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

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    A man walks in a public park on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, November 2, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi - RTX2RHUE

    A man walks in a public park on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, November 2, 2016. Photo by Adnan Abidi/Reuters

    Delhi closed more than 1,700 schools on Friday and Saturday because air pollution there is too dangerous for children’s vulnerable lungs.

    This is the hardest time of year to breathe inside India’s capital because a number of issues exacerbate air pollution to a peak and help it settle into a low-lying haze. The air is cool, moist and stagnant — an ideal sponge for exhaust from more than 5 million vehicles, soot from relentless firecrackers for Diwali (the festival of lights) and crop burning from surrounding farmland, among other pollutants.

    It can trigger asthma, send people to the hospital and is the leading environmental cause of premature death, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

    Labourers work on the roof of a residential complex on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, November 2, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi - RTX2RHUH

    Laborers work on the roof of a residential complex on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, November 2, 2016. Photo by Adnan Abidi/Reuters

    On Thursday, the nonprofit Centre for Science and Environment cited hourly averages of the finest particulate matter, which the WHO considers the most hazardous, of as much as 36 times the WHO’s suggested limit. The WHO says a daily average should not exceed 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air and that this matter can lodge deep into the cardiovascular system. In Delhi, hourly averages have reached as high as 900.

    “Delhi needs strong action to protect people from such deadly exposure,” the center’s head of air pollution Anumita Roychowdhury said in a statement. “Without strong action smog is only expected to get worse this winter at serious public health costs.”

    But for Roychowdhury and many others, this is an annual contention.

    An investigation by the national English daily the Indian Express last year compiled 15 key studies over 18 years that warned of the devastating health effects the pollution was having on its residents, but they rarely led to policy changes.

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

    In 2005, NASA published aerial photos of the smog and fog so thick that it prevented planes from arriving at or leaving the airport.

    In March 2009, the Central Pollution Control Board of India declared Delhi “India’s Asthma Capital.

    And when politicians responded to international attention for the graphic images, they cited many changes they planned to make.

    Security personnel stand guard in front of the India Gate amidst the heavy smog in New Delhi, India, October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi - RTX2R4NJ

    Security personnel stand guard in front of the India Gate amidst the heavy smog in New Delhi, India, October 31, 2016. Photo by Adnan Abidi/Reuters

    In November of 2012, then-Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit ordered a crackdown on polluting vehicles.

    “We have asked the pollution committees and scientists to find out what is happening so that such a scenario is not repeated in future, especially if it can be avoided,’’ Dikshit told The Hindu newspaper.

    But in the following year, citations from the transportation department fell instead. As the body of research grew, Delhi continued to compete, often with Beijing, for the dubious title of having the world’s worst air quality.

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

    Regardless, Delhi’s problem is widespread. The World Health Organization in September attributed some 3 million deaths a year to outdoor air pollution.

    It stated that nearly 90 percent of them were in low- and middle-income countries, with nearly two out of three in Southeast Asia and Western Pacific regions.

    Birds are seen on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton - RTX2R4NE

    Birds are seen on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, October 31, 2016. Photo by Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

    “Solutions exist with sustainable transport in cities, solid waste management, access to clean household fuels and cook-stoves, as well as renewable energies and industrial emissions reductions,” said Dr. Maria Neira, WHO’s director of public health, in a statement.

    India relies mostly on coal power to bolster its rapidly-growing economy. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invested heavily in solar as an alternative, the country anticipates benefiting from a fund outlined in the Paris climate pact. Under the agreement, rich countries have pledged $100 billion a year to help poorer ones grow.

    Policemen are seen in a public park on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton - RTX2R4ND

    Policemen are seen in a public park on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, October 31, 2016. Photo by Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

    “Finance and technology are the two things that we’re really desperately looking for,” Aditya Pundir, manager of the Indian branch of the nonprofit Climate Reality Project, told Climate Central. “The biggest help the country can get today is if we can get the right amount of finance.”

    Leaders from Delhi and its surrounding states are meeting Monday to talk about air quality, following complaints from a national court about their negligence.

    The post Photos: Delhi’s air pollution closes hundreds of schools, renews alarms appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he will oppose the Iran nuclear deal. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    Election Day will determine whether Sen. Chuck Schumer leads a Democratic majority in the Senate or a minority. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The Democratic Party’s fault lines have been overshadowed by the near civil war within the GOP. But Democrats will face their own divisions after Election Day, and the battle over the party’s heart, soul and future may well play out on the floor of the Senate, under direction of a new Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer.

    It’s a challenge the canny, 65-year-old New Yorker has been eyeing for years. When Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced his retirement, Schumer managed to leapfrog Reid’s No. 2, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and sew up the necessary support from fellow Democrats to claim the job.

    Tuesday’s election will determine whether Schumer leads a Democratic majority in the Senate, or a minority if Republicans manage to defend their 54-46 seat advantage. If the GOP does keep Senate control, it will be despite Schumer’s constant maneuvering and more than $8 million in campaign money he raised or donated to Democrats.

    And whether it’s Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump who is elected president, Schumer will have a fellow New Yorker in the White House. With Clinton, they could resume the partnership they forged while serving together as senators.

    Regardless of those outcomes it may be the dynamics within Schumer’s own Democratic caucus that occupy him the most.

    The party’s resurgent liberal wing, exemplified by Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, will be ready for a fight. But a group of Democratic senators representing red states, including Indiana, West Virginia, Montana and North Dakota, will be up for re-election in 2018, potentially exerting pressure from the opposite direction.

    All that could leave Schumer in the position of key deal-maker in what’s likely to be a new era of divided government in Washington.

    “I tell our caucus we need a strong progressive wing and we need a strong moderate wing to succeed,” Schumer said in an interview.

    “We have a moral imperative to work together and get things done,” he said. “I have told my caucus I don’t want to simply put bills on the floor that our side votes for and their side votes against, or their side votes for and our side votes against, and we accomplish nothing.”

    Such sentiments are likely to be welcomed by lawmakers in both parties frustrated with gridlock, which has been exacerbated by frosty relations between Reid and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

    In their most recent legislative session, lawmakers spent weeks tied in knots over a straightforward spending bill to keep the lights on in government past Election Day. That’s nothing compared to what awaits next year, when the Senate will have to contend with monumental tasks including confirming a Supreme Court nominee and raising the government’s borrowing limit.

    Schumer can count supporters in both parties who say his practical tendencies will serve him well navigating those issues and working with McConnell.

    “They’re both pragmatists. They’re both partisan, but they respect the Senate as an institution,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

    Talkative and publicity-prone, forever working his flip phone, Schumer is almost as well-known for his ability to attract media attention as he is for his stewardship of home-state interests.

    As head of a committee involved with inaugural planning, Schumer used a solo limo ride with President Barack Obama on his second inauguration to bend the president’s ear about projects that needed doing in New York State, according to someone who heard the anecdote. He is known for setting up his aides on dates and marriages, and singing the joys of parenthood.

    Yet Schumer is also seen as overly self-serving at times, with some accusing him of putting his own political interests first. There’s been grousing from Democrats this year that Schumer spent millions on his own re-election campaign in New York, including to film an ad with a cow, even though he faces mostly token opposition and the money could have gone to support Senate Democratic candidate Rep. Patrick Murphy in Florida.

    “The lesson to politicians is if the Democratic Party tells you they got your back, they don’t,” said John Morgan, a Democratic donor in Florida who blames Schumer for Murphy’s likely loss to incumbent GOP Sen. Marco Rubio.

    Democrats have defended their decision-making on Florida, pointing to the expense of running ads in the state compared to potential opportunities elsewhere.

    Schumer was a lead player in negotiating the bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate in 2013 but stalled in the House. During that process he talked occasionally to Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who was working behind the scenes on the issue.

    The prospect of action on immigration is exceedingly unlikely if Republicans remain in control of the House. But Schumer struck an optimistic note about working with Ryan, now the House speaker. “He’s far more conservative than I am, but he wants to get things done, as I do,” Schumer said.

    If Democrats take the Senate majority, Schumer may face an early test on the Supreme Court. He won’t say if he favors unilateral action, pushed by liberals, to eliminate the ability of Republicans to use endless delaying tactics to block a nominee. “I’m not going to talk about that ’til after the election,” Schumer said.

    The post Senate majority or not, Dems turn to hard-charging Schumer appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The #NeverTrump app helps people trade votes for Clinton in swing states for third-party votes. Photo by Karla Murthy

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    By Mori Rothman and Karla Murthy

    KARLA MURTHY: 25-year-old Sadiq Khan is a Hillary Clinton supporter, but he doesn’t think his vote matters much, because he lives in New Jersey, a state that’s voted Democratic in the last six presidential elections… and is expected to do so again on Tuesday.

    SADIQ KHAN: Growing up in school, you learn about how it’s a civic duty to show up at the polls and have your voice heard. But in my young voting history, I’ve been involved in two president elections now. And it almost always seems like in New Jersey, it’s always solid blue. And no matter even if I voted or not, you know, my vote, my voice really doesn’t count.

    KARLA MURTHY: Now meet 23-year-old Anlin Wang. He prefers Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

    ANLIN WANG: Her platform stands for more of the direction I would like to see U.S. politics go in.

    KARLA MURTHY: Any third party whose candidate gets five percent of the national popular vote qualifies for federal funding. But Wang lives in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, and he worries a vote for Stein instead of Clinton could help Donald Trump win his state.

    ANLIN WANG: Because I live in PA rather than one of those safe states, right, like, there is an exponentially greater chance that my vote could be the one that makes that difference.

    KARLA MURTHY: Anlin Wang and Sadiq Khan had never met before, but they are trying to solve each other’s dilemmas by using a strategy called vote swapping.

    Here’s how it works. On one side, you have a voter in a closely fought battleground state like Pennsylvania who supports a third party candidate — in this case Green Party candidate Jill Stein. On the other side, you have a voter in a “safe” state… like New Jersey who supports Hillary Clinton. They then persuade each other to vote for their preferred candidate… essentially swapping their votes.

    A handful of vote swapping websites, apps, and Facebook groups have sprung up this election year connecting voters from all over the country.

    Sadiq Khan read about a vote trading app called #NeverTrump. He downloaded it onto his phone and joined a message group.

    SADIQ KHAN: And you would post on the forum and identify who you were gonna vote for, where you’re from and if you were willing to trade.

    KARLA MURTHY: In Pennsylvania, Anlin Wang also read about the app and joined the group, which has nearly 10,000 active users.

    ANLIN WANG: I just made a post there. And said, “I live in PA. Willing to trade my vote.

    SADIQ KHAN: Quickly realized that we’d be good trading partners.

    KARLA MURTHY: Khan agreed to vote for Jill Stein in New Jersey, and Wang, for Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania. Both see this as a win.

    SADIQ KHAN: Anlin in Pennsylvania is able to make sure that, you know, his vote for Jill Stein is being cast. And I was using this process to almost amplify my voice and make it heard in a way that actually matters.

    KARLA MURTHY: Two advocates of vote swapping are John Stubbs and Ricardo Reyes, both republicans who worked in the George W Bush administration. They wrote a New York Times op-ed in September appealing to fellow republicans in safe states to swap their votes with people in battleground states.

