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

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    West Africa has seen thousands of deaths from Ebola in the past months. The first patient diagnosed in the U.S., Thomas Eric Duncan, died on Wednesday in Dallas, Texas. But there are diseases in the U.S. that Americans should be more concerned about catching than Ebola, experts say. Photo by John Moore/via Getty Images

    A startling discovery provides the first evidence that genetic changes likely sped up Ebola transmission during West Africa’s outbreak—and may have made the terrifying disease even more deadly for humans. Photo by John Moore/via Getty Images

    What made the recent Ebola outbreak in west Africa so virulent? The virus that seeped across borders and killed more than 11,000 people in the region had at least one genetic mutation that better equipped it to breach human cells, new research suggests. The startling discovery provides the first evidence that genetic changes likely sped up transmission—and may have made the terrifying disease even more deadly for humans.

    Earlier studies of the 2013–16 Ebola outbreak have emphasized how its location—at the contiguous corners of several countries with porous borders—as well as human behavioral factors helped the virus explode across west Africa and eclipse any Ebola outbreaks that preceded it.

    But findings from a pair of studies published Thursday in Cell complicate that story by suggesting genetics played a part, too. The studies hinge on genome evidence and lab experiments designed to test how Ebola virus, with genetic changes that developed during the west African epidemic, assaulted the cells of humans and animals.

    Gaining easier entry into human cells may have enabled the virus to replicate more quickly in a host…

    The two research teams first examined more than a thousand viral genomes that were isolated and sequenced from Ebola patients across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. One group also explored additional sequences from Mali. The two teams worked separately and were not aware of each other’s efforts until the papers were well underway, authors from both said.

    In one study led by 16 researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Broad Institute and elsewhere, genomic analyses pinpointed parts of the Ebola virus that changed during the west African outbreak. One genetic mutation, in particular, appeared to affect a key region of the pathogen where it binds to human cells. Lab tests confirmed the mutated virus could better infiltrate the cells of humans and other primates.

    The change was so small that earlier computational analyses of genome differences had not picked it up, says Jeremy Luban, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who co-authored the study.

    Yet this relatively subtle modification may have had an outsized effect. Gaining easier entry into human cells may have enabled the virus to replicate more quickly in a host—and those greater numbers could make it more likely to jump to the next person, Luban says.

    Along with faster transmission rates, the mutation was also associated with higher death tolls.

    People infected with mutated Ebola virus that dominated the recent epidemic appeared to be twice as likely to die as those infected earlier in the same outbreak with a strain of virus that did not have that specific mutation, the researchers found. The UMass team came to that conclusion after analyzing the viral genomes and health outcomes of two groups of Ebola patients in Guinea: those infected with the virus as it existed early in the outbreak versus the later, mutated version.

    A man prays for those who died of Ebola at St. Joseph Parish Catholic Church in Monrovia, Liberia on Oct. 12, 2014. Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    A man prays for those who died of Ebola at St. Joseph Parish Catholic Church in Monrovia, Liberia on Oct. 12, 2014. Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Even after the researchers accounted for other factors—such as differences in how much virus a patient had in his or her body—it was clear that those with the mutated type were more likely to die.

    “Because the virus transmits better from person to person doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more deadly. It may just increase the number of infected but have the same deadliness—and thereby end up killing more people because it spreads more efficiently,” Luban says. “Our data, however, suggests that it was more deadly as well.”

    Although earlier genomic analysis of Ebola had suggested the pathogen was not changing substantially during the west African epidemic, one lesson from these new studies is that researchers should not overestimate what they know about the effects of a mutation based purely on computational comparisons, says Jens Kuhn, lead virologist at the Integrated Research Facility at Fort Detrick in Maryland, who was not involved in the work.

    “One mutation can change something drastically,” he says, referring to the results of the experimental work. Exactly why the virus with these mutations would be more likely to kill still remains a mystery. One possibility is that a mutated virus leads to higher viremia—more viruses in a patient’s body—but in this work that relationship was not statistically significant on its own. Luban’s group hopes to launch further studies to answer those questions.

    In the other study Jonathan Ball, a molecular virologist at the University of Nottingham, and his colleagues independently came to a conclusion similar to the other team’s. Genomic analysis and cell experiments revealed that a gene that encodes instructions for an Ebola surface protein, which helps the virus attach to host cells, had evolved to allow the pathogen easier entry to human cells.

    Judith White, a virologist at the University of Virginia School of Medicine who was not involved with the work, praised the two complementary studies’ findings as “quite credible” and said it was “surprising that so small of a change could cause that much damage.”

    The Nottingham group’s lab experiments further found the mutation that helped the virus flourish among humans probably made it less effective at moving among individuals in its likely animal reservoir, fruit bats. The adaptation underscores that once the virus spilled over into humans it did not need to jump back to other species to keep the epidemic going—it was able to jump from human to human. (Similarly, the genetic change made the virus less able to gain entry to the cells of other nonprimate mammals such as rodents, cats and dogs, the UMass study found.)

    Factors like the location of the latest outbreak played the largest role helping Ebola spiral out of control but genetic factors likely contributed as well, Ball says. The virus infected more than 28,000 people during the most recent epidemic, giving the pathogen an unprecedented opportunity to mutate and become more successful in a human host, he notes. (There have been more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all other Ebola events combined.) Yet exactly what this genetic mutation allows Ebola to do—say, latch onto a host cell with greater ease or better evade human cell defense systems—remains unknown.

    “What we think is that the changes in the way its surface protein interacts with the surface of the host cell make it more efficient so that [infection] can happen quicker,” Ball says.

    Ebola may have developed other important mutations that have not yet been uncovered, Ball notes. What they now know, he says, is that Ebola has mutated in a way that “can impact the virus’s ability to infect human cells—and we saw those changes being passed from generation to generation of viruses,” he adds. “To us, that’s a bit of a smoking gun.”

    This article is reproduced with permission from Scientific American. It was first published on Nov. 3, 2016. Find the original story here.

    The post A single mutation bolstered the fury of West Africa’s Ebola outbreak appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Cassaiya Oligario (C) waits as her mother Cassandra and older sister Eleahna vote in the U.S. presidential election at a displaced polling center in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, New York, U.S. on November 6, 2012. Photo by Brendan McDermid/REUTERS

    A legal challenge in New Jersey is one of several around the country filed by Democrats claiming Republicans and the Trump campaign are pushing for voter intimidation on Election Day. Photo by Brendan McDermid/REUTERS

    Attorneys representing the Democratic party argued before a federal judge in New Jersey on Friday that Republicans are coordinating with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump to intimidate voters, charges that the Republican Party says are not true in either the federal case or in the four other states where Democrats are waging similar battles.

    The legal challenge is one of several around the country filed by Democrats claiming Republicans and the Trump campaign are pushing supporters to intimidate and confront voters on Election Day. Trump has called on his supporters to act as “election observers” in certain areas of the country to help prevent fraud.

    Joshua Kaul, an attorney representing Democrats, told the judge in Newark, New Jersey, on Friday that Trump has “repeatedly encouraged his supporters to engage in vigilante efforts” in the guise of ferreting out potential voter fraud. Kaul said that the Republican National Committee is participating.

    Bobby Burchfield, an attorney for Republicans, told the judge party volunteers are engaging in normal poll-watching, and that Democrats haven’t found one instance where someone was intimidated or prevented from voting.

    A federal judge in Las Vegas on Thursday said he hasn’t seen evidence that Trump’s campaign is training people to intimidate voters. Republicans also fought back against charges of wrongdoing in Arizona on Thursday, while arguments will be heard on Friday in Ohio and in Pennsylvania on Monday.

    The nearly identical legal challenges seek court orders intended to block volunteer GOP poll watchers from harassing people headed to the polls.

    The federal case in New Jersey seeks to link some of those poll watchers and state parties with the Republican National Committee, arguing that any collaboration on voter intimidation or ballot security efforts would violate an agreement that the RNC has been forced to follow since 1982.

    The consent decree was created after Democrats alleged that the RNC helped intimidate black voters during New Jersey’s 1981 gubernatorial election. The RNC and New Jersey’s Republican party allegedly had off-duty law enforcement officers stand at polling places in urban areas wearing “National Ballot Security Task Force” armbands. Some had guns visible.

    The RNC admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to the decree to settle the case. The decree only regulates work done by the RNC and is scheduled to end next year. The Democratic National Committee wants it extended another eight years, but needs to convince a judge that the RNC has violated the 34-year-old rules.

    The DNC says in court papers that the RNC has supported Trump’s efforts to “intimidate and discourage” minorities from voting. It cites past statements made by Trump’s campaign manager and vice presidential nominee Mike Pence about collaborating with the RNC and also has sworn statements from five Democratic election workers in Las Vegas who say Republican counterparts were working on the RNC’s behalf when they gave voters bad information.

    The RNC denies all of that, pointing out that campaign manager Kellyanne Conway later said she was mistaken and Pence also said he had no knowledge of any effort between the campaign and the RNC to ensure ballot integrity. The RNC says that the election workers cited by the DNC were not employed by the RNC.

    The RNC says it has made complying with the consent decree a “top priority.” It says it informed Trump’s campaign in August that it would not participate in any ballot security programs, and also informed state parties about the decree.

    “The RNC has … never authorized the Trump campaign to act on its behalf. Just the opposite,” a lawyer wrote. “The RNC has repeatedly informed its staff and the Trump campaign that neither Donald Trump nor his campaign speaks or acts on behalf of the RNC.”

    In both the state and federal cases, Democrats cite the work of Roger Stone, a Trump friend and informal adviser, who has launched an effort to sign up supporters to volunteer to fight “voter fraud.” Stone also was Republican New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean’s campaign manager in the 1981 race that led to the consent decree.

    The Democrats allege that Trump’s calls to supporters to show up at the polls to prevent voter fraud amounts to illegal intimidation tactics and that Stone is organizing volunteers to confront voters.

    But Republicans say there is no evidence that any intimidation is happening. State and federal laws already bar intimidation and the Democrats are asking for orders that would unconstitutionally bar protected political speech, they’ve argued in court documents.

    In Nevada, U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware said Thursday he doesn’t expect to issue a restraining order that Democrats sought ahead of Tuesday’s election, but won’t issue a final ruling until a hearing on Friday about whether Stone was encouraging what Democrats call “vigilante voter intimidation.”

    In Phoenix, Stone’s attorney said Democrats have not produced evidence that his client or “Stop the Steal” is intimidating voters. “My client is engaging in legal First Amendment speech,” attorney Paul Jensen told U.S. District Judge John Tuchi.

    Adam Gitlin, counsel for the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program, said that no matter what happens in the legal arguments, he worries the rhetoric on voter intimidation and ballot security could discourage people from voting.

    “The most important thing that people can do is go out and vote this election and make sure you cast a ballot,” Gitlin said. “This kind of rhetoric can be discouraging, both to voters who may be concerned about intimidation, and to Mr. Trump’s own supporter who may doubt that their vote is going to count, which is also untrue.”

    The post Democratic party accuses Republicans of voter intimidation in federal court appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The mask of King Tutankhamun, which was found to have been damaged and glued back together, is seen at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo Jan. 24, 2015. Photo By Shadi Bushra/Reuters

    The mask of King Tutankhamun at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Photo By Shadi Bushra/Reuters/File

    On this day in 1922, the tomb of Tutankhamun, or King Tut as he is better known, was discovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter. The news grabbed the world by the scruff of its collective neck.

