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

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    Ukrainian workers are completing a New Safe Confinement arch (left) that will slide over and encase the exploded Chernobyl reactor No. 4 (right) and seal it for 100 years. Photo by John Wendle

    Ukrainian workers are completing a New Safe Confinement arch (left) that will slide over and encase the exploded Chernobyl reactor No. 4 (right) and seal it for 100 years. Photo by John Wendle

    CHERNOBYL EXCLUSION ZONE, Ukraine—In the early morning of April 26, 1986, a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, spewing radioactive material across the Soviet republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, and parts of Europe. For eight months workers hurriedly built a tomb of steel and concrete to contain the radioactive remains.

    The sarcophagus, however, was only designed to last 30 years — until 2016. Weakened walls have been reinforced and holes have been patched but some radioactive dust and radiation could still leak from the aging structure. To reduce that risk, engineers and construction workers are finishing a mammoth, stainless steel edifice—the largest moveable structure ever built—that will slide over the old sarcophagus and encase it for a century.

    The structure itself is largely finished, but as the 30th anniversary of the accident fast approaches, about a year of work remains on ventilation systems, electrical systems and testing before the dome can be slowly slid into place and locked down (see the video below).

    Worry about the crumbling sarcophagus is compounded by a plan to turn the land around the site into a national park. Immediately after the accident the Soviet Union cordoned off the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, an area with a 30-kilometer (18-mile) radius around the reactor complex.

    Access by people was severely restricted. Nuclear waste storage facilities have since been built on the site and today around 6,000 workers come here daily. The rest of the zone is pretty much devoid of humans, however, other than the occasional poacher, biologist or journalist like myself.

    Ukrainian Pres. Petro Poroshenko announced the controversial plan for a proposed park only a few months ago. Ironically, researchers worry that a “biosphere preserve” would make rebounding animal populations less safe, both because a nuclear disaster site is more stringently regulated than a national park would be and the plan would allow more industrial development — a seeming contradiction with a park.

    Warning signs hand-painted with red and yellow radiation symbols tilt haphazardly at the roadside as I approach the Chernobyl site with an official escort to see the lay of the land. The shinning New Safe Confinement arch and the rusty sarcophagus, rise in the distance. Behind them, the towers and power lines of Chernobyl’s unused electricity grid stretch to the horizon.

    The New Safe Confinement arch is the largest moveable object ever built on land. It is roughly 118 yards tall (higher than the Statue of Liberty), 177 yards long and 281 yards across its base—more than two football fields. Photo by John Wendle

    The New Safe Confinement arch is the largest moveable object ever built on land. It is roughly 118 yards tall (higher than the Statue of Liberty), 177 yards long and 281 yards across its base—more than two football fields. Photo by John Wendle

    If the embattled Ukrainian government in Kiev has its way, those cables may someday have electricity running through them again, although never generated by nuclear fission.

    “It’s possible for us to install a solar station because we have all these electricity lines,” says Hanna Vronska, acting minister of Ukraine’s Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, during an interview at her sparse offices in Kiev. “And of course, she says, “we could use this zone for storage of nuclear waste”—possibly from other countries, “because people will never be allowed to live there.”

    Vronska, a U.S.-educated lawyer, says she did not even want the job, which was given to her after her predecessor was accused of embezzling $21.5 million and sacked. She says the government would like to “combine the industrial usage of this zone with some kind of nature protection activity.” The presidential decree, if signed, would change the status of the area from a “zone of alienation” polluted by radiation to that of a specially protected nature preserve.

    The odd arrangement could allow expansion of nuclear waste confinement and storage facilities already completed in an inner area close to the new arch. The wildlife preserve would fill the outer ring of the zone, including forests, fields, marshes and abandoned villages. The decree was scheduled to be signed in the coming months but it is unclear if and when that might happen due to rising controversy as well as government turmoil.

    Establishing the nature park is “really a difficult question and we are having strong talks about it,” says Maryna Shkvyria, a wolf expert at the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Zoology who has studied wolves in the zone for years. “Personally, I’m not sure that a biosphere preserve will be better” than the current arrangement.

    Workers are checked by sensors for traces of radiation on their hands and clothing as they leave the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Photo by John Wendle

    Workers are checked by sensors for traces of radiation on their hands and clothing as they leave the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Photo by John Wendle

    Whether a preserve is a good idea is hard to answer because most facts about the 1,000-square-mile exclusion zone are disputed. Levels of radiation vary throughout the zone, with an area of higher radiation stretching away in a plume of fallout to the west, which followed the weather pattern during and soon after the disaster.

    Biologists from all over the world are divided on whether there has been an enormousrebound of wildlife or not, with sometimes bitter debates bubbling up over everything from the methodology of animal tracking to how useful certain species are as predictors of radiation hazards. The only thing researchers agree on is that more analysis needs to be done, especially about the effects on large mammals of low daily levels of ionizing radiation, absorbed from both their surroundings and food that has grown in the zone. Government bureaucracy in Ukraine and Belarus has partially caused the gaps in research.

    At the same time, the Exclusion Zone is a forbidden lure to Ukrainians and Belarusans. It is widely known that illegal logging goes on there, an activity of international importance, because wood harvested inside the confines and shipped elsewhere spews isotopes into the atmosphere when it is burned, spreading old radiation anew. Also, illegal fishing and the collecting of wild berries and mushrooms, a very popular activity in Slavic countries, are widely practiced, even though radiation in the soil remains high.

    Poaching is also a big problem; wealthy hunters pay top dollar to hunt everything from moose to wolves in the restricted area, locals say, even as impoverished villagers hunt to put food on their tables. Poverty also forces people to do things like scavenge for scrap metal. Earlier in April a local man was arrested for hauling out more than a hundred kilograms (220 pounds) of radioactive rebar from an abandoned farm in the zone, an indication of the level of desperation caused by poverty.

    “Unfortunately we cannot control all such cases,” Vronska says. “At the moment we don’t have sufficient financial support from the state budget” to increase surveillance and patrols. “But we hope that the biosphere preserve will be established so that we can attract additional financial support, including international donors, just to have good teams of rangers to protect this area from any interference.”

    It remains unclear whether a new status for the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone would provide that or if the weaker legal restrictions for a national park would just make the territory more vulnerable to the poaching, illegal logging and corruption that plague wildlife and endanger the lives of local residents. Right now, Shkvyria says, “we have only hope.”

    This article is reproduced with permission from Scientific American. It was first published on April 21, 2016. Find the original story here.

    The post 30 years after Chernobyl disaster, engineers race against a decaying reactor appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    COLUMBIA, SC - APRIL 25:  Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe delivers remarks at the South Carolina Democratic Party state convention April 25, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, and Sen. Bernie Sanders also spoke to the convention.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a sweeping order today to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons after their release from prison.

    Republicans in the commonwealth quickly accused the governor of abusing his executive power to help Democrat Hillary Clinton win a battleground state.

    Governor McAuliffe joins me now from Richmond.

    Governor, welcome.

    Why the decision to overturn something that’s been in place in your state since the Civil War?

    GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), Virginia: Well, let’s be honest. We have had a bad history here on voting rights in Virginia. 1901, 1902, they put in the poll tax. They put in literacy tests. And they had a horrible disenfranchisement for felons.

    So, what I did today was to erase 114, 115 years of a really, really repressive tactic used to deprive people their right to vote.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You included convicted felons who were accused of violent crimes, murder, rape. You didn’t make any exceptions. Why not?

    GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE: No. Why should I?

    Once you have served your time, once you have paid your debt to society, the judge, jury have determined what your sentence would be, once you complete that, why should you not be back in?

    When these people, even if they have committed heinous crimes, but once they have finished serving their sentence, they go back to their communities, they get jobs, they have family members. You want them, Judy — I want everybody back getting a job. I want them paying taxes. I want them feeling good about themselves.

    You have paid your debt to society.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: As you just heard, the Republican Party in your state is questioning why you did this blanket change in the law, in what was the law for so long, and they’re saying it’s an example of political opportunism, that you have got this election coming up, and that explains the timing of it.

    GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE: Well, Judy, let me be very clear.

    If I were to do it for political purposes, I would have done it last year, before my entire 140-member of the General Assembly. As you know, you follow the news, I worked very hard to win one Senate seat to get control of the Senate. If I were to do this for political purposes, I would have done it last year.

    First of all, let me be very clear. Hillary Clinton doesn’t need this. She is going to win Virginia. She is going to beat Donald Trump. So, put the politics aside. And it’s really unfortunate these Republicans always default to partisan politics.

    This was, morally, the right thing to do. This was about letting people who have already served their sentence, they are done with probation, back in as full citizens of our society. That’s what we should do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Governor — Governor, let me ask you about another argument that’s made, and this is a conservative argument. The gentleman we spoke, his name Roger Clegg, he heads the Center for Equal Opportunity.

    He said re-enfranchisement, letting people vote again, it makes sense on a case-by-case basis, once a person can show that they have actually turned over a new leaf, changed their behavior. But he said, when you grant this sort of right to vote to everybody, you are not allowing the — each individual to show whether they have respect for the law.

    And he makes the point. He says, you can’t demand the right — what basically you’re doing is giving the right to vote to people who would be then determining other people’s votes, other people’s laws, which is what you do when you vote.

    GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE: Oh, Judy, that’s silly.

    First of all, let me be clear. I’m restoring voting rights. I’m not giving people back gun rights. I’m not commuting anyone’s sentence. I am giving people who are now — have served — they have paid their debt to society. That debt was determined by a judge and a jury. And they said, this is the debt to pay back.

    Once you have done that, I’m saying you can come back and be part of society. You can go back, and you can have a job, you can buy a home, you can do everything else. I want you feeling good about yourself and voting.

    So, we have a difference of opinion. I was proud to do this today. It was morally the right thing to do. I have the full legal authority under the Constitution to do it, the legal authority. I have the moral authority. And I did it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just finally, Governor, you have said today, I believe, that you want to encourage these individuals to register and vote. How are you going to do that?

    GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE: Well, I think by coming on your show, and I think we’re going to see an awful lot of press that came off it today.

    Judy, if you could have been with me — and we didn’t tell anybody what we were doing today. We invited a lot of folks from restoration of rights community, because I have done a lot of these events. They didn’t know. When I announced what I was doing today, the folks who came up to me and said, Governor, I haven’t voted in 20 years or 30 — there were mothers crying. There were fathers crying. There were sons and daughters crying.

    It was a great feeling. I restored the rights a couple months ago of Bobby Blevins. He had not voted for 60 years. He made a mistake when he was 19 years old. He is now 79. And to see this grown man standing next to me weeping in tears when I signed the order, and he got to vote — and then he called me after he got to vote in the last election.

    You know what? That’s what leadership is all about. As governor, my job is to grow an economy. My job is to make sure that everybody can enjoy a great life. What I did today was morally the right thing to do. I gave people back their voting rights, plain and simple.

