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

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    Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump visits McLanahan Corporation headquarters in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania August 12, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Thayer - RTSN1NV

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Donald Trump is winding down another tough week in the presidential race, as new polls now put him behind by double digits in several key states.  His staffers were meeting with officials of the Republican National Committee today.

    And in Erie, Pennsylvania, the candidate himself sounded upbeat a day after acknowledging his campaign was having trouble.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee:  We have to win Pennsylvania.  We win Pennsylvania, we’re going to win it.  You know, we’re up in Florida, we’re doing well in Ohio, and I am hearing we’re doing well here.  We will find out.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  Trump also insisted again he was being sarcastic in saying that President Obama founded the Islamic State group.  And then he added — quote — “but not that sarcastic.”

    Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton reported that she and former President Clinton made $10.6 million in income last year.  They paid about 34 percent in federal taxes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Donald Trump continues to drive division in the Republican Party, as new polls have him losing ground in states that will be key to victory.

    We look at where the race stands now with Robert Costa. He’s the national political reporter with The Washington Post.

    Robert Costa, welcome back to the program.

    First of all, we know that Reince Priebus, who is the chairman of the Republican Party, made a point of introducing Donald Trump today when he spoke in Erie, Pennsylvania. But at the same time, we have been mentioning the polls are slipping for Mr. Trump. There has been a string of these controversial statements. How worried — or is this party worried?

    ROBERT COSTA, The Washington Post: Judy, good to be with you.

    The relationship between the party chairman and the GOP standard-bearer remains a pivotal one within the GOP, and my sources tell me that Priebus made a point today to travel from New York to Erie, Pennsylvania, to make sure he showcased his unity with Donald Trump, as some people at the party’s upper levels are saying maybe it’s time, because of these sliding poll numbers, to distance Republicans, especially in swing states, from Donald Trump.

    Priebus said today in Erie that’s not true, the party is not moving away from Trump, he’s sticking with the nominee.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And so what sort of pressure, Robert, is there on the Republican Party, on the leadership of the party to either work with Donald Trump or to distance themselves from him?

    ROBERT COSTA: At the RNC level, they’re intertwined, the Trump campaign and RNC, when it comes to fund-raising. So, they have had a close relationship.

    The tensions are really more raw when it comes to the congressional ranks. House Republicans have a 59-seat majority. Some members there are privately very edgy, uncomfortable about what Trump could mean for them especially if they are in a swing district. And in the Senate, you have states like Pennsylvania where Trump was today, Mark Kirk in Illinois, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire. They’re facing very tough races this fall and how they align with Trump is becoming their key strategic decision.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We also heard — we heard Donald Trump just himself acknowledge in the last day or so that he’s having problems in some states, in some of these important swing states like Ohio, like Florida, but even in a reliably Republican state like Utah.

    What is that telling you, somebody who’s been covering politics for some time, and what does it say to Republicans who are watching this race so closely?

    ROBERT COSTA: Utah is a particularly case.

    You have a new presidential candidate, an independent conservative, Evan McMullin, come from Utah. Temperamentally, the Mormon population of Utah doesn’t always fit with Donald Trump. They really like Donald Trump, according to most polls. Some evangelical communities, you see Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, she is gaining in a state like Georgia.

    Trump is trying to adjust to a general election. He’s been so rough and tumble for so long, throwing punches, that it turns some swing voters off. But according to my sources in the Trump campaign, Trump is adamant that he will not change, that he wants to continue to run a campaign from the gut, on his instincts.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what does that mean, Robert? Does that mean we can expect to hear comments like the ones in the last few days, the Second Amendment comment that some people took to mean he was threatening Hillary Clinton, and then more recently this comment that Hillary Clinton and President Clinton founded ISIS?

    ROBERT COSTA: That’s always the peril Trump finds himself in as a novice first-time national candidate.

    He likes to be the outsider, someone who’s brash and bold in his mind, but he takes risks in his some of his comments by being out there a little bit. The party hopes that he can control some more of his incendiary remarks, but still have that outsider appeal, which they think is really Trump’s really only path to the White House, to make these swing voters and working-class voters who are disengaged with the system feel like they maybe have a candidate for themselves.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Robert, we have seen more — or at least a number of prominent Republicans like Senator Susan Collins of Maine come out and say they couldn’t support Donald Trump. There was a letter this week by former foreign policy experts in the Republican Party. Then yet another letter went to the RNC from Republicans saying, we don’t want you to spend as much money on Donald Trump, we want you to spend money on these other races.

    Is this the kind of thing that the party leadership has to worry about or can they just ignore it all?

    ROBERT COSTA: Oh, they’re not ignoring it at all, Judy, because one of the things Trump is facing is, he doesn’t have an institutional history within the Republican Party.

    He doesn’t have the relationships going back years that have sustained other nominees in past cycles when they have had a patch of rough poll numbers. A lot of Republicans now on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, they’re saying, if Trump is going to lose the general election, in our view, maybe it’s time to walk away, walk away in a full way, don’t even have money going from major donors to the nominee, put it to those down-ballot race that are more vulnerable.

    But Trump insists that the RNC is still going to work with him and Priebus was there today, but this is all happening, these conversations are circulating within the party that maybe Trump isn’t going to win and things have to be done.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, Robert Costa with The Washington Post, we thank you very much.

    ROBERT COSTA: Thank you.

    The post Despite poll deficits in key states, Trump expresses optimism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, addresses a rally in Quetta on April 26, 2012, against the reopening of the NATO supply route to Afghanistan. Islamabad on April 26 reiterated its opposition to US drone attacks in its territory as Washington's point man on Pakistan and Afghanistan arrived amid efforts to mend fractured relations. Relations between Pakistan and the United States plunged last year over the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan and a NATO air strike near the border with Afghanistan that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. AFP PHOTO/BANARAS KHAN        (Photo credit should read BANARAS KHAN/AFP/GettyImages)

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news:  The Pentagon confirms tonight that a U.S. drone attack has killed a top Islamic State leader in Afghanistan.  Hafiz Saeed Khan died in a strike on July 26.  The State Department designated him a global terrorist last year.

    Bombings rocked across towns in Southern Thailand today, killing at least four people and wounding dozens more.  Coordinated attacks hit six sites, including the popular island of Phuket.

    Harry Smith of Independent Television News reports.

    HARRY SMITH:  The authorities say they were small explosions from improvised devices, but still deadly in their impact, some filled with ball bearings and other shrapnel designed to cause maximum casualties.

    Many set off in areas busy with tourists at times when they might have been out enjoying the nightlife.  The blasts also coincided with the national holiday to celebrate the birthday of Thailand’s queen.  If the object was to hit the country’s tourist trade, it made an immediate impact.

    HANNAH HARKNESS, British Tourist:  I couldn’t believe it.  I felt sick.  Couldn’t like — I was absolutely speechless.  I just don’t know how to feel.  I thought like that I was going to come to this place and feel safe.

    MAN:  I mean, it’s astonishing what’s happening in little Hua Hin.  It’s a place where tourism, and especially this weekend with the queen’s birthday, it’s supposed to be a place for celebration.

    HARRY SMITH:  Perhaps to reassure the thousands who visit Thailand each year, police were quick to insist this was not an attack connected to any global terror network, insisting instead it was the work of local insurgents.

    COL. KRISANA PATANACHAROEN, Royal Thai Police:  We are working round-the-clock in order to identify the suspects and also the motives behind the scene.

    HARRY SMITH:  Insurgent groups in the historically Muslim south of Thailand have a long-running campaign for an independent Islamic state.  It’s often been violent, thousands have been killed, but it has never before targeted tourist areas.  The attacks came just a week after the Thais voted in a referendum to strengthen the powers of the ruling military regime.

    The authorities have stepped up security checks at all tourist destinations, and European embassies have advised their nationals to be vigilant.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

    The man that Turkey’s government blames for a coup attempt is calling for an international investigation before he will agree to return.  Turkish leaders want the U.S. to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania.

    Writing today in the French newspaper Le Monde, Gulen said — quote — “If a tenth of the accusations against me are established, I pledge to return to Turkey and serve the heaviest sentence.”

    In Russia, President Vladimir Putin fired his right-hand man today as part of an ongoing shakeup of his inner circle.  Longtime ally Sergei Ivanov was dropped from his post as chief of staff.  He’d been one of the most influential figures in Russia and was once considered a likely successor to Putin.

    But, today, the Russian president said he made the decision at Ivanov’s request.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through translator):  We have been working together for many years and it was successful work.  I’m happy with how you have handled the tasks.  I understand your desire to choose another line of work.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  In the past year, Putin has replaced several of his more powerful allies with younger officials.

    Back in this country, the U.S. Department of Health and Human services has declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico over the Zika virus.  The island has more than 10,000 cases, and the surgeon general warned that 25 percent of the population will be infected by year’s end.  Zika is linked to severe birth defects.

    New data shows the cost of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is almost 50 percent higher than projected.  Up to 10 million low-income Americans have been added to Medicaid rolls so far.  But the agency overseeing the effort says it’s running nearly $6,400 a person.  That could make it much more difficult to expand Medicaid in the 19 states that have not yet done so.

    Wall Street closed out the week with a subpar session, after weak data on retail sales.  The Dow Jones industrial average lost 37 points to close at 18576.  The Nasdaq rose four points, and the S&P 500 dropped a point.  For the week, all three indexes gained a fraction of a point.

    And at the Summer Olympics, an upset today in women’s soccer.  The U.S. team lost to Sweden in the quarterfinals on a penalty shoot-out after regulation play ended in a tie.  The American women had won gold in the last three Olympics.

    The post News Wrap: Top ISIS leader killed in drone strike, says Pentagon; bombings rock Thailand appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by RunPhoto via Getty Images

    Photo by RunPhoto via Getty Images

    Hospitals across the United States are throwing away less-than-perfect organs and denying the sickest people lifesaving transplants out of fear that poor surgical outcomes will result in a federal crackdown.

    As a result, thousands of patients are losing the chance at surgeries that could significantly prolong their lives, and the altruism of organ donation is being wasted.

    “It’s gut-wrenching and mind-boggling,” said Dr. Adel Bozorgzadeh, a transplant surgeon at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Mass.

    He coauthored a recent study that showed a sharp uptick in the number of people dropped from organ transplant waiting lists since the federal government set transplant standards in 2007. These standards are tied to federal hospital ratings and Medicare funding, which is the main payer for transplants and a key source of income for hospitals. And hospitals’ ability to meet those standards helps determine their reputation within the medical community. Surgeries involving imperfect organs and extremely ill patients are more risky, so hospitals that do many of them run the risk of poor outcomes that may hurt their performance on the standards.

    Soon after the study was published in April, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services changed its benchmarks to give hospitals — and surgeries — more leeway to fail. But patients and doctors are still uneasy about the erosion of one of transplantation’s fundamental principles: the sicker you are, the higher you move up the waiting list for donated organs.

    “This has been a nightmare, a very expensive nightmare,” said Kathy Barnes, whose husband, James, has been denied a liver transplant by three hospitals, but who is on the waiting list at UMass Memorial.

    “Why won’t they do it?” she asked. “It seems like some of them are just looking for an excuse to say no, and I don’t understand that.”

    The study by Bozorgzadeh, published by the American College of Surgeons, found that the increasing reluctance to perform transplants on the sickest patients is directly tied to the onset of the standards enforced by CMS. In the first five years after adoption of the standards, more than 4,300 transplant candidates were removed from waiting lists by hospitals. That’s up 86 percent from the 2,311 patients delisted in the five years prior to the regulation.

    Bozorgzadeh said the federal regulations are turning transplantation into a numbers game that makes it harder to help patients who deserve a fighting chance.

    “If you have young guy who has a 100 percent chance of dying, but only a 30 percent chance of dying with a transplant, you would say, ‘What the hell, give the guy a chance,’” even if the operation might be risky, he said. “But if I make an argument like that, I will be under pressure from all these other stakeholders who would penalize me.”

    The number of organs being tossed out has also increased because of concerns that their imperfections could lead to bad outcomes. Last year, 3,159 donated kidneys were discarded, up 20 percent from 2007, according to federal data.

    “To me, it just doesn’t make any sense,” said Howard Nathan, chief executive of a Gift of Life Donor Program based in Philadelphia. “We have hundreds of thousands of people on dialysis. And you have these kidneys available that would work … but transplant centers are afraid to use them because they might pull their results down.”

