survey says
April 10, 2014

The number of Americans skeptical of the Bible has doubled over the past three years, a new survey reveals.

The State of the Bible poll discovered that those who believe that the Bible is "just another book of teachings written by men that contains stories and advice" doubled from 10 to 20 percent since 2011. The survey, which was conducted by the Barna Group, found that one in five Americans read the Bible at least four times week — equal to the percentage of those who are skeptical of it.

Although the Bible obviously remains a "highly valued, influential force" in America, as the Christian Post says, it's also certainly a polarizing document with millennials. Forty percent of those aged 18 to 29 admitted to never having read it because they were "busy," and 30 percent think the Bible isn't influential enough in society (versus 50 percent of adults).

Read the rest of the survey at the Christian Post. Jordan Valinsky

foreign policy woes
1:58 p.m. ET
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This weekend, GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson will make a surprise trip to Jordan to tour a Syrian refugee camp, according to the New York Times. His advisers have framed the trip as an effort on Carson's behalf to improve his understanding of the refugee crisis, which has recently come under harsh criticism.

Prepared with Beanie Babies and soccer balls to distribute to the refugee children, Carson's trip will include a trip a tour of the Azraq hospital and clinic near Amman. "I want to hear some of their stories," said Carson. "I find when you have firsthand knowledge of things as opposed to secondhand, it makes a much stronger impression."

Prior to the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris, Carson held strong leads in some state and national polls, but his support has waned as national security concerns mount and the neurosurgeon has come under intense fire for his lack of foreign policy knowledge. Last week, Carson's senior foreign policy adviser told the Times in an interview that "nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East." Stephanie Talmadge

For those who have everything
1:18 p.m. ET
Courtesy image

America's second-largest toymaker is "reaching out to that last frontier of consumers: seniors," says Andrew Liszewski at Gizmodo. Hasbro's new Joy for All Companion Pets ($100) promise to provide Grandma or Granddad with hours of virtual companionship in a small, battery-operated package. Three cat models are already available, and each uses motion sensors and light sensors to help it respond to being petted and hugged. You can hear and feel it purring, and it'll even roll over if petted long enough. The concept "might sound a little depressing," but even a lonely septuagenarian can appreciate the appeal of a pet that demands only affection — "not feeding or bathroom breaks.”
The Week Staff

retail therapy
12:39 p.m. ET
Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images

Ah, Black Friday: the post-Thanksgiving feast day of digestion that is perhaps best known for turning American shoppers into monsters, as they abandon their visiting families to camp outside big box retailers and compete for the best holiday deals. While we all know the basics of the retail-frenzied occasion, many may be surprised to learn the long history of how the biggest shopping day of the year came into its name:

  • Since the early 1900s, the post-Thanksgiving weekend has signaled the beginning of the holiday shopping rush, with New York City retailers fully embracing the marketing opportunity in the '20s by releasing Christmas ads and staging events, including a little parade you may have heard of — Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade — which debuted in 1924.
  • In 1939, the holiday had already become so important to merchants that President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving a week earlier to extend the buying period.
  • By the '50s, factory managers began referring to the day as "Black Friday" due to the rampant failure of employees to show up for work.
  • Philadelphia's police officers during the '60s used the term to refer to the swaths of jaywalking shoppers who flooded the city's downtown.
  • While the term continued to grow in popularity to connote the shopping frenzy, it wasn't until the 80's that the name took on a positive connotation, as shop managers pointed out that the holiday rush put "black ink," signaling profits, rather than loss-signaling red ink, on their revenue reports for the first time all year.

There you have it, but with Black Friday's continued encroaching on its Thanksgiving precursor and increasingly violent reputation, perhaps the name will once again revert to its negative origins. Stephanie Talmadge

Only in America
12:16 p.m. ET

Two men were booted off a Southwest Airlines flight when a paranoid passenger overheard them speaking Arabic. The men were allowed onto the plane after being questioned by police, but were then forced by other passengers to open a small white box they were carrying — which was full of sweets. "So I shared my baklava with them," said one of the men. The Week Staff

police shootings
11:28 a.m. ET
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Demonstrators in Chicago protesting the fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white police officer have scheduled a Friday march in the city's best-known retail district to disrupt Black Friday shopping. The city released several dashcam videos earlier this week showing Officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged Tuesday with murder, repeatedly shooting the teen. The videos, which oddly capture little audio, touched off two nights of mostly peaceful demonstrations calling for an independent investigation.

Following the charges filed against Van Dyke, Rev. Jesse Jackson held several meetings Wednesday with elected officials and community leaders to form a response to McDonald's killing, reports the Chicago Tribune. "The whole idea is that we need a massive demonstration," Jackson said in an interview. "And a massive quest for justice." Stephanie Talmadge

election 2016
11:23 a.m. ET
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Simply announcing a presidential candidacy, or even appearing in primetime presidential debates, offers no assurance that your name will appear on ballots come election day. All 50 states have their own ballot access laws, many of which are onerous even for major party candidates.

For the 2016 elections, presidential campaigns will spend $1 to $2 million each to get on the ballot nationwide. Then there's the man-hours required: While some states — like South Carolina, with its $40,000 fee — want money for ballot access, others — like Virginia, which necessitates 10,000 petition signatures allotted across congressional districts — require significant time investment from campaign staff and volunteers. (Virginia's rules kept all Republicans but Mitt Romney and Ron Paul off the ballot in 2012.)

Because of the monumental effort required, some major party candidates will not be on the ballot in all 50 states come primary season. Republicans Jim Gilmore and George Pataki already missed the filing deadline for Alabama, and all but the richest campaigns are unlikely to meet the requirements for every caucus and primary election. Bonnie Kristian

the war on drugs
10:50 a.m. ET

Ending or significantly reforming the war on drugs has long been cited as a primary way to lower America's record-setting incarceration rate. In recent years, however, the extent of the potential impact of decriminalizing drug use has been challenged, with one study finding that only one in five inmates in state and federal prisons is held on drug charges.

Now, new research from the Brookings Institute finds that measuring the proportion of drug offenders in a snapshot of inmate populations may be misleading. That's because drug sentences tend to be shorter than sentences for more serious crimes like homicide, so murderers wind up being overrepresented in studies which look at the static stock of prisons at a single moment, while drug users are underrepresented.

To better measure the effect of drug laws on incarceration, the Brookings study looks at the flow of inmates in and out of prison over time:


Measured this way, drug offenders actually make up the largest single category of prisoners, with one of three new admissions to prison stemming from drug charges. Bonnie Kristian

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