Obama, Romney send in answers to ‘Science Debate’

By Laura Helmuth, Slate | Posted Sept. 5, 2012, at 2:52 PM ET

President Obama has assembled the most scientifically accomplished administration since the time of the founding fathers. His head science adviser, John Holdren, is a physicist, a MacArthur genius, and a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology is lousy with university deans, officers of the National Academies of Science, and Nobel Prize winners. The head of NOAA, Jane Lubchenco, is a marine scientist and former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Energy Secretary Steven Chuhas a Nobel Prize in physics.

And these folks aren’t just in D.C. for decoration. A few years ago, Obama issued a memorandum to all heads of executive departments and agencies on the subject of scientific integrity. It began:

Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health, protection of the environment, increased efficiency in the use of energy and other resources, mitigation of the threat of climate change, and protection of national security.

With that dream team in his corner, and with his powerful belief in the scientific method, you’d think Obama would have an overwhelming advantage over Mitt Romney in a debate of the top American science questions. You’d be wrong.

A different view of President Clinton’s speech at the DNC

president_clinton_dnc_speech_wordcloud

A word cloud of President Bill Clinton's prepared remarks for the crowd at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. (Graphic by Elisabeth Ponsot via wordle.net)

What is your reaction to President Clinton’s speech at the DNC? Did you find his arguments for President Barack Obama re-election compelling? Or, were you more swayed by the Republican message in Tampa?

Watch the video of his speech and share your views in the comments below.

Courts say Texas discriminated against black and Latino voters

by Lois Beckett and Suevon Lee, ProPublica, Sept. 4, 2012, 10:59 a.m.

Photo: AP Photo/Eric Gay

How does Texas discriminate against minority voters? Federal judges counted the ways.

Last Tuesday, a panel of federal court judges ruled that new district maps drawn by Texas’ Republican-controlled legislature weakened the influence of Latino voters and in some cases evinced “discriminatory intent” against both Latinos and African Americans. Two days later, another panel of federal judges unanimously struck down a voter-ID law passed by the legislature in March 2011, arguing that it would disproportionately harm African-American and Latino voters. The judges did not address whether there was discriminatory purpose behind the legislation, but they noted that the legislature failed to pass amendments that would have mitigated the law’s discriminatory impact.

Minority groups have outnumbered whites in Texas since roughly 2004, and 55.2 percent of the state’s residents are now minorities, according to Census figures. As of 2011, the state’s legislature was more than two-thirds white.

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Where do Republicans stand on abortion exemption?

by Suevon Lee, ProPublica, Aug. 21, 2012, 4:41 p.m.

 

U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., addresses members of the media in Chesterfield, Mo., Friday, Aug. 24, 2012, where he confirmed his plans to remain in Missouri's U.S. Senate race despite a political uproar over remarks he made about rape and pregnancy. Photo: AP Photo/Sid Hastings

A Missouri congressman’s startling remarks about “legitimate rape” and pregnancy have set off a torrent of criticismfrom his fellow Republicans as well as from Democrats. And the episode has made the abortion issue an unwelcome focus for GOP candidates nationwide.

Key leaders in the Republican Party, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, are urging Rep. Todd Akin to surrender the Republican nomination for the Missouri Senate seat now held by Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who until now has been looking very vulnerable. As of Tuesday afternoon, Akin was holding fast to the nomination, despite backlash from party members and the irritating distraction for the top of the ticket.

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The importance of Ohio

Barack Obama in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo: Christopher Dilts for Obama for America. Mitt Romney in Chillicothe, Ohio. Photo: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

This week, while covering the Republican National convention from Tampa, we focus on the state of Ohio and the critical win there either candidate most likely must receive to win the 2012 election. We’ve put together a primer on why this state has so much importance in 2012 and its history within national politics.

The demographics of Ohioans in many respects closely reflect that of the country as a whole. Criteria known to influence voting, such as age, race, or gender happen to be representative of national statistics within Ohio. Coupled with a large number of electoral college votes and a consistently evenly split voting electorate, Ohio leads the country in pundit and candidate interest alike.

