Burning questions
March 11, 2014
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There are plenty of legitimate concerns about the advent of the self-driving automobile — road safety chief among them. But if nothing else, our future robot-chauffeur overlords are presumed to be more efficient drivers, less prone to speed up and brake based on emotion and the irrational urge to get to work two minutes faster, safety be damned. Steadier speeds, slower acceleration, and less braking are a recipe for using less fuel, so driverless cars should be a boon for the environment, right?

Probably not, says Chandra Bhat, director of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas. After a talk at SXSW Interactive in Austin, Bhat told KUT's Kate McGee that driverless cars will be great for people — without the need to drive, you can work or relax or even sleep during your morning commute. But that could reverse the trend away from gas-guzzling vehicles: People will probably want their mobile offices to be big and comfortable. They also may not mind longer commutes and be less likely to take public transportation. Thanks, Google. --Peter Weber

Democratic debates
11:57 a.m. ET
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The pressure is on for Bernie Sanders. While the first Democratic presidential debate presents the socialist senator from Vermont with an opportunity to ride a tide of grassroots support into the mainstream, his success hinges on whether he can make a good first impression, Politico reports. And if he fails to do so, his now-surging campaign could face the consequences:

"This is an opportunity for him to introduce himself to a much broader part of the country, so it's important for him to explain where he comes from, who he is," explained top Sanders strategist Tad Devine, adding that the senator had prepared to discuss areas where he disagrees with Clinton, from Syria to college affordability.

Yet it's precisely because of his chance to introduce himself that Sanders has little room for error: he can't afford to make a bad first impression on a wide swath of Democratic voters in the states beyond his own Vermont and New Hampshire, where he leads Clinton. [Politico]

Sanders will have to go toe-to-toe with Clinton on policy and defend his plans "without appearing angry, all the while avoiding the trap of playing defense all night," Politico adds. "Since most voters don't know Sanders, his campaign figures, he can't let himself get defined on stage as simply the anti-Clinton."

If Sanders emerges victorious tonight, successfully imprinting a friendly, lasting impression on the American public, his unexpected gains on Clinton in the polls could continue to creep up. But if he doesn't, his reputation as nothing more than a "fad" could be solidified. Bernie only has one chance.

Read the full story at Politico. Becca Stanek

11:07 a.m. ET

Last year's unprecedented Sony hack led to a revelation for Jennifer Lawrence. In an essay published Tuesday in Lena Dunham's newsletter, Lenny Letter, the Oscar-winning actress explained that, prior to the hack, she had been "ever-so-slightly quiet" on the topic of feminism because she "didn't like joining conversations that feel like they're 'trending.'" But once she discovered in the hack how little she was getting paid in comparison to her male co-stars, she began to realize the full consequences of how Hollywood treats women — and decided, at long last, to speak up:

I'm over trying to find the "adorable" way to state my opinion and still be likable! F--k that. I don't think I've ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It's just heard. Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves. If anything, I'm sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share. [Lenny Letter]

The hacked emails showed that for American Hustle, actors Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and director David O. Russell earned 9 percent of back-end profits. Lawrence was originally slated to earn 5 percent, though she and co-star Amy Adams ultimately only ended up receiving 7 percent. Read more about Lawrence coming to terms with her feminism — and fighting back against sexism in Hollywood — over in Lenny Letter. Jeva Lange

10:07 a.m. ET

A Connecticut boy named Sean Tarala is on trial for being too excited at his birthday party. Now 12 years old, Tarala was just eight when he leapt into the arms of his aunt, Jennifer Connell, when she came to his party.

"All of a sudden he was there in the air, I had to catch him and we tumbled onto the ground," Connell testified in court. "I remember him shouting, 'Auntie Jen I love you,' and there he was flying at me." The encounter broke Connell's wrist, and she is now asking a jury to award her $127,000 from her mystified pre-teen nephew.

