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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary of State John Kerry met in Vienna today with his counterparts from Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia in a renewed quest to find a political settlement for the war in Syria.

    He spoke to reporters afterwards.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: Today, we came here aware of all of the pitfalls, aware of all of the hurdles. Every foreign minister here has been wrestling with this issue for a period of time. But we came here with a commitment to try to find new ideas for how to break the impasse and end the conflict.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This came after an agreement Monday between the U.S. and Russian militaries on how to avoid accidental midair collisions as both countries bomb Syria. And also that day, Syrian President Assad met with President Putin in Moscow. It was the first time Assad has left Syria since the war began in 2011.

    For more on the state of play between the U.S. and Russia over Syria, we turn to NewsHour chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner, who has been following all of this.

    Margaret, thank you.

    So, we know that the U.S., Russia and these other countries have been trying for two years, at least, to talk about, to find a political settlement. No results. Today any different?

    MARGARET WARNER: It’s very hard to tell, Judy.

    The one thing that indicates there maybe progress is that they agreed they are going to meet again next week, at the end of next week. Well, when Secretary Kerry said, well, people brought a lot of new ideas, publicly, we heard no new ideas. What we heard was the same mantra: We all agree it should be a united Syria, it should be democratic, and secular, and be diverse.

    But there was no resolution of this huge hump over Assad’s future. And, you know, Turkey and Saudi want him gone now. Russia wants — afraid of the chaos that could result if he were to fall precipitously and wants him to stay. The U.S. is the only one that has shown nay leg on that. It was pretty clear from what Kerry said today that the U.S. is willing to consider a transition in which Assad may remain for a while.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret, what effect is Russia’s military intervention in Syria, which the U.S. has not been happy with, what effect is that having on those talks?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, it’s interesting.

    Secretary Kerry has been telling aides that actually this could be an opportunity, that it could be an action-forcing event, even though, as you said, the U.S. was furious about this, because it strengthens Assad.

    But the fact is, it has given Russia a different seat at the table in terms of figuring out Syria’s future. One, it means Russia has now a real interest in getting this resolved politically, or it’s going to be sitting there — it’s going to be bombing forever. It’s going to be in a kind of military quagmire.

    So, it’s also forced the United States, you have noticed, to up its game in Syria, more weapons to the rebels. It revived the discussion internally about whether to establish a no-fly zone. So, there is a feeling that, to a great extent, of course, the U.S. doesn’t trust what Putin’s up to, but that something may happen as a result.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, what about the meeting that happened this week in Moscow where Assad flew to Moscow to meet with Putin? What’s known about that?

    MARGARET WARNER: What is known about that, at least from Russian sources I have — and it was secondhand — is that, one, it was very chilly. As one said to me, no one likes Assad.

    Two, that Putin was very firm about, one, they wanted to coordinate Russian airpower with Syrian ground troops. He made it clear that Russia wasn’t going to send in ground troops, but he also wanted to make sure the targeting was good so they didn’t kill a mass of civilians, that the Russians didn’t.

    But then they did discuss the transition, but I’m told that though they talked about the need for a diverse one, and Assad, of course, of course, that in fact Putin didn’t pull the trigger and say, and, you know, Mr. President Assad, that will mean you have to go.

    So one person said to me, I have a feeling they were talking past each other.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Margaret, if Putin wants some kind of improved relationship with the U.S., wants to work something out, what are the prospects for that happening?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, the administration believes they’re not great, but that if — there are two things he could do, one, change the targeting from 85 to 90 percent moderate rebels, which is who he is hitting now, instead of ISIS, and, two, really use his enhanced leverage now with Assad, because he’s got Assad’s back, to really push Assad to recognize that, ultimately, he has to agree to a process in which he goes.

    And why would we do that? One, because he’s so eager to end his international isolation and the sanctions. And, two, as I referred to earlier, he now has reason to fear of being sucked into kind of military quicksand in Syria, if it just goes on and on and on and there’s no political solution.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret Warner, some great reporting. We thank you.

    MARGARET WARNER: Thanks, Judy.

    The post Is progress being made on a political solution in Syria? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Hurricane Patricia, a category 5 storm, is seen approaching the coast of Mexico in a NOAA satellite image taken by GOES East at 10:45 ET (14:45 GMT) October 23, 2015. Patricia, one of the strongest storms ever recorded, bore down on Mexico's Pacific Coast, prompting the evacuation of thousands of tourists and residents and a mad rush for emergency supplies. The U.S. National Hurricane Center reported on Friday morning Patricia had maximum sustained winds of about 200 miles per hour (321 km per hour) as it moved north at 10 mph (16 kph).   REUTERS/NOAA/Handout via Reuters  THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - RTS5VCC

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hurricane Patricia has been described as potentially one of the most dangerous storms to ever hit the Western Hemisphere. Meteorologists now say that Patricia is bringing with it winds of 190 miles an hour, down just slightly from earlier.

    William Brangham has more on the storm itself and what is fueling it. He recorded this interview a short time ago, as the storm was approaching Mexico.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Bob Henson is a meteorologist for Weather Underground, a Web-based weather service that also has a weekday show on The Weather Channel. Henson is also author of five books on weather and climate change.

    So, Bob Henson, it seems like meteorologists like yourself have run out of terms to describe the intensity of the storm. Yesterday, it was a Category 1. We wake up this morning, it’s a Category 5. How did this storm get so big so fast?

    BOB HENSON, Weather Underground: It’s a true outlier.

    You know, there’s only a very, very few hurricanes or typhoons in world history that we know about that have intensified so quickly. They have really only been observing these systems in depth for the last several decades, say, so we can’t really say how strong hurricanes were in 1900 or 1800.

    But, certainly in the modern era of hurricane hunting and satellites, for a storm to go to from a tropical storm to a Cat 5 in, say, 24 hours, 30 hours, those kinds of numbers only happen once in a very rare while. So, this is up in the ranks of maybe the top three or four most rapidly strengthening storms.

    And, basically, it’s because it was over extremely warm water that went to some depth, so the winds didn’t stir up colder water to weaken it. And upper winds were very weak, which allowed it to intensify rapidly. Really, just all the ingredients came together in just the right way, which, surprisingly, doesn’t happen all that often.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You mentioned that calling this a Category 5, which is the top of the Saffir-Simpson scale, is almost an insufficient description of this storm. Can you explain?

    BOB HENSON: Yes.

    The Saffir-Simpson scale was developed several decades ago, and it breaks hurricanes down into five bins, Category 1 all the way up to Category 5. Now, most of those bins are about 28-to-30-miles-per-hour-wide, you might put it. Category 5 starts at 156 miles an hour, but it has no ceiling. It’s 156 and up.

    This storm had peak winds of 200, so it was 45 miles an hour above the Category 5 threshold. You might say that, if we had a Cat 6 and Cat 7, that it would fall in the Cat 7 range, close to that. We don’t parse storms out when they get so strong, in part because once you get to Cat 5, it pretty much destroys everything except a really well-constructed building, so there is not as much operational significance to it.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, at that level of intensity, is that what we’re expecting that is going to just cause some incredible damage on the coast of Mexico?

    BOB HENSON: Well, fortunately, it has weakened a little bit as it has approached land. It’s still a very, very powerful hurricane, still a Category 5, as in the most recent observations within the last couple of hours.

    Now, the storm surge is going to be pretty significant over a relatively small area. And that’s another blessing with this storm. It’s not a gigantic hurricane. But there will be an area of a few miles where I would expect very, very severe destruction. And, moreover, when it runs into very steep mountains and hillsides just inland, it is going to be dumping gigantic amounts of rain, again, over not a gigantic area, but there could be tremendous amounts of rain along the way. So, mudslides and floods are also going to be a real issue.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And then my understanding is that the storm is likely to continue on breaking up somewhat, but then heading into Southern Texas. What are you forecasting for Texas to be looking at?

    BOB HENSON: Still pretty stout winds. There will be some high water along the Texas coast, but mainly a lot of rain. Could be six to 12 inches of rain in places like Houston.

    And there is an ongoing heavy rain event over Texas already because of a separate storm, so there’s going to be some very, very large local rainfall amounts. And Texas is notorious for October systems that bring in tropical moisture and ex-hurricanes from the Pacific. So this is really something to watch as well.


    Bob Henson of Weather Underground, thank you very much.

    BOB HENSON: Thank you.

    The post How the ingredients for a catastrophic storm came together for Hurricane Patricia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    smoke stacks

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Two dozen states, including West Virginia, Texas, and Florida, went to federal court today to block curbs on carbon dioxide emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan seeks to curb the power plant emissions by 32 percent in 2030 from 2005 levels. The states say the move is illegal overreach and will devastate their economies.

