‘Start Here’: Acosta defends handling of Epstein case, emotional testimony on border conditions

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It’s Thursday, July 11, 2019. Let’s start here.

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1. Acosta doing business?

Facing growing calls to resign, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta on Wednesday defended his role in negotiating a much-criticized plea deal with multimillionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein in 2008, when Acosta was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, but he stopped short of apologizing to alleged victims in the sex-trafficking case.

“Everything that the victims have gone through in these cases is horrific, and their response is entirely justified,” he said. “At the same time, I think it’s important to stand up for the prosecutors of my former office and make clear that what they were trying to do was help these victims.”

Acosta answered questions from reporters for an hour after President Donald Trump pushed him to make his case publicly, but the question remains whether Acosta will be able to weather the storm, ABC News Senior Editorial Producer John Santucci discusses today on “Start Here.”

2. ‘It is painful’

A migrant woman whose daughter died from a viral infection after their detainment delivered emotional testimony at a congressional hearing over conditions at border facilities.

“It is painful for me to relive this experience and remember that suffering, but I am here because the world should know what is happening to so many children in ICE detention,” Yasmin Juarez, who’s suing the U.S. government for wrongful death, told lawmakers on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to comment on Juarez’s remarks, but said in a statement: “ICE is committed to ensuring the welfare of all those in the agency’s custody, including providing access to necessary and appropriate medical care.”

The Trump administration on Tuesday gave the media an inside look at a new holding center for migrant children maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services, which showed an alternative to stories of squalid conditions at other facilities

“It’s not at all surprising,” ABC News Chief National Correspondent Matt Gutman says, “that this is the first place that the government has allowed cameras into.”

PHOTO: Yazmin Juarez, mother of 19-month-old Mariee, who died after detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, testifies before a House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services hearing in Washington, July 10, 2019.Erin Scott/Reuters
Yazmin Juarez, mother of 19-month-old Mariee, who died after detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, testifies before a House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services hearing in Washington, July 10, 2019.

3. ‘Obvious questions’

American Airlines has apologized to a Texas doctor after she claimed she was told to cover up her summer outfit before she could fly.

Dr. Tisha Rowe, who was on a Miami-bound flight after vacationing in Jamaica with her 8-year-old son, posted photos on Twitter of the romper she was wearing, saying she was “threatened with not getting back on the flight unless I walked down the aisle wrapped in a blanket.”

“This brings some obvious questions into play, like gender, size discrimination or race,” says ABC News’ Christine Theodorou, who covers transportation. “Dr. Rowe says the fact that she is African American is one of the reasons that she was targeted. Also, it’s unclear if this was a man that was wearing shorts and had bare shoulders, whether he would be targeted in the same way.”

In an e-mailed statement to ABC News, American Airlines spokesperson Shannon Gilson issued an apology and said Rowe was fully refunded for her travel.

4. Interested parties

Amid trade tensions and a weakened economic outlook, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell signaled to lawmakers on Wednesday that these global uncertainties could lay the groundwork for cutting interest rates at the end of the month.

Despite Trump’s public urging for the central bank to lower rates, the Fed has been reluctant to do so because of the relative strength of the economy — at least until now, according to ABC News’ Matthew Vann.

“While it appears that the president is on the verge of getting what he wants with an interest rate cut,” Vann says, “there could be a more dire warning to read into this.”

“Start Here,” ABC News’ flagship podcast, offers a straightforward look at the day’s top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or the ABC News app. Follow @StartHereABC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for exclusive content and show updates.

Elsewhere:

‘Fresh footprints leading to where the vehicle was momentarily parked’: Two Marines are accused of smuggling undocumented immigrants into the U.S.

‘The suspect was caught a short time later’: A woman is accused of throwing a live snake at another woman and then stealing her vehicle.

From our friends at FiveThirtyEight:

The NYC ticker-tape parade belongs to the U.S. women’s soccer team now: That’s an appropriate honor after one of the most dominating performances we’ve ever seen in all of sports history.

Doff your cap:

For most of her life, Heather Hodlin’s eyesight would fade with the day.

By nighttime, she was almost completely blind.

Everything was clearer in daylight, but she still struggled, unable to see in areas shaded by trees or buildings. She could see at night if lights were on inside her home, but they remained fuzzy. She still couldn’t make out the features on her fiance’s face or the color of his eyes.

Hodlin, 25, has Leber congenital amaurosis, or LCA, a rare genetic disease that typically affects the retina and begins in infancy, causing severe visual impairment that slowly worsens over time. It occurs in two to three out of 100,000 newborns, according to the National Institutes of Health.

But last year, Hodlin received a revoluntary FDA-approved gene therapy for patients with inherited retinal disease, called Luxturna.

It changed her life.

ABC News’ Bob Woodruff followed her journey, and those of other patients who’ve received the therapy, for “Nightline”:

VIDEO: 2 people try revolutionary drug to keep from going blind: Part 1Play
2 people try revolutionary drug to keep from going blind: Part 1
VIDEO: Patients facing blindness see results from revolutionary gene therapy: Part 2Play
Patients facing blindness see results from revolutionary gene therapy: Part 2






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