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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  December 19, 2017 6:00pm-7:01pm PST

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captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening, i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight, republicans push forward their tax plan, marking the biggest change to the tax code in decades. then, how america's fight over abortion is playing out in kenya. the effect of cutting u.s. funds to overseas charities with abortion services. >> it's the whole range of healthcare services that are affected by this. it's h.i.v., it's malaria, it's cervical cancer, tuberculosis. so the impact globally is massive. >> woodruff: and, eyeing a basic educational hurdle-- how baltimore is making a difference in their students' education by providing much needed vision care. >> about 25% of our school
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children needed glasses. but, were not getting them. that's estimated to be 15,000 to 20,000 of our kids who'll end up having to look at the blackboard and it's blurry and they don't know why. >> woodruff: all that and more on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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>> woodruff: republicans are reveling tonight in passage of a sweeping revision of the nation's tax laws. the house approved it today, 227 to 203, and the senate moved to follow suit. but a last-minute procedural glitch meant the house will have to vote one final time, tomorrow. lisa desjardins begins our coverage. (cheering) >> desjardins: cheers as the g.o.p. tax overhaul received final house passage, largely along party lines. it signaled the end of republicans' sprint to get the bill to the president by christmas. minutes before the vote, protesters in the house gallery interrupted the debate several times, with some chanting "kill the bill." but for republicans, like speaker paul ryan, who has long focused on tax policy, it was a day to celebrate. >> this is one of the most
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important pieces of legislation that congress has passed in decades, to help the american worker, to help grow the american economy. this is profound change and this is change that is going to put this country on the right path. for all those millions of men and women in america who are living paycheck to paycheck, who are struggling to get ahead, help is on the way. >> desjardins: it's the first time the u.s. tax code has been substantially revamped in three decades. the bill slashes the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. individual tax cuts would be more modest, and expire in 2026. but the measure doubles the standard deduction for most households to $12,000 for individuals, and $24,000 for married couples. state and local tax deductions remain, but they've been limited to $10,000. republicans insist the tax bill will pay for itself. but democrats, and a number of independent analysts, have said it won't generate nearly enough growth to do that.
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congress' score keeper, the joint committee on taxation, estimates it will actually add nearly $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade. the tax deal also scraps a key part of president obama's health care law, the mandate that all americans have health insurance or face a penalty. house minority leader nancy pelosi was surrounded at a news conference today by health care consumers who she says will be harmed by what she called "one of the most scandalous acts of plutocracy in our history." >> this is the worst bill to ever come to the floor of the house, with stiff competition for what some of the things they've tried to do. the worst bill in history because of the number of people it affects, the amount of money it sucks up to the higher income, and the impact on our future deficits. it's an all-out looting of america, the wholesale robbery of the middle class. >> desjardins: next the senate, where a new tax policy led to
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more political charges. >> every single democrat apparently in the house and also in the senate is doubling down on the status quo. so i guess that tells you that they think we're doing just fine and there's no way to we can do better. >> this tax bill will be an anchor around the ankles of every republican. if they haven't learned it yet, they're going to learn it next november. republicans will rue the day they passed this bill and the >> desjardins: at the white house, press secretary sarah sanders said president trump is eager to sign the legislation into law. >> this is a tax plan that we hope benefits all americans primarily and priority number one is middle class americans. that has been this administration's focus. >> desjardins: republicans next will turn their attention to a spending bill, to avoid a government shutdown friday at midnight. and this bill once signed into law as we expect, judy, would take effect january 1. most provisions would go into
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effect immediately. >> woodruff: so just within days. and lisa, as we reported earlier, now there has been a procedural snag? >> that's right, the plan was the hope is the senate would pass the bill tonight and send it to the president. that's not going to happen. because of senate rules, some elements of the bill including one by ted cruz involving tax plans for home schoolers that the senate parliamentarian says do not meet the rules so the senate will take out that home school provision and others, send it back to the house, the house we expect a final vote there tomorrow. >> woodruff: so this is a massive piece of legislation, lisa, but comes in a week when there is a whole lot else going on, a number of other deadlines members of congress face. can you walk us through that? >> it's so easy to miss the other important things around the corner tomorrow. this week's deadline, december 22, two major deadlines for congress, first to fund most of government, funding runs out midnight friday. also flood insurance runs out of
