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

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    WASHINGTON — The Republican Party’s conservative wing, pumped up by House Speaker John Boehner’s stepping down, is warning the 2016 presidential candidates that defying its wishes will come at their peril.

    Religious activists forcefully conveyed this message Saturday: embrace our uncompromising stance against abortion rights and gay marriage, among other priorities, even if doing so risks a federal government shutdown.

    An emboldened conservative movement signals fresh trouble for White House candidates viewed by the party’s frustrated base as insufficiently committed to their cause. Chief among them is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

    “Conservatives are on fire at the moment,” said Gary Bauer, a former president of the Family Research Council. He was among the featured speakers at the Values Voter annual conference that brought an estimated 2,000 evangelical activists to Washington this weekend.

    Boehner’s announcement that he would resign from Congress by the end of October came without warning Friday, nearly four months before voting begins in the presidential primary. His decision revealed a deep divide within the GOP that raises questions about the party’s ability to unite behind one candidate next spring.

    Hard-line conservatives were deeply disappointed with the last two Republican presidential nominees – former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Arizona Sen. John McCain. Boehner was unpopular among conservative activists, and his resignation will give them new hope that the party may choose a candidate who energizes the most passionate voters, even if that nominee is seen as less attractive to a general election crowd.

    A co-founder of the tea party movement said Boehner was just another of the establishment figures taken down by frustrated conservatives. “Today, the insurgency is more emboldened than ever and looks to even further dominate the presidential elections in 2016,” said Mark Meckler. “Our influence is growing.”

    In the crowded hallways of the Values Voter conference, 60-year-old Alvin Kaddatz said the turmoil on Capitol Hill sends a clear message to the presidential field. “They need to be listening to what the people are saying,” said Kaddatz, who sells farm equipment in Hillsboro, Texas. “They need to follow through on their promises. And if they don’t, elections have consequences.”

    It’s unclear whether grass-roots conservatives can back up their tough talk.

    But in an undeniably anti-establishment climate, the leading presidential contenders appear to be complying, for now.

    Most support a tea party-backed measure to strip federal dollars from the women’s health care provider Planned Parenthood as part of budget negotiations, even if such a move causes a partial government shutdown as early as this coming week.

    Polls show a majority of voters oppose such brinkmanship over this issue. Republicans were largely blamed the last time government shutdown over funding for the Affordable Care Act, which lasted 16 days in 2013.

    Who’s indicated a willingness to take it that far? Businessman Donald Trump; Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas; former technology executive Carly Fiorina; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Chris Christie of New Jersey; and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

    All those in the race want to strip the money from Planned Parenthood, but only a few want to do that without risking a shutdown. Put Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in this category. That does little to help’s Bush’s standing with conservatives, already skeptical of his commitment to their principles.

    Bush was a noticeable omission from the Values Voter speaking program. He cited a scheduling conflict.

    Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which hosted the weekend conference, was surprised by Bush’s absence.

    “He needs to do well with this voting bloc,” Perkins said of social conservatives. “Especially where he’s at now in the polls. He needs all the help he can get.”

    Bush’s team cited 14 public and private meetings with religious conservative leaders since April, suggesting that his absence from the Values Voter summit did not signal a lack of commitment to their priorities.

    For Arlie Olsen, 64, who raises pigs in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, Boehner’s departure was “a good omen for where the country may be headed.”

    Olsen offered a message to his party’s 2016 class: “It is going to be really hard for a candidate to win if they don’t have the backing of this group.”

     

    The post Conservatives warn GOP candidates: Defy us at your own peril appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    By Matthew Lee

    UNITED NATIONS  — The U.S. took steps Saturday to open a dialogue with Iran and others about the crises in Syria and Yemen.

    Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, and told reporters there would be discussions in the week ahead that could prove critical to resolving the conflicts.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) answers a question about the ongoing crisis in Syria during a news conference with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in London September 19, 2015.   REUTERS/Evan Vucci/Pool - RTS1WJI

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry answers a question Sept. 19 about the ongoing crisis in Syria during a news conference with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in London. Evan Vucci/Reuters

    “I view this week as a major opportunity for any number of countries to play an important role in trying to resolve some of the very difficult issues (of) the Middle East,” Kerry said. “We need to achieve peace and a way forward in Syria, in Yemen … in the region itself (and) I think there are opportunities this week, through these discussions, to make some progress.”

    Kerry and Zarif held their first face-to-face meeting since they sealed a landmark nuclear agreement in Vienna in July. Kerry raised concerns about the instability in Syria and Yemen, and the fate of Americans detained by or missing in Iran, his spokesman said.

    Zarif said his primary focus would be the implementation of a deal that curbs Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. He also said Iran was willing to discuss regional issues, including the deadly stampede at the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, in the appropriate forum.

    “The situation in the region, the unfortunate developments in Saudi Arabia over the last week, have been disastrous and we need to address them. We will address them in the proper international forum,” Zarif said.

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a meeting with Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, urged him to “contribute to a political settlement of the crises in the region,” and singled out Syria and Yemen.

    On Friday, the Obama administration’s top Iran negotiator, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, said discussing Syria with Iranian officials would “make sense” in the context of current developments.

    But she noted resistance to the idea within Iran, which, along with Russia, is a main supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad. She said the subject of Syria had been raised informally on the sidelines of the nuclear negotiations that ended in July, though never in a structured way.

    The U.S. has called, without success, for Iran and Russia to stop backing Assad. In recent weeks, Russia has built up its military presence in Syria. That issue was to be a central topic of discussion in Kerry’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Sunday in New York, a day before President Barack Obama’s talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    U.S. officials say they are not certain about Russia’s motives for the military buildup, but have said they would welcome a positive contribution to the fight against the Islamic State group that does not bolster Assad. The administration had insisted that Assad must leave power because has no credibility to run the country. Over the past several days, however, officials, including Kerry, have signaled that Assad could perhaps be a part of some kind of political transition that would lead the formation of a new government.

    Sherman, who is stepping down from her post next month, echoed that, saying it may be possible for Assad to have a role in a transition.

    In Yemen, the fighting involves rebels, known as Houthis, and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against the Saudi-backed and internationally recognized government forces as well as southern separatists, local militias and Sunni extremists.

    The war escalated in March when the Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign involving airstrikes and ground troops against the Houthis and their allies. More than 2,100 civilians have been killed, according to U.N. estimates. The coalition recently has sought to retake the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, captured last September by the rebels.

     

    The post U.S. attempts to open dialogue with Iran about Syria and Yemen crises appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Pope Francis celebrates mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, September 26, 2015.     REUTERS/Tony Gentile - RTX1SLK4

    Pope Francis celebrates Mass Sept. 26 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Credit: Tony Gentile/Reuters

    PHILADELPHIA — Pope Francis met with victims of child sexual abuse Sunday on the final day of his U.S. visit and promised to hold accountable those responsible for the scandal in the church, delivering a powerful warning to American bishops accused of covering up for pedophile priests instead of reporting them to police.

    The pontiff disclosed the gesture of reconciliation at the start of a meeting with American bishops gathered in Philadelphia for a big rally on Catholic families.

    But in a move that signaled a new effort by the church to redirect the discussion, the Vatican said not all five of the victims were abused by members of the clergy; some of the three women and two men had been victimized by family members or educators.

    Francis praised the survivors as “true heralds of mercy” who deserve the church’s gratitude for helping to bring the truth to light.

    “God weeps, for the sexual abuse of children cannot be maintained in secret, and I commit to a careful oversight to ensure that youth are protected and that all responsible will be held accountable,” Francis said in Spanish.

    The pope has agreed to create a new Vatican tribunal to prosecute bishops who failed to protect their flock, and he has accepted the resignations of three U.S. bishops accused of mishandling cases.

    He previously vowed to hold bishops accountable during his first-ever meeting with victims, held last summer at the Vatican.

    But Francis and U.S. bishops have also argued that child molestation is a serious problem beyond the church, especially within families and in schools. The meeting with victims abused by people other than priests underscored that point.

    Later Sunday, Francis visited a Philadelphia jail to give hope and encouragement to about 100 inmates, included suspected killers, rapists and mobsters. Late in the afternoon, he was scheduled to celebrate a final Mass on U.S. soil on Philadelphia’s grandest boulevard, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, with organizers predicting a crowd of 1 million.

    The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been hit hard by the sexual abuse scandal and has been the subject of repeated grand jury investigations, including one that accused it keeping on assignment more than three dozen priests facing serious accusations. A monsignor was found guilty of endangering children by not removing pedophile priests, becoming the first American church official convicted of such an offense.

    Victims’ groups had complained earlier in the week that Francis neglected to address their plight when he congratulated bishops for their “courageous” and generous response to the scandal. Sunday’s meeting took place a day after the pope celebrated Mass with Justin Rigali, the cardinal who was archbishop in Philadelphia when the archdiocese was accused of sheltering pedophiles.

    Victim support groups were unimpressed by the meeting.

    The Rev. Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer who worked at the Vatican embassy in Washington and is now an advocate for victims, said that including more than just victims of abusive clergy “seriously minimizes” the problem in the church.

    “We don’t think we’re going to get any real support to change this from the leadership in the Vatican,” Doyle said in a phone interview. “They’re having this big meeting of families. But there’s been no real room for all the families that the Catholic Church has destroyed through sexual abuse.”

    The main victims’ support group, SNAP, dismissed the meeting as an exercise in public relations.

