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

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    Paul Ryan, U.S. congressman (R-WI), speaks at the SALT conference in Las Vegas May 16, 2014.  SALT is the $2.7 trillion hedge fund industry's biggest annual event and is hosted by Skybridge.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS) - RTR3PIJU

    Paul Ryan, U.S. congressman, R-WI, said he will run for Speaker of the House if he is the Republicans’ consensus candidate. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan told GOP lawmakers late Tuesday that he will run for speaker, but only if they embrace him by week’s end as their consensus candidate — an ambitious bid to impose unity on a disordered and divided House.

    Ryan spoke to the House GOP behind closed doors and said if all factions can share his vision and he can get the endorsement of the major caucuses, then he will “be all in.”

    “We as a conference should unify now,” Ryan told reporters later. “What I told members is if you can agree to these requests and if I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly serve, and if I am not unifying, that is fine as well — I will be happy to stay where I am.”

    The question will be whether he can win over the hardline House Freedom Caucus, which drove the current speaker, John Boehner, to announce his resignation and scared off Boehner’s No. 2, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

    Rep. Mark Sanford R-S.C., a member of the Freedom Caucus, was reluctant to elaborate or whether his group would move to Ryan instead of their endorsed candidate, Daniel Webster of Florida.

    “The way the Freedom Caucus group operates is by unanimous bloc. I think that the Ryan event, Ryan throwing his name in the hat, is gonna cause much discussion on that very point,” Sanford said.

    Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, had consistently said he does not want to be speaker and would prefer to stay on as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, which he’s described as his dream job.

    But he’s been under heavy pressure to reconsider from Boehner and other party leaders who argue he is the only House Republican with the stature and broad popularity to unite a caucus divided against itself, at a moment of deep turmoil.

    Congress is hurtling toward an early November deadline to raise the federal borrowing limit or invite a first-ever default, and a deadline to pass spending legislation or risk a government shutdown will follow in early December.

    Several members of the fractious Freedom Caucus were unconvinced after hearing from Ryan.

    “I think he has to campaign for it. We’ve heard one speech,” said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa. “We’re willing to listen but it’s the beginning of the conversation as far as I’m concerned.”

    Speaking to cameras and reporters after a closed door meeting with House Republicans, Ryan laid out a series of conditions that must be met before he would officially run for speaker. Among them, that he wants the conference to unify around him now, not after a speaker election, and that he will not give up time with his family in order to be speaker.

    He said he encourages changes to rules and procedures — something eagerly sought by members of the Freedom Caucus who claim they’ve been shut out of legislating in the House. But he said any such changes must be made as a team, with input from all.

    He sought a change in the process for a “motion to vacate the chair” — the procedure conservatives were threatening against Boehner, which would have resulted in a floor vote on his speakership and ultimately drove him to resign.

    Ryan added that he considers this role with reluctance. He wants to know what his fellow Republicans think of his conditions by the end of the week.

    The post Ryan to seek speakership if GOP will support him appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    John M. Grunsfeld (L), Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, poses for a selfie with Ahmed Mohamed, 14, the Texas teenager who was arrested after bringing a homemade electronic clock to school. The photo was taken during "Astronomy Night" at the White House on Oct. 19, 2015. Ahmed's family announced Tuesday that the Texas teen will move to Qatar next week to start school at the Qatar Foundation. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    John M. Grunsfeld (L), Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, poses for a selfie with Ahmed Mohamed, 14, the Texas teenager who was arrested after bringing a homemade electronic clock to school. The photo was taken during “Astronomy Night” at the White House on Oct. 19, 2015. Ahmed’s family announced Tuesday that the Texas teen will move to Qatar next week to start school at the Qatar Foundation. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    More than a month since Ahmed Mohamed was arrested for a homemade clock that was mistaken for a bomb, his family said Tuesday that the 14-year-old will soon leave for Qatar to resume his studies.

    “After careful consideration of all the generous offers received, we would like to announce that we have accepted a kind offer from Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) for Ahmed to join the prestigious QF Young Innovators Program, which reflects the organization’s on-going dedication to empowering young people and fostering a culture of innovation and creativity,” the family said in a statement released Tuesday.

    The announcement came a day after the Texas student took up President Barack Obama’s personal invitation to visit the White House as part of “Astronomy Night.” The decision also followed weeks of Ahmed’s family considering different options for a new school, including a mini-tour to the Middle East earlier in October that brought Ahmed to the Qatar Foundation’s Education City campus in Doha, the country’s capital.

    Anthony Bond, a family friend and founder of the NAACP chapter of Irving, Texas, told The Washington Post that a full scholarship awaits Ahmed at the Qatar Foundation when he, his parents and two sisters move next week. He added that the move was partly motivated by the online conspiracies that said Ahmed’s hoax bomb was a way to get attention.

    “Everybody’s vilifying him, and he’s not a villain. He’s a 14-year-old boy,” Bond told the Post. “The whole world was concerned about this, and it’s impossible that anyone could have expected this international reaction.”

    Dubbed the “clock kid,” Mohamed received a flood of support with the #IStandWithAhmed hashtag on Twitter that brought him national attention after his school thought his creation — a digital clock — was a hoax bomb. Although police didn’t ultimately charge Ahmed, he was suspended for three days.

    Beyond Obama, supporters ranging from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, reached out to Ahmed.

    Before Monday’s “Astronomy Night” at the White House, Ahmed told the Associated Press what lesson could be learned from his experience: “Don’t judge a person by the way they look. Always judge them by their heart.”

    The post Clockmaker Ahmed Mohamed accepts full scholarship at Qatar innovation school appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Barack Obama will take steps to improve doctor training and ease access to drug treatment as part of an effort to help communities battling the scourge of heroin and prescription painkiller abuse. Photo illustration by Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    President Barack Obama will efforts to help communities battling the scourge of heroin and prescription painkiller abuse in Charleston, West Virginia, today. Photo illustration by Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    President Obama will travel to Charleston, West Virginia, today to lead a community discussion on prescription drug abuse and the heroin epidemic.

    West Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the U.S. — more than twice the national average. That’s according to a report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Nationally, the number of people who reported using heroin within the past year almost doubled from 2002 to 2013.

    In advance of Obama’s visit, students with the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs program produced this video featuring local residents, students and law enforcement discussing their community’s struggle with drug use.

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

    The White House invited these youth journalists Kendra Amick, Haley Brown and Jayde Robinson, along with Richwood High School graduate and PBS mentor Tarrin Neel, to attend the discussion, while students Griffin Dotson and Shelden Morris will cover the event on the ground. The students will be accompanied by their teacher Susan Johnson and professional mentor Chuck Frostick from West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

    Kathleen Hennessey of the Associated Press contributed to this report.

    The post Obama to announce plans to fight heroin use appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Rep. Paul Ryan speaks following a meeting of House Republicans at the U.S. Capitol October 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Ryan said he is willing to be the next Speaker of the House if all House Republicans endorse him for the position.  Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

    Rep. Paul Ryan said on Tuesday that he is willing to be the next House speaker if all factions of his party unite behind him. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

    Most speeches are not historic. And those that are seldom earn the title immediately. But the words of Rep. Paul Ryan Tuesday night are in contention to be important markers of a defining and potentially historic moment for the Republican Party. (You can watch the speech below.)

    By the time Ryan took the podium, reporters had already tweeted, typed and buzzed out the news: He would agree to become Speaker of the House, but only if the different factions of his party agree to unite behind him by Friday. The former vice presidential candidate also stipulated that he would not sacrifice time with his family for the job.

    READ MORE: Ryan to seek speakership if GOP will support him

    Those will be the headlines today. But there is more — and it may be historic — living deeper in his words.

    “First, we need to move from being an opposition party to a proposition party.”

