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
William Powell wrote The Anarchist Cookbook between 1969 and 1971 because, he said while renouncing the book in The Guardian in 2013, he "was being actively pursued by the military, who seemed single-mindedly determined to send me to fight, and possibly die, in Vietnam," and "I wanted to publish something that would express my anger." The book has reportedly sold more than 2 million copies, not counting internet downloads, and its recipes for explosives, weapons, and DIY warfare have been linked to terrible attacks from the Columbine High massacre to the bonging of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Powell died of a heart attack last July while vacationing with his family in Canada, though his death wasn't widely reported, The New York Times says, until last week's theatrical release of a new documentary about him, American Anarchist, which noted his death in the credits. He was 66. After publishing the book in 1971, Powell embarked on a career in education, working mostly with and for children with special needs, often in foreign countries.
Powell was born on Long Island in 1949, the son of a press officer at the United Nations and a mother who ran a phobia clinic. He developed a British accent when his father was stationed in the U.K., and says he was bullied and abused when he returned to school in New York. During a week of interviews in 2015, Powell told American Anarchist director Charlie Siskel that when he learned his book had been linked to Columbine and other gruesome attacks, "I did feel responsible, but I didn't do it," he said. "Somebody else with a perverted, distorted sense of reality did something awful. I didn't." You can watch a trailer for the documentary below. Peter Weber
China's foreign ministry confirmed on Thursday that President Xi Jinping will travel to Florida April 6-7 for his first meeting with President Trump. The leaders of the world's largest and second-largest economies will meet at Trump's private club, Mar-a-Lago, where Trump also hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in February. Unlike Abe, Xi will not stay at Mar-a-Lago, Lantana Police Chief Sean Scheller said on Monday, before the long-expected meeting was officially confirmed. Instead, China's president will be staying at the Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa.
Xi will arrive in the U.S. after a state visit to Finland, China said. In Florida, Xi and Trump are likely to discuss trade, North Korea's nuclear aggression, China's military buildup in the disputed South China Sea, among other topics. Trump was harshly critical of China on the campaign trail and right after his election, but has toned down his criticism since taking office. Peter Weber
"Anybody here use the internet?" Stephen Colbert asked his audience at Wednesday's Late Show. "Might want to knock that off, because Congress has now voted to allow internet providers to sell your web-browsing history." The audience booed, and Colbert took the longer view. "This is what's wrong with Washington, D.C.," he said. "I guarantee you, there is not one person, not one voter of any political stripe anywhere in America, who asked for this. No one. No one in America stood up at a town hall said, 'Sir, I demand you let somebody else make money off my shameful desires!'"
"I can't believe they're publicly taking the side of big internet cable companies," Colbert said. "Taking the side of a cable company? The only thing less popular would be if they passed a bill allowing traffic jams to call you during dinner to give you gonorrhea." He played a clip of Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who wrote the bill, gamely defending it as good for consumer privacy. "I know what's in her internet history," Colbert said: "'How to spout bullshit.'" Along with being able to sell your browser history, the bill makes it so ISPs also no longer have to protect customer information against hackers and thieves.
"At least Congress did something, that's refreshing," Colbert said. After their health-care dumpster fire last week, Republicans are returning with a "Plan B," and President Trump said Wednesday that passing the mysterious new bill will be super easy this time. "When he says stuff like that, it worries me. Just five days ago, just five days ago, the Republican Party exploded in a mist of blood and bone fragments," Colbert said. "He has the memory of a goldfish — maybe that's why he's the exact same color."
The Late Show also dabbled in a little fictional fair-play, imagining what you would find if you purchased the browsing history of congressional Republicans — then releasing it for all to see. (It's SFW). Watch below. Peter Weber
Stephen Colbert Rickrolled his audience on Wednesday's Late Show, after reminding everyone about House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes' cut-rate James Bond act, with the added twist that he will never give up his source. "I agree with the Democrats," Colbert said, after doing a credible Rick Astley dance. "He really should Rick-cuse himself."
Then he got down to the business of talking about President Trump, starting with the news that Trump turned down an invitation to throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals' opening day. "I don't know why," Colbert said. "Maybe he's worried his hands are too small to palm a baseball — he'll have to chest-pass it." Colbert noted that every president since Taft (except Jimmy Carter) has thrown the first pitch on opening day. "That means FDR did it," he said. "Let that sink in." Colbert showed a clip of Trump singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," off-key but with spirit, and unkindly suggested it might be "the tape Putin is blackmailing him with."
