Wishful thinking?

Obama endorses statehood for Washington, DC (and, presumably, its 2 prospective Democratic senators)

July 22, 2014
CC by: Michelle Kinsey Bruns

At a town hall event in the U.S. capital on Monday, President Obama unequivocally endorsed making Washington, D.C., the 51st U.S. state. "I'm in D.C., so I'm for it," he said in response to an audience question. "Folks in D.C. pay taxes like everybody else. They contribute to the overall well-being of the country like everybody else. They should be represented like everybody else."

The president went on to note that population-wise, the tiny District of Columbia is actually larger than Wyoming and Vermont, and isn't that much smaller than six other states. But making D.C. a state isn't in Obama's power — two-thirds of Congress would have to approve the idea, or two-thirds of state legislatures could call a Constitutional convention, The Daily Caller's Neil Munro explains. And though he thinks "it's absolutely the right thing to do," Obama said, "the politics of it end up being difficult to get it through Congress."

There are a lot of reasons that's true, but one of them is certainly that the 51st state of Washington, D.C., would almost certainly send two Democrats to the Senate and one to the House.

with liberty and justice for some

Report: Freedom on the decline worldwide

11:16am ET

Freedom House' annual report for 2015, released this week, is grimly titled, "Discarding Democracy: Return to the Iron Fist." The study found that freedom declined in 61 countries over the last year, while only 32 nations are more free now than they were at the start of 2014. This disturbing trend is now nine years strong:

(Freedom House)

"In a new and disquieting development," the report notes, "a number of countries lost ground due to state surveillance, restrictions on internet communications, and curbs on personal autonomy." One bright spot was Tunisia, which in 2014 held free, legitimate elections and became the only Arab country among the "free" nations of the world in the last four decades.


Fishermen may have accidentally discovered new primitive species

11:13am ET

Taiwanese fishermen have discovered a fossilized jawbone that may be evidence of a previously undiscovered group of primitive humans. When the anonymous fishermen sold the fossil to an antique shop, they had no idea it would be acquired by Taiwan's National Museum of Natural Sciences and would hold such scientific significance.

A new study published in the journal Nature Communications describes what may be an ancient type of hominin that lived between 10,000 and 190,000 years ago and was previously unknown to science.

The fossil, labeled Penghu 1, bears resemblance to a 400,000-year-old specimen that was found 600 miles from the jawbone's location in the Penghu Channel. Scientists now wonder if the two fossils may have come from an unclassified human species. The fossils may also provide evidence that multiple human lineages coexisted in Asia before modern humans arrived about 40,000 years ago.

The scientists noted that more research is needed, though — the evidence isn't conclusive until they've discovered other skeletal parts related to the two fossils.

Kids these days

Police stop teenagers trying to make a buck shoveling snow

11:03am ET

Two entrepreneurial teenagers in Bound Brook, N.J. tried to earn some extra money this week by offering to shovel snow for neighbors while school was canceled. To bolster business, they went door to door handing out fliers — until they were stopped by police, who shut them down for failing to comply with local regulations against solicitors.

An older resident of the neighborhood where the boys where questioned expressed outrage over the situation: "Are you kidding me? Our generation does nothing but complain about his generation being lazy and not working for their money," he said. "Here's a couple kids who take the time to print up flyers, walk door to door in the snow, and then shovel snow for some spending money. And someone calls the cops and they're told to stop?"

This just in

Obama calls for end to sequestration cuts in new budget

10:41am ET
Pool/Getty Images

President Obama on Thursday proposed doing away with the blanket budget cuts known as sequestration in his latest spending blueprint.

The automatic budget cuts went into effect in 2013 after Congress failed to reach a compromise on places to selectively pare spending. Both parties have sought to undo some of the cuts, though they've so far struggled to find common ground toward that end. Obama's budget proposal, to be unveiled Monday, would fully reverse the domestic cuts as part of his push for "middle-class economics" aimed at reducing income inequality.

"The budget I'm sending to Congress is a blueprint for success in the new economy," Obama wrote in a preview for The Huffington Post.

This just in

Suicide bomber strikes funeral for Taliban victims, killing 16

10:20am ET
AP Photo/Allauddin Khan

A suicide bomber in Afghanistan struck a funeral for the victims of a Taliban attack. The bomb killed 16 people and wounded 39.

