Analysis

More Lost Ground on Climate-Change Concern

It’s been a crummy year for environmentalists. First it was the leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit showing some questionable discussions among scientists about climate-change research. Then the Copenhagen summit ended with a big thud. And then Congress indicated it would trade an aggressive climate-change mitigation measure for a more diluted energy bill.Piling on, Gallup is out with new numbers today showing that concern over climate change continues to recede. According to one of its surveys from earlier this month, almost half of the country (48 percent) is unmoved by climate-change warnings. A growing number are also newly skeptical that humans are causing the planet to change and think that the science isn’t as concrete as they once believed.Surprisingly, the cause of the regression in public opinion isn’t entirely the about the hacked e-mails, although that certainly didn’t help. Skepticism about climate change has hovered in the 30...

The Powerful Story Obscured-Oscar's Interrupted Speech

Roger Ross Williams reacted the classiest way he could to being Kanye’d at the Oscars after his win for the documentary Music By Prudence. As his producer, Elinor Burkett, held forth on “my role models and my heroes—marvelous and energy,” he tried to put the focus back on the subject of his film. “Prudence is here tonight,” he said, half-interrupting Burkett and pointing at a smiling young woman in the audience. Williams has since appeared on Larry King to give what would have been his speech, but he still didn’t say much about Prudence Mahbena, except that she overcame being “born in a country that despises the disabled.” That’s an understatement if there ever was one. Mahbena had the bad luck to be born with arthrogryposis—a genetic condition that warps the joints in utero, causing them to form improperly—and the worse luck to be born in Zimbabwe, where disabled children are apparently thought to be cursed by witchcraft. According to the film’s Web site, “in their culture, you...

Oscars Ad Hints at How Apple Will Position the iPad

Last night's Oscars broadcast was interminable even by Oscars standards, but viewers who managed to stay awake were rewarded with Apple's first advertisement for its iPad tablet device. Since this is an Apple ad, no frame of this can go unexamined. Before you cry "Hype!", believe me when I say this level of attention to detail is warranted. Look, this is a company that reportedly refuses to display no-smoking signs in its United Kingdom stores—even though they are required by law—because they interfere with Apple's minimalist approach to decor. Jobs would rather pay the fine of £50 per store per day than allow anything to pollute the Apple experience.With that in mind, a few noteworthy things emerge from this debut ad, and they tell us how Apple is beginning to build gadget lust for this particular product. First, ignore the shiny toy and focus on the background. The point is: there is one. Instead of the stark white void in which all iPhone ads are based, this iPad lives in a...

More on What Haiti and Chile (Don't) Have in Common

On Saturday I pointed out that the Chilean quake would likely claim far fewer lives than the one that struck Haiti in early January, and offered some of the reasons for that (better building codes, a more earthquake-cognizant country, etc.). I want to add a few important technical points to that list.First, although the Chilean quake was significantly stronger than the Haitian one, it also occurred 22 miles below the earth's surface—twice as deep as the Haitian quake. That means there was twice as much earth to absorb the shock before it reached building foundations. It’s also worth pointing out that the epicenter of Saturday’s quake was about 70 miles from the nearest big city (Concepción), compared with 10 miles between city and epicenter in the Haitian quake. On top of that, Concepción has less than half the population of Port-au-Prince (900,000 versus 2 million).Even so, the Chilean quake and its aftermath are proof positive that, as many experts have been saying since the...

McCain vs. Obama: The Panel Renders Its Scores

The most exciting moment in the otherwise rather dull health-care summit today (so far!) has been a somewhat contentious exchange between President Obama and Sen. John McCain. After McCain called for reform to start again from scratch, Obama snapped back: "Let me just make this point, John, because we're not campaigning anymore. The election's over." McCain, with a clipped laugh and tight smile, responded, "I'm reminded of that every day," as Obama continued, "We can spend the remainder of the time with our respective talking points going back and forth. We were supposed to be talking about insurance." (The video is here.) So who won the exchange? Was McCain shut down? Or did Obama sound patronizing and rude? Andrew Romano weighed in with his read, and here are a few short takes from other NEWSWEEK staffers. (WARNING: May contain irony.) Weston Kosova: Am I the only one who thinks Obama comes off looking like a jerk in that clip? He smacked McCain for sticking to...