    Ryan is far from the first to state an obvious GOP problem — the lack of a clear, comprehensive agenda. (Agenda being different from beliefs.) And Republicans have become known for trying to repeal programs rather than start them. But he represents a once-in-a-generation chance to cleanly assert a new agenda. Ryan’s accidental rise, which comes without the traditional voter turnoffs of self-promotion and convenient promises, offers this Republican reset. The party’s nominee for president, of course, will be another factor in any reset. But that nominee could benefit more than anyone, should Ryan’s vision take hold with voters.

    “It is our duty to make the tough decisions this country needs to get back on track.”

    In a single sentence, Ryan touched on the many tough, no-win, complicated problems that have stymied Congress for well over a decade. But of course, this means different things to Republicans and Democrats. And that brings us to the next quote.

    “Global terror . . . wars on multiple fronts . . . a government grown unaccountable, unconstitutional and out-of-touch . . . persistent poverty, a sluggish economy, flat wages and a skyrocketing debt.”

    This is the Ryan agenda, part of a what would be an expanded conservative approach. It is not original to Ryan, hailing in part from his mentor, Jack Kemp. Democrats may notice issues not on that list, like immigration, health care, and disparity. But Republicans should see some critical voting groups that both Kemp and Ryan have long sought: Blue-collar workers with flat wages and urban voters who live near the most concentrated pockets of poverty. This comes at a time when the GOP’s conservative base is shrinking and the percentage of moderates is growing.

    “We have become the problem.”

    For years, members of Congress and presidential candidates have pointed to “Washington” as the problem, a kind of jedi mind-trick on voters. But voters understand that the critics of government gridlock are themselves the operators of government gridlock. Here Ryan is offering a sober statement to his fellow Republicans, one that is not unique to Ryan. And it is not clear what difference this will make. But it is significant coming from a Speaker-in-waiting who is trying to lay out new philosophic rules of the road.

    “I believe that the ideas and principles of results-driven, common-sense conservatism are the keys to a better tomorrow—a tomorrow in which all of God’s children will be better off than they are today.”

    Two points here. The phrase “Common Sense”, as many may know, goes back to founding father Thomas Paine. In part thanks to the Tea Party movement, the phrase grew to become a near must-say in Republican speeches in the 2010 to 2013 years. But it was left largely undefined. What is “common-sense conservatism?” Ryan is setting forth the outlines of meaning here. Second point, Ryan’s common-sense conservatism goes hand-in-hand with discernible measures of success. It is “results-driven.” This is important for both parties to notice, a phrase that could mark a new critique of social welfare programs on the left and also that could demand more scientific approaches on the right.

    “A commitment to common sense . . . to compassion . . . to cooperation — when rooted in genuine conviction and principle — is a commitment to conservatism.”

    Again, “common sense” appears. But in what might be one of the most important sentences in Ryan’s remarks, so does the word “cooperation.” He did not elaborate on who needs to cooperate with whom, but it is not hard to infer this is at least partially a note to the hard right in the House. For years, the prime split among Republicans had been tactical — with the most conservative wing refusing to give any ground on their demands, citing that as a matter of principle. Here Ryan is saying cooperation, possibly a more politically-correct word for compromise, can co-exist with principles. Some in his party vehemently disagree. Others are cheering, saying this is how Republicans can return to the business of good governing.

    “I have left this decision in their hands”

    Ryan is doing something new here, putting forth demands in order to sign up for the House Speaker job. But it is significant to note that he already has strong opposition. Last night, the group Tea Party Patriots tweeted out that Ryan is “not the guy” and also unveiled a web video that questions Ryan’s support of the 2008 stimulus bill.

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

    That’s why this may be an historic juncture. Republicans need to determine the future of their party — how to keep conservative philosophy viable. And how to find voter groups to grow it. That dilemma has grown for decades to what is quite literally a crisis point inside the U.S. House.

    All of this, but shorter: In choosing whether to back Ryan, Republicans may be charting the course for their party. And determining how, and if, that party survives for decades to come.

    The post The GOP has a massive, historic choice to make. Now appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on Oct. 20. Photo by Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin via Reuters

    Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on Oct. 20. Photo by Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin via Reuters

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad traveled to Moscow on Tuesday to personally thank Russian President Vladimir Putin for his military support.

    It was Assad’s first foreign trip since conflict broke out in his country in spring 2011.

    Russia in recent weeks has built up its base near the war-torn country and lent air support to the regime, which is battling rebels seeking Assad’s ouster.

    Putin said he invited Assad, who told the Russian president during his visit: “We thank you for standing by Syria’s territorial integrity and its independence.”

    Assad returned to Damascus on Wednesday, a Syrian official told the New York Times.

    Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters on Wednesday that the only political solution to Syria’s conflict involves Assad’s departure since “the Syrian government has no legitimacy left.”

    “What can I say. If only he would stay longer in Moscow so the Syrian people can be at ease, or if only he could stay there permanently and a real transition period could begin,” Davutoglu said.

    The post Syrian leader Assad visits Russia, Turkey wishes he would stay appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden declared Wednesday he won’t run for president in 2016, ending a months-long flirtation with a third White House campaign and setting him on a glide path toward the end of his decades-long political career.

    Biden’s decision bolsters Hillary Rodham Clinton’s standing as the front-runner by sparing her a challenge from the popular vice president.

    In an extraordinary appearance in the White House Rose Garden, Biden said he always knew that the window for a viable campaign might close before he could determine whether his family was emotionally prepared for another campaign so soon after the death of his son Beau in May. Biden said his family was prepared to back him, but that he nonetheless would not be a candidate.

    “Unfortunately, I believe we’re out of time,” he said, flanked by President Barack Obama and Biden’s wife, Jill.

    Encouraged by some who were seeking an alternative to Clinton, Biden had spent the past several months deeply engaged in discussions with his family and political advisers about entering the primary. Yet as the deliberations dragged on, Democrats began publicly questioning whether it was too late for him to run, a notion that hardened after Clinton’s strong performance in last week’s Democratic debate.

    Notably, Biden did not endorse Clinton or any of the other Democratic candidates. Instead, he used the announcement to outline the path he said the party should take in the 2016 campaign, including a call for them to run on Obama’s record. In what could have been a campaign speech, Biden deplored the influence of unlimited contributions on politics, called for expanding access to college educations and called on Democrats to recognize that while Republicans may be the opposition, they are “not our enemy.”

    “While I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent,” Biden said.

    Democrats responded with nearly universal praise for the vice president and support for his decision. Clinton took to Twitter to call him “a good friend and a great man.”

    “Today and always, inspired by his optimism and commitment to change the world for the better,” she said.

    Republican contender Donald Trump praised Biden and took a poke at Clinton in a single tweet: “I think Joe Biden made correct decision for him & his family. Personally, I would rather run against Hillary because her record is so bad.”

    Wednesday’s announcement was a letdown for Biden supporters who had pleaded with him to run, and in increasingly loud tones as his deliberations dragged on through the summer and into the fall.

    For months, the 72-year-old Democrat made front pages and appeared on cable news screens as pundits mused about his prospects and Clinton’s perceived vulnerability. A super political action committee, Draft Biden, was formed with the explicit goal of getting him into the race.

    At the White House, aides and longtime Biden loyalists had prepared for a potential bid, putting together a campaign-in-waiting should he decide to jump in. Last week one of those aides, former Sen. Ted Kaufman, wrote an email to former Biden staffers laying out the potential rationale for a Biden run and promising a decision soon.

    Biden spoke personally to many supporters. As speculation about his plans reached a fever pitch, he kept up an intense schedule of public appearances, seemingly testing his own stamina for an exhausting presidential campaign.

    But he also continued to broadcast his reluctance amid doubts that he and his family were emotionally ready in the wake of Beau Biden’s death.

    In a September appearance on “The Late Show,” Biden told host Stephen Colbert he was still experiencing moments of uncontrollable grief that he deemed unacceptable for a presidential aspirant. “Sometimes it just overwhelms you,” he said, foreshadowing his ultimate decision.