    For the second time this week, a candidate has dropped out of the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination. Lincoln Chafee, former Rhode Island senator and governor, and one-time Republican, had struggled to raise money and make any impression in the polls. Chafee made his announcement today during a speech to a Democratic women’s event in Washington.

    LINCOLN CHAFEE, Former Democratice Presidential Candidate: I pledge all my energy towards a big 2016 victory for Democrats across the country. But after much thought, I have decided to end my campaign for the president today. Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb dropped out of the Democratic race a couple of days ago.

    On the Republican side, there was word that Jeb Bush is imposing across-the-board salary cuts for his staff, and is downsizing his campaign headquarters in Miami. News accounts cited an internal memo on this — money-saving moves.

    Suicide bombers killed and wounded scores of Muslims today in Nigeria and Pakistan. At least 42 people died in Nigeria in attacks on mosques in two cities. More than a hundred others were wounded. Far to the northeast in a city in Southern Pakistan, a suicide bomber killed at least 18 people in a Shiite religious procession.

    The Balkan nations of Serbia and Croatia have agreed to move more refugees by train, and get them out of the rain and cold. Last night, at least 5,000 people spent the night in near-freezing weather near one border crossing. The Croatian interior minister called it — quote — “torture.” Meanwhile, Greece reported a record 48,000 people crossed this week from Turkey. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said it has to stop.

    ALEXIS TSIPRAS, Prime Minister, Greece (through interpreter): Only if we are able to transfer the front line from the Greek islands to the Turkish shores, and start the process of resettling refugees from the Turkish shores towards Europe, and not from the Greek islands to other European nations, can we then hope to face and diminish these huge refugee influxes that are impossible to cope with today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The government of Turkey, in turn, warned that a new wave of refugees is coming, as thousands more Syrians flee a military offensive backed by Russian airstrikes.

    Police in Sweden now say that a masked man who attacked a school with a sword and knife yesterday was motivated by race. He killed two people and wounded two in Trollhattan. It’s a town with a large immigrant population. All of the victims were dark-skinned. Today, mourners paid their respects at a makeshift memorial, while the local police chief reported on the investigation.

    NICLAS HALLGREN, Chief, Trollhattan Police Department: We have discovered a letter in his apartment, and it has some notes in it that tells us that he has planned the act and he also — he planned it out of a hate crime perspective. And he’s also told us by that letter that he is going to — he considers that this will be his final act.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The attack came as it was announced that as many as 190,000 asylum seekers may enter Sweden this year alone. But, today, the government agreed to restrict the country’s liberal immigration policies.

    France has suffered its deadliest auto accident in more than 30 years; 43 people were killed today in a collision between a tour bus and a truck. It happened on a narrow road near a town that’s about 30 miles east of Bordeaux.

    Simon Israel of Independent Television News filed this report.

    SIMON ISRAEL: A group of pensioners all from the same village were on their way to savor the delights of traditional French cuisine. Their coach collided head on with a lorry carrying wood.

    There was, in the words of a fire chief, a gigantic blaze; 41 on the coach were killed, but eight survived because the driver opened the doors barely seconds before the crash.

    French television has broadcast a reconstruction of one possible version of events where the coach came around a blind corner just before the crash.

    Traumatized families gathered in the town of Puisseguin to wait for news. Identification will clearly take some time.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): I’m hoping, yes, but I don’t know anything. I don’t know. I’m waiting.

    SIMON ISRAEL: The French prime minister was among various government officials to visit the scene today to express what he described as the nation’s emotion for an appalling catastrophe.

    Among the dead is also believed to be the lorry driver and his young son, who was by his side.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A local lawmaker said the wreck happened on a dangerous curve. The president of France promised an investigation.

    Back in this country, an American soldier killed in a hostage rescue in Iraq was praised today as a hero who sacrificed himself. Army Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler helped to free some 70 captives being held by Islamic State forces. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that Wheeler sacrificed himself by joining a firefight to aid Kurdish soldiers that he was advising.

    Former IRS official Lois Lerner will not face criminal charges for allegedly targeting Tea Party groups. The Justice Department ended a two-year probe today, and said that it found no evidence that anyone at the IRS acted out of political motives. Lerner once headed the unit that handles applications for tax-exempt status.

    And on Wall Street today, a rally in tech stocks helped push the broader market higher. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 157 points to close at 17646. The Nasdaq rose nearly 112 points. And the S&P 500 rose 22.

    The post News Wrap: States sue to block carbon emission curbs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A view of a deserted hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, equipped with sandbag reinforcements after tourists were evacuated prior to Hurricane Patricia's landfall Friday evening. Photo by Henry Romero/Reuters

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A storm for the ages is blasting ashore on Mexico’s West Coast tonight. Hurricane Patricia has the strongest sustained winds ever recorded in this part of the world, and it spent in the day in a slow-motion assault on the mainland.

    Sirens blared and lights flashed as police and fire units combed Puerto Vallarta this morning, urging people to flee the popular Mexican Pacific beach resort. The storm burst to life Tuesday, and, by last night, it topped the scale, with winds of 200 miles an hour, prompting dire descriptions from Mexico’s weather service.

    ROBERTO RAMIREZ, Director, Mexico’s National Water Commission (through interpreter): The National Hurricane Center in Miami has determined that this storm is the strongest storm ever seen on the American continent.

    Additionally, some international experts have already noted that this hurricane is the most powerful hurricane that has ever existed on the planet in all of history.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All told, a hurricane warning stretched along more than 300 miles of Mexico’s Pacific Coast. The storm’s track had its center heading between the bustling port city of Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta tonight.

    Heavy rain started falling last night, and today people hurried to board up windows, as crews filled sandbags. The region’s airports closed, and tourists rushed to check out and catch flights.

    WOMAN: I’m just worried, because, if we don’t get out of here — and we drove into town to get out, which is not the direction we wanted to go. So, if we don’t make the flight, then we’re — we are riding it out here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Forecasters said the hurricane will start weakening tomorrow, as it passes inland moving north toward Texas. The remnants will add to heavy rains already battering the Lone Star State from another weather system.

    More than 2.5 inches fell at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport yesterday, breaking a record set in 1908.

    MAN: There she goes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the west, flooding at a mobile home park picked up trailers and carried them away.

    Today, the mayor of Houston appealed to people to keep an eye on what’s coming.

    MAYOR ANNISE PARKER, Houston: We really encourage folks to, once the rain starts, just stay home and stay off the roads.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Patricia is already being compared with Typhoon Haiyan that left more than 7,300 dead or missing in the Philippines two years ago. And, today, as waves pounded the Mexican coast, one expert warned, “It’s looking like a very bad disaster is shaping up.”

    We get an on-the- ground dispatch from a makeshift storm shelter in Puerto Vallarta.

    David Alire Garcia is there for Reuters. I spoke with him by Skype late this afternoon as the hurricane moved closer to landfall.

    David, thank you for talking with us.

    First of all, tell us where you are and what are the state of preparations there?

    DAVID ALIRE GARCIA, Reuters: Well, I’m in Puerto Vallarta. I’m in the Univa Catholic university campus, which is a makeshift shelter.

    Wasn’t supposed to be a shelter, but because of problems with other nearby shelters, particularly a big convention center and risks of flooding, this was opened up. And now there’s about 500 people here, a mix of tourists, but also many locals as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the state of preparations in that area, Puerto Vallarta?

    DAVID ALIRE GARCIA: Well, the local government, the state government, the municipal government opened up more than a dozen shelters. There have been problems with some, like I just mentioned a second ago, that have been opened and then closed because of worries that they’re too close to rivers.

    The authorities are everywhere here. They’re trucking in people. Just a little while ago, there were a handful of trucks that arrived. I think this shelter is about at its capacity. But there are thousands of folks who need shelter, and it’s not entirely clear that all of them are going to get that.

    But it seems like the authorities are — you know, if you listen to radio or TV, there’s all kinds of announcements that people find shelter and find someplace safe and get off the streets.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It still appears, though, that this storm has formed very, very quickly, that it wasn’t really until late last night that people understood the gravity of it.

    Do you think — is it your sense that people have evacuated who needed to evacuate?

    DAVID ALIRE GARCIA: I think so.

    Just earlier, I was driving around the tourist part of Puerto Vallarta, and there are — you know, it’s a ghost town. Windows are boarded up. Windows are taped up. There’s sandbags at the hotels protecting storefronts, bars, restaurants. Of course, it’s a big tourist hub here.

    So it seems like there is a lot of preparation going on. Time will tell if it really is adequate for the storm that’s about to arrive.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as I speak to you, it’s just a little after 4:00 Eastern. It looks like the weather is still pretty calm right now.

    DAVID ALIRE GARCIA: You know, that’s the crazy thing right now is that there is barely a tiny drizzle, that there is hardly any wind, if you can see behind me. Right, actually, here, there’s a lot of folks taking refuge here.

