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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: It sounds like a story from another era, or at least another place, disadvantaged women working long hours in unhealthy conditions for meager wages, and sometimes, at least to start, no real pay.

    But a two-part series in The New York Times found all this is happening today in the nail salons of New York City and other big cities. Among the findings, the women often have to pay shop owners a fee to be hired and routinely share cramped, run-down living quarters.

    Reporter Sarah Maslin Nir spent a year investigating the story, and she joins me now.

    Sarah Maslin Nir, welcome to the NewsHour.

    What got you interested in looking at the plight of these women who work in a nail salon?

    SARAH MASLIN NIR, The New York Times: Thank you for having me.

    It was actually a little bit of a fluke. I was getting a pedicure at one of the very odd 24-hour salons in Manhattan, and I marveled at it to the woman doing my toes. And it was about 10:00 a.m. And I said, how come — who works the night shift?  And she said, oh, I work the night shift. I said, but it’s day.

    And she said, I work 24 hours a day, six days a week. I live in a barracks above the salon. They shake me awake to do night treatments. And on the seventh day, I sleep for 24 hours and come right back.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what did you find?

    SARAH MASLIN NIR: And I thought, this woman is enslaved.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you went on. Go ahead, yes.

    SARAH MASLIN NIR: I did. I went beyond this woman.

    And I ended up interviewing over 125 manicurists. And I found that that woman is the extreme, but not that far off from the reality. As you said before, people have to pay for their jobs, up to $200, sometimes even more. Then they work for free for weeks or months, until an arbitrary time when the owner decides that maybe they merit being paid. And then their starting salary is $30 a day.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you found a kind of hierarchy in terms of how they’re paid, is that right, depending on what country they may have been from, their family was from?

    SARAH MASLIN NIR: Well, that was particularly startling. The industry in New York City at least is about 80 percent Korean-owned, and that’s created a hierarchy the city’s 2,000 nail shops, a hiring hierarchy.

    Hispanic woman are viewed as the bottom. They’re viewed as unsanitary. And Chinese are above them. And Korean women, particularly young, beautiful women, are paid the most. And that governs everything about the salon, not just the pay.

    I had salons where the Hispanic workers say they are not allowed to speak 12 hours a day, while their Korean colleagues are free to do whatever they want. And it’s very painful for them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, we have some maps, Sarah, that show the major cities where nail salons are.

    Of course, you mentioned New York City, but you also looked at Los Angeles, San Francisco, some other places. And what you see is that women of all economic classes or at least those neighborhoods are patronizing these shops. What did you find?

    SARAH MASLIN NIR: Well, manicures have become this ultimate oxymoron, cheap luxury. There is no such thing.

    Someone is bearing the cost of your discount. And that someone, I found, is always the worker, the person least able to afford it. But actually the proliferation of salons in New York City, we have the most per capita of any metropolitan city in the U.S. You could call us the manicure capital of the United States.

    It’s led to a total decrease of prices. Manicures are $10 average here, I found. They’re $20 across the rest of the nation. Why, in the most expensive city in America, where a latte is $4, is the manicure price so low?  And, Judy, that is because the workers are not being paid.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How did you get these women to talk to you?  You write about that that wasn’t easy.

    SARAH MASLIN NIR: It was very challenging. And I worked with a team of extraordinarily, talented translator reporters who worked alongside me, six of them, two in each of the languages, Chinese, Korean and Spanish.

    And actually there are pickup spots located in Flushing, where workers go to get jobs across the tristate area and they are shuttled off. And every morning, the streets of Flushing are filled with nail salon workers, almost like migrant workers. And we spent about three months going every single morning and just asking these women, tell me your story.

    And what is so interesting is this act of a manicure is a very intimate thing. You’re holding hands with a woman for half-an-hour. You’re staring into her eyes. And people don’t see them still. And so when we said to these women, here’s a chance to be seen, some brave women took it, though, understandably, as illegal immigrants working undocumented and without licenses many times, many were afraid.

    And I understand. They had every reason not to tell me their stories, but some truly did.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, there is much more to this story. You’re — the second part of the series that ran today has to do with some of the health risks. It’s really a remarkable series in The New York Times.

    Sarah Maslin Nir, we thank you.

    SARAH MASLIN NIR: Thank you so much.


    The post Who’s really paying the price for those beautiful nails? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Workers applaud as Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha return to Number 10 Downing Street in London

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Joining me now for more on the outcome is Robin Niblett. He’s the director of Chatham House, an independent policy institute in London.

    Robin Niblett, welcome.

    So, how do you read these results?

    ROBIN NIBLETT, Chatham House: Well, they — they’re remarkable, in the sense that no one predicted them coming out quite the way they did. People thought the Conservatives might be able to cobble together a majority, but an outright majority wasn’t expected.

    I think it tells us that, at some level, the British people are still pretty cautious, certainly in the United Kingdom south of Scotland, where people saw the economy growing, unemployment low, and just decided, I think, they didn’t want to gamble that upturn in the economy with the Labor Party who had got some into the mess in the first place.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what would say are the main challenges then coming out of these results for Prime Minister Cameron?

    ROBIN NIBLETT: Well, I think he has got two in particular.

    One is Scotland, just the remarkable scene of the Scottish Nationalist Party taking 56 out of 59 seats, decimating Labor Party, for whom this had been the heartland of some of their best politicians. That means you have got a party in the north that believes up in Scotland that it has a mandate to stop austerity, to stop the cuts.

    But, of course, you have now got a party in the rest of United Kingdom led by the Conservatives, who believe they have got a mandate to complete the job. So he is going to have to pull those two sides together, perhaps through an extensive extension of devolution to the Scots.

    So, that’s number one. Number two is the E.U. referendum. There will be a referendum held by end of 2017, the latest, on whether the U.K. stays in or leaves the E.U. And it will be based on some negotiations he now needs to undertake extremely quickly with his other European counterparts.

    Then the final challenge for him is simply to do with the fact that the British economy is not yet fixed. We’re still running a 5 percent deficit to GDP, or the highest in Europe, so a lot of cuts to come. So, he has got a very, very full plate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what sort of alliances do you see him making in order to tackle these?  How do you see — for example, you describe a clear difference with the Scottish National Party over some economic decisions. How do you see Cameron approaching that?

    ROBIN NIBLETT: Well, I think the way he wants to approach it this time is, he has got an outright majority; 331 seats gives him a majority certainly over the left-leaning parties, close to 30 majority, more like 15, if you count all of the other parties included.

    So, this is his chance. After five years of having to do coalition government, where many Conservatives felt they had to compromise, this is his chance to follow the plan that the Conservatives saw. And so I don’t think they’re looking for partners. They would like to avoid having partners.

    The danger of course is that he ends up a little bit in the situation John Major was in, in 1992. He had a majority of a bit over 20, a bit more than David Cameron has right now. But pretty soon, he found that his backbenchers, those without positions in the cabinet and ministries, started to go sort of suicidal on Europe.

    They were absolutely determined to fight European integration. So when this E.U. referendum comes up, while he thinks he has got a majority to do his domestic agenda, he might find that his party rebels against him on the Europe part of his dossier.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How does this — Robin Niblett, does this new lineup affect the U.K.’s relationship with the United States?

    ROBIN NIBLETT: Well, it’s interesting, because David Cameron when he took power in 2010, his coalition government, I think made a deliberate effort to try to wean the U.K. off its special relationship with the United States.

    There was a sense to which the United States was pivoting or rebalancing to the Asia Pacific. The Brits had to be more self-interested. Some people described it as a return to the kind of new Elizabethan foreign policy, get back into bilateral relationships with China, with India, with the Gulf states, with Latin America.

    And there’s been a real effort to try to push the U.K. into a more sort of commercial diplomacy. To be frank, it’s not worked that well. And I think we will see in the second term perhaps a more cautious to foreign policy — partly, he has got such a full domestic agenda — and a hewing back to the United States to try and work together and be supportive on issues from Iran, to the climate change negotiations later on this year, obviously to tackling the extremism coming out of the Middle East.

    So I think we’re in for a more sort of balanced, almost traditional foreign policy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Robin Niblett joining us from London, we thank you.

    ROBIN NIBLETT: Pleasure. Thank you.

    The post What battles lie ahead for Cameron’s second turn as prime minister? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A Conservative party supporter wears a rosette in support of Prime Minister and local member of Parliament David Cameron at the counting centre, as votes are counted in Britain's general election, in Witney

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United Kingdom woke up on this day after national elections to find the same political party in charge, but with a message from voters that will take some sorting out.

    In the end, it was a trouncing by the Tories, as Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party won an outright majority in Parliament. He will return to Number 10 Downing Street for another five-year term after a bruising campaign.

    DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, United Kingdom: We must ensure that we bring our country together. As I said in the small hours of this morning, we will govern as a party of one nation, one United Kingdom.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Pre-election public polls had forecast a tight race with the Labor Party. Instead, Labor, led by Ed Miliband, was blown out. And Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats took crushing losses, dropping 49 seats. Both party chiefs resigned their leadership posts this morning.

    So, in this new Parliament, of the 650 seats, Conservatives will hold 331, Labor 232 seats, the Scottish National Party will have 56, and the Liberal Democrats just eight. Besides the Conservatives, the other big winner was the Scottish National Party. It swept virtually every race in Scotland, all but ending Labor’s longtime dominance there.

    The post Cameron’s party wins majority in UK elections, defying polls appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. job market showed signs of rebounding last month, after a dismal start to the year. The Labor Department reported today that employers added 223,000 jobs in April, up from just 85,000 in March. That means the economy averaged 190,000 new jobs a month in the first quarter, well below last year’s average. Still, the unemployment rate in April fell to 5.4 percent, the lowest since May of 2008.

    Wall Street soared on the jobs report. The Dow Jones industrial average shot up nearly 270 points to close near 18200. The Nasdaq rose 58, and the S&P 500 added 28. For the week, the Dow gained about 1 percent, the S&P about a half-a-percent, while the Nasdaq lost a half-a-percent.

    President Obama took up the call for an Asian trade deal again today in a visit to Nike headquarters in Oregon. The president said critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including many of his fellow Democrats, are just wrong.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If we don’t write the rules for trade around the world, guess what?  China will. And they will write those rules in a way that gives Chinese workers and Chinese businesses the upper hand and locks American-made goods out. That’s the choice we face.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Nike has been criticized over its labor practices in Asia, where most of its shoes are made. It promised today to create 10,000 jobs in the U.S. if the trade deal goes through.

    Thousands of police from across the country turned out today for the funeral of a New York City officer; 25-year-old Brian Moore was fatally shot on Saturday and died Monday. Police lined the road this morning outside a Long Island church and packed inside for the memorial mass. The display of solidarity came as police across the nation are under intense scrutiny.

    The Justice Department did announce today that it will investigate Baltimore’s police department in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death. The city’s mayor asked for the civil rights review this week.

    U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she hopes it will help repair relations between police and minorities.

    LORETTA LYNCH, Attorney General: It was the clear that recent events, including the tragic in-custody death of Mr. Freddie Gray, had given rise to a serious erosion of public trust. This process is meant to ensure that officers are being provided with the tools that they need, including training, policy guidance and equipment, to be more effective to partner with civilians and to strengthen public safety.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The review will look for patterns of racial bias and excessive force. There have been similar federal investigations in Ferguson, Missouri, and in Cleveland.

    The threat level has been raised at U.S. military bases nationwide. That puts security at its highest level in nearly four years. Pentagon officials say there’s been no specific threat. Instead, they cite general concerns since last weekend’s attack on an exhibit and contest of Mohammed in Texas.

    Saudi Arabia announced today that it’s going ahead with a unilateral cease-fire in Yemen starting May 12. A Saudi coalition will halt its bombing campaign for five days to allow humanitarian assistance into Yemen. The foreign minister made the announcement with Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris. But he warned Yemen’s Houthi rebels to abide by the truce.

    ADEL AL-JUBEIR, Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States: It is our hope and our desire that the Houthis will come to their senses and realize that the interests of Yemen and the Yemeni people are — should be the top priority for everyone. The cease-fire will end should the Houthis or their allies not live up to the agreements contained in this issue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the meantime, the Saudis resumed bombing a Houthi stronghold province in Northern Yemen, after giving civilians until sundown to flee.

    In Pakistan, the Philippine and Norwegian ambassadors were killed today when their helicopter crashed and burned in the northern part of the country. The wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors and members of the crew also died, and wreckage from the crash set a local school ablaze. The Taliban claimed they shot down the helicopter, but the government denied it.

    And much of Europe marked 70 years today since Nazi Germany’s defeat in World War II. Wreath-laying ceremonies took place in Paris and in London, where British political leaders joined in a tribute hours after the country’s election. Russia holds its own victory parade tomorrow, but many Western leaders are boycotting that event, due to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

    The post News Wrap: Obama touts trade deal at Nike headquarters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Credit: Samra Habib

    Credit: Samra Habib

    As a child, photographer and editor Samra Habib lived within what she describes as the strict “culture of surveillance” of mainstream Islam.

    But as she grew into her 20s, Habib began to question her sexuality — as well as her own understanding of what it meant to be Muslim.

    “There’s a wide range of diversity that exists within Islam,” she said in an interview with PBS NewsHour. “The conversations I would have with other queer Muslims, I realized this was a voice that wasn’t being heard.”

     Credit: Samra Habib

    Credit: Samra Habib

    Inspired by her peers, many of whom attend Unity Mosque, a “human positive” mosque in Toronto, Canada, Habib decided to begin taking portraits of Muslim people who also identify as part of the LGBTQ community.

     Credit: Samra Habib

    Credit: Samra Habib

    Habib said she’s been encouraged by the feedback she’s received from people who have reached out to her from across the globe after seeing her photographs.

    “I’ve had a bunch of people who identify as conservative Muslims thank me in emails for opening up a dialogue where Islam doesn’t feel so exclusive that you can’t practice it,” she said.

     Credit: Samra Habib

    Credit: Samra Habib

    Today, her work is chronicled on the Tumblr, “Just me and Allah” and was showcased at an exhibit at the Brooklyn Community Pride Center in New York City.

    The post ‘Just me and Allah': Photographer seeks to capture diversity of Islam appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    MEGAN THOMPSON: Jimmy Williams has lived on the south side of Atlanta for most of his 37 years. Even before he was born, white residents of the neighborhoods around here had begun leaving for the suburbs. And later, big employers like a nearby general motors plant shut down. Many areas around here have been struggling for decades.

    JIMMY WILLIAMS: When I was growing up, this- Wow. When I was growing up, it’s- some of these streets, you better not walk down. Out of everybody that I grew up with, let’s see, I can count probably about five of ‘em that’s still living and not in prison.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: After high school, things went south for Williams, too. His father had died, his mom had cancer and needed help paying medical bills. Williams’ minimum wage job at a grocery store wasn’t cutting it. So Williams says he did the only thing he could see to make enough money to pay the bills. He started dealing cocaine.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Did you see people doing what you did around you when you grew up?

    JIMMY WILLIAMS: Yeah, I mean, that- that was the entire neighborhood. That’s what it was. That was the whole neighborhood. That’s how I got into it.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: He ended up in prison for seven years. His mother passed away when he was in there.

    JIMMY WILLIAMS: And that’s the worst thing that could have ever happened to me. Because I think about that every time I look at somebody selling dope on the street. I’m like, “Don’t you know the people that you love can leave you while you in the midst of your destruction? Don’t you know that?”

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Stories like Williams’ are common in many neighborhoods on Atlanta’s south side. Experts say areas like this around the nation suffer from they call, “concentrated poverty.”

    ROLF PENDALL: It’s a small number of neighborhoods where you have a large number of America’s lowest income people.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Rolf Pendall of the Urban Institute in Washington, DC, says there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of people living in high-poverty neighborhoods – almost 80% since 2000.

    Places where people with money have fled … and companies have disinvested. Much of it compounded by a legacy of racism and segregation, he says.

    ROLF PENDALL: And those who are left behind find themselves increasingly isolated in neighborhoods where no one wants to invest, and few people want to come in if they have a choice. The businesses don’t want to come in. Employers don’t want to locate there. So, those are neighborhoods of- of- kind of almost neighborhoods of last resort. It’s extremely difficult for the people who- who remain behind to- to get ahead.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: How to turn around areas of concentrated poverty has been a question American cities have long grappled with. But experts like Pendall point to another neighborhood, about six miles away on the east side of Atlanta.

    East Lake has become a model for one type of approach, supported by America’s second richest person, investor warren Buffett.

    WARREN BUFFETT: The American dream has been very real for millions and millions of people over the years. But there’s been an American nightmare that has accompanied that.

    And that’s where people that equally have tried to get educated and worked hard and had good habits have found themselves living a life that’s been on the edge throughout their entire lives and the same for their children. And America can do better than that

    MEGAN THOMPSON: In 2009, Buffett, Atlanta real estate developer Tom Cousins and former hedge fund manager Julian Robertson helped fund a new organization called Purpose Built Communities.

