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Archive for September, 2012

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Netanyahu says Iran could have bomb by next Summer /

Altercation between flight attendants turns plane around

Slow cooker pot roast

From Brooke Hunt on

1 rump or shoulder roast, 2 cans cream of mushroom soup, 1 can water, 2 cloves garlic (minced), 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. basil, 1 tsp. oregano, 6 small red potatos, quartered, 1/2 onion, diced, 3 c. chopped carrots, 3 c. mushrooms, whole or chopped.  Add roast, water, soup, herbs and spices, and onions to slow cooker and let simmer for 4-6 hours. After 3-5 hours, add the rest of the vegetables.

Let simmer for 1-2 hours and serve. A lot of this is by your preference; herbs and seasonings may be increased or decreased, if desired.

1 rump or shoulder roast
Set slow cooker on low. Chop onions. Remove any larger pieces of fat from roast. Add roast, water, soup, herbs and spices, and onions to slow cooker and let simmer for 4-6 hours. After 3-5 hours, add the rest of the vegetables.

Let simmer for 1-2 hours and serve. A lot of this is by your preference; herbs and seasonings may be increased or decreased, if desired

How do polls work?


How long have polls been around?
Polling as we know it today began in 1936, when a young statistician named George Gallup conducted the first poll using statistical modeling. He accurately predicted that Franklin Roosevelt would trounce Alf Landon. For decades after that, the polling business was dominated by Gallup and a few rivals. But the 1990s saw a polling explosion, as virtually every major news organization began conducting polls and treating them as news events equal in importance to the daily maneuverings of the candidates, to say nothing of the issues. Today, virtually all candidates and elected officials commission their own polls to gauge their popularity and whether their messages are working.

How does polling work?
Sampling public opinion, George Gallup once said, is like sampling soup: One spoonful can reflect the taste of the whole pot, if the soup is well-stirred. In other words, it’s all about finding a sample that reflects the larger population. Polling is based on the laws of probability. According to probability theory, it’s not necessary to sample the opinions of all 300 million Americans; a much smaller sample can reflect the larger population—if that sample is truly representative. So in surveying the opinions of the whole country, pollsters have to sample a proportional percentage of men and women; Republicans, Democrats, and independents; rural and urban residents; and so on. That sample group, moreover, has to reach a certain size threshold to be statistically accurate. For national polls, most pollsters use a sample of 1,500 as a rule of thumb. A sample that size will accurately reflect the whole within about 3 percentage points, a variance that statisticians call the margin of error.

How do pollsters take their samples?
These days, most national polls are conducted by telephone. Poll workers call randomly generated phone numbers, then conduct 15- to 20-minute interviews with those who respond. Most polls try to compile about 1,500 responses, since smaller samples have a larger margin of error and larger ones aren’t significantly more accurate. Pollsters then compare the pool of respondents to the broader population in terms of age, race, gender, and other characteristics. If the match isn’t perfect—it rarely is—pollsters use statistical techniques to “weight” some responses more heavily than others. But there are pitfalls. Results can be distorted by the wording of questions, the order they’re asked, even the interviewer’s tone of voice. That’s why some polling experts argue that news stories on polls should routinely include the full questionnaire, so people can judge whether the questions are biased. In the face of such hazards, says MIT political science professor Stephen Ansolabehere, “I’m perpetually surprised that results aren’t wrong more often.”

How often are they wrong?
Rarely. In every presidential election since 1980, with the exception of the 2000 Bush-Gore race, national polls have correctly predicted the winner, usually within a couple of points of the eventual tally. But that’s not to say that polls are always understood by the public. People tend to brush off the margin of error, but it’s crucial. If candidate A is leading candidate B by 55–45, with the margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points, the two could actually be tied, or candidate A could be leading 60–40. It’s also important to remember that polls provide a snapshot of how voters feel at the moment, not necessarily how they’ll vote on Election Day.

Do polls influence voter behavior?
Many political scientists say they do—by exerting a subtle form of peer pressure. Experts speak of a so-called bandwagon effect, in which voters flock to the candidate with a healthy lead in the polls because they want to pick a winner. On the flip side, there’s the underdog effect, when voters switch to the trailing candidate out of sympathy; that may have played a part in Hillary Clinton’s surprise win in New Hampshire. Then there’s the boomerang effect, when people are so sure that their favored candidate will win that they don’t bother to vote. Historians say the boomerang effect helped President Truman defeat Thomas Dewey in 1948; with polls showing Dewey holding an insurmountable lead, many Republicans stayed home and Truman snatched an upset victory.

