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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to a term we are hearing more often: teen sexting.

    If a teenager uses a smart phone to share nude or semi-nude pictures with friends, is it simply questionable behavior or is it a criminal act?

    That’s the key question in this report, the first in an ongoing series of collaborations for the broadcast and online between “The Atlantic” magazine and the “PBS NewsHour.”

    DONALD LOWE, Deputy Sheriff, Louisa County Sheriff’s Office: The images themselves, they went from a fully nude picture, to partial nudity, to just what I would call inappropriate, being in underwear.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Last march, Deputy Sheriff Donald Lowe received a phone call from a concerned parent in this small town just a few hours south of Washington, D.C. Sexually explicit photos of local teenaged girls, some only in middle school, had been posted to a public page on the Web site Instagram.

    DONALD LOWE: And then the whole thing seemed to just grow every day. After every interview, it seemed like it took on a whole new life.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But now, seven months later, after wading through thousands of sexting texts, hundred of interviews, and bins of confiscated phones, no charges have been filed.

    DONALD LOWE: We had talked to probably 100 students, and the majority of them admitted to participating in sexting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Most of them had simply shared the photos privately with a boyfriend or someone they thought they could trust. None had given consent to sharing them with the world.

    DONALD LOWE: It did surprise me when I learned just the sheer numbers of how many people actually participate in that, feel like there’s nothing wrong with it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Data is scarce, but one study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com found that one in five young people in their upper teens had sexted at least once. That study was back in 2008, before new sharing technologies like Snapchat and Instagram even existed.

    For reporter and parent Hanna Rosin, it hit close to home.

    Why did you want to do this story? What attracted you to this?

    HANNA ROSIN, Atlantic Monthly: A couple of things.

    For one, I have a teenaged daughter at home, and a couple of more sons coming along, so I was just curious about this issue. Second, I have always wondered, there’s the paradox about sexting, which is that you hear it’s very common, but it’s also very illegal. And so I just wondered how those two things fit together in society.

    And then this case came along and it seemed like a perfect test case to explore this issue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The young people you were able to talk to, why do they do this? What’s motivating them?

    HANNA ROSIN: This has been studied, and there’s a lot of motivations for why people sext.

    The most common one by far is because a boyfriend or girlfriend wanted me to or because I’m in a relationship. And then there are other motivations:  I wanted to interest someone in dating me, or, you know, I just wanted to get attention, or I wanted to be popular.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: School superintendent Deborah Pettit grew up here, but that was before technology entered the picture.

    DEBORAH PETTIT, Superintendent, Louisa County Public Schools: I think I was surprised by that because, you know, I just thought maybe students knew better than, you know, to share that kind of thing. On the other hand, maybe it didn’t surprise — it shouldn’t have surprised me, because our students live on their cell phones.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Friday’s night football in this close-knit community in Louisa County, Virginia, it’s the biggest show in town. Everyone’s here, parents, kids, teachers, and law enforcement. But mention the sexting case, and it’s clear everyone has a different perspective.

    WOMAN: The first thing that went through my mind was, I hope my daughter wasn’t involved.

    STUDENT: It was terrible. Like, people were sending nude pictures on the Internet. That’s — it’s wrong.

    STUDENT: It’s a freedom of expression that, you know, it should stay private. But, you know, I mean, it’s not hurting anybody, unless it gets out.

    WOMAN: I have no words for it. It’s just too much. They’re doing too much.

    STUDENT: Girls are just letting their bodies hang out. They should keep that to themselves. You know, your body is sacred. It’s like a temple, you know?

    STUDENT: I got in trouble for it myself when I was, like, younger. But I don’t — I know it’s bad. And you could get — you should get in bad trouble for it.

    MAN: These kids, you can tell them all you want to that the Internet is a dangerous place.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s talk about the role of law enforcement here. I mean, are they dealing with an innocent prank or adventure on the part of a teenager? Or are they dealing with a crime?

    HANNA ROSIN: Well, Virginia, like the vast majority of states in the U.S., covers this under child pornography laws. And that’s really the problem. So, you have got this disconnect how it’s being used in the culture and how the law is addressing it.

    CHUCK LOVE, Investigator, Internet Crimes Against Children: By the letter of the law, when you take the picture, you’re actually producing child pornography.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Chuck Love is investigating the case here in Louisa County for the Department of Justice’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

    CHUCK LOVE: If you put it into a separate folder, now you have reproduced child pornography. So there’s another offense. A fourth offense is possessing it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What makes sexting a peculiar crime is that, by law, in many states, the child is both victim and perpetrator. It makes it very difficult to prosecute.

    CHUCK LOVE: Do you prosecute the person that took the image? Do you prosecute the person that asked for the image? The person that took the image is now committing four felonies, where the person that asked for it is only committing one, once they get it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It seems that a lot of the people involved, law enforcement, parents, even the young people themselves, were baffled at some aspect of this. And even you, that there was a point when you were trying to clarify.

    HANNA ROSIN: Almost in every case, like the one that I described, you see law enforcement and parents going back and forth, from, oh, my gosh, this is a disaster, to, well, everybody does it, and not being able to settle on either of those poles.

    CHUCK LOVE: It puts a strain on officer discretion totally. Is it OK to charge somebody with a felony for taking a picture of themselves and causing them a lifetime of sexual offender registry? Basically, you ruin their lives for taking a picture of themselves, something that takes literally seconds.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Still, investigator Love says there are even darker possibilities that can’t be ignored.

    CHUCK LOVE: What sexting does is, it’s adding millions and millions of images to an already overfilled bucket of child pornography. So it’s adding to something that we have already tried to control, and it’s basically getting out of control.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At least 18 states have passed specific sexting laws, but Virginia’s legislature rejected the idea.

    HANNA ROSIN: Even states that have passed sexting laws, they generally don’t make the distinction between I sent a sext to my boyfriend of a year and I put up someone’s pictures on Instagram.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re saying those laws don’t address it.

    HANNA ROSIN: Almost all of them make consensual sexting a crime.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: School superintendent Pettit is looking to young people themselves.

    DEBORAH PETTIT: The parents probably can’t possibly monitor every bit of cell phone usage of their child. Neither can we. So I believe it comes down to, a student has to monitor himself or herself. And I hope that — that they will do that.

    This report was produced by Sydney Trattner and Francois Bringer, with consulting producer Mark Carter.

    The post A felony for a selfie? Teen sexts pose a paradox for police appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Election 2014 ballot monitor

    Senate. Argh. House of Representatives. Ugh. Americans, clearly questioning the value and usefulness of their members of Congress, should take heart in another aspect of the democratic process — the scores of ballot measures that could have the most direct impact on their lives of any contests this election.

    Across the country, 147 state ballot initiatives, questions and constitutional amendments will determine powerful policy: affecting things like how much money people earn, whether they can buy a beer, what shoppers know about their food, the kind of health care families can access and the limits on abortion, hunting and gun ownership. And, a somewhat meta question — when people can vote.

    Here is NewsHour’s list of 11 measures to watch (why be confined to “10”?), a mix of the most important and the most interesting in the nation:

    1. Minimum Wage. A fascinating combination of five states — from north and south, of red and blue stripe — are proposing increases in their minimum wage. Arkansas, South Dakota and Nebraska would raise their minimum wage, over various lengths of time, from the $6- or $7-an-hour range to at or above $8. Alaska would push the lowest wage rate from $8.75 to $9.75. And Illinois would move minimum wage workers to $10 an hour.

    2. Ending prohibition. Arkansas voters will decide whether to roll back prohibition in the state’s many dry counties. The Natural State has one of the largest number of dry counties, where alcohol sales are prohibited, in the nation. The measure on the ballot would legalize alcohol across the state.

    3. Guns. One of the most interesting ballot battles in the nation happens in Washington state. Voters there face two contrasting measures: one that would require background checks for guns purchased privately or at gun shows and another that would prohibit such background checks from being enacted. The NRA and gun-control groups are going head-to-head. (Sidenote: Alabama is also voting on guns — with a so-called “strict scrutiny” measure to make it harder to pass restrictions on gun ownership.)

    4. Abortion. Colorado voters will decide on whether to define a fetus as a person. In North Dakota, the language on the ballot would state that life begins at conception. And in Tennessee, voters will decide whether to state that there is no assumed right to an abortion, in any situation.

    5. Energy vs. Environment. Some big, expensive and overlooked battles are underway in this area. North Dakotans will decide whether to set aside 5 percent of their energy tax windfall (only $2 billion — yes, with a “B” — a year in taxes) for land and water conservation.

    Alaskans will vote on whether to help a mining operation or protect a Bristol Bay salmon fishery. And in Colorado, voters will decide whether to make it more difficult for oil and gas drillers, particularly those engaged in “fracking”.

    6. Keep judges longer. Hawaii will decide whether to increase the mandatory retirement for judges from 70 years old to 80 years old. Louisiana would remove its mandatory retirement age for judges altogether.

    7. Hunting. A fiercely-contested ballot measure in Maine would ban the use of dogs or bait in bear hunting. Alabama and Mississippi would both pass measures stating that hunting is a right.

    8. Voting. Connecticut, where many New York commuters face colossal traffic jams, is asking voters if they want the chance to vote before the day of the election. Missouri’s voters will decide on a potential six-day early voting window. In Montana, it’s not the timing for voting, but when you can register that’s on the ballot. Voter there will decide whether to end registration the Friday before an election.

    9. Food. Wonder if your food is genetically modified? So do some legislators in Oregon and Colorado. Both states will vote on measure to require some kind of “genetically modified” label on such foods.

    10. Marijuana. Three states and the District of Columbia are considering easing up on marijuana regulations. Ballot initiatives in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., would allow adults to possess small amounts of pot for private use. Florida’s voters will decide whether to allow medical marijuana use.

    11. Prison time. Two decades after passing one of the most strict “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” laws in the country, California voters will decide whether to roll back penalties on a series of non-violent felonies, making them misdemeanors instead.

    The post From guns to booze, 11 midterm ballot measures to watch appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: The mission of the Federal Reserve has long been the subject of debate, especially since the 2008 financial crisis. Six years later, the economy is recovering, but the Fed’s role is still being questioned.

    Paul Solman has the story, part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: For the Federal Reserve, today marks an historic moment, the end of six years of unremitting financial stimulus, the money creation programs known as quantitative easing.

    This is actually the third easing the Fed has done since the crash. We met Brian Sack on the floor of New York Fed back in 2009, when it all began.

