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- 11/02/16--15:35: _What the candidates...
- 11/02/16--15:40: _Why congressional r...
- 11/02/16--15:45: _News Wrap: Suspect ...
- 11/02/16--15:50: _Obama and other sur...
- 11/02/16--21:49: _Photos: The Chicago...
- 11/03/16--05:53: _Progress stalls in ...
- 11/03/16--06:34: _How drug addiction ...
- 11/03/16--06:55: _Police say Renee Da...
- 11/03/16--08:10: _Voters already have...
- 11/03/16--09:37: _With eight Supreme ...
- 11/03/16--09:49: _Column: Is your ang...
- 11/03/16--10:43: _This year, more mig...
- 11/03/16--15:40: _What we know about ...
- 11/03/16--15:45: _News Wrap: Report s...
- 11/03/16--15:50: _Questions of charac...
- 11/04/16--06:56: _Bernie Sanders requ...
- 11/04/16--07:06: _Analysis: Trump’s v...
- 11/04/16--07:15: _Column: The most im...
- 11/04/16--08:23: _Column: Is the mili...
- 11/04/16--09:42: _New York City defie...
- 11/02/16--15:50: Obama and other surrogates fan out to election battlegrounds
- 11/02/16--21:49: Photos: The Chicago Cubs are no longer the ‘loveable losers’
- 11/03/16--06:34: How drug addiction led to more grandparents raising grandchildren
- 11/03/16--09:49: Column: Is your anger about the election based on facts?
- Are you confident that Social Security and Medicare will be solvent enough to keep their promises when you and your children need them?
- Do you want to live in a society in which a tiny fraction of the public and few corporations hold a greater share of the wealth and influence than has ever been the case in America before? Can a society so tilted be as productive and stable, not to mention pleasant, as the America you grew up in?
- Must your health care cost almost twice as much as it costs your counterparts in every other advanced nation, while our health system delivers objectively worse results than most others?
- Why can’t the schools of this affluent and admired nation train students not headed to college for realistic careers and stop busting the budgets and burdening the futures of so many who do go on to university?
- Did we learn anything from the crash of 2008? How have we allowed our financial sector to accumulate even greater derivative positions than prior to the crash, to concentrate its assets in even fewer institutions than before and to take home a massive and unprecedented share of the economy’s profits?
- 11/03/16--15:40: What we know about voter turnout so far
- 11/03/16--15:45: News Wrap: Report suggests FBI in dispute over Clinton Foundation
- 11/03/16--15:50: Questions of character continue to dominate final campaign scramble
- 11/04/16--07:15: Column: The most important issue this election forgot
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn now to an often overlooked political issue, the well-being of those with disabilities.
A bipartisan poll out today showed that 51 percent of the American people either have a disability themselves or have a family member or a close friend with one.
Politics wasn’t much of a discussion at the Breaux household in Fairfax, Virginia, until:
SARA BREAUX, Fairfax, Virginia Resident: I was upstairs, and he was in the basement with a very trusted therapist, and I hear him screaming. I came down and I was like, what? And I look, and Trump is on the television, and he has this guttural scream. And I grabbed the boards and I said, what is going on? And that’s when he said, seeing this actually gives — makes my stomach hurt.
JUDY WOODRUFF: He is Sara’s son, Ben Breaux, a 16-year-old with nonverbal autism. Ben can’t speak out loud, so he communicates by spelling out his thoughts, letter by letter.
After seeing a lot of Donald Trump on TV, many of those thoughts are now about the presidential election.
SARA BREAUX: I saw T-R-U…
JUDY WOODRUFF: A minute later:
SARA BREAUX: I saw Trump on TV, and it really U-P-S-E-T — and it really me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What was it that he said, or that he did? What was it?
SARA BREAUX: H-E — he — S-A-I-D — he said — he said things that were disrespectful to so M-A-N-Y — to so many. He said things that were so mean and disrespectful to so many.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Ben is too young to cast a vote this year, but he’s part of a growing demographic. More than 35 million Americans with disabilities will be eligible to vote, accounting for almost one-sixth of the electorate.
All told, almost 63 million voters either have a disability or live with someone who does. That’s a quarter of all eligible voters. And those figures are only projected to grow as the population ages.
JENNIFER LASZLO MIZRAHI, RespectAbility: In the past, a third of people with disabilities have been Democrats, and a third have been Republicans, and a third have been independents. So, we’re the ultimate swing voter group.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi runs RespectAbility, a nonprofit that promotes disability rights and employment. She says voters with disabilities aren’t a monolithic group, but there is common ground on one issue: inclusion.
JENNIFER LASZLO MIZRAHI: People with disabilities don’t want anyone to look down at us. We want, really, these opportunities to be included fully. And we want to be included in school, we want to be included in our faith community, we want to be included in everything, including in political campaigns.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Unlike in past presidential contests, disability is something both campaigns have addressed this cycle, even if inadvertently. Last fall, Trump drew outrage from the disability community and beyond when he mocked a news reporter with a congenital condition.
DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: You got to see the guy. Oh, I don’t know what I said. Oh, I don’t remember.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Hillary Clinton’s campaign quickly seized on the moment, with national TV ads like this one.
WOMAN: Donald Trump doesn’t see people like me. He just sees disability. I honestly feel bad for someone with so much hate in his heart.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Clinton had already addressed people with disabilities in her campaign platform, calling for more job opportunities and tax credits for their caregivers.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), Presidential Nominee: We have got to build an inclusive economy that welcomes people with disabilities, values their work, treats them with respect.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JUDY WOODRUFF: Trump doesn’t address disability issues in detail on his Web site. He discusses the issue mostly through the lens of military veterans and PTSD.
DONALD TRUMP: A shocking 20 veterans are committing suicide each and every day, especially our older veterans. This is a national tragedy that’s not talked about.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
DONALD TRUMP: That is why we must increase the number of mental health care professionals inside the VA, while ensuring that veterans can access private mental health care as well.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Laszlo Mizrahi says the Clinton camp is aware of the contrast.
JENNIFER LASZLO MIZRAHI: It’s very clear that the campaign understands that, when it comes to the sort of product differentiation between herself and Mr. Trump, that this is an issue that plays in her favor.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Maybe so, but the lack of a full platform on disabilities has not deterred conservatives like Melissa Ortiz, who took part in early voting in Washington, D.C.
She has spina bifida, and she uses a service dog, Annie Oakley, to alert her when a seizure is coming on. Ortiz is an activist who was all in for Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the primary, but now she backs Trump.
MELISSA ORTIZ, Washington, D.C. Resident: It wasn’t an easy decision to come to, but I’m going to do it, because it’s — I believe in his vision for our country, more than I believe in her vision for our country.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Especially when it comes to disability policy.
MELISSA ORTIZ: I do think she will create more dependency under the guise of creating independence, because, again, her idea is, it takes a village to raise a child and the government needs to do for you. And, thank you, I can do very well for myself. And most other people that I know with disabilities believe that they can do well for themselves, too. They need — they need a little help. They don’t need to be taken care of.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Ortiz says her vote for Trump put policy above personality.
MELISSA ORTIZ: Do I like the way that he talks about women? No. Do I like some of the things that he’s said about people with disabilities? Absolutely not. I don’t vote with my lady parts, and I don’t vote with my wheelchair. I vote with this and I vote with this.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, back at the Breaux household, mom Sara says she agrees with her son.
When it comes to issues affecting individuals with disabilities, do you have a clear sense of which candidate is better on those issues?
SARA BREAUX: I think Hillary Clinton is. And the biggest concern for all of us is not just today, which is a concern, but the future. What kind of programs are there for when we’re not the support system? And that is something that she has addressed.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Candidates aside, after 18 straight months of campaigning, Ben adds what many of us have been thinking.
SARA BREAUX: Y-E-A-R — year with — W-I-T-H — I-S — year is too long to have to deal with this.
The post What the candidates offer to Americans with disabilities, a growing voting bloc appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: No matter who wins next week’s presidential election, the party that controls the balance of power in the U.S. House and Senate will play a critical role in determining what gets done. Important issues such as health care, immigration, trade and the makeup of the federal courts will all be affected.
We explore that now with Gerald Seib, the Washington bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. And Norman Ornstein, he’s a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
And we welcome both of you back to the program.
So, Jerry, I’m going to start with you. There are, what, six or seven Senate seats that are literally up for grabs right now. Where do those races — how do they look like?
GERALD SEIB, The Wall Street Journal: It’s interesting, because a couple of weeks ago, the Democrats got fairly confident they were pulling away and were going to have the margin.
And then several of those races have narrowed down in the last couple of weeks, sort of like the presidential race, and not by coincidence. So if the Democrats can hang on in Nevada, where Harry Reid is retiring, which is a little iffy, and if they pick up a seat in Illinois, which seems likely, then they’re going to have to find three or four seats in Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
In each of those states, the Republicans trying to hang on have done a little better than Donald Trump in those states, which is why Republicans have some hope that they can hang on. To me, the most interesting one in the last few days has been Wisconsin, which looked as it was kind of moving away from Ron Johnson, the Republican incumbent. Now it’s tightening up
And all of a sudden, there’s money pouring in from both parties into Wisconsin.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We could see changes. But the point is, it’s hanging in the balance, Norm. We don’t know.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN, American Enterprise Institute: It’s hanging in the balance.
Democrats, if Hillary Clinton wins the White House, need four seats. If they win four, it’s a tied Senate, and the vice president casts the tie-breaking vote. One caveat here is that if that does happen and there’s a tie, the seat in Virginia, which would be vacated by the then-vice president-elect Tim Kaine, would be filled by Governor Terry McAuliffe. It would be a Democrat, but only for a year.
Then there’s a special election. And their majority would be in jeopardy if that happened.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we’re off to the races again.