    Most compelling was Tut’s “eternal resting place,” a tomb consisting of four chambers, each one guarded by a golden door. In 1939, The New York Times reported it filled with “couches, chairs, alabaster vases, chariots, a throne, stools and chests, all glistening with inlay and gold, and a sealed doorway leading still beyond. When the doorway was opened, a wall of gold was revealed — the side of an immense gilt shine shielding the sarcophagus of the buried king.”

    Tutankhamun ruled ancient Egypt for a little more than a decade, from around 1333 B.C. (when he was only 9 years old) to about 1324 B.C., during the 18th dynasty (circa 1550-1295 B.C.) of ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom (circa 1550-1070 B.C.). His brief reign, disabled left leg and foot, and premature death at 18 or 19 have long been sources of fascination.

    READ MORE: How Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle cracked the case of the tuberculosis ‘remedy’

    Soon after Carter’s discovery came rumors of a death curse for anyone disturbing Tut’s deathly repose. Tales of the curse soon grew like a snowball rolling down a huge hill, gaining force and size with each turn.

    Upon hearing the news of Carter’s discovery, the patron of the archaeological dig, George Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, rushed to Egypt from Highclere Castle in Hampshire (the very same estate occupied by the fictional Crawley family in the British television drama “Downton Abbey”) to join Carter in opening the tomb.

    Soon after Carter’s discovery came rumors of a death curse for anyone disturbing Tut’s deathly repose. Tales of the curse soon grew like a snowball rolling down a huge hill.

    On April 5, 1923, Herbert died in his room at the Continental-Savoy Hotel in Cairo, most likely due to blood poisoning or sepsis after a mosquito bite that was subsequently injured and infected while shaving. It was said that at the time of the earl’s death, Cairo suffered a power outage and that his beloved dog Susie, back home in England, howled her last and died. There was also the concurrent issue of Carter’s pet canary being swallowed to death by a cobra. Amplifying the drama, creator of Sherlock Holmes and proponent of mysticism and the afterlife Sir Arthur Conan Doyle proclaimed the curse to be orchestrated by “elementals — not souls, not spirits — created by Tutankhamun’s priests to guard the tomb.”

    Many experts denied the existence of any such curse. One of the most prominent to do so was Herbert Winlock, a distinguished Egyptologist and director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He compiled a list of the people who played a role in the tomb’s discovery and opening. On Jan. 26 1934, The New York Times interviewed Winlock about it. The six people present at the opening of the tomb who did die in the 12 years that had passed, Dr. Winlock insisted, were all easily explained by their long histories of poor health. Despite Winlock’s measured objections, the curse rumors never really died.

    In the late 1990s, some investigators suggested that the workers who took ill and died might have been exposed to toxic strains of Aspergillis niger, a fungus better known as “black mold.”

    But doctors and medical sleuths have been less interested in death curse rumors, and far more fascinated by King Tut’s poor health. Over the years, there has been a veritable textbook of explanations for Tut’s early demise, limping gait, and the androgynous appearance of his face and gynecomastia (enlargement of the breasts) portrayed in his gold-gilded death mask, sculptures, walking sticks and other relics.

    The golden sarcophagus of King Tutankhamun in his burial chamber is seen in the Valley of the Kings, in Luxor, Egypt, November 28, 2015. Chances are high that the tomb of Ancient Egypt's boy-king Tutankhamun has passages to a hidden chamber, which may be the last resting place of Queen Nefertiti, and new evidence from the site will go to Japan for analysis, experts said on Saturday. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany - RTX1W82M

    The golden sarcophagus of King Tutankhamun in his burial chamber in Luxor, Egypt. Photo by Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

    In 1968, a series of X-rays were taken of Tutankhamun’s mummy, which found evidence of trauma to the back of the head (later concluded to have occurred post-mortem during the mummification process) and an unhealed broken leg. These findings led some armchair pathologists to explain Tutankhamun’s death as caused by falling from his chariot. Others claimed he was kicked in the head by a large beast. Or he might have died from either septicemia or a fat embolism secondary to the femur (thigh bone) fracture. And, most sensationally, that he was murdered by means of a blow to the back of his head as the climax to a web of foul play and palace intrigues worthy of a Shakespeare play.

    Doctors and medical sleuths have been less interested in death curse rumors, and far more fascinated by King Tut’s poor health.

    Between Sept. 2007 and Oct. 2009, Dr. Zahi Hawass of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, along with colleagues from the Egyptian Museum’s Ancient DNA laboratory and the Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Tübingen, independently examined 11 royal mummies believed to be from King Tutankhamun’s immediate lineage (circa 1410-1324 B.C.) and another five royal mummies from an earlier period (circa 1550-1479 B.C.).

    Their objective, which they published in the Feb. 7, 2010, issue of the Journal of the AMA, was “to introduce a new approach to molecular and medical Egyptology, to determine familial relationships among 11 royal family mummies of the New Kingdom, and to search for pathological features attributable to possible murder, consanguinity, inherited disorders and infectious diseases.” Unlike the many papers previously published about King Tutankhamun’s death and medical history, this study was “based on unfettered access to the actual mummies.”

    Applying several new genetic techniques, Hawass and his team elucidated a plausible five-generation pedigree, establishing Yuya and Thuya as the great-grandparents of Tutankhamun; Pharaoh Amenhotep III and KV35 elder lady (Queen Tiye) as his grandparents; and KV55 male (most likely Akhenaten) and KV35 (a young female), who are siblings, are also Tutankhamun’s parents. (Marriages within the royal family were quite common in Ancient Egypt).

    The scientific team was unable to address the issue of Tutankhamun’s supposed androgyny and gynecomastia, however, because his chest wall is missing and the pathological and x-ray examinations failed to deliver any evidence of a feminine physique. The “beautified” death mask, artifacts and portraits of Tutankhamun were, most likely, a style of expression in Ancient Egypt rather than a statement about gender.

    There was no genetic evidence of disorders such as Marfan or Antley-Bixler syndromes. Tutankhamun’s mummy did, however, reveal “juvenile aseptic bone necrosis of the left second and third metatarsals, which may be consistent with Köhler disease II or Freiberg-Köhler syndrome,” both rare bone disorders in which the key bones in the foot die off and collapse.

    Although there was no evidence of bubonic plague, tuberculosis, leprosy or leishmaniasis, the scientific team did find DNA evidence of Plasmodium falciparum, a parasite that causes malaria, in many of the royal mummies, including Tutankhamun. These mummies represent some of the earliest examples of malaria in the ancient world.

    The scientific team found DNA evidence of a parasite that causes malaria in many of the royal mummies, including Tutankhamun, representing some of the earliest examples of the disease in the ancient world.

    Hawass and his colleagues concluded that Tutankhamun might have suffered from a number of inherited disorders of consanguinity (i.e. being descended from couples who are blood relations), which weakened his immune system and overall health. They found no evidence of foul play and, instead, hypothesized a sudden fracture of the leg (such as one incurred by a fall), which only worsened because of his malarial infection.

    Circling back to the curse against those who disturbed King Tut’s tomb, the best evidence against such supernatural musings was the life and death of Howard Carter. Carter lived for another 17 years, before dying at age 66 in 1939, most likely of a heart attack after a long battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Again, we rely on The New York Times, which closed the case in its obituary of Howard Carter as “the best refutation of the curse”: “Afflicted with bad health from his youth, [Carter] spent nearly fifty years in Egypt searching for and exploring the ruins of the tombs of Pharaohs and must have been subject to the finest collection of Egyptian curses.”

    The post Unlocking the medical mysteries of King Tut’s tomb appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by jayyuan/Adobe

    The Harvard Crimson unearthed a “scouting report” from 2012, in which the men’s team ranked that year’s female recruits by physical attractiveness.Photo by jayyuan/Adobe

    The discovery of sexually explicit documents, showing the Harvard men’s soccer team continually ranked the physical appearances of women’s team members, lead the university to cancel the remainder of the team’s season, the Harvard Crimson reported.

    The Crimson unearthed a “scouting report” from 2012, in which the men’s team ranked that year’s female recruits by physical attractiveness. According to the student newspaper, the actions were widespread across the team and continued into 2016.

    Harvard’s Office of General Council reviewed the documents before the university notified the team Thursday morning that its season was canceled, the Associated Press reported.

    “The decision to cancel a season is serious and consequential, and reflects Harvard’s view that both the team’s behavior and the failure to be forthcoming when initially questioned are completely unacceptable, have no place at Harvard, and run counter to the mutual respect that is a core value of our community,” University President Drew Faust said in a statement.

    The six recruits who comprised the 2012 women’s team freshman class wrote an op-ed published in the Crimson last week.

    “We are concerned for the future, because we know that the only way we can truly move past this culture is for the very men who perpetrate it to stop it in its tracks,” the women wrote.

    The Crimson reported Friday that student athletes and coaches around campus supported the university’s decision to suspend the team.

    The men’s soccer team, which currently sits in first place of the Ivy League, will forfeit the rest of its games this season and will not participate in postseason play, University President Drew Faust announced in a statement Thursday.

    The post Harvard cancels men’s soccer season after players sexually rated female athletes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo of Sharbat Gula poster by Emanuele via Wikimedia Commons

    Photo of Sharbat Gula poster by Emanuele via Wikimedia Commons

    A judge on Friday ordered the “Afghan girl” made famous by a 1985 National Geographic cover photo to be deported from Pakistan.

    Sharbat Gula was arrested Oct. 26 in Peshawar for illegally obtaining an ID card and was sentenced to 15 days in jail with a $1,000 fine, Afghani media reported.

    Gula pleaded guilty before a court Friday to using fraudulent identity papers, and a judge ordered she be sent back to Afghanistan on Monday with her four children, the Guardian reported.

    “The government and the people of Afghanistan await Sharbat Gula with great emotion, and will welcome her very warmly,” Afghan Consulate Official Abdul Hameed Jalili said, according to Reuters.

    A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman told the Pakistani English-language newspaper Dawn that it could not help Gula because she was not a registered refugee.

    But Steve McCurry, the photographer behind the famous picture, created a fund for Gula and her children. McCurry first photographed Gula in 1985 in Pakistan and found her again in 2002 for a second photograph.

    Pakistan has been cracking down on Afghan migrants living in the country illegally. The New York Times reported that about 1.5 million migrants will return to their home country by year’s end. According to the UN, Pakistan alone has 1.5 million Afghan refugees, who now face a November 15 deadline to obtain legal documentation or be deported.

    Nonprofit organizations are warning a mass deportation could create a humanitarian crisis.

    “By forcing Afghan refugees to return across the border into the arms of an increasingly deadly conflict, Pakistan is in breach of the principle of non-refoulement,” Amnesty International wrote in a response to Gula’s deportation order. “It is putting the lives of vulnerable people at risk of serious human rights abuses.”

    The post National Geographic ‘Afghan Girl’ to be deported from Pakistan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People arrive to cast their ballot for 2016 elections at a polling station as early voting begins in North Carolina, in Carrboro, North Carolina, U.S., October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake - RTX2PR63

    People arrive to cast their ballot for 2016 elections at a polling station as early voting begins in North Carolina, in Carrboro, North Carolina, U.S., October 20, 2016. Photo by Jonathan Drake/Reuters

    Laws governing who can observe voters at the polls and what those observers can do vary from state to state. Some questions and answers about what is and is not allowed on Election Day:

    WHO CAN OBSERVE?

