Many Americans — and journalists — were puzzled to learn that Iowa Democrats sometimes award presidential candidates county-level delegates based on a coin toss. The popular narrative that emerged from Monday's caucuses is that luck was with Hillary Clinton, and that her team's winning coin-flip picks swayed the election results. Take, for example, this caucus-night report from MSNBC:
Coin tosses aren't reported in the official tallies, so it's not clear how many county delegates were awarded by heads versus tails. But Iowa Democratic Party spokesman Sam Lau tells The Des Moines Register that seven coin flips were reported statewide, and that Bernie Sanders won six of them. The Register, looking at social media and one first-person report, also identified seven coin tosses at Democratic caucuses, with Clinton winning six. The newspaper has requested an official tally of precinct coin tosses and their outcomes to clear up the confusion.
But regardless, it's unlikely that the coin tosses affected the outcome — the official results are 700.59 state delegate equivalents for Clinton (49.8 percent), 696.82 SDEs for Sanders (49.6 percent). That's because, unlike MSNBC's report, the coin tosses don't decide statewide delegates but county delegates, of which there are about 11,000 across Iowa, versus 1,400 state delegate equivalents. The county-level delegates are used in a formula to determine the SDEs, but each one has only a tiny impact on the SDE count.
"The data we have suggest the game of chance was a rare occurrence and of the data we have, Sanders won the majority of those delegates that were chosen through the game of chance," former Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach, a Clinton supporter, tells The Des Moines Register. Coin tosses may seem like an arcane way to resolve ties or delegate disputes, he said, but the party has used them for a long time, including in the 2008 caucuses that propelled Barack Obama to victory. You can read more about the coin tosses, and the chaos at Monday's caucuses, at The Des Moines Register. Peter Weber
The Trump transition team forcibly repudiated reports late Friday evening that the CIA has concluded with "high confidence" Russia interfered with the U.S. election to help President-elect Donald Trump win.
"These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction," the Trump camp said in an unsigned statement slamming the CIA. "The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It's now time to move on and 'Make America Great Again.'"
Trump himself likewise rejected suggestions of Russian manipulation earlier this week in his "Person of the Year" interview with Time Magazine. "I don't believe it. I don’t believe they interfered," he said, postulating that intelligence agents who say otherwise are politically motivated. Bonnie Kristian
The CIA has concluded with "high confidence" that Russia interfered in the American presidential election not only to promote public distrust of U.S. institutions, as was originally suspected this fall, but to sway the outcome in favor of President-elect Donald Trump, a senior intelligence official said in a Washington Post report published late Friday evening.
"It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia's goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected," the official said, referring to a secret CIA assessment shared with congressional leaders in a closed-door briefing last week. The CIA also believes Moscow hacked the Republican Party, much as it did the Democratic Party, but did not leak the information it obtained from the GOP. However, the agency did not say it believes Russian efforts successfully altered electoral outcomes.
Earlier on Friday, President Obama ordered a "full review" of reports of hacking during the presidential election to be completed before Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. The White House did not specify whether the results of that review would be made public. Bonnie Kristian
About 75 percent of companies plan to give their workers year-end bonuses this year, up from 67 percent last year, according to a survey of 500 HR executives at firms of various sizes. The average bonus is expected to be 25 percent larger than last year's offerings — about $1,081, up from $858 in 2015. The quarter of firms who said they aren't giving out holiday bonuses "had financial performance issues or were concerned about the U.S. economic outlook," The Wall Street Journal reports, but about half of that group still said they hope to give out other morale-boosting gifts like extra paid time off.
After two years without a new Taylor Swift single, the drought is finally over. The pop star surprised fans late Thursday night by releasing a single with former One Direction member Zayn Malik. Swift shared the news with her fans in this cryptic post:
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) December 9, 2016
The collaboration marked Swift's first new release since her Grammy-winning album 1989 dropped in the fall of 2014. Swift and Malik's song, "I Don't Wanna Live Forever," will be featured in the movie Fifty Shades Darker, the second installment in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. The film is due out early next year.
BBC described the song as a "yearning, sultry ballad" that "finds the couple pulling at the unraveling threads of a relationship." After it popped up on the U.S. iTunes store shortly before 12 a.m. ET Friday, the tune soared to the top of the charts within an hour. It is available on iTunes and Apple Music. Becca Stanek
This year, Amazon is adding 120,000 temporary workers at its U.S. warehouses for the holiday season, expanding its workforce by about 40 percent. The e-tail giant is also dramatically speeding up its orientation process, The Wall Street Journal reports. While conventional warehouse jobs usually require up to six weeks of training, the company has been using technology such as touchscreens, robots, and scanners to get new hires up to speed in as little as two days. While Amazon's newest warehouses are extremely automated and filled to the brim with robots that do much of the heavy lifting, "the greater efficiency allows them to process even more orders, a task that still requires humans."
A shorter training period saves Amazon a lot of money and could potentially allow the company to pay employees more during these hectic winter months — a crucial lure Amazon needs as it competes with rivals like Walmart and package delivery services like UPS who are also looking for seasonal help. Amazon's holiday temps typically make more than minimum wage. Kelly Gonsalves
An Illinois high school is removing books from reading lists to shield students from "sexual" content. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy was the first book to be removed from the classroom after teachers expressed concern over some "questionable passages," reports the local Patch. After the school sent out a notice about the book's removal, parents called for the banning of any work that contains "literal, metaphorical, figurative, or allegorical" allusions to sex. They specifically urged the school board to remove Maya Angelou's classic autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and some parents openly referred to Roy's book as "smut" and "porn."
"We can't have 18-year-olds reading about masturbation or sexual issues," one parent said. "I don't care if it's from Dickens or who else."
President-elect Donald Trump's transition team apparently wants the Department of Energy to send over a list of every employee and contractor involved in brokering international climate meetings in the last five years, The Washington Post reported Friday. The request is part of a 74-question questionnaire the transition team has asked Energy Department officials to fill out.
Other inquiries in the questionnaire — which The Washington Post noted one department official called "unusually 'intrusive" — are about "which programs within the DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama's Climate Action Plan" and about the social cost of carbon, a metric the Obama administration has used to determine "the benefits of regulations and initiatives that lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions."
Coupled with Trump's environmental policy proposals and his past remarks about climate change, The Washington Post said the questionnaire "provides the clearest indication yet of how Trump’s administration would begin to dismantle specific aspects of President Obama’s ambitious climate policies." "My guess is that they're trying to undermine the credibility of the science that DOE has produced, particularly in the field of climate science," said Stanford climate and energy researcher Rob Jackson.
Department officials reportedly have not yet decided how to address the questions specifically relating to its climate activities.