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

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    U.S. President Barack Obama meets Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 22. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    U.S. President Barack Obama meets Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 22. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama welcomed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the White House Thursday with talk of strengthening U.S. ties to a key player in brokering peace in Afghanistan.

    Obama’s meeting with Sharif came one week after the president reversed his pledge to pull American troops out of Afghanistan before he leaves office and as the U.S. is turning to two core political dimensions of the war: obstacles to a negotiated peace, and Pakistan as a Taliban sanctuary.

    The leaders were also expected to discuss touch on U.S. financial assistance to Islamabad and the prospects for Pakistani acceptance of limits on the scope of its nuclear weapons arsenal.

    Major breakthroughs are seen as unlikely.

    “The United States and Pakistan have a long-standing relationship, work and cooperate on a whole host of issues. Not just on security matters, but also on economic and scientific and educational affairs,” Obama said in brief remarks to reporters before the private meeting. “We’re looking forward to using this meeting as an opportunity to further deepen the relationship between the United States and Pakistan.”

    Sitting next to the president in the Oval Office, Sharif agreed he hoped to “to further strengthen and solidify this relationship.”

    The visit highlights the complexities of a 14-year-old Afghan war that Obama inherited in 2009, escalated a year later with a surge of American troops designed in part to force the Taliban to the negotiating table, and then vowed to end before he hands off to a new president in January 2017. Instead, Obama announced last week that he plans to keep 5,500 U.S. troops there beyond 2016 to continue training and advising Afghan forces and to hunt al-Qaida terrorists.

    Obama’s decision was an acknowledgement that the war’s end game is not going according to plan.

    The U.S.-Pakistan relationship has been rocky over the years, not least because of U.S. concerns about the growth of Pakistan’s secretive nuclear arsenal. The U.S. is interested in moving Pakistan toward an arrangement limiting the scope of its nuclear stockpile, but there are few signs that any breakthrough is in sight.

    In a new report released Thursday, two authoritative nuclear analysts estimated that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons stockpile has increased to between 110 and 130 warheads from an estimated 90 to 110 in 2011. The analysts, Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, foresee it possibly expanding further to 220 to 250 warheads in another 10 years. That would make Pakistan the world’s fifth largest nuclear weapons state behind the United States, Russia, China and France.

    In a report being published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Kristensen and Norris said Pakistan appears to have six nuclear-capable ballistic missiles in its arsenal, three more than in 2011. At least two other nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and two new cruise missiles are in development, they said, adding that they see signs that Pakistan also is developing a nuclear weapon — possibly a cruise missile — for deployment on submarines.

    In making his troop announcement last Thursday, Obama noted that Pakistani forces have squeezed remnants of al-Qaida into neighboring Afghanistan.

    “Pressure from Pakistan has resulted in more al-Qaida coming into Afghanistan,” Obama said. Evidence of that was a little noticed statement last week by the U.S. military in Kabul about a large-scale U.S.-Afghan air and ground raid against what it called a well-established al-Qaida training camp in the southern province of Kandahar. The U.S. called it one of the largest such counterterrorism operations every undertaken in Afghanistan.

    In noting his coming meeting with Sharif, Obama also said sanctuaries for the Taliban and “other terrorists” must end.

    “I will continue to urge all parties in the region to press the Taliban to return to peace talks and to do their part in pursuit of the peace that Afghans deserve,” he said.

    The Associated Press reported last week that some U.S. analysts believed a Pakistani intelligence operative was running a command center for the Taliban out of the hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that was hit by an American gunship.

    Sharif met Wednesday with Secretary of State John Kerry. State Department spokesman John Kirby said they discussed Obama’s troop announcement, “noting that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process is the surest way to end violence and ensure lasting stability in Afghanistan and in the region.”

    Sharif said Oct. 10 that his government was trying to revive stalled peace talks between representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban. He said Islamabad was once again prepared to play mediator to end the Taliban’s battle to regain power in Kabul. The Taliban ruled the country until U.S. forces invaded in October 2001. Kabul accuses Pakistan of playing a double game by cooperating with Washington but also sheltering Taliban leaders.

    Pakistan hosted a landmark set of preliminary meetings between Afghan officials and the Taliban in July. But a second round of scheduled talks was postponed after the Afghan government revealed that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had died in a Pakistani hospital two years ago.

    Pakistan denies that it sponsors the Taliban or other terrorist groups such as the Pakistan-based Haqqani network.

    The post Obama meets with Pakistani prime minister appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    [Watch Video]Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies at 10 a.m. EDT today before a House committee on the events surrounding the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Watch a live stream above.

    WASHINGTON — The latest from the House Benghazi committee’s hearing featuring testimony from former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (all times local):


    3:10 p.m.

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says former US Ambassador Chris Stevens pushed for a permanent U.S. presence in Benghazi, Libya.

    Stevens was based hundreds of miles away in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Clinton says he thought it was important to maintain a presence in eastern Libya, where there had been an uprising against former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The CIA also wanted a site in Benghazi.

    “He was a very strong advocate for staying in Libya, including Benghazi,” Clinton said of Stevens.

    Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the September 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi.

    2:20 p.m.

    Tempers are flaring at the House Benghazi committee hearing.

    The chairman — Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina — was questioning Hillary Rodham Clinton about emails she received while secretary of state, from a family friend who once worked for President Bill Clinton.

    The friend, Sidney Blumenthal, emailed Hillary Clinton frequently about Libya.

    The line of questioning led the committee’s top Democrat — Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland — to accuse Gowdy of unfairly attacking Hillary Clinton and mischaracterizing Blumenthal’s emails.

    Cummings demanded that Gowdy release a committee transcript of a closed-door interview with Blumenthal.

    Gowdy refused. Then the committee leaders began shouting at each other. A bemused Clinton looked on.

    The shouting went on for several minutes. Then the hearing abruptly adjourned for lunch, after more than three hours of testimony.

    And Gowdy says he’s not done with questions about Blumenthal.


    1:40 p.m.

    The White House says it hopes the House Benghazi committee’s hearing will bring finality to the issue.

    White House spokesman Eric Schultz says President Barack Obama didn’t have specific plans to watch the hearing. But the spokesman says Hillary Rodham Clinton’s testimony is a reminder of why Obama chose her to be secretary of state.

    Schultz says Clinton is committed to the safety and security of Americans serving in diplomatic posts, and he says she’s someone who takes responsibility when something goes wrong.


    1:15 p.m.

    Republican Rep. Jim Jordan is accusing Hillary Rodham Clinton of not telling the American people that terrorists were responsible for attacking the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.

    The Ohio lawmaker suggests Clinton was motivated to portray Libya as a success story for the Obama administration — and the attacks came only 56 days before voters were to decide whether to re-elect President Barack Obama.

    Jordan is citing Clinton’s public statement after the 2012 incident — the statement said some people believed the attack came in response to an anti-Muslim video that prompted a protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

    Jordan has produced copies of emails Clinton wrote her family, saying it was a terrorist attack by an al-Qaida-like group.

    Jordan notes she also told Egypt’s prime minister that she knew the Benghazi attack had nothing to do with the film — that it was a planned terrorist strike.

    Clinton disagrees with Jordan’s portrayal of what happened and is defending her actions. She says there was much conflicting intelligence in the fast-moving aftermath.12:45 p.m.

    A Republican member of the House Benghazi committee wants to know why Hillary Rodham Clinton didn’t fire anybody over the 2012 attacks that killed four Americans.

    Clinton was secretary of state at the time.

    Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas notes that no one lost a single paycheck over the attacks — and it was the first time an U.S. ambassador had been killed since 1979.

    Clinton says an independent review board did single out several State Department employees for what the board felt was adequately carrying out their duties — but the board didn’t find any breach or dereliction of duty.

    Four senior State Department officials were put on paid leave after the board said security at the Benghazi mission on the night of the attacks was “grossly inadequate.”

    After a review, the department reassigned three officials to positions of lesser responsibility, and one official resigned.

    Pompeo says his constituents don’t think that amounts to “accountability.”


    12:40 p.m.

    The seats in the House hearing room are all taken, and dozens of photographers are on hand as Hillary Rodham Clinton testifies about the deadly attacks against Americans in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

    But the cameras didn’t show the former secretary of state raising her right hand and swearing to tell the truth.

    A spokesman for the House Benghazi committee says the chairman — Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina — offered to conduct a private swearing-in — before the hearing began — out of respect for Clinton.

    Spokesman Jamal Ware says the hearing is “not about politics” but about the four Americans who died in the attacks.


    12:15 p.m.

    Hillary Rodham Clinton says it’s clear the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, wasn’t provided with all the requested security.

    The former secretary of state says neither Ambassador Chris Stevens — who died in the 2012 attacks — nor the diplomatic mission got everything that was asked for.

    Clinton tells a House committee that was the finding of earlier congressional investigations and an independent review board conducting its own investigation of the attacks.

    But Clinton also says even critics of the level of security in Benghazi have said the type of attack that took place would have been difficult to repel.

    Still, Republican Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama says the review board found that security was “grossly inadequate”

    Clinton says the board uncovered deficiencies within the State Department — and the Obama administration has tried to make fixes.


    11:30 a.m.

    Rep. Susan Brooks is using a collection of emails as a way to suggest that the Obama administration and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton lost interest in Libya in the months before to deadly attacks in Benghazi in September 2012.

    At a House committee hearing on Benghazi, the Indiana Republican is brandishing two piles of printed emails that she says show messages related to Benghazi and Libya.

    Brooks says he pile from 2011 has 795 emails, and the pile from 2012 has 67 emails.

    Here’s what Brooks is telling Clinton: “I can only conclude by your own records a lack of interest in Libya in 2012.”

    Clinton denies there was any diminished interest in Libya. She says most of her work wasn’t done by email, but in personal meetings and briefings, secure telephone calls, diplomatic cables and other types of communication.

    Clinton says she didn’t even have a computer on her desk.


    11:10 a.m.

    Hillary Rodham Clinton is pleading with the Republican-led House Benghazi committee to put — in her words — “national security ahead of politics and ideology.”

    The former secretary of state says that after deadly attacks against Americans abroad during the Reagan, Bush and Bill Clinton administrations, leaders from both parties in Congress and the executive branch came together to figure out what went wrong and how to respond.

    Clinton says that what’s happened after the Sept. 11 attacks, after the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and after attacks against Americans in Lebanon when Ronald Reagan was president.

    She’s telling committee members that “Congress has to be our partner as it has been after previous tragedies.”

    The committee is examining the deadly 2012 attacks on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed.


    10:50 a.m.

    The top Democrat on the House Benghazi committee is offering a vigorous defense of Hillary Rodham Clinton and unleashing a scathing critique of the Republican-led panel.

    Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland cites comments by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — the California Republican who credited the committee with driving down Clinton’s presidential poll numbers.

    Clinton is the front-runner for her party’s nomination in 2016.

    Cummings is mocking the committee chairman, GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, for saying it was hard to conduct the inquiry in such a partisan atmosphere.

    Cummings wants to know why Gowdy was telling fellow Republicans to “shut up when they are telling the truth” — and not when they made what Cummings calls “baseless claims” against Clinton.