    BRIAN SACK, Former Markets Group Chief, Federal Reserve Bank of New York: The way we create money is by buying securities.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Securities like U.S. Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed bonds from banks and other financial institutions.

    BRIAN SACK:  So when the Federal Reserve buys a Treasury security, it’s putting funds into the financial sector.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Now, since the crash of ’08, the Fed has created $3.5 trillion. Why?  To lower interest rates and thus spur consumer and business spending, creating new jobs. But, of course, creating too much money risks serious inflation. So the Fed frets about both, jobs and sound money, a reason it decided today to stop injecting cash into the economy.

    President Obama cited the dual mandate when nominating his own Fed chair, Janet Yellen, last year.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I have considered a lot of factors. Foremost among them is an understanding of the Fed’s dual mandate, sound monetary policy to make sure that we keep inflation in check, but also increasing employment and creating jobs.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Now, stories about the Federal Reserve can be pretty hard to follow. But the Fed’s dual mandate is so straightforward, it can actually be put into song, as Harvard-trained, Nashville-based money manager Jon Shayne proved to us via his country and Western alter ego, Merle Hazard.

    JON “MERLE HAZARD” SHAYNE, Money Manager (singing): I have got a dual mandate, dual mandate. I got to keep prices stable, while giving jobs to those who are able.

    PAUL SOLMAN: OK, a dual mandate. But which matters more, prices or jobs?

    Liberal economist Paul Krugman of Princeton acknowledges the appeal of price stability.

    PAUL KRUGMAN, Princeton University: This kind of visceral sense that easy money is a bad thing. But, you know, it’s — even if it is, lack of jobs is a worse thing, and that’s — that’s what we should be worrying about.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But Columbia University economist Charles Calomiris insists that conservatives worry about employment too.

    CHARLES CALOMIRIS, Columbia University: That’s all we really care about, but the reason that we focus on inflation, and should focus more on it, is because it’s a tool, a tactic to achieve full employment.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Now, Columbia is a campus of statues, none more familiar than Auguste Rodin’s Thinker. But even this guy can’t be pondering the perils of inflation, can he, currently running at a measly 1.7 percent, below even the Fed’s modest target of 2 percent. But Calomiris is concerned about all the money the Fed has created.

    CHARLES CALOMIRIS: It’s grown its balance sheet from under a trillion to four times that just in a few years.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Banks have been holding on to that money. But once they start lending again, says Calomiris:

    CHARLES CALOMIRIS: All of a sudden, we have a major risk of inflation. And then the question is, well, can the Fed move quickly enough to shrink its balance sheet or do something else to prevent that inflation?

    PAUL KRUGMAN: People who are complaining about the Fed are people who’ve been predicting runaway inflation for five years, six years, and it hasn’t happened.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And thus, Janet Yellen’s plight.

    JON “MERLE HAZARD” SHAYNE (singing): The rich folks like to see the currency strong, but the average Joe’s not overjoyed if he’s destitute and unemployed. Seems like every time I choose, I’m choosing wrong.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Rich folks like to see the currency strong because they are creditors, lenders. With inflation, borrowers pay them back with money that’s worth less than when it was loaned. An expansionary Fed, by contrast, appeals to both borrowers and to labor, hoping for jobs. Yes, unemployment is down, but, says Krugman:

    PAUL KRUGMAN: One way to tell is the labor market really tight, are there jobs available, is to look at wages. Wages are going nowhere.

    PAUL SOLMAN: They actually went down last month slightly.

    PAUL KRUGMAN: Yes, so this feels like a very — a weak labor market.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But the average Joe’s not overjoyed if he’s destitute and unemployed, right?

    CHARLES CALOMIRIS: Absolutely. He’s also not overjoyed when interest rates are so low that, if he has a savings account in the bank, he’s earning very little interest. It’s really the rich who’ve mainly benefited from hyper-loose monetary policy recently.

    PAUL SOLMAN: At a photo-op recently, Yellen surrounded herself with unemployed Bostonians. Calomiris wasn’t happy about it.

    CHARLES CALOMIRIS: What message is she sending out?  And why would a Fed chairman do this?  It’s unprecedented.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Krugman, by contrast, loved the photo-op.

    PAUL KRUGMAN: It’s actually — it’s a very shrewd move on her part to do that, to be so un-Central Banker like. She’s saying, I care about the unemployed a lot.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And so, the Fed’s dilemma: tighten to protect the currency vs. loosen to create jobs, right vs. left.

    JON “MERLE HAZARD” SHAYNE (singing): It’s tough for me to make our economy grow. My job is harder than you will ever know.

    PAUL SOLMAN: I’m Paul Solman reporting for the “NewsHour.”

    GWEN IFILL: And you know you want it. We have more from singer Merle Hazard, if that’s his name. Watch the Nashville money manager perform his latest ballad on our Making Sense page.

    The post Why the Fed frets about both jobs and inflation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    It's possible that none of the candidates will receive 50 percent in the Louisiana Senate race, forcing a Dec. 6 runoff. Photo by David Gould and Getty Images

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as you just heard, most of the election talk this year is centered on the battle to control the U.S. Senate. But some other choices to be made may affect Americans’ lives and issues more directly. That is the scores of ballot measures up for a vote.

    “NewsHour” political editor and reporter Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage with a pitched battle in North Dakota, one of the largest fights this year between environmentalists and energy companies.

    LISA DESJARDINS: In North Dakota, the profits of drilling are gushing in, and, as a result, so are tax revenues. The industry sends around $2 billion in taxes to the state each year. Conservationists now are trying to ensure that some of that money goes to preserving land and water.

    So an alliance of groups placed this amendment to the state constitution on the ballot. Ballot Measure No. 5 would devote 5 percent of that energy tax revenue to a clean water, wildlife, and parks fund. That’s likely somewhere around $100 to $150 million a year.

    MAN: The land, our water, they’re our heritage, and our livelihood. We have to protect it.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Ads like these featuring North Dakota farmers and hunters are running thanks in part to millions of dollars from national groups. That includes Ducks Unlimited, the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund, groups that see Ballot Measure 5 as a battle line in a national fight.

    And so do their opponents. North Dakota’s expenditure files showed that the American Petroleum Institute has pumped $1 million into the state in recent weeks, helping launch ads like this, saying that more money for conservation would mean less money for other things.

    WOMAN: It will take money from our schools, law enforcement, programs for the elderly, and roads.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Conservationists call that argument misleading. They say that schools and other needs can still use the vast majority of energy tax funds.

    The fight took on new life in just the past few months, as state polls showed conservationists ahead. That’s when the American Petroleum Institute got involved, and the most recent polls, they show the energy vs. environment measure is too close to call.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Lisa joins me now, your first on-air appearance with the “NewsHour.”

    Lisa, welcome.

    LISA DESJARDINS: It’s an honor. Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you talked about the state of North Dakota, but we know there are some 140 some ballot propositions…


    JUDY WOODRUFF: … before the voters across the country.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Want to ask you about a couple of them…


    JUDY WOODRUFF: … including minimum wage. Tell us where it is on the ballot, what its says.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Minimum wage is on the ballot in five states.

    And there’s a little political context that is important here. In a way, minimum wage has been Democrats’ answers to the health care onslaught. Hey, we’re Democrats, we believe in increasing wages for workers. So, it’s a political aspect, but this is something that really affects real people’s lives.

    There are minimum wage increases on the ballot in Arkansas, Alaska, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Illinois. And what is particularly significant, I think, Judy, is that we see in Arkansas, for example, the minimum wage now is below the federal wage. So, it’s actually $6.25.

    Arkansas wants to raise it to $8.50. And two more things we see in Alaska and also in South Dakota, they want to index the minimum wage to inflation. That’s significant, because it’s a signal almost that those states don’t want to deal with this issue again. They want to automatically have a kick-in for minimum wage, a very political issue Washington is not dealing with, but some of the states will be voting on just next week.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But looking at it in different ways, different wording in different states.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: We know marijuana is also on the ballot.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: But I want to ask you about a couple of other issues.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Abortion on the ballot in a few places.

    LISA DESJARDINS: For years, we have seen opponents of abortion gain in states where they haven’t gained nationally in Supreme Court rulings and et cetera.

    This year, we’re seeing three states take on the abortion issue particularly. There, you see them. Tennessee would basically allow state lawmakers to further restrict abortion. But the two I think that are most worthy of looking at are Colorado and North Dakota.

    Both of them have different variations on something called the personhood amendment, basically defining life, defining a person at a very early stage in conception. Colorado is interesting for political reasons. We can get into that later.

    But I think North Dakota may be more significant, Judy, because, up until now, no state has actually passed one of these personhood amendments. They have all failed. But it look likes in North Dakota they could pass this amendment that would define life not just at conception, but at any moment in life.

    Those who are against it say this could block birth control. Those who are for it say it is an important advance for those who oppose abortion.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And the one other one I want to ask you about is guns on — only on the ballot in, what, a limited number of states.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right. That’s right.

    The main place to watch there is Washington State, where, fascinatingly enough, they actually have competing ballot measures. One would prohibit background checks unless the federal government requires it, essentially prohibiting background checks at gun shows. And the other would require background checks at gun shows and private sales.

    And what is happening right now in Washington State is, we’re seeing millions of dollars being put into this gun fight. The NRA has gotten involved in the last couple of weeks. I think this is particularly fascinating because, remember, this is the first national election that this country will face after the Newtown massacre, and in Washington State, they just had that shooting in Marysville last week…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s right.

    LISA DESJARDINS: … where two high school students were killed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, again, as you said a minute ago — excuse me — an example of an issue not dealt with in Washington, they’re trying to deal with it in states.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just very quickly here at the end, are these ballot initiatives expected to get more people to the polls?  Some of them, we know, were put on the ballot deliberately to get interest in this midterm vote.


    No question about it. The ones we have talked with here, the base wants to drive out their votes. That’s why I think Colorado is very interesting for having that personhood amendment in a year where they have a major Senate race. On the other hand — we didn’t talk about it — Colorado has some anti-fracking, pro-environmental measures on their ballot as well.

    Alaska is interesting. They also have that minimum wage increase. They also have some environmental measures. They’re hoping to get young people out. We talked about marijuana. Alaska would legalize marijuana use, small amounts, for adults. They’re hoping that get out Democrats — the Democrats do, anyway.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you are going to be with us on election night.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Helping us look at these ballot measures.

    LISA DESJARDINS: I can’t wait, yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Welcome once again, Lisa Desjardins.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

    And there is more online. Lisa has posted a list of key ballot initiatives by state. You can see those on the Rundown.


