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

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    Supporters of David Perdue celebrate his victory over Jack Kingston Tuesday night in Atlanta. Photo by Claire Simms, GPB News

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And exactly two weeks from Election Day, and Georgia is a surprise place Democrats are suddenly hopeful about.

    The two major-party candidates running for the open Senate seat are first-time candidates, but both come from well-known political families.

    This weekend, I traveled to the Peach State to find out how a race between two non-politicians has become a nail-biter.

    Worshipers at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta were fired up on Sunday, determined to make their voices heard.

    REP. JOHN LEWIS, (D) Georgia: So, we have got to go out and vote like we have never voted before.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It was the sort of stars-of-the-civil-rights-movement turnout you would expect in a presidential election year, with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sister, Christine, arm in arm with Congressman John Lewis, leading the way at a large get-out-the-vote drive called Souls to the Polls.

    But it’s not a presidential election year, and the first African-American president, Barack Obama, is not on the ballot, except in TV spots being aired by most Republican Senate candidates this year, including David Perdue here in Georgia.

    Perdue campaign ad: Job losses come from bad policies in Washington, the policies of President Obama and Michelle Nunn. The president himself said, make no mistake, these policies are on the ballot.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Perdue, a 64-year-old former corporate executive and first-time candidate, is trying to take advantage of President Obama’s unpopularity with most Georgia voters by saying his Democratic opponent, Michelle Nunn, would be a rubber stamp for Obama policies.

    ERIN KRENZ:  Would that be Michelle Nunn or David Perdue that would get your support there?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s an argument that Perdue supporters, like 31-year-old massage therapist and mother of three Erin Krenz, who regularly volunteers to make calls and knock on doors for him, enthusiastically embraces.

    ERIN KRENZ: Because there are so many bad policies coming out of Washington that are going to kill all of the jobs, that are killing jobs right now. There are small business owners that are trying to put their heads together, figuring out, how am I going to surmount this Obamacare thing?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, the 47-year-old Nunn, daughter of former four-term Georgia Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, has spent her adult life running large nonprofit volunteer service organizations.

    She has focused her campaign on how she wants to be a voice for moderation in Washington, someone who will work with both political parties to get things done.

    I spoke to her after she greeted people at the Morehouse College homecoming tailgate parties.

    MICHELLE NUNN, Democratic Senate Candidate: I am going to work across party lines. But there are places where I differ from the president. I believe that we should have already moved forward with the Keystone pipeline. I believe that the president and the Congress should have done more to address our long-term debt.

    But I also do agree with the president that we should raise minimum wage, that we should pass pay equity legislation, that we should pass bipartisan immigration reform.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Michelle Nunn has had to walk a careful line in this campaign. She’s had to appeal to white voters, who have lately been voting mostly for Republicans in Georgia, but not in a way that turns off black voters, whom she needs to show up in record-breaking numbers for a midterm election.

    (SINGING)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Those we spoke to say they understand the balance she must strike. Valerie Dorsey rode the Souls to the Polls bus on Sunday to cast her vote.

    VALERIE DORSEY: I don’t think in our politics that it’s necessary to absolutely support the president in 100 percent of all his policies. But if you’re able to reason, if you’re able to be willing to be educated about the issues, and try to find common ground, I believe that Michelle Nunn will try to do that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Emory University political scientist Merle Black:

    MERLE BLACK, Emory University: She’s got to get — do two things, according to her own strategy. She’s got to get a composition of the electorate in which African-Americans make up 30 percent of the voters. Barack Obama got 98 percent of that vote in ’08 and still lost by four or five points. But what’s the other target?  The other target is white voters. The Democrats need at least 30 percent of the white vote.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Black says this is a tall order for Nunn, but he believes she can pull it off. He argues that’s because she’s run a strong campaign, while Perdue has run a weak one, since he won the Republican primary.

    MERLE BLACK: But he’s not doing the number one thing that we think an unknown politician needs to do, and that is to advertise himself, show his stuff, get out there debate and engage. He doesn’t do that right now, so this has given a tremendous opportunity for the Michelle Nunn campaign to paint their portrait of David Perdue. And that’s a very, very unattractive portrait.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Merle Black says Nunn is trying to appeal to white voters, particularly women, by saying Perdue has made a career out of outsourcing jobs to other countries.

    NARRATOR: The attorney asks, “Can you describe your experience with outsourcing?”  Perdue responds: “Yes, I spent most of my career doing that.”

    MAN: And when asked by reporters how he defends the outsourcing, Perdue doubled down.

    DAVID PERDUE: Defend it?  I’m proud of it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Perdue was unavailable for an interview while we were in Georgia, but his cousin, former Governor Sonny Perdue, speaking on his behalf, insists Nunn has taken those remarks out of context.

    FORMER GOV. SONNY PERDUE, (R) Georgia: When David said that, it was in a legal document. And what has David talked about is, that is what corporate America was about. It may be outsourcing to a small business next door that can do that particular task more efficiently than a big corporation can do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He says Georgia voters want someone to go to Washington to undo Obama policies.

    SONNY PERDUE: This is essentially a national election about the policies of this current administration and who will support those and then who will repudiate those in the Senate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Both the Nunn and Perdue families come from Houston County in rural Central Georgia. We found that voters here and nearby are as divided as across the rest of the state.

    Don Wood will likely vote for Nunn because he worries Perdue is too partisan.

    DON WOOD: He’s not going to be able to do anything to help fix the problems that are there, because you at least have to be able to talk and get along with the people for something to happen.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But Terri Marcum says she likes a candidate who stands firm.

    TERRI MARCUM: Sticks to principles and sticks to the conservative. I’m a very conservative person, and so I really kind of like the conservative way of thinking.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: To keep her distance from Washington, Nunn rarely uses the word Democrat, refers to herself as a moderate.

    But there’s no question that you would, the majority of the time, be voting with the Democrats in the Senate?

    MICHELLE NUNN: I spent 26 years mobilizing volunteers and solving problems. My lens for this race and for service is to get things done that matter to people. It’s not from a partisan lens.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In these final weeks, both the Nunn and Perdue camps are spending millions of dollars airing TV spots and getting out their vote. She’s helped by a new infusion from national Democrats, who praise her for keeping the race competitive, and Perdue with help from national Republicans, worried at the closeness of a contest they thought they could count on.

    But political scientist Merle Black notes neither party has a majority in Georgia. He argues even if Perdue captures the Republican base, he has another hurdle to jump.

    MERLE BLACK: When the Republicans have been doing well, it’s because they have been carrying very large majorities among the independents. Currently, in these polls, Perdue is not achieving that degree of success with these independents.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Perdue’s cousin, the former governor, acknowledges the steadily rising percentage of African-Americans and other minorities in Georgia does make Republicans’ job harder.

    SONNY PERDUE: I think that’s part of maybe why the race appears to be tightening. I don’t think that we believe the race is as tight as current media is portraying it to be.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Complicating matters for both is the libertarian candidate, who polls show is drawing around 3 percent of the vote, enough to deny either Nunn or Perdue the 50 percent Georgia law mandates.

    A runoff would be in January, requiring both to turn out their supporters all over again.

    The post Two newcomers vie for Georgia’s open Senate seat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Davicianci.

    Photo by Flickr user Davicianci.

    WASHINGTON — Millions of older Americans who rely on federal benefits will get a 1.7 percent increase in their monthly payments next year, the government announced Wednesday.

    It’s the third year in a row the increase will be less than 2 percent.

    The annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, affects payments to more than 70 million Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees. That’s more than a fifth of the country.

    The increase amounts to about $20 a month for the typical Social Security recipient.

    “The COLA helps beneficiaries of all ages maintain their standard of living, keeping many from falling into poverty by providing partial protection against inflation,” said Jo Ann Jenkins, who heads AARP.

    The government announced the benefit increase Wednesday, when it released the latest measure of consumer prices. By law, the increase is based on inflation, which is well below historical averages so far this year.

    Congress enacted automatic increases for Social Security beneficiaries in 1975, when inflation was high and there was a lot of pressure to regularly raise benefits.

    For the first 35 years, the COLA was less than 2 percent only three times. Next year, the COLA will be less than 2 percent for the fifth time in six years. This year’s increase was 1.5 percent, the year before it was 1.7 percent.

    Social Security is financed by a 12.4 percent payroll tax on the first $117,000 of a worker’s wages — half is paid by the worker and half is paid by the employer. Next year, the wage cap will increase to $118,500, the Social Security Administration said.

    About 59 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children get Social Security benefits. The average monthly payment is $1,192.

    The COLA also affects benefits for about 4 million disabled veterans, 2.5 million federal retirees and their survivors, and more than 8 million people who get Supplemental Security Income, the disability program for the poor.

    By law, the cost-of-living adjustment is based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CPI-W, a broad measure of consumer prices generated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It measures price changes for food, housing, clothing, transportation, energy, medical care, recreation and education.

    The COLA is calculated by comparing consumer prices in July, August and September each year with prices in the same three months from the previous year. If prices go up over the course of the year, benefits go up, starting with payments delivered in January.

    “In the last several years we have had extremely low inflation,” said economist Polina Vlasenko, a research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research. “Basically because inflation is low, the cost-of-living adjustment is going to be low, too. It’s supposed to just compensate you for inflation.”

    Advocates for seniors say the government’s measure of inflation doesn’t accurately reflect price increases faced by older Americans because they tend to spend more of their income on health care. The rise in medical costs has slowed in recent years, but people hit with serious illnesses can still see their individual costs soar.

    People on Medicare, the government health insurance program for older Americans, usually have their Part B premiums deducted from Social Security payments. The premiums, which cover outpatient care, are scheduled to stay the same next year — $104.90 a month.

    However, federal retirees face a 3.8 percent increase in their health insurance premiums next year, said Joseph A. Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association.