    The trend also has a financial impact — not just on the patients, but on American taxpayers.

    As federal regulators have noted, it costs the Medicare program more in the long run to keep patients with ailing kidneys on dialysis than to give them organ transplants. Transplant patients also tend to live longer and have a better quality of life.

    High-risk doesn’t always mean failure

    Sometimes, the calculus that makes a patient risky on paper doesn’t pan out.

    Michael Coyle was initially turned down for a liver transplant in 2015. Suffering from repeated and lengthy hospitalizations, he said he was on the verge of giving up on medical treatment until his niece, an operating room nurse, helped him find a different transplant center.

    “She was the one who really got me going,” said Coyle, 76 of North Attleboro, Mass. “I had told my wife that we would go home and just try to live the the best we could. And I was prepared to do that, but my niece wouldn’t allow it.”

    Partly in response to situations like Coyle’s, CMS relaxed sanctions on transplant centers that failed to meet standards, which are based on numbers of failed transplants and one-year survival rates and calculated through yearly national averages and risk profiles specific to a hospital.

    For those that remained within 185 percent of the standard, the violation would be deemed a “standard-level” deficiency, which typically leads to closer monitoring, rather than a “condition-level” violation that puts funding from Medicare in jeopardy.

    For the eight years until the standards were relaxed, 145 transplant centers were cited for deficiencies and given a chance to make corrections. Most did, but 17 programs didn’t, and lost Medicare funding.

    In a memo explaining its policy revisions, CMS acknowledged that its regulations were putting hospitals in a vicious cycle — by performing fewer risky surgeries, they improved their overall outcomes, setting the bar that much higher for all other hospitals to meet. The end result was an ever-shrinking margin of error.

    By 2014, the memo noted, the rates of failed kidney transplants allowable under the rules had dropped to 7.9 for every 100 transplants, a 26 percent drop in the number of allowable losses since 2007. In addition, one-year patient survival rates were also increasing for kidney, heart, and liver transplant patients, which also had the effect of raising the performance bar even higher.

    Meanwhile, the memo also flagged concerns about organs going unused, citing the 20 percent increase in discarded kidneys.

    “We are concerned that transplant programs may be avoiding the use of certain available organs that they believe may adversely affect the program’s outcome statistics,” CMS’s memo stated.

    Being okay with imperfect organs

    Many patients would gladly accept organs that are discarded because of real or perceived imperfections, said Nathan, of Gift of Life. But decisions to reject those organs by transplant centers don’t give them that opportunity. In general, centers are seeking organs free of disease and certain biomarkers that could impair function or cause complications after surgery.

    Studies have repeatedly raised questions about whether organs are being tossed out unnecessarily. A 2014 study published by the American Society of Nephrology noted, for example, that transplant centers often relied on low-quality biopsy results as the basis for rejecting kidneys. Another study published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, found no association between survival rates and the presence of a biomarker that is commonly used as a rationale for rejection.

    That journal Circulation study, published in June, stated, “Although numerous organs are not accepted for transplantation for valid reasons, it is also true that many centers are unwilling to take risks on donor hearts, especially in the current climate where institutional outcomes are publicly available.”

    Jesse Schold, a staff member in Cleveland Clinic’s department of quantitative health sciences, said the rejections are exacerbating the shortage of organs for patients who desperately need them. “Unfortunately, the candidate population has continued to increase over time,” he said. “Even if one patient is not afforded the opportunity [to receive a transplant], there are 10 lined up behind them.”

    In many cases, patients seeking transplants are unaware of the forces working against them or how to be effective advocates for themselves. In addition to those who are removed from waiting lists, others are told they aren’t healthy enough to be put on the list in the first place, leaving them to face inevitable death or to seek help from another transplant center.

    Barnes, 53, has been turned away by transplant centers in Charleston, S.C., Jacksonville, Fla., and Durham, N.C., according to his wife, Kathy. She said her husband — who cannot speak or walk due to complications of liver disease — has been repeatedly told that he is too sick to get a transplant. He is now on a waiting list at UMass Memorial, whose performance on liver transplants has allowed it to take riskier patients. But after all the travel and rejections, Kathy Barnes said, her family is running out of time and money.

    “We’ve been back and forth to all these hospitals, staying overnight and driving,” she said. “It’s very costly. We’ve had some friends do fundraisers and things for us, but we’ve gotten behind on our mortgage. I can’t believe we’ve lasted this long.”

    She added that her husband has consented to receiving a liver that could result in other complications in order to move up the list. “Nowadays, if you do develop HIV, you can treat that. If you develop Hepatitis C, you can treat that,” Kathy Barnes said. Her husband could still be delisted if his condition significantly worsens or he becomes too weak to undergo surgery. So far, he is holding out hope his name will rise to the top of the list soon.

    Coyle, the patient who has already received a transplant, said he was told by doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center last year that he was not a viable candidate for a transplant. He said he left the hospital thinking he had six months to a year to live, until his niece helped to connect him to the program at UMass Memorial. He said he does not harbor ill against Beth Israel for declining to provide a transplant, noting that he was extremely ill when he was admitted last year with severe kidney and liver problems.

    “It’s hard to get upset when they got my kidneys back in order,” Coyle said.

    Jennifer Kritz, a spokeswoman for Beth Israel, declined to discuss Coyle’s case because of federal privacy rules. But she said in a statement that the hospital uses dozens of criteria to evaluate transplant candidates, including age, cardiac function, frailty, and ability to comply with medication instructions, among other factors. “Decisions regarding candidacy are made in the best interest of the patient and are based on the likelihood of a successful outcome for that patient after transplantation,” the statement said.

    Coyle said he underwent a battery of tests at UMass Memorial before the hospital agreed to put him on its transplant waiting list. It was about 10 weeks later — after having fluid drained from his gut multiple times — that he got the call he had been waiting for. Doctors in Worcester told him they had a liver for him.

    “I got up there and they said, ‘It’s not a perfect liver. You can turn it down if you want to.’ And I said, ‘What the hell would I turn it down for?’”

    Since the successful surgery, Coyle has had some setbacks. He was hospitalized for 17 days after catching a virus, and then he broke a rib when he fell against a lawn chair. But he said he’s been able to spend time with his family and enjoy the rhythms of summer.

    “I was able to I get back down to the Cape and put my feet in the water,” Coyle said on a recent afternoon. “I couldn’t go in the water, but I put my feet in. It’s one day at a time, but it’s nice. I feel good.”

    Update: James Barnes underwent liver transplant surgery at UMass Memorial Medical Center on Aug. 10. He is listed in fair condition in the intensive care unit, a hospital spokeswoman said on Aug. 11. This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Aug. 11, 2016. Find the original story here.

    The post Hospitals are throwing out organs and denying transplants to meet federal standards appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign rally at Blair County Convention Center in Altoona, Pennsylvania August 12, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Thayer - RTX2KFBH

    Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign rally at Blair County Convention Center in Altoona, Pennsylvania August 12, 2016. Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters

    ALTOONA, Pa. — The Republican Party could be nearing a breaking point with Donald Trump.

    As he skips from one gaffe to the next, GOP leaders in Washington and in the most competitive states have begun openly contemplating turning their backs on their party’s presidential nominee to prevent what they fear will be wide-scale Republican losses on Election Day.

    Back in 1996, the party largely gave up on nominee Bob Dole once it became clear he had little chance of winning, so it’s not without precedent. Nevertheless, it’s a jolting prospect now, with roughly three months still left before the Nov. 8 vote and weeks before the three presidential debates.

    Republicans who have devoted their professional lives to electing GOP candidates say they believe the White House already may be lost. They’re exasperated by Trump’s divisive politics and his insistence on running a general election campaign that mirrors his approach to the primaries.

    “Based on his campaign record, there’s no chance he’s going to win,” said Sara Fagen, the political director for former President George W. Bush. “He’s losing groups of people he can’t get back.”

    Trump’s campaign says things are moving in the right direction, a position that itself feeds the discontent among his GOP detractors. The billionaire businessman’s loyalists say enough time remains to change the dynamic against Democrat Hillary Clinton who, like Trump, is deeply unpopular with voters.

    And his backers are blaming the media for the perception that all is not well.

    “Frankly, a lot of stuff over the last week … it’s him being distorted,” said Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. “For the last week or so, he’s been very focused and very much on his game.”

    [Watch Video]

    Trump did show some modest improvement as a candidate in the past week. He has stopped criticizing a Muslim family of a fallen U.S. soldier. Gone are the fights with some of his party’s most respected members of Congress.

    But also in the past seven days, Trump has questioned the advice of senior aides, threatened to stop raising money for the party, dismissed the usefulness of get-out-the-vote efforts and defended his decision not to run any television ads even as his opponents fill the airwaves with spots backing Clinton in several contested states.

    It all largely overshadowed the content of 44 previously-unreleased email exchanges Clinton had while at the State Department. They became public on Tuesday and showed her interacting with lobbyists, political and Clinton Foundation donors and business interests while serving as secretary of state.

    “He can’t simply continue to preach to the choir and think he’s going to put together a coalition that will win the White House,” said Ryan Williams, a party strategist and former aide to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney. “He’s essentially guaranteeing that he will lose by refusing to clean up his mistakes and stop committing future ones.”

    The mistakes do keep coming.

    Trump this past week stuck by a patently false claim that President Barack Obama founded the Islamic State group. The candidate made an off-handed remark about Clinton that was widely condemned by critics as an invitation to violence. He even acknowledged that losing might not be so bad.

    “I’ll just keep doing the same thing I’m doing right now,” he told CNBC on Thursday. “And at the end it’s either going to work or I’m going to you know, I’m going to have a very, very nice, long vacation.”

    All of it, to some Republicans, should lead the party to give up on its nominee.

    More than 100 GOP officials, including at least six former members of Congress and more than 20 former staffers at the Republican National Committee, have signed a letter asking the party chairman, Reince Priebus, to stop helping Trump’s campaign.

    They call the New York real estate mogul a threat to the party and to the nation. They want the RNC to take resources now helping Trump and shift them to vulnerable GOP candidates for House and Senate.

    The letter follows a steady stream of recent defections from Republican elected officials and longtime strategists who vow never to support Trump. They want party leaders to acknowledge that backing his White House bid is a waste of time and money.

    “They’re going to do it sooner or later. They might as well do it sooner to have more impact,” said former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber, one of the Republicans to sign the letter to Priebus.

    Senior Republicans in Washington and in some of the most contested states have discussed a scenario in which the party scales back its presidential focus in states that don’t feature top races for Senate. They could abandon a state such as Virginia, for example, and focus more on a state such as Indiana, where Democrat Evan Bayh is trying to make a Senate comeback.

    That’s according to several Republican officials in Washington and states that would be affected, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. They spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to outline private discussions.

    There is no evidence that a formal plan to break with Trump exists at either the state party or RNC level, but Priebus has informally discussed the possibility with party leaders in battleground states in recent days, three of the officials said.

    Should that occur, it’s not likely to happen until after Labor Day, as the party is still relying on Trump to help raise money to fund its expansive political operation. But the amount of money needed decreases as each day passes, giving the RNC greater financial freedom to potentially change course as the election nears.

    For now, Priebus is vocally supportive of Trump. The party chairman joined the nominee on Friday, part of a larger effort to ensure an experienced political hand is almost always at the candidate’s side when he travels.

    Others keeping Trump company this past week include former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

    “We’ve always found it’s wise to have people traveling with him, because it’s an opportunity to have him engaged and not just sitting there,” Manafort said.

    Some credit that strategy for Trump’s avoiding devastating unforced errors, such as his tussle with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Muslim-Americans parents whose son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq in 2004. Manafort also has privately assured swing state Republicans that Trump no longer will attack party rivals — House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Arizona Sen. John McCain and Ohio Gov. John Kasich among them.

    But it’s hardly foolproof.

    After several error-free days, Trump caused a major stir Tuesday when his comments about supporters of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms were viewed by some as advocating violence against Clinton.

    He came in for criticism again after saying on Wednesday that Obama was the “founder” of IS, a false claim he repeated several times on Thursday — even when given the chance to tone down his attack on the president’s foreign policies.

    On Friday, Trump started the day saying he was only being sarcastic, before telling a Pennsylvania rally, “but not that sarcastic, to be honest with you.”