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its funding friday. december 31, other major programs, the children's health insurance program, its funding expires. fisa, a controversial program, that would exfire and so would the veterans choice act including nursing home benefits, all of that congress needs to deal with before it leaves town. finally, other big priorities that are hanging out there, one to reverse medicare cuts that would have been put in place by this tax bill by automatic spending rules, and another fund insurance subsidies, the alexander murray healthcare bill that they think would help stabilize markets, and passed disaster funding, $80 billion going to help hurricane victims in texas, florida and puerto rico, a lot of money and they might throw that into a
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spending bill. >> woodruff: the first thing you mentioned, funding the government, if they don't get that worked out, the government shuts down. tell us where all that is. >> that's right. the government spending bill itself wouldn't be that difficult, i think, if it weren't for all these other issues surrounding it. the issue is that everyone knows the government spending bill is a must-pass vehicle. there are not a lot of those things hanging out. so anything else people want to pass they wanto attach to it, they want to get on that last train out of town. to do that, judy, also, republicans need democratic votes. they need 60 votes for a spending bill in the senate. so they have to come up with something that can in some way be bipartisan. right now we run out of funding friday night at midnight. we expect the house to pass its version of the spending bill which would contain spending for defense for one year. democrats will not support that because they think they want to also get funding for other programs for a year. so the democrats in the senate will not accept that house bill. it's going to be a ping-pong
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battle between the two chambers. the house passes one, the senate will send back a different version, the house may send a different version. woven through all this are all the issues we talked about. do the insurance subsidies make it into this bill? susan collins of maine was promised that but it may not pass in the house. other issues, daca, the dreamers, democrats want the dreamers to be protected by the end of the year. that may not happen. if it doesn't, will democrats withhold votes for a spending bill? i think the issue is there are so many issues at this time. judy, there is talk, though, of trying to punt all the issues for the short term maybe till mid january. a lot to watch now. >> woodruff: the bottom line, having to put this off till january and pick it up again? >> i think that's right, there's not a lot of appetite for a
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government shutdown two days before christmas, but who knows. >> woodruff: lisa desjardins figuring it out at the capitol, thank you. >> you're welcome. >> woodruff: in the day's other news, the united states charged north korea was behind a cyber- attack that paralyzed hundreds of thousands of computers last may. the so-called "wannacry" ransom- ware disabled crucial networks worldwide, including those of britain's national health system. at the white house, homeland security advisor tom bossert said britain, australia and canada, plus microsoft and others, all traced the attack to north korea. >> this was a careless and reckless attack. it affected individuals, industry, governments and the consequences were beyond economic. the computers affected badly in the u.k. in their health care system put lives at risk, not just money. >> woodruff: bossert said the trump administration is working with tech firms to strengthen cybersecurity. but, he acknowledged north korea is already under so many sanctions, there is not much else the u.s. can do to pressure
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the regime. crews in washington state worked today to clear amtrak cars from a major interstate. the confirmed death toll from monday's derailment stood at three, with scores more injured. under an overcast sky, cranes and flatbed trucks hauled mangled cars away. the train was doing 50 miles over the speed limit when it jumped the tracks. the associated press reports investigators are asking whether a trainee in the cab might have distracted the engineer. the winds stoking that huge fire in southern california stayed mild for a second day. crews used the break to do controlled burns along the fire's leading edge, before stronger winds fan the flames tomorrow. so far, the big blaze has spread across more than 420 square miles north of los angeles, making it the third largest in state history.
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it's 50% contained. rebels in yemen fired a ballistic missile at saudi arabia's capital today, and the saudis say they intercepted it. the rebels said this video showed the launch from a desert site, while amateur video from riyadh purported to show a smoke trail from the interception. the rebel leader declared the attack was meant to carry the fight to the saudis, who lead a coalition fighting in yemen. >> ( translated ): the people that the saudis wanted to be bankrupt even of their freedom. now after 1,000 days of war their ballistic missiles are reaching the heart of the strongholds to the center of riyadh, to their palace of their rule, the symbol of their rule. >> woodruff: the rebels are backed by iran. the saudis charged again today that iran is smuggling the missiles into yemen. meanwhile, the u.n. human rights office said today that saudi coalition air strikes in yemen have killed at least 136 civilians since december 6.
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china and russia today rejected president trump's depiction of them as competitors and threats, in his new national security strategy. the chinese foreign ministry urged the u.s. to "stop deliberately distorting china's strategic intentions and abandon a cold war mentality." the russians complained that u.s. leaders "don't want to abandon the idea of a single- polar world." and on wall street today, the dow jones industrial average lost 37 points to close at 24,754. the nasdaq fell nearly 31 points, and the s&p 500 slipped eight. still to come on the newshour: republican senator john thune explains his support for the tax plan, while puerto rico warns it would hurt the island's economy. on the ground in kenya, u.s. aid halted for groups that mention abortion, and much more.