    States have a variety of rules about who can monitor polling places, but observers generally fall into three categories: partisan, nonpartisan and international.

    Partisan observers are appointed by political parties or candidates and usually are required to sign up in advance to monitor polling places. Nearly every state allows partisan observers, and most of them specify how many can be present at each polling place and what they can or cannot do while there. In Pennsylvania, for example, official poll watchers must live in the county where they monitor elections, a rule that the Republican Party is challenging in federal court.

    READ MORE: Democratic party accuses Republicans of voter intimidation in federal court

    Nonpartisan or citizen observers also are common at polling places and are permitted by at least 35 states and the District of Columbia, according to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most of those states lack specific legislation regulating nonpartisan observers but allow them in practice.

    International observers are allowed in at least 33 states and the District of Columbia, according to the NCSL. These observers usually are deployed by international nonpartisan groups with the goal of promoting free, democratic elections and respect for human rights. They are bound by a code of conduct. The U.S. committed to allowing international observers when it signed an agreement with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1990, and the group began sending observers to the U.S. in 2002. This year, it plans to send more than 400 observers, a nearly tenfold increase over the last presidential election four years ago.

    WHAT IF OBSERVERS HAVE AN AGENDA?

    States do not have specific rules regarding election observers who, while not explicitly partisan, have a stake in the outcome of the race. In practice, such poll watchers are generally treated as nonpartisan or citizen observers, even though they may have a partisan agenda.

    Donald Trump has urged his supporters to show up at polling places and look out for possible voter fraud. Right-wing groups including the Oath Keepers, a coalition of former police officers and members of the military, are urging members to do the same. Meanwhile, civil rights groups are asking poll watchers to look out for people being unfairly denied the right to vote, especially minorities who tend to vote Democratic.

    CAN POLL WATCHERS CARRY GUNS?

    The District of Columbia and 11 states have laws explicitly banning guns at polling places. In states that do not restrict the open carrying of handguns, poll watchers could legally be armed outside a polling location. However, nearly all states ban the carrying of firearms in schools and government buildings, where many polling places are located. That would preclude the possibility of armed citizens watching people as they cast ballots.

    Arkansas used to be among the states that banned carrying concealed weapons into polling places. The ban was repealed last year, meaning that voters and poll watchers can legally be armed.

    HOW CAN VOTERS BE CHALLENGED?

    Thirty-nine states allow citizens to challenge the eligibility of their fellow voters inside polling places, and 28 allow the challenge to be issued before someone votes, according to a 2012 report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. At least four battleground states — Florida, Iowa, Nevada and Pennsylvania — not only allow people to challenge voters inside polling places but place the burden of proof on the person who is challenged.

    In recent years, Alabama, Ohio and Texas have banned citizen challenges at the polls. Other states allow only election officials to challenge voters.

    WHAT CONSTITUTES VOTER INTIMIDATION?

    Nearly every state has laws banning poll watchers from intimidating, harassing or threatening voters. Federal law prohibits voter intimidation on the basis of race, ethnicity or the language they speak. Poll watchers who seek to challenge a voter are generally prohibited from approaching voters themselves. Instead, they must file their challenge with on-site election workers.

    The Republican National Committee is barred by a 1982 court order from monitoring polling places for fraud after Democrats sued over alleged voter intimidation in minority communities.

    WHERE CAN VOTERS GET HELP?

    Voting rights experts encourage anyone who encounters problems at the polls to stay calm and find out what needs to be done to have their ballot counted. Voters also can call the U.S. Department of Justice (800-253-3931) and the nonpartisan Election Protection coalition (866-OUR-VOTE).

    READ MORE: What we know about voter turnout so far

    The post Can poll watchers carry guns, and other Election Day FAQs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    sandb

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    So, gentlemen, this is the last time I get to ask you this on a Friday.

    Mark, how does this race look?

    MARK SHIELDS: It looks terrific. I mean, it really is.

    And I just want it to keep going. I don’t want it to end.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: I wish it was like baseball. We could go into extra innings.

    No, I don’t think there is any question the whole temperature, the whole atmosphere of the race changed over the last eight days, since last we were together, when — with the Comey announcement of the FBI investigation.

    I think what had been sort of an assumed Clinton victory, and Democrats taking over the Senate, I think it was stopped in its tracks. And while I still think she is the favorite, and is the favorite, there is certainly a lot more doubt about the Senate today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David.

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think she’s the favorite.

    I have a sense that it would have happened anyway and that, at the end of the day, people were going to come home to who they were. And what’s depressed me, frankly, most about this race is, we went into this country a divided nation, and now the chasms are just solidified, so divided along race, divided along gender, urban/rural, college-educated/non-college-educated. We can go down the list.

    And, basically, less educated or high school-educated whites are going to Trump. It doesn’t matter what the guy does. And college-educated going to Clinton. Everyone is dividing based on demographic categories.

    And, sometimes, you get the sense that the campaign barely matters. People are just going with their gene pool and whatever it is. And that is one of the more depressing aspects of this race for me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and you say it almost doesn’t matter what they say.

    But they’re going out, Mark, on — with some pretty rough language. She continues to say he’s unacceptable, he doesn’t have the character to be president. He is saying — continues saying she needs to be in prison.

    Somebody at one of his rallies today said, “Execute her.”

    We’re watching as low as it can get, aren’t we?

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    Well, I think there’s no question Clinton — I’m not sure David’s right. He’s 97 percent right about 48 percent of the time.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: But, no — but on whether it would have narrowed.

    I think there was a sense that she had the possibility of a decisive victory. And I think she, at that point, wanted, the Clinton campaign wanted to end it on upbeat and more positive.

    The problem is, you have two candidates, Judy, we have said time and again, are personally unfavorable. So, the spotlight is unkind to each, whoever’s in that spotlight.

    And when Donald Trump was in the spotlight, losing three debates to Hillary Clinton, and the “Access Hollywood” tape, it hurt him and helped her. And what happened is, that changed and sort of changed her strategy.

    She was trying to shift the spotlight back to him, I think inelegantly and ineffectively, quite frankly, in the last week by bringing out the former Miss Universe and trying to do that.

    The best closer, quite honestly, is Barack Obama. He’s the best closer since Dennis Eckersley or Mariano Rivera.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: He’s just a — he really knows how to close. If you want to see somebody do it well, just watch Barack Obama. He makes a far better case for her than she makes for herself.

    Donald Trump is sounding the same theme he has sounded since May or June of 2015.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    And, well, it’s a campaign of hate. Obama is a campaign of at least hope. At least his first campaign was. This is just a campaign of hate. And, you know, people who don’t like Trump really don’t like Trump. And I guess I’m among them.

    And we just saw in our report about the Trump voters in Pennsylvania. Did you see — when they were shouting on the road, did you see anything nice about Trump? No. Send Clinton to jail.

    And so it’s just — what was it? There was a Burt Lancaster movie where he had love and hate tattooed on his hands. And there’s just a — we’re in a psychosis of what they call negative polarization, where nobody likes their side, but they really hate the other side.

    And it feels like it’s just building and building. And so we have got this cycle. And I don’t know if it pops on Election Day. I hope so. But the idea that Clinton is finishing this campaign bringing Miss America or the Miss Universe to the rallies just seems wrong to me.

    I do think she should have pivoted and say, I am change, I am change, because people do want some change. And to end on this negative note, I think especially for her — he has no choice — that’s his whole repertoire.

    I think, for her, I think it’s a very questionable way to end the campaign.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Mark, doesn’t that say that her campaign is really concerned here?

    MARK SHIELDS: Sure.

    And, Judy, Hillary Clinton is in Detroit, Michigan, the Friday before the election. Michigan is one of the 18 states and the District of Columbia that are the blue wall, that have voted Democratic for six consecutive presidential elections that are constituting the 242 of the 270 electoral votes that the Democrats start with.

    So, no, there’s a concern. You can tell more from than polls — from polls — by the candidates’ schedules, and where they’re spending time and resources. So, no, I think there is a real, real concern.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    That sort of goes back to my point about demographics. Why is she in Michigan? Because Michigan was — we all thought it would be Florida, South Carolina, Nevada, all the — New Hampshire, the states we have been talking about. But there are a lot of white people in Wisconsin and Michigan.

    And so there’s another route that he has in ways we didn’t expect, because of the way the demographics are just driving this election much more than ideology was in years past.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I hear people saying, don’t the American people deserve a better election than this? Couldn’t somebody have found a way, Mark, for the candidates to talk about something uplifting, or was it always going to come down to this?

    MARK SHIELDS: Boy, I don’t know.

    I mean, you have two candidates who were highly unfavorable. And the idea of somehow convincing people that their perceptions, in some cases long-held, were inaccurate or incomplete, the more appealing route, quite frankly, in the campaign was to try and hit the other fellow over the head.

    David is right. It would be a negative mandate. And one other point David makes that is a good one, and it’s good to recall historically, Theodore White wrote that America is Republican until 5:00 or 6:00 at night.

    And that’s when working people and their families got off work, had supper, and if America is going to vote — be Democratic, it’s going to happen between 5:30 and 8:00 at night. That has been totally turned on its ear.

    The working-class, blue-collar, non-college-educated base of the Democratic Party is the base of Donald Trump’s campaign this year. And the Democrats are now an upscale party.

    So, each party, just its message is totally out of kilter. The Democrats have an economic message that is directed at people at the lower end. That has been their cornerstone. The Republicans has been more upscale. Now the Republicans have a very low-scale, by economic standards, base. Donald Trump has.

    And it’s just total conflict, Judy. And I think it became easier, quite frankly, just to hit the guy over the head than to try and make the positive case.

    DAVID BROOKS: I would say some of it was contingent on Donald Trump being Donald Trump and changing the rules of the way we talk to each other.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    DAVID BROOKS: Some of that was contingent.

    But a lot of it is baked structurally into our society. And so we had a lot of good things over the years that were really good for America. I think globalization has been really good for America. I think the influx of immigrants has been really good for America. Feminism has been really good for America.

    But there are a lot of people who used to be up in society, because of those three good things, are now down, a lot of high school-educated white guys. And they have been displaced.

    And shame on us for not paying attention to that and helping them out. And, therefore, as a result, what happened was, they were alienated, they got super cynical, because they really were being shafted. And so they react in an angry way.

    Well, that’s not a shock, given the last 30 or 50 years of American history. And so, for us going forward, it’s to not reverse the dynamism of American society and the diversity. It’s to pay attention to the people who are being ruined by it, and so this doesn’t happen again.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it means there is a lot of sorting out to do after this election.

    I want to ask you both about the Supreme Court.

    Mark, we have heard from Republican senators in the last few weeks that they’re, no matter — if Hillary Clinton is elected — this is an if — no matter who she puts forward, they’re going to make sure that she doesn’t get to fill that last — that ninth seat on the court.

    How are we to think about the Supreme Court anymore? We have now gone the better part of this year, since Justice Scalia’s death, President Obama’s nominee can’t get through. Has this become a litmus test of the litmus test?

    MARK SHIELDS: Judy, in a year of irresponsibility, this is a new depth of irresponsibility. To say that the constitutional mandate of a national election, where millions of Americans vote and pick a new president, that that president is — what that president does, and under the Constitution, of nominating judges and justices, is somehow moot, and I’m not going to pay any attention to it, that’s unacceptable.