Response to NEWSWEEK's 'Terrorist' Taxonomy Debate

Our e-mail conversation on why the media have been reluctant to label Joseph Stack a terrorist has generated a lot of critical discussion among prominent political bloggers. Apparently, some of the criticism stems from a misunderstanding of the fact that we were discussing the media's aversion, not our own, to labeling Stack a terrorist, and that when we laid out the logic of the media we were ironically mocking it, not endorsing it. Today, Andrew Sullivan asks whether our multimedia managing editor Kathy Jones's "guide" to who is or isn't a terrorist is ironic or not. Is she "mocking craven and inconsistent and obviously racist distinctions in the MSM" or is she sincerely endorsing them? Here is my (sincere) answer: Dear Andrew, thanks for asking, and I am sorry we left the e-mail transcript so murky that the question was raised. Now here's the answer: she was absolutely, positively "mocking craven and inconsistent and obviously racist distinctions in the MSM." Indeed, we...

Pawlenty: Do It Like Elin (Not Tiger)

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty had some advice for conservatives this morning at CPAC. Right now, he told the crowd, Tiger Woods is about to hold his own press conference. Conservatives, however, should take a page out of Elin’s book in dealing with the administration. “Take a nine iron and smash the window of big government in this country!” The crowd, which is less energetic today, loved it. But earlier jokes of Pawlenty, who has been touted as a possible conservative pick for 2012, fell flat. He made the same jokes about the D.C. snowstorm as previous speakers have (“Any day that  Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi can’t get to work is a good day for freedom, liberty, and people’s wallets”) and also told the crowd, which has heard at least 15 different references to Obama’s schoolroom teleprompter moment, that they wouldn’t believe it—Obama needed a teleprompter! “That’s not a joke…that’s a real story,” Pawlenty told the crowd, looking out of touch but getting a polite applause. A...

How Google and Facebook Violate Your Privacy

Google recently introduced a new service that adds social-networking features to its popular Gmail system. The service is called Buzz, and within hours of its release, people were howling about privacy issues—because, in its original form, Buzz showed everyone the list of people you e-mail most frequently. Even people who weren't cheating on their spouses or secretly applying for new jobs found this a little unnerving. Google backtracked and changed the software, and apologized for the misstep, claiming that, gosh, it just never occurred to us that people might get upset. "The public reaction was something we did not anticipate. But we've reacted very quickly to people's unhappiness," says Bradley Horowitz, vice president for product management at Google. It's hard to imagine Google could have been so clueless. Google's coder kiddies may be many things, but stupid isn't one of them.

Norquist: Palin Not Running Because She's Skipping CPAC

Tea Party Convention? That’s old news. The conservative buzz this week is the annual kickoff of CPAC, the 37th annual Conservative Political Action Committee, which will last three days  and feature various shrinking violets like keynote speaker Glenn Beck, Florida Senate hopeful Marco Rubio, Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann, tea-partiers and the gay GOProud group which is cosponsoring the event. There have been raucous and memorable moments at past conferences, such as when presidential hopeful John McCain was booed in 2008 (I was there for that speech; McCain knew he was walking into a lion’s den and seemed thrilled when he could finally get off stage), which coincided with Mitt Romney’s 15 minutes of fame at the same conference announcing he was dropping out of the race. Other top moments for attendees have included sitting back and listening to Ann Coulter, or hanging out with Joe the Plumber and Republican rappers. One upcoming event this year certain to be...

