Hillary Clinton's Road To Election Day

Hillary Clinton claims victory in the Democratic primary in the Brooklyn Navy Yard on June 7, 2016. Drew Angerer/Getty Images hide caption

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

When it comes to Hillary Clinton’s historic run for the presidency, if she’s ultimately able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling it will be because a combination of good luck and better planning helped her overcome challenges, many of her own making.

Hillary and Bill Clinton attend the 37th Harkin Steak Fry on Sept. 14, 2014, in Indianola, Iowa. Steve Pope/Getty Images hide caption

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Steve Pope/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s name is on the ballot, but Clinton’s biggest opponent may well have been herself – as she was dogged by emails, questions over the Clinton Foundation and paid speeches.

Those controversies have kept the presidential contest between Clinton and Republican nominee Trump close at the end. But Hillary Clinton will reach Election Day with the real prospect of becoming the first female president in U.S. history.

She’s been a candidate for 19 months. Clinton’s official campaign launch was preceded by months of will-she-or-won’t-she chatter, but there was lots of work behind the scenes and a “Ready For Hillary” superPAC working out in the open to prepare for Clinton to get in.

But who would she face?

Winning The Opponent Lottery

In April 2015, when Hillary Clinton officially entered the race for president, she was looking over her left shoulder. It was apparent in her very first remarks, at a community college in Iowa.

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“I think it’s fair to say that, as you look across the country, the deck is still stacked in favor of those who are already at the top,” said Clinton. “And there’s something wrong with that.”

Clinton’s team had an eye on Vice President Joe Biden, with his everyman appeal and ability to speak the language of white, working-class voters. But ultimately Biden, whose son died of brain cancer in the Spring of 2015, opted not to get into the race.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren resisted progressive recruitment efforts and didn’t get into the race either.

In the end, Clinton only faced one primary opponent who truly threatened her chance at the nomination: Bernie Sanders. He did far better than likely even he imagined was possible, going from oddity to rock star, with legions of adoring supporters. Sanders movement grew over the summer of 2015 with an active online community boosting his name recognition.

The crowds at his speeches and rallies kept growing to the point that he was filling sports arenas. As one Democratic activist in Iowa put it to team Clinton, “Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear.” And those large crowds gave Sanders’ campaign more media attention and more credibility.

“You know, sometimes our campaign has been referred to as a fringe campaign. Well, if this is fringe, I would like to see mainstream,” Sanders said to a packed auditorium at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, in June 2015.

Clinton barely won the Iowa caucuses and Sanders then trounced her in New Hampshire. That juiced his fundraising allowing him to run television ads and compete throughout the primary season. But Sanders weaknesses became apparent in the South Carolina primary. His core message of income inequality and the influence of money in politics didn’t resonate with many African American voters, who felt the racial inequality they experience wasn’t addressed with a focus simply on economics. That showed as the primaries moved to southern states where black voters sometimes favored Clinton by 80-point margins, according to exit polls.

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton take part in the first Democratic presidential debate on Oct. 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nev. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Sanders also famously let Clinton off the hook on her emails and didn’t go after her on making paid speeches to big Wall Street banks, particularly Goldman Sachs, until late in the primary fight.

Looking toward the general election and the growing Republican field in early 2015, Donald Trump wasn’t even on the radar. Few believed he would run and even fewer believed he could mount a serious candidacy. He had toyed with a presidential campaign many times before without jumping in. There was little reason to believe this time would be different. On the night of the first Republican presidential debate, Clinton’s team welcomed reporters into its Brooklyn headquarters as its rapid response team crafted tweets and senior aides offered spin during commercial breaks. “I think they’re digging the hole deeper,” Mook said to a small gaggle of reporters on the Clinton beat. But his attention quickly turned back to the TV. “Don’t get between me and Donald,” Mook said.

Their plan was to tie all the other Republicans to Trump’s extreme statements, because they hardly imagined Trump would ultimately become the nominee.

For Clinton, there was a generational concern. In 2008, Barack Obama represented hope and change and his relative youth was part of the appeal. In a 2016 general election, Senators Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio would be able draw the same contrast, painting the baby boomer Clinton as a relic of the past.

It was clear that’s the general election challenge Clinton and her team were anticipating when she gave the big speech at her official campaign kickoff event on Roosevelt Island in New York. “Now there may some new voices in the presidential Republican choir, but they’re all singing the same old song,” Clinton told a crowd estimated at 5,000. “A song called, ‘Yesterday.’ You know the one. All our troubles look as though they’re here to stay. And we need a place to hide a way. They believe in yesterday. And you’re lucky I didn’t try singing that, I’ll tell you.”

According to hacked emails released by Wikileaks, behind the scenes, senior advisers were especially concerned about Rubio, the Florida Senator. “I’m beginning to worry more about Rubio than the others,” Joel Benenson, the campaign’s pollster and chief strategist wrote. “He’s playing this very smart—only one who didn’t duck like a chicken s*** on the [question] of whether POTUS [Obama] loves America. He has stronger right wing cred than Jeb [Bush] and he’s finding a way to the middle enough for now and he will be the most exciting choice to Republicans. Could pose a real threat with Latinos etc.”

