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Mormons Confront Truth About Founder

A statue of Joseph Smith and his first wife, Emma, at Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

Credit Jim McAuley for The New York Times

Mormons Confront Truth About Founder


The church made the disclosure that Joseph Smith had as many as 40 wives to show transparency about its history at a time when some members have been feeling doubtful.

Mormon leaders have acknowledged for the first time that the church’s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, portrayed in church materials as a loyal partner to his loving spouse Emma, took as many as 40 wives, some already married and one only 14 years old.

The church’s disclosures, in a series of essays online, are part of an effort to be transparent about its history at a time when church members are increasingly encountering disturbing claims about the faith on the Internet. Many Mormons, especially those with polygamous ancestors, say they were well aware that Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, practiced polygamy when he led the flock in Salt Lake City. But they did not know the full truth about Smith.

“Joseph Smith was presented to me as a practically perfect prophet, and this is true for a lot of people,” said Emily Jensen, a blogger and editor in Farmington, Utah, who often writes about Mormon issues.

She said the reaction of some Mormons to the church’s disclosures resembled the five stages of grief in which the first stage is denial, and the second is anger. Members are saying on blogs and social media, “This is not the church I grew up with, this is not the Joseph Smith I love,” Ms. Jensen said.

Smith probably did not have sexual relations with all of his wives, because some were “sealed” to him only for the next life, according to the essays posted by the church. But for his first wife, Emma, polygamy was “an excruciating ordeal.”

The four treatises on polygamy reflect a new resolve by a church long accused of secrecy to respond with openness to the kind of thorny historical and theological issues that are causing some to become disillusioned or even to abandon the faith.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon Church is formally known, has quietly posted 12 essays on its website over the last year on contentious topics such as the ban on blacks in the priesthood, which was lifted in 1978, and accounts of how Smith translated the Book of Mormon, the church’s sacred scripture.

Elder Steven E. Snow, the church historian and a member of its senior leadership, said in an interview, “There is so much out there on the Internet that we felt we owed our members a safe place where they could go to get reliable, faith-promoting information that was true about some of these more difficult aspects of our history.

“We need to be truthful, and we need to understand our history,” Elder Snow said. “I believe our history is full of stories of faith and devotion and sacrifice, but these people weren’t perfect.”

The essay on “plural marriage” in the early days of the Mormon movement in Ohio and Illinois says polygamy was commanded by God, revealed to Smith and accepted by him and his followers only very reluctantly. Abraham and other Old Testament patriarchs had multiple wives, and Smith preached that his church was the “restoration” of the early, true Christian church.

Most of Smith’s wives were between the ages of 20 and 40, the essay says, but he married Helen Mar Kimball, a daughter of two close friends, “several months before her 15th birthday.” A footnote says that according to “careful estimates,” Smith had 30 to 40 wives.

The biggest bombshell for some in the essays is that Smith married women who were already married, some to men who were Smith’s friends and followers.

What the Bushes and Clintons Agree On

What the Bushes and Clintons Agree On

By John Cassidy

The former President George W. Bush is taking some time out from painting and playing golf to promote his new book about his father, George H. W. Bush, which is being published this week. According to the promotional blurb, it is a “unique and intimate biography” of Bush the Elder, covering “his service in the Pacific during World War II, his pioneering work in the Texas oil business, and his political rise as a Congressman, U.S. Representative to China and the United Nations, CIA Director, Vice President, and President.”

The forty-first President has indeed led an interesting life, which included going from an eighty-nine per cent approval rating in the wake of the First Gulf War to packing his bags in the White House eighteen months later, after Bill Clinton defeated him in the 1992 election. But that’s considered ancient history now. As Dubya does the media rounds, what interviewers really want to ask him is whether his younger brother, Jeb, is up for taking on Hillary Clinton, in a dynastic rematch, come 2016. 

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Bob Schieffer, fresh from interviewing President Obama, went at it this way: “If you had to make an estimate right now, what—what—do you think is going to happen?” To which Forty-Three replied: “I think it’s fifty-fifty. He”—Jeb—“and I are very close. On the other hand, he’s not here knocking on my door, you know, agonizing about the decision.”

That last bit is good to know. Nobody wants to elect a President who has to ask his big brother’s permission to use the bathroom, especially when said elder sibling blundered into a disastrous war in the Middle East from which, more than a decade on, there still doesn’t appear to be any escape, and then staged an Air Force One fly-by over a grand old American city that was drowning below him. Being viewed as a younger version of George W. would probably doom any candidate, and even the former President, whose grasp on reality was never the strongest, is well aware of this. While he talked up his little brother, he was also keen to put some distance between the two of them. “I know this about Jeb,” he told Schieffer. “He’s not afraid to succeed. In other words, I think he knows he could do the job. And nor is he afraid to fail.”

Another star on the former Florida governor’s report card. But what about those who say—regardless of what they may think of Jeb or Dubya or even George Senior—that two Presidents from the same family in twenty years is enough? Schieffer, whose courtly manner doesn’t prevent him from asking some awkward questions, reminded George W. that his mother, Barbara, had publicly declared herself a member of the “enough Bushes” crowd. (In an interview with Matt Lauer on the “Today” show last year, she said, “It’s a great country. There are a lot of great families…. There are other people out there who are very qualified, and we’ve had enough Bushes.”) In response to Schieffer’s question about his mother, Dubya made one of his little jokes. “Sometimes her prognostications haven’t been very accurate,” he pointed out. Then, perhaps realizing that slapping down your mom on network television isn’t a great idea, he added, “And, no, no. I think you have to earn your way into politics. I don’t think anything is ever given to you.”


Hillary still has a great deal going for her, though. She has an awful lot of support within the Democratic Party, she’s loaded with actual and potential donors, and, crucially, she doesn’t have a strong challenger. In this week’s issue of the magazine, my colleague Ryan Lizza has a must-read piece, in which he talks to three possible Democratic candidates: Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland; Jim Webb, the former senator from Virginia; and Bernie Sanders, the sitting senator from Vermont. All three of them have interesting things to say. But none of them, at this stage, looks like a future President, or even a candidate who could put a real scare into the Clintons.

On the Republican side, things are a bit different. A year ago, it could be (and was) argued that Jeb Bush and Chris Christie were the only plausible candidates for 2016. Since then, a lot has happened to expand the field. Right now, at least half a dozen people look like they could mount a credible campaign: Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich. There’s also Christie (that’s assuming the Bridgegate investigation doesn’t offer up some evidence directly implicating him, which, so far, it hasn’t), Rick Perry, and maybe even Mitt Romney.

Obama's gum chewing offends Chinese

Gum furore: Barack Obama's behaviour at an important summit in Beijing has enraged Chinese internet users - because he was seen chewing gum. Pictured, the U.S. President with Chinese President Xi Jinping

Obama's gum chewing offends Chinese who take to social media to call him a 'rapper' and 'idler'

By Sam Webb for MailOnline

Barack Obama's behaviour at an important summit in Beijing has enraged Chinese internet users - because he was seen chewing gum.