    It really is. It’s beyond irresponsible. It’s beyond reckless. It is really — I think it’s criminal. I basically do. And anybody who holds that position, I think it’s self-disqualifying for any public office.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We heard it from John McCain. And I guess, this week, there was a comment from Richard Burr, the senator from North Carolina, and others.

    MARK SHIELDS: I think Senator Cruz has put on — I think Senator McCain did walk it back, but you’re right. He did say it on radio.

    DAVID BROOKS: My views about this are like Mark’s, only stronger.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: I think it’s in the Constitution. And we not only have rules in the Constitution the way it should work. The president should be able to nominate justices. But we have an etiquette around the Constitution.

    And what’s happened in America is, that etiquette has been acidified away. And I hate the nuclear option of going for 50 votes in the Senate. But if they behave this way, then I think the Democrats might be justified and go to the nuclear option, because we actually have to have a government. We have to have people confirmed and put into office.

    And — but it’s the degradation of the way our government is supposed to run.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I didn’t give you all any warning about this, but I want to ask it in the last minute or so that we have left.

    What do you say to the American people at this point about the choice they’re making, about how much difference it makes?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, it does. We know presidents make choices. We know — we have no idea what’s going to come up on a crisis over the next four years, unexpected, internationally, domestically.

    And who that president is, the judgment, the intelligence, the confidence that that president has can very well determine whether we survive, let alone prosper, as a people.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. It’s a job. It’s a job that involves some patience, a tolerance for boredom, the ability to work friendly with other people, to herd majorities. It’s a job.

    And I can’t say who I’m going to vote for, but one person is clearly disqualified for that job. And I can’t mention his name.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David Brooks, Mark Shields, we will see you on election night.

    And, by the way, Mark and David will be back here, along with other guests, on election night for our special coverage. It starts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, and we want you to join us, too.

    The post Shields and Brooks on rancor in the electorate and the future of the Supreme Court appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The fate of the Affordable Care Act is at stake in Tuesday’s election. More than 20 million people have gained coverage through the health insurance reform law.

    But, as special correspondent Sarah Varney reports, large gaps still exist.

    Our story, produced in collaboration with our partner Kaiser Health News, begins in Grundy, Virginia, at a clinic run by a nonprofit called Remote Area Medical. It’s a program that is still surprisingly necessary in 2016.

    SARAH VARNEY: Sandra Cook got in line midday on a recent Friday for dental care that she wouldn’t receive until the next morning. Hundreds more like her showed up at Riverview Elementary and Middle School in Grundy, Virginia, just as volunteers were arriving by the hundreds to turn the school into a makeshift clinic.

    Many people here in this southwestern corner of Virginia struggle to pay for everyday needs. And that includes basic health care.

    SANDRA COOK: There’s a lot of poverty in this area, and the coal mines, they went down, and the jobs have gotten really bad.

    MATT KEENE: A lot of people ain’t got no insurance or no income, and this is the only place they can come to.

    SARAH VARNEY: Just next to the line, Trey Justice and his girlfriend set up a tent, after walking for five hours to get here.

    TREY JUSTICE: My teeth and my eyes are really bad. I got ran over about four year ago. Don’t have no doctors, no insurance.

    SARAH VARNEY: Six years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and despite 20 million more Americans gaining health insurance, considerable gaps in health care remain. The decision by states like Virginia not to expand Medicaid and the lack of dental and vision coverage even for those with insurance has meant that scenes like this are still playing out.

    STAN BROCK, Founder, Remote Area Medical: If you’re here to see the dentist, please raise your hand.

    SARAH VARNEY: The next morning, the sun had yet to rise when Stan Brock called out the first numbers.

    STAN BROCK: We’re going to bring you in 20 at a time and there’s no reason to rush, OK? Plenty of time.

    SARAH VARNEY: Brock founded Remote Area Medical in 1985 to bring health care to people in developing countries. But he expanded the project to the U.S. when he realized the depth of the need here.

    Over the weekend, nearly 1,000 teeth will be pulled, some 400 pairs of eyeglasses made, and more than one million dollars in health care services delivered.

    Gary Owens was one of those workers laid off from the coal mines. At 55, he’s uninsured. He tells the volunteer doctor that his hands feel numb, his feet burn and old job injuries plague him.

    GARY OWENS: I hurt. I mean, I hurt. It’s like somebody with my body. It don’t feel right, or maybe it’s not right.

    SARAH VARNEY: Owens has paid out of pocket in the past for health care, but he’s been unable to afford the blood tests to figure out what’s wrong with him.

    The doctors here worry the reason he recently lost 25 pounds is that he might have cancer. If Owens lived just 15 miles away, in Kentucky or West Virginia, he’d be covered.

    State lines are now often the difference between poor adults having health insurance or not. After Kentucky expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the percentage of uninsured poor adults dropped from 40 percent to 23 percent in one year.

    But, in Virginia, which hasn’t expanded Medicaid, many low-income adults are still left to rely on charity care, with Remote Area Medical being the most visible and dramatic.

    Studies have found that people in Medicaid expansion states are more likely to have a regular doctor, get vaccinated and receive treatment for chronic diseases. But in states like Virginia, uninsured poor adults often must turn to the emergency room when they need help.

    Back at the school, volunteer nurse Doreen Facey-Biggs says the choices people face seem at odds with America’s standing in the world.

    DOREEN FACEY-BIGGS, Volunteer Nurse: I’m from Jamaica. I have been in this country a long time, but I’m still amazed at the differences and the disparities in health care services, that, in this rich country, this First World country, so many people have no insurance.

    SARAH VARNEY: That’s the case for James Love. He lives along a mountain road with his wife, tending to his animals and working multiple jobs to pay the bills. No one in the family has health coverage. And they rely on the Remote Area Medical events each year for nearly all of their dental and vision care.

    Love has to make tough choices when it comes to paying for medications.

    JAMES LOVE: You choose what you can afford. And you not only have to do it for you, your wife, your children, sometimes your grandparents, your parents.

    SARAH VARNEY: The dismal health conditions here are widespread. Diabetes, heart disease and stroke are endemic and smoking and cancer deaths far exceed national levels.

    But the most common complaint is painful, rotting teeth. Matt Keene had six teeth pulled at last year’s free clinic, and he’s back to have another dozen removed. At 24 years old, he feels a sharp pain when he eats or drinks.

    Stan Brock says his pop-up clinics around the country continue to overflow because the Affordable Care Act and public insurance programs don’t cover dentistry.

    STAN BROCK: They need to fix that. It was a step in the right direction, but it missed out on the thing that really leads to a lot of problems. Heart disease, diabetes, and so on all emanate from things like bad teeth.

    SARAH VARNEY: But it’s not just insurance. Poor health habits and poverty are big factors, too, says Dr. Terry Dickinson, head of the Virginia Dental Association and a longtime volunteer.

    DR. TERRY DICKINSON, Executive Director, Virginia Dental Association: The most product that they can buy is usually the worse for you. It’s the highly processed foods. That’s the highly sugared drinks. All of those things are not good for you either health-wise or dental-wise.

    So it’s this kind of conglomeration of things that are going around in their lives, that it makes it very difficult to break into that cycle, because it’s economic, it’s culture, it’s everything.

    SARAH VARNEY: Young people like Jesse Charles are an example of why that cycle is hard to break. He has no job, no health insurance. He went to elementary school here and started smoking when he was 11. He’s 21 now and fairly healthy, but he’s taking part in a rite of passage, getting his tooth pulled at a Remote Area Medical event.

    The dentist warned him that smoking after dental surgery is dangerous, but, on the way home, he quickly reaches for a cigarette.

    JESSE CHARLES: Yes, it’s starting to hurt a little bit. They said — it’s smoking.

    SARAH VARNEY: Back at his aunt’s house, Charles is worn down after the long day. His family has been roiled by the recent deaths of his mother and uncle, and he wishes he had followed their advice.

    JESSE CHARLES: They told me to take care of my teeth. And it’s one thing I didn’t take care of. I never did listen.

    SARAH VARNEY: With few jobs available in Grundy, he’s thought about moving to a larger town 60 miles away, where he might have more control over his future.

    Terry Dickinson says stories like this haunt him, that somehow the whole weekend is just a stop gap.

    DR. TERRY DICKINSON: I think about that a lot on the way home. I’m thinking, so what did we do? Because our goal is to stop the cycle, is to do something that’s sustainable. But we’re the Band-Aid. We’re the safety net until that happens.

    SARAH VARNEY: When the volunteers leave town on Sunday, it’s up to free clinics like the Health Wagon in nearby Wise, Virginia, to try to scrape together follow-up care.

    DR. PAULA HILL MEADE, Clinical Director, The Health Wagon: Now, if you will take a deep breath every time I touch you.

    WOMAN: OK.

    SARAH VARNEY: Paula Hill Meade, a nurse practitioner, is the Health Wagon’s clinical director.

    DR. PAULA HILL MEADE: No one cares that people like me are here begging and saying, I need somebody to see this patient. Will you please see her? She needs a breast biopsy. Can I get her seen? A lot of times, it’s just, no. Can she pay this much up front? Well, no, she can’t.

    SARAH VARNEY: She’s angry that health care has become so political.

    DR. PAULA HILL MEADE: It really makes you mad and it makes you infuriated to see that they’re up here using this as a political game. It’s sickening to think that you’re dealing with people’s lives like that.

    SARAH VARNEY: But the bleak truth in Central Appalachia is that many here people are used to waiting, and they expect little to change before the Remote Area Medical event comes back to town next year, once again bringing its caravan of volunteers and promises of momentary relief.

    For the “PBS NewsHour” and Kaiser Health News, I’m Sarah Varney in Grundy, Virginia.

    The post Gaping, painful holes remain in U.S. health care despite coverage gains appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Supporters rally with Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, U.S. October 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX2PXQM

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meantime, allegations of widespread voter fraud are nothing new, but they’ve taken on a renewed intensity in this campaign. While there’s virtually no evidence for the claims, Donald Trump and his supporters insist the voting process is rigged.

    Our William Brangham takes a look at those accusations and how they’re being heard by the accused in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This past weekend in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a group of Donald Trump’s supporters staged a rally at a busy intersection.

    WOMAN: We’re not going to take it anymore!

    CARROLL HAAS: I’m here to support Trump, and pray that Hillary goes to prison for all that she has done.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: These voters argue Trump is exactly what the country needs right now, and they think the media isn’t treating him fairly and is overlooking Hillary Clinton’s flaws.

    Many are also deeply suspicious that the election is somehow going to be stolen from them.

    LARRY NAUSBAUM: I think the machines are rigged. I watched on YouTube how they rig the machines, where you vote Republican, and it turns up Democrat.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Trump has made this same charge repeatedly over several months.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: We’re in a rigged system, folks. We’re in a rigged system.

    We’re going to watch Pennsylvania. Go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: There’s no evidence for the kind of widespread fraudulent voting that Trump says is going on right now. But his supporters, people like Tom Carroll, say if you don’t believe rigged voting occurs, just look at Philadelphia.

    TOM CARROLL: It is absolutely rigged. Philadelphia is a perfect example. You had wards in 2012 that had more than 100 percent turnout-

    LARRY NAUSBAUM: In Philadelphia, there were 17 districts where there were 100 percent Obama votes, which is statistically impossible.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This is exhibit A for their case. In the 2012 presidential election between President Obama and Governor Romney, Obama won Pennsylvania, getting almost three million votes, compared to Romney’s 2.6 million.