But in the end, Trump outlasted the entire Republican field, leaving Clinton to face an opponent with well-known shortcomings and an opposition research file bigger than Trump Tower. Hillary Clinton won the opponent lottery. Not just in the primary, when Warren and Biden stayed out, but in the general election as well. There were certainly risks in facing Trump, his ability to dominate news coverage, the difficulty in pinning him down on policy. Trump’s taxes, business dealing, treatment of women and tendency to say and tweet things that hurt him with voters were a constant throughout the general election campaign. But many Republicans and even some Democrats believe, with a more disciplined opponent, Clinton would easily be facing defeat on Election Day.

A Team Of (Former) Rivals

For the first time in at least 100 years, a sitting U.S. president has campaigned vigorously for his chosen successor. In the closing weeks of the campaign, President Barack Obama has been a regular fixture on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton, pitching her to voters more effectively than she could pitch herself.

With an approval rating solidly above 50 percent and his natural ease on the stump, Obama essentially doubled Clinton’s firepower in swing states. But he wasn’t the only one.

First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and even Bernie Sanders campaigned hard for Clinton and her running mate, Tim Kaine

Clinton won Sanders over by agreeing to modify her debt-free public college proposal to more closely track with Sanders free college plan. He started slowly, but by the end of the race Sanders was traversing the country trying to convince his young supporters to go to the polls and not vote for a third-party candidate or Trump.

The ally Clinton always had making the case on her behalf was her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

By contrast, Trump’s surrogate operation was thin. There were no former presidents or even former Republican presidential nominees, save Bob Dole, who appeared at the Republican National Convention. Mitt Romney actively opposed Trump and relatives said both former presidents Bush would likely vote for Clinton.

Hillary Clinton speaks to the media after keynoting a Women’s Empowerment Event at the United Nations March 10, 2015 in New York City, just days after it was revealed she used a private email server while secretary of state. Yana Paskova/Getty Images hide caption

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Yana Paskova/Getty Images

Clinton’s ‘Damn Emails’ (And Wall Street Speeches)

From before Hillary Clinton even entered the race for president, her campaign faced headwinds of her own making. There was the private email server she used for official business while Secretary of State and there were the lucrative speaking engagements during the time after she left the State Department and before her campaign officially began.

When the news of Clinton’s server broke, top officials in the campaign were seemingly blindsided. In hacked emails released by WikiLeaks, campaign chairman-in-waiting John Podesta emailed campaign manager-in-waiting Robby Mook asking if he knew the extent of the email issue in advance.

“Nope. We brought up the existence of emails in research this summer but were told that everything was taken care of,” Mook wrote at the time.

Clinton’s campaign has refused to verify the authenticity of emails released by WikiLeaks and also have avoided commenting on any of the content. Clinton’s campaign says the release of emails hacked from Podesta’s personal Gmail account is part of a Russian effort to interfere with the U.S. election.

In one chain, Podesta and Neera Tanden, a longtime Clinton ally, complain about the email story coming out so late in the game. “Why didn’t they get this stuff out like 18 months ago? So crazy,” she asked. In a later email, Tanden answered her own question: “They wanted to get away with it.”

Bernie Sanders gave Clinton a gift when he took the email server off the table as an issue in the Democratic primary during the first debate.

“Let me say something that may not be great politics, but I think the Secretary is right. And that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” said Sanders.

Clinton jumped in, “Thank you, thank you,” she said. “Me, too!”

Right after that, came the eleven-hour hearing of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Clinton maintained a calm, somber demeanor throughout and left with House Republicans revealing no new bombshells.

Hillary Clinton testifies before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Oct. 22, 2015. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images hide caption

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

That October was one of the best months of her campaign. But Clinton’s email troubles were far from over.

Just as she was launching into the general election, only hours before Clinton was to campaign with President Obama for the first time, FBI Director James Comey held a press conference. On the face of it, his announcement was good news. The FBI had been investigating whether Clinton’s use of a private email server violated the law, whether she and her aides had improperly handled classified material. He said no reasonable prosecutor would pursue the case and he was recommending against charging Clinton or her aides with a crime.

“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” Comey said.

His statement raised more questions than it answered and brought the email saga back into focus for voters.

At the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, delegates began chanting “lock her up!” That chant became a regular feature of Trump rallies.

Ten days before Election Day, Comey brought the email issue back into the spotlight, announcing emails had been found in the course of another investigation focused on former congressman Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin. This meant the cloud of Clinton’s email server would hang over her campaign from beginning to end, and likely well beyond if she wins.

Another lingering problem for Clinton’s campaign came from the speeches she gave behind closed doors to Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks. Clinton made millions of dollars on the speaking circuit and the implication was that she was saying something behind closed doors with corporate executives that she wasn’t telling voters.

By the end of the primary, Sanders regularly called on her to release the transcripts. And there were transcripts, compiled by the speaker’s bureau that booked Clinton’s appearances.

Clinton’s campaign never released the transcripts. But a policy adviser did review them, sending around an email to senior staff highlighting the most potentially politically problematic excerpts.

We know this, because of the hacked emails released by WikiLeaks. In addition to posting the speech excerpts, WikiLeaks also released the full text of all three of Clinton’s Goldman Sachs speeches. It turns out they weren’t speeches at all, but rather extended on-stage question and answer sessions.

Had the transcripts leaked out during the primary, they might have been more damaging. But coming out in October, they barely registered.

Making A Plan — And Sticking To It

Hillary Clinton loves plans. Or at least she loves to talk about them.