The U.S. President, a known user of Nicorette, a gum used to stop smoking cravings, was seen chomping away at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) after emerging from his limousine at the at the Water Cube, the Olympic swimming venue, while traditional dancers performed. around him.

Chinese Internet users, used to far greater levels of formality from their leaders, branded him an 'idler' and a 'rapper'.

The knives are out for Valerie Jarrett

valerie jarrett

The knives are out for Valerie Jarrett, the close adviser who 'gets' Obama

Tom McCarthy

Top White House aide assailed by ‘legion of detractors’ faces old maxim: somebody’s got to take the blame other than the president.

In an incisive profile of Valerie Jarrett published shortly after President Barack Obama took office, the New York Times correspondent Robert Draper recognized Jarrett as a common White House specimen: “The One Who Gets the Boss”. In George W Bush’s White House it was Karen Hughes. Bill Clinton had Bruce Lindsey and George HW Bush had Jim Baker – the list goes on.

The downside of being closest to the president is that when the knives come out, it’s hard not to get cut. Last week Obama made history for losing the most House seats in midterm elections since Truman. This week, a bumper crop of anonymous sources has emerged to talk about how the president is being hurt not only by his own bad decisions, but by the terrible advice of his closest advisers. At the top of the list is The One Who Gets Obama: Valerie Jarrett.

Most of what’s being said about Jarrett we’ve heard before. We knew she was called Keeper of the Essence and Night Stalker (for her unusual late-night access to the White House); we knew the president ended meetings with one-on-one conversations with her; we knew staffers were “scared to death” of her; we knew about her “We’re not making new friends” rule; we knew policy experts looked down on her and complained she took up a chair at meetings with the president.

The attacks on Jarrett have been renewed and sharpened, however, with The Obama Whisperer, a piece by Noam Scheiber of the New Republic that captures an unusual number of gripes – anonymously reported, of course – about the Obamas’ vacation companion and closest confidant. (Jarrett’s official title is senior adviser to the president and assistant to the president for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs.)

Scheiber describes a “legion of detractors” spawned by the fact of Jarrett’s influence on Obama. In talking with Scheiber, some of these detractors are apparently speaking to a reporter in detail for the first time. “It’s pretty toxic,” one unnamed former administration official says. “She went to whatever meeting she wanted to go to – basically all of them – and then would go and whisper to the president. Or at least everyone believed she did … People don’t trust the process. They think she’s a spy.”

How Ebola Won The Election for Conservatives

How Ebola Won The Election for Conservatives

By Piers Steel, Ph.D.

There's a natural fit between concerns and political values. Where liberals are the party of promotion, conservative are the party of protection. So why should democrats emphasize Ebola in their election campaign? Simply put, they shouldn't... ever, and paid the cost. The psychology of why this is so is covered here.

H.L. Mencken wrote that “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins.” Good advice as it is very effective. However, it tends to lend itself to one particular party: the right-wing.

In psychology, we study this under this under several terms, just as Terror Management Theory, System Justification Theory and Ecological Fitness. As Janoff-Bulman (2009) describes it, a conservative mindset is protective or avoidance based, designed to protect a group from threats or dangers. Makes sense why the military is very conservative as the two just fit.

Technology Imperils a London Tradition

Matt McCabe logged more than 50,000 miles on motorbike and foot within the city while studying to become a London taxi driver.

Technology Imperils a London Tradition


The trial a London cabby endures to gain his qualification has been called the hardest test, of any kind, in the world. In the age of GPS, is there an argument for learning as an end in itself?

At 10 past 6 on a January morning a couple of winters ago, a 35-year-old man named Matt McCabe stepped out of his house in the town of Kenley, England, got on his Piaggio X8 motor scooter, and started driving north. McCabe’s destination was Stour Road, a small street in a desolate patch of East London, 20 miles from his suburban home. He began his journey by following the A23, a major thruway connecting London with its southern outskirts, whose origins are thought to be ancient: For several miles the road follows the straight line of the Roman causeway that stretched from London to Brighton. McCabe exited the A23 in the South London neighborhood of Streatham and made his way through the streets, arriving, about 20 minutes after he set out, at an intersection officially called Windrush Square but still referred to by locals, and on most maps, as Brixton Oval. There, McCabe faced a decision: how to plot his route across the River Thames. Should he proceed more or less straight north and take London Bridge, or bear right into Coldharbour Lane and head for “the pipe,” the Rotherhithe Tunnel, which snakes under the Thames two miles downriver?

“At first I thought I’d go for London Bridge,” McCabe said later. “Go straight up Brixton Road to Kennington Park Road and then work my line over. I knew that I could make my life a lot easier, to not have to waste brainpower thinking about little roads — doing left-rights, left-rights. And then once I’d get over London Bridge, it’d be a quick trip: I’d work it up to Bethnal Green Road, Old Ford Road, and boom-boom-boom, I’m there. It’s a no-brainer. But no. I was thinking about the traffic, about everyone going to the City at that hour of the morning. I thought, ‘What can I do to skirt central London?’ That was my key decision point. I didn’t want to sit in the traffic lights. So I decided to take Coldharbour Lane and head for the pipe.”

McCabe turned east on Coldharbour Lane, wending through the neighborhoods of Peckham and Bermondsey before reaching the tunnel. He emerged on the far side of the Thames in Limehouse, and from there his three-mile-long trip followed a zigzagging path northeast. “I came out of the tunnel and went forward into Yorkshire Road,” he told me. “I went right into Salmon Lane. Left into Rhodeswell Road, right into Turners Road. I went right into St. Paul’s Way, left into Burdett Road, right into Mile End Road. Left Tredegar Square. I went right Morgan Street, left Coborn Road, right into Tredegar Road. That gave me a forward into Wick Lane, a right into Monier Road, right into Smeed Road — and we’re there. Left into Stour Road.”

We were there, on Stour Road. It was a cold day, with temperatures hovering just above freezing, and snow in the forecast. For McCabe, on his bike, the wind chill made it feel considerably colder. He was dressed for the weather: a thermal shirt, a sweater, an insulated raincoat, Gore-Tex pants pulled over his jeans, gloves, work boots, a knit cap under his motorcycle helmet. McCabe is a tall man, about 6-foot-2, and he is solidly built, like a central defender on a soccer team. He’s handsome, with a wide smile and blond hair. He speaks in short sentences, snappy and definitive, especially when talking about London. We were in Hackney Wick, an industrial area adjacent to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, where the 2012 Olympic Games were held. Stour Road sits in a particularly remote corner of the neighborhood — a few wind-lashed streets, lined with warehouses, hemmed in by canals and a highway flyover.

