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News Brief: Trump Health Care Executive Order, California Wildfires, Harvey Weinstein


So Republicans couldn't quite pull off repeal and replace.


Now President Trump will try a tactic that he once criticized - executive action in the face of inaction by Congress. The president signs an executive order today. It would let groups of people band together to buy health coverage. You know, trade groups, or chambers of commerce or groups of small business owners could buy coverage, which would not face as many restrictions under the Affordable Care Act.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They'll be able to buy. They'll be able to cross state lines. And they will get great, competitive health care, and it will cost the United States nothing.

INSKEEP: That's the president, of course, previewing his plan. Proponents say association health plans, as they're called, could be cheaper, although they may also cover less. And analysts warn, they may draw younger, healthier people out of the wider insurance market.

MARTIN: All right, what happens now - let's ask NPR's Domenico Montanaro.

So Domenico, President Trump couldn't get Obamacare repealed through Congress, so he's taken things into his own hands. Is that what's happening here?

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: In part, yes. I mean, ironically, the president is taking a tack that conservatives criticized former President Obama for - you know, acting unilaterally after Congress fails to do so. You know, what he's going to sign is something conservatives have wanted to do for a long time, going back more than a decade.

Bills like this have been talked about. The House passed a version of it in 2005. It's aimed at putting pressure on Congress to do more and especially to make Democrats stand up and take notice because this really could undercut the individual markets in place currently under Obamacare.

MARTIN: So - and this is what critics are pointing to. They're saying that the reason why Obamacare is having problems is that President Trump keeps undercutting it. So what does this mean for consumers?

MONTANARO: You know, for most people it's not going to affect them, obviously, because most people will still get health insurance through their employers. For small businesses and associations, it may have an impact, but not for a little while, probably, because the details and timing are not yet clear when this would take effect.

Health experts also say that when this plan does take effect, by allowing these health - these association health plans to go into effect, this banding together is unlikely by itself to have a huge impact on lowering premiums for those small businesses. That's because, already, people are basically buying in a large-group market on each state exchange.

You know, the only way for this to really reduce premiums is if you reduce the quality of coverage. In other words, you exclude - and you would wind up because of that excluding sick people or taking away, you know, some of those essential health benefits. And if you do that, you know, that's kind of like going to a car dealership and, you know, you take away the seat belts, the rearview mirror, the mirrors on the side - no headlights, no air bags. Sure, it's still a...

MARTIN: Not so safe.

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

MONTANARO: It's still - sure, it's still a car, but do you want to drive it?

MARTIN: Not so much. So I mean, the health markets have been so unstable - just trying to figure out where health care policy is going. What does this latest move mean for the broader market?

MONTANARO: Well, again, it could undercut the Obamacare markets because you would wind up drawing away those younger, healthier people to get this car with no sideview mirrors and be able to - you know, and it would wind up raising those premiums and prices for sicker people. That's what health policy experts point to.

MARTIN: All right, to be continued - NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thanks, Domenico.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.


MARTIN: More grim news today out of California's wine country.

INSKEEP: Wildfires keep spreading north of San Francisco Bay. And as we've heard, the fires are spreading quickly, driven by winds at times reaching hurricane force. People keep thinking they're safe, thinking they have time to evacuate and then finding out, they don't. As of early this morning, 23 people were confirmed killed - among them, elderly people who could not easily move.

MARTIN: All right, NPR's Nate Rott has been covering all this from Santa Rosa. He is on the line now.

Nate, what's going on where you are?

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Well, the most recent forecasts have been calling for 20- to 30-mile-per-hour winds tonight, so that is not a good situation. Bear in mind, that's a far cry from, like, the 70-plus-mile-per-hour winds that Steve was referring to that we saw in the area on Sunday night, Monday morning. And that's when these fires really blew up, just incinerating neighborhoods and homes.

But, I mean, 20- to 35-mile-per-hour winds isn't something to shake your head out - put your head out the window of your car moving 30 miles per hour, and imagine a fire getting pushed at that speed, and you'll realize that it's not really a good situation for anyone. And it's not just that the fires are going to get pushed faster - they're going to burn hotter with that going on. The embers will get picked up and carried by those winds out in front of the blaze, jumping roads, buildings, any sort of fire block that might exist.

And things are so dry here that any embers that start in a new place are likely to start fires. And when a fire's moving like that, there's not really a whole lot that firefighters can do. From what we can tell tonight - bear in mind, it's still early here - those winds have been blowing - maybe not as hard as predicted, but they're blowing. And you can feel them outside, and the fires have been spreading. How much and where is a little harder to know at this point.

MARTIN: So as Steve noted, I mean, these fires are moving so quickly that people just don't even have time to think about it. They just got to get out of their houses. There are new evacuation orders, I understand, being put into place. Are residents heeding those?

ROTT: Yeah, I've been getting texts all night for new evacuation orders in different parts of the area. And we're talking about three counties here - a huge area. And for the most part, yes, I think people are heeding those warnings. I'm in a hotel right now that's filled with evacuees.

