump-Russia dossier.  Grassley asked whether the firm had violated the law by not registering as a foreign agent for work it did on another case.  Grassley and Foster also brought Glenn Simpson, the firm's co-founder, in for a confidential interview.

In that August interview with Foster and other judiciary staffers, Simpson confirmed the identity of his company's bank.  The information was sensitive because the firm's bank records, if successfully subpoenaed, could reveal clients who are promised confidentiality.

In October, the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed the bank for Fusion's records.

Fusion fought the requests in court, suggesting to the judge that someone on Grassley's committee provided information to the House committee “in order to circumvent the rules."  The Senate panel cannot issue subpoenas without bipartisan support, but the House committee can.

One of the people in court to watch the proceedings was Foster.

Grassley's spokesman said they became aware of the bank name from a confidential source before the Simpson interview, and that no one from the senator's staff leaked the name.  Asked about Foster's presence in court, the spokesman said “these proceedings are relevant to our work.”

Another incendiary matter involved the public disclosure of the names of Fusion GPS employees, something the firm complained might endanger them.  Grassley's office blamed Fusion for the disclosure, and downplayed the risk to the employees since the firm had not provided the committee with “specific threat information.”

Democratic frustration with Grassley boiled over when he and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) produced the public criminal referral against Steele.

A former Republican congressional aide said it was particularly puzzling that the referral was made publicly because if charges were filed, it may have appeared as though the DOJ caved to political pressure.

A current Republican aide familiar with Judiciary Committee operations told The Washington Post: “It's pretty clear that Grassley and Graham are interested in carrying water for the White House, but that is not reflective of the whole committee.”

The criminal referral appeared to be the last straw for the committee's top Democrat.  Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who said she wasn't consulted beforehand and called it “another effort to deflect attention."  A few days later, she released the committee's confidential Fusion interview transcript, a move she made without Grassley's permission and that further inflamed partisan distrust on the committee.

Feinstein said the disclosure would dispel the “innuendo and misinformation” being circulated by Republicans seeking to deflect attention from the committee's look at Trump and his campaign.

Several current and former legislative aides noted that, in an earlier statement, Feinstein seemed to indicate it wasn't Grassley who she considered primarily responsible for the growing divide.

She blamed “staff” for trying to shift the focus of the committee's work to Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration.

In a lengthy series of written responses to ProPublica's questions, Foy, Grassley's spokesman, denied that Foster or the chairman's other staffers had placed the interests of the president over an independent investigation.  The Democrats, Foy said, were the ones playing politics.

“Ranking Member Feinstein has personally told Chairman Grassley on multiple occasions that she is unwilling to look into Clinton-related matters, and has staunchly resisted oversight efforts relating to Fusion, Steele, the dossier, and the FBI,” Foy wrote.  “Refusing to look at issues on your own side of the aisle seems like the definition of partisanship.  Accusing the other side of playing defense for the White House while your side plays defense for the DNC and the Clinton campaign looks like the very definition of partisanship.”

Foy said there were attempts by Grassley's office “to be good faith partners to work together to ask hard questions of both sides."  Grassley, Foy said, had supported information requests related to the Trump camp, helping to secure thousands of pages of documents from the Trump campaign, companies and presidential transition.  Grassley's office also pointed to its work to get interviews with Donald Trump Jr., along with others present at the now infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting involving Trump's family members, campaign officials and Russians allegedly looking to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Grassley's office provided ProPublica with a private letter from Grassley to Feinstein, in which he criticizes Feinstein for requesting the committee withdraw its subpoena requiring Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's testimony at a public hearing last year, because she was unsatisfied with the limited scope of questions he would answer.  Since Manafort has now been indicted, his attorney has indicated he would refuse to answer any questions.  In the letter, Grassley blames Feinstein for not being “willing to move more quickly and take 'yes' for an answer.”

The failure to interview Manafort is considered one of the committee's most significant errors.

“The Chairman was then criticized for letting him off the hook,” Foy said.  “In reality, the Ranking Member requested that the Chairman dismiss Manafort from the subpoena.  He acquiesced to her request, even though it was the Chairman's preference to require him to appear.”

Feinstein would not be interviewed for this article, and her spokesman would not comment on Foster, his role on the committee or his blog.  The office repeated Feinstein's insistence that the committee's mandate was to investigate Russian interference in an American election, and the president's possible role in obstructing the criminal inquiry into the nature of that interference.

“As a rule, Judiciary Committee Democrats have made their investigative decisions based on an objective review of facts,” said Tom Mentzer, a spokesman for Feinstein.

Kris Kolesnik, a former top adviser to Grassley, was asked years ago to help train young aides arriving on Capitol Hill on how to conduct fair investigations.  In a recent column about the experience, Kolesnik recounted the advice he gave.