“They call this area Fish Island,” McCabe said. “I’m not much of a fisherman, but many of the roads here are named for fishes — freshwater fishes, I believe. So just here you’ve got Bream Street.” He gestured down a road where a lumberyard was set back behind a corrugated metal fence. “Follow that to the end, you’ll come to Dace Road. You’ve got Roach Road. All names of fishes.”

While studying for the Knowledge, aspiring taxi drivers practice runs by motorbike, with a map strapped to the windscreen.

McCabe had spent the last three years of his life thinking about London’s roads and landmarks, and how to navigate between them. In the process, he had logged more than 50,000 miles on motorbike and on foot, the equivalent of two circumnavigations of the Earth, nearly all within inner London’s dozen boroughs and the City of London financial district. He was studying to be a London taxi driver, devoting himself full-time to the challenge that would earn him a cabbie’s “green badge” and put him behind the wheel of one of the city’s famous boxy black taxis.

Actually, “challenge” isn’t quite the word for the trial a London cabbie endures to gain his qualification. It has been called the hardest test, of any kind, in the world. Its rigors have been likened to those required to earn a degree in law or medicine. It is without question a unique intellectual, psychological and physical ordeal, demanding unnumbered thousands of hours of immersive study, as would-be cabbies undertake the task of committing to memory the entirety of London, and demonstrating that mastery through a progressively more difficult sequence of oral examinations — a process which, on average, takes four years to complete, and for some, much longer than that.
Richard V. Reeves: Progressives Ideas Are Winning Politics

Progressives Ideas Are Winning Politics

Even after that big midterm election loss—so cheer up, liberals.

By Richard V. Reeves

Progressives, these days, are a gloomy bunch, and it's not just because of the outcomes of last week's election. As they see it, there's much to be gloomy about: Poverty levels are stuck, they say, with little improvements made in recent decades. What's more, according to the standard progressive line, income inequality is soaring, and back to levels last seen in the roaring '20s. And, to top it all off, middle class incomes are flat, or even falling.

But here's the thing: Each of these claims is a significant overstatement. In fact: Progressives have every reason to be celebrating right now. Why? Because by and large, things aren't so bad as progressives claim, and the reason things aren't so bad is because progressive policies are working. Medicare and Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits, tax cuts favoring the working poor, expansion of health coverage, and so on—all of these policies are making Americans better off than they would otherwise be.

The GOP Could Make Obama Kill Obamacare

The GOP Could Make Obama Kill Obamacare

So game this out. The Supreme Court strikes down the federal subsidy. Next, Congress actually passes a fix—but makes the President veto it.

Why else would the Supreme Court announce it’s going to hear that Obamacare challenge other than to try to kill the law? There is no other reason. Now, true: Reality is a little more complicated than Scalia and Alito and Thomas and Kennedy (presumably, the four who voted to hear the case) would wish it to be, and they probably can’t “kill” it. But with regard to their intent, it’s close to impossible to conclude anything else.

The main reason to reach this conclusion, as you may have read by now, is this; Usually, the Court hears cases like this only when two federal circuit courts have issued conflicting rulings, and the Supreme Court needs to step in and clarify things. Right now, there is no such conflict at the circuit-court level. Moreover, the D.C. Circuit has announced that it’s about to rule on a case related to the one the Supreme Court took. It’s widely expected that the D.C. Circuit is going to issue a pro-Obamacare decision, which will, in fact, create a conflict with the Fourth Circuit. But D.C. hasn’t even ruled yet. So the fact that the Supreme Court decided to hear the Fourth Circuit case, King v. Burwell, even before the D.C. court issues its ruling, seems a clear tip-off that the conservatives on the Court are just itching to take up the law, and it’s pretty unlikely they’re itching to say, “Hey, Obamacare is just great.”

At issue, as you also should have read by now, is whether Congress intended for people buying insurance through federal as well as the state insurance exchanges to qualify for subsidies. Under the law, states were encouraged to create their own exchanges, but in those states that chose not to, citizens could sign up for care through the federal exchange.

Obviously, no serious person can think that a federal legislature writing a federal law creating a federal exchange meant for citizens seeking health coverage through that exchange not to qualify for one of the law’s key features (the subsidy to buy insurance). But there was a typo in the law that didn’t make that expressly clear, and so the door has been flung wide open for the Scalia-type “textualists” to say: Hey, it doesn’t even matter what Congress intended, or what everybody thought they were voting on. All that matters is what it says there in black and white.

And so, everyone who bought subsidized insurance on the federal marketplace in the 34 states that didn’t set up their own exchanges will lose those subsidies. Presumably, without those subsidies, most will just cancel their policies. The bulk of those who won’t will be the people who really need them—i.e., who are really sick. In other words, healthy, low-cost people will remove themselves from the coverage pool, while the sick, expensive ones will stay, and premiums will shoot up in those 34 states, and it’ll be a disaster. The law will unravel.

Efforts to protect US government data from hackers undermined by worker mistakes

Air Force Space Command Network Operations & Security Center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs cybersecurity cyberwar cybercrime hacking

Efforts to protect US government data against hackers undermined by worker mistakes

Associated Press

Reports show that hacking and cybercrime swamp federal agencies as US struggles to keep pace with international groups of hackers

A $10bn-a-year effort to protect sensitive government data, from military secrets to social security numbers, is struggling to keep pace with an increasing number of cyberattacks and is unwittingly being undermined by federal employees and contractors.

Workers scattered across more than a dozen agencies, from the defense and education departments to the National Weather Service, are responsible for at least half of the federal cyberincidents reported each year since 2010, according to an Associated Press analysis of records.

They have clicked links in bogus phishing emails, opened malware-laden websites and been tricked by scammers into sharing information.

One was redirected to a hostile site after connecting to a video of tennis star Serena Williams. A few act intentionally, most famously former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who downloaded and leaked documents revealing the government’s collection of phone and email records.

Then there was the contract worker who lost equipment containing the confidential information of millions of Americans, including Robert Curtis, of Monument, Colorado.

“I was angry, because we as citizens trust the government to act on our behalf,” he said. Curtis, according to court records, was besieged by identity thieves after someone stole data tapes that the contractor left in a car, exposing the health records of about 5m current and former Pentagon employees and their families.

In China, Obama Delicately Broaches Rights

From left, Hassanal Bolkiah, the sultan of Brunei; President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia; President Xi Jinping of China and his wife, Peng Liyuan; and President Obama in Beijing.

Credit Pool photo by Mikhail Klimentyev

In China, Obama Delicately Broaches Rights


In carefully calibrated remarks at an economic summit meeting, President Obama appealed for official restraint in dealing with the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

BEIJING — President Obama appealed on Monday for official restraint in dealing with the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, saying that while the United States did not necessarily agree with China about the dispute, it did not want to see the tensions in the city erupt into violence.

Mr. Obama’s carefully calibrated remarks were his first on the Hong Kong protests since arriving in Beijing earlier in the day. “Obviously, the situation between China and Hong Kong is historically complicated and is in the process of transition,” Mr. Obama said.

