Those people who bike to work, gleefully toting their change of clothes and tennis shoes, appear to be a growing clan. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the amount of people who commute to work on a bike has increased by 60 percent over the last decade. In 2000, roughly 500,000 people commuted via bicycle. That number jumped to 786,000 between 2008 and 2012.
Despite the increase, bikers still make up a miniscule fraction of all commuters at 0.6 percent. The people of Portland, Oregon had the largest increase in bicycle commuters, with pedal pushers growing from making up 1.8 percent of the city's population to 6.1 percent. The study's author chalks up the lion's share of that popularity to the implementation of special lanes and bike-share programs.
On Saturday night, Iraq's parliament passed a ban on the sale, consumption, and production of alcohol in the country, a surprise move by Shiite lawmakers as much of the country and world's attention is focused on the battle to retake Mosul from the Islamic State. Anyone caught violating the ban is subject to a fine of up to 25 million Iraqi dinars ($21,000). Iraq is majority Muslim, and Islam prohibits drinking alcohol, but alcohol is widely available in Iraq's larger cities, sold in shops mostly run by Christians, and Iraq is home to Farida beer and the anise liquor Asyria arak, among other alcohol producers.
The law will be difficult to enforce is Iraq's Kurdish region, home to many of the country's remaining Christians, and Christian lawmakers vowed to challenge the law in court. "This ban is unconstitutional, as the constitution acknowledges the rights of non-Muslim minorities and ethnic groups who live alongside Muslims in Iraq," said Christian MP Joseph Slaiwa. Mahmoud al-Hassan, the Shiite lawmaker from the dominant State of Law coalition who introduced the measure as a surprise amendment to a law on municipal governance, says it comports with the Constitution's provision that "no law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established."
Some other Muslim countries have laws restricting the sale and consumption of alcohol, but only Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and a few others have forcibly banned it outright. ISIS also strictly bans alcohol in territory it controls, plus cigarettes and other drugs. Peter Weber
Democrats look increasingly likely to take control of the Senate, but there's a silver lining for the GOP
Donald Trump's sagging poll numbers appear to be dragging down down-ballot Republicans, too, to the point where some GOP super PACs are openly pleading with voters to keep Republicans in office as a check on President Hillary Clinton. Clinton over the weekend lashed vulnerable Republican Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Richard Burr (N.C.) to Trump, urging voters in each state to repudiate Trump by electing the women challenging each incumbent. Thanks to polling shifts up and down the ballot, "Democrats now have a 73 percent chance of winning the Senate," says Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight, based on the site's "polls plus" forecast.
"Control of the Senate is coming down to six key states, with Democrats needing to gain four seats to win a majority if Clinton wins the White House," Enten explains. The Democratic challenger will likely win in Wisconsin and Illinois, he said, so they have to hold the open seat in Nevada and win two more of the five remaining tossups — Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — and momentum appears to be shifting in the Democrats' direction.
But even if the Democrats do win control, Chris Cillizza notes at The Washington Post, "it could be a blink before they are back in the minority." The 2018 map is "remarkably bad" for Democrats — they will be defending 25 seats, versus just eight for Republicans. "That's as lopsided an election cycle as you will ever see," Cillizza says, and it gets worse: 20 of the Democratic seats are in states Mitt Romney won in 2012, and the election will likely be in the first midterm of Hillary Clinton's presidency, a time when the White House party usually loses seats. That means, he said, "a President Hillary Clinton will have two years to work with a friendly Senate before things get much, much tougher for her in Congress." So there's some good news for Republicans. Peter Weber
The Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals somehow managed to end their game in Glendale on Sunday night in a 6-6 tie, after each team missed potentially game-winning field goals in overtime. It was only the 21st tie in NFL history, or at least since current overtime rules were put in place in 1974, and the lowest-scoring tie on the books, the NFL says. Each team had 3 points and lots of failed plays going into overtime, and each scored a field goal. The wheels seriously started coming off the bus when Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro managed to bounce a second overtime field goal attempt off the left upright.
— NFL (@NFL) October 24, 2016
The Seahawks' Stephen Hauschka returned the favor, missing a 28-foot field goal attempt entirely, and the game ended with a Hail Mary pass by Carson Palmer. "Two hundred games, including playoffs," Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald said after the game, "I have never played in a game as crazy as this one before." Peter Weber
Michelle Obama will appear with Hillary Clinton for the first time this campaign during an event Thursday in North Carolina.
Clinton's campaign made the announcement Sunday, with press secretary Brian Fallon calling the first lady Clinton's "not-so-secret" weapon. Obama has hit the trail for Clinton six times since July, when she made an electrifying speech at the Democratic National Convention. "She's been an absolute rock star," Fallon said.
Without ever saying his name, Obama has carefully crafted a message to voters that Donald Trump is not the right person to lead the United States, saying earlier this month that they cannot dismiss his remarks about women as "just another day's headline." The first lady is "one of the most admired people in America, period," Fallon said. "And I think it's exceptional to have the opportunity to have a strong woman like the first lady attest to another strong woman like Hillary Clinton who is running for president." Catherine Garcia
"I would like to talk to you about drugs," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight, but not in some 1960s "reefer madness" way. "Unfortunately, America is now in the midst of a new drug crisis, and it seems that no one is safe from it," he said. That would be the "epidemic of addiction to opioids, like heroin and prescription painkillers," he said, and it's a serious one: As of 2015, an estimated 2.6 million Americans were addicted to these drugs, and some 30,000 Americans die from overdoses each year from heroin and prescription opioids.