    The group now advises local non-profits and governments in high-poverty areas in 11 cities … including new Orleans, Columbus and Buffett’s home town of Omaha.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Its strategy is to fight concentrated poverty on multiple fronts all at once. It often starts by tearing down low-income housing projects and replacing them with mixed income units.

    But it goes beyond housing. The model also includes building new schools … establishing health and wellness initiatives … there’s even job placement services. All of it coordinated by a local non-profit.

    WARREN BUFFETT: You couldn’t do it piecemeal. You really had to have something that was transformative in nature.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Purpose Built Communities’ work is modeled on what began as an experiment on the east side of Atlanta in the 90’s … a time when, across Atlanta and the U.S., many big public housing projects were being torn down and replaced with mixed-income developments.

    SHIRLEY FRANKLIN: This was the only community in the city that I would not drive to alone. I was terrified.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: You were scared to come here.

    SHIRLEY FRANKLIN: I was scared to come here alone.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Shirley Franklin is the former mayor of Atlanta … and now the head of purpose built communities – the group Warren Buffett supports.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: So, when we talk about concentrated poverty, this- this was it.

    SHIRLEY FRANKLIN: This was one of the worst examples.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The neighborhood was home to a dangerous housing project called east lake meadows… and bordered a once-famous golf course that had also fallen into disrepair. But step by step, tom cousins, the City of Atlanta and other partners tried their experiment.

    They knocked down East Lake Meadows, and replaced it with new apartments, half subsidized, half market-rate. They built a new charter school. The wellness part was solved by opening up a YMCA, and the neighborhood’s first grocery store in 40 years.

    There were job placement services for residents, too. And the East Lake Foundation was launched to coordinate all the work. Like the other mixed-income developments going up around Atlanta at the time, there were also new rules. You had to have a job to live there. And, a criminal record made it harder to get in. East Lake began to change….and word was getting out.

    To people like Marilyn Hack, a mother of three who was anxious to move out of a high-poverty neighborhood.

    MARILYN HACK: There’s saying about being a product of your environment and I was just worried about that. That they’ll get caught up and they won’t be ambitious and they won’t- So, that’s why when they came home, it was always, “Wash your hands. Get a snack. Homework.” Always. And I still do it to this day. Always.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: But you were afraid that no matter how hard you tried there- it could be that this environment might impact them in ways that you just couldn’t control.

    MARILYN HACK: Yeah. That’s why when a neighbor came and told me about this community that had- “Oh, there’s some place accepting applications and we should try it.”

    MEGAN THOMPSON: In 2000, hack moved in to East Lake. The single mother who had been making 10,000 a year as a nurse’s assistant…earned two associates degrees and found a new job with the help of the east lake job center.

    Today, she makes $60,000 a year as a registered nurse and has her own business teaching CPR. Her oldest two kids went to college – one even got a PhD. And her 18-year-old is going in the fall, with a scholarship from the East Lake Foundation.

    MARILYN HACK: My big thing was, we’re gonna get college degrees. We are all gonna get college degrees. Two degree minimum. That was my thought, my goal, my everything.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Supporters say Marilyn’s story illustrates just how east lake has improved the lives of the low-income people who came to live there. There are other measurements, too.

    Violent crime there is down by 90%…and student test scores have risen dramatically. A federal program is even now trying an approach similar to East Lake’s. The golf course was also restored, and today hosts the culminating event during the PGA playoff championships.

    The club’s proceeds help fund the east lake foundation, which continues the work in the community…the work now being replicated in other cities.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Here at East Lake, you have a very wealthy man who’s made this his personal project. You’ve got a very famous golf course next door that’s generated millions of dollars to help support the work. Those are some really unique circumstances here. How can other cities replicate the model when they might not be so lucky?

    SHIRLEY FRANKLIN: Well, every city and every community has some assets. And our model does not require a golf course. And we have found that money is not the hardest part of this The biggest obstacle is committed leadership, who’s willing to work across all sectors, and with all sectors of the community to find a plan that works for them.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The development at East Lake didn’t come without controversies, either. Rising property values mean the surrounding area’s become less affordable. And there are fewer apartments for low-income families than there used to be.

    The original project had 650 subsidized units … today there are only 270 – the rest are market-rate. One study found that many of the people forced to leave when housing projects were torn down across Atlanta just ended up in other high-poverty areas.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: So, did the project solve the problem of concentrated poverty or were people pushed out? Was it- the problem pushed to other parts of Atlanta?

    SHIRLEY FRANKLIN: We- we have a problem, if what we try to do is, in my opinion and in my experience, if we’re not willing to shake the whole thing up. In other words, if we’re not looking- we’re not willing to change the paradigm.

    SHIRLEY FRANKLIN: the question is – what might work. We believe that you have to have that mix of income – both to attract the amenities and- and the support, but also to well serve the people who are at the lowest end.

    JIMMY WILLIAMS: Things have got to change around here …

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Jimmy Williams hopes his neighborhood on the south side of Atlanta will change the way the east side has.

    JIMMY WILLIAMS: There’s an apocalypse that’s happening every day, and it’s called poverty.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: After prison, he started his own contracting business and is dedicated to improving the impoverished neighborhoods around here – rehabbing abandoned homes and building an urban farm.

    Doing what he can to keep kids from falling into the same traps that he did…traps that just don’t seem to go away.

    The post Can Atlanta’s ‘neighborhoods of last resort’ be lifted out of poverty? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: The call to prayer at Cape Towns newest mosque, which advertises itself as one of a kind in South Africa.

    TAJ HARGEY: We are the only mosque by the way in the whole country that has the words all welcome. We chose the name open mosque to really identify what the mosque was about—it was open to all.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Sixty-year-old Taj Hargey is the man behind this new mosque– a mosque he sees worthy of being replicated in other parts of the world.

    Hargey says his mosque is open to non-muslims, homosexuals—women are allowed to preach from the pulpit—they pray side by side with the men.

    Tanweer is one of the few who prays here regularly ever since the Mosque opened last September.

    TANWEER: I come to this mosque every week because this is the only mosque that I know of where there’s equality in the genders, where females sit and can actually view the sermon from the front and we’re considered equals to men.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: A counter, he says, to the daily stream of news and images that portray Islam as extremist and violent.

    In fact, Hargey has been challenging Muslim orthodoxy for years..

    Born and raised in Cape Town Hargey went abroad and studied at Oxford-he has a Phd in Religious studies.

    He made headlines in Britain last year because of his ‘ban the burqa’ campaign.

    TAJ HARGEY:  This idea of face masking, if its an islamic practice. Why is it banned in mecca? No woman which goes to mecca the holiest mosque in islam is allowed to cover her face—so this notion that is an islamic practice with due respect is nonsense..it may be a cultural expression..fine..it may be a personal wish..fine—If I want to put a bone through my nose—I have a right..but then do I have a right to say a bone through my nose is an islamic thing?

    SHAFIQ MORTON: It think the first reaction from the muslim community was one of surprise, of astonishment and then i think a certain amount of anger.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Shafiq Morton is a journalist and a convert to Islam.

    SHAFIQ MORTON:  There was a feeling of insult and hurt as well that somebody could come in and make these assumptions about the state of the community and make these claims that the community wasn’t open, that it wasn’t welcoming and that it was a closed community that it was ultra-conservative in the negative sense.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: But it’s not just Hargey seeking an alternative to conservative Islam. The idea has caught on in small numbers in places like Canada to Paris to Los Angeles where mosques have opened up seeking to cater to women or gay people.

    HUSSEIN RASHID: I think what we’re seeing is an attempt to really go back to debates that have existed in early muslim traditions and try to bring those traditions back to the front.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Hussein Rashid is a professor of religious studies at Hofstra University on Long Island.

    HUSSEIN RASHID: When we look at these new centers coming up, I think we have to see it– not as a trend towards we’re gonna have gay mosques or a trend towards having women’s mosques. But really it’s a pattern of muslims are now reimagining what these spaces could be like more largely.  And so it’s important because it’s not the transformation of the tradition but it is the adaptation of the tradition.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:Even so Hargey’s interpretation of Islam has put him at odds with the mainstream Muslim community here-established nearly 400 years ago by slaves from the Dutch East Indies–present day Indonesia.

    Muslims now account for  1.5 percent of South Africa’s population. Hargey’s call for a revolution on how Islam is practiced has made him a target–last year there were 3 arson attacks against the mosque.

    His theology is a sharp departure from mainstream, Islam—a few miles away at the large Gatesville mosque women pray from the balcony at the back of the mosque and are separated by a barrier.

    Mainstream muslims say it has been this way for centuries and they are against what Hargey is doing..

    AMIEN GAMZA: He doesn’t represent Islam what his teaching and his philosophy is totally at variance with islamic philosophy. Completely at variance.