“Construct a wall between campaigning and governing.  In a campaign, you can knock yourself out playing politics.  But once you're in government, you can only go as far in successful oversight as your credibility takes you,” Kolesnik wrote.

The column went on to lament how battered that notion has become.  Kolesnik blamed his own party, accusing Republicans of standing in the way of the truth for political gain.

He wrote he knew “a congressional player in the Russia probe is having discussions with the White House about a possible job.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

SAN DIEGO POLITICS - Housing Shortage

"Morning Report: SANDAG Spells Out the Housing Shortage" by Sara Libby, Voice of San Diego 3/28/2018

Even if cities across San Diego County built every single last home or project allowed within their zoning plans over the next three decades – a very, very big “if” – the region still wouldn’t have homes for everyone.

That’s the conclusion of SANDAG officials who are working on the region’s long-term growth forecast, Lisa Halverstadt reports.

“SANDAG staffers have in recent months met with planners countywide to learn where their local plans allow for housing – and how much.  They concluded city and county plans permit 357,000 more units between now and 2050, short of the 509,000 additional homes SANDAG estimates the region will need,” Halverstadt writes.

As San Diego and other communities have seen time and again, just because a plan allows for a certain number of homes doesn’t mean those homes will ever be built.  There’s community opposition to contend with, and trouble cobbling together funding can also stymie projects.

Some city planners told SANDAG this week that they think granny flats – small units on existing lots – will be part of the solution in their communities.

• San Diego County Board of Education Trustee Mark Powell has an out-there idea for how to ease the homelessness crisis: House the homeless inside people’s homes, a sort-of foster care system for the homeless, he writes in a VOSD op-ed.  His proposal would include “a rigorous screening process” for both the homeowners and homeless residents.

AMERICAN POLITICS - 2020 False Census

IMHO:  The purpose of the census is ONLY to count how many people live in the United States of America, citizen OR non-citizen.

"Wilbur Ross Overruled Career Officials at Census Bureau to Add Citizenship Question" by Justin Elliott, ProPublica 3/27/2018

The Commerce secretary wrote a memo arguing that the benefits of the controversial question would outweigh any harm.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’ decision Monday to add a controversial question on citizenship to the 2020 census came in the face of opposition from career officials at the Census Bureau who fear it will depress response rates, especially from immigrants.

Two people with knowledge of the deliberations said career leaders in the Census Bureau, which is part of the Commerce Department, had scrambled to come up with alternatives to adding the question.  Those efforts were unsuccessful.

In a memo announcing his decision, Ross said that “The Census Bureau and many stakeholders expressed concern that [a citizenship question] would negatively impact the response rate for non-citizens.”

But Ross added that “neither the Census Bureau nor the concerned stakeholders could document that the response rate would in fact decline materially.”

The Census Bureau recently noted greater fear and reluctance to fill out the survey in the current political climate.  In a November presentation, a bureau official cited a recent increase in respondents expressing concerns about confidentiality of data related to immigration.  It cited particular concerns among participants in what it labeled an Arabic focus group and among Spanish-speaking respondents.

A Census spokesman referred questions to the Commerce Department.  A Commerce spokesman said that Ross “took a hard look” at an alternative proposal by the Census Bureau to get citizenship data without adding the question.  But he ultimately decided the proposed method “would provide an incomplete picture."  The Ross memo argues that the value of the data collected from the new question will outweigh any harm.

ProPublica first reported in December that the Justice Department had submitted a last-minute request that the Census Bureau add a question on citizenship to the 2020 survey.  The Justice Department argued that better data on citizens was needed to better enforce voting rights protections for minority groups.  But civil rights groups and Democrats fear that the question will lower response rates, affecting congressional redistricting and distribution of federal dollars for a decade.

It would be the first time since 1950 that the full, once-a-decade census asks people about their citizenship.  The Constitution requires a count of all residents of the country every ten years.  The Census Bureau conducts a separate detailed survey of a sample of U.S. households that includes questions about citizenship.

The driving force behind the request for the new question, according to internal emails, was a Justice Department political appointee who spent years as an attorney in private practice defending GOP redistricting maps around the country.  That raised even more concerns among civil rights groups that opposed the addition of a citizenship question.

In response to Ross’ decision, the state of California filed a federal lawsuit Monday night in U.S. district court seeking to block the question.  “California simply has too much to lose for us to allow the Trump Administration to botch this important decennial obligation,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.  “What the Trump Administration is requesting is not just alarming, it is an unconstitutional attempt to discourage an accurate census count.”

Update, March 28, 2018: This story has been updated to include a comment from the Commerce Department.