“Our primary message has been to make sure violence is avoided,” the president said, adding, “We don’t expect China to follow an American model in every instance. But we’re going to continue to have concerns about human rights.”

Mr. Obama’s comments came during a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia at an economic summit meeting in Beijing. The remarks left no doubt that the president did not want the protests in Hong Kong to disrupt a wide-ranging American agenda with China.

The president also put in a pitch for his ambitious trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, meeting with the leaders of other countries involved in the negotiations. Efforts to forge a deal have made progress recently, and the Republican takeover of Congress has buoyed hopes that Mr. Obama might be able to win ratification of a trade treaty more easily.

“Today is an opportunity, at the political level, for us to break some remaining logjams,” the president said to reporters at the meeting, held at the American Embassy.

Still, there was no evidence, and he made no suggestion, that the talks were close to a breakthrough, as some American officials have done in the past. Mr. Obama noted that he and other leaders would have to build domestic support for a deal, saying that “we also have to make sure all of our people back home understand the benefits for them.”

Mexico’s Murderous SWAT Teams

Mexico’s Murderous SWAT Teams

Three American kids allegedly were slaughtered by the so-called Hercules Group, which claimed to use special weapons and tactics just like many cops north of the border.

Even in Tamaulipas, one of the most violent states in Mexico, there was something cavalier, or worse, about the way the “Hercules Group” operated. Back when its existence was officially still a secret, citizens of Matamoros, a border city about five miles south of Brownsville, Texas, complained to the police about a militarized strike force that took orders from city hall. The complaints reached such a pitch that in July, when Hercules was less than a month old, a city councilman named Ulises Ruiz demanded that Mayor Leticia Salazar say more about the group, which, back then had no name.

Then as now, Mayor Salazar was short on details: The strike force existed, its mission was to fight organized crime, its members drawn from the ranks of ex-marines and ex-army regulars, trained by the Mexican navy, how many there were and how much all of this cost was classified.

The state government in Tamaulipas was hovering in the background, airing its concerns that Mayor Salazar’s strike force was uncertified, unregulated, and without legal standing. The mayor responded defiantly with a kind of military pageant that was truly bizarre for such a secretive organization. The public debut of the Hercules Group is a day that not many in Matamoros are likely to forget. A militarized strike force onstage, attired in all black with faces smeared in black as though prepped for a nighttime raid. Behind them, a royal blue backdrop with the city’s logo and its slogan “Land of Progress.” Before them, and a head shorter than the rest, Mayor Salazar at the lectern attired in militant black beret and matching uniform with Hercules Group emblazoned in Spanish above one breast pocket and her last name stitched above the other.

“We are all Hercules,” Mayor Salazar told the assembly of reporters and well wishers that day, “defending our city from the trenches.” In her remarks, the Hercules Group was synonymous with peace and safety. But the president of the state chamber of commerce said it was nothing more than a personal security detail for the mayor and her secretary of social welfare, a wealthy and scandal-ridden automobile importer named Luis Biasi. The mayor and Biasi are a popular topic of gossip in Matamoros. She somehow retained him despite an embarrassing customs raid on a warehouse of his in January that turned up cases of contraband beer, whiskey, and cigarettes. Then in August, the Mexican IRS fined both of them for a scheme to import used cars from the United States and sell them in Mexico as a part of an ill-defined public-welfare program. The worst kept secret in Matamoros is that Biasi and Mayor Salazar are more than colleagues. The president of the state chamber of commerce went a step further and accused Biasi of being the real power behind the Hercules Group. “We don’t understand how the secretary of public welfare can go around deputizing police. Are you the secretary of public welfare or the commander of the Hercules Group?” the chamber president intoned in the press.

Maybe none of which would have mattered much outside the neighborhood, but on Oct. 12 members of the Hercules Group showed up at a barbeque restaurant in the jurisdiction of Matamoros and kidnapped four people, including three Americans, all of whom ended up dead and whose charred bodies were found 16 days later in a field 25 miles east of Matamoros. Mayor Salazar and her administration have gone into lockdown mode and she was back in civilian clothes to make her only comments on the crime, and those were to disavow any responsibility for the Hercules Group, to deny she used the group as her bodyguards, indeed, to deny she kept bodyguards at all. Her repudiation comes more than two weeks after two vehicles belonging to the Americans then reported as missing were photographed while parked inside a sales lot owned by Luis Biasi.

Foreign Policy: The Most Important Issue in the 2016 GOP Primary

Foreign Policy: The Most Important Issue in the 2016 GOP Primary

Conor Friedersdorf

The risk of putting a Bush-style hawk like Marco Rubio back in the White House is much too dangerous.

n a column this weekend, Ross Douthat posits that the GOP is most likely to find its way to a positive governing agenda if the contest to be its 2016 presidential nominee its Senator Rand Paul against Senator Marco Rubio. So who would he support?

His column treats the question as a tricky one. Douthat gives Rubio the edge on domestic policy, positing that he would "overhaul the tax code and safety net to support work, family and upward mobility."

On foreign policy, he prefers Paul, despite disagreements with his father. "The realism and restraint he’s championing seem wiser than the G.O.P.’s frequent interventionist tilt," he writes. "To imagine Rubio as a successful foreign policy president, I have to imagine an administration in the mold of Ronald Reagan’s, where hawkish rhetoric coexists with deep caution about committing U.S. ground troops—and I think there’s reason to worry we’d get incaution and quagmire instead."

Douthat ends without declaring a winner, implying a kind of equivalence: One guy wins domestic policy, the other wins foreign policy, so all told, they're sort of tied. But in this case, foreign policy should clearly carry more weight.

"Paul casts himself as the heir to the realist tradition in Republican foreign policy, while Rubio’s record and statements are more in line with the neoconservatism of the Bush era," Douthat writes. "To use specific Obama-era examples, a Paul-led G.O.P. would presumably oppose Libya-style humanitarian interventions and eschew gambits like our effort to aid Syria’s rebels, while a Rubio-led G.O.P. might be willing to put American boots on the ground in both situations. These are not small differences, and they might be magnified in larger crises."

That's putting it mildly.

Pope demotes cardinal who took on John Kerry, Sheryl Crow

Pope demotes cardinal who took on John Kerry, Sheryl Crow

Justin Moyer

Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke was riding high under Benedict. Then along came Francis.

Just a few years ago, former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke was riding high. A conservative leader in a conservative Catholic Church under a conservative pope, he seemed to fall into the Vatican’s favor after taking a few high-profile stands against the godless.

The fights he picked always managed to make headlines. In 2004, the Wisconsin native said he would refuse to give pro-choice Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) communion. In 2007, he resigned from the board of a Catholic hospital after it invited Sheryl Crow, who is pro-choice, to play a benefit concert. And in 2009, he let the University of Notre Dame have it for giving President Obama an honorary degree.