    And the weather conditions at the moment are not that bad, but, of course, you know, things are projected to get a lot worse, particularly the winds, which could have caused a lot of damage and have caused damage. There was a big hurricane here over — a few years back that many people still remember that did cause lots of damage because of flying debris.

    And so I think that’s one of the main worries, in addition to flooding in the low-lying areas here in Puerto Vallarta, that most people are concerned about.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we hope you and everyone else is able to stay safe.

    David Alire Garcia, we thank you.

    DAVID ALIRE GARCIA: Thank you.

    The post Hurricane Patricia makes slow-motion assault on Mexico coast appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Paul Ryan has said he will run if the Republican party unites behind him. Photo by Jeff Malet

    Paul Ryan should know Wednesday, following secret GOP elections, if he is to inherit GOP party crises as House Speaker. Photo by Jeff Malet

    WASHINGTON — The honeymoon might be over before it even begins for House Speaker-in-waiting Paul Ryan when he is elevated to the top job this coming week.

    The Wisconsin Republican, on track to prevail in secret-ballot GOP elections Wednesday and in a full House vote Thursday, would take over at a moment of chaos notable even for a Congress where crisis has become routine.

    Lawmakers are barreling toward a Nov. 3 deadline to raise the federal borrowing limit or face an unprecedented government default, and there’s no plan in sight for averting it.

    Crucial highway funding authority is about to expire, requiring a short-term extension that no one supports.

    And early December will bring the next chapter in the government shutdown wars, with a must-pass deadline for spending legislation a ripe opportunity for brinksmanship.

    It’s all happening amid fierce fighting among Republicans, on Capitol Hill and in the presidential campaign, as angry voters demand change and establishment-aligned politicians do battle with outsiders and hard-liners. This is the atmosphere that produced Ryan’s candidacy for speaker after the incumbent, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced his resignation under conservative pressure, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., abruptly bowed out. That led party leaders to draft a reluctant Ryan.

    Now Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, will face immediate – and perhaps competing – tasks: passing must-do debt and spending bills likely to be opposed by a majority of Republicans, even while he attempts to unite a badly fractured House GOP.

    “I don’t know that it’s going to be the honeymoon suite. It might be some economy version,” said Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona, one of the conservative rebels who forced Boehner out by threatening what would amount to a vote of no confidence on the House floor.

    But Salmon and other Republicans said Ryan would get leeway for how he navigates the immediate crises he inherits, including the debt ceiling, if it’s not dealt with before he assumes the speakership.

    “If we get six months down the road and nothing’s really changed, if we get eight months down the road and nothing’s really changed, then I think it’s ‘Everybody needs to get a helmet’ time,” said GOP Rep. Mark Amodei of Nevada. “There’s a reason John Boehner decided to resign.”

    After announcing his surprise plans last month to leave Congress on Oct. 30, Boehner expressed a desire to “clean the barn” of messy must-pass legislation, rather than leave it for his successor to deal with. The debt limit was top of the list, given the impending deadline and the reluctance of most Republicans to pass an increase without accompanying spending cuts the White House is ruling out.

    But Boehner has yet to announce his approach, after leadership backtracked on tentative plans to get the ball rolling with legislation linking a debt limit increase to deep spending cuts and a balanced budget plan. That bill faced certain rejection in the Senate, and partly as a result was looking short of votes among House Republicans.

    Now, though GOP leaders won’t yet say so, it seems inevitable that the House will end up voting on a “clean” debt ceiling increase devoid of spending cuts or other attempts at reform. Such legislation would pass with almost entirely Democratic votes. As of now GOP leaders are claiming they may not even be able to muster the 30-odd Republicans who would be needed to get it through.

    It’s a situation certain to provoke howls from the GOP base, especially if it ends up being the first item on a newly installed Speaker Ryan’s to-do list. Although most GOP lawmakers, including tea party-backed conservatives, seem inclined to give Ryan a pass, the same may not be true of voters egged on by conservative talk radio and outside groups.

    “If we have to do a clean debt limit vote on the first day … if certain people want to say that’s a signal of things to come, that it’s more of the same, that’s kind of unfair,” said GOP Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida.

    Ryan formalized his candidacy for speaker only after winning the support of the three major caucuses in the House GOP, representing moderate Republicans, mainstream conservatives and hard-liners. But his support from the latter group, the Freedom Caucus that pushed Boehner to the exits, will be contingent on making good on promises of changes to House rules and procedures, aimed generally at including rank-and-file lawmakers in decision-making and opening up the legislative process.

    Ryan’s speakership will rise or fall largely on whether he can make a sustained peace with the obstreperous group, which has routinely banded together to bring down leadership-backed legislation it opposes or force confrontation on issues like immigration or trade.

    For now, at least some of the hard-liners are sounding an optimistic tone of unity for the House GOP.

    “For several years we’ve been dealing with eating crumbs off the table,” said Salmon, the Freedom Caucus member. “Now we’ve got the opportunity to sit at the table and actually partake in the meal and I think that’s a new day.”


    The post As House Speaker, Paul Ryan will have his work cut out for him appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    By Matthew Lee

    AMMAN, Jordan — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday that Israel and Jordan have agreed on steps aimed at reducing tensions at a holy site in Jerusalem that have fanned Israeli-Palestinian violence.

    “All the violence and the incitement to violence must stop. Leaders must lead,” Kerry told reporters in the Jordanian capital after meeting with King Abdullah II and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

    The top U.S. diplomat said the steps include round-the-clock video monitoring and Israel’s reaffirming of Jordan’s special and historic role as custodian of the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif.

    The king suggested that monitoring, according to Kerry, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted.

    Israel has pledged to maintain the rules of worship at the site, and Israeli and Jordanian authorities will meet about bolstering security, Kerry said.

    Kerry, who met with Netanyahu in Berlin on Thursday, said the leaders “expressed their strong commitment to ending the violence and restoring the calm as soon as possible.”

    “I hope that based on these conversations we can finally put to rest some of the false assumptions, perceptions” about the holy site, Kerry said. “Those perceptions are stoking the tensions and fueling the violence and it is important for us to end the provocative rhetoric and start to change the public narrative that comes out of those false perceptions.”

    Outlining the series of understandings, Kerry said:

    -Israel “fully respects” Jordan’s “special role” as custodian of the site.

    -Israel will continue to enforce its policy of religious worship, including “the fundamental fact” that it is Muslims who pray there and non-Muslims who visit.

    -Israel has no intention of dividing the site and rejects any attempt to suggest otherwise.

    -Israel welcomes increased coordination between Israeli authorities and Jordan to ensure that visitors and worshippers “demonstrate respect and restraint.”

    Noting the video monitoring, Kerry said it would provide “comprehensive visibility and transparency, and that could really be a game-changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity of this holy site.”

    On Friday, Israel lifted restrictions on Muslim worshippers after having barred younger Muslim men – seen by police as the main potential trouble-makers – from entering the compound on Fridays, the main day of prayer in the Muslim religious week.

    The bans had, at times, targeted men up to the age of 50 and fueled Palestinian fears that Israel was trying to change long-standing understandings under which Jews are allowed to visit, but not pray, at the shrine.

    Those fears have also been fueled by a rise in visits to the shrine by Jewish activists demanding prayer rights, including senior members of Netanyahu’s coalition government.

    Israel has repeatedly denied Palestinian allegations that it is trying to change the status quo and accused Palestinian political and religious leaders of lying and inciting to violence.

    In the meetings with Abdullah, Abbas and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, and earlier with Netanyahu, Kerry explored ways to address the violence that began in mid-September initially at the shrine, but has spread to the rest of Jerusalem, as well as the West Bank and Gaza strip.,

    In the past five weeks, 10 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, mostly stabbings, while 49 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including 28 said by Israel to be attackers and the rest in clashes.

    On Saturday, Israeli forces shot a knife-wielding Palestinian dead after he ran toward a crossing between Israel and the West Bank and tried to stab security personnel, the Israeli military said.

    Describing what he has heard in the talks with the leaders, Kerry said that “all of them expressed their strong commitment to ending the violence and restoring the calm as soon as possible.”

    He said the U.S. “strongly condemns terrorist attacks against innocent civilians. There is absolutely no justification for these reprehensible attacks.”

    He added: “It is important to stop the back and forth of language that gives anybody an excuse to somehow be misinterpreted or misguided into believing that violence is a viable option.

    The post Kerry: Jordan and Israel in agreement on path to stem Holy Site violence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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A woman and her daughter go to participate in a march against violence in the Estados Unidos neighborhood in Tegucigalpa on September 26, 2014. Evangelic churches launched a campaign to prevent violence in the Estados unidos neighborhood and another three municipalities in the Honduran capital, torn by the clashes between the Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gangs.  AFP PHOTO/Orlando SIERRA.        (Photo credit should read ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

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    JOHN CARLOS FREY: In this hillside slum in Honduras, 19-year-old Lilian is hiding from her ex-boyfriend. She says he beat her and raped her for years.