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>> woodruff: we return to our lead story, the tax bill. this evening i spoke with a key member of the republican leadership team, south dakota senator john thune about how big a day it was for the g.o.p. agenda. >> i think it's fair to say, judy, if you look at this tax bill, and it has been a long tomb in the making and there have been a lot of hiccups along the way and speed bumps, but we're going to get a good product that delivers the things we committed to to provide meaningful tax relief to middle income families and create better paying jobs and higher wages. so we're happy where things are. also this bill also includes provisions that repeal the individual mandate under obamacare, that expand energy exploration on the north slope
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in alaska, so a lot of policy contained in here that many republicans and many americans have supported for a long time. >> woodruff: let's talk about the middle class and how it benefits. the white house saying the middle class is the big ben fishiary, but the "wall street journal" says today by 2019, middle income households are going to get $61 billion additional in tax cuts, but that by 2027, those same households are going to up with a net tax increase. so how do you explain that to them? >> well, frankly, the reason that is the way that it is because we have to use the crazy washington accounting methods here when we do these bills. frankly, it will be very easy, hopefully next year, if the democrats will join us to make those tax cuts permanent on the individual side. that way, that tax increase that you're talking about at the end of the ten-year period would go away. frankly, the reason it happens
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is because, on the individual side, the tax changes that we're making sunset in 10 years. but again, that's to satisfy the reconciliation rules that we have to use here in p the senate, but it will be easy to correct and remedy that simply by voting to make the tax cuts permanent and i hope we get the opportunity to do that. >> woodruff: in terms of the growth this bill is predicted to create on the business side, senator, it is hard to find an independent economist who agrees that the level of growth, the amount of growth that the republican majority say is going to happen, that it's actually going to materialize. where does that confidence come from that that's going to happen? >> right. well, i think there are different models out there, as you mentioned, judy, and, of course, we all take -- i think both sides take the best of the models, the things that they like, but we believe, if you look at where we are today and the growth that's predicted by the congressional budget office
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by the joint committee on taxation which are the two official scorekeepers we have to deal with in congress, they're predicting we'll grow at 1.8 to 1.9%. to cover the cost of the tax cut, you have to realize 2.1 to 2.3% annual growth. we think it's very achievable. our economy in the last two quarters has grown 3.1 to 319 p%, historical average is 3 to 3.5. so if we get close to normalizing the growth, we'll blow it away. it comes down to your expectations and sumps are about growth in the economy. we think reasonable, modest assumptions about growth get us to where we cover the foregone revenue the tax cut and get us to where we actually pay down some of the deficit. >> woodruff: do you give yourselves a deadline next year when you need to see the growth
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materialize? >> i think it will be over time. you've already seen the economy coming back around. in the at least two quarters, 3.1, 3.3, it would be nice to grow on that. we haven't had a 3% growth for about a decade. i think the tax reform, putting the policies in place to encourage investment, encourages small and large businesses to expand their operations, we'll start generating growth right away. allows businesses to expense their capital investment will be a huge economic incentive for them to invest and, so, hopefully we'll see that start to emerge early. but i think we have to be patient, too. these are big changes. there is going to be a little bit of transition, everything won't happen overnight, but i think you will see some uptick in the economy and hopefully it will sustain what we believe is already underway, and that is a more prolonged period of economic growth that's more traditional with historic averages. >> woodruff: we had a very
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successful businessman with us on the "newshour" last night, michael bloomberg, who is, he says, very skeptical that that growth is going to happen. he went on to say -- he said this bill is not true tax reform and he said that the deficit it's going to create over the next ten years means the country is not going to have the money that it needs to do infrastructure, the infrastructure fixes that everybody agrees need to happen, money to improve school systems that are hurting across the country. how do you answer that? >> well, i think his opinion maybe differs from other economists about how much growth we're going to see. but, like i said, a very small amount, a very modest amount of economic growth, two-tenths to four-tenths of one percent a year gets you to whether you cover the cost of the tax cut and anything over and beyond that will be dollars that could be dedicated paying down the debt or for some of the things he's talking about. but i think you have to play the long game here. you have to look at what are the policies that are good for the
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economy in the long term. i disagree. i think there are significant tax reforms on the tax side. we'll be a good place to do business. the changes on the international side of the tax code will incentivize companies to create and stay jobs here and multi-national companies outside the u.s. to invest here. time will tell. very different opinions about this, but we believe very profoundly that this legislation will be good for the economy. >> woodruff: one last thing i want to bring up, and this is a criticism about fairness here, come up in the last few days, and this is the provision that would benefit president trump and other wealthy real estate owners. they'd get b, under this bill, a 20% reduction in the so-called paspass through income. >> the pass through businesses are s.s.l., sub s corporations,
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sole proprietaryships, small and medium-size companies are organized that way. what that deduction allows is to allow them to reduce the taxable income that they are responsible for paying taxes on every year and enables them to put more of their dollars back to work in the economy. you know, that particular provision affects not just real estate, it affects all across the spectrum when it comes to small businesses. farmers, ranchers, people i represent will benefit from this. we think they will take the savings and invest them in growing their operations and hiring more workers and paying more wages and more benefits. this is where you start getting that forward momentum in our economy, some of which we're already starting to see, but i think this tax bill will hopefully generate more and we'll see growth rates start to get back to normal and to get people back to where we're actually growing incomes in this country. we've had pretty flat wages and incomes for the better part of the last decade. that needs to change.