    Biden would have faced substantial logistical challenges in deciding to mount a campaign this late in the primary process.

    Both Clinton and Sanders have been in the race since April — giving them a powerful head start in fundraising, volunteers, endorsements and voter outreach. Top Democratic operatives and donors already committed to Clinton would likely have had to defect to Biden in order for him to have viable shot at the nomination.

    Having decided against a final presidential campaign, Biden now approaches the end of his long career in politics.

    A month after being elected to the Senate in 1972 at age 29, Biden’s wife and baby daughter died when their car collided with a tractor-trailer. Biden considered relinquishing his seat, but instead was sworn in at the hospital where his sons, Beau and Hunter, were recovering.

    Over six terms in the Senate, he rose to become chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees, developing broad expertise in global affairs and a reputation for a plainspoken, unpredictable approach to politics.

    Biden twice ran for president. His most recent attempt in 2008 ended after he garnered less than 1 percent in the Iowa caucuses. His first run in 1987 ended even more quickly, following allegations he plagiarized in some speeches from a British politician.

    He has not yet detailed his post-White House plans, but has told friends he has no plans to retire in a traditional sense. Although unlikely to again seek elected office, friends and aides say Biden has previously discussed starting a foundation, launching an institute at the University of Delaware or taking on a role as a special envoy and elder statesman if called upon by future presidents.

    Associated Press White House reporter Josh Lederman wrote this report.

    The post Biden says he won’t run for president in 2016 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A new study from Stanford pinpoints the best annual temperature for getting the job done. Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

    A new study from Stanford pinpoints the best annual temperature for getting the job done. Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

    It’s no secret that summer lends itself better to beaches and barbecues than actual work. Yet the instinct to shirk work in hot weather is more than a summer slowdown. It’s a broad phenomena that may cripple some nations as global warming progresses.

    A new study from Stanford University has pinpointed the optimal annual temperature for economic productivity, and it’s this: 55.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or 13 degrees Celsius. The researchers show that when the climate exceeds this temperature, the country’s economic output drops precipitously. Based on their model published today in the journal Nature, this pattern has held steady for more than 150 countries, affecting both rich and poor, for more than half a century.


    If global warming isn’t checked, the team expects average global incomes will be slashed by a quarter by 2100. So whether you’re an Indonesian rice farmer baking in the hot sun or a tech jockey sitting in a cool Silicon Valley office, you can expect your economic prosperity to decline.

    “The results indicate that societies will need to adapt in ways that are likely to be expensive, or [they will] face even greater damages in terms of lost GDP,” said economist Michael Greenstone of the University of Chicago, who wasn’t involved in the project.

    Stanford economist Marshall Burke and his colleagues created this new projection for the future by treating 166 countries like patients getting regular health checkups.
    The team isolated the annual temperatures of each country from 1960 to 2010, and then looked at how that country’s economy performed during each of those years. By comparing warm years to normal years, the team was able to chart how individual economies respond to temperature.

    A prediction for how gross domestic product (GDP) will change across the globe by 2100. This model assumes a "business as usual" global warming scenario, wherein unmitigated climate changes raises temperatures by 4.3 degrees Celsius (8 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. Photo by Burke M,  Hsiang SM and Miguel E., Nature, 2015.

    A prediction for how gross domestic product (GDP) will change across the globe by 2100. This model assumes a “business as usual” global warming scenario, wherein unmitigated climate changes raises temperatures by 4.3 degrees Celsius (8 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. Photo by Burke M, Hsiang SM and Miguel E., Nature, 2015.

    Even when accounting for cultural differences, technological innovations, political upheavals, and economic atom bombs like global recessions, these researchers found an optimal temperature — again, 55.4 degrees Fahrenheit — that, in Burke’s words, “is really good at producing stuff around the world.”

    “What we see is it matters less if you’re rich or poor now. It matters more if your [annual] average temperature is hot or cold,” Burke said. “If your country’s temperature is cooler than [55 degrees Fahrenheit], then global warming might help you. If your average temperature is hotter, a little bit of warming might hurt you.”

    On a small scale, it’s easy to see how temperatures could impair industries like outdoor construction or agriculture. A drought during a growing season can wipe out crops, whether you’re a midwestern farmer in the U.S. or in Sub Saharan Africa.

    But by examining the macroeconomics of climate change, the findings by Burke and his companions support a budding phenomena wherein even white collar jobs in air-conditioned offices will feel the burn of global warming. Prior research in India, for instance, suggests that worker productivity in textile mills drops by “1 to 3 percent per degree Celsius,” despite limited heat stress in the factories. Meanwhile, automobile assembly lines in the U.S. slow down when temperatures outside become too hot.

    Photo by moodboard/via Getty Images

    Photo by moodboard/via Getty Images

    “We are already experiencing the economic impacts of climate change — heatwaves, for example, are increasing health costs and employee absenteeism,” economist Thomas Sterner of the University of Gothenburg wrote in accompanying commentary also published today by Nature.

    The explanations for the decline in white-collar industries remain unclear, Burke said. What we do know is society gets a little crazy when it’s hot. Fatal car accidents and violence escalate. The rate of heart attacks spikes. Sleep might also be a factor. Burke’s team is currently looking into how sleep quantity and quality dictate economic output on a broad scale.

    “It’s an intuitive idea, and we’re searching for quantitative evidence at the moment,” Burke said. Like an itchy, uncomfortable sweater, global warming might simply aggravate society by building collective stress among groups of people.

    Until today, the conventional wisdom was that the economic burden of global warming would primarily be felt by poor nations. A seminal study in 2008 drew the relationship between temperature and economic output as a straight line. “The higher temperature, the bigger the costs,” Sterner writes, which meant that low-income nations would be burdened heavily in the future, given most reside in warm climates.

    Cornfields during a drought in Tanzania. A 2012 study from MIT predicts that Sub Saharan Africa will witness a decline in the yields of its most common crops over the next century.   Photo by Dennis K. Johnson/via Getty Images

    Cornfields during a drought in Tanzania. A 2012 study from MIT predicts that Sub Saharan Africa will witness a decline in the yields of its most common crops over the next century. Photo by Dennis K. Johnson/via Getty Images

    Sterner writes that by not assuming a linear relationship, the new model from Burke’s team paints a more accurate picture. It can account for nuanced, micro-level responses between economic productivity and temperature.

    As a country’s average temperature gets hotter and extends further past the 55-degree Fahrenheit threshold in Burke’s model, economic productivity fares worse. Poor countries would still suffer the brunt of unmitigated climate change over the next century, but rich countries take a hit too. The annual temperatures for nations like China and the U.S. already hover around the 55 degree-Fahrenheit cliff. Overall, 77 percent of the countries surveyed could be poorer by 2100 due simply to global warming.

    Temperature effects on GDP over time for nine regions. Black lines are projections using point estimates. Red shaded area is 95% confidence interval, colour saturation indicates estimated likelihood an income trajectory passes through a value. Photo by Burke M,  Hsiang SM and Miguel E., Nature, 2015.

    Temperature effects on GDP over time for nine regions. Black lines are projections using point
    estimates. Red shaded area is 95% confidence interval, colour saturation
    indicates estimated likelihood an income trajectory passes through a value. Photo by Burke M, Hsiang SM and Miguel E., Nature, 2015.

    “All told, these estimates equate to much larger economic losses than most leading models suggest…,” Sterner writes. “ The current leading models, referred to as integrated assessment models (IAMs), are already being used as a basis for policy. In the United States, there have been considerable battles, even in Congress, concerning the ‘social cost of carbon’, which is based on the three most prominent IAMs.”

    Burke’s study argues that Congress and other policy agencies have based their predictions on the social costs of global warming and carbon pollution on estimates that are off by several hundred percent.