FLASHMOB - Stairway to Heaven. Germany 2017

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Monday, March 26, 2018

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 3/23/2018

"Shields and Brooks on John Bolton’s worldview, Trump’s shifting legal team" PBS NewsHour 3/23/2018


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including President Trump choosing John Bolton for his third National Security Adviser, the departure of John Dowd from the President’s Russia probe legal team, plus former model Karen McDougal sues to be able to tell her story of an affair with Trump.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  And that brings us now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.

That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

So, gentlemen, I’m actually going back to what we were talking about earlier in the program, Mark, and start with John Bolton.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  OK.

Judy Woodruff:  The President making a lot of news, making news on his own, tweeting last night the surprise announcement that H.R. McMaster was out, John Bolton’s in, and this on top, as you just heard from Yamiche, one change after another at this White House.

What are we to make of this?

Mark Shields:  Well, first of all, I would like to associate myself with the remarks of Nancy McEldowney, who was on the show.  I think she’s absolutely right about John Bolton.

John Bolton is not just ideologically fixed where he’s been.  Unlike his apparent foes within the administration, Jim Mattis, secretary of defense, and Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he [Bolton] has never comforted anybody dying in battle.  He’s never written to a next of kin.

He avoided military service himself, yet it’s his prescription for virtually every situation that arises, whether it’s North Korea or Iraq, for which he has never apologized, for which he was a relentless advocate, and wrong.

So, I just think, temperamentally, Judy, he is the worst possible choice that Donald Trump could make.  He is brutal to people who work with him.  And I just think, what he is, is he’s a flatterer.  And Donald Trump, we know, is incredibly susceptible to flattery.

Judy Woodruff:  David, what do you make not only of Bolton, but just the sequence of changes, almost one right after the other, at the White House?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Well, first, on Bolton, I think, ideologically, Trump probably should have picked him first.  I think a President should pick the sort of person who shares their world view.

And if there is anybody in the Republican foreign policy galaxy who shares President Trump’s world view, it’s John Bolton.  In the administration, he came up with the — he was talking about America first long before Donald Trump ever was.

When he served earlier in the earlier Bush administration, he was a relentless foe of sort of the Republican establishment, the Colin Powells.  He was a relentless foe of the conservatives — of the neoconservatives, who believed in democracy and human rights.

He was an old-style what we call paleocon, power vs. power kind of conservative.  So, Trump at least got somebody he agrees with.

Temperamentally, I agree with Mark.  He was famously thought of as a kiss-up, kick-down kind of guy.  He was famously thought of as someone who didn’t look at issues honestly, look at intelligence honestly, but came with a highly ideological predisposition.

I don’t think he’s the worst thing in the world.  He comes across a lot of issues that I do think seriously increases the chance that we will have some military action in North Korea and Iran.  But he’s not a complete loon.  He just has a bellicose, old style, we need just to be more powerful than anybody else around, and we need to threaten that power all the time, which, when you take — combine it with a temperamentally unstable President, that’s a dangerous combination.

Judy Woodruff:  Dangerous combination?

Mark Shields:  Dangerous, dangerous combination.  And I think David is — suffers from an excess of charity.


Mark Shields:  No, I agree with his analysis, up to the point.

Donald Trump, if you will recall, ran on a foreign policy, all by himself, that he had opposed the war in Iraq, that he was the only Republican who had, just as Barack Obama was legitimately the only Democrat in 2008 who had opposed the United States going into Iraq, won the nomination and won the Presidency.

I’m not saying it was the sole reason, but it certainly gave him a uniqueness and distinction that he claimed for himself.  The evidence for it wasn’t necessarily overwhelming that he had been a dove from the outset.

But that is the polar opposite of John Bolton in that sense.  And Trump wanted a less aggressive, a less assertive American military presence.  And I think the voices of restraint in this administration have been diminished.  And I think that it’s down to Mattis and Dunford.

And I’m just grateful the two of them are there.

David Brooks:  I still think it’s far from a sure thing that it will be super bellicose, super militaristic.

The foreign policy school that Trump has somehow glommed onto and then John Bolton definitely subscribes to really goes back into ancient pre-World War II Republican history, which was much more heartland, much more isolationist almost, but no sense of foreign policy idealism, no sense we want to make the world a better place, that we want to give people dignity, we want to give them human rights.

That’s not part of the equation.  It’s much more, we’re in a great power struggle, and they’re tough and we’re tough.  And that’s just the way they see the world.  It’s an old-fashioned, more, as I say, pre-Cold War style of Republican foreign policy.  But it did tend to be non-adventurist.

And so there was some restraint even back in the early America first days.

Judy Woodruff:  So you don’t see them being quick on the trigger?

David Brooks:  As I say, more quick on the trigger than with Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster, that’s for sure, but I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily marching off to war.

I do think Trump still — his instinct is, I don’t want to spend blood and treasure abroad.  His constituency doesn’t want to fight another war.  I think he would be slow to want to commit troops anywhere, just by his instinct.  He’s a domestic policy guy.