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the status quo isn't acceptable. we can do better where we are and we think the tax bill moves us in that direction. >> a lot of people certainly hope that is the case, that it leads to the growth ac northbound increases you're describing. senator john thune thank you very much. >> thanks, judy, nice to be with you. >> woodruff: one aspect of this tax bill that hasn't gotten as much attention: a couple of provisions that may hit the economy of puerto rico, even as the island struggles to recover fully from hurricane "maria." jeffrey brown zeroes in on those issues. >> brown: that's because the bill treats puerto rico in some ways as a foreign entity, not a territory of the u.s. specifically, it includes a higher tax rate on corporate assets like intellectual property. local officials warn that could drive out drugmakers and other manufacturers. it comes as a third of puerto rico is still without power. and in a week when the
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government announced it will review all deaths in the aftermath of the hurricane. that, after several independent investigations found the number of deaths was much higher than officially reported. carlos mercader is a representative on the mainland for governor ricardo rosello. he joins me now. welcome to you. >> thank you. >> brown: so start with the tax bill. why do you think it would be such a blow? what are theism cases? >> yes, puerto rico, it's a u.s. jurisdiction, and we are asking congress to treat puerto rico under the current tax bill as a u.s. jurisdiction. the fact is that, basically, they are penalizing puerto rico with the taxes that they are imposing on foreign corporations or foreign territories. what we were saying is that every job in puerto rico is a u.s. job. it's an american job, and if the tax bill wand to protect american jobs, they would have had included puerto rico as a u.s. jurisdiction and they
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wouldn't be penalizing those jobs in the island with the taxes that they just passed. >> brown: so far we haven't seen any companies threaten to leave. >> well, everyone is saying they will be looking at how is theism taigs of this tax bill, and, obviously, remember, we're going to be competing against foreign jurisdictions. we're competing against other foreign countries we basically don't have the same set of rules, the seam set of laws, the same set of regulations puerto rico has. >> brown: but have any companies told you quietly that they will leave? yes? >> they mentioned they're analyzing their situation. >> brown: separately, thi theres the disaster aid idea going through congress now. a lot of money for all the recent disasters, with some of it ear marked for puerto rico but not nearly as much as you've asked for. >> and while we appreciate that congress right now, it has
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basically raised the amount of moneys that are going to be included in that aid package, we're still saying that we need to attack the medicaid cliff we're facing. it's basically, puerto rico, after february 18 rf no money to run its medicare program and we need to find the money in this supplemental aid package to cover the cliff we will face in february. >> brown: those problems are pre-hurricane. >> but heightened by the situation of the hurricane. what we're asking is the same thing that happened in new orleans after katrina in which the federal government covered for 24 months the federal and the state share on the medicaid front. >> brown: your governor acknowledged this week the death toll may be higher than
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acknowledged so far, after he stuck to that number a long time. what has changed and why did the government stick to the number for so long? >> the government basically has a process of analyzing and very fine that all of the death that happened after a storm directly or indirectly related to the storm. so, in a process of seeking transparency, what he has basically asked is that, one thing, that they investigate each and every death that occurred after the storm, and then he commissioned an x-ray panel so that they go back and see that process that the government had when the storm happened to make sure that that's the best process to really identified the real cause of death of a person that died after the storm. and this is very important -- life, it's much more important
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than numbers. so here, every death that happened after the storm needs to have the real information, what really happened. >> brown: very briefly, those numbers could be off by hundreds, right? do you have the efficiency, the funding for a real count now? >> yes, yes. actually, the process has always been open, meaning that the governor has always recognized that, since this was such a big catastrophe, obviously, the number of deaths could be high, and higher than the number that we have. the thing is that, with the numbers that are out there right now, that's why he has asked for each and every death to be reinvestigated again, calling in doctors and making sure the cause of death was really a natural cause of death or related to the storm, and then, obviously, calling in the experts so that they can chip into that government process. >> brown: carlos mercader, thank you very much. >> thank you.