The Health-Care-Reform Trickle-Down

Health-care reform may be a ways off from becoming law, but at least a few of its provisions and debates that it started have already trickled down to the states—and not in a way that Democrats would want. RH Reality Check, a pro-choice reproductive-health blog, points out two places where you now see legislative fallout from Congress's heated abortion debate. The Kansas legislature is now considering a bill that would require all abortion coverage to be purchased as a rider, similar to what would have been required under the House bill’s Stupak Amendment (or, depending on how you read it, probably under the Senate language, too).  Meanwhile, in North Carolina, Wake County has dropped its coverage of elective abortions, in a move that looks like it might be taking a page from the Republican National Committee’s reactive ditching of their abortion coverage. Taken together, the two moves to limit abortion coverage can suggest that a national, highly publicized debate over...

Evan Bayh to Retire: More Bad News for Democrats

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) will announce this afternoon that he won't seek reelection for a third term in November. In a statement obtained by The New York Times, Bayh cites the atmosphere on Capitol Hill as dulling his appetite for politics. "After all these years, my passion for service to my fellow citizens is undiminished, but my desire to do so in Congress has waned," he will say at a press conference at 2 p.m.The move is a surprise to many Democrats, and virtually guarantees that Republicans will pick up the seat in November. Former Republican senator Dan Coats recently announced his interest in challenging Bayh, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has since spent significant time and resources attacking his candidacy. Still, Bayh had strong prospects for reelection. One recent poll gave him a 20-point advantage over Coats. (I've wondered over the past few weeks why, this far out from an election, Democrats had responded so strongly to Coats's potential candidacy....

White House Casts Brennan in Unusual Political Role

Michael Isikoff reports on the Declassified blog: White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan played an unusual role Sunday when he swiped at congressional Republicans for bashing the administration's handling of the Christmas Day bombing suspect. Normally, it is the White House political aides such as David Axelrod and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, both seasoned veterans of the 2008 Obama campaign, who take the offensive against the president's GOP critics on the Sunday talk shows. But this week, it was Brennan─a professional U.S. intelligence official who now serves on the president's national-security staff─who played the attack-dog role. While national-security aides─like Richard Clarke after 9/11─have been used in the past to rebut political attacks by providing "background" briefings, and Brennan himself did the Sunday talk-show circuit immediately after the Christmas Day bombing─it is extremely rare for a White House aide in his position to so directly target the...

White House Signals Pessimism on Cap and Trade

Numbers abound in the fiscal-year 2011 budget released by the White House this morning. The full package runs just over $3.8 trillion for next year, which includes a 6 percent increase in education spending, an additional $160 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the $300 in tax cuts over the next decade that President Obama foreshadowed in his State of the Union address last week. But also revealing is what’s not included in the budget. Curiously absent, as noticed by enviros, is the lack of revenue expected from a cap-and-trade program to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. Under the basic framework of the program, companies would either be charged a tax for emitting beyond certain levels, or would participate in a trading program that penalizes polluters by rewarding those who comply with federal emissions levels.Under some estimates last year, such a program would bring in nearly $650 billion while encouraging the nation’s biggest polluters to slowly ramp down their...

Leading Dems Want KSM Trial Moved From New York City

Over on the Declassified blog, Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball run down the increasing momentum in the Democratic caucus for moving the trial of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed from New York City: Political support appears be collapsing on every front for the Obama administration's plan to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other accused 9/11 co-conspirators in federal court in New York City. Among the latest prominent Democrats to join the growing political wave urging that the trial be moved to a different location is Senate intelligence committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, normally a fairly strong backer of the current administration's counterterrorism policies. In a letter sent today to the White House, Feinstein urges President Obama to "reconsider the decision to bring 9/11 terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to justice in New York City," citing growing concerns about the trial that have been expressed lately by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and...

Conservatives React to State of the Union

President Obama tried in the first minutes of his State of the Union Wednesday night to make it clear to everyone that the U.S. has seen tough times, that it has fended off a second Great Depression, and that "one year later the worst of the storm has passed, but the devastation remains." "We can't afford the bipartisanship and pettiness of political infighting now," warned Obama. Yet while he called on Americans, in particular the lawmakers in the room, "to overcome the numbing weight of our politics," that effort to reach across the aisle didn't reach into the conservative media. In the lead-up to the address, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck both had their own versions of the State of the Union, with Rush starting with "Defund ACORN" to kick off his to-do list. Michelle Malkin was tweeting even as Obama walked into the room: "O Enters for SOTU [State of the Union]. More forced smiles than a beauty pageant." And a few minutes later: "Obama carps about failures of Washington DC....