    “News of the cost-of-living adjustment for the coming year always is eagerly awaited by the countless Americans who rely on the increase to keep up with the rising price of food, housing, transportation and medical care,” Beaudoin said in a statement. “However, despite the partial relief this COLA will provide, the announcement is a reminder that our method for calculating the increasing cost of goods and services is out of sync with the reality faced by millions of federal (retirees), Social Security recipients and military retirees.”

    The post Social Security benefits to go up by 1.7 percent appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Here's a look at what's on the ballot and where this fall. Image by  Comstock Images and Getty Images

    Here’s a look at what’s on the ballot and where this fall. Image by Comstock Images and Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • Two states could legalize marijuana
    • Five states vote on whether to raise the minimum wage
    • Washington state decides whether to expand or restrict gun background checks
    • Three states decide on whether to effectively tighten access to abortion

    What’s on the ballot and where: With less than two weeks to go until Election Day — and with 99 percent of the focus so far on control of the Senate — we thought we’d take a step back and look at the ballot initiatives and referenda of interest throughout the country. After all, these measures, if approved, will actually be law and affect people’s lives in a more tangible way than who controls the Senate, which won’t have a filibuster-proof majority. From marijuana and the minimum wage to guns, abortion and voting rights to genetically modified foods, here’s an overview of what’s on the ballot where:

    – Marijuana: Three states, plus Washington, D.C., are taking up an expansion of marijuana laws. Alaska, Oregon, and D.C. would legalize; Florida would expand to allow medical marijuana.
    – Minimum wage: Five states are considering raising it from anywhere from $8.50 to $10 an hour — Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota. Illinois would raise it the highest, to $10 by the start of the year. Alaska would raise it to $9.75 by 2016 and tie it to inflation after that.
    – Guns: Washington state has conflicting gun background-check measures on the ballot in the first gun initiatives on the ballot post-Newtown; Alabama would strengthen gun protections.
    – Abortion rights/birth control: Three states could tighten abortion rights — Colorado, North Dakota and Tennessee; Illinois weighs requiring insurers to pay for birth control.
    – Voting rights: Voters in Connecticut will decide whether to change its constitution to allow early voting; voters in Missouri will decide on a contentious initiative that creates an early voting window, but isn’t as open as some would like. Montanans will decide if voters should stop being allowed to register to vote on Election Day.
    – Genetically modified foods: Two states consider whether to label foods that have been genetically modified — Colorado and Oregon.
    – Licenses for undocumented immigrants: Oregon weighs giving licenses to immigrants in the United States illegally.
    – Drug testing doctors: California could begin drug testing doctors and might raise the medical malpractice limit.
    – Investigational drugs for the terminally ill: Arizona’s “Right to Try” initiative weighs whether to make available investigational, non-FDA approved drugs for terminally-ill patients.
    – Prison sentencing: California could lower non-violent felonies to misdemeanors.

    Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1962, President Kennedy informed Americans about his order to send U.S. forces to blockade Cuba. Why did he send troops to blockade Cuba? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one guessed Tuesday’s trivia: Who succeeded Justices Rehnquist and Powell, and who were they nominated by? The answer was: Justice Kennedy by Reagan and Chief Justice Roberts by George W. Bush.

    LINE ITEMS

    • Ben Bradlee, the former executive editor of The Washington Post who led the paper during its legendary Watergate coverage, died Tuesday at his home in Washington, D.C., the newspaper reported. He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. He was 93.

    • The Center for Public Integrity reports that because of a “quirk in federal law,” any new fundraising done by super PACs between Oct. 15 and Election Day does not need to be revealed until early December.

    • Freedom Partners Action Fund, a super PAC backed by the Koch brothers, is launching a $6.5 million buy against Democrats in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

    • There’s been a flood of ads this cycle — over 125,000 in Senate races — focused on climate change, energy and the environment. In fact, energy and the environment are the third-most mentioned issue in general election Senate ads, according to an analysis by Kantar/CMAG.

    • Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst is back with another pork-themed campaign ad. Standing in the middle of a pig sty, Ernst says, “It’s a mess — dirty, noisy, and it stinks. I’m talking about Washington. Too many typical politicians hogging, wasting, and full of…let’s just say, bad ideas.”

    • In Georgia, the race for an open Senate seat is dividing voters between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn. Both seek to distance themselves from President Obama’s policies while gathering support from white and African-American voters who often diverge on party lines. NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff reports from the Peach State.

    • A deciding factor in the Kentucky Senate race might not be that a majority of voters like Alison Grimes, but that a strong majority dislike Sen. Mitch McConnell, according to a Western Kentucky University poll.

    • “By the time the heated governor versus governor debate in Florida ended Tuesday night, it was clear no man had a fan,” the New York Times’ Lizette Alvarez writes about the hostility on display between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist in their final face-off.

    • Likely voters in Florida’s gubernatorial race are split 42-42 percent between Scott and Crist, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday. The Independent garners 7 percent.

    • A North Carolina Senate debate turned into a one-man roundtable, when Sen. Kay Hagan did not show up Tuesday night. Hagan’s campaign says it was not one of the original three debates agreed upon by both camps, leaving her opponent Thom Tillis to answer questions on his own.

    • Republicans had viewed Michigan as a potential Senate pick up, just like Iowa, but Roll Call’s Alexis Levinson details all the reasons the Wolverine State isn’t as competitive. For starters, there’s been no defining message on either side, and Republican Terri Lynn Land has underperformed as a candidate compared to Iowa’s Joni Ernst.

    • Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee campaigned for Ernst in Iowa Tuesday. Michelle Obama was back in Iowa to campaign for Bruce Bailey — err Braley. And while the First Lady did get the candidate’s name right this time, the White House’s press office later distributed a transcript of her remarks by email with “Democratic candidate for governor” in the subject line.

    • Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy leads Republican Tom Foley 43 to 42 percent, with the Independent holding 9 percent, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday.

    • The Democratic underdog in Michigan’s 11th District is attacking the Republican with a particularly brutal ad about eviction.

    • The Justice Department’s success shifting terrorism cases from secret prisons or offshore military tribunals to civilian courts may be one of outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder’s biggest legacies.

    • In some campaigns, playing up an incumbent’s “record” on the Islamic State might be an effective strategy, but in Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan’s race, that attack is falling flat.

    • Retiring Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn ridicules the National Institutes of Health in his final “Wastebook,” which details extraneous government spending each year.

    • In maybe the oddest appearance by a member of Congress, the Alaska Daily News writes. “At a Wasilla High School assembly Tuesday morning, U.S. Rep. Don Young didn’t temper his notoriously abrasive personality for his young audience. Numerous witnesses say Young, 81, acted in a disrespectful and sometimes offensive manner to some students, used profanity and started talking about bull sex when confronted with a question about same-sex marriage.”

    • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

    TOP TWEETS

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

    Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

    Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Rachel Wellford at rwellford-at-newshour-dot-org.

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    The post From pot to guns, they’re on the ballot this fall appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A memorial for 18-year-old Michael Brown remains on Canfield Street in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was shot and killed on Canfield by Darren Wilson a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    A memorial for 18-year-old Michael Brown remains on Canfield Street in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was shot and killed on Canfield by Darren Wilson a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    An autopsy report leaked to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggests Michael Brown — the Ferguson, Missouri, teen who was killed by police officer Darren Wilson — was shot in the hand at close range and might have been reaching for Wilson’s weapon.

    The official autopsy showed material “consistent with products that are discharged from the barrel of a firearm” in a wound on Brown’s thumb on Aug. 9.

    The account would contradict an earlier assessment of an autopsy commissioned by the Brown family, which said there was no physical altercation between Brown and the officer.

    Wilson reportedly has told investigators that he struggled over his gun with Brown and feared for his life.

    The post Leaked autopsy on Michael Brown shooting refutes earlier report appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Tony Alva skateboards in southern California in 1977. Photo by Glen Friedman, courtesy of Rizolli New York.

    Tony Alva skateboards in southern California in 1977. Glen E. Friedman re-released 40 years of photographs featuring heavyweights of hip-hop, hardcore punk and skate culture in his new book, “My Rules.” Photo by Glen E. Friedman, courtesy of Rizolli New York.

    Before Tony Alva and Jay Adams were skateboarding legends, before the Beastie Boys went mainstream and before Fugazi was a post-punk icon, photographer Glen E. Friedman captured their lives on film.

    Friedman calls “My Rules,” his 324-page, seven-pound book, a “monster.” Released in September, the collection resurfaces nearly 40 years of his photos featuring heavyweights of hip-hop, hardcore punk and skate culture. Among them, Ice-T, Tony Hawk, Ian MacKaye, Run-DMC, Public Enemy, Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys.

    Beastie Boys hang out in New York's Washington Square Park in 1986. Photo by Glen Friedman, courtesy of Rizzolli New York.

    Beastie Boys Michael “Mike D” Diamond, Adam “MCA” Yauch and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz hang out in New York’s Washington Square Park in 1986. Photo by Glen E. Friedman, courtesy of Rizzolli New York.

    Image courtesy of Rizzoli New York.

    Image courtesy of Rizzoli New York.

    In junior high, Friedman got a D in his first photography class because he didn’t follow assignments, he said, preferring instead to shoot his friends skateboarding.

    But six months later, he got a photo published in Skateboarder magazine. After borrowing a 35 mm camera, he found an empty swimming pool and corralled Jay Adams and Paul Constantineau, heroes of Southern California’s Dogtown skateboarding scene, to the site. There, he snapped photos of them as they dropped into the deep end and skated across the concrete. He was 14.

    Friedman also witnessed the rise of post-punk and hip-hop, worlds he wanted to share through a “real, true, authentic and fair perspective of an insider enjoying these cultures.”

    Run-DMC and Jam Master Jay in Queens, New York circa 1985. Photo by Glen Friedman, courtesy of Rizzolli New York.