Mark Shields:  John Bolton’s application for the job was his most recent piece in The Wall Street Journal advocating the legal case for the United States attacking North Korea preemptively and unilaterally.

That is not World War — pre-World War II Republicanism, which was, if anything, isolationist.

I mean, the National Security Adviser, Judy, has to be, to be successful, an honest broker between Defense and Treasury and State and all the competing interests, and present to the President the distilled views and honest options that are advocated by his appointees.

And there’s no evidence at all that John Bolton is equipped temperamentally or experientially for that role.

David Brooks:  Yes, I totally agree with that.  He doesn’t fit this job at all.

And I guess the one fear you would add is not so much what you believe, but just a swirl of machismo.

Mark Shields:  Yes.

David Brooks:  This is an administration which is — whose masculinity is on high decibel, while being extremely unstable.

And so that would be the — the whipping up in a frenzy would be the part I would emphasize, I would worry about.

Judy Woodruff:  Other than that, it’s very calm.


TRUMP ADMINISTRATION - Another Shakeup and Hard Turn Right

"Programs, Programs, get your Program.  How else can you know who's in the White House.  Programs..."

"John Bolton named national security adviser in another high-level White House shakeup" PBS NewsHour 3/22/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is being replaced by former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.  John Yang joins Judy Woodruff to explain what we know about McMaster's resignation and the man slated to take his place.

"Trump pick John Bolton has history of clashing with U.S. intelligence community" PBS NewsHour 3/23/2018


SUMMARY:  Former UN Ambassador John Bolton will become the third National Security Adviser since President Trump took office, taking over for Army Lt. Gen H.R. McMaster.  Bolton is a longtime hawk on foreign policy who has served Republican Presidents since Ronald Reagan, and has held Trump's ear as a commentator on FOX News.  Judy Woodruff learns more from Jonathan Landay of Reuters.

"How will hawk John Bolton affect foreign policy?" PBS NewsHour 3/23/2018


SUMMARY:  In naming John Bolton to be his next National Security Adviser, President Trump has picked a long time foreign policy commentator and practitioner, and conservative hawk who has called for military action against North Korea and Iran.  What change will Bolton bring to the job?  Judy Woodruff gets assessments from former diplomat and NSC staff member Nancy McEldowney, and Matthew Kroenig of Georgetown University.

NEVER AGAIN - March for Our Lives

"Parkland victim’s father:  We will get gun reform in the U.S." PBS NewsHour 3/22/2018


SUMMARY:  Children want to be able to go to school, church and the mall without fear of being shot, and they are going to demand it, says Fred Guttenberg, a vocal advocate for reforming the nation's gun laws since his 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed in the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  Guttenberg joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the coming March For Our Lives and more.

"Teenagers will lead the charge and demand change at anti-gun violence March for Our Lives" PBS NewsHour 3/23/2018


SUMMARY:  Students and other demonstrators across the country will protest gun violence Saturday.  In Washington, survivors of last month's deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, will stage their March for Our Lives rally.  John Yang follows some of the students as they prepare for the big day.

"Youth voices take center stage at March for Our Lives" PBS NewsHour 3/24/2018


SUMMARY:  Students across the country flooded into the streets on Saturday to call for stricter gun control laws in the wake of the Parkland school shooting that killed 17 people in Florida last month.  Among the tens of thousands who rallied in Washington, D.C., was a group of students from Patriot High School in Virginia.  NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker, who traveled with them, has more.


aka "Trump Listens Only to Trump"

"Trump call to Putin draws condemnation as leaked details show widening rift with staff" PBS NewsHour 3/21/2018

Trump had to thank his benefactor.  After all, Putin got Trump elected.


SUMMARY:  President Trump's phone call congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on his landslide re-election drew criticism on Wednesday from lawmakers and former national security officials.  On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that Trump had ignored instructions from advisors not to congratulate the Russian leader, widening the rift between him and his staff.  Yamiche Alcindor reports.

"Sen. King: 2018 elections are ‘vulnerable’ and U.S.  is failing to deter our adversaries" PBS NewsHour 3/21/2018


SUMMARY:  Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) says King joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the ongoing Russia investigation, failures by Facebook to regulate the use of its own data, President Trump’s congratulatory call to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and securing state election systems.

SERIAL BOMBER - Austin Bombing Suspect

"What we know about the deceased Austin bombings suspect" PBS NewsHour 3/21/2018


SUMMARY:  The prime suspect in a series of bombings that terrorized Austin, Texas, took his own life overnight, blowing himself up when a SWAT team approached, and shot at 23-year-old Mark Anthony Conditt.  Police say Conditt built the bombs that killed two people and wounded four others.  Hari Sreenivasan learns more from Syeda Hasan of KUT.

