Sad, sad, sad that in talking about budget cuts, we use painful words like "extracting billions from Medicare" or "slashing the Medicare entitlement." Has it ever occurred to the gladiators that improving the quality of health care can also save money? If Medicare spends less on a patient because the hospital does a good job the first time, that's what we call a win-win situation. The patient gets better care. The taxpayers get billed only once. Yay.Many ObamaCare critics simply can't say yes to the good news that the Affordable Care Act will actually reduce...
So now Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association, who attacks the mental health system in this country even as he sounds like he needs to be in it, goes on “Meet the Press” and continues to double down on his notion that the only way to keep our schools safe is to put armed guards at the front door and the side door and in every home room in America and maybe on every school bus, too.The other day there was a terrific Daily News front page calling LaPierre, the NRA’s executive director, the “craziest man on Earth,” and he was clearly...
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said Sunday he thinks President Obama wants to dive over the so-called "fiscal cliff.""I believe the president is eager to go over the cliff for political purposes," Barrasso told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday." "He senses a political victory at the bottom of the cliff."The senator also said he believes the nation will go over the cliff, with the deadline just nine days away.
NEW YORK — The horrific massacre of 26 children and staff at a Connecticut elementary school, along with other mass shootings, was the top news story of 2012, narrowly edging out the U.S. election, according to The Associated Press' annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors.
The results followed a rare decision by the AP to re-conduct the voting. The initial round of balloting had ended Dec. 13, a day before the shootings in Newtown, with the election ranked No. 1, followed by Superstorm Sandy. The original entry for mass shootings, focused on the rampage at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, placed sixth in that voting.
In the new poll, updated to account for Newtown, the mass shootings received 68 first-place votes out of 173 ballots cast for the top 10 stories, compared to 65 first-place votes for the election – one of the closest results since the AP launched the poll in 1936. On a scale of points ranging from 10 for first place to one for 10th place, the shootings tallied 1448 points, compared to 1417 for the election. The second balloting ran Dec. 17-19.
Superstorm Sandy was third, far ahead of the next group of stories.
"After we completed our poll the news agenda was reshaped, tragically, by the Newtown shootings," said Michael Oreskes, AP's senior managing editor for U.S. news. "To chronicle that we conducted the poll again before releasing both results."
The U.S.-focused slant of the top stories this year contrasted with last year's voting, when the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan was No. 1, followed by Japan's earthquake/tsunami disaster, and the Arab Spring uprisings that rocked North Africa and the Middle East.
Here are 2012's top 10 stories, in order:
1. MASS SHOOTINGS: Armed with a high-powered rifle, 20-year-old Adam Lanza forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and shot dead 20 children – all ages 6 and 7 – and six staff members in the second-worst school massacre in U.S. history. Sadly, it was only one of several mass shootings, including the killing of 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. After the Newtown tragedy, President Barack Obama and many others, including some staunch gun-rights supporters, said it was time to find ways to rein in gun violence.
2. US ELECTION: Mitt Romney outcampaigned an eclectic field of Republican rivals, and bested Obama in their opening head-to-head debate. But on Election Day, thanks in part to a vigorous get-out-the-vote operation, Obama won a second term with a large lead in electoral votes and a solid advantage in popular votes. The GOP hung on to its majority in the House, but lost two seats to remain a minority in the Senate despite early-campaign projections of gains there.
3. SUPERSTORM: As a prelude, the storm named Sandy killed more than 70 people in the Caribbean. Then its high winds and high waters slammed into more than 800 miles of the eastern U.S. seaboard, killing at least 125 more people, and causing damage calculated at well over $60 billion – the second-costliest storm in U.S. history after 2005's Hurricane Katrina. New York and New Jersey were the worst hit, with several hundred thousand homes and businesses damaged or destroyed.
4. OBAMACARE: By a 5-4 margin, the Supreme Court upheld the core elements of Obama's much-debated health care overhaul, which even he embraced as "Obamacare." To widespread surprise, the decisive vote came from John Roberts, the generally conservative-leaning chief justice appointed by Republican George W. Bush. Romney, as GOP presidential nominee, vowed to repeal the law if he won, but Obama's victory ensured the plan would proceed, with complex ramifications for insurers, employers, health-care providers and state governments.