    Cummings says it’s time to end the “fishing expedition” by the committee against Clinton.


    10:40 a.m.

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is telling a House committee there were “no delays in decision-making” immediately after the deadly 2012 attacks on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.

    Clinton is the star witness in the GOP-led investigation.

    She’s also says that in the U.S. response, there were “no denials of support from Washington” or from the U.S. military.

    She’s calling for transparency in the investigation — which critics say is focused on hampering Clinton’s run for the White House in 2016. She’s the Democratic front-runner.

    Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, died in the attacks.

    The committee chairman — GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina — accuses Clinton and the Obama administration of withholding information, including Clinton’s emails, about what happened in Washington following the attacks.


    10:15 a.m.

    The chairman of the House committee investigating the deadly attacks on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 is telling former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that the investigation is not about her.

    That is the message in Rep. Trey Gowdy’s opening statement at a public hearing where Clinton — the Democratic front-runner for president in 2016 — is testifying.

    The South Carolina Republican says the investigation is focusing on the four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, who died in the attacks.

    Gowdy say the committee is looking for the truth about the diplomatic compound’s request for more security, equipment and personnel — and what was being discussed in Washington while the Americans were under attack.

    After months of buildup, Clinton is taking center stage as the star witness in the Republican-led investigation.


    9:50 a.m.

    Hundreds of people are gathering outside the Longworth House Office Building before the highly anticipated public hearing where Hillary Rodham Clinton is to testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

    News photographers are packing the well of a hearing room normally used by the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. It’s the largest hearing room on the House side of the Capitol.

    Clinton — the Democratic front-runner for president in 2016 — is the sole witness at the hearing.

    It’s the fourth hearing since the committee was formed in May 2014.

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton testifies before the House Select Committee on Benghazi in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 22. The congressional committee is investigating the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, when Clinton was the secretary of state. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton testifies before the House Select Committee on Benghazi in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 22. The congressional committee is investigating the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, when Clinton was the secretary of state. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Original story published at 9:18 a.m. EDT:

    WASHINGTON — After months of buildup, Hillary Rodham Clinton finally takes center stage as the star witness in the Republican-led investigation into the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

    Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for president, testifies from a position of political strength as her potential rival for the nomination, Vice President Joe Biden, announced Wednesday that he will not jump into the presidential race and she rides the momentum of a solid debate performance.

    In advance of her testimony, the Clinton campaign released a summary that said she is appearing before the committee to honor the memory of the four Americans killed in Benghazi. The summary said Clinton will testify that Benghazi was a tragedy that must be learned from but that America must continue to lead in a dangerous world.

    To do otherwise would mean drawing the wrong lesson from Benghazi, she will say, according to the summary.

    Clinton will vow to pursue a smart brand of leadership that balances diplomacy, development and defense, and will say this approach to diplomacy involves an element of risk-taking that can never be eliminated outright.

    At the same time, the Benghazi committee is on the defensive as the panel’s GOP chairman scrambles to deflect comments by fellow Republicans that the inquiry is aimed at hurting Clinton’s presidential bid.

    Clinton faces a formidable challenge as she tries to explain security lapses at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, the slow military response to the violence and the Obama administration’s changing narrative about who was responsible for the attacks that killed four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens, and why the attacks were launched.

    In a high-stakes, day-long appearance that could solidify her hold on the Democratic nomination or raise doubts about her candidacy, Clinton also is certain to face questions about her use of a private email account and server while serving as secretary of state.

    The committee also faces a make-or-break moment. The panel’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, and other Republican investigators know their questioning of Clinton could revive the beleaguered panel’s credibility or undermine it even further.

    A new Associated Press-Gfk poll offers solace to both sides. While the investigation into the attacks is a burning issue for Republicans but not the broader public, Americans are more likely to view the investigation as justified rather than as a political attack on Clinton, the poll finds.

    Many Americans don’t have an opinion about Clinton’s handling of the investigation. Four in 10 say they neither approve nor disapprove of how she has answered questions about the attack, while 20 percent approve and 37 percent disapprove.

    Americans also are divided on Clinton’s emails. More than half of those polled view her use of a private server as a minor problem or no problem at all, compared with 1 in 3 who think it is a major problem. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans call it a major problem.

    Gowdy pledged in a recent interview that the hearing will be “Benghazi-centric,” focused on security before and during the attacks. Some questions on Clinton’s emails are likely, Gowdy said, but he maintains that his approach may “shock you with fairness.”

    Clinton has said the use of a private server was a mistake.

    The hearing comes amid an escalating partisan feud on the 12-member committee, which has spent more than $4.5 million since its creation in May 2014.

    Democrats have complained about “selective and out-of-context leaks” that they said mischaracterized testimony by top Clinton aides and other witnesses. They say the panel has devolved into partisan harassment intended to hurt Clinton’s bid for president.

    Gowdy and other Republicans say the panel has been and remains focused on those killed in Benghazi and on providing a definitive account of the attacks. There have been seven previous investigations.

    “This has never been political for us,” said Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., a member of the Benghazi panel. “This has always been about finding out the truth.”

    While Thursday’s hearing has drawn worldwide attention, “the investigation isn’t solely about Secretary Clinton. She’s just one piece of a much larger investigation,” Roby said.

    Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said the committee has been a bust.

    “After 17 months and millions of taxpayer dollars spent, the Select Committee on Benghazi has uncovered nothing that alters our core understanding of the facts as revealed by the other (seven) investigations,” said Schiff, who has called for the committee to be disbanded.

    “When you consider the committee’s obsessive focus on attacking Secretary Clinton, the reason becomes quite clear: the (GOP) majority has little interest in the events in Benghazi except to the degree they can be used to diminish her standing in the polls,” Schiff said.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Stakes high for Clinton, GOP as Benghazi takes center stage appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Republican Presidential Candidate Ron Paul Attends Primary Night Gathering

    DES MOINES, Iowa — An aide to Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign was convicted Thursday of one of five charges he faced related to secret payments to an Iowa lawmaker, and jurors acquitted a second aide of making false statements to the FBI.

    The federal jury found Dimitri Kesari guilty of causing the campaign to file false records concerning the payments to former Iowa Sen. Kent Sorenson. He was acquitted of an obstruction of justice charge, and jurors said they could not reach a verdict on counts alleging conspiracy, causing false campaign expenditure reports and a scheme to falsify statements.

    Co-defendant Jesse Benton was acquitted of the false statements to the FBI charge, the only one he faced at trial. Benton was the former campaign chairman during the former Texas Republican congressman’s run for president and Kesari was a deputy campaign manager.

    During the weeklong trial, prosecutors presented emails and other documents they say showed the men knowingly hid payments to Sorenson between 2011 and 2012, at the height of Paul’s campaign for the presidency. Prosecutors contended both men wanted Sorenson to jump from the Michele Bachmann campaign to the Paul campaign. He ended up doing so just days before the January 2012 Iowa caucuses, where Paul finished third behind former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and the eventual Republican nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

    The emails submitted as evidence included communication between Benton and Kesari that prosecutors said indicated both men knew they were keeping payments to Sorenson under wraps from the public, Paul’s campaign and the Federal Election Commission.

    Kesari hid the payments to Sorenson, which totaled $73,000 over several months, through invoices for production services from a film company, according to emails presented by attorneys for the Justice Department. The emails presented at trial came from Kesari’s personal computer, the Paul campaign and Benton’s personal email.

    Separate defense teams for the men challenged the authenticity of the emails and questioned the credibility of Sorenson, who entered a plea deal last year with the government on charges of obstruction of justice and causing a campaign to falsely report expenditures. Sorenson testified earlier in the trial.

    Roscoe Howard, an attorney for Benton, described Sorenson as a liar who was being pressured by the government to testify as he awaits sentencing.

    “He needs to tell them what they want to hear,” Howard said during closing arguments Tuesday about Sorenson’s motivations for testifying against Benton and Kesari.

    Jesse Binnall, an attorney representing Kesari, said his client worked on the political side of the campaign and had nothing to do with federal election filings. He insisted Kesari did not know he was doing anything wrong.

    “Ignorance of the law is an absolute excuse,” he said during his closing arguments.

    Richard Pilger, a DOJ attorney, pushed aside claims by defense attorneys that Benton was a busy person who received hundreds of emails a day while on a campaign trail that took him to dozens of states in a short period. He pointed to a May 2012 email between Kesari and Benton that showed an agreement between the men to pay Sorenson a final time. The email includes a brief passage from Benton: “Yes — last time.”

    “Last time tells you he knew about the other times,” Pilger said.

    The trial included an appearance from Paul, who testified briefly in the courtroom one day after the trial started. He said he didn’t know anything about alleged secret payments to Sorenson.

    Paul, whose granddaughter is married to Benton, said he was required to testify for prosecutors. He was openly skeptical of the timing of the charges being announced shortly before his son, Rand Paul, was scheduled to appear in a national debate for the Republican presidential nomination.

    “I don’t consider that a coincidence,” Ron Paul told jurors.

    Benton originally faced more charges in the case, but they were dismissed before the trial after defense attorneys argued that they stemmed from FBI interviews last year that could not be used. John Tate, a third Paul aide originally accused of wrongdoing in the alleged cover-up, had his charges dismissed over the same argument. The government may refile the dismissed charges separately in the future.

    The post 1 ex-Ron Paul campaign aide convicted, another acquitted appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Higher levels of a set of blood markers correlate with premature death, and scientists may have figured out why. People Photo by JGI/Jamie Grill/via Getty Images

    Higher levels of a set of blood markers correlate with premature death, and scientists may have figured out why. People Photo by JGI/Jamie Grill/via Getty Images

    A blood test claims to provide more information on if, how and why a healthy person will die in the next decade.

    Two things in life are ultimately certain: the day you’re born and the day you die. We know one, and the other drives many of our lifestyle choices, even though it’s hard to pinpoint the exact date that we’ll expire.

    But what if you could narrow a person’s death date to a precise window? In a study published today in the journal Cell Systems, computational biologists suggest that a simple blood test can tell if an otherwise healthy person is likely to die from pneumonia or sepsis within a decade.

    We made the initial discovery of these mortality biomarkers 1.5 years ago, said Johannes Kettunen, who studies “metabonomics” with the University of Oulu and the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland. Metabonomics is economics for the human metabolism.

    Metabonomicists try to quantify the compounds consumed and produced by our body’s cells. To do so, researchers like Kettunen comb metabolic data from thousands of patients over long periods of time, in order to discern the evolution of our human soup.

    In 2011, Kettunen and his colleagues examined blood samples from 10,000 Estonian and 7,000 Finnish subjects, among which 684 patients had died in a five-year follow-up period. They were searching for biomarkers in the samples that might have been an indicator for death, and they found one. A chemical process and byproduct of inflammation, called glycoprotein acetylation (GlycA), predicted whether a person would die from cancer, cardiovascular disease and nonvascular disease. These trends held true even when subtracting for factors like age, weight, smoking, cholesterol levels and preexisting conditions like diabetes and cancer.

