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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    Joe Rey, a grower at 3D Cannabis Center, waters marijuana plants at the company facility in Denver. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    Joe Rey, a grower at 3D Cannabis Center, waters marijuana plants at the company facility in Denver. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    DENVER — Colorado has seen feisty debates this fall, with candidates in close races for governor, Senate and the U.S. House arguing over abortion rights, energy policy and the death penalty. Just don’t expect any of them to talk much about the biggest news of the year: legal pot.

    While the state’s 10-month-old marijuana retail experiment has received worldwide attention and sales of recreational and medical pot have generated more than $45 million for state coffers, most voters have collectively shrugged. Predictions that they would go scrambling back to the polls to repeal the legal pot law they passed in 2012 haven’t yet materialized.

    Instead, the political landscape has changed, with some candidates, including the governor, accepting tens of thousands of dollars in donations from people within the fledgling pot industry.

    Now, the only ones bringing it up on the campaign trail are third-party and independent hopefuls — all backers of legal pot. Many of them take issue with the state’s high pot taxes — more than 30 percent in many jurisdictions — or with regulations they consider onerous.

    “I don’t know why politicians aren’t talking about this,” said independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Dunafon, a long-shot candidate who is touting endorsements from rappers Snoop Dogg and Wyclef Jean because of his embrace of the drug.

    Maybe it’s because the major-party candidates almost universally agree. They say when asked that they personally opposed making the drug legal but respect the voters’ wishes. And while the marijuana rollout has not been without problems, including concerns about children getting potent edible pot, there have been no public-safety problems widespread enough to focus voters’ minds on a repeal effort.

    “The people of Colorado have made their decision,” said Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in a race that could determine whether Republicans pick up enough seats to take control of the chamber.

    Gardner and Udall were asked about pot this week in their final debate.

    “I opposed it when it happened,” Gardner said of the 2012 marijuana vote. “But the founders always intended the states to be laboratories of democracy, and right now we are deep in the heart of the laboratory.”

    Udall agreed. “We need to work together as a delegation to make sure the federal government butts out and lets us continue this experiment,” Udall said at the Denver debate.

    Marijuana isn’t playing a big role in the tight governor’s race. Both Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican Bob Beauprez oppose legal marijuana.

    After an Oct. 6 debate in which the governor jokingly called the pot vote “reckless,” Hickenlooper’s aides reached out to marijuana industry workers — a move that underscored the sensitivity with which officials are dealing with a nascent industry that is generating revenue and making campaign donations.

    A single pot-industry fundraiser for the governor raised some $40,000 last summer. The industry has also given at least $20,000 this year to congressional candidates.

    Pressed at another debate to clarify whether he thought marijuana legalization should be repealed — an action that would require another public vote — the governor took a milder tack. “I’m not going to go as far as to say we should lead an effort to make it illegal. I think that that would be premature,” he said.

    Beauprez has said legal pot should be reconsidered, but stopped short of saying he’d lead a repeal effort.

    Politicians’ marijuana hesitance reflects voters’ indifference on the topic. A September NBC/Marist poll asked residents about the law allowing adults over 21 to buy recreational pot. Thirty-three percent said they opposed the law but were “not actively trying to have it overturned.” Eight percent said they were working to overturn it.

    Third-party and independent candidates, however, are sometimes making pot the hallmark of their campaigns, even in local races.

    In a western Colorado state Senate contest, Libertarian candidate Lee Mulcahy has been throwing free dinners serving marijuana-infused foods. Voters have to show they’re 21 before noshing on foods like yellowtail crudo with coconut-ginger sativa oil and a salad tossed in marijuana-infused vinaigrette.

    “It’s so fascinating, the reluctance of my opponents to even say the word cannabis,” he said. “Voters want to be talking about this, but the major-party candidates have to tow the party line. They’ve all been coached to not say anything. I’m simply amazed.”

    The post Why is marijuana not playing a bigger role in Colorado races? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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  • 10/17/14--08:13: Diving Into The Disconnect
  • Are you terrified you will get Ebola? Or are you more worried about the flu?

    Do you see recent Wall Street dives as a buying opportunity? Or are you certain they represent the end of your retirement planning?

    Do you see a shiny silver lining when you hear that the federal deficit has clocked in at its lowest level since 2007? Or do you look at flat wages instead?

    Therein lies the disconnect that tangles our nation’s governing and politics as we wait for the midterm elections and prepare to watch a lame duck Congress face off against a lame-duck President.

    I got to visit both sides of the chasm this week while reporting on a tossup Senate race in Colorado one day; and from inside the halls at the Treasury Department the next.

    It’s autumn, so I spent last weekend at a farmer’s market and a picture-perfect pumpkin patch in and around Denver, asking voters what they thought about the state’s tough Senate race.

    Everywhere, I encountered exasperation.

    “When you look at American elections, sometimes you think you’ve entered Wonderland,” said Norman Provizer, a political science professor at Metropolitan Denver University.

    It’s true that politics has its share of giant rabbits and spinning teacups. And for voters, it’s kind of dizzying.

    Rick Harris, an oil company employee, told me he is fiscally conservative, but liberal on social issues.

    “That’s why I’m undecided,” he said, as his young daughter frolicked among the pumpkins nearby. “I’m a registered Democrat, but I’m kind of waffling. When you’re younger…it was easy being a Democrat. When you start paying taxes and all that kind of stuff, your mind starts to change.”

    “I think Congress is such a mess that I don’t think anybody is getting what they really want, and I don’t really know how to fix it,” said Judy Brown, a Denver native.

    Once I arrived back in Washington, I popped over to the Treasury Department for a peek at the flip side of the disconnect. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and White House Budget Director Shaun Donovan were anxious to talk about some good economic news for a change.

    And it was good news. The deficit – which had been clocking in at a trillion dollars annually for President Obama’s entire first term – is now down to $483 billion – a drop that has muted deficit hawks who for years warned the fiscal sky was falling.

    But Lew and Donovan took the good news a step farther than the American public is generally willing to go, trumpeting a return to economic “stability” and “normalcy.”

    Trouble is, in a Gallup poll conducted earlier this year (link is external), just over half of Americans said they are satisfied with their opportunities to get ahead by working hard. That’s down from 77 percent in 2002.

    “The conditions in 2009 were really bad, and it leaves some bruising that takes some time to get over,” Lew replied when I asked about that pessimism. “I think right now, we have been in an extended period where Washington hasn’t been getting to the brink of a crisis, where they’re seeing the economy begin to grow. And our job is to continue that.”

    But it’s also the administration’s job to bridge the disconnect. That’s why President Obama canceled his travel this week to focus on the Ebola crisis. Worry trumps optimism almost every time.

    That’s also why the administration’s top money men have no choice but to tamp down fears of a roller coaster stock market.

    “While we have made a lot of progress in our economy, wages aren’t rising, particularly for the middle class, in the way that we would want them to see,” Donovan told me.”And that’s why we need to make further investments.”

    And it’s why voting is so complicated in a midterm year when distractions – from health scares to foreign wars — abound.

    Thomas Unterwagner, a restaurant owner in Denver, said one of the biggest distractions is Washington itself.

    “I think people backlash against incumbents for other reasons,” he said. “I think a lot of it is the fear over terrorism and stuff they can’t really control. So you can’t control what ISIS is going to do. I think most basically, the problem is I think they blame whoever’s in office currently.”

    That’s scary news for the Senate Democratic majority, but for governors and House members as well.

    The post Diving Into The Disconnect appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch the Wisconsin gubernatorial debate at 8 p.m. EDT tonight (7 p.m. CDT), featuring incumbent Gov. Scott Walker (R) and Mary Burke (D). Milwaukee Public Television will live stream the event in the player above. Courtesy Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation.

    Tonight marks the final debate in Wisconsin’s contentious governor’s race, as incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his Democratic challenger, Mary Burke, make their cases to lead the Badger State.

    The candidates will meet at at 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. CDT) on Friday, Oct. 17 in the studios of Milwaukee Public Television, the event’s host and producer. The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association sponsors. Erin Toner, a reporter for WUWM, Milwaukee’s public radio station, will moderate.

    Third-party candidates Robert Burke (L) and Dennis Fehr (The People’s Party) will not participate, per the WBA’s criteria for inclusion.

    Wisconsin governors

    Incumbent Gov. Scott Walker (R) and Mary Burke (D) will meet in Milwaukee for the final debate of this election cycle at 8 p.m. EDT tonight (7 p.m. CDT).

    Walker and Burke debated last week, in an event that focused largely on the economy, jobs, and health care. At the time, the incumbent Governor led his Democratic challenger by five percentage points.

    Since that night, a new poll has come out indicating that lead has closed. Now, with less than three weeks before Election Day, the candidates appear to be exactly tied, with 47 percent support apiece among likely voters.

    The economy is likely to play a large role again in tonight’s event. Walker has been campaigning on his job creation record, arguing that his policies have added thousands of Wisconsinites to the ranks of the employed. Burke has argued that she can do better, and criticized the Governor’s tax policies and opposition to raising the minimum wage.