Connell says the injury has had a significant negative effect on her life. For example, she explained, "I was at a party recently, and it was difficult to hold my hors d'oeuvre plate." Bonnie Kristian

The Donald on Iraq
9:59 a.m. ET
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Donald Trump wants to stop the United States from "nation building" — with the exception being "If there's a problem going on in the world and you can solve the problem," The Guardian reports. "We have to straighten out our own house. We can't go around to every country that we're not exactly happy with and say we're going to recreate them," Trump said.

Trump added that the U.S. may have gone too far in backing the execution of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2006:

Referring to Iraq, he said: "We're nation-building. We can't do it. We have to build our own nation. We're nation-building, trying to tell people who have [had] dictators or worse for centuries how to run their own countries."

"Look what's happened in Iraq. We got rid of Saddam Hussein. I don't think that was a helpful thing. Iraq is a disaster right now and it's going to be taken over by Iran and ISIS, so I think we have to focus on ourselves." [The Guardian]

At the same time, Trump sees the current situation in the Middle East as an exception to his rule. "There are certain cases where you see things going on, atrocities going on, that are horrible," Trump told The Guardian. "ISIS is one of them." Jeva Lange

who run the world?
9:48 a.m. ET

Since the 1970s, women have outnumbered men at the undergraduate level in the United States. However, according to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, it wasn't until last year that the percentage of women with a bachelor's degree (32 percent) surpassed the percentage of men with one (31.9 percent).


That 0.1 percent difference may seem small, but it actually represents about 8 million more women than men who are degree holders, Quartz reports.

While women may be the dominant force at the undergraduate level these days, making up 57 percent of all college students in 2013, men remain the primary earners of professional and doctorate degrees, and they continue to earn more than their female counterparts. Stephanie Talmadge

gender equality?
9:26 a.m. ET
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Secretary of the Army John McHugh said Monday that he anticipates draft registration for both sexes will be approved by Congress in the relatively near future.

"If your objective is true and pure equality then you have to look at all aspects" of how women function in the military, McHugh said while speaking at a military convention in Washington, D.C. Draft registration for women would have to be approved by Congress, McHugh noted, predicting that the change is inevitable if "we find ourselves as a military writ large where men and women have equal opportunity, as I believe we should."

While McHugh is hardly the first to suggest expanding the draft, the public's opinion is less clear: One recent poll showed that 59 percent of Americans (including 61 percent of women) believed the draft should include both sexes, while a Quinnipiac poll just a few months earlier found only 45 percent of women would like to be draft eligible. Bonnie Kristian

Clinton Emails
8:52 a.m. ET
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When The New York Times story about Hillary Clinton's private email server broke on March 2, 2015, her top advisers' immediate reaction was that she should apologize — for "at the least, a political mistake," Politico reports.

[Campaign chairman] Podesta, often speaking on the road or from his home in Washington, counseled transparency and disclosure... Clinton’s new pollster and strategist, Joel Benenson... advised her to take responsibility for what had been, at the least, a political mistake. Campaign manager Robbie Mook and communications director Jennifer Palmieri — who would later help coax the candidate into issuing an apology — agreed, according to people close to the situation.

Even Mills, Clinton’s most trusted and protective adviser — a lawyer who had been aware of the server setup as Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department — agreed on the politics. [Politico]

But Clinton wasn't ready to say sorry or to take responsibility for any sort of a mistake, even to her own staff. Instead, Politico reports, she "repeatedly" told her staff — and the rest of America — "I have done nothing wrong."

"It sounds crazy, but I think she simply wasn't equipped to deal with all this," a longtime Clinton ally told Politico. "She's never been a great candidate, OK? She needed time and campaigns don't give you time. … She was blindsided, and I think only now, after all this crap, is she finally in the right headspace." Another Clinton adviser called the email snafu a "cancer" on the campaign. Yet another commented: "She's her own worst enemy."

Nearly six months after her staff's initial urgings — on Sept. 4, to be exact — Hillary finally came around to apologizing for using a private email account while secretary of state. "That was a mistake," she told ABC's David Muir. "I'm sorry about that." But for every month Hillary had waited, her poll numbers had dropped.

Read the full story on Hillary's email scandal at Politico. Becca Stanek

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