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

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    Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton talks to a youngster during a visit to the early childhood development initiative "talk to you baby" in Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Kathy Willens/Reuters

    Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton talks to a youngster during a visit to the early childhood development initiative “talk to you baby” in Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Kathy Willens/Reuters

    This story, originally published by The Hechinger Report, is the last story in a six-part series about how little the United States invests in the education of young children. Read the whole series.

    For the first time in U.S. history, Americans may be about to elect a president whose signature issue is early childhood.

    “If we want our children to thrive in tomorrow’s economy, we must invest in our children’s future today, starting with our youngest learners, especially those from our most vulnerable and at-risk communities,” Hillary Clinton told The Hechinger Report in an exclusive email interview conducted through her campaign staff. “I’ve made a career out of fighting for children and families.”

    And while that’s a great talking point, crafted by an experienced politician, it’s also true. Over the course of her 40-year career, Clinton has returned again and again to the trials and tribulations of the nation’s youngest. While at Yale Law School, she added an extra year to her studies to take courses in child development. As a young attorney, she worked for the Children’s Defense Fund, an advocacy group. As first lady of Arkansas, she introduced the state to home visiting, a service for expectant and new mothers that has been shown to help women living in poverty raise healthier, more academically prepared kids.

    Related: Read Hechinger’s full interview with Clinton

    And as the nation’s first lady, Clinton advocated for the passage of the 1997 State Child Health Insurance Program, which now covers about 8 million children, and she pushed for the creation of Early Head Start, a federally funded care and education program for infants and toddlers living in poverty. She also wrote her first book, “It Takes a Village,” about the importance of investing in young children.

    “Her leadership will matter because she’ll elevate it in conversations. But it doesn’t mean her way of doing it is the best way.” — Kris Perry, First Five Years Fund

    In all her campaigns — from her 2000 Senate campaign to the current presidential race — Clinton has made paid parental leave and universal preschool key talking points.

    “She’s been light-years ahead on the issue throughout her life,” said Neera Tanden, co-chair of the Clinton-Kaine Transition Project and president of the Center for American Progress, a progressive policy think tank. She’s also a rumored favorite for a position on Clinton’s potential White House staff. “Much of the country has now come to where [Clinton] was a long time ago,” Tanden said.

    If it’s true that the public is finally ready to spend additional tax dollars on services for children in the earliest years of their lives, then a President Hillary Clinton could lead the massive overhaul we need to catch up with the rest of the developed world in our treatment of young children.

    “We’re lucky to have one candidate who has a track record like that,” said Kris Perry, head of the First Five Years Fund, an advocacy group that advises both Republican and Democratic politicians on early childhood policy. Perry pointed out that if Clinton were to win the presidential election, she would likely have to work with a Republican House and Senate. “Her leadership will matter because she’ll elevate it in conversations,” Perry said. “But it doesn’t mean her way of doing it is the best way.”

    The First Five Years Fund is betting that lawmakers from both parties will be more willing to work on the issue because of voters’ priorities, not because of presidential dictates. The group’s latest annual poll, conducted by two polling firms, Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research, supports the idea that additional investment in young children is increasingly important to voters. In the nationally representative sample, 90 percent of voters across both parties agreed with the statement: “The next president and Congress should work together to make quality early childhood education more accessible and affordable to low- and middle-income families.”

    The support for taking action on early childhood remained bipartisan, even when pollsters specified that the federal government would be involved. Fifty-four percent of Republicans, 70 percent of independents and 91 percent of Democrats said they agreed that there should be “a federal plan to help states and local communities provide better access to early childhood education.”

    “Even our angriest respondents think [Democrats and Republicans] should work together on this,” Perry said. And yes, they actually measured “anger” as part of the poll.

    Politicians seem to be listening. In addition to the dozens of governors and hundreds of state senators and representatives who have pushed for local changes in recent years, the issue has moved front and center in the presidential campaign in a way not seen for at least two decades. Even Donald Trump, whose campaign did not respond to requests for comment, put forward a proposal to reduce the cost of child care through tax deductions. (Experts on both sides of the aisle said his proposal would only help the upper-middle class and wealthy.) As Trump is not known for proposals meant to increase federal spending on social programs, the fact that he suggested a tax break to blunt the cost of child care was seen by many as a sign of how important the issue has become.

    “We shouldn’t be “pretending that we have a national public consensus about what needs to be done and that we know the right way to do it.” — Katherine Stevens, American Enterprise Institute

    “At the highest level, early childhood is really moving into the spotlight,” said Katharine Stevens, a resident scholar and early childhood policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

    And though Stevens managed to avoid mentioning Clinton’s name even once during a half hour interview about the future of early childhood policy, she did suggest that the candidate’s depth of knowledge and detailed proposals could be a disadvantage.

    “I feel like if any candidate comes in pushing a particular set of solutions, it runs the risk of shutting down an important public conversation,” Stevens said.

    That is certainly possible. It’s also possible that once Clinton raises preschool and other early childhood issues as president, she will again become the flashpoint for all the concerns we have historically had about women joining the workforce en masse and abandoning their children to the care of drab governmental institutions. Proposals to increase federally supported child care in the 1970s and again in the 1990s gained a lot of steam, but were ultimately defeated by concerns, raised mostly by the right, that such programs would lure women into jobs and away from motherhood.

    “For the Federal Government to plunge headlong financially into supporting child development would commit the vast moral authority of the National Government to the side of communal approaches to child rearing over against the family-centered approach,” former President Richard Nixon wrote in his veto of a bipartisan bill that would have created universal child carein 1971. Nixon worried that the proposed expansion would replicate existing programs, create more bureaucracy and limit personal choice. He also acknowledged the need to provide better day care options for low-income mothers. “But our response to this challenge must be a measured, evolutionary, painstakingly considered one,” he wrote, “consciously designed to cement the family in its rightful position as the keystone of our civilization.”

    Today, the question of whether government-supported care will change the underlying structure of family life feels moot. The structure has changed. In 2014, 65 percent of children lived in homes in which all available parents worked, according to the Kids Count Data Center, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

    75 percent of child care workers make less than $15 an hour.

    Many of those children are enrolled in preschools or day care centers where the quality varies greatly. Others are enrolled in home-based day care, have nannies or are cared for by non-working family members. The quality of those situations varies even more dramatically and is vastly more difficult to track or regulate. Regardless, the majority of the country’s parents are in need of someone other than themselves to care for and help educate their young children.

    And yet, the kitchen table economics of the new American reality make less sense than ever. “Average weekly child care expenses for families with working mothers who paid for child care … rose more than 70 percent from 1985 ($87) to 2011 ($148),” states a summary of Census data by the Pew Research Center, a think tank. Among all American families with children younger than 5 who pay for child care, a full 9 percent of income is spent on child care costs, according to the Center for American progress. Many two-parent families with full-time jobs — those with two children, those living in major cities, and those earning minimum wage — are spending 20 percent or more of their income on child care.

    Despite the crunch, 69 percent of wealthy children attend a center-based preschool, and 54 percent of middle class children attend such preschools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Not surprisingly, millennial mothers are more strongly in favor of creating paid family leave policies than older mothers.

    For the working class and those living in poverty, the economics are even tougher. Such families spend up to 36 percent of their income on child care because there is not enough subsidized care. And not enough of what is available at the lower end of the price scale is high quality. As highlighted in the opening story of this series, the chance of a parent without a high school diploma finding a high quality child care setting they can afford is one in 10, according to Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, a think tank. And most of the best public systems, likeBoston’s school-based preschool program, are not available during the evening and weekend hours when many lower income workers are working.

    The one federal program for young children living in poverty, Head Start, helps prepare children for kindergarten, but is too small to serve every child eligible to participate. And nationally, the program has struggled to consistently offer top quality programs. A major study tracking children who attended Head Start in the early 2000s found that their academic achievements plateaued by third grade. As part of an ongoing effort to correct that, the federal Office of Head Start proposed sweeping changes on September 1 that would lengthen the school day and year and raise professional standards.

    Meanwhile, less is known about the long-term impact of the program, though several recent studies have shown positive effects.One review of data released this summer compared children who attended Head Start with their siblings who did not and offered a compelling argument in favor of augmenting and improving the program rather than ditching it. Among other findings, the study found Head Start children had a higher high school graduation rate, by 5 percentage points, than their non-Head Start siblings.