    LILIAN: “He would go out with his lovers to drink away his money, have fun, and I would complain. He would punish me, hit me with a belt or whatever he could.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Their relationship began six years ago, when they met in her rural village in eastern Honduras. He was 22. She was only 13. Days before her 15th birthday, she gave birth to their son, who is now four and lives with her.

    When Lilian met her boyfriend, she had quit school after third grade and could barely read and write. He promised opportunities she had never imagined.

    LILIAN: “He offered me better things. He offered to let me study — that he’d take me to the city and other things.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Instead, she says, he ordered her to work in the fields, cutting lumber and cooking. There was no school…no trips to the city.

    Lilian says the beatings worsened after she gave birth. When she refused to have sex with her boyfriend, she says, he forced her.

    LILIAN: “It was pure hell day and night, fighting with me. When the baby was born, he would argue because of the baby. Fighting about the baby, that it was his, and that if I left and took him with me, he’d kill me.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: She wanted to run away, but had no job and no means to do so.

    LILIAN: “If I told my mom, she would support me. But my father? Never. I also never wanted to bring my brothers into the problem, because they wouldn’t like it. Also he, my ex-boyfriend, is a very violent man and would tell me if I told anyone I was suffering he would kill me. He’d show up with a gun and point it at me. What was I to do?”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: How did he point it, I asked. Like this?

    LILIAN: “Like this. To the head and threatened me with it.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: A pistol, here on the head, and he raped you?

    LILIAN: “Yes, and he put it like this to my head. Loaded.”

    GLADYS LANZA, WOMEN’S MOVEMENT FOR PEACE AND VISITATION PADILLA: “Every thirteen hours, a woman is murdered in this country.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Gladys Lanza runs a group working to stem the rising tide of violence against women in Honduras. She says ninety-six percent of domestic abuse complaints are never resolved.

    GLADYS LANZA, WOMEN’S MOVEMENT FOR PEACE AND VISITATION PADILLA: “Ninety-six percent. That is the degree of impunity that exists in this country. Since there is no punishment, since there is no investigation, since the responsible assailants are never found, then there’s this permanent situation of crime and violence in the country. It’s a permanent state.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: In the past decade, the number of violent deaths of women in Honduras has risen 260 percent – from 175 in 2005 to 636 in 2013, according to the most recent data.


    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Maria Mercedes Bustillos is the country’s chief special prosecutor for the protection of women, appointed by the Honduran president. Her office receives 20,000 domestic violence complaints every year. But only a fraction are prosecuted, because so many women fear testifying.

    Lilian has no official documentation of her abuse — no medical or police records. Mercedes says that’s the case for many victims in Honduras.

    MARIA MERCEDES BUSTILLOS: “The victims suddenly retract their cases because of the cycle of violence. And that’s where the weakness of the system lies, of not being able to reach them once the complaint has been made.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Mercedes says even when women seek help, there aren’t sufficient government services to assist them.

    MARIA MERCEDES BUSTILLOS: “A victim needs a shelter to go to with her children — a place to eat, to bathe, to sleep before the legal process continues. The government doesn’t have any shelters.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Lilian says her boyfriend became increasingly dangerous after he got involved with a Mexican drug cartel called “Los Zetas.”

    After the baby was a year old, Lilian managed to escape for months at a time and support herself — but each time her boyfriend tracked her down. Lilian felt she had nowhere to turn for protection.

    LILIAN: “He’d threaten me if I spoke to the police or made charges against him. He threatened to set fire to the house. Since I was a little girl, I was really afraid. I was afraid of him for a long time.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Last year, an uncle in Texas offered to pay smugglers $4,000 dollars to help Lilian flee to the United States without a visa…a risky trip that thousands of other women opted to undertake as well.

    Her uncle had only enough money for Lilian, so she left her son behind with a relative, hoping to send for him once she arrived.

    Just 18 and alone, Lilian met smugglers in Guatemala and began the week-long trek through Mexico.

    LILIAN: “Sometimes it’s 24 hours in a bus or walking. There are times that you’re locked up alone in a place without food.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Last May, Lilian arrived near McAllen, Texas, where US border guards questioned and detained her.

    Did you tell them your history, I asked. That you had a boyfriend who was going to kill you?

    LILIAN: “I didn’t tell them, because I thought that the government here or that he would find out. I explained about the baby. The most terrible things I didn’t explain there.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: University of California-Hastings law professor Karen Musalo represents women seeking asylum — a legal mechanism that allows people fleeing persecution — or fear of persecution — to live and work in the United States.

    KAREN MUSALO, UC HASTINGS COLLEGE OF LAW: “From my own experience working with Central Americans and knowing what they know and don’t know and what their perception of the process is, I would doubt they have a sophisticated or clear or even correct understanding of what happens when they arrive in the U.S.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Musalo says migrants who enter the US seeking asylum are screened to see if they have a “credible fear” of returning home.

    KAREN MUSALO, UC HASTINGS COLLEGE OF LAW: “If they don’t indicate right there at that initial interview that they left because of some kind of fear, they could be immediately returned.”

    Lilian’s initial reluctance to tell her whole story – to prove a “credible fear” – led immigration officials to send her back to Honduras.

    LILIAN: “I was deported and had to go home with no money, with nothing.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Stephen Legomsky – a former attorney for the US government’s Citizenship and Immigration Service – says the fear of violence is not always enough for someone to qualify for asylum.

    STEPHEN LEGOMSKY, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: “If, for example, you were in danger of being killed because someone had a personal grudge against you, or even because a youth gang is angry at you for refusing to join their ranks, the present case law is that you generally would not qualify for asylum.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Asylum applicants must also then prove persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Women who face violence may or may not be recognized as a social group, depending on each individual case.

    Back in Honduras, Lilian says her boyfriend contacted her at least three times after her return, threatening to take her son away. Last fall, just four months after being deported, Lilian tried to escape again – this time with her son.

    With the child, you thought you had a better chance, I asked.

    LILIAN: “Yes, with the hope not to be detained, I thought.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: In October 2014, a family friend paid smugglers $6000 dollars to help Lilian and her son again make the weeklong journey.

    They crossed the border near Hidalgo, Texas, and presented themselves to immigration officials. This time, Lilian told her full story – and later presented sworn affidavits from two witnesses saying she and her son were in danger.

    One wrote Lilian “was mistreated by her former partner, and he continues to look for her and claims to kill her when he finds her.” Another person in Honduras wrote of Lilian and her son: “their lives are in danger in this country.”

    Like thousands of other migrants from Honduras – and Guatemala and El Salvador last year – Lilian and her son waited in a family detention center in Texas.

    STEPHEN LEGOMSKY, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: “The immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals who decide most of these cases are notoriously understaffed. They for years and years have asked Congress for more resources so they can decide cases both fully and expeditiously. And thus far, Congress has not been willing to provide those resources. So there’s a long, long backlog.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: This June, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced a plan to reduce the backlog of cases and to wind down family detention, saying “long-term detention is an inefficient use of our resources and should be discontinued.”

    After eight months in detention, Lilian learned her asylum request was again denied. She also says her boyfriend, who’d been working with the Zetas drug gang in Mexico, was sent back to Honduras.

    LILIAN: “Then when I spoke to my mom, she told me the baby’s father had been caught by Mexican immigration, and he was back in my country.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: In June, immigration officials put Lilian and her son on a plane back to Honduras.

    Lilian now has a lawyer in the US working on an appeal, and a new legal precedent may offer her a pathway to asylum.

    In August 2014, the highest immigration court in the u-s – the Board of Immigration Appeals — granted asylum to a domestic abuse survivor from Guatemala — saying she was part of a particular social group under U.S. asylum law.

    Though there’s no official count, advocates say anecdotally a handful of cases have been won using that precedent, but former immigration official Stephen Legomsky says the bar is still high.

    STEPHEN LEGOMSKY, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: “Even with this Board of Immigration Appeals decision, and even assuming the woman is able to get here in the first place, she still faces a number of tough hurdles.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: And of course an immigration judge has to believe Lilian’s story.

    LILIAN: “I went to them with my case that is credible before God, above all things, and I swear that everything I told you and everything I told them is true. It is the truth and nothing but the truth.”

    The post Inside the ‘pure hell’ of Honduras’s rising tide of domestic violence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Earlier this week, Honduran journalist Lourdes Ramírez was one of three women worldwide awarded a 2015 Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation.

    Ramirez has reported for the past 20 years on “corruption, unspeakable violence, and unsolved murders,” the organization said, and as a result, “her family has been threatened, her employment has been terminated, and she has been forced to relocate and temporarily flee the country.”

    Ramírez’s experience as a female journalist is a microcosm of the danger in Honduras, especially for women.

