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  • Why Google Will Keep Playing Fast and Loose With Your Privacy

    In December, a delegation from Google visited the NEWSWEEK offices to make the case that the search giant was bullish on privacy. They touted recent decisions to reduce the length of time that Google stores users' search histories, new measures to anonymize data, and other considerations meant to improve users' peace of mind as they entrust the company with more and more of their personal information. Welcome changes, all. ...
  • The Quote of the Day

    “Today’s anniversary of the Democrats’ trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ marks one year of broken promises, bloated government, and wasteful spending. The majority promised that under their ‘stimulus’ unemployment would not exceed eight percent and job creation would begin ‘almost immediately.’  But since President Obama signed it into law, more than three million Americans have lost their jobs, unemployment is near 10 percent, and the deficit is set to hit a record $1.6 trillion. Americans are asking 'where are the jobs' but all they are getting from Democrats who control Washington is more spending and more debt piled on the backs of our kids and grandkids.” -- House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) in a report entitled, Where are the Jobs?: A Look Back at One Year of So-Called ‘Stimulus’.
  • Desmond Tutu's Sequenced Genes: How Increased Diversity Helps Doctors Heal

    Let's face it: the vast majority of genetics studies have been on middle-class, middle-aged white guys. In addition to insulting other ethnic groups by calling the results of these studies the human genome, the lack of diversity poses the risk of serious miscalculations—which is why Archbishop Desmond Tutu has had his complete genome sequenced. In a paper being published in tomorrow’s issue of Nature, scientists report that they have sequenced the complete genomes of four bushmen and one Bantu—Tutu.The goal was to learn more about human genetic diversity and the effect of genetic variations on health in a way that could shore up the soft underbelly of this field. As I have explained before, whether a gene that has been linked to an elevated risk of some disease indeed raises that risk in a particular individual depends on what other genes that person has—his or her genetic background. That background differs by ethnicity. Since the reference genome was derived from (surprise!)...
  • 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. ...
  • By the Numbers: Stalling an Income Gap

    China's income gap has stopped widening for the first time in almost three decades, says a new study from the OECD, which credits rural welfare policies and migration to city jobs. China's inequality, as measured by the Gini index (0-100, where zero means complete equality), remains high compared to developed nations: 40.8China's current Gini score, down from 41 in 200538.8U.S. score, compared to 38 in 200530.5OECD member-state average score, compared to 31 in 200550Latin America's average score, the world's most unequal region
  • The Quote of the Day

    "These temporary actions have ended or will end. And our financial system is much more stable. But it is critical that we learn from the financial crisis and put in place reforms to avert a repeat of 2008 or something even worse. Congress must pass financial regulatory reform. Delays are creating uncertainty, undermining the ability of financial institutions to increase lending to the businesses of all sizes that want to invest and fuel our recovery. Our overriding goal in restructuring our financial architecture should be that taxpayers never again have to save a failing financial institution." --Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on federal bailouts of banks and mortgage backers and what must come next, in an op-ed in The New York Times
  • The Congressman and the Killer

    Conspiracy theorists, listen up: on Friday, Harvard-educated biologist Amy Bishop allegedly opened fire and killed three of her colleagues at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. The next day, the Boston Globe reported that local Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt might not run for reelection, ending a political career that spans almost four decades. What's the connection between Bishop and Delahunt? It turns out that in 1986, a 19-year-old Bishop shot her brother Seth dead in Braintree, Mass., a Norfolk County suburb─but she was released to the custody of her mother, who was on a town personnel board, and never prosecuted. Almost all the records of the case are now missing. The Norfolk County district attorney at the time that the district attorney's office issued the report clearing the young Bishop of any crime? That was Delahunt. ...
  • Can Hayworth Beat McCain?

    Can J. D. Hayworth─the former Arizona congressman turned talk-radio host who announced yesterday that he's running as the "consistent conservative" in the Grand Canyon State's 2010 Republican Senate primary─actually beat John McCain? You know, John McCain: the two-time presidential candidate and 27-year veteran of Congress who hasn't faced a serious primary challenge since 1982?Not really. But there's a chance that McCain could beat himself. Let's start with Hayworth. Although he may be the first halfway plausible Republican torun against McCain in decades, that's not really saying much. He's too weak to sink McCain on his own. Hayworth's strategy--slam the incumbent as a "moderate"on torture, immigration, and global warming, then ride the righteous indignation of the tea-partiers all the way to the Republican nomination--is fine, as gar as it goes. But the problem is that the tea-party movement is fueled as much by...
  • The Health-Care-Reform Trickle-Down: What It Means When States Take Things Into Their Own Hands

    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...
  • Homeland Security's Favorite Web Sites