    You served your time, come on in, be part of the Virginia economy. Be part of our family. And you can’t do it if you treat people like second-class citizens.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Governor Terry McAuliffe of the Commonwealth of Virginia, we thank you very much.

    GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

    The post Felons who’ve paid their debt deserve to vote, says Virginia Gov. McAuliffe appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A depressed young woman sits alone against a concrete pillar. Denmark

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The government released new statistics about suicide in the U.S., and the results were sobering and stunning. The nation’s suicide rate is at its highest point since 1986. Nearly 43,000 people ended their own lives in 2014, which is the most recent year with full data.

    Hari Sreenivasan has more on this story from our New York studios.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The rise in rates were particularly alarming among some age groups. While the numbers are still smaller among children, the suicide rate was up sharply among 10-to-14-year-old girls, tripling in the past 15 years.

    It also rose steeply among middle-aged Americans, 63 percent higher for middle-aged women, 43 percent higher for middle-aged men.

    For some perspective on these trends and some of the potential reasons behind it, I’m joined by Katherine Hempstead, who studies this for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

    For the record, the foundation is a funder of the NewsHour.

    So, which of these sets of numbers, and we just went over a couple of them, but stood out to you when you saw this?

    KATHERINE HEMPSTEAD, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Well, I think there has been concern about the middle-aged group for a while now.

    And people have been noticing increased rates for both males and females. And with these latest results, we see really, really large increases for women in particular and a closing of that gender gap, as the female rates starts to be closer to the male rate.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That women try more, but men succeed more? Is that one of the…

    (CROSSTALK)

    KATHERINE HEMPSTEAD: Well, I think that’s something that is true.

    There is much more of a nonfatal to fatal ratio for females. There are many more attempted self-harms that don’t result in fatal incidents. But now we see — with this new trend, we see the rates getting closer, and we also see a change in the method, so that we see this increasing adoption of suffocation or hanging as a suicide method by both males and females, and that is a highly lethal method.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And compare that to guns, which is probably still the number one…

    (CROSSTALK)

    KATHERINE HEMPSTEAD: Guns is the most lethal means of suicide.

    And guns is the most important method for males. But we saw for both males and females an increase in suffocation as a share of suicides.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the things to keep in mind that, are suicides unreported, because it looks like these CDC numbers would have to come with the coroner’s said suicide on the death certificate?

    KATHERINE HEMPSTEAD: There is probably some underreporting of suicides, but I think that, over this time period, I don’t believe this is any kind of a data artifact.

    I don’t think that underreporting has been a huge part of the problem or that’s changed a lot over the last 15 years, so I think this is a real trend in suicide.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And is there any way to capture, well, unsuccessful suicides, attempts or hospitalizations?

    KATHERINE HEMPSTEAD: Oh, yes.

    When people attempt suicide, many times, it results in an emergency room admission, so we do have a lot of data on nonfatal attempts. A lot of those attempts are done with poisoning. That’s probably the most common method for nonfatal attempts.

    And we do find that females vs. males, as we already mentioned, have a higher ratio of non-fatal to fatal attempts, because they tend to use less lethal methods. And we also see, for certain age groups, like younger groups in particular, there’s more nonfatal attempts.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is that because younger people are doing this more impulsively than older people?

    KATHERINE HEMPSTEAD: Well, there is — yes, there is a lot of evidence that, among younger people, suicidal behavior, whether it’s fatal or nonfatal, has a more impulsive origination.

    So, it could be a response — and this is I think something that is true especially for young males — response to some kind of adverse event, maybe a relationship problem, a fight with an authority figure, problem with parents, maybe a minor legal infraction. So we see a lot of suicides — suicide attempts and completed suicides for younger people that — especially males, that are the result of sort of recent crises that sort of precipitate impulsive self-injury.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are there large-scale patterns that you can say are maybe attributed to the economy or the great recession that we just went through, or when people are down in the dumps, they have lost their fortunes, they have lost everything? Are these the times where we see suicides pick up?

    KATHERINE HEMPSTEAD: Well, that’s really the thing that we focused on when we looked at the middle-aged. And we did look to see, could we associate any particular kind of circumstances to this rising rate of suicide among the middle-aged?

    And sure enough we did see an increasing reference to things like job problems, personal finance issues, foreclosures, bankruptcies, things that really accelerated during this time of the recession, but we see that those trends are kind of persisting even when a lot of people feel like the economy’s recovered quite a bit, but maybe those improvements aren’t being felt by everybody.

    And the middle-aged, I think, are particularly vulnerable to those kinds of pressures, because they are breadwinners, they have dependents, their own retirement might not be secure, they might have children to put through college. So I think they can be particularly affected by those kinds of economic problems.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are there reasons that explain what is happening with younger people, teenagers? I know there are small cohorts from 13 to 18 and so forth, the way that the CDC breaks out the numbers, but when you look at overall number, it’s increasing.

    KATHERINE HEMPSTEAD: Well, that’s particularly troubling, because it’s a little bit harder to pin those kinds of increases to the broader kinds of economic, you know, pocketbook issues that are more — you would think have more of an impact on older people that had those kinds of responsibilities.

    So, I think that is something that people are very concerned about and want to understand better, what are those motivations?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And is there a contagion effect?

    KATHERINE HEMPSTEAD: You know, some people have talked about that.

    You know, I think that is extremely difficult to have really rigorous evidence to either support or refute the idea of some kind of contagion, particularly to say that that would account for a large share of suicide, but I do think that there are sort of waxes and wanes and times in which suicide may come to seem more sort of culturally acceptable or a more popular way to talk about a response to problems.

    And this can sort of kind of rise and fall over time and go in and out of favor with certain groups. And I think adolescents can be susceptible to that kind of language and imagery.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Katherine Hempstead from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, thanks so much.

    KATHERINE HEMPSTEAD: Sure. It’s a pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

    The post What’s causing a rising rate of suicide? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, delivers his opening remarks at the Paris Agreement signing ceremony on climate change at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar   - RTX2B74X

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I’m Judy Woodruff.

    On the “NewsHour” tonight: U.S. suicide rates climb to a 30-year high, especially among young girls. We examine this disturbing trend.

    Also ahead, extending the right to vote in Virginia. An executive order restores voting rights to convicted felons.

    Then, on this Earth Day: efforts by famed biologist and father of biodiversity E.O. Wilson to save Alabama’s river delta.

    E.O. WILSON, Biologist: We have only discovered, much less studied, about 20 percent of all the species. So, here is a world that is waiting for exploration, and that’s just the beginning.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And it’s Friday. Mark Shields and David Brooks are here to analyze the week’s news.

    All that and more on tonight’s “PBS NewsHour.”

    (BREAK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It took all day, but more than 170 countries signed the landmark Paris accord on climate change today. The ceremony took place at the United Nations in New York. Secretary of State John Kerry signed for the United States, with his granddaughter joining him.

    Beforehand, he acknowledged the deal falls short of its stated goal.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: The power of this agreement is not that it, in and of itself, guarantees that we will actually hold the increase of temperature to the target of 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees Centigrade. In fact, it doesn’t. And we know that. We acknowledge it. The power of this agreement is the opportunity that it creates.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Each nation will set nonbinding targets for cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases by 2025. The U.S. target is up to 28 percent below 2005 levels.

    A new earthquake hit off the coast of Ecuador last night, followed by a smaller aftershock, but there were no reports of new damage. Still, the official death toll from last Saturday’s quake rose again to 587. Survivors are now lining up daily for food and fresh water, as aid workers warn of delays in distributing the supplies. And a new risk has emerged, the threat of mosquito-borne illness.

    The U.S. presidential candidates are heading into another big weekend, the last before the next batch of primaries. For Republican front-runner Donald Trump today, that meant hunting for votes and trying to win over party big-wigs.

    John Yang has our report.

    JOHN YANG: Donald Trump’s campaign proceeded on two fronts. The candidate stumped in Delaware.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: My family asked me, dad, why are you doing this? I would rather not do it. I wish we had somebody that was so good. I don’t care if it’s a Republican or a Democrat. I couldn’t care less.

    JOHN YANG: In Florida, a top campaign official tried to ease the concerns of members of the Republican National Committee. Senior adviser Paul Manafort described the candidate almost as an actor playing a role.

    The New York Times obtained a recording of his remarks.

    PAUL MANAFORT, Convention Manager, Trump Campaign: And that’s what’s important, from our standpoint, for you to understand that he gets it, and that the part he’s been playing is evolving into the part that now that you have been expecting that he wasn’t ready for, because he had first to complete the first phase. The negatives will come down. The image is going to change.

    JOHN YANG: Ted Cruz pounced on those comments. Campaigning in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, today, he branded Trump and his team as liars.

    SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), Republican Presidential Candidate: Yesterday, they were down in Florida meeting with party leaders, and they were saying — these are their words — that all of this is just a show, that he doesn’t believe anything he’s saying. He’s just trying to fool gullible voters, and he’s not going to do any of it, he’s not going to build a wall, he’s not going to deport anyone. He is telling us he’s lying to us.

    JOHN YANG: In the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders is celebrating praise from Vice President Joe Biden. While not making an endorsement, Mr. Biden told The New York Times he preferred Sanders’ approach.

    He said: “I like the idea of saying, we can do much more, because we can.”

    Today, Sanders held a town hall in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), Democratic Presidential Candidate: My hope is there will be a record-breaking turnout on Tuesday.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    JOHN YANG: Clinton also campaigned in Pennsylvania, focusing on pay equity, citing the decision to put a woman on the $20 bill.

    HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Candidate: I’m very excited about Harriet Tubman and the other women who are going to be included on our money. But I also want to make sure that women are making the money.

    JOHN YANG: Pennsylvania is the biggest prize among the five states that vote on Tuesday.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m John Yang.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In London today, President Obama called for overturning North Carolina’s new law on public bathrooms. It limits transgender people to the facility that corresponds to their sex at birth.

    Mr. Obama said the law is wrong, but he emphasized that Britons are welcome to visit. The British government has issued a travel advisory warning of possible discrimination in some U.S. states.

    The president also weighed in one Britain’s upcoming vote on whether to leave the European Union. He penned an op-ed article in The Daily Telegraph, writing — quote — “The U.S. and the world need your outsized influence to continue, including within Europe.”

    Later, he followed up on his appeal at a news conference with Prime Minister David Cameron.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Part of our special relationship, part of being friends it is to be honest and to let you know what I think.

    And, speaking honestly, the outcome of that decision is a matter of deep interest to the United States, because it affects our prospects as well. The United States wants a strong United Kingdom as a partner, and the United Kingdom is at its best when it’s helping to lead a strong Europe.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president also warned that the U.S. would be in no hurry to write a free trade deal with Britain if it does exit the E.U.

    But the candor wasn’t appreciated by some, including London Mayor Boris Johnson, who heads the Leave campaign.