Are polls bad for democracy?
They certainly have a downside. Polls help turn elections into proverbial “horse races,” in which more attention is paid to who’s ahead or behind than to candidates’ leadership qualities and ideas. And when one candidate has a big lead close to the election, as Bill Clinton did against Bob Dole in 1996, voters can lose interest and stay home on Election Day. Only 49 percent of eligible voters showed up that year—the lowest turnout since 1924. The polls “dampened voters’ interest and participation by announcing that the presidential contest was really no contest at all,” said political scientist Everett Ladd. But pollsters say their work satisfies a natural curiosity about what other people are thinking, while helping to identify the priorities of the electorate. As for those who complain that polls are inaccurate, pollsters don’t take it personally. “People always think there’s something wrong with the polls,” said pollster Micheline Blum, “if they don’t agree with them.”

The Mom Vivant / You’ve gotta love this word – Kerfuffle!

So, I thought the recent story over the Queen getting herself into a “kerfuffle” by stepping outside the bounds of the monarchy by commenting on the case of a radical Islamic cleric was hysterical. No, not because it was as unusual as Madonna shouting to the crowd at a recent show of hers that Obama is a Black Muslim and then claiming afterwards she knows he isn’t but she was being ironic. It’s because I love the word “kerfuffle” and also, the fact that the English still deploy the English language, well, so effectively. I went to the Urban Slang Dictionary and found the following meanings for the word:

1) A social imbroglio or brouhaha. An organizational misunderstanding leading to accusations and defensiveness.
I spend half my time these days on the phone with HR, ever since Bob started that kerfuffle with his flaming e-mail to everyone in the sociology department.
2) A minor disturbance or disagreement. Smaller than a contretemps, larger than a snag, involving more people or things than a SNAFU or a stink.

Lawton couldn’t understand all of the kerfuffle over the suggestive signage at Herbert’s Sherbert.
3) Trouble, hassle or when a scuffle! I need a little bit of help getting him in and out of the pool! …should be relatively kerfuffle free.
The first two make sense to me but the third example may be proof that we don’t deploy the English language very effectively. I mean, can you imagine saying to someone, “Well, getting him out of the pool should be relatively kerfuffle free?”

It’s going to come down to the Maroons

I saw a Mom at a football game the other day and told her I wish she would run for office. She has served on the board of Planned Parenthood, was a successful attorney, identifies as a fiscal conservative and appears to be an equally successful Mom. Geetha and I started talking about where she falls – Republican or Democrat – and she said, “I’m a maroon.” With 40% of Americans now identifying as Moderates or Independents, it really is going to come down to the Maroons this election. But where do the Maroons go for news? They don’t know where to turn according to a new poll just released by Gallup.

Here’s an article by Mary Kate Carey from U.S.

This just in from the Gallup organization: Americans’ distrust of the media has just hit a  new record, with six in 10 Americans saying they have “little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.” Forty percent say they have a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of trust, and I assume this is the same crowd who approve of the job Congress is doing. Where do they find these people?

Gallup says the 20-point difference between positive and negative views of the media is “by far” the highest Gallup has seen since it began asking the question in the 1990s. Among those who trust the media, 58 percent identify themselves as Democrats; 26 percent as Republicans; and most interestingly, 31 percent as independents. That means 69 percent of independents don’t trust the media. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the implications of that:

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

This year’s decline in media trust is driven by independents and Republicans. Independents are sharply more negative compared with 2008, suggesting the group that is most closely divided between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney is quite dissatisfied with its ability to get fair and accurate news coverage of this election.

On the NBC News homepage for politics, there is a chart looking the number of mentions of each candidate on social media: As of yesterday, 30 percent who state an intention to vote for a candidate on social media sites intend to vote for Obama; 38 percent intend to vote for Romney. There have been nearly 33,000 opinions expressed about Obama: Of those, 40 percent are positive, 60 percent negative. Regarding Romney, 21,500 opinions have been posted: 51 percent positive, 49 percent negative. If these numbers are accurate, it tells me this: People aren’t agreeing with what they’re seeing and hearing from the mainstream media. And they feel strongly enough to post something online about it.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

I feel the same way—I’ve gotten to the point where I tune out much of the political coverage because it makes my blood pressure so high. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. On that same homepage at NBC News, here are the headlines for today:

  1. Romney paid 14.1 percent effective tax rate in 2011
  2. Obama’s battleground advantage grows
  3. Obama hits Romney on 47 percent: ‘I don’t see a lot of victims’
  4. Ryan gets boos at AARP conference
  5. Polls: Obama ahead in Colorado, Iowa and Wisconsin
  6. Obama swipes at Romney over ’47 percent’ comments

[Take the U.S. News Poll: Did Mitt Romney Release Enough of His Tax Returns?]