Well, we’re here to talk about, Jerry, about what difference does it make whether — let’s just start out assuming Hillary Clinton wins. And we will talk in a minute about Donald Trump. But if she wins and she doesn’t have a Senate in — her party with the majority of Democrats, what does that mean for what she wants to do?
GERALD SEIB: Well, you know, at some level, if somebody is in control of the Senate by 51 to 49 seats, nobody is in control of the Senate. You don’t have a working majority.
But it really does matter who has the 51, because you form the committees. You name the committee chairmen. You set the agenda. You decide what gets considered and what doesn’t.
And however that mix works out, I think one of the things that has happened in the last few weeks that would be very problematic for a President Hillary Clinton is that many of these Republicans who do hang on are going to hang on because they have gone to the voters and said, vote for me because I will be a check on Hillary Clinton.
So, they’re going to come to town and their mandate is going to be block the new President Clinton, not to work with the new President Clinton. And whatever the math is, I think that’s a serious problem for her.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Norm, what are the initiatives that could go either way depending on what the Senate does if she is president?
NORMAN ORNSTEIN: Well, let’s talk about the most important element and why winning the Senate is absolutely crucial for her for governing, and that is the Senate’s unique power to advise and consent on executive and judicial nominations.
That’s where having the 50 or 51 matters the most, because if — and getting to Jerry’s point, if there’s a Republican majority, the Republicans, from Mitch McConnell, the leader, on down have made clear that they’re not going to confirm her judges. And we have now had a number of senators, including Richard Burr in North Carolina, who is one of the ones who seats is very much in jeopardy, and Ted Cruz and others say, we won’t confirm a Supreme Court justice for four years, for the entire term.
And they can keep a vote from even taking place. Now, if the Democrats have the majority, even by a narrow margin, all the judgeships below the Supreme Court level can be confirmed without a filibuster with 50 votes, and you could change the rules, if need be, to deal with the Supreme Court.
Other than that, we’re not going to see much legislation going through, Judy, because even if they have the Senate, they don’t have the House. But having that initiative, having the ability to frame an agenda, to bring up an infrastructure bill, which would be a top priority, to bring up a fix to the health care plan, that’s critical if Hillary Clinton is going to make any progress through the normal process, the regular order, the legislative process.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Jerry, what happens if — say the Democrats do eke out a majority in the Senate. What is she then able to do, if she’s elected?
GERALD SEIB: Well, you know, I think, as Norm says, the first thing is, you can get your people in place to run the government.
And that’s not a small thing. Before we even get to that stage, one of the things the Clinton team would really like is Merrick Garland, the Supreme Court nominee, to be confirmed in a lame-duck session.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Who President Obama nominated.
GERALD SEIB: Right, who President Obama has nominated, whose nomination is sitting there. They would like that out of the way, so that doesn’t take all the oxygen out of the room.
Then I think you can sort of move on to at least attempting a few basic things. And I think the number one thing on the agenda would be to try to get a bill that spends a bunch of money on infrastructure in this country that is actually a bipartisan idea.
Donald Trump has proposed spending more than Hillary Clinton on infrastructure. Business likes it. Republicans like it. Republican governors out in the country would like that infrastructure money.
Maybe there’s a path, even in this partisan environment, in this divided world we’re talking about, to get something like that done. But I agree with Norm. It’s not going to be an ambitious agenda, at least at first.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Before we quickly get to Donald Trump, I just want to say, we’re not talking so much about the House of Representatives, Norm, because we assume, given what we’re seeing out there, that it’s not going to change hands. It will remain in Republican control.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN: Yes. Democrats need 30 seats to win the House, and that is a steeply, steeply uphill climb.
Our expectation has been that they will pick up seats and they will reduce the Republican majority. And it might go down into the 10 seats. And that will, by the way, be an enormous challenge to Paul Ryan if he decides to try to continue as speaker, because leadership advocates, those who are loyal to him, are going to be reduced in number.
And with a smaller number, those who are antithetical to him, the Freedom Caucus from his radical right, are going to be stronger. So, that’s a challenge to him. And it’s a challenge to her if she wins the presidency.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, let’s quickly, Jerry, talk about Donald Trump.
If he is elected president, we’re assuming the Senate and the House stay Republican, just because it would what they call maybe a wave election. What could he get done?
GERALD SEIB: Well, in that case, the presumption that Republicans in Congress have is that they’re going to step forward and fill a policy gap.
The Trump presidential candidate — presidential campaign has been policy-light. I think they believe the policy-making for the Republican Party would move down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, to the Congress.
And I’m not sure Donald Trump will agree with that. I think the problem becomes, there are key issues, immigration and trade being chief among them, where the Republicans in Congress are not in agreement with Donald Trump the presidential candidate. I don’t know how they resolve that.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN: So, we know what — the one thing they can all agree on, which is a great big tax cut, particularly for the rich.
Republicans in Congress and Donald Trump have that in common. Almost nothing else will move very far, in part because Democrats will filibuster almost all of the initiatives. The most interesting one, though, Judy, is the health care.
You know, there’s talk of repeal and replace. They don’t have a replace plan. And if they all take the majority, it is going to be like the dog chasing the bus who catches it. What do you do then?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, either way, it looks like there are a lot of question marks about what either one can get done.
Norman Ornstein, Jerry Seib, we thank you both.
GERALD SEIB: Thank you, Judy.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN: Thank you.
The post Why congressional races matter, regardless of who wins the White House appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In the day’s other news, investigators around Des Moines, Iowa, are looking for a motive in the ambush killings of two policemen early today.
The 46-year-old suspect, Scott Michael Greene, was arrested hours later. Authorities say both officers were sitting in their police cars when they were shot to death. The killings happened less than two miles apart.
SGT. PAUL PARIZEK, Des Moines Police Department: What we can tell by looking at the scene is that it doesn’t appear that either officer had an opportunity to interact with the suspect. It doesn’t look like there was an exchange of conversation. It doesn’t look like there was an opportunity — there definitely wasn’t an opportunity for these officers to defend themselves and respond to the attack.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Police say they believe the gunman acted alone.
JUDY WOODRUFF: South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma faced increasing public pressure to step down today. A state watchdog report found signs of corruption at top levels of the government. The report came out after Zuma abandoned efforts to block it. He also faced thousands of protesters in the streets of Pretoria demanding he resign. They pointed to a series of scandals, including spending millions in state funds on Zuma’s rural home.
FANA MOKOENA, Economic Freedom Fighters: He is under siege now even from his own quarters. The ANC is speaking out loud against him. And society, I think, has come to realize that we have come to the end of the road for him.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The corruption report also calls for a judicial inquiry into new allegations that Zuma engaged in influence-peddling.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Back in this country, the Federal Reserve finished its latest meeting with no change in short-term interest rates. Instead, policy-makers said they want to see further gains in the job market and economic activity. They hinted a rate hike could come at their next meeting in December.
JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street today, election jitters and a drop in oil prices sent stocks lower again. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 77 points to close at 17959. The Nasdaq fell 48, and the S&P 500 gave up 13.
HARI SREENIVASAN: It’s do-or-die tonight for the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians in game seven of the World Series. Fans in both cities are hoping their teams put an end to decades of waiting. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908, and the Indians last claimed a title in 1948.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And there’s a new king in the World Series of Poker. Qui Nguyen won the tournament’s main event early today in Las Vegas, after nine hours and 364 hands. He’s a native of Vietnam, who’s applied for U.S. citizenship. He says he plans to donate a portion of his $8 million in winnings to poor families in Vietnam and to the Wounded Warrior Project.
The post News Wrap: Suspect in custody, Des Moines authorities seek motive in police killings appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Six days to go, and the candidates are trying toes navigate a presidential election map that’s still shifting. That had Donald Trump trying today to nail down one must-win state, while Hillary Clinton tries to deny him another.
DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: My second home, you know that. I’m here all the time.
JUDY WOODRUFF: That was Donald Trump today back in vote-rich Florida, a state he’s visited often in recent weeks. Today, in Miami, he sounded newly confident.
DONALD TRUMP: And the polls have just come up. We’re way up in Florida. I shouldn’t say that, because I want you to go vote.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
DONALD TRUMP: We are going to pretend we’re down. We’re down. Pretend, right? We will pretend we’re down. No, we got to win, we got to win big.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The race in Florida is, in fact, neck-and-neck, and Hillary Clinton started off her day less than an hour’s drive away, visiting an early polling site in Fort Lauderdale.
Clinton, afterward, flew west to campaign in Nevada. And, tonight, she’s in Arizona, in past years a Republican stronghold. Her running mate, Tim Kaine, and his wife, Anne Holton, are on the hustings, too, of course, as are President Obama and Vice President Biden, former President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea, plus Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They’re fanning out to election battlegrounds from Ohio to Nevada.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If Hillary wins North Carolina, she wins.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The most prominent surrogate of them all spent his time campaigning for Clinton in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When I said the fate of the republic rests on you, I wasn’t joking. Young people here, it’s not often that you know your voice will have an impact. Don’t let it slip away. Don’t give away your power.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Earlier, on the social media platform Now This News, the president called Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server as secretary of state an honest mistake. He also addressed the FBI’s review of newly discovered e-mails. He didn’t directly criticize director James Comey, but he did say:
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I do think that there is a norm that, you know, when there are investigations, we don’t operate on innuendo, we don’t operate on incomplete information, we don’t operate on leaks. We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, Donald Trump is devoting his whole day to Florida, while his surrogates spread across the electoral map as well, running mate Mike Pence, Trump’s children, Donald Jr., Ivanka, Tiffany and Eric with his wife, Lara, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Pence was dispatched to Arizona, ahead of Clinton’s visit there tonight, trying to keep the state in the Republican column, where it’s been 11 of the last 12 presidential election years.