    MAYOR BORIS JOHNSON, London: It’s something to which the Americans would never submit their own democracy. America is a proud democracy, built on principles of liberty, the idea of the sanctity of representation and no taxation without representation. It is very odd. It is perverse. It is hypocritical.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Johnson also blasted the president’s decision to move a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office. He called it — quote — “a symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British empire.”

    President Obama didn’t respond directly to the jibe, but he did say that he moved the Churchill bust to his private study after he had a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. placed in the Oval Office.

    The United States announced today that it’s buying roughly 35 tons of so-called heavy water from Iran. The liquid is used to make weapons-grade plutonium, and last year’s nuclear deal calls for Iran to sell its excess stockpile. Republican leaders in Congress today criticized the purchase as a dangerous precedent.

    The number of migrants arriving in Greece is rising again. The International Organization for Migration says more than 150 people reached the Greek islands from Turkey on each of the last three days. Initially, a European Union deal with Turkey had cut arrivals to near zero.

    Back in this country, medical officials completed an autopsy on Prince, but said it could take weeks to fix the cause of death. The pop music great was found dead yesterday at his home in suburban Minneapolis.

    Today, as an impromptu memorial swelled with balloons and flowers, investigators said some points are already clear.

    JIM OLSON, Carver County, Minnesota, Sheriff: There were no obvious signs of trauma on the body at all.

    We have no reason to believe at this point that this was a suicide, but, again, this early on in this investigation and it’s continuing to — we will continue to investigate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The sheriff and the medical examiner’s office wouldn’t confirm or deny reports that Prince might have overdosed on painkillers last week.

    Wall Street ended the week with a lackluster day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 21 points to close at 18003. But the Nasdaq fell 39, and the S&P 500 added just a fraction. For the week, the Dow and the Nasdaq gained half-a-percent. The S&P lost more than half-a-percent.

    And thousands of people have gathered in Boston this weekend for PAX East, one of the world’s leading gaming festivals. Organizers say it’s like Woodstock for gamers, where serious players can compete and preview what’s new. The buzz this year is all about virtual reality games that use headsets to transport users to alternate worlds.

    Still to come on the “NewsHour”: an alarming rise in suicide rates, including among teenage girls; Virginia’s governor explains why 200,000 felons can now vote in November; Mark Shields and David Brooks analyze the week’s news; fighting the terror group Al-Shabaab in a propaganda war; and much more.

    The post News Wrap: Nations sign Paris Agreement on climate change appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Pieces of an iPhone are seen in a repair store in New York. A court order demanding that Apple Inc help the U.S. government unlock the encrypted iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters opens a new chapter in the legal, political and technological fight pitting law enforcement against civil liberties advocates and major tech companies. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

    Pieces of an iPhone are seen in a repair store in New York. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

    The U.S. Justice Department said it has withdrawn a request to force Apple to reveal data from a cellphone linked to a New York drug case after someone provided federal investigators with the phone’s passcode.

    Federal prosecutors said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Margo Brodie that investigators were able to access the iPhone late Thursday night after using the passcode.

    The government said it no longer needs Apple’s assistance to unlock the iPhone and is withdrawing its request for an order requiring Apple’s cooperation in the drug case. 

    “As we have said previously, these cases have never been about setting a court precedent; they are about law enforcement’s ability and need to access evidence on devices pursuant to lawful court orders and search warrants,” Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce said in a statement Friday.

    The Justice Department had sought to compel the Cupertino, California-based Apple to cooperate in the drug case, even though it had recently dropped a fight to compel Apple to help break into an iPhone used by a gunman in a December attack in San Bernardino that killed 14 people. In that case, a still-unidentified third-party came forward with a technique that managed to open the phone. That entity has not been named, and the Justice Department has not revealed the method used.

    Representatives for Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday night.

    The tech giant had been fighting the Justice Department’s attempts and said in court papers last week the government’s request was extraordinary because there is likely minimal evidentiary value of any data on the phone and that Congress never authorized it to pursue such requests through the 1789 All Writs Act. It also said there is no proof Apple’s assistance was necessary and that the same technique the FBI was using to get information from the phone in California might work with the drug case phone.

    But prosecutors had argued that the government needed Apple’s assistance to access the data, which they contended was “authorized to search by warrant.”

    On Thursday, several law enforcement groups filed arguments in Brooklyn federal court saying they feared the public will stop aiding police if Apple is allowed to refuse to give up information from the phone in the drug case. The groups said they supported the government’s efforts to try to reverse a magistrate judge’s ruling earlier this year for Apple.

    The post Feds unlock iPhone in NY drug case, drop fight with Apple appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    MANCHESTER, TN - JUNE 13:  Musician Jon Cleary of Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen performs onstage at That Tent during Day 3 of the 2015 Bonnaroo Music And Arts Festival on June 13, 2015 in Manchester, Tennessee.  (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic for Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival)

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    By Mori Rothman

    Read the full transcript below:

    MORI ROTHMAN: Jon cleary plays New Orleans jazz and funk like a native son, but he’s from more than four thousand miles away. He left Kent, England, when he was 18-years old to pursue his musical dreams.

    JON CLEARY: I’d always wanted to come to New Orleans and visit New Orleans. So I came here thinking I’d be here for a couple of weeks, and that was 30-something years ago. (laugh) I’m still here.

    MORI ROTHMAN:  His grandparents were performers, and his father played in a blues and folk band. Clearly listened to all kinds of music growing up, but as he learned to play the family piano, he fell in love with American jazz and blues.

    MORI ROTHMAN: How does someone from England come to New Orleans and, you know, make a life out of this?

    JON CLEARY: Well, I came here with no plan other than just to get to New Orleans and try to find the funkiest music I could.

    MORI ROTHMAN: Cleary’s first job in New Orleans was painting and cleaning at a famed local bar, The Maple Leaf. One night, when the house piano player was late, Cleary got his first break: the owner asked him to fill in.

    JON CLEARY: I played all the tunes I could play (laugh) and then played them all over again. Everyone seemed to dig ‘em.

    MORI ROTHMAN: Cleary quickly ascended the New Orleans music scene and gained a reputation as a skilled pianist and arranger. He played regular club gigs and toured with legends like Allen Toussaint and Bonnie Raitt, who called her former keyboardist “the ninth wonder of the world”.

    It was an on the job education, and Clearly credits the musicians he worked with for helping him develop his own sound.

    JON CLEARY: That’s how the tradition continues. But it’s important that instead of just mimicking, that you try and to best of your ability, anyway, to do something that’s original.

    MORI ROTHMAN:  Clearly has recorded eight albums, and his latest, “Go Go Juice,” won this year’s Grammy Award for Best Regional Roots Album.

    The lyrics on the title track are directly from the people of New Orleans- consisting of slang Cleary heard while walking around the city.

    JON CLEARY: If you’re interested in the music then you have to be something of a historian. And you have to have the ability to look back and amass as much of this as a richness that the generations that came before left us with.

    MORI ROTHMAN: Cleary’s music has responded to the changes New Orleans has gone through during the 35 years he has lived in the city. In his composition “Bringing Back the Home,” he sings about the struggles after Hurricane Katrina.

    JON CLEARY: Bringing Back the Home was written about the worry that a lot of people here had. That the very people who’d been displaced, and who increasingly look like they’re still not coming back, even after ten years.

    This town has a quite a sad history in many ways. And they’d be justified in singing the blues. But they don’t sing the blues in New Orleans, they make a joyful sound.

    The post Musician Jon Cleary on finding ‘the funkiest music I could’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign event at The Fillmore in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller - RTX2AX9V

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign event at The Fillmore in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller – RTX2AX9V

    WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton can’t win enough delegates on Tuesday to officially knock Bernie Sanders out of the presidential race, but she can erase any lingering honest doubts about whether she’ll soon be the Democratic nominee.

    After her victory in New York this past week, Clinton has a lead over Sanders of more than 200 pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses. As she narrowed Sanders’ dwindling opportunities to catch up, Clinton continued to build on her overwhelming support among superdelegates – the party officials who are free to back any candidate they choose.

    In the past two days, Clinton picked up 11 more endorsements from superdelegates, according to an Associated Press survey.

    Factoring in superdelegates, Clinton’s lead stands at 1,941 to 1,191 for Sanders, according to the AP count. That puts her at 81 percent of the 2,383 delegates needed to win the nomination.

    At stake Tuesday are 384 delegates in primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. This group of contests offers Sanders one of the last chances left on the election calendar to gain ground in pledged delegates and make a broader case to superdelegates to support him.

    Yet it appears Clinton could do well enough Tuesday to end the night with 90 percent of the delegates needed to win the nomination, leaving her just 200 or so shy.

    The Sanders campaign knows a tough battle awaits in those five states and says it will reassess its campaign after Tuesday. If Sanders fails to win significantly in the latest primaries, he won’t have another chance to draw closer in a big way until California votes on June 7.

    Clinton is on track to already have hit the magic number of 2,383 by that point.

    A look at the paths forward for the two candidates:

    SANDERS’ HOPE: RECAPTURE MOMENTUM

    After losing New York, Sanders needs to win 73 percent of the remaining delegates and uncommitted superdelegates to capture the nomination.

    That’s not too realistic.

    So his campaign is arguing that the Vermont senator can flip superdelegates at the July convention in Philadelphia, especially if he were somehow able to overtake Clinton among pledged delegates. To do so, Sanders would need to win 59 percent of those remaining.

    The Sanders camp acknowledges that will require a win in Pennsylvania, the biggest prize on Tuesday with 189 delegates. Sanders is trailing Clinton by double digits in preference polling in the state. His campaign also believes he can pick up delegates in Connecticut, where 55 are at stake.

    Sanders would recapture some momentum with such an unexpected big-state win, but he can’t escape the fact that Democrats award delegates in proportion to the vote. Even the loser gets some.

    That means a close victory for Sanders in Pennsylvania probably would be offset by the results in Maryland. That state, the second biggest prize of the night with 95 delegates, is a Clinton stronghold.

    The upshot: To catch Clinton, Sanders needs big wins in the delegate-rich, racially diverse states still left to hold primary elections.

    The problem: His next win by such a wide margin over Clinton in such a state would be his first.

    CLINTON’S PATH: BOLSTER HER BIG LEAD

    If Clinton were to win four or five states Tuesday, as preference polling suggests, she will extend her pledged delegate lead to about 300.

    The most likely scenario: big hauls in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and modest gains in Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

    At that point, she would need to win just 35 percent or so of the remaining delegates from primaries and caucuses to maintain her lead in pledged delegates. In actuality, she’s been winning 55 percent so far.

    More significantly, doing well on Tuesday would likely cement her support among superdelegates. Clinton now holds a 513-38 advantage among those party officials. An additional 163 superdelegates have yet to commit, but many have told the AP that they ultimately will support the candidate who wins the most delegates in the primaries and caucuses.

    Never before have superdelegates lifted a candidate to the Democratic nomination when he or she trailed in pledged delegates.

