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California wine country tries to get back to business despite wildfire destruction

JOANNE JENNINGS:

The tasting room, which also housed the winery’s office and a dining room, burned to the ground. But Birebent says he wants to focused on what survived.

Fortunately, he said, the fire stopped short of reaching the vineyard, the crush pad, or any of the barrels of wine stored on site; 95 percent of this year’s grapes were already picked.

But, to be on the safe side, Birebent is taking these samples to a lab to make sure the juice is not too acidic for winemaking. If the crops are OK, a staff of 25 employees will have jobs to return to.

As the fires begin to recede and the smoke clears, people here are beginning to wonder when the tourists, who fuel much of the economy, will return.

It’s a serious concern for Andrew and Jeni Schluter, who are self-employed and are raising a young family.

ANDREW SCHLUTER, Andrew’s Tours and Transportation: I do wine tours and transportation for people. And my business started to do really, really well. I was on track to have the best month ever.

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Man accused of killing Muslim teen indicted on capital murder charges

A grand jury has formally charged a 22-year-old man with capital murder and rape in the death of Nabra Hassanen, who was killed on her walk back to a Virginia mosque.

The Fairfax County Circuit Court indicted Darwin Martinez-Torres of Sterling, Virginia, on Monday on four counts of capital murder for killing Nabra, who was with friends while they had a meal before Ramadan services. Dozens of people had gathered outside the courthouse today, chanting “Justice for Nabra.”

Virginia law has specific conditions for pursuing the death penalty, but the Associated Press reported that the grand jury’s indictment described in graphic detail how Nabra’s killing was grounds for a death penalty against Martinez-Torres. The indictment appears to acknowledge for the first time that the 17-year-old Muslim teen was raped. Under state law, the combination of a rape charge with a premeditated murder charge means the death penalty can be pursued.

Police have said that Martinez-Torres, who is an undocumented immigrant, got into a confrontation on June 18 with a group of teens walking back to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society after grabbing a late meal. He is accused of returning later and beating Nabra with a baseball bat. Police said Nabra’s body was later discovered in a pond. A search warrant affidavit revealed that Martinez-Torres admitted to killing Nabra and had led authorities to where he dumped her body, AP reported.

Nabra’s parents and Muslim advocates have said that Nabra’s death was motivated by hate, but police has said that they will not treat the killing as a hate crime. Instead, police have said it was a road rage incident.

“The reason this guy he hit my daughter is because she’s Muslim,” Nabra’s father Mahmoud Hassanen told WAMU. “Why [didn’t he] hit the boy who bothered him?”

Nabra’s father added that he hoped for the death penalty, while her mother said she wanted Martinez-Torres to serve life in prison.

“I just want people to remember her, and don’t forget her,” Mahmoud told WAMU. “I think nobody can forget her too, for what she did in her life.”

A preliminary hearing for Martinez-Torres reportedly turned emotional on Friday, with Nabra’s parents both shouting at the suspect in court. Nabra’s mother Sawsan Gazzar apparently threw a shoe at Martinez-Torres during the proceedings.

READ MORE: D.C. memorial for slain Muslim teen was set on fire, officials say

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Trump’s claim about predecessors, fallen troops disputed

WASHINGTON — For U.S. presidents, meeting the families of military personnel killed in war is about as wrenching as the presidency gets. President Donald Trump’s suggestion Monday that his predecessors fell short in that duty brought a visceral reaction from those who witnessed those grieving encounters.

“He’s a deranged animal,” Alyssa Mastromonaco, a former deputy chief of staff to President Barack Obama, tweeted about Trump. With an expletive, she called Trump’s statement in the Rose Garden a lie.

Trump said in a news conference he had written letters to the families of four soldiers killed in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger and planned to call them, crediting himself with taking extra steps in honoring the dead properly. “Most of them didn’t make calls,” he said of his predecessors. He said it’s possible that Obama “did sometimes” but “other presidents did not call.”