    The post Forget the Senate: These are the midterm contests that will affect people appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama attends a campaign event with Democratic candidate for Wisconsin Gov. Mary Burke while at North Division High School in Milwaukee

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    GWEN IFILL: As the midterm elections head to at least a dozen critical toss-ups, one prominent Democrat has been largely missing from the campaign trail, but President Obama is on the road again in carefully selected friendly territory.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You can tell I’m out of practice. I’m losing my voice.

    GWEN IFILL: Only a week before Election Day, President Obama is finally hitting the trail in earnest.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It’s good to be back in Wisconsin.

    GWEN IFILL: Last night, he rallied support for Wisconsin Democrat candidate Mary Burke, the businesswoman challenging Republican Governor Scott Walker.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You have a chance to choose a governor who doesn’t put political ideology first, who’s not thinking partisan first. She’s going to put you first.

    GWEN IFILL: Until now, the president has more often than not put fund-raising first, appearing at private events, instead of at big public rallies.

    Many Democrats, mindful of his sagging popularity, have largely kept their distance. But now the president is pitching in, focusing on states he’s won twice, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

    Whether for lack of invitation or lack of interest, he’s largely avoided states where Democrats are locked in competitive Senate races. Those candidates have opted instead for surrogates like Hillary Clinton and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

    HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Former U.S. Secretary of State: Make sure you get out to vote for the kind of North Carolina and America you want.


    GWEN IFILL: Clinton has stumped in North Carolina over the weekend, and heads to Iowa, Kentucky and Louisiana this week, while Warren has toured New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, and Kentucky.

    Lame-duck midterm elections are not typically friendly territory for sitting presidents. On average, past presidents have lost 26 seats in the House and about seven seats in the Senate.

    Dan Balz of The Washington Post and presidential historian Michael Beschloss are here to explain why.

    So how does the White House make these kind of decisions about what to do with a president in these kinds of complicated times?

    DAN BALZ, The Washington Post: Well, they make them in concert with the campaigns and the — particularly at this point the Senate Campaign Committee and the others who are directly involved in the races.

    He’s going places where’s he’s welcome. He’s not going place where’s he’s not welcome. And I think one of the interesting things is, he is campaigning mostly on behalf of gubernatorial candidates. There are a lot of competitive gubernatorial races, as we know, but not in key Senate battlegrounds.

    I think the only state he’s going into with an even modestly competitive Senate campaign is in Michigan, and that one looks pretty strong for the Democrats at this point. He’s avoiding all the real battlegrounds in the Senate races.

    GWEN IFILL: By design.

    DAN BALZ: By design.

    GWEN IFILL: How unusual is that, Michael?


    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian: Not very unusual at all.

    And the record really is that even a popular president usually don’t help that much. Ronald Reagan in 1986, Gallup poll approval rating was 63 percent. It was considered a pretty successful presidency. He had won reelection by a landslide. And he went to around 13 states around this time of October that year. Yet the result was, the Republicans lost control of the Senate, lost five seats in the House.

    So, if that’s sort of the acid test of what a popular president can do, the less popular presidents have a harder time.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let’s go back to more recently to George W. Bush, the second term of his — the second — the midterm of his second term. Did the same thing happen to him?


    His Gallup poll approval rating was about 38 percent, not very different from President Obama’s, lost both houses of Congress. There was great anger because the war in Iraq was going very unwell. There were other reasons for dissatisfaction with George Bush, and the voters tended to take it out on his party.

    DAN BALZ: Gwen, I went back yesterday and looked through some old clips from 2006, and found a piece I did almost literally this week eight years ago about George W. Bush not being welcome on the campaign trail and the limited number of places he could go.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: And that could have been written almost exactly yesterday about President Obama.


    GWEN IFILL: Everything old is new again.


    GWEN IFILL: But here is what seems different to me. And maybe it’s just where the competitive seats happen to be. But I think Louisiana and I think North Carolina and Georgia and Arkansas, Southern states. Is he also less welcome in Southern states?

    DAN BALZ: Well, he’s very less welcome in Southern states.

    Those are states, with the exception of North Carolina, he didn’t win at all, and he only won North Carolina once. Now, in a number of those states, the African-American vote is very important. And I think they are looking for ways under the radar or without a presidential visit for him to speak directly to African-American voters. They’re very…

    GWEN IFILL: Like radio. I have heard radio.

    DAN BALZ: There’s radio. You could do direct mail. I mean, there are a variety of ways you can do it.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Or robo-calls.

    DAN BALZ: Robo-calls, you could do that.

    I — Gwen, I think what is more interesting is not that he’s not going into Arkansas. That’s — that’s not terribly surprising. But if you look at other places that he’s not going in with competitive races, Colorado, for example. He accepted the nomination in Denver in the summer of 2008. He was very popular there.

    He is very unpopular there, particularly with undecided voters. Iowa, the state that launched him in the caucuses by beating Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, he’s not welcome there in one of the most crucial battleground Senate races in the country.

    GWEN IFILL: Where does an incumbent president help?

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Money. And that’s the difference between these times and most of American history, because money is now so cardinally important that I think the White House now and, in 2006, George W. Bush did argue that perhaps the best thing a president can do to help is not appear at rallies, which they found, at least in ’06, helped some, had no effect in some other places, and hurt some, but better for them, the president then and I think would be said this year for the president to raise a lot of money from the base of his party.

    That’s what President Obama is doing.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, before we get to the — I do want to ask you about the base, but I also want to ask you about very interesting, the thing that is going on.

    Judy is going to Kentucky this weekend to do a piece about that Senate race. The Democratic nominee there could barely be convinced to say she even voted for the president, which one would be surprised if she hadn’t, right?

    DAN BALZ: Well, of course one would be surprised. And I think everybody in the aftermath thought that was a mistake, and assumed that when she got into a debate with Mitch McConnell right after that, that she would kind of clean up that and clarify and say, yes, I did.

    And, instead, she said, you know, we have a secret ballot in this country. Now, she was quite willing to say she had voted for Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries, but she wouldn’t say that she had voted for the president.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes.

    DAN BALZ: It was — it was a very odd set of circumstances and surprising.

    GWEN IFILL: It was very odd.

    I am very curious, though, in the end here, which is to what extent does running away from the president for Democrats in this case, or even for Republicans in other years, to what extent does that hurt in getting turnout, in getting the base out?

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Oh, sure it does, because people feel that this is something that, if a president doesn’t come in, there isn’t a connection with burning national issues that oftentimes energize a campaign.

    And the other thing is that any lame-duck president is trying to make himself relevant for these last two years. This is one reason why there is some pressure on the president to get out there, at least to some extent, so that whoever comes into Congress this time, he can say, well, I helped you. I was relevant in this election. You and I still can do things together these last two years.

    GWEN IFILL: Is there backlash possible among people who would normally show up and vote for a Democrat, but now who feel a little insulted?

    DAN BALZ: There are — I talked to a Democrat recently who thinks it has been a big mistake for the president not to go into these competitive states.

    The argument made to me was the people who are going to vote against the president’s party are going to vote against the president’s party.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: They know who is president.

    DAN BALZ: They know who is president. And it is difficult for the Democratic candidates to distance themselves when they have voted with the president most of the time.

    This argument was, we need our base energized, and President Obama may be uniquely capable of doing that, at least in part of the communities of his coalition.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, when I asked Kay Hagan about that this weekend, she said she’s for North Carolina, not necessarily…


    GWEN IFILL: We will see how this works. There will be exit polls you will be reading on election night.

    Dan Balz, Michael Beschloss…

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Can’t wait. Thank you, Gwen.

    GWEN IFILL: … thanks, both, very much.

    DAN BALZ: Thanks, Gwen.

    The post Why Obama has stuck to fundraising and friendly territory ahead of midterms appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: The Ebola death rate in West Africa may be slowing. The World Health Organization reported today that total cases now top 13,700, but fatalities remain at just under 5,000. That’s partly due to the death toll in Liberia being revised downward.

    Meanwhile, President Obama renewed his warning that quarantine policies that might discourage doctors and nurses from volunteering in West Africa.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We can’t hermetically seal ourselves off. The nature of international travel and movement means that the only way to assure that we are safe is to make sure that we have dealt with the disease where right now it’s most acute.

    GWEN IFILL: Before the president spoke, the Pentagon announced that all U.S. troops who serve in West Africa will be placed in 21-day quarantine. And health officials in California ordered the same restriction for anyone who has traveled to West Africa if they have had contact with Ebola patients.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A legal battle is shaping up between the state of Maine and a nurse who treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. State officials said today they will get a court order to enforce a home quarantine of Kaci Hickox, who has tested negative. She had already spent three days under medical isolation in New Jersey.

    Today, in a Skype interview, Hickox told ABC she will challenge Maine’s policy.

    KACI HICKOX, Quarantined Nurse: I remain really concerned by these mandatory quarantine policies from aid workers. I think we’re just only adding to stigmatization that again is not based on science or evidence. And if these restrictions are not removed for me from the state of Maine by tomorrow morning, Thursday morning, I will go to court to attain my freedom.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Officials in Maine want Hickox to remain home for 21 days since her last contact with an Ebola patient.

    GWEN IFILL: The Federal Reserve has officially ended its long-running economic stimulus effort. Citing an improved economy, policy-makers at the Central Bank announced today they have completed phasing out their bond-buying program. But they also said, again, they mean to maintain short-term rates near zero for — quote — “a considerable time.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Reinforcements from two sources headed to the Syrian town of Kobani today to battle Islamic State forces. Activists said 50 rebels from the Free Syrian Army faction entered Kobani from neighboring Turkey. Separately, about 150 Iraqi Peshmerga troops traveled by convoy through Turkey. They have the blessing of the Turkish government, and Turkish residents cheered their passage.

    GWEN IFILL: A monsoon mudslide hit Sri Lanka today. The disaster management minister reported more than 100 dead, with upwards of 300 others missing. The mudslide was triggered by heavy rain that inundated the island nation’s central hills. It hit this morning and wiped out a number of workers’ homes at a tea plantation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, White House officials said they’re acting to address a breach of its unclassified computer network. The Washington Post reported today that investigators believe hackers working for the Russians were behind the attack in recent weeks.

    At the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest declined to speculate.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: There are a number of nations and organizations around the globe that are engaged in efforts to collect information about U.S. government activity. And it’s not a surprise. We’re certainly aware of the fact that those individuals or organizations or even countries might view the White House computer network as a valuable source of information.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Post report said there’s no evidence that any classified networks were hacked.