This, of course, isn't Trump's only claim to being a different kind of president, Colbert said. "Trump won't throw out the first pitch. What else? He won't go to the correspondents' dinner, he won't release his tax returns, he won't put his businesses in a blind trust, he doesn't want to live in D.C. What presidential tradition will Trump abandon next? This Thanksgiving, those turkeys better run."
Colbert ended by noting that Trump attended and gave the keynote speech at a women's empowerment forum on Wednesday, with all the obvious jokes — including an audio-video switcheroo on Trump's speech. "Wow, what an unforeseen technical blunder... that our editing department spent an hour making this afternoon," he joked. "I am so, so sorry." Colbert did show part of Trump's real speech, where the president winkingly suggested that women have larger brains than men. Colbert winked back: "Yeah, women are just so much smarter than men — I don't know why we didn't elect one president!" Watch below. Peter Weber
On Wednesday's Full Frontal, Samantha Bee introduced viewers to a Georgia Republican legislator who sounds, as she tells it, super creepy and ripe for a primary or general election challenger — because he keeps running unopposed — but she followed it up with an antidote to that tale of political toxicity. "Because Georgia's Democratic and Republican lawmakers also showed us government at its very best," she explained. The protagonists are Georgia state Rep. Scott Holcolmb (D), who convinced his colleagues to unanimously support a bill to address Georgia's rape-kit backlog, and Speaker of the House David Ralston (R), who made stuff happen when the Senate threw up roadblocks. There's also an antagonist, a female one, but what good story doesn't have one? Rape kits are inherent reminders of tragedy, but if you want to put a little good-government glow in your heart, watch the tale Bee spins below. Peter Weber
"Last week was supposed to be a triumph for Republicans," Samantha Bee said on Wednesday's Full Frontal. "After seven long years, our national nightmare of somewhat affordable health coverage would finally be over." But of course the American Health Care Act, the GOP bill that sought to topple ObamaCare, created by House Speaker Paul Ryan and pushed hard by President Trump, crashed and burned on Friday amid Republican acrimony. "So I guess Democrats kind of won," Bee shrugged, "the same way the cops won that car chase at the end of Thelma & Louise."
The president himself tried to sweet-talk and threaten the bill across the finish line. "Trump couldn't sell ObamaCare repeal to a House that voted for it 60 times already?" Bee said. "Closing deals is the one thing President Big Boy Truck was supposed to know how to do!" And she laughed at Trump's claim that Democrats were to blame for not helping, reminding Trump, "It was killed by friendly fire!"
Though maybe "friendly" is the wrong word for the Freedom Caucus, Bee conceded, with some advice: "You can't negotiate with the Freedom Caucus, Mr. President. John Boehner could have told you that, but he's busy these days, sipping Merlot on the beach and counting his zero f—ks. The Tea Party sent the Freedom Caucus to Washington with one mission: To scream 'No' in the president's face, like the demented offspring of a hyena and a banshee. They didn't have a backup program for if you became president. None of us did, including you!"
She poked some fun at Ryan, too, joking that if you listen hard, "you can still hear Paul Ryan sobbing into his Ayn Rand doll. Oh, Raggity Aynd despises your weakness, Paul." And she tried to celebrate that "the stupid repeal-and-replace charade is over" — except Trump, Ryan, and other top Republicans keep insisting it isn't. Bee responded with a second doctored photo of Trump and Ryan as Thelma and Louise: "Sure, go for it guys. Maybe the movie will end differently this time." Watch the occasionally NSFW recap below. Peter Weber
A book that is 25 years overdue has finally been returned to the Great Falls Public Library in Montana — along with a $200 peace offering.
A man who checked out Richard Matheson's 1975 book Bid Time Return in 1982 and kept it wrote a letter to the library, saying it had been "bugging" him that he had kept it for so long. He revealed that he had read the "absolutely fascinating" book 25 times, and because it was in bad shape, he had it restored. Bid Time Return is now a collectible, he added, and before Matheson died in 2013, he had him sign the book.
The man, whose name was not shared by the library, admitted that the book had been "wrongfully taken," but wanted the staff to "kindly take into consideration it has been loved and cared for all these years, and know that I am sorry for taking it." The library's director, Kathy Mora, told library trustees she wasn't happy Bid Time Return had been pilfered, the Great Falls Tribune reports, but it was "remarkable" the "effort and funds he put into caring for the book." Catherine Garcia