My Top 10 Stories of 2016

It’s been a busy news year, to say the least, and I’ve reported on everything from primaries in New Hampshire to marijuana in Georgia to terrorism in cyberspace. Here are my top 10 stories of 2016, in no particular order:

Rapper Killer Mike speaks in support of Bernie Sanders at Atlanta University Center, Feb. 16, 2016, in Atlanta. (Prince Williams/WireImage)

Dems in Dixie: Sanders Campaign Deploys New Southern Strategy

Melissa Link shares her personal testimony as if she were at a religious retreat. Standing on a table in front of 200 mostly young, white residents of this Southern college town, she explains how she came to believe and asks them to spread the message to the world.

The crowd erupts in applause and cheers wildly. But this isn’t a camp meeting or faith-based revival. She is endorsing Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders at the launch party for his campaign’s Athens field office.

“Don’t be ashamed, ever. And don’t be afraid, ever, to let people know what you believe. And share the truth about Bernie,” Link exclaims. “People have given up hope. They have totally given up hope … We need to restore that hope.”

It’s a scene that has repeated itself across this state and even the region.

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio holds a town hall meeting in Londonderry, New Hampshire, Feb. 7, 2016. The state’s immigrant population is less than half the national average. (Charles Ommanney/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Rising Immigrant Population Looks to Influence New Hampshire Primary

Eva Castillo and her colleagues wait eagerly for presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to arrive for his speech at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

The lobby is packed with supporters waiting for a handshake or even a signature. Suddenly, the doors swing open, and Rubio enters, followed by a scrum of news cameras and microphones.

As Rubio makes his way down the rope line, Castillo gets ready. When he finally reaches she, she swings into action. “Senator, you’re criticized now by Sen. [Ted] Cruz on immigration. He used to support immigration reform, but without a path [to citizenship],” she tells Rubio, as a partner records the exchange. “What are the differences between you and Sen. Cruz?”

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

Comedian Robert Smigel interviews Vermin Supreme during the New Hampshire Republican Party #FITN Leadership Summit at the Radisson Hotel in Nashua, N.H., January 23, 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

From Supreme to Stein, Undercard Candidates Stumping in Granite State

Vermin Supreme is sidled up to a bowl of cottage pie in a dimly lit bar here in Manchester. A half-dozen ties dangle from his neck, and the black rubber boot he wears as a hat is resting in his lap. Suddenly, two young men interrupt him: “Excuse us, Mr. President, can we get a photo?” Supreme gladly obliges, hoisting the boot onto his head for the photo op.

“Sometimes, you get the feeling that it could happen, I could be president, just because of the excitement of people on the street,” the Democratic presidential candidate says. “It creates this incredible illusion that they’re joining my delusions. It’s a beautiful thing that so many people are willing to suspend disbelief.”

Vermin Supreme is probably the most colorful candidate canvassing New Hampshire in advance of the presidential primary on Tuesday. But he’s not alone on the undercard.

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a community forum on substance abuse September 17, 2015 in Laconia, New Hampshire. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

New Hampshire Addiction Crisis Turns Personal Tragedy into National Issue

Visits to the local pharmacy by presidential candidates have become a tradition in Hollis, a town of 7,600 people in southern New Hampshire. On a brisk morning in January, Republican hopeful Carly Fiorina was surrounded by children on one side and veterans in garrison caps on the other while she spoke passionately about the problems in Washington she wants to fix.

Her appearance had extra meaning for the pharmacy’s owner, Vahrij Manoukian. Both he and Fiorina have lost children to addiction.

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a rally in Lowell, Massachusetts, Jan. 4, 2016. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

At New England Rally, Trump Campaign Accentuates Deep Divide

Lisa Sefarian smiled and laughed with her family as she walked out of Donald Trump’s rally at the Paul E. Tsongas Center on Monday night.

She went to the event skeptical of Trump, the longtime front-runner in the race for the GOP presidential nomination. But, she said, he won her over.

“I just thought he was really good. He’s very charismatic. He’s very positive. And it’s just nice to see positivity,” said Sefarian, a 58-year-old teacher from Wayland. “I think he would bring the country together instead of dividing it.”