    It’s those kinds of moments that lead experienced Republicans to think Trump cannot be saved from himself.

    “He’s almost like someone with an addiction who can’t stop,” Fagen said. “Until he gets help and admits it, he won’t be able to change.”

    The dissension in the Republican ranks hasn’t affected Trump’s ability to draw supporters to his rallies. Lisa Thompson, a firefighter from St. Cloud, Florida, is among the many who continue to stand in long lines for hours to see Trump at his events.

    She said those balking at his missteps were being “too sensitive” — a luxury the nation can’t afford with growing security threats. She urged Trump to stick with his playbook.

    “Why be fake?” she asked.

    Others aren’t so sure.

    Mike Dedrel, a UPS driver and Trump supporter who’s also from St. Cloud, said he hoped in the coming months that Trump wouldn’t speak off the cuff as often and stick to pre-planned answers. If he doesn’t, Dedrel said, he’s concerned that Trump is on the way to an Election Day defeat.

    “I was worried about that from Day One, when he was going against 16 other guys,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I know he’ll be a great president — if he can win.”

    Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report from New York.

    The post Frustration abundant, GOP could be near breaking point with Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A woman reacts as she sits with a child after they were evacuated with others by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016. The SDF has said Islamic State was using civilians as human shields. REUTERS/Rodi Said - RTSMZO5

    A woman reacts as she sits with a child after they were evacuated with others by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016. The SDF has said Islamic State was using civilians as human shields. Photo by Rodi Said/Reuters

    United States-backed rebel forces have captured the city of Manbij from the Islamic State, whose grip on the city lasted more than two years but faltered after months of fighting.

    In a “major setback” for the militant group, the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed group comprised mainly of Kurdish and Arab fighters, gained the city center, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Department of Defense on Friday.

    The Islamic State had held the city, which is located approximately 60 miles from Aleppo, since January 2014. After 73 days of fighting, the last of the remaining Islamic State fighters left Friday as rebel forces freed 2,000 people that the Islamic State had used as “human shields,” according to the BBC.

    Civilians gather after they were evacuated by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016. The SDF has said Islamic State was using civilians as human shields. REUTERS/Rodi Said TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTSMZ5T

    Civilians gather after they were evacuated by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016. Photo by Rodi Said/Reuters

    Manbij had served as a location for “recruiting and processing foreign fighters” and a base for sending fighters over the Turkish border, the statement said, citing Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Gordon Trowbridge. The city is also located on what was an important supply route for the Islamic State between Turkey and Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital.

    Residents celebrated the city’s liberation in the streets, many expressing shock and disbelief. “I feel joy and [it is like a] dream I am dreaming. I cannot believe it, I cannot believe it. Things I saw no one saw,” one woman said, according to Reuters.

    A man cuts the beard of a civilian who was evacuated with others by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016. The SDF has said Islamic State was using civilians as human shields. REUTERS/Rodi Said - RTSMZEB

    A man cuts the beard of a civilian who was evacuated with others by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016. Photo by Rodi Said/Reuters

    Before the Syrian revolution began in 2011, approximately 120,000 people lived in the city. When the Islamic State captured Manbij in 2014, it dismantled the civil institutions that had governed life in the city, including a local council and police force, according to Robin Yassin-Kassab, who co-wrote “Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War” with Leila Al-Shami.

    “They were really running things themselves very well and quite democratically, and then ISIS took over,” he said. Many activists or participants in local government “had to run or were killed.”

    Residents have described harsh rule under the militant group, who they said instituted a ban on shaving, strict dress rules for women, public prayer checks and a pattern of public executions.

    See more images from the city’s recapture below.

    A woman smokes as she rests after she was evacuated with others by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016. The SDF has said Islamic State was using civilians as human shields. REUTERS/Rodi Said - RTSMZN0

    A woman smokes as she rests after she was evacuated with others by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016. Photo by Rodi Said/Reuters

    Women carry newborn babies while reacting after they were evacuated by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016. The SDF has said Islamic State was using civilians as human shields. REUTERS/Rodi Said TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTSMZ4L

    Women carry newborn babies while reacting after they were evacuated by the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016. Photo by Rodi Said/Reuters

    A woman embraces a Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter after she was evacuated with others by the SDF from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016. The SDF has said Islamic State was using civilians as human shields. REUTERS/Rodi Said - RTSMZ6D

    A woman embraces a Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter after she was evacuated with others by the SDF from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016. Photo by Rodi Said/Reuters

    A Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter comforts a civilian who was evacuated with others by the SDF from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016. The SDF has said Islamic State was using civilians as human shields. REUTERS/Rodi Said TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTSMZ59

    A Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter comforts a civilian who was evacuated with others by the SDF from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016. Photo by Rodi Said/Reuters

    A Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter helps civilians who were evacuated by the SDF from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016. The SDF has said Islamic State was using civilians as human shields. REUTERS/Rodi Said - RTSMZE7

    A Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter helps civilians who were evacuated by the SDF from an Islamic State-controlled neighbourhood of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 12, 2016. Photo by Rodi Said/Reuters

    Daniel Moritz-Rabson contributed reporting.

    The post U.S.-backed forces liberate key city from ISIS, freeing 2,000 hostages appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks at Futuramic Tool & Engineering in Warren, Michigan August 11, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane - RTSMQP2

    U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks at Futuramic Tool & Engineering in Warren, Michigan August 11, 2016. Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spelled out their economic visions in high-profile speeches in Michigan this week. They delved into taxes and regulations, trade deals and job growth.

    Yet perhaps most notable about their speeches is what they left out.

    Mostly unmentioned were major challenges that have slowed the U.S. economy and made good-paying jobs harder to find, particularly in struggling pockets of the country. They are challenges that tend to preoccupy economists and defy simple fixes:

    A less efficient workforce. A dwindling proportion of adults either working or looking for work. Automation and increasingly high-skilled jobs that require technological know-how that many people lack.

    They are problems that analysts say require a transformative vision. Yet neither candidate voiced anything like the high-reaching themes that were hallmarks of previous campaigns — from Bill Clinton’s “Bridge to the 21st century,” which urged Americans to face a more globalized economy, or George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind,” which sought to overhaul public education to better serve more children.

    Each promised a bright future but also spotlighted the country’s challenges.

    “It’s much easier to be either optimistic about the future or harp on problems that voters already recognize,” said Daron Acemoglu, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has studied the impact of automation on the workforce.

    When Trump spoke Monday and Clinton followed on Thursday, each pledged more spending for rebuilding roads, bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure, which many economists say is long overdue. Such work, beyond creating more construction jobs, could ultimately lower transportation costs, raise workers’ productivity and accelerate economic growth.

    But economists worry that the United States faces long-run challenges beyond dilapidated airports and tunnels. An economy’s ability to expand is shaped largely by two trends: The size of its workforce and how much its workers produce for each hour on the job.

    [Watch Video]

    In both areas, the United States is weakening. In the past decade, the workforce has grown an average of just 0.5 percent a year — barely half its post-World War II pace. Much of that slowdown is due to the continuing retirements of the vast baby boom generation, 10,000 of whom turn 65 every day. Similar demographic trends are also bedeviling Europe and Japan.

    And productivity — output per hour worked — has increased an average of just 0.6 percent a year in the past five years, the slowest pace since the recession of the early 1980s. Rising productivity is vital to raising living standards because it allows businesses to pay employees more without having to raise prices.

    All of which means the United States may be stuck in a low-growth rut for years to come. Federal Reserve officials now estimate that the economy’s growth potential is only 1.8 percent to 2 percent a year, down from 2.5 percent to 2.8 percent five years ago.

    That broader slowdown went unmentioned by either candidate. Potential solutions are complicated and in many cases wouldn’t be popular with voters.

    For example, most economists consider increased immigration not a problem but a solution — to the challenge of an aging U.S. workforce. More legal immigrants would accelerate workforce growth. Yet few issues are as contentious in this election.

    William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said immigration reform, if it provided a path to citizenship for people who entered the country illegally, would be economically beneficial — in part because it would bar employers from underpaying those workers and thereby give them more spending power.

    Galston argued that Japan’s economy, which is aging faster than the United States and has barely grown for two decades, has suffered from an “absolute refusal to countenance immigration.”

    In her speech, Clinton briefly mentioned “comprehensive immigration reform” and said it would “unleash a lot of new income and growth.” Trump, who launched his campaign with promises to build a wall to keep out Mexicans, barely mentioned the issue.

    Clinton also proposed helping more students attend college, increasing training for those who don’t and spending more on “scientific research that can create entire new industries.”

    Those steps might help boost productivity over time if they improved workers’ skills. But Clinton didn’t cast them as potential remedies for weak productivity. Rather, she hailed the U.S. workforce as the “most productive” in the world.

    Openings for such high-skilled jobs as data scientist, software engineer, physician’s assistant and nurse practitioner have grown fast since the Great Recession. Yet they require more skills than many workers have, particularly older people with less education. That trend has contributed to a sharp drop in the proportion of Americans in their prime working years — ages 25 through 54 — who either have a job or are looking for one.

    And automation is threatening lower-paying jobs. Self-driving cars, check-in kiosks at airports and hotel and potentially touch-screen ordering at restaurants could put more lower-skilled Americans out of work.

    “We’re really just seeing the very beginning of robots competing with workers,” Acemoglu said. The consequences “could be potentially very disruptive if we pursue business as usual. Or they could amazingly fruitful if we adapt to them.”

    Acemoglu says this would require overhauling high school education to provide more skills-related training, rather than waiting for community college, in addition to providing training for current workers.

    Yet instead, both candidates spent considerable time discussing ways to revitalize American manufacturing. Trump focused more on old-line sectors, like autos, planes and steel, which have mostly shrunk in recent years. Clinton cited “advanced manufacturing” that requires greater skills. Yet modern factories that use more technology typically don’t employ as many people as those that are retrenching.

    “I would like to see the workforce prepared for the jobs of tomorrow, rather than bringing back the jobs of the past,” said Tara Sinclair, chief economist at Indeed, a jobs listing website.

    The post What Trump and Clinton didn’t say in their economic speeches appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Bayan Abubakr, Fadumo Osman, Isatou Daffeh, and Mariyamou Drammeh laugh in a New York train station. Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser.

    NYU students Bayan Abubakr, Fadumo Osman, Isatou Daffeh, and Mariyamou Drammeh share a laugh in a train station in New York City. Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser

    Mariyamou Drammeh arrived at New York University in the fall of 2014 poised for action.

    The Black Lives Matter movement was pulsing in response to police violence against Black people, and the 3,000-member-strong Islamic Center on campus was engaging in exciting interfaith work. Yet as a Black Muslim, the 20-year-old New Yorker felt self-conscious about how she would fit into both communities.

    Less than two years later, Drammeh was at a vigil at the school’s student center honoring three young, Black men — two of whom were Muslim — who had been shot dead in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Also in attendance was Noor Rostoum, president of the Muslim Students Association (MSA). He was scheduled to speak at the event.

    As he prepared his remarks in early March, he was approached by members of his community asking why the MSA had chosen to mourn these lives.

    For many young Muslims, college is the first time they practice their faith in a multi-ethnic and multi-racial community. Religious communities in America are often divided along ethnic or racial lines—a Pakistani mosque on this side of town, a Black mosque on that side. A 2001 study conducted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations found that only 5 percent of American mosques are truly diverse.

    But college is supposed to be different. It should be where the separation comes undone. But the undertones of doubts that swirled around the vigil crystallized for Rostoum something Drammeh had felt for years: American Muslim communities have a deep-seated race problem.

    NYU Junior Mariyamou Drammeh waves to the camera. Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser

    NYU Junior Mariyamou Drammeh waves to the camera. Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser

    Tracing Black Muslims in the U.S.

    For as long as there have been Black people in the U.S. there have been Black Muslims. Social scientists estimate up to 30 percent of all slaves to America — as many as 1.2 million people — were Muslim. They were kidnapped mostly from modern-day West African countries like Senegal, where over 90 percent of the population is Muslim.

    Black Muslims, immigrants and native-born, remain a large portion of the Muslim community in America. According to a 2015 Pew Research study, 28 percent of American Muslims identify as Black, making them the second-largest grouping of Muslims in the U.S.. This is fewer than white Muslims, a category that includes most Arabs, and greater than Asian Muslims. Among native-born Muslims, over 40 percent describe themselves as Black.

