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April 10, 2014
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The number of Americans skeptical of the Bible has doubled over the past three years, a new survey reveals.

The State of the Bible poll discovered that those who believe that the Bible is "just another book of teachings written by men that contains stories and advice" doubled from 10 to 20 percent since 2011. The survey, which was conducted by the Barna Group, found that one in five Americans read the Bible at least four times week — equal to the percentage of those who are skeptical of it.

Although the Bible obviously remains a "highly valued, influential force" in America, as the Christian Post says, it's also certainly a polarizing document with millennials. Forty percent of those aged 18 to 29 admitted to never having read it because they were "busy," and 30 percent think the Bible isn't influential enough in society (versus 50 percent of adults).

Read the rest of the survey at the Christian Post. Jordan Valinsky

7:54 a.m. ET
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signs a 2014 bill increasing the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour.

A 2014 law designed to incrementally raise the minimum wage of Seattle's low-income workers up to $15 an hour has apparently backfired, a study conducted by University of Washington economists concluded. The findings show that low-wage employees actually lost an average of $125 a month under the new model, or about $1,500 a year, due to employers' reduced payrolls and hours.

Most alarmingly, "the paper's conclusions contradict years of research on the minimum wage," The Washington Post reports. "Many past studies, by contrast, have found that the benefits of increases for low-wage workers exceed the costs in terms of reduced employment — often by a factor of four or five to one."

Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist David Autor, who reviewed the paper, said the study strikes him as "likely to influence people" and called the work "very credible." "If I were a Seattle lawmaker, I would be thinking hard about the $15 an hour phase-in," said Autor.

Still, the research is in its early stages and has not yet been tested by peer review. But based on the preliminary findings, FiveThirtyEight suggests the Seattle experiment — with the highest minimum wage in the nation, at $13 an hour in 2016 — was possibly a case of being too extreme too quickly.

"The literature shows that moderate minimum wage increases seem to consistently have their intended effects, [but] you have to admit that the increases that we're now contemplating go beyond moderate," said economist Jared Bernstein, of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "That doesn't mean, however, that you know what the outcome is going to be. You have to test it, you have to scrutinize it, which is why Seattle is a great test case." Jeva Lange

7:44 a.m. ET
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President Trump is eager to hold a formal bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a G20 summit in Germany next month, to the dismay of top advisers at the State Department and National Security Council, The Associated Press reports. And Trump's refusal to acknowledge that Russia interfered in the 2016 election is causing consternation in Congress, among government officials, and even some Trump supporters, Maggie Haberman says at The New York Times. All 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concur that Russia hacked and released Democratic emails to help Trump win, and there is a growing body of reporting on the other ways Russia tried to interfere in the election.

Trump and some of his advisers want a full meeting with Putin, with all the diplomatic trappings and photos, while many other advisers would prefer a more informal chat between the two leaders, given the ongoing investigation into possible Trump team collusion with Russia and other sensitive global issues. Part of the issue is that Trump prefers strategic ambiguity, and wants to makes deals. "He doesn't want to be set by this narrative that the Russians hacked the election when he has to negotiate with Russia, who, by the way, sits on China's border," Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide, tells The New York Times. "If Putin adamantly denies that he did it, it's frankly not an issue to the president."

His refusal to publicly make it an issue, or deal with the vulnerabilities in the U.S. electoral system the Russian hacking exposed, isn't quite so easy to explain, Haberman reports, "but aides and friends say the matter hits him where he is most vulnerable. Mr. Trump, who often conflates himself with the institutions he serves, sees questions about Russia as an effort by Democrats and stragglers from the 'Never Trump' movement to delegitimize his election victory." You can read more about Trump, Russia, and Trump's flummoxed advisers at AP and The New York Times. Peter Weber

7:26 a.m. ET

White House employee Ivanka Trump apparently has a rather curious understanding of what it means to be a senior adviser to the president. On Monday, she informed Fox & Friends that despite having an office in the West Wing, "I try to stay out of politics."

Trump went on to say: "I instead like to focus on areas where I can add positive value, where I can contribute to the agenda. Policies around workforce development, about ensuring that barriers are removed for the American working family … focusing on how we can help our veterans and how we can really deliver them the care that they so need."

But "I don't profess to be a political savant," Trump attempted to clarify. "So I leave the politics to other people and really lean into the issues that I care deeply about." Jeva Lange

6:43 a.m. ET
Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

On Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May and her top Conservative Party deputies signed a pact with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland in which the DUP will support May's minority government in most key votes, starting with the queen's speech later this week. There will be no formal coalition government, and the DUP will be free to vote against May's government on issues that don't threaten her government. May fell nine votes short of a majority in the House of Commons in a snap election, and the main opposition Labour Party is demanding to know what financial benefits the DUP is getting out of supporting the Tories; according to reports, the Democratic Unionists had sought $2.5 billion in extra funding for Northern Ireland, plus better treatment for military veterans. Peter Weber

6:05 a.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Federal Communications Commission and its chairman, Ajit Pai, agree with everyone that robocalls are a nuisance, and last week the FCC proposed a record $120 million fine for a Miami telemarketer whose company made nearly 97 million "spoofed" robocalls over a three-month period. But on Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he had asked Pai and his FCC colleagues to protect America's cellphone inboxes from a new threat, the "ringless voicemail."