5. LIBYA: Even amid yearlong turmoil in Libya, it was a jarring incident – a Sept. 11 assault in Benghazi, widely blamed on a group with suspected links to al-Qaida, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other Americans. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, later bowed out of consideration to be the next secretary of state because of her assertions in TV interviews that a spontaneous demonstration over an anti-Muslim video triggered the attack.
6. PENN STATE: It was a daunting year for Penn State and its storied football program. In January, longtime coach Joe Paterno died, his legacy tarnished by the sex-abuse scandal involving his former assistant, Jerry Sandusky. In June, after a wrenching trial, Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys, and was later sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. In July, the NCAA imposed severe sanctions, including $60 million in fines, a four-year postseason ban on football and a reduction in football scholarships.
7. US ECONOMY: By many measures, the economy was on a welcome upswing. The unemployment rate dipped to a four-year-low of 7.7 percent, stock markets rose, builders broke ground on more homes, and November was the best sales month in nearly five years for U.S. automakers. But overshadowing the good news was deep anxiety about the economic consequences if Obama and the Democrats failed to reach a tax-and-spending deal with the Republicans.
8. FISCAL CLIFF: Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner engaged in high-stakes negotiations over a deal to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff" that would trigger automatic tax hikes and spending cuts. The leaders narrowed some differences on Social Security and tax rates for the wealthy, but faced intense pressure from their bases to resist certain compromises.
9. GAY MARRIAGE: For supporters of same-sex marriage, it was a year of milestones. Obama, after a drawn-out process of "evolving," said in May he supported the right of gay couples to wed. On Election Day, Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first states to legalize gay marriage via popular vote. And on Dec. 7 the Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases that could further expand same-sex marriage rights.
10. SYRIA: What began in 2011 as an outbreak of peaceful protests escalated into full-scale civil war pitting the beleaguered regime of Bashar Assad against a disparate but increasingly potent rebel opposition. The overall death toll climbed past 40,000, as the rebels made inroads toward Assad's bastion of Damascus. The U.S. and many other nations were supporting the opposition, albeit wary of outcomes that might help Islamic extremists gain power in the region.
Falling just short of the Top 10 was the resignation of David Petraeus as CIA director because of an affair he conducted with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
The choices of the news professionals voting in the AP poll mirrored the news stories most closely followed by the public during the year, according to the Pew Research Center's News Interest Index. The index ranked Obama's re-election as the most intently followed story, with the Newtown shooting second and Superstorm Sandy third.
Several voters in the AP poll added a comment with their ballot, including Carol Hanner, managing editor of the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina.
"I believe climate change is being chronically underestimated by the media and by citizens," she wrote.
The AP, like many other news organizations, traditionally releases its year-end polls and rankings before the actual end of the year. In the case of 2004's top story poll, that meant the final list did not include the cataclysmic Indian Ocean tsunami that occurred on Dec. 26.
In 2009, AP's sports department amended its top-stories ballot part way through the voting to account for revelations about golfer Tiger Woods' marital infidelities. That ended out finishing fifth, far behind the top-ranked entry about Major League Baseball's steroid scandal.
Projects Editor Brooke Lansdale contributed to this report.
Follow David Crary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CraryAP
In his news conference Wednesday, President Obama argued that because a deranged young man murdered 20 children and six adults in a Connecticut schoolhouse last week, Congress should immediately raise taxes on the nation's highest earners.No, it didn't make much sense. But Obama is following the example of predecessor Bill Clinton, who in 1995 used the Oklahoma City bombing not only to press security-related measures but also to enhance his political clout in a desperate battle with Republicans. It worked for Clinton; the next few weeks will tell whether it will do the same for...
By Scott Conroy - December 20, 2012After several news organizations reported that President Obama has settled on nominating Sen. John Kerry to be the next secretary of state, the unofficially declared race to succeed the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee has begun to intensify.If Obama does call on him to take Hillary Clinton’s place as the nation’s top-ranking Cabinet official, Kerry would have to resign his Senate seat after what would likely be a relatively smooth confirmation process.Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick would then appoint an interim senator before a...
Question? Call us at 800-207-8001 | Sign In | Learn About Membership By Josh Kraushaar South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announces that Rep. Tim Scott will replace Jim DeMint in the Senate during a news conference at the South Carolina Statehouse on Monday.For Republicans who believe the tea party is responsible for the GOP's struggles, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's decision to choose Rep. Tim Scott to replace Jim DeMint in the Senate would have come as a stunner. The nation's second Indian-American governor appointed the only African-American who will be...