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>> woodruff: stay with us, coming up on the newshour: giving away free glasses to boost students' grades. an author details her cousin's struggle with the american prison system. plus, an auto shop run by and for women. but first, an echo from africa where the effects of the long- running debate in u.s. politics over abortion are felt. special correspondent fred de sam lazaro reports from kenya on a policy governing foreign aid for health care services. >> reporter: mix music, dancing and games and you're sure to attract a crowd of young people in poor neighborhoods like this one in eldoret, kenya but behind the festivities is a serious mission: providing teens with information about and help
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with birth control. in a nearby tent, health workers offer contraception for anyone that requests it. the preferred method? injectables which can stave off pregnancy for up to four years. it's all sponsored by marie stopes international, a british- based healthcare charity that works in 37 developing countries aid agencies providing reproductive health services say that work is critical to curb some of the world's fastest population growth rates. kenya, for example, is not the fastest in africa and yet its population has more than doubled over the last 25 years. marie stopes had received about $30 million annually worldwide from the u.s. government to do its work, but all of that was cut last january when president trump reinstated the so called mexico city rule, which its critics call the global gag rule. the reagan administration instituted the policy in 1984,
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following a mexico city conference. it cuts off u.s. government aid for abortion services to groups that provide or even mention abortion as an option. the rule has since been rescinded by every democratic administration and reinstated by every republican one. but the trump administration has gone much further, applying the rule to an organization's entire u.s. aid grant, not just money for reproductive health. aid groups that might have forfeited $600 million annually under previous restrictions, now risk losing $9 billion. dana tilson is kenya director for marie stopes international. >> it's the whole range of healthcare services that are affected by this. it's h.i.v. it's malaria. it's cervical cancer, tuberculosis. so the impact globally is massive. not one penny will be taken
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away, not one penny less will be spent in africa to be devoted to health care across the board. >> reporter: marjorie dannenfelser, who advised president trump on the new policy, insists it does not take away any funds as long as aid groups stop abortion services. >> the only thing marie stopes has to do is come into compliance with the policy. if they actually proved that they were focused on the health of all people, including the unborn child in africa, you know what? i would support that. i would support any amount of funding if they would take away their abortion services. >> reporter: that's a non- starter for marie stopes. even though abortion is illegal in kenya except when pregnancy endangers a mother's life, and even though abortion amounts to just 10% of marie stopes' work, tilson says the group won't curtail those services because of u.s. politics. >> we believe that women have a right to comprehensive health care, including comprehensive reproductive healthcare and family planning. and safe abortion services are
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an essential component of that comprehensive healthcare package. >> reporter: in fact, tilson says about 40% of the work that marie stopes does is aimed at preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place. we watched one of the weekly classes held in nairobi, designed to educate both men and women about family planning. afterwards, we spoke to women who already have children, but don't want anymore. >> ( translated ): the economy is very harsh these days. and if you have many children, it is expensive to care for them with shelter, food and education. >> ( translated ): i want to give my children the best environment i can so they will do well in the future. but it's expensive. >> reporter: so far, marie stopes has been able to continue offering family planning services for free by getting some emergcy funding from a coalition of european governments and organizations. that funding, however, will run
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out in mid-2018. meanwhile, the impact of the new rule is already being felt by smaller groups, like family health options of kenya. it shut down one of it's medical clinics and has curtailed many outreach activities. >> smiling baby, smiling baby. >> reporter: clinic director melvine ouyo says they've also had to start charging for services that used to be free, which drives patients away. >> reporter: what is the consequence in health terms? >> we will see mortalities from other ailments. because people are not able to access services currently. >> reporter: ouyo says it's also likely to mean an upswing in unintended pregnancies. patient elizabeth wanjiru still manages to come to one of their still open clinics for contraceptives but says many of her friends can't afford it. >> they're not using family planning. and if they're not using family planning, they end up having unwanted pregnancies.
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>> reporter: and critics say there's a stark irony in all this: a stanford university study of the policy during the george w. bush administration found abortion rates actually rose when money for family planning was cut off. the consequence: higher maternal mortality rates, says tilson. >> where women get unintended, unwanted pregnancies, hey will do anything to terminate the pregnancy. and where there are not safe services available, they will go to the backstreet. >> reporter: abortion is only a small part of what you do, yes it is a principled stand, but in deference to the danger you face why not swallow hard and essentially go with the gag rule? >> the reason is rights and principles. yes, women and girls will lose their lives because of this gag rule but we're not going to be gagged. >> reporter: for her part, trump advisor dannenfelser says the mexico city rule is also based on principle. >> the trump administration, and most of america, does not
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believe that taxpayer funding ought to go to abortion. and it certainly shouldn't go to nations that generally are very, very pro-life, which is true all across africa. the cultural imperialism that exists at the heart of this idea, that they can't be happy unless they have abortion like we do, is outrageous. >> reporter: she insists new aid groups will step up to offer critical health services that larger ones like marie stopes may no longer provide. but critics doubt any newcomers would have that capacity. at stake are health services to tens of millions of people who depend on the largest single humanitarian aid program in the world. for the pbs newshour, this is fred de sam lazaro in nairobi, kenya. >> woodruff: fred's reporting is a partnership with the under told stories project at the university of st. thomas in minnesota.