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Nonprofits funneling money to presidential candidates

by Kim Barker, ProPublica

Watch Kim Barker discuss this investigation on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Matt Brooks describes the mission of the Republican Jewish Coalition as educating the Jewish community about critical domestic and foreign policy issues.

But the well-dressed crowd that gathered in May for a luncheon on the 24th floor of a New York law firm easily could have figured that the group had a different purpose: Helping Mitt Romney win the presidency.

Brooks, the group’s executive director, showed the 100 or so attendees two coalition-funded ads taking aim at President Barack Obama. Then Brooks made a pitch for a $6.5 million plan to help Romney in battleground states, reminding guests that their donations would not be publicly disclosed by the tax-exempt group.

“Contributions to the RJC are not reported,” Brooks told the people sitting around a horseshoe-shaped table. “We don’t make our donors’ names available. We can take corporate money, personal money, cash, shekels, whatever you got.”

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Paul Ryan: The Best Reporting on the VP Candidate

In this April 13, 2011 file photo, House Budget Committee Chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced Ryan as his running mate. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

ProPublica, Aug. 11, 2012, 3:17 p.m.

Aug. 12: This post has been corrected.

Want help going beyond the horse race? We’re gathering the best stories out there on Congressman Paul Ryan, his positions, and his background. Have other stories to share? Add them in comments.

Background

Fussbudget, The New Yorker, August 2012 This sweeping profile is a great introduction to Paul Ryan and his politics. Starting in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, it lays out the evolution of Ryan’s economic beliefs, and his rise through the G.O.P – from his early affinity to Ayn Rand to failed attempts at privatizing Social Security, to his Path to Prosperity budget plan, which would make radical changes in Medicaid and other social programs. The article also looks at the ways that federal-funded projects have helped Ryan’s hometown–and notes that Ryan’s plan “would drastically reduce the parts of the budget” that are funding exactly these kinds of projects.

Ryan shines as GOP seeks vision, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 2009 A broad look at Ryan from his home-state paper at a time when Ryan’s national profile was on the rise. Ryan discusses, among other things, how having gay friends led him to break with his party on a gay rights bill in Congress and his “real passion” — bowhunting.

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Everything you need to know about voter ID laws

by Suevon Lee, ProPublica, July 23, 2012, 4:51 p.m.

July 24: This post has been updated and corrected.

Voter ID laws have become a political flashpoint in what’s gearing up to be another close election year. Supporters say the laws — which 30 states have now enacted in some form — are needed to combat voter fraud, while critics see them as a tactic to disenfranchise voters.

We’ve taken a step back to look at the facts behind the laws and break down the issues at the heart of the debate.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann holds a postcard to help identify voters in need of a free state government issued card that will be issued through his office at no charge. Photo: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

So what are these laws?

They are measures intended to ensure that a registered voter is who he says he is and not an impersonator trying to cast a ballot in someone else’s name. The laws, most of which have been passed in the last several years, require that registered voters show ID before they’re allowed to vote. Exactly what they need to show varies. Some states require a government-issued photo, while in others a current utility bill or bank statement is sufficient.

As a registered voter, I thought I always had to supply some form of ID during an election.

Not quite. Per federal law, first-time voters who registered by mail must present a photo ID or copy of a current bill or bank statement. Some states generally advise voters bring some form of photo ID. But prior to the 2006 election, no state ever required a voter to produce a government-issued photo ID as a condition to voting. Indiana in 2006 became the first state to enact a strict photo ID law, a law that was upheld two years later by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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From the ashes, a call to heed climate change

Hani Ahmad expected to return. Instead, the Waldo Canyon Fire reduced his home of two decades to a hole in the ground. The only recognizable remnant was a melted hunk of stove. While the family rounded the corner for the first time in their car, Hani’s daughter captured the horror on her cell phone. The family agreed to share the footage with Climate Desk, offering an exclusive look into the heart of the destruction.

Hani is searching for answers in the ashes. Built-up fuel, high winds, and the proximity of houses to the forest all play a role, he says. But eating away at his thoughts is the nagging idea that climate change made it worse.