    When superdelegates are included, Clinton’s lead after an average performance on Tuesday would require Sanders to start winning far more than the three of every four delegates he needs now just to catch up.

    Do a little better than that, and Clinton can reasonably expect to clinch the nomination by June 7 – before the first votes are even counted in California.

    The post How the delegate math may shake out after Tuesday’s vote appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Wayne Anthony Hawes, 50, is seen in an undated picture released by the Columbia County Sheriff?s Office in Appling, Georgia. Hawes shot dead three people and is suspected of killing two others in a shooting spree involving his wife's family before killing himself, officials said on Saturday.   REUTERS/Columbia County Sheriff?s Office/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 - RTX2BBN0

    Wayne Anthony Hawes, 50, is seen in an undated picture released by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office in Appling, Georgia. Hawes shot dead three people and is suspected of killing two others in a shooting spree involving his wife’s family before killing himself, officials said on Saturday. Columbia County Sheriff’s Office/Handout via Reuters

    A Georgia gunman on a shooting rampage killed five people Friday night in two separate locations before taking his own life, with some of the victims believed to be members of his wife’s family.

    Wayne Anthony Hawes, 50, was found dead in the garage of his home hours after the shootings took place in the town of Appling, about 20 miles outside of Augusta near the South Carolina border.

    Police were called to the scene of one home just before 8 p.m. on Friday. Hawes was found around midnight with a fatal, self-inflicted wound to the head, according to a statement released by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

    Among the victims at one location were an 87-year-old woman and a 75-year-old man, who were believed to be Hawes’ father- and mother-in-law. Another 31-year-old woman was found alive but later died at a nearby hospital. Police also reported that Hawes attempted to set the home on fire.

    In another home less than a mile away a 59-year-old woman and 62-year-0ld man were also shot dead, according to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department’s Capt. Andy Shedd.

    “We believe the two shootings were related based on witness accounts,” he said.

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

    One woman interviewed near the scene told the New York Times all of the victims were members of her extended family, though police said none of the victims were believed to be Hawes’ wife.

    Police did not immediately release a motive in the killings, but Hawes’ daughter told the Associated Press on Saturday her father was a “ticking time bomb” after her mother ended their relationship.

    The incident in Georgia was the second mass shooting to take place in the United States on Friday. At least eight people who were members of the same family were believed to executed by one or more gunman in Ohio’s Pike County.

    One or more suspects in the Pike County assault are still at large.

    The post Georgia man kills five in shooting rampage appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    tunnel1

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    By Christopher Booker and Connie Kargbo

    Read the full transcript below:

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Residents of Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia, have grown accustomed to their morning rush hour traffic.

    For commuters moving between the two port cities, there’s a daily choke of cars leading into this 54-year-old tunnel with only one lane running in each direction under the Elizabeth River.

    Since it opened, the tunnel’s daily traffic volume has tripled. For the past four years, Wade Watson has overseen construction of the relief valve — a new midtown tunnel with two additional lanes running parallel to the old ones. This new tunnel is on schedule to open later this year following an innovative approach to its design.

    WADE WATSON: There’s about 80-thousand cubic yards of concrete in this tunnel.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: The tunnel is designed to last 120 years, and it was less expensive than traditional steel tube construction.

    Nearly a mile long, this all concrete tunnel is only the second of its kind in the United States. Consisting of 11 different segments, each section was fabricated just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, before being shipped down the Chesapeake Bay to the Elizabeth River.

    Then, those 11 concrete sections — each as long as a football field — were submerged underwater and connected across the dredged river bed.

    WADE WATSON: So actually if you went down and looked at the bottom of the river, after we finished you wouldn’t see the tunnel. It’s buried on the bottom.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: What also sets this tunnel apart is how the financial pieces were assembled. To make this project happen. The state of Virginia entered into a public-private partnership. Often called P3’s these deals are contracts between governments and the private sector to produce, repair, or replace a public asset, like a road, bridge, or tunnel.

    Unlike traditional infrastructure deals, the private partners can invest equity in the project, and by taking on the risk, they can earn lucrative returns.

    Across the country, public-private partnerships now account for about 39 billion dollars of roads, bridges, and tunnels green lit between 2005 and 2014. While that’s a small fraction of total U.S. infrastructure development, 31 states as well as Puerto Rico and Washington D.C, have enacted statutes allowing P3 for infrastructure projects.

    While each P3 deal is unique, the private partners can be involved every phase — finance, design, construction, maintenance, and operation. That’s what happened with Virginia’s new Midtown tunnel in a 58-year agreement.

    A coalition led by Sweden-based Skanska and Australian financier Macquarie formed a consortium called Elizabeth River Crossings. In addition to building the new tunnel, ERC would refurbish the old Midtown tunnel, the one with all that traffic — fix another tunnel in Norfolk, and extend a nearby expressway that connects the tunnels.

    According to the builders the budget is just over $2 billion dollars. Virginia issued $638 million in bonds. And paid another $421 million in state funds. The Federal Department of Transportation loaned $441 million dollars. Skanska and Macquarie invested about $200 million. The rest, about 310 million, would come from tolls.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Richard Cavallaro is President of Skanska USA.

    RICHARD CAVALLARO: So the question would be, can the state have afforded to build the project without collecting tolls based on their own budget? And the answer is no. So that’s the real rub. It’s not so much the process. It’s how they’re recouping the payment. And that exists if it was triple P or not.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: The original proposal called for a toll between two and three dollars, but when the deal was signed in 2011, that was lowered to a $1.84 for use during peak hours.

    Then, Elizabeth river crossings was authorized to start collecting tolls on the old tunnel while building the new one, to generate 150 million dollars during the construction phase.

    Elizabeth River Crossings agreed to a fixed price for the project and assumes the risk of higher construction costs, lower toll revenue, and unanticipated maintenance costs.

    RICHARD CAVALLARO: The risk transfer in these jobs is gigantic. I mean, the state is getting a price certainty on schedule capital expenditure, operational expenditure, at a very early stage. I also, sometimes I’m not sure people really understand that risk transfer’s a big, big deal.

    TERRY MCAULIFFE: This was a horrible deal for taxpayers.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe inherited the project from his predecessor.

    TERRY MCAULIFFE: Exorbitant tolls to the toll riders, to the taxpayers of the commonwealth, start immediately even before any capacity was created. Created such an uproar. So I cut the tolls in half. I had to buy down the tolls.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: McAuliffe lowered the tunnel tolls by about 80 cents and eliminated them entirely for the new expressway. To reimburse ERC for the lost toll revenue, the state is expected to contribute close to 200 million dollars. Elizabeth River Crossings can increase future tolls up to three and half percent every year.

    KENNETH WRIGHT: I mean, can you imagine what that toll’s gonna look like in another five years, another ten years?

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Portsmouth Mayor Ken Wright says even with the reduction, the tolls hurt his constituents.

    KENNETH WRIGHT: We’ve got a great deal of our citizens that are making minimum wage that are working in hotels and restaurants over in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. And they have to travel through those tunnels every day. And so you imagine someone only making $15,000 to $20,000 a year, which is already a depressing number, and then having to give up $1,000 of that in a toll.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Mayor Wright refuses to drive the toll road. And some Portsmouth residents felt so strongly the tolls were unfair, they sued the state. In 2013, a circuit court judge deemed the tolls unconstitutional, but the Virginia Supreme Court reversed the ruling, allowing tolling to start in early 2014.

    Norfolk mayor Paul Fraim finds fault with another part of the 58-year deal — a non-compete clause saying Skanska and Macquarie are entitled to compensation if Virginia builds other roadways that reduce tunnel traffic and revenue.

    PAUL FRAIM: We’re working hard now to build another river crossing up at the Hampton roads. That deal tied our hands for some construction of water crossings, as far as the cost of it is concerned, for a half century. So this I mean, this is without any question the worst road deal that we’ve– tunnel deal that we have seen here in easily the last half-century. Or really, longer.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Elizabeth River crossings is subject to penalties if it misses construction deadlines. It hasn’t. And if it fails to consistently maintain the tunnels, the state can terminate its contract.

    The deal allows ERC to earn as much as 13.5 percent a year on its investment. Even with the second-guessing and political fallout over the agreement, Virginia is not ditching the P3 model.

    AUBREY LAYNE: We don’t blame the private parties.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Aubrey Layne is governor McAuliffe’s secretary of transportation.

    AUBREY LAYNE: Absolutely, P3s are a big part of our procurement. The private sector, I believe, has the edge and can do it in constructing. Probably operating. But not an edge if financing so what we should’ve done and what we do now is, ‘here’s what the project should be from a public policy standpoint. Here’s the infrastructure needed. Here’s what we can build it for.’ Now, from that project, let’s go to the private sector and say, ‘hey, can you improve on this? And if you can, we’d love to partner with you.’

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: This is really getting to the heart of that question that as a citizenry we’re having a louder conversation when it comes to what we pay for now and will we pay for it later.

    AUBREY LAYNE: Couldn’t agree more. We’ve been lulled into thinking that once you build infrastructure, you’re done. And now we’ve gotten to the point, we’ve got tunnels and interstates that are 60 years old that, yes, you pave them once in awhile. But the infrastructures gotta be redone.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Following reforms to their P3 process that increases guidelines and transparency, the state is now considering bids from the private sector to expand a section of interstate 66 outside of Washington D.C. The state is expected to announce the contract winner this fall.

    Skanska is among the bidders.Cavallaro says while the company is deeply involved in P3 projects abroad, the U.S. is a relatively new market.

    RICHARD CAVALLARO: There’s a real pipeline of projects now that many, many states have a solid process. They put out projects. There are more p3 projects out there to bid than we could actually bid.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: And with the P3, the, kind of, top line arguments are cheaper, faster, innovative?

    RICHARD CAVALLARO: Definitely from inception to facility and service, there’s no question, undisputable. It is quicker. And when you think about the cost of inflation and escalations over a time period, that’s a significant savings.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Last year Skanska was part of a group awarded a $3.6 billion dollar P3 contract to rebuild the main terminal of New York’s LaGuardia airport.

    This bridge over the Ohio River connecting Jeffersonville, Indiana, to Louisville, Kentucky, and due to open later this year, is also a P3. So is Miami’s tunnel, from its port to the interstate, which opened two years ago.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Are you getting increased calls from other governors for advice other states that are looking to enter this space? And if so what are you telling them?

    TERRY MCAULIFFE: I do start out by saying ‘yes, we have been a leader on P3s.’ But in fairness, we’ve also made our mistakes with P3s. Go into it very carefully. States are strapped for money. They think p3s are the great answer. They might be, but they might not be.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Does this represent a shift within the way we govern and the way we think about government?