    “Is a child anywhere on Earth safer now that a pope, for maybe the seventh or eighth time or ninth time, has briefly chatted with abuse victims? No,” said SNAP’s David Clohessy.

    The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the pope met with the survivors for a half-hour at the San Carlo Borromeo seminary. He said the pope prayed with them, listened to their stories and expressed his closeness in their suffering and his “pain and shame” in the case of those abused by priests.

    In his meeting with the bishops, Francis referred to gay marriage for the first time in his U.S. trip, lamenting the new reality in which Christians must live. But he also urged American bishops to redirect their energies away from complaining about it, saying a church that only explains its doctrine is “dangerously unbalanced.”

    “I would even say that it is stuck in a vicious circle,” he said.

    The U.S. bishops have called the legalization of gay marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court three months ago “a tragic error” and “profoundly immoral and unjust.”

    Hours before Sunday’s Mass, Roman Catholics from across the country and around the world began trekking into the city, crossing bridges on foot and packing subway cars.

    But there were fears that the extraordinary security – including airport-style bag searches, crowd-control cattle chutes and blocked-off streets – would scare many people away and result in a turnout far below organizers’ expectations.

    Thomas Coorey, a dentist and father of four visiting Philadelphia from Sydney, called Francis “the most inspirational and amazing pope that could breathe life into this church of mine. And I’m so grateful to have a leader like him who’s so humble and such a true servant of God.”

    It has been a common sentiment throughout the pope’s visit to Washington, New York and Philadelphia.

    “It’s the wave. It’s the smile,” said Tom Hambrose, 52, of Haddon Heights, New Jersey. “It’s what he’s articulating, that the church needs to step forward and needs to change its thinking about things.”

    This report was written by Nicole Winfield and Rachel Zoll of the Associated Press.

    The post Pope Francis meets with victims of abuse, promises accountability appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    J.Kim, takes medicine for his bronchial trouble at his house in Beijing November 2, 2014. J.Kim, who is Korean, has worked in China for more than ten years and suffers from rhinitis and asthma. He believes these bronchial problems are caused by Beijing's polluted air. He is hoping to transfer to a new job in Seoul with his company because of the air pollution issue. He currently lives alone in Beijing after sending his family back to Korea as he was worried that air pollution could harm his children's health.  REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY ENVIRONMENT BUSINESS)

PICTURE 11 OF 26 FOR WIDER IMAGE STORY 'BEIJING'S BATTLE FOR FRESH AIR' 
 
SEARCH 'KIM KYUNG-HOON SKIES' FOR ALL IMAGES - RTR4S062

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Every night, usually somewhere between dinner time and putting her children to bed, Louisville nurse Dawn Sirek reaches for her inhaler.

    DAWN SIREK: It’s really simple … and that’s it.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: On good days, this is only her second dose of a daily asthma maintenance routine. But on bad days, of which there are many, Dawn says she loses count of just how many times she has trouble breathing and needs the inhaler.

    DAWN SIREK: I have symptoms every day. It factors into my life every single day. It affects my work, it affects my being a mom. It’s awful.

    DAWN SIREK: For the past few months, whether it is a good day or a bad one, Dawn’s daily battle to breathe has become intricately linked to an innovative partnership of big data and public health.

    Sitting atop her inhaler is a tiny GPS transmitter that with each puff passes valuable bits of information that not only helps dawn manage her asthma, but is also helping the city understand why so many of its residents are having trouble breathing.

    MELISSA WILLIAMS: This is something that respiratory therapists like me kind of dream about.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Melissa Williams works for Propeller Health, a respiratory health company, and the data collection partner for the program, known as Air Louisville.

    MELISSA WILLIAMS: The first thing I do is log in, look at the dashboard. It’ll give me a list of all of my patients in the program.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Coupled with a participant’s smartphone, the sensor sends the time and location to Propeller’s central database – giving patients, doctors, and respiratory therapists like Melissa a day-to-day, real time understanding of just how the city’s asthma patients are faring.

    Since starting in 2012, Air Louisville has had hundreds of participants and hopes to enroll 1,000 by years end.

    MELISSA WILLIAMS: It will show you when they typically have events. It will give you, like, the average temperature, the air quality, weather conditions on those days. So it will help to simplify triggers.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: With an estimated 13 percent of the population suffering from asthma, Louisville has one of the highest rates in the country.

    Sitting in the Ohio River Valley, the city’s unique geography, coupled with a steady flow of pollution from cars, makes the it particularly susceptible to poor air quality.

    The American Lung Association ranks Louisville as the nation’s 15th worst metropolitan area for air pollution.

    TED SMITH: I have counterparts in our Chamber of Commerce, they collect best lists. Right? So Louisville’s the best place to raise a poodle.

    It’s the best place for Asian Bourbon Fusion food. I collected the worst list. Right. And the worst lists are what the Chamber wants to burn all day long.

    And so, one of the worst places to live in the country if you have asthma.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: For the past four years, as Louisville’s first chief of civic innovation, Doctor Ted Smith has spent much of his time thinking how the city might get off of this list.

    But Smith says the data-driven asthma hotspot map that resulted from the initial pilot program — brought a few surprises.

    TED SMITH: The conventional wisdom around things like asthma, you know, may be, ‘Well, it’s all about smoking. Or it’s about older housing stock. Or it’s about being next to a power plant or something.’

    Right? And, you know, it turns out, at least the clustering we saw early was in other parts of our community entirely.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: So besides industrial areas and highway intersections, residential areas like this one in Southwest Louisville is a hot spot.

    GREG FISCHER: It’s been fascinating. Because we’re pushing the envelope in terms of learning for the community, so that we could say precisely where do asthma sufferers have the most problem?

    And how can we A) advise them about that? But B) mitigate how that might take place?

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: When you see and look at the hotspots, I’m sure you can kind of correlate this to certain issues that exist within the city, whether that be the existence of a power facility or housing questions.

    Do you foresee future battles that will be data-driven?

    GREG FISCHER: I wouldn’t call them battles. But I would say — call it informed decision making.

    Before we didn’t have that type of information to make a decision. So it makes people think about planning in a much more thoughtful way.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: For asthmatics like Dawn Sirek, this program isn’t about lists, rankings, or city planning, it’s a new tool to help her to live and breathe easier…

    DAWN SIREK: My phone dings every night at 9 o’clock and every morning 9:00 a.m. to remind me to take my inhaler.

    And the app that it’s on my phone, it will tell me that it’s a bad air quality day. And I had never paid attention to that in the past. And now I do.

    The post How data is helping asthmatics breathe easier appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Covers for TDI diesel Volkswagen engines are seen in this illustration in second-hand car parts in Jelah, Bosnia and Herzegovina, September 26, 2015. The EU could introduce tougher car emissions tests in the wake of the Volkswagen rigging scandal, senior European officials said. The German carmaker named company veteran Matthias Mueller as its new chief executive on Friday in an attempt to get to grips with a crisis that its chairman described as "a moral and political disaster".  REUTERS/Dado Ruvic - RTX1SMVY

    Covers for TDI diesel Volkswagen engines are seen in this illustration in second-hand car parts in Jelah, Bosnia and Herzegovina, September 26, 2015. The EU could introduce tougher car emissions tests in the wake of the Volkswagen rigging scandal and legal experts say the German automaker is likely to face significant legal problems, including potential criminal charges. Photo by Dado Ruvic/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Who knew about the deception, when did they know it and who directed it?

    Those are among questions that state and federal investigators want answered as they plunge into the emissions scandal at Volkswagen that has cost the chief executive his job, caused stock prices to plummet and could result in billions of dollars in fines.

    Legal experts say the German automaker is likely to face significant legal problems, including potential criminal charges, arising from its admission that 11 million of its diesel vehicles sold worldwide contained software specifically designed to help cheat emissions tests.

    The Environmental Protection Agency has accused VW of installing sophisticated stealth software that enabled “clean diesel” versions of its Passat, Jetta, Golf and Beetle models to detect when they were being tested and emit less-polluting exhaust than in real-world driving conditions. The agency says the “defeat devices” allowed those models to belch up to 40 times the allowed amounts of harmful fumes in order to improve driving performance.

    The Justice Department says it’s “working closely” with EPA investigators.

    “If there is sufficient evidence to show that Volkswagen intentionally programmed its vehicles to override the emission control devices, the company and any individuals involved could face criminal charges under the Clean Air Act, and for conspiracy, fraud and false statements,” said David M. Uhlmann, a former chief of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section who is now a law professor at the University of Michigan. He called criminal charges “almost certain.”

    But Uhlmann cautioned that hauling the executives involved into a U.S. courtroom could be challenging because much of the conduct at issue probably occurred overseas. While the U.S. has an extradition treaty with Germany, European regulators are also now investigating and could claim first dibs on prosecuting company officials.

    It’s not the first time Volkswagen has been accused of cheating on emissions testing by the EPA. In July 1973, the agency found that VW had installed temperature-sensitive devices that turned off emissions controls on about 25,000 Fastback, Squareback and bus models. The company agreed to remove the devices and eventually settled with the Justice Department, paying a $120,000 penalty.

    CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned on Wednesday, and Volkswagen announced it would set aside $7.3 billion to cover the cost of the scandal, but even that may not be enough. The company has apologized, but has not yet detailed who was responsible for the defeat devices.