“Maybe it is a bit of a woman’s thing, because we make lists,” Clinton began saying at rallies in the final weeks of her campaign. “We do, we make lists, and we try to write down what we’re supposed to do and then cross them off as we go on in the day or the week. So I want you to think about our plans as our list. Our list for our country.”

Clinton is a wonk at heart. Digging into the policy weeds is where she is most comfortable. She is far less comfortable with sweeping themes and inspiring speeches.

So, her campaign made a plan to just let Hillary do Hillary. They kept her events small and held numerous town hall-style events and roundtable conversations. Clinton did a lot of listening and the campaign released plans and policy papers on everything from autism to defeating ISIS.

The strategy was to be boring. And with that as a goal, Clinton’s campaign was a success. Though there were certainly times when this baffled those watching from the outside.

And while Clinton was making relatively small promises to small audiences, her campaign was building an infrastructure to reach voters where they were and bring them to the polls.

The campaign started early with the slow, hard grind of person-to-person contact known in campaign lingo as organizing. The campaign was building communities, groups of people brought together by a common goal of electing Clinton, but motivated and inspired as much by their fellow volunteers as by the candidate. By the end, the campaign had half a million volunteers working to get her elected.

Organizing isn’t flashy. Neither were Clinton’s plans and speeches. But rather than fighting against her weaknesses as a campaigner, the campaign played to her strengths.

Hillary Clinton leaves the stage after the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., on Sept. 26, 2016. Timothy A. Clary /AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Timothy A. Clary /AFP/Getty Images

Getting Under Trump’s ‘Thin Skin’

Just as the first general election debate was ending, Hillary Clinton said something that set Donald Trump off.

“This is a man who is called women pigs, slobs and dogs,” Clinton said, echoing an ad called “Mirrors” that her campaign had been running in swing states and on national cable leading up to the debate. Trump hit back, making it clear he had seen the ad and didn’t much like it.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars on negative ads on me, many of which are absolutely untrue,” Trump said. “They’re untrue, and they’re misrepresentations. And I will tell you this, Lester, it’s not nice and I don’t, I don’t deserve that. But it’s certainly not a nice thing that she’s done. “

In that same exchange, Clinton mentioned the former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, who Trump had allegedly called “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping,” mocking her for her Latino heritage and for gaining weight.

The case of Alicia Machado is a perfect example of the Clinton campaign’s meticulous planning. Before the first debate, the campaign had already sat down with her, shooting a video where she talked about Trump mocking her weight and her struggles with eating disorders. This was edited together with archival footage of Trump bringing reporters to the gym to watch her work out.

Within an hour of the debate, the campaign had released its video featuring Machado and the next day she was on a conference call with reporters.

The morning after the debate in a phone interview with Fox and Friends, unprompted by the anchors, Trump started talking about Machado. He defended himself by saying she really had gained weight. Clinton had snagged him.

“Not only that – her attitude. And we had a real problem with her,” Trump added.

The whole week following the first debate was consumed by Trump and his surrogates arguing it wasn’t okay for Machado to gain weight while Miss Universe. He couldn’t get much further off message.

This all culminated with Trump going on a pre-dawn tweet storm attacking Machado and encouraging followers to “check out sex tape.”

Clinton made a strategic choice once she knew Trump would be her opponent. She wouldn’t run against him like any other Republican. She would portray him as an outlier, an existential threat and build a case that he was “temperamentally unfit” to be president of the United States. This made it more a race about values, personality and temperament than policy.

“Imagine him plunging us into a war because somebody got under his very thin skin,” Clinton said in a national security speech at Kent State University in Ohio.

With carefully laid traps like the attack involving Machado or from the parents of a Muslim U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq, the Clinton campaign was able to get Trump to help make their point, one tweet or TV interview at a time.

If Hillary Clinton convinces enough Americans Donald Trump is simply unacceptable for the presidency, she will become America’s first female president. But she would also face incredible challenges, including repairing her own reputation, battered by two years of campaigning and the email scandal that may never fully go away.

Hillary Clinton speaks during the National Action Network’s 25th Anniversary Convention on April 13, 2016, in New York City. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

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Learning In The Age Of Digital Distraction

How can we manage the tsunami of digital distractions to aid how we learn, absorb information and live?

LA Johnson/NPR

Maybe the smart phone’s hegemony makes perfect evolutionary sense: Humans are tapping a deep urge to seek out information. Our ancient food-foraging survival instinct has evolved into an info-foraging obsession; one that prompts many of us today to constantly check our phones and multitask.

Monkey see. Click. Swipe. Reward.

A new book The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High Tech World explores the implications of, and brain science behind, this evolution (some might say devolution). It was written Adam Gazzaley, a neurologist and a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and research psychologist Larry D. Rosen.

Adam Gazzaley, M.D., Ph.D. Director of Gazzaley Lab, Professor of Neurology, Physiology and Psychiatry, Director, Neuroscience Imaging Center at UCSF. Peter Samuels/Courtesy of Gazzaley Lab hide caption

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Peter Samuels/Courtesy of Gazzaley Lab

Our friends at NPR’s Shots blog recently spoke with one of the authors about distraction’s impact on productivity. I wanted to talk with Dr. Gazzaley about what his research tells us about teaching, learning, studying and screen time in the age of digital distraction.