For once, I am inclined to believe Hillary Clinton. The U.S. Secretary of State, suffering from a sick stomach, has reportedly fainted and bumped her head. As a result, her spokespeople have already announced that she will be unable to testify at the Benghazi hearings, although she was not due to appear until December 20, many days after the vaguely reported fainting spell.Already, the internet is resounding with a chorus of "How convenient!" (See here and here, for example.) Many, upon hearing this news, are assuming that Clinton, who has been hedging for a month on whether to...
Allen West: <b id=”internal-source-marker_0.17553822766058147″ style=”color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: ‘Times New Roman’; font-size: medium; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; letter-spacing: normal; line-height: normal; orphans: 2; text-align: start; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: 2; word-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; font-weight: normal;”>"This week the House of Representatives voted to remove the word ‘lunatic’ from federal law."</b>
The first week of December in Congress was dominated by news about the fiscal cliff. So you will forgive us if we overlooked this other tidbit tucked into the final weekly newsletter sent by U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens. "This week we voted in the House of Representatives to remove the word ‘lunatic’ from federal law," wrote West, who lost a close race to Democrat Patrick Murphy in District 18 in Florida’s Treasure Coast. "However, that does not mean there isn't plenty of lunacy going on in the workings of the federal government!"
WASHINGTON -- It was big news last week when the Federal Reserve announced that it wants to maintain its current low-interest rate policy until unemployment, now 7.7 percent, drops to at least 6.5 percent. The Fed was correctly portrayed as favoring job creation over fighting inflation, though it also set an inflation target of 2.5 percent. What was missing from commentary was caution based on history: the Fed has tried this before and failed -- with disastrous consequences.By "this," I mean a twin targeting of unemployment and inflation. In the 1970s, that's what the Fed did....
Eight Parallels Between the Collapse of Rome's Republic and Contemporary America
"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce."
Lawrence Lessig's Republic Lost documents the corrosive effect of money on our political process. Lessig persuasively makes the case that we are witnessing the loss of our republican form of government, as politicians increasingly represent those who fund their campaigns, rather than our citizens.
Anthony Everitt's Rise of Rome is fascinating history and a great read. It tells the story of ancient Rome, from its founding (circa 750 BCE) to the fall of the Roman Republic (circa 45 BCE).
When read together, striking parallels emerge -- between our failings and the failings that destroyed the Roman Republic. As with Rome just before the Republic's fall, America has seen:
1 -- Staggering Increase in the Cost of Elections, with Dubious Campaign Funding Sources: Our 2012 election reportedly cost $3 billion. All of it was raised from private sources - often creating the appearance, or the reality, that our leaders are beholden to special interest groups. During the late Roman Republic, elections became staggeringly expensive, with equally deplorable results. Caesar reportedly borrowed so heavily for one political campaign, he feared he would be ruined, if not elected.
2 -- Politics as the Road to Personal Wealth: During the late Roman Republic period, one of the main roads to wealth was holding public office, and exploiting such positions to accumulate personal wealth. As Lessig notes: Congressman, Senators and their staffs leverage their government service to move to private sector positions - that pay three to ten times their government compensation. Given this financial arrangement, "Their focus is therefore not so much on the people who sent them to Washington. Their focus is instead on those who will make them rich." (Republic Lost)
3 -- Continuous War: A national state of security arises, distracting attention from domestic challenges with foreign wars. Similar to the late Roman Republic, the US - for the past 100 years -- has either been fighting a war, recovering from a war, or preparing for a new war: WW I (1917-18), WW II (1941-1945), Cold War (1947-1991), Korean War (1950-1953), Vietnam (1953-1975), Gulf War (1990-1991), Afghanistan (2001-ongoing), and Iraq (2003-2011). And, this list is far from complete.
4 -- Foreign Powers Lavish Money/Attention on the Republic's Leaders: Foreign wars lead to growing influence, by foreign powers and interests, on the Republic's political leaders -- true for Rome and true for us. In the past century, foreign embassies, agents and lobbyists have proliferated in our nation's capital. As one specific example: A foreign businessman donated $100 million to Bill Clinton's various activities. Clinton "opened doors" for him, and sometimes acted in ways contrary to stated American interests and foreign policy.