    TERRY MCAULIFFE: I like it because you’re bringing the business sector in. And I always think, you know, it’s important for business to have a reasonable profit. I think it’s important if you can have a business in. I think that helps. But if you can extend out and get more bang for your buck, and I can get more transportation done by bringing the private sector in, where I’ve protected the taxpayers on the risk piece, we’ve done the transfer of risk, and the private sector can make a reasonable profit, that’s a win/win for everybody.

    The post Should the private sector help rebuild American infrastructure? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus (L) and co-chair Sharon Day listen to a video during a general session at the Republican National Committee Spring Meeting at the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Florida, April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper - RTX2B93H

    Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and co-chair Sharon Day listen to a video during a general session at the Republican National Committee Spring Meeting at the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Florida, April 22, 2016. Photo by Joe Skipper/Reuters

    HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — So, it turns out you don’t have to be nominated to become the Republican presidential nominee.

    Seriously.

    At least for now.

    That’s one rules oddity that became clear last week as the 168 members of the Republican National Committee and top party functionaries met in beachside splendor to discuss the GOP’s messy search for a consensus presidential candidate.

    Three months from now, the 2,472 delegates to the party’s nominating convention in Cleveland will have to decide whether to recast that or other bylaws that will help decide who becomes GOP standard-bearer in the November elections.

    Some impressions from last week’s RNC meetings:

    I HEREBY NOMINATE …

    In a background briefing for reporters, GOP officials shed light on a curious anomaly.

    Under current rules, the party conducts an initial roll call to formally place in nomination those vying to become the GOP presidential candidate. But you don’t have to be among the competitors nominated to receive delegates’ votes when the convention holds its next ballot – or ballots – to choose the party’s actual nominee.

    Of the GOP’s existing 42 rules, the most discussed is 40(b). It says that to be among those nominated, candidates must submit certificates showing support by a majority of delegates from at least eight states.

    Yet the aides also noted that there’s another rule – 16(a)(2). It says that during voting to select a final nominee, the votes of delegates required by their states to support a specific candidate must be tallied for that person. GOP officials said that is true even if that candidate failed to be formally nominated in the initial roll call.

    “Unbound” delegates – 150 to 200 in the first ballot, many more in later ballots – can also vote for whoever they want, whether that contender has been formally nominated or not.

    Does this open the door for an outsider candidate elbowing aside frontrunners Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and capturing the nomination? Perhaps.

    Why does the GOP have rule 40(b) at all?

    It was approved at the 2012 convention, controlled by that year’s candidate, Mitt Romney. The rule was aimed at preventing supporters of rival Ron Paul from sapping up valuable television time with a raucous nominating speech, a potential embarrassment to the front-runner.

    WILL THE RULES CHANGE IN CLEVELAND?

    Yes, and reshaping those conflicting nominating rules is one likely example.

    The RNC will recommend rules changes just before the summer convention begins, but those are only suggestions. The rules in Cleveland will be whatever the delegates vote to approve.

    Since most delegates will be committed to Trump and Cruz, those men will also have a major say in shaping the convention bylaws as their campaigns and others jockey for advantage.

    Trump has repeatedly accused RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and other party leaders of running a nominating process with “rigged” rules. Since many party leaders consider Trump and Cruz likely losers in November, many grassroots Republicans – as well as backers of Trump and Cruz – suspect that leaders hope to allow a “white knight” candidate to ride away with the nomination.

    For that scenario, a chief object of suspicion remains House Speaker Paul Ryan, a longtime friend of fellow Wisconsinite Priebus, despite Ryan’s assertion that he won’t accept the nomination.

    Sensitive to that skepticism, party officials have repeatedly said they won’t recommend any changes that would expose them to charges that they favor somebody. But at the same time, they admit changes are coming.

    As Sean Cairncross, the party’s chief operating officer, said in a video shown Friday to RNC members, “There’s no reason why the rules that governed Romney’s delegates should be used to govern you.”

    WHAT CHANGES DO THE CANDIDATES WANT?

    If you were Trump or Cruz, you might love new rules that prevent the “white knight” scenario by making fresh nominations impossible. You might also want to free up delegates for former candidates like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ben Carson to support you, instead of sticking with the candidate that state laws or party rules “bind” them to support.

    Republicans say operatives for Trump, Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, another hopeful, are working at state conventions to win allies on the national convention’s rules committee. That committee has 112 members, two delegates from each state and territory chosen by each state’s delegation.

    “They just want friendly voices” on that committee, said Steve Duprey, an RNC member from New Hampshire.

    But there’s a danger in pushing too hard and alienating GOP voters.

    “You’ve got to play by the rules or it’s going to be all-out war,” said Dave Agema, the RNC committeeman from Michigan. “If they try anything, the perception will be, ‘You’re trying to change something for someone.'”

    With conservatives like Agema up in arms over potential rules changes by the GOP establishment, that puts the presidential campaigns in an awkward position when it comes to speaking openly about any rules changes they might want.

    Hence, cautious statements.

    “We trust the delegates,” Jeff Roe, Cruz’s campaign manager, told a reporter last week when asked about the rules changes he’d like.

    The post Why you don’t have to be nominated to become the GOP nominee appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington, Delaware, U.S. April 22, 2016.   REUTERS/Jim Bourg - RTX2BA0W

    Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington, Delaware, U.S. April 22, 2016. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    HARRINGTON, Del. — Donald Trump keeps hammering away at Republican insiders even as campaign aides are gingerly courting those same officials.

    “The system is all rigged,” Trump said Friday at a Delaware rally as he looked ahead to the state’s primary. “That’s why we have to win big. That’s why on Tuesday, everyone has to go out and vote. We have to win big because the system is rigged.”

    It may seem counterproductive, but Trump’s foot-stomping has served as a rallying cry to boost turnout and reinforce his appeal to voters who feel disenfranchised. The “rigged” system argument is a convenient scapegoat, shifting the blame for any future potential losses and lost delegates away from a campaign that has been outmaneuvered.

    Trump has won more states than his rivals, yet his team has been badly outplayed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in ensuring that supportive delegates make it to the GOP convention in July in Cleveland.

    Pennsylvania, one of five states voting Tuesday, has an especially confusing delegate system.

    The primary winner will emerge with 17 delegates. But 54 delegates can vote for whomever they want. The ballot will feature 162 potential delegates, but it will offer no information about whom they support. That means voters who haven’t consulted with the campaigns about their rosters will be in the dark.

    Trump’s argument would only grow stronger if he were to win the majority of votes in Pennsylvania – opinion surveys show him with a significant lead – yet emerge with fewer delegates than Cruz.

    Trump has been relentless in his criticism of the delegate system, slamming party “bosses” and calling out the Republican National Committee and its chairman, Reince Priebus.

    On Friday, Trump compared himself to a prize fighter competing in rival territory.

    “The fighters have a great expression. When you have a champ that goes into a big territory but it’s unfriendly; it’s home of the other fighter. But the good ones go, ‘No, no, I’m not worried,'” he said. “‘Because if I knock him out there’s nothing the judges can do. Right? What we have to do is knock them out with the volume of our votes.”

    Earlier in the week, at a Florida resort where GOP officials gathered to discuss the presidential nominating process, Trump campaign aide Paul Manafort brushed off the idea that Trump’s rhetoric was making it more difficult to build bridges with party leaders.

    “What he’s slamming is the system. He’s saying the system is rigged. And the system is rigged. It’s rigged in all 50 states where they have different rules and that don’t take into account modern presidential campaigns,” Manafort said.

    Manafort added that Trump wanted to work with Priebus to change the system for the next election. “That’s where things are getting confused,” he said. “He’s saying we’ve got to change rules so the next time, when people vote, their vote counts.”

    Nonetheless, frustration with Trump’s attacks on the RNC and the integrity of the nomination process were widespread at the party meeting in Hollywood, Florida, even as Trump’s team was trying to make amends.

    In a private meeting Thursday with GOP officials, Manafort tried to assure them that Trump was on their side and prepared to fundraise for the party. He stressed that the candidate had had some “very good” conversations with Priebus and said the campaign hoped to work closely with state leaders to build its general election campaign.

    In Delaware, Trump’s supporters said the billionaire is right to be angry at the delegate process.

    “It’s not democratic,” said Paul Eugstenberg, 72, a retired pilot from Dover. “This should be decided by the voters. It should not be decided at the convention. They have to fix this. This is not how this should work.”

    Some suggested that if Trump were leading the delegate race going into the convention only to have someone else nominated, it would make them consider staying home in November instead of voting for the Republican nominee.

    “If this is taken from Mr. Trump, it would destroy the Republican Party,” said Debbie Patty, a retired teacher from Greenwood. “People would think their vote doesn’t count and that the party doesn’t care about them.”

    “I would never vote for a Democrat, but I’m not sure I could vote for a Republican in that scenario, either,” Patty said. “That means not voting at all, and I hate that idea. But it might be what I have to do.”

    Colvin reported from New Jersey. Associated Press writer Steve Peoples in Hollywood, Florida, contributed to this report.

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    Republican U.S. presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz shakes hands with supporters during a campaign event in Williamsport Pennsylvania, U.S., April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTX2B83U

    Republican U.S. presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz shakes hands with supporters during a campaign event in Williamsport Pennsylvania, U.S., April 22, 2016. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    AUSTIN, Texas — When Ted Cruz kicked off his White House bid at Liberty University, he told the crowd “y’all can probably relate” to the $100,000-plus in student loan debt he ran up in college and paid off only a few years ago. Since then he’s appealed for support from college seniors who are piled with student loans and scared about the prospects for getting out of debt.

    But Cruz hasn’t offered a plan to cut the cost of college and, in the Senate, opposed letting millions of Americans reduce their student loan payments. While working previously as a private lawyer in Houston, Cruz helped represent a lender who went to the Supreme Court to keep an Arizona man from avoiding interest payments on his student loans by filing for bankruptcy.

    Cruz’s half-sister, Roxana, borrowed about $35,000 before graduating from medical school at Boston University in 1991, then defied years of court orders in two states before finally settling the case by paying more than $64,000.

    None of this helps the Texas senator’s appeal with young voters. Many turned out for the Iowa caucuses won by Cruz, but Republicans under 30 generally haven’t voted in significant numbers in many states since then. On average Cruz has been supported by 27 percent of those under 30 across all states with exit polling, compared with 30 percent for Republican rival Donald Trump.

    Student loans can be a thorny issue for candidates. Trump has offered few ideas for easing student debt except to say the federal government shouldn’t profit from such loans. Democrat Hillary Clinton came out last summer with a $350 billion plan to make college more affordable, only to be widely mocked after she asked on Twitter: “How does your student loan debt make you feel? Tell us in 3 emojis or less.” The other Democrat in the race, Bernie Sanders, has gone the furthest on the issue with an expensive plan for free college education.

    Alessandra Gennarelli, a University of Texas sophomore who is co-chairwoman of Millennials for Cruz, says the candidate’s own struggle with college debt helps people relate to him and she’s not bothered that he doesn’t have a plan to lower college costs. “The main thing is fixing the economy,” she said.