    Photo by Lillian Mongeau/The Hechinger Report

    Specific compliments for newly gained skills decorate the walls in a Colorado Preschool Program classroom at Eyestone Elementary School in the Poudre School District. Photo by Lillian Mongeau/The Hechinger Report

    “Third-grade test scores are only one thing that we care about,” said Diane Schanzenbach, director of the Hamilton Project at The Brookings Institute, the think tank that conducted the recent study. “We care more about the long-term impact on young kids.”

    Meanwhile, the people entrusted to make that impact are not faring well overall. Wages for the women (97 percent of the early childhood workforce is female) looking after young children are shockingly low. Three quarters make less than $15 an hour. Nearly half, 46 percent, of child care workers are reliant on taxpayer funded subsidies to make ends meet. Offering such low wages makes it difficult to retain the best, most educated providers. And attempts to improve teacher quality have backfired when those who earn degrees or other advanced certifications move on to higher paying jobs. It’s impossible to improve quality without addressing the salaries and working conditions of preschool teachers and other early childhood caregivers, said Marcy Whitebook, director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment.

    Overall, children younger than age five are treated entirely differently by society at large than children age 5 and older. “No parent is going to hear ‘there’s no room for your second grader’ or ‘you don’t have enough money to come here,’” Whitebook said, “but in early childhood those things are happening all the time.”

    Given no other option, parents do what they can to shoulder the costs. Sometimes that means leaving the workforce entirely. Mothers, who are more likely to take time off work to care for young children, can be hit particularly hard by the unforgiving math. According to a calculator created by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, the amount women stand to lose over a lifetime by taking off a few years to care for kids is far more than the cost of child care.

    If a 31-year-old woman making $55,000 a year took just one year off to care for a child at age 33, she would stand to lose a total of $148,636 in wages, wage growth and benefits (including retirement benefits) over the course of her life. If she stayed home for longer, say five years, the loss grows to $656,769. That money would also fail to circulate in the economy at large and fail to benefit local, state and federal governments in the form of income tax revenue.

    Of course, staying in a job that pays less than the cost of care isn’t an economically sound decision either.

    “My big takeaway from that tool is that if you don’t have the resources to put in on the front end, you don’t get the benefit” either financially or in terms of your child’s well-being, said Katie Hamm, senior director of early childhood policy for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the political arm of the think tank.

    Parents of young children, by virtue of their own age, are less likely to be able to afford child care costs than to afford college costs on the other end, Hamm says. In many states the cost of private child care equals the cost of public college tuition. Yet, far more is spent on financial aid for higher education than is spent on subsidizing early education. That holds true even for the poorest children. Despite the fact that more young children than teenagers live in poverty, the federal government spends three times as much on tuition coverage for poor college students in the form of Pell Grants than it does on Head Start for 3- and 4-year-olds.

    “We have a huge disconnect between when people need money to invest in their kids and when they have the most resources in their life cycle,” Hamm said.

    Early education advocates have a whole raft of ideas to change that, from paid parental leave to expanded Early Head Start to universal preschool access. All of the proposals, including the one from the liberal Center for American Progress, are modest in comparison to what’s happening in Europe and much of the rest of the developed world.

    Clinton has proposed subsidizing child care and preschool directly and through tax credits — which apply to income earners at every level — so that no family spends more than 10 percent of its income on child care. She’d like to expand Early Head Start and to provide states with more money to help them offer better and broader preschool programs. She’d also like to continue the expansion of home-visiting services started under the Obama Administration, create a national program to raise the quality of early education instruction and to offer every new parent 12 weeks of paid leave.

    “Supporting families isn’t a luxury — it’s an economic necessity — and it’s long past time our policies catch up to the way families live and work today,” Clinton toldThe Hechinger Report.

    Taken together, Clinton’s proposals would revolutionize how we treat young children in America. And yet, even if the country acted on every single proposal, it would still be far behind a country like England, which educates its 4-year-olds at no direct cost to its citizens, subsidizes fully half of the cost of 3-year-old care for every parent and is beginning to cover care for 2-year-olds from lower income homes. That’s all on top of the fact that new parents in England get nine months of partially paid leave plus three more months of unpaid leave. To be sure, taxpayers cover these costs. And while England’s offerings are only average in Europe, it would take a complete overhaul of our tax code to bring in the revenue needed to get to the same point.

    Perhaps because of that massive hurdle and the collective agreement among politicians that raising taxes is verboten, American thinkers on early education, regardless of party affiliation or ideological background, seem loathe to propose more dramatic changes.

    Hamm, of the Center for American Progress, simply doesn’t think more is possible given the current financial situation.

    “We were thinking about the cost and thinking about who is in most need of child care,” said Hamm, explaining the preschool policy proposal she and her colleagues put out last year, which looks very similar to Clinton’s. Hamm said she’d rather give a full 40 hours per week of care to the children who need it most than give 15 hours of care to everyone. “We chose to target the funding on lower income and middle class side of things,” she said.

    Stevens, of the American Enterprise Institute on the opposite end of the political spectrum, urges caution for another reason. The conversation about the need for a better child care solution is just picking up steam, she said, and it needs time to develop into consensus.

    “I think we need to be thinking more in terms of pilot projects and support and incentives for states to be experimenting with things,” Stevens said, “rather than pretending that we have a national public consensus about what needs to be done and that we know the right way to do it.”

    It would be incorrect to say the complete overhaul of early childhood policy that Clinton is proposing would be impossible. Getting to the moon, which is a whopping 238,900 miles away, seemed impossible too, until we invested the time money and energy needed to develop the right equipment to make it happen.

    The ability of former President John F. Kennedy to rally the country around that single cause created a wave of popular and political will strong enough to build the nation’s first space program and to invest millions of dollars in schools and universities to foster the scientific know-how needed to make the endeavor successful. Clinton says she’ll do the same thing for preschool, and all the supporting early childhood and family policies that go with it.

    “I’ve made a career out of fighting for children and families,” Clinton told The Hechinger Report. “As your President, I’ll fight every single day to make America the best place in the world to raise a family.”

    Perhaps she will. She’ll have her work cut out for her. The distance between where we are now and where she’d need to lead us to catch up with the rest of developed world might as well be 238,900 miles away.

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

    The post Could a Hillary Clinton presidency spark a preschool evolution? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    An election official answers a question for a voter on November 6, 2012 in Mansfield, Texas. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    An election official answers a question for a voter on November 6, 2012 in Mansfield, Texas. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Two decades ago, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act to remove barriers to becoming a voter. In a newly released report the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights asks if states are doing a better job today.

    According to the report, two years after the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 was implemented, social services agencies enrolled 2.6 million new voters. Public assistance and disability benefit offices served as a critical outreach point where Hispanics and blacks are respectively three and four times more likely to register to vote than whites.

    Since then, that promising rate began to fall, said Martin Castro, who chairs the bipartisan commission.

    “Right now, you see so many of the fundamental issues that we thought we had fought for and won being relitigated,” Castro told the NewsHour. “We’re fighting a lot of the same battles.”

    By 2006, the voter registration rate dropped by as much as 80 percent in some states, Castro said. That year, only 528,000 new voters were registered at public assistance offices, according to the report. By 2014, it increased to 1.6 million new registered voters, only two-thirds of that initial success.

    Low registration numbers are intertwined with compliance problems, according to the commission’s report. Social services staff forget to offer applications to register voters, don’t keep them on hand or don’t receive training. One effective way to boost voter registration is litigation, such as when Department of Justice or public interest group files a lawsuit against a state, the report said.

    “We’re fighting a lot of the same battles.”

    Many states still require paper registration — which can be expensive, misplaced or lost — rather than registering a voter automatically when they apply for a driver’s license, electronically or online. Earlier this year, Oregon implemented its motor voter program, automatically enrolling thousands of new voters. The commission said more states should do the same, calling it the “most efficient and cost-effective registration process.”

    The commission recommended that Congress should fund “a single point of contact” to streamline each state’s National Voter Registration Act duties, bolster databases to support expanding voter registration records and fund the Department of Justice to provide states with more related training for social services workers.

    Between 2009 and 2010, These States Registered the Most Voters

      • 246,923


      • 150,526

    New York

      • 124,709


      • 121,037


      • 72,128

    North Carolina

      • 54,071


      • 46,630


      • 39,020


      • 37,898


      • 32,368


    Source: U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

    The post In 2016, what stands between people and their right to vote? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    House conservatives look determined to possibly impeach the IRS director and to continue an investigation into Hillary Clinton's email issues. Photos by Aaron P. Bernstein (left)/Bryan Woolston/REUTERS

    House conservatives look determined to advance impeachment procedures for the IRS director and to continue an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email issues. Photos by Aaron P. Bernstein (left)/Bryan Woolston/REUTERS

    WASHINGTON — Since returning from their summer recess, House conservatives have wasted no time showing just how tough they can make life for Speaker Paul Ryan — and for Democrat Hillary Clinton, if she becomes president.