She was not alone. Many supporters said Trump’s unapologetic style and tough attitude were exactly what they believe is needed to overcome dysfunction in Washington and restore America’s reputation around the world.

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

A supporter of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump stares down a man who shouted Bible verses during a town hall event at Rochester Recreational Arena September 17, 2015, in Rochester, N. H. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Trump’s Untruths Woo Working-Class Whites Who ‘Want to Be Proud Again’

It was a miserable wintry night, with temperatures dropping fast and sleet covering the roads in rural Waterville Valley. But businessman and Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump quickly warmed up the crowd.

Trump lambasted President Barack Obama for not bombing oil wells used by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to fund its operations. “One of the reasons Obama didn’t want to bomb the oil is because of the environment. Can you believe this?” Trump asked, receiving rapturous applause.

That odd-sounding accusation originated with comments from a former CIA director who left the agency a year before the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIL began.

But — in a move that is increasingly being seen as a signature of the Trump campaign — his rampage was not hindered by any respect for the facts.

“Now I don’t know if that’s true or not,” he said, “but it sounds like it’s true.”

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

Edward Snowden interviewed by Jane Mayer on the MasterCard stage at SVA Theatre during The New Yorker Festival 2014 on Oct. 11, 2014 in New York City. (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images/The New Yorker)

Snowden Lashes Out at US Government for Keeping Drone Program Secret

National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden and one of the top lawyers for the U.S. Intelligence Community, Robert Litt, gave back-to-back speeches at an academic gathering on Friday that addressed major controversies over government surveillance, basic privacy protections and the freedom of information.

But the most revealing exchanges during their talks centered on new leaks about the U.S. drone program, made possible by an unknown whistleblower.

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

East Village residents charge their phones by generator after many New York City neighborhoods were left without power for days after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. (Allison Joyce/Getty Images)

Flooding the System: Climate Change Could Knock the Internet Offline

For two or three days, J. Patrick Brown wasn’t sure if his whole family had made it out of New Orleans safely. They had decided to stay behind when Hurricane Katrina hit, to care for an ailing relative. Stuck inside without television or Internet access, they relied on him to call them from his college in Maine with updates on what was happening in the city.

When the city’s levees broke, he finally persuaded them to get out as quickly as they could. Not long after, the cell towers went down, and they lost contact.

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks after receiving an endorsement from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) Sept. 5, 2015 in Portsmouth, N.H. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Clinton, Tacking Left on Economic Issues, Tries to Fend Off Sanders Threat

The event room at the Puritan Backroom restaurant was overflowing with people, and all eyes were fixed on Hillary Clinton, who stood on a low stage at the front of the room, framed by a deep blue New Hampshire flag.

As she neared the end of her speech, she talked about her family history.

“My grandfather worked in the Scranton Lace Mills in Scranton, Pennsylvania,” she told the crowd, many of them from organized labor groups. “He always believed his hard work would pay off for his children, and it did. My father got to go to college.”

Read the rest of this articles at Al Jazeera America …

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Hampton, N.H., on Aug. 14, 2015. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Trump’s Women Supporters Pledge Allegiance: ‘We Need a Businessman’

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump has drawn criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for his controversial remarks about women that many have dubbed sexist and demeaning.

But for college senior Kaffa Cote, all that comes second to jobs. That’s why she drove three hours from her internship at a lab in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, to see Trump speak at a rally on a recent Friday night.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, as long as you have a job,” Cote, 21, said after the rally, a stack of blue-and-red Trump yard signs in her hand. “I think that’s what the key issue is in this election. And I think he is the guy, of all of them, who can solve it — especially over Hillary [Clinton]. Especially over Hillary. I think she’s focused more on social issues, from what I see.”

Many women who support Trump echo that sentiment. At a recent Trump rally in New Hampshire, women there described him as a candidate who would create jobs and take a tough stance on foreign policy. While much of Trump’s media coverage has focused recently on his derogatory comments about women, those female voters said issues like jobs and health care have won him their support. Although he has gained notoriety for castigating a number of individuals and groups, his supporters don’t seem to mind.