Accused Co-Conspirator Helped U.S. Intelligence

NEWSWEEK's Mark Hosenball reports on the Declassified blog: One of four men arrested Tuesday for attempting to interfere with the telephones at the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu previously helped run a U.S. intelligence-funded program to train would-be American spies, Declassified has learned. Between August 2007 and October 2008, Stanley Dai worked as assistant director of a program called the Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence at Trinity Washington University, a small Catholic college in Washington, D.C., according to a school official. The official, university vice president Ann Pauley, said that the program was completely funded by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. She said the purpose of the program was to expose both undergraduates and graduate students at the university to the work of the intelligence community and to prepare them for possible careers in intelligence. She said that as a result of the program, the university...

If at First Your Policy Fails, Try, Try Again

Michael Cohen wrote a piece for us Tuesday on how America has become increasingly ungovernable due to voters' disregard for basic arithmetic. If you take money out of the federal Treasury, via tax cuts, and you increase spending—via, say, a constant, wasteful military buildup, launching wars of choice, expanding entitlement spending, and stabilizing and stimulating the economy to avert a Great Depression—you will increase deficits and accrue debt. Some would argue that deficits are not as bad as we make them out to be, and that would be a legitimate debate worth having. But the same voters who demand tax cuts while living on government pensions and health care, and the same politicians who pander to them by cutting taxes, doling out tax credits, and ramping up military spending, have been inveighing against fiscal irresponsibility with increasing zealtory since President Obama took office. You think I'm talking about tea partiers, FOX News shouting heads, and Republicans in...

'You Have to Play It:' Ben Nelson Overplays His Hand

Wonk Room points us to a revealing interview that Sen. Ben Nelson gave to Life Site News, a high-profile news source among opponents of abortion. Remember that abortion compromise he and Senator Reid worked out? Turns out it was a bit of a sham: Nelson did not support it and planned to filibuster his own language. Here's the key part, where the interviewer is pressing Nelson on why he thought the Stupak amendment would see the light of day after conference: LSN: What made you think that it had a shot, after conference? NELSON: Because they needed 60 votes again. LSN: Right, but before, you voted for it even without it—NELSON: To get it there . . . But, once it went to conference, as part of the conference, there was still another 60-vote threshold, and that is when I would have insisted  . . . how we would approach this in conference to say, for my last 60th vote, it has to have Nelson/Hatch/Casey. LSN: Why didn’t you stop it right then and there and say, “No Nelson/Hatch...

Obama and Congress Get an 'F' from WMD Commission

Of all of the balls that President Obama and Congress seem to be juggling, the one that may have fallen is preparation for the threat of a bioweapons attack on the homeland. That’s according to a bipartisan panel on weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), which gave senior lawmakers a failing grade─literally, an F─for what it claims is the government’s lackluster and incomplete advanced planning. While cautioning that it has no "tactical intelligence" that an attack could be imminent, the panel reported that much more could be done─and gives the price tag of $3.4 billion needed to do it.When asked for comment by NEWSWEEK's Michael Isikoff, a White House spokesperson called the report “absurd” and claimed Congress and the White House have indeed made steps on the nation’s preparedness policy. The White House also said that, by pure coincidence, Obama will be addressing the issue of domestic terror threats in his State of the Union address tomorrow night.For the full story on the WMD...

White House Pushes Back on Bioterror Report

The Obama White House is pushing back against a federal panel's "report card" giving it an F for failing to prepare the country's defenses against a bioterror attack. "We think it's absurd," said a White House official, who didn't want to be publicly identified criticizing the commission in public. "We think we've done a lot." And while the official says the timing is purely a coincidence, Obama plans to address the issue in the State of the Union tomorrow night. He will announce an initiative to develop "rapid, reliable, and affordable production" medical vaccines and other antidotes to bioweapons and other public health emergencies such as last year's H1N1 threat, the official said. The White House reaction came on a day that the threat that Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups might launch a biological attack is getting new attention. A new report by a former CIA official, released by a center at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, warned that Al Qaeda has been...