    YOUSEF GAMZA: I would say he’s a heretic and we will leave him to his own devices, ya he’s an imposter.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Some people are calling you an imposter..even a heretic?

    TAJ HARGEY:I am not a heretic—they have very little grounds theologically and otherwise to condemn this mosque—what they are doing is scraping the bottom of the barrel. They are issuing tendentious leaflets anonymous and so forth saying i am gay because har gay—means the gay part of my name..i’m gay—nonsense like that.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Although Hargay’s position on homosexuality has been questioned—so we asked him for a clarification..

    TAJ HARGEY:  Well—I don’t endorse homosexual living. I think this is not what the koran teaches, but like I’ve said earlier, I do not have the right to condemn people. It is not our business to decide who enters this mosque or not and the Koran is very specific that judgement belongs to god alone, so if the homosexual or the lesbian comes in known to me or unknown to me we don’t have the right to exclude them from this gathering.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: For all their differences, Hargey and the long established Gatesville mosque are actually not that far apart

    The imam of that mosque, Sheik Alexander says nobody is asked about their sexual orientation when they come to pray..

    ABDURAHMAN ALEXANDER: Even though homosexuality is condemned in islam my heart and my arms are opened to those people who have a different sexual orientation always encouraging them to come back to god almighty but the mosque is still open for them because they are still human beings.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: And Hargey’s critics say it is implied that all mosques are ‘open’ in one fashion or another.

    For example this mosque in the Cape Town suburb of Claremont has operated with ‘open’ practices for years..

    SA’DIYYA SHAIKH: The space is effectively, if you walk into the room, there are women on the right side and men on the left side. And there’s a narrow rope. So, for example when my husband and I go there my husband sits there, we sit next to each other effectively. And when I say rope it’s a thin rope and our kids can play in between.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Rashid says in the South Africa mosque and others like it people are reacting to what he calls a ‘culture of exclusion’ in the centers they belong to.

    HUSSEIN RASHID: So it’s one thing to say, “of course, we’re open.  we don’t do a check if you’re gay.”  but at the same time, there’s a culture of where are women located in a mosque– how do your sermons talk about different people who are gay or people of a different ethnicity?

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Conservative Muslims in Cape Town don’t think Hargay is going to get many followers at his mosque.

    The turnouts at Hargay’s mosque have been small.

    TAJ HARGEY: Because they have been intimidated and frightened into not coming. People are afraid for their lives.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: The arson attacks late last year are still under investigation Cape Towns Muslim Judicial Council declined to comment on Hargay’s mosque— however, its leaders have urged tolerance and condemned the acts of violence.

    Taj Hargey’s claims and approach have stirred up controversy—but they have also struck a nerve in the Islamic community especially on the issue of gender equality..

    SA’DIYYA SHAIKH: I like the fact that we’ve started conversations about this..I like the fact that people are falling over themselves to claim openness when in reality there are a number of mosques that simply don’t have spaces for women.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:And Hargey—he says he’s not afraid of all those critics.

    TAJ HARGEY: If they thought that somehow we would shut up shop and somehow we’ll disappear they have another thing coming. Even if we just have two or three people here this mosque will not close.

    The post Is Cape Town’s women and gay-friendly mosque a sign of new Muslim attitudes? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    American billionaire Warren Buffett pledged years ago to donate almost all of his vast wealth to charity.

    And one project that could benefit: the fight against concentrated poverty.

    “The American dream has been very real for millions and millions of people over the years,” Buffett said. “But there’s been an American nightmare that has accompanied that.”

    Buffett said he thinks the Earned Income Tax Credit is one of the best ways to level the playing field for lower-income families. And Buffett, the nation’s second-richest man, said he hopes income inequality will be an issue in the race for president.

    He points out that since the first Forbes 400 list was put out in the 1980’s, the aggregate wealth of the people on it, like himself, has increased by 2,300 percent.

    At the same time, the income of the bottom quintile of Americans has increased by less than one percent.

    “Clearly, there’s something out of whack,” Buffett told NewsHour. “I would like to hear any candidate say they felt about that and what they intended to do about it. It’s got to be a big issue.”

    The post Buffett: People living in poverty suffer from the ‘American Nightmare’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    If misery loves company, the same could be said about poverty.

    According to the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., the number of people living in high-poverty areas in the U.S. has risen since the year 2000 by almost 80 percent. This has created impoverished clusters, neighborhoods and entire communities that now suffer from what is known as concentrated poverty.

    One such area is the Lakewood Heights community in Atlanta, Georgia, where crime rates are high and many homes sit dilapidated and abandoned. Here, the poverty rate hovers around 30 percent.

    NewsHour Weekend toured the neighborhood with community organizers Tina Arnold, the executive director of Sustainable Lakewood, and Rev. Houston Wheeler, who has worked in urban development in Atlanta since the 1970s.

    The post Here’s what concentrated poverty looks like in South Atlanta appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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     A federal court has ruled that the government's search of a traveling businessman's laptop at the California border was unreasonable and violated his privacy. Photo by Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters

    A federal court has ruled that the government’s search of a traveling businessman’s laptop at the California border was unreasonable and violated his privacy. Photo by Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A federal court has ruled that the government’s search of a traveling businessman’s laptop at the California border was unreasonable and violated his privacy.

    In an opinion posted Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson suppressed evidence obtained from the computer of South Korean businessman Jae Shik Kim, undercutting the government’s case that he conspired to sell aircraft technology illegally to Iran. Jackson said that federal law enforcement improperly used Kim’s border crossing as an excuse to seize his computer and gather evidence it needed to prove suspected arms control violations.

    The ruling was a sharply worded rebuke of the Obama administration’s treatment of laptops as containers like any other that can be searched without a warrant and without time limits to protect national security.

    The search was unreasonable because it “was supported by so little suspicion of ongoing or imminent criminal activity” and “was so invasive of Kim’s privacy,” she wrote.

    President Barack Obama and his predecessors have maintained that people crossing into U.S. territory aren’t protected by the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure. That policy is intended to allow intrusive searches that keep drugs, child pornography and other illegal imports out of the country. But it also means the government could, at least in theory, target travelers for no reason other than political advocacy, for example.

    The American Civil Liberties Union and similar groups have argued that the policy has been used to build criminal cases against individuals when the government can’t obtain a warrant.

    In one case, a young computer programmer named David House sued the government for taking and copying the contents of his laptop, thumb drive and cellphone at the border after vacationing with his girlfriend in Mexico. House had been an associate of Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of leaking classified information. In documents released in the case, federal officials noted that House had left the country and were waiting for his return to search his laptop.

    The government eventually acknowledged that House had not committed a crime and promised as part of a 2013 legal settlement to destroy copies of his personal data obtained in the search.

    But court rulings on the matter have been mixed.

    In spring 2013, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government should have reasonable suspicion before conducting a comprehensive search of an electronic device. But that ruling only applies to the nine Western states and Guam that fall under that court’s jurisdiction, and it left questions about what constitutes a comprehensive search.

    Later that same year, a judge at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled in favor of laptop searches at the border, saying they were so rare that citizens weren’t at risk of being violated.

    In the latest ruling, Jackson said the search of Kim’s laptop clearly went beyond a routine border inspection because it involved transporting the computer 150 miles from the airport and holding it indefinitely so officials could copy and review its content.

    “After hearing all of the facts, the court cannot help but ask itself whether the examination in this case can accurately be characterized as a border search at all. And if not, it surely cannot be justified by the concerns underlying the border search doctrine,” Jackson wrote.

    According to a January announcement by the Justice Department, Kim and his company, Karham Eng. Corp., located in Seoul, South Korea, conspired with individuals in China and Iran to buy U.S. navigation technology used in aircraft and missiles and sell them to Iran.

    Officials at the Justice Department declined comment. The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    The post Court rules search of businessman’s laptop at border ‘unreasonable’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Attorney General Loretta Lynch holds a news conference announcing a federal civil rights investigation into the Baltimore Police Department. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    Attorney General Loretta Lynch holds a news conference announcing a federal civil rights investigation into the Baltimore Police Department. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Justice Department waded anew Friday into fraught big city police-community relations, with new Attorney General Loretta Lynch declaring the subject “one of the most challenging issues of our time.” She announced a wide-ranging investigation into Baltimore’s police.

    The federal civil rights investigation, which city officials requested following the death last month of a man in police custody, will search for discriminatory policing practices and examine allegations that Baltimore officers too often use excessive force and make unconstitutional searches and arrests.

    The investigation is to build upon the government’s voluntary and collaborative review of the Baltimore police that began last year. Since then, the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray and the days of rioting that followed exposed a “serious erosion of public trust,” Lynch said, and showed that community concerns about the police were more pervasive than initially understood and that a broader investigation was warranted.