Yesterday, I spent a lot of time driving around north of the town of Sonoma in an area that was under mandatory evacuation. Police have been driving around there, telling people on a loudspeaker that it was time to go. And it was a really tragic scene - people stuffing their cars with belongings, doing last-minute checks to make sure they have everything they want. And there's only so much a person can fit in a car, so it's kind of hard to watch.

That said, there were some people who were not leaving, who plan to ride out the fires. One man I talked to was hosing down the roof of his home and his neighbor's home as other people were leaving. His name was - is Toby Butispock (ph), and he and his wife - he - his wife and kids had left, and he said he was going to stay at the home. I asked him if there was, like, a trigger point where he would say, OK, that's enough, I got to go. And here's what he said.

TOBY BUTISPOCK: When I can't see or breathe, I'll be crawling out of here (laughter).

ROTT: Might that be too late, though, if you're crawling out of here, you can't see?

BUTISPOCK: I guess I'll take that chance.


INSKEEP: I want to...

ROTT: It's a hard thing to hear, right?


INSKEEP: Yeah. I want to introduce a term that may be new to a lot of people - wildland-urban interface. It's the phrase that...


INSKEEP: Yeah, the WUI. You know the term. It's the phrase they use for neighborhoods basically built in nature, built around forests or grasslands, which, of course, burn very quickly. And there're millions of Californians, many millions of Americans in such areas, and this is part of American life now.

MARTIN: Yeah, all right, well here's...

ROTT: Yeah, I mean, you're describing Northern California.

MARTIN: Yeah, and as we watch these flames continue - NPR's Nate Rott, covering it all for us. Thanks so much, Nate.

ROTT: Yeah.


MARTIN: We keep learning more about how the Harvey Weinstein scandal came to light.

INSKEEP: Or, more precisely, how it did not - The New York Times broke the story about the Hollywood producer who's settled numerous claims of sexual harassment. And then the journalist Ronan Farrow published a version of the same story, which he said he'd been reporting for a long time. He took the story to NBC News, his employer at that time, and he says, NBC did not run it, so he took it elsewhere.


RONAN FARROW: I had walked into the door at The New Yorker with a - an explosively reportable piece that should've been public earlier. And immediately, obviously, The New Yorker recognized that, and it is not accurate to say that it was not reportable. In fact, there were multiple determinations that it was reportable at NBC.

INSKEEP: Reportable but not reported - so why not?

MARTIN: Indeed. OK, NPR's David Folkenflik covers media. He's on the line.

David, why didn't NBC run this piece?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Well, it's the mystery that's currently haunting the halls of 30 Rock, you know, today and all week. President Noah Oppenheim told staff who've - are gotten pretty restive on this question yesterday that it kind of wasn't soup yet, that what he brought to them earlier this year wasn't sufficient to make the case of a pattern of behavior by Harvey Weinstein.

But he had obtained audio - the really compelling stuff that, in some ways, formed the - part of the heart of the story that The New Yorker ran - audio done by the New York Police Department. It was part of a sting by a woman who said that Weinstein had sexually assaulted her the night before. And he essentially acknowledges fondling, groping her against her will in that audiotape. NBC says, you know, we wanted them to do more. It wasn't there. The question that really persists is, let's say Ronan Farrow didn't have enough to prove the pattern. Why not stick with it? NBC's a big news organization. Sometimes stories take more reporting. Why didn't they wait for it?

MARTIN: Yeah, give him the reporting resources. Yeah.


MARTIN: What's the answer to that?

FOLKENFLIK: The answer to that, you know, coming from people inside NBC to CNN, to The Huffington Post, in particular, to others - what we're hearing as well is that NBC blanched, that it blinked, that, you know, it said at a certain point it didn't...

MARTIN: Because it was Harvey Weinstein.

FOLKENFLIK: It's not clear. You know, Ronan Farrow at one point said on the air that he'd been threatened with a lawsuit by Harvey Weinstein as he pursued these allegations. NBC didn't seem to fully embrace this story. And I think it's worth noting - think back a year when the Access Hollywood tapes came out, you know, in which Donald Trump boasted to Billy Bush that he had essentially grabbed women in a sexual way against their will, that he could get away with it because he was famous. NBC had those tapes, but they surfaced in The Washington Post.

And that is something that some journalists inside NBC say - it was because of excessive caution. NBC will tell you that's - the story, in this case, wasn't ready yet and that they weren't willing to go forward with something ready, but they encouraged him to publish it at a print organization that might be able to develop it with him in full. But I got to tell you, a lot of people inside the greater NBC world - including Rachel Maddow, who had posed that question - the answer to which we just heard - you know, are asking why that wasn't on NBC itself.

MARTIN: Right. NPR's David Folkenflik - he covers media for us. Thanks so much this morning, David.


(SOUNDBITE OF BALMORHEA'S "MASOLLAN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.
David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.