    GWEN IFILL: The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether Medicare and Medicaid employees leaked information to stock traders. Today’s Wall Street Journal says three separate inquiries are looking at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that oversees the programs. One involves allegations that an outside firm was tipped off in advance about a prostate cancer treatment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: With the Fed announcing the end of its stimulus program today, Wall Street fell back a little. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 31 points to close at 16974; the Nasdaq dropped 15 points to close at 4549; and the S&P 500 slipped two to finish at 1982.

    The post News Wrap: WHO reports Ebola deaths may be slowing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Poet Galway Kinnell speaks during Poets House's 17th Annual Poetry Walk Across The Brooklyn Bridge on June 11, 2012 in Brooklyn, New York. Kinnell died Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

    Poet Galway Kinnell speaks during Poets House’s 17th Annual Poetry Walk Across The Brooklyn Bridge on June 11, 2012 in Brooklyn, New York. Kinnell died Tuesday at age 87. Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

    American poet Galway Kinnell, whose work emphasized the ordinary over the fantastical, died from leukemia Tuesday at his home in Sheffield, Vermont. He was 87.

    Influenced by Walt Whitman, Kinnell sympathized with common folk in his poems, and pointed toward nature as a source of solace from the social ills of the day. A World War II vet and anti-war activist, Kinnell’s work didn’t shy from addressing social issues of the 1960s.

    After decades of writing poems, Kinnell received the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in 1983 for “Selected Poems.” Later, he received the MacArthur Genius Fellowship in 1984 and became Vermont’s poet laureate from 1989 to 1993.

    When the NewsHour interviewed Kinnell in 2006, he read his poem “Why Regret?” a highlight from his last book of poetry, “Strong Is Your Hold,” released the same year.

    “I had in mind that the poem is addressed to all readers, including myself,” he said about the selection, “reading it over to tell us to remember the pleasures and the confidence we gain from engaging ourselves with the common acts, the ordinary things, the other creatures, and to remind us in this holiday season, when we get reports everyday of the most horrible killings, that nevertheless we have very much to be thankful for.”

    Kinnell is survived by his wife, his son, Fergus; his daughter, Maud Kozodoy; and two grandchildren.

    The post Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Galway Kinnell dies at 87 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Saira Blair

    Saira Blair, 18, could soon represent West Virginia’s 59th district in the state House of Delegates. Photo by Matt Ehrichs

    Saira Blair studies economics at West Virginia University, belongs to the knitting club and the College Republicans. She also runs a political campaign from her dorm room. In some ways, she is not your everyday college freshman.

    For one thing, she dislikes instant ramen, food staple of dorm life nationwide. For another, she might just become the youngest state representative in the U.S.

    Blair made headlines around the country last month when, at the age of 17, she ousted 66-year-old incumbent Larry Kump in the Republican primary for the race to represent West Virginia’s District 59 in the state House of Delegates.

    She is no stranger to politics. Her father, Craig Blair, served in the House of Delegates for eight years and is currently a state senator. She raised $4,800 for the primary and has raised nearly $11,000 so far for the general election, according to public finance reports. This includes $3,600 of her own money, she said. She is running against Democrat Layne Diehl.

    Blair is staunchly conservative — she is against abortion and marriage equality, pro-gun, and wants to lower taxes on businesses. A big priority for her is creating jobs in West Virginia so that the state can retain young graduates, who commonly move out of state to work after finishing school, she said.

    Saira Blair writing letters

    Blair writes letters to thousands of voters in her district. Photo by Matt Ehrichs

    At the moment, she is at her family’s house in Hedgesville writing 4,000 letters to voters in her district, urging them to go to the polls. At her side, family members and friends who were in the high school show choir with her are stuffing envelopes assembly line-style and chatting about their latest high school musical.

    “This could spontaneously morph into a ‘Glee’ episode,” her uncle jokes.

    Blair said it is easy to forget that she is 18 when she is working on the campaign, which she does between class and plans with her friends. But certain moments bring her back, like when her college classmates tell her that her campaign was a topic of discussion in class.

    “I have some poli sci major friends and they tell me, ‘Oh yeah, we talked about you today in class,’ and I’m just like, ‘Oh wow, that’s kind of weird,’” she said.

    She also knows her conservative politics differ from those of many others her age. Forty-one percent of millennials are “mostly or consistently liberal” as opposed to 15 percent who are “mostly or consistently conservative,” according to a recent Pew Research Center report.

    But Blair says that if more youth focused on economics, they would likely align with conservatives. “I think a lot of young people have the same views as I do, but they just don’t realize it,” she said.

    And she knows that other people — in particular, her potential future colleagues — might have a harder time forgetting her age than she does. She is prepared to assert herself, she said.

    “Everybody has respected me to this point and knows that if I win, I expect not to be babied,” she said. “I want to be treated just like the big boys or I wouldn’t be doing this.”

    Mr. Blair said he’s not worried about his daughter’s ability to handle her age difference with other lawmakers if she is elected. “She knew full well what she was getting into when she stepped into the arena,” he said.

    The “arena” is a state where recent elections have defied decades-long loyalties. In West Virginia’s state government, Democrats dominate the governor’s office along with the House and Senate chambers. The state House and Senate have both been majority-Democrat since 1930.

    But West Virginia voters have shifted in recent years. West Virginia has elected the Republican candidate in every presidential election since 2000. Between the presidential elections in 2004 and 2008, 366 out of 410 Appalachian counties added Republican presidential votes.

    Blair sees her campaign at the forefront of that shift. “I think it’s amazing to potentially have the opportunity to be part of such a big change,” she said. “And I think my race, because of my age, represents the idea [of] change.”

    In Berkeley County, where part of District 59 is located, more people than usual — 1,805 voters — came to the polls in the first three days of early voting, according to Bonnie Woodfall, chief deputy of elections for the county.

    Voters outside the polls voiced mixed opinions of the young Blair. Carol Bogacz, a voter in Berkeley County, said she thought Blair received votes because she is a political novelty, not because of her ability to lead. “I think she’s too young to represent the district,” she said.

    Several others, including District 59 voter Ronnie Albright, said they had voted for Blair along party lines and believed she could represent them.

    Regardless of party, Blair could inspire other young West Virginians to vote, said Lauren Wilkes, who attended high school with Saira and now is a classmate at West Virginia University. “I hope a lot of our class would come out,” she said.

    Wilkes said she plans to move to Charleston, West Virginia, after college to work in fashion, citing Blair as an inspiration to live and work in the state.

    “If she can do it, we can do it,” she said.

    The post Meet the college freshman with a shot to be West Virginia’s youngest state representative appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images

    Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images

    We asked for your midterm election questions, and PBS NewsHour’s politics team answered! Senior politics producer Domenico Montanaro (@DomenicoPBS), politics reporter/editor Lisa Desjardins (@LisaDNews) and politics reporter/producer Rachel Wellford (@rachelwellford) addressed questions on Twitter on subjects ranging from ballot measures to voter ID laws to campaign ads to voter apathy. Read a transcript of the discussion below, and join us on Election Day for live results and analysis.

    Have a question that is not addressed below? Domenico and PBS NewsHour’s senior correspondent and weekend anchor Hari Sreenivasan will answer more questions during a special, late night live stream on Election Day. Share questions and follow the conversation using #PBSelection.

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    Photo by Flickr user Austin Marshall https://www.flickr.com/photos/oxtopus/

    A new study gives parents a guide on how to let their children interact with screens like TVs and tablets. One of the keys: when kids are using devices, parents should be active participants. Photo by Flickr user Austin Marshall

    Parents, you can give up the twinge of guilt you feel when you let your toddler watch television or play with your smartphone or tablet, according to a new report from Zero to Three.

    It’s true that young children learn most easily from one-to-one interaction with their parents and other caregivers or educators. The American Academy of Pediatrics’s guidelines go so far as to say children younger than 2 shouldn’t spend any time in front of the TV or any kind of screen.

    That leaves parents asking questions like whether reading to a child from a device counts as story or screen time and whether their own screen time could be hurting their kids.

    But, Claire Lerner, a Zero to Three social worker, and Rachel Barr, director of the Georgetown Early Learning Project write “[t]he reality is that young children now grow up in a world of technology.”

    On average, they say, children younger than 2 years old watch nearly an hour of television a day and almost 40 percent have used a smartphone or other mobile device. For children 2 to 4, the average amount of daily TV rises to 90 minutes and 80 percent have used a mobile device.

    Their review of existing research shows all of that media time isn’t necessarily turning toddlers’ brains to mush. In fact, they say, much of it “suggests that screen media can become tools for learning if two critical factors are taken into consideration: content and context.”

    In their paper, Lerner and Barr tease out some practical advice for parents and caregivers.

    First, parents should still limit children’s time with devices. Kids do their best learning from one-on-one time with adults.

    When kids are using devices, parents should be active participants. They can talk about what they see on the screen the same way they would with a picture book. Dr. Pamela Hosmer gave the NewsHour examples of strategies for making screen time interactive earlier this year.

    Once the screen is turned off, parents should draw connections between the ideas, words and objects seen on a device to the real world. They can do that by playing with and pointing to objects or acting out skits.

    The content children are exposed to on television or in an app should be age-appropriate.

    Make kids’ screen time deliberate. Studies do show that background TV disturbs children’s play and development.

    It’s best to keep adults’ television and device time separate from time with young kids. A Boston Medical Center study found the longer parents used devices during a meal, the more kids acted out.

    Finally, it’s probably best to keep sleeping and eating separate from television watching. Kids who watched TV within two hours of their bedtime have a harder time falling asleep and snacking in front of the TV has been tied to childhood obesity.

    PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post For toddlers, it’s the quality of the screen time that matters, study reveals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    In the future, security will be in the eye of the beholder. Texas State University computer scientists are developing a program that will scan users’ eyes to unlock their digital accounts.

    “Biometrics is a science that studies or identifies a person based on what a person is, not what a person remembers such as a password,” says Oleg Komogortsev, a computer scientist at Texas State University.

    Ocular biometerics is more than scanning a person’s iris. Komogortsev’s software also tracks eye movement, analyzing where the user is looking. That data could be used to interpret how a person is viewing information, or how they’re feeling, ie. if they are fatigued or stressed.

