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Pam Fessler

Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where she covers poverty and philanthropy.

In her reporting, Fessler covers homelessness, hunger, and the impact of the recession on the nation's less fortunate. She reports on non-profit groups, how they're trying to address poverty and other social issues, and how they've been affected by the economic downturn. Her poverty reporting was recognized by a 2011 First Place Headliner Award in the human interest category.

Previously, Fessler reported primarily on homeland security, including security at U.S. ports, airlines, and borders. She has also reported on the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, the 9/11 Commission investigation, and such issues as Social Security and election reform. Fessler was also one of NPR's White House reporters during the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Before becoming a correspondent, Fessler was the acting senior editor on the Washington Desk and oversaw the network's coverage of the impeachment of President Clinton and the 1998 mid-term elections. She was NPR's chief election editor in 1996, and coordinated all network coverage of the presidential, congressional, and state elections. Prior to that role, Fessler was the deputy Washington editor and Midwest National Desk editor.

Before coming to NPR in 1993, she was a senior writer at Congressional Quarterly magazine. Fessler worked at CQ for 13 years as both a reporter and editor, covering tax, budget, and other news. She also worked as a budget specialist at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and was a reporter at The Record newspaper in Hackensack, NJ.

Fessler has a Masters of Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a bachelor's degree from Douglass College in New Jersey.

If anyone knows how easily voting can be disrupted, it's a county election supervisor in the state of Florida. That's one reason several dozen of them gathered in Orlando recently to discuss ways to protect against the most recent threat — cyberattacks by Russia or others intent on disrupting U.S. elections.

Marion County elections supervisor Wesley Wilcox said he realizes the threat has evolved far beyond the butterfly ballots and hanging chads that upended the 2000 presidential race. And even beyond the lone hacker.

President Trump has shown little interest in fighting the threat of Russians hacking U.S. elections. He's shown a lot of interest in fighting voter fraud, something he insists — without evidence — is widespread.

Parts of his administration are doing just the opposite.

Bob Kolasky, an acting deputy undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told a group of election officials gathered in Washington, D.C., this week that the threat of Russian hacking in future elections is "a national security issue."

Poor families in the United States are having an increasingly difficult time finding an affordable place to live, due to high rents, static incomes and a shortage of housing aid. Tenant advocates worry that the new tax bill, as well as potential cuts in housing aid, will make the problem worse.

Christine Thompson is eager to leave the two bedroom apartment she rents in a shabby house on the north side of Milwaukee. There are so many things wrong with the place.

"In the bathroom I have to turn my shower on in order for the light to come on. And when I turn the shower off, the light goes off," she says.

The apartment also has mice, cockroaches, and so many bedbugs that she and her sons — ages 3 and 7 — sleep on an air mattress on the dining room floor, where's there's no carpet. She also has no oven or stove, and water leaking from the ceiling.

Homelessness in the United States went up slightly this year for the first time since 2010. During a one-night count in January, 553,742 people were found living outside or in shelters across the country, a 0.7 percent increase from the year before, according to new data released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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House Republicans say the tax bill they introduced Thursday will grow the economy, create jobs and simplify tax returns, in part by eliminating tax deductions.

"Over 90 percent of Americans will be able to fill out their taxes on a postcard. That's what simplicity means," House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said.

But charities and nonprofit groups say that simplicity comes with a price. Even though Republicans promise to preserve the deduction for charitable donations, these groups say other proposed changes in the bill will discourage giving.

The work of President Trump's commission studying voter fraud and other voting problems has been stalled by the eight lawsuits filed against it, according to one commission member.

Indiana's Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson says the suits, which seek release of all of the commission's correspondence, among other things, have had a "chilling" effect.

Some Democrats on the 11-member panel have complained in recent weeks that they're being kept in the dark about its activities and plans.

Five years ago, James Brown moved into his first apartment after more than two dozen years living on the streets of Los Angeles. Brown was housed as part of a joint effort by the federal government, local communities and nonprofit agencies to help tens of thousands of homeless veterans in the U.S.

Efforts to boost public confidence in U.S. elections are proceeding on two parallel tracks right now. One is moving slowly, but steadily. The other is hardly moving at all.

Most of the attention has gone to a commission set up by President Trump to look into allegations of voter fraud and other electoral problems. The panel — called the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — has been mired in controversy ever since it was formed earlier this year. Its work now appears stalled amid internal divisions and outside legal challenges.

This fall's statewide elections in Virginia and New Jersey are the first big test of security measures taken in response to last year's attempts by Russia to meddle with the nation's voting system.

Virginia was among 21 states whose systems were targeted by Russian hackers last year for possible cyberattacks. While officials say the hackers scanned the state's public website and online voter registration system for vulnerabilities and there's no sign they gained access, state authorities have been shoring up the security of their election systems.

A fact-finding hearing by President Trump's commission looking into voter fraud exposed self-inflicted rifts among its members during the panel's second meeting Tuesday in Manchester, N.H.

Days earlier, the panel's Republican co-chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, wrote a column in Breitbart News claiming that there was proof of enough voter fraud in New Hampshire last November to possibly have influenced the outcome of a Senate race.

What was already expected to be a contentious second meeting for President Trump's Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, on Tuesday in Manchester, N.H., is likely to get a whole lot more contentious thanks to a column written by the panel's co-chair.

Although the chairman, Vice President Pence, said in that first meeting that the commission has "no preconceived notions or pre-ordained results," the panel's co-chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, seemed to contradict him in Breitbart News last week.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now that the rain has stopped and floodwaters are slowly starting to recede, government officials are figuring out where tens of thousands of evacuees in Texas and Louisiana can stay.

The White House estimates about 100,000 houses were affected by the storm. Many were destroyed or are too damaged to live in. More than 30,000 people are staying in emergency shelters and will soon be in need of permanent accommodations.

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