    Education has also been an emotional issue in races across the country this season, so expect a question about Walker’s record on school funding. And a state controversy over a northern Wisconsin iron ore mine may spur heated discussion over campaign financing, among other issues.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Wisconsin’s Final Governor’s Debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    American Sikhs on American Sikh Day at the California state capitol on April 13, 2011. Photo by Flickr user jasleen_kaur

    American Sikhs on American Sikh Day at the California state capitol on April 13, 2011. Photo by Flickr user jasleen_kaur

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Anger stemming from a 30-year-old religious clash in India that left thousands dead has crept into one of the closest and most expensive congressional races in the country.

    Some Sikh political activists and the California Republican Party are campaigning against Democratic Rep. Ami Bera, saying he refuses to acknowledge the alleged involvement of the Indian government in the anti-Sikh rioting in 1984.

    Bera, a physician representing a suburban Sacramento district, is the only Indian-American in Congress.

    Other Sikh leaders are planning a fundraiser for Bera this weekend, dismissing the opposition as a fringe group that doesn’t represent their religious community. They praise Bera, a freshman lawmaker and Unitarian who was raised Hindu by Indian immigrant parents, as a valuable advocate for all South Asians.

    Sikhism is a monotheistic religion with roots in modern-day Punjab that emphasizes equality and good works. Male followers often wear turbans. In California, Sikhs have a long history as farmers in the Central Valley.

    Bera’s 7th Congressional District, which is about evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, has about 6,000 registered voters of Indian descent, according to Political Data Inc., a California firm that provides detailed breakdowns of voting districts.

    The race between Bera and Republican Doug Ose, a former congressman, has attracted more than $4 million from outside interest groups. The margin of victory in November is expected to be razor thin, so even a small-scale revolt from within a single ethnic community could help tilt the election.

    Such attempts to gain votes by taking sides in emotional historical debates are unusual and can carry unforeseen pitfalls for the side that tries to appease one group while angering another.

    The election debate over the Sikh massacre recalls a long-running disagreement over the slaying of some 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, which Armenians insist constituted genocide and Turks reject.

    In the Bera-Ose race, a group of activists calling itself American Sikhs for Truth plans to send 1,500 anti-Bera mailers in English and Punjabi to Sikh households and to deploy volunteers on the streets in the coming days.

    California Republican Party Vice Chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon, a Sikh, was among Ose volunteers knocking on the doors of Sikh households last weekend in the district.

    The massacre of Sikhs marks one of the darkest periods of sectarian violence in recent Indian history. After violently suppressing a Sikh insurgency and an army attack on the holiest Sikh site, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984.

    Her killing prompted anti-Sikh rioting across northern states that left more than 3,000 people dead, some hacked to death and others burned alive. Government officials have been accused of inciting then ignoring the violence.

    “It was a huge, horrible crush to the psyche of the Sikh community worldwide,” said Dhillon, who had relatives forced into hiding.

    Ahead of the clash’s anniversary in November, a group of Sikhs asked congressional candidates in Northern California whether the deaths happened with government assistance or lack of intervention, and if they would pursue justice for the victims’ families. Bera’s campaign was among 10 that did not answer the questions.

    In a prepared statement to The Associated Press, Bera called the killings a tragedy and said he is “hopeful that the Indian government has learned from the past.”

    He previously told The Sacramento Bee that he is focused on issues faced by Sikhs in the U.S. and can’t dictate how the Indian government approaches the rioting.

    Voters who are critical of his stance say Bera is bending to pressure not to offend prominent Indian-American campaign donors in America or the Indian government.

    “As an Indian, my goal is to see my people rise up,” said Inderjit Kallirai, a Republican state worker who says he supported Bera in 2010 and 2012. “The only thing that divides us now is he doesn’t want to stand for Sikhs.”

    As he went door-to-door for Bera’s Republican challenger, Kallirai told fellow Sikhs that Bera would not speak out for their community. Some older Sikh voters familiar with Bera’s position on the massacre, such as 66-year-old Gurdev Singh, agreed to place Doug Ose signs on their lawns.

    Most Sikhs in the U.S. care more about domestic policy than foreign policy and “homeland politics,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a political science professor at the University of California, Riverside and director of the National Asian American Survey.

    That’s the case for Harkirat Singh, a 30-year-old Elk Grove real estate agent who was born in New Delhi a month before the massacre.

    “The Indian government has to take initiative, not a congressman,” he said. “He is the only sitting Indian congressman, and we don’t want to lose him.”

    Bobbie Singh-Allen, an Elk Grove school board member, said she was disappointed Bera didn’t take a stronger stand on the killings of Sikhs in 1984. But she said opposition based on that issue alone loses sight of Bera’s advocacy on other Sikh priorities, such as improving hate crime monitoring, addressing school bullying and allowing turbans in the military and in international basketball games.

    “I know people who lost family members,” she said. “To use this to divide the community is a disservice because you are basically saying Dr. Bera is not a friend or a supporter.”

    The post 1984 Indian Sikh massacre is issue in California race appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Illustration by Ruth Tam

    Illustration by Ruth Tam

    Of all the Supreme Court Justices, Sonia Sotomayor is arguably the most visible outside of the courtroom. Her journey from a Bronx housing project to the United States Supreme Court has been chronicled by many, including Sotomayor herself in her bestselling memoir, “My Beloved World.”

    In spite of all that is known about Justice Sotomayor, judicial biographer and Reuters legal affairs editor Joan Biskupic believed there was more to discover. She discussed her new book, “Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice,” with PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill. Here are a few lesser known facts she helped uncover.

    1. She helped Ruth Bader Ginsburg cope with her husband’s death

    In the opening pages of “Breaking In,” Biskupic describes how Sotomayor shook up tradition at her first end-of-term party by asking the other justices to salsa dance with her.

    In what Biskupic describes as the “most compelling” moment of this episode, Sotomayor approached Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose husband had passed away just three days prior, and asked her to dance. When Ginsburg initially refused, Sotomayor leaned in and whispered to her, “Marty would have wanted you to dance,” referring to Ginsburg’s late husband. After joining her on the dance floor briefly, Ginsburg placed her hands on Sotomayor’s cheeks and simply said, “Thank you.”

    2. She was born the same year as Brown vs. Board of Education

    Sotomayor has described herself as “the perfect affirmative action baby.” In April, when the court upheld an amendment to the Michigan state constitution banning racial affirmative action, she issued a 58-page long dissent (over three times as long as the opinion upholding the law), which made clear that she believes it is the court’s role to defend the civil rights of “historically marginalized groups.” It is fitting that she was born shortly after this landmark ruling in favor of educational equality.

    3. She poked fun at Chief Justice John Roberts

    In a 2007 opinion, Chief Justice Roberts famously wrote: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” In her dissent in the Michigan ruling, Sotomayor turned Roberts’ words against him, writing: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race.”

    “She clearly was playing off of his view in a kind of mocking way,” Biskupic says, “and in fact, Chief Justice Roberts criticized Justice Sotomayor for doing that…he said that she was expounding policy preferences, but then he also said that he did not like the airing of personal strains.”

    Sotomayor’s jab at Roberts revealed a personal disagreement, but Biskupic insists the dissent as a whole was rooted in Sotomayor’s professional opinion. “Most of it was based on her legal reasoning and what she thought of precedent. So she weaves in sentiment from personal experience, but it is all based in the law.”

    4. She “leaned in” during the nomination process

    In “Breaking In,” Biskupic points out that no judicial nomination moves “without some pushing and shoving,” and “minorities and women…faced greater resistance.” She reports that in 1991, when President George H. W. Bush nominated Sotomayor to the U.S. District Court, minorities accounted for only around 10 percent of federal judges, a mere 12 percent were female and, in the state of New York, there were no Hispanic federal judges.

    Biskupic was surprised to learn how active Sotomayor was in pushing for her own nomination. “I didn’t know how much she had been an agent for herself,” Biskupic said, in discussing how Sotomayor worked, first with Democratic New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan to secure her nomination to the U.S. District Court, and later with Republican New York Sen. Al D’Amato, to ensure a Senate floor vote on her elevation to the Second Circuit. “She was accustomed to pushing overtly for what she wanted,” Biskupic writes in “Breaking In,” adding that “her confidence surprised Moynihan” when the two first met to discuss her nomination.

    5. She wields influence behind the scenes

    There have been many times, Biskupic says, when Sotomayor “has been willing to break off and write some solo dissents or concurring opinions that break from her liberal colleagues … It’s a variety of cases where she’ll go a little bit further to left.” However, in “Breaking In,” Biskupic tells of at least one instance where the justice agreed to compromise.

    Prior to ruling on the Michigan state ban on affirmative action, the court heard another case that challenged the race-sensitive admissions policy of the University of Texas at Austin. This case presented an even greater challenge to affirmative action by calling into question a precedent-setting ruling. In her book, Biskupic reveals that Sotomayor, greatly concerned about the way the Court appeared to be leaning, wrote a fiery dissent that was circulated privately among the justices, and ultimately led some of her more conservative colleagues to agree to a compromise.

    “It all went on in secret,” Biskupic told NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill, “it was her work behind the scenes that…in effect, saved affirmative action for another day.”