    Run-DMC’s Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels and Jam Master Jay in Hollis, Queens, New York circa 1985. Photo by Glen E. Friedman, courtesy of Rizzolli New York.

    His insider status in these subcultures lent a credibility to his photos.

    He recalls playing tour guide to the Beastie Boys in Los Angeles after a mutual friend introduced them. It was an instant connection to the rising hip-hop movement that would eventually lead to his introduction to Run-DMC, and his photography work for all of Def Jam Recordings’ artists at the time.

    “[Hip-hop] was another form of progressive music. It was the black kids’ version of punk-rock in a way,” said Friedman. “That scene more desperately than the others really needed some good photography.”

    Minor Threat's Ian MacKaye performs in Washington, D.C in 1982. Photo by Glen Friedman, courtesy of Rizzolli New York.

    Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye performs in Washington, D.C in 1982. Photo by Glen E. Friedman, courtesy of Rizzolli New York.

    Similarly, his entry into the hardcore punk world coincided with a friendship between Minor Threat and Fugazi frontman Ian MacKaye.

    “It was my duty, as a person who felt like I had this vision, to help these other artists and subjects,” he said. “Their stories were inspiring.”

    Ice-T in Los Angeles, circa 1986. Photo by Glen Friedman, courtesy of Rizzolli New York.

    Ice-T in Los Angeles, circa 1986. Photo by Glen E. Friedman, courtesy of Rizzolli New York.

    A desire to document these “rebellious attitudes” has been a driving force behind Friedman’s photography.

    “It’s got to be from the heart. Otherwise it’s worthless to me.”

    The post From skaters of Dogtown to icons of hip-hop, photographer Glen E. Friedman captures a changing era appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A young protester holds up a sign referring to censorship in schools in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, on Oct. 3, 2014. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    A young protester holds up a sign referring to censorship in schools in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, on Oct. 3. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    A new production by the Metropolitan Opera in New York, “The Death of Klinghoffer”, tells the story of the hijacking of an Italian cruise ship and the murder of an American Jewish passenger by Palestinian terrorists — an actual incident that took place in 1985.

    The Met has garnered criticism from those who say the opera distorts history and romanticizes terrorism.  The PBS NewsHour recently reported on the controversy.

    One of the issues raised is whether the protesters’ calls to cancel performances of the opera amount to censorship. If so, is such censorship justified?

    Pleas for sensitivity increasingly are appearing in a variety of realms. Last spring, several colleges grappled with student requests for “trigger warnings,” notes alerting students to potentially upsetting content, to be used on syllabi for humanities courses. Proponents argued the warnings were necessary to protect students who might have experienced past trauma, such as sexual assault, from having the experience unexpectedly evoked by course material. Others spoke out against the warnings on the grounds that they threatened intellectual and academic freedom.

    Do trigger warnings constitute censorship? Is there a place for censorship if it is done out of respect or sensitivity? Can a work of art ever pose a legitimate threat, either to a person’s ideology or their well-being?

    PBS NewsHour will address the topic of censorship in a Twitter chat on Thursday, Oct. 23, from 1-2 p.m. EDT. Follow the conversation and share your opinion using #NewsHourChats.

    The post Twitter chat: Is censorship ever justified? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — A federal jury returned guilty verdicts for all four former Blackwater security guards charged in the 2007 shootings of more than 30 Iraqis in Baghdad.

    The jury in Washington found Nicholas Slatten guilty of first-degree murder, and the three other three guards — Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — guilty of at least three counts of voluntary manslaughter.

    The four men were charged with a combined 33 counts in the shootings, but the jury had reached verdicts on only part of the charges after weeks of deliberations. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth allowed the jury to announce the verdicts agreed upon, with the expectation jurors would continue deliberating on the other counts.

    The shootings on Sept. 16, 2007, caused an international uproar over the role of defense contractors in urban warfare.

    The State Department hired Blackwater to protect American diplomats in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, and elsewhere in the country. Blackwater convoys of four heavily armored vehicles operated in risky environments where car bombs and attacks by insurgents were common.

    Slatter was charged with first-degree murder; the others were charged with voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun charges.

    The case was mired in legal battles for years, making it uncertain whether the defendants would ever be tried.

    The trial focused on the killings of 14 Iraqis and the wounding of 17 others. During an 11-week trial, prosecutors summoned 72 witnesses, including Iraqi victims, their families and former colleagues of the defendant Blackwater guards.

    There was sharp disagreement over the facts in the case.

    The defendants’ lawyers said there was strong evidence the guards were targeted with gunfire from insurgents and Iraqi police, leading the guards to shoot back in self-defense. Federal prosecutors said there was no incoming gunfire and that the shootings by the guards were unprovoked.

    The prosecution focused on the defendants’ intent, contending that some of the Blackwater guards harbored a low regard and deep hostility toward Iraqi civilians.

    The guards, the prosecution said, held “a grave indifference” to the death and injury that their actions probably would cause Iraqis. Several former Blackwater guards testified that they had been generally distrustful of Iraqis, based on experience the guards said they had had in being led into ambushes.

    Prosecutors said that from a vantage point inside his convoy’s command vehicle, Slatten aimed his SR-25 sniper rifle through a gun portal, killing the driver of a stopped white Kia sedan, Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y.

    At the trial, two Iraqi traffic officers and one of the shooting victims testified the car was stopped at the time the shots were fired. The assertion that the car was stopped supported the prosecution argument that the shots were unwarranted.

    Defense lawyers pressed their argument that other Blackwater guards — not Slatten — fired the first shots at the Kia sedan and that they did so only after the vehicle moved slowly toward the convoy, posing what appeared to be a threat to the Blackwater guards’ safety.

    Once the shooting started, hundreds of Iraqi citizens ran for their lives.

    It was “gunfire coming from the left, gunfire coming from the right,” prosecutor Anthony Asuncion told the jury in closing arguments.

    One of the government witnesses in the case, Blackwater guard Jeremy Ridgeway, pleaded guilty to killing the driver’s mother, who died in the passenger seat of the white Kia next to her son.

    The maximum sentence for conviction of first-degree murder is life imprisonment. The gun charges carry mandatory minimum prison terms of 30 years. The maximum prison term for involuntary manslaughter is eight years; for attempted manslaughter it is seven years.

    The post Blackwater guards found guilty in Iraq shootings appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is confirming that Islamic State group militants were able to seize one of the 28 bundles of weapons and medical supplies dropped to Kurdish forces on Monday.

    Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, says that two of the bundles went astray. One was destroyed by the U.S. The other fell into enemy hands and included small weapons, hand grenades, medical supplies and ammunition. Warren said it appears the wind caused the parachute to go off course.

    He says the weapons in the bundle are not enough to give the enemy any type of advantage.

    Activists said Tuesday the weapons were seized by the extremist fighters. A video uploaded by a media group loyal to IS militants showed the extremists with the pallet of weapons and other materials.

    The post Pentagon: 1 weapons bundle seized by militants appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Royal Canadian mounted police officers head toward Parliament Hill following a shooting incident in Ottawa on Oct. 22. Photo by Chris Wattie/Reuters

    Royal Canadian mounted police officers head toward Parliament Hill following a shooting incident in Ottawa on Oct. 22. Photo by Chris Wattie/Reuters

    Updated at 12:41 p.m. EDT

    A gunman shot a Canadian soldier standing at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Wednesday, according to witnesses and police. More shots were fired inside the parliament building.

    Police chased the gunman into the parliament building, where at least 30 more shots were heard. Parliament was locked down and Prime Minister Stephen Harper left the building safely. The wounded soldier was taken inside an ambulance for treatment.

    Ottawa police Constable Marc Soucy said it was unclear whether there was more than one shooter.

    The incident came days after a Canadian soldier was killed and another wounded in a hit-and-run car crash deemed a terrorist attack. The man driving the car in Quebec on Monday was fatally shot by police.

    After the car crash, Canada raised its terrorism alert level from low to medium.

    The post Gunman shoots soldier in Canada, enters parliament building appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Eric Hunsaker

    Journalist Philip Moeller, “the Medicare Maven,” explains how to navigate Medicare Part D during open enrollment. Photo by Flickr user Eric Hunsaker

    Editor’s Note: Open enrollment for Medicare is here – until Dec. 7. To help readers navigate this period and their other Medicare decisions, Making Sen$e has introduced a new column, “Ask Phil, the Medicare Maven.”

    Journalist Philip Moeller, who writes widely on health and retirement, provided an overview of what he calls “health care’s Groundhog Day” when enrollment opened last week, and he returns this week to address Medicare’s prescription program.

    He’ll continue to keep you informed on this page, and he’s taking your questions.

    Moeller is a research fellow at the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College and co-author of “How to Live to 100.” Follow him on Twitter @PhilMoeller or email him at medicarephil@gmail.com.


    By now, you’ve probably heard that it’s Medicare open enrollment season. Is there some overarching truth that can guide you, and more than 45 million other 65-and-older Americans, through this rodent maze of programs and rules to make optimal use of Medicare’s truly amazing range of benefits?

    Yes, never getting sick is a nice thought. But it’s probably not an option.

    GOT MEDICARE QUESTIONS?

    Click here to ask Phil

    So, strap on your body armor and try to accept that Medicare is the battlefield of old-age wellness. It’s the place where the trenches may not move at all while the combatants whale on each other using billing codes, diagnostic sleight of hand and mind-numbing bureaucratic hand-to-hand fighting.

    During open enrollment season, which extends until Dec. 7 (a perfect end date for such bellicose imagery), you actually will have the chance to do battle with Medicare insurers and possibly defeat them. Victory could mean better coverage and services, often at lower cost, with a longer and higher-quality life to boot.