    As shown in the map above, Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world with some 90 intentional homicides for every 100,000 people — 12 times higher than that of the United States.

    Using 2012 data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the map above shows the intentional homicide rate per 100,000 people in a given country.

    Alongside the rise in violent crime, Honduras has experienced a surge in domestic violence; 30 percent of Honduran women say they’ve been abused — and the murder rate of women is also among the world’s highest.

    Last summer, the violence led to an exodus of well over a hundred thousand migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala — the so-called Northern Triangle — who sought refuge in the United States. Many of those fleeing were unaccompanied children evading gang violence and recruitment, but also women and children looking to flee domestic violence.

    Watch the full report on domestic violence in Honduras below.

    The post Mapping murder around the globe: Why fatal violence is concentrated in Latin America appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The remnants of Hurricane Patricia dropped heavy rains over central and northern Mexico after the Category 5 storm faded into a tropical depression on Saturday, but officials warned residents and tourists that the threat of serious flooding and mudslides still remained.

    “It is very important that the population stays in the shelters, the security forces will be patrolling to protect their homes,” Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said. “I repeat, we still can’t let our guard down.”

    Emergency response officials in Mexico tweeted that airports in Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta had resumed operations Saturday.

    Overnight, President Peña Nieto seemed optimistic after noting that “damages (had) been minor to those corresponding to a hurricane of this magnitude.”

    The storm, which hit Mexico’s Pacific coast Friday, with winds of up to 200 miles per hour, has since slowed down to 35 miles per hour. The hurricane avoided direct hits on resort city Puerto Vallarta and major port city of Manzanillo.

    A man gazes out to the bay just off the city's historic boardwalk in the Pacific beach resort of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico October 24, 2015. Photo by Henry Romero/Reuters.

    A man gazes out to the bay just off the city’s historic boardwalk in the Pacific beach resort of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico October 24, 2015. Photo by Henry Romero/Reuters.

    Red Cross volunteers load humanitarian aid boxes from a truck in the Pacific beach resort of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico October 24, 2015. Photo by Henry Romero/Reuters.

    Red Cross volunteers load humanitarian aid boxes from a truck in the Pacific beach resort of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico October 24, 2015. Photo by Henry Romero/Reuters.

    Electricity poles impacted by wind after the passing of Hurricane Patricia are seen in La Union de Tula, Mexico October 24, 2015. Photo by Edgard Garrido/Reuters.

    Electricity poles impacted by wind after the passing of Hurricane Patricia are seen in La Union de Tula, Mexico October 24, 2015. Photo by Edgard Garrido/Reuters.

    TECOMAN MX - OCTOBER 24: A truck drives through a flooded out turn off at the entrance to the city after heavy flooding from Hurriane Patricia October 24, 2015 in Tecoman, Colima, Mexico. Hurricane Patricia struck Mexico's West coast as the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere but rapidly lost energy as it moved inland.  (Photo by Brett Gundlock/Getty Images)

    A man drives through a flooded area Oct. 24 in Tecomán, Mexico. Photo by Brett Gundlock/Getty Images.

    IN SPACE - In this handout photo provided by NASA, Hurricane Patricia is seen from the International Space Station. The hurricane made landfall on the Pacfic coast of Mexico on October 23. (Photo by Scott Kelly/NASA via Getty Images)

    In an image provided by NASA, Hurricane Patricia is shown from the International Space Station. Photo by Scott Kelly/NASA via Getty Images.

    Children, who were evacuated from their homes, are pictured at the University of Puerto Vallarta, which is being used as a shelter, in the Pacific beach resort city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico October 23. 2015. Hurricane Patricia struck Mexico's Pacific coast as a potentially catastrophic Category 5 storm on Friday, as one of the most powerful hurricanes in history threatened to wreak widespread damage and prompted mass evacuations.Patricia made landfall at Playa Perula in the state of Jalisco, Mexico's meteorological service said. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Patricia was the strongest storm ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere REUTERS/Henry Romero - RTX1SYZO

    Children are shown Oct. 23 at the University of Puerto Vallarta, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The school was used as a shelter after Hurricane Patricia struck in the area. Photo by Henry Romero/Reuters.

    Municipal workers collect branches from a flooded street in Manzanillo, Colima state, Mexico on October 23, 2015, during hurricane Patricia. The strongest hurricane ever recorded crashed into Mexico's Pacific coast on Friday, ratcheting up fears that super-storm Patricia will unleash death and destruction with its powerful winds and driving rain. AFP PHOTO / Jonathan Levinson        (Photo credit should read Jonathan Levinson/AFP/Getty Images)

    Municipal workers collect branches from a flooded street Oct. 23 in Manzanillo, Mexico. Photo by Jonathan Levinson/AFP/Getty Images.

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    WASHINGTON — States and industry groups dependent on fossil fuels filed court challenges Friday to President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    Opponents of the plan filed a flurry of lawsuits at the U.S. Court of Appeals as the Environmental Protection Agency published its final version of the new regulations.

    The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Gina McCarthy, speaks at the Center for American Progress' 2014 Making Progress Policy Conference in Washington November 19, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Cameron  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS HEADSHOT) - RTR4ES4D

    The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, speaks Nov. 14, 2014,  at the Center for American Progress in Washington. Photo by: Gary Cameron/Reuters

    The challenges from all but two of the 25 states were filed by Republicans. They deride the plan as an “unlawful power grab by Washington bureaucrats” that will kill coal mining jobs and drive up electricity costs.

    “The Clean Power Plan is one of the most far-reaching energy regulations in this nation’s history,” said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, among those leading the challenges. “I have a responsibility to protect the lives of millions of working families, the elderly and the poor, from such illegal and unconscionable federal government actions.”

    The Obama administration and environmental groups counter that the rules are needed to cut carbon emissions while curbing the worst impacts of climate change and sea-level rise. They also say the plan will spur new clean-energy jobs.

    The new rules require states to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Each state has a customized target and is responsible for drawing up an effective plan to meet its goal.

    “We are confident we will again prevail against these challenges and will be able to work with states to successfully implement these first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution, the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

    The EPA says it has authority to enact the plan under the Clean Air Act. At issue are dueling provisions added to the law by the House and Senate in 1990. The EPA’s interpretation relies on the Senate language, but opponents argue that the House version should win out.

    EPA already regulates other power-plant pollutants under a different section of the Clean Air Act, and the opponents claim the law prohibits “double regulation.”

    Under the act, certain challenges to agency rules skip the federal district court and go directly to the appeals court in Washington, D.C.

    Morrisey also filed a stay barring the plan from taking effect while the court challenges proceed, a question that will likely be up to the Supreme Court.

    “We expect polluters and their allies to throw everything they’ve got at the Clean Power Plan, and we expect them to fail,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, among those defending the law. “The Clean Power Plan is based on a law passed by Congress, upheld by the Supreme Court, and demanded by the American people.”

    The states challenging the plan in court are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming and Wisconsin.

    Also filing suit against the EPA on Friday was Murray Energy Corp., the nation’s largest privately owned coal company.

    Members of Congress from coal-mining states joined in, saying they will introduce new legislation aimed at blocking the EPA from enforcing the plan.

    On the other side, 15 states and the District of Columbia say they are backing the Obama administration and will begin working to comply with the new rules.

    There is some political variation in the positions taken within the states. In North Carolina, for example, the environmental agency controlled by the Republican governor joined the opposition without the participation of the state’s Democratic attorney general.

    Governors in Colorado, Michigan and New Mexico said they will work to comply with the new EPA rules, even as attorneys general from their states joined the lawsuit.

    “Clean air and protecting public health should be everyone’s top priority,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said Friday. “We believe that Colorado can achieve the clean air goals set by the EPA, at little or no increased cost to our residents.”


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    WASHINGTON — Targeting one of education’s most divisive issues, President Barack Obama on Saturday called for capping standardized testing at 2 percent of classroom time and said the government shares responsibility for turning tests into the be-all and end-all of American schools.

    Students spend about 20 to 25 hours a school year taking standardized tests, according to a study of the nation’s 66 largest school districts that was released Saturday by the Council of Great City Schools. But it’s not known how much class time students spend preparing for tests that became mandatory, starting in third grade, under the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind law and are a flashpoint in the debate over the Common Core academic standards.

    “Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble,” Obama said in a video released on Facebook. “So we’re going to work with states, school districts, teachers, and parents to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing.”

    To drive the point home, Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan plan an Oval Office meeting Monday with teachers and school officials working to reduce testing time.

    In all, between pre-K and 12th grade, students take about 112 standardized exams, according to the council report. It said testing amounts to 2.3 percent of classroom time for the average 8th-grader.

    “How much constitutes too much time is really difficult to answer,” said Michael Casserly, the council’s executive director.