    6. She shops at Costco

    Back in June, Sotomayor appeared to surprise Hillary Clinton at Clinton’s book signing at an Arlington, Virginia, Costco. The justice picked up a copy of the former secretary of state’s book and shook hands before departing. While some speculated that the meeting was in fact a planned photo-op, Sotomayor told The Washington Post that it was pure coincidence.

    “A nice lady at the pharmacy counter recognized me, and we started chatting, and she says, ‘Are you here with the other lady?’ And I said, ‘What other lady?’ And she mentioned Madam Secretary, and that’s how I found out.”

    7. She rescheduled on the Vice President of the United States

    When Vice President Biden requested that Sotomayor swear him in at the January 2013 inauguration ceremony, she agreed, but asked that the event be rescheduled from 12 p.m. to 8 a.m. because she had committed to a book signing in New York City later in the day. Some eyebrows were raised when it was revealed that the vice president and the president would not be sworn in at the same time, but Biden himself did not seem to mind. At the conclusion of the ceremony, Biskupic writes, Biden thanked Justice Sotomayor, saying it was “a wonderful honor” to be sworn in by her. “We are going to walk out,” he continued, “you see her car’s waiting so she can catch a train I hope I haven’t caused her to miss.”

    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden takes the oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as his wife Jill Biden holds the family bible while family members look on at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington January 20, 2013. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden takes the oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as his wife Jill Biden holds the family bible while family members look on at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington January 20, 2013. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    8. She is a workaholic

    Below is video evidence that the justice couldn’t even step away from the bench long enough to have a cup of coffee with a friend!

    The post 8 things you didn’t know about Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A screen grab from a video obtained by the AFP reportedly shows the nearly 300 girls kidnapped six months ago by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

    A screen grab from a video obtained by the AFP reportedly shows the nearly 300 girls kidnapped six months ago by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

    The Nigerian government has agreed to an immediate cease-fire with the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram on Friday. Negotiations are underway to release the more-than 200 girls abducted by the militant group six months ago.

    According to the Associated Press, government spokesman, Mike Omeri told reporters that Boko Haram negotiators “assured that the schoolgirls and all other people in their captivity are all alive and well.”

    Similarly, Nigerian troops were ordered to stand down and comply with the cease-fire agreement.

    The announcement came today after month-long negotiation efforts between representatives from the militant group and Nigerian delegates. The Nigerian presidential aide Hassan Tukur, told BBC that talks were mediated by Chad.

    The militant group is demanding the release of its top commanders from prison in exchange for the abducted school girls. Omeri said “the terrorists have announced a cease-fire in furtherance of their desire for peace. In this regard, the government of Nigeria has, in similar vein, declared a cease-fire.”

    Boko Haram sparked international outrage when it kidnapped 276 girls from a boarding school located in the remote north-eastern town of Chibok. And Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan received criticism for his government’s poor rescue efforts.

    News of the brokered cease-fire prompted members of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign to tweet “We are monitoring the news with huge expectations.”

    The militant group has been engaged in a five year insurgency that has resulted in the killing of approximately 20,000 civilians and left thousands of others homeless in the oil rich country. This cease-fire deal could mean the end of the insurgency.

    The post Nigerian government and Boko Haram reach cease-fire deal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Justice Edwin Cameron of South Africa’s Constitutional Court talks to senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown about the symbolism and importance of the high court’s art collection and the need to preserve it.

    When the Apartheid regime fell in 1994, South Africa established the Constitutional Court. One of the original justices, Albie Sachs, began collecting artwork for the court, and the majority of pieces were donated by prominent South African artists.

    According to Justice Edwin Cameron, the collection “symbolizes the best aspirations of our democracy, of reconciliation, of justice, and of transformation.”

    Cameron, whose new book “Justice” illustrates the power and limitations of the law through his own personal experience, told senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown that the artwork is a tangible reminder of the country’s ideals.

    “In our courtroom, we have the bricks from the jail which was right adjacent to a famous prison where Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, other political prisoners were kept,” said Cameron.

    “We sit in the courtroom hearing argument on what our constitution means with our history seeping into our deliberations. And of course the artworks do exactly the same.”

    The collection has been lauded by the international community. But after two decades, it’s at risk. It needs to be conserved and protected, much like his own country.

    “After 20 years, we’re in a precarious position …. we’re struggling for the rule of law in so many parts of South Africa,” said Cameron.

    He says the artwork is in a “precarious spot,” too. He’s “fighting for the artworks, but also fighting for the underlying project of making a viable democracy in our country.”

    Jeffrey spoke to Cameron back in 2005 about his book “Witness To AIDS,” about his experience being HIV positive.

    The post Protecting South Africa’s artwork of democracy and reconciliation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This week saw the government’s response to the threat of Ebola, more campaigning in the final stretch before Election Day, and drama in a key governor’s race over a fan.

    To talk about it all, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson. David Brooks is away tonight.

    Gentlemen, welcome.

    Let’s talk about Ebola first.

    Mark, we heard the doctor and the head of the nurses association say at the top of the program people shouldn’t be alarmed about Ebola. But is the fear getting out of control in this country?

    MARK SHIELDS: The fear is real. The Washington Post/ABC poll, two out of three Americans fear that there could be an Ebola epidemic in the country. Four out of 10 are very worried or somewhat worried that someone, either themselves or someone close to them will contract the disease.

    So there’s a real concern. And, as most dangers, it brings out both the best and the worst in people. And I think we’re seeing plenty of that right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Out of control?

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I do think it’s understandable. It’s a scary disease. And there were some fumbles in the initial response.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: By the way, I meant the fear. I don’t mean the disease.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Right. But the fear, I think, it is not irrational in this case.

    It is overdone, to some extent. We do not have an outbreak. We have a few incidents. The outbreak in West Africa, we do not have that. We know how to control it. The procedures have been there since the ’70s. Ebola has been controlled in various outbreaks. And we know the disease itself is not as infectious early as it is late.

    So it’s a real threat to health care workers, which we have seen, not so much the general public even in those cases. But there’s one area where we don’t have enough fear. And that’s what’s happening in West Africa, where the CDC is talking about the possibility of 5,000 to 10,000 new infections a week by the end of the year.

    You could be — have real threats to the economic, social and political stability of countries in West Africa, which could dramatically spread the disease. If we want panic, that’s where productive panic would be employed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you do hear officials saying that on a regular basis. We need to keep a focus on what’s going on in West Africa.


    The focus right now in this country is election. It’s two-and-a-half weeks away. And the remedy has become cancel all flights from West Africa. That has become the mantra, quite frankly, of Republican and even some Democratic candidates.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Which doesn’t solve that problem.

    MARK SHIELDS: It doesn’t solve any problem and probably compounds the problem.

    What we do see, Judy — and there is a parallel to 9/11, when we saw 343 firefighters walk into the jaws of death and the fires of hell, simply because they were — that was their duty to save fellow human beings who were in those trapped — trapped in those buildings.

    And I think Nina Pham has become almost the face of the hero of this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The first nurse what was diagnosed…

    MARK SHIELDS: The nurse who has contracted Ebola herself.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Taking care…

    MARK SHIELDS: But, I mean, they assume the risk. This is a critical care nurse. These are health care providers — terrible term, health care provider.

    But these are people who actually put themselves on the line to help strangers they don’t know, their knowledge, their careers, themselves, not for money, not for power, but just for humanity. And I think it’s quite — that is the most admirable development in this whole terrible panorama.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of accusations flying around.

    Michael, do you see this as an issue in the November election?

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think it adds to a vague general air of dysfunction, which probably benefits Republicans. It makes it harder for Democrats to drive their issues. We’re not talking about inequality. We’re talking about Ebola.

    But I have to say that people who directly politicize this issue may well, in my view, be demonstrating their unfitness for office, OK? This is not a symbol for other things. This is important in and of itself in a central federal role. We need to learn from mistakes. We need to give the government the ability to learn from mistakes, because they’re in that process, instead of highly politicizing what really is a very serious matter.

    I know it’s hard right before an election not to inject this into campaign commercials. And it’s happened on right and left, but I think that’s a serious mistake.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And — but you’re saying that’s happened.

    MICHAEL GERSON: It has happened.

    MARK SHIELDS: It has. It has happened in a couple of tragic instances.

    I do think it’s a case that it will be a factor in this election, Judy, not only for the reasons that Michael cited, but if you think about it, the Democrats have had two really good pieces of news in the last several weeks, the unemployment rate at a new low, people returning to work, and then this week, the deficit the lowest point in seven years.

    But it’s totally eclipsed by Ebola and ISIS. And these are two issues, national security and foreign policy, which the Ebola crisis has taken on in many instances, where they have tried to tie it into illegal immigration, some Republicans have, where the Democrats do not score well and Republicans have an advantage.

    So I think it is an issue that Republicans are going to drum from here on in.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: just quickly to both of you, the president’s choice of Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Gore and Biden, our guests at the top of the program, infectious disease expert and the head of the nurses association, said they think it’s fine to pick somebody who is a government expert, rather than a public health expert.