    “[This study] is part of a growing literature suggesting that climate change is more harmful than current models indicate,” Greenstone said.

    The post There’s a perfect temperature for economic success, but global warming is about to upset the balance appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Thirty years ago, “Back to the Future Part II” took Doc Brown and Marty McFly on a trip through time to … today. That is, Oct. 21, 2015. In a new video message released today, Doc, played by Christopher Lloyd, welcomes us to this future, albeit a bit different from the one first imagined.

    “Your future is whatever you make of it,” he said.

    Doc wasn’t the only one who took a trip through time in honor of the day.

    The NASA team proved they’re in the know.

    Astronauts and scientists showed their wit.

    Who doesn’t love inside jokes? Nike made a tease about McFly’s lace-ups, and Harvard stopped their clock for the day at 10:04 — a nod to the time lightning struck the Hill Country Courthouse in the movie.

    Things got meta when “Back to the Future” producer Frank Marshall went back to “Back to the Future” to bring us some “Back to the Future” behind-the-scenes photos.

    As of this posting, noticeably absent from the “Back to the Future” frenzy is: the Chicago Cubs. Since the movie famously predicted that they would win the World Series in 2015, this seems like the perfect time to steal the limelight. (And tonight would be the perfect night for a win, seeing as they’re on the brink of being eliminated altogether from the series by the New York Mets.)

    The post 7 ways the Internet celebrated Back to the Future day appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch poet Ellen Bryant Voigt read her poem “Storm.” Video shot by Gilberto Nobrego and edited by Steve Mort

    Poet Ellen Bryant Voigt described herself as a “glass-half-empty kind of girl” in one of her poems — but she’s optimistic about the future of poetry.

    Voigt, who last month was awarded one of the MacArthur Foundation’s prestigious “genius” grants, has published eight books of poetry and served as Vermont’s poet laureate from 1999 to 2003. During that time, she toured the state and was amazed at its abundance of poetry, even in Vermont’s smallest communities. “The poetry readings, the poetry slams and the spoken word that all of the kids do now, the availability of poetry through the Internet, poetry blogs … It’s a really exciting time,” she said.

    Having grown up on a farm in southern Virginia, Voigt spent the last 45 years on a non-working farm in rural Vermont. Animals, plants and the natural world are the subjects of many of her poems. “It’s clear I prefer to be out in the natural world,” she said. “I don’t do very well in cities.” In her work, she is a keen observer of both animal and human behavior, as in this passage from “Geese”:

    one leader falling back another moving up to pierce the wind
    no one in charge or every one in charge in flight each limited goose
    adjusts its part in the cluster just under the clouds
    do they mean together to duplicate the cloud
    like the pelicans on the pond rearranging their shadows
    to fool the fish another collective that constantly recalibrates but fish
    don’t need to reinvent themselves the way geese do
    when they negotiate the sky

    Watch Voigt read her poem “Geese.” Video shot by Gilberto Nobrego and edited by Steve Mort

    Voigt has always sought out solitude, she said. As a child in a very large family, she initially found it by playing the piano and contemplated becoming a professional pianist. In college, she discovered poetry and went on to earn an MFA at the famed Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

    Now, looking back on her work at 72, Voigt said she’s always been fascinated by the interplay — even conflict — between the individual soul and the larger collective. “I think I can trace that back to coming from lots and lots of relatives close by. A small town that knew all of your business,” she said.

    Watch Voigt read her poem “Apple Tree.” Video shot by Gilberto Nobrego and edited by Steve Mort

    Voigt, who is known for her precise, exacting style, typically writes 50 to 100 drafts before she is satisfied with a poem. For many years, her handiest tool was the scalpel as she constantly tried to hone down her poems to a bare essence, she said. Her recent collection, “Headwaters,” eliminated all punctuation in her poems. “It allowed more excess, more repetition, without me pulling out my scalpel and cutting them out,” she said.

    Read Voigt’s poems “Storm,” “Geese” and “Apple Tree” below.


    one minute a slender pine indistinguishable from the others
    the next its trunk horizontal still green the jagged stump
    a nest for the flickers
    llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllone minute high wind and rain the skies
    lit up the next a few bright winking stars the lashing of the brook

    one minute an exaltation in the apple trees the shadblow trees
    the next white trash on the ground new birds
    or the same birds crowding the feeder
    one minute the children were sleeping in their beds

    you got sick you got well you got sick

    the lilac bush we planted is a tree the cat creeps past
    with something in her mouth she’s hurrying down to where

    the culvert overflowed one minute bright yellow
    marsh marigolds springing up the next
    the farmer sweeps them into his bales of hay


    there is no cure for temperament it’s how
    we recognize ourselves but sometimes within it
    a narrowing imprisons or is opened such as when my mother
    in her last illness snarled and spat and how this lifted my dour father
    into a patient tenderness thereby astounding everyone
    but mostly it hardens who we always were

    if you’ve been let’s say a glass-half-empty kind of girl
    you wake to the chorus of geese overhead
    forlorn for something has softened their nasal voices
    their ugly aggression on the ground they’re worse than chickens
    but flying one leader falling back another moving up to pierce the wind
    no one in charge or every one in charge in flight each limited goose
    adjusts its part in the cluster just under the clouds
    do they mean together to duplicate the could
    like the pelicans on the pond rearranging their shadows
    to fool the fish another collective that constantly recalibrates but fish
    don’t need to reinvent themselves the way geese do
    when they negotiate the sky
    llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllon the fixed
    unyielding ground there is no end to hierarchy
    the flock the pack the family you know it’s true if you’re
    a take-charge kind of girl I recommend
    houseplants in the windows facing south
    the cacti the cyclamen are blooming on the brink
    of winter all it took was a little enforced deprivation
    a little premature and structured dark

    Apple Tree

    No choice for the apple tree.
    And after the surgeon’s chainsaw,
    from one stubborn root

    two plumes of tree now leaf
    and even blossom, sky’s
    cool blue between them,

    whereas on my left hand
    not a single lifeline
    but three deep equal


    llllllllllllllllllllO my soul,
    it is not a small thing,
    to have made from three

    this one, this one life.

    For more, watch the NewsHour tonight.

    The post MacArthur Fellow Ellen Bryant Voigt on the poetry of small-town life appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The University of Mississippi's Associated Student Body voted Tuesday night to remove the state flag, which incorporates the Confederate battle emblem in its design, from campus. Photo by Flickr user Stuart Seeger

    The University of Mississippi’s Associated Student Body voted Tuesday night to remove the state flag, which incorporates the Confederate battle emblem in its design, from campus. Photo by Flickr user Stuart Seeger

    After more than 90 minutes of debate, the University of Mississippi student senators voted Tuesday night to remove the state flag, whose design incorporates the Confederate battle flag, from campus grounds, the Clarion-Ledger reported.

    The resolution passed with a 33-15 vote and one abstention, at a school whose athletes are known as the Ole Miss Rebels and whose mascot, the Colonel Reb, was replaced by the Rebel Black Bear in 2010.

    Once the resolution is signed, school administrators will still have to decide to take down the flag. Ole Miss could join three other public state universities — Alcorn State University, Jackson State University and Mississippi Valley State University — who do not fly the state flag.

    “It’s just overwhelming to know that the voices of students that are affected by this image, that feel excluded by this image, that are hurt by the symbol, that their voices were heard,” student senator Allen Coon told the Clarion-Ledger after the vote. “It means that we truly are taking steps toward progress, that we care about change, that we care about students and that we respect difference.”

    Coon co-authored the measure with the support of other student organizations, including the school’s NAACP chapter. It also urged the Mississippi legislature to pursue a new state flag.

    Last month, Coon said in a statement that after white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine African-Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in June, “our nation has had to reconcile with symbols of oppression.” He adds that Mississippi’s state flag is the only one in the U.S. that uses the Confederate battle flag’s saltire.