Oliver focused on the prescription variety, the chemical cousins of heroin that some 75 percent of U.S. heroin addicts started their addiction with. Now, according to the U.S. surgeon general, some 250 million opioid prescriptions are written each year, equal to one for each adult. It wasn't always this way — as recently as the early 1990s, doctors were "excessively wary" about prescribing these powerful, addictive drugs, Oliver said. And it wasn't just Big Pharma — patient advocates argued that excessive fear of opioids was causing injured and dying people too much pain. But when Perdue — maker of OxyContin — and other drug companies got involved in the late 1990s, he said, all hell broke loose.
After discussing Perdue's shady marketing and downplaying of addiction risk, Oliver said we "may be glad to hear that in 2007 they admitted some responsibility," paying out $634 million. "But at a certain point, the question has to become less 'What did we do wrong?' and more 'What do we do now?'" Oliver said. "There is no one simple answer here." We need to be more careful about prescribing opioids and make alternative treatments more widely available, he said, but "not all opioid addicts will respond to the same treatments, and not all people in pain will find relief from alternative therapies. This is going to take a massive effort and a significant investment — it won't be cheap, it won't be quick, and it won't be easy. And it is hard not to be angry at the drug companies, like Purdue, whose promise of cheap, quick, easy pain solution helped put us in this f---ing mess." Watch below, and be warned, that last F-bomb isn't bleeped out. Peter Weber
Tom Hayden, a political and social activist who with former wife Jane Fonda formed an organization backing liberal causes, died Sunday in Santa Monica following a long illness. He was 76.
As a student at the University of Michigan, he became a radical and helped develop the Students for a Democratic Society organization. He traveled to the South for civil rights work, and was beaten and arrested at a march in Mississippi. He became an anti–Vietnam War activist, twice visiting Hanoi with an antiwar delegation. In 1968, Hayden played a role in the protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and was prosecuted; he was convicted of crossing state lines to incite a riot and sentenced to five years in prison, but his conviction was overturned after it was decided the judge openly sided with prosecutors. By the 1970s, he had a 22,000-page FBI file, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Hayden met Fonda when they were both speaking at an antiwar event in Michigan, and they were reunited a year later at another antiwar event in Los Angeles. They married in 1973 and formed the political organization Campaign for Economic Democracy, later called Campaign California. The group supported liberal candidates and measures, helping pass Prop 65, which requires gas stations, grocery stores, and bars to warn of the presence of chemicals that can cause cancer. In 1982, Hayden was elected to the California Assembly, ultimately serving 18 years in the Assembly and state Senate. Hayden, who divorced from Fonda in 1990, was also an author, publishing books on Cuba, the Iraq War, street gangs, and the environment. He is survived by his wife, Barbara Williams; sons Troy Garity and Liam Hayden; sister Mary Hayden Frey; and stepdaughter Vanessa Vadim and her two children. Catherine Garcia
Brett Baier's Special Report panel on Sunday examined Donald Trump's shot at winning the 2016 election, with Baier taking special care to explain why Fox News does't use the three national polls that show Donald Trump winning or tied. But mostly the panel discussed Trump's big speech at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, in which he laid out plans to reduce regulation and "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C., if elected — and also promised to sue the 11 women accusing him of inappropriate sexual behavior.
The four panelists — Washington Times columnist Charles Hurt, RealClearPolitics associate editor A.B. Stoddard, Associated Press White House correspondent Julie Pace, and TownHall's Guy Benson — all agreed that Trump's policies outlined on Saturday were potentially potent and popular, but that he blew it with the lawsuit threat. Trump's inability to "put his grievances aside," Pace marveled, "that's his mistake, and I don't understand why at this point in the campaign he hasn't come to grips with that."
"It's the trap he walks into knowingly," agreed Benson. Trump's Gettysburg proposals are "getting short shrift, and I just try to close my eyes and envision an alternate campaign where he gives this speech, without the other nonsense, in early September, after Labor Day, and then relentlessly focuses on it when the women come out, when the tape comes out." Donald Trump "doesn't step on his message, he pulverizes it," Stoddard said, "and the only time he ever did well, and built the momentum, and really had Clinton on her heels" was from his mid-August campaign shakeup until the first debate in late September, a period where he was "Teleprompter Trump, always on message, always with his notes, really restrained from Twitter, and not talking about his anger grievances."
If Trump "really cared about this issue, it would have been part of his message a year ago," Stoddard added, and campaign manager "Kellyanne Conway can go on all the shows she wants and talk about what they're going to try and do, and keep it focused on the issues and its all the media's fault, but Donald Trump is destroying his campaign." That doesn't mean it's over for Trump, Hurt said. "This has been the wildest election of my lifetime, and if he were to come back, it wouldn't be the strangest thing that happened in this campaign." Peter Weber