    What’s your view?

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I don’t think I’m in that camp.

    This is treating a problem as though it is a messaging and communications or a management problem within the White House. This is a command-and-control problem on the ground in Liberia and other places, where supplies are not getting through, our aid is not getting there.

    We need someone in the David Petraeus or Colin Powell camp who has respect in the military, respect in the global health community, emergency response experience. I think that they’re viewing this role in too limited a way, and the need is greater right now.


    MARK SHIELDS: I mean, Ron Klain has demonstrated credentials, no question, Vice President Gore, Vice President Biden and in between.

    But, to me, it shows how many few really towering figures there are left in American public life. Michael named Colin Powell. but I don’t know. I mean, it seems that the generation has passed. But I think you need a figure of command and who commands respect outside.

    Ron Klain, for all he’s done, is not well-known either in the medical world or really in the international world.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we talked about the election. We — we’re two-and-a-half weeks away, Michael. What does the landscape look like in the Senate? We started out 10 or 12 races watching closely. Where does it stand?

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, if you look at the RealClearPolitics summaries, Republicans are now ahead in eight of the top 11 most disputed Senate races.

    That doesn’t mean they will win them all. It just means — but they also have momentum in those races, if you look at the polling compared to September. And Democrats are starting to reposition in the House and other places their funding away from aggressive races against Republicans and towards defensive races for incumbents.

    That’s a bad sign. So, I think this is going in a Republican direction. The landscape, the field on which this is being played is favorable to Republicans right now for a variety of reasons.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is your gut telling you?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, I mean, I think Democrats now are hoping, quite frankly, that a couple of races they hadn’t expected to be in play will be in play, namely Kansas, which had been a safe Republican seat, South Dakota, which is a safe Republican seat, or acknowledged that there was going to be a safe Republican seat, held by a Democrat, Tim Johnson, now retiring, and in Georgia, where Michelle Nunn is showing strength for that open seat with Saxby Chambliss.

    But you have got seven seats being defended by Democrats. Six of them are in states that Mitt Romney carried by 14 percent or more. And these seats were all won by Democrats six years ago, when Barack Obama was getting the highest percentage any Democratic presidential candidate had gotten in the past 50 years.

    So they were elected in a good Democratic year. And this doesn’t look like a good Democratic year, so I think they’re putting the champagne back on ice right now at Democratic headquarters.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Not friendly territory…


    JUDY WOODRUFF: … for the Democrats.

    We haven’t talked much in the last weeks about the governor’s races. But there are, what, about 10 of them, we are told, could change parties. One of them — and they’re getting a lot of attention now that we’re getting close.

    One in particular, Michael, is the Florida governor’s race, which there was a debate a couple of nights ago between the incumbent Republican Governor Rick Scott and his challenger, former Republican, now Democrat, Charlie Crist. And it was a debate. And it was all about a fan that Governor — former Governor Crist wanted under his lectern up on stage.

    That’s become a big story.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Yes. No, it’s…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we have got a picture of the fan.


    MICHAEL GERSON: OK. There it is.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: And the fact that Governor Scott, it took him six or seven minutes to show up.

    MARK SHIELDS: Seven minutes, yes.

    MICHAEL GERSON: I think that Governor Scott was in the right when it came to the rules, and the organizers pointed that out, but it really doesn’t matter.

    Any candidate who is complaining about the rules doesn’t really look good. You don’t want to look rattled in a debate. It’s kind of the James Bond rule. You want to look cool under fire in these things. And it didn’t really work out for him. But if this decides the Florida governor’s race, God help us.

    MARK SHIELDS: Charlie Crist is not only a former Republican governor, former Wake Forest quarterback, a — looks like he always came off the pages of “Gentleman’s Quarterly,” never a hair out of place. Looks like a million bucks.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Of course, I think the two of you always look…


    JUDY WOODRUFF: “Gentleman’s Quarterly.”

    MARK SHIELDS: This is a strikingly handsome man, and he stays cool and has always — he’s been very open about this through his entire career. In fact, it’s in his own memoir, he writes about it.

    He stayed cool in that torrid…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Florida heat.

    MARK SHIELDS: … tropical state of Florida by having a fan with him under the lectern.


    MARK SHIELDS: It’s not like he’s got somebody giving him answers or something.


    MARK SHIELDS: And so Rick Scott, I thought, looked not only petty, but small, and not concerned with the people of Florida, but whether Charlie — Charlie Crist had a fan.

    I thought, quite frankly, it was fantastic.


    MARK SHIELDS: And I think something…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You didn’t say that.

    MARK SHIELDS: I did say that. And I apologize for it.

    It’s fan-damentally…


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fan-damentally.

    MARK SHIELDS: Fan-damentally.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, I mean, is there — just quickly, in 30 seconds, is there a lesson about American politics in all of this?

    MICHAEL GERSON: Yes. I think Americans like people to keep the rules, but they hate when people complain about others not keeping the rules.

    MARK SHIELDS: I think that’s true.

    But I would also say this, that one great thing about debates is they are the one time in campaigns where things are unstructured and unpredicted.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Yes. That’s true.

    MARK SHIELDS: And I thought this revealed something about Rick Scott which wasn’t compelling or appealing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, there’s — this is always unstructured and it’s always terrific.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, Michael Gerson, thank you both.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama appointed Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina to serve on the court, in 2009.

    Since then, she has brought her unique style to a normally cloistered and reserved court.

    Reuters journalist Joan Biskupic takes us behind the scenes of the secretive court proceedings to reveal how Sotomayor is shaking things but in her new book, “Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice.”

    Gwen Ifill spoke with her earlier this week.

    GWEN IFILL: Joan Biskupic, thank you for joining us.

    I want to start by talking about the subtitle of your book, in which you talk about the politics of justice. When it comes to Sonia Sotomayor, what do you mean by that?

    JOAN BISKUPIC, Author, “Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice”: No one gets to the Supreme Court by accident.

    And she, from the start, once she became a federal judge on the lower court, looked forward to that, and she had built networks along the way. And what I did in the book was sort of trace her trajectory with the rise of Latinos in America, but also through the politics of justice, how one gets on a district court, is elevated to the appeals court, and then, in 2009, is this breakthrough justice, our first Hispanic, appointed by the first African-American president.

    GWEN IFILL: And a disruptive justice in many ways.

    JOAN BISKUPIC: People who don’t realty know the Supreme Court don’t understand the rhythms, the decorum, the hierarchies that exist there.

    It really struck me that here was this justice who could have shattered a lot of that. If you follow her around, as I did, in San Juan, for example, when she was on her own book tour, you saw these throngs of people lining up to see her.

    And I was so struck about how different it was in San Juan compared to where she spends most of her time, in this marble palace where everyone lines up by their role, by their hierarchies. The court police are constantly monitoring who gets in this line, the lawyers, who gets in this line, the public, who gets in this line, the reporters.

    But the people who came to see Sonia Sotomayor and who are her people, as she calls them, are all sorts and they all come together.

    GWEN IFILL: The other interesting — I love it — people who cover the Supreme Court, who take us behind the scenes of this very secretive-seeming institution.


    GWEN IFILL: And one of the things you do in the book is you tell us the story about the Texas affirmative action Texas, because to me that’s a sign of the way things work that we might not see.

    JOAN BISKUPIC: Oh, it all went on in secret.

    I went into this wondering how she was using her voice behind the scenes, because we know how she has used her voice in public, through her own book and through certain statements from the bench. But I found out that, on this crucial affirmative action case, it was her work behind the scenes that caused a retreat by some conservative justices.

    And she, in effect, saved affirmative action for another day. And no one would have known that, because people don’t know what the negotiations are like behind the scenes. And I was able to get that from a majority of her colleagues, and to find out how this scorching dissenting statement altered the course of that case, but, when it was all over, we never would have known. And we didn’t know it at the time.

    GWEN IFILL: It was never published.

    JOAN BISKUPIC: No. We never know it at the time.

    But when I spoke to some of her colleagues about what she had written in that dissenting statement that ended up affecting the majority and allowed the University of Texas policy to stand at the time, people said, just wait and see what she writes in this upcoming Michigan case, because they already knew what was in the works.

    And that was the case where she dissented for the first time from the bench and said, race matters. And that was the theme that she had articulated in her earlier opinion that never saw the light of day.

    GWEN IFILL: She is so different from the other minority member of the bench, Clarence Thomas, who looks at affirmative action as being a drag. And she looks at — and she calls herself an affirmative action baby.

    JOAN BISKUPIC: That’s right.

    Clarence Thomas feels that he was really stigmatized it and that other people have been stigmatized by it. But what Justice Sotomayor says is, indeed, I was the perfect affirmative action baby because I was given a boost and I showed that I could then compete.

    GWEN IFILL: Why is being a Latina, the first Latina justice more significant than being the first Italian justice, or being an Italian justice like Antonin Scalia?

    JOAN BISKUPIC: Well, first of all, you have this population, a growing population that, by 2009, when President Obama put her on the bench, was really, really clamoring for this and the nation was ready for it.