    Obama cannot force states or districts to limit testing, which has drawn consternation from parents and teachers. But Obama directed the Education Department to make it easier for states to satisfy federal testing mandates and he urged states and districts to use factors beyond testing to assess student performance.

    The Obama administration said it still supports standardized tests as a necessary assessment tool, and there are no signs they are going away soon.

    Both the House and Senate versions of an update to No Child Left Behind would preserve annual reading and math exams, although the House version would diminish their significance in determining whether schools are up to par. The legislation is in limbo while House and Senate negotiators figure out how to reconcile the competing versions.

    Administration officials said that in many cases, testing is redundant, poorly aligned with curriculum or simply overkill. They said the administration supports legislative proposals to cap testing time on a federal level, but wanted to offer states a model for how to cut down on testing absent congressional action.

    “There’s just a lot of testing going on, and it’s not always terribly useful,” Cecilia Munoz, the director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, said in an interview. “In the worst case, it can sap the joy and fun out of the classroom for students and for teachers.”

    Casserly said his group found examples of testing redundancy that could be cut to create more instructional time. For example, some states and school districts were requiring both end-of-year tests and end-of-course tests in the same subjects in the same grade.

    To ease the testing burden, the administration will provide states with guidance about how they can satisfy federal testing requirements in less time or in more creative ways, including federal waivers to No Child Left Behind that the Education Department readily has handed out. For example, some 8th-grade students who take high school-level coursework currently take both 8th-grade and high school assessments, but the administration will allow them to opt out of the 8th-grade tests.

    The value of standardized tests taps into the national debate about the federal government’s role in local schools; both political parties generally support scaling back Washington’s reach.

    Central to that debate is Common Core, a set of universal, college-ready academic standards in reading and math developed by state education officials. The federal government doesn’t require Common Core, but the administration has backed it with financial incentives. About 12 million students last spring took tests based on the curriculum.

    Teachers’ unions have fought hard against one-size-fits-all tests for students being tied to their teachers’ performance evaluations. Among parents with children in public schools, 63 percent were opposed to linking teacher evaluations to their students’ test scores in a recent Gallup Poll.

    Among other findings in the council report:

    -The most tests were required in 8th and 10th grade; the fewest were in pre-K, kindergarten and 1st grade.

    -Four in 10 districts report having to wait between two months and four months before getting state test results.

    -Some pockets of the country had substantial numbers of students opting out of standardized tests. But the overall opt-out rate was usually less than 1 percent.

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    Three people were killed and nearly two dozen were injured after a car crashed into a crowd at Oklahoma State University’s homecoming parade in Stillwater on Saturday, according to local news reports.

    Stillwater police say the driver, 25-year-old Adacia Chambers, crashed into an unoccupied motorcycle belonging to an officer working security at the parade, and then into the crowd, sending spectators flying, local news station News On 6 reported.

    Chambers was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence and is in jail in Stillwater. Police did not identify her hometown.

    At a press conference, Stillwater Police Capt. Kyle Gibbs said eight victims were flown by “air ambulance” after suffering critical injuries, seven suffered “serious injuries” and seven others had less serious injuries.

    Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis told the AP that homecoming game against Kansas would be played Saturday afternoon.

    The post 3 dead, dozens injured after car hits crowd at Oklahoma State parade appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Close up of silhouetted male hand typing on laptop keyboard

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    WILLIAM BRANGHAM, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The U.S. Senate has scheduled final votes next week on a bill that would permit companies to share information about hacking attacks with each other and with the government, without fear of lawsuits.

    The so-called Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act or CISA has already passed the House of Representatives.

    But several big tech companies like Apple and Twitter say it does too little to protect individual privacy.

    Joining me now to discuss the bill is Politico reporter Tim Starks.

    Help me understand this. We like to think of legislation as trying to solve a particular problem. What is the problem that CISA is trying to solve?

    TIM STARKS, POLITICO: The problem here is that there is some information that’s shared now on cybersecurity threats but not enough.

    The idea of this bill would be to make it so that companies could send more threat information to the government without fear of lawsuits.

    It helps them solve the problem of where that threat came from, and, therefore, that — the idea is that the government has different kinds of expertise than the private sector, and the government might be able to help them better than they are able to help themselves.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, is the idea that a company either gets hacked or thinks they’re being probed by hackers, and that they want to then share that with fellow companies or the government but they don’t want to get sued for that?

    I mean, how big of a problem is that? Are companies being sued left and right for sharing this kind of information today?

    TIM STARKS: No, they’re not, but they might be, depending on the kind of information they would share under this bill.

    Certainly, the issue of business-to-business is a different kind of thing. That’s related to trade practices, for instance.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, several tech companies, Apple amongst them, have raised real concerns about this, saying that there’s huge privacy concerns.

    Can you explain a little bit about what it is that they don’t like about this.

    TIM STARKS: There are a number of these big tech companies that do not like the bill. That’s because they’re worried about the privacy implications of it.

    If you think about the kind of information that might be shared that a company might have on a threat that they’ve received or that they’re aware of, there might be some elements of that, that include what is called personally identifiable information.

    They don’t like the idea of how much of that might get shared under this bill. I think they come at it from two perspectives.

    One, you know, Silicon Valley is philosophically inclined toward privacy. And they are still reeling a little bit from what happened after Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent of some of the tech companies’ cooperation with the NSA.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, what is the concern people have raised?

    They have said if you’re getting hacked and then you share information with the government, somehow you’re going to reveal something about my health information, my banking information.

    Is that the nature of — that’s the concern here?

    TIM STARKS: Yes, if ask you the privacy groups, they say it’s a very dangerous bill.

    Industry groups say, no, no, no, if you look at what the cyber threat indicators are, they’re safeguards about making sure personally identifiable information is scrubbed at some point and that the bulk of this information will be information that is just about, you know, actual lines of code in some cases.

    But if you look at — privacy groups say cyber threat indicators are poorly defined in the bill, not narrowly defined enough, such that if you think about what an IP address might reveal about you –this is an example they point out — it might reveal your sexuality, it might reveal certain — other kinds of indicators that they would be included, whether your gender or other sorts of information that was of a personal nature.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right. Tim Starks of Politico, thank you very much.

    TIM STARKS: You’re welcome.

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    HONG KONG - AUGUST 07:  Ivory tusks seized by Hong Kong customs officials are displayed during a press conference on August 7, 2013 in Hong Kong. Customs officials at the Kwai Chung cargo examination compound seized the HK$41 million haul containing  1,120 ivory tusks, 13 rhino horns and five pieces of leopard skin after searching a container declared as wood from Nigeria.  (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Hong Kong is one of the largest ivory smuggling hubs in the world.

    Despite a 25-year-old international ban on the import and export of elephant tusks, poachers kill an estimated 33-thousand African elephants every year. They find a ready market in in an increasingly affluent China, especially for jewelry and statues made of ivory.

    Now, the conservation group WildAid, along with the World Wildlife Fund, is calling new attention to the problem.

    SOT PETER KNIGHTS, CEO, WILDAID: The traders we’ve interviewed in undercover interviews, what they’re saying is that ‘we can bring in new ivory, no problem, we can get paperwork for it’. It’s basically Hong Kong is an ivory laundry where illegal ivory can come in and once it’s here, the people with the permits have legal right to sell it.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: In this undercover video obtained by WildAid and the World Wildlife Fund, you can see a shopkeeper explain how lax Chinese regulations make it easy to import ivory into China.

    TRADER: I can buy smuggled ivory anytime but do you dare receive them? If you dare, then I will send them. I will send them to you from Africa.

    BUYER: Directly from Africa? That is great.

    TRADER: If you dare to buy. We have no problem in selling, but whether you dare to receive them is another issue.

    BUYER: From where of Africa?

    TRADER: Anywhere.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: In Hong Kong, licensed vendors are allowed to sell ivory they obtained before the 1989 ban, but the supply of ivory items has not diminished as expected, raising questions about whether vendors are “topping up” their supplies with new ivory.

    Wild Aid & the World Wildlife Fund estimate there are currently 111 tons of ivory for sale still in Hong Kong shops, and while the U.S. and China have pledged to increase efforts to end the ivory trade, the conservation groups are advocating for an outright ban of all ivory sales in Hong Kong.


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    WASHINGTON — For months, Jeb Bush’s campaign insisted it was too early.

    To worry about the Republican presidential candidate’s sluggish poll numbers. Or fret over the rise of unorthodox candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Or question if the one-time front-runner was merely a pedestrian candidate.

    Former Florida Governor and probably 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire April 17, 201by 5. Photo Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks April 17  at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    But with just over three months left until Iowa kicks off the 2016 primary voting, and Bush remains mired in the middle of the pack, some supporters fear it soon could be too late.

    “The moment is now,” said New Hampshire state Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, reflecting the sense of urgency among nearly two dozen Bush supporters interviewed this past week by The Associated Press.

