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The most expensive election in history

My colleagues Maggie Haberman and Alex Burns have a series of items on their blog today that give you a sense of the staggering amount of money that is being spent on the 2012 elections – by some estimates, spending will ultimately amount to anywhere from $6 to $10 billion at the end of all this.

The Burns-Haberman blog broke the news this morning that American Crossroads, the pro-Republican super PAC, and Crossroads GPS , its nonprofit affiliate, will announce $100 million raised for both so far through the 2012 cycle.

Here’s what else is in the news today:

•Mitt Romney raised a total of $12.6 million in March; in the last 12 months, the campaign has raised $87 million in primary funds.

•Paul raised $2.6 million in March; it raised nearly $10.4 million in the first fundraising quarter of 2012.

•The Susan B. Anthony List, which supports candidates who oppose abortion, announced that it would spend between $10 million and $12 million in this election cycle.

•The Obama campaign announced Monday that it had raised $53 million in March; its cash on hand figure is at just over $104 million.

•According to a running tab kept by OpenSecrets, spending by super PACs, parties, corporations, unions, individual people and other groups is at $109.1 million as of today.

All of it points to a wild year that will make this the most expensive election cycle in American history.

There are a few other takeaways here as well in this post-Citizens United world. One is that super PACs are on a trajectory to outpace the party committees as a political force in elections. The other is that an avalanche of money is being poured into elections at every level at a time when cynicism about politics is at dangerously high levels.


Study reveals groundwater resources in Africa


Huge reserves of underground water in some of the driest parts of Africa could provide a buffer against the effects of climate change for years to come, scientists have said.

Researchers from the British Geological Survey and University College London have for the first time mapped the aquifers, or groundwater, across the continent and the amount they hold.

"The largest groundwater volumes are found in the large sedimentary aquifers in the North African countries Libya, Algeria, Egypt and Sudan," the scientists said in their paper, published on Friday.

They estimate that reserves of groundwater across the continent are 100 times the amount found on its surface, or 0.66 million cubic kilometres.

Writing in the journal Environmental Research Letters, they cautioned, though, that not all of the reserves are accessible.

Where they are, small-scale extraction by hand pump would be better than large-scale drilling projects, which could quickly deplete the reservoirs and have other unforeseen consequences.

Read more: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2012/04/2012420204337712453.html?utm_content=automate&utm_campaign=Trial6&utm_source=NewSocialFlow&utm_term=plustweets&utm_medium=MasterAccount

Fox: “Glee” makes you trans

Bill O'Reilly thinks the show is coming for your children -- and once again misunderstands inequality

“Here we go again,” says the blond lady from Fox. Gretchen Carlson, I assure you I feel exactly the same way.

On Thursday’s “O’Reilly Factor,” Bill O’Reilly grappled with the terrible, terrible paradox that while “Glee” may have some merits, it also sends the message “that alternative lifestyles for children may be positive.” And then, oh no, he showed a clip of the character Unique performing a KC and the Sunshine Band song in a dress and heels. O’Reilly, who is terribly concerned that America’s youth “might go out and experiment with this stuff,” next welcomed Carlson, along with Judge Jeanine Pirro, for an old-fashioned round of pearl-clutching. “Here we go again,” said Carlson, “pandering to .3 percent of the American population that consider themselves transgender. Now I get to explain this to my 8-year-old, if I just wanted to watch a nice family show with some nice music?”


States of punishment--Mapping the death penalty in America

Mapping the death penalty in America

FROM 2000 to 2011 there were, on average, five death-row exonerations a year in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre. North Carolina alone saw three exonerations in six months in 2008. The following year the state legislature passed the Racial Justice Act, which gives death-row inmates the chance to commute their sentences to life without parole if a judge rules the sentences were tainted by racial bias. (More than half of North Carolina's death-row inmates are black.) The first ruling will be issued on April 20th, a decision that could set a precedent for other challenges based on race. Indeed the ripples could be felt across the country, especially in Pennsylvania and Missouri, where similar legislation is pending. Other states are reconsidering capital punishment altogether. In November voters in California, which has more people on death row than any other state, will vote on whether to repeal the death penalty. And Connecticut, where a repeal bill was recently passed, is set to become the 17th state to abolish capital punishment.



Christopher Hitchens' wit and warmth remembered as New York pays tribute

"Little Keith" called him a suffering auto-contrarian and likened him to Houdini; Graydon Carter said he was a "bit of a scallywag" but an editor's dream; and the doctor who treated him for the cancer of the oesophagus that killed him said he was a "pioneer at the frontier".

Unsurprisingly, though, it was Christopher Hitchens who had the funniest and the most apposite words with which to describe himself at his own memorial in New York on Friday. He was, he said of himself in posthumous film clips and readings, a "radical freelance scribbler" who had devoted his life to curiosity, irony, dubunking, disputation, drinking, love and hate (though of all those things, it was hate that got him out of bed in the morning).

"The cause of my life," Hitchens said in one snippet included in a compilation put together by the Oscar-winning documentary maker Alex Dibney, "has been to oppose superstition. It's a battle you can't hope to win – it's a battle that's going to go on forever. It's part of the human condition."

