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

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    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appears at a campaign rally in Sioux City, Iowa, U.S. November 6,  2016.   REUTERS/Carlo Allegri - RTX2S719

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    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: And the “NewsHour’s” Jeff Brown is covering the Trump campaign. He joins me now from Sioux City, Ohio, also a battleground state, where Trump is now expected to win — Jeff.


    Yes, I’m in the convention center in Sioux City, where a big rally just finished up. You can hear the Rolling Stones playing behind me and a few people still left here.

    The place holds about 3,000 people, we were told. It was filled to capacity and there are many thousands beyond outside.

    It was kind of a standard speech at this point, to the core, to the base. And this is exactly where a lot of the Trump base is, northwest Iowa. This has been part of the people who have been supporting him from the beginning. He joked when he got here that he had been told that he didn’t even really have to come here today. So, but he said, of course, I wanted to come here because I want to be with the people in Iowa.

    And, of course, the reason why they feel so optimistic is because of this poll that came out last night that showed Trump up seven percentage points here in Iowa and I think that took everybody by a bit of surprise.

    STEWART: Jeff, let’s take a look at the past 20 years in Iowa. If you go back from 1996, the winners were Clinton, Gore, Bush, Obama, Obama.

    So, what’s changed in the last four years that Iowa seems poised to give its six electoral votes to the Republican candidate?

    BROWN: Well, it’s true. This is a state that has gone mostly for Democratic presidential candidates, but I think what’s happened is you have seen Iowa generally moving more red. You see that in the state house, the state senate, which may go Republican this campaign. You see it in the two Senate seats which are both Republican. And now, it looks as though Iowa is going fully red for this presidential campaign.

    STEWART: Jeff Brown from Sioux City, Iowa — thanks so much.

    BROWN: You’re welcome, Alison.

    The post Will Trump take the battleground state of Iowa? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump  (R) speak at campaign rallies in Westbury, New York, U.S., September 26, 2016 and Toledo, Ohio, U.S. September 21, 2016 in a combination of file photos.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Jonathan Ernst/Files - RTX2RZAC

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    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: We’re going to check in on both campaigns, and we begin in Cleveland, Ohio, where the “NewsHour’s” John Yang is following the Clinton campaign.

    And, John, I understand the Clinton campaign has responded to FBI Director Comey’s letter.

    JOHN YANG, PBS NEWSHOUR CORRESPONDENT: That’s right. As they flew here from Philadelphia, Jen Palmieri, the communications director for the campaign, spoke to reporters. She said, “We have seen Director Comey’s latest letter to the Hill. We’re glad to see that as we — glad to see as we were that he has found, as we were confident that he would, that he has confirmed that the conclusions that he reached in July, and we’re glad that this matter is resolved.”

    We’re told that the FBI went through the emails that they found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop found that most of the emails were duplicate of emails that Huma Abedin, Weiner’s estranged wife, had already turned over to the FBI. This story really through the campaign for a loop when it broke about a week ago and now they are very happy that it’s been resolved.

    STEWART: John, let’s talk about the ground game for the next 48 hours for the Clinton campaign. What can we expect?

    YANG: She’s here in Ohio for the second time if three days. She’s going to be in Pennsylvania tomorrow for two more visits to make that three stops in that state over the past several days.

    What they’re trying to do here, here in Ohio, a poll came out this morning showing it a virtual tie — Clinton ahead by one percentage point. They’re trying to gain ground in this swing state, this state that no Republican has ever gotten to the White House without first winning this state.

    Pennsylvania is a state that they are self confident all along but it seems they’re trying to nail it down, protect what they all their fortress in Pennsylvania, trying to keep it Democratic, keep it from flipping to the Republican Party for the first time since 1988.

    STEWART: John Yang reporting from Cleveland, Ohio — thanks so much.

    YANG: Thanks, Alison.

    The post Charting the course to victory from swing state Ohio appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno testifies before the 9-11 commission in the Hart Senate office building on Capitol Hill in Washington April 13, 2004. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

    Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno testifies before the 9-11 commission in the Hart Senate office building on Capitol Hill in Washington April 13, 2004. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

    MIAMI — Shy and admittedly awkward, Janet Reno became a blunt spoken prosecutor and the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney general and was also the epicenter of a relentless series of political storms, from the deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas, to the seizure of 5-year-old Cuban immigrant Elian Gonzalez.

    Reno, 78, died early Monday of complications from Parkinson’s disease, her goddaughter Gabrielle D’Alemberte told The Associated Press. D’Alemberte said Reno spent her final days at home in Miami surrounded by family and friends.

    Reno, a former Miami prosecutor who famously told reporters “I don’t do spin,” served nearly eight years as attorney general under President Bill Clinton, the longest stint in a century.

    One of the administration’s most recognizable and polarizing figures, Reno faced criticism early in her tenure for the deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas, where sect leader David Koresh and some 80 followers perished.

    She was known for deliberating slowly, publicly and in a typically blunt manner. Reno frequently told the public “the buck stops with me,” borrowing the mantra from President Harry S. Truman.

    After Waco, Reno figured into some of the controversies and scandals that marked the Clinton administration, including Whitewater, Filegate, bungling at the FBI laboratory, Monica Lewinsky, alleged Chinese nuclear spying and questionable campaign financing in the 1996 Clinton-Gore re-election.

    In the spring of 2000, Reno enraged her hometown’s Cuban-American community when she authorized the armed seizure of young Elian. The boy was taken from the Little Havana home of his Miami relatives so he could be returned to his father in Cuba.

    During her tenure, the Justice Department prosecuted the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing case, captured the “Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski that same year and investigated the 1993 terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Center. The department also filed a major antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft Corp. and Reno was a strong advocate for protecting abortion clinics from violence.

    After leaving Washington, Reno returned to Florida and made an unsuccessful run for Florida governor in 2002 but lost in a Democratic primary marred by voting problems.

    The campaign ended a public career that started amid humble beginnings. Born July 21, 1938, Janet Wood Reno was the daughter of two newspaper reporters and the eldest of four siblings. She grew up on the edge of the Everglades in a cypress and brick homestead built by her mother and returned there after leaving Washington. Her late brother Robert Reno was a longtime columnist for Newsday on Long Island.

    After graduating from Cornell University with a degree in chemistry, Reno became one of 16 women in Harvard Law School’s Class of 1963. Reno, who stood over 6 feet tall, later said she wanted to become a lawyer “because I didn’t want people to tell me what to do.”

    In 1993, Clinton tapped her to become the first woman to lead the Justice Department after his first two choices — also women — were withdrawn because both had hired illegal immigrants as nannies. Reno was 54.

    “It’s an extraordinary experience, and I hope I do the women of America proud,” Reno said after she won confirmation.

    Clinton said the vote might be “the only vote I carry 98-0 this year.”

    A little more than a month of taking office, however, Reno became embroiled in controversy with the raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco.

    The standoff had started even before Reno was confirmed as attorney general. On Feb. 28, 1993, agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms made a surprise raid on the compound, trying to execute a search warrant. But during the raid gunfire erupted, killing four agents and six members of the religious sect.

    That led to a 51-day standoff, ending April 19, 1993, when the complex caught fire and burned to the ground. The government claimed the Davidians committed suicide, shooting themselves and setting the fire. Survivors said the blaze was started by tear gas rounds fired into the compound by government tanks, and that agents shot at some who tried to flee. Reno had authorized the use of the tear gas to end the standoff and later called the day the worst of her life.

    “It was a dangerous situation,” Reno said of the incident during a 2005 lecture at Duke University. “The tragedy is that we will never know what was the right thing to do.”

    Things got no easier after Waco. In 1995 Reno was diagnosed with Parkinson’s after noticing a trembling in her left hand. She said from the beginning that the diagnosis, which she announced during a weekly news conference, would not impair her job performance. And critics — both Republicans and Democrats — did not give her a pass because of it.

    Republicans argued she should have sought appointment of an independent counsel to investigate allegations of Clinton-Gore fundraising violations. Democrats, meanwhile, grumbled that she failed to act as a team player.

    In early 2000, Reno tried to negotiate the return to Cuba of young Elian, who had been rescued after his mother and others had drowned trying to boat from Cuba to Florida. He had been placed in the care of a Miami uncle, but his father, who lived in Cuba, wanted him returned to the island.

    When Reno decided talks had broken down that April, she ordered an early morning raid by federal agents who seized the boy, provoking the ire of Miami’s Cuban-American community. Reno insisted that Elian should be with his father — she even kept a snapshot of a smiling Elian in his father’s arms near her home computer.

    Reno said later that federal officials tried up until the last minute to negotiate a voluntary handover and avoid the raid — where Elian was found hiding in a closet and confronted by an agent with a gun.

    “We have been to great lengths to resolve this case in the least disruptive manner possible,” she said at a news conference following the raid.

    As attorney general, Reno was derided by late night talk show hosts for her homely appearance, short wash-and-wear haircut and simple black pumps. Comedian Will Ferrell memorialized her in a “Saturday Night Live” skit called “Janet Reno’s Dance Party” and Reno visited the skit the night she left the Justice Department in January 2001.

    Reno began her career in Miami in the mid-1960s and had her first encounter with the “glass ceiling,” getting passed over for a job at a law firm because she was a woman. She later made partner. In 1972, she lost a race for a Miami-area legislative seat but learned the importance of sticking to her principles from mentor John Orr, a former state lawmaker.

    “Don’t equivocate, don’t pussyfoot, don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth and you’ll wake up the next morning feeling good about yourself,” he told Reno. It became one of her favorite sayings.

    After losing that election, Reno was hired by the Dade State Attorney’s office, where she established herself as an organized and competent lawyer. In 1978, when State Attorney Richard Gerstein decided to step down, Reno was named his successor.

    As prosecutor, Reno built programs to help reform drug dealers and combat domestic violence. Another program strong-armed deadbeat dads into paying child support, inspiring a rap song named after her.

    It included the line: “All the money you get, all the checks you make; Janet Reno will make sure and take.”

    She also weathered a 1980 riot after an all-white jury acquitted five police officers for the beating death of a black insurance salesman. Eighteen people were killed in the rioting and crowds chanted Reno’s name, accusing her of being a racist and demanding her resignation. Reno refused.

    “To resign was to give into anarchy,” she said.

    Reno eventually won the support of the city’s black community, attending countless community meetings, church services and parades.

    Her last foray into politics was the race for Florida governor. Known for being down-to-earth — her home number was listed in a city directory both before and after Washington — and even folksy, she crisscrossed the state to campaign in a red Ford Ranger pickup truck. But Reno lost the primary to Tampa lawyer Bill McBride despite her name recognition. Republican Gov. Jeb Bush defeated McBride to win a second term.

    After retiring from politics she served on the boards or as an adviser to several organizations. In 2004 she joined the board of the New York-based Innocence Project, which works to free prisoners who can be proven innocent through DNA testing.

    She also spent more time with her family. Reno never married but remained extremely close to her tight-knit family.

    Asked to describe her legacy after ending her gubernatorial campaign, Reno quoted George Washington: “If I were to write all that down I might be reduced to tears. I would prefer to drift on down the stream of life and let history make the judgment.”


    Associated Press writers Ken Thomas and Jessica Gresko contributed to this report.

    The post Janet Reno, first woman U.S. attorney general, dies at 78 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. Photo by Lucy Nicholson/REUTERS

    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. Photo by Lucy Nicholson/REUTERS

    The reporters of this story are students in Emily Laber-Warren’s science journalism class at the C.U.N.Y. Graduate School of Journalism.

    In this election season science and health have taken a backseat. Worse, presidential candidate Donald Trump dismissed climate change as a Chinese hoax. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, vowed to dig up what the government knows about UFOs. Science is hardly getting its due.

    Meanwhile in labs and institutions around the country, scientists are hard at work: inventing technologies to make guns safer, developing antibiotics to quell treatment-resistant infections and searching for more efficient forms of renewable, clean energy. This research addresses complex scientific and social issues that require thoughtful policy-making and debate. The country’s next Congress and president will have much to consider.

    To that end, Scientific American corralled some of the key scientific issues that U.S. politicians should be paying attention to, but aren’t—from the threat of nuclear Armageddon to the ethics of medically assisted suicide. We spoke with top thinkers in each field—policy experts at universities, members of foundations and nonprofits, and the scientists themselves. What, our reporters asked, should government be doing to keep Americans healthy, safe and productive?

    To learn the answers, read on. We hope those who would be our leaders will do the same.—Emily Laber-Warren

    The end of antibiotics

    Tuberculosis. Gonorrhea. Pneumonia. All these infections were once readily cured but overuse of antibiotics has created “superbugs”—bacteria that are resistant to even last-resort medicines.

    Twenty-three thousand people die in the U.S. each year from antibiotic-resistant infections, and by 2050, experts estimate that rogue bacteria will kill more people than cancer. The United Nations recently held an unprecedented conference on how to combat superbugs. Here in the U.S. experts endorse a three-pronged approach: Congress should invest in drug development, ban the wanton feeding of antibiotics to cows and pigs, and attempt to reduce the number of patient infections. Hopefully, says Kathy Talkington, director of the Antibiotic Resistance Project at The Pew Charitable Trusts, “we can move something in the near future through Congress while the iron is hot.”

    Unlike medicines for heart disease or diabetes, a good antibiotic is usually used by patients for just a single occurrence of an illness, which makes pharmaceutical companies reluctant to pour money into developing new ones. Congress could help by funding some of the research as well as by enacting legislation that eases the economic burden of testing new antibiotics.