    Cruz wrote in his autobiography that he relied heavily on student loans in college at Princeton while working two jobs, making $7.50 per hour at the campus video service and twice that at the tutoring company Princeton Review. Things got easier after he graduated from Harvard Law School. Before joining the Senate in 2013, Cruz was a private attorney in Houston where he made $1.7 million in salary and bonuses during his final year.

    There, Cruz opposed Francisco Espinosa, an airline baggage handler who incurred more than $13,000 in debts to attend technical school in Arizona but then filed for bankruptcy – proposing to pay back the principal of his loan over time but not roughly $4,000 in interest.

    Cruz helped represent Espinosa’s lender and objected to bankruptcy protection because the original judge had not included a finding that paying back the loans with interest was an “undue hardship.”

    A brief co-signed by Cruz argued that excusing interest payments could “open the floodgates” and let others duck debts including “taxes, domestic support obligations, drunk driving personal injury and death liabilities and criminal fines and restitution.”

    The case reached the Supreme Court, which ruled 9-0 against Cruz’s side. Charles Wirken, an Arizona attorney who also represented the lender, said, “We didn’t really care about (Espinosa’s) $20,000. It was the millions and millions and millions of dollars at stake in other bankruptcies.”

    “If people could go to school, borrow money – tens of, or hundreds of thousands of dollars – and then just turn around and … dash into a bankruptcy and get it discharged, that would have substantial consequences,” Wirken said. He contended, despite the high court’s unanimous decision, that Cruz was “on the side of the law and rules.”

    Cruz’s half-sister spent years on the wrong side of her student loan. Court records showed that Boston University sued Roxana L. Cruz in June 1999 for failing to pay $34,735 in student loans and attorney’s fees. That November, the Boston Municipal Court ordered Cruz to pay nearly $38,000, but she didn’t comply until Boston University sued her again in 2007, this time in New York, where she was then living. She settled the case the following January for nearly $64,300 including more than $26,000 in interest that had accrued on the original borrowed amount.

    Roxana is the daughter of Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael, before he married Ted’s mother. Now a physician in the Dallas suburb of Greenville, Texas, she has declined to speak to reporters. Cruz’s campaign also declined to answer questions about the case.

    In the Senate, Cruz opposed efforts in 2014 and last year to let millions of borrowers refinance student loans at lower interest rates. He and other Senate Republicans teamed up to defeat Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposals because they would have been paid for by increasing taxes on rich Americans – setting increased minimum rates for people making over $1 million.

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    People hold up face masks with William Shakespeare's portrait during celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of the playwright's death in the city of his birth, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Britain, April 23, 2016. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez - RTX2BATR

    People hold up face masks with William Shakespeare’s portrait during celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death in the city of his birth, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Britain, April 23, 2016. Dylan Martinez/Reuters

    Four hundred years after his death, which occurred on this day in 1616, fans of William Shakespeare are finding myriad ways to be or not to be celebrating his life.

    In Shakespeare’s hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, approximately 100 miles northeast of London, thousands wearing Shakespeare face masks and Elizabethan costumes paraded and toured the 16th century house where he was born in 1564.

    It was in this house where he started a family, but left to London for stardom. It was also this market town to which he returned for retirement.

    In London, President Barack Obama topped off his final day in London at the Globe Theater, a replica of the circular, open-air playhouse Shakespeare designed in 1599 before it burned in 1613 just yards away.

    Obama watched the theater’s Globe to Globe troupe present a 10-minute portion of Hamlet, amid the group’s two-year tour, performing across 200 countries including in Kabul, Afghanistan and a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan.

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

    Online, NPR’s blog “the salt” compiled a series of articles examining the link between food and the ubiquitous storyteller. One reveals what archaeologists found when they excavated his original theaters: evidence of grapes, figs, chickens and oysters. Another breaks down how he used food as racy code.

    In Shakespeare’s 37 plays, more than 1,200 characters speak more than 880,000 words to each other. Here at PBS NewsHour we compiled a data scientist’s visual representation of how complex some of his plays are based on how often characters interact.

    Tourists watch actors perform at the house where William Shakespeare was born during celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of the playwright's death in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Britain, April 23, 2016. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez - RTX2BBGQ

    Tourists watch actors perform at the house where William Shakespeare was born during celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Britain, April 23, 2016. Photo by Dylan Martinez/Reuters

    Nature’s arts blog speculates how celestial dramas that coincided with his lifetime may have influenced his plays. Smithsonian resurfaced an old posting that differentiates between current English accents and Shakespearean ones. There’s also this short list of cliches with roots from Shakespeare’s plays including break the ice and kill with kindness.

    And the New York Times has an irresistible long read and interactive full of anecdotes such as how his name was sometimes spelled “Shakspeare, or Shagspere, or Shaxpere, or Shaxberd,” because Elizabethan spelling was notoriously variable.

    What’s your favorite Shakespeare play? Share your views in the comments below.

    The post Celebrations across the globe honor Shakespeare 400 years after his death appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A girl is pictured next to a line of clothes hung out to dry outside a tent at the Reales Tamarindos airport which is used as a shelter, after being evacuated from her home in Portoviejo, after an earthquake struck off Ecuador's Pacific coast, April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero - RTX2BA3T

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    MEGAN THOMPSON, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Officials in Ecuador say the massive earthquake one week ago today has killed at least 600 people, injured more than 4,500 others and left 25,000 homeless. Eighty percent of the coastal city of Pedernales, the quake’s epicenter, is said to be in ruins. Beyond the human cost of the tragedy, Ecuador now faces a struggle to find the funds to rebuild.

    “Wall Street Journal” reporter Sara Schaefer Munoz has been reporting from Ecuador this week and joins me now via Skype from Bogota, Colombia.

    Sara, I understand you’ve been traveling around Ecuador. Can you tell me, what have you seen?

    SARA SCHAEFER MUNOZ, WALL STREET JOURNAL: There’s a lot of devastation, especially along the coastal areas. That’s where the epicenter of the quake was, and there are a lot of small cities that started out really 10, 15 years ago with the small fishing villages that have grown into tourist hubs. Unfortunately, after the quake, 7.8 magnitude a week ago, these cities are now left almost in ruins.

    In Pedernales, 80 percent of buildings are destroyed and the mayor has told me, you know, now we’re just going to have to start again from zero.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: How was the distribution of food, water, and other emergency supplies going?

    SARA SCHAEFER MUNOZ: Initially, it was all right. The first day or two, the food seemed to be getting there. Water seemed to be getting there from local governments and from donations. But in the past couple of days, there’s been severe delays. Many people now are being left without supplies, even though there are plenty of supplies coming into the country from other regions of the country and internationally.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Ecuador’s economy was in a downturn before the quake. Can you talk about what was behind that and how it’s going to affect that nation’s ability to pay for recovery?

    SARA SCHAEFER MUNOZ: Honestly, this could not come at a worst time for Ecuador. It was already undergoing a pretty major financial crisis. After growing, you know, as much as 4 percent a year over the past decade under the administration of President Rafael Correa and the high oil prices, it was now facing a contraction of about 4.6 percent this year.

    So, Ecuador was already on the brink of a pretty severe economic crisis when the earthquake struck, which is going to make rebuilding even more costly, more difficult, and could take quite a long time.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: I understand that the president has proposed or imposed a new tax to help pay for the recovery. Can you talk about his plan and how is it being received by the public?

    SARA SCHAEFER MUNOZ: On Wednesday night, President Correa announced a tax. He said, you know, all Ecuadorians have to shoulder the burden of this earthquake. You know, it shouldn’t be disproportionately placed on the people of the coastal areas. So, he said that sales — for years, he’s going to raise sales tax from 12 percent to 14 percent, and then everybody has to give a percentage of their wages, depending on how much they make.

    But the taxes were not very well-received. Just yesterday, the mayor of Guayaquil, the major port city along the coast, said that if the country weren’t in such an economic crisis, the taxes would make sense.

    But all this is going to do is slow the economy even more. People are going to consume less, buy less, and so forth. So, he was highly critical of the move.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: All right. Sara Schaefer Munoz from “The Wall Street Journal”, thank you so much for joining us.

    SARA SCHAEFER MUNOZ: Thank you.

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    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at Crosby High School, in Waterbury, Connecticut, U.S., April 23, 2016.  REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz - RTX2BCP5

    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at Crosby High School, in Waterbury, Connecticut, U.S., April 23, 2016. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

    WATERBURY, Conn. — A confident Donald Trump told supporters Saturday that he’s “not toning it down,” a day after his chief adviser assured Republican officials the GOP front-runner will show more restraint on the campaign trail.

    “I’m not toning it down,” Trump told a cheering crowd of 3,000 people, packed into a high school gymnasium in Waterbury, Connecticut. “Isn’t it nice that I’m not one of these teleprompter guys?”

    Trump’s new chief adviser Paul Manafort met Friday with top Republican officials and told them his candidate, known for over-the-top persona and brashness, has been “projecting an image.”

    “The part that he’s been playing is now evolving,” Manafort said.

    At the Waterbury rally, the first of two being held Saturday in Connecticut, Trump joked about how it’s easy to be presidential, making a series of faux somber faces. But he said told the crowd he can be serious and policy-minded when he has to be.

    “He said, ‘you know, Donald can be different when he’s in a room.’ Who isn’t,” asked Trump. “When I’m out here talking to you people, I’ve got to be different.”

    The Republican front-runner is campaigning in Connecticut ahead of Tuesday’s quintet of primaries in the Northeast that includes Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

    This report was written by Susan Haigh of the Associated Press.

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    A woman walks past a voting sign at Public School 22 on April 19, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Voters went to the polls in New York for the presidential primary election on April 19, 2016. About 126,000 people were taken off the voter rolls and the New York City Board of Elections chief Brooklyn clerk was suspended.  Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

    A woman walks past a voting sign at Public School 22 on April 19, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. About 126,000 people were taken off the voter rolls in Brooklyn, spurring official inquiries. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

    Multiple investigations were launched and a top election official was suspended this week after tens of thousands of registered voters were found to be missing from the rolls during Tuesday’s Democratic primary in New York.

    The purge drew the attention of city and state officials and raised concerns in a state already under fire for years over its election practices.

    Officials were particularly focused on the New York City Board of Election’s removal of roughly 126,000 registered Democrats in Brooklyn, during what the board said was routine maintenance of voter registration lists.

    By Thursday the board had suspended its chief clerk in Brooklyn.

    New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he would open an inquiry after his office received more than 1,000 complaints on Tuesday alone, a number that rose significantly from the 2012 election cycle.

    “By most accounts, voters cast their ballots smoothly and successfully,” Schneiderman said in a statement issued on Wednesday. “However, I am deeply troubled by the volume and consistency of voting irregularities, both in public reports and direct complaints to my office’s voter hotline.”

    Meanwhile, in a move backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer said he plans to audit the Board of Elections.