    But in Philadelphia, in these 59 divisions, known as precincts in most places, not one single vote was recorded for Mitt Romney, not one. Obama received 100 percent of the presidential votes.

    AL SCHMIDT (R), Philadelphia Election Commissioner: I was struck the same way that anyone else was in wondering, how could this possibly occur? So, this is the voting system that we have in Philadelphia.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Al Schmidt is on the commission that runs and oversees elections in Philadelphia. He’s the only Republican on the three-person panel. After that election, he investigated: Was it possible that no one in those divisions voted for Mitt Romney?

    AL SCHMIDT: I ran around the city to all these different precincts to look at, how could this possibly occur? We were chasing down members of the minority party and asking, did you in fact cast your vote this way or that way? You don’t have to tell us, but we’re looking into this. And we didn’t find a single one.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, you went around those areas trying to find Romney voters, and you couldn’t find any?

    AL SCHMIDT: Correct.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Schmidt says these particular precincts are very small, they’re almost all black, and President Obama remains hugely popular.

    In fact, John McCain back in the 2008 presidential race got less than 1 percent of the vote in these same areas.

    So, you feel confident that the fact that there were no Romney votes registered in those particular areas is not evidence that someone somewhere was taking Romney votes and throwing them in the trash?

    AL SCHMIDT: Correct. And even if you set aside everything I just said about the fact that you couldn’t find anyone who voted for him, that the precincts are very small, so the voting — the electorate there is very similar, you can’t subtract votes from our voting machines, period.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You just can’t do it?

    AL SCHMIDT: You can’t.

    SEAN HANNITY: In inner-city Philadelphia, Mitt Romney did not get a single vote.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But, still, that’s not how the story is perceived among Trump’s supporters and certain parts of the media. FOX News has cited Philadelphia’s 2012 results as clear evidence of fraud numerous times, same with other popular conservative Web sites like Breitbart, Infowars, The Blaze.

    They all imply votes were stolen.

    AUDREY STREIN: Hopefully, he can count on your vote this November.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Trump supporter Audrey Strein is one of those concerned about fraud. One poll showed that 49 percent of Trump supporters are not confident the vote will be counted accurately, compared to just 18 percent of Clinton supporters.

    AUDREY STREIN: If we outnumber and get people, everybody to come out and vote, we can overcome any of the anticipated voter fraud.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: When she’s not running her roofing company, this mother of three, wearing her “Adorable Deplorable” T-shirt, tries to persuade undecided voters.

    She says voting fraud won’t be a problem in her small town of Jamison, Pennsylvania, but she’s suspicious about urban areas like Philadelphia.

    AUDREY STREIN: In the cities, you are going to have more Democrat majority. And when you have a dominant party, there’s no one watching the henhouse.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: To understand how accusations of possible fraud are being heard, we talked with voters in West Philadelphia, the same place where Romney received zero votes four years ago. Many saw these accusations as an attempt at voter suppression.

    MANUEL GLENN: There is an individual in this race who wants to make the process so dirty, that wants to turn people off from the process, that they won’t come out and vote. And he feels that that’s his path to victory, because his voters are so fired up, they’re going to come out regardless, rain, sleet, snow, hell, hell or high water, return of Jesus, they’re going to vote.

    ALFRED HAZLY: It goes back to World War II, and Joseph Goebbels, and Hitler in the ’30s: Tell the biggest lie you can, as loud as you can, for as long as you can, and, eventually, someone will start to believe it.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Greg Spearman is the Democratic ward leader for this area. He was here in 2012, and he will be here again next week on Election Day.

    I asked him about the racial undertones of these accusations.

    It’s usually white Republicans saying this about minority voting districts.

    GREG SPEARMAN, Philadelphia Democratic Ward Leader: Sure.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Do you think race has anything to do with the…

    GREG SPEARMAN: Sure. Race has something to do with most things in America. I think that’s the fire that Trump is stoking. His buzzwords are targeted for that mind-set.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: David Thornburgh is president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, a group in Philadelphia dedicated to ensuring clean and fair elections.

    DAVID THORNBURGH, President, Committee of Seventy: And what we really have in terms of our sense of election fraud is a series of anecdotes. You add all those up, and it doesn’t constitute the same kind of massive, systemic fraud that the Trump campaign is asserting is out there.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Philadelphia Elections Commissioner and Republican Al Schmidt says he has documented isolated cases of voter fraud. He wrote this report on examples from the 2012 primary election.

    Philadelphia indicted 10 people for voter fraud since the report was published. They amounted to a dozen votes being improperly cast across the city.

    AL SCHMIDT: It’s important to recognize the distinction between individual cases of voter fraud and allegations of widespread, systematic vote-rigging, and no one finding out about it, despite it changing the outcome of the presidential election. That’s pretty far-fetched.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The Clinton and Trump campaigns say they will do everything to ensure the legitimacy of this election, both nationwide and in this critical battleground state.

    Lawyers and poll monitors from both parties will be out in full force next Tuesday. But for black voters here in Philadelphia, the accusation that they have committed fraud and will do so again is painfully familiar.

    JAMIE FLETCHER: Being a minority, you expect it. It is just what comes — it just comes with skin color and where you live, so that’s just what it is.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m William Brangham in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    The post What’s behind fears of voter fraud? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A pair of federal judges expressed their skepticism over challenges to the Obama administration's plan to reduce the effects of climate change by targeting pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants. Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

    Yoram Bauman makes the case for Initiative 732, a revenue-neutral carbon tax measure, which will be on the ballot in Washington state on Nov. 8. Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

    The twists and turns just keep coming in the pioneering revenue-neutral carbon tax measure, Initiative 732, which will be on Tuesday’s ballot in Washington state.

    First came pushback from the some environmental groups, including the Sierra Club. Now we have a new Public Disclosure Commission report for the No campaign showing that Koch Industries contributed $50,000 to the No campaign. The Koch brothers’ anti-science and anti-environment activities are well documented; it’s pretty interesting that the No campaign would want to be associated with them if climate change is truly something they care about. Perhaps more telling, this late round of dirty fossil fuel money is indicative of the strength and effectiveness of the I-732 policy and the threat it poses to the state’s — and the nation’s — biggest polluters and a signal for what’s to come.

    Perhaps more telling, this late round of dirty fossil fuel money is indicative of the strength and effectiveness of the I-732 policy and the threat it poses to the state’s — and the nation’s — biggest polluters and a signal for what’s to come.

    Even more surprising is that the Koch brothers and the No campaign are out of step with leading Republicans in Washington state and in Washington, D.C. Republican supporters of I-732 now include former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and former state Attorney General Rob McKenna, who narrowly lost the 2012 governor’s race. And leading conservative economist Greg Mankiw told The New York Times this week that I-732 could be a model for the nation because it takes a budget-friendly and business-friendly approach to climate action, one that sets a stable and predictable price on carbon and “recycles” carbon tax revenues by reducing existing taxes.

    Instead of making government bigger or smaller, I-732 focuses on making government smarter. That’s why I-732 has gained support from both the left and the right. Our most recent endorsement on the left is from the Seattle Socialist Alternative.

    READ MORE: Pay for carbon pollution? Why some environmentalists don’t support this state tax

    This is truly a David vs. Goliath battle. Large establishment organizations on both the left and the right are pushing back against I-732 because it threatens the status quo. But the status quo is not acceptable when it comes to the future of our planet: In a nutshell, too many people have gotten too tired of seeing too little happen on the climate front. That’s how Carbon Washington managed to gather over 360,000 signatures (about 5 percent of the state population) last year to get the initiative on the ballot, putting it in the top 10 in Washington history. This grassroots momentum and unrelenting focus on addressing climate change is what led groups like Audubon Washington to support this campaign.

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

    We continue to be encouraged by the latest poll results showing that undecided voters are moving towards a Yes vote. We have also received a wave of celebrity support for the policy. Last week Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted his support saying, “I-732 is a chance to create a clean energy future. Join @CarbonWA and @AudubonWA and vote #Yeson732.” Fisher Stevens, director of DiCaprio’s new climate change documentary Before the Flood shared his support for I-732, as did celebrities affiliated with Season 2 of Years of Living Dangerously, including Don CheadleEd Norton , Nikki ReedLili Taylor and Ian Somerhalder.

    Buoyed by these endorsements, our tireless volunteers, ranging from students to grandparents, are leading the state’s biggest voter education effort on climate change. For more details see the “Get the Facts” press release about I-732.


    Watch economics correspondent Paul Solman’s report on Initiative 732 above

    The post Column: Koch brothers are the latest strange bedfellows in Washington state carbon tax fight appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Delegates point to an electoral map at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. U.S. July 27, 2016.  REUTERS/Charles Mostoller - RTSJYXU

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: With 72 hours to go, the presidential candidates are making their final pitch to voters this weekend.

    To size up the race, I’m joined by two campaign veterans.

    Jim Messina is the CEO of The Messina Group. He served as campaign manager for President Obama in 2012. And Matthew Dowd, former chief strategist for George W. Bush in 2004, he’s now a political analyst for ABC News.

    And we welcome both of you to the program.

    So, I’m going to ask you both to put yourself in the shoes of the folks who are running the Clinton and the Trump campaigns this year.

    Jim Messina, what are you thinking right now? What are you looking at?

    JIM MESSINA, CEO, The Messina Group: Well, you have about 102 hours before the polls close, Judy. And so you’re thinking about two things, first of all, getting out your vote, making sure that what we call the sporadic voters, the people who may not vote in this election, absolutely have to vote.

    And that’s where you have spent the last two years building field and data and resources to target those people and make sure you can turn out your vote.

    And the second, equally crucial thing is, we’re still sitting here with about 5 percent of America, maybe 7 percent, who is undecided. And our research shows clearly that those people are influenced by what their friends and family members are saying. So, you’re targeting those voters with a variety of different techniques to try to move your message in these last 102 hours.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Matthew Dowd, so, you’re running one of these campaigns. What are you thinking?

    MATTHEW DOWD, Former Chief Strategist, Bush-Cheney 2004: Well, I think, when you look at it, just objectively, right now, the race leans in Hillary’s direction.

    And so I think there’s two different strategies in play. Right now, if the election were held today, he would win the presidency. So, I think, first, she — it’s the sort of the political Hippocratic oath. She wants to do no harm. She wants to make sure there’s no mistakes are made.

    And I agree with Jim. They want to employ and engage their strategy that is going to be the last 72 or 90 hours of this race and turn out the vote, because, if she does that, she wins this race.

    For Donald Trump, he’s probably going to have to take a few chances if he’s going to be able to overcome that small hurdle that exists in this race, though a sturdy hurdle that exists in this race, and he has to hope something breaks in the course of this race, then he can immediately take advantage of it in the next 28 or 48 hours. It’s a much more difficult situation for Donald Trump today than it is for Hillary Clinton.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Jim Messina, for something to break in the last — we have already seen breaks over the course of the last few weeks, but what would it take to change the course of this election at this point?

    JIM MESSINA: Well, I think a couple things.

    One, as we talked earlier, turnout matters. And if we have historic turnout in white precincts, like Matthew helped President Bush do in 2004, that could change the race.