    Komogortsev was developing a biomathematical model of the human eye as a graduate student when he came up with the idea for the technology. An avid gamer, he wanted access to a pre-release of Blizzard Entertainment’s popular “World of Warcraft”. But the early release of the game cost $17,000. So he wrote to Blizzard Entertainment and proposed a method which allowed disabled users to control their characters with their eyes, not their hands.

    The potential applications took off from there. Komogortsev and his team believe the technology would be usable with just a software upgrade. Not only could it be used for security and gaming, but it could be useful in diagnosing a concussion from a football player’s helmet, for example.

    Miles O’Brien has more on this eye-opening technology for the National Science Foundation series “Science Nation.”

    *For the record, the National Science Foundation is also an underwriter of the NewsHour.

    The post Your eyes could open your bank account or play “World of Warcraft” appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: Now: a prize-winning play about the impact faraway conflicts have on personal lives.

    Jeffrey Brown has our report from our New York studio.

    ACTOR: I’m sitting in nigh office. I’m red-lining a contract due at 6:00. Steven walks in.

    JEFFREY BROWN: When we first meet Amir in the space “Disgraced,” he is living a contemporary version of the American dream, up-and-coming corporate lawyer, expensive apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and beautiful artist wife.

    He’s a Pakistani-American who has largely turned his back on the religion of his parents, Islam. But he’s also living in post-9/11 America and understands and even plays with the realities of that.

    At a dinner party, he explains to friend how he volunteers for security checks at airports.

    ACTOR: I know they’re looking at me, so I figure why not make it easier for everyone involved?

    ACTRESS: I have never heard of anybody doing that before.

    ACTOR: On top of people being more and more afraid of folks who look like me, we end up being resented, too.

    ACTRESS: Those agents are working hard not to discriminate, and then here’s this guy. He walks right up to them and calls them out on it.

    ACTOR: Pure, unmitigated passive aggression.


    JEFFREY BROWN: There’s plenty of humor in “Disgraced,” but quite a bit more pain, as Amir’s world and identity comes undone.

    The writer of “Disgraced” is 43-year-old Ayad Akhtar, a Milwaukee native who grew up in a secular Muslim family.

    ACTOR: I don’t expect you or your friends to understand what I was talking about.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He’s explored various flash points of contemporary life as a novelist, actor, and screenwriter, as in the 2005 movie “The War Within” about a Pakistani student who after being abducted and interrogated by the CIA attempts an attack on New York.

    Premiering two years ago, “Disgraced” earned Akhtar the 2013 Pulitzer Prize. Just before opening night last week on Broadway, I asked him what he was after in writing the play.

    AYAD AKHTAR, Playwright, “Disgraced”: There was a character who was speaking to me with this kind of relentless passion, Amir, the lead character in the play, who has this very particular point of view on Islam.

    He’s Muslim birth — of birth and origin, but has sort of strongly moved away from it and is very critical of Islam. But I came to understand that what the play was really trying to get at was the way in which we secretly continue to hold on to our tribal identities, our identities of birth, of education, despite our — despite getting more enlightened.

    JEFFREY BROWN: There’s almost a suggestion that, whatever we do, our education, or our jobs, or our marriages, we can’t — we never get past this kind of tribal allegiances.

    AYAD AKHTAR: It — I didn’t seem to be able to pull the play away from that conclusion. I tried.

    But these characters continued to find meaning and find some kind of safety as the situation, the dramatic situation devolved, in those tribal identities.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As the drama unfolds, Amir moves from a sharp critique of Islam to admitting feelings of sympathy to a world view he has rejected.

    ACTOR: Are you telling me you never felt anything like that, an unexpected blush of…


    ACTOR: No. No. I don’t feel anything like a blush.

    ACTOR: When you hear about Israel throwing its military weight around?

    ACTOR: I am critical of Israel. A lot of Jews are.

    ACTOR: And when you hear about Ahmadinejad talk about wiping Israel into the Mediterranean, how do you feel did then?

    ACTOR: Outraged, like everyone else.

    ACTOR: Not everyone feels outraged. A lot of folks like hearing that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How much of this did have — reflect any of your own sense of Americanness, Islam, being a Muslim, sense of identity?

    AYAD AKHTAR: Right.

    It’s a good question. I think it’s one I’m still grappling with and still working through in a series of works that “Disgraced” is one of. And I think there’s a long history of sort of post-colonial Muslim self-definition the last, I would say, 200 years, where defining oneself in opposition to the West or separate from the West has been an important part of what it means to call oneself Muslim.

    I think that, obviously, in the past decade or so, there has been such tremendous geopolitical upheavals that there’s a way in which that’s being called into question. So…

    JEFFREY BROWN: At a personal level?

    AYAD AKHTAR: At a personal level, at a nation-state level.


    AYAD AKHTAR: It’s being called into question. All of the sort of extraordinary conflicts that we see unfolding in the Middle East are part and parcel of what I’m talking about.

    And so the work that I’m doing, “Disgraced” included, is about exploring the various contradictions that arise because of that history and those fealties.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Of being a Muslim in America after 9/11?

    AYAD AKHTAR: Well, in part being Muslim. Being American. What are the overlaps? What are the contradictions? Are those contradictions real? Are they historical? Are they passed simply from parent to child, or is it something much larger?

    Is there an inherent conflict between Islam and the West?

    JEFFREY BROWN: And have you figured this out, or is this what you’re doing in the work?

    AYAD AKHTAR: I think to have an answer would be above my pay grade.


    AYAD AKHTAR: I get away with — I get away with trying to see what the various perspectives yield in terms of human lives and the solutions that individuals come up with to these questions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I wonder just how you see theater, as a kind of provocation, you know, as something that makes us think a lot.

    AYAD AKHTAR: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This is a kind of provocative piece of writing.

    AYAD AKHTAR: It is.

    And I think that, at its best, what the theater does is, it gathers us together. We, social herding animals, arrive together into a room, and we behold something that actually happens before us, not something mediated to us by a screen, but the presence of live performers, which hearkens back to a kind of experience of a ritual, and an experience of one mind, one body, a kind of communion that happens in the audience between audience and performers that allows us, reaches into us, where we can experience things more deeply than we can individually.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Even if it’s provoking questions of real identity, am I a Muslim? Am I a Jew? Am I an American? Who am I?

    AYAD AKHTAR: Well, those sound like some pretty good questions for our time. So I don’t mind doing that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, the play is “Disgraced.”

    Ayad Akhtar, thank you so much.

    AYAD AKHTAR: Thank you, Jeffrey.

    The post ‘Disgraced’ interrogates definitions of identity and Islam in America appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There are moments when the power of nature and the elements and the destruction they can cause simply capture everyone’s attention and make you wonder about your place in the universe.

    This week, the lava flow on Hawaii’s Big Island that’s forced people to abandon homes and a sunspot the size of planet Jupiter are providing such a moment.

    Hari Sreenivasan has a look at the scientific phenomena behind all this.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The National Guard itself began trying to help Hawaiians today. The lava that began flowing this summer from the volcano on Mount Kilauea is endangering a small community of about 950 residents.

    It may be moving slowly, at speeds of just five to 10 miles an hour, but there’s been no way to stop it. And now it’s started to burn homeowners’ property there.

    At the same time, a whole different set of fiery images from space may also be in your daily news feed. It’s the largest sunspot in more than two decades. Federal officials have warned frequently about the possibility that solar flares could potentially disrupt navigation systems and radio frequencies.

    Science correspondent Miles O’Brien is with us again tonight.

    So, Miles, let’s start with this planet first.

    When we think of lava, we think of huge explosions and volcanoes like Mount Saint Helens or other places, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

    MILES O’BRIEN: No. No.

    With Mount Saint Helens, the more recent volcano eruption in Japan, what we had was called a pyroclastic flow. And that’s like a — think of it as a steam-heated hurricane. It can travel at — in excess of 100 miles per hour, carry boulders with it, and can catch people off guard, as we saw most recently in Japan.

    This is the other side of the equation for volcanoes, these oozy lava volcanoes that you see in Hawaii which have been erupting sort of in sort of slow motion. And they move and the fissures crack and lava appears in different places. And what we’re seeing here now is, of course, as the lava changes its pattern, the patterns of human settlement have changed as well.

    There are more people living there. And that’s where the collision is right here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what sort of dangers does this lava pose, in terms of the gases coming off of it, or the infrastructure that it threatens if it cuts across roads?

    MILES O’BRIEN: All kinds of toxic gases associated with volcanoes, sulfur dioxide, many others which can be hazardous.

    One thing about lava, of course, even though this is kind of a slow-motion train wreck, there’s no stopping it. There’s no putting up a dam to stop lava. This is, after all, the molten core of the earth. It’s hot and there’s no stopping it.

    And so people have got to, unfortunately, respect that, and step away from the lava. You know, we’re talking about the center of the Ring of Fire here in the Pacific. And, you know, essentially, the Earth sits on 17 giant tectonic plates. That’s what we’re sitting on right now.

    We’re kind of floating on a sea of magma. And wherever there are little cracks in those plates, you get problems. You either get earthquakes or you get volcanoes. And sometimes it’s that oozy lava that we see in Hawaii.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, we often have a tendency to think that we can engineer our way around anything.

    And speaking of things that we have very little, to no control over, these giant sunspots that we have been seeing, there are scientific instruments and people that essentially stare at the sun all day long, 24/7.

    What is it about what’s been happening over the recent past that have them so concerned?


    Of course, we would advise people not to stare at the sun unless they take precautions, of course. But we’re talking about a giant sunspot, about equivalent to the 20 Earth diameters, which is hard to even comprehend. Scientists have been watching is it now for two weeks. It just disappeared. The sun rotates about every 25 days all the way around.

    And so, for about two weeks, this giant sunspot is on the backside, if you will. Huge solar flares come off of it. We haven’t seen the other thing that can occur, which is the so-called coronal mass ejection.

    Now, a good analogy for this is, you think of a cannon shot. The flash is the solar flare. The cannonball itself is the coronal mass ejection. In this case, we’re seeing the flash, but no cannonball. In either case, we can expect disruptions in communication here on our planet, because we rely more and more on space-based assets, satellites, in order to communicate and run our infrastructure.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Put these explosions in perspective for us. One of the places that I read, this is something like a billion of the nuclear power that we dropped on Hiroshima.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Yes, I mean, imagine that. It’s really hard to comprehend it all.

    So you can understand why when this energy interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field, it can cause havoc with the high-frequency communications used by things like the GPS system, or, for that matter, think of the satellite that we’re using right now to communicate with each other.