    Conservatives look determined to force a vote in the coming days to impeach the head of the IRS despite deep misgivings among other Republicans about such a pre-election move.

    They’re pressuring Ryan to oppose a deal taking shape in the Senate on must-pass legislation to keep the government open.

    And they’re promising to keep investigating Clinton’s email issues even if she ends up in the White House. Some conservatives are even saying openly that impeachment hearings should be an option against Clinton.

    “There probably ought to be,” said Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.

    Together, the dynamics underscore the competing pressures that could confront Clinton and Ryan in a new era of divided government if she beats Republican Donald Trump on Nov. 8, and Ryan, R-Wis., is re-elected speaker in January.

    Their relationship faces deep constraints even before it begins, in part because of a single group of people: the several dozen deeply conservative lawmakers who are keeping Ryan on a short leash and who are among the Republicans pushing for investigations of Clinton.

    “If Hillary Clinton is elected president this Congress has to reassert itself in the path that the founding fathers imagined,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. It was an echo of the frequent observation from House Republicans who lament that Congress has ceded its constitutional authority under President Barack Obama.

    “If I’m Paul Ryan I would be positioning myself to assert this power that Congress legitimately has,” King added. “I would put a statement out there that we will use the power of the purse and we will stare down any president that wants to defy the will of the people, and we’re not going to be swayed by public criticism.”

    For Ryan, who became speaker a year ago after his predecessor resigned under pressure from the right, such comments serve notice that conservatives will be watching closely to see how he interacts with a President Clinton.

    The immediate challenge, though, is navigating the remainder of the year without alienating conservatives in the House who will be necessary for his re-election as speaker.

    For now Ryan has enjoyed remarkable success in retaining the backing of these hard-to-please lawmakers, but this has required a delicate approach to some demands that establishment-aligned Republicans in his conference consider unreasonable, such as opposition to a short-term budget deal and the impeachment of John Koskinen, the Internal Revenue Service commissioner.

    Conservatives say Koskinen impeded an investigation related to tea party groups seeking tax exemptions. But leadership has balked at convening impeachment proceedings, so now conservatives are threatening a procedural maneuver that would force a floor vote.

    The prospect alarms other Republicans, especially those closely tracking down-ballot races.

    “I think there’s a realization that that sort of action would not be helpful at this point in the campaign,” said Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, who heads the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm.

    Ryan has remained neutral on the IRS impeachment and has promised to let the House work its will if it comes to a vote. He has not criticized members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus over the plan or sought to dissuade them. Ryan and others are keenly aware that the conservative bloc is likely to be even stronger in the House next year because 10 or more House Republicans are likely to lose their seats in November, and the ones who remain will include the most conservative.

    Ryan has no obvious competitor as speaker, and few expect he will face a real challenge. Yet to win re-election in a closely divided House he will be able to afford only limited defections, and some conservatives are playing coy about whether they will back him come January. “It’s too early to tell,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.

    As for Clinton, the House has spent two years investigating her role in the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, when she was secretary of state and her use of a personal email server to handle sensitive information. Yet neither that expenditure of time nor the FBI’s decision not to pursue criminal charges has dimmed the desire for further investigations, including of whether Clinton lied to Congress.

    “I think you investigate Hillary Clinton based on what has happened irregardless of whether she runs for president or is elected president,” Meadows said, “because it’s all about accountability.”

    The post House conservatives serve notice to Ryan — and Clinton appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives a speech at the 9th Congress of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 29, 2016. Photo by KCNA/ via REUTERS

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives a speech at the 9th Congress of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 29, 2016. Photo by KCNA/ via REUTERS

    North Korea has admitted to conducting its fifth nuclear test in a decade, and its second in eight months. The state’s television service confirmed the test occurred Friday morning, local time, on the 68th anniversary of North Korea’s founding. The U.S. Geological Survey registered a magnitude 5.3 explosion based on seismic activity, and South Korean officials say it is the biggest-ever test for North Korea in terms of explosive yield. North Korea claimed its military possesses the ability to mount warheads on ballistic missiles, according to its state-run media.

    “The standardization of the nuclear warhead will enable (North Korea) to produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power,” North Korea said, according to the Associated Press. “This has definitely put on a higher level (the North’s) technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets.”

    South Korean officials estimated the explosive power of the blast was 10 to 12 kilotons. By comparison, the atomic bomb dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshima in 1945 was 15 kilotons.

    South Korea’s president Park Geun-hye described the mental state of third generation dictator Kim Jong-Un as “out of control” and said the event was “fanatic recklessness” on the part of North Korea’s government, according to the Associated Press. Other world leaders also condemned the test. President Barack Obama, who spoke with Geun-hye via phone after the test, said the U.S. will never accept North Korea as a nuclear power, AP reports.

    Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga described North Korea as an “outlaw nation in the neighborhood,” according to the AP. The Russian Foreign Ministry insisted in a statement that “the North Korean side stop its dangerous escapades and unconditionally implement all resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.”

    The post North Korea’s fifth nuclear test draws international outrage appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday declined to let Michigan's new ban on straight-party voting take effect for the November election. Photo by Mark Makela/Reuters

    The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday declined to let Michigan’s new ban on straight-party voting take effect for the November election. Photo by Mark Makela/Reuters

    LANSING, Mich. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday declined to let Michigan’s new ban on straight-party voting take effect for the November election, rejecting state officials’ request to halt lower court rulings that blocked the Republican-sponsored law.

    The court’s decision means voters will still be able to use the popular straight-ticket option, which allows them to support all candidates from one party with a single mark.

    In issuing a preliminary injunction in July, a federal district judge ruled the law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder would create longer lines and disproportionately burden black voters who are more likely to use the straight-ticket option. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month denied a request by Attorney General Bill Schuette and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson for a stay pending appeal.

    So did the Supreme Court. Two justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, said they would have granted the request.

    Forty other states prohibit straight-party voting.

    The option is popular in Michigan cities with large black populations. It has been on the books for 125 years and has been a common choice in some counties that are steadfastly loyal to Republicans, too.

    Snyder and majority GOP lawmakers enacted the straight-party voting ban in January, saying the option was rare nationally and getting rid of it would lead to a better-informed electorate.

    Democrats accused the GOP of seeking partisan gain, particularly in down-ballot races for the state Board of Education and university boards. Some, alluding to the belief that candidates at the top of the ballot influence lower-level elections, also said Republicans were trying to inoculate themselves if presidential candidate Donald Trump is beaten badly by Hillary Clinton.

    The lawsuit challenging the law was filed by attorney Mark Brewer, former head of the state Democratic Party, on behalf of three people and a union-affiliated group.

    The case is not over.

    The three-judge 6th Circuit panel that declined to intervene immediately will next fully consider the state’s appeal of U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain’s injunction, the outcome of which will affect future elections. Separately, Drain will schedule a trial on whether he should permanently stop the law from taking effect.

    Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon, who accused Schuette of wasting state money on the “Hail Mary” appeal, said while the straight-ticket option is intact for November, “there’s no doubt in my mind that this fight is not over.”

    The post Supreme Court calls audible on Michigan’s straight-party voting ban appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday warned women and their doctors that current screening tests for ovarian cancer are unreliable. Gary Cameron/REUTERS

    The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday warned women and their doctors that current screening tests for ovarian cancer are unreliable. Gary Cameron/REUTERS

    WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday warned women and their doctors that current screening tests for ovarian cancer are unreliable and could lead to false diagnoses.

    In a statement, the FDA said it was “especially concerned about delaying effective preventive treatments for women who show no symptoms, but who are still at increase risk of ovarian cancer.”

    Ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women. The National Cancer Institute estimates that this year more than 22,000 women between ages 35 and 74 will be diagnosed with the disease.

    While certain cancers, including ovarian cancer, may raise the blood level of CA 125, the test is far from foolproof.

    Those at highest risk are women who have reached menopause, those who have a family history of ovarian cancer, and women with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutations.

    When detected at its earliest stages, the five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is 90 percent, according to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. Unfortunately, only about 20 percent of all cases are discovered at this stage. Nearly 15,000 women a year, die from the disease.

    Read More: New ovarian cancer drugs raise hope — but not for all

    The most widely used screening test is called the CA 125, which measures the amount of the protein CA 125 in the blood.