The record is plain that presidents reached out to families of the dead and to the wounded, often with their presence as well as by letter and phone. The path to Walter Reed and other military hospitals, as well as to the Dover, Delaware, Air Force Base where the remains of fallen soldiers are often brought, is a familiar one to Obama, George W. Bush and others.

Bush, even at the height of two wars, “wrote all the families of the fallen,” said Freddy Ford, spokesman for the ex-president. Ford said Bush also called or met “hundreds, if not thousands” of family members of the war dead.

READ MORE: What Trump said about his drug czar pick, health care fixes

Obama’s official photographer, Pete Souza, tweeted that he photographed Obama “meeting with hundreds of wounded soldiers, and family members of those killed in action.” Others recalled his frequent visits with Gold Star families, and travels to Walter Reed, Dover and other venues with families of the dead and with the wounded.

Retired Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed these contacts, tweeting: “POTUS 43 & 44 and first ladies cared deeply, worked tirelessly for the serving, the fallen, and their families. Not politics. Sacred Trust.”

Trump addressed the matter when asked why he had not spoken about the four soldiers killed in Niger. They died when militants thought to be affiliated with the Islamic State group ambushed them while they were patrolling in unarmored trucks with Nigerien troops.

“I actually wrote letters individually to the soldiers we’re talking about, and they’re going to be going out either today or tomorrow,” he said, meaning he wrote to the families of the fallen soldiers. He did not explain why letters had not been sent yet, more than a week after the attack.

“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Trump said.

Pressed on that statement later, he said of Obama: “I was told that he didn’t often, and a lot of presidents don’t. They write letters.” He went on: “President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told. … Some presidents didn’t do anything.”

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later that Trump “wasn’t criticizing predecessors, but stating a fact.” She argued that presidents didn’t always call families of those killed in battle: “Sometimes they call, sometimes they send a letter, other times they have the opportunity to meet family members in person.”

She said anyone claiming a former president had called every family was “mistaken.”

Bush’s commitment to writing to all military families of the dead and to reaching out by phone or meeting with many others came despite the enormity of the task. In the Iraq war alone, U.S. combat deaths were highest during his presidency, exceeding 800 each year from 2004 through 2007. The number fell to 313 in Bush’s last year in office as the insurgency faded. Bush once said he felt the appropriate way to show his respect was to meet family members in private.

READ MORE: What the Bannon vs. McConnell fight means for Trump and the GOP

Obama declared an end to combat operations in Iraq in August 2010 and the last U.S. troops were withdrawn in December 2011. As Obama wound down that war, he sent tens of thousands more troops into Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, and the death count mounted. From a total of 155 Americans killed in Afghanistan in 2008, which was Bush’s last full year in office, the number jumped to 311 in 2009 and peaked the next year at 498. In all, more than 1,700 died in Afghanistan on Obama’s watch.

Among other rituals honoring military families, the Obamas had a “Gold Star” Christmas tree in the White House decorated with hundreds of photos and notes from people who had lost loved ones in war. Gold Star families visited during the holidays, bringing ornaments.

Trump visited Dover early in his presidency, going in February with his daughter Ivanka for the return of the remains of a U.S. Navy SEAL killed during a raid in Yemen, William “Ryan” Owens.

Trump’s relations with Gold Star families have not always been smooth, dating from his belittlement of the parents of slain U.S. soldier Humayun Khan, who was Muslim. Trump was angered when the soldier’s father, Khizr Khan, was given a platform to criticize him at the Democratic National Convention.

Owens’ grieving father said he didn’t want to talk with Trump at Dover. But the sailor’s widow, Carryn, attended Trump’s address to Congress and wept as he thanked her.

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Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Jesse J. Holland contributed to this report.

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San Antonio truck driver pleads guilty in fatal human smuggling case

A 61-year-old San Antonio man pleaded guilty to two federal charges in the human smuggling incident that led to the deaths of 10 undocumented immigrants this summer.