    On Friday, Bush signaled to supporters that he understood the need to make a change. Faced with slower-than-expected fundraising, the campaign announced spending cuts, including a 40 percent payroll reduction, that will deplete staff at its Miami headquarters and refocus resources in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada – the first four states to hold nominating contests.

    “It means I have the ability to adapt,” Bush said. “The circumstances when we started the election were different.”

    But interviews with supporters in early states reveal concerns that extend far beyond the campaign’s allocation of resources. There are fears Bush is failing to distinguish himself from his rivals, despite a month of aggressive television advertising. Many said they were eager to see Bush be more assertive and forceful in debates, in his TV ads and at campaign appearances.

    They worry he may not be capable of doing so.

    “God gives us our personalities and our looks and we can’t help that,” said Robert Rowe, a New Hampshire state representative who is switching his allegiance from Bush to Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “We are who we are.”

    Said Bush supporter Steven Zumbach, an attorney from Des Moines, Iowa: “He’s going to need to take some risk. Unless he does something like that, it’s going to be difficult.”

    Bush campaign aides say they understand the anxiety, but blame it on an unusual political season that has diverted attention away from more traditional candidates – not a sign of weakness in the former Florida governor. Bush himself has urged voters to stay patient, reminding them that candidates who sit at the top of polls at this stage in the race often fade.

    “Four years ago Herman Cain was the front-runner. Two weeks prior to that it was Rick Perry,” Bush said Wednesday during a campaign stop in Nevada. “Both are great guys, but they didn’t win the nomination.”

    Indeed, many voters in Iowa and New Hampshire wait until just before their states’ contests to settle on a candidate. The outcomes in those first two states have ripple effects in South Carolina, Nevada and other states that quickly follow.

    There are also signs of volatility in the GOP contest. After spending the summer and fall atop the Republican field, Trump appears to be losing ground in Iowa to Carson, an untested politician with a penchant for provocative comments about Muslims and the Holocaust.

    Bush is still among the candidates viewed as most electable among Republican voters, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. Six in 10 registered Republicans say he could possibly win a general election – putting him just below Trump and about tied with Carson atop the field.

    Most of those interviewed by the AP said they remain loyal to Bush. Even as his campaign fundraising slows, they see his heavily funded super PAC as an advantage that could help him outlast his rivals. They believe his methodical approach to issues and record as Florida governor make him the most qualified Republican to be president.

    But they wonder if there’s room for a candidate like Bush in a race where voters seem eager to voice their displeasure with Washington and anyone with a history in politics.

    “Within about a month, he’s going to need to step forth,” said Barbara Smeltzer, a longtime GOP activist from Dubuque, Iowa. “He’s going to have to start to show some muscle.”

    Added Carroll Duncan, a councilwoman in Dorchester County, South Carolina, “My main concern is that his message is not getting out there. That’s up to his campaign to turn that around.”

    Bush aides say they’ve been trying to do just that, with both the campaign and Right to Rise super PAC blanketing the airwaves with advertisements. Right to Rise accounted for one of every two 2016 presidential ads last week, according to information collected by Kantar Media’s CMAG advertising tracker.

    Right to Rise began its media blitz the week of Sept. 15 with a $1.3 million buy in New Hampshire and Iowa, expanding to South Carolina the following week. The super PAC has spent about $2 million each week on ads, CMAG shows. The group’s media plans continue through mid-February – by which time it will have spent $42 million if it follows through on all of its airtime reservations.

    Bush’s campaign is trying to supplement the ad spending with a large footprint on the ground in early states. The campaign has 12 paid staffers in New Hampshire, 10 in Iowa, eight in Nevada and seven in South Carolina.

    The overhaul the campaign announced Friday aims to boost those numbers. Supporters hope the changes will be enough to keep Bush afloat through a long, and so far surprising, campaign.

    “Jeb is not spectacular,” said Lynn Stewart, a state assemblyman from Henderson, Nevada. “But he’s solid and steady.”


    The post Jeb Bush supporters fear it could be too late to lift poll numbers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The Dome of the Rock is seen in the background as Palestinian men take part in Friday prayers on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City October 23, 2015. Palestinian factions called for mass rallies against Israel in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in a "day of rage" on Friday, as world and regional powers pressed on with talks to try to end more than three weeks of bloodshed. Israeli authorities also lifted restrictions on Friday that had banned men aged under 40 from using the flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City - a move seen as a bid to ease Muslim anger. REUTERS/Ammar Awad  - RTS5T92

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: I am joined by Arshad Mohammed, he’s a correspondent for Reuters, and he’s been traveling with Secretary Kerry.

    He joins me now via Skype from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

    Arshad Mohammed, thanks for being here. Give me a little sense of what is it exactly that Israel and Jordan have agreed to today?

    ARSHAD MOHAMMED, REUTERS: Well, according to Secretary Kerry, there are basically four broad steps that he sketched out.

    The first is that there would be 24/7 video surveillance of the entire area. The idea there is that transparency will let everybody see what’s happening and make it harder to misrepresent what’s happening and whether the status quo is changing.

    Among the other things are that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will enforce the existing prohibition on non-Muslims, on Jews, Christians or other religions from praying at the site.

    Third, that he would restate that Israel has no intent of dividing the site.

    And fourth, that Israel and the Jordanian religious trust or Waqf, that administers the site, would significantly increase their cooperation, all as a way of trying to reduce tensions and prevent violence.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Given that there has been so much animosity over this particular site and more broadly between the Israelis and the Palestinians, how likely do you think that this kind of an agreement is going to have any lasting effect?

    ARSHAD MOHAMMED: You know, it’s hard to say. I think a lot of it depends both on the actions of officials and then public sentiment.

    If there is seen to be good will on the side of the Israelis and the side of Jordanians and the Palestinian residents of the area, you know, then it’s possible that the violence will come down.

    You know, the other question is whether what other factors that have given rise to the tension and the violence and, you know, one factor that is often cited by Palestinians is the feeling that Israel is allowing more Jews to visit the site and is sort of tacitly accepting that they pray there, whether the Palestinians feel like that’s actually stopping or abating or being reversed.

    You know, I’m not in the predictions business but it does seem to me that both sides have some measure of interest in reducing the violence if they can.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Arshad Mohammed from Reuters, thank you very much for being here.

    ARSHAD MOHAMMED: Thanks for your time.

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    JAMES HOLMES aurora shooter Reuters

    James Holmes appears in court June 4, 2013, during a hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial, Colorado. Photo by Andy Cross/Reuters.

    Colorado prison officials said an inmate assaulted Aurora theater shooter James Holmes and a prison officer at the Colorado State Penitentiary.

    Mark “Slim” Daniels, 27, will be charged with assault on a correctional officer and assault on Holmes, 27, Adrienne Jacobson, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections, told the Denver Post.

    Daniels reportedly lunged at Holmes, taking several swings at him, the Associated Press reported. Holmes was not injured in the incident, which took place while the inmates were passing one another in the hall.

    Holmes is allowed to spend four hours in day hall, and no inmates are allowed in his cell block.

    The Denver Post was notified of the assault Friday through a letter whose writer claimed to be Daniels. The sender alleged the assault took place October 8.

    Holmes was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in August for shooting and killing 12 people and injuring 70 others at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012.

    The post Colorado theater gunman James Holmes assaulted in prison appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus in Washington March 25, 2015.  Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    President Barack Obama speaks March 25, 2015, on the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act at the White House in Washington. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.

    WASHINGTON  — Opponents of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul are taking yet another challenge to the law to the Supreme Court, and say they will be back with more if this one fails.

    A new appeal being filed Monday by the Pacific Legal Foundation contends that the law violates the provision of the Constitution that requires tax-raising bills to originate in the House of Representatives.

    Pacific Legal Foundation lawyer Timothy Sandefur said the problem with the law is just one example of how “Obamacare is so unconstitutional in so many ways.”

    Sandefur said the justices will face one challenge to the law after another until it is significantly changed or repealed.

    The court has twice turned back major challenges to the health care law, in opinions written by Chief Justice John Roberts in 2012 and in June. The court also has allowed family-owned businesses with religious objections to opt out of paying for contraceptives for women covered under their health plans. A related case involving faith-oriented colleges, hospitals and charities is pending.

    The new appeal, filed on behalf of small-business owner Matt Sissel, stems from the Constitution’s Origination Clause, which requires that the House be the first to pass a bill “for raising revenue.”

    The foundation said the health overhaul is expected to generate roughly $500 billion in a dozen separate new taxes by 2019, clearly making it a bill to raise revenue. The appeal said the legislation made its debut in the Senate when then-Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., gutted an unrelated bill that already had passed the House and inserted language that became the Affordable Care Act. The original measure was designed to help veterans buy homes.

    The House then adopted the revised measure. Both chambers were controlled by Democrats at the time.