    Meanwhile 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to cattle and other food animals, so legislators like Rep. Louise Slaughter (D–N.Y.) are turning their attention to the farmyard. Antibiotics make animals grow faster, and poultry, beef and pork farmers include regular doses in their animals’ feed. Slaughter has proposed legislation that would prohibit the use of antibiotics in healthy animals.

    Experts say we should also try to prevent the spread of infections in the first place—by encouraging hand washing and safe cooking practices.—Elyssa Bernfeld

    Clean drinking water

    In Flint, Mich., thousands of children live with brain damage because lead from aging pipes leached into their drinking water. More than 360,000 underground water reserves have been polluted by waste from industrial processes. Severe droughts in the western states threaten water supplies for some 43 million people.

    Of all the services Americans depend on, clean drinking water is the most precious. But crumbling infrastructure, contamination from fracking and farming, and climate change–related drought are depriving many Americans of this essential resource. Experts say Congress must take a range of actions—from helping cities identify toxins in their water systems to setting stricter limits for the dumping of industrial waste. “Drinking water is a basic human need,” says Erin Derrington, a Pacific Northwest–based environmental consultant who specializes in wetlands. “Without wise management—a goal that does not seem to be at the top of either the Republican or Democratic nominees’ agenda—we face real risks of degraded drinking water quality.”

    Experts say Congress should close a loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act that allows energy companies to inject wastewater into the ground, where it contaminates underground water supplies that could be useful in the future. In addition, they say, the federal government needs to invest more than the $5.4 billion it spent in 2014 to help states replace old water mains and pipes—an investment that will pay off by preventing costly public health crises like the recent one in Flint.Nicole Lewis

    Making guns safer

    When the automobile was introduced, it was a death trap. But in the 1950s universities began crash testing—research that ultimately led to safer cars, better driver education and speed limits—and that slashed vehicular fatalities by 90 percent.

    Now public health experts—including the American Medical Association, which put out a statement in June—want the government to take a similar approach to gun violence, which is responsible for more than 30,000 deaths a year.

    The question of whether to regulate guns has become polarized, quelling progress on reducing deaths. But scientific research could liberate the issue from politics. Instead of debating whether people should have guns, science can suggest ways to make people safer: For example, how to prevent accidents and suicides in the 22 percent of U.S. homes where there are guns—by understanding how to best keep loaded guns out of the hands of children and distraught people who might act impulsively. Everytown.org, a leading gun violence prevention organization, wants Congress to fund research into technology such as biometric gun locks and safeties that would make it impossible for anyone but a gun’s owner to fire it. “The truth is, whether you want gun rights or you support gun control, you should want these kinds of detailed academic, scientifically rigorous studies,” says Adam Winkler, a constitutional law expert at the University of California, Los Angeles. “That is what a public health approach takes.”—Stephanie Daniel

    Keeping our technological edge

    U.S. scientists and engineers produced the defining technologies of the modern era: the car, the airplane, the atom bomb, the iPhone. But the nation is quickly losing its edge. Foreign-born scientists and engineers are filling key slots at universities and in private labs, in part because of a dearth of qualified Americans.

    Most experts trace the problem to the U.S. educational system. Our students rank far below other industrialized countries in math and science. The average American 15-year-old has difficulty solving an equation using pi. But there is a huge variation in how students fare depending on the state they live in; some Bible belt states shirk teaching evolution science or present it as a competing theory with religious creationism whereas states like New Hampshire offer excellent math and science instruction.

    The solution, policy experts say, is for the federal government to create uniform, up-to-date requirements for the science and math concepts students should know at each grade level, as is done in other countries. But recent attempts at implementing national curricular conformity such as the Common Core have met resistance.

    For now, experts say, the best approach is to suggest, not require. The Next Generation Science Standards, led by educators from nonprofits, philanthropies and state governments, are an attempt to codify a national baseline of math and science achievement. But so far only 18 states and the District of Columbia have signed on. The standards are optional but their authors hope that more state legislatures will sign them into law.—W. Harry Fortuna

    Protecting national parks

    America’s national parks and forests are facing many challenges. In recent years legislators have stymied attempts to increase park funding and pushed for privatization of publicly owned lands. The National Park Service is some $11 billion behind on repairs and maintenance. Meanwhile, Arizona’s congressional representatives support new uranium mines on public land near the Grand Canyon—and legislators from other states have similar projects such as oil and gas development in the lands around Arches National Park in Utah. “There’s constant pressure to develop the land surrounding parks,” says Kristen Brengel, vice president of government affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association.

    But Pres. Barack Obama has taken steps to protect public lands. Earlier this year the U.S. Bureau of Land Management created a plan to protect Utah’s public landscapes from energy developers. The Department of the Interior also recently canceled an oil-and-gas lease that threatened wildlife-rich regions around Montana’s Glacier National Park.

    Meanwhile private groups are taking their own steps to protect the nation’s public lands. The nonprofit Trust for Public Land recently worked with a philanthropist to add 282 acres to Arizona’s Saguaro National Park.

    But whether the money comes from Congress or private pocketbooks, some advocates say it would be better spent readying parks for the impacts of climate change or fixing trails and roads at heavily-visited sites like Yellowstone. “We shouldn’t be expanding our parks. We should be maintaining them,” says Bonner Cohen, senior fellow at The National Center for Public Policy Research.—Samantha Lee

    Meeting our climate change promises

    Last year in Paris the U.S. was one of 191 countries to sign a global agreement to slash the emissions that fuel climate change. It was an historic moment, but the hard work is yet to come: figuring out how to reduce the country’s greenhouse gases to at least 26 percent below 2005 levels within the next nine years.

    Climate change has gotten little attention during this presidential election season. Although Democrat Hillary Clinton has called climate change an “urgent threat” and pledged to carry on Obama’s climate initiatives, GOP candidate Donald Trump has openly denied climate change and said he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement.

    Part of the Obama administration’s solution—dubbed the Clean Power Plan—would require power plants to limit their emissions, but it has been blocked both by the Republican-controlled Congress and the Supreme Court. Most policy experts agree that Obama’s power plan is the best tool to meet the nation’s emissions reduction target.

    If Democrats win the presidency and control of both houses of Congress, the Clean Power Plan might get new legs. Other solutions include taxing carbon or allowing companies to profit when they reduce emissions more than required, says Daniel Fiorino, director of the Center for Environmental Policy at American University.

    If Republicans remain in control, experts say, Congress might do better to focus on investing in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, an approach that might appeal to the GOP because it could stimulate the economy by adding new jobs.—Suzanna Masih

    Genetically enhanced humans

    Scientists are inching closer to the holy grail of genetic engineering—the ability to add or remove DNA from an organism to change specific traits.

    Genetic engineering, also known as gene editing, has been used for years to enhance agriculture and treat disease. But a new technology that harnesses the CRISPR–Cas9 gene–protein complex makes it possible to add and remove genes with unprecedented speed and precision, bringing designer babies and other sci-fi capabilities closer to reality.

    Scientists are testing whether gene editing can help treat diseases such as HIV and hemophilia. But CRISPR opens the door to editing for human enhancement—such as adding genes for bigger muscles or whiter teeth—possibilities that are “soon to be on the horizon,” says Fyodor Urnov, a geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley.

    There are as yet no laws regulating gene editing for enhancement. Bioethicist Jonathan Moreno of the University of Pennsylvania says that’s proper, because the technology is not yet developed, and “once you legislate, it’s very hard to unlegislate [sic].”

    For now experts are wrestling with the ethical implications of gene editing and making recommendations: In December a committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, comprising specialists in health, science and bioethics, will publish their recommendations on how to legislate as the technology develops.—Michael R. Murphy

    Nuclear safeguards

    Nuclear war is no longer a two-player game, as it largely was during the cold war, with the U.S. and NATO facing off against the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. The geopolitical nuclear landscape has grown more fraught and complex than ever. China, India, Pakistan and Israel all have nuclear weapons. North Korea’s dictator is conducting missile tests with great fanfare. These new configurations multiply exponentially the rivalries and passions, global and regional, that could ignite a regional or global nuclear conflict.

    Experts are divided over how the U.S. should act to minimize the threat. Some say we should publicly embrace a “no first use” policy, solidifying our implicit vow never to be first to push the button. But Obama’s advisers maintain that any change of policy could upset the status quo—and hence the safest action is no action at all.

    Another issue is how to respond to a perceived nuclear attack. The current policy is “launch on warning,” meaning that we will fire as soon as we learn that another country has attacked us. This policy has led several times to near-catastrophe, when our warning systems were mistakenly tripped by a satellite, a faulty computer chip and even the moon.

    A safer doctrine, say experts including former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, is to avoid mistakes by retaliating only after being struck. Once nukes have been launched against us, there’s nothing we can do to stop them. But we can strike back—even after being hit—using our fleet of nuclear subs and bombers. “We’re not going to change,” Perry says, “until people understand what those dangers are.”—Michael O’Brien

    The right to die

    Two years ago, a 29-year-old woman named Brittany Maynard who was dying of brain cancer decided to end her life. But she did not want to swallow a bunch of pills. She wanted to die safely and without pain, under a doctor’s supervision. That meant Maynard had to move from California to Oregon, one of the few states where medically assisted suicide was legal at the time.

    Maynard’s story made the cover of People magazine. Suddenly the “right to die” had become a national issue—a far cry from the 1990s, when physician Jack Kevorkian was nicknamed “Dr. Death” and convicted of murder for helping his dying patients end their lives.

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the right to medically assisted death is not constitutionally protected, leaving legislation up to the states. Assisted suicide is now legal in Montana, Vermont, Washington State and California as well as Oregon—and 20 other states and the District of Columbia are considering the move. But as right-to-die legislation gains traction, it is becoming as polarizing as the abortion debate, raising similar religious and ethical questions about an individual’s rights and who should have authority in matters of life and death.—Alyssa Pagano

    The threat of microplastics

    In 2013 the U.S. threw away more than 32.5 million tons of plastic waste, up from around 390,000 tons in 1960. Much of this plastic litter reaches rivers and makes its way to the sea. Plastic bags, balloons and six-pack rings pose known dangers to birds, sea turtles and other wildlife. But recent research suggests that once in the ocean, plastics degrade into microscopic particles that can be hazardous not only to animals and the environment but to humans as well. These so-called microplastics—particles smaller than one fifth of an inch—are ingested by fish, then by people if they eat the affected seafood. A new study by researchers atPlymouth University in England found that a single washing machine cycle can release hundreds of thousands of microplastic particles from fleece and other synthetic fabrics. The U.N. has singled out microplastics for their potential to cause infertility and other health issues.

    One approach to the problem has been to institute bans or taxes on plastic shopping bags, but only three of 77 such proposals have passed in recent years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Similar efforts are being made to ban so-called microbeads—tiny plastics manufactured for use in soaps and cosmetics. Conservation groups also organize beach and road cleanups, to prevent plastics from lingering in the environment.—Michael H. Wilson

    Tackling obesity

    Obesity now affects more than a third of American adults. It’s associated with myriad diseases—the treatment of which costs over $147 billion a year. And almost one in five children are now obese, detracting from their self-esteem, emotional well-being and health. “If we continue on this course, this generation of children could be the first in U.S. history to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents,” Donald Schwarz, vice president, Program, of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest public health philanthropy, said during a telephone press conference.

    Experts say there is no single way to reduce obesity, because so many factors can impact weight—income, education, access to healthful food, physical activity. This is confounded by the fact that weight is not necessarily an indicator of overall health.

    States and even city governments have introduced policies aimed at changing people’s exercise and eating habits and fighting the hold fast food has on the U.S. diet. For example, the cities of Philadelphia and Berkeley, Calif., recently instituted a tax on sugary sodas—something that New York City tried and failed to do several years ago. Critics reject such programs as government overreach, calling them behavior taxes, but a similar program in Mexico has curbed soda consumption substantially. “We know it works,” says spokesperson David Goldberg of Healthy Food America, a science-based nonprofit.—Kazi Awal

    Abandoning the coasts

    Hurricane Matthew, which devastated Haiti and deluged huge swaths of North Carolina earlier this month, was the latest in a barrage of catastrophic storms to hit U.S. coastlines in recent years. With storms and flooding along the coasts intensifying due to climate change, experts say it is time for a paradigm shift in how we think about our coasts, home to nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population. “I wouldn’t put my money in investing in real estate at the coast, certainly not in the long term,” says Jeff Williams, a coastal marine geologist and scientist emeritus at the U.S. Geological Survey.

    The most sensible strategy, however difficult to stomach, is for the government to buy damaged property so that it never gets built on again, and people need to move inland. “Basically coastal communities in this country are staring down the loaded gun of climate change,” says Shiva Polefka, an ocean policy analyst with the liberal-leaning think tank, the Center for American Progress. “Due to sea level rise, we’re going to have to pull back from the coast.”

    Instead, the approach that towns and cities have been taking, with financial support from the federal government, has been to build walls around their shorelines or dump tons of sand on eroding beaches.

    Experts say Congress should reallocate money into large-scale programs to buy property from coastal homeowners. Buyout programs do exist, but they are tiny. After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, for example, New York City helped rebuild more than 10,000 houses, but bought fewer than a thousand.—Meaghan Lee Callaghan

    Cleaner energy

    The next president will inherit a national patchwork of renewable energy policies. Only 30 states mandate renewable energy. Top on the list are Maine and Idaho, which derive 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources such as biomass and hydropower. But Pennsylvania produces a paltry 4 percent of its energy from renewables. And the states that have set no requirements lag even further behind. Wyoming, for instance, generates less than 1 percent of its energy from renewables.

