When confronted with a prediction that doesn't match your own, it's natural to assume you are right and to try and prove it. It's why, with polls showing President Obama headed toward a comfortable re-election two years back, many Republicans set about frantically trying to "unskew" the results. It looked great on paper — "Hey, Romney is actually winning!" — but proved flawed come November.
With the midterms on the way, the unskew movement is back. And this time, the poll in question is a New York Times/Kaiser Family Foundation survey, released Wednesday, that shows Democrats doing well in four crucial Senate races. In the most remarkable finding, the poll gave Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) — who was believed to be the most vulnerable Senate Democrat this cycle — a 10-point lead.
The Republican National Committee's response: "Desperate after losing Nate Silver, The New York Times published a poll taken from people they found outside the DSCC who confidently predicted they'd keep the Senate."
The RNC's beef is that the poll ostensibly overrepresented Obama supporters, thus boosting the Dem candidates. (The percentage of respondents who said they voted for Romney in 2012 didn't match the actual elections results.)
But as the Times' Nate Cohn explained in defending the survey, "there's a well-known bias toward the victor in post-election surveys," so it's likely some Romney voters either claimed to have backed Obama, or declined to say whom they voted for. And since the rest of the poll's demographics make sense, the results can't just be dismissed out of hand. Jon Terbush
An investigation is now underway into how a German shepherd was treated on the set of the new movie A Dog's Purpose.
TMZ posted a video it says was filmed during the movie's production, showing a dog that appeared to be too frightened forced into churning water by a trainer, The Associated Press reports. American Humane, an organization that ensures animal safety on movie and television sets, said Wednesday it has hired an independent investigator to look into the incident, and has suspended the safety representative that worked on A Dog's Purpose.
Actor Josh Gad, who provides the dog's voice in the movie, released a statement on social media, saying he has asked Universal Pictures to explain the "disturbing images." The movie is "one of the most beautiful love letters to animals I have ever seen," he said, but he is also "shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will." Catherine Garcia
This is a much better gift than china — for their 20th anniversary, Scott Chafian of Suffolk, Virginia, will give his wife, Cindy, a kidney.
Cindy has polycystic kidney disease, which can cause the kidneys to shut down, and has been on dialysis for nearly two years. She's undergone several surgeries, and as Scott watched his wife's health get progressively worse, he knew he had to help her. With her blessing, Scott explored how to go about donating his kidney. In October, they found out he was a match, and the surgery was set up before Christmas.
On January 24, the day before their anniversary, Scott and Cindy, who have five children, will undergo their surgeries. "Instead of celebrating by having a big party, we're going to celebrate by being in different hospital rooms," Cindy told NBC Los Angeles. "He is literally giving me the gift of life." Scott thinks he's the lucky one. "She's been so sick for several years now," he said. "She'll say I'm giving her life back, but I'm getting my wife back." Catherine Garcia
On Wednesday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Navient Corp., the country's largest servicer of student loans, claiming the company violated several acts and went out of its way to cheat borrowers.
"For years, Navient failed consumers who counted on the company to help give them a fair chance to pay back their students loans," CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. "At every stage of repayment, Navient chose to shortcut and deceive consumers to save on operating costs. Too many borrowers paid more for their loans because Navient illegally cheated them and today's action seeks to hold them accountable." Navient, formerly part of Sallie Mae, services private and federal loans worth more than $300 billion for more than 12 million borrowers.
The CFPB alleges that Navient misapplied or misallocated borrowers' payments, and incentivized customer service representatives to push borrowers into forbearance as opposed to income-based repayment plans, which racked up additional interest charges of up to $4 billion from January 2010 to March 2015. The agency also claims Navient violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, and the Dodd-Frank reform act, and allegedly told credit reporting agencies disabled Americans defaulted on their loans, when really they were discharged under a special program, the Los Angeles Times reports. Navient called the allegations "unfounded." Catherine Garcia
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) brought a bottle of Trump water to Environmental Protection Agency administrator nominee Scott Pruitt's Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, apparently to prove a point about the lead-contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan. "Trump water, natural spring water," Markey said. "On the label it says, 'Pure, fresh, and free from contaminants. This is water the way it was meant to be.'" While Trump hotel guests have the "luxury" of drinking this water instead of tap water, Markey said, low-income Americans don't have that option.
The big wind-up was so Markey could ask Pruitt if he would commit to making environmental justice for low-income communities a top priority if confirmed. Pruitt heartily agreed. You can watch the moment in its entirety at C-SPAN. Becca Stanek
Millennials aren't the only ones drowning in student debt: A staggering amount of older Americans are also underwater. The number of Americans older than 60 with student loan debt quadrupled from 700,000 in 2005 to 2.8 million in 2015, making the over-60 set the fastest-growing age group with student debt, Quartz reports. The total debt for these older borrowers is some $66.7 billion, and more than two-thirds of it is owed for children or grandchildren. While older debtors owe less than the typical under-50 crowd — an average of $23,000 compared to $37,172, respectively — they're also twice as likely to default.
Quartz notes the particular dangers of being 60 or older and still carrying that much debt: The government can sometimes withhold Social Security checks to elderly borrowers who default, and Americans over 60 with unpaid loans typically have less saved for retirement than those without debt.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) comically illustrated the overreach of the Environmental Protection Agency during an otherwise turbulent Senate hearing for President-elect Donald Trump's EPA nominee, Scott Pruitt, on Wednesday. "This is a chart of the state of Iowa," Ernst began, showing a nearly entirely red map of her state. "As you can see, with the expanded definition as provided by the EPA, 97 percent of the state of Iowa is now considered Waters of the U.S. So if you are in an area like mine, in southwest Iowa here, I live in a Water of the U.S."
It wasn't the only thing Ernst took issue with. In fact, she has some serious concerns about ... well, puddles.
"The Obama EPA told the public that they will not regulate puddles," Ernst went on. "They will not regulate puddles. However, we learned that the Corps [of Engineers] is already regulating puddles by claiming that a puddle in a gravel parking lot is a 'degraded wetland.' A degraded wetland."
But wait, there's more: "The Obama EPA also told farmers not to worry about being regulated because ordinary farming activities have a statutory exemption. We learned that the Corps of Engineers and the Department of Justice have decided that plowing is not an ordinary farming activity. Explain that to my dear deceased grandfather and my father," Ernst said.
China is easing the government's 2,000-year-old monopoly on table salt by letting producers set prices and sell directly to the market. The monopoly has supported Chinese rulers from the Han dynasty to the Communist Party, even helping to pay for the construction of the Great Wall, The Financial Times reports.
Beginning this year, salt producers will have the freedom to set their prices based on normal market factors like cost, quality, supply, and demand — though the country's top economic planning agency still encourages state officials to keep those prices somewhat stable by tapping a "strategic reserve." The salt producers will also be able to sell without going through government-owned distribution companies, which used to absorb most of the industry's profits.
Nonetheless, most Chinese salt producers still work for the Chinese government, which has also said it will not grant any new licenses into the market until the end of 2018.