    Yet experts say despite the demographics, much of the prevailing public American Muslim mindset focuses on an Islam from thousands of miles east.

    Alaina Morgan, a lawyer and Ph.D candidate at NYU studying the history of Black Muslims in the African diaspora, said there’s a “hierarchy of authority and authenticity” within Islam.

    “Even among African-Americans who converted to Islam, they have historically looked at the Middle East and North Africa as a source of authority,” she said. “South Asian and Arab imams are looked at as more authentic.”

    In the U.S., that global cultural hierarchy is mapped over a hierarchy of race. 

    As Muna Mire said in the The New Inquiry, “Part of the covenant of the American Dream is an agreement non-Black immigrants enter into when they land on U.S. shores. It’s an implicit contract with explicit aims: when you come to America, you’d better not ally yourself in any way with Black people or Blackness if you expect to get ahead…For Arabs and South Asians who make up a significant portion of the U.S. Muslim community, this manifests in a model-minority ethos that uses Black Americans as an example of what not to do and who not to affiliate with.”

    The result for Black Muslims in American Muslim communities, Mire wrote, is a contradiction: “invisible despite being the foundation for the faith in the country.”

    Like many college Muslim communities, NYU’s is predominantly South Asian. Growing up, I practiced in an American Muslim community that was happily diverse, a trait I did not yet know was rare. Upon arrival to NYU three years ago, I attended a welcome activity as part of my introduction to the school’s Islamic Center. It was an ice cream social, but by the time my Egyptian friend and I arrived, what was left of the dessert had melted. We were instructed to sit in a large circle. The event organizer, like nearly everyone else in the room, was a South Asian student. We were the only Arabs in the circle of about 40 people. If there were Black Muslims, I didn’t see them.

    Once situated, the organizer asked us to introduce ourselves and mention where we were from. Before she finished, a loud voice interjected, “We all already know!” The circle, except my friend and me, cracked open with laughter.

    The first MSA was launched in 1963 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Its foundation coincided with the peak of the Civil Rights movement. In the early 1970s the MSA conducted a survey to learn how it could better serve its membership.

    “A significant portion of the surveys that are still in existence indicated that members who are Arab and South Asian wanted to include and reach out to the African-American Muslim community,” Morgan said. “They felt like there weren’t enough efforts to include them.”

    Drammeh, a public policy and sociology major, said she felt that she would need to learn to accept being the only Black person in a room, just as she had learned to do in her classes.

    The problem at the Islamic Center was social, she said. “For me, first semester, I felt excluded, because I didn’t really feel anyone was like, ‘Hey Mariyamou, come sit with us.’ I didn’t really feel invited.”

    And the feeling of exclusion isn’t just a product of freshman nerves. Husam Ahmed, an upperclassman from North Africa, is a serious man with a big smile. He is in the Islamic Center’s prayer room every day of the workweek. He had an emergency appendectomy last winter, during the crush of final exams; he was out for four weeks. Friends outside the Islamic Center noticed his absence, but no one within it reached out to him.

    “If I’m back home in a regular mosque,” Ahmed said, “if you miss three days in a row people will go to your house, will call you, will reach out to you. But two weeks and nobody bothered?”

    NYU Sophomore Bayan Abubakr...Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser

    NYU sophomore Bayan Abubakr. Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser

    Searching for solidarity on college campuses

    The three young Black men were murdered “execution-style” in Fort Wayne, Indiana, 120 miles north of Indianapolis, on Feb. 26 — a week before NYU’s vigil. Muhannad Tairab, 17, Adam Mekki, 20, and Mohamedtaha Omar, 23, were members of a diaspora community from Africa’s eastern Sahel region. Omar and Tairab were Muslims and Mekki was Christian, according to the Associated Press.

    On the evening of March 2, more than 100 students gathered on the marble front steps of NYU’s student center to mourn their loss, crammed against the wall to make room for passersby on their way to class.

    The sight of grieving students, searching for consolation in the harried aftermath of police violence or terrorism, had become familiar at this campus and ones like it across the country.

    Over a year earlier the Muslim world unified in its outrage after three young Arab-Americans were gunned down in North Carolina. The vigil held in their honor at NYU came the day after the attack, and attracted over twice as many community members on the same steps.

    Student response to those deaths was definitive: it was a hate crime, no doubt about it. In comparison, after the death of #OurThreeBrothers, as Muhannad, Mekki, and Omar became known online, students raised questions about why the community was mourning their deaths in the first place.

    In his speech, Rostoum, visibly angry, repeated some of those questions: “Was it a hate crime? Was it gang-related violence? Was it Islamophobia? Was it racism?”

    The faces that lined the steps — a mix of Black, brown, and white, Muslim and non-Muslim — looked back at him.

    Some students were surprised by the MSA president’s rapid-fire directness, but Drammeh said she felt seen. Finally, an ally had decided to speak up, she thought.

    In conversations with a dozen Black Muslims at universities across the country, I heard story after story of exclusion. Being a Black Muslim within American Muslim communities means learning to navigate the precarious intersection of two marginalized groups, they told me, simultaneously fighting for respect from their Muslim peers and safety within a national system of violence. At NYU and other colleges, they’re searching for allies within their own Muslim communities.

    NYU student Fadumo Osman, a California-raised daughter of Somali immigrants, said she noticed the reticence of the Muslim community to engage in issues affecting Black people in the winter of 2014. During those months, the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner were acquitted in quick succession. New York erupted.

    Fadumo immediately took to the streets. But she said her Muslim friends from the Islamic Center were reluctant to participate, saying they felt justice would be served.

    Reassurance often came in the form of inshallah, Fadumo said, using the Arabic term for “if God is willing,” a phrase regularly deployed by Muslims to outsource daily responsibilities to God. “Inshallah it will get better, inshallah it will be okay,” Fadumo said she was told. But then… nothing. No action.

    In the Black Lives Matter crowds rallying for the causes that matter to her, she said she felt herself wondering: “Where are the Muslims?”

    Muslims today, Black or otherwise, are confronted with a stream of hate and violence. The Islamophobia entrenched in some circles since 9/11 has resurfaced with the rise of anti-immigrant campaigns across the globe, most of which, spurred by the refugee crisis and taken to their extremes by far-right politicians, have targeted Muslims. This year alone, 233 anti-Muslim acts have been committed, according to The Huffington Post.

    And hate isn’t only perpetrated by individuals. In 2012 it was discovered that the NYPD had for years been secretly tracking the activity of Muslim student communities at colleges across the Northeast, including at NYU. The department even planted undercover officers at universities within city limits.

    At NYU, where fear was made real by systemic suspicion, many Muslims are hesitant to put their already-uncertain standing in jeopardy. For international students, there’s an additional concern of losing visa security in the case of an arrest. Fadumo says she understands these considerations. But for Black Muslims, whose Muslim struggle is compounded by the reality of being Black in America, the urgency to act leaves little room for hesitation.

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    NYU junior Fadumo Osman. Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser

    ‘You’ll have to choose: Black or Muslim’

    When Ikhlas Saleem, 27, prepared to leave her hometown of Atlanta, which in an essay for BuzzFeed she called a “black Muslim Mecca,” a friend’s older sister told her, “When you get to college, you’ll have to choose: black or Muslim.”  

    In her first few weeks at Wellesley College she said she felt the tug between the MSA and the Black Students Association. In the end, she committed to neither.

    “I gave up a part of myself to hang with each group that made up my identity,” she wrote. “I would hide from my Muslim friends on my way to parties. I pretended to be an international Ghanaian student for at least three years of college. I figured it was easier to just drop some parts of myself in exchange for the simplicity of a singular identity, depending on the circle.”

    Saleem told me that she felt her only choices were communities that treated race and religion separately. Attempts to insert race into religious conversations, or vice versa, were met with resistance.

    Drammeh said when she brings up race in Muslim company, and she frequently does, she is often confronted with people who believe conversations about race have no place in Islam. Sometimes people argue with her by citing Hadith, the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.

    “People love bringing up the Hadith where the prophet says, ‘You are not better than anyone else in this world in terms of race or culture except by your deeds.’ It’s the famous line that everyone pulls out to say like, hey, don’t exclude people who are different from you,” she said.

    NYU Junior Isatou Daffeh looks into the camera. Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser

    NYU junior Isatou Daffeh. Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser

    And when students are willing to bring race into the conversation, they can be reluctant to consider the ways that their attitude blocks attempts at engagement, according to Drammeh.

    Last November, the MSA at the University of California, Berkeley, hosted an event called “Is the Ummah Racist?” (Is the global Muslim community racist?) The heavily-attended conversation was moderated by three Black Muslim students.

    Fatima Ibrahim, a rising junior at Berkeley whose family is from Cameroon, was in attendance. She said several students in the crowd of mostly Middle Eastern and South Asian Muslims grew defensive as the panelists discussed the ways Black Muslims are ignored.

    Ibrahim said she heard them say, “Well I’m not racist but my parents are,” “Don’t attack my character, don’t attack me,” or “That’s just the way I was brought up.”

    Sustainable inclusivity

    This past April, Drammeh was awarded the Community Outreach Award at the Islamic Center’s end-of-year ceremony for her work to expand conversations about race within the Muslim community. The crowd of several hundred Muslims, including three of her siblings, whooped and hollered when her name was called.

    In a Facebook post the following night, Drammeh wrote, “Honestly, this time last year, I felt so out of place in this community but Alhamdulillah” — praise be to God — “so much has changed since then and I sincerely owe it to the love and support of the members of this community.”

    A week earlier, she was elected the Community Service Chair for the 2016-2017 academic year. In her new role, she plans to launch a mentorship program at a local school with majority Black students.

    “Bringing people from the [Islamic Center] into schools and for them to have an idea of what it means to be Black, like myself — that all opens your awareness,” she said. “It takes you out of your comfort zone and helps you appreciate the struggles of people who are within your community who might not be like you.”

    But Mariyamou knows her successes are not a guarantee that future Black Muslims at NYU will encounter a similarly welcoming community. The challenge, she said, is building cultures of inclusivity that are sustainable, even in the absence of Black leadership.

    This weekend, NYU’s MSA hosted a conference called “We Are Power” to teach Muslim students how to organize around causes that matter to them, and causes they may not think enough about. One of the scheduled events is called “Intersections of Race, Gender, Class & Faith.” Another is “Racial Profiling of Muslim Communities.”

    University efforts join a national movement to train young people in the practice of inclusive leadership. The Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, the two-year-old group behind the hashtag #BlackInMSA, offers racial justice training to Islamic schools, MSAs and independent organizations. 

    With the yearly turnover of students, maintaining an infrastructure of inclusivity can be especially difficult at the university level, Margari Hill, cofounder of MuslimARC, said. The work of sustainability, then, falls to chaplains and MSA alumni, she said, because inclusivity is too important to be left susceptible to flux.

    The bigger struggle may be helping young graduates transition their toolkit of “cultural proficiency” to their mosques back home, where they might encounter resistance to their activism-streaked brand of Islam.

    The eager graduates can hit a wall, often in the form of a “boys club” of elders, Hill said. That’s no reason to be discouraged, though. “If you hit a wall, that means a bunch of other people hit a wall too.”

    If the elders don’t respect you at first, fine, she said. Unite with the other frustrated Muslims to build a welcoming community. “In the end, after they see what you produce, they will respect you. Don’t wait for anybody to create that space for you.”

    The post For Black Muslim students, a two-pronged fight for solidarity appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    One the longest-serving members of a rescue organization in Syria, who rose to fame in 2014 after a video captured him saving a 10-day-old baby trapped beneath a crumbled building, was killed in an airstrike Thursday in Aleppo.

    Khaled Omar Harah, 31, a member of the Syrian Civil Defense, died during an airstrike in a rebel-held area of the city, a spokesperson for the organization told NBC News. He is survived by his wife and their two daughters.

    Harah was one of nearly 3,000 members carrying out rescue missions with the group, whose workers are also known as the White Helmets. Operating in different locations across Syria, the White Helmets rush to damaged sites to save survivors and provide emergency supplies and medical treatment. They are a civilian force that does not fight in the conflict.

    The organization reports that 130 rescuers have died while attempting to save lives during the five-year civil war.