    RICARDO REYES: People were telling us that they were gonna stay home because their vote didn’t matter. That makes no sense.

    JOHN STUBBS: If you live in California, your vote is gonna count in a state that does not have as much influence as Ohio or Florida or Pennsylvania. We need to figure out a system that allows everyone to participate fully.

    KARLA MURTHY: Reyes and Stubbs launched a vote trading website called “TrumpTraders’ which has over 20,000 users.

    JOHN STUBBS: You tell us who you are voting for, tell us where you live and you give us your email address.

    KARLA MURTHY: They then find you a partner to swap votes with.

    JOHN STUBBS: There’s no contract. It’s just the honor code, and it’s more than just the honor code. It’s me talking to you. It’s me talking to my friends in Florida and Ohio

    KARLA MURTHY: Their website also offers a two for one special. For example, if you want to vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson and you live in Ohio, they’ll find you two Clinton voters in a safe state like California to switch with you.

    RICARDO REYES: Hopefully one day there will be more options for voters. But at the end of the day anything that isn’t a vote for Trump or a vote for Hillary is a protest vote. And what he or she wants is representation. Maximum representation for this third party or for those points of views or for the values of that third party. And so this mechanism actually is very good for that.

    KARLA MURTHY: It sounds like something that should be illegal.

    JOHN STUBBS: It’s not.

    KARLA MURTHY: In fact, in 2007, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that vote swapping websites are protected free speech under the first amendment because nothing of monetary value is being exchanged.

    The case goes back to the 2000 presidential election, when vote trading websites sought to get battleground state supporters of then-Green Party nominee Ralph Nader to swap their votes with Al Gore supporters in safe states.

    KARLA MURTHY: But you’re encouraging voters, encouraging people to trade votes from people who live across the country from each other. I mean, is that really the way our democracy is supposed to work?

    JOHN STUBBS: Absolutely. In a national election where the outcome affects us all exactly the same? This is a national election. Just because we have an electoral college system that was designed when we were still sending mail by pony doesn’t mean that we can’t upgrade our own expression of preference. We have the technology that allows people to communicate by pushing a button on something they carry around in their pocket. Why wouldn’t we be taking advantage of that?

    KARLA MURTHY: Last weekend, Sadiq Khan and Anlin Wang decided to meet in person, and mail their absentee ballots together.

    But we won’t know what difference, if any, these vote swappers will have until Election Day.

    The post These apps help people trade votes to boost Clinton in swing states appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Donald Trump supporter disrupts remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama at a Hillary for America campaign event at the Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S., November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX2RZ6R

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    REV. WILLIAM BARBER: Well, I woke up this morning with my mind… stayed on freedom…

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In downtown Asheville, on the western edge of North Carolina, the Reverend William Barber’s gathering is as much revival as rally.

    WILLIAM BARBER: I’m telling you, in this time, you better, we better vote now.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: He’s the president of the North Carolina NAACP and an outspoken, progressive preacher. These days his benediction is a battle cry.

    WILLIAM BARBER: Every time movements have exercised their faith and done what we’re supposed to do, evil is shut down, and God shows up.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Barber is at the vanguard of a new North Carolina, trying to unite progressive white voters with black and Latino voters. That coalition propelled Barack Obama to a victory here in 2008. It’s the same coalition Hillary Clinton needs to win.

    WILLIAM BARBER: That will be the saving grace of this democracy — our diversity united in a way that is transformed into political and moral power.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Last week in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, First Lady Michelle Obama implored the coalition that voted for her husband, to heed Barber’s call to vote.

    MICHELLE OBAMA: If Hillary doesn’t win this election, that will be on us. It will be because we did not stand with her.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In 2008, Obama became the first Democrat to carry North Carolina since Jimmy Carter. The backlash followed. In 2012, Obama lost to Mitt Romney, and Republicans won the governor’s mansion and both houses of the state legislature. They passed laws that increased voter ID requirements. Barber led the push to repeal them, and a federal appeals court agreed, saying they “targeted African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” He continues to fight what he calls ongoing voter suppression and widespread racism.

    WILLIAM BARBER: You ever notice you didn’t hear anything about fraud until all the people voted for President Obama. You never hear anything until black people started voting at 69 and 70 percent.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: If Clinton’s going to win, she will have to revitalize the Obama coalition. 61-year-old Democrat Tyrone Greenlee is as much pro-Clinton as anti-Trump.

    TYRONNE GREENLEE: He is threatening to drag us back to a place that is unfair and inequitable for people of color and women and those who are undocumented and for so many segments of society, and I think that Hillary understands justice for all.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: But Clinton has struggled to inspire enthusiasm among Democratic voters like Dan Perlmutter. He voted for Bernie Sanders and plans to vote for Green party candidate Jill Stein over Clinton.

    DAN PERLMUTTER: Everybody is saying Donald Trump is bullying her and stuff. But you know, he’s asking tough questions that she won’t answer.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: To try and overcome those doubts, Barber appeals to morality. He believes the coalition can help create another civil rights movement.

    WILLIAM BARBER: I see Black and White and young and old and gay and straight coming together, and Latinos, I know that the South is rising again for a fresh transformation.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: For Hillary Clinton to win North Carolina, it will not only be because she reenergized the same coalition of black, young, and urban, educated white voters. It will also be because she convinced enough white voters outside of North Carolina cities, like here, in the Appalachian Mountains.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Nestled in these mountains is Watauga County, where rivers meander through fall colors…County Commissioner Perry Yates is running for re-election.

    PERRY YATES: I’m Christian, I’m conservative, then I’m Republican.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: He believes Donald Trump can fix what he calls a broken system.

    PERRY YATES: The reason people are supporting Mr. Trump is they’re tired of status quo. We’ve tried Republicans, we’ve tried Democrats. And he’s an alternative that appeals.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In the local diner–Thompson’s Seafood and Country Cooking–Yates goes table to table.

    PERRY YATES: I’m a conservative. I don’t waste your money.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Out here, politics is so local, he gives his cell phone number out to constituents he’s just met.

    PERRY YATES: You call me anytime you need me.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In this county, registered Independents outnumber registered Democrats and Republicans. 95 percent of residents are white, according to the census. For Donald Trump to win the state, he needs to counteract the Obama coalition by inspiring a huge turnout here.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: But that appeal could be depressed by registered Republicans like the Greenes, who say Trump doesn’t align with their conservative beliefs.

    TONY GREENE: Some of his thoughts in the past have not necessarily balanced out with those values, so I’m not sure that he is a true conservative.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: His wife, Terry, worries about Trump’s temperament.

    TERRY GREENE: When he can’t even keep it together during a debate, and in control, how is he going to do that in the heat of a serious political conversation?

    NICK SCHIFRIN: To counteract those doubts, Trump has campaigned in North Carolina by trying to speak to residents who feel their livelihoods are threatened. In Watauga County, the poverty rate is nearly double the national average.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Trump supporter Lester Allentrivette, who’s behind the register, hoped to retire this year. Instead, he’s working two jobs to pay his bills.

    LESTER ALLENTRIVETTE: When they are forced to have to sell their property to pay their taxes, they feel unwelcome because they just can’t afford to hang on.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: They believe Trump can fix an economy and a government that haven’t improved their lives.

    PERRY YATES: Hope and change came along, and we’re deeper in debt. Then the Congress came around and said we’re going to turn this around, and we’re deeper in debt.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: That message seemed to stick with some early voters we met in Boone, Watauga County’s largest town.

    TIM WILSON: I’m fed up with both parties. With the lying and the deceptions.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Republican Tim Wilson wants Trump to follow through on a promise to press for Congressional term limits.

    TIM WILSON: He may not be able to install them, but he would have a lot of influence on getting them installed. And I think the American people would vote for that. They’re fed up. Because everybody I talk to is fed up.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Kim Roberts is a registered Independent who split her ticket — voting for some Democrats down ballot but for Trump over Clinton.

    KIM ROBERTS: I wish I didn’t have to vote for either of them, but in the long run, I think he’ll do less harm than she would.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Elizabeth McKinney is a pro-abortion rights Democrat who went for Clinton.

    ELIZABETH MCKINNEY: I voted for her because I believe she supports women’s rights. I believe she is more fair and equal. And I don’t trust Donald Trump.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: North Carolina’s rifts have made this state as divided as ever. Hillsborough, outside Raleigh-Durham, once prided itself on its civility.

    DANIEL ASHLEY: Hillary Clinton, I mean, she’s been proved to be a liar and a liar and a liar over again.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Daniel Ashley is the local Republican chairman. He believes Clinton is dishonest and corrupt, and that Trump speaks to three important Republican values.

    DANIEL ASHLEY: Economics, abortion issue, all the way down to being strong on defense.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: It was his party headquarters that was vandalized last month with a message, “Nazi Republicans, Leave Town or Else…” Then the office was firebombed.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: It got so hot in here, this is plastic and it’s all melted. And look how much soot is on the wall.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Evelyn Poole-Kober is the vice chair. She has worked in politics since the early 60s.

    EVELYN POOLE-KOBER: If we had gone by that sign that was written on the wall—and we’re not Nazis. We’re not haters. If we had let that sign intimidate us, we would just be giving in to hate.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Sympathetic Democrats raised almost 13-thousand dollars to rebuild this office. In this season of discontent, perhaps Poole-Kober speaks for both sides, when she appeals to grace.

    EVELYN POOLE-KOBER: I silently prayed that the person, or people who did this, that I could forgive them, and that they could come to some better understanding of our political process.

    The post As election approaches, taking North Carolina’s pulse appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Melania Trump, wife of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, waves as she arrives to speak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTSIMT8

    Melania Trump, wife of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, waves as she arrives to speak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 18, 2016. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Melania Trump was paid for 10 modeling jobs in the United States worth $20,056 that occurred in the seven weeks before she had legal permission to work in the country, according to detailed accounting ledgers, contracts and related documents from 20 years ago provided to The Associated Press.

    The details of Mrs. Trump’s early paid modeling work in the U.S. emerged in the final days of a bitter presidential campaign in which her husband, Donald Trump, has taken a hard line on immigration laws and those who violate them. Trump has proposed broader use of the government’s E-verify system allowing employers to check whether job applicants are authorized to work. He has noted that federal law prohibits illegally paying immigrants.

    Mrs. Trump, who received a green card in March 2001 and became a U.S. citizen in 2006, has always maintained that she arrived in the country legally and never violated the terms of her immigration status. During the presidential campaign, she has cited her story to defend her husband’s hard line on immigration.

    The wife of the GOP presidential nominee, who sometimes worked as a model under just her first name, has said through an attorney that she first came to the U.S. from Slovenia on Aug. 27, 1996, on a B1/B2 visitor visa and then obtained an H-1B work visa on Oct. 18, 1996.

    The documents obtained by the AP show she was paid for 10 modeling assignments between Sept. 10 and Oct. 15, during a time when her visa allowed her generally to be in the U.S. and look for work but not perform paid work in the country. The documents examined by the AP indicate that the modeling assignments would have been outside the bounds of her visa.

    [Watch Video]

    It is highly unlikely that the discovery will affect the citizenship status of Mrs. Trump. The government can seek to revoke the U.S. citizenship of immigrants after the fact in cases when it determines a person willfully misrepresented or concealed facts relevant to his naturalization. But the government effectively does this in only the most egregious cases, such as instances involving terrorism or war crimes.