    While certain cancers, including ovarian cancer, may raise the blood level of CA 125, the test is far from foolproof. Many noncancerous conditions may also raise the level of CA 125, causing healthy women to undergo needless follow-up.

    According to the American Cancer Society, no major medical or professional organization recommends the routine use of CA 125 blood tests to screen for ovarian cancer. Still, the test has been used extensively.

    Based on the FDA’s review of available clinical data from ovarian screening trials and recommendations from health care professional societies and the US Preventive Services Task Force, the agency said, “available data do not demonstrate that currently available ovarian cancer screening tests are accurate and reliable in screening asymptomatic women for early ovarian cancer.”

    The FDA’s announcement was praised by the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance, which has advocated such a move.

    “From what we know anecdotally, in spite of the fact that CA 125 isn’t really meant to be used that way, many women who are concerned about the risk of ovarian cancer are getting the test every year,’’ said Sarah DeFeo, vice president of scientific affairs for the alliance. “In practice, lots of people are doing it.”

    The CA 125 test has been around for many years, but one screening product, called ROCA, which adapted it into a series of tests, has been aggressively marketed since its approval for use in five states last year. An announcement from the company, Abcodia, said they planned to sell the ROCA Test nationwide by the end of 2016.

    The Abcodia website, as of Wednesday, noted “The ROCA test is a simple blood test that when added to your annual exam assesses your risk of having ovarian cancer on a routine basis. The test is for postmenopausal women over 50 years old and women at high risk of ovarian cancer, providing assurance that if ovarian cancer were to develop, it could be detected early.”

    An FDA spokeswoman said the agency’s announcement is targeting all women because “the risks associated with the use of the ROCA test apply to all women, regardless of age.”

    Abcodia is based in Cambridge, the United Kingdom and has its US headquarters in Boston. It declined to comment on the FDA announcement.

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Sept. 7, 2016. Find the original story here.

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    Robert Peraza, who lost his son Robert David Peraza, pauses at his son's name at the North Pool of the 9/11 Memorial during tenth anniversary ceremonies at the site of the World Trade Center in New York. Photo by Justin Lane/Reuters

    Robert Peraza, who lost his son Robert David Peraza, pauses at his son’s name at the North Pool of the 9/11 Memorial during tenth anniversary ceremonies at the site of the World Trade Center in New York. Photo by Justin Lane/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Approval of a bipartisan bill that would allow families of Sept. 11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia puts Congress on a collision course with President Barack Obama on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the attacks.

    The House passed the legislation Friday by voice vote, about four months after the measure cleared the Senate despite vehement objections from Saudi Arabia. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.

    The White House has signaled Obama would veto the legislation over the potential for the measure to backfire. The Obama administration cautions that if U.S. citizens can take the Saudis to court, then a foreign country could in turn sue the United States. There also is apprehension the bill would undermine a longstanding yet strained relationship with a critical U.S. ally in the Middle East.

    Votes from two-thirds of the members in the House and Senate would be needed to override a veto.

    There was no immediate comment from Saudi Arabia, which was preparing for the annual hajj pilgrimage beginning Saturday.

    The legislation gives victims’ families the right to sue in U.S. court for any role that elements of the Saudi government may have played in the 2001 attacks that killed thousands in New York, the Washington, D.C., area and Pennsylvania.

    Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, said the U.S. government should be more concerned about the families of the victims than “diplomatic niceties.” Poe said he doesn’t know if the Saudi government had a role in the attacks that killed more than 3,000 people.

    “That’s for a jury of Americans to decide,” Poe said.

    The vote came after House members from both parties briefly adjourned to commemorate the anniversary of the attacks. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., led a moment of silence on the Capitol steps, and lawmakers sang “God Bless America” in remembrance of 9/11, when lawmakers gathered in the same location to sing the song immediately after the attacks on New York and Washington.

    The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act had triggered a threat from Riyadh to pull billions of dollars from the U.S. economy if the legislation is enacted. But Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir denied in May that the kingdom made any threats over the bill. He said Riyadh had warned that investor confidence in the U.S. would shrink if the bill became law.

    “In fact what they (Congress) are doing is stripping the principle of sovereign immunities, which would turn the world for international law into the law of the jungle,” Al-Jubeir said.

    The House vote came two months after Congress released 28 declassified pages from a congressional report into 9/11 that reignited speculation over links at least a few of the attackers had to Saudis, including government officials. The allegations were never substantiated by later U.S. investigations into the terrorist attacks.

    Brian McGlinchey, director of advocacy website 28pages.org, said making the documents public “strengthened the resolve of 9/11 families and other advocates of justice to bring about the enactment” of the bill.

    A decision by Obama to veto legislation “that would give 9/11 families their well-deserved day in court would truly stain his legacy,” McGlinchey said.

    In a separate development, a bipartisan group of senators announced Thursday that they’ve introduced a joint resolution of disapproval to block the Obama administration’s proposed sale of more than $1 billion worth of U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia.

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., cited Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record and the kingdom’s role in Yemen’s civil war.

    The war is pitting Yemen’s internationally recognized government and a Saudi-led coalition against the Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who are allied with army units loyal to a former president. The Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes in Yemen since March 2015.

    “Selling $1.15 billion in tanks, guns, ammunition, and more to a country with a poor human rights record embroiled in a bitter war is a recipe for disaster and an escalation of an ongoing arms race in the region,” Paul said.

    SUBSCRIBE: Get the analysis of Mark Shields and David Brooks delivered to your inbox every week.

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    Chris Landaiche looks out to his flooded backyard in Sorrento, Louisiana. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

    Chris Landaiche looks out to his flooded backyard in Sorrento, Louisiana. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Friday appealed to Congress to approve $2 billion in aid for his state, part of a two-day trip to Washington to ask for federal help after catastrophic flooding.

    At a House subcommittee hearing reviewing the federal response, Edwards said the money is needed for housing, economic development and public works after the August flooding caused more than $8.7 billion in damage.

    “Simply put, we cannot recover without it,” Edwards told lawmakers.

    Edwards met with members of Congress and administration officials, and he and Louisiana lawmakers hope flood aid can be part of spending legislation that Congress must soon pass to keep the government operating past month’s end.

    The Democratic governor praised the federal response so far but urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency to speed up delivery of manufactured housing units for thousands of displaced residents.

    “While the response with manufactured housing units has been quicker than any other Louisiana disaster, it has not been fast enough for the families in Louisiana who have lost their homes and have no place to go,” Edwards said.

    FEMA officials have said the mobile homes are larger and require more preparation than the heavily-maligned FEMA trailers moved into Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They were derided as cramped and toxic with formaldehyde.

    House Republicans criticized FEMA.

    Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that held the hearing, said he only saw one functioning mobile housing unit on a trip to the area two weeks after the flood.

    Under questioning from Mica, R-Fla., FEMA regional administrator Tony Robinson was not able to say how many units are built and functioning.

    “I have to get back with you on that,” Robinson said.
    [Watch Video]

    As the Louisiana flooding begins to subside, the state looks toward rebuilding. The disaster affected over 20 parishes, including areas outside flood zones — meaning residents there do not have flood insurance. William Brangham speaks with Billy Nungesser, Louisiana’s lieutenant governor, about how the state is planning to use FEMA funds, the help of volunteers and Red Cross shelters to recover. Video by PBS NewsHour

    A storm that started Aug. 12 dumped as much as 2 feet of rain in some parts of Louisiana over two days, and the flooding has been described as the worst disaster in the U.S. since Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast in 2012. Flood damage has been documented to more than 55,000 houses in Louisiana, and that could double as aid applications and inspections continue.

    Mayors from the flooded region testified and asked for more help from the federal government.

    “That debris that’s out there? That’s not debris, it’s people’s lives,” said Mayor Jr. Shelton of Central, Louisiana. “We have suicides, we have mental breakdowns, we have families being torn apart.”

    Edwards said the state’s housing need is projected to exceed $1.2 billion. He is also asking for Congress to help the state rebuild its transportation network after many roads were washed out, and money for mental health and support services for families.

    “Recovery from a disaster of this magnitude takes time and an abundance of resources,” Edwards said.