    There could be — people make mistakes. Things happen. World events happen. Right before the Brexit vote, there was an internal terrorism incident in the U.K. that fundamentally changed the race. So, you’re not sure what’s going to happen.

    But you have got to be ready for whatever is going to happen, but, more importantly, stick to your message. Matthew’s right. She’s got to turn her vote out and she’s got stay very, very disciplined. And I think she’s running the right kind of campaign to do that.

    Donald Trump is running a much different campaign. I don’t think the word discipline has ever come to mind when you think of him. But he’s at his best when he kind of goes straight at it. And so I think he’s going to try to cause a little stir and push hard here.

    And you saw him yesterday go right after it. And I think it’s going to be a wild and woolly final four days here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Matthew Dowd, is that what you expect, that something — that there is going to be — something is going to be said by Donald Trump or that’s going to come out of someplace we don’t expect that could change the trajectory at this point?

    MATTHEW DOWD: Well, we definitely know Donald Trump will say things in this that, as Jim says, that are undisciplined that would normally rock any other campaign which he has done probably a hundred times in the last 200 days.

    I don’t think it’s going to be that. I think it’s something we have no idea about. That’s usually what happens, the Comey letter or the Comey report that happened a week or so ago, which adjusted this race to Hillary Clinton’s disadvantage by about two points, though she still has a solid, but small lead in this.

    But, I think, in the end, it is going to come down to employing the strategy you need. I don’t think anything is going to fundamentally adjust this race.

    One of the interesting things, Judy, in this, if Hillary Clinton wins this race, she will win it with the most diverse coalition that anybody’s ever been elected by in presidential history. She will have the most diverse coalition that anybody’s ever — even more diverse actually than Barack Obama in 2012 and 2008.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jim Messina, you wrote a column for The New York Times yesterday in which you said you really dislike national polls, and you referred to something you call the golden report that you trusted when Barack Obama last won an election. What exactly was that?

    JIM MESSINA: Well, Judy, just to correct you, I said I hate public polls.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JIM MESSINA: And I think they’re the worst things in the world, because most of them are absolutely wrong.

    But, in the Obama 2012 campaign and to this day, we do 62,000 computer simulations of the election, to simulate every possible variance, turnout numbers, economy, incidents that Matthew was talking about, all of those things. And we really follow that much more than public polls.

    I had a rule in the Obama campaign: If you looked at public polls, I would fire you, because it was a silly waste of time. People have got to stay focused. And what the golden report allows you to do is look at the voters who really mattered and which of these states really are up for grabs, because, Judy, this is not a national race right now.

    As Matt knows, we’re in eight to 10 states that are really going to decide this election. And you have 102 hours to affect the outcome. And so the one thing you can’t go get more of is time. And so each campaign has got to be very structured and disciplined in what they do.

    Donald Trump, again using his non-disciplined campaign, doesn’t believe in data, hasn’t done any of those things. He’s just kind of making an argument to the country, whereas you see the Clinton campaign be very strategic in how they’re spending their time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Jim Messina, does Hillary Clinton have something like that right now?

    JIM MESSINA: I think she’s got a better version.

    I think her campaign manager, Robby Mook, has done a good job building it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Matthew Dowd, does Donald Trump have anything close?

    MATTHEW DOWD: No, I don’t — the huge advantage in the Election Day is Hillary Clinton’s in this.

    Just one thing I will slightly disagree with Jim on. I’m agnostic about public polls. In the campaign that I did in 2004, George Bush called me up on election morning and asked me what was going to happen, and I said he would win by two to three points. He won by 2.5 points in that race. That was based on all the things Jim just said.

    But for viewers out there who have not — who don’t have access to the stuff that we have access in a campaign, here is what I would counsel. I would counsel, look at a broad average of the national polls, and that really tells you what’s going on yesterday.

    Don’t worry about the state polls. The state polls are lagging indicators of where this race is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we’re hearing it from both of you. And we are going to go back and talk to you again after the election.

    Matthew Dowd, Jim Messina, great to see both of you.

    MATTHEW DOWD: Sounds great.

    JIM MESSINA: Thanks.

    MATTHEW DOWD: Thanks, Judy.

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    Hall of Fame pitcher and former Cubs team member Fergie Jenkins talks about his excitement for the World Series-winning team, his memories of his own era and the myth of a curse. Video edited by Justin Scuiletti

    If you’re a Cubs fan — or just a longtime baseball fan who’s not sick of hearing about the Cubbies and their celebrated season — some of the sweeter (and maybe bittersweet) moments this postseason are the ways the Cubs have recognized their former great players who never got a chance to play in a World Series.

    READ MORE: Why I’m teaching my kids to love the Cubs, against my better judgment

    Fergie Jenkins is one of those guys: A Hall of Fame pitcher, Jenkins was in the majors for almost two decades and played with the Cubs for over half of his career. Jenkins was part of a Cubs team in the late ’60s that had great talent — including Ernie Banks and Ron Santo — and seemed like it was going to go to the World Series in 1969. Instead, they collapsed that September as the Mets overtook them to win the division.

    A Cy Young winner that year, Jenkins was one of the more talented (but sometimes less recognized) pitchers of his day who threw hard and with a good curve ball. He had six straight seasons where he won 20 or more games. And though it may seem hard to believe in this day and age, Jenkins finished nearly 75 percent of his starts during a five-year run.

    Jenkins’ connections to the Cubs have never ended. His flag flies above Wrigley Field. And he remains associated with the Cubs organization. He was there in 2012 when the Cubs drafted Kyle Schwarber, a talented young hitter whose first hits of the season came in this World Series after being injured almost all year. Last weekend, the Cubs asked him to throw out the first pitch at Game Four in Wrigley Field.

    I had a chance to speak with him in Arizona before the parade and celebrations. It was a special treat for me since I lived in an apartment next door to Jenkins for a season when I was a kid. That’s when he came back to the Cubs near the end of his career. I didn’t even fully appreciate the full accomplishments from the height of his career when I was a kid. But his talent was still evident. And Jenkins’ decency and good nature was as evident to me as a young teen as it is today. And so was his dedication to the Cubs.

    Photos: The Chicago Cubs are no longer the ‘loveable losers’

    Editor’s Note: Fergie Jenkins’ record was misstated — he won won 20 or more games for six straight seasons, not five.

    The post Cubs’ Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins never feared the billy goat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People wait in line to enter the Nassau County Mega Job Fair at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York October 7, 2014.   REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo - RTSQ0L0

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: The Labor Department reported that U.S. workers saw their best pay raises in seven years last month in the final jobs report before the election. It found that, for the month of October, U.S. employers added a net of 161,000 jobs, rounding out what observers say are signs of a resilient economy. The unemployment rate improved by a tenth of a point, to 4.9 percent.

    Guilty verdicts today in a scandal that shadowed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in his failed run for president. A federal jury convicted his former aides Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni of shutting down parts of a major bridge in order to punish a political opponent. Afterward, both sides argued again over whether Christie himself should have been charged.

    MICHAEL BALDASSARE, Attorney for Bill Baroni: One of the things the U.S. attorneys office should be ashamed of is where it decided to draw the line on who to charge. They should have had belief in their own case to charge powerful people, and they didn’t.

    PAUL FISHMAN, U.S. Attorney for New Jersey: The evidence that we had that proved people beyond — guilty beyond a reasonable doubt was sufficient to indict and convict Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni, and that’s the indictment we asked the grand jury to return.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In a statement, Christie said again he knew nothing about the bridge closures until after the fact. And he promised to speak out soon about what he called — quote — “the lies told by the media” and in the courtroom.

    U.S. intelligence officials say they have picked up information that al-Qaida might stage attacks here on election eve. Reports today said that New York, Texas and Virginia were listed as possible targets. But officials warn, the information has not been corroborated.

    Three U.S. military trainers in Jordan were killed today outside a military base. It happened near the southern city of Ma’an. The Americans were fired on as their car tried to enter the base. It is not clear what prompted the shooting. U.S. and Jordanian officials say they are investigating.

    The political purge in Turkey took another sharp turn today: Police rounded up a dozen top Kurdish lawmakers as part of what they’re calling terror investigations. The arrests sparked protests from Istanbul to Ankara, and police used pepper spray and water cannons on the crowds. Supporters of the Kurdish lawmakers called the arrests political genocide.

    ADEM GEVERI, Pro-Kurdish Lawmaker (through translator): These operations are politically designed by the state. As you know, the Parliament was bypassed after the coup attempt. And now the Parliament’s operations have been officially stopped in illegal and anti-democratic way. The government is trying to create an authoritarian Turkey.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hours after the arrests, a car bomb killed nine people and wounded scores more in the city of Diyarbakir in the Kurdish southeast.

    The Iraqi military launched a new assault into eastern Mosul today, touching off some of the fiercest fighting yet. Tanks blasted Islamic State positions, and special forces captured six districts. ISIS fought back with rockets, mortars and suicide car bombs.

    In Indonesia, a mass protest by hard-line Muslims turned violent late today in Jakarta. At least one person died and seven were hurt. An estimated 150,000 people demanded the city’s Christian governor be arrested for allegedly insulting the Koran. As the day wore on, clashes broke out, and police fired tear gas and water cannons.

    The besieged president of South Korea made an emotional apology today for an influence-peddling scandal. It stems from allegations that Park Geun-hye let a close confidante meddle in state affairs. On national television, Park called the scandal heartbreaking and said she accepts responsibility, while denying some of the allegations.

    Park’s approval rating has fallen to 5 percent. She’s under mounting pressure to resign.

    Back in this country, a federal jury today has found a “Rolling Stone” magazine story about a gang rape defamed an administrator at the University of Virginia. The story has since been discredited. The official sued the magazine, its publisher and the reporter. The jury now decides whether to award her $7.5 million in damages.

    Harvard University has canceled the rest of its men’s soccer season over sexual comments about the women’s soccer team. An investigation found that members of the men’s squad routinely rated female players on appearance and made lewd comments. They called it the scouting report and put it online. Officials say it’s been going on since at least 2012.

    Wall Street stumbled for a ninth day, its longest losing streak since 1980. Analysts cited jitters over Donald Trump’s economic policies, as he makes late gains in the presidential race. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 42 points to close at 17888. The Nasdaq fell 12, and the S&P 500 slipped one.

    And Chicago turned out today to celebrate the Cubs’ first World Series since 1908. The Chicago River was dyed blue in their honor, and hundreds of thousands cheered the team. The players paraded from Wrigley Field to a rally downtown.

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    U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is joined by former NFL Pittsburgh Steelers player Mel Blount at a campaign rally at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. November 4, 2016.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder  - RTX2RZ8I

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It is all about numbers tonight, economic and electoral, as the presidential contest comes down to the wire.

    Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage, with just four days to go.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The last Friday of the 2016 race, and the two campaigns are off to a long weekend of crisscrossing the battleground states. Donald Trump started in New Hampshire, where he’s now neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton, hoping to break through her electoral wall of usually blue states. The Granite State last voted Republican for president in 2000.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: When you see the rusted out factories and empty buildings, just remember this. Hillary Clinton’s policies and other’s like her, her friends, did this to us, all of us. We will stop the jobs from leaving New Hampshire. The theft of American prosperity will end. They have taken away our prosperity. From now on, it’s going to be America first.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    LISA DESJARDINS: New Hampshire has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate, but Trump moved on to more likely economic territory, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

    Meanwhile, some remarkable fallout involving words Trump said yesterday. He told crowds that Hillary Clinton was likely to be put on trial for her actions related to her foundation and e-mail. But that was based on a FOX News report that has now been scuttled.