    The disclosures about the payments come as Mrs. Trump takes on a more substantial role advocating for her husband’s candidacy. She made her first speech in months Thursday, in which she spoke of her time working as a model in Europe and her decision to come to the U.S.

    “As a young entrepreneur, I wanted to follow my dream to a place where freedom and opportunity were in abundance. So of course, I came here,” she said. “Living and working in America was a true blessing, but I wanted something more. I wanted to be an American.”

    The documents obtained by the AP included ledgers, other accounting documents and a management agreement signed by Mrs. Trump from Metropolitan International Management that covered parts of 1996 and 1997. The AP obtained the files this week after seeking copies since August from employees of the now-defunct modeling firm, after Mrs. Trump made comments earlier this summer that appeared inconsistent with U.S. immigration rules.

    A New York immigration lawyer whom Mrs. Trump asked to review her immigration documents, Michael J. Wildes, also reviewed some of the ledgers at AP’s request. Wildes said in a brief statement that “these documents, which have not been verified, do not reflect our records including corresponding passport stamps.” He did not elaborate or answer additional questions asking for clarification. Wilde appeared to be referring to Mrs. Trump’s arrival in the United States on Aug. 27, 1996, one day after the ledgers list a charge for car service to pick up Mrs. Trump from the airport. Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks also did not answer additional written questions from the AP.

    Since questions arose earlier this year, Mrs. Trump has declined to publicly release her immigration records. Wildes, the immigration lawyer, released a letter in September that laid out the details of what he said Mrs. Trump’s immigration records show, including a seven-week window in which Mrs. Trump was in the U.S. before her work visa was issued.

    During that seven-week period, the ledgers list modeling work for clients that included Fitness magazine and Bergdorf Goodman department store. The management agreement, which said it was not an employment agreement, included a handwritten date of Aug. 27, 1996. The top of the document said it was “made and entered into as of this 4th day of September 1996.”

    [Watch Video]

    Many of the documents were part of a legal dispute related to the dissolution of the firm in the late 1990s and found recently in storage. The accounting ledgers for the firm’s models were listed on hundreds of pages of continuously fed paper that appeared yellowed with age. They were authenticated by a former employee who worked at the firm at the time. The employee spoke on condition of anonymity because this person feared retaliation and threats from Trump’s presidential campaign.

    Exhibit markings with the records were also consistent with documents filed in New York state court, including a deposition of one former partner that referred to the same exhibit number. The sworn testimony describing the exhibit’s content matches the documents obtained by the AP.

    A former partner, Paolo Zampolli, who previously told the AP that he recruited Mrs. Trump to come to the U.S. as a model, confirmed that the contract language was used by his firm and his signature appeared on the document. Mrs. Trump’s signature on the contract resembled her signature on her marriage license recorded in 2005. Asked about the two dates on the document, Zampolli said he usually vacationed in Europe each August and likely arranged for the contract to be formally executed when he returned to New York after Labor Day, even though Mrs. Trump had signed it eight days earlier.

    Zampolli previously told the AP that Mrs. Trump obtained a work visa before she modeled professionally in the United States. He said the ledgers for Mrs. Trump were consistent with printouts used by his firm at the time, but he would not personally vouch for them because he said money matters were handled by the company’s chief financial officer, who has since died.

    Zampolli said he did not recall Mrs. Trump working without legal permission. “Honestly, I don’t know. It’s like 20 years ago,” he said. “The contract looks (like) a real one and the standard one.”

    Foreigners are not allowed to use a visitor visa to work for pay in the U.S. for American companies. Doing so would violate the terms of that visa and could prohibit a foreigner from later changing his or her immigration status in the U.S. or bar the foreigner from the United States again without special permission to come back. The E-verify system started in 1997— after Mrs. Trump came to the country— and was dramatically expanded after 2007.

    Some ledgers obtained by the AP identify Mrs. Trump by her professional name and detail her involvement with the modeling agency from July 18, 1996, through Sept. 26, 1997. Other documents from the same accounting ledgers identify Mrs. Trump as Melanija Knaus and list $20,526 in gross earnings for the period before she was granted her work visa on Oct. 18, 1996. The documents also show the modeling company paid for her rent, lent her money and paid for her pager.

    Some ledgers were first made available to True.Ink, an online lifestyle publication, and then independently obtained and verified by the AP.

    Metropolitan International Management managed the careers of about 65 women in 1996 and 1997, according to court records. It paid the women as independent contractors, collecting a 20 percent commission and deducting expenses. The ledger shows that the firm also deducted federal taxes from the models’ gross earnings, including Mrs. Trump’s.

    Alicia A. Caldwell, Chad Day and Jake Pearson of the Associated Press wrote this report. Pearson reported from New York.

    The post Melania Trump modeled in U.S. prior to getting work visa appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Supporters hold campaign signs as they wait for the arrival of U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during a rally in Pembroke Pines, Florida U.S., November 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTX2S2N9

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEEKEND ANCHOR: Joining me now from Tallahassee to discuss the battle for Florida is Mary Ellen Klas. She’s the capital bureau chief for the “Miami Herald” and co- bureau chief for the “Tampa Bay Times.”

    Mary Ellen, so who’s left at this point? Who are Trump and Clinton courting while spending all this time in Florida these last three days?

    MARY ELLEN KLAS, MIAMI HERALD: Well, it is pretty clear that both of them are working — Trump is working to win Florida, which he needs it. And Clinton is working to win Florida to keep it from Trump because without Florida, it’s very unlikely he has a path to the White House. It is — it looks as though the early voting numbers indicate that Democrats might have the edge because even though it’s — we’ve got about 40 percent of Democrats, early voters showing up, 40 percent Republicans, and the bulk are no party affiliated, those “no party affiliated” voters more than half of them are first-time voters and a majority of them are Hispanic. And that may swing things as an advantage for Clinton.

    ALISON STEWART: What’s changed about the demographics in Florida in the past four years that would have an impact this time around?

    MARY ELLEN KLAS: Well, Florida has gained a lot of population. You know, 1.4 million people have moved to Florida. And more than half of those new people however, have been Hispanics. And they have — many of them are Puerto Ricans, and unlike people from other Latin American countries, when Puerto Ricans come to Florida, they can register to vote immediately because they’re citizens.

    So, we have watched as the number of Hispanics grow and the unique thing, is they are the ones that are turning out this election cycle, I think that there’s a chance that Hispanics could do for Hillary Clinton in Florida what blacks did in 2008 for Barack Obama, and that is hand her the state.

    The other demographic group that emerged and continues to grow are retirees. They tend to be white, and they have moved to the center of the state in retirement communities. And they are the ones that I think Trump is counting on to be his reliable voters

    ALISON STEWART: There are a few big ballot initiatives in Florida. There’s one for legalizing medical marijuana. There’s one dealing with solar power, a couple of tax exemptions. Do any of those initiatives, are any them driving people to the polls? And if so, who would they drive to the polls?

    MARY ELLEN KLAS: Well, I do think the medical marijuana initiative is one that is driving people. That has overwhelming support, according to the public opinion polls.

    The other amendment is being pursued by the utility companies, and it’s really designed — it was kind of designed as a defense mechanism against another amendment that never made it to the ballot. Now that it’s on the ballot and they did use it to put language in that will limit roof top solar expansion, or could potentially limit it, there are a lot of solar advocates that are motivated to vote because they want to vote against that amendment.

    It’s hard to tell who that will advantage, though. I think when you talk about marijuana — medical marijuana, there are people on both sides — Clinton supporters and Trump supporters — who feel strongly on that — about that issue. And I think it’s — when it comes to the solar amendment, that seems to be a Democrat issue that many Democrats have aligned with, and Democrat supporters. But it also has a tremendous support in Florida among Tea Party conservatives, and sort of people who don’t want the utilities to be telling them what they can put on their roofs.

    ALISON STEWART: Mary Ellen Klas, thanks for joining us from Tallahassee.

    MARY ELLEN KLAS: You’re welcome.

    The post What issues are motivating Florida voters? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Caper white butterflies are fluttering through southeast Queensland, Australia, in a large-scale migration, according to Australian media reports.

    The Brisbane Times reported “hundreds of millions” of butterflies are migrating west of the Great Dividing Range, which is the third-longest stretch of mountains in the world, in order to lay their eggs and find food. It is not uncommon to see butterflies around this time of year in Queensland, but a migration of this scale only occurs every six to 10 years, according to The Courier-Mail.

    Brisbane butterfly farmer Ross Kendall told The Courier-Mail that a substantial amount of rainfall occurring in the West increased the number of butterflies in the migration.

    Dr. Chris Burwell, senior curator at the Queensland Museum, told a local Brisbane station that warm conditions, in addition to rain, encouraged the butterflies’ mass breeding. Burwell also pointed to wind conditions as having enabled the butterflies to travel farther than usual.

    The Caper White butterflies are mostly white, but have distinct black veins running through the wings and around the edges. Bribie Island butterfly breeder Ray Archer told the Brisbane Times that the butterflies each lay 60 to 100 eggs on caper bushes, and that, once the eggs hatch, the caterpillars then devour the plants.

    Burwell said that the “butterfly migration will continue for another week but it won’t be a huge amount of time.”

    Australians took to social media to convey their excitement.

    #brisbanebutterflies #butterfly #mybackyard #nofilter #brisbane #qld #australia

    A photo posted by Bec (@gypsy_becsta) on

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    Illustration by Mike Reddy/STAT

    Illustration by Mike Reddy/STAT

    On Nov. 4, 2008, I watched with friends as Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. The future was here. The Oval Office was open to someone like me. It was one of the most pivotal days in my life as African-American, and I had nothing to do with making it happen. I hadn’t voted.

    At the time I remember feeling so bogged down, burned out, and borderline depressed by my premed courses at Harvard College, I was simply trying to survive. I knew what was happening in the world, but in my slog toward becoming a doctor, I had no energy left for anything, even a historic election.

    My health and poor well-being kept me from fully participating in the political process. As person of privilege, I realize now that if this could happen to me, it could also happen to my patients at the public hospital where I work.

    Poor health can keep us from the polls, and in advance of Tuesday’s election, I wanted to do something about it. Health professionals can protect their patients’ right to vote.

    In 2012, only 56.5 percent of Americans who were eligible to vote did, according to the US Census. For those who didn’t, illness and disability were major contributing factors. Nearly 40 percent of non-voters making under $50,000 and nearly half of all elderly non-voters said health reasons kept them from the polls, according to Bloomberg.

    Based on federal data on emergency room visits and admissions, I calculate that 1.9 million Americans will visit an emergency room in the five days leading up to the election. In those five days, about 222,000 will be admitted, and their average stay will be about five days.

    This means that at any hospital in America come Tuesday, a registered voter who did not submit an early ballot is at risk of missing their opportunity to vote. That number grows when you include the number of people who were healthy enough to be discharged from the hospital, but not healthy enough to get to the polls. This is alarming — patients in low-income communities have higher rates of hospitalization and longer stays compared to wealthier patients from more affluent communities.

    This is an issue of social justice, and at my hospital, where we provide care for low-income and vulnerable populations with poorer health than the rest of the community, some of us health professionals are taking action.