    Today’s battle theater is Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program. Upward of 40 million people have Part D drug plans, either as part of their private Medicare Advantage program or as stand-alone programs that may be combined with basic Medicare (Parts A and B, which cover qualifying hospital, physician, outpatient and medical equipment expenses).

    Like a flu shot, reviewing health insurance choices is an unpleasant but necessary duty. “I know it’s complicated and you don’t want to do it,” counsels Diane Lifsey with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. But if people would take the time and get the help, they would find it worth their while, she adds.

    You’d think that having Medicare would help here, and it can. But you need to know how to use it or, odds are, you will get shafted.

    Faced with so much information to digest, people are especially susceptible to the encouraging bromides of private Medicare insurers, five of which dominate the Part D market – Aetna, CVS Caremark, Express Scripts, Humana and UnitedHealth. Why do all this work? Just renew with us and go back to your wonderful retirement life.

    But of course, retirement life can be pretty stressful, and one of the reasons is the high and unpredictable price of health care. You’d think that having Medicare would help here, and it can. But you need to know how to use it or, odds are, you will get shafted.

    There are no blockbuster headlines that retirees need to consider for Part D plans in 2015, says Tricia Neuman, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation who heads its Medicare policy work. But there are still plenty of changes to plans that they need to know about.

    More and more drug plans, for example, are linking up with big pharmacy networks, Neuman notes. And while people may be able to get lower prices on prescriptions from these networks, they may not be comfortable dealing with mail-order prescriptions. Likewise, even if networks have physical pharmacies, their locations may not be convenient. Going to a local and trusted but out-of-network pharmacy, meanwhile, could result in much higher prescription prices. So what’s a person to do? Find out about such matters before signing up for a plan.

    Part D plans may move in or out of lots of geographic markets in a new plan year. “We’re seeing a pretty significant consolidation,” says Christine Harhaj, a senior manager at Avalere Health, which provides health consulting services and studies health insurance plans and trends. Plans are similar across different jurisdictions but insurers make adjustments because of local market conditions, including relationships with local health care providers and competitive factors.

    In 2015, there will be 1,001 distinct Part D plans offered in the 34 geographic service areas dictated by Medicare. That’s down nearly 7 percent from 1,070 during the 2014 plan year, Harhaj says, but people will be able to pick from 24 to 33 plans wherever they live. New England markets have seen the heaviest plan withdrawals by insurers and will offer the fewest plans in 2015.

    Besides having to choose from fewer plans, Medicare recipients will likely also feel the pinch of higher co-pays, says Harhaj, especially as plans transition from flat dollar co-pays to percentage co-insurance payments. That twinge you feel is in your wallet.

    Drug plans may also make lots of changes in the line-up of drugs they offer – called a formulary — and in the charges people have to pay. Most plans offer four to six different pricing tiers for different drugs, with prices and co-pays rising in higher tiers, which contain the most expensive brand-name drugs. Plans have to cover a variety of medical needs but do not have to offer every drug that does so. And prices can vary among different plans. So it’s important to find out how your prescription drugs are covered by the Part D plans available where you live.

    The fastest way to do this is online, using Medicare’s Plan Finder. It is not easy to use but gets generally high marks from independent experts. Before trying to use this tool, you should first have a list of your prescription medications, including the dosage amounts and frequencies for each drug you take.

    If you are prescribed a brand-name drug by your doctor, you should also know its generic equivalent (if there is one). Plans generally will require you to take a lower-cost generic if available. On a more expensive plan, you can normally continue taking the brand-name version if your doctor prefers it. Plans charge more for brand-name drugs – often a lot more. There’s that twinge again.

    Once you’ve gathered all this information, you can tackle the Plan Finder. I did, and somehow, managed to live to tell the tale. The tool may save you money and help you find the plan that best meets your needs, but you’re going to have to work through it to earn those benefits.

    However, if you are not comfortable doing this on your own, you can call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 (1-800-MEDICARE); the TTY number is 1-877-486-2048. You also can request free one-on-one Medicare counseling from the State Health Insurance Assistance (SHIP) Program. SHIP offers localized help because Medicare plans and rules vary by locale. There’s an online form to locate a nearby counselor.

    Lots of people have Part D plans that are combined with basic Medicare Parts A and B coverage. Many people also use Medigap policies to fill coverage gaps in Medicare. Medigap benefits should, therefore, be considered in evaluating the Medicare drug plan that makes sense to you. Lastly, more than 15 million people get their prescription drug coverage as part of a broader Medicare Advantage policy. Next week’s column will be about 2015 changes and trends in those plans.

    The post How are Medicare Part D drug plans changing in 2015? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: Chaos came to the heart of Canada’s capital city today. A rare mass shooting left one soldier and a gunman dead and two people wounded. It also triggered a day of high drama that included unconfirmed reports of multiple attackers and speculation about whether a terror group was involved.

    CHARLES BORDELEAU, Chief, Ottawa Police: At 9:52 a.m. this morning, the Ottawa Police Service received multiple 9/11 calls regarding a shooting at the National War Memorial.

    GWEN IFILL: Witnesses to that initial incident at the memorial site say a man dressed all in black with a rifle gunned down one of the honor guard. From there, they say he ran toward the main Parliament building, a short distance away in central Ottawa. Within moments, more shooting erupted.

    Police and soldiers quickly descended on the building, with weapons drawn. Video taken by a Globe and Mail newspaper reporter captured the sound of gunfire echoing down the halls.

    JOHN MCKAY, Liberal Member of Parliament, Canada: I hear this pop, pop, pop, possibly 10 shots. Don’t really know. Thought it was dynamite, rather than — or construction, rather than anything else. Suddenly, the security guards come rushing down the hallways, usher us all out to the back of the Parliament buildings.

    GWEN IFILL: A cabinet minister said the shooter ran right past a room where Prime Minister Stephen Harper was addressing lawmakers. Harper was hustled away and the building was locked down.

    Ottawa police confirmed later the gunman was shot and killed, but a search of the area continued through the afternoon.

    CHARLES BORDELEAU: What we’re asking the community is to be is to continue to be aware, to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activity that they deem as serious that could impact their safety.

    GWEN IFILL: The attack came just two days after a man ties to Islamist militants killed a Canadian soldier with his car near Montreal before being shot dead.

    After that, Canadian authorities raised the national threat level, but they say they had no warning of what was to come today.

    GILLES MICHAUD, National Division Commanding Officer, Royal Canadian Mounted Police: I thinks it’s still too early to confirm that, but I think that, from our reaction, I think it caught us by surprise.

    GWEN IFILL: In the aftermath, the Canadian military closed public access to all of its bases.

    And President Obama spoke by phone with Prime Minister Harper, and offered American help.

    The post What we know about the shooting in Ottawa appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    whoopingcough

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    GWEN IFILL: The government’s latest steps illustrate again just how much anxiety remains about the prospect of Ebola’s spread. But as public health officials continue to emphasize, the real risk to most Americans remains small.

    In fact, there are a number of other illnesses that continue to pose bigger threats.

    We outlined some of those concerns online, and it attracted a great deal of public interest. So we decided to provide that context on our broadcast as well.

    Hari Sreenivasan recorded this conversation in our New York studios.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: We get more information and perspective on this now from Dr. William Schaffner. He is an infectious disease expert joining us from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

    So, first off, there were quite a few cases that we heard out just a few months ago about Enterovirus D68. This is something that was discovered in the ’60s, but this is really first outbreak that we have had.

    DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, Vanderbilt University Medical Center: Yes, Hari, it’s a very large outbreak. It’s run across the entire country.

    Children, many of them, have been affected. And, of course, there are some children who had difficulty breathing and asthma attacks. And now there’s even the question about whether this virus is capable of producing a paralytic illness. That’s still under investigation. But that was a big surprise that came upon us, yes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

    And then something that we thought was long gone, measles, we have kind of seen a reemergence of measles, almost 600 cases this year.

    DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER: Yes. Can you imagine that?

    And that’s because there’s still measles out in the world, but our parents, many of them, are withholding their children from vaccination. And so when someone from — with measles comes into this country, it can spread among our own children, causing a whole lot of illness, illness that we thought was long gone.

    And, actually, you know, before we had measles vaccine, measles caused 400 to 500 deaths of our children each year. We’re letting down our guard a little bit there.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So how concerned should we be about whooping cough, or pertussis, making a comeback?

    DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER: Yes, it’s back.

    We all thought it had disappeared. And that’s due to two things, really, Hari. The first is that the vaccine we’re using gives excellent short-term protection, but then the protection begins to wane. And then also there are some parents who are withholding their children from vaccination. So we have more susceptibles, and now whooping cough is spreading, particularly among adolescents and young adults.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How significantly should we be concerned about antibiotic-resistant bacteria?

    DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER: Well, that’s the bane of infectious disease doctors such as myself.

    The bacteria, not the person, the bacteria become resistant, so that means we have fewer antibiotics that work. And that’s, of course, a consequence of the widespread, often overuse of antibiotics that we’re responsible for in medicine, and parents often expect, as well as the use of antibiotics when we raise animals for food.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There was an excellent “Frontline” just on that topic recently.

    What about the common flu?  I mean, this is flu season. People are getting vaccinated or getting the shot at their offices or at small clinics. And that kills, I want to say, thousands, tens of thousands of people every year.

    DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER: To many people, flu is almost mundane, because it is so well-known and it comes upon us annually, but influenza causes almost 200,000 hospitalizations each year.

    It can strike normal, healthy people, and put them in the intensive care unit and, depending upon the severity of the season, somewhere between 4,000 and almost 40,000 deaths each year.

    So flu is to be reckoned with. And if I can get in a punchline, if you haven’t been vaccinated against influenza, viewers, please do so. It’s our best protection against influenza.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, we list all these diseases that have incredibly devastating effects around the country, but the perception and the fear of getting Ebola seems to have swept the nation here.