    German media reported Sunday that Volkswagen had received warnings years ago about the use of illegal tricks to defeat emissions tests. Bild am Sonntag said VW’s internal investigation has found a 2007 letter from parts supplier Bosch warning Volkswagen not to use the software during regular operation. Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung said a Volkswagen technician raised concerns about illegal practices in connection with emissions levels in 2011.

    A Volkswagen spokesman declined to comment on the reports.

    The Clean Air Act allows for fines of up to $37,500 for each of the 482,000 suspect VWs sold in the United States, potentially totaling more than $18 billion. Attorneys general for nearly 30 states and the District of Columbia have announced a coordinated investigation and said they are issuing subpoenas for company records.

    There’s also a high likelihood of class-action lawsuits by angry VW owners.

    “They’re facing a tsunami of possible state and federal enforcement actions, and a potential large number of violations – including administrative, civil and criminal,” said William Carter, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles who specialized in environmental crimes and served as general counsel of the California Environmental Protection Agency.

    Investigators will almost certainly look for any false statements made to the EPA and for signs that VW has tried to conceal wrongdoing or obstruct regulators. Fraud charges could be considered if evidence emerges that company executives used the Internet or the mail system to carry out the deception. And money laundering allegations will be explored if investigators suspect that VW sent illicit proceeds overseas.

    “If a software package such as this were intentionally designed to defeat the emissions testing, there may well be email traffic, meetings, records that would establish that intent,” said Gregory Linsin, a former environmental crimes prosecutor at the Justice Department.

    But Linsin said he expected the Justice Department also to take into account the multiple investigations likely to take place worldwide, and to not punish the automaker in a way that jeopardizes its ability to stay in business.

    The problems at VW come as the Justice Department faces growing pressure to prosecute individual executives and employees for corporate misdeeds. The last two major criminal investigations against auto companies – Toyota and General Motors – yielded massive fines over car safety problems but has resulted in no prosecutions of executives. Those outcomes dismayed consumer watchdog groups and grieving victims’ relatives, who demanded better accountability for failure to disclose vehicle defects.

    A memo this month by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates sought to reaffirm the Justice Department’s commitment to prosecuting employees and executives, directing among other policy mandates that corporations pushing for credit for cooperating with the government must first turn over evidence against individuals.

    “Volkswagen has a fundamental choice to make,” said Uhlmann, the former prosecutor. “That is whether it intends to cooperate and seek leniency, or whether it wants to fight the charges. Every indication over the last several days from Volkswagen is that it intends to cooperate.”

    Asked whether that meant he expected company executives to voluntarily come to the United States to stand trial, he laughed.

    “Absolutely not,” he said.

    This report was written by Michael Biesecker and Eric Tucker of the Associated Press. AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this report.

    The post Volkswagen’s legal trouble mounts in emissions scandal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    At 88, painter Alex Katz is as productive as ever.

    In September, Katz returned to his Soho studio in New York City to paint after his annual summer escape to Maine.

    Working from small studies to produce large canvasses, watch in the video above as Katz turns a 15×11-feet blank canvass into a green, brown, and white depiction of trees, titled “Cross Light 3.”

    “I like the bluntness and the bigness of them,” Katz said of his large-scale, bold paintings. “You have to really want it. And as far as I’m concerned, if you want it, you have to go for it.”

    The post ‘I love the adventure': How painter Alex Katz finds inspiration for his bold works appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NEW YORK — Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday again defended her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, comparing the multiple investigations to Republican-led probes into her husband’s administration more than two decades ago.

    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton attends the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 45th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner in Washington September 19, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas - RTS1XWG

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton attends the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 45th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner on Sept. 19 in Washington. Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    “It is like a drip, drip, drip. And that’s why I said, there’s only so much that I can control,” she said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I can’t predict to you what the Republicans will come up with, what kind of, you know, charges or claims they might make.”

    Clinton likened the inquiries into her correspondence to controversies like the Whitewater land deal that trailed her husband’s campaign and much of his administration, saying that voters in New York elected her to the Senate despite years of political questions.

    “During the ’90s, I was subjected to the same kind of barrage. And it was, it seemed to be at the time, endless,” she said. “When I ran for the Senate, people said, ‘Hey, we are more concerned about what you’re going to do for us.’ And I trust the voters to make that decision this time around too.”

    The historical comparison marks a new line of defense for Clinton, who’s seen her poll numbers fall amid lingering questions about her email usage.

    In a separate interview with CNN released on Saturday, former President Bill Clinton also equated the current investigations being conducted by congressional Republicans and federal agencies with questions faced by his administration.

    “This is just something that has been a regular feature of all our presidential campaigns, except in 2008 for unique reasons,” Clinton said. “Ever since Watergate, something like this happens.” He added: “We’re seeing history repeat itself.”

    Earlier this week, newly discovered email correspondence between Clinton and retired Gen. David Petraeus when he headed the military’s U.S. Central Command, raised fresh questions about whether she truly provided to the government a full record of her work-related correspondence as secretary of state.

    In August, Clinton submitted a sworn statement to a U.S. District Court saying she had directed all her work emails to be provided to the State Department.

    “On information and belief, this has been done,” she said in a declaration submitted as part of a lawsuit with Judicial Watch, a conservative advocacy group.

    Clinton said there was about a monthlong gap between her use of a Senate account and her move over to the private server, which was already set up in her basement to handle the former president’s personal correspondence. Her lawyers later tried to recover messages from that period, she said.

    After the State Department requested her records, Clinton said her lawyer combed through her correspondence to determine what was work-related-a process she said she did not participate in. She then requested they dispose of any personal emails, saying she didn’t “need them.”

    “I’m not by any means a technical expert. I relied on people who were,” she said. “And we have done everything we could in response to the State Department asking us to do this review.”

    The post Clinton compares e-mail server criticism to previous GOP probes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Pope Francis concluded his six-day visit to the United States on Sunday in Philadelphia.

    He began the final day by addressing victims of clergy sex abuse and visited Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, Philadelphia’s largest prison, where he spoke to inmates.

    He also celebrated Mass on Saturday at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul where he urged ordinary Catholics to strengthen their role in sustaining the church.

    After being greeted by about 2,400 people and a midday rest Saturday, Pope Francis also visited Independence Mall and addressed the role of faith in a nation.

    Pope Francis greets inmates during his visit to the Curran-Fromhold Correction Facility in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania September 27, 2015. REUTERS/David Maialetti/Pool - RTX1SPSZ

    Pope Francis greets inmates on Sept. 27 during his visit to the Curran-Fromhold Correction Facility in Philadelphia. Photo by David Maialetti/Reuters.

    An inmate hold a photo of Pope Francis as he meets with prisoners at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia, September 27, 2015.       REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX1SPRY

    An inmate holds a photo of Pope Francis Sept. 27 during his visit to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.

    Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he arrives for mass at the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 26, 2015. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller - RTX1SL3A

    Pope Francis waves to the crowd Sept. 26 as he arrives for Mass the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Photo by Charles Mostoller/Reuters.

    Attendees, waiting hours to hear Pope Francis speak at Independence Hall later in the day, watch on large screens as he celebrates mass at a nearby cathedral in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania September 26, 2015.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX1SLMP

    People watch on large screens Sept. 26 as Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.

    A worshipper has tears running down her face as she stands on Independence Mall in Philadelphia watching a television feed of Pope Francis celebrating a mass nearby at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania September 26, 2015.   REUTERS/Jim Bourg - RTX1SLYG

    A woman gets emotional Sept. 26 as she stands at Independence Mall and watches Pope Francis on television celebrating mass nearby at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters.

    Pope Francis kisses a child that was lifted up to him  while he rode in the popemobile to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, September 26 2015.   REUTERS/Jim Bourg TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)   - RTX1SN31

    Pope Francis kisses a child Sept. 26 on his way to Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters.

    A Vatican flag is raiased as crowds gather for Pope Francis at the Festival of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania September 26, 2015. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/Pool - RTX1SNBS

    A Vatican flag is raised Sept. 26 as crowds gather for Pope Francis at the Festival of Families along Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters.

    Pope Francis waves to the crowd on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway before the Festival of Families evening program in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 26, 2015. Pope Francis, speaking in America's birthplace on Saturday, offered stout words of support to Hispanic and other immigrants in the United States, telling them not to be discouraged at a time when some prominent politicians are directing hostility toward them. REUTERS/Mark Makela - RTX1SNIR

    Pope Francis waves to the crowd Sept. 26 before attending the Festival of Families event in Philadelphia. Photo by Mark Makela/Reuters.

    An attendee holds up a sign as he waits for the arrival of Pope Francis at the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania September 26, 2015.    REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTX1SNFH

    A person holds up a sign Sept. 26 that reads, “long live the Pope,” while awaiting the arrival of Pope Francis at the Festival of Families in Philadelphia. Credit: Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Nuns watch Pope Francis' speech Sept. 27 on a screen during the Festival of Families rally Philadelphia. Credit: Carlos Barria/ Reuters

    Nuns watch Pope Francis’ speech Sept. 26 on a screen during the Festival of Families rally Philadelphia. Photo by Carlos Barria/ Reuters.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuba's President Raul Castro as they hold a bilateral meeting during the Summit of the Americas in Panama City April 11, 2015. Obama and Castro shook hands on Friday at the summit, a symbolically charged gesture as the pair seek to restore ties between the Cold War foes. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTR4WXYR

    President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuba’s President Raul Castro April 11, 2015, at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City. Credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    NEW YORK — President Barack Obama will hold a formal meeting Tuesday with Cuban President Raul Castro.