From food foragers to information foragers. Mechanisms that developed in our brain for survival have now evolved to include information foraging?

Correct. We see it in other primates and we believe that this is sort of a hijacking or an evolution of that same system that was critical for our survival in terms of seeking out food has now been directed at seeking out information.

Adam, we engage this info-foraging, this distraction even when that behavior is self-destructive or counterproductive?

Yes, some behaviors that drive us, like even addictive behaviors, might have some positive reward reinforcement and then many other negative consequences.

One of the main theses we explore in the book is our ability, or really remark-ability, to set high-level goals, which is in many ways the pinnacle of the human brain. These goals are complex, and this ability collides with very fundamental limitations in the skills that we have to enact these goals. We call those abilities cognitive control. We describe it in the book as a triad of: attention, working memory and goal management, which includes multi-tasking and task switching.

When we switch between tasks, we suffer a degradation of performance that then could impact every aspect of our cognition from our emotional regulation to our decision making to our learning process, as well as real world activities like school and work and safety on the road.

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From driving a car to paying attention during a lecture and getting the most out of a classroom?

Exactly, or getting the most out of your interaction with your significant other. That’s what really blew my mind. When you really wrap your head around how broad the negative impact is, it’s really, in many ways, overwhelming.

Let’s look at the impact on learning. Let’s talk about memory. Your lab did experiments, including one that revealed that the vital tool of mental focus was not the primary determinant of high-level memory performance. Memory relied more on ignoring distractions, tuning things out. Explain.

You remember things better in the short term because you’re focusing on them. That’s not wrong in itself. But we’ve realized is that the highest level of performance in this domain of working memory is dictated more so by how well you filter all the irrelevant information. If you process information around you that is irrelevant to your goals, it will create interference. It will degrade those representations in your brain and you will not perform at the same level.

Filtering, this is very frequently done subconsciously. Sometimes you are actively ignoring, right? When you’re sitting in a restaurant or in a classroom and it’s noisy outside or someone is talking next to you and you’re trying to focus on the lesson and you realize that stimulation is getting into your brain that’s irrelevant. You may try to ignore it. Even when we’re not trying, our brain is filtering that, and our success at filtering that is critical for our ability to perceive information, to remember it and then to make decisions about it.

Let’s take that into the classroom. How can teachers help the filtering process? Or is that really beyond their ability as we’re dealing with developmental and psychological impulses that teachers may have very, very little control over?

I think it’s extraordinarily complex and I don’t claim to be able to answer that question, certainly alone. I think that there is a serious challenge in the classroom because of the traditional approach of sustained attention to one topic. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with that. I’m just recognizing the challenge that teachers face if they deliver material in that way.

I think that our tendency of distraction is higher than ever before because of technology, because of this unprecedented exposure to information all the time and even the very rapid reward cycle that everyone, especially young people experience in their social lives. Jumping between so many texts continuously or the stimulation that’s prevalent in video games.

One of the things we talk about in the book is the need for us to re-train ourselves to become comfortable with sustaining our attention on a single goal and for young people, who may have never developed this skill, to learn the value and to appreciate the value and to even feel the value of sustained attention.

A study you write about in the book required students to use a specific technology while attending lectures. Tell us how the multi-taskers did on tests afterwards?

There is a negative impact of multi-tasking on school performance. Probably not surprisingly. In the lab, we studied that process in a very detailed way while we’re imaging brain activity in real time. The act of moving your attention from one demanding activity to another, like what would occur in the classroom, does degrade performance. … I would say that those studies that show the impact of multi-tasking with performance is the real-life incarnation of what we see in the laboratory.

And the negative impact isn’t just on academic performance. You and your co-author talk about the emotional and psychological impact, including increased anxiety and stress.

Yes, this is one of those thorny problems. Performance is only one aspect of it. We now see anxiety, stress, mood, are other outcomes of this type of behavior. It’s complex. It’s also a moving target. Now we see virtual reality coming into the technological landscape and that will almost certainly be part of the teaching environment in the future. And how does that influence [academic performance]?

Is there any evidence, either anecdotally or scientifically, that more open classrooms that might have students being more self-directed with their learning is more in tune with the inherent limitations of the distracted mind? Can classrooms adapt somewhat to that reality by freeing things up?

It’s not specifically in my expertise. But I am familiar with anecdotes showing the benefit of play in learning. There are definitely different models for how classrooms might take lessons and education leaders might take lessons from what we describe as the scientific basis off the distracted mind and experiment with how different classroom structures might be more effective in delivering information that young people need.

You write about the positive impact that things like exercise have on alleviating the distracted mind, and not far behind are cognitive exercises, video-game training and meditation. What, if anything, can teachers do to enhance learning using some of those tools? Or are those really for parents and the students themselves to activate?

That’s a great question. To first just pause on those approaches, many of these are ancient — like meditation, mindfulness practices. Exercise has been recognized for a long time in terms of its value on our health and now its value on our brains. What we present here is a picture where technology is not evil. It didn’t create these problems or these challenges of interference. It has aggravated them. It doesn’t necessarily have to be dismissed. As a matter of fact, that’s impossible. We have to wrap our heads around how we can re-imagine technology as a positive force on our minds.

We are now exploring at UCSF, at our center, creating video games, which we know young people certainly enjoy playing, that are not just entertaining and engaging but take principles like medication and exercise and music and bring them into a game environment to help improve these very fundamental abilities of the mind.