    Yesterday, FOX News anchor Bret Baier fully retracted his story alleging a likely Clinton indictment.

    He issued this apology:

    BRET BAIER, FOX News: It was a mistake. And, for that, I’m sorry. I should have said, they will continue to build their case. Indictment obviously is a very loaded word.

    LISA DESJARDINS: For her part, Hillary Clinton focused today on historically Democratic strongholds, rekindling her economic message for middle and lower classes in Pittsburgh.

    HILLARY CLINTON (D), Presidential Nominee: So, I will do everything I can to get incomes rising for hardworking people. Whether you work in steel, whether you work in a factory, where you’re a machinist, a nurse, a teacher, a firefighter, police officer, whatever you are, you deserve to be part of a growing, thriving middle-class economy.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    LISA DESJARDINS: From there, she was off to an afternoon rally in Detroit. Clinton’s lead in Michigan has narrowed in recent days.

    Meanwhile, President Obama in North Carolina, campaigning for Clinton, was interrupted by a protester dressed in a uniform. After a few minutes of trying to calm his crowd, he urged respect.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We live in a country that respects free speech.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So, second of all, it looks like maybe he might have served in our military. And we ought to respect that.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Tonight, Clinton is also hoping to attract voters with the help of celebrity supporters, including a concert with Jay-Z in Cleveland and a rally with Stevie Wonder in Philly.

    Both campaigns have packed the weekend with events, Trump appealing to white working-class voters and Clinton hoping to boost minority turnout.

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

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    An Immigration activist holds a sign rallying against raids on undocumented immigrants in New York January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton - RTX21KO1

    An immigration activist holds a sign rallying against raids on undocumented immigrants in New York on Jan. 8, 2016. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    NEW YORK — There was never any doubt Juana Alvarez’s 18- and 20-year-old American-born daughters would be taking part in the election this year. Alvarez did her best to see to that.

    “I had two people I wanted to get registered and I registered them,” Alvarez, a 39-year-old housekeeper in Brooklyn who came to the U.S. from Mexico as a teenager, said through a translator.

    For Alvarez and the estimated 11 million other immigrants living illegally in the U.S., this is a potentially crucial election, with Republican Donald Trump talking about mass deportations and a border wall and Democrat Hillary Clinton pledging to support immigration reform and protect President Barack Obama’s executive actions on behalf of immigrants.

    Come Election Day, these immigrants will be watching from the sidelines, their future in the hands of others. Under the U.S. Constitution, only full citizens can vote; legal immigrants who are green card holders also are not allowed to cast a ballot.

    Trump has spoken of fears of election fraud or that immigrants living illegally in the country might vote. More broadly, he has said all immigrants should play by the legal rules.

    Alvarez and others like her say although they can’t vote, they have been taking part in get-out-the-vote efforts among citizens.

    [Watch Video]

    In places like New York, California, Arizona and Virginia, they have been knocking on doors and making telephone calls, registering people, urging them to go to the polls, and telling their stories in hopes of persuading voters to keep the interests of immigrants in mind when they go into the booth.

    “For me, it’s important that those who can vote come out of the shadows and make their voices heard,” Alvarez said.

    Isabel Medina, a 43-year-old from Los Angeles who has been in the country illegally for 20 years and has three sons, two born in the U.S., has worked phone banks and taken part in voter registration drives for U.S. citizens, making sure that “even though they’re frustrated, they are disappointed, they still realize it is really important, that they know the power that they have in their hands.”

    She says she emphasized the need to vote for all the races, not just the presidency, and the importance of taking part in referendums and propositions.

    Even though these immigrants can’t vote, their pre-Election Day efforts make a difference, said Karina Ruiz, 32, of Phoenix, who came to the U.S. illegally from Mexico when she was 15 and is acting executive director of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, an immigrant-advocacy group that has been doing get-out-the-vote work.

    “It is making an impact because those people who wouldn’t vote otherwise, when they listen to my story and hear their vote does count and make a difference, they’re encouraged to participate and be my voice,” said Ruiz, who has a work permit and an exemption from deportation under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. That policy was created by executive order, one that could be undone by any president in the future.

    “I think to myself: I could just vote once, if I had the power to,” she said. But “if I can influence 50 to 60 people to go ahead and vote, that’s my voice multiplied by a whole lot.”

    As for what will happen after Election Day, “the uncertainty, it is there, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Medina, who avoids talking about the election with her U.S.-born sons because she doesn’t want them to get scared that their parents might be deported. “I am worried, yes.”

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    The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for Buck v. Davis to determine if Duane Edward Buck received a fair trial in 1997 or if he needs to be retried because racism corrupted justice.  REUTERS/Molly Riley

    The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for Buck v. Davis to determine if Duane Edward Buck received a fair trial in 1997 or if he needs to be retried because racism corrupted justice.Photo by Molly Riley/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — An Alabama death row inmate may be alive today because a transgender Virginia high school student was denied the use of the bathroom of his choice this year.

    The two seemingly unrelated cases have one thing in common: In each, a Supreme Court justice switched sides to provide a needed fifth vote to preserve the status quo.

    In August, Justice Stephen Breyer broke with liberal colleagues to provide the requisite fifth vote against high school senior Gavin Grimm in what he called “a courtesy” to four conservative justices. Late Thursday, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts did a similar favor, switching sides to stay the execution of inmate Tommy Arthur, convicted in the 1982 murder-for-hire of a woman’s husband.

    The two votes in emergency appeals offer a rare peek behind the curtain about how the high court operates, especially at a time when it is one justice short of its nine-member strength because of the death in February of conservative Antonin Scalia. They could portend a return to a time a generation ago when the court more often halted an execution when only four justices initially wanted to do so.

    Some liberal commentators puzzled over Breyer’s vote on the transgender student’s case in August, because he typically is part of the liberal bloc in civil rights cases. But the court’s last-minute vote to halt the execution may provide an explanation, said Supreme Court lawyer Tom Goldstein.

    “The chief justice seems to have, in a sense, returned the favor for Justice Breyer agreeing to put on hold a ruling in favor of a transgender student,” Goldstein said.

    Goldstein said he sees the votes as a signal to a politically polarized country that the court can still function collegially.

    Providing a fifth vote to halt executions had once been more common, but it’s been less in evidence in recent years. Eight years ago, Breyer complained in another eleventh-hour death penalty appeal that “it is particularly disappointing that no member of the majority has proved willing to provide a courtesy vote for a stay,” even though four justices wanted one.

    Scalia’s death has deprived the court of a vocal opponent of efforts to delay executions. Breyer, on the other hand, has become a more outspoken critic of the death penalty. He was joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in his 2015 opinion in which he concluded after more than 20 years as a justice that the death penalty probably is unconstitutional.

    The issue of courtesy votes arose at Roberts’ 2005 Senate confirmation hearing. Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked Roberts what he would do if four other justices favored blocking an execution.

    Speaking of the court’s requirement for five votes to take action, Leahy asked, “Do you feel, as chief, you should do the courtesy of the rule of five and kick in the fifth one?”

    Roberts was equivocal. “I don’t want to commit to pursue a particular practice. But it obviously makes great sense,” he said.

    Hofstra University law professor Eric Freedman said Roberts’ vote “does indicate a return to a prior practice in capital cases, which is a desirable practice.”

    Courtesy votes grow out of the court’s differing vote requirements. To accept a case for review takes four votes. Issuing a decision or court order needs at least five.

    A courtesy fifth vote could allow the other four to reconsider their views, as Roberts spelled out Thursday when he said Arthur’s appeal “does not merit the court’s review.” Roberts said that perhaps some more time would allow the other justices to “more fully consider the suitability of this case.”

    “It’s a very significant development that shows the justices working together despite their disagreements. The court’s ideological center is trying to bridge the gap between its wings,” Goldstein said.

    The split, now with the possibility of 4-4 tie votes, may have been heightened by the prolonged vacancy in Scalia’s seat. It’s not clear when a ninth justice might be confirmed, and some Senate Republicans have suggested they might never to vote to confirm a nominee of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s if she wins the presidency.

    Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination for Scalia’s seat has been in limbo since March.

    The post Courtesy votes offer evidence justices are working together appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Aaron and Megan Igel, at home in a suburb of Denver. Photo by Judith Graham/STAT

    Aaron and Megan Igel, at home in a suburb of Denver. Photo by Judith Graham/STAT

    DENVER — She wants to live, more than anything. But if her brain tumor returns, Megan Igel wants the freedom to end her life.

    A state ballot measure here in Colorado could give her a measure of control: It would allow physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill adults who request aid in dying.

    Supporters have raised more than $5 million and a September poll found 70 percent of voters back the measure, which would make Colorado the sixth state to allow assisted suicide. (The Washington, D.C., City Council is expected to approve a similar measure later this month.)

    The Catholic Church and other religious groups are fighting back, arguing that it’s “illogical” to for the state to allow some patients to hasten their deaths, even as taxpayers are funding a public health battle against suicide in Colorado.

    The measure has also drawn fire from disability rights advocates — among them, Carrie Ann Lucas, who has lived for years with a progressive neuromuscular disease that has left her reliant on a wheelchair, a ventilator, and a gastronomy tube.

    “We should be legislating to protect the most vulnerable people in our population, not putting them at further risk,” Lucas said.

    READ NEXT: California lawmakers approve physician-assisted suicide

    Megan Igel never expected she’d be in the thick of this controversy — a vote with the power to shape both her work and her life.

    A geriatric physician’s assistant, Igel has watched seniors ready to die linger on in hospice care, often for weeks, until at last their bodies shut down.

    “I wouldn’t want that,” she’s thought many times, abstractly.

    Then, a year ago, after worsening headaches, Igel was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Surgery has bought her time. But it’s an incurable cancer that will recur. Doctors just can’t say when.

    Just before the diagnosis, Igel had helped care for a 25-year-old woman with the same type of brain tumor, an astrocytoma. The patient couldn’t talk or walk after surgery. “I told another physician assistant friend, ‘Don’t let me be like [her], wanting to die, trapped in my body, with no quality of life,’” Iger said.

    That hasn’t happened: Igel, who is 41, recovered well from brain surgery, though she has to pace herself and is often exhausted at the end of the day. She’s cut back on work and started meditating. She prays, and tries to achieve a sense of balance in her life.

    “I wanted my diagnosis to make me a better person, and to learn lessons from it,” she said, sitting in the kitchen of her airy home in a Denver suburb.

    As Igel talked about the future, her eyes teared and her golden retriever came over to nuzzle her. She wants to be brave. But she doesn’t know what lies ahead.

    Ending her life is the last thing Igel wants to do. She has two young daughters she adores, a loving husband, a large circle of friends, and even plans for retirement.

    “I want to live as fully as I can for as long as I can,” Igel said, “but if I get to a point where I don’t have any quality of life and current medications aren’t keeping me comfortable, after consulting with my family and the people I love, I would consider it.”

    Igel has the same type of tumor as Brittany Maynard, an eloquent 29-year-old with terminal cancer who made national headlines when she began speaking out in favor of the right to “death with dignity” in 2014. Later that year, Maynard swallowed a fatal dose of medication.

    Support for assisted suicide swelled.