    READ MORE: Column: When news of the Louisiana flooding got personal

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    Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen inside Oxitec laboratory in Campinas, Brazil. Leading researchers in Brazil are borrowing techniques used to accelerate the fight against Ebola in the hope of developing a Zika virus treatment that could be tested in humans in a year. Photo by Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

    Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen inside Oxitec laboratory in Campinas, Brazil. Leading researchers in Brazil are borrowing techniques used to accelerate the fight against Ebola in the hope of developing a Zika virus treatment that could be tested in humans in a year. Photo by Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The head of the government’s fight against the Zika virus said that “we are now essentially out of money” and warned that the country is “about to see a bunch of kids born with microcephaly” in the coming months.

    Friday’s warning from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden came as lawmakers start to sort out a stopgap government funding bill that is being targeted to also carry long-delayed money to battle Zika.

    Zika is spreading more widely in the U.S. and can not only cause microcephaly — in which babies are born with grave brain defects — but other problems that the country will face for decades.

    Frieden said funding delays have slowed long-term studies of the disease and production of new tests for it. “We haven’t been able to get a running start” on a long-term battle against Zika, he said.

    Frieden added that “we don’t like to see” the use of pesticides such as Friday morning’s spraying of naled, in Miami Beach. But, he said, new technologies for the application of such toxic chemicals are safe for humans. The two localized mosquito-borne outbreaks in Miami are “quite difficult to control,” Frieden said, adding that the type of mosquitoes that spread Zika “are the cockroach of mosquitoes.”

    President Barack Obama in February requested $1.9 billion to battle Zika, but Republicans controlling Congress acted slowly on the request. A Capitol Hill fight this summer stalled the Zika aid. Republicans attached restrictions on any of the money going to affiliates of Planned Parenthood in Puerto Rico. Democrats objected and blocked the $1.1 billion measure.

    Now, negotiations are underway to break the impasse over Zika and add it to the only piece of legislation that has to pass Congress before the election: A stopgap funding bill to avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

    Democrats and the White House have greater leverage now since their approval is needed for the stopgap spending bill, and Republicans are signaling they’ll likely lift the restrictions on delivering contraception, treatment and care through Planned Parenthood, an organization that many Republicans loathe since it is a major provider of abortion.

    A bipartisan consensus is emerging to fund the government through mid-December, though some House tea party conservatives are opposed and want a longer duration for the measure to avert a lame duck session of Congress.

    Since February, Zika has spread more widely, and frustration is mounting from lawmakers representing affected areas.

    “Look if we don’t, then fire all of us,” said Florida GOP Rep. David Jolly, whose state is bearing the brunt of the disease in the continental U.S. “If we can’t get Zika funding by the end of September then we’re nothing but a bunch of idiots up here.”

    “I think we’ll look at this delay in time and say, ‘How could they have waited so long?’ This was so urgent. It was the very definition of an emergency,” Frieden said. “Not only is this unanticipated, it’s unprecedented. It’s potentially catastrophic, and it’s certainly that for the kind of brain damage we’re seeing.”

    Frieden noted that it is extremely unusual to have a new cause for a severe birth defect and that the health care system will be grappling with the effects of Zika for years to come. While microcephaly is the most immediate result of the outbreak, Frieden noted that infants are having problems swallowing and with their vision and hearing.

    “We don’t know what congenital Zika syndrome will look like,” Frieden said. “We will likely be dealing with this for decades to come.”

    READ MORE: FAQ: What will end the Zika impasse in Congress?

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    Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, responds to economist John Komlos’ argument that we should raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

    As we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The road is also covered with recurring and incorrect claims about the virtue of the path taken. Case in point: a piece recently published here by University of Munich professor John Komlos, titled “Why a $15 minimum wage shouldn’t scare us.”

    “The economics of the minimum wage is widely misunderstood,” his piece opens. “While many commentators claim unjustifiably that increases in the minimum wage destroy jobs, there is actually no evidence to support their contention. Considered superficially, the logic seems plausible. If the price of something increases you’ll buy less of it, won’t you?”

    He then illustrates with this example: “Consider the context. Take the cup of coffee I have in the morning. I don’t care how much the price of coffee is — double it, triple it — I’ll still drink a cup in the morning. I won’t drink less of it.” He continues to make his case with the assertion that “Raising the minimum wage has not hurt anyone except the boogeyman in the imagination of the 1 percenters and their entourage.”

    The existence of automated substitutes means that even “rich” employers will employ fewer low-skilled workers when the minimum wage rises.

    The piece is actually a good illustration of the claims made by advocates of a $15 minimum wage. However, it doesn’t make them any more accurate. Let’s start with Mr. Komlos’ coffee example. As an economist, Mr. Komlos should know better than to assume that his personal demand for coffee is the same as the overall market demand for coffee. The market of coffee drinkers is made of many people who range from loving it no matter what the price, to those who may only consume it on the order of once per month and only if it’s Italian.

    In fact, I bet that many coffee drinkers reading this example would say that they, unlike Mr. Komlos, would actually either reduce the amount of coffee they drink following a steep increase in price, buy just as much coffee from a less expensive vendor or find an alternative — like starting to drink more homemade or workplace-brewed coffee. And for those coffee drinkers who share Mr. Komlos’ commitment to coffee no matter its price, unless their income increases by the hike in the price of coffee, there’s reason to suspect that something in their budget’s got to give. Maybe they’ll eat out less to make up for the increased spending on coffee. Whatever it is, something has to change.

    READ MORE: Column: Why raising the minimum wage is good economics

    Switching from coffee to workers, and unskilled workers in the retail or restaurant industries in particular, reveals other problems with the example. First, while Mr. Komlos implicitly suggests that coffee has no good substitutes, it does not follow that there are no good substitutes for low-skilled workers. Take fast-food restaurants, for instance. There are plenty of automated substitutes, as we have seen in Europe and we are starting to see in America. The existence of such substitutes means that even “rich” employers will employ fewer low-skilled workers when the minimum wage rises.

    Second, while Mr. Komlos is saying that he isn’t sensitive to price changes, the retail and restaurant industries have a significant sensitivity to wage increases. Over at AEI Ideas, economist Mark Perry explains, an “employer in a competitive industry with razor-thin margins (like fast-food or retail), whose payroll costs might represent one-third or more of operating expenses, will respond to a 100 percent increase in wages for his or her low-skilled workers. Those employers, unlike Komlos, will be extremely sensitive to a doubling or tripling of wages for low-skilled workers.” Oh and by the way, I bet you that if his coffee budget made up a third of his income, he too would become sensitive to increases in price.

    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office calculated that an increase in the federal minimum wage from its current level, $7.25 an hour, to $10.10 per hour would cost about 500,000 jobs.

    To sum it up, Mr. Komlos’ coffee example tells us close to nothing about the effect of minimum-wage hikes on the overall demand of workers.

    It is also worth noting that according to the Small Business Administration, 99.7 percent of all businesses in America are small and not large, wealthy corporations. This is an important detail since Mr. Komlos also believes that businesses can always raid the huge piles of moldy money they have stashed somewhere. News flash: In most cases, small businesses do not have a large profit margin, and they rarely have a large stash of cash just laying around, gathering dust. This is even truer for mom-and-pop shops and fast-food restaurants, which are often at the heart of the minimum-wage fight.

    Now, about that claim that there’s “no evidence that an increase in the minimum wage will destroy jobs,” any jobs. First, let me say that there’s no doubt that raising the minimum wage from its current level might help some workers. That claim isn’t in dispute. The claim that’s being debated here is whether this policy change will have a negative impact on any workers and whether the aggregate effect of the change will be a net positive. As we will see, most economists find that the negative impact of the change overwhelms the positive.

    An extensive survey of decades of minimum-wage research, published by William Wascher of the Federal Reserve Board and David Neumark of the University of California, Irvine, in the 2008 book “Minimum Wages,” generally found a 1 percent or 2 percent reduction for teenage or very low-skill employment for each 10 percent minimum-wage increase. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office also calculated that an increase in the federal minimum wage from its current level, $7.25 an hour, to $10.10 per hour would cost about 500,000 jobs.

    READ MORE: What’s the economic sweet spot for adjusting the federal minimum wage?

    A recent calculation by James Sherk, a labor economist at the Heritage Foundation, finds that $15 mandates would eliminate about 9 million jobs nationwide. Unskilled workers like those working at fast-food restaurant stand to lose the most from the hike. Based on a national average — not restricted to a high-cost city such as Washington or San Francisco — Sherk estimates that a $15 minimum wage would cause a 36 percent drop in hours worked in fast-food chains. If you’re wondering why more and more McDonald’s restaurants in the United States are atomizing, like they already did in Europe, wonder no more.