“The proposed granting of an honorary doctorate at Notre Dame University to our president, who is so aggressively advancing an anti-life and anti-family agenda, is rightly the source of the greatest scandal,” Burke said.

The reward for this holy work? In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI made Burke head of the Vatican’s supreme court. In 2010, he made Burke a cardinal.

 These were the good times. Then along came Francis — the freewheeling Argentine pope who loves gays, loves divorcees and hates income inequality. After a few high-profile disagreements with Burke, Francis made him patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a charity. The Associated Press called the office “largely ceremonial.”

How Numbers Change Behavior on Facebook

How Numbers Change Behavior on Facebook

The Facebook Demetricator shows that people like liking a little too much.

By Shirley Li

A "like" on Facebook is a treat. You get a little red pop-up on your notifications icon, you see the little box on the-hand corner of your screen describing the like, and you get that warm, albeit fleeting sense of pride. Someone liked your post. Your post! You savor it. You inevitably want more likes. You wait.

To keep its 1.3 billion users clicking and posting (and stalking), Facebook scatters numbers everywhere. While it collects many metrics that users never see, it tells users plenty of others, too. Facebook tells you the number of friends you have, the number of likes you receive, the number of messages you get, and even track the timestamp to show how recently an item entered the news feed.

To keep you clicking, posting, and stalking, Facebook uses numbers strewn everywhere.
Rand Paul: Obama’s ISIS War Is Illegal

Obama’s ISIS War Is Illegal

Sen. Rand Paul

The president is subverting the Constitution—and America’s latest undeclared war in the Middle East is just the latest example.

For a generation, Democrats stood up against Republican presidents who they deemed to be too eager to go to war—or too ready to put troops in harm’s way without the full consent of the American people through their elected representatives in Congress.

Where have those Democratic protectors of the constitutional authority of Congress gone? Was it always just a partisan attack on Republican presidents?

If not, when will Democrats—who so vociferously opposed a Republican president’s extraconstitutional war-making powers—stand up and oppose President Obama’s unconstitutional usurpation of war-making powers?

Yale Professor Bruce Ackerman puts it succinctly: “The war against the Islamic State is now illegal. The War Powers Resolution of 1973 gave President Obama 60 days to gain consent from Congress and required him to end ‘hostilities’ within 30 days if he failed to do so. This 90-day clock expired this week.” And yet, there’s been no consent, and no end to the fighting.

I believe the president must come to Congress to begin a war. I also believe the War Powers Act is misunderstood; President Obama acted without true constitutional authority even before the 90 days expired, since we were not under attack at that time.

But in either case, this war is now illegal. It must be declared and made valid, or it must be ended.

Congress has a duty to act, one way or the other.

China suspected of breaching U.S. Postal Service computer networks

China suspected of breaching U.S. Postal Service computer networks

Chinese government hackers are suspected of breaching the computer networks of the United States Postal Service, compromising the data of more than 800,000 employees.

The intrusion was discovered in mid-September, said officials, who declined to comment on who was thought to be responsible. The FBI is leading the investigation into the hack.

The news, announced by U.S. Postal Service, came as President Obama arrived Monday in Beijing for high-level talks with his counterpart, President Xi Jinping, as well as for an economic summit.

The Chinese government has consistently denied accusations that it engages in cybertheft and notes that Chinese law prohibits cybercrime.

Intrusions were discovered earlier this year into systems of the Office of Personnel Management and of a contractor, USIS, that conducts security-clearance checks. Both cases were also linked to China, said individuals familiar with the investigations.

The United States has elevated cybersecurity as a top issue in the bilateral relationship with China, and senior officials now raise it every time they meet with their counterparts in Beijing.

The intrusion was carried out by “a sophisticated actor that appears not to be interested in identity theft or credit card fraud,” USPS spokesman David Partenheimer said.

Tiny Police Department in Southern Oregon That Plans to End Campus Rape

The Tiny Police Department in Southern Oregon That Plans to End Campus Rape

By Katie Van Syckle

For nearly a year, Niki, a fifth-year music student at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, had been haunted by shadowy images of a menacing figure in a dark bedroom. Last April, she crafted a letter to her former boyfriend, Luke, apologizing for behaving erratically, and read it to him. “He felt so sick, he finally told me what he had done to me,” she says. One night in July 2013, Niki was staying at Luke’s apartment and couldn’t fall asleep. “I took two sleeping pills, as prescribed by my doctor. Luke knew the effect it would have on me. While I was unconscious, he sodomized me. I woke up once, but I was really out of it, and he convinced me I was having a nightmare. Then when I fell back asleep, he raped me again.”

This April, three days after she spoke with Luke, she walked into the Women’s Resource Center at SOU. It was there that her story began to diverge from the negative experiences of student rape victims across the country.

The resource center immediately referred Niki to Angela Fleischer, who had helped develop a program with the Ashland Police Department called You Have Options. The brainchild of an Ashland Police Detective named Carrie Hull, the program aims to rewrite the script for how law enforcement handles non-stranger sexual assault. Since You Have Options launched officially in 2013, the number of reports in Ashland has increased by 106 percent. A similar program Fleischer created at SOU, called Campus Choice, has also seen the number of sexual assault reports double, and survivors are twice as likely to go to the police.

The first option Fleischer gave Niki was whether she wanted to let the university deal with the crime or report it to the police. “I had been reading about all the Title IX issues going on in the country, and I was like, I think I’m going to let the police department go ahead with this one,” Niki says.

Fleischer brought Niki to see Hull, the Ashland Police Department detective who pioneered the program four years earlier in an effort to root out serial rapists, the kind who account for 90 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses. Hull’s crusade initially started with much humbler aims — she just wanted rape victims to feel safe talking to the police. Ashland had been hit with a string of rapes, and Hull noticed that the victims were dropping out of the criminal justice system before her department had a chance to investigate their charges, often because they felt no one in law enforcement believed them.

“It shouldn’t just be the survivor's account against what the perpetrator says,” Hull argues. “That is just a very bad investigation.” Hull started using a type of forensic interview developed by army investigators, as well as “pretext” phone calls, where police record the call or install hidden microphones to catch confessions. She also looked into a suspect’s background to see if they had ever committed a similar crime. Two weeks after Niki first spoke with Hull, the detective set up a series of microphones at Niki’s apartment. Then, Niki had Luke over and eased him into a conversation about the rape. He confessed again.

Even after getting a recorded confession, Hull let Niki decide when she was ready for Luke to be approached for questioning, when she was ready for Hull to arrest him, and when she was ready for the state to press charges.

“I considered it heavily,” Niki says. “I had to take into account revealing my personal self, the social effects, the victim blaming. But I decided it was impossible to continue my education taking the same classes as him.”

Luke was eventually expelled from SOU, convicted, and is now a registered sex offender. “I went into this knowing nothing about this process only to later figure out that I am in a small, small percentage of people that get justice,” Niki says. “I wish this hadn’t happened, and I’m going to wish that forever, but if it had to happen, how fortunate am I that it happened here in Ashland?”

Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, colleges are required to provide a safe place to learn for all students. A 2012 letter from the Office of Civil Rights reminded schools that if a student reports a sexual assault to the school, college administrators must investigate that allegation. As a result, disciplinary panels originally designed to decide cases of plagiarism are acting like criminal courts in rape cases with students, administrators, and professors questioning victims, alleged assailants, and witnesses and doling out punishments.

“We wouldn’t even be talking about universities investigating and adjudicating sexual assaults if we had a functional criminal justice system,” sexual assault researcher David Lisak told me earlier this year. “We have a civilian criminal justice system that essentially abdicated its role in investigating non-stranger sexual assault. And because they’ve abdicated, survivors are voting with their feet and reporting within the university structure. Universities are stuck handling very, very serious criminal conduct and there is an absurdity there. We don’t ask universities to handle homicide cases.” Nationally, only one in ten rape cases reported to law enforcement results in a felony conviction. Carrie Hull hopes to change this.

The Inevitability Trap

The Inevitability Trap

By Ryan Lizza

Hillary Clinton and the drawbacks of being the front-runner.

The Sunday before Election Day, Hillary Clinton addressed a crowd of voters at an afternoon rally in Nashua, New Hampshire. The state has long served as a source of political renewal for the Clintons. Early in 1992, during Bill Clinton’s first Presidential run, he was hobbled by allegations of womanizing, but he finished a strong second in the New Hampshire primary, and his campaign rebounded. In 2008, Hillary lost to Barack Obama in the Iowa caucuses but defied the polls in New Hampshire, which showed Obama far ahead, and won the state, setting up a marathon nomination fight that lasted into June. On Sunday, she was ostensibly in the state to boost the campaigns of Governor Maggie Hassan and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, both threatened by the surging Republican tide. It was also an ideal opportunity for Clinton to advertise her unofficial status as the Democrat to beat in the 2016 primaries.

“It’s really hard for me to express how grateful I am, on behalf of my husband and myself, to the people of New Hampshire,” Clinton said. “Starting way back in 1991, you opened your homes and your hearts to us. And in 2008, during the darkest days of my campaign, you lifted me up, you gave me my voice back, you taught me so much about grit and determination, and I will never forget that.”

Many of the candidates for whom Clinton campaigned throughout the summer and fall lost on Tuesday. Shaheen, though, was one of the clear Democratic winners. She asked at the rally what many were thinking: “Are we ready for Hillary?” The crowd chanted Clinton’s name, and she mouthed a thank-you. In national surveys this year, Clinton’s support among Democrats has been as high as seventy-three per cent. That makes her the most dominant front-runner at this stage of a Presidential contest in the Party’s modern history. Media pundits and political strategists agree overwhelmingly that Hillary’s lead within the Party is unassailable. Tuesday’s results, which gave Republicans control of both the House and the Senate, may solidify her standing, as Democrats close ranks around her in an effort to hang on to the White House, their last foothold on power in Washington. But the election results could also lead to an entirely different outcome: a Republican Party that overinterprets its mandate in Congress and pushes its Presidential candidates far to the right, freeing Democrats to gamble on someone younger or more progressive than Clinton.

In every fight for the Democratic Presidential nomination in the past five decades, there has come a moment when the front-runner faltered. “Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does politics,” Anita Dunn, a Democratic strategist, told me. Voters in the early states, perhaps spurred by a sense of civic responsibility, begin to take an interest in candidates they had previously never heard of. Those candidates seize on issues, usually ones that excite the left, that the front-runner, focussed on the general election, has been too timid to champion. The press, invested in political drama, declares that the front-runner is vulnerable.


In the fall of 2007, Obama had a respectable national following as a senator, but Hillary Clinton led by more than thirty points in some national polls. Like Hart, Obama ran on a simple message of new versus old—“Change”—but he was prepared for a long fight over delegates when the press anointed him Clinton’s main challenger. As Bradley had done with Gore, Obama attacked Clinton on matters that liberals cared about, but his main issue—the war in Iraq—was more powerful than anything available to Bradley, who had focussed on gun control and universal health care. And, like Dean, Obama energized new voters, including many African-Americans, a key voting group in Democratic primaries. But Obama had a sophisticated plan to get them to the polls. These three ingredients—message, demographics, and organization—were just enough to defeat Clinton in the primaries. For the first time in modern history, a Democratic insurgency defeated the establishment.

Could it happen again? “There is going to be a challenge,” Trippi said. “And I would never underestimate the challenge if I were the Clinton campaign.” Dean has said that he will support Clinton if she runs. “I think the chances are fifty-fifty the Republicans are going to nominate a nutcase, and Hillary’s the perfect foil for a Rand Paul or a Ted Cruz,” he told me. But he also endorsed the idea of a strong debate: “I actually don’t think a primary is a bad thing. I think coronations are bad things.” Another Democratic strategist described the effect that even a losing challenger could have on the race. “If you get a deft insurgent, they may not win. But an insurgent could torture this poor woman.”

Obama demands 'strongest possible rules' to protect net neutrality

Obama at a summit in China.

Obama demands 'strongest possible rules' to protect net neutrality

Dominic Rushe in New York

Barack Obama called for “the strongest possible rules to protect” the open internet on Monday and came out against proposals championed by cable and telecoms companies to create a fast lanes for the web.

The president’s statement comes as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prepares to publish new rules to regulate the internet after a series of legal defeats at the hands of telecoms and cable companies.

“An open internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life. By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known,” Obama said.

The president came out firmly against a proposal that would allow cable companies to create “fast lanes” for higher paying customers. Cable and telecoms companies have lobbied for fast lanes, arguing that companies like Netflix should pay more for the large amount of bandwidth they use.

Opponents argue such a move would create a tiered internet with faster service for those who can pay, and end “net neutrality” – the principle that all traffic is equal on the web.

“Net neutrality has been built into the fabric of the internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas,“ wrote Obama. He said the FCC should impose “the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.”

The president’s move will place extraordinary pressure on the bipartisan FCC. Chairman Tom Wheeler is a Democrat, but the FCC’s board is split between Democrat and Republican members and the Republicans have shown clear opposition to imposing more regulation on internet service providers.

After receiving more than 4m comments from the general public, the FCC had reportedly been discussing a “hybrid” solution that would have allowed tiered services but imposed stricter rules to protect customers. The proposal met with stiff opposition from net neutrality supporters, who now have the backing of Obama.

Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s School for Innovation

Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine

Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s School for Innovation

After the runaway success of Beats—recently bought by Apple for $3 billion—the duo is launching a new academy at the University of Southern California with the goal of inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs

Robin WIlliams's Autopsy Report

Robin WIlliams's Autopsy Report

By Mario D. Garrett, PhD

Why do we find it so comforting to identify a biological disease as the cause of a trauma? Is this science or are we finding psychological excuses to not face the reality of an individual's pain and anguish?