James Matthew Bradley Jr., who appeared before a U.S. magistrate judge Monday, pleaded guilty to “one count of conspiracy to transport aliens resulting in death and one count of transporting aliens resulting in death,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.

The office added that Bradley’s “admission of guilt” meant he packed dozens of unauthorized immigrants into a tractor-trailer for financial gain, adding that the suspect confirmed that details from court documents were “factually correct.”

On July 23, San Antonio Police Department officers responded to a call from a Walmart employee shortly past midnight. Once officers arrived, they found 39 immigrants at the scene. Of those carried in the tractor-trailer, eight were found dead in the rear of the trailer, while two died later at nearby hospitals, the statement said.

Survivors of the incident said there was no air conditioning in the overheated trailer and had to take turns to breath through a hole in the back of the truck for air. Bradley also initially told investigators that he was unaware of the immigrants in the trailer until he had stopped at the Walmart in San Antonio for bathroom break.

The attorney’s office also said Bradley faces up to life in prison with the charges and that he is scheduled to be sentenced in January 2018. Immigrants said there were up to 200 people transported on the trailer and that different fees were quoted to them for the ride north from the U.S.-Mexico border, the statement added.

Jason Buch of San Antonio Express-News told the NewsHour earlier this year that Border Patrol agents in Laredo, Texas, reported an uptick of immigrants using tractor-trailers to get pass checkpoints at the border.

“People are usually going on to major metropolitan areas or regions of the country that employ a lot of immigrant laborers, so, areas with large agriculture industries or construction booms,” Buch said.

Shane M. Folden, special agent in charge of homeland security investigations in San Antonio, said in the statement that the proceeding “helps to close the door on one of the conspirators responsible for causing the tragic loss of life and wreaking havoc on those who survived this horrific incident.”

“This case is a glaring reminder that alien smugglers are driven by greed and have little regard for the health and well-being of their human cargo, which can prove to be a deadly combination,” he added.

Bradley’s co-defendant Pedro Silva Segura was also indicted last month with faces two counts of conspiracy and two counts of transporting undocumented immigrants resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy.

Segura, 47, is an undocumented immigrant who resides in Laredo, Texas.

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As survivors say #MeToo, what will it take to stop widespread sexual harassment?

JUDY WOODRUFF:

The hashtag #MeToo has millions of women sharing stories of abuse, shining a spotlight on a troubling reality in our society.

It was first used in 2007, but when actor Alyssa Milano tweeted it Sunday night to talk about sexual harassment and assault in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein story, it went viral. The hashtag was tweeted nearly a million times in just 48 hours. Facebook reported 45 percent of its users have friends who posted #MeToo, as women wrote about their experiences about the workplace and culture, and what should change.

We explore some of those issues with Fatima Goss Graves. She’s president of the National Women’s Law Center. Lisa Senecal wrote about her own experience for the online news site Daily Beast. She’s with the Vermont Commission on Women. And Melissa Silverstein is the founder of the blog and Web site Women and Hollywood.

Thank you all for joining us.

Lisa Senecal, I’m going to start with you.

You have had a personal experience with sexual harassment. That’s in part what has drawn you to this #MeToo campaign movement.

Just tell us briefly about what happened.

LISA SENECAL, Member, Vermont Commission on Women: Sure.

Like most women, I have had a number of experiences with sexual harassment, beginning with my first job, when I was 15 years old. And it’s really been a threat off and on throughout my entire professional career.

The most egregious offense was an actual assault that occurred with a male executive. Unfortunately, because of an NDA — and we can go into the evils of nondisclosures another time — but because of that, there isn’t a lot that I’m able to say about the specific event.

But the issue of sexual harassment and finally having this come to the fore, so many women are already familiar with it from being on the receiving end. And I think, especially with the #MeToo campaign, it’s been really wonderful and an eye-opening experience for men to realize just how pervasive an issue this is.