And yet we know that Romney also gave away $4 million last year to charity; that there are just as many polls showing Romney within the margin of error as show Obama ahead; and that Ryan was also applauded at the AARP conference—but there is no mention of those in the headlines. Apparently NBC feels we need to be reminded twice that Obama disagrees with Romney’s ’47 percent’ comment.

Really? Only six in 10 have a problem with this?

This is Science?

By Jennifer Marino Walters / National Geographic

Climbers check for microscopic life on rocks at high altitudes. Bikers search for garlic mustard, an invasive weed. Mountaineers collect the highest-growing plant life on Earth from the slopes of Mount Everest.

Why are adventurers getting side jobs in science? They’re part of a group of roughly 300 explorers who are teaming up with researchers. They help collect data for scientific studies as they explore remote places. An organization called Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) matches scientists with all types of outdoor explorers. Hikers, skiers, and bikers, to name a few, join in the search for data.

Montana biologist Gregg Treinish has hiked the 2,181- mile Appalachian Trail in the eastern U.S. He also completed the first-ever trek of the entire Andes Mountain Range in South America. But after these adventures, Treinish realized that people like him could help build knowledge about the planet while they are out enjoying it. He started ASC in 2011.

“Scientists are limited by funding, time, and skill level,” says Treinish. “By pairing them with adventurers, we expand their ability to quickly gather information across the world at little cost.”

Adventurers have helped with research on all seven continents through ASC. But it’s not just skilled adventurers who take part. Regular people—including kids—contribute too.


This year, middle school students from Oakland, California, will hike to look for pikas, the smallest members of the rabbit family. What they find will help a researcher at the Craighead Institute in Montana who is studying this animal. Students from Missoula, Montana, will track grizzly bears for a different project.

These people are all part of a trend called citizen science, in which regular people help build scientific knowledge.

“Citizens are going to become an important part of how we learn about the planet,” says Treinish.


Treinish receives two to three requests each day from people who want to help. He expects that number to grow. He hopes to arrange thousands of expeditions each year through ASC.

“Our goal,” he says, “is to have everybody thinking about how they can contribute [to science] when they’re outside.”

This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue of SuperScience. For more from SuperScience, click here.

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Romney releases tax returns that show he gave 30% of his income to charity

Protests over reportedly anti-Islam movie lead to rioting and deaths in Pakistan

Chicken lasagna

Recipe courtesy of


  • 1 (16 ounce) package lasagna noodles
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
  • 3 cooked, boneless chicken breast halves, diced
  • 32 ounces Classico® Creamy Alfredo Sauce
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 pints ricotta cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain. Cook spinach according to package directions; drain.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine chicken and one jar of alfredo sauce, stir together. In a separate bowl, combine ricotta and drained, cooked spinach, and stir.
  3. In a 9 x 13 baking dish, place one layer of lasagna noodles, edges overlapping. Pour chicken and alfredo sauce mixture over noodle layer and spread evenly. Sprinkle 1 cup of shredded mozzarella over chicken mixture. Top with another layer of noodles. Spread spinach mixture evenly over noodles. Pour 1/2 of remaining jar of alfredo sauce over spinach mixture, spread evenly. Sprinkle another cup of mozzarella over sauce, lay on the final noodle layer and top with remaining 2 cups of mozzarella and salt and pepper to taste. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until top is brown and bubbly.

Nutritional Information open nutritional information

Amount Per Serving  Calories: 542 | Total Fat: 27.8g | Cholesterol: 137mg Powered by ESHA Nutrient Databas

The Mom Vivant / Debbie Baldwin of Ladue News

By Debbie Baldwin

While I’m generally loath to perpetuate stereotypes when it comes to women and automotive knowledge, unfortunately, I don’t do much for my gender’s cause. I mean, I’m the woman who drove around for a year with a slow leak in a tire and just kept putting air in it as needed. That being said, it stands to reason that I am at the mercy of my mechanic—the guy could tell me my car needs new phalanges and I’d fork over the $300.