Issa: Iraqi government 'delusional'

Issa: Iraqi government 'delusional'


Darrell Issa is pictured. | AP Photo

Just back from a trip to Iraq, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said on Sunday the government in Baghdad is “still quite delusional” about the urgency of the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

“They're still talking about long-term training before they're ready to fight,” the California Republican said an ABC’s “This Week.”

Issa said he was ready to vote to authorize the U.S. military campaign against ISIL — something President Barack Obama has requested. “The fact is we're already there,” Issa said. “We've had to be there.”  

Issa also said Iraqis — not Americans — should be the ones engaging in ground combat against ISIL. The Kurds were up to the challenge, he said.

“I have no doubt whatsoever that the Kurds will fight,” he said. “All they need is our air support and our technical know-how, and they will do it.”

Obama Takes Blame for Party’s Midterm Rout

Obama Takes Blame for Party’s Midterm Rout

By Colleen McCain Nelson

President Says Administration Has Sometimes Struggled to Sell Its Ideas

President Barack Obama took responsibility for his party’s poor performance in the midterm elections and said in a new interview that his administration has struggled at times to sell its ideas and to persuade the other side.

In the aftermath of a Republican romp that saw the GOP take control of the Senate and tighten its grip on the House, the president told CBS that “the buck stops right here at my desk.”

“So whenever, as the head of the party, it doesn’t do well, I’ve got to take responsibility for it,” he said on “Face the Nation.”

In the past, Mr. Obama has been largely reticent to identify specific shortcomings in his administration, but he said in the interview that he must constantly remind himself and his team that good ideas alone aren't enough.

“There are times, there’s no doubt about it, where, you know, I think we have not been successful in going out there and letting people know what it is that we’re trying to do and why this is the right direction,” Mr. Obama said on “Face the Nation.” “So there is a failure of politics there that we’ve got to improve on.”

Republicans and even some Democrats have said that Tuesday’s elections were a repudiation of this president and should prompt a personnel shake-up at the White House. Mr. Obama has resisted such suggestions but noted that he would be bringing in some new staff because “people get tired.”

“What I’ve told everybody is, you know, I want you to have as much enthusiasm and energy on the last day of this administration as you do right now or you did when you first started,” he said. “Otherwise you shouldn’t be here.”

For Lasting Marriage, Marry Someone Your Own Age

For Lasting Marriage, Marry Someone Your Own Age

Even a five-year age difference makes a couple 18 percent more likely to get divorced

By Megan Garber

There are many predictors of the success of a marriage, among them the having of money, the having of children, and the length of time a couple spends dating before they tie the knot. Another big predictor, though, is age: The closer a couple is when it comes to their respective birth years, the greater their chances of avoiding divorce.

With Fear of Being Sidelined, Tea Party Sees the Republican Rise as New Threat

With Fear of Being Sidelined, Tea Party Sees the Republican Rise as New Threat

As most Republicans were taking a victory lap the morning after the elections, a group of conservatives huddled anxiously in a conference room not far from Capitol Hill and agreed that now is the time for confrontation, not compromise and conciliation.

Despite Republicans’ ascension to Senate control and an expanded House majority, many conservatives from the party’s activist wing fear that congressional leaders are already being too timid with President Obama.

They do not want to hear that government shutdowns are off the table or that repealing the Affordable Care Act is impossible — two things Republican leaders have said in recent days.

“If the new Republican leadership in the Senate is only talking about what they can’t do, that’s going to be very demoralizing,” said Thomas J. Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative advocacy group that convenes a regular gathering called Groundswell. Any sense of triumph at its meeting last week was fleeting.

“I think the members of the leadership need to decide what they’re willing to shut down the government over,” Mr. Fitton said.

Establishment Republicans, who had vowed to thwart the Tea Party, succeeded in electing new lawmakers who are, for the most part, less rebellious. And when the new Congress convenes in January, the Republican leaders who will take the reins will be mainly in the mold of conservatives who have tried to keep the Tea Party in check.

But they have not crushed the movement’s spirit.

As Republicans on Capitol Hill transition from being the opposition party to being one that has to show it can govern, a powerful tension is emerging: how to move forward with an agenda that challenges the president without self-destructing.

Some conservatives believe that the threat of another shutdown is their strongest leverage to demand concessions on the health care law and to stop the president from carrying out immigration reform through executive order. Yet their leadership has dismissed the idea as a suicide mission that could squander the recent gains.

One thing that will prove popular among the base is a commitment by Senator Mitch McConnell, the presumptive new majority leader, to bring up a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which he is expected to do next year.

Whether the party can reconcile more demands of its base with the will of its leadership could determine how enduring the Republican Senate majority will be. The crop of senators up for re-election in 2016 includes those elected in the first Tea Party wave of 2010. And in a sign of what is at stake, even some of them are sounding notes of compromise and caution that would have been unthinkable at the height of the right’s resurgence.

“I understand the frustrations of the conservative base; I am one of them,” said Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, one of the original class of Tea Party-inspired senators. “I also recognize reality.”

Sex and the Modern Evangelical

Sex and the Modern Evangelical

The intense focus on sexuality, purity, manhood, and womanhood in certain faith communities—and its consequences.

By Emma Green

"Your husband will want sex way more than you do," advises Elizabeth of the blog Warrior Wives in a post called "Wifey Sex Confessions."

"God just made him to think about sex more than you. ... Never demean this about him. Never laugh at him or make fun of him. Accept it as a difference."

Accept it as a difference. It may sound like so much cliched marital advice, but this is a much-discussed idea about sexuality in the evangelical Christian community: Men and women are different.

"There's a lot of concern among evangelical men and women about traditional roles being overturned," said Amy DeRogatis, an associate professor of religion at Michigan State University, in an interview. Her new book, Saving Sex, focuses on the anxieties evangelicals feel about sexuality in American culture. But not other people's sexuality—their own.

Amid the recent wave of gay-marriage legalizations and debates over reproductive rights that were sparked by this summer's Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby, it can be easy to assume that evangelical teachings on sexuality are straightforwardly traditional. But "how you have sex, when you have sex, the amount of sex you have, when you have children—even the smallest act within an evangelical marriage can have these larger-than-life meanings," said DeRogatis. "How you have sex within marriage is incredibly important for you as a Christian, and also as a form of witnessing."

What this means is that there's a surprising amount of sex talk within the evangelical community. A vast industry is dedicated to publishing Christian self-help books with titles like The Gift of Sex and Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy with Your Spouse. Megachurch preachers like T.D. Jakes and former Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll have given numerous well-publicized sermons about male and female sexuality and appropriate sexual behavior for Christians.

"The feminist doctrine of our time upholds the notion that femininity is a matter of cultural conditioning. Genesis teaches otherwise."