Senate Republicans Block Key Intelligence Nominations

Obama administration officials and Senate Democrats are complaining that Senate Republicans are secretly blocking approval of two nominees to key U.S. intelligence posts. Following public hearings, the Senate intelligence committee last month approved the nominations of Caryn Wagner to become intelligence chief at the Homeland Security Department and Philip Goldberg to head the State Department's intelligence and research bureau. The intelligence committee's vote on both nominees was unanimous, meaning that every Democrat and every Republican member of the committee supported their confirmation by the full Senate. 

Pelosi 'Way Short' on Votes

By Daniel Stone and Eleanor Clift The House approving the Senate's health-care bill would be the easiest way to pass a reform package without stepping back to more partisan bickering. So says New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, our colleague Sarah Kliff, and a growing drumbeat of angry and despondent progressive voters. Sort out the particulars later, they say. For now, just grow some cojones, bite the bullet, and git ‘er done.Speaker Pelosi said yesterday that she didn’t have the votes to do that ... just yet. How close is she?A senior Democratic aide tells NEWSWEEK that Pelosi et al. are “way short.” No one on Capitol Hill will talk firm numbers, in part because numbers are never firm until the vote is called, but this aide says that far too many members say they feel queasy about some part of the Senate language and many would rather see it die than become law. The big hang-up is about the Cadillac tax passed by the Senate, which would pay for the full reform package by...

Brown's Win Can Be a Boon for Democratic Health Reform

My Gaggle pal Sarah Kliff wrote earlier today about renewed calls, primarily from the health-care intelligentsia, for Nancy Pelosi to find the votes to pass the Senate health-care bill through the House, whatever it takes. It got me thinking: was a Republican winning Massachusetts the best thing that could have happened for health-care reform? Before Tuesday, the left was becoming increasingly despondent about health-care reform. The political process and all the compromises and trade-offs that invariably accompany it had transformed Obama's signature social policy—one that had been a rallying cry for liberals for decades into an awkward hodgepodge of intentions and priorities. It's hard to get people excited about ideologically inconsistent policies. The Senate bill represents nobody's dream for reform, but it is what the political process can realistically deliver at this point in time. Unsurprisingly, liberal support for it was looking pretty languid. Then along comes Scott...

Obama's First Year By The Numbers

From the people who brought you The District—specifically the ace Newsweek video team—comes the definitive multimedia account of President Obama's first year in office. From the stimulus package to the beer summit to the escalation in Afghanistan, it's all covered—with the year’s most significant statistics to boot. To watch the video, click the player below.

Regina Benjamin and the Booty Pop Paradox

    by Barbara Kantrowitz Dr. Regina Benjamin, the new surgeon general, has devoted her career to caring for low-income people with little access to health care in Bayou La Batre, Ala. When her patients couldn’t come up with cash, she accepted payments in baked goods or other bartered items, and even took extra jobs to earn the money to keep her practice open. Nothing stopped her, not even the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which wrecked her clinic. Against great odds, the 53-year-old physician fought hard to rebuild. President Obama said he picked her to be the nation’s top doctor because she’s clearly exceptional in almost every way. Except for one thing: she’s got real curves. And that makes her a lot more like the rest of us than many people would like. Two thirds of adult Americans are overweight or obese, a statistic that constitutes a public-health crisis. Almost immediately after President Obama nominated Benjamin last July, the Body Police took offense. They...

Facebook's Pointless Underwear Protest.