Let’s end with strategies for parents to optimize performance given the distracted-mind reality. Tell us some tips. Model good behavior?

There needs to be some positive acceptance that young people are going to use this technology. I don’t think that just denying it is reasonable. I also don’t think an extended period of removing technology is likely to be helpful. I think that it is reasonable to take technology “time outs,” to have environments and maybe even times where the family interacts with each other and not the outside world through texts. It’s sort of a return to the dinner table as a place where you learn how to engage in face-to-face, meaningful contact. Put your tech aside. You can return to it afterwards.

And I think to lead by example is critical because we now know that parents are as guilty as their kids in pulling out a phone during a dinner conversation and texting. I think that that is really critical just to say it has to be balanced and we’re going to practice how to balance it as a family.

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Courts Rule For Easier Voting As Presidential Election Nears

Stickers were on hand at a polling place during the primary election earlier this year in Westerville, Ohio. Friday, a judge in Ohio warned the campaigns not to intimidate voters. Matt Rourke/AP hide caption

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Matt Rourke/AP

A number of court rulings went the Democrats’ way on the Friday before Election Day.

In North Carolina, a federal judge stopped the state from blocking thousands of voters from casting ballots. Keri Brown of member station WFDD reports for our newscast unit that at least three counties had removed up to 4,000 voters after private citizens had questioned those voters’ legal addresses.

“The individuals sent mail to home addresses. [Mail returned as undeliverable] gave county officials enough evidence to void the registration,” Keri reports.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs ruled that the procedures violated a law that forbids mass removal of voters within 90 days before an election, and said voters have the right to cast ballots “free from interference and burden unnecessarily imposed by others.”

In Ohio, a federal judge ordered the Donald Trump campaign and others not to intimidate or harass voters at polling sites. NPR’s Pam Fessler reports Democrats sued insisting that monitoring wouldn’t be a protection against fraud, but a guise for discouraging voting, especially by minorities:

“The judge ordered the Trump campaign and all groups – including any associated with the Clinton campaign – not to engage in any voter intimidation, [such as] verbally harassing or taking photos of voters in or around polling sites. Republicans say they have no intention of intimidating minority voters.”

Courts also upheld complaints against an Arizona law that banned collecting other people’s early ballots and delivering them to be counted, and a Kansas requirement that prospective voters prove their citizenship.

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Episode 733: A Trunk Full of Truffles

Truffles on a scale

Dan Pashman/WNYC

Truffles are one of the most expensive, sought-after foods on earth. Frankly, we don’t get it. They’re a fungus that smells like dirty socks.

We wanted to understand what all the fuss is about. Enter Ian Purkayastha, a baby-faced connoisseur known as Truffle Boy. He’s has been completely obsessed with truffles since he was 15. Growing up, he foraged for mushrooms in the forests of Arkansas. Now he sells truffles to the fanciest restaurants in New York City.

Ian takes us to some of the best kitchens in Manhattan on his quest to sell $20,000 worth of truffles out of the trunk of his car. It is a race against time: the truffles lose value with every passing minute. Meanwhile, Ian has to deal with traffic, parking cops, penny-pinching chefs and black market smugglers.

Truffles can’t be cultivated like other crops, so the supply can’t increase to meet the demand. That means truffle dealing — and truffle smuggling — are a high stakes hustle.

Today on the show we follow Ian through back alleys and curbside deals with some of best chefs in New York to find out why people are willing to pay so much for a fungus that smells like old socks. Plus, we hear the science behind why people just can’t get enough of them.

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Music: “Back From The Dead” and “Soul Toucher.” Find us: Twitter/Facebook.

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Nicaragua's Ortega Headed For Re-election — With His Wife As VP

Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega (center), accompanied by his wife Rosario Murillo, greets supporters in 2011. She has long been a prominent figure, and now Ortega has made her his vice presidential running mate as he seeks a third term in Sunday’s election. Esteban Felix/AP hide caption

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Esteban Felix/AP

Nicaragua’s election on Sunday isn’t expected to produce any surprises — but it is drawing attention.

The current president and former Marxist rebel, Daniel Ortega, who is seeking an unprecedented third term, is widely predicted to win. He does, however, have a new vice presidential running mate — his wife Rosario Murillo — and has banned all national and international observers, leading some opponents to say the elections are fixed.

Last week, thousands of protesters packed cars, pickup trucks and school buses, with many riding on the roof, for a mile-long protest high in the northern mountains of Nicaragua.

The procession rolled slowly into the town of Pantasma, famous for its fertile grounds for both coffee growing and revolutionary resistance.

“The electoral farce has begun,” screamed a woman over a loudspeaker amid the protesters. One of the demonstrators, Johaven Herrera, 20, picks coffee and corn alongside his parents. He says this was going to be his first time voting. Instead he’ll be sitting at home Sunday.

“There is no one to vote for. It’s as simple as that,” he says.

Thousands of Nicaraguans protested last weekend against Daniel Ortega, who is running for a third term as president in Sunday’s election. Critics say he has effectively eliminated all serious opposition. The banner reads, “Ortega Sells the Homeland.” Carrie Kahn/NPR hide caption

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Carrie Kahn/NPR

For most young people like Herrera, Ortega is the only leader they’ve ever really known.