    If this was in the middle of a serious solar flare or a coronal mass ejection, we might very well be turning to snow right now. So, we’re vulnerable because of the nature of our infrastructure. And that’s why scientists carefully watch this. There actually is a fairly sophisticated space weather forecasting capability out there, so that the power grids and the satellite operators can, if they have to, go into safe mode.

    Incidentally, there are residents on board the International Space Station which in some cases might have to take shelter if a coronal mass ejection was headed our way.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, science correspondent Miles O’Brien, hopefully a coronal mass ejection doesn’t interrupt with this segment. Thanks so much for joining us.

    MILES O’BRIEN: All right. You’re welcome, Hari.

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    GWEN IFILL: Celebrities, athletes and politicians have increasingly gone public about their sexual orientation. But the corporate closet has mostly remained closed.

    Today, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, opened that door a but more, declaring in an essay for Bloomberg Businessweek he is gay.

    “While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either until now,” he wrote. “So let me be clear. I’m proud to be gay and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”

    Cook becomes the most prominent business leader to come out, but what difference will it make?

    Kara Swisher, who has long covered the tech industry and is co-executive editor of the tech news website re/code, joins me now.

    So, Kara, in this day and age, why does what Tim Cook had to say matter?

    KARA SWISHER, re/code: Well, he is the most prominent executive in tech, and he’s running the most valuable company in the world.

    And so he has a lot of prominence, and this is a big deal for him to come out and say that. And the fact that no Fortune 500 executive has done this is a milestone.

    GWEN IFILL: So, why now? Tell us about Tim Cook.

    KARA SWISHER: I don’t think there was an occasion. He didn’t just decide, like, wake up this morning.

    This is something — he’s been out among his friends, as he wrote, but he had never acknowledged it in public. And people have been talking about it in Silicon Valley a lot. There was a lot of hubbub a couple of months ago when a CNBC exchange discussed it. Everybody knows he’s gay and stuff like that.

    And I think he just wanted — he’s been moving slowly towards it. He’s been making — he appeared at the Gay Pride Festival here in San Francisco this year. He made a speech just recently about gay and lesbian rights related to Alabama, where here’s from.

    So he’s been moving towards this very clearly. And I think probably he just woke up and said enough. I will just acknowledge it and say it and it’s not a big deal. And me holding back probably makes it more of a big deal.

    GWEN IFILL: So, he — it doesn’t necessarily roil the tech community, but what about the broader corporate community?

    KARA SWISHER: Well, they have to get used to it.

    I mean, I don’t think — I said earlier on a program, it’s not — the iPhone is not gay. The CEO is. It’s not the product or anything like that. He just — it’s part of his life. And really interesting — that essay to me was very interesting, especially because he made the point that he was a son of the South.

    He was a fitness nut, which he is, and a whole bunch of things, that it’s more than just being gay, but this is also part of him. And I think that is what was important to him is to acknowledge it and try to help people who may not be quite as brave as he’s been today.

    GWEN IFILL: As we watch this social evolution among marriage laws and in the entertainment world, and you name it, the military even, has it changed the way these kinds of announcements resonate?

    KARA SWISHER: Well, I think this is still going to be a big deal. This is a prominent CEO of the most valuable company on the earth.

    So I think it’s going to be one of these moments that’s going to be remembered historically. And he’s going to save lives. A lot of — one of the issues he talked about is a lot of gay and lesbian youth, they’re much more at risk. People that work in certain states are under risk of being fired for being gay.

    If he gives them a little courage or he moves along the conversation, that helps things, no matter what. And people will be talking about it because of who he is. And just like any — an athlete in the NFL comes out or we have a gay senator or someone in Hollywood comes out, people talk about it, and it moves the conversation forward. And that’s always a good thing.

    GWEN IFILL: But, as you mentioned, in a lot of states, in 29 states, in fact, people could still be fired for doing what Tim Cook did today.


    Yes, and people can be killed across the world. There’s countries where they kill you for just being gay, and talking — not talking about gay rights at all, about existing as a gay person. And I think this is a much more serious issue.

    Now, Apple and a lot of tech companies, especially IBM — people don’t realize this — have been at the forefront of these issues for a long, long time. And Tim has been there a long, long time.

    Steve Jobs said, our job is to put a dent in the universe. He was talking about products and things like that. But this puts a dent in something that needs to be dented and done with, I think, over time.

    GWEN IFILL: Doesn’t Tim Cook — doesn’t Tim Cook have a reputation as kind of the brains behind Steve Jobs?

    KARA SWISHER: Well, Steve Jobs had a big brain. Let’s just be clear. There’s no brains behind Steve Jobs. And he wasn’t the spokesmodel for Apple.

    But Tim has been the operations person. He’s been the quiet behind-the-scenes person. A lot of probably his coming out probably took some time. He’s a man of a certain age. He’s very quiet himself. He doesn’t talk a lot about his personal life. He is very — he plays things close to the vest in terms of a lot of things.

    And so this is probably somewhat discomforting for him, because he’s so — he’s such a quiet guy. I heard he was already — he works out every morning at 5:00 a.m. and he was in the gym at 5:00 a.m. this morning, so he didn’t change much of his regular things.

    But he is not someone you would be — talk a lot about this, and so it probably was very hard for him to do so.

    GWEN IFILL: On the other hand, being the CEO of Apple, as you pointed out, such a powerful position, in some way makes it easier. Or does it make it harder to come out?

    KARA SWISHER: Well, it’s easier because he’s incredibly wealthy. He has got lots of support around him. His company, his board supports him. Everybody is happy here in Silicon Valley that he has done this. So, he has got a lot of support in that way.

    A lot of employees that are working in companies where they come out, the situation is much more dire for them. And so I think that he was trying to give them some courage. And I don’t think it’s going to go wrong for Apple or for him — for Tim to do this. But, at the same time, he could possibly give courage to people who maybe have a harder time, or maybe companies to reflect on what they’re doing to their employees, if they have — don’t have policies in place to protect all employees.

    And it’s not — again, it’s not a gay issue. It’s a human rights issue. And I think that’s the part that gets sort of — like, that this is good for gays. It’s good for everybody. A diverse workplace is a better workplace. And Apple knows this. Lot of companies here in Silicon Valley know this. And any company that is successful knows this.

    GWEN IFILL: Kara Swisher, always a pleasure talking to you. Thank you.

    KARA SWISHER: Thanks a lot.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: a closer look at the growing human toll Ebola is taking on the communities of West Africa, the epicenter of the current outbreak.

    We have two updates from New York Times reporters who are working in the region.

    The first is from Ben Solomon, who filed this video report from inside an Ebola treatment center in the countryside east of the Liberian capital, Monrovia.

    GARMAI CYRUS, Psychosocial Officer and Nurse: What I see in the faces of the patients? Fear. Fear of the unknown. Right beside them, friends die. It’s so, so frightening. Is this how I’m going to end up, too?


    GARMAI CYRUS: My job is to help them to see, amidst Ebola, that there’s still hope.


    GARMAI CYRUS: I come here every morning. We sing to build up our hopes, then get prepared.

    I’m a nurse. I’m a mental health clinician. And I work here as a psychosocial officer. When I go in, I’m like an aunt to them inside. Most of them refer to me as big sister.

    It’s within my spirit to give care, do it without touching or so, but there are other things that we can do, like build their hope, make them to feel more confident that they can come in here and walk out.

    At the moment, we are discharging. We have one patient who her test proved negative, and so we had to discharge her out.

    What gives me the most, most hope, people come in here so frustrated and sick, and, after, they walk out of here. It makes me feel that I’m working and I’m able to do something. It makes me happy. It makes me feel fulfilled.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That report prepared by reporter Ben Solomon.

    Sheri Fink has also been reporting from Liberia for The New York Times. In addition to her journalist credentials, she’s also a medical doctor. I spoke with her a short while ago over Skype from Monrovia.

    Sheri Fink, welcome.

    You have been writing some very moving stories recently, the overwhelming tragedy, but also some very tough decisions that the doctors have to make. Talk about that.

    SHERI FINK, The New York Times: Yes.

    One of the doctors here named Steven Hatch, he speaks of it as Solomonic decisions, and, really, every day brings some of these tough choices. Ebola treatment units, in a way, they’re kind of simple. They’re not a lot of advanced care that’s offered. In fact, it’s sort of a protocol. Every patient gets a mix of medicines when they come in to cover things like, you know, a coinfection with something like malaria.

    Sometimes, you know, Ebola can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system. So people even get antibiotics, even though Ebola is a viral disease. So you would think it’s sort of simple fluids and some of these extra medicines, but, in fact, there are all these choices that have to be made.

    For example, if you have somebody who tests negative, but then they develop symptoms while they’re in the suspect ward, well, then, you know, it’s possible that they still will turn positive. So do you keep them there and possibly expose them to other people who have Ebola in order to test them again?

    And, you know, all these difficult choices come up, even with children. That’s another example, where, you know, a parent tests negative air, a child tests positive. So what do you in that situation?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You wrote about a mother who died, a pregnant woman who died and had to make a decision about what to do with the infant when it was born.

    You also wrote about another mother who lost an infant and how she struggled with an infection and her treatment.

    SHERI FINK: Yes.

    I think these were two of the more really heart-rending stories. I guess there are stories like that every day. And they really sort of emphasize why the doctors and nurses who I have been chronicling for the last few weeks, they feel a lot of joy when people survive.

    But they get — over time, they realize that what the world has to offer for people who have Ebola just isn’t quite there. So even take the pregnant woman. It turns out that Ebola is very highly — you know, it’s even more fatal in people who are pregnant, and, you know, just the tragedy of that alone.

    This particular woman, they didn’t know if she had Ebola. She hemorrhaged after having a spontaneous childbirth of an eight-month-old — eight months into her pregnancy. And she went from hospital to hospital while she was still alive, while she was, you know, struggling to survive.

    No hospitals would let her in, because that’s kind of a classic presentation with Ebola, and highly infectious, obviously, if there’s blood. So finally, the car with her parents and the lady and her baby make it to the Ebola treatment unit. And, by that point, she had passed away. But the doctors and nurses had to struggle with this decision of, what do we do with this infant?

    They had no idea. Could the infant be positive? There’s not a lot of science around that or data or information, because we just haven’t studied this disease as much as it would have been good to do. So they made the best choice they could. They sent the baby home with the grandparents, and you know, with gloves, with formula, in the hopes that they could give the child a chance at surviving.