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Trump ignites furor with claim past presidents didn’t console military families by phone

JOHN YANG:

The response from former Obama officials was swift and forceful.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted this photo and insisted: “Stop the damn lying. I went to Dover Air Force base with 44 and saw him comfort families,” a reference to one of Mr. Obama’s late-night trips to pay his respects to troops killed in Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama and President George W. Bush often visited wounded warriors at Walter Reed and Bethesda hospitals, a practice Mr. Trump has continued. In February, the president and his daughter Ivanka went to Dover for the return of the remains of a Navy SEAL killed in Yemen, the first casualty of his administration.

So far this year, the Pentagon says 16 Americans have been killed in action. Another 17 sailors died in accidents. In the first year of the Obama presidency, 344 were killed in action.

During last year’s campaign, Mr. Trump publicly feuded with the Khans, the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq, after they criticized him at the Democratic Convention.

Today, the Khans said: “President Trump’s selfish and divisive actions have undermined the dignity of the high office of the presidency.”

The current controversy comes as questions are being raised about how and why the four soldiers died in Niger.

Senator Jack Reed is the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.

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News Wrap: Trump’s latest travel ban blocked by federal judge

JUDY WOODRUFF:

The president answered by saying, “At some point, I fight back, and it won’t be pretty.”

In turn, McCain said, “I have faced tougher adversaries.”

In Afghanistan, Taliban bombings and shootings left at least 74 people dead today. The worst was Paktika province in the east, where two car bombs killed dozens, including the provincial police chief, and wounded more than 100 others. Taliban militants also staged attacks in the south and west of the country.

In Syria, militia forces backed by the U.S. say they have retaken the Islamic State group’s de facto capital. The city of Raqqa had been under ISIS control since 2014. The battle to recapture it began in June. Today, Kurdish-led fighters celebrated as they moved into the city center. The U.S. military said 90 percent of Raqqa has been taken, with pockets of militants remaining.

There’s word that U.S. airstrikes in Yemen killed dozens of Islamic State fighters on Monday. The strikes were apparently carried out by drones. The Pentagon says the targets were training camps for recruits.

In Northern Iraq, Kurdish forces withdrew from more territory today, as Iraqi government troops advanced. It came on the heels of the Kurds’ vote for independence. Federal forces and allied militia had already forced the Kurds to leave the area in and around Kirkuk and its oil fields.

Iraq’s prime minister said that paves the way for talks.

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Karen Pence to outline goals for art therapy initiative

WASHINGTON — When Karen Pence found out that an art therapist in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico couldn’t afford the clay her clients needed, she sprang into action.

A trained watercolor artist and advocate of the little-known mental health profession, Vice President Mike Pence’s wife went to the Virginia art supply store she frequented when they lived in the state during his tenure in Congress, bought 120 pounds of self-drying clay and packed it aboard Air Force Two for their flight down to survey the damage.

“She cleaned him out,” the vice president said of the store’s owner.

Mrs. Pence made art therapy her cause ever since she first learned about it more than a decade ago. She has visited numerous art therapy programs, both in the U.S. and abroad, and on Wednesday in Florida, nine months into the administration, she planned to formally announce the goals for her art therapy initiative.

She wants to help people understand the difference between art therapy and arts and crafts, and to grasp that art therapy is a viable option for treating trauma, injury and other life experiences. She also wants to encourage young people to choose art therapy as a career.

“I don’t think that a lot of people understand the difference between therapeutic art and art therapy,” Mrs. Pence, a trained watercolor artist, told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview before the announcement at Florida State University in Tallahassee. The school has an art therapy program she described as “tremendous.”

Blabbing to a girlfriend can be therapeutic, she explained, but it is not the same as art therapy, which has three elements: a client, a trained therapist and art.

READ MORE: VP Pence’s wife aims to raise awareness about art therapy

As passionate as she is about raising art therapy’s profile, other issues help make Karen Pence tick, too.