5 -- Profits Made Overseas Shape the Republic's Internal Policies: As the fortunes of Rome's aristocracy increasingly derived from foreign lands, Roman policy was shaped to facilitate these fortunes. American billionaires and corporations increasingly influence our elections. In many cases, they are only nominally American - with interests not aligned with those of the American public. For example, Fox News is part of international media group News Corp., with over $30 billion in revenues worldwide. Is Fox News' jingoism a product of News Corp.'s non-U.S. interests?
6 -- Collapse of the Middle Class: In the period just before the Roman Republic's fall, the Roman middle class was crushed -- destroyed by cheap overseas slave labor. In our own day, we've witnessed rising income inequality, a stagnating middle class, and the loss of American jobs to overseas workers who are paid less and have fewer rights.
7 -- Gerrymandering: Rome's late Republic used various methods to reduce the power of common citizens. The GOP has so effectively gerrymandered Congressional districts that, even though House Republican candidates received only about 48 percent of the popular vote in the 2012 election -- they ended up with the majority (53 percent) of the seats.
8 -- Loss of the Spirit of Compromise: The Roman Republic, like ours, relied on a system of checks and balances. Compromise is needed for this type of system to function. In the end, the Roman Republic lost that spirit of compromise, with politics increasingly polarized between Optimates (the rich, entrenched elites) and Populares (the common people). Sound familiar? Compromise is in noticeably short supply in our own time also. For example, "There were more filibusters between 2009 and 2010 than there were in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s combined."
As Benjamin Franklin observed, we have a Republic -- but only if we can keep it.
About the Author: Steven Strauss was founding Managing Director of the Center for Economic Transformation at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). Steven was one of the NYC leads for Applied Sciences NYC, NYC BigApps and many other initiatives to foster job growth, innovation and entrepreneurship. He is an Advanced Leadership Fellow at Harvard University for 2012. In 2010, Steven was selected as a member of the Silicon Alley 100 in NYC. He has a Ph.D. in Management from Yale University, and over 20 years' private sector work experience. Geographically, Steven has worked in the US, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
WASHINGTON -- In the wake of the mass killing that claimed 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school Friday, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) made the case Sunday that the answer to preventing massacres in the U.S. is for more Americans to carry guns.
"There has been great investigation and study into this," Gohmert told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, arguing that mass killings happen where citizens tend to be unarmed. "They choose this place [because] they know no one will be armed."
Gohmert argued that the mass slaughter would have gone differently if Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung had been armed.
"Chris, I wish to god she had had an m-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said.
The mass murder in Connecticut has renewed the national discussion about gun control, with Democrats in particular calling for a new assault weapons ban.
So far, Gohmert appears to be one of the few pro-gun rights conservatives in Congress willing to make the public case for more guns in the wake of the Connecticut shooting. "Meet the Press" producer Betsy Fischer Martin tweeted Sunday that the show extended an invitation to 31 pro-gun rights senators in the new Congress to discuss the issue on the show and found no takers.
Gohmert argued Sunday that tighter gun controls such as assault weapon bans are not the answer.
"Once you start drawing the line, where do you stop?" Gohmert said. "That's why it is important to not just look at this emotionally."
WASHINGTON -- Speaking about the mass killing of 26 children and adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) called for tighter gun control laws on Sunday, suggesting the federal ban on assault weapons ban should not have been allowed to expire.
"I think when we talk about the assault weapons ban that was in place in the U.S., to have allowed that to have gone away ...," Malloy told Candy Crowley on CNN's "State of the Union." "These are assault weapons. You don't hunt deer with these things."
"One can only hope we'll find a way to limit these weapons that really only have one purpose," he added.
The federal assault weapons ban, which restricted features such as magazine capacity on guns, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and lasted ten years. Legislators, most notably Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), have tried several times to renew the ban without success, meeting heavy opposition from the gun lobby.
Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) sounded a note similar to Malloy's. "We ought to restore the assault weapons ban -- not to take anybody's guns away that they have now, but to stop the manufacturing of these weapons," Lieberman said.
The Obama administration has said it would like to see the ban implemented once again. Asked about the president's stance in the wake of the Connecticut massacre, White House spokesman Jay Carney said "it does remain a commitment of his."