MEMORIAM - Betty Ann Bowser

"Remembering NewsHour correspondent Betty Ann Bowser" PBS NewsHour 3/20/2018


SUMMARY:  Betty Ann Bowser, a long-time correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, died Friday night at the age of 73.  After working for CBS News during the Walter Cronkite era, she joined the NewsHour as a correspondent in 1986; covering natural disasters, the Oklahoma City bombing, Hurricane Katrina, and the fight over the Affordable Care Act.

SUPREME COURT - Abortion and Free Speech

"Truth in advertising or free speech burden?  California law on ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ tested at high court" PBS NewsHour 3/20/2018


SUMMARY:  A Supreme Court case centering on abortion and free speech involves California's so-called crisis pregnancy centers -- clinics run by anti-abortion groups -- and whether state law can require those centers to more fully disclose what they are and what they offer.  Marcia Coyle from The National Law Journal joins William Brangham to discuss the case, as well as a defamation against President Trump.

OPEN SECRETS - Facebook vs Your Privacy

"How a data analytics firm allegedly 'weaponized' Facebook to swing votes in 2016" PBS NewsHour 3/18/2018


SUMMARY:  On Friday, Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica, a UK-headquartered data analytics firm, for allegedly using user data to devise election advertising strategy, particularly for undecided voters, in the run-up to the 2016 election.  The U.S. arm of the firm reportedly received information on 50 million American voters from Facebook without disclosing its intentions to the social media giant.  Molly Wood, host of Marketplace Tech, joins Megan Thompson for more.

"Amid Cambridge Analytica revelations, Facebook needs 'rules of the road,' says Sen. Klobuchar" PBS NewsHour 3/19/2018


SUMMARY:  Facebook is at the center of a new firestorm, sparked by media reports that political data firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign, harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook profiles -- and Facebook never told the users.  John Yang talks to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) about calls for greater accountability from the tech giant.

"Facebook faces scrutiny for how user data was used to influence elections" PBS NewsHour 3/20/2018


SUMMARY:  British-based research firm Cambridge Analytica has been accused of harvesting data from more than 50 million Facebook users, and misleading the tech giant about it.  New undercover video captured the CEO talking about their work for the Trump campaign.  Meanwhile, Facebook is facing growing questions and criticism, and officials are set to testify before a House committee.  John Yang reports.

"Investor says he tried to warn Facebook about 'bad actors' harming innocent people" PBS NewsHour 3/20/2018


SUMMARY:  Roger McNamee, one of Facebook's original investors and a mentor to Mark Zuckerberg, says he was concerned about the way “bad actors were taking the tools created for advertisers and using them to harm innocent people,” and alerted Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg in 2016.  But McNamee says they saw it as a PR problem, not a business problem.  He sits down with Hari Sreenivasan.

"Mark Zuckerberg promises change, but Facebook has failed to follow through in the past" PBS NewsHour 3/21/2018


SUMMARY:  Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg broke his silence about what he acknowledged was a "breach of trust" with the public, after news investigations found Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained data on 50 million Facebook users.  Zuckerberg also said steps had been taken to prevent these problems before.  Hari Sreenivasan gets reaction from Tim Wu of Columbia Law School.

AMERICA ADDICTED - Trump's Wrong Focus on Opioid Crisis

"Will Trump’s focus on prosecution, not treatment, make a dent in opioid addiction?" PBS NewsHour 3/19/2018

Answer, NO.  The problem is not the illegal opioid trade, it's the doctors and big pharma that are the real problem.  And we should have learned from past experience that punishment does NOT stop illegal drug trade.  As long as there is a demand there will be suppliers who will make big money, aka supply and demand.


SUMMARY:  President Trump announced his plan to combat nationwide opioid drug addiction at an event in New Hampshire on Monday, calling for aggressive prosecution for traffickers, including using the death penalty.  William Brangham discusses these proposals with Sam Quinones author of "Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic," and Dr. Andrew Kolodny of Brandeis University.

TRUMP - Running Scared

"Trump takes aim at Robert Mueller, lashing out at Russia probe" PBS NewsHour 3/19/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump made new accusations on social media Monday that the probe into ties between his campaign and Russia is a "witch hunt," directly criticizing the special counsel.  Lawmakers in both parties have warned Trump not to fire Robert Mueller, warning of a dire crisis for his Presidency.  Lisa Desjardins reports.

"How will Andrew McCabe's firing affect the Mueller probe?" PBS NewsHour 3/19/2018


SUMMARY:  FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired on Friday, two days before he was set to retire; Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he was dismissed on the recommendation of FBI disciplinary officials.  McCabe also reportedly kept notes on his conversations with the President, and has turned them over to the Special Counsel.  Judy Woodruff talks to Adam Goldman from The New York Times.