    “People with a biomarker score in the top 20 percent had a risk of dying within five years that was 19 times greater than that of individuals with a score in the bottom 20 percent (288 versus 15 deaths),” Kettunen wrote in PLOS Medicine.

    Yet this information isn’t very useful unless scientists know why these deaths are linked to GlycA. Skeptics might say, “If you look at a large enough group, I’m sure some biological feature will connect their experience.”

    This week, Kettunen and his colleague Michael Inouye, a human genomicist at the University of Melbourne in Australia, are back with a sequel. They’ve crunched the data from the original Finnish group as well as a new cohort of 3,500 young Finns that have been monitored since 1980.

    By looking at how human genes respond in folks with a spectrum of GlycA levels, the researchers conclude that those with persistently high GlycA exist in a constant state of inflammation. It’s as if they’re fighting a virus or bacterium that isn’t there. Their bodies switch on the production of infection-fighting compounds, called cytokines, and they call upon immune cells — called neutrophils — that typically battle infections.

    Chronic inflammation wears at a person’s body and can predispose people to catching infections. Akin to their results from 2011, the researchers found that elevated GlycA levels increased a person’s chances of being hospitalized with or dying from fatal infections. Overall, GlycA blood markers can predict death from infection up to 14 years in the future.

    This schematic summary of the  investigation into the biology of GlycA, a known biomarker for short-term mortality. It reveals GlycA's long-term behavior in apparently healthy patients. GlycA levels can be stable for >10 years and are associated with chronic low-grade inflammation. Accordingly, GlycA predicts death from infection up to 14 years in the future. Illustration by Ritchie et al. Cell Systems, 2015

    This schematic summary of the investigation into the biology of GlycA, a known biomarker for short-term mortality. It reveals GlycA’s long-term behavior in apparently healthy patients. GlycA levels can be stable for >10 years and are associated with chronic low-grade inflammation. Accordingly, GlycA predicts death from infection up to 14 years in the future. Illustration by Ritchie et al. Cell Systems, 2015

    Kettunen suspects high GlycA levels are caused by a low-grade, runaway inflammatory response, but it’s possible that the condition results from a hard-to-detect infection by a virus or bacteria.

    Clearing up the mystery behind the GlycA risk could be valuable not only for addressing our morbid curiosity, but also from a public health perspective. However, based on these two studies, it is hard to assign a number on how many people in the general population might have elevated GlycA, Kettunen said.

    “We want to short-circuit that risk, and to do that we need to understand what this blood biomarker of disease is actually telling us,” Michael Inouye said in a statement.

    But a person’s ability to learn their GlycA profile raises an ethical question, since there’s no known treatment for tweaking it.

    “If we can find something that also lowers the health risks indicated by GlycA, then it may be useful to take. Until then, I think it is better not knowing,” Kettunen said.

    The post Will you die prematurely? This blood test may contain the answer appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A new poll reveals that a majority of voters favor expanded federal spending for public preschool.  REUTERS/Adrees Latif

    A new poll reveals that a majority of voters favor expanded federal spending for public preschool. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

    Presidential candidates hoping to attract Millennials, Hispanics and swing state voters in 2016 could be well-advised to make early education a key part of their education platform, according to the results of a new national poll showing that 76 percent of voters support the idea of spending federal money to expand public preschool.

    FFYF Poll - Issue RankingCommissioned for the third year running by the D.C.-based early childhood advocacy organization, First Five Years Fund, this year’s poll included several new questions including one on how favorably respondents would view a candidate interested in increasing funding for early childhood programs. Fifty-four percent said they would hold a more positive view of such a candidate.

    Related: Preschool education: Go big or go home?

    “It’s polling so well that there’s little downside to running on it,” said Kris Perry, executive director of First Five Years Fund. “Based on the evidence, I hope a couple of them–someone on each side–will take it up.”

    Fifty-nine percent of Republicans, and 94 percent of Democrats, polled said they’d support spending federal money to expand public early education programs. (Three of the many foundations that support First Five Years Fund, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Heising-Simons Foundation, are also among the various funders of The Hechinger Report.)

    Before launching her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton spent months traveling the country as the face of Too Small To Fail, a Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation campaign to increase parental knowledge of early learning at home.

    While none of the Republican candidates have made the issue central to their campaigns, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie all lead states with public preschool programs, some of which grew under their leadership.

    Related: California’s early ed workers struggle to stay afloat

    FFYF Poll - Voter BreakdownIn addition to its direct political findings, the poll found that 88 percent of respondents agreed (66 percent strongly) with the statement “Access to quality early childhood education is not a luxury, but a need for many families.” And 89 percent of respondents ranked “making sure that our children get a strong start in life” as important (49 percent said “extremely important”) to strengthening the country’s middle class. But the questions did not get much more detailed than that.

    Laura Bornfreund, deputy director of the early childhood initiative at New America, a public policy think tank, said she wished the poll had asked specific questions about trade-offs voters would be willing to make in exchange for more early childhood care. “If there is a larger investment at the federal level, then it either means something else is going to be cut or not invested in or there will be some sort of tax increase,” she said. “But there weren’t questions that really hit that home.”

    Related: Opportunity gap narrows in Mississippi

    Bornfreund said she was pleased to see that early childhood education was popular among voters and hoped presidential candidates would take it as a suggestion to focus on the issue in the coming year. Even if early education makes a bigger splash during this year’s campaign than it has in the recent past, it’s unlikely to beat 1988, said Helen Blank, director of childcare and early learning at the National Women’s Law Center.

    “Childcare in 1988 was actually one of the key issues,” said Blank, who has worked for organizations promoting higher quality childcare for decades. “There was a bill going to Congress; it was all over the papers and both candidates were talking about it.”

    That bill, which would have increased childcare subsidies for low- and moderate-income families, failed. And while Blank says every serious presidential candidate since has had a plan for early education, the conversation has never reached such a fever pitch, nor does she expect 2016 to break that pattern.

    This story was written by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about early education.

    The post Voters support public preschool, but will candidates do the same? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Bronx Photo League/Bronx Documentary Center

    Ramona, 54 years old, has worked on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx since 1990. She has been the owner of YC&L Auto Repair for nine years. Photo by Edwin Torres and courtesy of the Bronx Photo League/Bronx Documentary Center.

    Editor’s Note: Jerome Avenue in the Bronx is a hub of working class families, but residents worry that their way of life could be at risk under a proposed idea to rezone 57 blocks along the street. In one study that surveyed Bronx residents, 80 percent of respondents said they fear the rezoning could displace them by introducing higher housing prices. In response, photographers working with the Bronx Photo League decided to document the images and stories of Jerome Avenue’s residents in the Jerome Avenue Workers Project. Below, photographer Edwin Torres discusses his role in the project and why he approached Ramona, a business owner on Jerome Avenue.

    Edwin Torres, photographer (as told to Corinne Segal)

    Me and another photographer were out shooting Jerome Avenue and we were walking past one of the stores, and we kept seeing this woman hanging outside of one of the shops, which is very different. The street feels dominated by men. Ramona was just there, talking to a lot of people — she looked like she was in charge.

    At first she said, “I don’t know you, I don’t know what this is about, I don’t want to be photographed.” I completely thought it was never going work out from the first few tries.

    It’s a sense of community and culture mixed with lots of hard work.
    Finally, she took me to the office at her autorepair shop and we sat down for 20 minutes. It was an amazing interview … It’s not just a repair shop. It’s her life story. It’s where she spent most of her life. And a lot of the other shops along Jerome Avenue — these aren’t just people’s work. These are their livelihoods. They spend more time working and living on Jerome than actually at home. If they’re there working on Saturday and it’s 7 p.m., they’re going to pull out the domino table and start playing dominos and music. It’s a sense of community and culture mixed with lots of hard work.

    I’m Puerto Rican. I was born and raised in the Bronx. I grew up always seeing that kind of scenario play out. My dad was an ad hoc mechanic, pretty much took up mechanic gigs whenever there was extra money to be made. We would always hang around those shops. So it’s something I can relate to and understand.

    It’s very easy to label a set of repair shops and mechanic shops as something filthy and strictly commercial and strictly business. It’s very easy to label it as that. But it’s not so easy to see that these are people’s lives here. And the majority of these business owners are in the 50-year-old range. For them to relocate, when they have been working there for 20, 30 years — for them to relocate and try to build a new customer base is just not feasible.

    Ramona, pictured (as told to Torres) 

    I am the owner of the business. My ex-husband was the owner for 20 years and since 2006 I have worked here. We are Dominicans. I came here in 1981. I have been working here since 1990. First I was a manager for two different car washes. Manager at two different tire shops. He was always a mechanic, this was a parking lot. He had a booth where he did tune ups and car inspections. The he taught me and I applied for my own license. Eventually I enjoyed working with help and appreciated working independently, not answering to anyone.

    If you move, you lose the customer service, you may not have anything. If we move, for us we would have to start all over again from scratch. We lose the customer base. I cannot relocate to another area. I am 54 years old. I am too tired. I am not strong enough to start again. I already have a method with my clients. I have plans on when I plan to retire and how I am going to leave. If they destroy the buildings then we have to look for where to go. It will change your entire life. It won’t be the same.

    Interviews have been edited for length. The word “parallax” describes the camera error that occurs when an image looks different through a viewfinder than how it is recorded by a sensor; when one camera gives two perspectives. Parallax is a blog where photographers offer the unexpected sides and stories of their work. Tell us yours or share on Instagram at #PBSParallax.

    The post Meet the woman who’s standing up to gentrification in her working class Bronx neighborhood appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    What is the role of the U.S. criminal justice system, and how can prisons better serve its community and its inmates? Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

    What is the role of the U.S. criminal justice system, and how can prisons better serve its community and its inmates? Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

    There are more than 2.2 million Americans living behind bars today. When released, two-thirds of prisoners are re-incarcerated within three years. Last week, as part of our Broken Justice series, we told the stories of three soon-to-be released prisoners: Ashley, Carlos and Jordan. Their stories offered a deeper look at the challenges many prisoners face after being incarcerated and being released back into normal life.

    Criminal justice reform has been at the forefront of politics lately too, with a bipartisan reform bill being introduced on Capitol Hill and the reported early release of thousands of federal drug prisoners stemming from a policy supported by the Obama Administration last year.

    Join NewsHour for a Twitter chat at 1 p.m. EDT Friday to discuss some of the questions around this topic: What is the role of the U.S. criminal justice system? Is it simply punish or to reform? Why has criminal justice reform received so much bipartisan attention recently?

    Joining us to answer these questions will be Mary Price of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (@maryfromfamm); Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary, Koch Industries, Inc., Mark Holden (@FixCrimJustice); Senior Staff Attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Daryl V. Atkinson (@scsj); Staff writer at The Marshall Project, Beth Schwartzapfel (@schwartzapfel) Donna Rojas and Alisa Smedley, Workforce Development Trainers at Montgomery County Correctional Facility (@mccf_ajc); Prosecutor and member of National Association of Assistant US Attorneys, Steven Wasserman (@fedpros) and PBS NewsHour Correspondent William Brangham (@wmbrangham). Follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #NewsHourChats.