    “It was clear to a number of people looking at this situation that the community’s rather frayed trust – to use an understatement – was even worse and has, in effect, been severed in terms of the relationship with the police department,” Lynch said.

    The announcement indicated that Lynch, who was sworn in last week as the successor to Eric Holder, is likely to keep the Justice Department engaged in a national dialogue about race relations and law enforcement. That issue consumed the final year of Holder’s tenure and flared most vividly last summer following the shooting death of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer.

    The federal department has undertaken dozens of other city police investigations, including more than 20 during Holder’s tenure. If they find systemic civil rights violations, the investigations typically result in court-enforceable agreements between the federal government and the local community that serve as blueprints for change and are overseen by an independent monitor. The Justice Department has the option of suing a police department that is unwilling to make changes.

    In some cases, such as in Ferguson – where Justice found sweeping patterns of racial discrimination – the federal government has initiated the process on its own; in others, including in Cleveland, city officials made the request.

    A separate Justice Department review of Baltimore police policies, by the Community Oriented Police Services office, will continue but its findings will be folded into the new civil rights investigation announced on Friday, Lynch said.

    Lynch visited Baltimore earlier this week to meet with city and community leaders as well as Gray’s family.

    “We’re talking about generations, not only of mistrust, but generations of communities that feel very separated from government overall,” she said on Friday. “So you’re talking about situations where there’s a flashpoint occurrence that coalesces years of frustration and anger. That’s what I think you saw in Baltimore.”

    The city endured days of unrest after Gray died April 19 following a week in a coma after his arrest. Protesters threw bottles and bricks at police the night of his funeral on April 27, injuring nearly 100 officers. More than 200 people were arrested as cars and businesses burned. Last week, Baltimore’s top prosecutor charged six police officers in connection with the death, and the Justice Department is investigating the encounter for potential civil rights violations.

    Gray family attorney Billy Murphy said the investigation could put an end to “race-oriented policing.”

    “That improper searches and seizure are no longer tolerated and that improper arrests will be a thing of the past,” Murphy said Friday. “All this can happen in Baltimore with the information, because of this investigation.”

    Friday’s announcement followed a request from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who initially appeared determined to fix the city’s problems on her own but then on Wednesday requested a Justice Department investigation that she said could help “repair the public’s trust” in the police.

    “Our city is making progress in repairing the fractured relationship between police and community, but bolder reforms are needed and we will not shy away from taking on these challenges,” she said in a statement Friday.

    Baltimore police Capt. J. Eric Kowalczyk, a department spokesman, said Police Commissioner Anthony Batts stands by a statement in which he said he welcomed the mayor’s request “with open arms.”

    “We have never shied away from scrutiny or assistance,” Batts said on Thursday. “Our work is ongoing and anyone who wishes to be a part of helping the department better connect with the community will always be welcome.”

    He has said the department has accomplished reforms and made progress during his 2 1/2 years in office. By the end of 2014, he said, complaints about discourtesy had fallen 54 percent, and excessive force complaints were down more than 40 percent.

    Attorneys for the six police officers charged in Gray’s death asked a judge Friday to dismiss the case or assign it to someone other than the city’s top prosecutor, who they say has too many conflicts of interest to remain objective.

    The post Update: DOJ announces investigation into Baltimore police appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    ALLISON SANDZA, KLRU: Lupe Rodriguez is a high school Spanish teacher, a coach, and a part-time soccer referee. And he’s spending his Sunday morning the same way he spent Saturday, refereeing a soccer game for extra income.

    LUPE RODRIGUEZ, HIGH SCHOOL SPANISH TEACHER: I’ve been doing that for about a year and a half, for a couple of different reasons. Obviously the extra income, I enjoy soccer, so I’m lucky enough that I’m able to do something that lets me exercise. And provides a little extra income.

    ALLISON SANDZA, KLRU: Jim Fulbright is in a similar situation. Like Rodriguez, and so many other teachers here in Austin, he’s having trouble making ends meet.

    JIM FULBRIGHT, HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER: What I do find is that with the amount of money that I make working for the school district I am dipping into my savings continuously.

    ALLISON SANDZA: Median home prices have increased 34 percent in the last four years in the Austin area, while teacher pay has gone up only 5 percent in recent years.

    This has forced many Austin teachers far into the suburbs to afford homes to buy.

    DR. LORI TAYLOR, TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY: The rate of increase has clearly been most rapid in Austin and then most rapid would be the San Antonio metropolitan area, because these are the kinds of places that have grown from relatively sleepy, small cities to extremely large, vibrant, crowded cities, where the cost of living is substantially higher.

    ALLISON SANDZA: Dr. Lori Taylor runs the Mosbacher Institute at the George Bush School of Government at Texas A&M University. She studies regional differences in education costs.

    DR. LORI TAYLOR, TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY: The more desirable teachers, the more talented teachers, are going to sort themselves out to the more desirable jobs and you can wind up filling those positions with individuals who don’t have the same kinds of credentials as you would be able to fill if you were paying a market wage.

    ALLISON SANDZA: And while Austin’s real estate boom does mean more tax revenue for the city, that doesn’t necessarily mean more money for the district.

    By state law, commonly referred to as Robin Hood, Austin and other high property tax districts are required to send millions of dollars back to the state – which is then sent to communities with lower tax revenue.

    Hundreds of Texas districts sued the state over the complex school funding formula, part of which is based on data from 1989.

    A district judge in Austin ruled it unconstitutional in August. The Texas Supreme Court will hear the state’s appeal of that ruling later this year.

    TEXAS STATE REP. JIMMIE DON AYCOCK: I call it a pie fight. Of course everyone that’s benefitting from the current formula wants to leave it like it is, everybody that’s not benefitting wants to change it, and you can flip it either way.

    The districts will say they don’t believe in our current distribution model, they say that it’s flawed; they’ve taken the state to court and said, the distribution model is not appropriate.

    ALLISON SANDZA: As all involved wait to see what the court will decide, Austin’s teachers watch their city grow up around them and fear they’ll be priced out of the prosperity.

    DR. LORI TAYLOR: If you make more money in Austin but you turn around and hand it over to your landlord you’re left with a very lean budget. Elsewhere in the state that same salary goes a lot further because the check you write to the landlord in a whole lot smaller.

    JIM FULBRIGHT: Teachers are already used to living on a shoestring. I don’t own any clothing that I didn’t get from a thrift store and neither do my kids. We know how to do it on the cheap. We can’t do it on the nothing.

    The post As the city prospers around them, Austin teachers may miss out appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    British Maj. Charlie Foinette of the Coldstream Guards Company digs a site on Apr. 29, 2015, which was part of the famous Battle of Waterloo and defeat of Napoleon. Foinette and fellow Coldstream Guards soldier, retired Capt. Mark Evans started "Waterloo Uncovered", a project to unearth answers about the battle, as well as help soldiers readjust to civilian life by participating in battlefield archeology. Credit: Yves Herman/REUTERS.

    British Maj. Charlie Foinette of the Coldstream Guards Company digs a site on Apr. 29, 2015, which was part of the famous Battle of Waterloo and defeat of Napoleon. Foinette and fellow Coldstream Guards soldier, retired Capt. Mark Evans started “Waterloo Uncovered”, a project to unearth answers about the battle, as well as help soldiers readjust to civilian life by participating in battlefield archeology. Credit: Yves Herman/REUTERS.

    When retired British Army Capt. Mark Evans returned home after seven months of duty in Afghanistan in 2008, he had a hard time readjusting to life as a civilian.

    “Mentally I was a mess,” Evans said in an email to PBS NewsHour. “My mind was stuck in Afghanistan and I was reliving it and overanalyzing it every waking and sleeping hour. This was consuming and painful.”

    To deal with the pain, Evans began to drink alcohol as a form of self-medication. Twelve months later, after those around him became alarmed at his erratic behavior, Evans began going to therapy to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder.

    A few years later, a university friend and fellow soldier pointed him toward the work of Operation Nightingale, a group that invited injured veterans to participate in archaeological digs.

    “It helped me with my own recovery (all be it towards the end) and made me see the potential for archaeology as a recovery aid and transitional tool (from soldier to civilian),” Evans said about his experience at his first battlefield dig in Salisbury Plain in south central Englandhome to Stonehenge.

    Evans studied archaeology at the University College London Institute of Archaeology. Last week the 37 year old, along with that same university friend, fellow archaeologist British Army Maj. Charlie Foinette, broke ground on the inaugural battlefield excavation for their nonprofit organization Waterloo Uncovered.