    The U.S. has around 4 percent of the world’s population but emits some 25 percent of global CO2, the main driver of climate change. Yet only about 13 percent of the nation’s electricity comes from renewable sources like wind, solar, hydropower and biomass.

    Many believe it is high time for Congress to create a national standard. The Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit advocacy group, points out that half of U.S. wind production between 2001 and 2006 was the result of state energy standards. Others contend that, given the huge differences in natural resources around the country, it makes sense for states to retain flexibility on how to meet their energy needs. A Great Plains state like Iowa, for example, may be well situated to harness energy from windmills whereas sunny Arizona would do better to rely on solar. Most attempts at national renewable energy policy take this geographic variability into account, allowing states to develop individualized portfolios while adhering to strict standards that increase over time.

    Standards aside, experts say the federal government needs to modernize the energy grid. Renewable energy is not evenly distributed across the country. For example, lots of wind is collected in the western plains, and most solar energy is generated in the Southwest, but the areas with highest energy demand are on the coasts. Territorial battles among the states hold up necessary permits, leading to delays in connecting the isolated segments of the energy grid, according to policy expert Jules Kortenhorst, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit research center in Colorado.

    Kortenhorst suggests that a future president could institute a “federal override” that would allow the government to step in and force the integration of various regional grids, as it currently does with pipelines.—Roshan Abraham

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

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    Researchers drew ire after they terminated a study on a promising male birth control treatment. Here's what their decision means for the future of male birth control. Photo by applezoomzoom/Adobe

    Researchers drew ire after they terminated a study on a promising male birth control treatment. Here’s what their decision means for the future of male birth control. Photo by applezoomzoom/Adobe

    Who’s in charge of preventing pregnancy?

    For years, available contraception methods have generally made this a woman’s responsibility.

    But researchers report they may be getting closer to changing the calculation, according to findings published last week in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. They offered evidence that a new hormonal injection can stop men from producing sperm.

    The problem: Three years in, the researchers agreed to terminate the study early, citing potential side effects. That revelation is drawing some criticism.

    The approach, which involves an injection of testosterone and progestin every eight weeks, was tested on 320 men in seven countries. Mostly, it worked. But study participants also reported acne, pain, increased sex drive, mood disorders and depression. Those last four symptoms prompted a safety review panel in 2011 to stop the trial from recruiting new test subjects and continuing injections for those already being followed. The research team was allowed, however, to finish data collection and to analyze the findings.

    The decision to cease the study has led to a backlash. Some ethicists and advocates say it represents a double standard, citing evidence that female contraception also may be related to depression and other side effects. They argue men are being protected from the same unpleasant consequences that women are forced to accept.

    But how similar are the problems with men’s and women’s contraception? Let’s break down the issues and what they mean for the future of male birth control.

    First, what actually happened?

    This study, which began in 2008, is part of a larger effort to develop a form of hormonal birth control for men. Unlike women, who can choose between a host of options — pills, patches, IUDs and implants, to name a few — men seeking temporary birth control can turn only to condoms.

    In this case, more than 75 percent of men who completed the trial said they would use it if it were made publicly available.

    But there were also 20 participants who dropped out because of the side effects. One committed suicide, though the researchers, citing input from that subject’s family, concluded that was likely because of other, unrelated factors.

    Because of the safety concerns, research on this particular drug regimen won’t continue, said Doug Colvard, who co-authored the study and is deputy director for programs at the nonprofit research organization CONRAD at Eastern Virginia Medical School. The move to discontinue wasn’t without criticism, he noted.

    “It was disappointing to everyone in the field when the study had to be stopped,” he said. “There were people who felt it was justified, and there were people who felt the study shouldn’t have been stopped.”

    So did this actually cause depression in men?

    Good question. Unfortunately, we don’t really know.

    That’s in part because the trial was stopped early and involved a relatively small sample of men. When testing birth control specifically, it’s considered unethical to give a placebo to a control group, because it could result in unwanted pregnancy — meaning there’s no real frame against which to compare the results and whether the side effects were indeed caused by this drug, said Jennifer Gunter, a San Francisco-based obstetrician-gynecologist. Gunter was not associated with the study.

    Given the lack of information, then, it’s tough to draw conclusions either way about how the drug could affect men’s mental health.

    That said, it wouldn’t be surprising if the drug had something to do with these side effects, Gunter said. Testosterone is known to cause acne and to increase sex drive, and it’s an anabolic steroid, which also is known to often cause mood problems.

    But on the other hand, it’s entirely possible some of the negative consequences were caused by factors other than the injection itself, noted Chelsea Polis, a senior research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute, which focuses on reproductive health and health policy. She was not involved in the study. “Adverse events reported in clinical trials include those that are unrelated to the medication, those that are related to the medication, and everything in between,” she said.

    But hold on. Don’t women on hormonal birth control face mental health-related side effects?

    That’s the argument many people are making. But it turns out, the comparison isn’t so simple.

    Anecdotally, many women say taking hormonal birth control, such as the pill, led to depression or mood swings. But there’s no research definitively making that link. A study published in September was reported to link depression and hormonal birth control in teenage girls.

    But scientists caution the relationship is hardly causal. That study, many have noted, measured a fairly small increase in depression and could have been confounded by other factors.

    Comparing the discontinued men’s study to what we know — or don’t know — about how hormonal contraception affect women isn’t really feasible, experts said. And, since there historically hasn’t been a lot of research on hormonal birth control in men, Gunter said, a cautious approach is in fact responsible and makes a good deal of sense.

    Is this going to put the brakes on contraception for men?

    Probably not.

    There’s still research underway to develop a hormonal option, Colvard noted. And many researchers said this trial provides potentially helpful insight.

    For instance, future research could look at smaller doses, said Cora Breuner, a pediatrician in Seattle who chairs the committee on adolescents for the American Academy of Pediatrics. When female birth control was first developed, researchers began with 50 microgram doses, before working down to 20. Breuner was not involved in the study.

    When developing birth control, researchers often start with a high dose, Gunter said. Then, they treat it “like pick-up sticks” —continually reducing the dose until they reach the minimum level necessary to be effective. “How many things can you pull out before the thing falls down?”

    Also encouraging: the fact that so many men said they would take the drug if it were available. Historically, the burden of controlling pregnancy has fallen on women, Breuner said. But now, the findings here show that may be shifting — and could in fact spur more interest on the part of drug developers.

    “The interest is very much there,” she said. “In five years, we’ll see a world where the female gender doesn’t have to take primary responsibility. … If the family wants to plan a pregnancy, they can plan it together.”

    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website.

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    Research by psychologists provides some insight into how most humans would actually act in Westworld. Photo by HBO

    Research by psychologists provides some insight into how most humans would actually act in Westworld. Photo by HBO

    A central theme of HBO’s new sci-fi series “Westworld” is the question of what it means to be human.

    The setting is an immersive adult theme park that’s been fashioned after the American Old West and is inhabited by intelligent lifelike robots. Over the years, the robots – called hosts – have been updated to look and act more human. As a result, the hosts have started to deviate from their programming. They’ve become unpredictable – just like humans.

    While viewers are invited to ponder the robot hosts’ humanity, the irony of “Westworld” is that the park’s wealthy, human guests are the ones who seem truly inhuman. They live out their wildest fantasies, no matter how depraved, abusing and murdering the hosts with indifference, even glee. One guest, after shooting a host in a bar for no apparent reason, shouts, “Now that’s a vacation!”

    The guests’ sadistic treatment of the hosts paints a grim portrait of human nature. It also forces viewers to wonder: What would you do if you visited Westworld? Could you really shoot a lifelike host in the face while they pleaded for mercy?

    Research by psychologists provides some insight into how most humans would actually act in Westworld.

    Perceiving robot minds

    Our willingness to harm others depends, in part, on our perceptions of what they think and feel.

    In 2007, psychologists Heather Gray, Kurt Gray and Daniel Wegner conducted a study of how people think about the minds of human, animal and robot characters. Using the answers of over 2,000 participants of an online survey, they found that the respondents judged mental capacity on two independent factors: the capacity to feel things like pain and pleasure (a factor that the researchers termed “experience”), and the capacity to plan and make decisions (a factor that the researchers termed “agency”).

    Respondents were also asked how painful it would be for them if they were forced to harm the various characters. On average, they considered it more painful to harm characters that were rated high on “experience” (capacity to feel). However, ratings of “agency” (capacity to plan and make decisions) – high or low – had much less influence on the respondents’ feelings about harming the characters.

    For example, one character in the survey was Kismet, a social robot that can express emotion through facial expressions. Kismet was rated moderately high in “agency” but very low in “experience.” As a result, the participants were, on average, more open to harming Kismet. This is consistent with Westworld’s guests’ indifference about harming the hosts, who are robots.

    But there is a key difference between robots like Kismet and Westworld’s hosts.

    In Westworld, the hosts are virtually indistinguishable from humans both in behavior and appearance. They are played by human actors on the show. They even bleed.

    During the show’s second episode, William, a first-time guest to the park, has the following exchange with a host:

    “Are you real?”

    “Well if you can’t tell, does it matter?”

    The primary way that you or I or William decide if another agent has a mind is by observing the agent’s appearance and behavior. But if the hosts look and act human, it would be difficult to overcome the powerful feeling that they have minds and can feel pain, even if we’re told they don’t.

    A 2012 study by psychologists Kurt Gray and Daniel Wegner on the creepiness of lifelike robots supports the idea that a robot’s appearance is a major factor in our perceptions of its capacity to feel.

    In a series of experiments, the researchers found that robots that appeared more lifelike were thought to have a higher capacity to feel pain or pleasure. This made study participants uneasy. For example, in one experiment, 105 participants watched a video of the robot KASPAR either from the front, showing a human-like face, or from the back, showing wires and mechanics. When participants viewed KASPAR from the front, they assigned it slightly higher ratings of “experience” and also found the robot slightly creepier.

    This suggests that most Westworld guests would not be able to easily stab a lifelike host in the hand with a knife and watch him writhe in pain (which is just what William’s brother-in-law, Logan, does in the second episode).

    Instead, most of us would react with horror.

    Dehumanizing robots, dehumanizing people

    But people are sometimes capable of callous violence, even toward actual humans. Such violence is psychologically easier when the perpetrators dehumanize their victims, viewing them as having less of a mind. Historically, many genocides have been preceded by campaigns to portray the victims as subhuman animals like rats and cockroaches.

    We see this on “Westworld” too, where the park staff is encouraged to think of the hosts as mindless and less than human.

    Anthony Hopkins plays Dr. Ford, the mysterious mastermind behind ‘Westworld.’ Photo by HBO

    Anthony Hopkins plays Dr. Ford, the mysterious mastermind behind ‘Westworld.’ Photo by HBO

    For example, in one scene, Dr. Ford, Westworld’s enigmatic creative director (played by Anthony Hopkins), admonishes a technician for covering a naked host with a sheet while working on him:

    “Why is this host covered? Perhaps you didn’t want him to feel cold or ashamed. You wanted to cover his modesty. It doesn’t get cold! It doesn’t feel ashamed! It doesn’t feel a solitary thing that we haven’t told it to.”

    He then casually cuts the host’s face with a scalpel to underscore his point: The hosts are mindless things, not people. By thinking about the hosts this way, the staff can rationalize any abuse.

    So while “Westworld” offers an unrealistically grim view of typical human nature, it does serve as a reminder of the human capacity for cruelty.

    Because the hosts look and act human, you would probably struggle to harm them. At the same time, if you could be conditioned to see the hosts as less than human, what would prevent you from being conditioned to see a group of actual humans the same way?

    The Conversation

    Alan Jern is assistant professor of psychology at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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    Photo by danielfela/Adobe

    Here is a breakdown of some of the top voting concerns in key states. Photo by danielfela/Adobe

    ATLANTA — More than a dozen states have enacted tougher requirements for registering and voting since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a key provision of the Voting Rights Act three years ago.

    That has led to confusion and claims that certain groups, mostly minorities who tend to vote with Democrats, are being disenfranchised.

    Adding to the uncertainty is a call by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for his supporters to monitor the polls on Tuesday for voter fraud and concerns by the federal government that hackers could try to disrupt the voting or vote-counting process.

    Here is a breakdown of some of the top voting concerns in key states:


    This is the first presidential election in Alabama in which voters will be asked for photo identification. A lawsuit challenging the voter ID law is pending, with trial set for next year. The plaintiffs have argued the law disenfranchises voters who are unable to obtain a state-issued ID. Last year, 31 state driver’s license offices — many in poor, minority communities — were closed because of budget concerns. Most were open one day a week and now they are open one to two days a month, with critics complaining the reduced hours remain a barrier.



    Long lines led to frustration during Arizona’s March primary, when some voters in the Phoenix area waited hours to cast ballots after county election officials opened 60 polling stations — fewer than half what is typical. On Tuesday, Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, plans on having more than 700 sites. Meanwhile, state Democrats filed a lawsuit alleging some Republicans are planning to intimidate voters at the polls. Arizona also was one of two states in which hackers over the summer attempted to breach voter registration systems.



    During the 2012 presidential election, Florida had the longest average wait time among all states — 45 minutes, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Some of the most populous counties have since expanded early voting hours in the hopes of reducing long lines on Election Day.