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders at a town meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, May 27, 2015. A strong showing in the state’s Feb. 9 primary is key to boosting his national numbers. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Bernie Sanders Campaign Rallies Drawing Enthusiastic Progressive Crowds

NASHUA, New Hampshire — Amberlee Jones was lucky to get a seat. The crowd at Nashua Community College was overflowing into the aisles as they waited to hear Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. When he took the stage, the room grew instantly quiet. When he stepped up to the microphone after a brief introduction, the room exploded in cheers.

“I think that he has a lot of integrity. That’s incredibly important to me,” Jones, a 28-year-old sign-language interpreter from Rochester, New York, said afterward. “I don’t think that we can run our country without some sort of moral or ethical guidelines. So that’s why I’m going to vote for him.”

Sanders is trying to start what he calls a “political revolution.” An independent who identifies as socialist, Sanders is running for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party, with which he caucuses in Congress. He has refused to take super PAC funds or run negative campaign ads. Instead, he’s taking a message of economic populism directly to voters.

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

As Senate Rejects Cyber Bill, Privacy Trumps Security Concerns

A controversial cybersecurity bill that drew heavy criticism from privacy advocates may have been put on the backburner last week, but some observers fear that the issue may return later in the year.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) failed a procedural vote in the Senate, 40 to 56, despite bipartisan support and a heavy push by Republican leaders. It encourages organizations to monitor their networks and share “cyberthreat indicators” — which could include users’ personal data — with the intelligence community.

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

Pedestrians navigate downtown Boston sidewalks amid snow banks, Feb. 19, 2015.(Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Working Under the Weather: Low-Wage Laborers Beaten Down by Winter

For Boston resident Barbara Fisher, the snow has been more than just an inconvenience. Problems with public transit caused the 25-year-old mother of two to lose hours at her job at Dunkin’ Donuts. Added to the extra child care she had to pay because schools were closed, that has put a real strain on her budget.

“It’s very expensive. I can’t wait for it to go,” Fisher said of the snow. “It’s terrible, because you be trying to do your best, and there’s something that’s always going to stop [you].”

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

Balloons hang from the Sandy Hook Elementary School sign in Newtown, Conn.

Timeline: School Shootings Since Sandy Hook

This timeline includes school shootings at K-12 educational sites involving students or staff as perpetrators or victims since the December 2012 tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Incidents in the timeline all involve a gun discharging live ammunition, but those fired by police are not shown. The data for the timeline was primarily drawn from gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, and crosschecked against news reports.

See the timeline at Al Jazeera America …

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. (John Shinkle/Politico)

Will New Senate Intel Committee Leadership Doom NSA, CIA Reform?

The Republican takeover of the Senate after the midterm elections threatens to stall attempts to reform the nation’s surveillance laws and avoid transparency about the CIA’s controversial interrogation program, experts and civil liberties campaigners believe. The changeover could further weaken what some say is already lax oversight of the nation’s intelligence activities, especially on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI).

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

Sean Haugh talks in one of his campaign's YouTube videos (Sean Haugh/YouTube)

Pizza Delivery Man for Senate: Delete All the NSA’s Files

Sean Haugh is sitting at the bar in jeans and a t-shirt, holding court about the problems in Washington. Occasionally, he pauses to take a big gulp out of a pint glass emblazoned with a picture of libertarian economist Murray Rothbard. It’s a scene you might not expect to come across at a bar in Durham, N.C., where Haugh lives. It’s also at least slightly bizarre for a campaign ad in a tightly contested race.

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …

Republican ISIL Fear-Mongering Amplifies Extremists’ Message, Experts Say

In one frame of the video, a masked fighter for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) brandishes a knife, with a beheaded American journalist just beyond view. In another, the Mosque of the Prophet Jonah disappears into a cloud of dust. A crowd of masked gunmen hold Kalashnikovs aloft. Dramatic music plays in the background.

But this isn’t a recruitment video for ISIL. It’s a campaign ad for Allen Weh, who is running against Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., in the Nov. 4 midterm elections.

Read the rest of this article at Al Jazeera America …