One of them is helping military families, especially spouses. Her only son, Michael, is in the Marines.

There’s also her interest in honeybees. Mrs. Pence installed a beehive on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory, where the vice president’s official residence is located, to help call attention to a decline in managed bee colonies that officials say could negatively affect U.S. agricultural production. She had a beehive at the Indiana governor’s residence for the same reason.

Now 60 and married to the vice president since 1985, Mrs. Pence has long been viewed as one of her husband’s most trusted political advisers. They are often together on trips, at the White House, or at the observatory, almost always holding hands.

Since returning to Washington in January (the family lived in the area when her husband served in Congress), she has accompanied the vice president on goodwill tours of Europe, Asia and Latin America, as well as trips to survey recent hurricane damage in Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She tries to visit art therapy programs wherever she goes. Journalists who travel with Pence often keep an eye out for his wife; she often brings them cookies when he ventures back to the press cabin for small talk.

READ MORE: Devastated Puerto Rico needs unprecedented aid, says governor

She’s even done a little campaigning, urging Virginians to vote next month for Ed Gillespie in what’s viewed as a tight gubernatorial race.

“It really makes a difference, I can tell you. Nobody thought that we were going to win,” she said, an apparent reference to the Trump-Pence ticket.

The vice president often refers to his wife as the family’s “prayer captain.” She has led congregations in prayer during their hurricane-damage trips.

“We’re people of faith so we just try and approach everything with prayer,” Mrs. Pence said from her sunny, second-floor office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex, where she and her staff enjoy coveted views of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial. Art therapy drawings given as gifts adorn the outer office.

She proudly displayed several of her paintings, including of the Capitol dome, the vice president’s residence, a Ball canning jar-turned-flower vase, a cardinal bird and a pink peony. She turns many of her watercolors into prints and boxed notecards that she gifts to art therapists she meets.

Except for myriad pets, including two cats, a dog and a rabbit named Marlon Bundo, the Pences are empty nesters. Their son and two adult daughters are off on their own.

“I think for us this is a good time in our life for this role because our kids are out of college. They’re living their own lives,” Mrs. Pence said.

She’s also launching a blog in conjunction with Wednesday’s announcement to chronicle her visits to art therapy programs.

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Trump and the new politics of honoring war dead

WASHINGTON — After her Army son died in an armored vehicle rollover in Syria in May, Sheila Murphy says, she got no call or letter from President Donald Trump, even as she waited months for his condolences, wrote to him to say “some days I don’t want to live,” and still heard nothing.

In contrast, Trump called to comfort Eddie and Aldene Lee about 10 days after their Army son was killed in an explosion while on patrol in Iraq in April. “Lovely young man,” Trump said, according to Aldene. She thought that was a beautiful word to hear about her boy, “lovely.”

Like presidents before him, Trump has made personal contact with some families of the fallen, not all. What’s different is that Trump, alone among them, has picked a political fight over who’s done better to honor the war dead and their families.

He placed himself at the top of this pantheon, boasting Tuesday that “I think I’ve called every family of someone who’s died” while past presidents didn’t place such calls.

But The Associated Press found relatives of two soldiers who died overseas during Trump’s presidency who said they never received a call or a letter from him, as well as relatives of a third who did not get a call. And proof is plentiful that Barack Obama and George W. Bush — saddled with far more combat casualties than the roughly two dozen so far under Trump, took painstaking steps to write, call or meet bereaved military families.

The subject arose because nearly two weeks passed before Trump called the families of four U.S. soldiers who were killed in Niger nearly two weeks ago. He made the calls Tuesday.

READ MORE: Trump ignites furor with claim past presidents didn’t console military families by phone

Meanwhile, Rep. Frederica Wilson said late Tuesday that Trump told the widow of a slain soldier that he “knew what he signed up for.” Early Wednesday, the president called Wilson’s version of the conversation a fabrication.