    “After Brittany there was a sea change — a big national conversation,” said Toni Broaddus, acting director of political affairs for Compassion & Choices, a Denver organization advocating for aid-in-dying measures across the country.

    California voted last year to allow assisted suicide; the new provisions took effect in June. Oregon, Washington, and Vermont have similar laws, and Montana’s Supreme Court has ruled that the practice is legal in that state.

    READ NEXT: What’s the state of assisted suicide laws across the U.S.?

    Colorado’s bill closely tracks the groundbreaking “death with dignity” law passed in Oregon in 1994. It applies to mentally competent adults told by two physicians that they have six months or less to live. Before someone can get a lethal prescription, he or she must make two voluntary verbal requests, 15 days apart, and submit a written request signed by two witnesses.

    Doctors must refer patients to a psychologist or psychiatrist if they suspect depression or other types of mental illness or cognitive impairment. Every case must be reported to state authorities. And coercion is punishable as a felony.

    Still, opponents say there aren’t enough safeguards to prevent abuse. The Denver Post, the state’s largest newspaper, came out in opposition to Proposition 106, calling it problematic and poorly crafted.

    The evangelical group Focus on the Family, headquartered in Colorado Springs, also opposes the measure, arguing that patients may be pushed into suicides to save money. “Doctor-assisted suicide is cheaper than treatment, and that’s dangerous in a profit-driven health care system,” Carrie Gordon Earll, the group’s vice president of public policy, said in a statement.

    Pressure from insurers, health care providers, and family members can be subtle but insidious, said Lucas, who founded Disabled Parent Rights, which provides legal services to parents and children with disabilities.

    “As disabled people, all the time we get the message that your life isn’t worth living,” she said.

    In Colorado’s physician community, there is deep division. The Colorado Medical Society surveyed its members in February; 56 percent favored “physician-assisted suicide” while 35 percent were opposed. The margin was tighter among doctors who frequently treat patients with terminal illnesses: 50 percent in favor, 41 percent opposed.

    The group voted to remain neutral on Proposition 106, but medical societies in Denver, Boulder, and Pueblo chose to endorse the measure.

    That alarms Dr. Alan Rastrelli, medical director of a Catholic hospice in Denver. “We physicians aren’t doing our job if people are suffering at the end of life. We should embrace the means to relieve suffering, not kill the sufferer,” he said.

    Palliative care and hospice care are the answer, not assisted suicide, Rastrelli said. Yet these services are not widely available outside metropolitan areas in Colorado, research indicates.

    On the other side of the divide, Dr. David Hibbard of Boulder, who’s board certified in hospice and palliative care, takes professional and personal comfort from the prospect of aid-in-dying.

    “While a vast majority of patients would benefit from hospice, there are a minority whose suffering can’t be well-addressed,” he said. Sometimes this suffering is physical; sometimes it’s emotional or existential. Addressing this misery is part of his obligation to patients, Hibbard said.

    Hibbard has a personal stake in the debate, too: Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 10 years ago, he uses a cane to walk and can no longer type or write independently. Should the time come when he can’t feed himself, dress himself, use the toilet, or get out of bed, he said he would consider aid-in-dying.

    “It’s an option I would like to have available,” Hibbard said. “I might not use it, but I would certainly be comforted knowing it was available to me.”

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Nov. 4, 2016. Find the original story here.

    The post ‘Death with dignity’ measure in Colorado stirs controversy — and passion appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (R) gives remarks after being endorsed by Sybrina Fulton (L), mother of shooting victim Trayvon Martin, and other families of gun violence victims during a town hall meeting at Central Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina February 23, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX28AFZ

    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (R) gives remarks after being endorsed by Sybrina Fulton (L), mother of shooting victim Trayvon Martin, and other families of gun violence victims during a town hall meeting at Central Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina February 23, 2016. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Black clergy are taking to the pulpits and the streets nationwide this weekend in hopes of energizing black voters ahead of Election Day, aiming to make a difference in the presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

    Many expect a drop in black voter participation this year, primarily because Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, is not on the ballot. His historic candidacy in 2008 and re-election in 2012 helped to fuel record black turnout.

    “Voting, for us, is both a spiritual and a political issue,” said Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and architect of the Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina. Barber will be one of several clergy at the historic Riverside Church in New York City Sunday evening for a revival service to encourage voting on Tuesday.

    In battleground states like Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, other black clergy are extending “Souls to the Polls” efforts for a second weekend to get black churchgoers to cast ballots early or on Election Day. Souls to the Polls events are based around black churches that encourage their parishioners to vote — although they cannot tell them who to support — and try to make it easier for elderly, busy or just reluctant voters to cast ballots.

    The number of African-American voters has increased steadily: 12.9 million in 2000, 14 million in 2004, 16 million in 2008 and 17.8 million in 2012. In the last presidential election year, blacks for the first time voted at a higher rate, 66.2 percent, than did whites, with a rate of 64.1 percent, or Asian-Americans or Hispanics, with rates of about 48 percent each.

    No one expects those numbers for blacks this time around, said Derrick L. McRae, pastor of The Experience Christian Center in Orlando, Florida. “But I’m pretty confident we’re going to show up.”

    Obama will travel to Florida on Sunday to campaign for Clinton and encourage get-out-the-vote efforts. Clinton and Trump will be crisscrossing the country, too, with the Democrat in Michigan as well as Pennsylvania and Ohio and the Republican in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

    Get-out-the-vote efforts are underway outside the churches as well, in vote-rich places like Ohio, where Clinton will appear this weekend with hip-hop mogul Jay Z and other artists who she hopes can persuade black millennials to vote for her.

    At several historically black colleges and universities like North Carolina Central University and Bethune-Cookman University, students have held marches to the polls to encourage early voting not just for president but for other issues they care about.

    “For Floridians the issues of social justice, criminal justice reform and economic parity are also critical,” said Salandra Benton, convener of the Florida National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the Florida Black Women’s Round Table.

    Florida and North Carolina are considered key states for both Trump and Clinton, with the potential to push either of them toward the electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

    In addition to helping people vote, several black churchgoers also plan to monitor polling places to ensure potential voters are not intimidated by anyone trying to depress turnout through trickery or misinformation.

    “If it’s an older woman who’s on a cane, if it’s somebody who’s thirsty, if it’s someone who just needs some encouragement, we’re there to do just that,” said Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia. “And if anyone comes around to do anything that would deter from the free, fair opportunity to vote, we will shut that down.”

    Lawsuits have been filed around the nation over allegations of voting intimidation, including in Ohio where a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against Trump’s campaign and his friend Roger Stone. It says that anyone who engages in intimidation or harassment inside or near Ohio polling places will face contempt of court charges.

    In other states including Michigan, Nevada and Arizona, judges are considering similar complaints.

    The post Black clergy making last second push to get out the vote appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A view of the U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, October 13, 2015. Hearing a death penalty case for the first time since their divisive lethal-injection ruling in June, the nine justices of U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared poised to rule against two brothers challenging their sentences for a Kansas crime spree known as the "Wichita Massacre." REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTS49ZK

    A view of the U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, October 13, 2015. Hearing a death penalty case for the first time since their divisive lethal-injection ruling in June, the nine justices of U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared poised to rule against two brothers challenging their sentences for a Kansas crime spree known as the “Wichita Massacre.” Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    PHOENIX — The U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday reinstated an Arizona law that makes it a felony to collect early ballots, dealing a blow to Democratic get out the vote efforts just days before the presidential election.

    The order from the nation’s highest court overturns an appeals court decision from a day earlier that blocked the new law. Democratic groups had already geared up to begin helping voters deliver their ballots to the polls, and the Supreme Court decision calls into question what happens to ballots they have already legally collected from voters in the approximately 20 hours that the law was blocked.

    Collecting early ballots is especially effective among minority communities. Democrats allege the law hurts minorities’ ability to vote.

    The decision comes just days ahead of a presidential election that has Arizona Democrats hoping to win the traditionally Republican state.

    Arizona filed an emergency appeal hours after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the law Friday. Justice Anthony Kennedy referred the case to the entire Supreme Court, and the court issued a brief order overturning the appeals court. The 9th Circuit will now consider the law in a January session that it set when it blocked the law.

    Republican lawmakers approved the law earlier this year over the objection of minority Democrats. GOP Gov. Doug Ducey called it a common-sense effort to protect the integrity of elections and eliminate voter fraud.

    A split 9th U.S. Circuit panel had said that by blocking the law it was preserving the status quo for Tuesday’s election, which could come down to the wire in Arizona as Democrats spend heavily to get out the vote from Latinos and others angered by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant comments.

    Chief Judge Sidney Thomas wrote that the decision will not add or remove any valid votes. He said the law criminalized delivering someone else’s early ballot, which would still be counted.

    Both parties have used ballot collection to boost turnout during elections by going door to door and asking voters if they have completed their mail-in ballots. Voters who have not are urged to do so, and the volunteers offer to take the ballots to election offices. Democrats, however, use it more effectively.

    The law does not prevent voters’ family members or caregivers from turning in ballots.

    Arizona Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham called Saturday’s decision a smart one since the law has been in effect since before the August primary.

    Leaving the 9th Circuit decision in place “does nothing more than confuse the voters.”

    He criticized Democratic groups for rushing to collect ballots on Friday, saying they compromised people who may trust them to deliver their vote to the polls.

    The post Supreme Court reinstates Arizona ballot collection ban appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Tens of thousands of South Korean people chant slogans during a rally calling on embattled President Park Geun-hye to resign over a growing influence-peddling scandal in central Seoul, South Korea, November 5, 2016. The placards read, "Step down Park Geun-hye". Photo By Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

    Tens of thousands of South Korean people chant slogans during a rally calling on embattled President Park Geun-hye to resign over a growing influence-peddling scandal in central Seoul, South Korea, November 5, 2016. The placards read, “Step down Park Geun-hye”. Photo By Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

    More than 40,000 people flooded into the streets in South Korea’s capital city of Seoul on Saturday to demand the resignation of the country’s president, who is embroiled in a corruption scandal.

    The mass of protesters called for President Park Geun-hye to step down after she admitted her close friend and daughter of a religious cult leader, Choi Soon-sil, wielded influence over her decisions during her nearly four years in office.

    Choi was arrested Thursday for fraud and abuse of power for allegedly using her connection to the president to solicit tens of millions in donations to her foundation, among other charges, including using her influence to help select the president’s aides. Two of Park’s aides were also detained, one of whom is accused of leaking classified information, Reuters reported.

    South Korean President Park Geun-Hye speaks during an address to the nation, at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on November 4, 2016. Pohoto By Ed Jones/Reuters

    South Korean President Park Geun-Hye speaks during an address to the nation, at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on November 4, 2016. Pohoto By Ed Jones/Reuters

    With her approval rating plummeting to just 5 percent and crowds swelling to levels not seen since 2008, Park addressed the nation on television Friday for the second time since last week, stating that she leaned on Choi for guidance and allowed her to edit policy speeches.

    “I cut off all ties with my family members out of fear of unfortunate incidents,” Park said. “I had no one nearby to help me with personal matters, so I turned to Choi Soon-sil for help.”

    Last week, Park ordered several of her top advisers to resign and issued her first televised apology to her constituents, admitting she gave “some documents” to Choi.

    Park, who has 14 months left in her five-year term, would become the first president in the country’s history to leave office should she decide to step down, according to Reuters.

    The post Protests grow in South Korea amid president’s corruption scandal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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