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Ortega led the country after his Sandinista rebels overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, until losing an election in 1990. He regained power in 2007, garnering just 38 percent of the vote, defeating a fractured opposition. And he’s ruled ever since, with each election drawing more international scrutiny and mounting fraud allegations.

Ortega changed the constitution to remove term limits on the presidency and has banned international observers, calling them “shameless.” This summer he appointed his wife, Murillo, to be his vice presidential candidate and managed to remove the leadership of the country’s main opposition group, leaving just five minor parties on the ballot.

Violetta Granada, the recently dismantled Liberal Independent Party’s VP candidate, says this time Ortega has closed the door on the democratic process.

“We are trying to open it, because we don’t want violence, we don’t want the country to fall back into the cycle of war again,” says Granada surrounded by signs reading, “Democracy Yes, Dictatorship No.”

While Ortega has spent much of the past decade increasing his grip on power, he’s also spent much energy on mending fences with past enemies like the Catholic Church and the business community.

Annual economic growth in the country has topped 5 percent for the past five years, one of the highest rates in the region. Nicaragua has not been crippled by high murder and crime rates like it’s troubled neighbors. And foreign investment has returned too.

Walmart just opened its first store last year, there’s a newly expanded upscale mall in the capital and several high rises.

Roberto Sanson, the head of the American Chamber of Commerce here, just opened a two-story, glass-enclosed, Nissan dealership.

From the second floor he looks down on his shiny showroom with all the latest Nissan offerings including one SUV that goes for $130,000 dollars.

He chuckles, “I only sell about three of those a year.”

Sanson says there is no doubt that Nicaragua is better during the past decade of Ortega’s rule.

Berta Aguilar lives in a modest cinder block house near Managua’s airport. Ortega has long won support among the poor by providing assistance, much of it coming from Venezuela. Carrie Kahn/NPR hide caption

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Carrie Kahn/NPR

“Daniel Ortega has done everything that he has been able to do because the opposition has allowed him to do it and the country has allowed him to do it, not by force, but because he has been smarter than everyone else, that’s the truth, even if we don’t like it,” he says.

And Sandson adds, Ortega is smart enough to take care of the country’s poorest too.

Ortega has long appeased the poor, mostly with massive handouts funded by his leftist ally, Venezuela, which provided around a half-billion dollars a year. But that money is drying up as Venezuela has been embroiled in its own economic and political turmoil.

Berta Aguilar knows first hand about the Ortega’s work for the poor. For the past 16 years she’s lived in her modest three-bedroom cinderblock house in a poor barrio not far from Managua’s airport. Six years ago, with funds from Venezuela’s former leader, the late Hugo Chavez, she got running water.

She proudly shows off her bathroom out back and turns on the shower while giving her toilet a hardy flush.

All thanks to Ortega’s Sandinistas.

Her visiting friend, Maria de los Angeles, joins in on the praise.

“I always vote for the party,” she says. “It’s because of them that I’m alive”

The Sandinistas free healthcare provides treatment for her leukemia and hearing aids for her daughter.

De los Angeles credits Ortega’s wife, Murillo, for the party’s gains. The two women settle in to watch Murillo’s daily lunchtime address to the nation, which can last nearly an hour and is peppered with the first lady’s trademark mix of New Age references and Christianity.

“Thanks to God, we are here with our health and strength to receive God’s blessings,” says Murillo.

Always dressed in flowing skirts and blouses, adorned with rings on every finger, and bright necklaces, Murillo has been the public face of the regime for years. Ortega, soon to be 71, is rumored to have health issues, leading to speculation that her appointment as vice president will secure the Ortega’s hold on power. The couple’s children own most of the media outlets and key businesses in the country. Murillo declined an interview request. Ortega hasn’t talked to independent reporters in years.

Poet and writer Gioconda Belli was a spokeswoman for the Sandinastas back in the 1980s. She’s long split with the couple who she says have become very messianic.

Ortega “has in Rosario the most efficient assistant that anyone can dream of, like the assistant to a CEO of big company,” says Belli. “That’s her expertise”.

Murillo was always extremely disciplined and efficient says Belli, with a strong authoritarian streak just like her husband.

“The perfect queen to his king”, she adds.

But international pressure is mounting for the couple to restore democratic institutions. The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously to block some international loans to the country and the Organization of American States says it will send a delegation to Nicaragua. However, the officials won’t arrive until after this Sunday’s election.

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A Tribe Called Quest To Join Host Dave Chappelle On Saturday Night Live

A Tribe Called Quest, seen here in 2005, is reuniting for an SNL appearance and album despite the death of founding member Phife Dawg, second from left, in March. Rob Carr/AP hide caption

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Rob Carr/AP

In a surprising press release NBC announced Friday that Dave Chappelle will host Saturday Night Live on Nov. 12 with musical guest A Tribe Called Quest. This will be the first episode after the presidential election, and an SNL debut for both Chappelle and A Tribe Called Quest.

This news comes on the heels of another announcement from the influential hip-hop group: A Tribe Called Quest will be releasing its first new album in nearly two decades on Nov. 11, the day before the group’s scheduled appearance on SNL.

The album, called We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, will also be the group’s last. One of the founding members – Malik Taylor, known as Phife Dawg – died in March of this year at the age of 45 from complications of diabetes.

