2014 Watch
July 15, 2014
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After his narrow victory in last month's very divisive Republican primary runoff, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran is on track to win his re-election this November. However, the actual shape of the electorate now looks very odd, to say the least, as Mississippi is a state where party politics are often drawn sharply along racial lines.

In the new survey from Democratic-aligned firm Public Policy Polling, Cochran leads for the general election with 40 percent of the vote, followed by former Democratic Rep. Travis Childers with 24 percent, and Reform Party candidate Shawn O'Hara with 5 percent — leaving an immense 31 percent of voters saying they are undecided. The poll was conducted from July 10-13, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

Quite notably, the poll even shows Cochran with a one-point edge among African-American voters, who typically vote Democratic: Cochran has 37 percent support, and Childers has 36 percent. Among white voters, Cochran has 42 percent, and Childers has 17 percent. Among all voters, Cochran's approval rating is 47 percent, with disapproval at 37 percent; among white voters he is underwater at 40 percent to 46 percent, while black voters now approve of the Republican incumbent by a whopping margin of 59 percent to 20 percent.

Cochran won his GOP runoff with 51 percent of the vote due to an unorthodox strategy of reaching out to the state's African-American community and encouraging them to cross over into the Republican primary in order to defeat his Tea Party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel. Since then, McDaniel has been attempting to contest the outcome, alleging that voter fraud was involved. Among all voters, though, this poll shows 58 percent of respondents saying that Cochran was the rightful winner, compared to 29 percent who are still holding out for McDaniel. Eric Kleefeld

Only in America
12:16 p.m. ET

Two men were booted off a Southwest Airlines flight when a paranoid passenger overheard them speaking Arabic. The men were allowed onto the plane after being questioned by police, but were then forced by other passengers to open a small white box they were carrying — which was full of sweets. "So I shared my baklava with them," said one of the men. The Week Staff

police shootings
11:28 a.m. ET
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Demonstrators in Chicago protesting the fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white police officer have scheduled a Friday march in the city's best-known retail district to disrupt Black Friday shopping. The city released several dashcam videos earlier this week showing Officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged Tuesday with murder, repeatedly shooting the teen. The videos, which oddly capture little audio, touched off two nights of mostly peaceful demonstrations calling for an independent investigation.

Following the charges filed against Van Dyke, Rev. Jesse Jackson held several meetings Wednesday with elected officials and community leaders to form a response to McDonald's killing, reports the Chicago Tribune. "The whole idea is that we need a massive demonstration," Jackson said in an interview. "And a massive quest for justice." Stephanie Talmadge

election 2016
11:23 a.m. ET
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Simply announcing a presidential candidacy, or even appearing in primetime presidential debates, offers no assurance that your name will appear on ballots come election day. All 50 states have their own ballot access laws, many of which are onerous even for major party candidates.

For the 2016 elections, presidential campaigns will spend $1 to $2 million each to get on the ballot nationwide. Then there's the man-hours required: While some states — like South Carolina, with its $40,000 fee — want money for ballot access, others — like Virginia, which necessitates 10,000 petition signatures allotted across congressional districts — require significant time investment from campaign staff and volunteers. (Virginia's rules kept all Republicans but Mitt Romney and Ron Paul off the ballot in 2012.)

Because of the monumental effort required, some major party candidates will not be on the ballot in all 50 states come primary season. Republicans Jim Gilmore and George Pataki already missed the filing deadline for Alabama, and all but the richest campaigns are unlikely to meet the requirements for every caucus and primary election. Bonnie Kristian

the war on drugs
10:50 a.m. ET

Ending or significantly reforming the war on drugs has long been cited as a primary way to lower America's record-setting incarceration rate. In recent years, however, the extent of the potential impact of decriminalizing drug use has been challenged, with one study finding that only one in five inmates in state and federal prisons is held on drug charges.

Now, new research from the Brookings Institute finds that measuring the proportion of drug offenders in a snapshot of inmate populations may be misleading. That's because drug sentences tend to be shorter than sentences for more serious crimes like homicide, so murderers wind up being overrepresented in studies which look at the static stock of prisons at a single moment, while drug users are underrepresented.

To better measure the effect of drug laws on incarceration, the Brookings study looks at the flow of inmates in and out of prison over time:


Measured this way, drug offenders actually make up the largest single category of prisoners, with one of three new admissions to prison stemming from drug charges. Bonnie Kristian

New traditions?
8:50 a.m. ET

On Thursday afternoon, the Obamas' Thanksgiving celebrations were interrupted when a man swaddled in the American flag jumped the White House fence around 2:45 p.m. while the family was inside. Officials say Joseph Caputo, who carried a binder in his mouth, was immediately apprehended, yet are unsure how the intruder made it past new "pencil point" spikes installed along the property's perimeter earlier this year as a defensive measure.

One witness, reports the Washington Post, who was visiting the White House Thursday said she saw Caputo remove his sweatshirt, wrap himself in the flag, and proclaim, "All right, let's do this," before hurdling himself over the first barricade. Stephanie Talmadge

global conflict
8:17 a.m. ET
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On Thursday, tensions between Russia and Turkey continued to escalate, threatening a total breach of the country's relations as Russian government officials prepare to cut economic ties and curb investment projects in Turkey, the New York Times reports. The proposed financial severance, which would include the shelving of a multibillion-dollar gas pipeline project, comes after Turkish officials refused to apologize for the downing of a Russian warplane on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, French President François Hollande visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Thursday, continuing his campaign to rally an international response to ISIS. After their talks, Washington Post reports, Putin said, "We are ready to cooperate with the coalition which is led by the United States," but warned that acts like Turkey's could eliminate the chance for successful international collaboration. Stephanie Talmadge

a feast fit for a president
November 26, 2015

We know President Obama doesn't mess around when it comes to pie, so it should really come as no surprise that the White House's Thanksgiving menu offers six of them. Yes, the Obamas see your standard pumpkin and pecan pies and would like to raise you a banana cream:

On top of the generous pie options, the presidential feast will feature three different main dishes — turkey, ham, and prime rib — and myriad sides. Here's hoping Obama's turkey day suit comes complete with Thanksgiving pants. Kimberly Alters

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