    The Social Justice Coalition at Cambridge Health Alliance is combating this unrecognized and insidious form of voter suppression by educating hospitalized patients about their opportunities to vote. I am a cofounder of the organization.

    Here in Massachusetts, after several calls and a lot of time poring over the laws, I figured out with some help that patients registered to vote can fill out an official absentee ballot application indicating that they have been newly hospitalized within five days of the election. The form lets patients request that an absentee ballot be hand-delivered by an election official or a designated proxy, like a family member or friend. We started on Thursday providing patients with the official forms and helping them contact their local election officials.

    Many states have last-minute absentee ballot provisions for medical emergencies. In Virginia, for example, if an eligible voter becomes ill or hospitalized before an election, he or she can vote via emergency absentee ballot. In California, the laws are similar to ours in Massachusetts — proxies, including hospital volunteers, can pick up ballots at election offices on Election Day.

    The Social Justice Coalition’s mission is simple: honor the intrinsic and indisputable worth of all people. Promote equity across all domains. Improve the social, cultural, economic, environmental, and political health of the communities we serve.

    Empowering hospitalized patients to vote is part of that mission. Michelle Obama said this recently about New Hampshire in the 2012 election: “The difference between winning and losing this state was only 66 votes per precinct. Just take that in. If 66 people each precinct had gone the other way, Barack would have lost.”

    In sickness and in health, our voices are important.

    The other cofounder of our organization, Dr. James B. McKenzie, sees it like this: “Voting is the method by which we select the people to decide upon the laws that govern our country, so efforts to remove people from this process are creating a system that will be less responsive to the needs of those people.”

    He said we need to fight all forms of voter suppression and counter systems that disempower and decrease the democratic impact of our patients.

    We are fast approaching another historic election. For the first time, a woman will be on the ballot for president, and once again we have the opportunity to open the doors of the Oval Office to someone who looks like me.

    This time, I took advantage of early voting the first day it was available in Cambridge, Mass. This time, I will have a hand in shaping the future of this country.

    Every single one of my patients has the right to do the same.

    I hope they will, that all Americans — in the words of President John Quincy Adams — “may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”

    The post In the hospital on Election Day? You can still vote. Here’s how appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Members of a local electoral commission count ballots after a presidential election at a polling station in Chisinau, Moldova, October 30, 2016.   REUTERS/Gleb Garanich - RTX2R3TA

    Members of a local electoral commission count ballots after a presidential election at a polling station in Chisinau, Moldova, October 30, 2016. Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

    PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. — Donald Trump is promising to take his campaign into traditional Democratic territory as a sign that he’s not giving up on appealing to people outside the Republican Party. Hillary Clinton is focusing her efforts in the campaign’s final days on energizing voters who usually support the Democratic nominee, but may need an extra boost.

    To do that, Clinton is pressing her case with music and sports celebrities, a strategy Trump dismissed. “I just have me,” he told supporters in North Carolina on Saturday, “but I have my family.” With him was his wife, Melania, who rarely campaigns with her husband.

    A brief scare Saturday night disrupted Trump’s rally in Reno, Nevada, when Secret Service agents suddenly hustled the Republican nominee off the stage. The agency later said that someone near the stage had shouted “Gun!” but that a subsequent apprehension of a man and search revealed no weapon. Trump returned a few minutes later to resume his remarks and declared “We will never be stopped.”

    As if to prove that point, Trump scheduled rallies Sunday in Minnesota, which hasn’t supported a Republican nominee since 1972, and Michigan, which hasn’t since 1988. Polls show that unlikely to change this year, but Trump was including them in a single day of campaigning covering five states.

    Clinton faced dark skies, intense rain and strong wind in Florida on Saturday before appearing in Pennsylvania with pop singer Katy Perry. The Democratic nominee was preparing to campaign Sunday with basketball superstar Lebron James, having shared the stage Friday night with music diva Beyoncé and hip hop mogul husband Jay Z.

    “Tonight, I want to hear you roar,” a smiling Clinton said before introducing Perry for a Saturday night performance in Philadelphia.

    Perry, who hugged Clinton while wearing a purple cape bearing the words, “I’m with Madam President,” shouted, “In three days, let’s make history!”

    The final-days scramble highlighted sharp differences between the campaigns in a turbulent 2016 campaign season.

    Backed by President Barack Obama and her party’s political elite, Clinton spent much of the last year fighting to unify Obama’s coalition of minorities and younger voters, aided at times by Trump’s deep unpopularity among women in both parties.

    Trump has courted working-class white voters on the strength of his own celebrity, having scared off many would-be Republican allies during a campaign marred by extraordinary gaffes and self-created crises. Just four weeks ago, a video emerged in which a married Trump admitted to kissing women and grabbing their genitalia without their permission.

    Clinton also faced extraordinary challenges of her own in recent days after the FBI confirmed plans to renew its focus on the former secretary of state’s email practices. The development is seen as particularly threatening for Clinton in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire that don’t offer early voting.

    At least 41 million Americans across 48 states have already cast ballots, according to an Associated Press analysis. That’s significantly more votes four days before Election Day than voted early in the 2012.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan campaigned Saturday alongside Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence — a rare show of unity, but not with Trump himself.

    The speaker encouraged Republicans to “come home” to support Trump in Ryan’s home-state Wisconsin, ignoring for a day his icy relationship with the Republican nominee.

    Peoples reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in Wilmington, North Carolina, Kathleen Hennessey in Washington and David Eggert in Holland, Michigan, contributed to this report.

    The post Trump, Clinton take different strategies to shore up votes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    birth control pills

    Photo by Getty Images

    During her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 2012, Michelle Moniz treated an expectant mother in her early 20s who wanted an intrauterine birth control device surgically inserted immediately after her delivery.

    But because the state Medicaid agency didn’t use a separate billing code for the device, commonly known as an IUD, the hospital couldn’t accommodate the woman’s wishes. She would have to wait until her six-week, post-partum checkup to have the procedure to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

    The woman didn’t show for that appointment. But it was not the last time Moniz saw her. A few months later the woman showed up pregnant again — and not by design.

    Moniz, now a clinician and birth control researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School, said she and colleagues have seen many similar instances in which poor pregnant women on Medicaid wanted long-lasting contraception — IUDs or other birth control implants — immediately after delivery, only to be turned away because Medicaid billing procedures didn’t accommodate them.

    But that is changing. At least 17 states have changed procedures so their Medicaid health care programs for the poor will pay hospitals to insert the implants at the most opportune moment — when women are already at the hospital having a baby. That often is the only opportunity that many of them have for a face-to-face discussion with doctors about the best methods of birth control. It’s also the occasion to do something about it.

    The changes in billing procedures, maternal health care advocates say, give women on Medicaid better access to the most effective and most expensive forms of contraception. They are happening at a time the nation’s rate of unintended pregnancy remains stubbornly high, at about 45 percent of all pregnancies. And rates are higher among women at lower income levels.

    “There is so much enthusiasm about this because these methods are so incredibly effective, and they should be one of the options that all women have,” Moniz said.

    Despite the enthusiasm, Moniz, other maternal health care advocates and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which endorsed the changes, urge caution, too. They say it is important that poor, vulnerable and minority women not be coerced into getting the implants, as many have been in the past in state-sanctioned sterilization or public health birth control programs.

    More Effective Than the Pill

    Long-acting reversible contraceptives, or LARCs, are the most effective form of birth control that women can use. They provide contraception for three to 12 years. There’s the IUD, which is a small plastic device inserted into the uterus that prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg. The other is a birth control implant, which is a tiny plastic rod inserted in the upper arm that releases hormones that also stop sperm from reaching eggs. (Some IUDs also now have a hormonal component.)

    LARCs result in less than one pregnancy per 100 women in a year compared to nine pregnancies in a year for the birth control pill, 12 for the diaphragm and 18 for condoms. Women don’t have to remember to take them daily as they do pills or risk inserting them incorrectly before sex like diaphragms.

    Despite their effectiveness, women do not use LARCs as much as some other birth control methods. For instance, nearly 26 percent of women using contraception rely on the pill and 15 percent use condoms while fewer than 12 percent have LARCs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    One reason is they just aren’t aware of them. A new birth control awareness survey by the Urban Institute finds only 55 percent of women of child-bearing age have heard quite a bit about IUDs and 34 percent have heard much about implants. In contrast, 90 percent have heard a lot about condoms and 86 percent said the same for birth control pills.

    And they have been harder for women to get until recently. Traditionally all state Medicaid agencies and most commercial health plans have bundled all costs associated with labor and delivery into a single reimbursement that covered all birth-related services, including the cost of LARCs and the procedures for inserting them.

    But the Medicaid bundled payment didn’t come close to covering the cost, said Eve Espey, an Albuquerque, New Mexico, OB-GYN and chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ LARC working group.

    IUD and implants range from $400 to $1,000, and the cost of inserting them can add several hundred dollars. That was often more than the payment. As a result, hospitals had refused to insert them immediately after delivery. (The bundled Medicaid reimbursement for labor and delivery for a vaginal birth was $9,131, a 2013 analysis found.)

    Consequently, new mothers who wanted LARCs were forced to wait until their first post-partum appointments with their doctors.

    But like Dr. Moniz’s patient, nearly 40 percent of women in Medicaid who have had uncomplicated deliveries do not receive post-partum care, resulting in lost opportunities for obtaining LARCs.

    Even when they did have the check-ups, maternal health groups say, women find that their obstetricians and gynecologists did not insert LARCs because of the high cost of stocking the devices.

    South Carolina Leads the Way

    South Carolina was the first state, starting in 2012, to make changes in Medicaid payments to encourage the immediate insertion of LARCs after delivery for women who wanted them.

    The changes were prompted by doctors who told state health officials that more than half the women on Medicaid weren’t showing up for their appointments six weeks after birth, when women usually start using contraception, said Melanie Giese, the Medicaid director of the South Carolina Birth Outcomes Initiative.

    The agency changed billing codes to allow for a separate reimbursement for LARCs, meaning hospitals could be assured of full reimbursement for the first time.

    The results of the change were quickly evident. The use of LARCs rose steadily, from 10.5 percent of women on Medicaid in 2013 to 14.2 percent in 2015, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The department estimates the policy change has saved South Carolina’s Medicaid agency $1.7 million by preventing unintended births.

    Other states paid attention. So did the federal government, which splits Medicaid costs with the states. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services endorsed the billing changes in a bulletin to all state Medicaid agencies in April. A survey of state Medicaid agencies published in September by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 17 states, including California, Georgia, Illinois and New York, have unbundled LARC Medicaid reimbursements to allow for more insertions following deliveries.

    Giese, Espey and other maternal health care specialists cautioned that the Medicaid policy changes alone won’t automatically increase the use of LARCs. Hospitals have to make sure their billing departments understand how the changes work, they said, and that cannot be taken for granted. Although New Mexico made the changes, Espey said, only one hospital in the state has implemented it.

    They said it’s also important that doctors and midwives be trained in IUD insertions. The uterus stretches during delivery, which makes the procedure a bit different than it would be six weeks later.

    Avoiding Coercion

    There appears to be no organized opposition to the changes. But some groups are watching how providers discuss LARCs to make certain poor women aren’t being coerced into using them.