    Meanwhile, legal battles continue over voter registration. After Hurricane Matthew raked Florida’s eastern coastline, Democrats sued to extend the deadline for voters to register. After a court order, about 107,000 people registered during the extension, but there was a concern that not all those applications would be processed before early voting began. A federal judge declined a request by Democrats to force election officials to allow those affected to vote even if their registration had yet to be verified, saying those affected could cast a provisional ballot that may be counted once their eligibility is confirmed.



    The state’s process for handling voter registrations and maintaining its voter lists has been the subject of lawsuits this year. One pending lawsuit was filed against Secretary of State Brian Kemp over a policy allowing for people to be removed from state voter rolls for failing to vote in recent elections. Lawyers in the Georgia case said roughly 372,000 voters were purged between 2012 and 2014.

    Civil rights groups also sued Kemp’s office over a policy they said had prevented tens of thousands of residents from registering to vote and violated the federal Voting Rights Act. The policy rejected applicants whose identifying information did not exactly match state or federal databases. Kemp’s office informed the court in September that it had changed the policy. Meanwhile, long lines have been reported in some places since early voting began Oct. 17, including a four-hour wait in one metro Atlanta county on the first day.



    Indiana State Police have said they are investigating some voter registration applications submitted by Patriot Majority USA, a Washington, D.C.-based voter mobilization group with ties to the Democratic Party. The probe is examining whether some applications contained forged signatures or other possible elements of fraud. Attorneys for Patriot Majority have asked the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division to look into whether the investigation is an attempt to suppress the votes of black residents. The group has run voter registration drives in 11 states in previous years.

    Separately, Secretary of State Connie Lawson, a Republican, warned recently of widespread voter registration fraud after her office found a heavier than usual number of changes to voter registration records. She later tempered those remarks to say that many of the thousands of changes simply could be residents rushing to correct their names or birth dates online ahead of the election.



    A Kansas court fight focused on whether a group of as many as 50,000 residents could vote even though they did not submit citizenship documents, as required under state law, when registering at motor vehicle offices or with a federal form. Federal courts had previously ordered the state to count their votes in federal elections. The secretary of state’s office had sought to toss out their votes in state and local races, something a state judge has since blocked.



    The state’s 2016 primary was marred by widespread reports of people in Brooklyn saying they were unable to vote. This happened after about 126,000 Brooklyn voters were removed from voter registration lists or deemed inactive between November 2015 and April of this year. Just days before the presidential election, a lawsuit was filed claiming the New York City Board of Elections had improperly removed voters from the rolls.



    In 2013, Republican lawmakers in North Carolina passed a package of measures that required voters to show photo ID, reduced early voting and eliminated same-day registration during the early voting period. In July, a federal appeals court struck down several parts of the law, saying they “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” Republican officials have said discrimination was not their intent. A divided U.S. Supreme Court declined in August to take up the case.

    After the ruling, Democrats raised alarm when the executive director of the state Republican Party emailed GOP activists suggesting each county election board’s Republicans work to limit early voting hours, curtail Sunday voting and avoid placing voting sites on college campuses. This set up a battle over early voting plans in a third of the state’s counties.

    The dispute ultimately was resolved by the state Board of Elections, which restored Sunday voting in a few counties where local officials had sought to eliminate it and expanded hours in counties where the proposals seemed too limiting. But civil rights groups remained concerned that reductions in some places along with confusion over the photo ID law could affect turnout among black voters.

    A week before Tuesday’s election, the state chapter of the NAACP filed a lawsuit alleging thousands of people, many of them black, had been removed improperly from voter rolls after being challenged by private citizens. A judge ordered those registrations restored, citing a federal law that prohibits such removals too close to an election.



    A federal judge ruled in October that voters who were wrongfully removed from Ohio’s registration lists can cast ballots in Tuesday’s election. The number of voters covered by the ruling is not known, although some have estimated it to be in the tens of thousands. That decision follows an earlier ruling that found Ohio’s process for maintaining its voter rolls wrongfully removed eligible people based on their failure to vote in recent elections.

    In a separate case, the state Democratic Party has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in its voter intimidation lawsuit. The party filed an emergency request for the nation’s high court to lift an order from the Cincinnati-based federal appeals court. That ruling on Sunday granted a request from Trump’s campaign to block a federal judge’s restraining order. Democrats said the restraining order was needed to prevent voter intimidation.

    A three-judge panel for 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Ohio Democrats failed to show “a likelihood of success” on their case’s merits. The party told the U.S. Supreme Court the appellate judges ruled without reviewing “critical evidence” that a lower court judge had relied on. That judge ruled anyone engaging in intimidation or harassment inside or near polling places would face contempt of court charges.

    In yet another effort, Democrats’ attempts to restore “golden week,” when people could register and cast ballots at the same time, failed after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene. Democrats had claimed the reduction, along with other voting changes, disproportionately burdened black voters and those who lean Democratic. But the state’s attorneys argued the reduction alleviates administrative burdens for local election officials while reducing costs and the potential for fraud.



    Trump has warned for weeks of a “rigged” election, asking supporters to head to the polls to watch for voter fraud, and mentions Philadelphia as a place that could have problems on Election Day.

    Days before Tuesday’s election, state Democrats filed a lawsuit alleging some Republicans were planning to intimidate voters at the polls. Meanwhile, a judge rejected a lawsuit by Republicans challenging a state law that requires poll watchers to be registered in the county where they want to monitor the vote.



    A federal appeals court ruled this summer that the state’s 2011 voter ID law discriminated against minorities and the poor, ordering officials to relax the ID requirements for the November election. Experts had said the law was among the toughest in the nation, requiring voters to show one of seven acceptable forms of photo identification that included a concealed handgun license but not a college student ID.

    It was estimated that more than 600,000 registered voters in Texas lacked an acceptable ID under the law. And there were early signs that confusion surrounding the law has persisted, with reports during early voting of at least seven counties with outdated posters and poll workers saying photo IDs were required to vote.

    A federal judge in September had said Texas officials must change the voter outreach efforts after the Justice Department accused the state of still giving the impression that some voters cannot cast a ballot.



    This is the first presidential election in Wisconsin in which voters will be asked for photo identification. The voter ID law was initially blocked by the courts, and then went into effect for the presidential primary in April. In July, a federal judge left the voter ID requirement in place but struck down more than a dozen other election changes, including limits on early voting hours and locations.

    As many as 300,000 Wisconsin voters may not have the required photo ID. In recent weeks, recordings by voter advocacy groups have shown state DMV workers giving people inaccurate information about what they can do to obtain alternative voting credentials if they lack a photo ID. A federal judge in October ordered the state to clarify the process and produce a simple, one-page handout that can be distributed in person and online.



    Civil rights groups are also monitoring a group of other states with new voting restrictions or requirements in place for the first time. Those states are Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.


    Associated Press writers Kim Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama; Bob Christie in Phoenix; Gary Fineout in Tallahassee, Florida; Brian Slodysko in Indianapolis; Roxana Hegeman in Wichita, Kansas; Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin; Gary D. Robertson in Raleigh, North Carolina; Ann Sanner in Columbus, Ohio; Will Weissert in Austin, Texas; and Errin Haines Whack in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

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

    People arrived to cast their ballots at a polling station as early voting began in North Carolina last month. Photo by Jonathan Drake/REUTERS

    After 19 months of campaigning, dozens of debates, and countless television ads, the 2016 election comes down to one final day. For Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the last few weeks have been all about getting out the vote in battleground states and among key voting blocs. As the day unfolds, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the returns, as well as the broader themes that have dominated the election. Here’s a guide to help get you through Election Day.

    Where to look. And when to look there.

    Four to 11 of the 50 states will decide this election. The Trump campaign considers these their core four battlegrounds: Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Iowa. If Trump loses any of these, the campaign (and electoral math) indicate he cannot become president.

    When will we have a sense of that? Starting around 8-9 p.m ET on Tuesday. North Carolina and Ohio polls close at 7:30 p.m. ET, and Florida is fully done voting at 8 p.m ET, when polls close in the state’s more conservative panhandle region. If Trump takes all of those states, next check results in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — his campaign would need at least one of those as well as another one or two states.

    In addition to watching those battleground states, it’s worth keeping an eye on results in several key swing counties as well. The turnout in these bellwether counties, like Hamilton County, Ohio, (home of Cincinnati) and Clark County, Nevada (home to Las Vegas) will be critical. Trump has made an extended push in Nevada of late, but recently, early voting seems to have swung Clinton’s way. It could signal much about the presidential race, as well as the battle for control of the Senate. Republican Rep. Joe Heck and former Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto are locked in a close race for the open seat left by retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

    Minority voter turnout vs. percentage

    In 2012, minority voters made up 28 percent of the electorate, up from just 12 percent in the 1980 presidential election. This year, African-Americans, Hispanics and other minority groups will play an even larger role in deciding the final outcome.

    Polls show that Donald Trump is on track to do worse with minority voters than Mitt Romney, who won 27 percent of the Hispanic vote and 6 percent of the black vote in 2012. Hillary Clinton is counting on support from Hispanic and black voters to push her over the edge. There are two separate things to watch for here as the exit polls come in on election night: percentage and raw turnout. Let’s take them one by one.

    Clinton is counting on support from minority voters to push her over the edge.

    In terms of percentage of support, Clinton’s support among black voters has hovered around 80 to 85 percent for several months. That’s in line with the recent historical average for Democratic nominees, though lower than Barack Obama, who won over 90 percent of the black vote twice. Clinton’s support among Hispanic voters is stuck around 66 percent, according to some polls — also slightly lower than the 72 percent that Obama won in 2012, but not by much.

    Raw turnout is another story, however. Clinton’s share of the black vote could be just as high as Obama’s, but polls indicate that turnout could be lower, meaning she could end up with fewer votes overall. In 2012, 17.8 million African-Americans voted, according to census data. The question for Clinton is: will the same number vote this time around? Polls suggest a potential bright spot for Clinton with Hispanic voters. Some 13 million Hispanic voters are expected to vote — up from 11.2 million in 2012.

    Watch for signs of enthusiasm (like extra long lines at polling locations, and early voting results) in predominantly black and Hispanic communities. They will give a snapshot of how Clinton’s day is going — and whether or not she can win the presidency.

    The figurative temperature is more important than the literal one

    Every Election Day, much is made of the weather. We are going to essentially ignore that this year, giving you only this link to the forecast. Instead we believe the figurative storms over this country are more important. And the temperature of voters at the polls.

    We will be watching for signs of election distress, from accusations of voter fraud to long lines to voter intimidation to potential skirmishes among those waiting to cast ballots. There is seemingly no limit to where this could occur, but one starting place may be the 15 states with new voting laws. Also watch ProPublica’s “Electionland” website where journalists are collecting real-time reports from voters of problems in casting ballots.

    Interpreting ballot initiatives

    The electorate is deeply divided when it comes to the race for the White House. But another picture of the country emerges if you look at state ballot initiatives. Voters in several states are considering a slew of liberal ballot measures, with several likely to pass. If that happens it would indicate that the country as a whole is shifting left on policies from marijuana legalization to gun control.

    The various marijuana measures are among the most prominent ballot initiatives this cycle. Five states — California, Nevada, Arizona, Maine and Massachusetts — are voting to fully legalize pot. An additional four states — Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota and Montana — are voting to legalize medical marijuana. Legalization advocates say if a majority of the initiatives pass, the results would signal a tipping point in the national debate over marijuana legalization. Legalization has important implications for several policies areas, including health care and criminal justice reform that touch the lives of millions of Americans.

    Minimum wage is also on the ballot in five states. Maine, Arizona, Colorado and Washington are voting on proposals to increase their state minimum wage limits. (South Dakota is considering a measure that would lower the minimum wage for employees under the age of 18). If voters back the minimum wage hikes, they would join several states that have already moved in that direction, and put more pressure on the federal government to follow suit. Whether Congress takes action on the issue next year depends on the next president, and the balance of power in the Senate. In recent years, Democrats have supported a federal minimum wage increase, while Republicans have opposed it.

    An election of firsts

    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

    Clinton supporters held up signs at a rally in Florida on Saturday. Photo by Carlos Barria/REUTERS

    If Trump wins, he would be the first president since Dwight Eisenhower who never held elected office before seeking the White House. A Trump win would represent a breakthrough for outsider candidates. And of course if Clinton wins, she would become the first female president— a major milestone in the country’s movement toward gender equality.

    The last time a major barrier was broken, when Obama was elected president in 2008, millions of Americans responded with spontaneous celebrations that went on for hours after the last polls had closed. A large crowd gathered to celebrate in front of the White House, in Times Square, and elsewhere across the country. Whether you voted for Obama or not, the night held a special historical significance.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens this year, especially if Clinton wins. Will her supporters react to her achievement with the enthusiasm that greeted Obama’s victory eight years ago? Will Trump supporters acknowledge that Clinton made history? Or is the nation too divided to pause and process the moment? The election has fostered a national conversation about gender that is bound to continue long past Election Night. Whatever shape it takes, the public’s initial response, if Clinton wins, win will speak volumes about how far we’ve come as a country.

    The post What to watch for on Election Day appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Ohio voters cast their votes at the polls for early voting in the 2012 U.S. presidential election in Medina, Ohio, U.S. on October 26, 2012.  Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/REUTERS

    Ohio voters cast their votes at the polls for early voting in the 2012 U.S. presidential election in Medina, Ohio, U.S. on October 26, 2012. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/REUTERS

    WASHINGTON — The Justice Department said Monday it will send more than 500 staffers to 28 states on Election Day to monitor the polls, a 35 percent reduction from the number four years ago.