    The post Twitter Chat: Addressing criminal justice reform in the U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced Friday that he was ending his 2016 bid. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced Friday that he was ending his 2016 bid. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced Friday he would end his quixotic Democratic presidential campaign after failing to gain traction against Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

    “After much thought I have decided to end my campaign for president today,” Chafee said at a women’s forum held by the Democratic National Committee. “But I would like to take this opportunity one last time to advocate for a chance be given to peace.”

    Chafee delivered a widely panned debate performance earlier this month and has struggled to raise money and generate enthusiasm in a field that has been dominated by Clinton, a former secretary of state, and Sanders, the Vermont independent senator.

    Chafee’s departure comes days after Vice President Joe Biden declined to join the field and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb announced he was leaving the Democratic campaign and would consider an independent bid.

    It leaves Clinton, Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley as the three main contenders for the nomination. All three are appearing Saturday at a major Iowa Democratic fundraising dinner in Des Moines, an event that helped fuel President Barack Obama’s rise in the fall of 2007.

    The former Rhode Island senator surprised many when he formed a presidential exploratory committee last spring and raised eyebrows when he called for the U.S. to switch to the metric system during a formal campaign kickoff in Virginia last June.

    His poll numbers were so low that comedian Conan O’Brien came up with a song for Chafee’s longshot bid and encouraged viewers to boost his poll numbers from 0 percent to 1 percent because “it seems like the nice thing to do.”

    Often driving from his Rhode Island home, Chafee visited the first primary state of New Hampshire several times but failed to draw large crowds.

    In the first Democratic debate, Chafee referred to himself as a “block of granite” when it came to issues and said he was most proud of his judgment, particularly his vote against the Iraq war. He frequently said U.S. foreign policy should promote peace but his performance was widely panned, prompting questions about whether he would continue his campaign.

    Chafee raised just $11,000 in the most recent fundraising quarter. Most of his money has come from more than $360,000 that he has loaned his campaign. During his past campaigns, he relied on an old New England family fortune amassed over generations.

    The presidential bid represented an unusual twist for the unconventional 62-year-old lawmaker and the son of late Sen. John Chafee.

    In the Senate, the younger Chafee stood out as a liberal Republican in an increasingly conservative party. He was the lone Republican in 2002 to vote against going to war in Iraq, a moment that he tried to make a cornerstone of his campaign.

    He was elected governor in 2010 as an independent and twice backed President Barack Obama’s White House campaigns. He joined the Democrats in 2013 and used his presidential campaign to urge the U.S. to help reinvigorate the United Nations as a way to promote peace and stability.

    DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, called Chafee a “class act” and recalled his decision to join the Democratic party.

    “Let’s remember that that was a big deal,” Wasserman Schultz told the audience. “Because when he joined our party, he made clear that his former party had left him.”

    The post Lincoln Chafee drops out of 2016 race appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    This week, Canada elected a new leader, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton again took the hot seat before Congress. She fielded questions for 11 hours, but you need only five minutes to take our world news quiz.

    The post World news quiz: Clinton testifies and Canada gets a new leader appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    This satellite image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Patricia in the Pacific Ocean headed toward the Mexican coast.

    This satellite image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Patricia in the Pacific Ocean headed toward the Mexican coast.

    Mexican officials declared a state of emergency in dozens of municipalities Thursday night in preparation for the strongest hurricane on record in the Western Hemisphere.

    Hurricane Patricia intensified to a Category 5 storm, the highest classification on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with maximum sustained winds that reached 200 mph.

    The National Hurricane Center said the storm could make a “potentially catastrophic landfall” when it blows over southwestern Mexico later Friday afternoon or evening. According to the latest advisory, the storm’s center is about 85 miles southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico and is moving north at 12 miles per hour.

    Patricia’s strong winds and rain threaten catastrophic damage. The storm is expected to drop six to 12 inches of rain over Mexican states in its path. Heavy rainfall is also likely to cause life-threatening flooding and landslides and storm surges up to 39 feet, The Weather Channel reported.

    Civil protection officials have been working with teams of police to evacuate people from the water’s edge of Puerto Vallarta and provide sandbags to protect buildings from flooding, the Associated Press reported.

    Authorities closed schools in the Mexican states of Guerrero, Colima and Jalisco on Friday.

    An employee of a car rental company tapes up a glass door as he prepares for Hurricane Patricia in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on Oct. 22, 2015. Photo by Henry Romero/Reuters

    An employee of a car rental company tapes up a glass door as he prepares for Hurricane Patricia in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on Oct. 22, 2015. Photo by Henry Romero/Reuters

    An employee boards up the windows of a restaurant as Hurricane Patricia approaches the Pacific beach resort of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on Oct. 23. 2015. Photo by Henry Romero/Reuters

    An employee boards up the windows of a restaurant as Hurricane Patricia approaches the Pacific beach resort of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on Oct. 23. 2015. Photo by Henry Romero/Reuters

    The hurricane is expected to break apart and weaken once it passes over Mexico’s mountainous terrain, but forecasters said the storm’s residual moisture could lead to heavy rainfall this weekend in already drenched parts of Texas.

    Hurricane Patricia is being compared to Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in 2013 and left more than 7,300 dead or missing in its wake and displaced another 4 million people, according to the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization. In Patricia’s path is the resort city Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo, which houses Mexico’s busiest port.

    Roberto Ramirez, the director of Mexico’s National Water Commission, told AP that the 161,000 inhabitants in Manzanillo, Mexico now face the most danger from the hurricane.

    The post Hurricane Patricia strongest ever recorded in Western Hemisphere appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Mature doctor using digital tablet to explain to female patient

    The American Cancer Society revised its breast cancer screening guidelines earlier this week, but those changes will likely not affect insurance. Photo by Getty Images

    The American Cancer Society’s new breast cancer screening guidelines recommend that women start screening later and get fewer mammograms, but the change is unlikely to affect insurance coverage anytime soon.

    The updated guidelines, which were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week, recommend that women who are at average risk for breast cancer start annual mammograms at age 45 and continue until age 54, then reduce screening frequency to once every two years. They should continue on that schedule as long as their life expectancy is at least 10 years. The ACS also no longer recommends that women receive manual clinical breast exams.

    The previous guidelines, which had been in place since 2003, recommended annual mammograms and clinical breast exams starting at age 40 for women who were at average risk.

    The update was two years in the making and reflects the society’s current thinking based on an analysis of existing science and changing technology, among other things, says Kirsten Sloan, the ACS Cancer Action Network senior director of policy. The society concluded that even though women in their early 40s can benefit from breast cancer screening, they are more likely than older women to get false positive results, which can lead to unnecessary — and sometimes harmful — additional testing and procedures.

    The new guidelines on their own likely won’t change insurer and employer decisions regarding coverage of screening for breast cancer, experts agree.

    Under the health law, health plans are required to cover preventive services that are recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a nonpartisan group of medical experts, without charging consumers anything out of pocket. The only exception is for plans that have grandfathered status under the law.

    The task force’s breast cancer screening guidelines are slightly different than those from the American Cancer Society. The task force recommends mammograms to screen for breast cancer for women at average risk every two years starting at age 50 and continuing until age 74. The task force is revising the guidelines, but a proposed recommendation is similar to the existing one.

    The new ACS guidelines now more closely align with the task force’s recommendation to start screening at age 50. However, both groups’ guidelines also say some women may choose to be screened earlier than the recommended age — but that the decision should be an individual one.

    “In most cases, health plans are already covering mammograms for women age 40 to 50 when recommended by a doctor,” said Clare Krusing, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, an insurer trade group, in an email.

    Health plans examine medical guidelines and evidence from a variety of sources when developing coverage rules.

    “The recommendations will give plans a different framework for evaluating those coverage decisions moving forward, particularly if more and more doctors, providers [and] researchers release recommendations that align with those coming out from the ACS,” says Krusing.

    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.

    The post New breast cancer screening guidelines unlikely to affect insurance coverage appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user Teri Lynne Underwood

    When a child with a little red wagon reminds us that bad news can take us to something good. Photo by Flickr user Teri Lynne Underwood

    I am in the bad news business. Seldom do I get to report on puppies, rainbows or the sounds of children giggling. Well, never.

    If there is anything good to be said about my particular line of work, it’s that we get to tell people the news they need to hear, and to put it in context.

    To get to that — for one hour every night on the PBS NewsHour, and for an additional half-hour every Friday night on Washington Week, we have to slog through a lot of tough stuff.

    We talk to the incarcerated, the drug addicted, the politicians and the policy makers, plus we sit through hours of speeches and committee hearings.

    We do this so you don’t have to.

    And, occasionally, we glean from you that it’s appreciated. NewsHour executive producer Sara Just received a note this week from viewer Robbie Schaefer, a guitarist, blogger and founder of OneVoice, a program that brings children together through music. We wrote about his program in 2013.

    It’s worth it to reprint some of this latest blog here:

    Last night my wife and I watched the PBS NewsHour as we do most evenings around 6pm. My youngest son was with us for dinner, so he was watching as well. There was a story about Syrian immigrants waiting and walking in the pouring rain in their struggle to cross Slovenia and Croatia on their way to hopeful asylum in Germany. There was a story about continuing violence between Palestinians and Israelis, including the brutal death of an Eritrean man who was an innocent asylum seeker. He had been mistaken for a terrorist, shot by an Israeli policeman and then kicked and beaten by the crowd while bleeding on the ground. Rage unhinged. Fear will lead us there every time. There was U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, like a decades old recording, calling for an end to the “senseless violence.”

    It was enough to ruin your night.

    Part of me wanted to turn it all off, make dinner, pet my dogs, watch playoff baseball. A bigger part of me couldn’t. This is the world we live in. All it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing. And yet, that familiar feeling of helplessness washed over me. I could see it on the faces of my wife and son as well. I got angry. Angry at the world for being this f***ed up. Angry at someone else’s reality intruding on my perfectly comfortable suburban evening. Angry at myself for being angry. And, in short order, anger slid into despair. What to do? Where to start? A facebook posting (or a blog) masquerading as activism is not enough. Not even close.

    And that’s when there was a knock on the door.

    We live at the end of a cul-de-sac, and this being dinnertime, knocks on the door are uncommon. Isn’t that one of the thin veils we invent to convince ourselves that there is order and civilization in our lives? We don’t interrupt people at dinnertime. Yeah, it’s polite, but it’s also a load of s**t. It turns out an interruption was precisely what was called for here. I opened the door, and there stood Emma, our neighbor’s 8-year-old daughter, with her red Flyer wagon waiting behind her on the sidewalk. There was something about that wagon. Still. Expectant. She explained that she was collecting supplies for people in South Carolina who had lost their homes and most of their belongings in the recent flooding.

    Wow. I’d forgotten about that. It was, like, two weeks ago. How quickly I’d moved on from one instance of human suffering to the next.

    Toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo, paper towels. She was going to South Carolina with a group from her school to deliver these things in November. It would be her birthday while she was there, she explained, and she was sad that she wouldn’t be able to have a regular birthday party here at home, but at least two of her friends would be with her and maybe that would be alright.