    But it’s not only jobs and hours that may be lost. Work by Neumark, Wascher and Mark Schweitzer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland also shows that minimum wages increase poverty — and hence poverty reduction shouldn’t be expected as a benefit of raising the minimum wage. That’s because, contrary to common belief, the relationship between low wages and poverty is extremely weak.

    As Neumark, who has done extensive research on the issue, explains, “the principal sources of an individual’s higher earnings are more schooling and the accumulation of experience and skills in the labor market,” both of which are discouraged by increases in the minimum wage. Though an increase raises the wages of some people, it also reduces the employment of others, namely young and low-skilled people.

    When you raise the minimum wage, you can point to someone whose earnings just got a boost, whereas it is difficult to see the negative effects on workers who couldn’t get jobs or saw their hours cut because of the policy.

    Not every state or city in the nation will be affected the same. Salim Furth, an economist at the Heritage Foundation, explained to me how this would affect unemployment in Washington, D.C.: “A $15 (minimum wage) would raise prices in Georgetown, but in Congress Heights, it would shutter shops altogether.” Georgetown is in Ward 2, where the unemployment rate is below 5 percent. Congress Heights is part of Ward 8, where unemployment is 13.4 percent.

    “I would expect a smaller effect in D.C., as $15 an hour will be less of a proportionate increase than it will be in, say, Louisville, Kentucky,” Furth said.

    Mr. Komlos would be wise to remember that the price of a cup of coffee varies city to city, and as the debate about the effects of minimum-wage policy continues, the evidence seems to point to their long-term negative consequences. The evidence also points to the fact that the money from the hike may not be going in the pocket of the workers we claim to help; but that’s a topic for another piece.

    Unfortunately, politicians (and some economists) often don’t care. After all, when you raise the minimum wage, you can point to someone whose earnings just got a boost, whereas it is difficult to see the negative effects on workers who couldn’t get jobs or who saw their hours cut because of the policy.

    The post Column: Why a $15 minimum wage should scare us appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump stands on stage during a campaign town hall meeting in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump stands on stage during a campaign town hall meeting in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — With a new promise of $20 million to help defeat Donald Trump, billionaire Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz becomes one of the top Democratic donors of the election.

    The Silicon Valley entrepreneur calls the Republican presidential candidate dangerous and divisive and says his appeal to Americans who feel left behind is “quite possibly a deliberate con.”

    By contrast, Moskovitz says, Democrats and their nominee, Hillary Clinton, are “running on a vision of optimism, pragmatism, inclusiveness and mutual benefit.”

    Moskovitz wrote about his planned contributions in a Thursday night posting on the website Medium titled “Compelled to Act.” Until now, Moskowitz had made only one federal campaign contribution, $5,200 in 2013 to Democrat Sean Eldridge. The husband of another Facebook co-founder, Eldridge unsuccessfully ran for a New York congressional seat.

    Half of the $20 million Moskovitz and his wife, Cari Tuna, are giving will go to the League of Conservation Voters and to a political action committee called For Our Future. The latter group is a get-out-the-vote effort in battleground states that is paid for primarily by labor unions and hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer.

    Moskovitz and Tuna also are giving directly to Clinton’s campaign and to party committees helping Senate and congressional Democrats.

    “As a nation, we need to figure out how to bring everyone with us, and we believe the Democratic platform currently is more aligned with ensuring that happens,” he wrote.

    “In comparison, Donald Trump’s promises to this group are quite possibly a deliberate con, an attempt to rally energy and support without the ability or intention to deliver. His proposals are so implausible that the nation is forced to worry that his interest in the presidency might not even extend beyond winning a contest and promoting his personal brand.”

    Only Steyer has given more this year to Democrats, campaign finance records show. The Californian has put up almost $40 million so far, to promote environmental issues and help elect Clinton and other Democrats.

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    The creators and original cast of "With Their Eyes." 
Front row: Chantelle Williams, Cathy Choy, Lindsay Long-Waldor, Anna Belc, Taresh Batra, Shanleigh Jalea. Back row: Michael Vogel, Carlos Williams, Marcel Briones, Liz Kennedy, Tim Drinan, Chris Yee, Annie Thoms , Ilena George

    The creators and original cast of “With Their Eyes.” Front row: Chantelle Williams, Cathy Choy, Lindsay Long-Waldor, Anna Belc, Taresh Batra, Shanleigh Jalea.
    Back row: Michael Vogel, Carlos Williams, Marcel Briones, Liz Kennedy, Tim Drinan, Chris Yee, Annie Thoms , Ilena George

    On Sept. 11, 2001, Annie Thoms was 25 and just starting her second year teaching English at Stuyvesant High School, which is located just four blocks from Ground Zero. The students and faculty watched as tragedy unfolded around them.

    Although the school was not structurally damaged, classes were moved temporarily so the campus could be used as a center for rescue and recovery operations. Thoms instinctively knew that she and her students needed to make art from what they had experienced. She began working with 13 young actors and directors to create a play that was based on interviews with Stuyvesant students, faculty and staff. Those interviews captured what it was like to witness the nation’s worst act of terrorism and the emotions that followed.

    Column: I was there on 9/11. Now it’s a history lesson that I teach

    “I was trying to model the kind of work that Anna Deavere Smith does, which is such a powerful form, because it’s oral history, journalism and poetry all wrapped up together,” Thoms said.

    Over a two-month period, the students conducted interviews with people of all ages and races, including students, faculty, janitors and secretaries.

    “It was an exercise in asking open-ended questions and then really listening to what people had to say. That’s a different kind of listening, and the students felt a real responsibility to portray that person very accurately.”

    After the interviews were conducted, the students pored over the recordings and decided which portions to put down on paper, in what order and how to best represent each person’s speech using spacing and line breaks.

    “It was something they took incredibly seriously, how to communicate on paper what the person’s voice should sound like,” Thoms said.

    The result was a play-length poem of monologues called “With Their Eyes: September 11th–The View from a High School at Ground Zero.” It was published by Harper Collins and has been performed by schools and repertory theaters throughout the country.

    Thoms has been gratified by the response and has attended several of the productions. She adds with a laugh, “It’s been funny to see that some people across the country think that all New Yorkers sound like characters on “The Sopranos.”

    Fifteen years later, Thoms is still teaching at Stuyvesant, while the students who wrote the play have scattered across the country. Some are doctors and lawyers, several are now parents. But every year, many of them gather together for a reunion to remember that awful day and the play that they created together.

    Thoms thinks the work has had such resonance, because it documents the event with such complexity.

    “Normally, when we think about history, we get single points of view. But what is great about this monologue project is that it opens the door to a wide variety of complex reactions. It shows there’s not just one way to react or one way to come back to normal. There’s a rich tapestry of emotion.”

    From “With Their Eyes: September 11th–The View from a High School at Ground Zero.”


    Kevin Zhang, sophomore

    I saw this

    huge plane it was…

    it looked much bigger than the first one,

    it just,

    it looked like one of those jets, you know, in the movies,

    you know, Air Force One or something, one of those big jets.

    It was one of those and it just hits –

    It hit the building right there.

    Katherine Fletcher, English teacher

    I noticed it enough to say to my class

    what was that

    sort of casually

    I wasn’t scared or alarmed I just sort of said what

    was that

    and someone said


    and I was like no

    it’s not thunder

    it must have been a truck

    it was like the sound of a truck like hitting something on a street or

    you know how sometimes you’ll hear something like that.

    Hudson Williams-Eynon, freshman

    We all went to art.

    My art class is on the tenth floor


    facing north so

    we couldn’t see anything but

    everyone was looking out

    the windows


    the teacher was like

    “You know,

    this might sound stupid and everything

    but I still want you guys to draw.

    You can tell your kids that when

    the World Trade Center was



    you guys were drawing

    contour drawings.”

    Juan Carlos Lopez, School Safety Agent

    I got this weird transmission

    the strangest transmission in my life

    that a plane hit the World Trade Center

    and I ran into the computer room to see.

    I haven’t gotten back into that office.

    The recollection of what I saw is framed in that window,

    like if I had to draw you a picture I would

    have to draw the window frame as well.

    I’m a little apprehensive,

    just looking at these banners I get a little choked up.

    So I – I fear going into that office

    I might lose my composure.

    But it’s been long enough that maybe I could go into that office

    and take it in

    but I, I –

    you know in a way I don’t feel ready, I don’t.

    Katie Berringer, freshman

    We didn’t know what was going on

    so when we see this like

    psycopathic lady running down the hallway

    like “I need to call my mother, I need to call my mother!”

    and we’re like

    What is wrong with HER?

    and we didn’t know what was going on so we were like

    laughing at her.