    Serving in Aleppo, one of the most contested areas in war that has been besieged for months, Harah operated with few supplies. An estimated 300,000 people are currently trapped in the city, which has been subject to heavy fighting in both aerial and ground attacks.

    Although the planes that conducted the strike have not yet been identified, Russian and Syrian jets have hit rebel-occupied areas of Aleppo in recent months.

    In a video uploaded to YouTube in August 2014, which boosted international awareness of White Helmets’ work, Harah and colleagues search for a baby in the rubble of a building hit by airstrikes. The clip shows Harah delicately pulling the infant out from under large slabs of concrete. Two years later, the video now has over 900,000 views.

    “Can you imagine how this two-week-old baby survived after his house was hit by a barrel bomb and three stories collapsed above his head?” Harah asks in the video. “This baby was stronger than barrel bombs, stronger than collapsed ceilings, stronger than everything.”

    While the footage highlighted the work of the White Helmets and offered insight into the difficulties of the Syrian war, the rescue was just one of many conducted by Harah and his team.

    “Countless people owe their lives to Khaled,” The Syria Campaign, an advocacy group, said in a Facebook post honoring Harah. “For years he ran into danger, emerging from the dust carrying people in his arms or on his shoulders. He was killed doing what Khaled did – saving others.”

    Before he served in the White Helmets, he was a painter and decorator. But when the war broke out, he quickly joined to aid rescue efforts.

    “Humanity lost another hero,” the Facebook post by The Syria Campaign read. “We are all heartbroken.”

    The post Famed Syrian rescue worker dies in airstrike appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Katie Ledecky became the first woman to win the 200-, 400-, and 800-meter freestyle since the 1968 Mexico City games, The New York Times reported. She beat the second-place finisher, Jazz Carlin from Great Britain, by 11.38 seconds.

    In swimming, 11 seconds is a long time. To put it in perspective: “The men’s 100-meter dash final Sunday in track and field will begin and end in the time [Ledecky] spent waiting” for other competitor’s to finish, The Washington Postreported>.

    The New York Times put out a simple graphic to provide a sense of what 11 seconds feels like.

    As Ledecky neared the end, Carlin and the other swimmers were nearly half a pool length behind.

    The U.S. women’s soccer team, winner of three consecutive gold medals, tied Sweden 1-1 before losing in penalty kicks.

    After the match, Hope Solo, goalie for the U.S. team, took aim at what she called Sweden’s “cowardly” style of play.

    “The best team did not win today,’’ she added. “I strongly and firmly believe that.’’

    Solo’s comments spurred angry U.S. fans to threaten boycotts of Swedish companies, like Ikea, spurring conversation online about lack of American sportsmanship.

    21-year-old Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling beat his childhood idol Michael Phelps in the 100 meter butterfly. By touching the wall first in 50.39 seconds, Schooling not only set a new Olympic record, but made history by winning the first-ever gold medal for his country.

    “My hat’s definitely off to him,” Phelps told NBC Sports.

    After a race, a photo went viral on Twitter showing a young Schooling posing with Phelps before the 2008 Olympics.

    “If it wasn’t for Michael, I don’t think I could have gotten to this point. I wanted to be like him as a kid,” said Schooling, according to Reuters.

    Three months after his withdrawal from the French Open due to a wrist injury, Rafael Nadal of Spain, with his doubles partner Marc Lopez, won the first tennis gold medal of the games. It was Nadal’s second Olympic gold, following his singles win in the 2008 Olympics.

    “It’s something unforgettable for me, for both of us, I think,” Nadal said after the match, according to CNN.

    OTHER NOTEWORTHY MOMENTS

    American skeet shooter Kim Rhode took home a bronze medal, becoming the first woman to earn an individual medal in six consecutive games. Italian luger Armin Zoeggeler is the only other athlete with the same achievement.

    Rhode noted to NBC that in the 1996 Olympics, the athletes received free pagers.

    “Talking to some of the Olympians now, what’s a pager?” Rhode told NBC, adding that she has been playing Pokemon Go with her teammates.

    Egyptian judo player Islam El Shehaby refused to shake the hand of his Or Sasson, his Israeli opponent, after their match, The Times reported. It was a major breech of judo etiquette. El Shehaby was swiftly booed.

    At the end of the day, French judoka Teddy Riner defended his title with another gold.

    The post Olympic highlights from Day 7: Katie Ledecky beats 800m record appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    living_in_cars_1

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    Read the full transcript below.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM, NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Faced with some of the most expensive rental housing in the nation, many San Francisco Bay Area residents are priced out of the rental market.  An hour’s drive south of San Francisco, in Silicon Valley, a mecca for high-paying American computer and technology industry jobs, some residents are even turning to cars, vans, and RVs as places to live. In tonight’s Signature Segment, Special Correspondent Joanne Jennings reports how this trend exposes an unintended consequence of an economic boom for both the middle class and the working poor. This story is part of our ongoing series “Chasing the Dream,” about poverty and opportunity in America.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: Mountain View, California, is home to hundreds of technology firms. From NASA’s Supercomputing Division to tech giant Google, which alone employs twenty thousand people here. The city’s unemployment rate is two-and-a half percent — half the national average — and the median household income tops 100-thousand dollars a year. But there are perils to this prosperity, says Mountain View Mayor Pat Showater.

    PAT SHOWATER: So many people have come here that the rents, because of supply and demand, have gone through the roof.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: The median rent for an apartment or house is four-thousand-three hundred-ninety a month, a 54% jump since 2012.

    PAT SHOWATER: It doesn’t matter whether you make $100,000 or not, you haven’t planned for a 54% rent increase. And it’s caused a lot of people to be displaced.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: A small but growing number of the city’s 80,000 residents are now living in recreational vehicles, vans, and cars. Like these on this street next to a park.

    SCOTT WHALEY: This is my home, and I’m happy here.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: 59-year-old Scott Whaley moved out of his Mountain View apartment into a mini-van last November, when he lost his job as a Property Manager.

    SCOTT WHALEY: I just moved into my van. I said, you know, until I can find a place.

    This is my bedroom back here.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: Whaley now lives this used, 1997 RV he bought for $10,000, depleting his savings.

    SCOTT WHALEY: Yes, I would love to have a home. However, this is my home. I’m not homeless.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: A couple miles away, across from an office park. Marcia Christleib also makes her home in an RV.

    And this is bigger than some of the studios you’ve looked at?

    MARCIA CHRISTLEIB: It is.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: Even though she earns $65,000 a year as an environmental consultant for NASA, Christleib says it’s not enough to support her and her husband, Dennis, who’s looking for work.

    MARCIA CHRISTLEIB: The only apartment we’ve looked at so far that looks like it’s in a safe neighborhood goes for almost $2,400 a month. That’s a huge portion of a salary, and we’re just going to have to give up other conveniences. I still can only afford the things I could afford when I was making minimum wage, because everything else goes to rent.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: The Christleibs tried to park their RV at a proper campsite. But the only facility in Mountain View that provided power and water hookups is now a construction site. It closed last year after a developer bought the property to build million dollar townhouses.

    This summer, the city of Mountain View counted 126 vehicles being used as homes.

    TOM MYERS: It’s very difficult to get good numbers, because homeless individuals are often trying to remain hidden.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: Tom Myers is executive director of Mountain View’s community services agency.

    TOM MYERS: People living in vehicles to this type of degree and number is completely new and completely unheard of in this community. People living in their vehicles is something that we are really, as a community, ill-equipped to be able to handle.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: Delmi Ruiz is preparing dinner in the cramped RV she moved into with her husband and three kids last November.

    Ruiz has worked as a housekeeper in Mountain View for 10 years. Her husband cleans offices. She says the landlord of their last apartment raised their rent three times in the year before they moved out.

    DELMI RUIZ: The rent started increasing, and we were no longer able to pay for it.

    JOANNE JENNINGS: So, why do you stay in Mountain View?

    DELMI RUIZ: Because we’ve always lived in Mountain View. Before it was possible to live here and pay for rent, because it was cheap, but it’s become impossible to live here.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: For other displaced residents who choose to stay in Mountain View, even an RV is too expensive.

    Dwayne Golstein makes 30-thousand dollars a year as a Pathology Lab Technician but he lived in this rented mini-van for two months. It was retrofitted with a mattress and window curtains. He says it was cheaper and had more privacy than the boarding house where he’d lived before.

    DWAYNE GOLSTEIN: $200 a week for a bunk bed in a room with five other bunk beds.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: He saved money, but it wasn’t easy.

    DWYANE GOLSTEIN: I really had to sit down and be honest with myself and say, could I get up every day and take the necessary discipline to not eat after a certain hour? Make sure I could charge my devices every evening; Get up in time if I need to move the van because of parking tickets and so forth, do that. On top of the everyday rigors of getting dressed and being presentable for my employment.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: To keep himself clean and presentable, for $35 a month, Golstein joined a 24-hour gym with showers.

    DWAYNE GOLSTEIN: It’s usually cold in the evening times when I go to the gym or when I come in, so I keep my sweater. This is my laundry which I’ll take the laundromat once a week.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: For those living in vehicles who can’t afford a gym membership, the nonprofit “Dignity on Wheels” offers mobile shower and laundry services.

    For his part, Golstein has moved back into a shared apartment. Some Mountain View residents living in vehicles can easily afford an apartment but choose to save money and rough it.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: Brandon, who’s 23 and declined to give his last name, earns $175,000 a year as a software engineer. We agreed not to name his employer. He sleeps in this windowless moving truck parked a few blocks from his office in Mountain View. He says he has all the amenities he needs at work.

    BRANDON: So, there are gyms on the campus where I work. There are showers there naturally. They have cafes where you can grab breakfast lunch and dinner. So, I thought it didn’t make a lot of sense for me to replicate that whole environment at home especially when I wouldn’t be taking advantage of it.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: Brandon’s been living in his truck for more than a year and writing a blog about his experience called “From Inside the Box.”

    BRANDON: It’s a substantial sum of money that I would have just been effectively burning on rent. There’s no equity being built up on anything.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: The savings helped Brandon pay off his $20,000 student loan debt. He’s now maxing out contributions to his retirement plan.

    A lot of people are blaming the high cost of housing on the tech companies and on the tech workers.

    BRANDON: Yeah. You have all these high paid workers coming into the area. People or landlords know they can charge more for rent. It ends up becoming totally unsustainable, and intractable for people who don’t have the sort of resources that these tech workers have. I think they’re perfectly justified in blaming us.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: As the largest employer in Mountain View, Google recognizes its high salaries have contributed to an inflated housing market.

    Rebecca Prozan is a Public Policy Manager at the company’s San Francisco office.

    REBECCA PROZAN: Obviously, our footprint creates pressure. It creates pressure on housing and transportation, but that pressure isn’t just tech. It’s not just Google. It’s all the industries that are creating the economy of the Bay Area. We all have to work together to figure out what we’re going to look like, and how we’re going to live.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: Prozan did not want to address published reports about a handful of its employees living in vehicles to save money.

    REBECCA PROZAN: I think the issue is that we don’t necessarily want to comment on our employees participating in those activities.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: But she said Google is committed to addressing the problem of homeless in the Bay Area. In Mountain View alone, the company has pledged $1 million for a “rapid rehousing” program.

    REBECCA PROZAN: This specific grant will work to help those who are on the fringes, either about to lose their home, or about to get into a home in the form of time limited payments, motel rooms, things of that nature to really make sure that people are able to have a home and not live in a car.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: Several California cities have prohibited people from living in vehicles parked on public streets.

    But in 2014, a Federal appeals court struck down a Los Angeles law that it said “opens the door to discriminatory enforcement against the homeless and the poor.” That caused LA and other cities to rescind their bans.

    Certainly, Mountain View officials hear their share of complaints.

    ASHLEY HANSON, MOUNTAIN VIEW RESIDENT: I have mixed feelings. You know, I feel sorry for the people that are there, but we pay a ton of rent to live in our building. And there’s like a lot of garbage.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: The sites I saw were mostly clean, and people living in vehicles say the police have been tolerant. Mountain View Mayor Pat Showater says her approach is to offer help, not punishment.

    PAT SHOWATER: The intent is to get everybody the shelter that they need. It just doesn’t seem like impounding somebody’s vehicle, charging them many, many dollars to get it back when they don’t have much money to start with, it just seems like, how does that help? What’s the value of that?