    The meeting comes on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly, a massive gathering of world leaders in New York. It marks the second face-to-face meeting between Obama and Castro since the U.S. and Cuba restored diplomatic relations late last year.

    Obama and Castro also convened a rare phone call earlier this month ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to both their countries.

    In addition to his bilateral meeting with Castro, the White House says Obama will meet with the president of Kazakhstan on Tuesday.

    Obama arrived in New York Sunday morning. While aboard Air Force One, he spoke with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

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    WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner warned Sunday against “false prophets” in his own party making unrealistic promises, saying his resignation had averted a government shutdown this week but not the GOP’s broader battle over how to wield power.

    Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Boehner unloaded against conservatives long outraged that even with control of both houses of Congress, Republicans have not succeeded on key agenda items, such as repealing President Barack Obama’s health care law and striking taxpayer funding from Planned Parenthood. He refused to back down from calling one of the tea party-styled leaders and presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, a “jackass.”

    “Absolutely they’re unrealistic,” Boehner said. “The Bible says, `Beware of false prophets.’ And there are people out there spreading noise about how much can get done.”

    Boehner’s resignation announcement Friday stunned Washington but was long in the making after years of turmoil with the same House conservatives who propelled the GOP into the House majority on a tea party-style, cut-it-or-shut it platform. Without Boehner, the job of leading divided congressional Republicans falls more heavily on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – who declared nearly a year ago that the GOP’s prospects of reclaiming the White House depends substantially on showing the party can govern.

    The development rippled through the slate of 2016 presidential candidates competing for support among the GOP’s core Republicans. As Boehner announced his resignation to House Republicans Friday morning, Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio related the news to a conference of conservatives – who erupted in triumphant hoots. Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina were among the GOP candidates who said Boehner’s departure showed it was time for the party to move on.

    Fiorina suggested that McConnell’s leadership, too, has been unsatisfactory.

    “I hope now that we will move on and have leadership in both the House and the Senate that will produce results,” Fiorina said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

    But former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called Boehner, “a great public servant.”

    “I think people are going to miss him in the long run, because he’s a person that is focused on solving problems,” Bush said on “Fox News Sunday.”

    Boehner’s resignation announcement came as congressional Republicans faced a familiar standoff in their own ranks over whether to insist on their demands in exchange for passage of a federal budget – the same dynamic that led to the partial government shutdown of 2013. For nearly a year, McConnell, now the Senate’s Republican majority leader, has insisted there would be no repeat, even as conservatives dug in.

    “We told people to give us the Senate and things would be different. We told them back in 2010, give us the House and things will be different,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-N.C., on “Fox News Sunday.” `’Things are not that different.”

    Retorted Boehner on CBS:

    “We have got groups here in town, members of the House and Senate here in town, who whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they know – they know – are never going to happen.”

    With government funding set to run out at midnight Wednesday, and conservatives insisting that Planned Parenthood be defunded in exchange for legislation keeping the government open, the GOP-controlled Congress seemed on-track for another costly standoff.

    Until, that is, Boehner met Pope Francis.

    The Roman-Catholic Ohio congressman described spending the day with his spiritual leader as deeply moving and a factor in the timing of his resignation announcement. Boehner said he had originally planned on revealing his plan to leave Congress in November. Away from the cameras, Francis floored Boehner by asking the speaker to pray for him – “I did,” Boehner said. “Well, you can imagine, I was a mess.” The pope blessed Boehner’s newest grandchild and spoke to Congress about resisting forces that divide people. And by the end of the day, Boehner said, “it was pretty obvious to me that, hey, I think it’s time to do this.”

    “I think it helped clear the picture,” an emotional Boehner said of the experience.

    He said he did not know what lies ahead for him, except a continuation of his yoga practice because, “It’s great for my back.”

    But even as he looked forward, Boehner had terse words for the faction that he ultimately could not control. He harked back to 2013 and what he called the conservatives’ “fool’s errand” of insisting on the repeal of the health care law in exchange for passing a budget.

    “Our founders didn’t want some parliamentary system where, if you won the majority, you got to do whatever you wanted. They wanted this long, slow process” he said. “And so change comes slowly, and obviously too slowly, for some.”

    The post Boehner: GOP ‘false prophets’ are making unrealistic promises appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Pope Francis blesses an inmate as he meets with prisoners at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia, September 27, 2015.       REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX1SPRX

    Pope Francis blesses an inmate as he meets with prisoners at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia, September 27, 2015. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    At the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia Pope Francis visited on Sunday, an estimated 80 percent of inmates have yet to be convicted of a crime, the Guardian reports

    Speaking at the facility, Pope Francis told inmates:

    This time in your life can only have one purpose: to give you a hand in getting back on the right road, to give you a hand to help you rejoin society. All of us are part of that effort, all of us are invited to encourage, help and enable your rehabilitation. A rehabilitation which everyone seeks and desires: inmates and their families, correctional authorities, social and educational programs. A rehabilitation which benefits and elevates the morale of the entire community.

    Across the country, the prison population in America is soaring — from 500,000 people in 1980 to 2.3 million today.

    A recent study by the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indicates the increasing incarceration rate does not correlated with an increase in crime.

    Many incarcerated people are also coming from backgrounds where they had already lived in poverty. The average income prior to incarceration was $19,185 a year in 2014 dollars. Incarcerated individuals earn little or nothing during the months or years they serve. Upon their release, many have difficulty finding jobs, and are often banned from subsidized housing or other forms of government assistance. 

    Ahead of the Pope’s visit, Bill Keller of The Marshall Project spoke with NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan about criminal justice reform across the country.

    CtD-Logo2

    Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provid​es a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.​

    The post Pope Francis visit to prison highlights national criminal justice issues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    French President Francois Hollande speaks on French intervention in Syria during the 70th UN General Assembly in New York, September 27, 2015. Hollande said on Sunday that six French jets had struck an Islamic State training camp in Syria, destroying their targets, and warned of more strikes in coming weeks. REUTERS/Alain Jocard/Pool   - RTX1SP8E

    French President Francois Hollande talks Sept. 27 about France’s intervention in Syria during the 70th U.N. General Assembly in New York. Credit: Alain Jocard/Reuters

    PARIS — Six French jet fighters targeted and destroyed an Islamic State training camp in eastern Syria, President Francois Hollande said Sunday, making good on a promise to go after the group that the president has said is planning attacks against several countries, including France.

    The airstrikes were the first in Syria by France as it expands its mission against IS.

    “The camp was totally destroyed,” Hollande said Sunday after arriving at the United Nations, before the start of a major development summit and the U.N. General Assembly bringing together world leaders.

    “We’re sure there were no casualties” among civilians, he added.

    The French president’s office announced the strikes, without details, in a statement hours earlier.

    “Our nation will strike each time our national security is at stake,” the statement said.

    Hollande told reporters the strikes on the training camp, and others to come, were aimed at “protecting our territory, cutting short terrorist actions, acting in legitimate defense.”

    Hollande said more strikes “could take place in the coming weeks if necessary.” The targets were identified in earlier French reconnaissance flights and with information provided by the U.S.-led coalition.

    The president announced earlier this month a change in French strategy – expanding its airstrikes over Iraq into Syria.

    France has carried out 215 airstrikes against IS extremists in Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition since last year, the Defense Ministry said earlier this month. But it previously held back on engaging in Syria, citing concern over playing into Assad’s hand and the need for such action to be covered by international law.

    Officials now evoke “legitimate defense” as spelled out in the U.N. Charter to support strikes in Syria.

    France has already been attacked by extremists claiming ties to IS. Hollande, who has ruled out sending ground troops into Syria, has cited “proof” of plans for attacks on France and the growing danger to Syrian civilians, with a large chunk of the population fleeing in a massive exodus.

    Prime Minister Manuel Valls said France was going after IS “sanctuaries where those who want to hit France are trained.”

    The goal of the strikes is to “slow, break, stop if possible the penetration of Daesh,” Gen. Vincent Desportes said on the iTele TV station, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

    Hollande stressed the importance of seeking a political solution for Syria.

    “More than ever the urgency is putting in place a political transition,” including elements of the moderate opposition and Assad’s regime, the statement said.

    In New York, the French president said he would be meeting this week “all the partners” in the Syrian conflict.

    “This political solution requires that all stakeholders are involved,” he said. “We are not excluding anyone.” He didn’t name countries.

    At the same time, he said, “The future of Syria cannot be with Bashar al Assad.”

    The French government has insisted that while it is part of the U.S.-led coalition, France is deciding independently who and what to hit in Syria.

    Hollande announced on Sept. 7 France’s intention to start airstrikes, days after the photo of a dead 3-year-old Syrian boy galvanized public concern about Syrian refugees fleeing to save their lives.

    In his statement Sunday, Hollande said: “Civilian populations must be protected from all forms of violence, that of IS and other terrorist groups but also the murderous bombardments of Bashar Assad.”

    This report was written by Angela Charlton and Elaine Ganley of the Associated Press.

    The post France’s Hollande confirms attacks on Islamic State training camp in Syria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People walk on the Champs-Elysees, September 27, 2015 as central Paris goes car-free on Sunday. The French capital's central arrondissements and areas around landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Elysees are free from car noise and exhaust fumes, allowing people to stroll, cycle or skate between 0900 GMT and 1600 GMT.  REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer   - RTX1SPIQ

    People walk on the Champs-Elysees on Sept. 27 as Paris observed its first car-free day. Credit: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

    The city of Paris went car-free on Sunday.