    Given that the Internet has become one of the world's most important sources of news and social discourse, it's probably appropriate, if not laudable, that the Department of Homeland Security should be closely monitoring the Web. In fact, according to official papers posted on Homeland Security's Web site, the department's National Operations Center has been making special efforts to enhance its "situational awareness" during major events, particularly the recent Haiti earthquake and the current Vancouver Olympics, by Web surfing. It has even published special "Privacy Impact Assessments" to advise the public of its intentions.As USA Today reported on Feb. 1, Homeland Security personnel late last month were able to help emergency services locate and rescue a victim buried in a collapsed building by using information they found on Twitter. But earlier, Homeland Security had published a Privacy Impact Assessment listing some other Web resources...
  • Cuba Invades Venezuela

    Cuba may be a fading star in the socialist firmament and run by a sclerotic dynasty, but don't tell Hugo Chávez. The Venezuelan president is giving the Castro franchise a second life by farming out more and more of his crisis-battered government to Havana. A growing number of corner offices in Chávez's bureaucracy--including defense, national security, police, immigration control, and now energy--are occupied by Castrocrats. Ramiro Valdés, Fidel's former comrade in arms and an ex-interior minister, was recently picked to coordinate Venezuela's response to an energy emergency causing widespread blackouts. (Critics note that Cuba has long been afflicted by power failures.) Chávez's foes suspect that Valdés, famed for policing the Internet in Cuba, was hired to spy on Venezuelan dissidents. Other Havanians are serving as key advisers in the Defense Ministry and the newly reformed Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, and dealing on Caracas's behalf...
  • Exclusive: A U.S. Intelligence Breakthrough in the Persian Gulf?

    By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball U.S. intelligence officials appear to have obtained access to what could turn out to be a significant trove of phone numbers, photographs and documents detailing the links between Al Qaeda's leaders in northwest Pakistan and the terror group's increasingly menacing affiliate in Yemen, two counter-terrorism sources tell Declassified.In late January, an Al Qaeda operative headed from Pakistan on his way to Yemen was arrested in the Persian Gulf country of Oman, a U.S. counter-terrorism official confirmed. There has been no public announcement of the arrest. But in a possible indication of the operative's importance, just a few days later, two postings on a jihadi web forum suggested that Al Qaeda leaders were worried and wanted their "commanders" to take immediate precautions.The postings stated that the "captured brother" -- identified as a "field commander" named Abdullah Saleh al-Eidan who went by...
  • Poll: Public Blames Bush for Recession. That's Not Good News for Obama.

    A poll released by CBS/New York Times today shows that more Americans (31 percent) blame the Bush administration than the Obama administration (7 percent) for the country's economic woes. The DNC blasted out the findings to its press list, presumably to highlight that people still recall Bush's role in the mess, but I don't think the poll is actually good news for Democrats. Sure, Americans recall that the recession began before Obama took office, but they're looking to Obama to fix it, and right now are largely unimpressed with the results. Fifty-six percent of respondents didn't think Obama had a plan to create jobs; 52 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy; and 58 percent disapprove of his handling of the deficit.Even if the public blames Bush for the problem, it's put the responsibility for the solution squarely on Obama's shoulders (as it should, seeing he's the president and all). Blaming Bush doesn't give the president...
  • Pakistani Taliban May Have Lost Two Leaders to U.S. Missiles

    U.S. officials say that a second major leader of the Pakistani Taliban may have been killed in January─possibly in the same U.S. missile strike that officials are increasingly confident killed Pakistan's Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud....
  • Clinton's Stent and the Truth About Heart Disease

    Celebrities and their maladies are a boon to public health. They put a well-known face to a medical condition and they give doctors (and medical reporters) an excuse to spotlight a disease and educate the public. Today, it’s Bill Clinton and his heart. Experts aren’t overly concerned about the former president’s condition. Stents—mesh scaffolds used to prop open clogged arteries—are used routinely in heart patients around the world and Clinton is likely to get back to his busy life very soon....
  • Bill Clinton's Stent: It Could Happen to Anyone. Plus: What Happens During a Stent Procedure.

    Yes, Bill Clinton has had a heart attack heart problems in the past. And yes, Clinton loved his cheeseburgers. But the two stents that he received today might have more to do with heredity than habits. Since his quadruple bypass surgery in 2004, reports were that Bill was a changed man. In the 500-page political Us Weekly that is Game Change, authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin note that when Clinton campaigned for his wife in South Carolina, he skipped the deep-fried, fat-laden soul food in favor of more heart-healthy fare. But apparently, that wasn't enough. It's entirely possible that Clinton fell off the wagon, and Lord knows that his stressful schedule doesn't lend itself to healthy habits. But the scary thing about heart disease is that while there is a lot you can do to help tip the scales in your favor, there are some things over which you have no control—like a genetic predisposition toward arterial blockage. One of my previous bosses, the fantastic...
  • Bill Clinton Hospitalized in New York