The Florida Democrat said she was in the car with Myeshia Johnson on the way to Miami International Airport to meet the body of Johnson’s husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, when Trump called. Wilson says she heard part of the conversation on speakerphone.

When asked by Miami station WPLG if she indeed heard Trump say that she answered: “Yeah, he said that. To me, that is something that you can say in a conversation, but you shouldn’t say that to a grieving widow.” She added: “That’s so insensitive.”

Trump took strong issue with that recounting early Wednesday.

“Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!” he said on Twitter.

Sgt. Johnson was among four servicemen killed in the Niger ambush.

Wilson said that she didn’t hear the entire conversation and Myeshia Johnson told her she couldn’t remember everything that was said.

The White House didn’t immediately comment.

READ MORE: Trump’s claim about predecessors, fallen troops disputed

Trump’s delay in publicly discussing the men lost at Niger did not appear to be extraordinary, judging from past examples, but his politicization of the matter is. He went so far Tuesday as to cite the death of chief of staff John Kelly’s son in Afghanistan to question whether Obama had properly honored the war dead.

Kelly was a Marine general under Obama when his Marine son Robert died in 2010. “You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?” Trump said on Fox News radio.

Democrats and some former government officials were livid, accusing Trump of “inane cruelty” and a “sick game.”

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Iraq veteran who lost both legs when her helicopter was attacked, said: “I just wish that this commander in chief would stop using Gold Star families as pawns in whatever sick game he’s trying to play here.”

For their part, Gold Star families, which have lost members in wartime, told AP of acts of intimate kindness from Obama and Bush when those commanders in chief consoled them.

Trump initially claimed that only he among presidents made sure to call families. Obama may have done so on occasion, he said, but “other presidents did not call.”

He equivocated Tuesday as the record made plain that his characterization was false. “I don’t know,” he said of past calls. But he said his own practice was to call all families of the war dead.

But that hasn’t happened:

No White House protocol demands that presidents speak or meet with the families of Americans killed in action — an impossible task in a war’s bloodiest stages. But they often do.

Altogether some 6,900 Americans have been killed in overseas wars since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the overwhelming majority under Bush and Obama.

Despite the much heavier toll on his watch — more than 800 dead each year from 2004 through 2007 — Bush wrote to all bereaved military families and met or spoke with hundreds if not thousands, said his spokesman, Freddy Ford.

Veterans groups said they had no quarrel with how presidents have recognized the fallen or their families.

“I don’t think there is any president I know of who hasn’t called families,” said Rick Weidman, co-founder and executive director of Vietnam Veterans of America. “President Obama called often and President Bush called often. They also made regular visits to Walter Reed and Bethesda Medical Center, going in the evenings and on Saturdays.”

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Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia. Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina, Kristen de Groot in Philadelphia, Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island, Michelle Price in Salt Lake City, and Hope Yen and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

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Twitter chat: How the gun control debate mirrors larger issues of partisanship in America

What would it take to turn Texas, a Republican stronghold, into a blue state? According to data from SurveyMonkey, just remove all the gun owners from the Lone Star State and it would have gone to Hillary Clinton in 2016. You can do the same thing in liberal California. Remove all the non-gun owners and the state would have voted for Donald Trump.

That’s how divisive the issue of gun control is in American politics.

SurveyMonkey found that no other demographic — not race, religion or gender — so perfectly divided voters. In the 2016 election, 47 percent of Trump supporters said gun control was an issue important enough to influence their vote. That’s compared to just 27 percent of voters who supported Hillary Clinton.

But what does this divide mean? How is it impacting gun control policy, and how might this issue change in light of recent mass shootings like Las Vegas, Orlando and Newtown? To discuss the data, the PBS NewsHour hosted a Twitter chat 1 p.m. EDT Thursday with data journalist Dante Chinni (@Dchinni), professor and chairman of political science at the University of Kansas Don Haider-Markel (@dhmarkel), and Washington Post correspondent Philip Bump (@pbump).

Check out a recap of the conversation —