    On Friday, an NAACP-sponsored rally supporting the removal of the flag faced around 10 counter-protesters, including members from the Ku Klux Klan’s International Keystone Knights and pro-secessionists The League of the South.

    Scenes from Friday’s flag removal rally. Video by Clara Turnage/The Clarion-Ledger

    The demonstration lasted about 30 minutes before police escorted the dozens of students off campus, The Clarion-Ledger reported.

    Despite a national response since June’s church shooting to reconsider the Confederate flag’s placement in various public spaces, there has been little movement among Mississippi lawmakers to change the state flag’s design.

    The post Ole Miss students vote to remove state flag, and its Confederate emblem, from campus appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The Old State House in Dover, pictured here in March 2013. Samuel Burris, a free man who was convicted for his role in the Underground Railroad, will be pardoned at the state house in November.

    Samuel Burris, a free man who was convicted for his role in the Underground Railroad, will be pardoned at the Old State House in Dover, Delaware (pictured) in November. Photo via Wikimedia 

    A man who was convicted for shepherding slaves to freedom on a stretch of the Underground Railroad will be posthumously pardoned, according to the Delaware governor’s office.

    Samuel Burris, a free black man, was convicted in 1847 for aiding runaway slaves in Delaware, which was a slave state. His sentence was to be sold as a slave for seven years.

    Without Burris’ knowledge, the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society stepped in. Records from the abolitionist William Still indicate the group raised enough money, disguised one of their own members as a slave trader and bought Burris at an auction, returning him to Pennsylvania to live as a free man.

    Still, Burris’ conviction has stood for more than 150 years. Delaware Governor Jack Markell plans to change that during a formal pardoning ceremony on Nov. 2, the anniversary of Burris’ conviction. The governor’s office will also unveil a historical marker honoring Burris at the Old State House in Dover.

    “This pardon will serve as an opportunity to right a historic injustice towards a man who was steadfast in his courage while facing grave danger,” Gov. Markell said in a statement. “I appreciate the work of the Burris family and others in bringing this to our attention.”

    Robert Seeley of Havertown, Penn., whose ancestors include abolitionist Thomas Garrett, led the charge to pardon Samuel Burris.

    “It brings justice to Samuel Burris and his family,” Seeley said. “A wrong is finally corrected.”

    Seeley is also seeking pardons for Garrett and another abolitionist John Hunn, but those men were sued in federal court, not in Delaware. Seeley plans to continue pushing for a federal apology for those two men and an official apology to all slaves held in Delaware.

    The post Delaware to posthumously pardon man who helped slaves escape on the Underground Railroad appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), pauses after speaking during a House Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Hacking attacks designed to alter electronic data, rather than steal it, may grow more common as terrorists and criminals seek to undermine the integrity of financial markets in the future, the head of U.S. intelligence is warning lawmakers. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, pauses during a House Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sept. 10, 2015. Comey said Wednesday the FBI has seen a decrease in the amount of Americans trying to travel aborad to join the Islamic State. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — FBI Director James Comey says federal law enforcement has seen far fewer Americans try to travel abroad to join the Islamic State in recent months.

    He says the FBI is aware of six who have attempted to join the Islamic State in the last three and a half months. That’s in contrast to the nine or so who used to try to go each month.

    Comey provided those numbers while testifying Wednesday before the House Homeland Security Committee.

    He said he wasn’t sure how to explain the drop, but said one factor may be the efforts the FBI has made in the last year to try to stop the flow.

    Dozens of Americans have been arrested in the last year on charges related to supporting the Islamic State.

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    The Freedom Caucus has indicated that they will support Paul Ryan for Speaker of the House.

    The Freedom Caucus has indicated that they will support Paul Ryan for Speaker of the House. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The hardline House Freedom Caucus said Wednesday it is supporting Rep. Paul Ryan for speaker of the House, all but guaranteeing he’ll get the job if he wants it, and potentially heralding a new start for a deeply divided House GOP.

    The group of around three dozen rebellious conservatives, who have caused fits for the GOP leadership, stressed that their support for Ryan was not an official endorsement because they couldn’t muster the 80 percent agreement such an announcement would require. Yet members of the rebellious group made clear that their intent was to unite behind Ryan and give him the consensus he has said he needs to seek the speakership.

    “A supermajority of the House Freedom Caucus has voted to support Paul Ryan’s bid to become the next speaker of the House,” the group said in a statement. “Paul is a policy entrepreneur who has developed conservative reforms dealing with a wide variety of subjects, and he has promised to be an ideas-focused speaker who will advance limited government principles and devolve power to the membership.”

    Support from the group was not certain since they’ve repeatedly opposed GOP leaders and pushed the current speaker, John Boehner, to announce his resignation. And their backing fell short of the official endorsement Ryan had sought.

    But in a statement, the former GOP vice presidential candidate said: “I’m grateful for the support of a supermajority of the House Freedom Caucus. I look forward to hearing from the other two caucuses by the end of the week, but I believe this is a positive step toward a unified Republican team.”

    Especially given the Freedom Caucus’ pattern of causing headaches for leadership, and the concerns raised by individual members ahead of Wednesday night’s meeting, the decision to announce support was significant. It amounted to a rare peace offering from hardliners in the caucus to the establishment-minded lawmakers they’ve battled for years, and a chance to unite a party at war with itself on Capitol Hill and the presidential campaign trail.

    Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said the choice was now up to Ryan, who must decide “whether he wants to really lead the conference.”

    “I think he’s a good man,” said Labrador, who said he voted for Ryan in the Freedom Conference meeting. “I think he’s that somebody who could bring the Republican Party together, he’s obviously a good spokesman for the party. And I think he needs to see if this is good enough for him and if he can work with us.”

    Caucus members, including Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona, said Ryan now appears to have more than enough support to prevail in a secret-ballot House GOP election set for Oct. 28, and in a vote of the full House the next day.

    “He has a supermajority of the Freedom Caucus, which means that he clearly has more than enough votes from the conference, if other people vote in kind, to get elected by a pretty healthy margin,” said Salmon.

    The Wisconsin congressman, a reluctant candidate for the post, was asked to run by mainstream party leaders seeking to resolve a crisis set in motion when compromise-averse conservatives pushed Boehner to resign and then pressured his likely successor into withdrawing.

    The same intraparty divide is roiling the Republicans’ presidential campaign, with outsiders led by Donald Trump dominating the field for months.

    On Wednesday, some House members took issue with Ryan’s suggested changes to congressional rules and even his desire to balance family life with the demands of the job. Freedom Caucus members said that in offering their support for Ryan they were not embracing the changes he sought.

    “No other speaker candidate came in and said here’s the list of my demands, either meet those or I’m not going to do this,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas. “Speaker’s a big job. And it’s not a 9-to-5 job. So there are a lot of questions to be answered.”

    The Freedom Caucus earlier had endorsed Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida, a low-key former speaker of the House in Florida who’s focused on “pushing down” on what he calls the “pyramid of power” in the House. Caucus members said that while that endorsement still technically stands, their support for Ryan supersedes it.

    The Freedom Caucus announcement came as Ryan was making the rounds to the three major House caucuses whose endorsements he was seeking as a condition for running for speaker. It’s a job the 45-year-old never wanted but is exploring, he says, out of a sense of duty after Boehner announced his resignation and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy abruptly withdrew from the running to replace him.

    Ryan has made clear that he does not want to be the latest victim of Republican dysfunction and will run only if it becomes clear he can unify the House GOP.

    “I won’t be the third log on the bonfire,” he said.

    Boehner, who hopes to leave Congress at the end of this month, sought to move the process forward, scheduling elections for next week.

    “If I can be a unifying figure in our conference, I’m willing to step up and be one, it’s just that simple,” Ryan said ahead of the Freedom Caucus announcement. “If not, then it’s OK, I’ll just go back to Ways and Means.”