"Trump tweets on Andrew McCabe taints Justice Department decision, says former official" PBS NewsHour 3/19/2018


SUMMARY:  Lisa Monaco, a former Assistant Attorney General and Homeland Security Adviser, says we can't judge the merits of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to fire Andrew McCabe because the Justice Department’s Inspector General report has not been made public, which she called “highly unusual."  Monaco joins Judy Woodruff to give her impressions of McCabe and the President’s tweets.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Monday, March 19, 2018

TRUMP AGENDA - Mean Spirited Revenge, McCabe Fired

"What does McCabe's firing mean for the Russia investigation?" PBS NewsHour 3/17/2018

Do you really think the timing was coincidental?  It was mean spirited revenge.


SUMMARY:  Two days before he was set to retire, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired on Friday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  McCabe, a possible witness in the Russia investigation case, said his dismissal was part of the president’s “ongoing war on the FBI.”  NPR Justice Correspondent Carrie Johnson joins Megan Thompson for more.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 3/16/2018

"Shields and Brooks on the White House’s revolving door, Conor Lamb’s upset" PBS NewsHour 3/16/2018


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s firing amid a wave of rumors about a wider Cabinet shakeup, Pennsylvania’s stunning election upset and Sen. Jeff Flake’s comments about 2020.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  The secretary of state is fired, a Democrat claims victory in a conservative stronghold, and that was just on Tuesday.

Thankfully, Shields and Brooks are here to help make sense of it all.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

And we are so glad to see both of you this Friday.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Yes.

Judy Woodruff:  Welcome.

Mark Shields:  Thank you.

Judy Woodruff:  As we just mentioned, David, there have been top people, the secretary of state, the chief economic adviser to the President.  We could name many others.  There is speculation that a number of Cabinet secretaries may go.  We’re showing a picture of just a few of the names out there.

McMaster, the President’s National Security Adviser may be fired by the President.

How do we process all this going on in this administration right now?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Well, Trump is getting Trumpier, and the administration is getting Trumpier.

He’s decided that he’s — in the beginning, he was sort of on the learning curve of the Presidency, but he’s got it mastered, and so he doesn’t need all these people who are telling him no all the time.

And it’s a process of him feeling comfortable with himself.  And it’s also a process of him being anti-system.  White Houses work through the system.  You have got this vast apparatus.  And normally it all works in some form, with deputy meetings, deputy-to-deputy meetings, and then principal meetings and all that.

Trump sort of resists all that.  All the process is sort of within here [makes stomach trouble jester], or maybe lower, I don’t know.  And…


Mark Shields:  This is a PBS station.


David Brooks:  Sorry.


David Brooks:  And so he’s decided, I’m happy here, and I’m going to get rid of the people who are making me feel uncomfortable.

Judy Woodruff:  Mark, should we be wringing our hands over this or just say, as the White House does, that he’s just having people around him who make him comfortable?

Mark Shields:  It’s a new standard for hiring people for jobs, does he or she make me comfortable, not whether they can contribute to the public wheel and make the country better or anything of the sort.

I want to salute David for coining Trumpy, what are the — Sleepy and the other seven dwarfs.


Mark Shields:  But, Judy, anytime you go through this sort of wholesale firing of — it’s an indication of weakness in a President.  It’s of political uncertainty.

I mean, the two most recent Presidents who did it, Gerald Ford in 1975 going through, getting rid of Jim Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense, and dropping Nelson Rockefeller from the ticket, was a sign of political weakness, and Jimmy Carter in 1979 when he got rid of five Cabinet members, including Schlesinger again and Joe Califano.

And it is really — and that’s what you are seeing with Donald Trump.  But I think, at a personal level, there are two things that have to be commented upon.

First of all is that there is about this administration just a fatiguing, draining aspect.  People really — Americans are not consumed with politics and policy and government.  They want somebody who’s going to run things and run them in an orderly way.

This has been disorderly from day one.  And it’s draining, it really is, of the nation’s, I think, well-being and peace of mind.  And Donald Trump promised he would bring the best people, that he knew the best people, they would all come.

Now we have reached the point, quite frankly, where people won’t even accept invitations to the White House to be interviewed or overtures.  And just — he’s running out of — I think of personnel, and I think he’s running out of time politically.

Judy Woodruff:  But, David, the President himself says he believes in being disruptive, he believes in sort of rearranging things, being — creating a little chaos, in so many words.

David Brooks:  Well, that’s true.  He’s accurate about that.

The problem is, the staff never knows what’s going to happen.  And it’s just hard to do your job, (A) if you don’t know what’s going to happen, (B) if you’re constantly being undermined by the President himself.

Everyone who has gone in there, whether it’s Tillerson, looks smaller coming out.  H.R. McMaster is being dangled and dangled and dangled.  H.R. McMaster had a really sterling reputation going in.  He was compelled to not be totally honest early in the administration about what the President told a bunch of Russian diplomats who came.  That hurt his reputation.