    She’s Puerto Rican, but when she was appointed, she stood for all Hispanics and she was embraced that way. And it’s not just this breakthrough, but also the fact that, for years, Hispanics felt on the downside of the justice system. And she has recognized that. She has recognized that it’s been people of color, people, her people, who have gotten on the downside of justice who now gets this representation.

    GWEN IFILL: You talk about her people. She has a certain celebrity that other Supreme Court justices do not have.

    I wonder if that cuts both ways, whether that’s considered to be divisive or is unpopular among her colleagues.

    JOAN BISKUPIC: It does cut both ways.

    I think that the justices respect her for her work ethic, respect her for the kind of background that she overcame, respect her for her 17 years on lower courts before she got there. But it can’t help but rattle them a bit — and I’m not speaking about every justice, but some of the justices — that there she is out there as a celebrity figure.

    Can you think of anyone ever who would have gotten more than $3 million in advance for her book? And the other justices have written some books, but nowhere near that — with that kind of attention or that kind of money.

    GWEN IFILL: Does that celebrity make her less effective on the bench?

    JOAN BISKUPIC: Well, that’s — that’s the question I raise.

    It’s — behind the scenes, she has been effective, as I said, in the University of Texas affirmative action case. She has also made her mark in terms of criminal procedures, trying to call more attention to the need for fairer procedures.

    But I raised the question about whether the sort of celebrity, the disrupting the norm, those kinds of practices, whether that — I say that’s what kind of got her on the bench in the first place. Will it make her an effective negotiator behind the scenes? That remains to be seen.

    GWEN IFILL: You don’t have an answer yet.

    JOAN BISKUPIC: Well, I can say that she’s been effective in some ways, but she has certainly made it more difficult for herself in others.

    GWEN IFILL: The title of the books is “Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice.”

    Joan Biskupic, thank you very much.

    JOAN BISKUPIC: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Online, find out eight things you didn’t know about the Supreme Court justice.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a different kind of space mission, finding asteroids and other large objects before they get close to Earth.

    This Sunday, a comet will be making an unusually close fly-by near Mars. In fact, it will be coming closer to Mars than any other comet has come near Earth in recorded history. It’s also a moment when scientists are assessing our own risk from such objects.

    Science correspondent Miles O’Brien has our report.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Traveling 40 times faster than a speeding bullet, it is a menacing messenger from the very distant past. The comet known as Siding Spring, a dirty snowball packed with four-billion-year-old leftovers from the dawn of our solar system, will streak ever so close to Mars and NASA’s armada of spacecraft, for scientists, an unprecedented bonanza, for all of us, a stark reminder.

    Jim Green is the space agency’s director of planetary science.

    JIM GREEN, NASA: There’s not only the scientific interest of where these objects fit in, in the origin and evolution of our solar system, but indeed ignorance is not bliss. We can’t, in all consciousness, expect us to ignore the near-Earth population.

    MILES O’BRIEN: By that, he means the millions of comets and asteroids that come close enough to Earth that they could collide with the planet.

    Don Yeomans runs the Near-Earth Object Program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

    DON YEOMANS, NASA: It’s just a matter of time before a large one is on an Earth-threatening trajectory. The only question then is, will we discover it well ahead of time and do something about it?

    MILES O’BRIEN: We humans got a stunning shot across the bow in February of 2013, when a 60-foot-wide asteroid exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. Equivalent to 30 atomic bombs, it shattered windows, injuring about 1,500.

    DON YEOMANS: I think we have gotten over that stage where people dismissed this with a Chicken Little-type attitude and a giggle factor.

    MILES O’BRIEN: The Mount Lemmon Observatory near Tucson is one of three facilities funded by NASA to tackle the problem by searching the night sky for asteroids and comets that might be a threat.

    ERIC CHRISTENSEN, Catalina Sky Survey: Yes. So, on an average night, we’ll find two or three new near-Earth objects. It’s almost like a fisherman going out to the lake and spending the day, and maybe you catch something, maybe you don’t, but there’s always the chance that you’re going to find something.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Astronomer Eric Christensen showed me how he trolls for trouble using a 60-inch telescope built in the 1970s, now outmoded for more distant discoveries.

    ERIC CHRISTENSEN: So we might take four visits to the same field within about half-an-hour or 45 minutes. And then we have software that processes these images and compares each of the visits and identifies the stationary objects, the stars and galaxies, and identifies objects that are potentially transients.

    So, this is a near-Earth object. It is moving in a different direction at a much faster rate. That’s because it is much closer to the Earth.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Collectively, near-Earth object surveys have catalogued about 12,000 asteroids and comets, including 1,000 that are six-tenths-of-a-mile in diameter and larger, big enough to cause a global catastrophe. They have found 95 percent of them.

    Now they are looking for objects down to 450-feet wide, which could take out a region. NASA’s congressionally mandated goal is to find 90 percent of those by 2020. Operating on old, small telescopes and a budget of $40 million a year, the survey has found only 10 percent of those objects and will come nowhere near to that goal.

    In September, NASA’s Inspector General’s Office released a report critical of the agency’s efforts to identify near-Earth objects and mitigate hazards. It concludes the effort lacks structure, has limited resources, needs to improve oversight and grants and forge partnerships inside the federal government and internationally as well.

    JIM GREEN: You know, we were in the middle of the program. Yes, it’s sort of walking into a car factory and say, how come you don’t have fenders on the car? Well, we’re getting in the process of putting them on. And if the I.G. came back even within a year, I think they would see a much more methodical and solid program operating under a well-defined plan.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But as the search homes in on smaller objects, the size of the task grows exponentially.

    ED LU, Sentinel Mission: If you want to find a million asteroids, finding 1,000 a year doesn’t cut it, right?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Ed Lu is a former NASA astronaut, now CEO of the nonprofit B612 Foundation. The organization hopes to raise $450 million to build launch and operate an infrared space based telescope designed to find a few hundred thousand asteroids in its first year of operation alone.

    ED LU: And this is all being done by a private organization, because NASA simply doesn’t have the money to do this. And it’s within the capability of individuals to solve that problem, because NASA simply isn’t doing it.

    MILES O’BRIEN: The magnitude of the problem became a reality in July of 1994 with the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. Jupiter’s gravity broke it into 21 fragments. It then plowed into the giant planet over the course of a week.

    ROBERT MACNEIL, Anchor: Jupiter’s collision with a giant comet is next.

    Mrs. Shoemaker, thank you for joining us. Are you satisfied with the splash your little comet is making?

    CAROLYN SHOEMAKER, Astronomer: Oh, Robin, I’m thrilled with the splash my comet is making.


    MILES O’BRIEN: The whole world was watching, thanks to the eagle eyes of Carolyn Shoemaker.

    I caught up with her recently at the Lowell Observatory, near her home in Flagstaff.

    You knew it was real. You saw it with your own eyes.

    CAROLYN SHOEMAKER: That’s right.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Who saw the comet 16 months before impact week began.

    CAROLYN SHOEMAKER: That thrilled us, in part because so many people had said, you’re not going to see anything at all; it’s just going to break up and nothing will be seen.

    MILES O’BRIEN: She, her late husband, geologist Gene Shoemaker , and amateur astronomer David Levy were conducting an early survey of near-Earth objects at California’s Palomar Observatory when they had the eureka moment.

    DAVID LEVY, Astronomer: Shoemaker-Levy 9 was famous not because of what it was, but because of what it did. It was the first time we saw the process of collision.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Could something like that happen to Earth? Just one look at the moon offers case in point. We orbit the sun in a rough neighborhood; 65 million years ago, an asteroid six miles’ wide hit what is now Mexico, wiping out the dinosaurs. The evidence of this and other impacts is mostly buried, but not Arizona’s Meteor Crater.

    In the 19th century, geologists thought this might have been caused by some sort of volcanic explosion. There was a lot of debate over this in the first half of the 20th century, but then in 1960, Gene Shoemaker settled it once and for all. He found minerals here that are smoking gun proof that was a high-powered impact and an explosion.

    So what can we do to defend our planet against this inevitable threat? Surprisingly, scientists say that is the easy part. The method considered simplest, crashing a spacecraft into the asteroid with enough force to knock an it off of its collision course with Earth. In fact, it is something NASA has already done. In 2005, the Deep Impact spacecraft plowed into comet Tempel 1, changing its orbit.

    DON YEOMANS: There’s three important ingredients for asteroid or comet impact mitigation. We need to find them early, we need to find them early, and we need to find them early.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Meanwhile, the scientists in charge of the NASA research satellites that orbit Mars have gradually changed their orbits, so that they will be shielded from the hazards posed by the whizzing debris in Siding Spring’s tail.

    Still, they will try to gather as much data as they safely can.

    Rich Zurek is the chief scientist for the Mars program at JPL.

    RICH ZUREK, NASA: Our instruments, our cameras and such, aren’t really designed to look at a diffuse object. However, we have a ringside seat. If we knew a comet was coming, we might have done something different.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Backyard astronomers will also be out in force. At David Levy’s home and observatory near Tucson, where the sky is big and beautiful by day and night, he will be on the lookout as Siding Spring slides by the Red Planet.