    This was the city’s first such initiative and was supported by Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who told Le Parisien that the goal was to show that “Paris can operate without cars.”

    The event comes two months before the United Nations World Climate Conference, which is set to take place in Paris at the end of this year.

    The car ban was limited to one-third of the city, stretching between Bastille and the Champs Elysées, and the outer Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes. It was in effect between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

    A general view shows the Eiffel Tower and the Paris skyline through a small-particle haze March 18, 2015. The French capital and much of northern France awoke to a spike in pollution on Wednesday.   REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes (FRANCE - Tags: ENVIRONMENT TRAVEL CITYSCAPE) - RTR4TW7E

    The Eiffel Tower is shown March 18, 2015, in Paris after the city experienced a spike in pollution. Credit: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

    France has the highest percentage of diesel cars on the road in Europe. The vehicles have been popular as successive governments have subsidized the fuel, making it cheaper than gasoline, Reuters reported.

    Last December, Hidalgo proposed to ban from Paris by 2020 any diesel vehicles built before 2011.

    The post City of Paris goes car-free for a day appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A cross atop of a local monastery stands in front of the moon in the settlement of Poschupovo in Ryazan region, Russia, September 27, 2015. Sky-watchers around the world are in for a treat Sunday night and Monday when the shadow of Earth casts a reddish glow on the moon, the result of rare combination of an eclipse with the closest full moon of the year. The total "supermoon" lunar eclipse, also known as a "blood moon" is one that appears bigger and brighter than usual as it reaches the point in its orbit that is closest to Earth. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov - RTX1SQO8

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Look up in the sky tonight, and you may see a rare supermoon total lunar eclipse. The sun, Earth, and a full moon will be in a straight line, making the moon, in its closing point of orbit, appear much brighter than usual, even red-orange in some places.

    This phenomenon hasn’t happened in 33 years and won’t happen again for another 18.

    For some insight, yesterday I spoke with “NewsHour” science correspondent Miles O’Brien.

    Well, why is this so significant for people?

    MILES O’BRIEN: When the moon turns big, 14 percent bigger, as it does during this — this so-called supermoon — the moon’s orbit is not circular — it’s elliptical — this is its closest point.

    And then on top of that, you get a total eclipse. This is the fourth in a so-called lunar tetrad, which began in April of 2014, four total eclipses in a row. People start thinking things are going crazy.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, why — why does it turn red-orange? Or what is that about?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Well, you know, when you see an eclipse of the sun, the moon is passing from the sun, and you get that dark disk. It takes a bite out of the sun, as it were.

    In this case, the Earth is eclipsing the sun’s rays on to the moon. The moon, of course, has no light of its own. It’s reflected light. What happens is — think of it — the colors you see at sunset, as the light goes through the atmosphere of Earth, it gets bounced around, separated and retracted, and what ends up shining on to the moon and getting to the moon is the red range of light. And that’s why you see that kind of reddish-orange.

    Now, if you are a total pro, look at the beginning and the end. This is a little bit like looking for the green flash when you are looking at the sunset. You will see a blue or violet band that will appear there, because, as the sun passes through the ozone layer of Earth, it retracts slightly differently, and you get a blue tone.

    So, get some binoculars out at the beginning and the end of the eclipse, and you might catch that blue band.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, unlike the solar eclipses, this is totally safe to see, right?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Yes, it’s great.

    It’s the best viewing, because you don’t have to worry about looking straight at the moon. It’s all reflected. You don’t have to have binoculars. You can just go out and enjoy it. And it’s totally in prime time for the East Coast of the U.S. Assuming no cloud cover, you’re going to get quite a show.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, about 10:00 — 10:00 to 11:00 on the East Coast, and then that means, what, about 7:00 on the West Coast.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Yes.

    By the time the moon rises on the West Coast, it will already be under way. But they will still get a show there. The full prime-time show will be on the East Coast. And it — you know, the whole thing really begins around the 8:00 p.m. hour, all the way into midnight.

    But the actual peak of it will be 10:00 p.m. Eastern time on the East Coast. And it’s — it’s worth a look. And if you happen to be in an area where it’s cloudy — and these things happen — there’s about three or four places online where you can see streaming Webcasts. NASA TV is doing it, Sky and Telescope. Slooh is doing it.

    So, you will be able to see it one way or another.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But what is it about this that fascinates us? I mean, this is — people have been fascinated by eclipses for as long as history has been written: Oh my God, something stopped the moon, or something changed the color of the sun. What happened?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Yes.

    I mean, we — science has filled in a lot of blanks for us in recent years. We know that this is simply an alignment of planets. And when the orbits line up in a certain way, the sun, the Earth and the moon line up just perfectly, you get this.

    And that makes it all sound kind of clinical, but, before we knew a lot about this, these were looked at as omens. Eclipses in particular have always been looked at as some indication that something usually bad is going to happen.

    So, I think we know, scientifically, that isn’t necessarily the case. But there are still people out there who worry.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.

    Miles O’Brien, science correspondent for the “PBS NewsHour,” thanks so much for joining us.

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

    The post What you need to know about the ‘supermoon’ lunar eclipse appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Pope Francis speaks to inmates during his visit to the Curran-Fromhold Correction Facility in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania September 27, 2015. REUTERS/David Maialetti/Pool - RTX1SPWK

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In Philadelphia, Pope Francis is in the final hours of his first ever visit to the United States.

    At a seminary this morning, the pope met privately with five survivors of sexual abuse by priests and others. Francis apologized to victims, saying, in part — quote — “I am profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those who you trusted. For those who were abused by a member of the clergy, I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed.”

    The pope later told 300 bishops he was — quote — “overwhelmed with shame” for how some priests had behaved, and he pledged zealous vigilance to protect children.

    POPE FRANCIS, Leader of Catholic Church (through translator): Crimes of sexual abuse of children cannot be maintained in secret for longer. And I commit to a zealous oversight from the church to ensure that youth are protected and that all those responsible will be held accountable.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: “NewsHour”‘s Stephen Fee is covering the pope’s weekend in Philadelphia, and joins me now to discuss the rest of the pope’s day.

    So, Stephen, how did the pope spend his last day here in the U.S.?

    STEPHEN FEE: Yes, Hari, he started the morning off at the Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary.

    That’s where he discussed meeting with abuse victims. He then continued on to a Philadelphia area correctional facility, where he met with inmates and their families. And then he capped off the day here on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the center of Philadelphia to join hundreds of thousands of faithful for an open-air mass.

    It’s likely the largest gathering of this, his 10th international journey as pontiff and his first swing through the United States.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Stephen, what makes this trip to Philadelphia different from his visits to Washington, D.C., and New York?

    STEPHEN FEE: Well, Hari, you know, in those places on Capitol Hill and the halls of the General Assembly, he was talking to world leaders about issues like global income inequality and climate change.

    Here, the pope is really addressing the faithful. You know, after all, the purported reason for his visit was the World Meeting of Families here in Philadelphia. And that’s especially meaningful for Philadelphians. There’s more than a million Catholics here.

    The city was also shaken deeply by the sexual abuse scandal. Now, is this going to bring more people into the pews in church every Sunday? Is it going to forgive the crimes of the past? Maybe, maybe not. But for the people that we have met since we have been here from around the country, around the world, this is really putting a human face on an institution that numbers more than a billion members.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, what’s the security situation like? Is that different than these other cities?

    STEPHEN FEE: You know, I think so, Hari.

    It’s sort of a combination of a festival environment and total lockdown. We got here on Friday afternoon. Main streets in Philadelphia were already closed down to traffic. There’s pedestrians out, bikes out. We waited with the — with the security line on the way in here today. It took us two hours to get in.

    The line nearly doubled by the time we were in. So, there’s a lot of lockdown here if Philly.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. When he heads back to Rome this evening, what’s next for him? What’s next for the church?

    STEPHEN FEE: Yes.

    Well, you know, he will fly out of here, and he will meet briefly with Vice President Joe Biden. And when he returns to Rome, the story continues. Bishops in the Vatican will be meeting on issues of the family in the coming days. They will be talking about some of those hot-button issues that we have been talking about, about marriage and divorce and annulment, about the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church, and, of course, the issue of women in the church, who still aren’t permitted into the clergy and are seldom found in the higher echelons of power in the Catholic Church.

    You know, it’s an important time for the pope. After all, despite his open message, he’s still the leader of the Catholic Church. And there are still strong establishment strains there. So, it remains to be seen what kind of mark he will leave during his papacy.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, “NewsHour”‘s Stephen Fee, joining us from Philadelphia, thanks so much.

    STEPHEN FEE: Thank you, Hari.

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    Watch our live stream of the world leaders speaking at the 70th session of the U.N. General Assembly starting 9 a.m. EDT on Sept. 28, 2015.

    More than 150 world leaders are gathering at U.N. headquarters in New York this week with a migrant crisis, cyber warfare and raging Syrian conflict as the backdrop.

    The Syrian conflict, now in its fourth year, is straining neighboring countries in the Middle East and has spread to Europe, where government officials are trying to come up with a coordinated response. The United States has upped its quota of refugees, but many in the international community think it isn’t enough.

    The United Nations members also are working on updating their development goals and looking toward December’s U.N. climate conference in Paris, where participants will be drafting a new international protocol for the environment.

    You can watch the leaders speak, one after another, over the course of the week in the player above. And we’ll be updating this post with highlights.