Ducking Lame-Duck Syndrome

Two More Years

By Steve Coll

 "The American people have spoken,” Mitch McConnell said last week, after announcing his intention to lead the Senate’s new Republican majority. “They’ve given us divided government.” It’s a habit. Since 1981, party control of the White House and Congress has been split for all but six and a half years. Voters continually tell pollsters how disgusted they are that government doesn’t function, then cast their ballots in patterns that all but insure gridlock. This pathology has many causes. One is that the electorate that votes in midterm years is smaller, older, whiter, and, these days, angrier than the one that votes in Presidential years. This contributes to Election Night whiplash; the change of control in the Senate next January will be the seventh since the Reagan Administration.

The Founding Fathers romanticized ancient Rome’s republic (and feared mobs), so they eschewed straightforward majority rule and created the Senate, which evolved to empower small and rural states over large and urban ones. Accordingly, last Tuesday night, citizens stared bug-eyed at red-and-blue maps on their TV screens to puzzle out whether Kansans, who constitute less than one per cent of the population, or similarly minuscule bands of Alaskans, Arkansans, or Iowans might determine President Obama’s ability to legislate, appoint judges, and ratify treaties. The slate of Senate races favored Republicans to an unusual degree. Among other things, many of the states hosting contested races had few Latino voters, who have recently been a decisive source of Democratic support. Democratic strategists boasted that they could overcome that deficit by turning out large numbers of African-American voters in North Carolina and Georgia. They failed.

The Republicans won a clean technical knockout against a hamstrung opponent, but they pranced as if they’d walloped Joe Louis in his prime. Party spokesmen described the victory as a referendum on Obama’s failed leadership. That was spin, yet Obama does deserve much of the criticism he has taken for his party’s defeat. Before the midterms, amid public scares over Ebola and ISIS, approval of the President’s performance sank. He was late to lead in these crises and he failed to inspire swing voters with his successes: for one, his Administration is presiding over the fastest-growing economy in the industrialized world.

Now Obama seems at risk of running out his time in office by accepting dutifully the shrinking boundaries of his Presidency. Last Wednesday, at a press conference in the East Room, he spoke about how, even without congressional support, his Administration might yet improve customer service at government offices—an aspiration so small that it would sound sad if voiced by a mayor of Topeka. Asked about being called a lame duck, Obama replied, “That’s the label that you guys apply.” He outlined a modest legislative agenda that might be pursued with Republican coöperation, if such a thing could be obtained: infrastructure spending that would create high-paying jobs, a raise in the federal minimum wage, and programs to expand early-childhood education and to make college more affordable.

In private, Obama and his aides are discussing a different agenda, one that could be achieved without Congress, through regulation and executive orders, such as the ones he has already signed to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers and to triple the government’s use of renewable energy. Separately, the E.P.A. has proposed to reduce carbon emissions from electricity plants by thirty per cent before 2030, which could hasten the country’s transition away from coal, if the regulations are seen through. In the aftermath of the Ferguson crisis, civil-rights groups have pressed the White House to order the Justice Department to end racial profiling in federal law enforcement. And the President is reportedly considering two exceptionally bold ideas: to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay and to temporarily normalize the legal status of undocumented immigrants who have been living and working here for years. These proposals would require enormous political tenacity, but would greatly elevate Obama’s legacy.

After Obama … the 2016 White House race begins

Possible presidential contenders for 2016: from left, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Elizabeth Warren, Ted Cru

After Obama … the 2016 White House race begins

Dan Roberts

The president is isolated after the thrashing of the Democrats in last week’s midterms. Both sides of the political divide are already planning for the future

 Even by the high-octane standards of US politics, it was a breathtakingly abrupt change of gear. One hour and 50 minutes after polling closed in the most expensive congressional election in history, jostling broke out instead for the next contest: the race for the White House in 2016.

The first politician to break the midterm spell last Tuesday – the Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul – was in no mood for subtlety. Asked by Fox News what he thought about the victory, minutes earlier, of his fellow Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell over the Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, it took him only 14 words to identify another target entirely.

“Here in Kentucky it was a referendum not only on the [current] president, but on Hillary Clinton,” replied Paul, who grinned coyly when asked if this claim had anything to do with the former secretary of state being his most likely opponent if he wins the Republican nomination.

Congress has long been trapped in campaign mode. The average new lawmaker arriving in Washington is expected to spend an estimated 40% of their time fundraising for the next election. Seldom do second-term presidents have much power left after fighting their last midterm, especially if, as Barack Obama did on Tuesday, their party loses control of both houses of Congress.

But Obama’s failure to overcome an intransigent House of Representatives even before his thrashing makes his loss of the Senate doubly debilitating and the race to fill the power vacuum ever more pressing. In an era when even his foreign policy is likely to be constrained by the need to keep Congress on side, America and the world will be watching carefully to see who emerges as the next putative commander-in-chief.

Paul’s use of the Clinton name was not without justification. Ever since the unpopular Obama had been banished from campaigning in swing states by nervous Democrats, it was left to Bill and Hillary Clinton to do much of the support work in Republican states such as Kentucky, Iowa and Arkansas where their brand of centrist politics was seen as more palatable. And, though neither has yet officially declared they are running, Clinton and Paul were not the only likely 2016 candidates successfully hitching their wagon to the midterms.

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo pilot Peter Siebold says 'It's a miracle I survived'

A piece of debris is seen near the crash site of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo near Cantil, Calif., on Nov. 1.

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo pilot Peter Siebold says 'It's a miracle I survived'

BY Rich Schapiro

Peter Siebold, 43, detailed to his father the horrifying moments after the SpaceShipTwo broke into pieces in midair Oct. 31. Siebold appears to have survived because he remained in his seat and his parachute deployed, as designed.

“I must have lost consciousness at first,” Siebold reportedly told his father.

“I can’t remember anything about what happened, but I must have come to during the fall. I remember waving to the chase plane and giving them the thumbs-up to tell them I was okay.”

Science and Religion

Science and Religion

By Robert W. Fuller, Ph.D.

Formerly, when religion was strong and science weak, men mistook magic for medicine; now, when science is strong and religion weak, men mistake medicine for magic. – Thomas Szasz

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

The Lord God is subtle, but malicious he is not.

I am convinced that [God] does not play dice [with the universe].

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds.

I am a deeply religious unbeliever.

– Albert Einstein (1879–1955)

Jerry Seinfeld and Autism

Jerry Seinfeld and Autism

By John Elder Robison

What does it mean, that Jerry Seinfeld speculates that he may be on the autism spectrum? His words generated a wide range of response, some welcoming and some very angry. I offer my own thoughts on the matter here.

Mr. Seinfeld’s speculation that he “may be on the spectrum,” may be the first step in an actual diagnosis or evaluation, and it may be a milestone of his journey of self-discovery. Many people are critical of self -diagnosis, but the fact is, most adult diagnoses start by people asking themselves, “might I be autistic?”  Seldom are adults handed this diagnosis out of the blue.  So before we attack self-diagnosis let’s remember that’s how “real diagnosis” begins for many adults.

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