    DAVID LEVY: Comets are not your Facebook activity. Comets are a reminder that the universe is all about time. And it takes its time about showing us things.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Levy reminds us the ancients viewed comets as bad omens. If we moderns don’t tackle the threat posed by near-Earth objects, we may prove our ancestors right.

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    JEFFREY BROWN: The Nigerian military has claimed it killed hundreds of Boko Haram fighters in recent weeks. And, today, neighboring Cameroon said its forces killed more than a hundred of the militants in fighting this week.

    And for more on the situation, we turn once again to J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council.

    We have heard versions of this before, right? Does this feel different, something that might hold?

    J. PETER PHAM, Atlantic Council: Well, not only because I’m hopeful for the return of the girls and concerned about it, but also I think there are indications that things are different.

    Things have been moving very quickly behind the scenes in the region. About two weeks ago, the regional leaders met in Chad to discuss Boko Haram and collaboration among their governments. Earlier this week, they met again in Niamey, Niger, at the invitation of that country’s president. President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria went to this meeting.

    And then we saw last weekend the release of a number of hostages taken by Boko Haram in Cameroon, including the wife of the vice prime minister and 10 Chinese workers kidnapped back in May. So, things have been moving very rapidly.

    And, today, in this announcement, what’s different is also the announcement of very senior level of the Nigerian military, the chief of the defense staff, as well as people I have spoken to in the president’s office are all saying the same thing, that there’s a breakthrough and talks are coming.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A breakthrough and talks are coming, but do we know much about the deal itself, what each side might be giving up?

    J. PETER PHAM: Well, according to what I’m hearing from Nigeria, Boko Haram engaged in a cease — stopped fighting earlier today, Nigeria time. Subsequently, Nigerian military was given orders by its command to cease.

    And the Nigerian government is saying that since both cease-fires went into place, there has been no fighting. So there’s at least a calm in the killing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Specifically on the question of the kidnapped girls who galvanized the world’s attention, any more detail on how that might play into this? We still don’t know about their condition, about even their whereabouts.

    J. PETER PHAM: One — I have been told that the girls, the release of the girls, which is a priority of the Nigerian government and of the international community, will be the leadoff in the talks that will take place next week in Chad hosted by that country’s president.

    I presume that the girls, if you look at the situation militarily, operationally, have become a burden to their captors. Moving about 200 girls while you’re fighting a war, even if you have been scoring some spectacular successes on the battlefield, is a burden. So Boko Haram would very much like to get rid of them and, in exchange, possibly demand the release and likely of some of their commanders who have been captured.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, just to fill on that, why — if I ask you why it’s happening now of why it might happen now, what’s the situation on the ground in terms of relative strength of — strength and weaknesses of Boko Haram and the government at this point?

    J. PETER PHAM: Well, on Boko Haram’s side, in the last several weeks and months, Boko Haram has successfully carved out a large territory not only in Borno state, but neighboring Yobe and Adamawa states, virtually encircling the capital of Borno, Maiduguri, city of over a million people, not it cutting off entirely, but making life rather miserable for the people there, gaining territorial hold, and even reportedly, although it has to be confirmed, shooting down a Nigerian air force fighter jet at the beginning of September.

    But it’s probably reached the limit of what it can do. On the government’s side, they have suffered some reverses not only on battlefield, but also in troop desertions, loss of equipment. And they need some time to — to regroup. So both sides I think perhaps are a little fatigued.

    And the government really does, I think, need a break from the fighting and from this distraction in the north, which is, in a way, a distraction from the overall challenges Nigeria faces.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, and very briefly on that, we heard the skepticism in that piece. The government still faces the skepticism, criticism from the outside over — over its actions and inactions on this.

    J. PETER PHAM: Yes.

    And I think this is where I think the tires are going to meet the road. The government has clearly said the talks are going to happen. We are given the expectation that the release of the girls is imminent and that some broader, more holistic solution will be discussed.

    And they have given a timetable. So we will see in a week’s time whether these talks begin to take place and we have movement or if this was yet another false alarm.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Peter Pham, thank you so much.

    J. PETER PHAM: Thank you.


    The post What’s motivating the Boko Haram cease-fire? – Part 2 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Nigeria, surprising news came today that a cease-fire has been reached between the government and militant group Boko Haram.

    Jeffrey Brown has more.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Word of the unexpected truce came from Nigeria’s official news agency.

    WOMAN: The federal government and the Boko Haram sect have agreed to a cease-fire deal.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Similar announcements in the past failed to bear fruit. But this time, Nigeria’s defense chief ordered government troops to halt all action against the militants. There was no immediate statement from Boko Haram.

    It was also unclear whether a truce would mean the release of 219 schoolgirls abducted in April. They were among about 300 girls taken from this boarding school in the northeast town of Chibok and declared slaves. Dozens managed to escape. The fate of the others remains unknown.

    Chika Oduah is a journalist reporting from Nigeria.

    CHIKA ODUAH, Journalist: What we know is that Boko Haram has promised not to attack civilians and Nigerian troops are not supposed to shoot at Boko Haram strongholds. So, that’s what we have for now. As far as the Chibok girls, there are no details, but we do know that talks are ongoing until at least next week.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Boko Haram has carried out a wave of bombings and suicide attacks over the past five years in a campaign to create an Islamic caliphate in northeastern Nigeria. Tens of thousands of people have died.

    That and what’s been perceived as the Nigerian government’s ineffective response has fed a deep public skepticism, as “NewsHour” special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro found on a recent trip.

    Sheik Abdur Rahman is the imam of a prominent Islamic charity.

    SHEIK ABDUR RAHMAN: How can you move 300 girls, almost 300 girls, you know, in a state or in a region where you have declared a state of emergency, and nobody challenged the movement of the vehicles?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Dozens of other girls, boys and adults have also been carried away, as Yemisi Ransome-Kuti points out. She’s a longtime activist from a prominent Nigerian family.

    YEMISI RANSOME-KUTI, Nigerian Activist: Kidnapping is going on almost on a daily basis in the north, not just girls, but boys being recruited into the Boko Haram militia system.


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    Two Healthcare Workers In Dallas Infected With Ebola After Treating Patient

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The appointment of an Ebola czar was greeted with a mix of support and real skepticism over the president’s choice for the job.

    We look at his possible role, as questions keep escalating about just how prepared the U.S. health system is.

    Two voices from the world of public health tonight. Pamela Cipriano is president of the American Nurses Association. It’s a professional organization representing the nation’s 3.1 million registered nurses. And Dr. Amesh Adalja is an infectious disease physician and a representative of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, whose members include doctors, scientists and other health care professions.

    We welcome you both to the “NewsHour.”

    To you first, Dr. Adalja.

    Looking at Ron Klain, who the president appointed to coordinate government efforts on Ebola, what does he need to do, do you believe?

    DR. AMESH ADALJA, Infectious Diseases Society of America: He really needs to coordinate a response.

    You have got multiple agencies that have responsibilities now, the CDC, the FDA, Department of Defense, USAID. We need an integrated response where everybody is talking to everybody and there’s one plan that’s going to be executed to stop this outbreak in West Africa and also keep Americans safe here in the United States.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Ms. Cipriano, what would you add to that, from your perspective?

    PAMELA CIPRIANO, President, American Nurses Association: I think that’s a very good description, I think, in addition, to be able to reach out across state organizations and communities, because that’s really often where the information gets disseminated to the health care organizations.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Ms. Cipriano, let me stay with you. There’s some criticism of Mr. Klain we’re already hearing, some of it from Republicans and others, saying who the president should have appointed was someone who’s a physician or someone with a public health background. How much do you think that’s going to matter in this role?

    PAMELA CIPRIANO: I believe there’s already many experts throughout the CDC and HHS who can provide that expertise.

    And, again, I think what we’re looking for is someone who can manage the response, provide the coordination that’s required. This is very much like any other emergency situation. And when you have an incident command center, the person who is in charge of that is not necessarily the content expert for that particular condition.

    It is someone who’s very accustomed to managing overall communications, planning, follow-up, data collection, and execution throughout the organization or the geographic area. So I think someone who comes with these skills is actually more important and then can tap the experts on the ground or, again, nationally or internationally, who can provide the medical expertise.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Adalja, in your view, should it have been someone with public health experience?

    DR. AMESH ADALJA: It doesn’t necessarily have to be someone with public health experience. It needs to be somebody that has the ear of the president, that can understand the science and the medicine behind what the interventions are.

    But we really need somebody that is the lead on not just Ebola, but also emerging infectious disease, biosecurity. That’s really what we need, is somebody that is there, because after this Ebola outbreak ends, there are other emerging infectious disease threats, like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. There’s Chikungunya. There’s dengue fever.

    So we really need somebody that’s there kind of all the time serving at the pleasure of the president that can coordinate these responses, because when you have what happened, the missteps that happened in Dallas, it really illustrates the fact that you need to have a coordinated response.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, in connection with that, Ms. Cipriano, we learned today that the Centers for Disease Control says they’re going to be issuing new guidelines, stricter guidelines for health care workers to follow. How serious were the lapses leading up to what’s happened today? Are they understandable lapses? Are they — how do you see that?