    Lower courts have rejected the group’s argument. A unanimous three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington said that while the health care law does contain tax-raising provisions, its primary purpose was not to raise revenue, but rather to expand health care coverage.

    When the full 11-judge appeals court considered whether to hear the case, the four Republican-appointed judges concluded that the legislation should qualify as revenue-producing. But they would have ruled in favor of the administration anyway. They said the bill properly originated in the House, even if the measure was stripped of its original language.

    Nicholas Bagley, a health law expert at the University of the Michigan Law School, said he doubts the court will intervene. “There’s disagreement on the appeals court about the rationale, but until there’s disagreement about the right outcome, the Supreme Court has no reason to take the case,” Bagley said.

    But Sandefur said he hopes the court will agree to hear yet another case. The meaning of the Origination Clause “has never been before the Supreme Court,” Sandefur said.

    Whatever the outcome, he said opponents of the law will keep fighting it in court. “Obamacare is so unconstitutional in so many ways that the court is going to be having Obamacare cases far into the future until the law is repealed or amended,” Sandefur said.


    The post Opponents of Obama’s health care overhaul to appeal in Supreme Court appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON  — Republican voters view Donald Trump as their strongest general election candidate, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that highlights the sharp contrast between the party’s voters and its top professionals regarding the billionaire businessman’s ultimate political strength.

    Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, May 16, 2015. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa’s Lincoln Dinner on May 16, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by: Jim Young/Reuters

    Seven in 10 Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters say Trump could win in November 2016 if he is nominated, and that’s the most who say so of any candidate. By comparison, 6 in 10 say the same for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who, like Trump, has tapped into the powerful wave of antiestablishment anger defining the early phases of the 2016 contest.

    “It’s the lifelong establishment politicians on both sides that rub me the wrong way,” said registered Republican Joe Selig, a 60-year-old carpenter from Vallejo, California. “I think Trump is more electable. He’s strong. We need strength these days.”

    Trump and Carson are considered among the least electable general election candidates by the Republican Party’s professionals, those who are in the business of helping candidates run campaigns and win elections.

    Experienced political strategists note that winning a general election and winning the Republican nomination are often very different tasks. The GOP’s most conservative voters – a group that is older and whiter than the nation as a whole – wield extraordinary influence in picking the nominee. Independents, moderate voters and minorities are far more important in general elections that draw many more people to the polls.

    While Trump and Carson are popular in primary election polls, both have used divisive rhetoric in recent months that alienated some minorities. Trump called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals during his announcement speech; while Carson said he would not support a Muslim presidential candidate.

    “Republicans think (Democrat) Hillary (Rodham Clinton) is weaker than she is. They are wrong,” said GOP operative Katie Packer, who was deputy campaign manager for 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney. “They think we don’t need to win more women or more Hispanics to win. They’re wrong.”

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has embraced a welcoming tone with Hispanics, tops the field of experienced political leaders on the question of electability, running about even with Carson and slightly behind Trump.

    Six in 10 Republicans say Bush could win the general election and 54 percent say the same about Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. There’s a drop-off among the rest of the GOP’s 2016 crowded class. None of the other candidates is viewed as electable in a general election by more than half of Republican voters.

    Carson and Trump are the candidates most likely to receive positive ratings from Republican voters, with 65 percent saying they have a favorable opinion of Carson and 58 percent saying the same of Trump. Republicans are somewhat less excited about Bush, with 48 percent giving him a favorable rating.

    “If he weren’t a Bush, I wouldn’t even know his name,” said Republican Leslie Millican, a 34-year-old housewife from Magnolia, Arkansas. “I like the other Bushes. Something about (Jeb Bush) – he ain’t grown on me yet.”

    Trump and Bush have the highest negative ratings within their own party: 37 percent of Republican voters say they have an unfavorable opinion of Bush and 36 percent say the same of Trump.

    Their negatives are even more pronounced among the broader electorate. The AP-GfK poll found Trump is viewed unfavorably by 57 percent of those surveyed, the highest negatives of any Republican candidate. Bush is next with unfavorable ratings from 48 percent of all respondents.

    Overall, all but one GOP candidate is viewed more unfavorably than favorably by all those questioned. Carson is the exception, drawing about equally positive and negative views. He remains unknown by a significant portion of the electorate.

    Among Republican voters, all the candidates except New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have a net positive rating. Carson tops the list, followed by Rubio, former technology executive Carly Fiorina and then Trump.

    The poll also found a sharp difference between the political parties over experience.

    By an overwhelming 77 percent to 22 percent margin, Republican registered voters and leaners say they prefer an outsider candidate who will change how things are done, rather than someone with experience in Washington who can get things done. They prefer someone with private sector leadership experience over experience holding elected office, 76 percent to 22 percent.

    Trump, Carson and Fiorina are the only Republican candidates who have never held elective office. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, is a former first lady, secretary of state and senator.

    Perhaps that helps explain why Democrats prefer experience over outsider status, 67 percent to 32 percent, and experience in office over private sector experience 66 percent to 33 percent.

    Republican strategist John Feehery says Trump is considered electable now only because he hasn’t yet been the subject of a multimillion dollar negative ad campaign, which will happen should he maintain his lead in the polls.

    “Right now, he serves a valuable purpose as a front-runner, especially for the Democrats,” Feehery said. “They would love him to be our nominee.”

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    A Lady Writing, c. 1665

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    JARED BOWEN: Dutch painters in the 17th century cut a wide social swath. From the upper class—where artists found the well fed, the well healed and the well adorned in their shimmering fabrics and dazzling jewels.

    To the poverty-stricken where life was diminished. Their faces painted with despair.

    RONNI BAER, SENIOR CURATOR OF EUROPEAN PAINTING, MFA: Even before all of the concern about the middle class and the 1 percent and the Occupy Wall Street—even before that, I think that people would have been able to look at these paintings and think and reflect back on their own lives and where they might fit into society.

    JARED BOWEN: Class Distinctions at the Museum of Fine Arts is the first show ever to look at the Dutch Masters for how they looked at society. The economic divide couldn’t be any deeper says curator Ronni Baer.

    JARED BOWEN: Tell me about, well, in this case, this poor little boy.

    RONNI BAER: This is a very small panel, which you’ll notice his sock has a hole in it; he’s very disheveled. His clothes are not all of a piece. One feels a kind of sympathy to him. But he’s slouched over. His legs are splayed.

    JARED BOWEN: Well this is obviously a staggering contrast to what we just saw.

    RONNI BAER:Exactly.

    JARED BOWEN: Who is this?

    RONNI BAER: He was a textile merchant. He’s depicted a little bit from below so that it even increases his imposing stature. And he’s shown with this sword and this great curtain behind him as though he were an aristocratic, almost kingly like figure.

    JARED BOWEN: Such is the life both lived and contrived. The wealthy, Baer says, were innately image conscious. There was drive to convey health, bounty and prestige. Certainly the case of this textile merchant and his blinged out wife.

    RONNI BAER: He went to Van Der Helst, the most fashionable and successful portrait painter at the time, and had him portray them. It’s almost like an ad: this is the source of his money.

    JARED BOWEN: Some of the works require decoding. The show features two exceedingly rare Vermeer loans. They merely suggest wealth rather than swim in it.

    RONNI BAER: The fact that this woman is writing a letter already indicates her social status, that she’s wealthy enough to have the leisure to read and write and that she’s educated enough to read and write.

    The male counterpart to her in this show is an astronomer, or astrologer, and it’s a rare painting of a man by Vermeer. And he’s an amateur; he is doing this as a pastime, as a, as a intellectual pursuit that really only the wealthy could have done.

    JARED BOWEN: Just as he is today, Rembrandt was highly sought after—even by the middle class. A shipbuilder and his wife commissioned this portrait on loan from Queen Elizabeth II.

    RONNI BAER: The flesh tones, which are not melded in any way. You just have successive splashes of color, but your eye somehow does that work, and it makes him very lively looking. So the brushwork is great.

    JARED BOWEN: They were upper middle class—a contrast to the baker, tradesmen and women tending to business in their more modest homes. And then there were the indigent—crowded, struggling.

    Both these paintings and table settings give a glimpse of how much life varied between the classes. How luxury turned practical. The show ends with a meeting of the classes.

    RONNI BAER: The classes met everywhere: they met on the ice, they met on ferry boats, they met outside the city walls.

    JARED BOWEN: But it’s where they met and could not cross that’s most poignant—at the door.

    RONNI BAER: You’ve got this really strange, almost abstracting light on the rich people. Outside, it’s darker, it’s painted with ochers instead of these bright colors, and it’s much more broadly painted.

    So the itinerate musicians don’t get the white the wealthy people get, and they are painted in drab colors, and they are painted much more broadly and brushily. It’s an astounding thing.

    JARED BOWEN: And where the classes remain most distinct.

    The post Boston art exhibit captures dynamic Dutch society in changing times appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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