    The post Ryan moves closer to Speakership appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and President Barack Obama walk back to the Oval Office after Biden announced he will not seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, during an appearance in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington October 21, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and President Barack Obama walk back to the Oval Office after Biden announced he will not seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, during an appearance in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington October 21, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

    WASHINGTON — Just before noon, Joe Biden’s staff received a cryptic email: “Come to the Rose Garden.”

    For weeks that had stretched into months, the White House and the Democratic Party were on edge, awaiting a decision about whether the vice president would jump into the presidential race. Biden’s own staff was torn between their belief in the vice president and their suspicion he would lose.

    Even on Wednesday, as Biden’s team rushed to the Rose Garden, few knew exactly what he planned to say.

    “Unfortunately, I believe we’re out of time,” Biden declared before television cameras, putting an end to one of the biggest dramas of the 2016 presidential campaign.

    The scene that played out, with White House aides scrambling alongside frantic reporters, reflected the chaotic chain of events that led Biden, at long last, to announce he would not run for president. Along the way, Biden had gone right up to the brink of being a candidate, delaying his decision over and over again, before abruptly pulling the plug.

    Throughout the ordeal, a tiny cadre of advisers and immediate relatives formed a protective ring around Biden, keeping his deliberations secret. This account of how Biden got to “no” is based on more than a dozen interviews with aides, friends and others in Biden’s orbit. Many requested anonymity to disclose private conversations


    As late as Tuesday night, Biden looked like a man itching for a political fight. For the third time in two days, he used public remarks to take an unmistakable jab at Hillary Rodham Clinton for saying Republicans were her enemy, seemingly sending a warning shot that he would aggressively challenge her in the Democratic primary.

    As Biden spoke Tuesday, a handful of political aides were’ pressing forward with plans to structure a late entry into the race. With no decision from Biden yet, they even weighed whether he could get into the race as late as Thanksgiving.

    The next morning, Biden walked into the Oval Office and told President Barack Obama he wouldn’t be a candidate in the 2016 race.

    The two men, who had developed a close friendship during their years in the White House, discussed Biden’s decision for about 30 minutes. Obama told Biden he wanted to stand alongside him in the Rose Garden as he announced the beginning of the end of his political career.


    Any deliberations Biden had begun about the 2016 race ground to a halt in the spring when his oldest son died of brain cancer. The 46-year-old Beau Biden was a popular Democratic politician in his own right, and many in the party expected him to follow his father’s path to Washington, perhaps even to the White House.

    In the weeks after his son’s death, Biden told well-wishers that his son had wanted him to make one last run for the presidency. By late summer, the vice president was ready to start weighing that prospect.

    He surrounded himself with a trio of trusted aides: chief of staff Steve Ricchetti, political strategist Mike Donilon and former Sen. Ted Kaufman, who had run Biden’s Senate office for roughly two decades before replacing him in the Senate. Donilon and Kaufman, who were no longer working for Biden, were given offices in the White House office building close to the vice president’s suite.

    Still, as he made phone calls and convened meetings with top Democrats at his residence in northwest Washington, Biden made clear he was in no way emotionally ready to run for president. He wanted to hear others’ take on the unfolding Democratic primary and how he could fit in the contest, but talked only in generalities, avoiding specific discussions about his own potential campaign.

    Biden and Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, were friendly in the Senate and during her four years as Obama’s secretary of state. But he was underwhelmed by Clinton’s skills as a candidate and shared the confusion of others in the White House about her tone-deaf response to the email controversy continuing to dog her campaign.


    Before Beau died, Biden had planned to announce his 2016 plans by the end of summer, but as Labor Day approached, he was nowhere near a decision. Eager to buy their boss more time, advisers good-naturedly noted that summer lasted into mid-September.

    On Sept. 11, Biden walked onto the set of comedian Stephen Colbert’s new late-night talk show. He had been invited there to talk about Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Washington, maybe poke some fun at himself.

    But the discussion instantly turned serious, with Colbert pressing Biden repeatedly about his son and how his Catholic faith has helped him through so much tragedy. With surprising candor, Biden described himself as a man consumed with grief and unconvinced he could commit to a presidential campaign.

    “Nobody has a right, in my view, to seek that office unless they’re willing to give it 110 percent of who they are,” he said. “I find myself — you understand it — sometimes it just overwhelms you.”

    The response to Biden’s soul-baring — a rare unscripted and genuinely authentic moment from a politician — was overwhelmingly positive. Compared to Clinton’s caution, the contrast was striking.


    From then on, Biden remained coy about his leanings, but a campaign-in-waiting began to spring up around him.

    A super PAC, Draft Biden, began raising money and positioning staffers in early primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. At the White House, a small handful of aides pored over filing deadlines, delegate counts and other campaign logistics, while reaching out discreetly to veteran political operatives who could staff a potential campaign.

    As summer turned to fall, speculation about Biden’s plans grew to epic proportions, setting off a will-he-or-won’t-he parlor game that thrust Biden deeper into the spotlight than he’d ever been before. On the day of the first Democratic debate, Oct. 13, social media was abuzz with rumors Biden would fly last-minute to Las Vegas to make a dramatic entrance into the race.

    Biden watched the debate from Washington. He told friends and advisers privately that he was underwhelmed by Clinton’s performance.

    But the consensus among most other Democrats was that Clinton’s performance had been commanding, softening concerns about her strength as the party’s likely nominee. Democratic leaders — including Rep. James Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat from the critical primary state of South Carolina — began questioning whether Biden had missed his window.

    In a last-ditch effort to quell skepticism about his chances, Biden authorized Kaufman to circulate a letter last week to former staffers promising a quick decision and previewing what a campaign would look like: an unscripted “campaign from the heart” focused on the middle class.


    Another weekend came and went without a decision from Biden, and his advisers started pressing for a decision with renewed vigor. Many had put their lives on hold indefinitely while they awaited his next move.

    On Tuesday night, Biden shared a stage with former President Jimmy Carter for an event honoring former Vice President Walter Mondale. He kicked up further speculation he was about to get in the race with another thinly veiled attack against Clinton.

    But that same evening, Biden finally made the call.

    “I could just cry, seriously, because I also know how qualified and capable he is to serve,” said Terri Goodmann of Dubuque, Iowa, who has known Biden for 30 years. “There just wasn’t enough time.”


    Associated Press writers Ken Thomas in Washington and Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.

    The post How Biden decided against running in 2016 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

    Photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

    BERLIN — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday expressed a “cautious measure of optimism” following a four-hour meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about proposals that could help defuse the deadly wave of recent violence in Israel.

    Kerry, his voice hoarse after an overnight flight and the lengthy talks, told reporters that he planned to raise the proposals with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah in meeting Saturday in Jordan’s capital, Amman.

    “I come directly from several hours of conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu and I would characterize that conversation as one that gave me a cautious measure of optimism that there may be some things that may be in the next couple of days put on the table which would have an impact — I hope,” Kerry said.

    “I don’t want to be excessive in stating that, but I am cautiously encouraged.”

    Before their talks, both Kerry and Netanyahu condemned the wave of Palestinian attacks on Israelis. Kerry urged an end to all incitement and violence. Netanyahu repeated earlier accusations that Abbas was to blame, saying the Palestinian leader was “spreading lies” about Israel and the status of the holy site at the center of the tensions.

    “There is no question this wave of attacks is driven directly by incitement, incitement by Hamas, incitement from the Islamist movement in Israel and incitement, I am sorry to say, from President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority,” Netanyahu told Kerry.

    “I think it is time for the international community to say clearly to President Abbas to stop spreading lies about Israel,” he said. “Lies that Israel wants to change the status quo at the Temple Mount, lies that Israel wants to tear down the Al-Aqsa Mosque, lies that Israel is executing Palestinians. All of that is false.”

    Netanyahu, however, has himself infuriated Palestinians by comments about a former Palestinian leader inspiring Hitler’s Holocaust.