    Emma is the answer.

    There’s more. You can read all his blog entries here.

    Schaefer’s appeal is in the end a positive one. We need to know what’s happening in the world, but we cannot afford to shrug and walk away.

    If we shrug, we don’t get to pick our leaders. If we walk away, we lose out on the interconnectedness that explains our world.

    So I’m going to stick that one in my hatband, and set out to tell the stories that shed light and spur action. That way, the bad news can take us to something good.

    The post Gwen’s Take: Turning bad into good appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A sign is pictured at the entrance to a Planned Parenthood building in New York on Aug. 31, 2015. Picture taken August 31, 2015. The House moved forward with a bill that guts parts of Obamacare and halts Planned Parenthood funding for a year. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    A sign is pictured at the entrance to a Planned Parenthood building in New York on Aug. 31, 2015. Picture taken August 31, 2015. The House moved forward with a bill that guts parts of Obamacare and halts Planned Parenthood funding for a year. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The House approved Republican legislation Friday that would erase key components of President Barack Obama’s health care law, block federal payments to Planned Parenthood — and earn a certain veto should it reach the White House.

    Lawmakers used a near party-line 240-189 vote to approve the bill, which aims squarely at two favorite targets of conservatives. And though they know a veto awaits the measure should it win final congressional approval from the Senate, they say Obama’s rejection would help them sharpen political differences with Democrats for next year’s elections.

    “If he vetoes it, I think it will crystallize to the country that the only component missing now is a Republican president, and it shows even more importantly why we need to get a Republican president in the White House,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said in an interview.

    Democrats called the debate a political charade and a waste of time, saying the House has voted 61 times to repeal all or part of Obama’s prized health overhaul since the GOP took control of the chamber in 2011.

    “This is a hyper-partisan document that is just talking points for extremists,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif.

    Republicans wrapped the legislation in a streamlined procedure that would shield it from a Democratic Senate filibuster — meaning it will need only 51 votes to pass that chamber. Filibusters, or procedural delays aimed at killing legislation, take 60 votes to halt and there are just 54 GOP senators.

    But even attaining a simple Senate majority for the measure may be tough for Republicans. The bill faces potential opposition there from moderate Republicans concerned it goes too far and conservative GOP senators running for president saying it doesn’t go far enough.

    In fact, there were rumblings of discontent about the measure from hardline conservative Republicans from both chambers who said they wanted the bill to eliminate the entire health care overhaul, not just key legs of it.

    A pair of presidential contenders — Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. — along with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, sent a letter this week to House Republicans urging opposition to the bill, saying “This simply isn’t good enough.”

    The House bill’s GOP authors said they were constrained by procedural hurdles: legislation receiving the filibuster protections cannot increase the deficit — which repealing the entire health care law would do.

    Groups that lined up behind the House measure included the National Right to Life Committee and the National Retail Federation.

    In a statement promising Obama’s veto, the White House said the GOP measure “would take away critical benefits and health care coverage from hard-working middle-class families.”

    The legislation would eliminate the health law’s requirements that most people who don’t have employer-provided health coverage buy individual policies, and that most companies provide medical insurance. It would also eliminate the statute’s taxes on medical devices and high-priced insurance policies.

    It also prevents Planned Parenthood from getting federal money for a year — the GOP reaction to secretly recorded tapes that showed the group’s officials describing how they sometimes provide researchers with tissue from aborted fetuses.

    The post GOP bill would gut health law, defund Planned Parenthood for a year appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    For this week’s Making Sense report, economics correspondent Paul Solman visited New Belgium Brewery headquarters in Fort Collins, Colorado, a company that is owned entirely by its workers. A key feature of New Belgium’s employee stock ownership plan is its open-book management and its classes that teach every employee how to read the books.

    While taking those classes, 20-year employee Doug Miller, known by co-workers as “Corleone,” learned about cash flow, income statements and balance sheets — and then shared that knowledge with his teenage kids. Paul caught up with Doug on his forklift, where Doug explained precisely how he taught his kids financial literacy. Little did he know how savvy they would become.

    Paul Solman: I thought your name was Doug Miller.

    Doug Miller: It is, but it’s kind of an inside joke that I am the guy here that gets things done as long as you don’t ask any questions about how it got done or where that went to or anything else.

    Paul Solman: And you’re teaching open book management or financial literacy to your kids?

    Doug Miller: Yeah, that’s the pretty amazing thing to me. My kids, a couple of years ago, I started making them save 10 percent of everything they made, and they put it in this jar. And then after the end of the year, we crack open the jar, and I’ll add 10 percent to that. And they started understanding how the world works with money. Like interest rates: My kids borrow money from me, because they didn’t save money, and I charge them 5 percent interest per week.

    So I teach them that when you borrow money, you’ve got to pay interest on it. So my son borrows 20 bucks, and I’m like, “You got to pay me back.” So he starts paying me back a couple of dollars every week, and a couple of weeks go by and he is like, “Yeah, so you owed $20, I paid you back $8, and I owe you $12.” And I am like, “No, no, here is the interest.” And we do the math, and he still owed me $17.25, because of the interest rate common. He runs upstairs, cracks open his piggy bank, dumps it all out, and says, “I’m paying this all off right now.” And I am like, “Good for you, you learned a lesson.” Two weeks later, my daughter goes to borrow money, my son is like, “Don’t do it, don’t do it. It’s the worst thing ever, trust me.” My daughter is like, “No, no, I got this.” I am like, “Alright.”

    So a couple of days later, I’m like, “So you don’t need to borrow that money?” She is like, “No, I borrowed it from Calvin.” I am like, “Oh my god,” I go to Calvin like, “You lent her the money? What’s going on?” He is like, “Yeah, I only charged her 4 percent, and you were charging her 5 percent.” So I go by my daughter and said, “Hey, you’re still going to have to pay him, I don’t want to be involved with this thing, and whatever.” And she was like, “Don’t worry Dad, you charged interest after one week, he is charging interest after two weeks. And I have that babysitting job with the Bankstons next week, and so I’ll have the money to pay him off interest-free.”

    Paul Solman: And how savvy have the kids become?

    Doug Miller: A little savvier than I would like, actually, to be truthful. My oldest son is so good at managing his money — the little that I give him — that he doesn’t need to get a job. And he is like, “Why do I need to get a job? I can get by on what you’ve given me, and I am spending less than I make.” My middle son — he’s the banker — he loans money to his friends. He has loaned money to his one friend at 1 percent interest per month. And his father actually called me up and said, “Hey, your son is loaning money to my son at interest rate, and I got to sign something for this?” I am like, “Yeah, it’s all on the up and up.” And so that guy was like, “Wow, that’s a really great idea, I’ll start teaching my kids about money and then maybe they won’t have to borrow it from your son.”

    Paul Solman: You mean your son loaned money to his friend on the condition that the friend’s father co-sign the loan?

    Doug Miller: In real life what people do is, they have a co-signer. When I bought our first house, back on McKinley, I had to have Nanny and Pappy co-sign with me, because the bank knew that I wasn’t a good risk at that time. So you need to get this kid to have somebody co-sign it for him. And so yeah, he get his dad to co-sign the loan, and you’re good to go.

    The post I charged my kids interest on loans, and now they’re outsmarting me appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Nouralla took this photo at a school in Shatila, Lebanon. "As I was taking a group picture of kids at the kindergarden, this little girl came and said: 'Take a picture of me alone,'" she wrote. Photo by Nour Nouralla

    Photographer Nour Nouralla took this photo at a school in Shatila, Lebanon. “As I was taking a group picture of kids at the kindergarten, this little girl came and said: ‘Take a picture of me alone,'” Nouralla wrote on the website for Syrian Eyes of the World, a photography project that documents Syrian lives in the diaspora. Photo by Nour Nouralla

    Nour Nouralla grew up in Syria, but no one she knows lives there anymore.

    She rattled off the destinations of friends and family, some of whom left as a four-year war ravaged the country: “Germany, France, England, the Gulf area, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Lebanon — there’s many people who fled to Lebanon in the early stages of the conflict — Amman, Jordan — there are Syrians in Malaysia because they don’t need a visa.”

    More than 4 million people have now left Syria in the largest mass migration since World War II. Most of them now live in Jordan, Turkey, or Lebanon, which has seen its population swell by more than a quarter, an amount that Kim Ghattas at Foreign Policy pointed out would be the equivalent of 90 million refugees arriving in the U.S. Thousands of others have traveled by boat from Turkey to Greece, where they cross over to Macedonia and Serbia. And last week, as Hungary closed its borders to refugees, the flow of people toward western Europe swelled along the path from Serbia to Croatia, with more than 5,000 people crossing into Croatia daily, The Guardian has reported.

    As these numbers make headlines, Nouralla is one of a group of photographers bringing focus to the individual faces and voices that share a Syrian identity — ones that they say can get lost in media coverage of the war — with the project “Syrian Eyes of the World.”

    Entabi took this photo of Amjad Hashem, above, in Damascus in 2014. “I don’t know what I should say ... all I know is that all my paintings tell my story," Hashem told Entabi. Photo by Antoine Entabi

    Photographer Antoine Entabi took this photo of artist Amjad Hashem in Damascus in 2014. “All I know is that all my paintings tell my story,” Hashem told Entabi. Photo by Antoine Entabi

    Youssef Shoufan, the project’s founder, moved from Damascus to Montreal with his family at the age of seven. Growing up in Montreal, he said he felt disconnected from his origins. Two years ago, he traveled to Beirut, Lebanon, and connected with the growing community of Syrians there.

    He said the people he met in Beirut inspired him to start the project and capture the shared culture between Syrians everywhere. “It’s important for us to include everyone who has Syrian origins, with no geography bounds. It’s not about if you’re inside or outside Syria,” he said.

    “Before, we were scared. But it was nothing compared to what we saw later," Reem Al-Haswani, pictured in Shatila, Lebanon, in 2013, told Shoufan.  Photo by Youssef Shoufan

    “Before, we were scared. But it was nothing compared to what we saw later,” Reem Al-Haswani told Shoufan in Shatila, Lebanon, in 2013. Photo by Youssef Shoufan

    “Just meeting somebody who finally reached their destination from the hell that they’ve been through, back wherever they came from — just seeing the smile on their face and the relief on their face has been really inspiring.”
    The project currently has 10 photographers, all of whom are Syrian. The photographers themselves are from a range of cities, including Beirut, New York City, Montreal, Aleppo, Syria, and other cities around the world.

    Shoufan said he hopes the project can provide a more realistic portrait of Syrians at a time when many images of Syrians are associated only with war.

    “The idea is to balance what is shown about Syria and Syrians and bring that image closer to reality,” Shoufan said.