    The child died three days later. And then two weeks after that, the mother, who had helped deliver her — the grandmother who had helped deliver her daughter’s baby and had cared for the baby ended up coming down with Ebola and dying in the clinic. So these are the sort of — like, if you stay there long enough, you see how this disease moves through families that way.

    And, again, it’s those high-risk contacts, the real contact with the body fluids that seems to be the theme over and over again.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. Just — just terrible.

    Finally, Sheri Fink, the last story you wrote, despite all this, is surprisingly low numbers of patients being treated in these newest hospitals around Monrovia, where you are.

    SHERI FINK: Actually, it seems to be a pattern across the country.

    Now we have the WHO saying that there really has been, they believe, a slowdown in that upsurge in infections. And they really emphasize it’s not a reason to pull back on any of the plans, because there are large swathes of the country that don’t have treatment units.

    And that’s part of what the U.S. is doing is trying to build and staff these treatment units that are in distant parts of the country, where there’s not great surveillance. There aren’t good options for people who have no access to cars, no cell phone service, and just — also just these really bad roads, frankly.

    So, right now, it’s hard for them to be safe. You know, you have a family member who is sick. If you have to wait two days to get somebody to get them to a treatment unit, or if they die, to have a safe burial, that’s really tough.

    So what the numbers are suggesting is there is some positive news, that some of these interventions that we have seen so much work on in the last few weeks and months may be starting to slow this epidemic, which is great news, but certainly not a reason to let up, according to the experts here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sheri Fink reporting from the front lines there in Liberia, we thank you.

    SHERI FINK: Thanks a lot.

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    GWEN IFILL: As we reported earlier in the broadcast, the U.S. economy appears to be on the upswing, consumer confidence and growth up, the jobless rate down. Voters should be embracing the optimism, right? Not so much. And that might mean bad news for Democrats this coming Tuesday night.

    NewsHour political director Domenico Montanaro joins me to explain why.

    How do economic issues rank with voters this year?

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well, it’s always at the top of the list for voters.

    We’re seeing in the recent AP poll 91 percent of people said that it was an important issue, more so than any other issue. But we often find that voters and their confidence of what happens based on the economy and elections, they kind of lag behind often what is some of these more positive signs in a lot of these economic indicators.

    GWEN IFILL: We just heard the report from Alaska. Which states where there are big elections going on are affected the most by the economy?

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well, we know that there are 28 states in the country that — where the national unemployment — where the state unemployment rate is actually higher than the national rate.

    And that’s pretty fascinating, because, of those, there are nine of the 17 most competitive Senate races that — where the unemployment rate is higher than the national average. And that can cut both ways. We know that, nationally, about two-thirds of people say that the country is headed off on the wrong track.

    Only about 38 percent said in a CNN poll that they thought that the economy was doing well. And you had another high percentage of people saying that they really feel like the country being off on the wrong track, not doing very well, and that it would impact Democrats potentially for the midterms this time around because of the national mood.

    But it can cut both ways, because when we talk about some of these specific races, Georgia in particular, 7.9 percent unemployment rate, the highest in the country of anywhere, and you have a Republican candidate there who is really struggled, a former CEO, to talk about his jobs message.

    GWEN IFILL: But what if you’re in a state like — when I was in Colorado — they actually have better than the national average unemployment rate, and yet the Democratic incumbent is still struggling.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Colorado, Iowa, a lot of those places.

    But it’s not always just about the economy. I think that’s part of the problem. A lot of times we look at the economy, we look at these numbers, and we want to think that, yes, that’s going to mean this or it’s going to absolutely impact Democrats.

    And a lot of times, senators don’t get the kind of credit for the economy. A lot of times governors more so are held to account for this. For example, in Illinois, you’re seeing Governor Quinn, the Democrat there, struggling in the polls, Governor Malloy in Connecticut, a few Democrats who really shouldn’t be doing badly really having a difficult reelection.

    GWEN IFILL: How much of this is about the perception of the way people feel about the economy and about the candidates themselves who maybe aren’t articulating the message voters want to hear?

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: I think that’s a big, big part of it.

    A lot of times, if you’re — if you’re feeling like the country is not doing well or the economy is not doing well, then it winds up being something that does translate. But there’s a whole lot of other issues that people do care about in these states and in these elections.

    We have been seeing in these pieces, so often these elections have come down to what Republicans are trying to do is nationalize the election and make it about President Obama and the national political environment, and Democrats trying to localize, like in Colorado and North Carolina and Iowa.

    GWEN IFILL: Remember in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid” became the mantra, but it turns out the economy was recovering at the time, but George H.W. Bush still took the hit.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Yes, the economy was starting to recover, as we started to look at.

    But the problem is like, as we said earlier, a lot of times, people just kind of lag behind some of these numbers, and it’s not always the case that the economy is definitely what’s the biggest indicator.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, that’s one of the many trends we will be watching Tuesday night with you, Domenico. See you then.


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    GWEN IFILL: We are now five days from the midterm election.

    There are competitive races from coast to coast, and even beyond the lower 48. In Alaska, the Senate contest extends beyond politics to history and identity.

    As part of our election year collaboration with public broadcasters across the country, Liz Ruskin of Alaska Public Media takes us to the last frontier.

    LIZ RUSKIN, Alaska Public Media: This vast state is the setting for one of the most competitive Senate races this year, a race about the identity of this place and which man best represents its future.

    SEN. MARK BEGICH, D-Alaska: Between now and Election Day, I will work every single hour.

    LIZ RUSKIN: The incumbent is Democrat Mark Begich, former mayor of Anchorage. His father served in Congress, but died when Mark was 10. Nick Begich was running for his second term in 1972 when his plane disappeared over the Alaska wilderness. Now his son is running hard for his second term.

    DAN SULLIVAN, Alaska Senatorial Candidate: Everybody — everybody knows, this is it, right here, the control of the U.S. Senate.

    WOMAN: You bet.

    LIZ RUSKIN: Challenger Dan Sullivan was raised in suburban Cleveland. In law school, he fell in love within an Alaskan and moved to her home state. He’s a former state attorney general and a current reservist officer in the Marines. This is his first run for elected office.

    MICHAEL CAREY, Alaska Dispatch News: People want to know you’re here for legitimate purposes.

    LIZ RUSKIN: Michael Carey has written about state politics for decades. He says successful candidates here must prove they belong in Alaska.

    MICHAEL CAREY: Alaska has a long history of being ruled by outsiders. In some part, it’s been the federal government. After all, we were a territory. So there’s also been a question, and to some degree, that’s true now with the oil industry, about the authenticity of the people who are here and whose interests they are serving. Are they really Alaskans or are they just here to get the money and leave?

    LIZ RUSKIN: There’s a third character in this race, Barack Obama. The president is extremely unpopular in Alaska. The Sullivan camp is working hard to make sure Alaskans see Begich and Obama as teammates.

    Journalist Amanda Coyne covers Alaska politics on a Web site bearing her name. She says Obama is an effective foil because he represents unwelcome outside power.

    AMANDA COYNE, AmandaCoyne.com: You know, we’re talking about Obama here, but I think that really we have to talk about the Democratic Party as a whole. If you’re relying on oil, as we are in Alaska, it can appear that Democrats are your enemy. They are distrustful of oil companies. They are distrustful of resource extraction.

    MAN: We’re not with any political party. We actually do independent research.

    LIZ RUSKIN: Meanwhile, Alaskans are being hit with an avalanche of political communication on a scale they have never seen before.

    WOMAN: It’s so annoying, not to mention phone calls and Internet ads.

    LIZ RUSKIN: The size of the bombardment reflects the state of the race.

    DAN SULLIVAN: Literally, control of the U.S. Senate is at stake. And, again, I think we can start moving our country in a positive direction, in contrast to where it’s gone under Harry Reid, Barack Obama, and Mark Begich.

    LIZ RUSKIN: That kind of anti-Washington talk is at the core of Sullivan’s campaign. He says he would be more effective than Begich at rolling back federal limits on oil production.

    DAN SULLIVAN: It’s not only opportunities for Alaskans and our future. It’s an opportunity for Americans is to have more access to federal lands.

    LIZ RUSKIN: For two months, Sullivan has held a narrow lead in the race. As a result, Begich is in overdrive. And some polls suggest he may be closing the gap. The senator stresses that he has delivered results for Alaskans and he’s keeping his distance from Obama.

    SEN. MARK BEGICH: I know that’s all he has to talk about, is Obama, but this is about Alaska. This is about the next six years.

    LIZ RUSKIN: To beat Sullivan, Begich needs a strong turnout operation. Supporters like these union workers could be essential to that effort.

    SEN. MARK BEGICH: I fight for what’s important for Alaska. Sometimes, I will disagree with the president. On guns, on oil and gas, on some other issues that he’s brought forward, I pushed back on them. I will fight for what’s important for Alaska. My record shows it, and I’m proud of the things we have been able to do.

    LIZ RUSKIN: The area of land owned by the federal government here is larger than the entire state of Texas. That gives Washington a big role to play in how Alaska uses its resources. And this Senate race is in part a debate over the merits and limits of federal power.

    Republican political consultant Art Hackney, who launch aid super PAC to support Sullivan, says Alaskans appreciate federal funds, but not Washington’s control.

    ART HACKNEY, GOP Political Consultant: In Alaska, federal overreach is a bad word. The stories are legion that — the stupidity of federal regulations and how they impact day-to-day lives in Alaska.

    So federal over-reach impacts just about everything, resource development, recreation. It’s — it’s a very salient point in how people decide what they do and don’t like about government.

    WOMAN: Nov. 4 is Election Day, but we’re asking people to vote early.

    LIZ RUSKIN: You hear other views from Alaska’s large Native population, which just gathered for a convention in Anchorage. Alaska Natives comprise 15 percent of the population, and those who identify as tribal members often see the federal government as an ally.

    HEATHER KENDALL-MILLER, Attorney, Native American Rights Fund: Our society needs a strong federal government for many reasons. But when it comes to relations with indigenous peoples, the federal government has always had a special relationship. It, by law, has an obligation to respect treaties and to protect and preserve a way of life. And Dan Sullivan doesn’t get that.

    LIZ RUSKIN: Alaskans are already casting ballots, thanks to early in-person voting. And the decision may be a national cliffhanger. Alaska is notorious for close elections that take days to fully count.

    If control of the Senate does rest on Alaska, the country could very well have its eyes on this race long after Election Day has passed.

    Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on these tensions and what’s behind them, I’m joined by Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine, and David Makovsky from the Washington Institute. He was part of Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiating team in the most recent talks.

    Welcome back to the program to both of you.

    DAVID MAKOVSKY, The Washington Institute For Near East Policy: You bet.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David Makovsky, first, how significant are these tensions we’re watching?

    DAVID MAKOVSKY: Look, you know, this is a conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that doesn’t lack for emotion and passion.

    And Jerusalem, on top of it, has even more doses than anything else. So we have seen episodes where things have flared and then things have kind of quieted down. So it’s hard to know for sure. But I think we need to make sure that cool heads prevail here, because we don’t want this conflict that’s a political conflict, Israeli-Palestinian, to be transformed into a Muslim-Jewish religious war, because political conflicts, you can solve. But religious wars, you can’t.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How concerned are you? How big a deal…

    HUSSEIN IBISH, The American Task Force on Palestine: I think it’s very dangerous.

    I think we’re closer to seeing a — the process of the development of another intifada than we have been since 2005, since 10 years ago, when the second intifada petered out. I don’t think it’s upon us, and I don’t think it’s likely to be produced in the next few days, but you can see all the elements coming together here, particularly as it’s clustered around East Jerusalem with the question about the settlements, the question about the future of the city and especially the holy places.

    And here you have that exact nexus of issues and the place where that kind of explosion or implosion could actually come about, yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you mentioned the settlements.

    David Makovsky, these new settlements, new construction, whatever you call it, how much of a sticking point, how much of an irritant is that in all this?

    DAVID MAKOVSKY: Well, I agree with Hussein.

    I mean, when you have a vacuum, when there’s no negotiations, we were led by Secretary Kerry’s initiative. People thought, OK, there is an effort to try to solve this, but when there’s no effort, when there’s a vacuum, all sort of things bubble up, and that’s — I add, I think that exacerbates the concerns. The issue…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean the fact that the talks collapsed?


    DAVID MAKOVSKY: Right. They collapsed last spring and so…


    DAVID MAKOVSKY: Exactly.

    So, look, the — these neighborhoods in Jerusalem, I mean, I don’t want to bore people with all the technicalities, but there’s six phases of planning. So this is recycled news from 2010. And there’s going to be another four more of these announcements probably over the next few years over the same few apartment buildings.

    The problem is this. Netanyahu will say that, in these particular neighborhoods are areas that even Palestinian maps, not all of them, by the way, but some of them will be Israel anyway. But when you don’t say the corollary of, well, I won’t build in the other areas that will be Palestine, people assume the worst. If you don’t draw the distinction, they won’t draw the distinction.

    So I think there’s a need to do both sides of this. If you’re going to build in there saying that’s going to be Israel anyway in a two-state peace map, then you have got to say where you’re not going to build.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, is it just a matter of how it’s talked about?

    HUSSEIN IBISH: I don’t think so.

    I certainly agree that these settlements have not been built, and they may not be, and there is a multistage planning process, so that you get — you pay the cost politically many times over each time it’s announced. But Givat Hamatos is not in any consensus area. And it does really…


    JUDY WOODRUFF: This is the name of the…

    HUSSEIN IBISH: It’s the name one of the new settlements that has been announced. And that’s the one that’s probably the biggest single irritant between the United States and Israel and between the international community and Israel.

    But all of these send a message to the Palestinians and the other Arabs that Israel intends to keep hold of Jerusalem, that Israel doesn’t want to compromise on Jerusalem, because, if you really did want a two-state solution, why keep digging the hole deeper? Why keep expanding the number of settlers and the areas that are settled, especially in strategic areas that cut off Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank? That’s a question I have never had a good answer to.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there a calming influence out there that could make a difference in getting things to cool down, David Makovsky?

    DAVID MAKOVSKY: It’s a great question.

    I think what’s key is, you know, Netanyahu said “status quo.” He’s really, I think, coming out against the people who want to go on the Temple Mount. And really it’s the security chiefs who say, hey, this is a powder keg, people. And each one has good arguments, will say, you know, that this is the holiest site is the two — Solomon’s Temple, Herod’s Temple.

    And it’s on — and the ruins of a mosque — of the temples is where the mosque is. History has cut for calm, because when the area became — was taken by Israel in 1967, Moshe Dayan, who was the winning general, said, you know what Jordanian religious authorities called the Wakf, you administered this before the war, you administer it now. Israel’s not doing it.

    And the rabbinate said don’t go up to there, not because it’s not holy, because it’s too holy. Wait for the messiah. But what happened is, this new insurgent group says, oh, we have — now can historically delineate through archaeology where it is. And that’s upsetting the status quo.

    The message of the security services, keep the status quo. Make sure this powder keg doesn’t go off.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see this?


    HUSSEIN IBISH: Well, I think that there are important calming elements here that could be — certainly, the United States and the rest of the international community can help, but with incentives and disincentives to the parties to calm things down.

    I think we can play certainly a significant role in encouraging the parties to do that. In addition, I think the public sentiment can be…


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Even — even with the peace — even with the talks stopped?


    HUSSEIN IBISH: Yes, even with the talks, because — yes, because there are still bilateral relations.

    And, certainly, we did have this interesting take by Jeffrey Goldberg this week about how there’s a deterioration. He described white-hot White House anger against Israel and Netanyahu’s contempt, as he put it, for the administration.

    But that doesn’t matter, because there are still bilateral relations, also bilateral relations with the Palestinians which could be utilized to calm things down. I think also the public can be — especially if it’s given reasons to hope and reasons to choose to calm down, can be helpful on both sides.

    And, particularly, the Palestinian public has shown a reticence to get sucked into another intifada. In this summer, during the Gaza war, there was a major incident at Kalandia refugee camp — sorry — checkpoint near Kalandia refugee camp, on a very holy night during Ramadan.

    And the public ultimately backed off and didn’t go for it. So, if the public in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Palestinian public, can be given reasons to hope for something better tomorrow, I don’t think they’re going to be interested in going down this road. This would be pure last-ditch desperation and anger.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hussein Ibish, David Makovsky, we thank you.

    HUSSEIN IBISH: Thank you so much.

    DAVID MAKOVSKY: Thank you very much.

    The post Are we seeing signs of a third intifada? – Part 2 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s one of the holiest sites for each of the world’s three major religions. Known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount, it’s also home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the most sacred in Islam. Now it has become ground zero for another round of fighting between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

    After weeks of recurring clashes, new street battles between Palestinians and Israeli police broke out in Jerusalem. They were triggered when Israeli police cornered and killed a Palestinian man. He was suspected of seriously wounding a far-right Jewish activist, Yehuda Glick, who had demanded greater access to the place Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims know as Al-Aqsa.

    Amidst the trouble, the Israelis closed the site for the first time since 2000. That brought condemnation from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Through an aide, he charged the closure was tantamount to a declaration of war.

    NABIL ABU RUDEINEH, Spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas (through interpreter): We condemn and refuse the Israeli escalation in Jerusalem and over the holy shrines. We will take all legal measures to hold Israel accountable and to stop these repeated attacks, because the continuation of Israeli aggression and dangerous escalation will cause more violence. The Israeli government is responsible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hours later, Israel announced it will reopen the site to worshipers. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Abbas for starting the trouble with a recent call to ban Jews from the compound.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel (through interpreter): I still have not heard from the international community so much as one word of condemnation for this incitement. The international community needs to stop its hypocrisy and take action against the inciters.

    I have ordered significant reinforcements, including reinforcement of resources, so that we can maintain both security in Jerusalem and the status quo in the holy places.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All of this comes as tensions are still running high over the summer war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas militants. Israel has also announced plans for more settlement-building in East Jerusalem, a move that’s inflamed Palestinians and been denounced by U.S. officials.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. economy has turned in another solid quarter. Growth from July through September ran at an annual rate of 3.5 percent. That follows an even stronger second quarter. And falling gas prices are expected to help keep the trend going through the rest of the year. We will look at how the economy is affecting the midterm elections later in the program.

    GWEN IFILL: On Wall Street, that upbeat growth report and strong corporate earnings pushed stocks higher again. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 221 points to close 17195; the Nasdaq rose nearly 17 points to close at 4566; and the S&P added 12 to close at 1994.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A nurse from Maine who’s returned from West Africa’s Ebola zone defied a voluntary quarantine today. Kaci Hickox took a bicycle ride with her boyfriend in Fort Kent, Maine. She’d returned there Monday after spending three days in forced isolation in New Jersey. She’s said she’s free of symptoms.

    Maine officials are pursuing a court order to keep Hickox at home until the incubation period for the virus ends.

    GWEN IFILL: There are new warnings about the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. The new head of the country’s response center said today the crisis is getting worse and that efforts to fight the disease are three months behind. That’s one day after officials reported the rate of infection in neighboring Liberia appears to be slowing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A different crisis gripped another West African nation today. The president of Burkina Faso, who’s ruled for 27 seven years, agreed to drop his bid for another term after protesters stormed Parliament. They set the building on fire, and from there thousands moved on to attack the homes of government ministers. The president declared a state of emergency and dropped out of sight.

    GWEN IFILL: Fighting has flared again in Ukraine, despite a cease-fire. The country’s military says seven of its soldiers were killed in the last 24 hours in the eastern part of the country. That’s the most in two weeks. Government troops and pro-Russian rebels have clashed repeatedly since September 5, when the truce was signed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, the Education Department announced a new rule governing for-profit colleges whose students can’t find jobs that let them pay off their federal loans. They will have to show that a graduate’s estimated annual loan payment doesn’t exceed 8 percent of total earnings. The effort targets career schools that soak up tuition, but provide little useful training.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The mayor who led Boston through the Boston Marathon bombings, Thomas Menino, died today after battling cancer. Menino was hailed for uniting the city after the bomb attack killed three people and wounded more than 260 in April 2013.

    FORMER MAYOR THOMAS MENINO, Boston: There’s going to be a lot of help needed for them, but we will be there for them, because that’s what Boston is all about. We’re one city committed to making a better city for all the people not to forget as you go further down the road.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Menino retired this year after serving more than 20 years as mayor, the most in the city’s history. He was 71 years old.

    GWEN IFILL: The acclaimed poet Galway Kinnell was remembered today for his long award-winning career. He died Tuesday of leukemia at 87. Kinnell first gained notice in the early 1960s and continued publishing for decades. Along the way, he won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award for such works as “Body Rags” and “Mortal Acts, Mortal Words.”

    The post News Wrap: Burkina Faso declares state of emergency appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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