    I mean, the Harvard School of Public Health recently did a public opinion poll; 85 percent of people responding out of 1,000 average citizens, they thought they could get Ebola from someone next to them coughing or sneezing. Yet every doctor we have on this program and many others say absolutely not.

    DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER: You know, that Ebola anxiety, we might call it, is real and needs to be addressed. And by having careful conversations such as we’re having is very, very helpful.

    Ebola is new, mysterious, fierce. It has a very high mortality rate. And people feel a lack of control. There’s nothing they can do about it. They can get vaccinated against flu, but they feel put upon. I have even spoken to some people who seem indignant that something like Ebola could even come to the United States in the 21st century.

    So people have a hard time just learning about this and kind of integrating it into their thought process. And, in the meantime, they have a lot of anxiety about it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is it just that fear inherently is irrational?  I saw cable news today, where people were — the reporter was talking to two individuals who had sat three seats over or three rows away from the passenger who got on an airplane.

    And yet they were so concerned about the possibility of catching Ebola from that individual, from that distance, that they had quarantined themselves.

    DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER: Well, I would like not to call it irrational.

    When people are just learning about something, something that they regard as a threat, and they haven’t integrated all of this information still into their thought process, their sense of anxiety obviously increases. And we need to provide both education and reassurance. And we need to be very clear in our messages, so people can become used to this.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.

    Dr. William Schaffner joining us from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, thanks so much for your time.

    DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER: My pleasure, Hari.

     

    The post Ebola sounds scary, but these diseases are the real health threat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ebola1

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    GWEN IFILL: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says everyone who returns to the U.S. from West Africa will be monitored for 21 days, the incubation period for the virus. That announcement coincided with the first day on the job for the new White House Ebola coordinator.

    Ron Klain was named Ebola response coordinator Friday, and appeared for his first official day at work at a White House meeting with the president today.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What we’re seeing is that the public health infrastructure and systems that we are now putting in place across the board around the country should give the American people confidence that we’re going to be in a position to deal with any additional cases of Ebola that might crop up, without it turning into an outbreak.

    GWEN IFILL: Among the changes in the U.S. response to the crisis, security workers at five major U.S. airports are now screening passengers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. And new monitoring announced today begins Monday in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia. They are the destinations of 70 percent of travelers from West Africa’s Ebola zone.

    Meanwhile, an American freelance cameraman who contracted Ebola in Liberia was discharged today from a hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.

    Doctors say Ashoka Mukpo is cured.

    DR. PHIL SMITH, University of Nebraska Medical Center: There’s no greater reward than to take a patient with a critically ill serious medical illness and make them better, and we have done that.

    GWEN IFILL: But a new scare arose Tuesday in Newark, New Jersey, as ambulances raced to the airport to pick up a Liberian man reported to be showing symptoms of Ebola, but that was a false alarm.

    Governor Chris Christie says they followed protocol.

    GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) New Jersey: He is now asymptomatic. There is no indication at this point that he has been infected with the virus.

    GWEN IFILL: Dozens of Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone were also released from a treatment center virus-free. They received certificates showing they’re now healthy.

    All told, the World Health Organization reported today Ebola has killed more than 4,800 people in West Africa out of nearly 10,000 cases.

    Still, the head of the International Red Cross argued today against closing borders or banning travel.

    ELHADJ AS SY, Secretary-General, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies: It creates a lot of fear and extreme panic that sometimes leads to very irrational type of behaviors and measures, like closing borders, canceling flights, isolating countries, et cetera. And those are not solutions.

    GWEN IFILL: The official said he believes the epidemic can be contained within four to six months.

    And the race to find a vaccine continued. Two companies, GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson, said today they’re discussing a possible collaboration.

    The government’s latest steps illustrate again just how much anxiety remains about the prospect of Ebola’s spread. But as public health officials continue to emphasize, the real risk to most Americans remains small.

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    is_digital

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    GWEN IFILL: Late yesterday, word came that three teenage girls from the Denver area were detained over the weekend in Germany by American authorities. Their disappearance raised fears they were on their way to Syria to join the Islamic State group.

    That’s because the militants have been luring recruits from around the world with a sophisticated Web-based media operation, a program the U.S. government is now targeting.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner has the story.

    And a warning:  It contains some graphic images.

    MARGARET WARNER: The Islamic State group’s sweeping land grabs across Syria and Iraq this year have been matched by an online onslaught as well. The group posts videos documenting its brutality, the killings of soldiers, journalists, aid workers and citizens, and touting its military victories.

    This one yesterday showed U.S. military equipment airdropped Sunday to Kurds fighting I.S. in the Syrian town of Kobani, but captured by the jihadis. Other postings offer idyllic visions of the so-called Islamic caliphate that the group aims to build across the Middle East.

    MAN: You have to be here to understand what I’m saying.

    MARGARET WARNER: Many are in English aimed at potential recruits well beyond the war zone. The U.S. government views this campaign as a major threat, as the then-chief of the National Counterterrorism Center Matthew Olsen, recently made clear.

    MATTHEW OLSEN, Former Director, National Counterterrorism Center: ISIL disseminates timely and high-quality media content on multiple platforms, including on social media, all designed to secure a widespread following for the group.

    MARGARET WARNER: Last month, President Obama urged his fellow leaders at the United Nations to join the fight against the Islamic State in the realm of ideas.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That means contesting the space that terrorists occupy, including the Internet and social media. Their propaganda has coerced young people to travel abroad to fight their wars.

    MARGARET WARNER: The U.S. State Department has jumped in on that effort with a very public online campaign across multiple platforms, Arabic-language videos assailing the Islamic State faction, to tit-for-tat Facebook and Twitter posts against I.S. supporters in a project dubbed Think Again, Turn Away aimed at dissuading potential I.S. recruits.

    Here at the State Department, the 50-person project is run out of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications. It’s been working in the anti-jihadi social media space in four foreign languages since 2010. This year, it added English. We weren’t permitted to film its operations center, but we were able to catch up with the man spearheading its latest efforts, former “TIME” magazine editor Richard Stengel, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy.

    RICHARD STENGEL, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs: What ISIL is doing is, it’s using social media and other platforms to try to get mindshare of people who would be sympathetic to their goals, young men that they’re trying to recruit. So when the president talks about contesting a space, he means get in there, intercede between ISIL and those young men.

    MARGARET WARNER: The State Department has worked to persuade Islamic governments and religious leaders overseas to join the messaging campaign.

    RICHARD STENGEL: We’re not always the best messenger for our message. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, but part and parcel of what we’re trying to do is to enable and empower those better messengers than we are, those people who can say that this is illegitimate Islam.

    MARGARET WARNER: But some of the State Department efforts have proven controversial, especially this video entitled “Welcome to Islamic State Land,” a collection of I.S.’s own gruesome videos, blurred here by the “NewsHour,” sarcastically labeled with lines like, “Run, do not walk to ISIS land, where you can learn useful skills, blowing up mosques, crucifying and executing Muslims.”

    It was slammed by some critics as offensive, but Stengel makes no apologies.

    RICHARD STENGEL: Some of the things that we do say in that space are things that make people uncomfortable because it’s a dark space. And to contest the space, you have to mirror some of the things people are hearing. I don’t think that we’re going to appeal to these young men by, you know, quotes from Thomas Jefferson about freedom and democracy either.

    And, sometimes, when you lie down in the mud, you get mud on you, and that does happen.

    PHILLIP SMYTH, University of Maryland: They were deliberately playing to a 21st century, kind of the latest generation, millennial generation of people who would be watching this and picking up on kind of the snark that’s in there.

    MARGARET WARNER: Phillip Smyth, an expert on Islamist movements at the University of Maryland, says there are pitfalls to the U.S. government engaging more directly in social media. For one thing, he said it’s hard for a government to match the jihadis’ agility.

    PHILLIP SMYTH: A lie can make its way halfway around the world before the truth can ever get its shoes on. They can act far more quickly than we can, because we have to go through a checklist in terms of what we are going to respond with and how we’re going to respond.

    MARGARET WARNER: Are there limitations on what the United States government can do in that space, what you can say, that other actors out in the space don’t have?

    RICHARD STENGEL: Yes, of course there are limits to what we can say.

    They’re not bound by fidelity to the truth. They’re not bound by democratic values. They’re not bound by any of the things that we are.

    MARGARET WARNER: Phillip Smyth voices another wide criticism, that by directly engaging with the militants in dueling postings, the U.S. government just elevates their stature.

    PHILLIP SMYTH: A lot of them take it as a badge of — a special badge or a special medal, if you will, in kind of recognition for what they have done. If you’re doing a countermessaging strategy, maybe an official account isn’t always the best way to do it.

    RICHARD STENGEL: There will be times that you’re dealing with people that you wouldn’t normally want to deal with, but that is the nature of the effort.

    MARGARET WARNER: And how effective is this campaign? Charting that is a tricky business.

    PHILLIP SMYTH: If the end goal is to turn people away from engaging in terrorism, I mean, there hasn’t really been any research that’s been published that could say it’s effective or ineffective.

    MARGARET WARNER: Stengel, while admitting effectiveness is hard to track and prove, has a quick response to that.

    RICHARD STENGEL: You can’t prove a negative, that what you’re not accomplishing. But, if you do, if you turn one young man away, think of the repercussions for that. You know, he could’ve put a roadside bomb somewhere. You know, he could have killed a family somewhere in Iraq or Syria. I mean, the — it’s incalculable, the value.

    So I would say, yes, even though it’s hard to measure whether you’re accomplishing that, the fact is, the goal is so important and the value is so great, that you can’t stop doing it.

    The post State Department faces criticism in uphill social media war against Islamic State group appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, we remember one of the nation’s most revered newsmen.

    Ben Bradlee was 93 when he died of natural causes yesterday at his home in Washington. He left his mark as the steward of the principal newspaper in the nation’s capital, spanning a tumultuous period in American political life.