    The post High rents force some in Silicon Valley to live in vehicles appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) takes part in a news conference after a meeting with representatives from the Chambers Senators and Deputies of Mexico, in Mexico City, Mexico, May 2, 2016. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido - RTX2CIJQ

    U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) takes part in a news conference after a meeting with representatives from the Chambers Senators and Deputies of Mexico, in Mexico City, Mexico, on May 2, 2016. Photo by Edgard Garrido/Reuters

    EDGARTOWN, Mass. — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is advising fellow Democrats to change their cellphone numbers and not let family members read their text messages after personal and official information of Democratic House members and congressional staff was posted online.

    Pelosi says in a letter to Democrats that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate the hacking of the committee’s computers.

    Pelosi says that since cellphone numbers have been posted online, she’s received scores of harassing calls. She describes them as “mostly obscene and sick calls, voicemails and text messages.”

    She advises lawmakers not to let family members answer their cellphones or read incoming text messages.

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    A boy plays atop firewood before women and children rescued from Boko Haram in Sambisa forest by Nigeria Military arrive at the Internally displaced people's camp in Yola, Adamawa State, Nigeria, May 2, 2015. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde  - RTX1BAE9

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    WILLIAM BRANGHAM, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:  The Islamic terrorist group known as Boko Haram gained global infamy for kidnapping close to 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria in 2014.  But the group has also kidnapped more than 10,000 boys over the past three years, according to Human Rights Watch.  What happens to these boys — including Boko Haram’s efforts to convert them into soldiers — is the subject of an article this week co-written by “Wall Street Journal” reporter Drew Hinshaw, who joins me now.

    Before we get into your reporting, help us understand what is Boko Haram doing and what do they want and how long have they been waging this insurgency in Nigeria and elsewhere?

    DREW HINSHAW, WALL STREET JOURNAL:  Sure.  Since 2009, Boko Haram has been waging a really scorched earth violent campaign to topple Nigeria’s government, create an Islamist state in the northeast of Nigeria, chase away soldiers and generally attack people who don’t subscribe to their ultraviolent ideology.

    BRANGHAM:  The Islamic terrorist group known as Boko Haram gained global infamy for kidnapping close to 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria in 2014.  But the group has also kidnapped more than 10,000 boys over the past three years, according to Human Rights Watch.  What happens to these boys — including Boko Haram’s efforts to convert them into soldiers — is the subject of an article this week co-written by “Wall Street Journal” reporter Drew Hinshaw, who joins me now.

    Before we get into your reporting, help us understand what is Boko Haram doing and what do they want and how long have they been waging this insurgency in Nigeria and elsewhere?

    HINSHAW:  Sure.  Since 2009, Boko Haram has been waging a really scorched earth violent campaign to topple Nigeria’s government, create an Islamist state in the northeast of Nigeria, chase away soldiers and generally attack people who don’t subscribe to their ultraviolent ideology.

    BRANGHAM:  Your reporting detailed how Boko Haram has been kidnapping thousands of these boys.  And you spoke to about a dozen or so who escaped Boko Haram.  What did they tell you about their experience?

    HINSHAW:  Well, I think they’re all shaken by it, understandably.  The most kind of astonishing aspect of it is that a lot of them at 12, 15 years old, were responsible for raising children who were even younger than them.  I mean, in some cases — in one case, we talked to — he was 10 years old at the time who helped raised infant, toddlers, essentially to be jihadists.  So, you have in these kind of encampments, children raising children to be terrorist.

    BRANGHAM:  Why is Boko Haram taking these kid?  What do they want to use them for?

    HINSHAW:  One boy I talked to who is in the story, kind of put it succinctly, Boko Haram, they expect to be martyrs.  Many of the adults are expected to die in battle and they expect to achieve martyrdom, and they’re looking for a new generation to keep their project going after they die in battle.

    And I would add that in some ways, they are successful with some of these boys.  Obviously, the ones we talked to are the ones that escaped, the ones who said we’ve had enough.

    But all of them, without exception, said that if you go to those camps, most of people there are genuine believers and they’re really converted.

    BRANGHAM:  But Boko Haram is the one doing the conversion.  These kids don’t come to them as radicals, correct?

    HINSHAW:  They don’t — even if they’re coming as radicals, they have no idea what they’re doing.  They’re victims as much as they’re perpetrators.  Some of them are guilty of heinous things — rape, murder, killing– all kinds of horrible things.  And yet, they’re also victims.  They’re also kids plucked out of villages forced into a cult, forced to watch beheadings, with all kinds of indoctrination, beaten, starved, and at some point, they convert.

    BRANGHAM:  We have seen the use of child soldiers in the past.  Is it — what is different about this?  Is it the scale of the problem here?

    HINSHAW:  You have here a situation where you can’t go talk to Boko Haram.  In the civil war in Liberia and Sierra Leone, it’s starting to give you, a researcher with Human Rights Watch told me that, you know, she went into Guinea and spoke to some of the people and said, “Hey, look, if you don’t knock this off, if you don’t stop recruiting children, one day, you could face a war crimes trial.”  And it worked.

    You know, a U.N. envoy can’t go into rural northeastern Nigeria and sit down with the leader of Boko Haram and say, what you’re doing is wrong according to these rules.  You can’t immobilize them.

    BRANGHAM:  All right.  Drew Hinshaw of “The Wall Street Journal — thank you so much for this.

    HINSHAW:  Thank you, too.

    END
    Your reporting detailed how Boko Haram has been kidnapping thousands of these boys.  And you spoke to about a dozen or so who escaped Boko Haram.  What did they tell you about their experience?

    HINSHAW:  Well, I think they’re all shaken by it, understandably.  The most kind of astonishing aspect of it is that a lot of them at 12, 15 years old, were responsible for raising children who were even younger than them.  I mean, in some cases — in one case, we talked to — he was 10 years old at the time who helped raised infant, toddlers, essentially to be jihadists.  So, you have in these kind of encampments, children raising children to be terrorist.

    BRANGHAM:  Why is Boko Haram taking these kid?  What do they want to use them for?

    HINSHAW:  One boy I talked to who is in the story, kind of put it succinctly, Boko Haram, they expect to be martyrs.  Many of the adults are expected to die in battle and they expect to achieve martyrdom, and they’re looking for a new generation to keep their project going after they die in battle.

    And I would add that in some ways, they are successful with some of these boys.  Obviously, the ones we talked to are the ones that escaped, the ones who said we’ve had enough.

    But all of them, without exception, said that if you go to those camps, most of people there are genuine believers and they’re really converted.

    BRANGHAM:  But Boko Haram is the one doing the conversion.  These kids don’t come to them as radicals, correct?

    HINSHAW:  They don’t — even if they’re coming as radicals, they have no idea what they’re doing.  They’re victims as much as they’re perpetrators.  Some of them are guilty of heinous things — rape, murder, killing– all kinds of horrible things.  And yet, they’re also victims.  They’re also kids plucked out of villages forced into a cult, forced to watch beheadings, with all kinds of indoctrination, beaten, starved, and at some point, they convert.

    BRANGHAM:  We have seen the use of child soldiers in the past.  Is it — what is different about this?  Is it the scale of the problem here?

    HINSHAW:  You have here a situation where you can’t go talk to Boko Haram.  In the civil war in Liberia and Sierra Leone, it’s starting to give you, a researcher with Human Rights Watch told me that, you know, she went into Guinea and spoke to some of the people and said, “Hey, look, if you don’t knock this off, if you don’t stop recruiting children, one day, you could face a war crimes trial.”  And it worked.

    You know, a U.N. envoy can’t go into rural northeastern Nigeria and sit down with the leader of Boko Haram and say, what you’re doing is wrong according to these rules.  You can’t immobilize them.

    BRANGHAM:  All right.  Drew Hinshaw of “The Wall Street Journal — thank you so much for this.

    HINSHAW:  Thank you, too.

    END

    The post What happened to 10,000 boys kidnapped by Boko Haram? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A view of the jury box inside Courtroom 201, where jury selection in the trial of Aurora movie theater shootings defendant James Holmes is to begin on Jan. 20, 2015, at the Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colorado,  January 15, 2015. Jury selection is expected to take several weeks to a few months.  REUTERS/Brennan Linsley/Pool  (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW) - RTR4LLZO

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    WILLIAM BRANGHAM, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:  Judging by the proliferation of TV shows, miniseries and podcasts about our legal system, you’d think jury trials are the norm.  But a new analysis of federal court cases indicates that the trend is actually moving in a different direction.

    A story in “The New York Times” last Sunday showed, in 1997, of the 63,000 federal defendants, 3,200 were convicted in jury trials.  But by 2015, even as the number of federal defendants grew to 81,000, jury convictions dropped by half to just 1,650.

    Reporter Benjamin Weiser wrote the story and he joins me now from Maine to help us understand what’s going on.

    So, Benjamin, what is driving this decline?

    BENJAMIN WEISER, NEW YORK TIMES:  There appear to be a lot of reasons.  People particularly pointed out to me the sentencing guidelines which Congress passed a number of years ago, mandatory minimum sentences which set a floor for certain crimes under which someone cannot receive a sentence.  And as a result, there was at least, for a period and remains, an incentive that drives many defendants to decide that it — you know, after a risk-benefit analysis, that it makes much more sense to plead guilty and take their risks at perhaps getting a lower sentence than if they go to trial and are convicted.

    BRANGHAM:  Is there a down side to this?  I mean, just offhand, I can imagine some pretty considerable savings to taxpayers if we don’t have an endless amount of jury trials going on.  What’s the down side here?

    WEISER:  You know, the most patrol issue that people pointed out to me, including a number of judges, is that so much in the criminal justice system does not happen in public but the one thing that does is a trial.  And when you see a criminal trial before a jury, everything is out there.  The government’s evidence is tested.  The defense, of course, gets its best shot.  The public gets to see what’s happening.

    And this is particularly important.  And I have seen this in recent political corruption trials, for example, where the government got to lay out the evidence it was bringing.  Without trials, with only pleas, plea bargains, much of that happens behind closed doors and several judges to me said it’s very disappointing that as the number of trials disappear, the public nature of what happens in the courthouse also vanishes.

    BRANGHAM:  Is the concern that this just tips the balance in well, too much in favor of prosecutions because their evidence never really gets scrutinized in court?

    WEISER:  Well, some people say that, and there’s a debate.  Prosecutors bring cases, and they would argue that they bring only the strongest cases, the cases that they believe they can win at trial.  Defense lawyers often feel that from an ethical perspective, it really makes sense for their defendant to plead guilty if they really think they’re going to get convicted at trial.  And to some extent, the number of pleas that are hammered out allow the system to keep moving forward.

    But it is a fact that there are fewer criminal jury trials, and this number has actually been going down over the last 20, 30, 40 years.  It just happens that in the Manhattan federal courthouse that I’ve been covering, it seemed particularly pronounced in recent months, and I began asking about it at the time.

    BRANGHAM:  One of the negatives of this, as you quote in your story is a lot of federal judge just feel that their jobs are incredibly boring.  But are there other up sides to this, not having so many trials?

    WEISER:  It certainly is true, for a defendant a plea to perhaps one charge that does not carry, in the case we wrote about, a mandatory minimum sentence, allows a defendant not to spend as much time in prison as he might have had he gone to trial and been convicted.  So, certainly, there was an upside there.

    And in the case we cited, the defense lawyer who I quoted said that, you know, this defendant really had no choice.  He had been charged with two counts.  One had a mandatory minimum of 20 years.  The other had no mandatory minimum.

    However, the defense lawyer felt that their case was triable, that elements of it were weak, and that there might have been a shot at least, you know, make something progress on in the courtroom, but that would be never tested.

    BRANGHAM:  As you report in your story, these mandatory minimums have been loosened somewhat recently.  So, is there any sense that this trend is going to change at all?

    WEISER:  It is a fact that the number of trials has diminished in the federal court in Manhattan.  I also found that that data was exactly the same in New York state, statewide, in the state courts over the last 10, 20 years, and the federal courts dating back to 1980 nationally are seeing the same trend.  I don’t know how it’s going to change or if it’s going to change.  It’s a tough question.

    BRANGHAM:  All right.  Benjamin Weiser of “The New York Times” — thanks very much for being here.

    WEISER:  Thank you for having me.