    The personnel will be dispatched to 67 jurisdictions to watch for potential civil rights violations, such as discrimination on the basis of race, religion or gender.

    The announcement comes amid rising concerns about voter intimidation, particularly aimed at minorities.

    The number of personnel is fewer than the roughly 780 monitors and observers who were dispatched in 2012. The Justice Department has said its poll-watching presence has been curtailed by a 2013 Supreme Court opinion that gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Acts. That has led to a reduction in trained observers, who enjoy unfettered access to the polls and cannot be removed from the sites.

    Most of the more than 500 staffers will be monitors, who rely on the cooperation of local officials to do their jobs. Observers in this election are limited to a handful of jurisdictions around the country where federal court orders are in place that authorize their presence.

    Justice Department officials say they hope voters will not detect any difference in the federal presence.

    Among the states receiving federal monitors are those that have changed their voting rights laws since the last presidential election, including North Carolina, or that have reported problems in past elections.

    “In most cases, voters on the ground will see very little practical difference between monitors and observers,” Vanita Gupta, head of the department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “We work closely and cooperatively with jurisdictions around the country to ensure that trained personnel are able to keep an eye on the proceedings from an immediate vantage point.”

    The post DOJ to dispatch more than 500 staffers to election polls, a reduction from 2012 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The death chamber and the steel bars of the viewing room are seen at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas, U.S. on September 29, 2010.  Courtesy Jenevieve Robbins/Texas Dept of Criminal Justice/Handout via REUTERS

    The death chamber and the steel bars of the viewing room are seen at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas, U.S. on September 29, 2010. Courtesy Jenevieve Robbins/Texas Dept of Criminal Justice/Handout via REUTERS

    The national debate over capital punishment will be back in the spotlight on Election Day, when voters in three states will decide if they support or reject the death penalty.

    The four ballot initiatives on the death penalty this year — one apiece in Nebraska and Oklahoma, and two separate measures in California — are the most we’ve ever seen in a single election, said Robert Dunham, the executive director for the Death Penalty Information Center.

    While the referendum votes are embroiled in state politics, Dunham said the nation is in the “midst of a major political climate change on views about the death penalty.”

    “The clear trend is away from the death penalty,” Dunham added.

    Four decades of public opinion polls support Dunham.

    Half the country favors use of the death penalty, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. But public support is at its lowest point since the Supreme Court suspended the death penalty four decades ago, said Jocelyn Kiley, an associate director for research at Pew Research Center.

    “It’s a steady decline,” Kiley said. “It’s not influenced by the politics of an election year.”

    Since the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, 1,439 people have been executed in the United States. But those deaths tapered from a high of 98 in 1999 to 17 so far this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The late 1990s also marked the height of public support for capital punishment, polls show.

    Today, the death penalty is illegal in 19 states, including the District of Columbia. But capital punishment remains politically polarizing, “with Democrats clearly on one side of the issue and Republicans clearly on the other side,” Kiley said.

    This election may reinforce that idea in California, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

    California voters will see two ballot initiatives about the death penalty. If passed, Proposition 62 would replace capital punishment with a life sentence and no chance of parole. If the measure passes, the U.S. would lose a significant segment of its 2,900 death row inmates, a quarter of whom sit in California.

    At the same time, Proposition 66 would speed up the costly appeals that a death sentence triggers. If both measures receive a majority of “yes” votes, the proposition with the most votes would stand, and the measure with fewer votes would lose, Dunham said.

    “The clear trend is away from the death penalty.”

    In an attempt to ban the death penalty in Nebraska, state legislators overrode Republican Governor Pete Ricketts’ veto. But death penalty advocates collected more than 143,000 signatures in response, enough to bring Referendum 426 to a vote. If voters retain the measure, it would replace the state’s use of the death penalty with life imprisonment.

    In Oklahoma, voters will decide if the state constitution should be amended to protect the death penalty. A yes vote on Question 776 would support changing the state’s bill of rights. The vote comes after Oklahoma suspended the use of lethal injections earlier this year following a series of botched executions in 2014 and 2015.

    The post Do Americans still support the death penalty? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Flames and smoke rise from oil wells set ablaze by Islamic State militants before they fled the oil-producing region of Qayyara, Iraq. Photo by Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters

    Flames and smoke rise from oil wells set ablaze by Islamic State militants before they fled the oil-producing region of Qayyara, Iraq. Photo by Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters

    Guys, the election is less than 24 hours away.

    We’ve endured nearly 600 days of electioneering, beginning with Ted Cruz, the first major presidential contender, wanting to talk about “reigniting the promise of America.”

    And now, we have musician Sheryl Crow pushing a Change.org petition — with more than 60,000 signatures strong — calling for a shorter election cycle in the U.S. Announcing her petition last week, Crow said Americans couldn’t sustain another “lengthy slugfest” like the 2016 campaign.

    Canadians had similar feelings about their 2015 campaign season, considered to be one of the longest in the country’s history. It was 11 weeks. For us, we’ll clock in at more than 85 weeks by Nov. 8.

    There’s a new facepalm emoji for this year.

    Or, maybe you agree with Doyle McManus of The Los Angeles Times, who suggests that we lengthen the campaign season? That said, his column was written before the FBI cleared Hillary Clinton — again — in the ongoing email saga.

    Either way, Clinton and Donald Trump made their closing arguments to the American people in USA Today. Whether you vote for a “stronger, fairer America” or to “Make America Great Again,” take the time to review these five important stories that didn’t get the same Page 1 treatment.

    1. The battle for Raqqa, the “administrative capital” of the ISIS caliphate, begins

    Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commanders attend a news conference in Ain Issa, Raqqa Governorate, Syria. Photo by Rodi Said/Reuters

    Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commanders attend a news conference in Ain Issa, Raqqa Governorate, Syria. Photo by Rodi Said/Reuters

    Three weeks into the campaign to retake Mosul, Iraq, from Islamic State militants, forces of the U.S.-led coalition launched a second offensive against another ISIS stronghold in neighboring Syria.

    Over the weekend, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the campaign to liberate Raqqa, the epicenter of ISIS’s self-declared caliphate when the militants seized it in 2014.

    The campaigns against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria were coordinated partly because “of concerns that any delay would allow Islamic State to use it as a base to launch attacks on targets abroad,” Reuters reported.

    Last week, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reportedly released an audio message, his first in more than 10 months, The Atlantic reported. Baghdadi told his followers to stand their ground in Mosul.

    Why it’s important

    Special presidential envoy Brett McGurk told the NewsHour last week that Iraqi forces broke through the “outer crust” of ISIS’s defenses in Mosul, but also cautioned that the multi-month operation will take time.

    [Watch Video]

    As the Iraqi military continues its push into the Islamic State-stronghold of Mosul, how are the disparate forces who make up the coalition working together, and how does Iraq plan to stabilize the city and prevent ethnic tensions? Special presidential envoy Brett McGurk talks with Hari Sreenivasan about the operation to retake the city.

    “We’re not only focused on the operations to win the military battle, but also on what comes next,” McGurk said. “That’s really about getting people back into their homes, returning the internally displaced people to their homes,” he added.

    McGurk also said that this type of stabilization will be “extraordinarily difficult.”

    “If you look historically in a context like this of how long it’s going to take, it can take years, if ever,” he said.

    [Watch Video]

    Two weeks into their offensive, Iraqi troops crossed the city limits of Mosul, the last Islamic State stronghold in Iraq. Special correspondent Christopher Livesay filed this report as troops moved in, civilians fled and the Islamic State fighters showed they weren’t giving up without a fight.

    On Raqqa, McGurk said the U.S. planned to work with the SDF and other coalition forces on the ground to recapture the “administrative capital” of ISIS. However, the SDF include Syrian Kurds known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. Turkey, a NATO member, considers the SDF a terrorist organization, making the Raqqa assault a politically fraught endeavor.

    McGurk said the U.S. was “very determined to make sure that we are totally transparent with Turkey with every single thing we are doing in Syria,” adding that they try to encourage a “united focus” on ISIS.

    2. After the lewd ‘scouting report’ at Harvard, the men’s cross country team says it kept a spreadsheet

    A student stands in the entranceway of a building at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

    A student stands in the entranceway of a building at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

    In October, The Harvard Crimson obtained documents from a 2012 “scouting report,” in which the Harvard men’s soccer team lewdly ranked the physical appearances of the women’s team members.

    Eventually, the university decided to cancel the team’s season, after officials found out that the report continued past 2012.

    University President Drew G. Faust told the Crimson that university officials have discussed whether other sports teams on campus kept similar “scouting reports.”

    “I have asked that it at least be raised as a question: is this wider spread?” she said.

    Now, the men’s cross country team has come forward to say that they kept a yearly spreadsheet that contained similar sexually explicit comments, the student newspaper reported.

    Why it’s important

    In an email chain obtained by the Crimson, the men’s cross country captain Brandon E. Price asked the team to “come clean with anything that we have typed down in the past.”

    “We don’t want the school to find this, without us first bringing it to them,” Price wrote. “The problem with the Men’s Soccer team was they tried to hide their stuff.”

    Faust had said in a previous statement that the decision to cancel the season was driven partly by the soccer team’s “failure to be forthcoming when initially questioned.”

    As the scandal gained traction, several of the women named in the 2012 “scouting report” penned an op-ed in the Crimson, saying they’ve come to “expect this kind of behavior from so many men, that it is so ‘normal’ to us we often decide it is not worth our time or effort to dwell on.”

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

    3. U.S. middle school students more likely to die by suicide than in traffic accidents

    Photo by Alan Levine/Flickr.

    Photo by Alan Levine/Flickr.

    Suicide rates for middle school-aged children in the U.S. have doubled from 2007 to 2014, according to a new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Image by CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality Data

    Image by CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality Data

    As shown by the CDC, the suicide rate for middle school students, aged 10 to 14, has spiked in recent years and is now high enough to eclipse the rate of deaths in car crashes for that age group. There were 425 reported deaths by suicide in 2014, while 384 died in car crashes.

    In 1999, the rate of deaths from car crashes was four times higher than the suicide rate for middle school students, the CDC reported.

    Why it’s important

    NPR, who has been reporting on how schools deal with students’ mental health, explained that a prevailing myth is that children don’t kill themselves.

    Children as young as five years old have died by suicide every year, NPR pointed out. David Jobes, the head of Catholic University’s Suicide Prevention Lab, walked through several other misconceptions about suicide. Read about them here or watch the Facebook Live below:

    “Kids spend a lot of time at school … it’s where they live their lives,” Jobes told NPR. “Suicide prevention has been focused on schools for a long time because it’s a place where kids are and where a lot of problems can manifest,” he said.

    4. India’s capital chokes on worst smog in 17 years

    Girls play with a balloon under a flyover amidst the heavy smog in New Delhi, India. Photo by Adnan Abidi/Reutes

    Girls play with a balloon under a flyover amidst the heavy smog in New Delhi, India. Photo by Adnan Abidi/Reutes

    The New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment said that the air quality in India’s capital last week has been the worst in 17 years.

    In response, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal closed more than 1,700 schools for three days due to the toxic levels of air pollution in the city. Other emergency measures included a temporary halt of construction and coal-driven operations, in an effort to minimize the release of harmful pollutants into the air.

    “Pollution has increased to an extent that outdoors in Delhi are resembling a gas chamber,” Kejriwal told reporters Sunday.

    Why it’s important

    Levels of particulate matter for New Delhi have registered dangerous levels on the daily Air Quality Index, or AQI. As of today, PM10 and PM2.5 pollutants hit 808 and 622 respectively on the index, far exceeding the “severe” level set at 500.

    When air quality is at severe levels, the particulate matter can penetrate the lungs and enter the bloodstream and has been linked to premature deaths and can cause cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and cancers, according to the World Health Organization.

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

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

    As The Guardian pointed out, a 2015 study found that nearly half of Delhi’s 4.4 million schoolchildren sustained permanent lung damage after being exposed to the harmful air pollution.

    Delhi’s bout with toxic air came at a time when UNICEF also released a report last week that found that one in seven children around the world breath air that far surpass WHO standards. And, for children, air pollution poses a greater danger.

    “Children breathe twice as quickly as adults, and take in more air relative to their body weight,” UNICEF said in its report. “Their respiratory tracks are more permeable and thus more vulnerable. Their immune systems are weaker. Their brains are still developing.”

    5. The Cubs won, but read this postscript.

    Chicago Cubs fans celebrate after Game 7 of the 2016 World Series against the Cleveland Indians outside of Wrigley Field. Cubs won 8-7. Photo by Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports

    Chicago Cubs fans celebrate after Game 7 of the 2016 World Series against the Cleveland Indians outside of Wrigley Field. Cubs won 8-7. Photo by Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports

    Unless you watched the Beyonce-Dixie Chicks CMA performance ad nauseam last week (when you could find it), the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians last week to win their first World Series in 108 years.

    Why it’s important

    The Cubs’ historic win was not underreported. The stories and images that immediately followed the winner-take-all game captured a city enraptured by a win that shed decades of heartbreak. There was the crowd gathered around the Wrigley Field neon sign announcing the win. Later, the victory parade and rally attracted a reported 5 million people. If true, it’s the 7th largest gathering in human history, or something.