A Tribe Called Quest was formed in 1985 in New York City by high school friends Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White, who over the years has been a part-time member of the group. Their 1991 album, The Low End Theory, is widely recognized as one of the most influential hip-hop albums of all time. Muhammad was also co-host of NPR’s music podcast Microphone Check, which recently became independent of the network.

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A handwritten note from Q-Tip was posted on his Facebook page in late October. He announced the new album, which had formerly been only rumored, and discussed its origins. Q-Tip cited the group’s performance on The Tonight Show last year – their first TV appearance in 18 years – as the beginning of the reunion. He writes, it was Nov. 13 – the night of the Paris bombings – an “unseasonably warm night in NYC.”

“As we left 30 Rock, I felt the need, we all did, to get back to the studio and start that cook up,” Q-Tip writes. He says the album was “coming along nicely,” when Phife Dawg passed away. “But he left us with the blue print of what we had to do.”

The new album will feature collaborations with artists such as Kendrick Lamar, André 3000, Busta Rhymes, Elton John, Talib Kweli, and Jack White.

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Another Officer Charged In San Francisco Bay Area Police Sex Scandal

Contra Costa District Attorney Mark Peterson announced in Martinez, Calif., that he will charge a retired police captain with a misdemeanor prostitution count. Ben Margot/AP hide caption

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Ben Margot/AP

Another law enforcement officer will be charged in the ongoing investigation of dozens of San Francisco Bay Area police officers who allegedly had sex with a teen sex trafficking victim.

Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson said he is filing a single misdemeanor charge against an 81-year-old retired Oakland police captain who allegedly paid the victim for sex. According to Peterson, the victim was 18 at the time. The name of the retired officer was not announced, and NPR generally does not name individuals who are the alleged victims of sexual assaults.

The charges follow the news Thursday that a former Oakland police officer, Terryl Smith, 30, will face five misdemeanor counts of “unauthorized furnishing of local criminal records.” Smith allegedly ran the victim’s name through a confidential police database and shared the information with her. The victim has said that she engaged in sex with police officers for money or for information about police activities.

In September, the district attorney of neighboring Alameda County, Nancy O’Malley, announced criminal charges against seven police officers, five of them past or current members of the Oakland Police Department.

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As of last week, four police officers in the Richmond Police Department who were linked to the widespread scandal had been fired. An attorney for three of the officers, Michael Rains, said the firings were unjustified, in part because the contact between the officers and the victim was consensual. She allegedly said her contact with the Richmond officers occurred after she turned 18 years old.

Contra Costa DA Peterson said he will not be charging any current police officers, including those from Richmond, based on a lack of evidence.

The police sex scandal surfaced in June when a local newsweekly reported that the victim had been involved with an Oakland officer who had killed himself last year. That revelation led to the resignation of the police chief and then the rapid departures of two successors, all in the course of two weeks.

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Watch: Clinton Campaign Deliberately Trolls Trump With Ads

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Henderson, Nev., on Oct 5. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

One of Hillary Clinton’s oft repeated attack lines against Donald Trump is that he’s “a man you can bait with a tweet.” It’s now clear her campaign has been purposely baiting the Republican nominee with television ads.

“You know, he was a big part of our target audience. He consumes a lot of cable,” admitted Clinton’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, at a North Carolina rally Thursday.


Palmieri told NPR the deliberate goading started this summer. The campaign was airing an ad called “Role Models,” in which children watch television as Trump delivers some of his most controversial remarks. Palmieri noticed Trump, in a speech, defending himself against the ad point by point.

“I was listening and I thought, oh my God, he must have been in his hotel, just watched ‘Role Models,’ and walked out onstage [and] then done his own refutation of it.”

The unusual tactic has paid dividends for the Democrat’s campaign, notably during the first presidential debate. Just as it was ending, Hillary Clinton said something that set Donald Trump off:

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“This is a man who is called women pigs, slobs and dogs.”

Clinton’s ‘Mirrors’ Ad

She was echoing an ad her campaign had been running in swing states and on national cable leading up to the debate, called “Mirrors.” In that ad, girls look at themselves in the mirror and on their phones as sad music plays. And you can hear (and occasionally see) Donald Trump delivering such insults as “I’d look right in that fat ugly face of hers,” “She’s a slob” and “She ate a like a pig.”


With each of those three insults, Trump is talking about comedian Rosie O’Donnell. But here’s the thing: Clinton never said anything about O’Donnell in the debate.

Still, when it came time for Trump to respond to what Clinton did say, he went straight to the ad.

Trump’s Reaction To ‘Mirrors’

“You know Hillary is hitting me with tremendous commercials, some of said in entertainment, some of it is said somebody who’s been very vicious to me, Rosie O’Donnell, I said very tough things to her and I think everybody would agree that she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her,” Trump said.


It seems quite likely Trump had seen the ad — and more — though his campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

By all accounts, Trump is an avid television viewer, especially cable TV. He tweets regularly about the cable networks, their anchors and their ratings. And he made it clear at that debate he did not like what he was seeing during the commercial breaks.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars on negative ads on me, many which are absolutely untrue,” said Trump. “They’re untrue and they’re misrepresentations. And I will tell you this, Lester, it’s not nice and I don’t, I don’t deserve that. But it’s certainly not a nice thing that she’s done.”