    But then we heard that thing on the speakers

    but we still thought it was like

    tiny and they were telling us out of respect

    like when that guy died

    and everyone had a moment of silence.

    We thought it was something like that –

    but I saw my friend and he was telling me

    like about all those things he was seeing out the windows

    and I was like holy shit

    this is big.

    Jennifer Suri, Assistant Principal, Social Studies

    There were students who came into my office to use the phone

    to touch base with their parents

    to see if they were okay…

    and there were actually many of them crowded into my room

    and the electricity went out

    momentarily and the lights started flickering and everyone screamed

    and dropped to the floor, frightened.

    And I just tried to comfort them.

    The post What it was like to watch the 9/11 attacks from your classroom window appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Protesters demonstrate against the Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. September 9, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen - RTX2OVHO

    Protesters demonstrated against the Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, Sept. 9, 2016. On Friday, a U.S. District Court judge rejected the Tribe’s request to stop its construction. Photo by Andrew Cullen/Reuters

    A request from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to halt construction of a controversial pipeline in North Dakota was denied by a U.S. District Court judge.

    Tribal officials have argued that the pipeline would affect cultural and historical sites on the reservation and possibly taint the water supply via leakages, causing “irreparable harm.”

    But Judge James Boasberg said in his ruling that “the Tribe has not shown it will suffer injury that would be prevented by any injunction the Court could issue.”

    Friday’s decision over the fate of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, which runs through four states, followed weeks of mounting protests from Standing Rock tribal officials who have become increasingly worried about the pipeline being a half-mile from the reservation.

    The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the United States Army Corps of Engineers in late July to block construction of the pipeline.

    The tribe also said construction of the pipeline has already run through sacred burial sites. The pipeline’s owner Energy Transfer Partners has denied the allegations.

    Tepees stand in the Seven Council camp, one of three encampments that have grown on the banks of the Cannon Ball River over the last month with the purpose of stopping construction of the Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota. Photo by Andrew Cullen/Reuters

    Tepees stand in the Seven Council camp, one of three encampments that have grown on the banks of the Cannon Ball River over the last month with the purpose of stopping construction of the Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota. Photo by Andrew Cullen/Reuters

    The Justice Department, along with the U.S. Army and Interior Department, said in a joint statement today that it would “not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions.”

    The department also requested that Energy Transfer Partners “voluntarily pause all construction activity” within 20 miles east or west of the lake. It added: “This case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.”

    Protests began in April at the start of construction for the 1,170-mile oil pipeline, which runs under the Missouri River. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe began to gather outside the North Dakota town of Cannonball.

    More than 1,000 people had descended on the protest site prior to Friday’s decision, the Billings Gazette reported.

    Last weekend, a confrontation between protesters and construction workers turned violent, the Associated Press reported. Local officials said four security guards and two guard dogs were treated for injuries. A tribal spokesman said six people were attacked by guard dogs and another 30 pepper-sprayed.

    On its website, Energy Transfer Partners said the pipeline will carry around 470,000 barrels of oil per day from North Dakota to Illinois.

    The Texas-based company also promised on its online Q&A to “take extreme caution when crossing sensitive environmental, wetland or resource areas.”

    The post Federal judge denies Standing Rock request to halt pipeline appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein speaks at a campaign rally in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein speaks at a campaign rally in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    CHICAGO — Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein says she’ll return to North Dakota to face charges for spray-painting construction equipment in protest of the Dakota Access pipeline.

    Stein said Friday in Chicago that scheduling is the issue.

    Stein and running mate Ajamu Baraka were charged Wednesday with misdemeanor counts of criminal trespass and criminal mischief. Authorities issued arrest warrants.

    The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Stein says the warrants are “misdirected” and should be aimed at “real criminals” violating water supplies.

    Stein has said she was doing her part to support the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which says the pipeline threatens sacred sites and drinking water.

    A federal judge denied the tribe’s request to temporarily stop construction on the $3.8 billion pipeline designed to carry oil from North Dakota to Illinois.

    [Watch Video]

    Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are two of the most unpopular presidential candidates in American history. But are they so disliked that Green Party nominee Jill Stein could become a viable contender in this election? Judy Woodruff speaks with Stein about her qualifications for the presidency, her economic, environmental and foreign policy proposals and her hotly contested views on vaccines.

    SUBSCRIBE: Get the analysis of Mark Shields and David Brooks delivered to your inbox every week.

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    Emblems of VW Golf VII car are pictured in a production line at the plant of German carmaker Volkswagen in Wolfsburg. Photo by Fabian Bimmer/Reuters

    Emblems of VW Golf VII car are pictured in a production line at the plant of German carmaker Volkswagen in Wolfsburg. Photo by Fabian Bimmer/Reuters

    A Volkswagen engineer pleaded guilty to helping the German automaker cheat U.S. emission standards tests and defraud U.S. regulators and customers, the Justice Department announced Friday.

    Engineer James Robert Liang, 62, is the first person to face criminal charges in connection with the Justice Department’s wide-ranging probe into the company’s manipulation of federal pollution tests.

    Liang pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy for his decade-long role in developing and concealing a device that misled regulators and customers about the Volkswagen “clean diesel” vehicles, according to court documents. So-called “defeat devices” were installed on approximately 500,000 VW diesel 2.0 liter vehicles that allowed the automaker to manipulate emissions tests.

    Volkswagen sold these vehicles in the U.S. from 2009 to 2015.

    Liang agreed to cooperate with authorities in their ongoing investigation as part of a plea deal and could face a maximum of five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000. Liang could receive a lighter sentence if the government determined his assistance to be substantial.

    The indictment noted multiple email exchanges involving Liang and other Volkswagen employees. In one email exchange, dated September 2013, an employee told Liang about preparing one of the vehicles for a test, saying in German, “If this goes through without problems, the function is probably truly watertight!”

    In July 2015, another employee emailed Liang seeking guidance on how to respond to U.S. regulators, adding, in German, “the key word ‘creativity’ would be helpful here,” according to the indictment.

    Court documents also noted that when the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board confronted Liang and his co-conspirators about testing discrepancies, the employees blamed technological and mechanical errors, while knowing the installed “defeat devices” were the source of the problem.

    Volkswagen has already agreed to more than $16 billion in separate civil settlements to address environmental, state and owner claims in the United States, Reuters reported.

    Liang was indicted under seal on June 1 by a federal grand jury, but the indictment was unsealed Friday. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 11.

    WATCH: How Volkswagen got caught cheating

    The post Volkswagen engineer pleads guilty to conspiracy in emissions scandal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov walk into their meeting room in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the crisis in Syria, September 9, 2016.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX2ORSX

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the crisis in Syria. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    GENEVA — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States and Russia have finalized a plan to reduce violence in Syria and lead to a political transition ending more than five years of war.

    Kerry says the deal clinched with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov could be a “turning point” for the conflict, if implemented.

    He spoke early Saturday at a joint press conference with Lavrov after a marathon day of negotiations in Geneva.

    The post U.S. and Russia agree to a plan to end Syria’s war, says Kerry appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A single white rose is left at the edge of the South Pool of the 911 Memorial atop the area of the memorial for New York City Police (NYPD) officers killed in the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, following the deadly shootings of police officers in Dallas, Texas, in Manhattan, New York, U.S., July 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar - RTX2KD3P

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  A federal judge today refused to stop construction of a hotly contested oil pipeline near a North Dakota Indian reservation.  But right after that, three federal agencies asked that the pipeline builder pause the work voluntarily.  The Standing Rock Sioux say that the project harms water supplies and disturbs ancient sites.  And thousands of protesters are supporting their cause.

    Wall Street took a beating today on fears of higher interest rates and lower oil prices.  The Dow Jones industrial average lost 394 points to close at 18085.  The Nasdaq fell 133 points and the S&P 500 slid 53.

    The U.S. House of Representatives has given final approval to letting families of 9/11 victims sue Saudi Arabia.  Fifteen of the 19 hijackers that day were Saudis, but Riyadh strongly objects to the bill, and the White House warns of a veto.

    Still, Republican Congressman Peter King of New York and others say they’re undeterred.

    REP. PETER KING (R-N.Y.):  This is the most basic constitutional right.  This is an obligation.  It’s an obligation we in the Congress have to not allow foreign lobbyists or foreign countries or anyone else to intimidate us.  Justice must be done.  And we want to make sure that there are no more 9/11s.