    A general shot of the Chicago Cubs crowd during the World Series victory rally in Grant Park. Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports

    A general shot of the Chicago Cubs crowd during the World Series victory rally in Grant Park. Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports

    There was team manager Joe Maddon wearing a “We didn’t suck” T-shirt. There was the man who drank his 32-year-old Coors beer, which he saved until the Cubs won the World Series. And then there were Bill Murray’s tears.

    People also wrote messages in chalk on a brick wall outside of Wrigley Field. ESPN’s Wright Thompson watched as a boy wrote “Go Cubs Go” on the memorial wall, but that display of joy was only part of the story, the reporter wrote.

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

    “The hyper-focus of camera lenses will make the last 24 hours in Chicago seem like one big explosion of joy, but that’s not really true,” Thompson wrote. “[T]here’s also this palpable sadness. Nobody could really be sure how’d they’d feel when it all ended, whether they’d be full of joy, or grief, or both.”

    Nearby, Thompson also saw a woman wrote a personal message on the metal gates. It read: “Mom, thank you for teaching us to believe in ourselves, love and the Cubs. Enjoy your view from the ultimate skybox.”

    Thompson soon learns that the woman’s mother died between Games 2 and 3. Read the full story here, where Thompson hops around Chicago, including a visit to late broadcaster Harry Caray’s grave, amid the post-World Series celebration.

    The post 5 important stories that got lost in the Clinton and Trump election chatter appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A voter leaves the booth after casting her ballot in the Pennsylvania primary at a polling place in Philadelphia on April 26. Photo by Charles Mostoller/ Reuters

    A voter leaves the booth after casting her ballot in the Pennsylvania primary at a polling place in Philadelphia on April 26. Photo by Charles Mostoller/ Reuters

    Tuesday is Election Day. And there’s likely a whole lot more on your ballot than the vote for president. Voters will also choose their national, state and local representatives. And several states will have ballot measures on issues like marijuana legalization and the death penalty.

    So what’s on your ballot, and what does it mean?

    A number of websites, apps and social media platforms provide tools to remind you to vote, help find your polling place and provide information on the races and initiatives on your ballot. We previewed a few to get you ready for your civic duty.  

    The “Tinder for politics”

    Brigade, which has been described as “the Tinder for politics” is a social network that relies on a set of questions to gauge where you stand ideologically and build your personal profile. Using both information from that profile and civic data from your voting district, it then creates your “social ballot.” Brigade users can look up information on 13,000 races this cycle, said Matthew Mahan, the company’s CEO, from high-profile Senate contests to obscure local elections and ballot initiatives. The process, he added, was designed to prepare voters ahead of time, so they don’t feel overwhelmed with choices on voting day.

    “We’ve tried to make it simple, social and empowering by giving people [information] to get their friends involved and to get their friends to vote.”

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

    So far, users have sent friends and acquaintances more than 1 million peer-to-peer invitations to vote for a candidate or a ballot initiative using the app, according to the network. More than 300,000 people have pledged to vote for a candidate or a ballot initiative, while more than 100,000 users have been matched to their publicly available voter file.

    Once the presidential election ends, Mahan said the company plans to continue building civic engagement and encourage users to vote in non-presidential elections.

    Reminder: It’s time to vote

    Facebook also rolled out a new vote-planning feature this cycle to help users see who and what will be on their ballot. The service shows users the location of their polling place and reminds them to cast their vote on Election Day.

    Don Seymour, a Facebook politics and government outreach manager, said the feature was intended to  “give more people a voice in the political process.”

    In Facebook’s platform, voters can see a candidate’s positions and public endorsements, among other information. Once users fill out the vote planner, Seymour said, they can email the information to themselves to take with them to the polls, share it with their Facebook friends or find their polling place.

    Video provided to PBS NewsHour by Facebook

    Facebook also launched a separate feature this cycle that alerted users of voter registration deadlines during the primaries.  A Facebook official said the reminder system helped register more than 2 million people in 2016.

    Just Google it

    Don’t have Facebook or Brigade? Then just Google “my ballot” or “who’s on my ballot,” and the search engine giant will give you a sample ballot of the candidates running for office and the ballot referendums up for a vote in your location. The search also gives voters information on how to get registered (if registration is still open in their state), the location of their polling place and voting identification requirements.

    The post What’s on your ballot? Here’s how to find out appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo of a rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Photo of a rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — We’ll know soon enough who won. We already know the prize: A big, ugly wound in the heart of American politics.

    Nearly two years of relentless campaigning and racially loaded rhetoric has exposed a country that is deeply fractured along lines that are hardening and raw.

    Race, gender and class appear to be ever more reliable predictors of whether Americans cast their ballots for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. And as Americans have retreated further into their corners, politicians have seen little motivation to understand the other side.

    The dynamic just played out, while America (and the world) cringed. This campaign often looked like a noisy and incoherent conversation taking place in parallel worlds, with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton shouting across a daunting gulf between them.

    It may have been a race filled with unpredictable moments, but its near certainties are just as notable. As she heads into Election Day, Clinton is on track to win solid, and in some cases overwhelming majorities, of black, Hispanic and college-educated voters. Polls show Clinton, running to be the first female president, may also hit new levels of support among women.

    Trump, meanwhile, has been propelled by support from white, working-class voters, a group that according to polls may reject Clinton more decisively than any of her recent Democratic predecessors.

    These splits between whites and minorities, between men and women, between those with college degrees and those without, did not begin in 2016. Clinton’s coalition is likely to look much like the one President Barack Obama assembled in 2008 and 2012, and has its roots much deeper.

    But 2016 will be the year when the gaps widened, the lines hardened and the conversation, in turn, became more painful.

    It will be remembered as the time when a Republican candidate could call American cities “warzones” without apparent worry about the feelings of the people who call them home. It will be remembered as the election in which Clinton described half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables,” and apologized only for her measurement. It will be remembered as a moment when Trump’s closing argument was that “everything’s wrong,” while Clinton asked “since when do we become pessimistic?”

    It’s hard not to blame Trump’s button-pushing candidacy for much of this strangeness.

    The Republican nominee’s bid made a mockery of party elders’ “autopsy” of the 2012 defeat of Mitt Romney, which bemoaned that the GOP “offends too many people unnecessarily.”

    But the party’s base nominated a man who questioned the legitimacy of the first black president. They chose a candidate who declared that Mexico was sending “rapists” across the border. They chose a 70-year-old reality-TV star who spent years making sexist remarks. The interviews should have given hints about Trump’s attitudes toward women, even before the tape in which he brags about grabbing women’s genitals.

    Trump’s fate now rests in the hands of the very people he’s offended. If blacks, Hispanics, young people and women turn out in large numbers, it becomes exceedingly difficult to find enough of his voters to win the day.

    Roughly 45 percent of the electorate are non-college educated white, the core of Trump’s base, noted Brookings Institution demographer William Frey. And that share is shrinking. They made up 50 percent in 2008, he said, and 57 percent in 2000.

    But Trump’s willingness to risk saying the thing others would not has no doubt connected with a substantial share of America’s voters.

    The New York businessman saw the opportunity to run against his party and those wanting to restore America to a lost moment.

    “I watch the speeches of these people, and they say the sun will rise, the moon will set, all sorts of wonderful things will happen. And people are saying, “What’s going on? I just want a job. Just get me a job. I don’t need the rhetoric. I want a job,” he said from the lobby of his Trump Tower high rise, when he announced his campaign.

    If Trump wins, it will be because he understood the depths of white anxiety. It will be because he galvanized the alienated and the angry, in corners of the country where people have felt ignored through eight years of the Obama administration.

    Democrats acknowledge they may have left Trump this opening. For much of her campaign, Clinton had all but given up talking to white, working class men. That was for surrogates like her husband, Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, both masters of communicating to “Bubba” voters — and even Obama.

    On Monday, Clinton began to acknowledge the work she had ahead of her.

    “Anger is not a plan, my friends,” she said. “If we’re going to harness our energy and try to overcome our problems, then we need to start talking to each other again.”

    The post Analysis: Winner must help heal wound in American politics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Getty Images

    Illustration by Getty Images

    Election Day is finally upon us. After two years of campaigning, debating and polling, it’s understandable if you’re feeling an overall sense of political disorientation.

    You may know who you’re voting for on the presidential ticket, or maybe not. You may know every issue like the back of your hand, or might have your TPP mixed up with your DAPL.

    Don’t fret, we’re here to help. We’ve gathered our best resources to help you learn about the candidates, the issues and even about yourself. So, take a look at our 2016 election tool kit below, and share your own favorite election resources in the comments. And don’t forget to watch complete PBS NewsHour coverage of election night, live streaming here and on your local PBS station.

    Before we get started, don’t miss our overview of what to watch for on election day, and where to find the issues that’ll be on your local ballot.

    Learn about: Yourself

    Where do you fit? The 2016 Political Party Quiz
    We partnered with the Pew Research Center to create the 2016 Political Party Quiz. Answer 11 questions and find out where you land on the political spectrum in 2016.

    Are you an informed voter?screen-thing Voters are angry. That’s the story we’ve heard all year long. But as a voter, is your anger based on facts? We teamed up with Jim Stone, author of “Five Easy Theses: Common-Sense Solutions to America’s Greatest Economic Challenges,” to see how informed you are about the economic challenges America faces. Be warned: this quiz is no walk in the park. Nobody said good citizenship was easy.

    Do you live in a bubble? A quiz.
    There is no doubt, the country is divided. But which side of the divide do you live on? And how well do you know the other side? Charles Murray, a libertarian political scientist and author created this quiz for us, based on his controversial book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010.”

    Learn about: The Candidates

    In a rush? Read our bullet points on what the candidates believe:
    What does Hillary Clinton believe? Where the candidate stands on 12 issues
    What does Donald Trump believe? Where the candidate stands on 10 issues

    Got a few minutes? Learn about Trump and Clinton’s personal backstories.

    Learn about: The issues

    The economy and taxes:

    Social issues:

    Global issues:

    Looking for more? Subscribe to the PBS Newshour’s politics email newsletter for regular insights and analysis from our team. And don’t miss our election survival guide, curated by Lisa Desjardins.

    The post Prepare for the polls with the PBS NewsHour Election Day toolkit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Up to 20 percent of Americans will cast votes on electronic systems without a paper trail during this election. Photo by adimas/via Adobe

    Up to 20 percent of Americans will cast votes on electronic systems without a paper trail during this election. Photo by adimas/via Adobe

    Huge. Deplorable. Hombre. When America looks back on the long journey to Election Day 2016, a number of words will come to mind. But one may ultimately rise above the rest: hacking.

    Hackers set the tone for the final 100 days of the election, starting with the pilfered emails of the Democratic National Committee that were released by Wikileaks in late July. Aside from spurring the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz on the eve of the convention, the leak established a precedent for reporting on stolen digital information in the election, as U.S. officials fingered Russia as the likely backer behind the hacks.

    Cybersecurity analysts say this tenor, combined with vulnerabilities in electronic ballots, make hacking a major possibility on Election Day. So if election hacking does happen, here’s what it may look like.

    Digital doubt

    Up to 20 percent of Americans will cast votes on digital systems without a paper trail during this election, according to analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice. This minority within the electorate, plus the fact that digital voting is managed on a state-by-state basis, means a nationwide takedown of Election Day is unlikely.

    “America doesn’t have one monolithic national voting system the way there is in other countries,” Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, wrote in a recent op-ed for The Hill. “We have thousands of them, operating under state and local supervision.”

    But there are enough weak spots peppered around the country to distill doubt if multiple incidents occur, said James Scott, senior fellow at the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology.

    Five states — New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina — will cast votes on digital systems without leaving a paper trail.

    Five states — New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina — will cast votes on digital systems without leaving a paper trail. The same applies to several jurisdictions in battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

    Cyber vulnerabilities exist in all of these locations. Most revolve around the age of the machines and their software. The Brennan Center report estimated 43 states will use voting machines in 2016 that are more than 10 years old. Many of these devices contain outdated software — think Microsoft Windows XP or older — without security updates. Meanwhile, the mainframes of other machines are guarded by easy-to-pick padlocks or by no barrier at all.

    “With the kind of stealth and sophistication that’s already out there, why wouldn’t a nation-state, cyber-criminal gang or activist group go into election systems that are completely vulnerable?” Scott said. He offered the example of the energetic bear hack, wherein attackers deposited malware on websites intended for software updates for energy companies. The perpetrators infiltrated energy grids and petroleum pipeline operators across U.S. and Europe and went unnoticed for three years.

    Given many states and counties use electronic ballot systems provided by a small number of vendors, a similar ploy used on voter machine manufacturers could manipulate several polls at once. Plus, much of this voting technology is proprietary, so forensic auditors couldn’t independently scrub for and detect malicious software, especially given such code might delete itself after Election Day, Scott said.

    Yellow buttons and bad math

    Election hacking raises visions of a hooded figure on a laptop remotely tapping into a voter machine to artificially boost tallies. But in truth, most remote attacks on individual machines are tricky because many devices aren’t directly linked to an internet connection.

    However, in-person manipulation is possible. Some machines are vulnerable, due to accessible ports where a hacker could plug a laptop or smartphone to add fake votes. The Sequoia AVC Edge machines feature a yellow “Activate” button on the back that can allow user to enter multiple ballots at a time. Nevada has employed these systems statewide, while Louisiana did the same with early voting without backup paper records.