    Ben Bradlee’s celebrated tenure at The Washington Post helped make it one of the great American newspapers, and the zest he brought to the job never left him, even in later years.

    BEN BRADLEE: It changes your life, the pursuit of truth. At least, if you know that you have tried to find the truth and gone past the first apparent truth towards the real truth, it’s very — it’s very exciting, I find.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Bradlee was born in 1921 to a prestigious family in Boston, where, as a teenager, he developed polio, but eventually recovered. After serving in the Navy in World War II, he began his journalism career with The New Hampshire Sunday News, before going on to reporting jobs with The Post and “Newsweek” magazine.

    Along the way, he befriended John F. Kennedy, one of his Washington neighbors, and became a close confidant as Kennedy moved to the Senate and, ultimately, the White House. In 1965, Bradlee took over as managing editor of The Post, and, just three years later, executive editor, in what became a famous collaboration with publisher Katharine Graham.

    Together, they defied President Richard Nixon and joined The New York Times in publishing the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

    BEN BRADLEE: Well, you couldn’t get much more hostile than the Nixon administration was. The — there haven’t been administrations that liked reporters since — since Kennedy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The trove of classified documents exposed the tortured history of America’s involvement in Vietnam at a time when public opposition to the war was rising.

    Then, in July 1972, The Post began its pursuit of the burglary of Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington. Bradlee assigned two young reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, to the story, and, almost alone at first, they followed a money trail that led first to the president’s reelection committee, and ultimately to the White House.

    Woodward reflected on that time recently at his home in Washington, and recalled Bradlee’s firm guidance.

    BOB WOODWARD, Associate Editor, The Washington Post: He was good not just because of what he published and allowed to go in the paper, but what he kept out. And I can remember times when we would show him drafts of stories. And he’s just, you haven’t got it. You haven’t got it yet.

    That didn’t mean, we’re not going to run it. It didn’t mean, I don’t believe it. It meant more work. Go talk to more people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Woodward and Bernstein’s reporting and the mounting weight of other disclosures triggered a national political crisis and led finally to President Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

    Nearly 30 years later, Bradlee looked back in a “NewsHour” interview.

    BEN BRADLEE: I think it made politicians more scared of lying, but it sure as hell didn’t stop them. And I think it was very good for The Washington Post.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It also produced a bestselling book, “All the President’s Men,” in 1974. And two years later, an Oscar-winning film adaptation came out. Jason Robards portrayed Bradlee, winning an Academy Award for best supporting actor.

    Another central figure waited until 2005 to come forward. Mark Felt, former associate director of the FBI, revealed he’d been the source known as Deep Throat.

    Bradlee spoke about keeping the secret in another “NewsHour” interview.

    BEN BRADLEE: It offers proof of the fact that anonymous stories — anonymous sources can be handled properly and be useful to society, and that when you — before you throw reporters in jail for keeping their sources anonymous, you had better be careful.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Long after Watergate, Bradlee continued pushing his brand of journalism, and his stewardship of The Post helped bring the paper 23 Pulitzer Prizes.

    Again, Bob Woodward:

    BOB WOODWARD: Even though, in the ’70s and ’80s, there was no Internet, there was no 24/7 cycle of news, there was in Ben Bradlee’s head. It was 24/7. What do you got?  What do you know?  Are you sure?  We’re going to work on that.

    And there was a kind of energy that — you know, a lot of wonderful editors around, but he was unique.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It was a widely held assessment.

    Jim Lehrer was one of Bradlee’s close personal friends.

    JIM LEHRER: He was truly a Peter Pan. You know, he didn’t want to grow up, and he didn’t. And journalism was all about stories. He wanted stories where something happened, where there were real people doing things. And he wanted the details, and he wanted the — and he wanted the story to be right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Bradlee stepped down as The Post’s executive editor in 1991, but continued to serve as vice president at large.

    BO JONES, Former Executive and Publisher, Washington Post: People just wanted to come to work and be around Ben that always — you know, he lit up a room when he came into it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Bo Jones served as a Washington Post executive and publisher during part of Bradlee’s tenure.

    BO JONES: He was completely genuine. He was apolitical, in the sense that he would go after a story wherever it came from, whether it was from a Democrat, a Republican, a liberal or conservative, regardless of what it was. And when he went home, he didn’t — there was nothing to reveal. He didn’t unload what his true feelings were. It was the same as what he had been saying candidly at the office.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Last November, Bradlee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. President Obama praised him for opening a new era of investigative journalism, and reminding us that our freedom as a nation rests on our freedom of the press.

    JIM LEHRER: He should be remembered as a spiritual leader for good journalism, spiritual leader for individuals who want to practice journalism, and a spiritual leader for getting that extra fact and working just a little bit harder.

    He stood for and stood behind reporting as, in and of itself, a kind of magic way to have a good time and at the same time do something that really matters. He saw journalism and the reporting part of journalism as really important and that — and he really believed that the public needs to know everything, and the only way they’re going to find out is if there’s good reporting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In his final years, Bradlee’s wife, Washington Post journalist Sally Quinn, says he battled Alzheimer’s and dementia. Ben Bradlee was 93 years old.

    The post Remembering Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, a ‘spiritual leader for good journalism’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: For decades, medical advances have made it possible for women to postpone or extend their ability to have children. Now two big tech firms, Apple and Facebook, say they will pay up to $20,000 to allow employees to freeze their eggs for later fertilization.

    That decision has sparked a fair bit of conversation about the benefits, the risks and the choices women could face. We look at some of the questions the practice is raising, with Sarah Elizabeth Richards, the author of “Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It,” and Alta Charo, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

    Alta Charo, I wonder at some level whether we’re moving now from choices based on health concerns to choices based on having greater options.

    R. ALTA CHARO, University of Wisconsin, Madison: In a sense, yes, we are.

    Egg freezing certainly was important for women who had to undergo a medical procedure such as chemotherapy and who wanted to at least preserve the possibility of having children genetically of their own some time in the future.

    But the prospect of women beginning to do this in order to simply preserve their fertility while they advance their careers is a new phenomenon and somewhat more troubling, because it is simply not as successful as having children through ordinary conception or even through ordinary in vitro fertilization and freezing your embryos.

    GWEN IFILL: Sarah Elizabeth Richards, you have written a book about this. You have talked to women about this. I understand you have even had your own eggs frozen.

    SARAH ELIZABETH RICHARDS, Author, “Motherhood, Rescheduled”: I did.

    GWEN IFILL: What are the advantages here?

    SARAH ELIZABETH RICHARDS: Well, it’s great opportunity for women.

    The fact that these companies are covering it and the fact that other companies are now being influenced to cover it makes the option available for more women who — maybe who wouldn’t have paid for it on their own or didn’t have the opportunity to pay for it.

    So they will have more options in the future to have their own biological children, which is awesome. That said, this is really uncharted territory, because the first wave of women who froze their eggs when it first became available about a decade ago pretty much froze because they didn’t have a partner or because they had gone through a divorce or weren’t in the right relationship. So, they froze for love.

    Now we’re seeing this being put out there as something, would a 32-year-old freeze because she wanted to put more years in her career?  So, it is uncharted. We don’t know how women will make those decisions in terms of planning their family and their work and their love lives and their dating lives. So it’s unknown right now.

    GWEN IFILL: Alta Charo, are there health risks involved in this procedure?

    ALTA CHARO: Probably not as many as people fear. Certainly, the question of how to obtain women’s eggs has come up before, whether for in vitro fertilization in the 1980s, or for donation of eggs for cloning research in the 1990s and into the early part of this century.

    And there has been some concern all along that the use of the drugs necessary to help them superovulate might cause problems. But the data suggests that it’s actually very safe. It is, however, very uncomfortable and certainly not an experience one welcomes if you can avoid it.

    GWEN IFILL: Sarah Elizabeth Richards, let’s talk about what conversations this does open and doesn’t open. For instance, some people said expanding women’s opportunity to have children would mean expanding day care or paid maternity leave. Does this take the place of that?

    SARAH ELIZABETH RICHARDS: I really hope not.

    And that’s been a big point that a lot of women have talked about. It certainly doesn’t replace that conversation. And, in fact, one of the great outcomes of even talking about all this is that we are talking more about having affordable health care — I’m sorry — affordable child care and better maternity leave.

    So it’s almost like one is bringing up the other conversation. So I think all boats are going to rise in this situation.

    GWEN IFILL: But let me stay with you for a moment. Is this something that only women with resources can afford?  Everybody doesn’t work for Apple and Facebook, right?

    SARAH ELIZABETH RICHARDS: Right.

    GWEN IFILL: And everybody doesn’t…

    SARAH ELIZABETH RICHARDS: And the funny thing is, those women probably can afford it anyway, because I hear the salaries are quite good there.

    No, it’s not something that all women could afford. And that’s one of the big problems or challenges in making it accessible to a lot of women. One of the women in my book, she put it on a credit card and paid it off — paid that balance off over many years. Other women have gotten help from their parents.

    I was really lucky. I used my savings, and then my parents helped me. But, you know, that’s — it’s not fair because a lot of women don’t get access to it. That said, though, the prices are coming down. We’re seeing it being offered for as low as $4,000 in some markets. And a lot of clinics are offering packages. For example, you can buy three cycles, which would give you the opportunity to put away enough eggs where you have a real shot of one turning into a baby later.

    Or they’re offering all kinds of different pricing schemes. So it’s definitely getting better.

    GWEN IFILL: Alta Charo, obviously, technology is a great thing in many, many cases, but in this case, we’re using technology to enhance a lifestyle choice, aren’t we?

    ALTA CHARO: Well, I think what we’re seeing is technology being used to try to make it possible to keep the workplace organized just the way it is and the way it was originally designed for men, whose careers and educations would take place right after they finish high school into their 20s, and where women would ideally be able to have children earlier in life, when their bodies are better suited to it.