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>> woodruff: next, a story from baltimore. city leaders built a broad coalition to help solve a problem for students there: access to vision care. william brangham reports for our weekly series making the grade. >> cover your left eye for me. can you see that line under the red line? >> brangham: vision checks at the start of the school year are routine for many students around the country. it's the same here at matthew a. henson elementary in baltimore. reading those little letters from a distance is no problem for some. >> d, c, z, o, d, t, p. >> brangham: but for others... >> read that line again for me? is that all you can see? >> brangham: for kids with poor vision, their parents now have to start a long and expensive process: eye doctors, opticians, buying glasses. >> we live in a community where
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unfortunately so many of our children live below the poverty line where there are many barriers to care including transportation and ability to pay. >> brangham: doctor leana wen is the health commissioner at the baltimore city department of health. >> even parents finding out. the process of getting those test results relayed to parents. or, insurance and reimbursement. all these were barriers to care. >> brangham: dr. wen helped usher in a new program called" vision for baltimore." it provides eye exams, and two pairs of glasses to every student who needs them, right in their own school, totally free of charge. >> about 25% of our school children needed glasses. but, were not getting them. that's estimated to be 15,000 to 20,000 of our kids who'll end up having to look at the blackboard and it's blurry and they don't know why. and, think that it's normal. >> brangham: first, the city health department identifies which students need glasses. a few weeks later, the national non-profit group ¡vision to learn' arrives at school in a mobile eye clinic to prescribe
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lenses. eyewear retailer warby parker donates the frames. meanwhile researchers from johns hopkins university study the students' academic progress after they've gotten glasses. >> we can tell you that we've already done over 18,000 screenings of our children. more than 2,000 of our kids have gotten glasses. in three years we're going to ensure that every child in baltimore city, k through eight who needs glasses will be able to get them, regardless of ability to pay. >> brangham: khloe mangrover is a second grader at dr. bernard harris jr. elementary school. last year she was part of the first group of students to receive their free eye exam and pair of glasses through the program. >> when i didn't have glasses i couldn't see the board, so that's when i came and sit in the front. >> brangham: her grandmother, deboris jackson, says vision for baltimore is a huge help for their family. >> her mother works. and that's time she ain't have to take off from work for her to see about her getting her
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glasses or whatever. i'm her backup so what she can't do i do. that is so very considerate because i don't drive. when she's in school and she can't see the blackboard, she might hear but she can't see without her glasses. >> brangham: maryland law requires students get vision screenings in pre-k and first grade but not again until eighth grade. that's a big gap for kids whose eyesight may get worse during elementary school. and while some health insurance plans cover one pair of glasses per year, if something happens to those glasses, parents will have to buy new ones. >> what we expect is that it will definitely show a positive impact on their academic scores. >> brangham: dr. megan collins at johns hopkins university is one of those tracking the students' progress. her past research makes her optimistic. in 2014, she studied 321 elementary students in baltimore
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who were given eye exams and glasses. >> kids who we gave glasses to did better on their reading assessments than kids who didn't need glasses, showing that there was a potential that giving them glasses was improving their reading scores. >> brangham: amber singleton is an optician with vision to learn. she travels from school to school helping kids get the right prescription. >> we pretty much a pretest, just kind of get a starting point for the prescription. then once i have that preliminary information, i send them back to the doctor. they'll do a full exam. >> brangham: after the exam, students get to pick fashionable frames in black, red, pink and blue. >> i picked pink because that's my favorite color. >> brangham: we returned a couple weeks later to matthew a. henson elementary school when students got their first pairs of free glasses >> well hello, how are you? what's your name? >> brangham: fifth grader markell gibson is getting her
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first pair ever. so how much of a difference do glasses really make? i asked markell to read a simple book with and without her new glasses. here's how she read without them: >> (reading slowly): but mother, said the little one, why do you love me when sometimes i am naughty and run away when you try to dress me. i never said i stopped loving you when you are naughty. did i, asked his mother. >> brangham: try that again with your glasses. >> (reading faster): but mother, said the little one, why do you love me when sometimes i am naughty and run away when you try to dress me. i never said i stopped loving you when you are naughty. did i, asked his mother. >> brangham: do you notice that difference?