Telemarketers, backed by groups including the Republican National Committee, are proposing that the FCC allow them to send voicemails directly to the inboxes of cellphone customers, without the phone ringing at all, skirting do-not-call registries and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act​. In a March filing, a lawyer for voicemail company All About the Message argued that the FCC did not have the legal authority to regulate voicemail, and the RNC said denying the telemarketing industry's request would amount to a violation of the companies' First Amendment right to political communications.

Allowing ringless voicemail would "throw gas on a robocall wildfire," Schumer said. "Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse with these robocalls, the telemarketing industry had gone behind the scenes to deliver us the last straw​," he added. ​"​They would give you a voicemail, your phone wouldn't ring, but you'd have tons of these darned messages piling up on your voicemail, ruining your voicemail​," with potentially serious consequences. ​"G​od​​ forbid you got a serious message​ — someone sick​,​ you need to pick up your kid at school, there's an accident​ — you wouldn't be able to get to it because there'd be so many of these darned useless solicitations on the phone​,​" Schumer said.​

Telemarketers made 2.6 billion robocalls in May, robocall blocking service YouMail says, and New York City area codes 917 and 646 were major targets, The Wall Street Journal reports. Schumer said he felt it necessary to write Pai because the FCC chairman is vocally anti-regulation, most famously regarding net neutrality. Peter Weber

4:49 a.m. ET

Last week, President Trump insisted that, contrary to his earlier suggestion, he did not tape his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey. And his elaboration on the topic, in an interview on Fox News, was a word-salad masterpiece, John Oliver marveled on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "Whenever Trump talks, it's like cross between a lottery machine that spits outs words and a Speak-and-Spell that just fell into a toilet." In just a few sentences, Trump somehow managed to validate Comey's damaging testimony, suggest he tampered with a witness, and coin the awkward phrase "not very stupid," Oliver noted.

That said, Trump's "extraordinarily stupid" comments on Comey and secret recordings "served to distract from the really important business going down in Washington this week concerning the Senate's new ObamaCare replacement bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act," Oliver said. Democrats immediately denounced the bill, some skillfully (Barack Obama) and some quite the opposite — here, Oliver played Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's "prop comedy," or attempt thereof. "If political theater were actual theater, that was the equivalent of someone falling to their death in Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark," Oliver sighed. "Now, as for the content of the bill, it is set to hurt a lot of people," he added, briefly explaining how.

"You may have heard some Republicans have come out against this bill in its current form, some because it's too harsh, others because it is not harsh enough — and of course Ted Cruz is in that group," Oliver said. "He's the only man in history whose personality somehow contracted bedbugs. But here's the thing: I would be very careful relying on those politicians to hold out." He noted that GOP senators are being pretty squirrelly with their language, and advised caution at news coverage that presupposes the bill is actually in trouble. "Oh, that's great — it's 'dead on arrival,'" Oliver deadpanned. "Then kick back and relax, everyone, because I haven't felt this confident about an outcome since Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016." The BCRA very well may pass, especially without momentous pushback from the public, he warned, "so resisting complacency would be, to borrow a truly moronic phrase, 'not very stupid, I can tell you that.'" There is some NSFW language. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:38 a.m. ET

There used to be a time when American parents would line up to vaccinate their kids like vaccines were the latest iPhone, John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. But despite vaccines saving millions of lives, "small groups are both skeptical and vocal about vaccines, which is nothing new, but these days their voice has been amplified by the human megaphone that is the president of the United States." He showed some of President Trump's comments on the campaign trail, and subsequent tweets.

"This atmosphere of confusion about vaccines has caused real problems," Oliver said, pointing to the measles outbreak in Minnesota's Somali community. "So tonight, we are going to look at why these fears persist and what the consequences of succumbing to them can be. And before we start, I kind of get why vaccines can creep people out," he said, "although pretty much every medical practice sounds terrifying when you break it down," including the non-medical practice of basic exercise.

Oliver started with the elephant in the waiting room, the debunked link between autism and the MMR vaccine, started by the disgraced "Lance Armstrong of doctors," Andrew Wakefield. Despite losing his medical license, Wakefield still gives talks about vaccines and autism — including to Minnesota's Somali community, in 2011 — and he's joined by a motley crew that spans the political spectrum. "Now the good news is, these days, very few people will say they are completely anti-vaccine," Oliver said. "Instead, like the president, they'll say, 'I'm not anti-vaccine, but...' — and it's what comes after that 'but' that [we] need to look at tonight."

Oliver's main topic here was the idea that parents should space out vaccines, so young children don't get so many at once. He sided with the CDC on that one, and ridiculed Dr. Robert Sears, a famous pediatrician's less-famous son, noting that spreading out vaccinations for years leaves kids vulnerable to diseases like measles, which killed 134,200 kids worldwide in 2015 alone. "I honestly know for some people this is still hard, but what can help is to try and anchor yourself to what we know to be true about the risks of vaccines," he said. Oliver suggested that parents focus on the immense good vaccines have done rather than the scary Facebook anecdotes and memes, and he ended on a personal note. Watch below, but be warned: There is decidedly NSFW content spread throughout. Peter Weber

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