    Women are now using technology to try to make themselves seem as much like man as possible, so that they can have their children later after they have laid the groundwork for their career. It is absolutely true this is giving women options and it’s making it economically feasible. And it’s probably the most realistic thing for some women.

    But it is a shame that we haven’t started a better conversation, not only about the fixes like the day care that was just mentioned, but a deeper conversation about how to reorganize the work world, so you don’t need to be a superwoman at work and a superwoman at home at the same time. That’s never been realistic.

    And I think the egg freezing is a somewhat extreme response to it.

    GWEN IFILL: Elizabeth Richards, if you’re talking to young women especially, is this a realistic option, or are we just talking about on the edges of the discussion?

    SARAH ELIZABETH RICHARDS: Well, we’re definitely at the frontier of the procedure and the conversation.

    That said, if you’re a woman in your early 30s or even in your late 20s and you don’t have a partner or you don’t see starting your family by the age of 35, if you can afford it, there’s no reason not to freeze, because you may not start your family until you’re 38 and those eggs might come in handy.

    But what a lot of women don’t realize is that, what if you want a second, and then you’re in your early 40s, or you want a third baby and you’re in your mid-40s?  You might really want those eggs.

    ALTA CHARO: We need to also keep in mind, it’s not so easy to have children in your late 30s and your 40s.

    It’s not something we want to encourage people to do unless they have to. This is not the best time for you or your body to do this. And I don’t think it’s a good idea to encourage women to make life even harder for themselves.

    GWEN IFILL: Alta Charo of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Sarah Elizabeth Richards, author of “Motherhood Rescheduled,” thank you both very much.

    SARAH ELIZABETH RICHARDS: Thank you.

    The post Debating the pros and cons of freezing eggs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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  • 10/23/14--06:18: Your Election Night roadmap
  • Twelve days out, here's a look at the Senate landscape for the midterm election. Image by Noel Hendrickson and Getty Images.

    Twelve days out, here’s a look at the Senate landscape for the midterm election. Image by Noel Hendrickson and Getty Images.

    The Morning Line

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • GOP with better than 50-50 chance of winning the Senate
    • But it could be a late Election Night
    • We could all be waiting on Iowa, Alaska, or go into overtime

    On the 12th day from Election Day, we give to you, the Senate landscape: We’re just 12 days out from Election Day, and where do things stand? Forecasters are giving Republicans a better than 50-50 chance of taking back the Senate. Let’s break it down… Republicans need to net six seats to win control. Despite the surge of former Republican-turned-Independent Larry Pressler in South Dakota, the GOP is still favored there. For argument’s sake, give Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota to Republicans. That’s three. They then have to win at least three of the following seven races (in alphabetical order): Arkansas, Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, New Hampshire and North Carolina. (We say “at least,” because there’s the chance that Democrats pick up either Georgia or Kentucky or the independent wins in Kansas.)

    Could we all be waiting on Iowa? Right now, Republicans are favored (even if slightly) in five of the seven: Arkansas, Alaska, Colorado, Iowa and Louisiana. If Democrats don’t pick up Georgia or Kentucky — and Republican Pat Roberts holds on in Kansas — that would give the GOP a three-seat majority. In this good-case scenario for Republicans, we would still not mathematically know the outcome of the Senate until pretty late on Election Night, because Louisiana is headed for a runoff with no candidate likely to get 50 percent on Election Night; Alaska’s polls close at 1 a.m. EDT, and Iowa doesn’t close until 10 p.m. EDT, and that race is expected to be close. So, it’s possible we’ll all be waiting on the Iowa results. And if the Republican loses in one of Georgia, Kentucky or Kansas, it’ll come down to Alaska in the middle of the night. There’s also the possibility that Democrats pull off Colorado, because they are bullish about their ground game there, and then we’re waiting for the Dec. 6 runoff in Louisiana or a Jan. 6 runoff in Georgia. The bottom line is there’s a wider path for Republicans to take control of the Senate today than there was a month or two ago, as even New Hampshire has tightened to within a few points.

    Here are your clip-and-save poll-closing times (Note: All are in Eastern Time):
    7 p.m.: Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia
    7:30 p.m.: North Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia
    8 p.m.: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee
    8:30 p.m.: Arkansas
    9 p.m.: Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska,New Mexico, New York, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming
    10 p.m.: Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Utah
    11 p.m.: California, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington
    Midnight: Hawaii
    1 a.m.: Alaska

    Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1995, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton agreed to a joint peacekeeping effort in the war-torn Bosnia. Where did the meeting take place? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Rich Polanski (@ao2666) for guessing Wednesday’s trivia: Why did JFK send troops to blockade Cuba? The answer was: Because Russians had installed nuclear missiles in Cuba.

    LINE ITEMS

    • President Obama will attend a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

    • Watch for a White House shakeup. Politico reports that Obama Chief of Staff Denis McDonough has asked senior aides to let him know if they plan to leave, as he contemplates restructuring staffing for the final two years of the Obama presidency.

    • Another man jumped the White House fence Wednesday night, but was quickly brought down by Secret Service dogs. After being treated for minor bruising, the two dogs — Jordan and Hurricane — have been cleared for duty.

    • Just kidding! The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is putting money back up for Alison Lundergan Grimes in the Kentucky Senate race, after the latest polling shows her still within striking distance.

    • Republican Joni Ernst is leading Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, 48-46 percent among likely voters in the latest Quinnipiac Poll.

    • Internal polling by the NRSC paints a much better picture for Republicans in South Dakota.

    • The latest CNN/ORC New Hampshire poll has Sen. Jeanne Shaheen up just 49-47 percent over Scott Brown. A New England College poll has Brown leading 48-47 percent.

    • Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., is up 46-39 over Sen. Mark Udall in a new USA Today/Suffolk University poll.

    • Sen. Ron Wyden is being very critical of CIA censorship of the agency’s upcoming torture report. The Oregon Democrat told reporters, “The intelligence leadership are doing everything they can to bury the facts.”

    • Some GOP lawmakers are spending the final weeks of the campaign courting their fellow lawmakers as well as voters. Eleven to 12 committee chairmanships in the House could be contested during the lame duck session.

    • Jill Lawrence writes of a coming Republican retreat on Obamacare.

    • Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley tries an outsourcing ad. “Huge corporations don’t need a senator,” he says directly to the camera. “You do.”

    • North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis is the most attacked candidate (by money spent against him in negative ads). The Washington Post lists the top 10.

    • How much can Colorado’s “progressive voting utopia” boost Democratic Sen. Mark Udall? All voters receive ballots in the mail, and they can even cast them in drive-through drop-offs.

    • Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley may have learned from her earlier loss, but she’s still not a strong campaign personality, doesn’t have much of a political agenda, and underscores a central Republican attack — that Dems take the Bay State for granted.

    • The Bangor Daily News endorsed Independent Eliot Cutler for Maine governor, while George and Barbara Bush have announced their support for Gov. Paul LePage.

    • Republican Martha McSally, who is running for Gabby Giffords old seat, is out with a new ad to counter the negative spots that have been run against her, and this one features a puppy.

    • A judge in Oklahoma allowed a law restricting abortion-inducing drugs to go into effect Wednesday. In addition, the judge ruled that for the time being, doctors in the state will not be sued if they do not follow the law.

    • Economists, including conservatives, are not impressed with the proposals Republicans are planning to push if they win control of the Senate. They don’t see them addressing Americans’ top concern: jobs.

    • The Georgia Democratic Party sent out a mailer urging early voting with this message: “If you want to prevent another Ferguson…Vote.”

    • Google’s political spending is ahead of even Goldman Sachs’ PAC, and it’s not all going to Democrats.

    • Once again, Kansas has missed its revenue targets, proving June’s shortfall wasn’t temporary. The fiscal pain, stemming from tax cuts enacted under Gov. Sam Brownback, is animating the state’s gubernatorial race.

    • Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will gather with his top aides and advisers one week after the election for an all-day 2016 strategy session.

    • South Miami has voted for Florida’s 23 southern counties to secede out of frustration that the state isn’t concerned enough about climate change.

    • Win or lose on Nov. 4, Rep. Bruce Braley, Sen. Kay Hagan and Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf can be comforted by the fact that they’re winning in Facebook likes.

    • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

    TOP TWEETS

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

    Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

    Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Rachel Wellford at rwellford-at-newshour-dot-org.

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    The post Your Election Night roadmap appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Healthcare workers listen to Barbara Smith, RN,  Mount Sinai Health Systems as she demonstrates the proper techniques for treating patients during an Ebola education session for healthcare workers at the Jacob Javits Center in New York. Photo by Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images

    Healthcare workers listen to Barbara Smith, RN, Mount Sinai Health Systems as she demonstrates the proper techniques for treating patients during an Ebola education session for healthcare workers at the Jacob Javits Center in New York. Photo by Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Most Americans have some confidence that the U.S. health care system will prevent Ebola from spreading in this country, but they’re not so sure their local hospital can safely handle a patient, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.

    Amid worry here, most Americans say the U.S. also should be doing more to stop Ebola in West Africa. Health authorities have been clear: Until that epidemic ends, travelers could unknowingly carry the virus anywhere.

    “It seems to me we have a crisis of two things. We have a crisis of science, and either people don’t understand it or … they don’t believe it,” said Dr. Joseph McCormick, an Ebola expert at the University of Texas School of Public Health. And, “we have a crisis in confidence in government.”

    Some findings from the AP-GfK poll:

    HEALTH CARE GETS MIXED REVIEWS

    Nearly a quarter of Americans are very confident the U.S. health care system could prevent Ebola from spreading widely, and 40 percent are moderately confident.

    But nearly half don’t think their local hospital could safely treat an Ebola case, and 31 percent are only moderately confident that it could.