    This is one more step we can take to show foreign governments they cannot step aside, they cannot walk away if something is carried out where they’re sort of looking the other way making believe it’s not happening.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The vote came after House members from both parties marked 9/11 on the steps of the Capitol.  They paused for a moment of silence and then sang “God Bless America” in the same location where they gathered shortly after the attacks 15 years ago Sunday.

    New warnings today on Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phone because the batteries can explode and spark fires.  Now the Consumer Production — Protection Safety Commission is telling people to stop using the phones and turn them off.  And the Federal Aviation Administration warns against bringing them on airplanes.  Samsung has issued a global recall.

    And a NASA probe is off on a seven-year first-of-its-kind mission to gather samples from an asteroid, and return them to Earth.  A rocket launched the probe from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Thursday evening.  An hour later, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft shot out of orbit.  It’s heading for the asteroid Bennu to bring back about two ounces of dust.

    The post News Wrap: House votes to let families of 9/11 victims sue Saudi Arabia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton walks to the podium to talk to reporters after holding a "National Security Working Session" with national security advisors in New York, New York, United States September 9, 2016.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder  - RTX2OWBZ

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    LISA DESJARDINS:  The North Korea news forced both American candidates to respond, Hillary Clinton after meeting with a national security panel in New York.

    HILLARY CLINTON (D), Presidential Nominee:  We are not going to let North Korea pursue a nuclear weapon with the ballistic missile capacity to deliver it to the United States territory.  That is absolutely a bottom line.

    LISA DESJARDINS:  Donald Trump argued it’s another of what he says were Clinton’s catastrophic’s failures.  He spoke at the Values Voter Summit in Washington.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee:  Just today, it was announced that North Korea performed its fifth nuclear test, its fourth since Hillary Clinton became secretary of state.  It’s just one more massive failure from a failed secretary of state.

    LISA DESJARDINS:  The Republican hit on a different foreign policy issue last night, when he spoke to Larry king on R.T., a news channel run by the Russian government.

    LARRY KING:  U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies reportedly are investigating whether Russia launched a covert operation to disrupt the 2016 election.  What do you make of that?

    DONALD TRUMP:  I think it’s probably unlikely.  I think maybe — maybe the Democrats are putting that out.  Who knows?

    LISA DESJARDINS:  Trump’s campaign said later he didn’t mean to go on Russian state TV.

    KELLYANNE CONWAY, Trump Campaign Manager:  He actually did an interview with Larry King, and he said he was doing it for his podcast; he didn’t know it would be on Russia TV.

    LISA DESJARDINS:  Meanwhile, Clinton in Kansas City last night signaled a shift in tone away from Trump attacks, and toward her personal side, addressing the National Baptist Convention.

    HILLARY CLINTON:  I still remember my late father, a gruff former Navy man on his knees praying by his bed every night.  That made a big impression on me as a young girl, seeing him humble himself before God.

    LISA DESJARDINS:  This going-positive push is multimedia, including this new TV ad stressing her message.

    HILLARY CLINTON:  We have got to bring people together.

    LISA DESJARDINS:  Candidates and voters will take a break this weekend.  Both Trump and Clinton have agreed to suspend campaigning Sunday to mark the 15th anniversary of September 11.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins.

     JUDY WOODRUFF:  Also today, early voting began in North Carolina, the first of 37 states that allow the practice.

    The post North Korean nuclear test reverberates on the campaign trail appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Voting machine operator Robin Coffee-Ruff hands a sticker to a voter who cast his ballot at West Philadelphia High School on U.S. midterm election day morning in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 4, 2014.  REUTERS/Mark Makela (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) - RTR4CT7R

    Voting machine operator Robin Coffee-Ruff hands a sticker to a voter who cast his ballot at West Philadelphia High School on U.S. midterm election day morning in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 4, 2014. Photo by Mark Makel/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court has blocked Kansas, Georgia and Alabama from requiring residents to prove they are U.S. citizens when registering to vote using a national form.

    The 2-1 ruling Friday is a victory for voting rights groups who said a U.S. election official illegally changed proof-of-citizenship requirements on the federal registration form at the behest of the three states.

    People registering to vote in other states are only required to swear that that they are citizens, not show documentary proof.

    The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia acted swiftly in the case, issuing a two-page, unsigned ruling just a day after hearing oral arguments. A federal judge in July had refused to block the requirement while the case is considered on the merits.

    The League of Women Voters and civil rights groups argued that the requirements could lead to the “mass disenfranchisement” of thousands of potential voters — many of them poor, African-American and living in rural areas

    The groups took issue with the actions of Brian Newby, executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, who changed the federal form shortly after he took the job last November. Newby is a former Kansas election official who had publicly supported the state’s effort to make the change.

    [Watch Video]

    The case now returns to the district court for a full hearing on the merits. But the appeals court said the voting rights groups are likely to succeed on the merits.

    The change requires people seeking to register to show birth certificates, naturalization papers or other documents as proof of citizenship. Kansas has been actively enforcing the requirement, but Alabama and Georgia have not.

    Opponents said Newby had no authority to take the action on his own. Even the Justice Department has refused to defend Newby’s action and has sided with voting rights groups.

    The appeals court’s ruling requires the commission to immediately remove the proof-of-citizenship requirement from all forms. It requires the states to treat all registration applications filed since January 29 as if they did not have the requirement.

    The EAC was created in 2002 to help avoid a repeat of the disputed 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore following ballot confusion in Florida. It is supposed to have four commissioners, two Democrats and two Republicans, but one of the Democratic seats is currently vacant. The remaining commissioners never acted to approve or disapprove Newby’s action.

    Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had argued that the change was needed to prevent voter fraud. He rejected claims that the requirement undermined voter registration, saying Kansas voter rolls have risen overall this year.

    The post Appeals court blocks proof-of-citizenship voting requirement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A nine month old baby girl at meal time. Photo Tim Clayton (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

    The FDA is urging infant formula manufacturers to meet a set of scientific standards before making health claims about their product. Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — If you’ve ever seen the astonishing array of infant formula sold in supermarkets, you might wonder if the stuff can really make your baby smarter, allergy-proof, or less colicky, as advertised.

    The Food and Drug Administration wonders the same thing.

    On Thursday, the FDA suggested that the $3 billion infant formula industry consider proving its claims before selling the products.

    In an unusual move, the agency served up a set of scientific standards for infant formula manufacturers to meet, before touting their products for treatment or prevention of certain medical conditions.

    This draft proposal suggests that manufacturers conduct research trials and otherwise gather evidence to back assertions of how their products actually function in a baby’s body. Manufacturers and others have 60 days to comment, before the agency adopts a final guideline.

    The move marks the first time that the FDA has proposed a standard, even a voluntary one such as this, for companies making health claims about a specific food. (The FDA did develop a standard for dietary supplements broadly.) In recent years, formula manufacturers have increasingly developed specialized products, often with vitamins, other nutrients, or additives, which they target to parents eager for their babies to have superior immune systems, digestion, or brains.

    “Because infancy is a unique, vulnerable period when critical growth and development occur,” the FDA wrote, “great care is necessary to ensure the safety of all modifications to infant formula, even if the purpose of the modification is to more closely mirror the composition and health benefits of human milk.”

    Agency spokeswoman Lauren Kotwicki said the FDA has seen an increase in the use of health claims on infant formula labeling and that manufacturers who want to use such claims have asked the agency how to substantiate them.

    The FDA’s action follows publication of a report in the May 2016 issue of Clinical Pediatrics, which studied the labels of 22 infant formula products and found that 13 made claims about treating colic and gastrointestinal symptoms without proof.

    “There is insufficient evidence to support the claims that removing or reducing lactose, using hydrolyzed or soy protein or adding pre-/probiotics to formula benefits infants with fussiness, gas, or colic,” the authors wrote. “Yet claims like ‘soy for fussiness and gas’ encourage parents who perceive their infants to be fussy to purchase modified formula. Increased regulation of infant formula claims is warranted.”

    Dr. Peter Belamarich, a professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the study’s lead author, welcomed the FDA’s action.

    “They are trying to rein it in a little bit,” Belamarich said. “It’s an attempt to put the claims under greater scientific scrutiny. It’s a good and terrifically important development.”

    Belamarich, who works at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, said he sees plenty of confused parents.

    “We see it every day, Belamarich said. “People switching formulas in the hope that what is most often normal baby behaviors is going to be treated by switching formula. There are so many products and so many claims.”

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Sept. 8, 2016. Find the original story here.

    The post Allergy-proof? Intelligence booster? FDA looks to rein in health claims for baby formula appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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