The post Obama and other surrogates fan out to election battlegrounds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Hallelujah! The curse of the goat has been destroyed, but not without a fight.
The Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 on Wednesday night to win their first World Series in 108 years.
But this came after a first-ever tie in the bottom of the 8th inning of a World Series. Indians outfielder Rajai Davis hit a two-run home run, tying the game 6-6. And then rain started to fall, going into the 9th inning.
Both teams failed to gain a winning run in the 9th inning, before the grounds crew rolled out the tarp on the field for an agonizing 17-minute rain delay.
But then, as the teams headed into extra innings, Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist hit a run-scoring double. Then Cubs catcher Miguel Montero added another run to the Chicago’s total when he hit a single.
In the end, though, Cubs fans, some rubbing shoulders with the stunned Cleveland crowd in Progressive Field, rejoiced as their “lovable losers” broke the late-game tie against the Indians with an 8-7 victory.
With the Series tied at three games each, tonight’s decisive winner-take-all game for the Cubs also meant a severely bittersweet loss for the Indians, whose last World Series win was in 1948. ESPN reminded us before Game 7 that the Cubs and Indians have 174 combined seasons of “broken hearts and shattered dreams.”
Tonight, the Cubs shed decades of heartbreak, for a team that also hadn’t been to the World Series since 1945. Chicago fans, for once, will not have to utter “wait till next year” for a shot at the championship.
Maybe 108 was the team’s lucky number. (There are 108 stitches in a baseball, after all.) Hopefully, Hazel, Mabel and Vivian — three known 108-year-old Chicago natives who were alive the last time the Cubs won the World Series — were watching the historic game.
With Cubs taking Game 7, they’ll be the first team the come back from a 3-1 World Series deficit since the Kansas City Royals in 1985, the Associated Press reported.
Either way, raise your little “W” flags, Chicago. You earned it.
The post Photos: The Chicago Cubs are no longer the ‘loveable losers’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s legacy health care law has reduced the number of Americans going without health insurance to historically low levels, but continued progress threatens to stall this year, according to a new government report.
The study released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the law may be reaching a limit to its effectiveness in a nation politically divided over the government’s role in guaranteeing coverage.
The CDC said the number of uninsured people dipped by only 200,000 between 2015 and the first six months of this year, which it called “a nonsignificant difference.” The findings come from the National Health Interview Survey, which has queried more than 48,000 people so far this year.
Since the health care law’s big coverage expansion in 2014, millions have gained coverage each year. Now the pattern appears to be changing.
Experts say Obama’s overhaul deserves most of the credit for 20 million Americans gaining coverage since 2014. But progress has been less and less each year, and now it’s slowed to a crawl.
“It has got to be close to tapped out,” said Dan Witters, director of a major private survey that also follows insurance trends, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
The CDC study found that during 2015, an estimated 28.6 million U.S. residents were uninsured. The corresponding number through the first six months of 2016 was 28.4 million.
The sobering numbers come as the administration seeks to whip up enthusiasm for the 2017 sign-up season, which started this week and runs through Jan. 31. The White House would like to hit a high note on health care to close out Obama’s tenure.
But premiums are going up significantly in HealthCare.gov’s subsidized markets, and consumer choice is down with fewer insurers participating. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell has set a goal of enrolling about 1 million more customers for 2017, but outside experts say that’s going to be a challenge. The next president will inherit a program still in search of stability.
Republican Donald Trump would pull the plug on “Obamacare,” promising to start over. Democrat Hillary Clinton has a list of ideas for making insurance more affordable and covering more people, but as president she’d need willing Republican partners in Congress and the states.
The new survey offers a hint that the nation’s historic coverage expansion may have actually gone into reverse during part of this year. An earlier CDC report covering just the first three months of this year found that the number of uninsured had been even lower, an estimated 27.3 million people — or a million fewer than the six-month figure in the latest report.
Witters said that means it’s likely that the period from April through June saw an increase in the number of people without health insurance. “It’s edged up,” he said. “These trends always ebb and flow.”
The CDC’s Emily Zammitti, lead author of the report, said the study was more of a snapshot than a trend line of progress on the uninsured. “Whether it’s plateauing or not … we can’t determine that,” she said.
The uninsured rate is 8.9 percent in the latest CDC report, a few notches higher than 8.6 percent in the earlier study.
Another notable finding from Thursday’s report is that the share of Americans in high-deductible health insurance plans keeps increasing. That may help explain widespread anxiety about affordability at a time when overall health care spending is growing at a moderate pace.
The CDC survey defines high-deductible coverage as insurance that requires patients to pay at least the first $1,300 of annual medical expenses for an individual plan, or $2,600 for a family. In the first six months of this year, 38.8 percent of persons under age 65 were in high-deductible plans, an increase from 36.7 percent in all of 2015, the survey found.
Employers started shifting workers and their families to high-deductible plans before Obama took office, and now that’s becoming the norm. Many people are unhappy with the change, and some public-opinion experts say that helps explain the continued low ratings for Obama’s health overhaul, even if it was not the cause.
Clinton has proposed a new tax credit for people with high out-of-pocket medical costs, while Trump wants to promote interstate competition among insurers.
The post Progress stalls in Americans signing up for health insurance under Obamacare, study says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren is going up and increasingly it’s because their own kids are addicted to heroin or prescription drugs, or have died from an overdose. For some, it’s a challenge with little help available.
In 2005, 2.5 million children were living with grandparents who were responsible for their care. By 2015, that number had risen to 2.9 million.
Child welfare officials say drug addiction, especially to opioids, is behind much of the rise in the number of grandparents raising their grandchildren, just as it was during the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and ’90s. An estimated 2.4 million people were addicted to opioids at last count.
Caseworkers in many states say a growing number of children are neglected or abandoned by parents who are addicted. That has forced them to take emergency steps to handle a growing crisis in foster care — and often to turn first to grandparents for help.
“Obviously, the numbers have grown because of the current national opioid epidemic,” said Maria Moissades, who heads Massachusetts’ Office of the Child Advocate. “You’ve got grandparents who thought they were going to spend their retirement fishing and traveling. Now they’re raising [as many as] five grandkids.”
Federal law requires that states consider placing children with relatives in order to receive foster care and adoption assistance. And grandmothers and grandfathers often are the first — and best — choice when state and local caseworkers have to take a child out of a home and find someone else to take custody, said Angela Sausser, executive director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, a coalition of public child safety agencies in the state.
“When we are seeking caregivers for a child, you want to see who that child has relationships with,” Sausser said. “You’re removing them from their [nuclear] family. To minimize the trauma and help them feel some normalcy, you obviously want to seek out whoever is closest to that child.”
In some instances, caseworkers say, grandparents are also struggling with addictions.
In Ohio, for instance, the opioid epidemic has grown so large that caseworkers sometimes have a hard time finding any relatives who can step up, said Kim Wilhelm, protective services administrator for Licking County (Ohio) Department of Job and Family Services.
For every child in foster care who has been placed with a relative, another 20 children are being raised by relatives outside the system, said Jaia Lent, deputy executive director of Generations United, a Washington, D.C.-based family research and advocacy group.
Many grandparents face a host of emotional and financial challenges in their renewed parenting role. And there are often few state or local resources to draw on for help.
Twenty-one percent of grandparents caring for grandchildren live below the poverty line, according to Generations United. About 39 percent are over 60 and 26 percent have a disability. And because many are not licensed in the system, they are not eligible for the same services and financial support as licensed foster parents.
“Can’t y’all make it easier for grandparents? That’s my request,” said Dot Thibodeaux, president and founder of the grassroots support group Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Information Center of Louisiana.
“Most of us are on Social Security,” she said. “When the family grows, the Social Security does not. You have to make do with whatever you were getting, and that’s kind of hard.”
A handful of states are trying to help. In Louisiana, state lawmakers in June voted to establish a grandparents’ council in the governor’s office to study remedies for those tasked with raising grandchildren.
In New Mexico, lawmakers voted in February to set up a task force to study the issue and recommend concrete policy changes that could help grandparents, from legal and financial help to food and housing assistance.
A bill lingering in the Massachusetts Legislature would provide grandparents caring for their grandchildren with property tax relief. And Georgia lawmakers considered bills that would make it easier for grandparents to take grandchildren in their custody to the doctor or to enroll them in school, but failed to pass them.
The growing trend and the problems it can cause are being noticed by Congress too. In May, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, Illinois Democrat, introduced a bill that would, among other things, make it easier for grandparents caring for children to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. It’s lingering in committee.
In September, U.S. Senate inaction effectively killed a bill that would have provided federal funding for substance abuse programs for families with children at imminent risk of entering foster care. The bill also would have allowed states to waive foster care licensing standards for grandparents and other relatives.
Barriers to Help
Grandparents — especially those who don’t become licensed foster parents or legal guardians of their grandchildren — face a host of emotional and legal challenges in getting help.
Many of them often don’t want to apply for legal custody because that would mean taking their own children to court. Or if they apply for welfare, the state could try to make their own children, who may already be struggling with addiction, pay child support.
Licensed foster parents have access to services and can get financial assistance with everything from medical care to a clothing allowance. But to qualify, grandparents would have to go through a lengthy process and meet certain requirements.
To be a licensed foster parent, for instance, states have specific requirements about square footage and bedrooms for each child. This makes sense if a child is being placed with a stranger, but creates barriers for grandparents who may need to accommodate multiple grandchildren in their homes, Lent said.
Although Louisiana offers financial subsidies to help grandparents with the costs of raising children, few apply because they are unaware of the help. Others don’t qualify because they make too much money — even if they earn very little, Thibodeaux said.
“You almost have to be on the streets,” said Thibodeaux, who serves on the governor’s grandparents’ council.