    “For many others who haven’t done any archaeology before the work they do with us is a lot about getting them back to doing something,” Evans said. “They have often become despondent and lost interest and purpose in themselves and life. Just getting them up and doing something is whats important and archaeology is how we choose to do that.”

    Their philosophy is to turn conflict into collaboration, by pairing active soldiers and veterans with archaeologists to unearth items related to the famous battle fought on Belgian soil.

    The Battle of Waterloo was an obvious initial site for Evans and Foinette’s venture. Past members of their regiment were among those who defeated French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte on June 18, 1815. The British and Prussian armies suffered approximately 22,000 casualties.

    This year marks the battle’s bicentennial.

    History enthusiasts, dressed as members of the French and British Army, fight during a re-enactment of Napoleon's famous battle of Waterloo in Braine-l'Alleud June 21, 2009. 2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the decisive battle. Credit: Thierry Roge/REUTERS

    History enthusiasts, dressed as members of the French and British Army, fight during a re-enactment of Napoleon’s famous battle of Waterloo in Braine-l’Alleud June 21, 2009. This year is the 200th anniversary of the decisive battle. Credit: Thierry Roge/REUTERS

    “A regiment is like a family and there is a connection between all men (and women) who have seen battle,” Evans said. “Finding out anything about the Coldstream Guards (or other soldiers – Belgian, Dutch, German and French) is a moving experience. Especially when it’s a bit of the past not seen for 200 years.”

    Soldiers participating in Waterloo Uncovered sign on for a week of volunteering. Since they have been to war, the dig gives them the opportunity to act as a valuable military resource for the archaeologists.

    They work outdoors in teams digging and clearing holes with trowels, as well as cleaning and cataloging their finds. The work is repetitive and in that way, some participants find it to be meditative.

    “We’re not claiming to cure people with a week of archaeology but we will give them a positive experience that they will remember fondly – for a lot of those who attend our digs their memories of recent years have been far from good,” Evans said.

    After a week’s worth of digging, the soldiers and archaeologists have unearthed musket balls, coins and buttons, as well as information on battle formation patterns.

    An official report of their findings will be published next week.

    The post Waterloo dig aims to help soldiers readjusting to civilian life appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush addresses the National Review Institute's 2015 Ideas Summit in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2015. Bush harshly criticized what he characterized as the Obama administration's "aggressive stance" against religious freedom. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush addresses the National Review Institute’s 2015 Ideas Summit in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2015. Bush harshly criticized what he characterized as the Obama administration’s “aggressive stance” against religious freedom. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    LYNCHBURG, Va. — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Saturday condemned the Obama administration’s use of “coercive federal power” to limit religious freedom as he courted Christian conservatives at a Liberty University commencement ahead of a likely presidential run.

    Charging that “the Christian voice” isn’t heard enough in the world, the Republican White House prospect lashed out at the Democratic president’s administration for “demanding obedience in complete disregard of religious conscience.”

    “What should be easy calls in favor of religious freedom have instead become an aggressive stance against it,” Bush told an estimated 34,000 gathered for a graduation ceremony.

    The ceremony was held inside a rural Virginia football stadium at Liberty University, an institution founded by the late conservative culture warrior, Rev. Jerry Falwell.

    “Somebody here is being small-minded and intolerant, and it sure isn’t the nuns, ministers, and laymen and women who ask only to live and practice their faith,” he said.

    Bush, a converted Catholic, is preparing to enter a Republican primary contest that includes Republican competitors considered far more popular with the GOP’s religious right. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz formally announced his presidential campaign at Liberty University last month. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist pastor, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry have all made their Christian faith a centerpiece of prospective campaigns.

    All have aggressively condemned Obama’s health care overhaul which requires some religion-affiliated organizations to provide health insurance for employees that includes birth control. The measure is among several examples of what Republicans charge is Obama’s attack on religious liberty.

    “How strange, in our own time, to hear Christianity spoken of as some sort of backward and oppressive force,” Bush said. “Your generation is bringing the Christian voice to where it always is needed, and sometimes isn’t heard enough.”

    Despite nagging questions about Bush’s conservative credentials, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. noted that Bush was considered a hero among social conservatives as Florida governor. He fought to keep Michael Schiavo from removing the feeding tube from his brain-damaged wife, Terri. Leaders in the anti-abortion movement still praise Bush today.

    And in a reminder that his path to the presidency depends upon moderate and independents perhaps as much as conservatives, Bush concluded his remarks with a message for non-Christians.

    “In my experience, at least, you generally find the same good instincts, fair-mindedness, and easygoing spirit among Americans of every type – including, of course, the many who belong to no church at all,” he said.

    Democrats were paying close attention to Bush’s remarks.

    “Jeb Bush will not win over any Virginia voters with his close-minded pandering to the right wing,” said Morgan Finkelstein, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia. “By supporting the Indiana discrimination law and attacking women’s reproductive rights, Bush places himself firmly at odds with Virginia values.”

    The post Jeb Bush blasts administration’s ‘aggressive stance’ against religious freedom appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Women from a evangelical Christian community celebrate after the WHO declared the country Ebola-free in Monrovia, Liberia, May 9, 2015. Liberia was declared free from Ebola on Saturday. Photo by James Giahyue/Reuters

    Women from a evangelical Christian community celebrate after the WHO declared the country Ebola-free in Monrovia, Liberia, May 9, 2015. Liberia was declared free from Ebola on Saturday. Photo by James Giahyue/Reuters

    Following more than a month during which no new Ebola cases were reported in the country, Liberia was officially declared Ebola-free on Saturday.

    In a triumphant statement announcing an end to an epidemic that claimed the lives of more than 4,700 Liberians, the World Health Organization called the West African nation’s success in eliminating the deadly virus “a monumental achievement.”

    Neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone are still struggling to contain the deadly outbreak, though they have slowed the progress of the virus considerably, from hundreds of new cases per week at the epidemic’s peak this summer to just nine cases each last week.

    Ebola has killed more than 11,000 people in the region, according to WHO estimates.

    A country must go 42 days without reporting any new cases of the virus in order for the WHO to declare it Ebola-free. Liberia’s last known Ebola patient, 44-year-old Ruth Tugbah, died on March 27.

    According to the WHO, 42 days is twice the virus’s maximum incubation period, the interval beginning when a person is first infected and ending when he or she begins displaying symptoms. The underlying rationale is that waiting twice the maximum incubation period should provide a margin of security to cover missed cases and other potential sources of infection.

    However, some evidence has emerged since epidemic’s start that suggests that the virus may persist longer than 42 days.

    The WHO has said that Ebola can survive in the semen of male survivors months after they stop displaying symptoms, and even after the virus is no longer present in their blood. Although it is not proven, the organization says it is likely that Ebola can be transmitted through the semen of otherwise cured men.

    In March, fears that Ruth Tugbah may have contracted the virus sexually prompted Liberian health officials to urge Ebola survivors to practice abstinence, or at least safe sex. The WHO also amended its guidelines to recommend continued surveillance after a country is declared free of Ebola.

    Although it may not apply to all possible infections, the 42-day rule provides a sound public health basis for declaring a country Ebola-free, New York University epidemiologist Ann Kurth told PBS NewsHour at the time of Liberia’s last Ebola case.

    The WHO declaration also comes on the heels of the discovery of high levels of the virus in the eye of a patient who had become ill months earlier, The New York Times reported.

    That patient is Ian Crozier, a doctor who contracted the virus while volunteering at an Ebola treatment unit in Sierra Leone. Although he was released from Emory University Hospital in October, Crozier was recently readmitted after suffering vision loss and intense pain in his left eye. Testing showed that Crozier’s eye was teeming with the virus, though it was not present on the eye’s surface or in his tears, meaning he was not contagious.

    The infection has caused Crozier’s eye color to change from light blue to vivid green, a rare effect of severe viral infections.

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    Though new information like the possibility of sexual transmission of Ebola and discoveries like Crozier’s eye infection have experts urging caution, the 42-day rule remains the standard.

    The White House congratulated Liberia on reaching the milestone Saturday. In a statement, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “We congratulate the people of Liberia on reaching this important marker, and once again pledge our commitment to ending the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.”

    But Earnest also urged continued vigilance, saying, “We must not let down our guard until the entire region reaches and stays at zero Ebola cases. And we must all work together to strengthen capacity around the world to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to outbreaks before they become epidemics.”

    The post WHO declares Liberia free of Ebola appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the test-fire of a strategic submarine underwater ballistic missile (not pictured), in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on May 9, 2015. REUTERS/KCNA

    WASHINGTON — North Korea greeted a U.S. diplomatic overture with a fresh show of force, seemingly testing the Obama administration’s resolve for new nuclear talks.