A Man Without A Curtain

“Part of what’s just so compelling about the spectacle that we are seeing playing out is that there’s sort of no curtain in front of Donald Trump,” said Lynn Vavreck, a professor of political science at UCLA who observes political advertising closely.

What she means is that Trump’s campaign apparatus doesn’t consistently act as a filter between the public. Additionally, the candidate isn’t sheltered from outside commentary, including advertisements from the opposing campaign.

“Typically, someone in the campaign would see that ad and there’d be three or four people talking about it in some hotel room somewhere,” said Vavreck. “There’d be some reaction but you certainly wouldn’t get the candidate or the principal going out there and saying ‘and now I will react to all the advertisements.’ “


Trump’s Reaction To A Veterans Ad

But react the candidate has, including at a rally in Henderson, Nev.

“And then I saw today, I left the room and I saw a commercial where, it was really a nasty commercial, totally made up about me with vets,” said Trump.

“There is nobody that loves the vets more or respects the vets more,” Trump added. “They are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on false commercials and it’s a disgrace. So what we’ll do? I guess we’ll sue them. Let’s sue them, right. Let’s sue them. It’s unbelievable.”


Clinton’s ‘Sacrifice’ Ad

In this case, it’s not clear exactly which commercial Trump was referring to, though it could well have been a Clinton ad called “Sacrifice.” The spot features wounded warriors watching Trump as he claims to know more about ISIS than generals. In it, Trump also says John McCain isn’t a war hero because he was captured. The veterans wince as they watch.

Trump could also have been referring to this ad, from the pro-Clinton SuperPAC Priorities USA, that implies by avoiding taxes, Trump wasn’t helping the nation’s veterans.

Whichever ad it was that Trump saw, he certainly made his displeasure clear to an amphitheater full of people.

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Radio Rookies: New York Native Recalls Life After Parents Were Deported

It’s been two decades since Congress has passed comprehensive immigration reform. In that time, the government has increasingly turned to deportation as a way to control immigration.

For Radio Rookies, member station WNYC’s youth media program, 18-year-old Wayner Jimbo shares a very personal story about what happened after one of those deportations.

Wayner Jimbo grew up without parents after they were deported back to Ecuador when he was 9 years old. He shares his personal story of deportation for Radio Rookies. Courtney Stein/Radio Rookies hide caption

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Courtney Stein/Radio Rookies

Jimbo was born a U.S. citizen in New York City after his parents moved there from Ecuador. But when Jimbo was 9 years old, his family moved back to Ecuador after his father was deported. Jimbo stayed behind with relatives to continue going to school.

Sometimes he wrestled with whether or not he should’ve gone with his parents, but now as a freshman at Skidmore College, Jimbo feels certain he made the right choice.

In many ways, Jimbo feels he is living the American Dream — he got exactly where he is through hard work and discipline — and he hopes he can bring his parents and sister back too, so they can be a part of it with him.

Use the audio link above to hear the full story.

Si desea escuchar la historia de Wayner en español haga clic aqui.

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Manure Happens, Especially When Hog Farms Flood

An aerial view of a hog farm in North Carolina. The shot on the right shows a flooded manure lagoon after Hurricane Matthew. Google Earth (left)/Waterkeeper Alliance/EWG (right) hide caption

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Google Earth (left)/Waterkeeper Alliance/EWG (right)

Are the many hog and poultry farms of eastern North Carolina creating “fields of filth,” as two groups of environmental activists put it last summer? And if they are, what happens when a hurricane comes along and dumps a foot and a half of water on them?

The two groups, Environmental Working Group and Waterkeeper Alliance, just issued a partial answer. It’s a report filled with overhead photos taken in early October, in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. They show flooded poultry barns and “lagoons” filled with swine manure, spilling animal waste into nearby waterways.

According to the two groups, the flood waters partially submerged 10 pig farms with 39 barns, 26 large chicken-raising operations with 102 barns, and 14 manure lagoons. They say that flood waters inevitably carried large amounts of animal waste downstream and out to sea, “putting waterways, drinking water sources and public health at risk.”

Aerial shots of a poultry farm near the Neuse River, in North Carolina, before and during flooding. Google Earth (left)/Waterkeeper Alliance/EWG (right) hide caption

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Google Earth (left)/Waterkeeper Alliance/EWG (right)

Marla Sink, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, told The Salt that flood waters caused a small break in the walls of two different manure lagoons at a single hog farm in Green County.

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According to Brian Long, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, the floods killed about 1.8 million chickens and 2800 swine.

The damage apparently was much less severe, however, than during Hurricane Floyd, in 1999, which killed more than 20,000 hogs. During that storm, dozens of manure lagoons were flooded, and at half a dozen locations, the lagoon walls failed, allowing the contents to flow away.

Following the 1999 floods, the state of North Carolina bought out 42 different hog farms that were located in particularly flood-prone areas, closing down hog farming at those locations. The state also imposed a moratorium on construction of new manure lagoons. That moratorium remains in place.

Waterkeeper Alliance and the EWG, however, say that there still are too many animals in the state’s coastal plain, and that the state should more tightly regulate where and how that wasted is stored or spread on fields.

There are roughly the same number of people and pigs in North Carolina — about 9 million of each. But they tend to live in different places. In two counties in the southeastern part of the state — Sampson and Duplin — swine outnumber people by 30 to 1.

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