The weapons used by 20-year-old Adam Lanza in the Connecticut shooting reportedly included a semiautomatic .223-caliber rifle made by Bushmaster and two handguns.
Malloy said Saturday that "there will be time soon" for a national discussion on gun control.
How activists rewrote the political playbook, reversed decades of defeat, and finally won over voters.On May 9, President Obama sat for an interview in the White House with the ABC News anchor Robin Roberts. Both of them knew what she'd been summoned there to discuss, and Roberts didn't waste any time. "So, Mr. President," she said, "are you still opposed to same-sex marriage?"
For the first time since a recession gripped the country in 2008, Maryland is approaching a General Assembly session with good fiscal news: Neither tax increases nor drastic budget cuts are likely to be needed to balance the budget.
The improved forecast is driven by higher-than-expected revenues, led by corporate and individual income tax payments. For the current budget year and the one that begins July 1, the state is expected to take in $161 million more than anticipated.
"It's been a long time since we've had such good news," state Budget Secretary T. Eloise Foster said after the Board of Revenue Estimates adopted the forecast Thursday. "I'm always happy when we are writing revenues up."
State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp added: "We are making significant progress. Maryland is going to see a brighter day, and we are ahead of the rest of the nation."
There is a significant caveat: The ink would turn red if the federal government goes over the so-called fiscal cliff, automatically triggering a combination of spending cuts and tax increases if Congress cannot reach a budget deal by the end of December.
Maryland would stand to lose more than 60,000 jobs and nearly $1 billion in tax revenue, analysts say, leaving the state with a significant budget shortfall that would have to be resolved during the 90-day legislative session that begins Jan. 9.
"These estimates assume that our political parties can come together to solve our nation's economic challenges," said state Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat who once worked for a Washington lobbying firm. "Given the consequences, it's a reasonable assumption. But as someone who spent years on Capitol Hill, reason and logic might not be applicable."
Shortly after the board released its revenue forecast, a legislative committee that sets limits for government spending recommended that Gov. Martin O'Malley submit a budget that would narrow the remaining $383 million gap between long-term spending projections and expected revenue -- known as the "structural deficit" -- by at least $200 million.
That would bring the gap, which stood at about $2 billion just three years ago, under $200 million, thanks to a combination of cuts in expected spending growth and tax increases adopted over the past two years. The projected gap is small enough -- in a state budget of more than $35 billion -- that it likely could be closed without further tax increases or spending cuts on the scale of those made in recent years.
Taxes might not be entirely off the table, however. Revenue for transportation, which for the most part is financed separately from the state's operating budget, has been lagging far behind what experts say is needed. Taxes on gasoline -- or other revenue producers for roads and transit -- could become part of O'Malley's agenda.
The indicators for the general fund, which finances most other state programs, are looking healthier than they have since O'Malley took office in January 2007.
State analysts believe tax revenue in 2013 will be higher than thought even a few months ago -- a rare uptick after years of gloomy news. The increase is driven by an expected 38 percent rise in revenue from corporate income taxes amid improved earnings.
Meanwhile, personal income tax payments are expected to be up by 8 percent this year and 3.7 percent next year -- with the strong 2013 numbers driven by an expectation that many wealthy Marylanders will reap capital gains by selling off investments to avert higher taxes in case Congress does not reach a budget deal by the fiscal cliff deadline.
The Maryland Constitution requires that the state budget be in balance, and each year the General Assembly has reached that goal by the end of the session.
But each year since 2007, as the weather turned cold and the session drew near, state fiscal analysts have been offering grim predictions. In December 2010, with the state's economy battered by the recession, they warned lawmakers that the structural deficit was nearing $2 billion.
Lawmakers had hoped to eliminate the gap entirely in next year's budget, but the Spending Affordability Committee voted Thursday to keep open the option of taking an extra year to do so.
Del. John Bohanan, House co-chair of the panel, defended the decision. He said that by doing so, the legislature could fulfill its goals of fully funding such long-standing programs as aid to community colleges and private universities.
Bohanan, a Southern Maryland Democrat, said the recommendation calls for the governor to come within 1 percent of full elimination of the long-term deficit. With the right combination of legislative cuts and good revenue news, the structural gap could be closed in the coming year, he said.
"Essentially, we're saying we've eliminated it for all intents and purposes," Bohanan said.