    END

    The post Why jury trials are becoming less common appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of voting booths by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    Thousands of former refugees and asylum-seekers will vote for the first time in a U.S. presidential election this November. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    NEW YORK — The path to the voting booth hasn’t been easy for Hatoumata Tounkara, but the former West African refugee says she couldn’t have picked a better election to cast her first ballot.

    As a newly naturalized American citizen, she’s one of thousands of former refugees and asylum-seekers who will be voting in a U.S. election for the first time this November.

    “This election is very special to me,” Tounkara said. “This can show my daughter that she can become anything she wants in her life, because back home, women just cook and take care of the men.”

    At 23, Tounkara fled her home in Mali after rejecting an arranged marriage. She made her way to the United States via Gambia in 2008. It took two years for the U.S. to grant her asylum, and then she waited six more for a chance to take the citizenship test.

    The road to citizenship is full of challenges for those fleeing oppression and war back home. Many have witnessed the consequences of autocratic rule and civil strife. They’ve spent years navigating the bureaucracy to get to the U.S. and, eventually, to become a citizen. There are those who believe they hold a personal stake in this election, with immigration becoming a central issue.

    As a Muslim, Tounkara says she is put off by some of Donald Trump’s rhetoric and will vote for Hillary Clinton. But voting against Trump isn’t what is motivating her to vote, said Tounkara, now 31.

    “If you don’t vote, nobody will hear your voice,” she said.

    The U.S. government doesn’t keep statistics on how many of the over 700,000 immigrants naturalized each year are former refugees or how many of those new citizens register to vote.

    [Watch Video]

    Over the past decade, about 150,000 refugees or asylum-seekers on average were granted lawful permanent resident status per year. About 60 percent of all green cardholders eventually become citizens, according to the Pew Research Center.

    While most eligible refugees are excited and eager to participate in democracy, there are many hurdles to active involvement, said Ramla Sahid, executive director of the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans, a San Diego nonprofit group that promotes civic engagement.

    Endless paperwork, fees reaching almost $2,000, in-person interviews, fingerprinting, a written 100-question civics test, an English test, and lots of waiting. And still, there are no guarantees. Green cardholders must live in the U.S. for five years before they can become a citizen.

    Bandana Rai, 57, who fled Nepal during a 10-year civil war that ended in 2006, said her appreciation of the vote is enhanced by what she went through to become a citizen.

    “You have to really want it,” Rai said.

    Arbey Hamadi, who was born in a camp for Somalian refugees in Kenya, became a U.S. citizen automatically as a teenager when her parents were naturalized in 2012. She is excited to participate in her first election this fall at age 20 — partly because her opposition to Trump, who has proposed a temporary ban on foreign Muslims from entering the U.S.

    “As a Muslim, I think we have to stand shoulder to shoulder so that we can amplify our voices and stand against hate,” she said.

    In areas where there are large concentrations of refugees, they are learning that they can serve as a legitimate political force.

    In Minneapolis this past week, Ilhan Omar, a former refugee from Somalia, defeated another Somali refugee, Mohamud Noor, as well as 44-year-incumbent for the Democratic nomination for a seat in the state Legislature.

    She is now poised to become the nation’s first Somali-American state lawmaker.

    Noor, who was naturalized in 2005, said in Somalia there were no elections.

    “When you come to a place that you really want to be in, you cherish those democratic ideals that you get to participate in by being a citizen,” he said.

    The post Former refugees look to Election Day with a sense of duty appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A worker takes off U.S and Puerto Rican flag after rally of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 16, 2016. REUTERS/Alvin Baez - RTSEL4U

    A worker takes off U.S and Puerto Rican flag after rally of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 16, 2016. Photo by Alvin Baez/Reuters

    PHILADELPHIA — Residents of Puerto Rico can’t vote in presidential elections. But with the island’s economy in shambles, many are fleeing to the U.S. mainland, potentially shifting demographic norms in some of the most closely contested states.

    The impact of Puerto Rican migrants on the election hinges on how successful voting advocates are in getting them to the polls, with many focused more on finding jobs, homes and schools.

    Together, Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio — three pivotal states in the fall — absorbed more than 22,500 Puerto Rican migrants in 2013 alone. Many more Puerto Ricans already living on the mainland have relocated to these states from traditional hubs such as New York.

    Recent polls suggest that for now, Democrat Hillary Clinton leads in Pennsylvania and has the edge in Ohio, while Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are in a close race in Florida.

    “Think about what happened in 2000” with the presidential recount in Florida, said Sandra Suarez, a professor of political science at Philadelphia’s Temple University. “The difference was a few hundred votes.”

    Puerto Ricans living on the island can only vote in presidential primaries. As U.S. citizens, they are immediately eligible to vote in national elections upon residency and registration on the mainland. Even if only one-quarter of eligible recent Puerto Rican migrants vote in Pennsylvania and Florida, that could be enough to tilt a close race.

    Dozens of new grassroots organizations have emerged in recent years to encourage Puerto Ricans to vote, said Justin Velez-Hagan, founder of the National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce.

    The Rev. Roberto Luis Lugo of Philadelphia, who has been organizing activists to get Puerto Ricans to vote, said it doesn’t really matter for whom they vote, as long as they exercise their right as citizens. “If they vote, we can make a big difference in whatever election we have.”

    Puerto Rico’s economy has been on the decline since the 1990s, when tax incentives for U.S. companies to operate in Puerto Rico were repealed. Stagnation turned into a free-fall in the 2007 housing market crash. The island has failed to bounce back ever since, with unemployment topping 12 percent earlier this year —more than double the national average.

    New York has been a traditional hub for Puerto Rican migrants, but they are increasingly settling elsewhere, due mainly to New York’s high cost of living. Puerto Ricans typically have a high turnout at home; voter participation often exceeds 70 percent. Organizers have in the past faced hurdles encouraging Puerto Ricans on the mainland to get to the polls.

    Jonathan Lewis, a recent migrant to Philadelphia, left his hometown of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, in search of opportunity when his biomedical science degree would only land him a job at McDonald’s. His girlfriend, a student at New York University at the time, invited him to the mainland. It was an easy decision, and he quickly found a job at FedEx.

    But voting wasn’t a priority for Lewis until he encountered an organizer on the street who registered him within minutes.

    “People will always be more concerned about finding a job,” Lewis said. “Once they already have a job, they will start probably having interest in some other things like voting, getting registered, that kind of thing.”

    In the 2014 elections, only about one-quarter of eligible Puerto Ricans on the mainland voted, whereas nationally, voter turnout reached about 42 percent that year, and 27 percent among Latinos as a whole, according to the Pew Center.

    High turnout would likely favor Clinton. Polls show she leads by large margins among Latinos nationally, though those samples are not large enough to give a breakdown of her performance among Puerto Ricans specifically.

    Clinton won Puerto Rico during the primaries and has made prominent campaign hires to appeal to Latino voters. The Trump campaign has been less successful at reaching out to Latino voters and lost Puerto Rico to Florida’s Cuban-American Sen. Marco Rubio in a landslide during the primaries.

    The post Puerto Ricans flocking to mainland could sway swing states appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A crowd of community members have a moment of silence at the place where Imam Maulama Akonjee and his friend Thara Uddin were killed in the Queens borough of New York on August 13, 2016. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    A crowd of community members have a moment of silence at the place where Imam Maulama Akonjee and his friend Thara Uddin were killed in the Queens borough of New York on Aug. 13, 2016. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    An imam and his associate were shot dead on Saturday afternoon in Queens, New York, officials said.

    Imam Maulama Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 64, were leaving Al-Furqan Jame Masjid after a 1 p.m. prayer service when they were shot in the back of the head, CBS News reported.

    Mourners and members of the largely Bangladeshi Muslim community gathered at the scene on Saturday afternoon, describing the imam as a well-respected leader.

    The imam’s daughter, Naima Akonjee, told the Associated Press that her father and Uddin were friends who “always walked together to the mosque from their homes on the same street.”

    The police have not issued a motive for the shooting. The two men were dressed in religious garb, and Imam Akonjee was carrying more than $1,000. The money was not taken, The New York Times reported.

    A law enforcement official who spoke anonymously to the Times said that the crime “did not fit any existing pattern and cautioned that the motive was still wide open.”

    “What it does seem is that it was planned, to some extent,” the official said.

    On Sunday morning, police released a sketch of a man who witnesses saw flee the scene with a gun. No arrests have been made.

    A crowd of community members gather at the place where Imam Maulama Akonjee and his associate Thara Uddin were killed in the Queens borough of New York on August 13, 2016. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    A crowd of community members gather at the place where Imam Maulama Akonjee and his associate Thara Uddin were killed in the Queens borough of New York on August 13, 2016. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    More than 100 neighborhood residents, religious leaders, and mosque-goers gathered at the site of the shooting, expressing concern that Saturday’s shooting was a hate crime. In December, the Times reported that instances of anti-Muslim violence tripled after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

    “We feel really insecure and unsafe in a moment like this,” Millat Uddin, a resident of the community where the two men were shot, told CBS News.

    “It’s really threatening to us, threatening to our future, threatening to our mobility in our neighborhood, and we’re looking for the justice,” he said.

    Instagram Photo

    Instagram Photo

    The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish non-governmental organization based in New York, urged the NYPD to investigate the shootings as a possible hate crime, the Associated Press reported.

    Online, the hashtag #IllWalkWithYou emerged, as non-Muslims offered to accompany Muslim people to and from their mosque for safety.

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    For some grieving residents, it was difficult to see Saturday’s shooting as anything but political.

    “That’s not what America is about,” community member Khairul Islam told the New York Daily News. “We blame Donald Trump for this…Trump and his drama has created Islamophobia.”

    Community and family members who knew Imam Akonjee, who moved to the U.S. from Bangladesh two years ago, said he was a respected religious leader and father.

    “He would not hurt a fly,” Imam Akonjee’s nephew Rahi Majid told the New York Daily News. “You would watch him come down the street and watch the peace he brings.”

    The post Imam and his associate shot dead in New York appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo via STAT

    Virtual reality is being used as a way to diagnose pedophilia. Photo via STAT

    A handful of scientists are testing a controversial practice of using virtual reality to diagnose pedophilia in men in hopes of helping them manage their sexual desires before they act on them.

    Pedophilia, a psychiatric disorder, affects up to 5 percent of men, according to the American Psychiatric Association. But it’s difficult to study because researchers don’t want to use real photos of children to measure arousal. So they’re turning to 3-D animated characters and virtual reality.

    It’s not foolproof, and it’s raised concerns among some psychiatrists who fear the computer-generated images could stimulate the men’s interest in children.

    But advocates say it could be a useful tool to diagnose pedophilia and help prevent some of the 58,000 cases of child sexual abuse in the United States annually.

    How virtual reality works

    In one study, psychologist Patrice Renaud and his team at the Institut Philippe-Pinel de Montréal compared virtual reality to audio recordings to test VR’s ability to detect pedophilia. They used two groups — men who were either accused or convicted of child sex crimes, and men with no criminal record who said they had no sexual interest in children.

    The team played VR animations and audio recordings for the two groups of men and measured arousal through penile plethysmography, or PPG, which measures changes in the circumference of the penis based on blood flow. With virtual reality, Renaud was able to identify 54 of 60 participants as either showing signs of pedophilia or not, versus 44 of 60 participants using audio.

    “Virtual reality has better sensitivity and accuracy to detect the presence of pedophilia,” said Renaud.

    Renaud recently had a research paper retracted because the data was published twice. The underlying conclusions were not challenged.

    Other researchers, however, are wary of virtual reality.

    Animated images are less lifelike than photographs, and may not be real enough to invoke a response, said Canadian clinician and researcher Liam Marshall.

    “I don’t think most of us feel comfortable with showing offenders pictures of children, and especially children not wearing clothes,” said Marshall, who primarily conducts his research using audio recordings.

    Dr. Paul Fedoroff, who directs the Sexual Behaviors Clinic at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, said he worried that showing even virtual children to pedophiles might heighten their sexual interest in minors.

    PPG testing has issues, too. It doesn’t work in about one-quarter of men, said Leo Keating, a clinical social worker who oversees New England Forensic Associates, a treatment center in Arlington, Mass.

    Debate over treatment

    A diagnosis of pedophilia is not automatically linked to the crime of child sex abuse. Not all abusers have the disorder, and many who have a sexual interest in children don’t act on it.