    PAMELA CIPRIANO: The American Nurses Association, along with many other nurses, was part of a conference call yesterday with more than 6,000 R.N.s that talked with CDC officials.

    So, this is something that we have been asking for to provide the clarity about, particularly the personal protective equipment and the education associated with the correct procedures to put them on and take them off. And we know that that’s one of the primary ways that we can safeguard health care workers.

    So we think this is a big step in the right direction. We expect that these revised guidelines will be out momentarily. However, the other important thing is to use the lessons learned from the Texas hospital to be able to inform those. Again, the initial guidelines that CDC issued have been around for a long time relative to normal protective conditions.

    They also have instructions for escalating the precautionary measures for highly contagious infectious diseases. And again the combination of really looking at what is the right equipment, right — what are the right techniques is critically important. And I think we recognize that if there’s any lapse on the part of the users or the part — anywhere in the health care organization, that that creates a threat that’s really not something that we can sustain.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Adalja, we know that right now, there are only four hospitals in the country with so-called established containment procedures for patients with Ebola.

    At this point, is it still the correct move for the CDC to be making to have patients transferred to those centers, as long as there are only a few? At what point do other hospitals need to be — to get up to speed?

    DR. AMESH ADALJA: Well, there is two parts to my answer to that question.

    All hospitals have to be prepared to initially recognize, isolate and get the ball rolling if they get an Ebola patient, because travelers can present anywhere. However, after the events in Dallas, it’s become clear that not every hospital can take care of an Ebola patient safely.

    And while we have space in these biocontainment units, that should be where people should be transferred. And we need to think when — if we do get a situation where we have more patients than we can care of, which may be unlikely, but could occur, we have to think about tiering which hospitals and metropolitan centers are adept at doing infection control. And that may be our tertiary academic medical centers where patients should go, because we don’t want to repeat the events of Dallas again.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ms. Cipriano, from the standpoint of nurses, how do you view that? Which are the right hospitals to be treating these patients as these cases arise?

    PAMELA CIPRIANO: Well, what we have seen from the four organizations that have these biocontainment units, they are highly skilled, they’re very practiced, and they have not had any lapses or problems with staff getting infected.

    So I think there is a great benefit, while those number of patients would be small, to see if they could seek care there once someone is identified and diagnosed, although I absolutely agree that one of the most important things that is every health care organization has the tools and following the right procedure to screen, because we have a mobile society and anyone can cross our threshold.

    I think it will be important to say that there will be a limited number of facilities initially, again, because the learning curve is so critically important, not only for understanding the protective equipment, but the entire organization that has to gear up for handling blood and body fluids, lab specimens, the contaminated waste, everything that requires an organization to muster all of those services together, and that, even though organizations are prepared, if you have been doing this or you know that you have the specialized resources, it will be easier to care for those patients.

    So I would suspect that we will be seeing a plan that does limit the number of facilities.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just finally, Dr. Adalja, what should ordinary folks watching, citizens watching this program right now who are worried about Ebola, what should they know, what should they look to for reassurance?


    The general public is really getting seized with this panic, and it’s legitimate panic, because they’re getting mixed messages, and stories are changing. There are panics all over the country when someone gets sick somewhere and they think it’s Ebola.

    But the key message I would give is that Ebola is a deadly and scary virus, but it’s not very contagious. It’s something that is only spread through contact with the blood and bodily fluids of an infected individual. It’s not spread in casual contact.

    And there really is no concern over a generalized outbreak in the United States. And we have to be vigilant at our hospitals to identify these patients, so the lessons from Dallas are actually learned.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Amesh Adalja and Pamela Cipriano of the American Nurses Association, we thank you.

    DR. AMESH ADALJA: Thank you.

    PAMELA CIPRIANO: Thank you.

    The post What does the U.S. Ebola ‘czar’ need to do? – Part 2 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Wall Street wound up a wild week with a positive finish, thanks to strong corporate earnings. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 263 points to close at 16,380. The Nasdaq rose 41 points to close at 4,258. And the S&P 500 added 24 to 1,886. For the week, the Dow and S&P still lost 1 percent and the Nasdaq fell about 0.5 percent.

    Government forces in Iraq have launched new operations against Islamic State fighters. The troops, aided by coalition airstrikes, aim to retake areas around Tikrit and Baiji, home to the country’s largest oil refinery. And Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met today with Sunni tribal leaders urging them to defend Ramadi in the west.

    In Washington, the head of U.S. Central Command, General Lloyd Austin, said the meeting is an encouraging sign.

    GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN, Commander, U.S. Central Command: I’m hopeful that they will continue to establish and build on — establish some confidence and build upon that going forward. But it — this is what has to happen and I think the leaders understand that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, a string of car bombs in Baghdad killed at least two dozen people. More than 170 have died in attacks just since last weekend.

    In Hong Kong, new clashes flared in the standoff between authorities and protesters demanding elections free of Beijing’s control. It started early today when police raided and cleared one of the protest sites. Hours later, a large crowd tried to return, and police used pepper spray and batons to beat back protesters and to make arrests.

    The prime minister of Nepal pledged today to set up an early warning system after a blizzard this week killed at least 29 people taking treks through the Himalayas.

    Rebecca Barry of Independent Television News reports on the ongoing rescue effort.

    REBECCA BARRY: Back to safety, but still clearly in shock. Others were not so lucky, their bodies transferred to hospital in Katmandu. For days, rescuers have been struggling to reach hikers trapped along this popular Himalayan route, following a violent storm, many bodies still to be recovered from the snow.

    ITV News spoke to Paul Sherridan, a policeman from Doncaster seen here on the right. This photo was taken earlier in his trip to Nepal, days before the blizzards hit.

    PAUL SHERRIDAN, Survivor: The wind whipped up again. And we all sort of fell to the floor. We sort of all held each other on the floor, for fear of being blown away, basically.

    REBECCA BARRY: Some survivors say their guides were not properly equipped.

    LINOR KAJAN, Survivor: I think that everybody there was really frightened. We all thought that some — somebody is going to die and maybe we are going to die.

    REBECCA BARRY: October is the biggest month for tracking here because the weather is usually clear and sunny. Now it could be the month of Nepal’s worth mountaineering tragedy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Bermuda braced today for a different kind of storm, Hurricane Gonzalo. The center of the system was passing the British island territory this evening with winds of 130 miles an hour. As the day went on, wind gusts grew stronger and high waves whipped the shore. Officials warned of significant flooding from the first major hurricane to hit Bermuda since 2003.

    And in the Pacific, the storm Ana grew into a hurricane, heading toward the main Hawaiian islands.

    The post News Wrap: Iraqi PM urges Sunni tribal leaders to defend Ramadi from Islamic State appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The nation now has an official Ebola response coordinator. He was named today in a bid to corral any spread of the virus and ease mounting public anxiety.

    The appointment of Ron Klain came in a paper statement this morning, and the explanation came this afternoon from White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: What we were looking for is not an Ebola expert, but rather an implementation expert. And that’s exactly what Ron Klain is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Klain has no major public health background, but he’s been chief of staff to Vice Presidents Gore and Biden. For the next five to six months, he will oversee the federal response to Ebola.

    For now, though, the White House is still ruling out a ban on travelers from West Africa.

    This was President Obama last night.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: A travel ban is less effective than the measures that we are currently instituting that involve screening passengers who are coming from West Africa.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president didn’t address Ebola in any detail today at a Washington appearance.

    But governors in several states did, including Maryland and Florida, briefings to talk up their preparations. In Ohio, officials said they’re monitoring 16 people who had close contact with Amber Vinson, a Dallas nurse who flew there last weekend and turned out to be infected.

    Meanwhile, a Vinson co-worker is now quarantined on a cruise ship, off Belize, in the Caribbean. She handled specimens from the Liberian patient who died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, but has shown no symptoms herself. And Nina Pham, the first nurse who contracted the disease in Dallas, was transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, last night.

    Today, Dr. Tony Fauci said she’s in fair and stable condition.

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: We fully intend to have this patient walk out of this hospital, and we will do everything we possibly can to make that happen.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Other exposed hospital workers in Dallas are being asked to sign binding pledges to avoid public spaces and public transportation.

    On the international front, the World Health Organization faced new questions about its fight against the outbreak in West Africa. An internal document obtained by the Associated Press said the agency has botched the effort.

    Dr. Peter Piot is one of the people who first discovered the Ebola virus and once worked at the agency.

    DR. PETER PIOT, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: WHO is organized in a very decentralized way. And it’s the regional office for Africa that is the front line. And they didn’t do anything. And that office is really not competent.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All of this as the WHO raised the official death toll to 4,546 people, out of more than 9,000 cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

    We will take a closer look at what Ron Klain may be expected to do as Ebola response coordinator right after the news summary.


    The post As public anxiety grows, coordinator named to corral Ebola efforts – Part 1 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    When Christian militias began murdering their Muslim neighbors in the Central African Republic, a small group of peacekeepers kept the killing at bay.

    But the country remains a tinderbox — with half a million refugees — while both sides are still armed and angry. Jeffery Brown speaks with Jon Lee Anderson, whose latest New Yorker feature unpacks how the worst didn’t happen, but still could.

