Jun 2, 2014 7:00 am

EPA to propose power plant pollution cuts, an idea the public has backed

As part of the Obama administration strategy to deal with the challenge of climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency plans  to issue a new regulation today aimed at cutting emissions from the nation’s coal-fueled power plants. The move is likely to meet with political and industry opposition, but in general, the public favors the idea of stricter limits on power plants.

Most back new emissions on power plantsThe new EPA rule will mandate cuts in carbon pollution by 30% by 2030 from levels that existed in 2005, according to the New York Times and other news reports. The Times called it “the strongest action ever taken” by the government to fight climate change.

President Obama decided to go the route of issuing a regulation because he has little chance of getting his climate change proposals past the Republican-controlled House.

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Topics: Barack Obama, Energy and Environment

May 30, 2014 2:14 pm

Four-in-Ten Pakistanis say honor killing of women can be at least sometimes justified

About four-in-Ten Pakistanis say ending a woman's life -- so-called honor killing -- is justified if she has shamed her family.
Members of Pakistan’s civil society hold protest to condemn the killing of Farzana Parveen, a 25-year-old pregnant woman who was stoned to death earlier this week. (Credit: AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called for “immediate action” Thursday over the stoning death of a pregnant 25-year-old woman in Lahore earlier this week. Farzana Parveen’s murder, carried out by her family members because she married a man without their consent, has shined a light on so-called “honor killing,” a practice in which relatives end the lives of women and men who are said to bring shame to the family.

Stoning death of 25-year-old Pakistani woman puts focus on views about honor killingsSharif called Parveen’s death “totally unacceptable,” but a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2011 found that the Prime Minister’s position is unlikely to resonate with all Pakistanis.

Honor killings claim the lives of more than 1,000 Pakistani women every year, according to a Washington Post story citing a Pakistani organization that advocates against honor killings.  In the last few years, honor killings in Pakistan have gained international attention, with cases ranging from women refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, seeking a divorce or having a pre- or extra-marital affair.

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May 30, 2014 12:29 pm

Chart of the Week: What top tech execs have in common besides money

immigrant tech founders
Click to view larger version. Credit: Mary Meeker

The U.S. tech landscape would look very different without immigrants, according to a new internet trends presentation by Mary Meeker, an influential tech analyst and venture capitalist. Of the top 25 tech companies (by market capitalization), 60% have founders who are immigrants or have at least one immigrant parent.

The chart uses a broad definition of first- or second-generation immigrants, but it brings a fresh perspective and analysis to how we typically think about the impact of immigrants to the United States. Meeker’s list includes some of the biggest names in tech: Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (son of a Syrian immigrant, but raised by U.S.-born adoptive parents),  Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Brazilian immigrant) and Google co-founder Sergey Brin (Russian immigrant). Read More

Category: Chart of the Week

Topics: Immigration

May 30, 2014 7:00 am

5 facts about today’s college graduates

Graduation season is in full swing, but what do we really know about all those fresh-faced young adults in black robes — what they actually studied, what their chances are of landing a decent job, how they’ll look back on their college years? Here’s our data roundup:

CollegeGrads_11 Only about 56% of students earn degrees within six years. The National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit verification and research organization, tracked 2.4 million first-time college students who enrolled in fall 2007 with the intent of pursuing a degree or certificate. The completion rate was highest (72.9%) among students who started at four-year, private, nonprofit schools, and lowest (39.9%) among those who started at two-year public institutions.

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Category: 5 Facts

Topics: College, Education, Educational Attainment

May 29, 2014 2:45 pm

Census says it will count same-sex marriages, but with caveats

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

The U.S. Census Bureau said that it will count same-sex spouses as married couples for the first time, rather than grouping them with cohabiting partners. The agency said it would make the change with the September release of data from its largest household survey.

The new approach reflects the bureau’s evolving policy on reporting household relationships, as it tries to keep pace with social change. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and only one state (North Dakota) has a ban that has not been challenged in court.

Previously, the Census Bureau categorized same-sex spouses as unmarried partners, even if they said they were married, and the bureau included the figures in published statistics about cohabiting couples.

Supporters of gay marriage describe the bureau’s changes as long overdue and say that recognition by the Census Bureau reflects Americans’ growing acceptance of same-sex relationships and legal recognition by courts in a growing number of states. In the long term, the impact will be to broaden and deepen the statistics available about the families, economic circumstances and other characteristics of same-sex married couples.