    Netanyahu said Israel was committed to keeping the status quo at the Jerusalem site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and home to the biblical temples. For Muslims, it is the Noble Sanctuary, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam and a national symbol for the Palestinians. The site, captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war, is a frequent flashpoint of violence.

    The Palestinians accuse Israel of trying to change the status quo at the site, which allows Jews to visit but not to pray. They point to a growing number of Jewish visitors who seek an expanded Jewish presence and prayer rights at the site.

    Netanyahu rejected those claims and said ending incitement was the only way to ease tensions.

    “To generate hope, we have to stop the terrorism,” he said. “To stop the terrorism, we have to stop the incitement and I think it’s time the international community told President Abbas to stop the incitement and hold him accountable for his words and his deeds.”

    Kerry was more circumspect and did not single out Abbas for blame. But he also did not address Netanyahu’s Holocaust comments.

    “We have to stop the incitement, we have to stop the violence,” Kerry said. He said he had spoken to Abbas and Abdullah, who is charged with overseeing the Jerusalem site, in the past day and both assured them of their commitment to calm.

    “I believe people want this to de-escalate,” he said.

    Kerry added that these conversations would be “very important to settle on the steps that can be taken beyond the condemnation and beyond the rhetoric” to end the violence.

    Kerry has said he wants clarity about the status quo about the site, but officials say he doesn’t believe that needs to be in writing.

    With only a general outline of goals in these discussions, Kerry embarked on his five-day trip to Europe and the Middle East intending to listen as much as talk, as he steers attempts to restore relative calm in Israel and the Palestinian territories and revive efforts to spark a political transition in Syria.

    After Kerry’s meetings with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Berlin on Thursday, he planned to go to Vienna for meetings Friday with the foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia about Syria.


    Associated Press writers David Rising and Geir Moulson contributed to this report.

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    File photo by Smneedham via Getty Images

    File photo by Smneedham via Getty Images

    When an outbreak of Shigella — a bacteria closely related to Salmonella — at a San Jose, Calif. seafood restaurant sickened dozens of people last weekend, Yelp reviewers were on the case, right alongside public health officials.

    “PLEASE DO NOT EAT HERE!!!!” Pauline A. wrote in her Oct. 18 review of the Mariscos San Juan #3 restaurant. “My sister in and brother-in-law along with his parents ate here Friday night and all four of them ended up in the hospital with food poisoning!!!”

    That same day, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department shut down the restaurant. Two days later, officials announced that more than 80 people who had eaten there had become acutely ill, with many requiring hospitalization. Twelve diners went to intensive care units.

    Since then, the outbreak has grown to more than 90 cases in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

    Shigellosis is a contagious diarrheal disease caused by the Shigella group of bacteria and can be spread when people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. More than 500,000 cases are reported in the U.S. each year. The disease can cause severe dehydration or fainting and in rare cases may be fatal.

    Some health researchers and public health professionals believe consumer review sites like Yelp might just help them identify and investigate food poisoning outbreaks similar to this one. It’s not unlike using Google searches to track potential flu and Dengue outbreaks.

    Santa Clara County epidemiologists currently aren’t using Yelp in their Shigella investigation, and the reviewers apparently were not out ahead of public health officials in this case.

    But earlier research suggests that Yelp reviews may act as an early warning system or identify potential patients that public health officials might not otherwise have found in their food-borne illness investigations, especially if the reviewer did not seek medical care after falling ill.

    Public health workers in New York, aided by Columbia University researchers, scanned thousands of Yelp reviews in 2012 and 2013 to find previously undetected food-borne illness, unearthing nearly 900 cases that were worthy of further investigation by epidemiologists. Ultimately, the researchers found three previously unreported restaurant-related outbreaks linked to 16 illnesses that would have merited a public health investigation if officials had known of them at the time. Follow-up inspections of the restaurants found food-handling violations.

    In another study, researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital analyzed more than 5,800 Yelp reviews of food services businesses near 29 colleges in 15 states, concluding that reviews describing food poisoning tracked closely with food-borne illness data maintained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The timeliness and often-graphic details of the reviews could prove useful for public health agencies investigating food poisoning outbreaks, the researchers concluded.

    Researchers also have examined Twitter and Facebook as possible food-borne illness surveillance tools, and Chicago’s public health agency automatically sends information about its Foodborne Chicago reporting site to local Twitter users who complain of food poisoning.

    But Yelp’s usefulness for epidemiologists is going to depend a lot on how it handles food poisoning complaints down the road.

    The company has been accused of approaching restaurants to remove negative reviews in exchange for advertising dollars, although a class action lawsuit on those grounds was dismissed.

    At the same time, Yelp is wrestling with how to handle reviews for businesses that become controversial overnight, serving as magnets for irate reviewers who have not patronized the business and just want to make a point.

    On Tuesday, the company placed an “Active Cleanup Alert” notice on Mariscos San  Juan #3’s review page noting that because the business “recently made waves in the news,” Yelp would “remove both positive and negative posts that appear to be motivated more by the news coverage itself than the reviewer’s personal consumer experience with the business.”

    While some reviews were easily visible, others were segregated into Yelp’s “not currently recommended” category, which requires readers to click to see them and do not figure in the establishment’s overall rating.

    That’s where Andrés Guerra’s review was quarantined. From his hospital bed, the 27-year-old San Jose attorney wrote:

    “On Friday Oct 16th I ate the shrimp cocktail. I will spare the details, but I started being sick Friday night, then Saturday I was admitted to the ER and then the ICU. The Santa Clara County Public Health Department has already called me for their investigation …This restaurant put at least 11 people in the hospital I am at, and I’m sure countless others elsewhere. I do not wish for a single other person to go through the hell I’ve been through.”

    Reviews from five other people detailing how they fell ill were similarly hidden.

    After running a 104-degree fever and enduring days of vomiting, chills and diarrhea, “I was like, what the hell?” Guerra told Kaiser Health News while recuperating at home. “I’m not trying to slander any business … I just want no one else to go through this. I think Yelp could do a better job distinguishing between people who want to inform and those who want to attack.”

    A Yelp spokeswoman noted that health scores for restaurants are currently provided in several selected counties or cities in California, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina and Illinois. In response to questions about food poisoning complaints, she referred a reporter to a general blog post, which says that the company tries not to “highlight reviews written by users we don’t know much about, or reviews that may be biased because they were solicited from family, friends, or favored customers.”

    Doug Powell, a former professor of food safety at Kansas State University who now lives in Australia and writes for the BarfBlog food safety blog, regards Yelp and social media as potentially useful tools for public health investigators.

    “But it doesn’t replace boots on the street, the epidemiological work that people have to do,” he said. “All these things have to be taken with a grain of salt, because Yelp is a business.”

    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website.

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    Kurdish Region Map

    The U.S. military helped Kurdish forces in northern Iraq free dozens of Kurdish captives held by Islamic State (ISIL) militants, and one American service member was killed in the rescue operation, the Pentagon said Thursday.

    Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook provided the following statement:

    Early today in Iraq, at the request of the Kurdistan Regional Government, U.S. Special Operations Forces supported an Iraqi Peshmerga operation to rescue hostages at an ISIL prison near Hawijah, Iraq.

    This operation was deliberately planned and launched after receiving information that the hostages faced imminent mass execution. It was authorized consistent with our counter-ISIL effort to train, advise and assist Iraqi forces.

    The U.S. provided helicopter lift and accompanied Iraqi Peshmerga forces to the compound. Approximately 70 hostages were rescued including more than 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces. Five ISIL terrorists were detained by the Iraqis and a number of ISIL terrorists were killed as well. In addition, the U.S. recovered important intelligence about ISIL.