So imagine my surprise when this happened: We had made it all the way to Michigan and back; and I had successfully completed most of my chauffeuring duties for Cranky, Whiny and Punch toward the end of the day last week when suddenly my car, um, complained. Bells started binging, parts started banging, there was a strange gadonk coming from under the hood and some very urgent-sounding messages were scrolling across the dashboard. The gist of the messages seemed to be stop driving this car before it blows up!

So I have the car towed to my mechanic, who basically informs me that if my car were a human, it would need an organ transplant— oh, and it doesn’t have health insurance. But he goes on to say that this should not have happened to a car this young (2007), with relatively few (60,000) miles, and that I should call Detroit. Yeah, right. Hello, Detroit? You messed up my car. The mechanic sees my incredulous look and reiterates. No, seriously, call them. They should stand behind their product.

As I looked on the website for the phone number for customer service, I imagined the avalanche of bureaucratic red tape I was about to encounter. The mind reels, but like Sisyphus preparing to push the boulder up the hill one more time, I make the call. After a brief argument with the automated answering system, a very friendly man answers the phone. Apparently, the fact that my engine fell out of my car is a point of concern for the company. He takes my information, gets my mechanic’s phone number, confirms that I have had regular oil changes (whew), and to my shock and awe, they agree. They fixed my car. So there you have it: a good old story of American industrial spirit. Who knew? Welcome to a lesson on how to keep a loyal customer.

Will uncertainty among blacks and women lead to low turnout?

I just read an article from the Associated Press that claims some social conservatives in the African American community may be wavering about whether to vote for President Barack Obama. The question is if they don’t like Obama because he is pro-gay marriage and they can’t relate to Romney, reportedly because he is a Mormon, what are they going to do on Election Day. What a lot of voters do when they don’t like either candidate is to not vote at all. Women voters are wavering, too. It’s my opinion that many women voters mistakenly believe the Democrats are more female friendly and that the Republicans are anti-women because of the steady drumbeat over women’s issues like contraception beginning late last year. But at the same time, they know in their hearts that things really haven’t gone in the direction they hoped under Obama.

Associated Press

Some black clergy, seeing no good presidential choice between a Mormon candidate and one who supports gay marriage, are telling their flocks to stay home on Election Day, a worrisome message in a tight race.

The pastors say their congregants are asking how a true Christian could back same-sex marriage, as President Barack Obama did in May. As for Republican Mitt Romney, the first Mormon nominee from a major party, congregants are questioning the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its former ban on men of African descent in the priesthood.

There’s no question which candidate is expected to win the black vote. In 2008, Obama won 95 percent of black voters and is likely to get an overwhelming majority again. But the nation’s first African-American president can’t afford to lose any voters from his base.

“When President Obama made the public statement on gay marriage, I think it put a question in our minds as to what direction he’s taking the nation,” said the Rev. A.R. Bernard, founder of the predominantly African-American Christian Cultural Center in New York. Bernard, whose endorsement is much sought-after in New York and beyond, voted for Obama in 2008. He said he’s unsure how he’ll vote this year.

It’s unclear just how widespread the sentiment is that African-American Christians would be better off not voting at all. Many pastors have said that despite their misgivings about the candidates, blacks have fought too hard for the vote to ever stay away from the polls.

Black church leaders have launched get-out-the-vote efforts on a wide range of issues, including the proliferation of state voter identification laws, which critics say discriminate against minorities. Last Easter Sunday, a month before Obama’s gay marriage announcement, the Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant of Baltimore formed the Empowerment Network, a national coalition of about 30 denominations working to register congregants and provide them with background on health care, the economy, education and other policy issues.

Yet, Bryant last month told The Washington Informer, an African-American newsweekly, “This is the first time in black church history that I’m aware of that black pastors have encouraged their parishioners not to vote.” Bryant, who opposes gay marriage, said the president’s position on marriage is “at the heart” of the problem.

Bryant was traveling and could not be reached for additional comment, his spokeswoman said.

The circumstances of the 2012 campaign have led to complex conversations about faith, politics and voting.

The Rev. George Nelson Jr., senior pastor of Grace Fellowship Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, participated in a conference call with other African-American pastors the day after Obama’s announcement during which the ministers resolved to oppose gay marriage. Nelson said Obama’s statement had caused a “storm” in the African-American community.

Still, he said “I would never vote for a man like Romney,” because Nelson has been taught in the Southern Baptist Convention that Mormonism is a cult.