    Sequoia electronic voting machine. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    Sequoia electronic voting machine. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    “It’s the technical equivalent to stuffing a voter box,” Scott said. “You can tap that as many times, for as many votes as you want to give the person.”

    To exploit the tactics, a perpetrator would need access to a voter machine for an extended period of time, which is possible given background checks for election officials and poll workers aren’t a national requirement.

    Another target is the facility or database where votes are counted. “You have to look at attacks at the intermediate stages, where there are computers tabulating results from around a state or a county,” Max Kilger, a social scientist and cybercriminal profiler at the University of Texas at San Antonio, told the PBS NewsHour.

    Some counties use devices that collect and calculate results at once, such as the AccuVote TS and TSX voting machines. But the software for these popular machines lack basic cybersecurity, like encryption or strong passwords.

    An electronic scanning machine is used for counting the votes during the New Hampshire primary election at a high school in Nashua, New Hampshire. Photo by Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images

    An AccuVote electronic scanning machine used for counting the votes during the New Hampshire primary election at a high school in Nashua, New Hampshire in 2008. Photo by Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images

    Harri Hursti, a Finnish computer programmer, famously exposed this vulnerability among voting machines in Leon County, Florida, as part of a series of studies on digital election infrastructure. He showed the “Hursti Hack” — tampering with the machine’s memory cards in person or over a remote internet connection — could add or subtract hundreds of votes for a candidate. Some experts believe this tactic may have been partially responsible for the voting irregularities witnessed in Florida during the 2000 election.

    In this year’s election, these two AccuVote systems will be used without paper trails statewide across Georgia, in 16 Florida counties, in 16 Pennsylvania counties and elsewhere in the nation, according to the ICIT.

    Calling Debbie from Bloomington

    The biggest cyber breaches to influence Tuesday’s events may have occurred months ago and involved voter registration data.

    Marketplaces for voter registration data have sprouted on the Dark Web over the last year.

    Over the summer, cyber assailants launched separate attacks on the voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois. The Arizona breach compromised the personal information of 3 million voters, though investigator did not find evidence that the hackers removed the data. However, perpetrators in Illinois did escape with the names, addresses and contact details for 200,000 voters in Illinois. In August, the FBI’s Cyber Division issued an alert stating foreign hackers had infiltrated state election systems, though their bulletin did not specifically mention the incidents in Arizona and Illinois.

    Marketplaces for voter registration data have sprouted on the Dark Web over the last year, according to an election hacking report from the ICIT. Prices vary, but one listing offered 0.5 Bitcoins ($300) for a single state’s database. Sell in bulk, and one could earn 12 Bitcoins ($7,200).

    While identity theft is a concern, Scott said the primary way hackers might exploit these stolen records is via a misinformation campaign.

    “They can call the voters to change the location of their polling stations,” Scott said, citing a Colombian hacker who used such tactics to manipulate elections in nine countries across Latin America.

    Dyn, the sequel?

    Three weeks ago, a siege on Dyn, an internet infrastructure company, caused web outages across much of the U.S. The weapon of choice was a DDoS attack, wherein assailants overloaded Dyn’s servers with massive waves of phony traffic.

    DDoS attacks pose a threat to centralized election servers. In 2014, hackers attempted to crash Ukraine’s election commission website on the eve of a parliamentary election.

    Luckily, state independence with voting practices and decentralization of electorate data serves as a buffer against DDoS volleys. A cybercriminal would need to flood multiple polling stations for an effective DDoS attack, which become inefficient. However, a strike against a computer where regional votes are tabulated could delay election reporting.

    How will you know?

    Luckily, ballot stuffing is improbable, Smith said, even with electronic voting because “every jurisdiction conducts reconciliation procedures to ensure that the number of voters who signed in to vote squares with the number of votes tallied.”

    This safeguard means the election will ultimately hinge on counted votes. So, hacks that switch or delete selections at polling stations without paper records represent the most insidious manipulation, because those votes would be lost.

    Voting systems tend to be cloaked in secrecy, so if a hack happens, the culprits will likely announce it and provide proof. And the signs suggest someone might try. An unnamed Department of Homeland Security official told Politico in late September that at least 20 state elections systems had been probed by hackers. On Friday, Guccifer 2.0 — a hacker with alleged ties to the Russian government — called on others to “monitor the election from inside and inform the U.S. society about the facts of electoral fraud” to prevent Democrats from rigging the vote.

    The declarations speak to the primary weapon for election day hacking: doubt. If a fraction of the electronic votes filed at Tuesday’s polls or during early voting come into question, then it opens the door for challenges by political candidates.

    The post Here’s how hackers might mess with electronic voting on Election Day appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A protester holding a Puerto Rico's flag takes part in a march to improve healthcare benefits in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Alvin Baez/Reuters.

    A protester holding Puerto Rico’s flag takes part in a march to improve health care benefits in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Alvin Baez/Reuters

    In the race to the White House, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton appeared to take an early lead in Florida, thanks in part to a substantial early voter turnout in areas with large Latino and Caribbean-American populations.

    Florida, a key battleground state for several of the last election cycles, has been known for its politically active Cuban-American population, but it’s Puerto Rican voters who might be making an early impact. The Sunshine State is now home to more than a million Puerto Ricans. According to Univision, most — especially new arrivals from the island — are registering to vote as Democrats. Coming from an island with one of the highest voter turnouts in the world, Florida’s growing Puerto Rican population could become a political force rivaling Cuban Americans.

    According to the Pew Research Center, Puerto Rico’s population dropped 9 percent to 3.5 million in 2015, particularly accelerating after 2010. The island’s debt crisis, which has led to a federal takeover of its finances, has sent some Puerto Rican residents seeking economic reprieve on the mainland, especially Central Florida. But the Puerto Rican influence in the state isn’t exactly new. Julio Ricardo Varela, political editor of the Futuro Media Group and founder of Latino Rebels, said few have paid attention to Puerto Ricans’ growing political clout, but the impact could easily have been predicted.

    “Is it a historic moment, yes. But it shouldn’t be a surprise. The signs were there over a decade ago.” — Julio Ricardo Varela, political editor of the Futuro Media Group

    “Is it a historic moment, yes. But it shouldn’t be a surprise. The signs were there over a decade ago,” Varela said. “What’s new is that Boricuas (Puerto Ricans) — both those moving from the island and those who’ve already been here — are waking up and realizing the only way we’re going to be taken seriously is if we begin to have the political clout. That’s why we’re seeing it reflected in early returns.”

    The economic downturn on the island posed significant implications for both Florida’s primaries and the general election. In the Orlando area, the population growth is the driving force behind organizations like Misión Boricua (Puerto Rican Mission) working to get new Puerto Rican residents registered to vote.

    “When the 2010 census was done, the growth in population that allowed Florida two more electoral points was mostly due to the growth in the Puerto Rican population in Central Florida, but our government at every level is not reflecting our communities,” said Zoraida Rios-Andino, Misión Boricua’s president. “So we’re working to change that. I always say if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

    Rios-Andino volunteers as the Democratic captain of her local voting precinct in Central Florida and estimates more than half of its constituents have already voted. She attributes the early turnout to community efforts such as Misión Boricua replicating a traditional Puerto Rican caravan where cars line up, play music and go around the neighborhood passing out fliers and signs to motivate people about voting.

    “We did a bilingual newspaper with information about voting and the difference between voting here and in Puerto Rico,” she said. “Most people are very confused about voting. But they’ve all mentioned they’re looking at what’s going on with the country right now.”

    But despite what some have reported, Varela said it’s not just a “sudden migration of Puerto Ricans from the island” that is contributing to Florida’s galvanized Puerto Rican voters. Large Puerto Rican diasporas are already present in Democratic strongholds like Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago, consisting of those who were born in the continental U.S. and those who were born on the island but moved over the decades. Varela said many of these Puerto Ricans also are moving, adding to a battleground state like Florida slowly becoming reliably blue.

    Orlando in particular has maintained a large population of Puerto Ricans throughout its history, although recent migrants from the island have it on the brink of surpassing New York City as the largest diaspora. Varela said that in the past, discrimination against Latinos in the area and apathy within the Puerto Rican community have meant little to no representation in state and local governments.

    But Rios-Andino said recent events, including the shooting at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub in June, might be motivating Central Florida’s Puerto Rican community to become more politically active.

    “With 23 out of the 49 victims — and most of the injured — being Puerto Rican, the shooting at Pulse brought us closer together as a community. So we’re listening more than ever to the issues that will affect us.” — Zoraida Rios-Andino, president of Misión Boricua

    “With 23 out of the 49 victims — and most of the injured — being Puerto Rican, the shooting at Pulse brought us closer together as a community,” said Rios-Andino. “So we’re listening more than ever to the issues that will affect us.”

    Both Varela and Rios-Andino said that Puerto Rico’s unique status as a U.S. territory often makes Puerto Ricans an outlier when it comes to Latino outreach among presidential candidates. Instead, Latino initiatives usually center on immigration, which doesn’t affect Puerto Ricans since they are American citizens by birth. Although eligible to vote in primary races, Puerto Ricans can only vote for president in the general election after moving to the mainland.

    And Puerto Ricans are moving in droves, as many as 7,000 are leaving the island each month, according to Pew. In Florida, Puerto Ricans will soon surpass Cubans as the largest Latino population in the state. Rios-Andino said that makes it all the more important for Puerto Ricans to be represented in political leadership at the local, state and federal level.

    “Cuban-Americans typically vote Republican and tend to be more conservative than Puerto Ricans,” she said. “So it’s not just a matter of more Latinos is high positions, but also Latinos who reflect Puerto Ricans’ political leanings as well.”

    “There’s lots of lessons to be learned from the Cuban community in South Florida that can be applied in Central Florida by Puerto Ricans in the future,” Julio Varela said. “But my fear is that discrimination and the overall ignorance of continental Americans about Puerto Rico will have political pundits, news media and everyone else continuing to treats us as some foreign other rather than equal contributors to this society.”

    Varela said it will also take unification to make Puerto Rico’s voting power a permanent fixture in American politics. There’s a long-standing tension between Puerto Ricans on the island and the mainland that is exacerbated by the complexities of race, identity and language.

    “Essentially our community has to do a better job within the diaspora and on the island of saying ‘let’s put everything aside and put Puerto Ricans first,'” he said.

    With Puerto Rico’s recession lingering, the trend of mainland migration will likely continue, potentially influencing more election cycles and swing states in the coming years. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the island’s population will decrease to 2.98 million by 2050, its lowest level since 1980. For Rios-Andino, it makes community outreach to potential voters on the mainland critical long after the country elects the next president on Tuesday.

    “We’ve got the voting power, yes. But now the next stage begins,” she said. “What are you going to do to prove that you earned our vote? Because we don’t want it to be taken for granted. We’re going to hold you accountable.”

    The post Puerto Rican voter surge in Florida is no surprise appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A woman fills out a ballot at the James Weldon Johnson Community Center in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York City on Nov. 8. Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters

    A woman fills out a ballot at the James Weldon Johnson Community Center in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York City on Nov. 8. Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — After weeks of competing claims of fraud and intimidation on Election Day, few voters who headed to the polls Tuesday morning encountered such problems, though there were some reports of machine breakdowns and long lines.

    The run-up to the vote was fraught, with unsupported claims by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump of a rigged election and fears that hackers might attack voting systems. Concerns of voter intimidation and fraud led to a flurry of lawsuits in the run-up to Election Day, and new voter regulations in more than a dozen states also held the potential to sow confusion at polling places.

    But at least in the early going, most of the problems were routine — the kinds of snags that come every four years, like lines, machines not working properly, and issues with ballots or voter rolls.

    In Texas, a computer used by election clerks malfunctioned at a polling place inside a suburban Houston high school, forcing officials to briefly divert voters to another polling place more than two miles away. Fort Bend County Elections Administrator John Oldham said the malfunctioning console was later replaced with a backup and voting resumed.

    Andrea Patience, a 50-year-old pharmacy technician, was among those standing in line when the computer malfunctioned. She said she waited an hour for it to be fixed. Patience said as many as 100 people were standing in line at the time, and about half of them left.

    “There were a lot of upset people,” Patience said. “I don’t know if they will come back later or decide not to vote.”

    In Utah, election officials said voting machine problems in the southern part of the state were forcing poll workers to use paper ballots, potentially affecting tens of thousands of people who had yet to vote.

    The question this year was whether problems would be widespread and indicate a pattern of fraud or voter intimidation.

    Officials with Election Protection, a national voter helpline, said they had received about 63 reports of possible intimidation from callers in Pennsylvania as of 11 a.m. Police in Philadelphia said they had received no reports of any problems at the polls.

    “Most certainly what we have observed is an uptick of complaints of voter intimidation and voter harassment,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which is a lead organizer of the voter helpline.

    In the last week alone, Democrats went to court in seven states seeking to halt what they claim were efforts by Republicans and the Trump campaign to deploy a network of poll watchers hunting for voter fraud. Republicans have disputed claims they are planning to intimidate voters, and judges largely found no evidence of efforts to suppress voters.

    This is the first presidential election in which a key enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act was not in place. A 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision struck down a portion of the law that had required certain states and jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to receive pre-approval from the U.S. Department of Justice for any election law change. This allowed a number of states, most led by Republican legislatures and governors, to enact strict voter ID laws and reduce early voting.

    Legal challenges to some of those voter ID laws have led to a multitude of court rulings in recent months that blocked or struck down some provisions while upholding or reinstating others. That triggered concerns of misinformation among voters, election officials and poll workers.