House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell tried to amend the spending affordability goal to require elimination of the entire $383 million gap now. He was voted down, 17-3, joined by two other Republicans.
As he left, the Calvert County Republican expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome. "I still think we're spending too much money," he said.
But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller called it "a bit of a miracle" that O'Malley and the legislature will have been able to narrow a $2 billion gap to less than $200 million.
"I just want to congratulate the state of Maryland for coming together and working harmoniously," he said.
Miller, a Calvert County Democrat known for his long memory, complimented O'Malley -- who has generally abided by the legislature's fiscal guidelines -- while taking a dig at governors past.
"We thank the governor for staying within spending affordability limits. There's governors, Republican and Democrat, that have not done that," Miller said.
On May 9, President Obama sat for an interview in the White House with the ABC News anchor Robin Roberts. Both of them knew what she'd been summoned there to discuss, and Roberts didn't waste any time. "So, Mr. President," she said, "are you still opposed to same-sex marriage?"Obama was ready for the question. A few days before, Vice President Biden had said on Meet the Press that he was "comfortable" with men marrying men and women marrying women.
President Obama said he's "optimistic" on reaching a fiscal cliff deal with congressional Republicans, predicting that the GOP will agree to extend tax cuts for most Americans ahead of the January 1 deadline.
"I'm pretty confident that Republicans would not hold middle class taxes hostage to trying to protect tax cuts for high-income individuals," Obama said in an interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters, portions of which aired Tuesday evening.
Obama met privately with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Sunday to discuss the combination of spending cuts and tax hikes set to kick in at the end of the year. On Monday, the president made a counteroffer to Boehner, which the Republican leader countered with another proposal on Tuesday.
While negotiations remain ongoing, the president told Walters that he believes they will reach a deal in time.
"I remain optimistic," Obama said. "I'd like to see a big package. But the most important thing we can do is make sure that middle class taxes do not go up on January 1."
The president said he's willing to compromise on spending cuts if Republicans agree to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for all but the top two percent of earners.
"If the Republicans can move on that we are prepared to do some tough things on the spending side," he said.
Raising the Medicare eligibility age is "something that's been floated" as a potential point of compromise, Obama said. However, he remains skeptical on the idea, which many Democrats fervently oppose.
"When you look at the evidence it's not clear that it actually saves a lot of money," Obama told Walters. "But what I've said is let's look at every avenue, because what is true is we need to strengthen Social Security, we need to strengthen Medicare for future generations, the current path is not sustainable because we've got an aging population and health care costs are shooting up so quickly."
Walters' full interview with the president is set to air Friday.
A fake study claiming conservative viewers of FOX News were significantly dumber than conservatives who didn't watch FOX News spread through the internet like wildfire, even though the briefest of attention to the details in this glorified press release should have raised suspicion. The pr guru behind the hoax -- our term, not his -- said he was surprised by how quickly and broadly the item spread but not by how easily its claims went unquestioned. "Facts are obsolete," said P. Nichols, the contact given for the press release who claimed Nichols was his last name but refused to confirm his entire name, the name of the Republican PAC he says backed the "study" or any of the people behind the actual report he insisted did truly exist. And no, he wouldn't send us a copy of it.
If you're a liberal, it sounded too good to be true: a four year "study" by the Intelligence Institute found that viewers of Fox News who identified themselves as conservative had an average IQ of 80, some 20 points lower than those conservatives who got their news from other sources or did not watch the news at all. Typically, this was reduced online to the idea that people who watch FOX News are dumb, dumber than the national average or that watching FOX News makes you dumber.
The story -- or rather the press release posted on PRWeb that was soon reposted on Yahoo News and numerous liberal political blogs as a genuine article -- spread quickly, thanks to juicy quotes like this one from P. Nichols, named as the "lead researcher" on the study. "Several previous studies show that self-identified conservatives are less intelligent than self-identified moderates," said Nichols in the press release he himself wrote. "We have never seen such a homogeneous group teetering so close to special needs levels." Nichols also quoted himself as saying, "Fox News' content is presented at an elementary school level and plays directly into the fears of the less educated and less intelligent."
Since then, sites like Daily Kos have noted that the study was likely a hoax. And for good reason.