Some child welfare advocates say that what’s needed is more help for “kinship care” — relatives taking in and raising the children who’ve been neglected.
“Everyone agrees that kinship care is the right thing, but there’s no money to pay for it,” said Moissades, the Massachusetts child advocacy official.
But there could be a payoff if some help was provided grandparents who aren’t part of the foster care system. According to analysis of foster care payments by Generations United, grandparents and other relatives raising children save taxpayers $4 billion each year by keeping the children out of the foster care system.
A Multigenerational Problem?
Back in the 2000s, some states passed legislation establishing “kinship navigator” programs that serve as one-stop shops linking grandparents and other relatives with services such as counseling, housing assistance and short-term financial help.
With these programs, other grandparents raising children often served as the “navigators” to advise on how to get help with everything from legal advice to parenting skills.
But in some states, budget crunches have made funding for some of these programs unstable, Lent said. In 2008, Congress passed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which included competitive grants for kinship navigator programs. Some states used the money to create new programs, but not all are available statewide. Some states, including Florida and Ohio, have federally funded navigator programs that cover part of the state.
Today Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Washington state still have statewide, state-funded programs.
Child welfare workers say that more federal funding is needed if every state is to have a navigator program and offer services statewide.
Isabel Barreiro, of the Children’s Home Society of New Jersey, which is contracted by the state to serve as a kinship navigator in Central New Jersey, said she’s often limited in how much she can do to help her clients.
For example, she said, many of her clients live in public housing. Sometimes multiple grandchildren can be dumped on a grandparent’s doorstep, which forces her to try to find a bigger place to live. Barreiro said she doesn’t have the ability to make a bigger apartment magically appear.
State child welfare agencies have some power to intervene with housing, she said.
“Child protection services needs to do a better job of really stabilizing these families,” Barreio said. “Don’t place a child with a 60-year-old grandmother who’s in Section 8 housing, and not help her.”
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More information was released Tuesday over the fatal police shooting of Renee Davis, a 23-year-old Native American woman, who authorities said ignored repeated commands to drop her weapon at her home in northwestern Washington state.
Two King County Sheriff’s deputies reportedly arrived at Davis’ home on Oct. 21 on the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation in Auburn, Washington, to check on her welfare. Davis’ boyfriend reportedly alerted authorities after he received a text message from her that said, “Well come get the girls or call 911 I’m about to shoot myself.”
The boyfriend also showed a text photo sent from Davis that showed “fresh injuries,” although it was unclear whether it was indeed Davis in the photo, according to the sheriff’s office.
Davis’ family previously told The Seattle Times that she suffered from depression. Davis was a pregnant mother of three.
Deputies Nicholas Prichett and Tim Lewis were called in for the “welfare check.” They arrived at Davis’ home around 6:51 p.m. Both deputies knocked on the door repeatedly to no avail, but they do see two of Davis’ children, 2- and 3-years-old, inside.
“At this point, both deputies worry that Davis has taken her own life and are concerned about the children,” the timeline provided by the department read.
One of the children eventually let the deputies in. The children then led them to the closed room where Davis was, the sheriff’s office said.
Before entering the room, the deputies moved the children to a porch, fearing Davis had killed herself. They then found Davis inside the room, under a blanket on the bed. According to the sheriff’s office, Davis did not show her hands when the deputies asked her to do so.
When a deputy removes the blanket, Davis held a handgun in one hand, an ammunition magazine in the other.
Davis failed to follow repeated orders to put her handgun down and then directed it at the deputies. Both deputies fired in response. Davis, who was five months’ pregnant, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Afterward, authorities learned the handgun was empty. The magazine was loaded. Two rifles were also recovered from the home. Davis’ family said she liked hunting, The Seattle Times reported.
Davis’ third child, age 5, was at a friend’s house. Neither of the children inside the home were harmed.
Both officers have been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is being investigated. The deputies also underwent additional training on crisis intervention.
“All these cops are set up to fail,” said Gabriel Galanda, managing partner at law firm, who represents a family of a Tulalip man who died after police used a Taser on him.
“Money’s not being allocated to local government to train these cops, they don’t know what they’re doing, and then they’re out on the reservation and an Indian community,” Galanda told The Stranger. “Deputies aren’t equipped to deal with the mentally ill, especially the brown mentally ill.”
Before the sheriff’s office released more information over the death of Davis, the Seattle Human Rights Commission said in a statement that officers across the country are not “well trained on how to recognize and interact with people living with depression and similar conditions.”
A 2015 report from the Treatment Advocacy Center showed people with untreated mental illnesses are 16 times more likely to be shot and killed by police.
The post Police say Renee Davis, a pregnant Native American woman, was fatally shot after refusing to disarm appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton may not be accumulating the type of early-vote advantage her campaign wanted, but she continues to maintain an apparent edge over Donald Trump, with roughly one-fourth of all expected ballots cast in the 2016 election.
The Democrat’s campaign once hoped to bank substantial votes from Democrats in North Carolina and Florida before Election Day. Both are must-win states for Trump.
But data about the early vote suggest she’s not doing as well as President Barack Obama in 2012. Ballot requests from likely supporters have been weak in parts of the Midwest, and African-American turnout has fallen, too.
Still, the tens of millions of early votes cast also point to strength from Democratic-leaning Latino voters, potentially giving Clinton a significant advantage in Nevada and Colorado. With more than half the votes already cast in those states, Democrats are matching if not exceeding their successful 2012 pace, according to data compiled by The Associated Press.
“We are seeing the trajectory of the election change in some states, but Democrats are also making up ground,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor and expert in voter turnout.
Early voting — by mail and at polling stations — is underway in 37 states. At least 33 million votes have been cast, representing about 25 percent of the total votes expected nationwide if turnout is similar to 2012. In all, more than 46 million people — or as much as 40 percent of the electorate — are expected to vote before Tuesday, according to AP data.
The results of those votes won’t be known until polls close next week. But early voting data — party affiliation, race and other details — are being carefully examined for clues about the ballots that have been cast so far.
A look at the latest trends:
Race Tightens in North Carolina, Florida
In North Carolina and Florida, Democrats did better with mail balloting than they had in previous elections. They expected to build on that with the start of in-person voting, where Democrats traditionally do well. But the big turnout — especially among black voters — hasn’t yet happened.
In North Carolina, with more than half of the expected vote already cast, Democrats lead in ballots submitted, 43 percent to 32 percent. But that’s slightly below the same period in 2012, when Mitt Romney narrowly won the state.
This year, fewer polling locations were open in Democratic-leaning counties in the first week of early voting. More locations have since opened, but Democrats are still trying to catch up. Voting by African-Americans has declined to 22 percent of the early vote, from 28 percent in 2012. The white vote has risen to about 73 percent from 67 percent.
In Florida, more than half of voters have already cast ballots. Democrats remain virtually tied with Republicans. At this point in 2008 and 2012, Democrats held an advantage in ballots cast. Obama won the state both years.
The black share of ballots is down, while the Latino share is up.
Democrats and Republican analysts say they see signs that Republican early voters are those who previously voted on Election Day, while Democrats are drawing new voters. That would be good news for Democrats.
“I’m still bullish that Clinton will get to the 270 electoral votes” needed to win the White House, said Scott Tranter, co-founder of the Republican data firm Optimus.
Rising Latino Vote May Boost Clinton
Latinos may be providing Clinton with support she needs in key Western states.
In swing-state Nevada, where half the total ballots have been cast, Democrats lead with 43 percent to 37 percent.
That’s comparable to the party’s share at this point in 2012, good news for Clinton since Obama ultimately won the state by 6 percentage points. Ballots from Latinos and Asian-Americans — another group that tends to vote Democratic — are up, while ballots from African-American and white voters are down.
More than 1.2 million residents have cast ballots in Colorado, or half the expected vote. Democrats hold the advantage, 37 percent to 35 percent. Colorado, for the first time in a presidential election, is voting mostly by mail. At this point in 2012, Republicans held the edge.
In Arizona, where more than half the votes have been cast, Democrats trail by 5 percentage points. But at this point in 2012, Republicans had opened a 10 percentage point lead. The share of independent voters or those whose party affiliation is unknown is also up slightly.
Turnout rose among all races, but at higher rates among Hispanics.
“Arizona is close,” Tranter said.
In Republican-leaning Texas, 3.3 million votes have been cast in the top 15 counties, up 36 percent. The state does not present breakdowns by party. Voter modeling by Catalist , a Democratic analytical firm, found ballots increasing by all race groups, but at sharper rates among Latinos.
Whites Buoy Trump in Ohio, Iowa
Trump may hold an edge in Ohio and Iowa, two states he’s counting on to reach 270.
In Ohio, the heavily Democratic counties of Cuyahoga and Franklin are posting declines in ballot requests compared to 2012, while Republican-leaning counties such as Warren have seen an increase. The state does not break down ballots by party. Voter modeling by Catalist found the white share of Ohio ballot requests was up to 90 percent from 87 percent. The black share fell to 8 percent from 11 percent.
Obama won Iowa in 2012 due to his strength in early voting. This year, Democrats lead there in both ballots requested and returned, 43 percent to 34 percent. But Democrats are running behind 2012 levels based on requested ballots, while Republicans are mostly on pace.
But Republicans may be having trouble flipping another state, Wisconsin, that voted for Obama in the last two elections. Overall turnout in Wisconsin is outpacing 2012, with bigger shares coming from major Democratic counties such as Dane and Milwaukee.
Defending Republican Turf
Trump also may be holding ground in two Republican-leaning states that Clinton targeted.
In Georgia, the number of ballots submitted has increased mostly among whites, while the black share has declined.
In Utah, Republicans lead in returned ballots, 46 percent to 15 percent; no party voters made up 35 percent. The Republican share in ballots is down from 2012 but improved from a week ago.
