Only in America
October 27, 2012

Prisoners in West Palm Beach, Fla., are suing for access to dental floss. Four inmates have filed suit so far, claiming "pain and suffering," but Sheriff Ric Bradshaw says there's too great a risk of floss being used as a weapon or a rope. "I don't care if they file 400 suits, they're not getting it," said Bradshaw. "This isn't the Ritz-Carlton."

  The Week Staff

Presidential polling
9:29 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

If Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination, things might not be looking so bad for Democrats. A new Quinnipiac University poll out Wednesday reveals that while The Donald still leads his party primaries in the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, he doesn't fare nearly as well against Democrats in hypothetical match ups. Against all three Democrats that Quinnipiac tested — Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden, who has not announced a presidential run — Trump loses in a hypothetical general election face-off.

"Trump, despite his strong showing in mock Republican primaries, fares worst among the GOP candidates matched against the three Democratic aspirants — giving some credence to pundits who say the billionaire could be every Democrats' favorite GOP nominee," Quinnipiac assistant director Peter Brown said in a statement. Against Clinton, Trump loses 46 percent to 41 percent in Florida, 43 percent to 42 percent in Ohio, and 44 percent to 42 percent in Pennsylvania.

And those are Trump's closest margins against the Democrats. In a match up with Biden, Trump loses 46-42 in Florida, 46-37 in Ohio, and 45-42 in Pennsylvania. Sanders beats out Trump by five percentage points in Florida and Pennsylvania and by three percentage points in Ohio.

The survey's margin of error in Florida and Ohio is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. In Pennsylvania, it's plus or minus three percentage points. Becca Stanek

grab the tissue box
9:08 a.m. ET

Everyone is tapping their toes waiting to see if Vice President Joe Biden is going to declare a third campaign for president, but perhaps no one has made their impatience more public than the Draft Biden super PAC. On Wednesday, Draft Biden began running a national, 90-second video ad in which viewers hear Biden talking about the death of his wife and daughter — a snippet of his Yale University Class Day address last May. The ad features pictures of Biden both at work and with his family, including images of his late son, Beau:

"My dad's definition of success is when you look at your son and daughter and realize that they turned out better than you," Biden says. "And they did."

"We are on the cusp of some of the most astonishing breakthroughs in the history of mankind — scientific, technological, socially," Biden continues. "It will be up to you in this changing world to translate those unprecedented capabilities into a greater measure of happiness and meaning, not just for yourself but for the world around you." The words "Joe, run" appear on the screen before asking for a donation to help keep the ad on the air.

The super PAC likely needs it, too: According to Politico, Draft Biden claims the national ad cost six figures. And while it's an elegant video, there's only one flaw to their plan — you probably don't want to watch it much more than once if you want to avoid blubbering every time it comes on. Jeva Lange

Recommended reading
8:23 a.m. ET

In an effort to "be a good fellow candidate," Hillary Clinton decided to give Republican presidential candidates "some help" after watching the last debate. She mailed each and every Republican candidate — minus former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, who barely registers in the polls — a copy of Hard Choices, her book on her time as secretary of state, to give them a refresher on what she did in her four-year tenure.

Enclosed with each book was this note, complete with the suggestion that maybe they ought to start a book club. "With 15 candidates in the race, you've got enough people," Clinton quipped.

Upon receiving Clinton's gag gift, Republicans shot back with some reading suggestions of their own. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted that he would "gladly return the favor and send Hillary Clinton's campaign A Time for Truth." Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tried to cut a deal with Clinton: He offered to read her book if she watched controversial videos about Planned Parenthood.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush wouldn't say whether he got a copy of Clinton's book, but The Washington Post reports that a Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell did say that he hoped "Secretary Clinton will have an opportunity to read his e-book, Reply All, when it comes out in a few weeks."

"The book," Campbell said, "[...] is a good lesson on the importance of transparency in government." Becca Stanek

help out
8:08 a.m. ET
Thierry Roge/AFP/Getty Images

The United States has already committed $4.5 billion to the Syrian refugee crisis, but there's still a long way to go to help the 12 million people displaced by the war. That's where you come in, says the White House, which prompted the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to launch its first social service campaign.

While Kickstarter is mostly used by musicians, filmmakers, and inventors who want to raise the funds to create their work by offering "rewards" to investors, the Kickstarter page for the Syrian crisis redirects donors to support refugees by buying them "rest," "water," "rescue," "shelter," and "education" through the UN Refugee Agency. At the time of publication, Kickstarter reports that 3,000 refugees have been helped by the campaign, which has raised over $735,000. The next goal, $1,225,000, would support 5,000 people. Six days remain in the campaign and already over 12,000 people have contributed.

Others have found ways to crowdfund aid as well — Airbnb, for example, is providing housing credits to aid workers in Greece, Serbia, and Macedonia, while in Iceland, 10,000 people have offered up their homes as temporary shelters. However, as The New York Times points out, while less than half of the funds requested by the UN Refugee Agency for the Syria crisis has been raised, "Appeals for other refugee crises, including those in Darfur and Central African Republic, which receive far less media attention and are not part of the Kickstarter campaign, face a worse predicament." Jeva Lange

7:39 a.m. ET

Some news organizations are already using robots to write the news, and that's only going to become more common as the technology gets better. Computer algorithms "will do, and can do, our work," New York Times columnist Barbara Ehrenreich told Hasan Minhaj on Tuesday's Daily Show. "Prepare to be unemployed, Hasan."

Associated Press Managing Editor Lou Ferrara is less concerned with this development — in fact, he's a big proponent of having robots write the news. They are quicker and more accurate, he told Minhaj — a point Minhaj argued was a bug, not a feature. He ran through some of AP's more egregious (human) errors of the past few years with Ferrara, noting that true or not, people clicked on the articles madly. "Until these robo-reporters learn the value of pageviews, bias, and straight-up lying, it looks like journalists like me are going to have a job," Minhaj said in mock triumph. That is, until Ehrenreich threw cold water on his celebration of media bias. Nothing, it seems, is safe from our robot overlords, not even snark. Watch below. Peter Weber

6:37 a.m. ET

On Wednesday, three scientists — Tomas Lindahl of Sweden, American Paul Modrich, and U.S.-Turkish researcher Aziz Sancar — were awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work uncovering the "toolbox" cells use to fix rogue DNA. Their molecular-level mapping of how "cells repair damaged DNA and safeguard the genetic information... has provided fundamental knowledge of how a living cell functions and is, for instance, used for the development of new cancer treatments," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences explained in a statement.

The three scientists will split the prestigious $960,000 prize equally. Peter Weber

Russia in Syria
5:56 a.m. ET

On Wednesday, Russia and Syria launched what appears to be their first coordinated joint strike on the insurgents battling to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian ally. Syrian ground troops launched an offensive in western Hama and Idlib provinces, supported by Russian airstrikes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. With Russia stepping more aggressively into Syria's civil war, BBC News took a look at the military hardware Russia is believed to be using. The video below focuses on Russia's advanced SU-35 Strike Fighter, but that's just the tip of the spear. Peter Weber

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