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Convention Countdown

The Republican National Convention is in 4 days in Cleveland.

The Democratic National Convention is in 11 days in Philadelphia.

NASA has released the first picture of Jupiter taken since the Juno spacecraft went into orbit around the planet on July 4.

The picture was taken on July 10. Juno was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter at the time. The color image shows some of the atmospheric features of the planet, including the giant red spot. You can also see three of Jupiter's moons in the picture: Io, Europa and Ganymede.

The Senate is set to approve a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

My husband and I once took great pleasure in preparing meals from scratch. We made pizza dough and sauce. We baked bread. We churned ice cream.

Then we became parents.

Now there are some weeks when pre-chopped veggies and a rotisserie chicken are the only things between us and five nights of Chipotle.

Parents are busy. For some of us, figuring out how to get dinner on the table is a daily struggle. So I reached out to food experts, parents and nutritionists for help. Here is some of their (and my) best advice for making weeknight meals happen.

"O Canada," the national anthem of our neighbors up north, comes in two official versions — English and French. They share a melody, but differ in meaning.

Let the record show: neither version of those lyrics contains the phrase "all lives matter."

But at the 2016 All-Star Game, the song got an unexpected edit.

At Petco Park in San Diego, one member of the Canadian singing group The Tenors — by himself, according to the other members of the group — revised the anthem.

School's out, and a lot of parents are getting through the long summer days with extra helpings of digital devices.

How should we feel about that?

Police in Baton Rouge say they have arrested three people who stole guns with the goal of killing police officers. They are still looking for a fourth suspect in the alleged plot, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

"Police say the thefts were at a Baton Rouge pawn shop early Saturday morning," Greg says. "One person was arrested at the scene. Since then, two others have been arrested and six of the eight stolen handguns have been recovered. Police are still looking for one other man."

A 13-year-old boy is among those arrested, Greg says.

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After an international tribunal invalidated Beijing's claims to the South China Sea, Chinese authorities have declared in no uncertain terms that they will be ignoring the ruling.

The Philippines brought the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, objecting to China's claims to maritime rights in the disputed waters. The tribunal agreed that China had no legal authority to claim the waters and was infringing on the sovereign rights of the Philippines.

Donald Trump is firing back at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after she disparaged him in several media interviews. He tweeted late Tuesday that she "has embarrassed all" with her "very dumb political statements" about the candidate. Trump ended his tweet with "Her mind is shot - resign!":


That's Why Incumbents Used To Say No

Oct 4, 2012
Originally published on October 4, 2012 6:44 pm

In case anyone was wondering, this week's presidential debate demonstrated why incumbent presidents and others leading in the polls used to refuse to debate their challengers.

After John F. Kennedy used the first TV debates to boost his campaign against incumbent Vice President Richard Nixon in 1960, there simply were no debates until 1976. Running again with a big lead in 1968 and 1972, Nixon declined to debate and won both times. Lyndon B. Johnson also demurred in 1964 without damage en route to a landslide.

Since then, we have seen seven sitting presidents agree to debate their major challengers, and nearly all of them suffered for it.

Gerald Ford in 1976 might have held on to the White House had he not debated challenger Jimmy Carter, who four years later saw his own re-election bid die after debating Ronald Reagan.

In 1984, as the incumbent, Reagan seemed dazed and confused through much of his first debate with Walter Mondale, and an otherwise ho-hum contest briefly got hot.

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush was already trailing when he took the stage with Bill Clinton and independent Ross Perot. His lackluster showing confirmed the dynamic that cost him his office.

His son, George W. Bush, also had a rocky outing against challenger John Kerry in 2004, although he recovered well enough to minimize the damage and win narrowly in November.

The one exception to this pattern came in 1996, when President Clinton was running for a second term and used the debates to slam the door on Republican Bob Dole. Clinton was arguably a better president on stage than he was in office, but he was surely better on stage than Dole. In fact, he made it look so easy that the team in the current White House might well have thought their man would do the same.

So we have had three presidents who debated and lost (Ford, Carter, George H.W. Bush) and three who debated and went on to win (Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush). The Obama case will be the tiebreaker.

That is not nearly so reassuring a scorecard as Democrats seem to think it is when they bring up the "incumbents stumble in first debate" argument. On the other hand, it can also be said that the debating incumbents who lost had a lot of other problems and might well have lost anyway, and a less than stellar performance has not been consistently fatal.

One thing is clear at this point. The change this first debate has already wrought in the campaign dynamic is more than a cautionary note for President Obama. It casts his entire re-election rationale in an unflattering light.

In essence, the question posed is this: If he was not focused enough to represent himself well in this critical meeting with former Gov. Mitt Romney, how well focused is he on the rest of his job? Is the president the inspirational orator or the magisterial professor we have seen in the past? Or is he as halting and hesitant about the problems he confronts in the Oval Office as he seemed in confronting his rival onstage in Denver?

Romney stole the headlines with his star turn as a corporate executive fighting a boardroom battle with the weapons of his trade. But he would not have been so clear a winner if the president had been on his game, sure of his aces, returning fire point for point. In those moments when Obama did have strong points to make, he barely seemed able to find the words.

This was where the trifecta of incumbency, a lead in the polls and high voter expectations hurt the incumbent. Most Americans told pollsters this week that they expected the president to win the debate. They and much of the media imagined the law school professor Obama cutting through the blustering corporate executive Romney. Instead, the professor seemed not to have prepared for the lecture, and the businessman was making the pitch of his life.

Had he been at his best, Obama might have begun the end for Romney last night. But he manifestly failed to do so.

We may have gotten a glimpse into just how overconfident Obama and his inner circle had become. They clearly do not regard Romney as highly as they did John McCain four years ago and perhaps cannot imagine themselves losing to him. That is classic incumbent behavior and provides the challenger with a marvelous opening.

So the crucial question is whether the president will take Romney seriously enough to change his demeanor in the latter two debates. He has to punch back without becoming petulant, get tough without being unpresidential. If he can do that, he can recover. If he cannot, the small cushion he built up in September will not be enough to secure a second term.

After his weak performance in the first 1984 debate, Reagan came back in the second with his famous vow "not to exploit my opponent's youth and inexperience."

His chief of staff, James Baker, was asked the next day whether it was a good idea for the incumbent to debate. Baker said he wouldn't comment on whether having a debate was a good idea, but added "it was a good idea to have two."

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