However, demographic data researchers are not sure how much of a real impact there will be from the data right away. Read More

Topics: Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, U.S. Census

May 29, 2014 7:00 am

Americans are somewhat more open to the idea of an atheist president

Many Americans remain uncomfortable with electing a president who doesn’t believe in God, as evidenced by a recent Pew Research survey. Asked about a list of traits and how each would impact their likelihood of supporting a presidential candidate, about half (53%) of Americans said they would be less likely to support an atheist.what traits americans want in a president

No other trait, including being gay or having never held elected office, garnered a larger share of people saying they’d be less likely to support the potential candidate. But some of the stigma associated with atheists may be fading as the number of U.S. adults self-identifying as atheist or agnostic rises. Even though roughly half of Americans say they’d be less likely to support an atheist for president, that number has gone down since 2007, when six-in-ten Americans (61%) said the same. Read More

Topics: Religiously Unaffiliated

May 28, 2014 4:40 pm

El-Sisi likely to win Egypt election, but questions about mandate remain

Desire for honest elections losing support in EgyptAs the polls close in an unexpected third day of voting in the Egyptian presidential elections, there are concerns among Egypt-watchers that a low turnout victory for former general Abdel Fattah El-Sisi would leave the government without a sufficient mandate to deal with the unrest that has rattled the country since the initial 2011 revolution and last year’s military ouster of Mohamed Morsi. And there are signs in our pre-election April survey that the Egyptian public has become wary of politics and is showing a decline in enthusiasm for democracy and democratic values.

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Topics: Democracy, Middle East and North Africa, World Elections

May 28, 2014 2:23 pm

Which countries still outlaw apostasy and blasphemy?

apostasy laws around the world

Apostasy and blasphemy may seem to many like artifacts of history. But in dozens of countries around the world, laws against apostasy and blasphemy remain even today.

Earlier this month, the U.S. embassy in Khartoum said it was “deeply disturbed” that Sudan had sentenced a pregnant woman to death for apostasy, the act of abandoning one’s faith — including by converting to another religion. (The woman later gave birth in jail.) And in Pakistan, the country’s most popular TV station was the latest target in a rash of recent government accusations of blasphemy, defined as speech or actions considered to be contemptuous of God or the divine.

A new Pew Research analysis finds that as of 2012, nearly a quarter of the world’s countries and territories (22%) had anti-blasphemy laws or policies, and one-in-ten (11%) had laws or policies penalizing apostasy. The legal punishments for such transgressions vary from fines to death. Read More

Topics: Religion and Government, Restrictions on Religion

May 28, 2014 9:00 am

As the New York Times’ first black executive editor, Dean Baquet is in a distinct minority

Credit: AP Images
Credit: AP Images

Just as the May 14 dismissal of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson sparked a debate about gender roles in journalism, the ascension of Dean Baquet—the first African-American to run the paper’s newsroom—has renewed the focus on minority hiring in the news industry.

If Baquet is an historic figure at the Times, he is also part of a small minority at U.S. news outlets. Our data analysis finds that in newspaper newsrooms, the percentage of overall staffers and supervisors who are black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American or multiracial has remained virtually unchanged in the past two decades—accounting for about one in every 10 positions. The situation is slightly different in broadcast news, where minority staffers are still vastly outnumbered, but their presence has, in some cases, risen modestly.  Read More

Topics: Newspapers, Race and Ethnicity, Television

May 28, 2014 7:00 am

Obama charts a new foreign policy course for a public that wants the focus to be at home

President Obama delivers a speech at West Point. Credit: Roger L. Wollenberg-Pool/Getty Images
President Obama delivers a speech at West Point in 2009. Credit: Roger L. Wollenberg-Pool/Getty Images

President Obama is expected today to lay out his vision for navigating the many foreign challenges now facing the nation at a West Point commencement address. Republican leaders have criticized the administration for failing to exert American leadership abroad, but the speech also comes at a time when the American public has less of an appetite for foreign involvement and believes American clout is not what it used to be.

President Obama addresses cadets at West Point Military AcademyA growing number of Americans want to see the U.S. less involved abroad after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a Pew Research Center survey last fall, 52% of the public said the U.S. should “mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own” — the first time since 1964 than more than half the public held that view. About four-in-ten (38%) disagreed. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last month produced similar results.

As crises like the ongoing civil war in Syria and Russia’s annexation of the Ukraine have tested his administration, Obama complained last month about criticism that he was not being tough enough. For example, Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that the administration had led on anti-government forces in Syria and pro-western elements in Ukraine without doing enough to back them up. Obama said that some of these critics “would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people had no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests.”

In his West Point speech, a top White House foreign policy aide told the New York Times that Obama will make “a case for interventionism but not overreach” when it comes to addressing crises abroad.

About half (51%) of Americans agreed last fall that Obama was not tough enough on foreign policy and national security issues while 37% considered his policies about right. More specifically, an April survey on public reaction to events in the Ukraine found that 40% considered Obama’s response about right while 35% said he was not being tough enough.

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Topics: Foreign Affairs and Policy