And then it’s a process of constantly having to suck up to the President.  Gary Cohn, the economic adviser, let some comments known that he was unhappy with the way the President responded to Charlottesville.  And so he fell out of favor, out of quite — comments that suggested some integrity on Mr. Cohn’s part.

And so you have always got to please the prince.  And you have always got to play in a princely manner.

And what worries me is, they never had really access to the Republican A-level staff, but they had the B-level.  And now we’re going down to C and D.  Larry Kudlow, a new economic appointee, very nice guy, I agree with him on a lot of things.

But Philip Tetlock, who is a scholar who studies decision-making, several years ago identified Kudlow as one of the worst decision-makers, because he’s always driven by ideology.  John Bolton is talked about coming in to the National Security Adviser.  That’s a job where you want somebody neutral to let the process work its way.

John Bolton, who is a FOX News analyst, is anything but ®MDNM-neutral on anything.  And so what you just see is worse personnel, more chaos.


Judy Woodruff:  Go ahead.

Mark Shields:  Well, I agree with David.  And I just want to underline one point he made.

And that is, the way it’s done, Judy, it’s public humiliation, the people who did leave.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, Tillerson, who was notified in a tweet.

Mark Shields:  Tillerson in particular.

But everybody is demeaned or denigrated in tweets afterwards.  And, you know, again, I come back to ordinary Americans.  Just this is not — this is bullying.  This is mean.  This is ugly.  This is not what you want in a President.

Finally, just a personal note, and that is, 50 years ago today, Robert Kennedy announced his candidacy for President.  I was lucky enough to work for him in the primaries in Nebraska and Oregon and California, and got totally unearned status and credit because I had worked for Robert Kennedy, one of the great men of the 20th century, in retrospect, and — but unearned benefits.

Now people of public service, of commitment have gone to work for Donald Trump.  They’re diminished, they’re demeaned, they’re smaller.  They’re in a cauldron of resentment and revenge in the White House.  And they have got legal bills.  And they don’t know from one day to the next whether their job is there and what their job is.

And I just — I feel badly for them, I mean, because every one of them is going to carry that with them the rest…


David Brooks:  I will say one other thing about just having been around a lot of Trump supporters in the last week.

They have tuned it out.  They support the administration.  They like the big things about it, the tax bill, the deregulation, that kind of thing.  And I always ask them, what about this, what about this, the things we frankly talk about a lot every week.

And it just sort of drifts by them unnoticed.  And so if you want to know why he’s still got 90 percent approval roughly among Republicans, I think that’s the answer.  A lot of things that would cause most people to shake their heads, they just — it just doesn’t rise to the level of consciousness and it just gets tuned out.

NEWSHOUR SHARES - Christopher Schafer

"To help men relaunch their lives, this custom-tailor gives them suits" PBS NewsHour 3/16/2018


SUMMARY:  In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, a man [Christopher Schafer] who has made a living crafting high-end suits has found a way to use his talents to give back to the community, by giving donated suits to men recently out of prison or rehab and looking for work.


"There can’t be another war on the Korean peninsula, says South Korean foreign minister: ‘You have to negotiate’" PBS NewsHour 3/16/2018

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha talks like a real, professional, diplomat.


SUMMARY:  In an exclusive interview, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha tells Judy Woodruff that they are cautiously optimistic that possible talks between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump would be a breakthrough for a peaceful resolution.  They also discuss President Trump's recent threats to pull American troops if the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement [KORUS FTA] is not improved, and more.

FADS - Sneakerheads?

"Why sneakerheads are obsessed with the quest for a rarer pair" PBS NewsHour 3/15/2018


SUMMARY:  At "Sneakerhead" conventions [aka Sneaker Con] around the country, anyone can buy, sell or trade a pair, and much-hyped limited releases demand premium prices.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports on what drives this specialty sneaker culture.

REF:  "Can you guess how much these rare sneakers cost?" Making Sen$e (includes question test)

SYRIA - War Keeps Raging

"Syria’s war keeps raging, amid threats of a new Hezbollah-Israel conflict" PBS NewsHour 3/15/2018


SUMMARY:  What began seven years ago as an uprising against the Assad regime has become a regional proxy war.  Now there is talk of another war in the offing, one between Hezbollah and Israel.  What would that look like, and how would it differ from the 2006 conflict?  Special correspondent Jane Ferguson joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the growing fears, Iran’s influence, and the bombardment of Eastern Ghouta.

WAR WITH RUSSIA - Do Sanctions Work?