    A person sits while completing a ballot at the polling center at the James Weldon Johnson Community Center during the New York primary elections in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York City, U.S., April 19, 2016.  REUTERS/Andrew Kelly  - RTX2AP2S

    A person sits while completing a ballot at the polling center at the James Weldon Johnson Community Center during the New York primary elections in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York City, U.S., April 19, 2016. Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters

    Michael J. Ryan, who is executive director of the board and oversees approximately 1,200 polling places stretching across the city, told local media the board removed people who had moved out of the borough, had not responded to the board’s mailers requesting updated information, had not voted during the last two federal election cycles or were convicted of a felony.

    “We send you a notice in the mail saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to cancel your voter registration if you don’t respond back to us,” Ryan told NY1 this week. “Only those individuals who did not respond back to our intent to cancel notice were ultimately archived.”

    About 12,000 had moved out of the borough, another 44,000 people were moved from active to inactive voters and an additional 70,000 people were taken off  the inactive voter list, the board said.

    But many voters who called in to local radio shows, contacted elections officials and spoke to the volley of journalists covering the hard-fought New York state primary said they did not fit under any of those parameters and were still taken off the rolls.

    People line up to check into their voting station at Public School 321 on April 19, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Long lines were among a volley of complaints against the New York City Board of Elections.  Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

    People line up to check into their voting station at Public School 321 on April 19, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Long lines were among a volley of complaints against the New York City Board of Elections. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

    Others complained about long lines, shuttered polling locations and inexperienced polling-place employees. Entire blocks and buildings of voters in some districts were purged from the voter rolls, de Blasio said.

    New York state has been the target of criticisms for years over its primary and general elections protocols, which critics say are one reason why the state lags behind much of the nation in voter turnout.

    The city had a “historic low” turnout of 20 percent for the November 2014 elections, while the state ranked 46th in the nation for that election cycle, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which called the state’s practices “restrictive.”

    Stringer, the city comptroller, said with several more elections coming up this year, his office would quickly delve into the audit of the city’s Board of Elections. He also issued a letter to Mr. Ryan, laying out his concerns.

    “There is nothing more sacred in our nation than the right to vote, yet election after election, reports come in of people who were inexplicably purged from the polls, told to vote at the wrong location or unable to get in to their polling site,” Stringer said in a statement released Tuesday. “The people of New York City have lost confidence that the Board of Elections can effectively administer elections and we intend to find out why the BOE is so consistently disorganized, chaotic and inefficient.”

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    Senator's Lindsey Graham (L) and John McCain (R) talk on the Senate's subway before voting on Capitol Hill in Washington March 17, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron - RTSAY5R

    Senator’s Lindsey Graham (L) and John McCain (R) talk on the Senate’s subway before voting on Capitol Hill in Washington March 17, 2016. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Senate’s leading Republican voices on national security are assembling an indictment of Donald Trump’s worldview by soliciting rebuttals from U.S. military leaders that challenge the accuracy and legality of the GOP presidential front-runner’s most provocative foreign policy positions.

    Over the past few months, Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, two of Trump’s sharpest GOP critics, have used their posts on Senate the Armed Services Committee to fact-check Trump’s claims.

    Without mentioning the bombastic billionaire’s name, they’ve asked senior officers who testify before the committee about waterboarding extremists, the consequences of targeting terrorists’ families, and whether NATO and America’s other key alliances have become obsolete.

    Connecting the threads over weeks of hearings would produce a record of remarks that could be strung together and used by opponents of the presidential candidate.

    To demonstrate his fitness to be commander in chief, Trump is planning to tone down his brash personality and deliver a foreign affairs address on Wednesday – the first in a series of policy speeches. He also is planning a separate speech on the military, telling The Associated Press in a recent interview that people may be surprised by “how well I’ll handle matters relative to the military.”

    Omitting Trump’s name from the conversation allows the generals and admirals questioned by the senators to stay apolitical and out of the 2016 presidential campaign. But it’s obvious that McCain, the committee’s chairman, and Graham, who waged an unsuccessful bid for his party’s White House nomination, are asking about positions Trump has staked out that have rattled the Republican Party and unnerved U.S. allies.

    Aides to the senators said there’s no coordination or strategy between the two. But McCain and Graham are close friends and foreign policy hawks. It’s not unusual to see them together on the floor of the Senate, hammering the Obama administration over the Iran nuclear deal, the civil war in Syria or troop levels in Afghanistan.

    Graham also wrote the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford. Without citing Trump’s name, he inquired about the billionaire’s pledge, if elected, to bring back the use of waterboarding – which causes the sensation of drowning – and worse against captured militants. Congress has outlawed waterboarding along with other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.

    Trump also said he would order the military to kill family members of militants who threaten the U.S., a position he has since retreated from after being heavily criticized.

    Dunford responded to Graham last week in a carefully worded letter that said violating the laws of war “diminish the support of the American people and the populace of Democratic states, including allies who might otherwise support or participate in coalition operations.”

    Graham, a retired Air Force lawyer, has called Trump’s foreign policy “gibberish” and “ill-conceived.” Graham half-heartedly endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas for president because Cruz is “not completely crazy.”

    McCain, an ex-Navy fighter pilot and the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, hasn’t wavered from his position that he will support the Republican nominee. But he’s bristled over what he’s called Trump’s “uninformed and dangerous statements on national security issues.”

    Examples of McCain’s and Graham’s fact-checking approach were on display this past week.

    On April 19, when the Army general selected to lead U.S. forces in South Korea testified before the committee, McCain seized the opportunity to undermine Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. withdraw its forces from the South because Seoul isn’t paying enough to cover the cost of the American military presence.

    “Isn’t it the fact that it costs us less to have troops stationed in Korea than in the United States, given the contribution the Republic of Korea makes?” McCain asked Gen. Vincent Brooks.

    Yes, Brooks said, telling McCain the South Koreans pay half, or $808 million annually, of the U.S. presence there.

    Brooks added that the South Koreans are footing the bill for more than 90 percent of a $10.8 billion project to build a base where U.S. troops will be stationed.

    Two days later, Trump’s claim that NATO is irrelevant and ill-suited to fight terrorism came under the microscope. As president, Trump has said he would force member nations to increase their contributions, even if that risked breaking up the 28-country alliance.

    Responding to a series of questions from Graham, Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, picked to be the top American commander in Europe, assured the committee of NATO’s critical importance to the U.S. Breaking up the alliance, Scaparrotti warned, would benefit Russia, the Islamic State group and even the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    The issue of torture is personal to McCain, who was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for more than five years and badly abused by his captors. During a committee hearing in February, McCain asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper if he agreed that information gained through waterboarding and other methods of torture came at too high a cost for the United States.

    “I do,” said Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general.

    “Isn’t it the fact that this is — American values are such that just no matter what the enemy does, that we maintain a higher standard of behavior? And when we violate that, as we did with Abu Ghraib, that the consequences are severe?” said McCain, referring to the prison scandal in Iraq.

    “Yes, sir,” Clapper responded.

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    The U.S. Capitol dome is pictured in the pre-dawn darkness in Washington in this file general view photo taken October 18, 2013.    REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Files - RTSCJU7

    The U.S. Capitol dome is pictured in the pre-dawn darkness in Washington in this file general view photo taken October 18, 2013. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Files/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will likely soon release at least part of a 28-page secret chapter from a congressional inquiry into 9/11 that may shed light on possible Saudi connections to the attackers.

    The documents, kept in a secure room in the basement of the Capitol, contain information from the joint congressional inquiry into “specific sources of foreign support for some of the Sept. 11 hijackers while they were in the United States.”

    Bob Graham, who was co-chairman of that bipartisan panel, and others say the documents point suspicion at the Saudis. The former Democratic senator from Florida says an administration official told him that intelligence officials will decide in the next several weeks whether to release at least parts of the documents. The disclosure would come at a time of strained U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia, a long-time American ally.

    Tim Roemer, who was a member of both the joint congressional inquiry as well as the 9/11 Commission and has read the secret chapter three times, described the 28 pages as a “preliminary police report.”

    “There were clues. There were allegations. There were witness reports. There was evidence about the hijackers, about people they met with – all kinds of different things that the 9/11 Commission was then tasked with reviewing and investigating,” the former Democratic congressman from Indiana said Friday.

    Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government says it has been “wrongfully and morbidly accused of complicity” in the attacks, is fighting extremists and working to clamp down on their funding channels. Still, the Saudis have long said that they would welcome declassification of the 28 pages because it would “allow us to respond to any allegations in a clear and credible manner.”

    The pages were withheld from the 838-page report on the orders of President George W. Bush, who said the release could divulge intelligence sources and methods. Still, protecting U.S.-Saudi diplomatic relations also was believed to have been a factor.

    Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said Obama asked National Intelligence director James Clapper to review the papers for possible declassification.

    “When that’s done we’d expect that there will be some degree of declassification that provides more information,” Rhodes told reporters in Riyadh last week where Obama met with King Salman and other Saudi leaders. The White House says the 28 pages did not come up during discussions.

    Neither the congressional inquiry nor the subsequent 9/11 Commission found any evidence that the Saudi government or senior Saudi officials knowingly supported those who orchestrated the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. But Graham, the relatives of victims and some lawmakers think there is reason to further probe possible Saudi links.

    Roemer said many questions remain about the roles of Fahad al Thumairy, an official at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles who allegedly helped two of the hijackers find housing and transportation after they arrived in Southern California. Al Thumairy was later denied entry into the United States in May 2003 after the State Department alleged that he might be involved in terrorist activity. Roemer also wants to know more about Omar al Bayoumi, who was strongly suspected of being a Saudi spy and was alleged to have been helpful to the hijackers.

    “We did not discover … Saudi government involvement at the highest level of the 9/11 attacks,” Roemer said. But he added: “We certainly did not exonerate the Saudis. … Saudi was a fertile ground for fundraising for al-Qaida. Some of these issues continue to be problems today. That’s why we need to continue to get to the bottom of this.”

    The online 28pages.org, an Internet site pushing to get the documents released, points to another document declassified in July 2015 that outlined ways in which the commission could examine possible Saudi links.

    The 47-page document lists several pages of individuals of interest and suggests questions that could be pursued. One name is suspected al-Qaida operative Ghassan al Sharbi.

    Al Sharbi, who was taking flight lessons in the Phoenix area before 9/11, was captured in 2002 in the same place in Pakistan as Abu Zubaydah, a top al-Qaida trainer who was apprehended and waterboarded dozens of times by U.S. interrogators.

    The document said that after al Sharbi was captured, the FBI discovered some documents buried nearby. One was al Sharbi’s pilot certificate inside an envelope from the Saudi Embassy in Washington, although it’s unclear whether the license had been mailed by the embassy or if the envelope was simply being reused.