    After three years of diplomatic deadlock, the U.S. appears open to preliminary discussions to assess North Korea’s intentions and the prospects of ridding the country of nuclear weapons.

    Then came Saturday’s claim that North Korea successfully test-fired a newly developed ballistic missile from a submarine. Not long after that announcement, South Korean officials said the North fired three anti-ship cruise missiles into the sea off its east coast.

    The State Department said launches using ballistic missile technology are “a clear violation” of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Washington urged North Korea “to refrain from actions that further raise tensions in the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its international commitments and obligations.”

    Just this past week, a South Korean envoy had visited Washington and Beijing as countries involved in long-stalled aid-for-disarmament negotiations with the North mulled their diplomatic options.

    Even before the latest flexing of the North’s military might, U.S. officials said the North had not shown it was seriously interested in re-engaging on the nuclear issue.

    Former senior U.S. official Victor Cha, an expert on North Korea, said he wasn’t sure whether the latest test “will create an impetus for talks or kill it.”

    “It shows that North Korea’s missile capabilities are advancing at a clip that is concerning, if not alarming,” he said.

    North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006. International penalties were intended to prevent the North from obtaining sensitive technology and starve the country of funds. Yet U.S.-based experts forecast that North Korea could increase its nuclear arsenal from at least 10 weapons today to between 20 and 100 weapons by 2020.

    North Korea wants to be recognized as a nuclear power. But a denuclearized Korean Peninsula is the aim of the negotiating process that China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the U.S. say they want to revive if North Korea takes concrete steps to show good faith.

    The last public U.S. attempt to negotiate a nuclear freeze and get the six-party process restarted collapsed in 2012 after the North launched a long-range rocket.

    North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in February 2013, and has test-fired numerous shorter-range missile since then.

    The U.S. quietly proposed a meeting with North Korea this January, before the U.S. and South Korea began annual military exercises that North Korea regards as a provocation. The two sides, however, failed to agree on who could meet and where.

    The recent completion of those military exercises offers a potential window of opportunity for engagement that is likely to close again when a new set of drills begin in August.

    China, North Korea’s traditional benefactor, has pushed for resumption of dialogue. South Korean envoy Hwang Joon-kook, who met separately with his U.S. and Chinese counterparts this past week, said all five parties were ready for talks to understand North Korea’s intentions and whether it was committed to denuclearization.

    The U.S. was willing to be flexible about a format for “serious dialogue” on denuclearization, a senior U.S. official said. The official was not authorized to be named and requested anonymity to discuss U.S.-North Korea policy.

    Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, and Cara Anna at the United Nations contributed to this report.

    The post North Korea responds to US diplomatic overture with show of force appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Russia's President Putin welcomes China's President Xi Jinping during their meeting at Kremlin in Moscow

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: As we mentioned, the Chinese leader was in Moscow today as Russia paraded its military hardware through Red Square. Just yesterday, the two countries signed 32 agreements, including what’s being described as a nonaggression pact in cyberspace. All this, at a time of severely strained relations between Russia and the West.

    Are we going back to the future, with Russia and China lined up against the West?

    For more, we are joined now from Berkeley, California, by Orville Schell. He’s the director of the Center on U.S. -China Relations at the Asia Society.

    So, Orville, what is the strategic advantage for the alignment of Russia and China again?

    ORVILLE SCHELL, ASIA SOCIETY: Well, I think both Russia and China find themselves at odds with the West. Of course, Russia and Putin in the Crimea and the Ukraine, and China in the South China Sea, and the Diaoyu/Sensaku Islands with Japan.

    So, their tendency, I think, when they find they met with this Western resistance is to team up. However, one should be careful to note they have not always had a very close and friendly historical relationship.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what are some of the economic consequences? Is there investment or potential investment between China and Russia, China putting money into Russia or the other way around?

    ORVILLE SCHELL: Well, the Chinese have a habit of moving into vacuums where the West will sanction a country, whether it is Sudan or Iran, other such countries, Venezuela, because it is an opportunity, and I think they view Russia very much this way. Russia has energy, China needs energy, and China has now very — is very keen to both, sort of, consolidate the relationship with Putin, give him loans, make oil and gas deals. They signed some deals for weapons and new S400 missile that Russia is now selling to China. So, things are getting much, much closer than they were before.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Expand on the military relationship as well. When these two countries decide to align, there is that — not just an enemy, a specific enemy but as large the European Union and the United States and the West seem to be in a different camp, especially in terms of Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine.

    ORVILLE SCHELL:  Well, militarily speaking, the West has never sold any amount of weaponry to China. It’s almost all comes from Russia. So there, advanced fighter jets, their missile systems, avionics, things like that have largely come from Russia and some from Israel.

    Now, they are really beefing up this relationship, and each has something to give to the other and they share 5,000-mile border. There is tremendous amount of trade-in natural resources coming from Russia and China. So there is kind of a natural symmetry there.

    More than that there is a psychological symmetry, both feel they were big empires, you know, that were somehow dismembered, through the predatory actions of the West and Japan, and there is kind of a victim culture that both share, which I think psychologically speaking drives them close together.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Orville Schell of the Asia Society – – thanks so much.

    ORVILLE SCHELL:  Pleasure.

    The post What does Russia and China’s cybersecurity pact mean for the US? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) (R) addresses a news conference in support of a proposed constitutional amendment for campaign finance reform, on Capitol Hill in Washington September 8, 2014.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR45FDR

    U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) (R) addresses a news conference in support of a proposed constitutional amendment for campaign finance reform, on Capitol Hill in Washington September 8, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS) – RTR45FDR

    MONTPELIER, Vt.– Once a democratic socialist, always a democratic socialist. Once a scold of big money in politics, still a scold.

    No one can accuse Bernie Sanders of flip-flopping over his four decades in public life. Rock steady, he’s inhabited the same ideological corner from which he now takes on Hillary Rodham Clinton in an improbable quest for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

    Here he is in 1974, as the 32-year-old candidate for U.S. Senate of a fledgling leftist party in Vermont called Liberty Union: “A handful of banks and billionaires control the economic and political life of America. … America is becoming less and less of a democracy and more and more of an oligarchy.”

    And now, in an Associated Press interview: “This is a rigged economy, which works for the rich and the powerful, and is not working for ordinary Americans. … You know this country just does not belong to a handful of billionaires.”

    Some see him as a broken record, others as a person who has been telling the truth all along and just waiting for enough people to listen.

    “The fascinating thing about Bernie right now is that the agenda has caught up with Bernie,” said Garrison Nelson, a University of Vermont political science professor and longtime Sanders watcher.

    During Sanders’ near decade as mayor of Burlington in the 1980s, during his eight terms holding Vermont’s lone House seat and during his near decade in the Senate, the message has stayed the same: The rich are absconding with an immorally large part of the country’s wealth, and ordinary people have been getting the short end of the stick.

    Clinton has gone from opposing same-sex marriage rights to supporting them. Howard Dean, the last Vermont presidential candidate, was a centrist governor who became a liberal representing the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” when he saw the left flank open in the 2004 primary campaign.

    Sanders, now 73, favored gay marriage rights before it became fashionable in Democratic circles. He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in the mid-1990s signed by Clinton’s husband, President Bill Clinton.

    Early in her primary campaign, Clinton has spoken about the gap between the rich and the middle class, in an appeal to the party’s liberal wing. The Republican contenders, too, are taking up the problem of income inequality, although with much different solutions in mind than the Democrats.

    Steady-as-he-goes Sanders has been at it for decades. He’s admired Canada’s single-payer health care system since way back, talking up “nationalized health care” during his unsuccessful run for Congress in 1988. When Republicans charge that Democrats would bring European-style socialism to the U.S., Sanders says bring it on.

    “I can hear the Republican attack ad right now: `He wants America to look more like Scandinavia,” George Stephanopoulos said while interviewing Sanders on ABC’s “This Week.”

    Sanders replied, “That’s right. That’s right. And what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong when you have more income and wealth equality? What’s wrong when they have a stronger middle class in many ways than we do, a higher minimum wage than we do, and they’re stronger on the environment?”

    If he’s undergone any transformation, it’s in his political affiliations. He long ago dropped the Liberty Union banner and has run as an Independent in his successful elections in Vermont.

    He says he remains one “in my heart,” but has caucused with Democrats in Congress. He chose to go for the Democratic nomination and, if he loses the party primaries, says he won’t run for president as an Independent.

    In an unsuccessful 1986 race for governor as an Independent, Sanders said, “It is time to stop the tweedledee, tweedledum politics of the Republican and Democratic parties.”

    This time, he’s trying to shake one of the tweedles up from the inside.