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amber singleton, who's fitted dozens of kids, was moved to tears seeing markell read so much better. >> i don't get to see them when they go back to class and i've never witnessed the immediate difference. like that was proof in the pudding. yeah, i teared up. that was awesome. >> brangham: wade brown is the local program director for baltimore vision to learn. >> children don't know to tell you they can't see in most cases. a child trying to read for their parent and having difficulty reading to a parent means they just need help with reading. so they're thinking, "okay, let me help you with the words," still missing that it's not the words. it's the vision. >> brangham: it's got to be a pretty great feeling to see the transformation when a kid puts those glasses on their face. >> for me it's personal. i'm one of these kids. so to know that i'm doing something that's making an impact earlier that quite possible could make a greater impact in their lives as they
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grow, it's the greatest feeling in the world. >> brangham: while vision to learn operates in at least 18 other cities around the country, its baltimore program is the largest. and with dozens more schools to visit, they say their work has hardly begun. in baltimore, i'm william brangham for the pbs newshour. >> woodruff: now, a story of family and incarceration. jeffrey brown has this latest addition to the newshour bookshelf. >> brown: it's a story of one young man and a much larger system in crisis. at age 15, michael allen was convicted of attempted carjacking. he was charged as an adult and spent almost 11 years in prison. what led to that moment and what followed ending in his murder at age 29, is told in a highly personal memoir titled "cuz." author danielle allen was michael's cousin, she's a
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classicist and political scientist at harvard university. and welcome back to you. >> thank you jeff. >> brown: you clearly set out to write about someone you knew and loved, but also to frame him within this larger national issue is that a fair way to put it? >> it is. my cousin had this tragic life. i had to understand why, what had happened to him, why did he end up dead, why was he in prison for so long? and i knew that digging into that story would help me also understand what has happened so many young men, particularly african american young men in this country in the last 20 years. >> brown: as we fill in his story it's a very particular time and place, right? it is south central l.a., the throes of gang warfare, speeded it is the beginning of the war on drugs, the three strikes and you're out. >> yep. that was a terrible time. he was a kid, you know ages 10- 14 are very dangerous for adolescents. he had moved a lot, been in a lot of different schools, and he landed in los angeles as a stranger. and had to find a way to prove himself on difficult territory. and there is a rhythm where a kid starts to flirt with gangs.
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and they typically have their first about 18 months after they start getting involved. and that's what happened to michael. this attempted carjacking was his first arrest, his first encounter with a criminal charge, and so forth. and it's just, it's a terrible story of adolescence and its dangers. >> brown: but he confessed to other, lesser crimes than this and suddenly he was-- >> he did. >> brown: three strikes and he faced very severe penalty. >> exactly. so basically, in a single week, he seems to have done a number of things. so when he did the attempted carjacking, his victim got his gun and shot him and he was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, and during that ambulance trip he confessed to also having robbed people in the previous day so he confessed to four robberies in addition to the carjacking. so it was a spree, there's no question about that. you have to just admit that. history, so it was a 15 year old, doing this sort of thing for the first time. but he was tried as an adult. which led to a very lengthy prison sentence. >> brown: you know there's a point in the story where you're writing about his life and you say "from here, any number of possible endings are still imaginable." >> yeah. >> brown: does it look like
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clear lines? did it come out that way? >> well, when you look back, you can make sense of it right? that's why the book is called" cuz," it's for my baby cousin, whom i love, i still love deeply, and the word also mean¡' because.' you know, because of this, you know, this is what happened to him. and he was this bright, talented person, he was a great writer, i really wanted to give his voice to the country. and so you want to look back and figure out how this bright, talented person who had a big family who loved him, and his immediate family was struggling, yes, but he had these aunts, uncles and cousins who all cared and were trying to help so what could possibly have gone wrong? and it really is, i think, this moment, between 10 and 14, when his mother married. she married somebody abusive, their lives are shot through with violence. and he kept changing school repeatedly, and he was sort of a lost kid at a certain point. and i think, then, needing community in los angeles, the gang community, became what pulled him into the danger. >> brown: and of course what is irrefutable is that once he was
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sentenced and in the system as an adult, that set the course for the rest of his life, which was short. >> so you have this terrible situation where young kids are kind of caught between a fight between these very powerful gang organizations on the one hand and a very powerful state on the other. and the state is fighting the criminal gangs, of course, but the nature of the fight is so violent and so brutal that young people get caught up in it. and the course of their life is set up on a very dangerous path. i think of it as a degree of difficulty question. michael is absolutely responsible for his own choices, but we have to consider the degree of difficulty that pertains to the choice set given to particular young people. and young men ages, again, 10 to 14 in the middle of a city, man you're like, the choice set that we as a society have created for them is just horrible. >> brown: well, what did you see when you put on your political theorist hat, looking at the national culture as policy issues for this country what was the biggest takeaway for you? >> the things that surprised me the most, was that digging into this really led me to change my position on thinking about drug