*The Intelligence Institute does not exist -- It was a name created by Nichols and his team to give the "study" they were releasing some credibility. They didn't even bother to create a fake website as a front for the imaginary group. However, that may change. Nichols said that this study/press release was so effective that now perhaps there was some value to the name of The Intelligence Institute and they might use it for other studies they did or perhaps even create an actual conservative non-profit group.
*The lead researcher P. Nichols was not the lead researcher -- When asked various questions about the methodology of the study, Nichols -- who was reached by a Google Voice phone number that forwarded the call to his real telephone number -- said that wasn't really his area of expertise. But wasn't he the "lead researcher?" He admitted that may not be the most appropriate title for his role. So what title would he choose? Nichols thought for a minute, tossed out "publicity" and then settled on "maybe project manager?"
*The study did not take four years -- Why would the study as described take four years? He couldn't answer. When asked for specifics, Nichols admitted the people backing the study became actively interested in taking action after the 2010 mid-term elections. I pointed out that was two years ago, making it impossible for the study to have taken four years to do. He said two years would probably be more accurate. "That's one of those things that if it had been fact-checked by CNN might not make it through," Nichols cheerfully said.
*The study may not have tested anyone's IQ in the first place -- The only tests described in the press release were social science experiments and nothing that would measure someone's IQ. When asked which if any of the standard IQ tests were administered, Nichols demurred again on specifics, though insisting that actual IQ tests were in fact performed. He would not however release any details or make anyone who actually worked on the study as a scientist available for interview.
*The study was rigged from the start -- Nichols himself brought up the fact that the study was designed to reach the conclusion they were looking for: that is, to show that self-identified conservatives who watched FOX News were less smart than conservatives who didn't. "They told me what they wanted to do and I said I could do it," he claimed. Nichols said the moderate Republicans behind the PAC supporting this effort wanted to counter the effect of the Tea Party and encourage moderates to come forward. Making people embarrassed to say they watched FOX News (or better yet not watch FOX News at all) might help that goal. So the 5000 people who took part in the study were chosen by Nichols and non-scientists, essentially selected to guarantee the results they were looking for. "We stuck to the rural South," said Nichols, who admitted they had a hard time finding conservatives in Alabama and other states who didn't watch FOX News but dug them up to give the study some balance. He insisted the actual study was performed and that the results were genuine, though of course the "scientists" involved accepted the fact that the people being studied would be supplied to them and therefore not be random. Nichols admitted this meant the study would never have passed any sort of peer review panel or be accepted for publication by any journal of note. Still, he repeatedly stated that the study was real and did exist. "I would not have published it were it completely fraudulent," he said, pointing out that to do so might have crossed some legal boundaries and "nobody wanted to do that." Hence his claim that the study was actually commissioned and performed, even though it would never meet the most minimal standards for a valid scientific report. The fact that the details Nichols offered up about the study undercut its scientific validity lend some credence to his claim that the study was in fact technically done.
You might think that having the study exposed as a hoax just days after a press release touting it was released would mean Nichols was in hot water. Far from it. He did strenuously defend PRWeb, which is a website that offers a clearinghouse for press releases and can hardly be expected to vet every single claim made in every single notice that passes from their users to the web. In fact, Nichols said he had to rewrite his press release four times before PRWeb would post it. They sent the first draft back "and said it read like b.s.," claimed Nichols, who said they didn't use that word. PRWeb asked for more details about the study and more specifics until five drafts later they were finally satisfied that it met some minimal standards, he said.
Once people started poking around into the suspiciously vague nature of the study and the nonexistent group that produced it, Nichols said PRWeb suspended the account of the group that posted the press release and demanded a meeting on Monday December 10 where they expect Nichols to provide more evidence to back the press release's claims before they will keep this press release up or agree to post any others down the road.
So is the unnamed Republican PAC of moderate conservatives unhappy about this tempest in a teapot? Probably not. The meme -- people who watch FOX News are dumb -- is out there and spreading. No matter how often the study is refuted (and it happened within days), the original press release that was picked up as news will still be out there, forwarded and joked about and commented on like those hoax emails about Bill Gates giving away money to people who send him a message.
"It's making a social commentary," suggests Nichols about the lightning spread of this flimsy excuse of a press release. "Facts are obsolete. And numbers aren't as objective as they should be."
In other words, don't believe everything you see on the web, even if it's repeated by a news site or blog you trust. Especially if it seems too good to be true.