Last night I told the entire Internet what color bra I was wearing. Usually I try not to overshare, but it was ostensibly for a good cause. Around 4 p.m., I saw a weird Facebook status update from a friend, a journalist turned lawyer whose writing is usually smart, grammatical, and comprehensible. The update read, "rose and lavender paisley." Huh? Over the next seven hours, more than half the status updates in my feed turned out to be colors, mostly pink, beige, and black. I figured out that these were colors of bras. Then I chuckled a little at my friends who had written "nothing" and "pink" (that friend was a man) and "harvest gold" (him, too).You know what I didn't do? Think about breast cancer. That, however, was supposedly the point of the exercise. No one yet knows who started the meme, but apparently, someone kicked it off a few days ago with a chain-letter-style Facebook message to a bunch of women, asking them to virtually flash the world in the name of supporting...

It's Looking a Lot Like Dubya's America Again

By Suzy Khimm Amid a turbulent week for Democrats, comes new polling data suggesting that even more voters are pulling away from their party. Late yesterday, Gallup released poll numbers showing that the percentage of Americans identifying as Democrats dipped below 50 percent in 2009—the first time Democratic support has been below the majority level since 2005. And the news doesn't much get better from there. A separate Gallup poll that came out today showed that 40 percent of Americans identified themselves as "conservative" in 2009—more than any other ideological group—while those choosing moderate (36 percent) and liberal (21 percent) both dropped by a percentage point. It's the first time since 2004 that self-identified conservatives have outnumbered moderates—a phenomenon that's happened only twice in the past 17 years, in 1992 and 2003. Basically, it's looking a lot like 2004-2005 again—the middle years of the Bush administration, before the public disillusionment...

This Decade, It's an Apple-Google Slugfest.

Google's new "superphone," the Nexus One, stole all the headlines yesterday, but there was another bit of tech news worth trumpeting: Apple's reported $275 million purchase of Quattro Wireless, a mobile advertising platform. True, mobile advertising isn't as sexy as a sleek new gadget. But the Quattro purchase highlighted the fact that there are really only two tech companies worth caring about anymore, and the lines between them are growing blurry. It used to be that Apple made the hardware and the gorgeous desktop software, while Google kept its head in the cloud, focusing on Web-based applications and, of course, advertising. But over the past year, Google has stepped on Apple's toes—hard. The Android operating system, a rival app store, Google Voice, and now the Nexus One are the first volleys against Apple's dominance in the smart-phone market. Now Steve Jobs is lacing up his Doc Martens and getting ready to stomp right back. Apple's purchase of Quattro is the Cupertino...

Intelligence Czar Blair Sends Pep Talk to Spy Agencies

National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, whose office was explicitly established to ensure that U.S. spy agencies share the kind of information that could prevent another 9/11, today sent a bleak pep-talk message to the agencies under his command, warning that Al Qaeda now is trying to develop even more fiendish methods of attack than the failed Christmas Day underpants bomb attack on a transatlantic airliner. Blair told the spy workforce that "Al Qaeda and its affiliate organizations, as well as individual suicide terrorists, have observed our defenses and are designing future attacks to circumvent them. They are doing so right now, as you are reading this message. These attacks will be even harder to uncover, interpret and stop. We must anticipate other types of attacks that are within the capability of these individuals and groups, and improve our defense to stay ahead of them." Blair's tenure as intelligence czar could well be in jeopardy in the wake of President...

Yemeni Journalist Says Awlaki Alive, Well, Defiant

 The radical imam who was reported to have been killed in a U.S.-backed airstrike last week has resurfaced this week, very much alive and very much defiant, a Yemeni journalist tells Declassified.Anwar Awlaki, the Yemeni-based imam who had conducted a lengthy email correspondence with accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, "called me last night and told me a lot of information," the journalist, Abdul Elah Hider al-Shaya, said in a telephone interview from Yemen.Although friends and relatives of Awlaki had already cast doubt on the reports of the controversial cleric's demise, his apparent phone conversation with Shaya seems to be the most direct confirmation so far that he emerged unscathed from a joint U.S-Yemeni military strike that was supposed to have led to his death.According to Shaya, Awlaki told him when he called, "I'm in my house. The statement that the Yemeni government put out [reporting his death] is lies." Awlaki further told Shaya that he was also at his home...

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