The post Voters already have cast about a quarter of all expected 2016 ballots appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — What happens if America wakes up on Nov. 9 to another undecided, hotly disputed presidential election? What if the outcome turns on the razor-thin margin in one or two states, one candidate seeking a recount, the other going to court?
We know what happened in 2000, when the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote effectively settled the election in favor of George W. Bush.
As controversial as that decision was, it was made by a nine-justice court. This time around, there are only eight justices and the possibility of a tie vote. That would leave a lower federal or state court ruling in place, with no definitive judgment from the nation’s highest court.
“It would be Bush v. Gore, with a twist,” said one election law expert, law professor Richard Hasen at the University of California at Irvine.
“I call it the nightmare scenario,” said University of Kentucky law professor Joshua Douglas.
Sixteen years ago, the court divided 5 to 4 about whether to get involved at all and then voted the same way to stop Florida’s state court-ordered recount. The five more conservative justices sided with Republican nominee Bush, while the four more liberal justices would have ruled for Democrat Al Gore.
“A no-brainer!” Justice Anthony Kennedy said in Jan Crawford’s book “Supreme Conflict,” recalling the decision to take on the case. “A state court deciding a federal constitutional issue about the presidential election? Of course you take the case.”
The odds of history repeating itself in Florida or elsewhere are long. But it’s hard to discount any possibility, however remote, in a tight campaign that already has seen Democratic lawsuits charging voter suppression and Republican claims the election will be rigged.
The reason a tie Supreme Court vote is even possible stems from another aspect of this unusual election year, the Senate Republicans’ refusal to act on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February.
Any decision to seek a recount or otherwise contest the election results would depend on the margin in any one state and its potential for affecting the national outcome. In 2000, neither Bush nor Gore could muster an Electoral College majority of 270 votes without Florida.
“For candidates who lose by a fraction of a percent, even up to 1.5 percent, they will at least explore their options for seeking a recount or challenging the results in a particular state,” said Michael Morley, a law professor at Barry University in Orlando, Florida. Morley represented Republican Joe Miller in his postelection challenge to Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who won re-election as a write-in candidate after losing the GOP primary to Miller in 2010.
If an initial recount doesn’t settle things, a lawsuit could follow, with appeals possible all the way to the Supreme Court.
If a case should make it that far, it would reach a court made up of four justices appointed by Republican presidents and four by Democrats. Just four of the eight were on the court for Bush v. Gore, although Chief Justice John Roberts aided Bush’s cause as a lawyer in private practice.
At this point, it’s impossible to know who might go to court and in which state, what the issue might be and who might benefit if justices were evenly divided. A tie is a win for the person who already has prevailed in the lower court.
But for some who already are dismayed about the extended Supreme Court vacancy since Justice Scalia’s death, a tie would have broad implications beyond the election.
“I worry about a 4-4 tie because it would undermine the court’s legitimacy,” Douglas said.
A Supreme Court appeal also would raise another delicate question. Would Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg participate after the comments she made about Trump in July to The Associated Press and other news outlets?
She told AP then that she didn’t want to think about the possibility of Trump being elected and later called him a “faker” in an interview with CNN. Soon afterward, she said her comments were ill-advised and apologized.
Federal law requires recusal from any case in which a judge’s impartiality “might reasonably be questioned.” But at the Supreme Court, a justice alone is the final judge of whether to sit out a case.
A suit challenging presidential election results almost certainly would have to be wrapped up before Dec. 19, the date electors will meet.
But control of the Senate also might rest on results in one state. If a candidate is dissatisfied with the initial tally and a recount, then sues, it could be months before the winner is known.
That’s what happened in Minnesota in 2008. Democrat Al Franken trailed Republican incumbent Norm Coleman by a couple of hundred votes in the first count and led by about the same margin after a mandatory recount.
Coleman went to court and ultimately dropped his appeal after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled against him.
Franken didn’t take his seat in the Senate until July 2009, more than eight months after the election.
Associated Press reporter Mark Sherman wrote this article.
The post With eight Supreme Court justices, an undecided election could be ‘nightmare scenario’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Editor’s Note: We teamed up with Jim Stone, author of “Five Easy Theses” to test your knowledge of America’s economic challenges in “Are you an informed voter? A quiz.” Today, we have an adapted excerpt from Jim Stone’s new book, which was the inspiration for the quiz. We hope you enjoy it.
— Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor
This year will be remember as the year of the angry voter. People are angry because the median income has barely budged for 40 years, while the costs of education, housing and health care have all risen sharply. And Americans, on the whole, are rightly upset with the inability of government to solve a host of obviously consequential problems. Some are genuinely hard to solve because they don’t have solutions that equitably resolve nasty trade-offs between winners and losers. But the paralysis today is worse than that. Our system can’t even seem to deal with eminently solvable problems.
My book is about five of these. It asserts that straightforward, logical answers to some issues are staring us in the face, yet there is no political path to their resolution. I hope you will declare this an unacceptable state of affairs. Worse still, the key issues are too seldom part of what passes for political debate these days. My title, “Five Easy Theses: Commonsense Solutions to America’s Greatest Economic Challenges,” I admit, is slightly facetious because Americans disagree about so many things, but I would wager that most of you share the concerns embodied in these five questions:
As the problems grow larger, alas, it seems that our politics become smaller. Scanning this forbidding landscape, many of you may have concluded that our issues cannot be solved in ways that will provide genuine benefits to you and your families. But ours is still the country that most favors, at least in the private and academic sectors, intellectual challenge to the established ways of doing things. And from this spring innovation and creativity no other society can match. The public sector can tap into this energy and become a worthier partner for the rest of the country — if only it would adopt some specific, commonsense policies.
There are three ingredients of serious political progress. The first is clarity of vision. Next is political leadership, at an opportune moment for change, imbued with the unusual guts, charisma and communications talent to champion a bold change. An election to office is a chance to demonstrate leadership, in both philosophy and action, to advance the values you believe in. Clarity of vision and leadership are necessary, but not sufficient. The third ingredient of change is a countervailing force to set against the well-armed protectors of the status quo. Even in the best of times, the hand-to-hand political combat of reform has been an uphill battle. And these are not the best of times in that regard by a long shot. The recent tide has favored the already powerful.
If there were no other reason for concern, the multifaceted adverse impact on our democracy would be sufficient. One threat lies in outright destabilization, and another is in alienation from civic participation. Extreme unfairness has, in fact, undone governments in the past. Lesser, and less violent, forms of destabilization than revolution occur with much greater historical frequency. People can lose their faith in the major parties. Or they may turn to candidates with extravagant, heroic promises, the “men on horseback” who have heralded so much of history’s pain. The already disappointing rate of voter participation can fall still lower. Crime becomes more attractive to those who feel left out. Maybe most important of all, if future economic gains are not shared, the country can lose the unifying spirit, embodied in its social and political cohesion, that made it a great nation.
You have every right to be an angry voter this year, but it is not OK to be an ignorant or passive, angry voter. Public will expressed through political action is the only force that can overcome gridlock and vested interests. And knowledge is an essential tool to effective and constructive political action.
So how grounded is your anger? Test it with the facts.
The post Column: Is your anger about the election based on facts? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
At least 239 people are missing from two shipwrecks off the coast of Libya in recent days, the United Nations migration agency said Thursday.
Final numbers have not been confirmed as representatives from the U.N. International Organization on Migration work to gain more details from survivors.
So far this year, the latest tragedy brings the total to 4,220 migrants who have died or gone missing while attempting to cross the Mediterranean to. Last year, 3,771 people died trying to make the journey.
Survivors from the latest wrecks told the UN that two rubber dinghies traveling from Libya capsized off the island of Lampedusa in southern Italy, according to the Associated Press.
Flavio Di Giacomo, an IOM spokesman, said on Twitter at least 18 women and six children were among the victims.
The Associated Press reports the IOM has recovered 12 bodies so far, but it is unlikely all the bodies will be found.
The journey from Libya to Italy is particularly dangerous for migrants, and smugglers often overcrowd small rubber boats that easily capsize on the open waters.
The U.N. refugee agency said last month that those factors, combined with bad weather, has led to an increase in migrant deaths in recent months, even as the total number of people crossing the Mediterranean declined.
The post This year, more migrants dead or lost in the Mediterranean than in 2015 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We begin tonight with politics and the final push in the race for the White House.
Get-out-the-vote efforts are crucial in these last days of the campaign, including outreach to minority voters.
Joining us now to break it down are Cornell Belcher. He’s a Democratic strategist and the author of “A Black Man in the White House.” Michael McDonald, an early voting expert at the University of Florida. And Mark Hugo Lopez, he’s director of Hispanic research at the Pew Research Center.
And we welcome all three of you to the program.
Mr. McDonald, we’re waiting to get our audio issue straightened out with you.
So I’m going to start with Cornell Belcher right here in Washington.
What is the — how well has the Clinton campaign done so far in terms of reaching out to minorities and especially to African-Americans?
CORNELL BELCHER, Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies: Well, you know, I talked to the Clinton campaign over the last two days and one of their minds there that is taking a look at the numbers.
What They’re saying is, they actually have banked right now more raw votes for African-Americans and Hispanics than we actually did in 2012. I worked on the Obama campaign in 2012. Now, Judy, if you had told me six months ago, with the enthusiasm sort of narrative that we have, that right now in Florida the Clinton campaign would be arguing that they have 74 percent more African-Americans banked in early vote right now than we did in 2012, I would laugh at you.
But looking at the numbers that they have right now, it looks like early voting is up across the board in Florida, but particularly among Hispanics in Florida.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, when you use the word banked, you mean people who have already gone to the polls, have already voted, and they can count on it?