    “In the past, low-income women and particularly black women have been targeted for what turned out to be reproductive health abuse,” said Marcela Howell, founder of In Our Own Voice, an organization focused on reproductive rights for black women.

    The 20th century saw numerous examples of state-sanctioned pressure on poor, minority or vulnerable women to have fewer children, from forced sterilizations in the early part of the century to proposals to entice women on welfare to have contraceptive implants in the 1990s. Even now, some states, such as Florida, Massachusetts and New Jersey, deny additional welfare benefits or reduce help to families that have additional children while on public assistance.

    To help prevent undue pressure, maternal health advocates and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services insist on states and doctors presenting the full range of birth control options to women without promoting one over another.

    “It’s important to make sure a woman has access to [LARC] methods, but just as important that women have access to information about all birth control methods,” said Moniz, the University of Michigan researcher.

    This story was produced by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

    The post How some states make effective birth control more available appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A row of voting booths is seen at a polling station during early voting in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., October 14, 2016.    REUTERS/Jim Young   - RTSSB65

    A row of voting booths is seen at a polling station during early voting in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., October 14, 2016. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    Low voter turnout in the United States has confounded politicians, activists and academics seeking to reverse a trend that puts the country behind many of the world’s developed nations in participation at the polls.

    In August, the Pew Research Center ranked the U.S. 31st out of 35 countries for voter turnout based on the voting age populace, among the mostly democratic nations that are a part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

    The study showed 53 percent of eligible voters in the U.S. cast ballots in 2012, the last time a presidential election was held, with about 129 million people out of a potential 241 million citizens taking part in the election.

    In recent history, participation in the U.S. has peaked during presidential elections, when the last several decades show about 55 to 60 percent of the eligible electorate will vote. But those numbers trail off during non-presidential years and in primary races.

    Internationally, Belgium had the highest participatory rate in its most recent election at 87 percent, followed by Turkey at 84 percent and Sweden at 82 percent. The study found that compulsory voting often had an impact on voter turnout, which was the case with three of the top five ranked countries, including Belgium and Turkey.

    While mandatory voting is unlikely to happen in the U.S., some states are looking to improve those statistics, even though many concede the reasons for low voter turnout are both varied and elusive.

    According to interviews with research institutions, advocacy groups and legislators involved in those efforts, restrictive voting laws in some states discourage the electorate from registering to vote. Additionally, they said gerrymandered districts cut across party lines reduce the number of competitive races and interest, and disgruntled citizens, fed up with the often contentious nature of politics, can choose not participate.

    But David Becker, who led Pew’s election work before launching the Center for Election Innovation & Research (CEIR), an organization whose goal is to increase voter turnout, said none of those potential causes are wholly responsible for the dismal turnout statistics.

    “The short answer you’ll probably hear is nobody really knows,” Becker said. “There has been a lot of money and a lot of efforts to increase turnout. There is no one answer to why, all we can say is here is the effect.”

    According to the United States Election Project, which tracks voting trends, only 36 percent of registered voters cast ballots during the 2014 election cycle, the lowest turnout in a general election since 1942, when many of the nation’s young people were out of the country fighting in World War II. Becker said only three of 10 voters participated in presidential primaries this year.

    “A smaller and smaller slice of the electorate are making decisions that are important,” he said.

    Voter participation also depends on the state where you vote. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis on state participation, fewer Americans vote when their states are less competitive in races between Democrats and Republicans.

    Many of the states with the lowest turnout are dominated by the Republican Party in the South, where restrictive laws can hamper participation. But two states known to be solid Democratic Party supporters – Hawaii and New York – also fall in the bottom 20 percent of turnout.

    In 2016 alone, at least 14 states installed restrictive voting laws around the country, including limitations on voter registration, photo ID mandates and narrower time periods for early voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

    In New York, voters have chosen Democrats in every statewide election since 2002, according to Blair Horner, legislative director with the New York Public Interest Research Group. While the lack of competitive elections are a factor for low turnout, it may also be attributed to other issues like one-sided political districts and a timetable to register that is “among one of the longer ones in the country.”

    “Voting is a hassle and the elections are run in a very chaotic way,” Horner said, especially in New York City. “I don’t think the political establishment has incentive to expand the electorate.”

    Since 2012, New York State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh has pushed for legislation that could address some of those issues, such as early voting, extended registration deadlines and updated technology at polling places, but so far few of them have received broad support, he said.

    “Lines are often too long, poll workers are often confused, administration of polling sites are often challenging,” Kavanagh said. “I would say there’s no magic bullet. But New York has systematically failed to have an election system to keep up with election practices.”

    Becker said nationally, these issues can vary by states and even by election cycles.

    “There’s a variety of reasons why people aren’t voting,” he said. “The number that drives me the most is 47 million. That’s the number of people who voted in 2012 that didn’t vote in 2014. For some reason nearly 50 million people didn’t show up who had voted before.”

    While solutions to the voting dilemma remain fluid, the turnout rate in the U.S. may also come down to the age of the country’s democracy, Becker said. One Harvard University study found that citizens from advanced democratic nations tend to abstain from voting.

    “A lot of these democracies are younger,” Becker said, of countries that were ranked. “We’ve been having elections for almost 250 years. That’s a lot different than Germany.”

    The post Why is voter turnout so low in the U.S.? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a church service at the Christian Cultural Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York April 3, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo   - RTX2S3PO

    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a church service at the Christian Cultural Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York April 3, 2016. Photo by Brendan McDermid/File Photo/Reuters

    PHILADELPHIA — Hillary Clinton aimed to hit high notes Sunday in the final moments of her campaign, hoping an uplifting message would wash away voters’ disgust with the grueling presidential contest. Donald Trump vowed he and his supporters would never quit, as he charged into unexpected territory.

    The candidates embarked on one of their final tours of battleground states, shifting to their closing arguments to weary voters deeply divided along racial, economic and gender lines.

    With national polls showing her retaining an edge, Clinton enlisted allies and A-listers for help at stops in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Hampshire. She planned to campaign with Cavaliers star LeBron James in Cleveland, and rally voters in Manchester with Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father whose indictment of Trump delivered emotional high point for Democrats.

    Trump, meanwhile, planned a marathon day on the campaign trail, with stops in five states, including Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania states that have long proven unfriendly territory for Republican presidential candidates. But buoyed by a late surge of momentum, Trump declared that his loyal, white working-class voters will deliver an upset on Tuesday.

    “Our secret weapon is the American people who are saying, ‘Enough is enough,'” vice presidential candidate Mike Pence said on “Fox News Sunday.”

    Tension ran high in the final days. Trump was rushed off stage Saturday night at rally in Reno, Nevada, after someone near the stage had shouted “Gun!,” according to the Secret Service. The agency said a search revealed no weapon.

    Trump returned a few minutes later to resume his remarks and declared, “We will never be stopped.”

    The Republican candidate’s son and top campaign adviser later retweeted the false rumor that the incident was an “assassination attempt,” and a supporter at a subsequent rally in Denver repeated the suggestion.

    Asked about the misinformation, Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway did not apologize, but said Trump’s son was acting out of worry: “It’s pretty rattling to think of what may have happened to your father. So, I will excuse him that,” Conway told CNN on Sunday.

    The Clinton campaign says it is focusing on securing its firewall in the West and upper Midwest. President Barack Obama planned to rally in Ann Arbor, Michigan Monday, before joining Clinton for a rally in Philadelphia that evening.

    Critical in both states is African American turnout. Black clergy were taking to the pulpits in a “Souls to the Poll” campaign to energize black voters, after early vote data shows some signs of diminished turnout.

    Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the campaign believes if Clinton wins Nevada and Michigan, she “is going to be the next president of the United States.”

    Clinton faced dark skies, intense rain and strong wind in Florida on Saturday before appearing in Pennsylvania with pop singer Katy Perry. The Democratic nominee was preparing to campaign Sunday with basketball superstar Lebron James, having shared the stage Friday night with music diva Beyoncé and hip hop mogul husband Jay Z.

    “Tonight, I want to hear you roar,” a smiling Clinton said before introducing Perry for a Saturday night performance in Philadelphia.

    Perry, who hugged Clinton while wearing a purple cape bearing the words, “I’m with Madam President,” shouted, “In three days, let’s make history!”

    At least 41 million Americans across 48 states have already cast ballots, according to an Associated Press analysis. That’s significantly more votes four days before Election Day than voted early in the 2012.

    Peoples reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in Wilmington, North Carolina, Kathleen Hennessey in Washington and David Eggert in Holland, Michigan, contributed to this report.

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    ADVANCE FOR SATURDAY, MAY 28 - FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2015, file photo, a poll worker leads a voter to an electronic voting machine at the Schiller Recreation Center polling station on election day in Columbus, Ohio. A bill headed to Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2016 would establish a new process for state courts when they consider last-minute extensions of voting hours, potentially making it harder to keep polling places open longer on election day in the presidential battleground state. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    By Sam Weber and Laura Fongvote 2016X newshour weekendX national popular voteX electoral college

    DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think the state of Pennsylvania we’re going to win so big…

    HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Wow, it is great to be back here in Raleigh…

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Since their nominating conventions in July, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have made more than 90% of their campaign stops in just 11 so-called battleground states.

    Of those visits, nearly two-thirds took place in the four battlegrounds with the most electoral votes — Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Carolina. That’s because voters don’t directly elect the president…the Electoral College does.

    A system enshrined in the constitution, each state has a share of the 538 electors roughly proportional to its population: generally, whoever wins a state gets all the electors.

    AL GORE: Good evening…

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But four times in U.S. history, including in the Bush-Gore race in 2000, the winner of the nationwide popular vote has lost the Electoral College…and the election.

    Even without those anomalies, the current system rankles residents of states not anointed as “battlegrounds” and largely passed over by the candidates, because the states are perceived to be so safely in one party’s column…

    JEFFREY DINOWITZ, (D) NEW YORK ASSEMBLY: The idea that a handful of states is where the election is taking place, while the vast majority of states are bystanders is crazy. What other democracy does it that way?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Jeffrey Dinowitz is a Democratic state assemblyman representing part of the Bronx in New York City. He has championed legislation to change how we elect presidents.

    It’s called “The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact,” and it would allocate participating state’s electoral votes to whomever wins the national popular vote. For example, if Donald Trump were to win the most votes nationally, New York, and every other state in the compact, would pledge its electors to him, even if he didn’t win those states.

    So, the pact leaves the Electoral College in place — no constitutional amendment required — but essentially circumvents it and creates a direct national popular vote for the presidency.

    JEFFREY DINOWITZ: We want every state to count, we want every individual vote to count, and we want the issues of our state and our communities to count as much as the issues in other states like Florida.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: New York overwhelmingly adopted the legislation in 2014 with bipartisan support, joining nine other states and Washington D.C. All solidly Democratic.

    Together, they have 165 electoral votes. But by design the compact won’t have an effect until it’s joined by states bearing a total of 270 — the majority needed to elect a president.

    MICHAEL GIANARIS, (D) NEW YORK STATE SENATOR AND DEPUTY MINORITY LEADER: The problem is, this is something that sounds great, it’s well intentioned, but there are all sorts of unforeseen consequences that I don’t think have really been thought through.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Democratic State Senator Michael Gianaris represents part of Queens in New York City and opposes the National Popular Vote compact. He says the compact fundamentally changes a constitutional process and would disadvantage small states — something the founding fathers tried to avoid in the constitution.