    One U.S. service member was wounded during the rescue mission acting in support of Iraqi Peshmerga forces after they came under fire by ISIL. He subsequently died after receiving medical care. In addition, four Peshmerga soldiers were wounded.

    On behalf of the men and women of the Department of Defense, we offer our sincere condolences to the family of the U.S. service member who was killed in this operation.  The U.S. and our coalition will continue to work with our Iraqi partners to degrade and defeat ISIL, and return Iraq to the full control of its people.

    Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, U.S. Central Command commander, also confirmed the operation and said in a statement, “We commend and congratulate the brave individuals who participated in this successful operation that saved many lives, and we deeply mourn the loss of one of our own who died while supporting his Iraqi comrades engaged in a tough fight.  Our gratitude and heartfelt condolences go out to this young man’s family, his teammates and friends.”

    The post Pentagon: 1 U.S. service member killed in Iraq hostage rescue appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A chorus of howler monkeys of the species Alouatta caraya. Photo by Mariana Raño

    A chorus of howler monkeys of the species Alouatta caraya. Photo by Mariana Raño

    Baby, I’m howlin’ for you. Male howler monkeys make deep and boisterous calls to attract mates, but the deepest-pitched songs may come at cost: the size of their testicles. A new study in the journal Current Biology examines this relationship and reveals the untold story of the sacrifices male howler monkeys make when facing competition for mates.

    University of Utah primatologist Leslie Knapp and her colleagues were interested in these howls, not only because they’re so boisterous, but because their sound can vary dramatically between species and individuals.

    Knapp told PBS NewsHour:

    If you’ve ever been South America, and you hear a loud howl early in the morning, it’s probably a howler monkey. They’re communicating about where they are and what’s going on. Both males and females make the noise, but you can detect small differences between individuals in the social group, in terms of the depth and the pitch and the amount of howling that is done.

    In case, you haven’t heard a howler monkey, here’s an example:

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

    More from Knapp:

    You can see how much effort it takes. It’s a rhythmic howl, as it gets closer to the end, you can see this male gets kind of agitated. It makes as much effort as possible to make more noise and get a deeper sound to the surrounding audience. Female may use these signals and others to tell if the male is more fit.

    To glean what controls these howls, Knapp sent one of her researchers, Jacob Dunn, to museums across Europe and the U.S. Dunn combed these collections for preserved specimens of howler monkeys, namely their hyoid bones. A hyoid is U-shaped bone in the throat that cages the vocal chamber. Its size is thought to dictate if a primate’s call has a low or high pitch.

    Dunn and his colleagues used 3-D laser scans to measure the volumes of 255 hyoid bones from nine howler monkey species.

    This photo is of a 3-D laser surface scanning of a howler monkey hyoid bone. Photo by Jacob Dunn

    This photo is of a 3-D laser surface scanning of a howler monkey hyoid bone. Photo by Jacob Dunn

    Next, researchers read papers or made hand measurements with calipers to collect data on the testicle size of monkeys from five of those species. They also looked at data on the monkey’s social group size, body weight, skull length and canine length. Plus they record vocalizations among different howler monkey species in South America. Their goal: to discern what features might correlate with the sound of a howler monkey’s love call.

    They found that there are a number of sexual trade-offs when it comes to howling. First, male hyoids were three to eight times bigger than female hyoids. The biggest males had hyoids were 10 times larger than the smallest males.

    “The male monkeys with the deepest- and lowest-pitched howls are giving the impression of having a much bigger body than they actually do,” Knapp said. “Male howler monkeys weigh about 20 pounds or less, but the kins of sounds of the deepest vocalizations compare to what might be made by tigers or red deer.”

    One might describe this as the Barry White phenomena.

    This photo displays (clockwise) a skull, mandible and hyoid bone of a red howler monkey, indicating the enormous size of the hyoid relative to other body parts and total body size. Photo by  Jacob Dunn

    This photo displays (clockwise) a skull, mandible and hyoid bone of a red howler monkey, indicating the enormous size of the hyoid relative to other body parts and total body size. Photo by Jacob Dunn

    “Females of our own species tend to find deeper voices, like soul vocalist Barry White’s, more attractive and romantic,” Knapp said in a statement. “Deeper voices are thought to reflect a larger body size, which could represent a good choice for a mate.”

    But with howler monkeys, the sexual trade-offs don’t end with voices. Male monkeys with larger hyoids, which make lower-pitched calls, had smaller testicles. They also tended to live in isolation with a community of a few females.

    In contrast, males with smaller hyoids had bigger testes and lived in groups where they had to compete with other suitors for female mates.

    Given females have more partners to choose from, males living in large groups may have evolved larger testes in order to make more sperm. More sperm means that they can spread their seed further throughout their community, elevating the odds that their genes will be passed onto to the next generation.

    “We know that testes size often results as a consequence of male-male competition. For instance, chimps have large testes, so they can produce more sperm,” Knapp said.

    The tradeoff appears to be hyoid size and vocal range. A male howler monkey living in a harem community by himself may have evolved to warn off other suitors with deeper calls. At the same time, his balls shrank, since there is less competition.

    In future work, Knapp and her colleagues plan to see if these factors — howl pitch and testes — determine mating success in howler monkeys living in Mexico.

    The post Do bigger family jewels mean deeper voices (in howler monkeys)? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Mexican border residents and members of the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) march on a road towards a detention center for migrants at the border between the U.S and Mexico in El Paso, Texas, August 24, 2014. People marched for four days and 100 miles (161 km) from southern New Mexico to west Texas, to reject border militarization and the deportation of children, according to local media. Picture taken August 24, 2014.  REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR43O9A

    Mexican border residents and members of the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) march on a road towards a detention center for migrants at the border between the U.S and Mexico in El Paso, Texas, August 24, 2014. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

    In the 1990 romantic comedy Green Card, an American girl played by Andie MacDowell marries French guy Gérard Depardieu. It’s a win-win. He gets citizenship. She gets to put “married” on an application for a fabulous Manhattan apartment that weirdly requires she not be single.

    Marriage and citizenship often go hand in hand in the U.S. Our immigration system privileges people with family ties to this country.

    But there’s an exception to the rule. And this exception has affected about half a million people, according to immigration experts. It’s a law, known as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which says that anyone who enters the U.S. illegally, stays for more than a year and then returns to their native country, is barred from entering the U.S. for 10 years. And if they’ve entered the U.S. illegally more than once, it’s a lifetime bar.

    For this week’s Shortwave, P.J. Tobia interviews a family that’s been barred for years under this act from returning to the United States.

    Last month we reported on deported veterans of the U.S. military. You can listen to that episode here.

    The post When marriage and citizenship don’t go hand in hand appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Image courtesy of MaryBeth Nelson/Sesame Street Workshop

    Image courtesy of MaryBeth Nelson/Sesame Street Workshop

    Joining Abby Cadabby and Elmo on “Sesame Street” is Julia, a green-eyed, orange-haired character with autism.

    The Sesame Workshop debuted its new character Wednesday as part of an initiative designed to reduce the stigma surrounding autism. “The initiative, Sesame Street and Autism: See All in Amazing Children,” provides educational tools in online and printed story books and as a free downloadable app that feature “Sesame Street” characters explaining to children how to interact with friends, like Julia, who have the neurodevelopmental disorder.

    In an online story book, Elmo tells Abby that Julia “does things a little differently” when all three are at a playground.

    “Sometimes Elmo talks to Julia using fewer words and says the same thing a few times,” Elmo says in the book.

    The initiative also includes routine cards and other resources aimed at parents, teachers and others on how best to handle everyday activities with children touched by the disorder, such as brushing teeth, crossing the street and going to the store.

    Video by Sesame Street in Communities

    As the NewsHour reported Wednesday, one in every 68 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism.

    “Sesame Street” is using the #SeeAmazing hashtag on social media to promote awareness about the initiative.

    The post ‘Sesame Street’ debuts Julia, its first character with autism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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