As recently as the 2008 GOP primaries, the SBC’s Baptist Press ran articles calling the LDS church a cult. This year, however, prominent Southern Baptists have discouraged use of the term when addressing theological differences with Mormonism. Many Southern Baptist leaders have emphasized there are no religious obstacles to voting for a Mormon.

Nelson planned to vote and has told others to do the same. He declined to say which candidate he would support.

“Because of those that made sacrifices in days gone by and some greater than others with their lives. It would be totally foolish for me to mention staying away from the polls,” he said in an email exchange.

Romney has pledged to uphold conservative positions on social issues, including opposing abortion and gay marriage. But many black pastors worry about his Mormon beliefs. Christians generally do not see Mormonism as part of historic Christianity, although Mormons do.

African-Americans generally still view the church as racist. When LDS leaders lifted the ban on blacks in the priesthood in 1978, church authorities never said why. The Mormon community has grown more diverse, and the church has repeatedly condemned racism. However, while most Christian denominations have publicly repented for past discrimination, Latter-day Saints never formally apologized.

Bernard is among the traditional Christians who voted for Obama in 2008 and are now undecided because of the president’s support for gay marriage. But Bernard is also troubled by Romney’s faith.

“To say you have a value for human life and exclude African-American human life, that’s problematic,” Bernard said, about the priesthood ban. “How can I judge the degree to which candidate Romney is going to allow his Mormonism to influence his policies? I don’t know. I can’t.”

Romney said in a 2007 speech that LDS authorities would have no influence on his policies as president. He also said he wept when he learned that the priesthood ban had been abolished because he was anxious for it to be lifted. But that has done little to change perceptions among African-Americans and others.

“Obama was supposed to answer for the things that Rev. Wright said,” said the Rev. Floyd James of the Greater Rock Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, at a recent meeting of the historically black National Baptist Convention. “Yet here’s a guy (Romney) who was a leader in his own church that has that kind of history, and he isn’t held to some kind of account? I have a problem with that.”

Obama broke in 2008 with his longtime Chicago pastor, Jeremiah Wright, after videos of his incendiary sermons were broadcast.

Many Democrats and Republicans have argued that Romney’s faith should be off limits. The Rev. Derrick Harkins, faith outreach director for the Democratic National Committee, travels around the country speaking to African-American pastors and other clergy. He said concerns over gay marriage have receded as other issues take precedence, and no pastors have raised Mormonism in their conversations with him about the two candidates.

“There’s just no space in this campaign for casting aspersions on anyone’s faith,” Harkins said in a phone interview. “It’s not morally upright. It’s not ethically appropriate.”

The Rev. Howard-John Wesley, who leads the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., said he is telling his congregants, “Let’s not make the election a decision about someone’s salvation.” Last spring, when it became clear that Romney would be the GOP nominee, congregants starting asking about Mormonism, so Wesley organized a class on the faith. He said congregants ultimately decided that “we could not put Mormons under the boundaries of orthodox Christianity.”

But Wesley said, “I don’t want Gov. Romney to have to defend the Mormon church, the way President Obama had to defend Jeremiah Wright.” Wesley, whose congregation has more than 5,000 members, said he will be voting for Obama.

The Rev. Lin Hill, an associate pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Va., said in a phone interview that he plans to travel with other local pastors to about 50 congregations over two weeks to hold discussions and distribute voter guides that will include a contrast between historic Christianity and Mormonism, and educate congregants about the former priesthood ban.

Hill is active in his local Democratic Party but said he’s acting independently of the campaign. He said Mormon theology becomes relevant when congregants argue that they can’t vote for Obama because, as a Christian, he should have opposed gay marriage.

“If you’re going to take a tenet of a religion and let that dissuade you from voting, then we have to,” discuss Mormon doctrine, Hill said. “We want folks to have a balanced view of both parties, but we can’t do that without the facts.”

The Rev. Dwight McKissic, a prominent Southern Baptist and black preacher, describes himself as a political independent who didn’t support Obama in 2008 because of his position on social issues. McKissic said Obama’s support for same-gender marriage “betrayed the Bible and the black church.” Around the same time, McKissic was researching Mormonism for a sermon and decided to propose a resolution to the annual Southern Baptist Convention that would have condemned Mormon “racist teachings.”

McKissic’s Mormon resolution failed.

On Election Day, McKissic said, “I plan to go fishing.”