    "Identity is rather a journey, a trajectory which is constantly changing. I would add that for me identity lies even more so in the sum of your life experiences," film director Samer Najari, pictured here with his son Francesco in Montreal in 2014, told Shoufan. "As for my children, my hope is that I will be able to cultivate their curiosity about the world and that I will help them learn to be open to all differences." Photo by Youssef Shoufan

    “Identity is rather a journey, a trajectory which is constantly changing. I would add that for me identity lies even more so in the sum of your life experiences,” film director Samer Najari, pictured here with his son Francesco in Montreal in 2014, told Youssef Shoufan. “As for my children, my hope is that I will be able to cultivate their curiosity about the world and that I will help them learn to be open to all differences.” Photo by Youssef Shoufan

    Nouralla lived in Damascus and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, before moving to New York City to study architecture at the Pratt Institute. She applied to join the project last year and recently spent three months in Berlin, where she met Syrians who had just arrived at the end of a long journey.

    “I heard from people who literally just crossed the borders,” she said. “Some of them had no problems on the trip, [but] some of them have literally spent 25 days on the road, on feet. Just meeting somebody who finally reached their destination from the hell that they’ve been through, back wherever they came from — just seeing the smile on their face and the relief on their face has been really inspiring.”

    Talking to her subjects has made her reconsider the meaning of “home” in her life and the lives of others, she said. “It always gives me a unique perspective on, what do we call home, really? That’s what I try to do in my portraits,” she said. “I always like to bring up issues like the issue of home or belonging, or places, and how people assimilate and adapt to these new places and cities.”

    Photo by Nour Nouralla

    Ebaa Hwijeh, pictured, has lived in Berlin for years. “What is home? What is exile? These are concepts that are not easy to define with a word or two,” Hwijeh told Nouralla this year. “‘Home’ is the synthesis of your experiences, in all places with all their details, good or bad. Everyplace you live in is a piece of you, like you are a piece of it.” Photo by Nour Nouralla

    Antoine Entabi, a photographer for the project, met Shoufan in Beirut in 2013, shortly after moving there from Damascus. “I had to leave Syria,” he said. “I had to move to start a new beginning.”

    Now, Entabi works in Shatila, Lebanon, for Basmeh & Zeitooneh, an NGO that provides Syrian refugees with direct services and community support. “Everyday, I [see] new refugees came to the camp, and live in miserable conditions. Most of them came and hold [their] dreams on [their] shoulders,” he wrote in a Facebook message.

    “I care for one thing only: how I’ll let my children reach the highest ranks, study and succeed, even at the expense of my labor," Um Ibrahim, pictured, told Entabi in Shatila, Lebanon in 2014. "I haven’t seen a thing of my life, all my life is about work, and I try to be the father and the mother of my children.” Photo by Antoine Entabi

    “I care for one thing only: how I’ll let my children reach the highest ranks, study and succeed, even at the expense of my labor,” Um Ibrahim, who works with Entabi at service organization Basmeh & Zeitooneh in Shatila, Lebanon, told photographer Antoine Entabi in 2014. “I haven’t seen a thing of my life, all my life is about work, and I try to be the father and the mother of my children.” Photo by Antoine Entabi

    Entabi aims for the project to show the diversity of Syrian people and their strength under difficult circumstances, he said. “In Syria we have a lot of communities, different religion, culture, and accents,” he wrote. “We have more than 12,000 years of civilizations … I believe that the Syrian[s] will spread [their] thoughts and culture around the world.”

    An exhibit featuring some of the photos will be on display in front of the town hall in Pessac, France, from Nov. 16-23 as part of the Festival International du Film d’Histoire de Pessac. Project photographers Youssef and Madonna Adib just signed on to direct a documentary with Montreal-based Parabola Films following several Syrians around the world as they grapple with the war’s impact on their lives.

    See more photos from “Syrian Eyes of the World” below.

    "Younger, we studied the literature of the diaspora that didn’t interest me so much at the time / Twenty years spent away from the country, I now understand why a stranger becomes a poet," Hala Al Romhein, pictured in Montreal this year, wrote in verse to Shoufan. Photo by Youssef Shoufan

    “Younger, we studied the literature of the diaspora that didn’t interest me so much at the time / Twenty years spent away from the country, I now understand why a stranger becomes a poet,” Hala Al Romhein, pictured in Montreal this year, wrote to Shoufan. Photo by Youssef Shoufan

    “It’s very hard to make a significant difference in the world, but I think that if I can make at least one person ‘feel’ again, then I can be one step closer to making that difference. So I dance,” Yara Arwad, pictured above, told Nouralla in New York in 2014. Photo by Nour Nouralla

    “It’s very hard to make a significant difference in the world, but I think that if I can make at least one person ‘feel’ again, then I can be one step closer to making that difference. So I dance,” Yara Arwad, pictured above, told Nouralla in New York in 2014. Photo by Nour Nouralla

    “I would like to post a tent in the 'No man’s land' which is the land between [Lebanon and Syria]. This is my dream," Caroline Kinj, pictured, told Entabi in Shatila, Lebanon, in 2014. "I’m not able to be here and there. At heart I am Syrian, with the appearances I am Lebanese. This is my confusion, but my greatest belonging is for Syria.” Photo by Antoine Entabi

    “I would like to post a tent in the ‘No man’s land’ which is the land between [Lebanon and Syria]. This is my dream,” Caroline Kinj, pictured, told Entabi in Shatila, Lebanon, in 2014. “I’m not able to be here and there. At heart I am Syrian, with the appearances I am Lebanese. This is my confusion, but my greatest belonging is for Syria.” Photo by Antoine Entabi

    Three women sew at Basmeh & Zeitooneh in Shatila, Lebanon, in 2014. Photo by Youssef Shoufan

    Three women sew at Basmeh & Zeitooneh in Shatila, Lebanon, in 2014. Photo by Youssef Shoufan

    The post Photos: These are the faces of Syria, from around the world appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Illustration by Getty Images

    For many people, the healthcare exchanges can be a confusing place. HealthCare.gov is trying to make it easier this year. Illustration by Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Premiums are expected to rise in many parts of the country as a new sign-up season under President Barack Obama’s health care law starts Nov. 1. But consumers have options if they shop around, and an upgraded government website will help them compare.

    Consumers can see their own premiums for 2016 starting this Sunday morning on HealthCare.gov, officials said on Friday. The federal website will serve 38 states this time. States running their own sites may have different timetables.

    Online health insurance markets are entering their third year, offering taxpayer-subsidized private coverage. That’s helped cut the share of Americans who are uninsured to about 9 percent, a historical low. Still, the many moving parts of the Affordable Care Act don’t always click smoothly, and Americans remain divided about “Obamacare.”

    Here’s a look at what’s new for 2016:



    Independent experts are forecasting bigger premium increases in 2016 than last year, averaging from the high single digits to the teens. Next week the government will release a master file that researchers use to piece together national trends.

    Averages won’t tell the story, because health care is local. Premiums can vary widely from state to state, and within a state.

    Most states won’t be like Minnesota, where all five carriers selling individual policies on the insurance exchange have posted double-digit hikes, from 14 percent to 49 percent.

    They’re not likely to be like southern California either, where officials forecast an average rise of 1.8 percent for consumers who stay with their current plan.

    For more than 8 in 10 customers, premium increases will be cushioned by taxpayer subsidies. That will absorb most of the cost, but it still may pay to shop around.


    Too many consumers look only at the monthly premium when picking a plan. They shouldn’t. Other costs can be just as important. These include the deductible — the amount individuals must pay each year before their plan kicks in — and cost-sharing or copays for medical services.

    Trying to demystify the process, HealthCare.gov will feature a new calculator that estimates total costs based on a consumer’s expected medical needs.

    Tip: Even if consumers use the calculator, the website will still rank options starting with the lowest premium plan. Look below that figure for total costs.

    Patients who need medical follow-up for ongoing health issues may come out ahead by paying a higher monthly premium for a plan that has lower out-of-pocket costs. Instead of picking a plan at the “bronze” coverage level, they might look at “silver,” which also offers subsidies for cost sharing, based on the consumer’s income.


    As before, returning customers who don’t want to make any changes will get automatically re-enrolled. That process will be smoother this year, insurers say, because the government has better information to update subsidies for customers who just want to keep the same plan.

    Tip: Returning customers must make sure to file a tax return. Those who got subsidies in 2014 could lose their financial assistance next year if they have not filed.


    Consumer advocates have been clamoring for an upgrade that allows patients to easily search for insurance plans that their doctor participates in.

    That’s coming, but it may not be ready by Nov. 1, the date when consumers can start signing up.

    Administration officials say the doctor look-up — as well as a prescription drug finder — are in final testing. They want to be sure the information is accurate before flipping the switch.

    Tip: Trust but verify. Call doctors and insurers to check doctor and hospital listings.


    The tax penalty for people remaining uninsured in 2016 is no slap on the wrist. It’s high enough to cover several weeks of groceries.

    The fine will rise to the greater of either $695 or 2.5 percent of taxable income. That’s for someone without coverage for a full 12 months. This year the comparable numbers are $325 or 2 percent of income, whichever is greater.

    Several organizations, from TurboTax to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, will be offering online tax penalty calculators. That can put a dollar figure on the trade-offs for those who are on the fence about signing up.


    Changes for HealthCare.gov include new privacy protections. A “privacy manager” will let consumers opt out of embedded connections to third-party websites. If customers have enabled the “Do Not Track” setting on their browsers, the government will automatically honor their preferences.

    In another improvement, consumers will get real-time reminders to enter Social Security numbers and key details from immigration documents. That can head off major problems later on by helping the government quickly verify a person’s identity.

    Officials say a maddening glitch that resulted in some consumers getting locked out of their accounts has been fixed. Call center operators can now help reset passwords for consumers who no longer have access to the email address they used to set up their HealthCare.gov accounts.


    For the third year in a row, the dates for HealthCare.gov’s sign-up season have changed.

    This time, it’s Nov. 1 through Jan. 31, 2016.

    Tip: For coverage to start Jan. 1, consumers must enroll by Dec. 15.

    The post You can preview your 2016 healthcare premiums this weekend appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump holds up a signed pledge during a press availability at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York September 3, 2015. The pledge is an agreement with the RNC to not to run as an independent candidate if he loses the Republican Party nomination, a party official said, despite Trump's earlier refusals to rule out a third-party bid.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson  - RTX1QZ9H

    U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump has asked all PACs supporting him to return money to donors. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

    NEWARK, N.J. — Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is denouncing the outside political action committees supporting his candidacy, demanding they return the money they’ve collected, and calling on his opponents to do the same.

    Trump’s campaign announced Friday that its counsel had sent legal notices to a handful of what they describe as “unauthorized” Super PACs supporting his bid, demanding they return any money they’ve raised in support of his candidacy.

    “I am self-funding my campaign and therefore I will not be controlled by the donors, special interests and lobbyists who have corrupted our politics and politicians for far too long,” Trump said in a statement announcing the effort. “I have disavowed all Super PAC’s, requested the return of all donations made to said PAC’s, and I am calling on all Presidential candidates to do the same.”

    The announcement comes after a series of negative reports by The Washington Post pointing to connections between Mike Ciletti, who was running the Super PAC Make America Great Again, and Trump’s campaign. The paper reported that the PAC appeared to have used contact information provided by a Trump aide to contact potential donors.