    A CIA’s inspector general report in June 2015 said there had been no reliable reporting confirming Saudi government “involvement with and financial support for terrorist prior to 9/11.” But it also that people in the CIA’s Near East Division and Counterterrorism Center “speculated that dissident sympathizers within the government may have aided al-Qaida.” The rest of chapter, titled “Issues related to Saudi Arabia,” is blacked out.

    A bill directing the president to release the 28-page chapter was introduced in the Senate, and nearly three dozen Republicans and Democrats in the House are backing a similar resolution.

    Reps. Walter Jones, R-N.C., Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., and Thomas Massie, R-Ky., wrote Obama last week saying they don’t think releasing the chapter will harm national security and could provide closure for the victims’ families.

    California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has read the pages and said this past week that while he wants to see them declassified to end speculation about what they say, releasing them will not quell the debate over the issue.

    “As is often the case, the reality is less damaging than the uncertainty,” he said.

    This report was written by Deb Riechmann of the Associated Press.

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    German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama speak to media during a news conference after their talks at Schloss Herrenhausen in Hanover, Germany April 24, 2016.          REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay   - RTX2BFGJ

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama speak to media during a news conference after their talks at Schloss Herrenhausen in Hanover, Germany April 24, 2016. Photo by Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

    HANNOVER, Germany — President Barack Obama delivered a strong defense of international trade deals Sunday in the face of domestic and foreign opposition, saying it’s “indisputable” that such agreements strengthen the economies and make U.S. businesses more competitive worldwide.

    Obama, on a farewell visit to Germany as president, is trying to counter public skepticism about a trans-Atlantic trade deal with Europe, while also facing down criticism from the 2016 presidential candidates of a pending Asia-Pacific trade pact.

    Despite all that, Obama said, “the majority of people still favor trade. They still recognize, on balance, that it’s a good idea.”

    “It is indisputable that it has made our economy stronger,” Obama said about international trade. He said he was confident the trans-Atlantic trade deal could be completed by the end of year, to be presented for ratification. Obama said that once the U.S. presidential election is over and politics settle down, the trans-Pacific pact can “start moving forward.”

    Obama, at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said the leaders had discussed economic and security issues facing Europe. He credited Germany for being a strong partner on efforts to counter the Islamic State group and to provide humanitarian relief to refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria.

    But he reiterated U.S. opposition to the idea of establishing a “safe zone” in Syrian territory because of it would be impractical to put in place.

    “As a practical matter, sadly, it is very difficult to see how it would operate short of us essentially being willing to militarily take over a chunk of that country,” he said.

    Obama spoke after Merkel rolled out the red carpet for him at Hannover’s Herrenhausen Palace, a rebuilt version of the former summer royal residence destroyed in World War II. After reviewing German troops in a palace garden, they climbed a spiral staircase and stepped inside for private talks.

    Obama made a point to give a public show of support for Merkel’s “courageous” handling of the migrant issue.

    Merkel, he said, “is on the right side of history on this.”

    Her decision to allow the resettlement in her country of thousands fleeing violence in Syria and other Mideast conflict zones created an angry domestic backlash. Merkel recently helped European countries reach a deal with Turkey to ease the flow, but she and the other leaders are now under pressure to revisit it.

    Obama has a tough sell to make for the trade deal known as TTIP, particularly in Germany. He was joining Merkel later Sunday to open the Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial technology trade fair, and promote the agreement.

    Thousands of people took to the streets in protest in Hannover on Saturday, before Obama arrived. Some carried placards that said “Yes We Can – Stop TTIP!” It was a riff on Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign slogan.

    In November, more than 100,000 people in Berlin protested against the proposed pact.

    Proponents say the deal would boost business at a time of global economic uncertainty. Critics fear the erosion of consumer protections and environmental standards.

    Negotiators in Washington and Europe are trying to finalize key parts of the deal before the end of the year, after which Obama’s successor and election campaigns in major European countries could further complicate the already difficult negotiations.

    Obama said it was important to conclude negotiations even though ratification would be unlikely before he leaves office. “But if we have that deal, then the next president can pick that up rapidly and get that done,” he told the BBC in an interview broadcast Sunday.

    It’s not certain that the next president would pick up where Obama leaves off on the trade deal. The pact has not been a top issue in the campaign to choose Obama’s successor. Both leading candidates – Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump – oppose the Asia-Pacific trade pact for its potential impact on American jobs and wages.

    On Monday, Obama was joining Merkel to tour the trade show and giving a speech on challenges facing the U.S. and Europe.

    Merkel also used the occasion of Obama’s visit to invite the leaders of France, Britain and Italy to Hannover for a meeting Monday to discuss Syria, Libya, IS, migration and other issues.

    Superville reported from Aerzen, Germany. Associated Press writers Kathleen Hennessey and Frank Jordans in Hannover, Germany, contributed to this report.

    The post Obama delivers strong defense of international trade deals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Prison inmates stand in line as they prepare to dance in opposition of violence against women as they participate in a One Billion Rising event at the San Francisco County Jail #5 on Valentine's Day in San Bruno, California February 14, 2013. The event, with participants from 250 countries performing a choreographed dance routine on a day associated with romantic love, aims to raise awareness about violence against women in which one in three women across the globe will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. REUTERS/Stephen Lam (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTR3DT6Q

    Prison inmates stand in San Bruno, California on Feb. 14, 2013. In San Francisco, only about six percent of the population is black, according to the U.S. Census, yet an analysis commissioned by Adachi found nearly half of the city’s inmates are black. The public defender’s office is trying to take on this disparity in part by contesting bail in most cases. Photo by Stephen Lam/Reuters

    In San Francisco, black inmates are less likely than their white counterparts to get out of jail ahead of trial despite being more frequently eligible for release, according to a report commissioned by the city’s public defender’s office.

    In part to take on this disparity, San Francisco’s public defender Jeff Adachi has assembled what he calls the Bail Unit – comprised of two lawyers, two paralegals and a handful of interns – that aims to free defendants from jail ahead of trial.

    Since September, the team has contested bail in more than 220 cases. About half of the petitions were denied, but in 70 cases bail was either reduced or eliminated. The others were either dismissed entirely or were not heard because of other reasons, such as the client getting a private attorney.

    “This is often the most important decision that can be made in the case,” Adachi said. “If the client is not released, the chances of them pleading guilty, the chances of them losing their housing and their job and everything else are much higher.”

    In San Francisco, only about six percent of the population is black, according to the U.S. Census, yet an analysis commissioned by Adachi found nearly half of the city’s inmates are black. Nationally, the Federal Bureau of Prisons reports that 37.6 percent of its inmates are black while the U.S. Census reports that black people encompass about 13.2 percent of the national population. 

    In a photo provided by the San Francisco Public Defender's office, two paralegals in the newly established Bail Unit are working to contest the bail of nearly every client. Photo by the San Francisco Public Defender's office

    In a photo provided by the San Francisco Public Defender’s office, two paralegals in the newly established Bail Unit are working to contest the bail of nearly all of the public defender’s clients. Photo by the San Francisco Public Defender’s office

    The 2015 report, conducted by the W. Haywood Burns Institute for For Youth Justice, Fairness & Equity, also found that while 46 percent of black inmates and 35 percent of white inmates booked in San Francisco were eligible for pretrial release — of those eligible — 54 percent of white inmates were actually released while only 48 percent of black inmates were released.

    “Part of what we’re trying to do is get the court to acknowledge that there is an implicit bias,” Adachi said.

    In Adachi’s view, many defendants behind bars may not pose a public safety or flight risk, but are awaiting trial in jail because they cannot afford to post bail, the monetary deposit levied to ensure a defendant will be present at trial. In San Francisco, bail is set by a judge during a quick hearing within 72 hours of the arrest and it is based on a predetermined fee schedule that is weighted by the severity of the charges.

    Bail fees in general are intended to incentivize a defendant to return to court when needed, preserving public safety. Under California law, every defendant in the state has the right to a hearing to reevaluate his or her initial bail. But public defense lawyers rarely have enough time to do the vigorous work of collecting evidence that might merit an inmate’s release. That’s where Adachi’s team comes in.

    Since September, almost all of the public defender’s cases have been sent to the Bail Unit for investigation.

    District Attorney George Gascón has also been in favor of restructuring the city’s bail system, but is engaged in a different approach.

    In May, San Francisco will start using an automated survey called the Public Safety Assessment. It uses nine factors that predict on a scale of one to six whether the defendant will flee or offend before the trial. The results will be given to the judge for consideration.

    Gascón’s spokesperson Alex Bastian agreed that there are many problems with the current bail system but said that when considering reform, “risk is the most important component.”

    In the meantime, the city is also awaiting the outcome of a federal lawsuit claiming that its monetary bail system favors wealthy people and is unconstitutional.

    “I would like to see the entire bail system thrown out and replaced with an evidence based system,” Adachi said. “For a person to be out during a trial is huge because it means that your client is going to be able to assist you.”

    One of those clients is Kanisha, a 22-year-old San Francisco native who found herself in trouble with the law this month. Kanisha, who asked her last name be withheld, was engaged in a fight with an ex-girlfriend, when she grabbed a steak knife, according to her attorney, Demarris Evans. During the altercation, a counselor from her home for at-risk youths walked in and called the police. Evans claims Kanisha was protecting herself and that no one was cut in the incident.

    Kanisha was arrested and charged with three felonies — assault with a deadly weapon, domestic abuse and threatening to inflict injury. She was also charged with two misdemeanors — brandishing a weapon and vandalism, for throwing the woman’s phone. On her April 13 hearing, the judge set her bail at $110,000.

    “It was totally too much,” she said recalling her arraignment. “I was like, ‘I’m not going to be able to afford it so I’m going to be sitting in jail’.”

    At this point, members of Adachi’s Bail Unit began to work on Kanisha’s case. Through a series of interviews, the unit learned more about Kanisha, including the close relationship she has with her mother as well as the fact that Kanisha also has an ongoing medical condition often called “Valley Fever,” which requires routine medical attention.

    The Bail Unit put these findings and others into a 34-page motion for Evans, who used it at the bail evaluation hearing on Tuesday. Evans made the argument that Kanisha is firmly rooted in San Francisco, does not pose a safety or flight risk and said her health could be at risk if Kanisha awaited her case’s verdict in jail.

    Under the Eighth Amendment, bail is excessive if it is set higher than a reasonable amount to ensure the government’s goal, which is to make sure Kanisha stands trial, Evans argued.

    After the arguments were heard from both sides, Kanisha became the 35th person the unit helped obtain release as part of Adachi’s new focus on contesting bail. The judge said Kanisha could leave under the condition she remains under house arrest. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

    Evans said the District Attorney’s office has a plea bargain in the works which would allow Kanisha to spend just 30 days in jail if she agrees to plead guilty. But now that she is out of jail, she is statistically much less likely to return, said Evans.

    “Without the Bail Unit I just found in my own practice I never had the time to do the level of investigation they do,” Evans said. “I think it’s made a huge difference.”

    The post Contesting bail to take on racial disparities in San Francisco jails appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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