    President Bill Clinton has been hospitalized at New York-Presbyterian Hospital this afternoon after complaining of chest pains. The former president, who is 63, had checked himself in for a routine opening of a heart stent that was installed during an angioplasty surgery in 2004. He has not since talked publicly of any complications.UPDATE, 5:25 p.m: Douglas Band, an aide to Clinton, said in a statement that "President Bill Clinton was admitted to the Columbia Campus of New York Presbyterian Hospital after feeling discomfort in his chest. Following a visit to his cardiologist, he underwent a procedure to place two stents in one of his coronary arteries. President Clinton is in good spirits, and will continue to focus on the work of his Foundation and Haiti's relief and long-term recovery efforts."
  • Lincoln Diaz-Balart Retires, in More Good News for Florida Democrats

    The news of Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart's retirement is only the latest welcome development for Democrats in Florida. With Lincoln moving on, his brother, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, announced that he's now running for that seat, which is considered safer GOP territory. That means Mario's seat will be up for grabs. As The Miami Herald noted today, Democrats think they have a decent shot at winning it, given their recent polling in that district showing that Mario's popularity has sunk to 44 percent and that President Barack Obama has a 61 percent approval rating (in response, the GOP pointed out that the district went for the Republican presidential candidate in the last three elections). Joe Garcia, a Democrat who's now working for the Obama administration, came close to wresting the seat away from Mario last November....
  • California's Anthem Problem Underscores Need for Health-Insurance Reform

    A few days ago, California insurer Anthem Blue Cross announced that it would be hiking  its premiums on some customers. Some of these unfortunate folks would see their rates jump as much as 39 percent. Disturbed by the increase, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote Anthem demanding an explanation, particularly in light of the company's reported earnings of $2.7 billion last quarter. Today she got her answer, and with it, a compelling rationale for health-care reform. Per Politico: Financial woes have pushed healthier people to drop coverage or buy...
  • Democrats Should Dare Republicans to Filibuster Their Jobs Bill

    Senate Democrats today released their $85 billion jobs bill. Predictably, it's far less ambitious than its House counterpart, which focuses more on job-creating infrastructure projects. Why? Because Max Baucus, chair of the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over this bill, is embarking on another attempt at bipartisanship. Unlike his painful, prolonged attempt to get GOP support for health-care reform, this time Baucus already has a cosponsor, ranking member Chuck Grassley of Iowa. The result is a bill that's heavy on the GOP's sanctified cure-all: tax cuts. The problem, which will soon be the president's problem, is that these tax cuts don't create jobs....
  • Snowpocalypse and the Climate Change Debate: Blogs, Scientists, Facts Defend "Global Warming" As Blizzard Rages

    (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)by Olya Schechter Yesterday, the skies opened up (again), covering much of the Northeast in snow (again). Baltimore and Washington have broken seasonal snowfall records, first dog Bo can barely see over the drifts on the White House lawn and homeowners from North Carolina to New York are digging out from as much as two feet of snow. This excess of winter wonderland has been a boon for global-warming skeptics, quick to mock Al Gore, carbon emissions, and the idea of global warming. But just as quick to respond were the snowed-in, stir-crazy east coast media elite, always eager to bring down the room with their reliance on "facts" and "science".   New York magazine reminded us that focusing on the "warming" part of the now-outmoded phrase misses the point. " 'Global warming’ is an unfortunate misnomer, and unlike its more accurate cousin, 'climate change,' it doesn't reflect that our...
  • By the Numbers: Paying Off the Debt

    As the U.S. announces a record deficit for 2010, a report from McKinsey Global looks at 45 credit crises since the Great Depression to see which countries have been the best or worst at quickly reducing their mountains of debt. 3: Years it took Ecuador to slash its debt-to-GDP ratio by almost 60 percent, the most successful belt-tightening episode on record (2000-03).3: Years it took Ukraine to slash its ratio by 84 percent, though it did so through high inflation rather than belt-tightening (1993-96).8: Years it took Indonesia to slash its ratio by 43 percent through massive default, the worst case of default deleveraging (2000-08).33: Years it took the U.K. to slash its ratio by 62 percent, the longest belt-tightening episode on record (1947-80).
  • Gorelick Not Lobbying for Lender Giveaway, Despite Our Earlier Post Indicating Otherwise

    I posted last week off of a New York Times piece by Eric Lichtblau that proved to be misleading. Shame on both of us for not doing more homework. Jamie Gorelick—a former deputy attorney general—is not lobbying for that awful giveaway to lenders as reported. The administration's "direct lending" bill, which would stop the crazy current practice of letting lenders profit from student loans backed by the government, would save the taxpayers $87 billion (most of which would go for Pell Grants and much-needed expansion of the loan program). The compromise, which Gorelick is lobbying for, would save the government $83 billion but let some lenders stay in business servicing the loans. I favor the Obama version, but I don't think the compromise is evil, as the status quo no-risk windfall for Sallie Mae is. So I owe Gorelick an apology for making it seem as if she had taken the business of the devil.
  • Obama Intelligence Czar Attacks U.K. Court Disclosures