    An example was early voting in Texas, where there were reports in at least seven counties of outdated voter-guide posters and poll workers incorrectly saying that photo IDs were required to cast a ballot. An earlier federal appeals court ruling had determined the state’s new ID law was discriminatory against minorities and the poor and ordered the state to soften its rules.

    The Supreme Court ruling also prompted the Justice Department to send fewer trained election observers to polling places around the country than in previous years, with the reduction likely to diminish the department’s ability to detect voter intimidation and other potential problems.

    Meanwhile, state election officials were guarding against any attempt to breach their systems. Previously, some 33 states accepted an offer from the federal government to check their voter databases and reporting systems for vulnerabilities after hackers attempted to access systems in two states over the summer.


    Associated Press writers Diana Heidgerd in Dallas; Ron Todt in Philadelphia; and Desmond O. Butler and Stephen Braun in Washington contributed to this report.

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    Myla Gibson, 3, waits as her father Ken Gibson fills out a ballot for president in New York City. Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters

    Myla Gibson, 3, waits as her father Ken Gibson fills out a ballot for president in New York City. Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A polarized America went to the polls Tuesday to pick its 45th president, choosing to elect either Hillary Clinton as the first woman to be president or billionaire businessman Donald Trump, the final act of a long and rancorous campaign that upended U.S. politics.

    The winner will inherit an anxious nation, angry and distrustful of leaders in Washington. She or he will preside over an economy that is improving but still leaves many behind, and a military less extended abroad than eight years ago yet grappling with new terror threats.

    Clinton entered Election Day with multiple paths to victory, while Trump must prevail in most of the battleground states to reach 270 Electoral College votes. Control of the Senate also is at stake; Democrats need to net four seats if Clinton wins the White House. Republicans expect to maintain their House majority.

    Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, arrived to vote at their local polling station in Chappaqua, New York, shortly after 8 a.m. as a crowd of cheering supporters snapped photos. Trump voted in Manhattan about three hours later.

    Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, greet supporters after casting their ballots at the Douglas Grafflin Elementary School in Chappaqua, New York on Nov. 8. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, greet supporters after casting their ballots at the Douglas Grafflin Elementary School in Chappaqua, New York on Nov. 8. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    “I know how much responsibility goes with this,” Clinton said. “So many people are counting on the outcome of this election, what it means for our country, and I will do the very best I can if I’m fortunate enough to win today.”

    Trump said he wanted to tap America’s unrealized potential.

    “I see so many hopes and so many dreams out there that didn’t happen, that could have happened, with leadership, with proper leadership,” he said by telephone on Fox News. “And people are hurt so badly.”

    Almost 45 million people cast ballots in advance before Election Day. Many voters expressed relief the end was in sight after two years of relentless campaigning, racially loaded rhetoric and sharp accusations against each candidate.

    Clinton has condemned Trump for referring to undocumented Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and promoting a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., and for his long line of remarks about women that culminated in an audio in which he brags about grabbing women’s genitalia. Trump calls his opponent “Crooked Hillary” for her use of a private email server as secretary of state and for her complicated ties to the Clinton Foundation run by her husband.

    “I’m tired of the mudslinging,” said Laura Schmitt, a 54-year-old Republican from Woodbury, Minnesota, who is voting for Trump.

    “I’m so glad it’s over,” said Ramiro Wires, a 50-year-old homemaker from Indianapolis, who voted for Clinton.

    Clinton voters described their candidate as better qualified. Trump’s said he would break with traditional politics.

    The candidates both spent Tuesday giving a series of radio interview in states still up for grabs, after blitzing through the remaining battlegrounds a day earlier.

    Clinton has been buoyed by FBI Director James Comey’s weekend declaration that he would not recommend criminal charges against her following a new email review. Comey announced the inquiry late last month, sapping Clinton’s surging momentum and threatening Democrats in down-ballot races.

    The centerpiece of Clinton’s final campaign swing on Monday was a massive rally on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, where she was joined by her husband. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama participated, too.

    “We know enough about my opponent, we know who he is,” Clinton said as she addressed the crowd of 33,000, her largest of the campaign. “The real question for us is what kind of country we want to be.”

    Trump closed his improbable presidential bid in trademark style, flying across the country in his now-familiar private jet and headlining packed rallies filled with enthusiastic supporters. As he surveyed a crowd in Scranton, Pennsylvania, he declared: “It’s been a long journey.”

    “We have to win,” Trump said as he ended a marathon final day of campaigning in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

    Having made the new FBI review a centerpiece of his closing case to voters, Trump said Clinton was being protected by a “totally rigged system.”

    “You have one magnificent chance to beat the corrupt system and deliver justice,” Trump implored his supporters. “Do not let this opportunity slip away.”

    While Trump previously has suggested he wouldn’t accept defeat, his eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., told CNN on Tuesday: “In a fair election we are going to respect the outcome.”

    Despite concerns over possible voter fraud or intimidation, few voters had problems early Tuesday. Presidential elections usually involve sporadic voting problems, such as machines not working properly. People reported such problems in three Virginia precincts with long lines resulting.

    Pushing for high voter turnout, Clinton’s running mate called the election a “history-making race” and said “democracy always works better when people participate.”

    In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Tim Kaine said Clinton can clinch victory if she wins any of the “checkmate” battleground states, listing North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio in that category.

    Clinton is banking on turnout from Obama’s young, diverse coalition of voters to carry her over the finish line. Several states with advance voting have reported record turnout, including Florida and Nevada, whose booming Hispanic populations are expected to pull for Clinton.

    In Florida alone, Hispanic participation was up by more than 453,000 votes, nearly doubling the 2012 level.

    In Nevada, where more than three-fourths of expected ballots have been cast, Democrats led 42 percent to 36 percent.


    Associated Press writers Vivian Salama, Bradley Klapper, Kathleen Hennessey, Hope Yen, Jonathan Lemire, Steve Peoples, Josh Lederman, Jill Colvin and Lisa Lerer contributed to this report.

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    Thousands of people marched in New York City on Sunday to call for greater government action against climate change. Photo courtesy Flickr user Susan Melkisethian.

    If voters pass the revenue-neutral carbon tax, Washington state would be stuck with a faulty policy model that doesn’t address the complexity and scope of the climate crisis, argue Bill Corcoran of the Sierra Club and Byron Gudiel of Communities for a Better Environment. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Susan Melkisethian

    Our long history of reliance on fossil fuels is disrupting our climate, degrading our environment and causing massive stress for people across the world, but some are being harmed more than others — and this truth must not be ignored. Decades of powering our lives with coal, gas and oil have had major consequences for low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

    Here in the U.S., the 6 million people who live within three miles of a coal plant have an average per capita income of $18,400. Nearly 40 percent of them are people of color. Regardless of income, people of color in the U.S. breathe 40 percent more pollution than whites. In California alone, the vast majority of the over 350,000 kids living near active oil and gas drilling are nonwhite — 60 percent are Latino.

    To stop the worst of climate change, we must transform our economy and our society. We can’t afford to get it wrong, which is why we must place equity and justice at the center of our energy future.

    READ MORE: Column: Koch brothers are the latest strange bedfellows in Washington state carbon tax fight

    A stronger, more inclusive climate movement will unleash more innovative ideas, protect the most vulnerable and help create good jobs that reduce climate risk. Most importantly, a unified front will ensure that the people most harmed by the exploitation of fossil fuels are welcomed and acknowledged as leaders in developing a more fair and prosperous future.

    On Nov. 8, the people of Washington state will vote on a measure known as Initiative 732 that would put a price on carbon pollution. While this initiative is well intentioned, it is misguided in some fundamental ways.

    None of the revenues from pricing carbon would be used to increase investment in clean energy, build climate resiliency or create green jobs — particularly in communities on the frontlines of climate change.

    None of the revenues from pricing carbon would be used to increase investment in clean energy, build climate resiliency or create green jobs — particularly in communities on the frontlines of climate change. Those aren’t just missed opportunities — they’re fundamental weaknesses. Washington state would be stuck with a faulty policy model that doesn’t address the complexity and scope of the climate crisis, especially when compared with programs that are already working.

    Supporters say we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good in the face of the urgent need to address climate disruption. But a measure like I-732 that ignores the urgency of environmental justice and economic fairness actually makes it harder to advance our long-term goals of a clean environment and green economy. Because of this, the measure lacks support from labor, environmental justice groups and communities of color, all of whom are crucial leaders in the fight against climate change and for a more equitable economy.

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

    Putting a price on carbon is just one tool in the toolbox for cutting climate pollution, not a solution in and of itself. Combating a problem as complex as climate change requires a broad coalition committed to fundamental changes to our fossil fuel-run economy. Asking frontline communities to once again defer their goals and their interests to allow a flawed initiative to move forward not only subverts the chances of passing meaningful, comprehensive climate policy, but also misses the opportunity to build a bigger, stronger, more inclusive and unstoppable climate movement.

    But a measure like I-732 that ignores the urgency of environmental justice and economic fairness actually makes it harder to advance our long-term goals of a clean environment and green economy.

    We already have examples of how to do this right. State-based renewable portfolio standards are making direct investments in expanding our clean energy economy. National and statewide energy-efficiency programs are prioritizing low-income households while creating thousands of good paying jobs. These successful programs should serve as a baseline for how policy is made and who benefits. A carbon pricing system that directed investments into clean energy solutions could complement such policies.

    We can stabilize our climate, grow our economy and better millions of lives — but we need everyone to unite together if we want to succeed. We must act to protect our planet, but we cannot let fear lead us to rush ahead with solutions that don’t work for the people who have suffered the most (and from energy decisions in which they had no voice). Fighting climate disruption is urgent, but so is fighting for justice. It’s time to view both issues as one cause.

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

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    File photo of the U.S. Capitol by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

    File photo of the U.S. Capitol by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Control of the Senate was up for grabs Tuesday as Republicans’ hopes of protecting their narrow majority in an unpredictable election rested on a handful of states that were toss-ups until the end.

    In two red states that were never supposed to be this competitive, North Carolina and Missouri, Democrats sought to upset entrenched GOP incumbents. As voting got underway, both states looked like they could go either way.

    In Democratic-leaning states like Wisconsin, Illinois, Nevada, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, Democratic candidates made final appeals trying to tie their GOP opponents to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

    “Donald Trump says climate change is a hoax by the Chinese, and Pat Toomey’s standing with him,” Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate Katie McGinty declared at a final rally in Pittsburgh on Monday with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. “We’re standing with her, and climate change is on the ballot!”

    Toomey, the first-term Pennsylvania GOP incumbent who has refused to say whether he was voting for Trump, implored supporters in Harrisburg to keep up their enthusiasm. National polls showed Clinton narrowly leading Trump, and Republicans faced the prospect of losing the 54-46 Senate majority they won only two years ago.

    “The race between me and Katie McGinty is a tied race right now and when you have a tied race, especially in a big state like ours, the winner, in the end, is the side that wants it the most,” Toomey told a small crowd of loyalists in a hotel ballroom. When the polls close, Toomey added, “we will have determined the next senator and, probably, which party controls the United States Senate.”

    Indeed with Senate races down to the wire in a half-dozen states, any one of them could end up determining Senate control after a tough and costly campaign. Democrats needed to pick up four seats to take the majority if Clinton wins the White House and can send her vice president to cast tie-breaking votes in a 50-50 Senate, or five seats if Trump wins.

    Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on both sides by the party committees, the gun lobby, environmental groups and other special interests, as well as super PACs aligned with the Senate leaders, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

    Republicans faced hurdles from the outset, starting with an unfavorable map that had the GOP defending 24 seats, including several in Democratic territory, compared to 10 for the Democrats. Running with Trump on the ballot complicated lives for a number of GOP candidates, including Toomey and Joe Heck in Nevada, who refused to say up until the end whether he would vote for the Republican presidential nominee.

    Heck’s rival, Catherine Cortez Masto, said Trump’s “message of hate” was helping turn out Latinos in Nevada to vote for her and Clinton.

    “Did Donald Trump excite my base here in Nevada? Absolutely,” said Cortez Masto, who if elected would be the Senate’s first Latina. “He wants to build a wall with Mexico. He calls Mexicans rapists and criminals. He’s coming to the state of Nevada where 28 percent are Hispanic. The majority are from Mexico. That’s my family.”

    In New Hampshire, GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte was among those who pulled her support for Trump after audio emerged of him boasting he got away with groping women. But that angered Republican voters, and it didn’t stop Ayotte’s Democratic opponent, Gov. Maggie Hassan, from trying to tie her to Trump throughout the campaign.

    In Florida, GOP Sen. Marco Rubio seemed to have a lead over Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, who was abandoned by his own party after Democratic bosses decided to pull ad money from expensive Florida and invest it in Missouri, North Carolina and Indiana, instead.

    It was a different story in Indiana, where another star recruit, Evan Bayh, former Democratic governor and senator, was struggling in his comeback bid against Republican Rep. Todd Young. That race was another toss-up.

    Wisconsin and Illinois were favored to flip for the Democrats, though in Wisconsin polls tightened in recent weeks in favor of GOP Sen. Ron Johnson. But Ohio and Arizona, forecast to be competitive early on, turned into walks for the GOP incumbents, Rob Portman and John McCain.

    Reid’s retirement in Nevada created an open seat, and the only contested race where Democrats were on defense.


    Associated Press writer Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Russ Contreras in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

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