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policy. so it's turned me into a person who thinks that the war on drugs is really at the deep, root heart of our problems. i think of the issue as a bit like family secrets. one of michael's challenges was, that the people around him who loved him didn't share enough, we didn't talk enough and get the fragments of what we all understood about his troubles on the table to help him. and i think our society faces a similar thing on the war on drugs. it pushes so much activity into secrecy that we can't actually address the trouble that young people are having. i think we need to legalize marijuana and actually even consider decriminalizing cocaine and heroin-- decriminalizing is not legalization, that's an important distinction. but i do think we have to consider that as a way of trying to cure society, give us a chance for being frank and honest with each other. >> brown: you changed your feeling about this? >> yes, yes. i mean, so i've been concerned about the war on drugs for a long time and the way it's been a driver for mass incarceration but i was always a little bit twixt and between. drugs are obviously a terrible thing, they do terrible things to people, but the more i dug
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into this the more convinced i became that the legislative choices that we made starting in the 1970s have built the world that we currently inhabit and all the dangers that confront young people in cities especially. >> brown: you know, i just want to end with this idea, since it was you telling michael's story, it's inevitably a tale of two very different people. two very different outcomes. >> yeah, well different outcomes, but people who shared so much. i think that's what so painful about it. >> brown: well, but when you think about the different outcomes, him ending up in the streets and in prison, and you as a very accomplished academic, and i know you were a scholar of greek literature and tragedy where these issues about destiny, about character. what do you come away thinking about how much we control our own destiny? >> so, i do believe that i am where i am, you know, a whole lot of it's got to do with luck. so there is, yes, questions of character and the resources that my parents gave me but also luck and what the lord my god blessed
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me with. and there's so much that is beyond our control. there's a line from charles olsen: "limits are what we live inside of" at the beginning of the book, and i think that's simply true. and we don't know when we're going to bump up against our limits and sometimes that feels like an experience of fate. and then that's the challenge of our character, is how to wrestle with those limits when we bump up against them. >> brown: okay, the book is" cuz." danielle allen thank you very much. >> thanks a lot jeff. >> woodruff: now to our newshour shares, something that caught our eye that may be of interest to you too. patrice banks used to feel uncomfortable in auto shops. now, she owns one and is on a mission to empower other women in the automotive industry. the newshour's julia griffin has this profile. >> reporter: outside philadelphia, on a typical suburban street corner, sits an auto repair shop that, at first
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glance, looks like any other. until you notice the employees... the decor... and those red heels. okay, so i have to ask, do you always wear the red heels? >> only for you, julia. only for you. only for pbs. >> reporter: patrice banks is the owner of girls auto clinic, a garage that caters to the automotive industry's number one customer: women. >> i created girl's auto clinic to educate and empower women through their cars, and so what that means is we offer automotive buying and repair resources, services and products to women. >> reporter: the business was a long time coming for a woman who was once a car care novice. >> i called myself an auto- airhead and i was. i hated all of my automotive experiences right? i did put a post on facebook "my car needs an oil change, but i'm going to go get a mani-pedi instead" and i did. the guys were like, "this is why women shouldn't drive, right, you're going to be stuck on the side of the road with a blown engine," and my girlfriends were like "at least she'll look cute
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when she's thumbing it for a ride right?" >> reporter: but outside of cars, banks was no airhead. the first in her family to go to college, she was making six figures at dupont as a materials engineer when a new calling beckoned. >> i knew there was millions of women out there that were auto- airheads or felt taken advantage of or mistreated by the industry and needed help. >> reporter: at age 32, banks enrolled in an automotive technology course at a local community college and was the only woman in her class. she also started hosting weekend car care workshops for women, an event that still sells out today, and eventually quit her job to apprentice at male- dominated garages. >> it was rough. going into this dirty garage with a bunch of men that don't care, cursing, screaming, yelling at me. but again i kept telling myself, you're on a mission here. this is just growth, you're learning, you're not here for these people, you're here for women and you're here to learn. >> reporter: finally, in
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january, banks officially opened girls auto clinic and made those red heels her signature logo. and in an industry where only two percent of mechanics are female, all of banks's employees are women. >> our customers are excited to bring their children in to see us working on cars. this is the future right? we want you to see like yes, women can do these things. >> reporter: but banks also wants to shift the entire repair shop experience beyond just vehicles, with her clutch beauty salon just next door. >> i thought, okay, have this place here where women are going to say "yes! i've got to get my car oil changed, i'm going to get my nails done." so to be able to kill two birds with one stone is the cherry on top. >> reporter: and if starting a business wasn't enough, banks has also released the "girls auto clinic glove box guide." >> you're not supposed to put it on your bookshelf, it's not a cover to cover read. i want people to use it, to find it helpful. >> reporter: in the end, banks says she just wants to give women a leg, or heel, up the
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automotive field. >> we're working in it, not just as mechanics, but as salesmen, women selling cars to women, women engineers, women designers. i'm hoping girl's auto clinic can create this type of movement for the industry. >> reporter: banks plans to expand that movement by franchising girls auto clinic in other cities. for the pbs newshour, i'm julia griffin in upper darby, pennsylvania. >> woodruff: such a great idea. let's hope it expands all over the country. on the newshour online right now, our coverage of the senate vote on the gop tax bill continues through the evening. that and more is on our web site, pbs.org/newshour. and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. join us online and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you and see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
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>> the ford foundation. working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide. >> carnegie corporation of new york. supporting innovations in education, democratic engagement, and the advancement of international peace and security. at carnegie.org. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and individuals. >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc
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