    The office of the Obama administration's Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, late on Wednesday denounced a British court decision that earlier in the day made public allegations that U.K. resident Binyamin Mohamed was mistreated while detained under U.S. control in Pakistan.In a two-paragraph written statement, the intelligence czar's office criticized Britain's Court of Appeals for releasing seven paragraphs of long-censored information in a formal ruling that confirms that Mohamed had been "intentionally" subjected to sleep deprivation in 2002 following his arrest as a terror suspect. More details of the U.K. court decision are featured in an item posted on Declassified earlier on Wednesday. Here's the full text of the national intelligence director's statement: "The protection of confidential information is essential to strong, effective security and intelligence cooperation among allies. The decision by a United Kingdom court...
  • Can the FBI Secretly Track Your Cell Phone?

    The Justice Department is poised this week to publicly defend a little-known law-enforcement practice that critics say may be the "sleeper" privacy issue of the 21st century: the collection of cell-phone "tracking" records that identify the physical locations where the phones have been. ...
  • Michelle Obama's Plan for Healthy School Lunches Still Faces Funding Hurdles

    The first lady rolled out her campaign against childhood obesity Tuesday, and put a special emphasis on the need to get healthier choices onto school-lunch trays. The federal government is a major player in this area, since the federally funded school-lunch program feeds 31 million low-income American children a year and provides many of those kids the bulk of the calories they consume a day. As part of Michelle Obama's comprehensive approach to dealing with the obesity problem, she's secured commitments from food-industry experts to reduce the amount of fat, sugar, and salt in the products they supply. But upping the number of fruits and vegetables on kids' trays is an expensive proposition, since these products have increased 50 percent faster than other foods over the last 20 years. Nutrition experts had been hoping the president's new budget might add $1 a day to the $2.63 current allocated for each school lunch to pay for higher-quality foods. While the...
  • America, Meet the OPM Web Site

    Ever wonder if your tax dollars are working for you? Then check out the Office of Personnel Management's Web site, which declares whether the federal government is open for business, or buried under four feet of blizzard snow.Inside the Beltway, this site is a big deal─by which I mean refreshed repeatedly, sometimes neurotically. It dictates the pulse of the federal machine. And since government is Northwest Washington’s biggest industry, most think tanks, policy houses, and nonprofits follow suit. On a day like today, one might imagine, the status is “closed,” leaving the folks who usually dole out your money or process your taxes at home watching movies on Lifetime, or in the streets throwing snowballs at strangers.A breakdown of society, really.
  • Dems Lead Handily in Congressional Fundraising

    There are few places where money speaks louder than it does in electoral politics. And the latest fundraising numbers highlight a clear advantage for House Democrats, who so far have outraised their Republican counterparts nearly six to one.According to numbers released this morning, the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee (the electoral arm for the House GOP) raised $4.3 million in January for House races later this year, a substantial uptick from the $3.2 million it took in during December. But sizable as the increase is, House Democrats have still bested Republicans in fundraising over the past year—a point made clear by the bank accounts of both parties' electoral machines last month. Dems started the year with $16.7 million in the bank, compared with Republicans’ $2.6 million.During such a promising year for Republicans, it’s curious why the raking of campaign dough has been so sluggish. "Nobody's happy about the spending disparity,” GOP Rep. Jeb...
  • Google Buzz? More Like Buzz Kill

    R. Galbraith / Reuters-LandovGoogle co-founder Sergey Brin at the unveiling of Google BuzzGod bless those hard-working techies in Silicon Valley for inventing this constant stream of things that serve mostly to make me feel guilty because I don’t want to use them even though everyone else says they’re the greatest thing ever. First came Facebook, which I joined but rarely use, and now has become just one more e-mail inbox that I need to check once in a while. Then came Twitter, which is mostly pointless, since I really don’t care what anyone else is doing at any particular moment and have no desire to tell others what I’m doing either, but again I joined, mostly because if I didn’t get on Twitter I’d look like someone who doesn’t “get it,” as they say in the Valley, and in my line of work that’s a bad reputation to have. Next came Facebook games like Mafia Wars and FarmVille, and again I joined so I could see what the big deal was, only to find that the big deal was, well, not such...
  • Latin America's New Brand of Politics

    The election of tycoon Sebastián Piñera as Chile's president in December was widely seen as a bellwether for the decline of the Latin American left. Indeed, Piñera's win marks the first time in half a century that an unapologetic conservative prevailed in Chile by the popular vote. More to the point, it heralds a new era in Lat-Am politics: a steady drift to the center....