    MICHAEL GIANARIS: If you come to a system that’s purely based on popular vote, all you’re going to see is money being spent in the big media markets because that’s where the density is. Some of these bigger populations would then drive the attention to the exclusion of the rest of the country, and I don’t think that would be good either.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Gianaris also believes a national popular vote could leave out many Americans, since the number of electors each state has is based on its number of members of Congress… and that’s based on population, not eligible voters.

    MICHAEL GIANARIS: The state’s Electoral College number includes, for example, children, it includes incarcerated individuals, it includes noncitizens, but who are here legally. Those people generally can’t vote in most instances, but they are represented when determining how many electors a state has. But when you’re determining purely based on who is turning out to vote on election day you lose that bit of representation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: While only safe democratic states have joined the compact. Ironically, the Democratic Party seems to have a structural advantage in presidential elections under the current system.

    JOSHUA TUCKER, NYU POLITICS PROFESSOR AND DIRECTOR OF THE JORDAN CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF RUSSIA: As long as California and New York are not competitive, and you throw in a few other big states, the Democrats start off with a big lead.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Joshua Tucker is a Professor of Politics at New York University and says that if a reliably Republican state like Texas — with the second most electoral votes — turned Democratic, the White House would become out-of-reach for the Republicans, and then they might be open to the national popular vote compact.

    JOSHUA TUCKER: If you want to go to a naked political calculation, if politicians want to win elections, if political parties want to get their candidates elected President, they’re going to think about what sort of electoral system is going to allow them to better be able to do this. Normally, because this is in the Constitution, not statutory, we’re locked into this electoral system, the interstate compact has given a way to possibly get around that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: New York Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long came around to the idea of the National Popular Vote Compact after his own family said their votes for Mitt Romney didn’t matter in the 2012 presidential election.

    MIKE LONG, CHAIRMAN, NEW YORK CONSERVATIVE PARTY: One of my own sons looked in my eyes and said, “Dad, it doesn’t make any difference. Romney’s not going to win New York.” I was deftly convinced I was on the right side of national popular vote then, because I believe it’s important that everyone votes.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Long believes that other conservatives will eventually support this approach, because there are republicans all over the country who feel their votes don’t matter.

    MIKE LONG: I think there’s an awful lot of people feel they’re disenfranchised, that their vote doesn’t make any difference. If you live in Chicago and you happen to be, if you happen to be a conservative Republican, you feel that, in Illinois, I don’t have a chance to turn this around. If you’re a Democrat in Oklahoma, you probably don’t come out to vote because you don’t have a shot to carry the state for your favorite candidate, whoever that may be.

    JOSHUA TUCKER: Once you get enough states to pass this law, then it doesn’t matter what the other states are doing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Professor Tucker sees one way that momentum in support of the National Popular Vote Compact could grow after this year’s election.

    JOSHUA TUCKER: If Trump wins the election, there is a small but non-trivial chance that he would win the election without having received a majority of the popular vote. Without even seeing a plurality. If he was elected where he won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote, I think it would give a strong impetus to this move to national popular vote.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Still, even a compact between states totaling 270 electoral votes would likely be challenged in the courts, including whether it a compact like this is enforceable. But Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz is optimistic that a national popular vote can become a reality.

    JEFFREY DINOWITZ: I think over time, more and more people are coming around to the point of view that this should happen. So there still is a ways to go. But I think that the more people look at this, the more support it gets. It’s not a partisan issue. It’s just not.

    The post This system calls for popular vote to determine winner appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the presidential town hall debate with Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson  - RTSRJ5A

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JEFF GREENFIELD: At 7 pm—we’re using Eastern Standard Time throughout—polls close in six states. Indiana–where running mate Mike Pence is Governor–will almost surely go for Donald Trump. But Indiana could tell us something important about later states…as Sean Trende, senior election analyst for Real Clear Politics, notes.

    SEAN TRENDE: “That’s a state that Mitt Romney won by eleven points in 2012. So if Donald Trump is over that, if he’s up around 15, 16 per cent, maybe even approaching George W. Bush’s 20% win from 2004, then we’ll know we’ve got a race on our hands.”

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Indiana is also the site of one of the key U-S Senate races: Democrats need to gain five senate seats to take control there, and when ex-Senator Evan Bayh decided to run for his old seat, it looked like a sure Democratic gain. But his post-Senate career as a lobbyist has brought him into a dead heat with Republican congressman Todd Young.

    SEAN TRENDE: “If he’s losing, or if it’s tied, it would suggest real problems for Democratic Senate prospects.”

    JEFF GREENFIELD: In Virginia, Clinton’s been well ahead in the polls, and her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, is from there, and Obama won it twice. If Virginia is close, that’s a sign of real trouble for Clinton.

    By contrast, if Clinton is close in Georgia, that’ll be a sign that her base — African-Americans and college-educated Whites—have turned out to vote.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: At 7:30, polls close in three states—two of them especially critical for Trump. It’s endlessly said that no Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio, and this year its large white working class population seems to be leaning strongly to Trump; he’s leading in the polls. But Sean Trende says, watch the margins.

    SEAN TRENDE: “If Donald Trump is winning Ohio by 4,5, even 6 points, then again we know we have a pretty good suspicion that not only is he doing what he needs to do, he’s doing a little bit better, and we are probably looking for some surprises as the later states close.”

    JEFF GREENFIELD: North Carolina’s been a battleground in recent years—Obama won it by a point in 2008, lost it by two points in 2012. If Clinton wins here, it’s very hard to chart a path to the White House for Trump.

    North Carolina is also the site of another key Senate race: two-term Republican Richard Burr is in an unexpectedly close race against Democratic former state legislator Deborah Ross.

    8pm brings a flood poll closings — 16 states plus Washington, D-C. You may remember one of them—Florida— played a starring role back in 2000 as we waited a month to find out who’d be President.

    This time, it’s a state that Clinton does not need—but if she were to win those 29 electoral votes, she’d be virtually assured victory.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Pennsylvania, on the other hand, is a state Clinton very much does need. For the last six elections, Pennsylvania has been for Republicans what Lucy’s football is to Charlie Brown—always out of reach.

    DONALD TRUMP: “Everybody in Pennsylvania wants Trump, you know.”

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Winning it for Trump would drive a big hole through the “blue wall” of solidly Democratic states.

    SEAN TRENDE: “If Trump were to win Pennsylvania, it would suggest that he probably is going to win a bunch of other states that have similar or even less favorable demographics for the Democrats, like Wisconsin and Michigan.”

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Pennsylvania also has one of those critical Senate battles, between Republican incumbent Pat Toomey and Democratic former state official Katie McGinty. With some $113 million spent, it is the most expensive Senate contest in the country. Trump is a major factor in this contest with Toomey keeping his distance and McGinty trying to tie him to Trump.

    Besides being a presidential battleground too, new Hampshire has a key Senate race. First-term Senator Kelly Ayotte, is running for re-election against Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan; another key race where polls say it’s just about even.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: And, surprisingly, in Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt—member of the state’s most powerful Republican family—is in a tough battle against Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander, who vaulted into prominence with the single most talked about ad of the entire year.

    JASON KANDER: I also believe in background checks so that terrorists can’t get their hands on one of these. I approve this message because I’d like to see Senator Blunt do this.

    SEAN TRENDE: Blunt is an establishment guy running in an anti-establishment year…

    JEFF GREENFIELD: At 9 pm, polls close in 13 more states. Michigan and Wisconsin—two states that are part of that Democratic “firewall” — have been special Trump targets.

    SEAN TRENDE: Right now, the polls are showing Hillary Clinton pretty consistently in the lead. But again, if Trump is overperforming the polls, those states become very dicey, especially Wisconsin.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: It’s a different demographic shift in states like Colorado and Arizona.

    Increasing Latino turnout helped turn Colorado blue for Obama twice; Clinton is counting on it to stay blue. And she’s invested time and money in Arizona—a state that’s voted Democratic for president once in the last 64 years. A win for her could make up for any loss in one of those industrial Midwest states.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Democrats will be watching the Wisconsin Senate race very closely. They’re counting on ex-Senator Russ Feingold to win back the seat he lost to Republican Ron Johnson six years ago, but that race has lately turned very tight.

    Once the 9pm states are called, we may also start to see what the new House of Representatives will look like. There are House Republicans in serious trouble in New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Illinois, among others places. Democrats need to net 30 seats to take control—an unlikely prospect—but we’ll start to know this hour whether the GOP is suffering minor, major, or no losses in the House of Representatives.

    At 10 o’clock, polls close in 4 states—two of them “battlegrounds.” Democrats have won Iowa 5 of the last 6 times, but this state has been trending Trump’s way. And both campaigns have targeted Nevada, where early voting — and a growing Latino population — may favor Clinton.

    Nevada’s the one state where a Democratic Senate seat is in danger. With Democratic leader Harry Reid retiring, Republican Congressman Joe Heck is running against the state’s Democratic former Attorney General, Catherine Cortez-Masto.

    11 PM, six states close, and this is what we can say for sure: With California, Oregon, Washington state and Hawaii, there are 78 electoral votes that are certain for Clinton.

    Trump can count on the 7 electoral votes from Idaho and North Dakota.

    But will those 78 electoral votes be enough to put Clinton over the top?

    That depends on what the vote count tells us in those earlier Eastern and Midwestern states.

    The post An expert’s preview of election night appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Washington, DC (November 2, 2016) — PBS NewsHour presents live coverage of Election Night 2016 on Tuesday, November 8, 2016 starting at 8pm ET on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings). The special broadcast will be co-anchored by managing editors Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill. NewsHour correspondents John Yang will report on location from the Clinton campaign headquarters in New York and Jeffrey Brown from the Trump campaign headquarters in New York, and senior correspondent and PBS NewsHour Weekend anchor Hari Sreenivasan will report in studio in Washington, DC.

    NewsHour’s panel of studio guests includes New York Times columnist David Brooks; syndicated columnist Mark Shields; Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter; Emory University’s Director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference Andra Gillespie; Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign chief strategist Stuart Stevens; and 2008 and 2012 Obama campaign pollster Cornell Belcher. NewsHour correspondent Lisa Desjardins will report on down ballot races with Nathan Gonzalez, editor and publisher of The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, with additional reporting from presidential historian Michael Beschloss, PBS NewsHour Weekend special correspondent Jeff Greenfield from WNET; and correspondent William Brangham will report on ballot initiatives with digital politics editor Daniel Bush from the newsroom.

    In addition to broadcast on PBS stations nationwide, NewsHour’s special will stream on FacebookYoutube, and Ustream. NewsHour’s 6pm daily broadcast will be updated at 7pm prior to the start of the night’s special.

    Coverage extends online and on social beginning at 8am on Election Day. Follow PBS NewsHour everywhere it will be:

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    PBS NewsHour is seen by over four million weekly viewers and is also available online, via public radio in select markets, and via podcast. PBS NewsHour is a production of NewsHour Productions LLC, a wholly-owned non-profit subsidiary of WETA Washington, D.C., in association with WNET in New York. Major funding for PBS NewsHour is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television viewers. Major corporate funding is provided by BNSF, Lincoln Financial Group, and XQ Institute, with additional support from Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the J. Paul Getty Trust, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Lemelson Foundation, National Science Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Ford Foundation, Skoll Foundation, Friends of the NewsHour and others. More information on PBS NewsHour is available at www.pbs.org/newshour. On social media, visit NewsHour on Facebook or follow @NewsHour on Twitter.