    Trump’s campaign has also been working with two companies associated with Ciletti, according to campaign finance and business records, the paper reported. And Trump appeared at several of the PACs events, including what the campaign described at the time as a meet-and-greet at Trump’s daughter’s in-laws home over the summer.

    In the letter to Make America Great Again PAC sent Wednesday, a Trump campaign attorney notes the group’s website uses Trump’s name, image and slogan. He raised concern that “potential supporters could be easily confused that when they make a contribution to your organization, they are supporting Donald J. Trump for President’s campaign, or that your efforts have been sanctioned or otherwise authorized by him.”

    The group did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    Under campaign finance regulations, super PACs can raise unlimited contributions, but must disclose their donors and are specifically barred from coordinating with campaigns.

    Paul Ryan, of the Campaign Legal Center, said that makes it difficult for Trump’s campaign to regulate the groups’ actions.

    “Under the campaign finance laws, they have zero authority,” he said.

    Trump, a billionaire businessman and entertainer, has boasted about turning down big-dollar contributions and said he is self-funding his campaign — a pitch that appeals to backers weary of the role of money in politics.

    But financial disclosures released this month show the majority of Trump’s expenses in recent months have, in fact, been covered by contributions from donors, including thousands of small-dollar checks.

    The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 dramatically changed the way campaigns operate, and this cycle has become a test of the boundaries for such big-money groups.

    The post Trump calls for PACs supporting him to return money to donors appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    US President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference at the White House on October 2, 2015, in Washington, DC. Obama warned Friday that Russia's military engagement in Syria in support of strongman Bashar al-Assad is a "recipe for disaster," though Washington could still work with Moscow on reducing tensions.    AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON        (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

    US President Barack Obama said Thursday he understands and supports the Black Lives Matter movement. Photo credit JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Defending the Black Lives Matter movement, President Barack Obama said Thursday the protests are giving voice to a problem happening only in African-American communities, adding, “We, as a society, particularly given our history, have to take this seriously.”

    Obama said the movement, which sprung up after the deaths of unarmed black men in Florida, Missouri and elsewhere, quickly came to be viewed as being opposed to police and suggesting that other people’s lives don’t matter. Opponents have countered that “all lives matter.”

    At the conclusion of a White House forum on criminal justice, Obama said he wanted to make a final point about the nexus of race and the criminal justice system before launching into his defense of the movement.

    “I think everybody understands all lives matter,” Obama said. “I think the reason that the organizers used the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ was not because they were suggesting nobody else’s lives matter. Rather, what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that’s happening in the African-American community that’s not happening in other communities.

    “And that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address.”

    Police relations with minority communities and the deaths of unarmed black men have been topics of great interest since the shootings of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012 in Florida and 18-year-old Michael Brown in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Those deaths, and others of black women, have inspired protests around the country under the “Black Lives Matter” moniker.

    Obama paired his defense of the Black Lives Matter movement with praise for police and other law enforcement officials. Some police groups have been unhappy with Obama’s response to the deaths of the unarmed black men. The president lately seems to be making the extra effort to publicly praise police officers for willingly taking on a dangerous assignment.

    He did so while participating in a forum on drug abuse Wednesday in Charleston, West Virginia, and next week he’s scheduled to address the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

    At the White House, Obama said there are specific concerns about whether blacks in certain areas are treated unfairly or are more frequently subjected to excessive force by police.

    But the president said people should also “understand the overwhelming majority of law enforcement’s doing the right thing and wants to do the right thing” and “recognize that police officers have a really tough job and we’re sending them into really tough neighborhoods that sometimes are really dangerous and they’ve got to make split-second decisions.”

    He said people shouldn’t be “too sanctimonious” about situations that can sometimes be ambiguous.

    “But having said all that, we as a society, particularly given our history, have to take this seriously,” Obama said. “And one of the ways of avoiding the politics of this and losing the moment is everybody just stepping back for a second and understanding that the African-American community is not just making this up.”

    “It’s not just something being politicized. It’s real and there’s a history behind it and we have to take it seriously,” he said.

    In a separate development, the Black Lives Matter organization on Thursday rejected a town hall-style forum it had been offered by the Democratic National Committee, in lieu of a sanctioned debate it had requested. The group said a town hall wouldn’t “sufficiently respond to the concerns raised by our members.” The DNC said it has approved only six debates, and all have been scheduled.

    The post Obama defends Black Lives Matter movement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s been a busy week in the political world.

    Hillary Clinton testified during a marathon Benghazi Committee hearing. Paul Ryan says yes to run for speaker of the House, and Republican Ben Carson surpasses Donald Trump in the polls in Iowa.

    For all of that, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    MARK SHIELDS: You’re welcome. Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Benghazi hearings, David, they went — I don’t know that it was 11, but it was eight or nine hours of testimony.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What have we learned? What was accomplished at this hearing?

    DAVID BROOKS: Nothing was learned.

    We learned that the Republicans can’t stump Hillary Clinton. She was composed, gave a lot of the same testimony she’s given before. This thing has been going on forever. And so nothing happened, really. And so that’s good news for her.

    She — her composure was excellent. Congressmen do what congressmen do. And so it was a big nothing burger. And why the Republicans remain obsessed with this, at a time when the nation of Iraq has ceased to exist, Syria barely exists, there’s turmoil spreading throughout the Middle East — if you want to attack Hillary Clinton, it seems to me she was secretary of state at a time of deterioration in actual substantive grounds. Maybe that would be a good subject.

    But there is a certain psychosis that goes through people’s minds, especially about scandals, but Clinton scandals, where they — where something smells, and they think there must be something big, and they imagine there is about to be some big revelation that will destroy their careers. But, since 1991, that has never happened, and the critics have always overshot the mark and ended up helping the candidate. And that’s what happened.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: They have survived some challenges in the past, the Clintons, but, Mark, nothing burger, is that what it adds up to?

    MARK SHIELDS: I would feel better if it were just the Clintons with the Republicans. I think this has been — for the past seven years of the Obama administration, it has been an obsession that — to prove not simply that the administration is not capable or efficient or effective, but that somehow it’s evil, maybe even criminal.

    And that’s what was driving this Benghazi hearing, that somehow that there was some evil plot or evil scheme or diabolical whatever. The emphasis on Sid Blumenthal, who was a…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Her longtime friend.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes, longtime friend, controversial, a conspiracy buff, an apparatchik, whatever else he is, but, I mean, hardly somebody of Rasputin dimensions that they wanted to elevate him to.

    And in doing so, they were forced to go public with this hearing, which they didn’t want to do. They looked bad. They had…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meaning the Republicans.

    MARK SHIELDS: The Republicans looked bad.

    Hillary Clinton looked disciplined. She showed remarkable stamina. She showed thorough preparation. And she never went for the bait. The bait was to get her to do what she had done in the previous hearing, to show exasperation, to display temper.

    And she just — she came off it, to use an adjective, presidential. And I just think — I just think that the Republicans ought to drop this and move on, but I think it is — I think it is symptomatic of a party that is incapable of accepting its governing responsibility.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly, David, Republicans, how — are they hurt by this or do they just move on?

    DAVID BROOKS: Not really. I don’t think they’re really hurt. I don’t take the broad indictment.

    Sometimes, a scandal cottage industry gets started, and it’s fed by people who get expertise, and then the talk radio get into it, and they get into the weeds. And they imagine something that big is about to happen, and the scandal cottage industries just go on forever.

    And they think they hurt Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers this way, but I swear, if they want to take a real issue, the disarray of our Middle East policy is a real issue. Benghazi, if you list our foreign policy issues of importance, it would be number 197.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I think you have to say, Mark, this was a pretty good week for former Secretary of State Clinton, not only the general interpretation of the hearings, the fact that she doesn’t have an opponent that many people thought she could have in Vice President Joe Biden. He said he’s not running.

    Where does that leave everything? What did you make of his decision? Were you surprised?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, I was surprised, because I didn’t know.

    Everybody who said they knew who was talking didn’t know, and everybody who apparently knew wasn’t talking. But I didn’t know that he wasn’t going to run.

    I will say this about Joe Biden. His absence means that the happy warrior will be missing from the Democratic battle this year. That’s what Joe — Joe Biden has personally at least 35 percent of the world’s known reserve of authenticity.


    MARK SHIELDS: And we’re looking for the authentic.

    Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, who is himself a presidential candidate and an active partisan, said of Joe Biden, if you don’t like Joe Biden, you ought take a serious look at yourself, because there is something wrong with you.

    He is the nicest person I have ever met. God never made a better man than Joe Biden. This was before Joe Biden pulled out. This was just in an interview in Iowa a couple — a month or so ago. So I just think it takes a lot of courage to run. It takes a lot more courage to pull out. And I just — I will miss him and his presence in this race.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The fact that he’s not in, what effect does it have?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, obviously, it makes Hillary even more — she’s gone from the doldrums of three months ago now to the unstoppable behemoth that no one can touch in the course of a week.

    MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

    DAVID BROOKS: It does take away some of the joy. Biden could be very eloquent, very much in touch with working-class voters. He comes from that background.

    And the other thing about what he did, the guy was elected senator, I think, when he was 29.

    MARK SHIELDS: Twenty-nine. He was.

    DAVID BROOKS: And he’s now looking at the end of his political career. And he’s a political creature. He loves politics. He loves talking to people. And so even getting out of the race means that his political career will end with the administration, one presumes.

    And that’s a hard thing for a guy to say, because he’s been serving all his life and he’s loved the act of service.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Somebody who is taking — or trying to take a step up in his political career, Mark, is Paul Ryan, who decided this week that he is going to run for speaker of the House. He managed to get enough of not just Republicans, but very conservative Republicans, to say they’re going to support him.

    How did he do that? To do what John Boehner and Kevin McCarthy couldn’t do, how did this happen?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think there were a convergence of things.

    Paul Ryan is a near unique figure in the Republican House, in the Republican Party. He’s been a leader on philosophical and ideological issues. He was the candidate for vice president. He’s been a leader within the caucus and respected across all the divisions.

    He laid down conditions, that he would only accept speakership and seek it under certain conditions. Interesting, one was family and parental leave, something Republicans have consistently opposed. But Paul Ryan…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Wants it for himself.

    MARK SHIELDS: Paul Ryan wants it for himself. He wants to spend — admirably, he wants to spend time with his children, who are in their formative and teen years.

    Would that he would extend this to all parents. And I’m sure he will now that he’s speaker, about to be speaker.


    MARK SHIELDS: But I think, Judy, it was an acknowledgment on the part of Republicans of just how desperate their straits were, that they couldn’t continue to flounder around as they have.

    This is a party, right now, according to the Wall Street Journal/NBC and other polls, that the party members have no respect for the party leaders. And they think — Republicans think their own party is in terrible shape, and whereas Democrats, either rightly or wrongly, think that the Democratic Party is doing fine or doing OK.

    But — so I just think that this was an acknowledgement that they had to turn and swallow some of their differences.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How does — what is it about him, David, that wasn’t acceptable, I mean, that wasn’t there in Boehner and McCarthy? What does he bring?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, partly, the Freedom Caucus changed. They are good at destroying. They’re not good at constructing. And they knew they needed a leader. There had to be some party leader to end what was going on.