For an hour and a half, the cavernous Great Hall of the Cooper Union in Manhattan was filled with the wit and the excoriating erudition of the man universally referred to as "Hitch". But for Martin Amis - "Little Keith" as Hitchens always called him – the most enduring quality was friendship.


Remembering Christopher Hitchens
Posted by David Remnick


This beautifully composed space footage will 100% give you chills


Ron Paul still in the race with millions in funding and zero debt

First Rick Santorum slipped out of the race for the GOP nomination, and next Newt Gingrich said he would support Romney but would still run. But what about Ron Paul’s quest for the White House?

According to the latest bulletin from the campaign headquarters of the Texas congressman, Ron Paul is still in the race and rolling in the bucks.

Republican Party presidential hopeful Ron Paul is still polling strong among many demographics and shows no sign of slowing down. At least if his bank records have anything to do with it. The candidate’s camp announced on Friday that so far in 2012 his campaign has managed to bring in almost $10.4 million in contributions from donors determined to keep the congressman in the GOP race.

Those funds won’t be funneled to pay off earlier spending, either. His officials say that in addition to the big bucks that came in for the first quarter, the Ron Paul campaign has zero debt at this point in the race. Compare that to Republican Party rival and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who was reportedly in the hole to the tune of $4.5 million last week, according to an article published by Slate.

As Ron Paul and Gingrich are now left as the only viable Republican alternative to Mitt Romney, Gingrich’s chances might soon run dry as his pocketbook does the same. Will Paul have a chance to pull through against the frontrunner, though?


Ugandan troops play jungle cat and mouse with Kony

RIVER CHINKO, Central African Republic, Apr. 20, 2012 (Reuters) — A Ugandan "hunting squad" pushes through the thick jungle of central Africa in search of the fugitive warlord Joseph Kony.

It is tough terrain that favors the hunted.

At times the Ugandan soldiers cover as little as three kilometers a day, laboring through hanging vines and dense foliage that cut visibility to a few meters and wading chest-deep through crocodile-infested rivers.

The 58-man special operations group, codenamed 77-kilo, is at the forefront of a reinvigorated international drive to close the net on the sadistic Kony and the remnants of his depleted Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group.

The deployment of some 100 U.S. military advisers to the region late last year to support the hunt raised hopes Kony's decades-long campaign, notorious for the rebels' practices of hacking off limbs and abducting children, was doomed.

However, in the steamy forests straddling the borders of Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, the LRA's favored hideouts since it fled its native Uganda, Kony remains a master of the hostile environment.

"We're hungry to hunt these guys down and take them back home, but it's a tough task," said Private James Mukundane, a sturdy warrior with a broad smile.

Ugandan commanders believe Kony and his two most senior lieutenants, who all face war crimes charges, are in a band of territory several hundred kilometers wide, feeding on wild yams and stolen cattle and drinking from rivers.

Uganda's military estimates the LRA has been reduced to no more than 200 fighters in CAR. Pockets of LRA fighters also remain in Congo. Moving in small groups and avoiding the use of satellite phones and radios, they are hard to intercept.


States Could Be in a Hurry if Obamacare Upheld

What if the Supreme Court upholds Obamacare?

With many Republican state leaders declaring they won’t move forward on implementing the law until the nation’s highest court issues its opinion, there could be a last-minute crunch, reports CQ’s Jane Norman.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said she’s preparing for the law to be upheld.

“What we are anticipating when the court finds the law constitutional is that we may have a rush of people who say, ‘How fast can we get ready?’” Sebelius said following an appearance at a health care forum. “That’s part of the planning going on; what we can do to get states ready to go by 2014.” Under the law, states must have their exchanges up and running by then.

If states have not set up their own exchanges, the federal government is supposed to step in — an outcome many Republican leaders would prefer to avoid.


New Zealand woman's Coca-Cola habit cited in death

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Experts say a New Zealand woman's 2-gallon-a-day Coca-Cola habit probably contributed to her death, a conclusion that led the soft-drink giant to note that even water can be deadly in excessive amounts.

Natasha Harris, a 30-year-old, stay-at-home mother of eight from Invercargill, died of a heart attack in February 2010. Fairfax Media reported that a pathologist, Dr. Dan Mornin, testified at an inquest Thursday that she probably suffered from hypokalemia, or low potassium, which he thinks was caused by her excessive consumption of Coke and overall poor nutrition.

Symptoms of hypokalemia can include abnormal heart rhythms, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Mornin said that toxic levels of caffeine, a stimulant found in Coke, also may have contributed to her death, according to Fairfax.
Harris' partner, Chris Hodgkinson, testified that Harris drank between 8 and 10 liters (2.1 and 2.6 gallons) of regular Coke every day.

"The first thing she would do in the morning was to have a drink of Coke beside her bed and the last thing she would do at night was have a drink of Coke," Hodgkinson said in a deposition. "She was addicted to Coke."

Hodgkinson also said Harris ate little and smoked about 30 cigarettes a day. In the months before her death, he said, Harris experienced blood pressure problems and lacked energy.

He said that on the morning of her death, Harris helped get her children ready for school before slumping against a wall. He called emergency services and tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but couldn't revive her.

Another pathologist, Dr. Martin Sage, said in a deposition that "it is certainly well demonstrated that excessive long or short term cola ingestion can be dramatically symptomatic, and there are strong hypothetical grounds for this becoming fatal in individual cases."

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