CORNELL BELCHER: And we think from their past performance, they are Democratic voters. And so when they look at 74 percent of more African-Americans in the polling places right now in the early vote, they’re banking that as 90 percent of that being their vote.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Hugo Lopez, let me ask you the same question with regard to the Latino community across the country. We know it’s different in every state, but how would you describe at this point the outreach that both campaigns have made into the Latino community in terms of getting out the vote?
MARK HUGO LOPEZ, Pew Research Center: There has been a focus on getting out the Latino vote in states that are battleground states.
That’s certainly the case in Florida. That’s been the case in Nevada as well. But also some polling has shown that in places like California and Texas, which, by the way, has half of Hispanic voters, there has not been as much outreach. And that’s really been a pattern we have seen over the course of the last few election cycles.
Nonetheless, when you look at a place like Florida, you see two million Hispanics registered to vote. That’s a record number, but it’s also up what one would expect — by the amount one would expect to see given population growth in the state.
So those early voter numbers for Hispanics are partly a reflection of just the fact that there are more Hispanics eligible to vote and registered to vote.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you’re saying it’s just a natural outgrowth of the change in demographics to some extent?
MARK HUGO LOPEZ: That’s a big part of the story for Hispanics, not all of it, but a part of the story.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, Michael McDonald, you’re in Florida, but you take a look at the whole country.
What does the picture look like nationally? We heard our Lisa Desjardins report earlier about 30 million Americans have already voted. Who’s turning out and where?
MICHAEL MCDONALD, University of Florida: Yes, we’re up to 34 million at least. We will probably be up to 35 million, 36 million by the end of the day.
When we look across the country, we’re seeing uneven levels of turnout, but in most places, we’re seeing record numbers of people who have voted early. In six states now, we are above the 2012 numbers already. And we have several days of early voting left to go.
So, in many places, places like Texas is running well ahead of their 2012 numbers. Louisiana, Florida, where I’m at, we’re already at our 2012 numbers. And then there are some places that have changed their election law that have expanded early voting. Places like Minnesota and Massachusetts have also reached their levels of 2012.
But there are — while we see lots of voting going on in some places, other places, we’re seeing not — places where they’re not reaching their 2012 levels. That’s primarily in the Midwest. Places like Iowa and Ohio seem to be a little bit running behind their 2012 levels.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just quickly, staying with you, Michael McDonald, are you saying that this bodes well for one — probably bodes well for one campaign or another, or is it possible to know?
MICHAEL MCDONALD: Well, you have to take them on a state-by-state basis, because each state is a snowflake.
And, so, where I mentioned earlier where turnout is down, that’s primarily among Democrats. And we have seen resistance in the polls to Clinton in places like Iowa and Ohio. There is some recent movement towards — where Democrats seem to be getting more engaged, particularly in Ohio.
I think both of those states are going to be razor-thin come election night. So, if we look at our battleground states, the battleground states and the early vote is reflecting that, by and large.
However, there are two states I think that are well worth watching prior to Election Day, Colorado and Nevada. Both of them are going to have a large number of early votes. We’re already at half the total turnout of 2012. We’re going to go even higher on the early vote.
Right now, both of those states look pretty good for the Democrats. There is some more time left, but, right now, if I were the Clinton campaign, I would be more pleased with those numbers out of those states than the Trump campaign.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Cornell Belcher, we have heard some criticism of the Clinton campaign from friendly Democrats who are saying they should have done more earlier to reach out especially in the African-American community, in Florida, in particular, that there hasn’t been the outreach that there could have been. What do you know about that?
CORNELL BELCHER: Well, listen, I understand some of the frustration.
And from someone who has worked on a campaign that I thought was pretty good, when we took our fair criticism as well, I hear the conversation about — particularly around younger African-Americans and sort of younger millennials in general.
Judy, the key number here for a lot of these places, quite frankly, are these younger minorities, right, the millennials. When you look at what we were able to do in 2008 and 2012, we did that, expand the electorate, largely by bringing in younger voters.
There has been a conversation that not enough resources and time have gone to chase those younger voters than what we have seen in the past. I did focus groups about three weeks ago in Charlotte, really quickly, with some younger African-Americans, who their key issue, Judy, is racism and police brutality.
And when I showed them a policy platform on that, they didn’t know it was Hillary Clinton’s policy platform at all. They’re not getting the information that’s critical to them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Hugo Lopez, what about in looking at the Latino community? Do you see — you know, whether you look at the raw turnout numbers or not, but do you see the enthusiasm in the Hispanic and Latino community and especially among younger Latinos?
MARK HUGO LOPEZ: That’s a really good question.
When you take a look at the Hispanic electorate, there’s 27 million who are eligible to vote this year, but 44 percent of those are millennials. So the youth vote is more important for Latinos than it is for others.
And here’s where there has been some real interesting numbers. Many of those Latino millennials are going to be voting for the first time, but also many say that they’re choosing to support Hillary Clinton in order to vote against Donald Trump. That suggests that perhaps they aren’t as enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton.
But, all in all, with regards to turnout this year compared to the past, it remains to be seen where we will be, whether we will have a record 13 million or perhaps more, depending on how much outreach there is from the campaigns and various get-out-the-vote efforts. But I think that’s still an unknown question, exactly where we will be with Hispanic turnout.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean 13 million particularly with regard to Latino vote?
MARK HUGO LOPEZ: That’s correct, 13 million Hispanic voters would be what — is what one would expect, given trends and turnout over the last few election cycles. And that would be a record turnout.
But it’s possible that we could see more than 13 million, which would start to make 2016 an unusual year for Hispanic turnout, compared to 2012, for example.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael McDonald, we know you have looked at early voting for a long time. A lot’s been written this year about how much better organized — and there’s evidence of this — the Clinton is than the Trump camp on the ground, the get-out — the actual physical get-out-the-vote effort.
At this stage in a campaign, how much difference can an organization like that make?
MICHAEL MCDONALD: So, you have to understand what happens with the way in which elections are administered.
When someone votes, the election officials are of course recording that to make sure that someone doesn’t vote more than once. And then the election officials share that with the campaigns. Sometimes, they’re also sharing it with the public, which is how we collect information.
And the campaigns then look at their support lists. They have got — they know who they want to turn out to vote. And if they see someone that has already voted, they scratch them off the list and then they start moving down the list.
And what early voting does for a well-organized campaign, it allows them to extend their mobilization efforts over more days. It allows them to go deeper down into their list and hit more people, some of those low- to moderate-propensity voters who need that extra nudge to get to the polls.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In other words, if you do have a good ground organization, you can benefit? It can make a difference?
MICHAEL MCDONALD: Absolutely. Yes.
But you have to realize, this is a bug, not a feature, of the Democratic coalition. The Democratic coalition is more likely made up of young people, persons of color, other people who have moderate — more often are moderate- to low-propensity voters than the Republicans.
So the Democrats, by their very nature of their coalition, need to have a much greater, larger mobilization organization than the Republicans.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We hear you.
Michael McDonald, Mark Hugo Lopez and Cornell Belcher, thank you, all three. We appreciate it.
MICHAEL MCDONALD: You’re welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: There’s word of a dispute inside the FBI over claims of corruption at the Clinton Foundation. The Wall Street Journal reports that it stems from secret recordings of an unnamed suspect talking about the foundation.
The report says that some agents believed the recordings showed financial misconduct. But senior officials considered the evidence hearsay and too weak to pursue.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Two American soldiers were killed today in fierce fighting in Northern Afghanistan. Four others were wounded. They’d been aiding Afghan special forces near Kunduz on a raid that killed two senior Taliban commanders. But 26 civilians also died, sparking protests against NATO airstrikes. The strikes were called in to aid the U.S. and Afghan forces.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A British court has thrown a roadblock in the path to Brexit, the move to quit the European Union. The court ruled today that the U.K. government must first have Parliament’s approval before beginning the process.
Speaking outside the court, the lead claimant in the case implored the government not to appeal the ruling.
GINA MILLER, Lead Claimant: It’s now to the government what they do. And I hope that the M.P.s will do their job and actually debate this in a sober, grown-up way, because leading up to the vote, we didn’t have sober, honest, rational debates. So it’s now over to the politicians.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In response, Prime Minister Theresa May’s government said that it will appeal the ruling. The country’s Supreme Court plans to take it up in early December.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The world is far from meeting ambitious goals in the Paris agreement on climate change. The U.N. Environment Program said today in London that only faster action can limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2030. That means huge additional cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
JACQUELINE MCGLADE, Chief Scientist, UN Environment Program: The gap between where we need to be and where we are today is something equivalent to what we call gigatons of carbon; 15 of those are what’s required. We need to reduce that every year. That’s the same as saying we have to take all the cars off the roads of Europe every year 15 times over.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The Paris climate pact formally takes effect tomorrow, but it lacks any enforcement measures.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, new evidence today that progress made by President Obama’s health care insurance overhaul is stalling. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 28.4 million Americans lacked health insurance as of July. But that was an improvement of only 200,000 from one year earlier. It’s partly because fewer private insurance companies are choosing to take part, and premium costs are rising sharply.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Prosecutors in Charleston, South Carolina, began calling witnesses today in the killing of an unarmed black motorist; 50-year-old Walter Scott was shot in the back five times after running from a traffic stop in April 2015. Former police officer Michael Slager is charged with murder in the case.
Today, the prosecutor argued there’s no justification for what Slager did. The defense said Scott bears the blame for resisting arrest and running away.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, on Wall Street, stocks slipped for the eighth session in a row, reacting partly to the presidential race getting tighter. The Dow Jones industrial average lost about 29 points to close at 17930. The Nasdaq fell 47 points, and the S&P 500 dropped nine.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Critical states along the Eastern Seaboard are echoing with campaign appeals tonight. The candidates, and top supporters, have been out in force today, as the days before the election dwindle to a final few.
Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.