A Brief Look At Some Of The Sites That Linked To Or Posted The Hoax
Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the co-host of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day and features top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It's available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes. Link to him on Netflix and gain access to thousands of ratings and reviews.
Think news that the unemployment rate dipped again last month to a four-year low is an auspicious sign for the economy? Well, you’re correct —that is, if you’re a female age 55 or over, without any unemployed children to worry about.According to the AARP, the unemployment rate for older women plunged to just 5 percent in November, down from 5.8 percent this time last year. Compare that with the national number of 7.7 percent.
DETROIT -- A Detroit judge recently reprimanded for sending a shirtless photo of himself to an employee has been placed on leave amid allegations he had a relationship with a woman whose child-support case was pending in his court.
Wayne County's chief judge, Virgil Smith, told The Detroit News that Judge Wade McCree was placed on leave Friday. Geniene La'Shay Mott previously told WJBK-TV that McCree discussed strategies with her in a child-support case. She was seeking money from a former boyfriend.
Mott told the TV station that she had sex with the judge in his office and is pregnant with his child. McCree declined to comment.
The Michigan Supreme Court reprimanded McCree for misconduct in October. He has apologized for sending a shirtless photo of himself to a female court employee.
British Prime Minister David Cameron says he supports same-sex marriage, but says he would not force religious groups and churches to hold ceremonies for LGBT couples.
"I'm in favor of gay marriage, because I'm a massive support of marriage, and I don't want gay people to be excluded from a great institution," Cameron said in a new interview with Channel 4 News, before going on to note that religious leaders should still maintain the right to deny a marriage ceremony to a same-sex couple.
As the news channel points out, Cameron's Conservative Party is expected to draft a bill and hold a free vote for MPs in 2013 that would allow same-sex marriages in religious institutions. Ministers will apparently reveal their response to a consultation next week, according to the BBC.
Nonetheless, Cameron's statement has angered a number of Tory MPs, who have opposed marriage equality in the past. Among them was Bob Blackman, who told BBC News he anticipated "outrage throughout the country" in response to Cameron's statement.
"Marriage is between one man and one woman and so changes to the definition of marriage are not appreciated and not strongly supported," he is quoted as saying.
Seems like everywhere we look, we see rising nostalgia for the Clinton Era. Perhaps that's nowhere more evident than in the sudden burst of popular support for Hillary Clinton, who will step down as Secretary of State within the next few weeks. A new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News show 57 percent of respondents would favorably view a presidential bid from the former First Lady and Senator. Even a few Republicans have Clinton nostalgia, with 23 percent supportive of a potential Hillary Clinton candidacy, if not for a Clinton victory.
Alan Grayson: Says Walmart employees represent the largest group of Medicaid and food stamp recipients in many states, costing the taxpayer $1,000 per worker.
Leave it to Alan "Congressman with Guts" Grayson to get a security escort from Walmart on Thanksgiving. Grayson, who returns to Congress next year after losing his old seat in 2010, ditched his family on Thanksgiving to hand out turkey sandwiches to employees of an Orlando-area Walmart. Amid employee walkouts across the country, Grayson approached workers with his turkey tidings and told them about their right to join a union. Walmart employees are paid so little, he argued, they often seek government programs for help. "In state ...>> More
Two former Washington power players taken down by scandal were reunited on Wednesday for a lunch meeting between old friends.
Jack Abramoff, the disgraced former lobbyist who spent over three years in prison on corruption charges, was spotted with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) at a sushi restaurant in DC's Dupont Circle, according to the Washington Post. DeLay resigned from Congress in 2005 after felony money laundering charges surfaced during a campaign finance investigation. The former congressman was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to three years in prison; he is currently in the process of appealing that sentence.
Yahoo News confirmed the lunch date with an Abramoff spokesman, who said the meeting was not business-related.
"Abramoff and DeLay are old friends and had not seen each other in years," Abramoff representative Tim Bueler told Yahoo. "They were delighted to have a chance to catch up on personal and family matters, and that was it."
Abramoff and DeLay have long been friends, and while their respective downfalls were unrelated, the money trail connecting the two men raised eyebrows during the federal probe into Abramoff's lobbying practices. Most infamously, DeLay joined Abramoff on trips to Scotland and the northern Mariana islands. However, DeLay was cleared of charges during the Abramoff investigation.