    About PBS Election 2016

    PBS Election 2016 is a multi-platform initiative that brings together PBS news, public affairs, documentary and digital programming to create the country’s most complete coverage of the 2016 election cycle. Acclaimed series PBS NEWSHOUR, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND, FRONTLINE, WASHINGTON WEEK, CHARLIE ROSE, TAVIS SMILEY and AMERICA BY THE NUMBERS, in addition to partnerships with NPR and American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” will cover breaking election news, provide context to current and historical political issues, explore behind-the-scenes stories of candidates and the election process, as well as a broader look at the foundations of American government.

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    Poet Anis Mojgani appears in a portrait based on his poem "[we were horses]." It reads: "I was in a dream country. You were there. / And all those little blonde hairs that run up your legs / and over your shoulders." Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    Poet Anis Mojgani appears in a portrait based on his poem “we were horses.” It reads: “I was in a dream country. You were there. / And all those little blonde hairs that run up your legs / and over your shoulders.” Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    In 1860, writing the third of six editions of his book “Leaves of Grass,” behemoth of American poetry Walt Whitman proclaimed what would follow him.

    “I announce greater offspring, orators, days, and then depart,” he wrote in the book’s final poem, a tribute to everything he would never live to witness.

    Now, generations later, photographer B.A. Van Sise — who descended from Whitman’s oldest sister and also his first cousin — has set out to create a portrait of his legacy. “Whitman’s Descendants” is a striking set of portraits documenting the heart of American poetry today, one that bears an urgent connection to Whitman and the issues of his day.

    Pulitzer Prize winner Gregory Pardlo appears in this portrait based on his poem TK. Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    Pulitzer Prize winner Gregory Pardlo appears in this portrait based on his poem “Epicurus.” Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    Gregory Pardlo, reading in a sailboat, lets the oars drift alongside him. Anis Mojgani stares at us from darkness. Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s gown pools on a wooden floor. These are the many faces of Whitman’s poetic descendants, their writing and origin stories as diverse as the America that his writing reflected, Van Sise said.

    “I am a tremendous fan of the cultural change that he brought about in this country, of the way he changed literature, of the way he changed American culture, the way we talk about what being an American is,” Van Sise told the NewsHour.

    Aimee Nezhukumatathil appears in this portrait based on her poem "Dear Amy Nehzooukammyatootill," a found poem composed of e-mails from high school students. It begins: "If I were to ask you a question about your book / and sum it up into one word it would be, 'Why?' / I think I like Walt Whitman better than you." Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    Aimee Nezhukumatathil appears in this portrait based on her poem “Dear Amy Nehzooukammyatootill,” a found poem composed of e-mails from high school students. It begins: “If I were to ask you a question about your book / and sum it up into one word it would be, ‘Why?’ / I think I like Walt Whitman better than you.” Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    Some of those poets had been writers-in-residence at Whitman’s birthplace in Long Island, New York, the group that Van Sise originally sought to photograph. He soon expanded to include other poets whose writing engages with Whitman’s imprint on American literature.

    “[Whitman] had different views — they were very much out of step with everyone else in America — about what it meant to be a man. What it meant to love people. What it meant to be an American. What it meant to think about your sexuality. What it meant to be literate. What it meant to have a newspaper. What it meant to be autobiographical,” he said.

    Each photo begins with a piece of writing from the poet, which Van Sise mines for visual elements to create an initial concept. “I almost always pick a piece that has some sort of autobiographical value to me,” Van Sise said. Then, he and the poet will work together to settle on a final concept and complete the final image.

    Kim Addonizio appears in a portrait based on her poem "First Poem for You." Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    Kim Addonizio appears in a portrait based on her poem “First Poem for You.” Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    Whitman came from a working-class family on Long Island, left formal schooling at the age of 11 and held jobs as a teacher, newspaper editor, government clerk and others over the course of his life. He belonged to “a Jacksonian lower middle class undergoing the transition from an agrian, artisinal culture to an urban, market economy,” Andrew Lawson wrote in “Walt Whitman and the Class Struggle.” This position situated him at the crux of the major social changes taking place in mid-19th-century New York City, which echo in his celebration of the working class along with “the endless races of working people and farmers and seamen” (“Leaves of Grass,” 1855).

    This diverse background resonates with many poets who have come after Whitman, according to Cynthia Shor, executive director of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association.

    “I think the poets in today’s age who have gone through the ranks and who were not necessarily born into the intelligentsia family … feel that kinship with Whitman,” she said.

    Adrienne Su appears in this portrait based on her poem "Escape from the Old Country." Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    Adrienne Su appears in this portrait based on her poem “Escape from the Old Country.” Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    In 1855, Whitman self-published the first edition of “Leaves of Grass” in Brooklyn against a backdrop of political discord over slavery. Whitman himself supported the Free Soil Party, which sought to stop the spread of slavery in the country’s newly-added western territories, a position for which his employer at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle fired him.

    In New York City, this tension was compounded by a rapid rise in the immigrant population, as “ethnic ghettos like Kleindeutschland appeared alongside such exclusive refuges of the rich as Astor Place,” scholar Thomas, M. Wynn wrote in a commentary.

    Discussions of race and immigration are as urgently important today as they were in the 1850s, as is the art that engages with those issues, Van Sise said.

    “There’s been a distinct, for me, reaction to what is happening in politics and doing this specific project,” Van Sise said. “I don’t think our world has changed a lot from … the world that he was facing when he wrote ‘Leaves of Grass’ in 1855. I think that the topics that we’re talking about haven’t changed a lot.”

    Kaveh Akbar appears in this portrait based on his poem "Some Boys Aren't Born They Bubble." Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    Kaveh Akbar appears in this portrait based on his poem “Some Boys Aren’t Born They Bubble.” Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    Poet Kaveh Akbar, whose portrait draws on his piece “Some Boys Aren’t Born They Bubble,” called Van Sise’s work “totally unprecedented.”

    “There have been other photographers who set out to capture the poets of their day, but I don’t know of any who worked so hard to fully inhabit the conceptual realm of the poets’ work, to create photos that seem to exist within the same psychic ecosystem as the poems themselves,” he wrote in an email to the NewsHour. “B.A.’s photos seem to vibrate at the frequency of his subjects’ poems—that, to me, is the true miracle of his work.”

    See more of Van Sise’s photos below.

    Jeffrey McDaniel appears in this portrait based on the poem "The Quiet World." It begins: "In an effort to get people to look / into each other’s eyes more, / and also to appease the mutes, / the government has decided / to allot each person exactly one hundred / and sixty-seven words, per day." Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    Jeffrey McDaniel appears in this portrait based on the poem “The Quiet World.” It begins: “In an effort to get people to look / into each other’s eyes more, / and also to appease the mutes, / the government has decided / to allot each person exactly one hundred / and sixty-seven words, per day.” Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    Dorianne Laux appears in this portrait based on the poem "As It Is." Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    Dorianne Laux appears in this portrait based on the poem “As It Is.” Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    Former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky appears in a portrait based on his poem "Antique." It begins: "I drowned in the fire of having you, I burned / In the river of not having you, we lived / Together for hours in a house of a thousand rooms / And we were parted for a thousand years." Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    Former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky appears in a portrait based on his poem “Antique.” It begins: “I drowned in the fire of having you, I burned / In the river of not having you, we lived / Together for hours in a house of a thousand rooms /
    And we were parted for a thousand years.” Photo by B.A. Van Sise

    The post In ‘Whitman’s Descendants,’ photographing some of America’s greatest living poets appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton listens to her introduction at a campaign event in La Crosse, Wisconsin, United States, March 29, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo - RTX2S3PE

    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton listens to her introduction at a campaign event in La Crosse, Wisconsin, United States, March 29, 2016. Photo by Jim Young/File Photo/Reuters

    DES MOINES, Iowa — If Hillary Clinton makes it to the White House, a whole lot of eyes will be on her list of do’s and don’ts.

    Throughout the presidential campaign against Donald Trump, Clinton has made some very specific pledges about what she would and wouldn’t do. Those could come back at Clinton if she’s elected, because she could be governing in a politically polarized environment. Republicans and liberal Democrats would keep watch to see whether she keeps her word.

    “I think Republicans are going to be dogging her any time she flirts with something that sounds like a campaign pledge that’s been broken,” said Republican strategist Katie Packer, who isn’t backing Trump.

    Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, said liberals would look at how Clinton tackles issues, saying “the key is seeing if she actually fights, rather than insisting that she has to achieve that goal.”

    Complicating Clinton’s path is the reality that the best-laid plans can change. President George H.W. Bush, for example, pledged “no new taxes,” but eventually agreed to a budget compromise with Democrats that did include some tax increases. He lost his re-election bid to Democrat Bill Clinton.

    A look at some pledges Hillary Clinton made in the final presidential debate and what they could mean for her as president:

    [Watch Video]

    Taxes

    “I will not raise taxes on anyone making $250,000 or less. I also will not add a penny to the debt.”

    Clinton has focused her campaign on working- and middle-class families, and promised to tax the wealthy to pay for more social programs, but repeatedly said those making $250,000 or less will be exempt. That’s the cutoff her campaign has identified to protect the middle class. Clinton says that by taxing the wealthy, she won’t create any new debt, though she has not said she would cut the current debt.

    This tax pledge means any new fees or costs for lower-earning families will be scrutinized. When it comes to the national debt, Packer notes “there’s a lot of different ways you can do the math that make that a very hard promise to keep.”

    Trans-Pacific Partnership

    “I’m against it now. I’ll be against it after the election. I’ll be against it when I’m president.”

    This is a big one for Clinton. She came out against the trade deal last year amid mounting pressure from liberals. She previously praised the deal as secretary of State, calling it the “gold standard” of trade agreements. In the past, she has supported some trade deals and opposed others.

    So progressives will watch Clinton if she wins, not just after Jan. 20, but during the transition as well, to see if she mounts opposition to a vote in the lame-duck Congress.

    “It’s going to be critically important that she steps up, she stand up and says it’s not going to be passed in the lame duck,” said Chamberlain, adding that if Clinton does not take such a stand “in many people’s eyes that would be breaking a promise.”

    Military

    “I will not support putting American soldiers into Iraq as an occupying force.”

    Clinton has made it clear that she does not want more American soldiers to serve on the ground in the Middle East. There are several thousand U.S. troops in Iraq now serving as trainers and advisers to the Iraqi military. She has made similar statements about Syria, where dozens of U.S. special operators are helping. Still, Chamberlain said that on this pledge, liberals see “a lot of wiggle room there. The progressive movement wants to see less military action period.”

    Republican strategist Rick Tyler, who advised Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential bid, said that this is the type of promise that could be hard, depending on world events. “You could claim you were never going to drop a nuclear bomb. I hope not, but what is it there for,” Tyler said.

    College costs

    “I want to make college debt-free and for families making less than $125,000, you will not get a tuition bill from a public college or university if the plan that I worked on with Bernie Sanders is enacted.”