The funeral was held in Mihtarlam in the eastern Laghman province. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but The Associated Press notes that "the blame is likely to fall on the Taliban." A provincial spokesperson told AP that police investigations chief Khlil Nyazi was among those killed in the attack.

The bombing comes after a number of Taliban attacks in Afghanistan on Wednesday night and Thursday morning that killed at least 17 people.


Joss Whedon attacks 'sexism' and 'misogyny' of the superhero movie industry

10:10am ET
Vince Bucci/Invision/AP

Joss Whedon, director of The Avengers and this summer's Avengers: Age of Ultron, is one of the most vocal and visible members of Hollywood's superhero-industrial complex. And in a recent interview, he openly attacked the industry for one of its most criticized aspects: the failure to produce a movie about a female superhero.

"It's a phenomenon in the industry that we call 'stupid people'," said Whedon in an interview with Digital Spy. "There is genuine, recalcitrant, intractable sexism, and old-fashioned quiet misogyny that goes on. You hear 'Oh, [female superheroes] don't work because of these two bad ones that were made eight years ago', there's always an excuse."

Whedon also suggested that Marvel should "make a statement" by producing a movie about a female superhero, though he acknowledged one barrier: 20th Century Fox, which currently holds the rights to X-Men, owns "most of the best characters."

Brain Pain

Study suggests youth football compounds brain-damage risks

10:05am ET

A new study of former NFL players found that those who began playing the sport at a young age had a greater risk of developing serious cognitive problems later in life.

Conducted by researchers at Boston University and published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, the study examined 42 former players, half of whom began playing before they turned 12. After conducting a battery of cognitive tests — problem-solving, verbal skills, memory, and so on — the study found that, as a group, those who started playing football at a younger age tested 20 percent worse than their peers.

To be sure, 42 is a relatively small sample size, a point the study's authors concede. Still, the findings further underscore a mounting body of evidence on the potential long term risks of playing tackle football.

who run the world?

Report: Girls around the world are outperforming boys in academics

9:46am ET

Girls across the globe aren't letting inequality keep them down. A new report from Dr. Gijsbert Stoet of the University of Glasgow in Scotland and David C. Geary of the University of Missouri found that in 52 out of 74 studied countries, high school girls performed significantly better than boys on an international standardized test.

The study, published in the journal Intelligence, looked at PISA data from 2009 and found that even in countries where females face "political, economic, or social inequalities," girls outperformed boys in reading, math, and science in 70 percent of the countries studied, The Huffington Post reports.

"In a lot of these countries, women are not allowed to do a lot of things, but what's interesting is even in these countries, girls are doing better in school," Geary told The Huffington Post. That includes Muslim countries with a "lack of opportunities for girls and women," Geary said.

Geary hopes the study will shed light on the issue of boys underperforming in schools. "It's an important problem and a worldwide problem and potentially has some serious implications," he told The Huffington Post. "It just hasn't been addressed and is not even on people's radar to even figure out why this is the case."

2016 Watch

Hillary Clinton might wait until July to launch her 2016 campaign

9:14am ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton might wait even longer than previously expected to debut her presidential campaign, according to Politico.

The former secretary of state was expected to declare her candidacy sometime in the spring. But with no serious challengers undercutting her support, and wary of the dip in popularity that will come with the transition from ex-Secretary of State to presidential candidate, Clinton may hold of on a formal announcement until July.

"If you have the luxury of time, you take it," a Democratic source told Politico.

AirAsia Flight 8501

Co-pilot was flying AirAsia plane during crash

8:58am ET
Oscar Siagian/Getty Images

Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee said Thursday that Remi Plesel, the co-pilot of AirAsia Flight 8501, was in control of the plane when it crashed into the Java Sea last month. The information comes from the black box recording after the flight data recorder was recovered earlier this month. The plane crashed en route from Surabaya to Singapore on Dec. 28, killing all 162 passengers.

The data recorder provided a "pretty clear picture" of what happened during the plane's crash, Mardjono Siswosuwarno, chief investigator for Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee, told The Guardian. According to the data records, the flight climbed sharply before its descent, going from 32,000 feet to 37,400 feet in 30 seconds before dropping to 32,000 feet.

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