    The post How peacekeepers are trying to stop a genocide in the Central African Republic appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    > on January 6, 2014 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

    A patient receives an influenza shot on Jan. 6, 2014 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Doctors say it’s best to not let seasonally normal fever, aches and fatigue grow into an Ebola false alarm. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    Worried you might have the Ebola virus? Not so fast.

    Just as mounting anxiety is sweeping the country, kindled by the third case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. Wednesday, cold and flu season is now within spitting (and sneezing) distance. And because documenting early symptoms of the two illnesses can be akin to plotting a Venn diagram, doctors say it’s best not to let seasonally normal fever, aches and fatigue swell into an Ebola false alarm — of which there have already been at least 5,000.

    The CDC says flu activity in the U.S. normally begins as early as October, peaks between December and February and can last until May, during which time hospitals typically see more patients flood their waiting rooms.

    The 2009 swine flu pandemic drove up trips to the ER by nearly 20 percent even in areas where the illness had still not yet appeared. This year, cold and flu season and the height of Ebola in the U.S. will inevitably coincide making for a panic-stricken perfect storm of emergency room visits.

    “Our ‘flu fear’ study suggests that people indeed will be visiting emergency departments based on their fears of Ebola, regardless of whether they actually have any real risk,” William McDonnell, who authored a study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, told The Washington Post.

    But while it’s a far cry from the novelty of Ebola stateside, influenza is much more of an inherent risk to Americans — and one for which we have answers.

    Know your enemy: It’s hard to catch Ebola

    Initial symptoms of Ebola are fever, sore throat, muscle and body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. Sounds a lot like that flu bug you seem to catch at least once a year, right? But unlike the flu, Ebola does not spread through the air, meaning it’s much harder to catch. 

    Ebola transmission requires contact between bodily fluids like vomit, blood, saliva, urine or sweat with your eyes, nose, mouth or broken skin. When the immune system begins breaking down, the symptoms begin to show. This process takes anywhere from two to 21 days (though it’s typically between four to 10 days). (You can read more on how Ebola gets transmitted here.)

    A key factor medical staff look for when someone wary of an Ebola infection goes to the hospital is the patient’s travel history, like whether a person has recently spent time in one of the West African countries where the virus is widespread or with someone who has.

    Influenza, on the other hand, is easily airborne on droplets projected from coughs and sneezes that fly through schools, offices and households, but can be prevented with the annual flu vaccine. The CDC advises people to cover their coughs and sneezes, wash their hands frequently, and recommends that caregivers and infants six months and older get the vaccine.

    Ebola symptoms, if left untreated, usually intensify after eight to 12 days, whereas influenza symptoms tend to fade. But in rare cases, the flu can lead to severe symptoms.

    “We have a vaccine and an antiviral medication for influenza, and it still causes deaths,” said Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, the director of infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. “We have Americans afraid of Ebola, but fewer than 50 percent of Americans take advantage of the flu vaccine, and it’s something that’s going to be here. It’s coming.”

    Ebola spreads fast, but fear spreads faster

    Of course, it’s normal to feel anxious about a disease that carries a 70 percent death rate and has ravaged parts of West Africa, killing 4,555 people out of a total of 9,216 cases registered in seven countries, and been likened to the emergence of HIV. And while even the nation’s top infectious diseases experts say it’s possible in the coming days that we’ll see more Ebola cases, many still believe it’s unlikely that the U.S. will have an actual outbreak.

    And in spite of the Ebola-centric media blitz, a majority of the public seems to agree.

    An October national survey by the Pew Research Center found that 58 percent of Americans have either a “great deal” or “fair amount” of confidence in the government’s ability to prevent a major Ebola outbreak.

    If you’re looking for Ebola in the U.S., the easiest place to find it will likely be the headlines.

    The post Why your Ebola-like symptoms are probably the flu appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    CDC Director Tom Frieden listens via videoconference as U.S. President Barack Obama holds a meeting with cabinet agencies coordinating the government's Ebola response, in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Oct. 15. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    CDC Director Tom Frieden listens via videoconference as U.S. President Barack Obama holds a meeting with cabinet agencies coordinating the government’s Ebola response at the White House on Oct. 15. President Obama pushed back against calls for a West Africa travel ban in his weekly address on Saturday. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama urged Americans on Saturday not to succumb to hysteria about Ebola, even as he warned that addressing the deadly virus would require citizens, government leaders and the media to all pitch in.

    In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama also pushed back against calls for the U.S. to institute a travel ban. Lawmakers have called it a common-sense step to prevent more people with Ebola from entering the U.S., but Obama said such a ban would only hamper aid efforts and screening measures.

    “Trying to seal off an entire region of the world – if that were even possible – could actually make the situation worse,” Obama said.

    Growing U.S. concern about Ebola and the three cases diagnosed so far in Dallas prompted Obama on Friday to tap a former top White House adviser to be his point person on Ebola. Striking a careful balance, Obama said there’s no “outbreak” or “epidemic” of Ebola in the U.S., but said even one case is too many.

    “This is a serious disease, but we can’t give in to hysteria or fear-because that only makes it harder to get people the accurate information they need,” Obama said. “We have to be guided by the science.”

    As Obama sought to reassure anxious Americans, U.S. officials were still working to contain the fallout from the Ebola cases identified in the U.S. so far, rushing to cut off potential routes of infection for those who may have come into contact with individuals who contracted Ebola. Obama said he was “absolutely confident” the U.S. could prevent a serious outbreak at home – if it continues to elevate facts over fear.

    “Fighting this disease will take time,” Obama said. “Before this is over, we may see more isolated cases here in America. But we know how to wage this fight.”

    The post Obama pushes back against calls for West Africa travel ban appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court said Saturday that Texas can use its controversial new voter identification law for the November election.

    A majority of the justices rejected an emergency request from the Justice Department and civil rights groups to prohibit the state from requiring voters to produce certain forms of photo identification in order to cast ballots. Three justices dissented.

    The law was struck down by a federal judge last week, but a federal appeals court had put that ruling on hold. The judge found that roughly 600,000 voters, many of them black or Latino, could be turned away at the polls because they lack acceptable identification. Early voting in Texas begins Monday.

    The Supreme Court’s order was unsigned, as it typically is in these situations. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, saying they would have left the district court decision in place.

    “The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,” Ginsburg wrote in dissent.

    Texas’ law sets out seven forms of approved ID – a list that includes concealed handgun licenses but not college student IDs, which are accepted in other states with similar measures.

    The 143-page opinion from U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos called the law an “unconstitutional burden on the right to vote” and the equivalent of a poll tax in finding that the Republican-led Texas Legislature purposely discriminated against minority voters in Texas.

    Texas had urged the Supreme Court to let the state enforce voter ID at the polls in a court filing that took aim at the ruling by Ramos, an appointee of President Barack Obama. Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who’s favored in the gubernatorial race, called Ramos’ findings “preposterous” and accused the judge of ignoring evidence favorable to the state.

    The court had intervened in three other disputes in recent weeks over Republican-inspired restrictions on voting access. In Wisconsin, the justices blocked a voter ID law from being used in November. In North Carolina and Ohio, the justices allowed limits on same-day registration, early voting and provisional ballots to take or remain in effect.

    Ginsburg said the Texas case was different from the clashes in North Carolina and Ohio because a federal judge held a full trial on the Texas election procedures and developed “an extensive record” finding the process discriminated against ballot access.

    Texas has enforced its tough voter ID in elections since the Supreme Court in June 2013 effectively eliminated the heart of the Voting Rights Act, which had prevented Texas and eight other states with histories of discrimination from changing election laws without permission. Critics of the Texas measure, though, said the new ID requirement has not been used for an election for Congress and the Senate, or a high-turnout statewide election like the race for governor.

    Ramos’ issued her ruling on October 9. Five days later, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans put her decision on hold and cited a 2006 Supreme Court opinion that warned judges not to change the rules too close to Election Day.

    The challengers in Texas said that the last time the Supreme Court allowed a voting law to be used in a subsequent election after it had been found to be unconstitutional was in 1982. That case from Georgia involved an at-large election system that had been in existence since 1911.

    Republican lawmakers in Texas and elsewhere say voter ID laws are needed to reduce voter fraud. Democrats contend that such cases are extremely rare and that voter ID measures are thinly veiled attempts to keep eligible voters, many of them minorities supportive of Democrats, away from the polls.

    The post Supreme Court OKs Texas voter ID law for November election appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The poverty rate in the U.S. registered its first drop in the U.S. since 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau reported, falling from 15 percent in 2012 to 14.5 percent in 2013.

    But a Brookings Institution analysis finds that the situation remains bleak in American suburbs. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of suburban poor people increased by 66 percent — more than twice as fast as the growth of urban poor.

    Today, more people live in the suburbs than anywhere else, and about 56 percent of the nation’s poor population live in suburbs.

    The numbers have gotten worse since PBS NewsHour reported on suburban poverty last year. Watch below.

    The post National poverty rate drops slightly, but suburban poverty still bleak appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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