    Clinton enhanced her college affordability plan with the Vermont senator, her rival in the presidential primaries, in an effort to win over his supporters. Bringing down college costs was a rallying cry for his younger supporters. It’s also an issue increasingly discussed on the left.

    Packer said this might be an area that both sides want to work on. “That strikes me as a thing that transcends ideology.”

    The post A look at Clinton’s pledges for the presidency appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FBI Director James Comey testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 28, 2016.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTSPUVE

    FBI Director James Comey testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 28, 2016. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    PHILADELPHIA — FBI Director James Comey abruptly announced Sunday that Hillary Clinton should not face criminal charges related to newly discovered emails from her tenure at the State Department, lifting a cloud of uncertainty that has shadowed the final days of her presidential campaign.

    In a letter to congressional lawmakers two days before Election Day, Comey said the FBI has worked “around the clock to process and review a large number of emails” obtained from a device belonging to Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former congressman and estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

    Comey said the review has not changed the bureau’s assessment from earlier this year that Clinton should not be prosecuted for her handling of classified information at the State Department.

    Clinton’s campaign welcomed the FBI announcement.

    “We’re glad this matter is resolved,” Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director, told reporters traveling with the campaign to Ohio.

    Clinton was infuriated by Comey’s decision to alert Congress late last month that the FBI was reviewing new materials, calling it “unprecedented” and “deeply troubling.” The decision shattered what had appeared to be Clinton’s solid grip on the race and emboldened Republican Donald Trump.

    Trump landed in Minnesota for a rally moments after Comey’s announcement. He made no direct mention of the FBI decision and continued to insist —without evidence — that Clinton would be under investigation during her potential presidency.

    “She’s protected by a rigged system,” he said. “She shouldn’t even be allowed to run for president.”

    The FBI began investigating the handling of classified material on Clinton’s private server in New York shortly after she announced her bid in April 2015. Last July, in an extraordinary public statement on an ongoing case, Comey announced he was not recommending criminal charges against Clinton and called the decision “not even a close call.”

    But he also delivered blistering criticism of Clinton, calling her and her team “extremely careless” with her handling of national secrets.

    Clinton had appeared to be heading for a sweeping victory before the FBI review, but Comey’s announcement blunted her momentum. Since then, national polls and battleground states have tightened, though Clinton still appears to hold an edge over Trump in the campaign’s last moments.

    During remarks at a black church Sunday morning, Clinton urged voters to choose “unity over division” as she sought to close a caustic presidential campaign on an uplifting note. She warned that President Barack Obama’s legacy is on the line, part of her strategy to shore up black voters who may be less enthusiastic about her than the president.

    “If we come together with the common vision, common faith, we will find common ground,” Clinton declared.

    Clinton also planned to campaign alongside basketball superstar LeBron James in his home state of Ohio and appear in New Hampshire with Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father who delivered a stinging indictment of Trump at the Democratic convention.

    Her high-wattage allies also fanned out across the country, including President Barack Obama, who was joined by musician Stevie Wonder at a rally in Florida.

    As the campaign’s final weekend drew to a close, more than 41 million Americans had already cast their ballots in early voting.

    Trump opened a furious day of campaigning in Iowa, the battleground states where he appears in the strongest position. He also planned to make stops in Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania, three states that have reliably voted for Democrats in presidential elections, as well as Virginia, a state Clinton’s campaign believes it has a solid hold on.

    Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told reporters Sunday that Trump planned to keep up the breakneck campaign pace through Election Day. After voting in New York Tuesday morning, Trump was expected to return to Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina and New Hampshire later in the day, Conway said.

    The businessman was also facing criticism for a new ad that asserts the “establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election” and features photos of billionaire George Soros, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, all of whom are Jewish.

    The National Jewish Democratic Council said the ad’s use of anti-Semitic stereotypes is “shocking and dangerous.”

    Here is Comey’s Nov. 6 letter:

    The post Comey says latest emails don’t change FBI conclusion on Clinton appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Federal Convention convened in the State House (Independence Hall) in Philadelphia on May 14, 1787, to revise the Articles of Confederation. Photo by Library of Congress

    The Federal Convention convened in the State House (Independence Hall) in Philadelphia on May 14, 1787, to revise the Articles of Confederation. Photo by Library of Congress

    When the founders of the U.S. Constitution in 1787 considered whether America should let the people elect their president through a popular vote, James Madison said that “Negroes” in the South presented a “difficulty … of a serious nature.”

    During that same speech on Thursday, July 19, Madison instead proposed a prototype for the same Electoral College system the country uses today. Each state has a number of electoral votes roughly proportioned to population and the candidate who wins the majority of votes wins the election.

    Since then, the Electoral College system has cost four candidates the race after they received the popular vote — most recently in 2000, when Al Gore lost to George W. Bush. Such anomalies and other criticisms have pushed 10 Democratic states to enroll in a popular vote system. And while there are many grievances about the Electoral College, one that’s rarely addressed is one dug up by an academic of the Constitution: that it was created to protect slavery, planting the roots of a system that’s still oppressive today.

    “It’s embarrassing,” said Paul Finkelman, visiting law professor at University of Saskatchewan in Canada. “I think if most Americans knew what the origins of the Electoral College is, they would be disgusted.”

    Madison, now known as the “Father of the Constitution,” was a slave-owner in Virginia, which at the time was the most populous of the 13 states if the count included slaves, who comprised about 40 percent of its population.

    During that key speech at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Madison said that with a popular vote, the Southern states, “could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes.”

    [Watch Video]

    Madison knew that the North would outnumber the South, despite there being more than half a million slaves in the South who were their economic vitality, but could not vote. His proposition for the Electoral College included the “three-fifths compromise,” where black people could be counted as three-fifths of a person, instead of a whole. This clause garnered the state 12 out of 91 electoral votes, more than a quarter of what a president needed to win.

    “None of this is about slaves voting,” said Finkelman, who wrote a paper on the origins of the Electoral College for a symposium after Gore lost. “The debates are in part about political power and also the fundamental immorality of counting slaves for the purpose of giving political power to the master class.”

    He said the Electoral College’s three-fifths clause enabled Thomas Jefferson, who owned more than a hundred slaves, to beat out in 1796 John Adams, who was opposed to slavery, since the South had a stronghold.

    While slavery was abolished, and the Civil War led to citizenship and voting rights for black people, the Electoral College remained intact. Another law professor, who has also written that the Constitution is pro-slavery, argues that it gave states the autonomy to introduce discriminatory voting laws, despite the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was built to prevent it.

    In 2013, the Supreme Court freed nine states, mostly in the South, from the stipulation in the Voting Rights Act that said they could only change voter laws with the approval of the federal government.

    “A more conservative Supreme Court has been unwinding what the [other] court did,” said Juan Perea, a law Professor of Loyola University Chicago. “State by state, that lack of supervision and lack of uniformity operates to preserve a lot of inequality.”

    In July, a federal appeals court struck down a voter ID law in Texas, ruling that it discriminated against black and Latino voters by making it harder for them to access ballots. Two weeks later, another federal appeals court ruled that North Carolina, a key swing state, had imposed voting provisions that “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

    And for this presidential election, 15 states will have new voting restrictions, such as ones that require government-issued photo identification at the polls or reduce the number of hours the polls are open.

    “The ability of states to make voting more difficult is directly tied to the legacy of slavery,” Perea said. “And that ability to make voting more difficult is usually used to disenfranchise people of color.”

    The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact has gained traction, but for reasons more related to the anomaly of the Gore-Bush election. Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz championed legislation in New York that brought the state into the compact and was asked by the NewsHour Weekend why the movement is important.

    “We are the greatest democracy on the planet, and it seems to me that in the greatest democracy, the person who gets the most votes should win the election,” said Dinowitz. “We’re one country, North, South, East and West. One country. The votes of every single person in the country should be equal. And right now, the votes are not equal. Some states your vote is more important than in other states.”

    New York overwhelmingly agreed on his bill in 2014, joining nine other states and Washington, D.C. Together, they have 165 electoral votes. If they gain a total of 270 — the majority needed to elect a president — the nation will move to a popular vote.

    Not all academics agree that slavery was the driving force behind the Electoral College, though most agree there’s a connection. And both Perea and Finkelman say they know it is not the most prominent argument for the push toward a popular vote.

    “But it is a vestige that has never been addressed,” Perea said.

    The post Electoral College is ‘vestige’ of slavery, say some Constitutional scholars appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President-elect George W. Bush (L) reaches to shake hands with Vice President Al Gore after arriving at Gore's residence for a meeting, December 19, 2000. Bush and Gore are meeting for the first time since the final debate during the election campaign. GMH/HB - RTRC6EG

    President-elect George W. Bush, left, reaches to shake hands with Vice President Al Gore after arriving at Gore’s residence for a meeting, December 19, 2000. Photo by Reuters

    Four presidential elections dating back to 1800 failed to produce a clear winner after an initial count of the votes. Regardless of the national popular vote tally, it takes a majority of the Electoral College — now 270 votes — to elect a president. Here’s what happened when no candidate appeared to have a majority after Election Day:

    1800

    The Constitution did not initially provide for separate Electoral College votes for president and vice president. Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr were running on the Democratic-Republican party ticket for president and vice president, and tied with 73 electoral votes each. The responsibility for choosing the president shifted to the House of Representatives, where each state delegation cast one vote. It took 36 ballots and much intrigue before Delaware abstained from the vote and allowed Jefferson to muster a bare majority to become president. The 12th Amendment would be ratified in time for the 1804 election, requiring electors to cast two votes — one for president and the other for vice president.

    1824

    Andrew Jackson had a popular-vote plurality and the lead in electoral votes, but no majority, after the ballots were counted. Under the 12th Amendment, the House again was to make the final choice among the top three candidates — Jackson, John Quincy Adams and William Crawford, then the treasury secretary. Jackson and his supporters thought that as the leading vote-getter, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans should be elected. But House Speaker Henry Clay, who was no fan of Jackson, threw his support to Adams and ensured his election. Clay became Adams’ secretary of state, drawing bitter complaints that they had struck a “corrupt bargain.”

    [Watch Video]

    1876

    This was the second election in which the popular-vote winner, and the leader in the Electoral College, did not become president. Democrat Samuel Tilden topped Republican Rutherford Hayes and was one vote shy of an Electoral College majority. Twenty electoral votes were in dispute and not awarded to either man. The controversy, wrapped in race and Reconstruction politics, dragged on. Congress created an electoral commission made up of five senators, five representatives and five Supreme Court justices to determine the winner. The commission, though, had eight Republicans and seven Democrats, and ultimately awarded the contested votes to Hayes as part of an informal compromise that led to the withdrawal of troops from the South and the end of Reconstruction.

    2000

    A few hundred votes separated Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore in Florida, leaving the outcome of the election in doubt. Gore won the nationwide popular vote, but needed four more electoral votes. The dispute over Florida’s 25 electoral votes lasted more than a month, as a recount began and Americans learned the word “chads” — the parts of a paper ballot that voters were supposed to punch out in making their choices. The Supreme Court ultimately halted recounts ordered by Florida’s top court. That decision left Bush’s 537-vote margin in place, out of nearly 6 million votes cast in the state.

    The post Here are the four times Election Day ended with no clear winner appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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