LISA DESJARDINS: This is what the scramble for votes looks like five days before Election Day: Hillary Clinton in North Carolina and President Obama, campaigning for her in Florida, both holding college rallies, both pitching to younger voters, plus, campaign manager Robby Mook on a TV talk show, “The View,” reaching out to women voters.
On the other side, Donald Trump kept up his Florida focus today, while V.P. nominee Mike Pence spoke on a farm in Iowa, going for the rural vote and with him a surprise companion, Ted Cruz, former sharp Trump rival today campaigning for his team for the first time.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-Texas): If you care about the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
LISA DESJARDINS: And aiming for conservative votes.
This as voting itself is well under way, with more than 31 million early and absentee ballots already cast. That’s about a quarter of all the votes expected this year. In general, Democrats want and usually need a big lead in early votes. That’s something they had both times President Obama won. It’s not yet clear they will get it this year.
Trump’s latest strategy to win votes? Part one, a sharply stepped-up attack on Hillary Clinton, not just talking about current FBI questions, but going much further than the FBI about what may be next.
DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: Here we go again with Clinton. You remember the impeachment and the problems. She is likely to be under investigation for many, many years, also likely to conclude in a criminal trial. This is not what we need in this country, folks.
LISA DESJARDINS: Top Democrats, like V.P. nominee Tim Kaine and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, are pushing back strongly, saying Republicans should stop talk of possibly impeaching Clinton.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Melania Trump reached out in her first campaign event since the GOP Convention.
MELANIA TRUMP, Wife of Donald Trump: Do we want a country that respects woman and provides them with equal opportunity?
LISA DESJARDINS: But in Miami, President Obama questioned whether Mrs. Trump’s her husband truly does respect women.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Who you are, what you are doesn’t change after you occupy the Oval Office. All it does is magnify who you are. All it does is shine a spotlight on who you are. If you disrespected women before you were in office, you will disrespect women as president.
LISA DESJARDINS: And Clinton highlighted the idea of character again in North Carolina.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), Presidential Nominee: Someone who thinks the lives of black people are all crime and poverty and despair, he has no idea.
LISA DESJARDINS: It is, as it has been, a race about character and whose character voters question more.
For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins.
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In his latest attack on the pharmaceutical industry, Senator Bernie Sanders has asked the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate three insulin makers for price collusion.
In a letter sent Thursday, Sanders and Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) referred to a pattern in which prices for insulin sold by Eli Lilly, Sanofi, and Novo Nordisk often rose in tandem over several years. The lawmakers expressed concern that the drug companies may have been coordinating their pricing and, as a result, driving up the cost for millions of Americans, including both patients and taxpayers.
Their letter cited a recent analysis that found the cost of insulin more than tripled — from $231 to $736 a year per patient — between 2002 and 2013. Meanwhile, since 2009, the lawmakers pointed to 13 instances in which the prices of Sanofi and Novo Nordisk insulin brands rose in lockstep. They said Lilly did the same. The practice is known as shadow pricing and was first reported by Bloomberg News.
“The original insulin patent expired 75 years ago. Instead of falling prices, as one might expect after decades of competition, three drug makers who make different versions of insulin have continuously raised prices on this life-saving medication,” the lawmakers wrote. “In numerous instances, price increases have reportedly mirrored one another precisely.”
Their missive reflects concerns that competition is failing to lower prices. Drug makers in general argue that they have to raise prices in order to give substantial rebates to pharmacy benefit managers, which are the middleman that negotiate with health plans.
The insulin makers, not surprisingly, took exception to the concerns expressed by Sanders and Cummings.
“We strongly disagree with the accusations in the letter. The insulin market in the US is highly competitive,” wrote a spokesman for Lilly, which sells Humalog and Humilin. He maintained the net price has not increased since 2009 and pointed to the “complex reimbursement designs,” which place “an unfair burden on people with diabetes.” The spokesman said Lilly complies with the law.
A spokesman for Novo Nordisk, which markets Levemir and Novolin, wrote us that “we set price for these life-saving medicines independently and then negotiate with payers and PBMs to ensure patients have access to them. We stand by our business practices.”
And a spokeswoman for Sanofi, which sells Lantus, said the company “sets the prices of our treatments independently.”
“To me, [the lawmakers’ allegation is] far-fetched because it doesn’t take into account the way insulin is priced in the real world.” said David Kliff of Diabetic Investor. “Yes, if you go through the data, it’s true they’re raising their prices in lockstep, but their list prices have only a minor impact on what it costs a patient out of pocket. And don’t forget, these guys are archrivals.”
The letter to the feds was sent as Bloomberg News reported that the Justice Department is conducting a wide-ranging investigation into possible price fixing among generic drug makers. Among the companies that received subpoenas are Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Sun Pharmaceuticals, and Endo International.
Sanders has caused a stir among drug makers and investors in recent weeks with a series of tweets criticizing different companies — including Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Ariad Pharmaceuticals — for their price hikes. And he and Cummings have teamed up before to probe price hikes taken by various generic drug makers.
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WASHINGTON — Donald Trump has shown more than 586 hours of television ads in the general election, and until now something has been missing: his voice.
There is no footage of him speaking, no archival recordings to build out his life story and no direct-to-camera appeals to voters. He doesn’t utter a word other than the legally required recording, “I’m Donald Trump, and I approve this message,” at the end of his commercials.
That’s about to change. In one of the final ads of the race, the Republican presidential nominee will take his case to the voters, his campaign says.
Americans have been subjected to more than $500 million in TV ads — $88 million and counting just this week — since the contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton began in June.
With the election days away, The Associated Press analyzed Kantar Media’s ad data to find out what the candidates have been telling voters about themselves. The review covered 22 Trump campaign ads and 68 by the Clinton campaign, which had aired more than 311,000 times by Monday on national networks, local broadcast channels and national cable stations.
AP found a lack of Trump’s voice in his own commercials and an overabundance of his words in Clinton’s. That’s helped drive what is by far the most dominant message of general election advertising, that each candidate believes the other is unfit for the White House.
Trump has been silent in his ads because his campaign wanted them “not be centered around him but the movement itself,” said Jessica Ditto, a Trump spokeswoman.
A different view: The campaign “may have concluded that voters like the idea of Trump more than the actual Trump,” said Will Ritter, co-founder of the Republican ad firm Poolhouse and an outspoken Trump critic. “They could worry that when he opens his mouth, people are reminded he is in no way prepared to be president.”
That’s what Clinton’s campaign is hoping.
More than half of her ads hold Trump against himself, the AP found. They feature Trump appearing to mock a disabled reporter, using profanity at rallies, seeming to threaten to use nuclear weapons and making disparaging and predatory comments about women.
To hammer Clinton, Trump’s ads talk about Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state, her response to the terrorist attacks in Benghazi and her untrustworthiness.
Beneath the avalanche of attack ads are positive — sometimes even issues-focused — commercials. Clinton has an ad solely on the importance of clean energy, while Trump has one about the need to put coal miners back to work.
But neither candidate is focusing ads on issues he or she brings while campaigning, the AP found.
At his giant rallies, Trump frequently says he’ll redo trade deals. That topic gets few mentions in his advertising. When she’s addressing supporters, Clinton vows to make wealthy people pay their fair share by increasing taxes. She’s barely talking about that in ads.
CLINTON ISSUE ADS
Clinton’s chief advertising message is that she fights for children. Her ads dive into photo and video archives to showcase those parts of her resume, and actor Morgan Freeman describes Clinton in melodious cadence as “a woman who spent her life helping children and families.”
While only two less frequent Trump ads mention children, such ads dominate more than half of Clinton’s barrage of commercials.
“I’ve spent my life fighting for children, and I’m not stopping now,” Clinton says in an ad that’s been broadcast more than any other during the general election. The spot does not go into specific policy or achievements, but shows Clinton over the decades talking about children.
The same message is delivered in a new, end-of-campaign spot that has rocketed to the top of her play list. This one shows parents marking off the heights of their kids as Clinton says a country is judged by what it does for its children.
Clinton strategist Joel Benenson said such ads remind people of the work Clinton has done and tell voters something they may not know about her work for children, families and women. He also said it strikes a clear contrast with Trump.
“Donald Trump has a lifetime of really stiffing average people and putting himself first all the time,” he said.
TRUMP ISSUE ADS
Trump’s top advertising message to voters is that he would shake up Washington. The commercials not so subtly suggest a brighter future by switching from washed-out tones when Clinton is mentioned to full color when he is.
Trump is making more of a positive case for his presidency than Clinton does for herself in ads of the past few weeks, AP found. “It takes a builder to rebuild the American dream,” a narrator intones. “And Donald Trump has the blueprint.”
Viewers might not have expected that optimism; the Republican convention was far more downbeat than the Democrats’.
However, in recent days Trump has released some of his most brutal Clinton ads.
Trump’s most common commercial of the general election centers on the economy. “In Donald Trump’s America, working families get tax relief, millions of new jobs are created, wages go up, small businesses thrive,” a narrator says.
One of Trump’s newest ads, which he has deployed so heavily that it’s his second most common overall, seems to be a response to Clinton’s boast about her long record of public service.
“Hillary Clinton won’t change Washington; she’s been there 30 years,” the ad begins. “Taxes went up, terrorism spread, jobs vanished, but special interests and Washington insiders thrived.” The ad then says: “Donald Trump will turn Washington upside down, Day One.”
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A hurricane floods two battleground states mere weeks before a Presidential election; its fury stoked by ocean waters warmed in part by climate change. Seems like a recipe for a question or two about the greatest environmental challenge faced by the U.S., an issue that starkly divides the candidates and their parties, no? Not in 2016, even when Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc in North Carolina, Florida and other places in the South less than 48 hours before a televised debate.