    After all, Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S., at first was mistakenly sent home by a Dallas emergency room, only to return far sicker a few days later. Then, two nurses caring for him somehow became infected. The family of one of the nurses, Amber Vinson, said Wednesday doctors no longer could detect Ebola in her as of Tuesday evening.

    Asked how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handled those cases, 42 percent of people disapprove and 22 percent approve.

    FEAR VS. KNOWLEDGE

    Despite months of headlines about Ebola, nearly a quarter of Americans acknowledge they don’t really understand how it spreads. Another 36 percent say they understand it only moderately well.

    Ebola doesn’t spread through the air or by casual contact, and patients aren’t contagious until symptoms begin. Ebola spreads through close contact with a symptomatic person’s bodily fluids, such as blood, vomit, feces, urine, saliva, semen or sweat.


    People who say they do understand are less concerned about Ebola spreading widely in this country. Among those who feel they have a good grasp on how it spreads, 46 percent are deeply concerned; that rises to 58 percent among those who don’t understand it as well.

    Likewise, a third of those with more knowledge of Ebola are confident in the health system’s ability to stem an outbreak, and 27 percent think their local hospital could safely treat it. Among those who don’t understand Ebola, fewer than 1 in 5 shares either confidence.

    WHAT SHOULD BE DONE

    A whopping 93 percent of people think training of doctors and nurses at local hospitals is necessary to deal with Ebola, with nearly all of them, 78 percent, deeming it a definite need.

    Nine out of 10 also think it’s necessary to tighten screening of people entering the U.S. from the outbreak zone, including 69 percent who say that’s definitely needed.

    Some would go even further: Almost half say it’s definitely necessary to prevent everyone traveling from places affected by Ebola from entering the U.S. Another 29 percent say it’s probably necessary to do so.

    More than 8 in 10 favor sending medical aid to Ebola-stricken countries and increasing government funding to develop vaccines and treatments.

    SOME NEW STEPS

    The CDC had issued safe-care guidelines to hospitals long before Duncan arrived last month, and it made some changes this week after the unexpected nurse infections. Now, the CDC says hospitals should use full-body garb and hoods and follow rigorous rules in removing the equipment to avoid contamination, with a site manager supervising. Possibly more important, workers should repeatedly practice the donning and doffing and prove they can do it correctly before being allowed near any future patients.

    While Duncan wasn’t contagious during his flight, his arrival spurred U.S. officials to begin checking passengers arriving from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea for fever, an early Ebola symptom, just like they’re checked before leaving those countries.

    More than 8 in 10 favor sending medical aid to Ebola-stricken countries and increasing government funding to develop vaccines and treatments. Wednesday, the CDC moved to fill a gap in that screening: Starting next week, all of those travelers must be monitored for symptoms for 21 days, the Ebola incubation period. They’ll be told to take their temperature twice a day and must report the readings to state or local health officials.

    That’s not just for West African visitors. It includes U.S. government employees, who had been doing their own 21-day fever watches upon return from fighting the epidemic, as well as doctors and other workers for aid organizations, and journalists.

    The AP-GfK Poll was conducted Oct. 16-20, using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,608 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points for all respondents. Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.

    The post Poll: Many Americans doubt local hospitals can treat Ebola appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Demonstrators march in Columbia, South Carolina, on Wednesday, June 26, 2013, in celebration after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. Photo by Tim Dominick/The State/MCT via Getty Images

    Demonstrators march in Columbia, South Carolina, on Wednesday, June 26, 2013, in celebration after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. Photo by Tim Dominick/The State/MCT via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The writing is on the wall for gay marriage bans in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina after federal appeals courts that oversee those states have made clear that keeping gay and lesbian couples from marrying is unconstitutional.

    But officials in the three states are refusing to allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses without a court order directing them to do so. It could be another month or more before the matter is settled.

    In a political campaign debate Monday, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback vowed to defend his state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. A federal court hearing is scheduled for Friday.

    There seems little doubt that U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree ultimately will set aside the state’s gay marriage ban. That’s because the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, encompassing Kansas and five other states, has said a state may not deny a marriage license to two people of the same sex.

    “He is absolutely bound and has to make that decision,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign.

    The same requirement holds true for federal judges who are hearing same-sex marriage lawsuits in Montana and South Carolina.

    John Eastman, chairman of the anti-gay marriage National Organization for Marriage, agreed with Warbelow that federal judges almost certainly will rule to allow same-sex marriages. But Eastman urged state officials to continue to put up a legal fight until the Supreme Court decides the issue one way or the other.

    “Until the Supreme Court decides it, this remains a viable option,” Eastman said.

    State officials in Colorado, North Carolina and West Virginia chose a different path. They helped speed the process for legalizing gay marriage in their states when they announced they would no longer defend their state laws in the aftermath of the appeals court rulings.

    The latest wave of court rulings that has made same-sex marriage legal in 32 states and the District of Columbia began with the unexpected decision by the Supreme Court on Oct. 6 to reject appeals by five states hoping to keep their bans in place.


    The high court’s refusal to step in affected appeals courts in Chicago, Denver and Richmond, Virginia, which in turn oversee 11 states that did not previously allow same-sex couples to marry. Since the justices’ terse order, same-sex couples have been able to marry in nine of those 11 states, with Wyoming on Tuesday becoming the latest to permit it. Only Kansas and South Carolina have not followed suit.

    A day after the Supreme Court action, the federal appeals court in San Francisco struck down gay marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada in a ruling that also appeared to apply to Alaska, Arizona and Montana. Since then, federal judges in Alaska and Arizona quickly ruled on pending marriage lawsuits. But in Montana, a federal judge has set a hearing in a marriage challenge for Nov. 20.

    No court date has been set for South Carolina, where Attorney General Alan Wilson has said he will continue to defend state marriage law and predicted a final ruling could be months away.

    The timing of court action varies from judge to judge, depending on what other matters are before the court and how much say the judge wants each side to have, Warbelow said.

    In North Carolina, U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. acted on his own to strike down the state ban after the Richmond-based appeals court ruling became final.

    James Esseks, leader of the American Civil Liberties Union’s same-sex marriage efforts, said Wilson and other officials have no excuse to keep up their fight. “The circuit law is what it is. They need a little push and we’ll give it to them,” Esseks said.

    The post Despite appellate rulings, 3 states refuse to allow gay unions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Leonardo Rizzi.

    Photo by Flickr user Leonardo Rizzi.

    For 29 years now, Paul Solman’s reports on the NewsHour have been trying to make sense of economic news and research for a general audience. Since 2007, our Making Sen$e page has striven to do the same, turning to leading academics and thinkers in the fields of business and economics to help explain what’s interesting and relevant about their work. That includes reports and interviews with economists affiliated with the esteemed National Bureau of Economic Research.

    Making Sense/NBER logo

    Founded in 1920, NBER is a private nonprofit research organization devoted to objective study of the American economy in all its dazzling diversity, combining data with rigorous analysis to describe and explain the material world in which we live long before data analytics became fashionable. “Why Some Women Try to Have It All: New Research on Like Mother Like Daughter” and “Why Does the First Child Get the Gold? An Economics Answer” have been among our most popular posts on Making Sen$e, both of them largely based on NBER research. We thought our readership might benefit from a closer relationship.

    Each month, the NBER Digest summarizes several recent NBER working papers. These papers have not been peer-reviewed, but are circulated by their authors for comment and discussion. With the NBER’s blessing, Making Sen$e is pleased to begin featuring these summaries regularly on our page.

    NBER tackles a range of subjects. Read Monday’s post, “After medical legalization, what are the costs of getting high?” from October’s Digest and find September’s posts here.

    – Making Sen$e Editor


    The effect of immigration on the wages and employment of native workers is a topic of perennial debate. According to “Foreign STEM Workers and Native Wages and Employment in U.S. Cities” (NBER Working Paper No. 20093), extending visas to more STEM workers increases the wages of native workers and does not affect the employment of other groups, although it does raise housing costs for college-educated workers.

    Extending visas to more STEM workers increases the wages of native workers and does not affect the employment of other groups.

    “[A] rise in the growth of foreign STEM [workers] by one percentage point of total employment increases growth in the wages of native college educated workers by a statistically significant 7-8 percentage points,” write authors Giovanni Peri, Kevin Shih and Chad Sparber.

    Graph courtesy of NBER. Click on image to go to full digest.

    Graph courtesy of NBER. Click on image to go to full digest.

    “The same change had a smaller but usually statistically significant effect on the wages of native non-college educated workers equal to 3-4 percentage points…. The increased cost in non-tradable services (housing) absorbed about half of the increase in the purchasing power of college educated wages.”

    The study concentrates on foreign workers in order to determine whether the increase in STEM workers causes wages to rise or whether other factors are at work. The authors compare the share of foreign STEM workers in each of the 219 metropolitan areas in 1980 with changes starting in 1990, when the government initiated the H-1B visa program, the main channel of entry of foreign STEM workers. By doing so, the authors are able to isolate a supply-driven change in STEM workers that is likely exogenous to other factors that might affect wages, employment and productivity across cities.

    These foreign workers — unlike their innovations — did not spread evenly across the country. They were concentrated in certain cities in 1980, before the H-1B program, and the H-1B visa-holders tended to flow to those cities as well. This disparity among cities allows the authors to compare the local rise in wages, which boosts the wages even of native non-college graduates, although the effect is about half of what it is for native college graduates.

    The authors also find that STEM workers have an effect on total factor productivity and skill-biased productivity: “…inflows of foreign STEM workers may explain between 30 and 50% of the aggregate productivity growth and 4 to 8% of the skill bias growth that took place in the U.S. between 1990 and 2010.”

    Laurent Belsie, National Bureau of Economic Research

    The post Earning more? Thank immigrant STEM workers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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