    The post WATCH LIVE: 2015 U.N. General Assembly speeches appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Poet Sonia Guiñansaca. Photo by Nye'Lyn Tho

    Poet Sonia Guiñansaca. Photo by Nye’Lyn Tho

    When we talk about undocumented immigrants, who are we leaving behind?

    That’s a central question for poet Sonia Guiñansaca, who was undocumented for 21 years after moving from Ecuador to Harlem. In 2007, Guiñansaca came out as undocumented and began organizing migrant and undocumented communities of color. Several years later, she launched Dreaming in Ink, the first creative writing workshop for undocumented youth in New York City, and founded the UndocuMic series, an inter-generational performance space for undocumented writers.

    These efforts were aimed at creating a rare space for undocumented and migrant writers to speak out about their experiences, she said. “The few stories that are written about migration, or the few poems, have always been from an outsider’s point of view, so from people who are not directly impacted, or have never been undocumented,” she said. “There’s an injustice to that.”

    These writers bring a unique, vital perspective to conversations on literature and on immigration, she said. “When we look at the migrant writers that are being acknowledged … I wonder specifically how many voices are being left behind, and how much of the history is being erased,” she said.

    Guiñansaca co-founded and organized the first retreat for undocumented writers in the U.S from a national pool of more than 100 applicants in August 2013. From that retreat, the group created an anthology, “Home in Time of Displacement,” which is currently seeking a publisher.

    Their work contradicts the idea that there are few undocumented writers, she said. “The [excuse] is always, ‘There are no undocumented writers.’ That’s a myth — there are,” she said.

    But many literary spaces remain difficult to access for undocumented immigrants, she said. Some contests require submission fees or have citizenship requirements, both barriers for many immigrants. And literary conferences, which open opportunities for poets to meet each other and share their work, are expensive and time-consuming.

    Last November, when Guiñansaca gained legal immigration status, she was able to return to Ecuador. She documented her trip with a series of posts on Instagram with the hashtag #20yearstoolate and is working on a series of poems around the same theme.

    Her piece “Bursting of photographs after trying to squeeze out old memories” addresses physical markers of the stories that are lost in migration.

    The poem is unconstrained by a traditional form, which Guiñansaca said is a statement on reclaiming space as a migrant.

    “I’ve been growing up a brown, femme, queer woman of color. The idea of taking up space has always been challenging. You’re not even supposed to be here. You’re supposed to be quiet,” she said. “A lot of the space in my poetry has been intentional about taking up space … That’s just me saying, I’m going to do whatever I want with the page. That is a radical thing, for me.”

    Read the poem or listen to Guiñansaca read it below.

    Bursting of photographs after trying to squeeze out old memories

    They don’t tell you this when you migrate:

    Old Polaroid’s are never enough
    You are left tracing the silhouette of your grandparents
    Or what ever is left

    Of them

    How many years has it been,
    5,10, or 20?
    It’s been 20

    20

    In those 20 years you have been asked

    To hide your accent

    Sow your tongue

    So that no more Rrrr’s roll out

    Straighten up
    So that white Jesus accepts you

    So that the lawyer helps you

    Dig out the roots

    Of your home

    From underneath your nails
    Cut your trenza

    Pledge allegiance to the flag
    And when you cannot,
    Each thread will cut through

    Every inch of you
    To teach you, your kind was not meant

    For this country

    Dad told you that they will measure your success based on how smart you could be
    So, you tried to be smart

    Books after books you chased vocabulary for value
    Legislation to give you meaning

    Yes, sir. I am a skilled worker
    Yes, sir. I can contribute
    No, sir. I haven’t committed any crimes

    Pinned. Against One. Another

    You remember that your mother almost didn’t make it through the Border
    Or any legislation, this time around

    She won’t make it into health care packages
    She won’t be remembered during press conferences

    She will be dissected, research
    How much she doesn’t belong will be published

    They don’t tell you this when you migrate

    Sonia Guiñansaca is an activist, organizer and writer. She is a board member of the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC) and coordinator of the Undocuwriting Project and the Artist Network at Culture/Strike. She is currently editing the first undocumented poetry anthology, “Home in Time of Displacement.”

    The post Why we need to listen to undocumented poets appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy announces steps under the Clean Air Act to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants during a news conference in Washington June 2, 2014. The U.S. power sector must cut carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, according to federal regulations unveiled on Monday that form the centerpiece of the Obama administration's climate change strategy. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ENERGY ENVIRONMENT) - RTR3RVHL

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy said Monday that new rules on toxic pesticides would make working conditions safer for millions of agricultural workers. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency is strengthening 20-year-old rules designed to protect farmworkers from toxic pesticides.

    New rules announced by the EPA on Monday will bar almost anyone under 18 from handling pesticides and require buffer zones around treated fields to protect workers from drift and fumes. Farm owners and their family members would be exempt from the rules.

    Under the new standards, workers would have to be trained annually on the risks of pesticides, including how to protect their families when they return home with potentially contaminated clothes and shoes. Currently they only have to be trained every five years. Farms would also be required to post signs when the most toxic pesticides are applied.

    EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the rules are “a long time coming” and would affect millions of agricultural workers across the country.

    “Farmworkers deserve to be healthy and safe while they are earning a living,” she said.

    The EPA says that between 1,800 and 3,000 cases of pesticide exposure are reported each year at farms, nurseries and other agricultural operations covered by the current standards. McCarthy said those rules haven’t been working and that many cases of exposure aren’t reported.

    Fewer of these incidents would mean healthier workers and fewer lost wages, medical bills and work absences, the agency says. EPA also said it is concerned about low-level, repetitive exposure to pesticides that could contribute to chronic illness.

    Farmworkers are unique in that many of the workplace protection standards issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for other industries do not apply to them. Many farmworkers are migrants who move from farm to farm, making it difficult to track health problems from pesticide exposure that can develop over time.

    The post EPA rules will strengthen pesticide safety on farms appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Bonnie Schupp/E+ via Getty Images.

    Photo by Bonnie Schupp/E+ via Getty Images.

    Boston University economist Larry Kotlikoff has spent every week, for over two years, answering questions about what is likely your largest financial asset — your Social Security benefits. His Social Security original 34 “secrets,” his additional secrets, his Social Security “mistakes” and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we feature “Ask Larry” every Monday. Find a complete list of his columns here. And keep sending us your Social Security questions.

    Kotlikoff’s state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its “basic” version. His new book, “Get What’s Yours — the Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security Benefits,” (co-authored with Paul Solman and Making Sen$e Medicare columnist Phil Moeller) was published in February by Simon & Schuster.

    Watch Larry explain how Paul and his wife could collect an extra $50,000 in Social Security benefits:

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


    Mark – Urbandale, Iowa: I had a service-related injury that worsened over time. In 1994, I was awarded 100 percent V.A. benefits. When I inquired with Social Security back then, I was told I didn’t qualify due to my V.A. benefits. I accepted the response. I figured they should know. I felt bad about even asking, but I inquired, because I had paid in since I was 16. Yesterday, my nephew told me that that wasn’t true. So I called today, and they said I didn’t qualify, because I haven’t worked in the last five years. (Of course I haven’t — I am disabled.) I don’t know if the law has changed since 1994, but by today’s laws, I would have qualified since I had worked back then. This just doesn’t seem fair. Can you help or perhaps provide advice?

    Larry Kotlikoff: I’ve asked our Social Security Technical Adviser, Jerry Lutz, to weigh in.

    Jerry Lutz: First, sincere thanks for your service.

    You can still apply for Social Security disability benefits, but you will need to establish that your disability began within five years after you stopped working. Social Security should be able to access your V.A. medical records (with your permission), so there should be evidence available in your case. Remember, though, that Social Security’s definition of disability is different from the V.A., so there is no guarantee that you will be approved. If your claim is disallowed, don’t hesitate to file an appeal. Many disability cases are approved during the appeals process, and you can usually find an attorney who will represent you on a contingency basis. If you are approved, Social Security normally pays a maximum of 12 months of back pay on disability benefits. However, if you can establish that they misinformed you at the time of your first contact, it’s possible that they could pay you all of the retroactive benefits to which you would have been entitled.


    Linda – North Canton, Ohio: My husband started collecting his Social Security at age 63. He passed away when he was 67. I continued to collect his Social Security. I am now going to turn 65 in June. Am I able to collect both benefits or just his, which is higher? I’m asking, because I received a letter from Social Security today saying that I was going to start collecting mine, but it didn’t mention what I was collecting from my late husband.

    Larry Kotlikoff: I’m sorry for your loss. I presume you started to collect your widows benefit at age 60 or thereabouts. You are under no compulsion to take your retirement benefit before age 70, when it starts at its highest value. If you take it now, you may get nothing more in total benefits and forego the ability to receive much larger total benefits from age 70 on.

    Please read my article in which Social Security whistleblower, John McAdams, explains that Social Security has — whatever the reason — deprived widows of the ability to collect larger checks in future years by having them file for their own retirement benefit at too young an age.

    It sounds like you might be in this situation. I find it unlikely that Social Security would automatically file for your retirement benefit without your requesting they do so, but someone at Social Security may have talked you into this in some manner.

    GOT SOCIAL SECURITY QUESTIONS?