    The post Four decades later, Bernie Sanders ready to deliver his stump speech appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Members of the King v. Burwell plaintiffs' legal team exit the Supreme Court building after arguments in Washington, March 4, 2015. A recent poll shows few Americans have faith in the Court's ability to rule fairly on the case, which is the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

    Members of the King v. Burwell plaintiffs’ legal team exit the Supreme Court building after arguments in Washington, March 4, 2015. A recent poll shows few Americans have faith in the Court’s ability to rule fairly on the case, which is the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

    WASHINGTON — Many people in the United States doubt that the Supreme Court can rule fairly in the latest litigation jeopardizing President Barack Obama’s health care law.

    The Associated Press-GfK poll finds only 1 person in 10 is highly confident that the justices will rely on objective interpretations of the law rather than their personal opinions. Nearly half, 48 percent, are not confident of the court’s impartiality.

    “That lawsuit should have never made it this far,” said Hal Lewis, a retiree from Scranton, Pennsylvania.

    “If they rule for the people who are bringing the suit, it could be close to the destruction of Obamacare in this country,” added Lewis, who once edited a local newspaper in his city.

    Lewis is one of the relatively few people – 13 percent – who say they are closely following the case, called King v. Burwell.

    Opponents of the law argue that as literally written, the law only allows the federal government to subsidize premiums in states that have set up their own insurance markets, also known as exchanges. Most states have not done so, relying instead on the federal HealthCare.gov website.

    The Obama administration says opponents are misreading the Affordable Care Act by focusing on just a few words. When the legislation is read in context, it’s clear that lawmakers wanted to help uninsured people in every state, the administration maintains.

    If the court sides with the plaintiffs, it’s estimated that 8 million to 9 million people across more than 30 states could lose coverage. They would be unable to afford their premiums without the subsidies, which are keyed to household income. A decision is expected late in June.

    In a twist, the poll found that opponents of the law, who tend to be politically conservative, have less confidence in the objectivity of a court with a conservative majority. Among foes, 60 percent are not confident, compared with 44 percent of the law’s supporters.

    “That is incredibly powerful that a court associated with conservative views is not well trusted by Republicans,” said Robert Blendon, who tracks public opinion on health care at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Blendon said the law’s opponents may be remembering the court’s 2012 ruling in which Chief Justice John Roberts cast the key vote to uphold the law.

    Regardless of how the public feels about the court’s internal deliberations, a majority wants the justices to allow subsidies to continue flowing in all 50 states, an opinion in line with the administration’s position.

    Fifty-six percent said the court should keep the subsidies without restriction, while 39 percent said the financial aid should be limited to residents of states that set up their own health insurance markets.

    It’s less clear what people would want Congress to do if the court were to side with the law’s opponents. A ruling for the plaintiffs would invalidate health insurance subsidies in states without their own exchanges. Many of those states have Republican governors and legislatures that have resisted the health care law.

    The poll found that a bare majority, 51 percent, wants Congress to amend the law to make it clear that people are entitled to help regardless of what their state leaders do.

    But 44 percent prefer that Congress leave the law as is and let states decide whether they want to create insurance exchanges that would allow their residents to receive subsidies.

    “It suggests there’s a political opening for Republicans to offer a way for people to continue receiving subsidies through some sort of state arrangement,” Blendon said.

    State leaders would have to move fast. Some legal experts say it would be only weeks before the subsidies dry up; others say it’s possible the administration could continue payments through the end of this year.

    Ethan Levesque of Augusta, Maine, said he is troubled by the federal law’s requirement that virtually all U.S. residents get health insurance or risk fines from the IRS.

    “I feel like it should actually be the determination of the states to decide health coverage,” said Levesque, a customer service representative for a telecommunications company.

    “There is definitely nothing wrong with health care whatsoever, but it’s the way that this has been presented to people that I have problems with,” he said.

    The poll found sharp splits on whether Congress should intervene.

    Two-thirds of Democrats think Congress should amend the law to save the subsidies, but only 31 percent of Republicans shared that view. Half of independents want Congress to update the law if necessary, while 41 percent think it should be kept as is.

    Leading congressional Republicans have said they would step in to prevent health insurance markets from unraveling, but they have not spelled out details.

    It is estimated that 15 million to 17 million adults have gained coverage since the fall of 2013, when the law’s big insurance expansion began. But the nation is divided over Obama’s major domestic policy achievement.

    The poll found 27 percent of Americans support the law, while 38 percent oppose it and 34 percent say they neither support nor oppose it.

    The AP-GfK Poll of 1,077 adults was conducted online April 23-27, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

    This report was written by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Emily Swanson of the Associated Press

    The post Poll: Many doubt court will rule fairly on health law case appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz shakes hands with a supporter following his speech during the Freedom Summit in Greenville, South Carolina May 9, 2015. The array of GOP hopefuls at the summit struggled to stand out. Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

    Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz shakes hands with a supporter following his speech during the Freedom Summit in Greenville, South Carolina May 9, 2015. The array of GOP hopefuls at the summit struggled to stand out. Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

    GREENVILLE, S.C. — Republicans making their pitch to be the party’s 2016 presidential nominee aimed to out-do each other Saturday in arguing that President Barack Obama is a failed leader.

    But hitting Obama with the usual critiques – from his 2010 health care overhaul to allegations of missteps on foreign policy to the rise in the national debt during his time in office – also made it hard for the gaggle of White House aspirants to stand out during a forum in South Carolina hosted by the conservative group Citizens United.

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tried by touting his ability to beat whomever is nominated by the Democratic Party, reminding activists that he won three statewide elections in four years in a state twice carried by Obama.

    “The last time a Republican carried the state for president was 1984,” he said. “That’s a tough state.”

    He even took the crowd back to his decision to run for county executive in heavily Democratic Milwaukee County. “Never ever had there been a Republican in that spot before,” he said.

    Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, continued her tactic of going straight at Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic favorite for 2016. “She is not trustworthy, and she does not have a record of accomplishment,” Fiorina said.

    In an interview before his turn on stage, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal pointed to his work on policy, saying he’s the only potential candidate in the field who has “spent the last 18 months coming up with detailed ideas on health care, on foreign policy, on energy.”

    Once on stage, Jindal spent considerable time touting his credentials as a social conservative, including his pushback against criticism from some in the business community over “religious liberty” laws that have become a flashpoint in the national debate over same-sex marriage.

    “Don’t even waste your breath trying to bully the governor of Louisiana,” Jindal said, repeating what he said was his message to corporate leaders.

    Rick Santorum, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2012 before fizzling out against eventual nominee Mitt Romney, warned that Republicans eager to retake the White House after Obama’s two terms in office must stay focused on reaching working-class voters.

    “We have to be a pro-worker party,” he said. “We have to be the party for a rising tide lifting all boats. There are millions and millions of Americans who have holes in those boats.”

    Florida Sen. Marco Rubio took a hard line on foreign policy, saying the nation must get tougher with terrorists. Adapting a line from the movie “Taken,” he said: “We will look for you. We will find you. And we will kill you.”

    Texas Sen. Ted Cruz trumpeted his unapologetic approach on Capitol Hill, where he helped engineer a partial government shutdown in 2013. And he told activists that they should compare his style with his rivals, all of whom insist they are conservative.

    “Have you had anyone up here today say, `I’m an establishment moderate who stands for nothing?'” he said. “So how do you tell the difference? The scriptures tell us, `You shall know them by their fruits.” That means, he said, asking candidates, “You say you believe these principles. When have you fought for them?”

    Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry let loose a series of broadsides at Obama and his policies, drawing cheers from the crowd for a withering critique that covered immigration, the Affordable Care Act, the Islamic State militant group and the federal budget.

    His bottom line: “We’ve seen gross incompetence. We’re here to declare that we’re not going to take it anymore.”

    Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who, like Fiorina, announced his candidacy earlier this week, is running as the outsider. “I’m not a politician,” he said. “That’s what sets me apart.”

    Those not in South Carolina on Saturday included former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who delivered the commencement address at Liberty University in Virginia; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who was campaigning in northern California; and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who was in South Carolina on Friday.

    Citizens United President David Bossie dismissed the idea that the large number of GOP candidates muddled their messages and called the wide field an advantage.

    “These men and women all believe in American exceptionalism,” Bossie said. He added that along with criticizing Obama, Republicans should focus their ire on Clinton – a point on which many in the crowd agreed.

    “Any one of them would be better than the disaster we’ve got now,” said Gary Gunderson of Abbeville, South Carolina. His wife, Margaret, chimed in: “Or Hillary.”

    This report was written by Bill Barrow and Mitch Weiss of the Associated Press.

    The post GOP presidential hopefuls scramble to stand out in South Carolina appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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