    Around three times a year, Marshall gets calls from men who say: “I’m a pedophile, but I’ve never acted on it — can you help me?”

    Marshall advises them to seek therapy, but warns callers from the US to be vague when discussing their concerns with a counselor, in case the therapist feels compelled to report them to law enforcement.

    “We have made it very difficult for people who have this attraction to ask for help because of stigma and barriers to getting treatment,” said Maia Christopher, executive director of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.

    Some experts, who see pedophilia as innate, don’t believe in the efficacy of treatment, which typically consists of behavioral therapy, sometimes combined with antidepressants or drugs that curb libido.

    “There’s no meaningful indication that trying to change behavior changes sexual preferences,” said James Cantor, a psychologist at the University of Toronto.

    But many psychiatrists, psychologists, and clinicians say that pedophiles can learn to manage their attraction to children. Most pedophiles are sexually interested in adults as well. “The goal of treatment is to help pedophiles to associate sex with adults, not children,” said Fedoroff.

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Aug. 12, 2016. Find the original story here.

    The post Scientists test use of virtual reality to diagnose pedophilia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Dr. Natalia Brin examines a 2-month-old with suspected microcephaly in Brazil. Photo by Katie Worth/FRONTLINE

    Dr. Natalia Brin examines a 2-month-old with suspected microcephaly, a condition caused by Zika infections, in Brazil. Photo by Katie Worth/FRONTLINE

    There are nearly 200 types of mosquitoes in the U.S., but only one of them has been making headlines for transmitting Zika virus more frequently than any of the others have so far.

    The Aedes aegypti belongs to the Aedes family (which rhymes with “ladies,” one scientist pointed out). The mosquitoes have a reputation that precedes Zika: They arrived in the Americas aboard African slave ships and brought yellow fever virus with it, evoking the common name “yellow fever mosquito.”

    It conquered wherever the environment was warm and wet, with females laying as many as 1,000 eggs in their short lifetimes, quickly spreading from northern Argentina to the American South. On top of yellow fever, Aedes ladies (males don’t bite) soon developed a reputation for being some of the most efficient at transmitting other flaviviruses such as dengue fever, West Nile and now Zika. The Aedes agypti has helped Zika explode through South America, up through Mexico and Puerto Rico and now into Florida, where at least six people have acquired it from a mosquito, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    The virus’ symptoms are fairly elusive, but it poses a threat to pregnant women, because lab tests show it can attack fetal stem cells and cause birth defects like microcephaly, a disorder that stunts the development of its brain and prevents its head from growing. The CDC issued a travel advisory suggesting pregnant women stay away from Miami.

    But why are the Aedes aegypti, of the thousands of species of mosquitoes in the world and 176 in the U.S., so good at transmitting Zika virus? PBS NewsHour Weekend talked to Sadie Ryan, a medical geographer at the University of Florida, and parsed the science to try answer that and other questions.

    An Aedes aegypti mosquito is seen on human hand in a laboratory of the International Training and Medical Research Training Center (CIDEIM) in Cali, Colombia. These mosquitoes are a primary transporter of Zika virus in tropical regions. Photo by Jaime Saldarriaga/REUTERS

    An Aedes aegypti mosquito is seen on human hand in a laboratory of the International Training and Medical Research Training Center (CIDEIM) in Cali, Colombia. These mosquitoes are a primary transporter of Zika virus in tropical regions. Photo by Jaime Saldarriaga/REUTERS

    Why are Aedes aegypti so good at transmitting disease-causing flaviviruses such as Zika?

    Many of the viruses they transmit are blood-borne and replicate well inside an Aedes aegypti’s stomach, in part because the mosquito prefers human blood, which has proven to increase the virus’ reproduction rate. It’s also a sneaky biter that attacks subtle places such as the ankles, and feeds several times before it is full, increasing the risk for transmission with every bite. Because it prefers humans, it lives near them and lays as many as 200 eggs per batch up to five times in a lifetime, often in man-made puddles of still water that can be as slight as a teaspoon.

    How does an Aedes aegypti mosquito transmit Zika?

    An Aedes aegypti has to feed off of something or someone who is infected to get the virus. While researchers are still studying Zika’s mechanisms, many flaviviruses such dengue have to break through the lining of the mosquito’s stomach and infiltrate the mosquito’s salivary glands. Then, the saliva can infect humans when it takes a bite.

    Why do Aedes aegypti ladies feed off of humans?

    Aedes ladies, like some disease-carrying ticks, are anthropophilic, which means they prefer human blood to all other animals. There are many insects that would rather eat animals that aren’t humans, which makes them zoophilic. But studies show that Aedes ladies’ diets are almost primarily humans, possibly because their blood increases the mosquito’s fitness and exponentially boosts the basic reproduction rate of viruses.

    Where do the Aedes aegypti live in the U.S.?

    Data from the CDC show that Aedes aegypti span across the lower third of the U.S. on the west but that they have gained more ground as they span to the east, reaching as far north as New York and Connecticut. They prefer warm, wet weather, so as the climate changes, they can cover more area.

    Are there other mosquitoes in the Aedes family that can transmit Zika?

    Yes. The Aedes albopictus, cousin to the aegypti and also known as the Asian tiger mosquito, arrived in Texas from Japan in the mid-1980s through commerce. It looks similar, and its geographical reach in the U.S. covers more area that the Aedes aegypti, extending further north in the northeast. But it’s seen as the inferior vector for Zika, at least in the U.S., because it doesn’t bite as much, it doesn’t always prefer humans, and it doesn’t always lay eggs near them. Regardless, there are so many other mosquitoes in the world, it’s unclear if the Aedes family is the only one that can transmit it.

    A comparison of where Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus live. Both can transmit Zika, but the Aedes aegypti is especially good at it in the U.S. Graphic by CDC

    A comparison of where Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus live. Both can transmit Zika, but the Aedes aegypti is especially good at it in the U.S. Graphic by CDC

    How can I tell if a mosquito in the Aedes family is biting me?

    The most distinguishing trait about the Aedes ladies that have transmitted Zika so far (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus) is their hind legs. If you can see that they are striped in black and white, then it is probably a mosquito that can carry and transmit flaviviruses such as Zika and dengue. But that means you’ll catch them mid-bite and “by then, it’s too late,” Ryan said.

    What do they contribute to the ecosystem?

    Ryan said that’s a tough question to answer mostly because they thrive in urban environments. Some mosquitoes can be helpful pollinators and food for other animals such as bats and birds. But they are an invasive species, and since their voyage to the U.S. on slave ships, they have been biting and infecting humans here. “We’ve been trying to do vector control for forever,” she said. Their place in the ecosystem is “very human-centric.”

    The post Why Aedes aegypti are so good at transmitting Zika, and other FAQs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Volunteers distribute bottled water to help combat the effects of the crisis when the city's drinking water became contaminated with dangerously high levels of lead in Flint, Michigan, March 5, 2016. Photo By Jim Young/Reuters

    Volunteers distribute bottled water to help combat the effects of the crisis when the city’s drinking water became contaminated with dangerously high levels of lead in Flint, Michigan, March 5, 2016. Photo By Jim Young/Reuters

    A federal state of emergency imposed this year after residents of Flint, Michigan, were exposed to widespread lead contamination in their water supply ended on Sunday, leaving some of the financial repercussions from the health emergency in the hands of state officials.

    The end of the declaration comes after researchers at Virginia Tech on Thursday noted that the city’s water quality had improved, referencing testing conducted in 162 randomly selected homes in Flint since August 2015, according to the Associated Press.

    The study found 45 percent of the homes in Flint did not have detectable levels of lead last month, a rise from 9 percent of homes tested last summer.

    A team of researchers, led by civil engineer professor Marc Edwards, broke open the details of the disaster in January, revealing that many of Flint’s 100,000 residents had been exposed to high levels of lead in the water supply. President Barack Obama soon declared a state of emergency in Michigan, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide up to $5 million in federal assistance.

    A sign is seen next to a water dispenser at North Western High School in Flint, a city struggling with the effects of lead-poisoned drinking water in Michigan, May 4, 2016. Photo By Carlos Barria/Reuters

    A sign is seen next to a water dispenser at North Western High School in Flint, a city struggling with the effects of lead-poisoned drinking water in Michigan, May 4, 2016. Photo By Carlos Barria/Reuters

    In April 2014, the municipality began using the Flint River for its water source as a cost-saving measure. The waterway has borne the effects of pollution from heavy industrialization in the city. The city’s water supply had previously come from Lake Huron via Detroit.

    Until Sunday, the federal government covered 75 percent of the costs of supplying clean water to Flint residents, but those costs will now be under the purview of the state.

    Despite the recent findings showing improvements in the water supply, Edwards on Thursday encouraged residents to continue drinking filtered or bottled tap water, the Associated Press reported.

    According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease control lead can be particularly harmful to children’s health and can effect their physical and mental development.

    “This is nearing the end of the beginning of the end of the public health disaster response,” Edwards said. “Flint water now looks like it’s entering a range that’s considered normal for other U.S. cities.”

    The post Federal state of emergency ends in Flint as researchers say water crisis in recovery appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Gold medalists Kathleen Baker, Lilly King, Dana Vollmer and Simone Manuel of USA stand to attention after receiving their medals. Photo by Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters

    Gold medalists Kathleen Baker, Lilly King, Dana Vollmer and Simone Manuel of USA stand to attention after receiving their medals. Photo by Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters

    The U.S. earned its 1000th Olympic gold medal Saturday night after the American women’s team won the 4×100 meter medley relay.

    Simone Manuel, who on Thursday became the first African-American woman to win a gold medal in an individual event in swimming, swam with Kathleen Baker, Lilly King and Dana Vollmer in the event.

    “It really makes me think about all the generations of Olympic teams and athletes I watched and the inspiration that I have had,” Vollmer said.

    The U.S. men’s team, which included Michael Phelps, also won the 4×100 medley relay, bringing his total medal count to 28. It was Phelps’ last event of the Rio Olympics.

    Gold medalists Michael Phelps, Cody Miller, Nathan Adrian and Ryan Murphy of USA pose with a banner.  Photo by Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

    Gold medalists Michael Phelps, Cody Miller, Nathan Adrian and Ryan Murphy of USA pose with a banner. Photo by Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

    Hours before his final race, Phelps formally announced his retirement through Facebook Live. Phelps made a similar announcement in 2012, when he said he would retire after that year’s London games, but later decided to return for this year’s Olympics.

    Teammate Ryan Lochte was skeptical about Phelps leaving swimming in an interview with NBC’s “Today.” In four years, “I guarantee he will be” at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, he said.

    If Phelps remains in retirement, Saturday’s race concluded a 16-year Olympic career that started in 2000 when Phelps was only 15.

    Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first U.S. athlete to compete in the Olympics while wearing a hijab, earned a bronze medal with the U.S. women’s team in the sabre fencing event.

    “This is sport. It doesn’t matter what hair color you have, or what religion you are. The point is to go out there and be the best athlete you can be,” teammate Dagmara Wozniak said. “We’re the best explanation of what American is. A mix of so many different cultures and races, and everything all together.”

    The U.S. team beat Italy 45-30. Russia, who dealt a loss to the U.S. during their quarterfinal match-up, topped Ukraine to win gold.

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    Monica Puig won Puerto Rico its first Olympic gold medal by winning the women’s singles tennis competition. Ranked 34th in the world, Puig beat two top-10 players in Rio.

    OTHER NOTEWORTHY MOMENTS

    Rafael Nadal of Spain, who on Friday won a doubles gold, lost in a singles semifinal match against Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina. A bitter soccer rivalry between Brazil and Argentina played out during the tennis match, as Brazilian fans in attendance loudly backed the Spaniard, the Los Angeles Times reported.

    Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina celebrates after winning match against Rafael Nadal of Spain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina celebrates after winning match against Rafael Nadal of Spain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Argentina defeated Brazil in a basketball match that went into double overtime, ending 111-107. Tensions were high during the game, with The New York Times reporting that “verbal taunts were coming from both sides.”

    Argentina fans celebrate a win over Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 13, 2016. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    Argentina fans celebrate a win over Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 13, 2016. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    The Brazil men’s soccer team advanced to the quarterfinals after beating Colombia in a hotly contested match that featured five yellow cards and a shoving match at midfield.

    The post Olympic highlights from Day 8: U.S. wins 1,000th gold medal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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