In the debates and the vast majority of the coverage of this historic election, climate change has come up empty. The pattern echoes the 2012 election, which saw few climate questions despite huge differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on what to do about global warming as well as Romney’s apparent flip-flop on the issue, usually sure bait for a television journalist.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could not differ more on climate change. Trump has tweeted that it is a hoax dreamed up by the Chinese to hamper U.S. business, an idea perhaps reinforced by China’s main climate negotiator calling on him to uphold the terms of the Paris Agreement if elected. Though he later called the tweet a joke, Trump’s energy policy certainly treats climate change as a hoax.
Trump has pledged, via his platform, to repudiate the Paris Agreement, roll back the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan for cutting pollution from U.S. coal-burning power plants and even attempt to overturn (somehow) the Supreme Court ruling that allows the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide as pollution. He would also promote all-out production of U.S. natural gas, oil and, most worryingly from a climate perspective, coal. That would effectively end U.S. efforts to restrain global warming and invite climate catastrophe.
On the other side is Hillary Clinton, who managed to mention climate change a few times in the debates, but on her own, unprompted by any probing question from the moderators. In one instance, she was helped by a single question about energy policy from an employee of a coal-fired power plant. But Ken Bone’s red sweater garnered more attention than his question about energy policies that could decide the long-term fate of civilization.
Clinton’s energy plan is a continuation of the Obama administration’s all-of-the-above strategy. That means there are tough questions here too, such as: Is this enough to prevent the worst of global warming? How do you plan to convince Congress to fund your clean energy proposal? And how can the U.S. keep burning natural gas in a world that needs to reach zero emissions of greenhouse gas as fast as possible?
Our incessant burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and a taste for meat has changed the very air we breathe. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have now surpassed 400 parts-per-million, the highest levels in at least 800,000 years—higher than that breathed at any point by Homo sapiens. It’s enough CO2 to have raised average temperatures by a full degree Celsius. More warming is already in store, and the Arctic is in full meltdown, with the potential for the end of summer sea ice in our lifetimes, among other impacts. These changes to the world will show up in the long-term rock record, a big part of the reason why some geologists say we now live in a new epoch known as the Anthropocene.
The question of climate change is what kind of world do we want to live in and leave to our children? Trump seems willing to risk climate catastrophe to win the presidency. Clinton would do more to combat climate change but perhaps not enough to save coastal cities in the long run. To ensure that America can be great in the future, helping the world combat climate change should be among the top priorities for any Commander in Chief, as even the Department of Defense has suggested.
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The United States spends more money on its military than any other country in the world. The American defense budget of almost $600 billion is more than four times that of China’s. In fact, the International Institute for Strategic Studies notes the U.S. spends almost as much as the next 14 countries — combined.
But rather than simply leave the interpretation of this data to readers, the institute warns this large budget does not necessarily buy sustainable U.S. military superiority. In February of this year, John Chipman, director general of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, noted that the proliferation of military-relevant technologies has large strategic consequences that appear to be undermining Western might.
This point was driven home during a recent talk at the Harvard Kennedy School by former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy. She explicitly stated “our military technological edge … is no longer a given, because many of the technologies we rely on are becoming ubiquitous.”
These concerns are being raised at a time when global instability appears to be accelerating. For much of the past 15 years, military efforts shifted to focus on fluid non-state actors, such as ISIS, al-Qaeda and al-Nusra, that emerged as the primary adversaries.
More recently, however, we’ve seen an acceleration of state-sponsored military activity. Consider three events that have happened in the past five years: Russia annexed Crimea, China built islands and military airfields in the South China Sea, and Iran has embarked on a plan to subdue parts of Arabia. Here’s another data point: Saudi Arabia now has the third largest defense budget in the world, behind the U.S. and China.
And it’s not just the threat environment that has been uncertain. The Pentagon’s budget has also suffered from a lack of predictability. Flournoy’s advice to the next president was to “reach out to Congress and try to get a four-year budget deal as a national security issue.” She went on to note that “the Defense Department has not had a predictable budget top line for a long time … they’ve been living from continuing resolution to continuing resolution, the threat of sequestration hanging over their heads.”
One impact of budgetary uncertainty is that current operations are regularly prioritized over maintenance and training. Charles Peña of the conservative Cato Institute notes that only 443 out of 1,040 Marine aircraft are ready to fly, half of the Navy’s F18s are out of circulation, and Army Aviation is only able to provide around 11.5 out of 14.5 required training hours per month to its soldiers.
The result is a meaningful degradation of the U.S. military’s ability to fight a major overseas war. While the prospect of a major overseas war appeared remote a mere five years ago, recent Chinese and Russian activities make the possibility seem less distant today. And the focus on non-state actors has transformed the American military in ways that may make it less equipped to take on another country. The active-duty Army has fallen from around 780,000 soldiers in 1991 to 470,000 today — the lowest level since World War II. Similar dynamics are affecting the other services.
In March, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, asked Marine General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Do you agree that we have a significant readiness problem across the services, especially for the wide variety of contingencies that we’ve got to face?”
General Dunford’s response was equally direct: “Chairman, I do, and I think those are accurate reflections of the force as a whole.”
General David Petraeus, who retired from the Army after commanding coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, disagrees with this sentiment, penning an op-ed with Michael O’Hanlon, titled “The Myth of a US Military ‘Readiness’ Crisis.” They argue that today’s overall budget of around $600 billion exceeds the Cold War average budget of around $525 billion, that more than 90 percent of equipment is mission capable, that training for “full-spectrum” operations is resuming and that today’s military is battle-tested and experienced. They also note that “Pentagon budgets to buy equipment now exceed $100 billion a year, a healthy and sustainable level.” The bottom line, Petraeus and O’Hanlon note, is that “while there are areas of concern, there is no crisis in military readiness.”
Readiness crisis or not, most analysts and policymakers agree that the U.S. military is today the most capable armed force in the world. As General Dunford made clear: “It’s about the standards we’ve set for ourselves, which are incredibly high.”
Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley assured lawmakers earlier this year that the military’s ability to fight against terrorist groups is not in question, noting “you can take it to the bank.” But he went on to emphasize the material risks emanating from a potential great-power war against Russia, China, Iran or North Korea. “We can collectively roll the dice and say those days will never come and that’s a course of action; that is not a course of action I would advise.”
While General Milley’s comment may seem alarmist, it’s worth pondering the scenarios that may not be in our immediate field of consideration. We may not see a great-power conflict in the near future, but what might transpire if we did? Perhaps the U.S. military budget is too large today, but could it be too small for our future needs? Sure, force levels are shrinking, but could that be a strategic advantage? Yes, the Middle East seems particularly unstable, but might Saudi Arabia’s escalating military expenditures — despite its economic difficulties — point to even greater forthcoming instability?
In a world of massive uncertainty, we need to think creatively about possible scenarios, because in the wise words of baseball legend Yogi Berra, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
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New York City’s incarceration rate fell by more than 50 percent over the last two decades, even as the national incarceration rate rose 12 percent, according to a new study.
The report, published in the journal Federal Sentencing Reporter, found New York City residents incarcerated in state prisons peaked at 47,315 in 1998. By May 2016, that number had fallen to 22,580 inmates.
The report’s researchers attribute the dramatic decline to three things: changes in the state’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws; more effective rehabilitation programs and a shift in attitudes among police officers and judges. Between 1996 and 2014, the city’s rate of property crimes and violent offenses also declined 58 percent.
“The old notion that locking up more people is the way to reduce crime is—if that ever was true—it hasn’t been true for quite a while,” said Judith A. Greene, study co-author and director of Justice Strategies, a criminal justice research organization.
Greene has worked in criminal justice since the 1970s and witnessed the rise of mass incarceration in the 1980s and 1990s during “tough on crime” mayoral regimes. The Rockefeller Drug Laws, some of the most notorious policies from the 1970s, imposed mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years or more in some cases for drug sale and possession.
Over the last 20 years, social activism and pressure from advocacy groups helped turn the tide toward reducing incarceration in New York City.
In 2009, the Rockefeller Drug Laws were rolled back, but even before official legislative action took place, the city’s police force moved away from felony drug arrests, reducing them by 66 percent.
Judges also began to see the benefits in the city’s network of rehabilitation programs, said Vincent Schiraldi, study co-author and Harvard Kennedy School senior fellow. By 2014, New York had closed 13 prisons and directed $24 million to communities affected by prison closures.
“The rest of the country doesn’t have this sort of massive cadre of alternatives that are banging on the courthouse door every day saying, ‘Don’t lock that guy up. Don’t lock that guy up,’” said Schiraldi, who served as New York City Probation Commissioner in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration. But he emphasized the change did not happen overnight.
Only two other states, New Jersey and California, made similar strides in reducing incarceration rates across the same time period. In contrast, between June 1995 and December 2014, the total number of incarcerated individuals at federal and state prisons rose from 1.1 million to more than 1.5 million, according to Department of Justice statistics.
“We hope this will encourage policy makers and elected officials and advocates and activists in other states to take a look at what’s going on, not just in New York, but also in the other states that are really making progress so that the cost—the human and fiscal cost—can be averted,” Judith A. Greene said.
New York City also had an easier time reducing its incarceration rate than some states because it started with such a large number of people behind bars, said Christopher Wildeman, a Cornell University professor who studies the impact of incarceration on families and spouses.
“New York State had a lot of low-hanging fruit,” he said.
Keeping low-level drug offenders out of the system can have a major impact, but Wildeman said if the culture of imprisonment in the U.S. is going to change permanently, much more needs to be done to address how states deal with violent offenders.
Plus, although overall incarceration rates went down dramatically, incarceration in New York still disproportionately affects people of color. The percentage of people sent to prison from New York City is overwhelmingly African-American and Hispanic—about 88 percent as of May 2016, down from about 92 percent in 1992, according to the study.
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