    Pose Your Questions to Larry Here

    You cannot, in fact, receive both your retirement and your widow’s benefit at the same time. You’ll just receive the larger of the two benefits. But if your widow’s benefit is larger, Social Security will describe what it gives you as the sum of your retirement benefit plus your excess widow’s benefit. Your excess widow’s benefit is the difference, if positive, between your widow’s benefit and your retirement benefit. If you take your retirement benefit early, it will be reduced permanently (assuming you don’t suspend it between full retirement age and 70.) And if it’s less than the widow’s benefit, your check won’t go up. By not filing for your retirement benefit before age 70, you will let it grow potentially to the point that it exceeds or far exceeds your widow’s benefit.

    The bottom line is 1) Go to your local Social Security office and show them the John McAdams column; 2) Tell them in writing (and have them sign an acknowledging receipt of your written communication) that you don’t want to take your retirement benefit at 65 if, in fact, doing so provides you nothing more or little more and keeps you from waiting until 70 to collect a much larger check; and 3) Restrict the conversation to your total check. Just ask them what will happen to your total check if you do one thing versus the other.


    Anonymous: I am 50 years old. I was married the first time for 13 years. We got divorced, and I remarried and was married for 19 years. I would like to collect my first husband’s benefits when I turn 60, because his benefit is much higher. Will I be able to do that?

    Larry Kotlikoff: If your first husband (presumably the higher earner) passed away, you can collect a reduced divorcee widows benefit starting at 60 (and at 50 if you are disabled and meet Social Security’s requirements) and wait until 70 to collect your own retirement benefit. This may or may not be the right thing to do depending on: a) your own work record compared with that of your first ex’s; b) whether your ex took his retirement benefit early; and c) your maximum age of life. Expert commercial software can help you decide whether to take your own retirement benefit or your divorcee widows benefit first. If your first ex is still alive, you can collect a divorcee spousal benefit on his work record as early as age 62. But if you do qualify to collect a divorcee spousal benefit (because he’s over 62), you’ll be forced, due to Social Security’s deeming rules, to take you own retirement benefit early, and your divorcee spousal benefit will actually be what they call your excess divorcee spousal benefit. This is the multiplication of a) the difference between half your ex’s full retirement benefit and 100 percent of your full retirement benefit and b) a reduction factor due to the fact that you are taking your excess divorcee spousal benefit before full retirement age. This excess divorcee spousal benefit could be negative, in which case it is set to zero. That is, by trying to receive a divorcee spousal benefit early (before full retirement age), you can end up with a permanently reduce retirement benefit and nothing else!

    You can flip from collecting or trying to collect on one ex-spouse’s work record to collecting or trying on the other ex-spouse’s work record and then flip back again. For example, if your first ex is alive and the higher earner of the two, and you had, let’s assume, no work record of your own, you could collect a reduced divorcee spousal benefit on him (if he’s over 62) when you reach 62. Then, if the second ex dies after you’ve reached full retirement age, you could collect an unreduced divorcee widow’s benefit on the second ex if it exceed the reduced divorcee spousal benefit based on the first ex’s work record. Finally, when the first ex dies, you can collect a non-reduced divorcee widow’s benefit based on that first ex’s work record. This could work, because divorcee widows benefit formula is more generous than the divorce spousal benefit formula.

    To sum up, you can’t collect more than one benefit at a time. But depending on what benefit you can collect from them at the time you flip, you can flip from collecting on one ex to the other ex and then to the first ex again.


    Kathryn – Garden City, Mich.: I am five years older than my husband. I am also the higher wage earner. I am currently 65, and he is 60. I was planning on quitting work and pulling Social Security benefits at age 66, and my husband would do so at 62, but after hearing about spousal benefits, I was wondering how we can maximize our benefits. I don’t want to work past age 66, but he wouldn’t mind working part-time from age 62 to 66. Thanks for any help you can provide.

    Larry Kotlikoff: Your best move is likely to wait until 70 to collect your highest possible retirement benefit, have your husband collect just his spousal benefit starting at full retirement age and then have him collect his own retirement benefit at 70.

    Yes, you could have him take his retirement benefit at 62, which will let you collect half of his full retirement benefit starting at 67. Under this Start-Stop-Start strategy, you’d collect your own retirement benefit at 70. And your husband would suspend his retirement benefit at full retirement age and restart it at age 70. This suspension would raise his reduced retirement benefit by 32 percent.

    This second strategy is, however, likely to produce lower benefits than the first. But only expert commercial software that accounts for your maximum (not your expected) ages of life can say for sure. Your expected age of life isn’t relevant since you can’t count on dying on time.


    Gerald – Kodak, Tenn.: How can I get proof from Social Security that they applied the extra earnings credit as listed in SSA Pub No. 05-100017 for my military service 1954 to 1979 to my Social Security payment each month? I have called, and they said it was applied, but they can’t send me proof. What is my next step? I figured $12,000 ($300 a quarter for 10 years) should have been added to my income, but I can’t see it anywhere. You reply is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    Larry Kotlikoff: If you can get your military pay records, it should be an easy matter to determine from your Social Security earnings record whether you are being credited for your military service for which I sincerely thank you. If you can come up with those two sets of records, give a shout. I’ll have someone in my software company check things out.


    Frank – Freeland, Wash.: My wife will be 62 this year, and I will be 64. She was the lower earner, and her own retirement benefit, even at age 70, would still be less than her spousal benefit based on my earnings. Our plan was for her to take her reduced retirement this year at age 62 and collect four years of that benefit. Then, when she is 66 and I am 68, I would file and suspend so she could take her full spousal benefit, and then I would take my full retirement benefit at age 70.

    However, I’ve read elsewhere:

    If you claim retirement or dependents benefits at any time before you reach full retirement age, that early claim permanently reduces those benefits by a small percentage each month (up to full retirement age). Many people don’t realize, though, that claiming either early retirement or early dependents benefits also permanently reduces that other benefit for you. You cannot claim your own early retirement benefits and then switch to full dependents benefits later based on your spouse’s earnings record, and you cannot claim early dependents benefits and then later switch to full retirement benefits on your own record. As soon as you claim a Social Security benefit early, the other one is also reduced by the same percentage.

    This seems to conflict with item 34 in your “34 Social Security Secrets You Need to Know Now” article:

    If you take your retirement benefit early and your spouse takes his/her retirement benefit any time that is a month or more after you take your retirement benefit, you will NOT be deemed, at that point (when your spouse starts collecting his/her retirement benefit) to be applying for a spousal benefit. In other words, you can, in this situation, wait until your full retirement age to start collecting your unreduced excess spousal benefit.

    Am I misinterpreting one of these? It makes a big difference in whether our plan makes sense. Thanks!

    Larry Kotlikoff: The first reference at nolo.com, which is about deeming (being forced to collect two benefits at once and then getting only the larger of the two), is, in part, misleading, incomplete and incorrect. I won’t take the time to fully explore the depth of its error. I’ll just focus on your case.

    Your wife can file now. Her check will equal her own full retirement benefit reduced by 25 percent. She would be deemed to be also filing to collect a spousal benefit if you had already filed for your retirement benefit or filed for it at the same time as she filed for hers. In your case, since you are waiting until 68 to file for your retirement benefit (the fact that you will suspend it isn’t relevant to this issue), your wife won’t be deemed to be taking her spousal benefit at 62. When she reaches 66 and files, according to your plan, for her spousal benefit, her total check will equal the sum of A and B. A is her reduced retirement benefit and B is her unreduced excess spousal benefit (because she doesn’t get it before full retirement age). Her excess spousal benefit will be the difference between half of your full retirement benefit and 100 percent of her full retirement benefit.

    This said, the real question is whether this is the best strategy. Her total check from age 66 on will be under what you have in mind than if she were to wait until 66 and file for her full spousal benefit, which will equal half of your full retirement benefit. If you do the math, her full spousal benefit from age 66 on equals her reduced retirement benefit plus her full (unreduced) excess spousal benefit.

    What’s optimal here in terms of maximizing your combined lifetime Social Security benefits depends on both your wife’s and your maximum age of life and what equally sure return you can get by investing in the market. If you run highly-expert commercial software, you can quickly see what you may be giving up in terms of lifetime benefits based on your proposed strategy.

    The post Do I qualify for both V.A. benefits and Social Security disability benefits? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    CAMBRIDGE, MA - SEPTEMBER 12:   Freshman Winston Yan enters the Admissions Building at Harvard University September 12, 2006 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard is eliminating early admissions beginning next year because of criticism that it favors wealthier students and hinders those seeking financial aid since the deadlines for aid are much later.  (Photo by Glen Cooper/Getty Images)

    Harvard University is one of 80 colleges to revamp their admissions process. Photo by Glen Cooper/Getty Images.

    Eighty leading colleges and universities are announcing today a plan to reverse a decades-long process by which colleges — largely through the Common Application — have made their applications increasingly similar.

    Further, the colleges and universities are creating new online portfolios for high school students, designed to have ninth graders begin thinking more deeply about what they are learning or accomplishing in high school, to create new ways for college admissions officers, community organizations and others to coach them, and to emerge in their senior years with a body of work that could be used to help identify appropriate colleges and apply to them. Organizers of the new effort hope it will minimize some of the disadvantages faced by high school students without access to well-staffed guidance offices or private counselors.

    While the goals of the effort are ambitious, so are the resources and clout of the colleges today announcing this campaign. These colleges include every Ivy League university, Stanford University and the University of Chicago, liberal arts colleges such as Amherst, Swarthmore and Williams Colleges and leading public institutions such as the Universities of Michigan, North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Virginia. The 80 members expect more institutions to join.