"U.S. uses sanctions to strike back at Russia for 2016 election meddling" PBS NewsHour 3/15/2018


SUMMARY:  The Trump administration officially moved to punish Russia for cyberattacks and election meddling in the U.S. and Europe by imposing sanctions against 19 Russians -- 13 of whom have been indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.  That word came as officials also accused Moscow of a sweeping campaign to disrupt key industries.  Judy Woodruff reports.

"Do the U.S. sanctions against Russia have any bite?" PBS NewsHour 3/15/2018


SUMMARY:  U.S. sanctions targeting 19 Russians is the strongest response to Moscow's interference in the 2016 election and other campaigns and cyberattacks since President Trump took office.  Judy Woodruff talks with Michael McFaul, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, about whether the sanctions have any bite any what they say about U.S.-Russia relations.

THE LEGACY - Holocaust Education of New People

"To douse growing anti-Semitism, Germans call for Holocaust education for recent migrants" PBS NewsHour 3/14/2018


SUMMARY:  With more than a million newcomers to Germany since 2015, there's been a resulting rise in anti-Semitism.  Now there are growing calls to mandate that refugees and Muslim migrants visit concentration camps to help improve their understanding of the country's terrible past and the echoes today.  Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports.

SPOKESMAN FOR SCIENCE - The Power of Stephen Hawking

"Probing the universe’s mysteries, Stephen Hawking proved the power of the human spirit" PBS NewsHour 3/14/2018

WEB Site, "A Briefer History of Time"


SUMMARY:  Stephen Hawking overcame the loss of his working limbs and voice to become the best-known theoretical physicist of his era, upending the scientific consensus that nothing escapes the intense gravity of black holes.  Earning countless honors, he used his fame to appeal for saving the Earth.  Science correspondent Miles O'Brien joins Hari Sreenivasan to remember Hawking, who died Wednesday at 76.

This is Stephen Hawking's Last Inspiring Message to Humanity (03:05)

GUNS IN AMERICA - Our Nations' Student Walkout

"Student walkouts protesting shootings will vary around the country — and so will their schools’ responses" PBS NewsHour 3/13/2018


SUMMARY:  To mark the one-month anniversary of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, students are planning walkouts around the country for Wednesday.  Organizers expect more than 200,000 students in all 50 states will participate.  But how schools handle these walkouts has been a matter of some concern.  William Brangham learns more from special correspondent Lisa Stark of Education Week.

"‘The adults have failed us.  This is in our hands now’: Thousands stage school walkout over gun violence" PBS NewsHour 3/14/2018

All adults should hand their heads in shame.


SUMMARY:  Students and teachers walked out of class Wednesday morning by the tens of thousands to protest gun violence and remember the victims of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida.  Back in Washington, lawmakers pressed the FBI on why it didn't act on tips about the attacker prior to the shooting, and heard from those directly impacted by the violence.  William Brangham reports.

"Kids who walked out see their generation as the one ‘getting things done’ on the gun debate" PBS NewsHour 3/14/2018


SUMMARY:  Ceilidh Kern, a sophomore, and Jaylah Ross, a junior, are two students who participated in the March 14 school walkouts, and are part of a team from more than a dozen of our Student Reporting Labs who are covering the day's events for the NewsHour.  They join Judy Woodruff to discuss why they walked out, the passion driving children to participate and what they would say directly to policymakers.

BLACK TUESDAY - Trump Cleans House

"After months of tension, Tillerson's State Department tenure comes to abrupt end" PBS NewsHour 3/13/2018

"Abrupt" is an understatement.  Tillerson gets notification via Tweet and word of mouth AFTER being fired.  Forget being respectful of the office or being courteous.


SUMMARY:  Rex Tillerson was sacked Tuesday after 14 months of rocky relations and a long list of policy disputes with President Trump, who announced the Secretary of State's firing in a tweet.  Judy Woodruff looks back at the many points of contention between Tillerson and Trump, and the circumstances potential successor Mike Pompeo would face at 'Foggy Bottom.'

"Tillerson is one of a wave of departures.  Why is Trump cleaning house?" PBS NewsHour 3/13/2018

Answer, YES.  He's attempting to do the same in the FBI.  Trump wants ONLY people who will massage his ego and kiss his 'ring.'


SUMMARY:  What led President Trump to shake up his national security team and dismiss Secretary of State Rex Tillerson?  Judy Woodruff gets insights into the firing from Robert Costa of the Washington Post and Josh Lederman of the Associated Press.

"Will Mike Pompeo succeed where Rex Tillerson failed?" PBS NewsHour 3/13/2018

aka "Will Mike Pompeo bow down to Putin and kiss Putin's ring?"


SUMMARY:  What was Rex Tillerson’s impact on the State Department and American diplomacy, and what will global ripple effects will his successor, current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, face?  Judy Woodruff gets reaction and analysis from Nicholas Burns former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, David Ignatius from The Washington Post, and David Shedd former acting director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.