    And so when Ryan went in to meet with them, he said, well, if you want me, fine. I’m out of here. I don’t need this. But then he looked at their ideas about changing the way Congress works, and he didn’t concede to any of them, but he said, well, those sound like decent ideas. We will discuss it.

    So he showed a little respect. And they softened. And, mostly, they softened, and because they had no real alternative. And so it was their softening, his display of respect, and the fact that he is a — he is the most policy-oriented speaker probably of our lifetimes.

    There have been a lot of politicians who have been speaker, but he is a policy person primarily. And he has worked with Democrats, with Patty Murray.


    DAVID BROOKS: He’s done some really tough stuff that he had to persuade his own party to endorse, some entitlement reforms.

    And so I think he may actually help the Republican image, because, A, he’s just an attractive guy. He’s a nice guy. He’s an outgoing, friendly guy. But, B, he actually does care about policies. And he will be a little more aggressive in promoting policies.

    And the Tea Party was right about Boehner. He wasn’t aggressive in promoting ideas. And so Democrats were coming out with proposals and ideas, and Republicans had a black hole.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But does this mean, though, that they’re going to — because he’s in place, that they are now going to be able to reach agreement on the debt ceiling and do something about the highway bill? Does this mean things are going to get done now that weren’t — they couldn’t get done before?

    DAVID BROOKS: I find it hard to believe that they would ruin his early phase by going — shutting down the government and not doing the debt ceiling.

    Further down the road, obviously, he will have the same problems that Boehner had.

    MARK SHIELDS: The party — the job description speaker in the past has not consisted of including policy, other than Newt Gingrich, who was really the exception there.

    I think, Judy, he’s making — in part of a concession, he’s making a mistake. And I think that the speaker’s job description has been the one person who can hold that caucus together. And one of the tools used to do it — and John Boehner did it tirelessly, and so did Nancy Pelosi — and that is to go out and speak to members in their own districts, to raise money for them.

    And Paul Ryan, as I mentioned earlier, doesn’t want to do that. I don’t think you can subcontract that out. I really don’t. I think — and you can’t say, gee, I can’t make it this week. Can Sam or Sally do it?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why is that important?

    MARK SHIELDS: Because it’s the speaker. And it’s a transactional, personal relationship the speaker has with his members: And I — remember, David, I came in when you had that tough primary and I said — and I need you on this one.

    And that’s part of being speaker. I think it’s an added feature that Paul Ryan brings to it, this policy dimension. But there is no guarantee that the Freedom Caucus is not going to bring a motion to vacate, which is, of course, what drove John Boehner ultimately, which is a vote of no confidence.

    And I just — I think David’s right. John Boehner will try to clear the decks of as many as he can of these controversial items before he leaves. But December 11 is the big day. That’s when the government has to be funded. And it’s going to mean probably taking the caps off of discretionary spending and defense spending. And I think that’s where you’re going to see the Freedom Caucus really rise up.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, very quick, less than a minute, David.

    New poll numbers out in Iowa that show a surge, at least over the last two months, for Ben Carson. He’s up 10 points over what he was in August. Trump is down a little bit. Cruz is up. What’s going on?

    DAVID BROOKS: Two things. The evangelicals are coalescing around Carson, and, two, there are a lot of women who will not vote for Trump. And so he’s doing poorly among women.

    And so I think that is what is happening there. I still am of the belief that neither of them is going to get the nomination. And so I look to…


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Neither Trump nor Carson?

    DAVID BROOKS: And I look to — just because that’s not the way history has worked so far. History sometimes changes.

    But Rubio did well in that poll, so I’m looking at him as the alternative, if we ever get normal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And then Jeb Bush, Mark, announced today he’s cutting back on staff, cutting back on his big — his headquarters.

    MARK SHIELDS: Never known a winning candidate to cut back on staff spending or to close offices. So, it isn’t good.

    I agree with David about Ben Carson. And he is broadly acceptable to more people in the Republican Party. Peter Hart did a focus group this week of 12 Republican voters in Indiana, and it came through, their admiration, affection for him, his moral leadership, and they’re — the doubts and skepticism about Trump.

    And I think this is a problem that the Republicans have to deal with. Experience and holding an office in this year has become a liability among Republicans office seekers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: OK. Fascinating.

    Mark Shields, David Brooks, we thank you, as always.

    And just a quick reminder. You can now get Mark and David delivered to your inbox. Find the subscribe link at the top of our home page to receive our politics newsletter, and be the first to watch Shields and Brooks every week online.

    You can find the link at PBS.org/NewsHour.

    The post Shields and Brooks on Clinton’s Benghazi testimony, Paul Ryan’s speaker potential appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first, we turn to the topic of wind power. It’s the country’s fastest growing energy source, expected to triple by 2040.

    But the giant wind turbines can also pose a threat to wildlife. Thousands of birds are killed each year when they run into turbines or are hit by their blades. Now scientists at one of the nation’s oldest wind farms have developed a strategy to help save protected species.

    Our colleagues at public TV station KQED in San Francisco bring you this story produced by Gabriela Quiros and narrated by Scott Shafer.

    SCOTT SHAFER: The Altamont Pass, east of San Francisco, is home to hundreds of bird species. They hunt and play in the midst of 3,000 wind turbines, which can be deadly, especially to golden eagles.

    MAN: There’s an eagle right there.

    MAN: Eagle, eagle, eagle, eagle, eagle.

    MAN: Right here flying below…

    MAN: OK, below the horizon.

    SCOTT SHAFER: Biologists Doug Bell, Shawn Smallwood and Joe DiDonato study golden eagles.

    MAN: We have got some good wind going today, so this might be a good day for seeing a few eagles.

    DOUG BELL, East Bay Regional Park District: The Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area is within and adjacent to one of the densest nesting populations of golden eagles in the world.

    SCOTT SHAFER: Golden eagles are protected under federal law. According to county estimates, 35 golden eagles were killed by the Altamont’s turbines in 2013.

    DOUG BELL: Their population is going down the drain. The Altamont is killing more eagles than the local population can reproduce.

    KRYSTA ROGERS, California Department of Fish and Wildlife: The primary injury on this bird is the left wing. The carpal bone is shattered.

    SCOTT SHAFER: Today, Krysta Rogers of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Examines a golden eagle that was found injured on an Altamont Pass wind farm. The bird had to be euthanized.

    KRYSTA ROGERS: We describe this as blunt-force trauma, which is consistent with a wind turbine strike, given the location where the bird was found.

    MAN: The transmitter is going to stay on here about three years.

    SCOTT SHAFER: The dead golden eagle was one of 18 that researchers had been tracking. Though four of them have died after hitting turbines, scientists were still able to recover valuable data.

    DOUG BELL: One of the more valuable things that we have learned from our transmitters that we placed on eagles is that they use the Altamont a lot. They go in and out throughout the course of the year. They will spend weeks at a time there.

    SCOTT SHAFER: For more than a decade, environmental groups have been trying to get wind companies to protect birds in this area, says the Audubon Society’s Michael Lynes.

    MICHAEL LYNES, Audubon California: The Altamont was sort of seen as a black eye for renewable energy, because any time someone was proposing a new wind farm, it would raise the specter of the Altamont Pass.

    SCOTT SHAFER: After chapters of the Audubon Society and other environmental groups sued to get birds protected, wind companies agreed to take down old wind turbines.

    MICHAEL LYNES: We wanted to move towards getting the old turbines out of the Altamont Pass because, in a process called repowering, up to 30 old turbines can be replaced with one single new turbine, which then results usually in significantly less bird mortality.

    SCOTT SHAFER: At this wind farm, 300 turbines are coming down and being replaced by only 10 new ones, which together will produce double the amount of electricity, enough to power 12,000 homes for a year.

    RICK MILLER, EDF Renewable Energy: It’s time to pull the old machines down and put new ones up.

    SCOTT SHAFER: Rick Miller of EDF Renewable Energy, which owns the wind farm, says the repowering process will cost $35 million and is facilitated by federal tax credits for wind energy.

    RICK MILLER: The turbines are becoming much larger, much larger rotor diameters and much taller towers. So we have really been able to reduce the number of turbines required to produce a tremendous amount of energy from the same site.

    SCOTT SHAFER: And that means there are fewer turbines for birds to hit. Companies can also place the turbines more strategically.

    SHAWN SMALLWOOD, Ecologist: Three hundred meters above ground.

    SCOTT SHAFER: Ecologist Shawn Smallwood advises companies on where to put their turbines to minimize bird deaths.

    SHAWN SMALLWOOD: This is where the old turbines were, and this is also where the burrowing owls nest. And so the fatality rate was pretty high.

    SCOTT SHAFER: This wind farm was one of the first to get new, more efficient turbines.

    SHAWN SMALLWOOD: When we repower, we put the new turbines up on the top of the hill, where the burrowing owls are not. So, our burrowing owl fatality rate dropped to zero in three years of monitoring, and that’s why.

    SCOTT SHAFER: Smallwood says that when wind energy companies first installed over 7,000 turbines in the Altamont Pass in the 1980s, they gave little consideration to bird safety.

    SHAWN SMALLWOOD: Those are the most dangerous turbines in the Altamont Pass on record. There’s one 120-kilowatt turbine down there, now removed, but it’s on record as having killed one eagle per year for 10 years. And the reason is because there’s a lot of eagle traffic through the lowest spots of the Altamont Pass.

    SCOTT SHAFER: Birds fly lower in some areas to avoid wind resistance and to hunt for prey. But, with their keen eyesight focused on the ground, eagles might not see a wind turbine blade until it’s too late.

    SHAWN SMALLWOOD: Social interactions are very important. So, an eagle responding to other eagles, chase each other around or chase some other birds, these are dangerous social interactions that lead up to what we call events, near-misses.

    SCOTT SHAFER: The federal government is increasing enforcement of laws aimed at protecting golden eagles, including bringing criminal charges against two companies whose turbines killed golden eagles in Wyoming.

    Scott Flaherty of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that was a significant step.

    SCOTT FLAHERTY, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: The prosecution of those two companies certainly sent a message to companies across the country there is incentive there to come in and work with us.

    SCOTT SHAFER: That incentive is a new permitting system that allows companies to kill a limited number of eagles each year. Even the Audubon Society’s Michael Lynes sees permits as a positive step.

    MICHAEL LYNES: Before, it was sort of chaos. There was no real regulation. There was no real enforcement. And we know birds were getting killed in large numbers. Now we can actually keep track of that. We can hold people accountable, and we can take steps to remedy the problem.

    SCOTT SHAFER: As the U.S. increases its wind power capability, scientists, including Shawn Smallwood, believe fewer turbines and better placement are key to protecting wildlife.

    SHAWN SMALLWOOD: We have learned a lot here. And so it should be the number one laboratory in the country for learning what not to do wrong with wind development around the rest of the country.

    SCOTT SHAFER: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Scott Shafer.

    The post Wind farm works to reduce eagle deaths from old turbines appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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