    While they aim to create a new way for students to apply, they also hope that the portfolio system they create prods changes in high school education that could have an impact beyond those who apply to these institutions.

    The new group is called the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success. It will be open to public institutions with “affordable tuition along with need-based financial aid for in-state residents,” according to an outline provided by the coalition.

    Private colleges may join if they “provide sufficient financial aid to meet the full, demonstrated financial need of every domestic student they admit.” That means colleges need not be need blind (in which admissions offers are made without regard to financial need) to participate. And indeed, a number of colleges that have joined are “need aware” for some students, meaning that, for some of their slots, they consider only those students who do not have financial need. But colleges that engage in “gapping,” in which some admitted students are not provided enough aid to attend, will not be allowed to join. Gapping is common among private colleges that do not have substantial endowments.

    To participate, colleges also must have a six-year federal graduation rate of 70 percent, a threshold that will exclude many public institutions.

    There are three main parts to the coalition’s work:

    The high school student’s portfolio: This would be offered to all high school students for free. They would be encouraged to add to it, starting in ninth grade, examples of their best work, short essays on what they most proud of, descriptions of their extracurricular activities and so forth. Students could opt to share or not share all or part of their portfolios, but college admissions leaders would provide regular prompts, appropriate for grades nine and up, and questions students should ask about how they are preparing for college.

    New forms of interaction with high school students. Students could opt to share (with any privacy levels they desire) some or all of their portfolios with people who might provide advice. Community organizers focused on education might check in on students to see how they are progressing. Colleges could, at students’ invitations, provide feedback as early as freshman year of high school. Pamela T. Horne, vice provost for enrollment management at Purdue University, which is part of the coalition, said she always worries about high school students who may well have the talent to do well in math and science but don’t have anyone pushing them. She envisions universities such as Purdue accepting students’ invitation to advise them as early as ninth grade, “so we can say, ‘yes you are on a path to be ready for calculus,’ or can say, ‘yes, you did well in science courses so here are more to take,’” and so forth.

    A new application system. The coalition will introduce a new online application. Like the Common Application, there will be some factual information that students would need to enter only once (name, high school, etc.). But once an applicant hits short answers or essay or other sections, each college would prepare its own questions. The idea is to link many of the questions to material that applicants would have put in their portfolios, so applicants are not scrambling for ideas on essays but are relying on work they did in high school. (Standardized test scores and high school transcripts would continue to be provided to colleges.)

    The goal of these three features is to change the way students, colleges and society think about the admissions process. “The idea isn’t about how you should pad your résumé, but about how you should have significant experiences as part of your education,” said Horne.

    Stephen M. Farmer, vice president for enrollment and undergraduate admissions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said UNC was joining because of the opportunity in this new approach to interact with low-income students much earlier, and to help them prepare for admission. “We’ve got to broaden our thinking about what constitutes talent,” he said, adding that this approach will lead universities to focus on developing the talent of high school students, not just picking already talented high school seniors.

    Seth Allen, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid at Pomona College, was one of the organizers of the coalition. He said the coalition’s ambition is to “serve students who don’t have the college-going resources” of wealthier students, and to create a communication system so that others “can act as a proxy for a counselor asking the right questions.”

    Allen said that organizers also want to shift college preparation and admissions away from the current frenzy, which many find decidedly disconnected from educational values. When colleges ask their own questions, and students are drawing on a large portfolio of work to answer, “I’m hoping to have more rich, vibrant parts of the application.”

    A Challenge to the Common App?

    One big question about the new system is how much of a challenge it will represent to the Common Application, which has more than 600 members, including most if not all of the new coalition’s members. Over its 40-year history, the Common Application has grown from a small group of small liberal arts colleges to a dominant player in college admissions, attracting all kinds of colleges with competitive admissions, many of which have reported boosts to application numbers after joining the Common App.

    All of the coalition members contacted for this article said that they plan to offer, but not require, the coalition application, and that they expect to continue having a majority of applicants (certainly in the coalition’s early years) apply through the Common App. Several members of the Common Application board are admissions officials at colleges joining the coalition. (Under terms of the embargo under which this article was reported, the Common App could not be contacted. A reaction from that organization will be added later today.)

    Many admissions leaders who once raved about the Common Application stopped doing so in fall 2013, when the Common App introduced a new software system that resulted in numerous glitches and system crashes that prevented applicants from submitted their applications on time. Students, guidance counselors and college admissions deans all complained not only about the problems, but what they perceived as a slow response from the Common Application. Many also started talking about how the Common Application represented a “single point of failure” in admissions technology, since many institutions had no other way to accept applications.

    The Universal College Application — now up to 44 colleges — gained ground in the wake of the Common App’s technical failures in 2013, but Universal has never had the critical mass or recognition among high school students of the Common App.

    Further, the Common Application has been criticized on issues aside from the technology failures (which no longer appear to be a problem). Some admissions experts have questioned whether, in the simplicity of its approach, it has homogenized college admissions to the point where the application process has lost its ability to help students and colleges find a good match.

    Organizers of the coalition took care not to criticize the Common Application in discussing their new venture. But there is no question that, if it takes off, the coalition could represent a significant challenge to the Common App, which charges a per-applicant fee to colleges. Allen of Pomona said he would consider the new application highly successful if, in a few years’ time, it was responsible for 15 percent or so of his college’s applications. Across coalition members, such a decline would be a serious loss of revenue for the Common Application.

    Purdue’s Horne said that, in considering the reasons to join the coalition, “we want to assure that no matter what, in the future we have at least two different online applications, so that just in case something goes wrong, we have an alternative.”

    Matthew T. Proto, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid at Colby College, said he welcomes having an alternative to the Common Application, and views the coalition application as creating “another pathway” for students to college. Proto said he wants to see Colby and other high quality colleges attract more students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and that he thinks the portfolio could help more of them envision college in their future and present their own talents in ways that might win them admission.

    Customizing Applications

    For colleges that are joining the coalition, one attraction is the ability to embrace a less formulaic approach to applications than has been the norm. Jeremiah Quinlan, one of the organizers of the coalition and dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale University, said that “technology has completely transformed our application process, and the back end of our process, but the Yale application today is very similar to what I filled out when I applied to Yale decades ago, and the students are very different.”

    He said he imagined Yale asking applicants to submit a piece of work from their portfolio “rather than another 500-word essay,” so that the admissions team would be looking at actual student work.

    Jess Lord, dean of admissions and financial aid at Haverford College, said that he has “not been a total fan of this push to minimize institutional presence in the application,” so he is pleased by the idea that the coalition will move away from that model. He said that having similar or identical applications “has obviously meant more applications and arguably helped access,” but he added that he thinks “there might be a better balance that would more fully serve students and institutions.”

    While he believes applications with more of a unique tie to an institution create an “opportunity for students to build relationships with institutions,” to the extent others prefer the status quo, the Common Application remains an option for colleges. “[Having] more application options serves the larger end by giving students more pathways to engage with specific institutions,” Lord said.

    Building the Website and Paying for It

    Allen of Pomona said the portfolio and application system is being built, for free, by CollegeNet, a company that provides technology services to colleges in admissions and other areas. CollegeNet last year filed an antitrust lawsuit against the Common Application, and CollegeNet’s CEO last year wrote an essay in Inside Higher Ed criticizing the Common Application. CollegeNet has also been a major supporter of the Education Conservancy, a group that has promoted a range of reforms of college admissions.

    Eventually, Allen said, CollegeNet will likely receive fees on a per-applicant basis from colleges that use the coalition application. He said he expected the payments to end up being cost neutral, as colleges would be paying less to the Common Application if applicants start to use the coalition’s application.

    Calls for Reform in Admissions

    Efforts to reform college admissions are difficult to pull off for a number of reasons. One is that institutions find it difficult to move together, as institutional interests may not always align. In 2006, Harvard and Princeton Universities ended their early action programs, in which applicants find out early if they are admitted. Many critics said that the practice favored wealthier students, who had the support (financial and otherwise) to make decisions early. But Yale University declined to go along, and momentum stopped. Today early action is back at Harvard and Princeton.

    Legal threats may also limit reforms. Another reform many would like to promote is to reduce the use of non-need-based aid. Many college leaders say that they would move funds from non-need-based (so called merit aid) to need-based, but that they can only do so if the colleges with which they compete do so at the same time. And mutually agreeing on such a plan could lead to antitrust investigations by the U.S. Justice Department.

    The coalition appears to have identified a path around legal problems (no collaboration on aid or setting tuition rates), and on identifying issues on which a substantial group of colleges can agree. And while the group is clearly made up of public and private institutions that are more competitive (and more well off) than many of their peers, this is a group of institutions that others seek to emulate.

    The coalition’s work also comes at a time of many calls for reform in the admissions process. The College Board is preparing to introduce a new version of the SAT — and more colleges than in the past are going test optional.

    Institutions such as Goucher, Bennington and Bard Colleges are introducing new options for applications — and attracting considerable praise for doing so.

    And First Lady Michelle Obama has stressed the importance of better guidance for low-income high school students if more of them are to prepare for and apply to college.

    Meanwhile, admissions leaders will gather in San Diego this week for the annual meeting of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, where the coalition’s announcement is sure to generate considerable discussion.

    Inside Higher Ed is a free, daily online publication covering the fast-changing world of higher education.

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

    The post 80 colleges plan admissions revamp to reach more disadvantaged students appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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