What Slate Readers Think About the Biggest Challenges Facing America

Applicants waiting in line at a job fair
Readers worry most about where the economy will be in 30 years.

Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

This article is part of a series presented by the American Prosperity Consensus in partnership with Slate. You can read the rest of the stories in this series here.

Three weeks ago, Slate and the Copenhagen Consensus Center launched the American Prosperity Consensus. On the very first day of the  government shutdown, APC asked expert organizations and Slate readers for their ideas on how the U.S. might overcome short-term, partisan divisions and begin to focus on the issues that matter most to ensure American prosperity in 2040.

APC seeks to determine the best course of action while acknowledging the trends that will change the U.S. domestically and shape the role it plays in the world. When we look at the reader input and expert commentary, there is a great deal of overlap with major polls. The overarching concerns have been about jobs and the state of the economy. Slate readers pushed these two issues in the comments on nearly every piece we ran in the series. Whether experts were discussing immigration or infrastructure, readers wanted to know how the topic connected to improving the U.S.’s economic situation. They also worry about what kind of jobs will be available to them and to their children. This input is consistent with poll results from Gallup and Pew Research, in which the top two issues Americans rank as most important are a stronger economy and more jobs.

A third area where we see a great deal of agreement is on the affordability of health care, which takes prominence both with Slate readers and in opinion polls. As the country grows older, the cost of necessary care weighs on Americans’ minds. Taken together, these three points cut to the heart of the American Prosperity Consensus: How can we ensure lasting growth from now through 2040?

In other areas, Slate readers tended to focus more on the ways the government spends its money than on the overall level of spending. Your apprehensions over the Affordable Care Act, for example, relate less to the cost of the program itself than on provisions like low-income subsidies. The Gallup and Pew polls point more generally to Americans’ concern over federal spending and the budget deficit.  The polls also show continued concern over the threat of terrorism; Slate readers were more troubled instead by the role of threat inflation on bloated military budgets, and worried about how sustained increase in defense spending impacted outlays for areas such as education.

Slate readers also expressed concern about the perceived influence of commercial and corporate interests in the political process. This topic arose on subjects as diverse as obesity and food processing to immigration and bridge maintenance. The common theme you articulated across these topics was that unless the U.S. government can counter this influence, societal benefits will always come second to corporate profits.

There were other noticeable divergences between your feedback and the opinion polls. Slate readers were strongly concerned about climate change and the environment whereas Gallup and Pew polls show that the average American places relatively low importance on these issues compared with subjects such as the economy, taxes, or terrorism.

Fundamental to the APC is the acknowledgement that the very fabric of American society is changing; as I said in my opening piece, the U.S. of 2040 will be a far different place than the country we know today. Americans continue to reshape their identity, and the outcomes of this process will weigh heavily on the nation for years to come. This idea will play out as we ask economists to craft smart solutions to the issues you have named and advance the debate. Future pieces from APC will focus in greater depth on topics from climate change and the environment to lobbying and campaign finance. The project is one of inclusion, and we strive to reach out to as many people as possible.

The American Prosperity Consensus seeks to prioritize the smart policy solutions that will provide the most impact on American growth over the next three decades. We’re looking forward to discovering from you how to make the most of America’s future.

Source: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/american_prosperity_consensus/2013/10/the_biggest_challenges_facing_america_readers_respond_to_the_american_prosperity.html
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Security concerns prompt subpoena for HealthCare.gov data

A U.S. House committee chairman, citing security concerns, today ordered a HealthCare.gov contractor to provide detailed information about its work on the project.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman, Tuesday issued a subpoena for Quality Software Services Inc.’s contract with the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work on the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) website.

[ Also on InfoWorld: How federal cronies built — and botched — HealthCare.gov. | For a quick, smart take on the news you’ll be talking about, check out InfoWorld TechBrief — subscribe today. ]

The subpoena also orders QSSI to disclose how much it has been paid so far for its work on the project for the project, along with details about all HealthCare.gov-related internal communications and that between the company and workers at HHS and the White House.

Issa said he issued the subpoena after QSSI failed to voluntarily hand the information after it was asked for it by the committee last week.

QSSI did not respond to a request for comment on the subpoena.

“It is crucial that you provide information quickly because of the serious concerns about data security related to the lack of testing,” Issa said in a letter sent to QSSI and 10 other HealthCare.gov contractors on October 23. “This lack of testing is concerning due to the amount of sensitive consumer information flowing through the data hub and exchanges.”

QSSI is responsible for building HealthCare.gov’s core Data Hub, which is designed to support ACA health exchanges. The hub is operated by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and is designed to let health care marketplaces quickly verify the eligibility of individuals seeking insurance coverage.

HealthCare.gov’s Data Hub doesn’t store data, but it’s designed to connect insurance exchanges with federal databases at various government agencies, including the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the Dept. of Homeland Security, and the Dept. of Veterans Affairs.

QSSI also oversees the testing of software code developed by other HealthCare.gov contractors and last week signed a contract to be the general contractor in charge of fixing glitches that have plagued the site since it went live on Oct. 1.

Issa said that QSSI’s firsthand knowledge of the design and implementation of the Data Hub could help committee members better understand the decisions that went into building the website.

The subpoena is the latest sign of a growing unease over the security controls in HealthCare.gov. Though the site does not store much personal data, critics fear that it could nonetheless expose users to identity theft and other types of fraud.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan, or subscribe to Jaikumar’s RSS feed. His email address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

Read more about gov’t legislation/regulation in Computerworld’s Gov’t Legislation/Regulation Topic Center.

Source: http://www.infoworld.com/t/federal-regulations/security-concerns-prompt-subpoena-healthcaregov-data-229751
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Sandy survivors recall challenges of past year

In early morning darkness, workers prepare heavy machinery for the day as rebuilding work continues on the beach area of Seaside Heights and Seaside Park, N.J., Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. A large Sandy-related fire on the boardwalk in September has slowed progress in the area. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

In early morning darkness, workers prepare heavy machinery for the day as rebuilding work continues on the beach area of Seaside Heights and Seaside Park, N.J., Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. A large Sandy-related fire on the boardwalk in September has slowed progress in the area. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

As the sunrises, Sue Dougherty looks for shells along the beach In Seaside Heights, N.J., Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

As the sunrises, a person looks out over the ocean in Seaside Heights, N.J., Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

In early morning darkness, workers prepare heavy machinery for the day as rebuilding work continues on the beach area of Seaside Heights and Seaside Park, N.J., Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. A large Sandy-related fire on the boardwalk in September has slowed progress in the area. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

In early morning darkness, workers prepare heavy machinery for the day as rebuilding work continues on the beach area of Seaside Heights and Seaside Park, N.J., Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. A large Sandy-related fire on the boardwalk in September has slowed progress in the area. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

(AP) — The trauma inflicted by Superstorm Sandy’s fierce floodwaters was etched on the faces of many homeowners Tuesday, a year after the storm made landfall, as they recalled the challenges they have faced during the past year.

Rebuilding efforts continued throughout New York and New Jersey even as people stopped to reflect on what was lost.

Sandy made landfall at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2012, sending floodwaters pouring across the densely populated barrier islands of Long Island and the Jersey shore. In New York City, the storm surge hit nearly 14 feet, swamping the city’s subway and commuter rail tunnels and knocking out power to the southern third of Manhattan.

The storm was blamed for at least 181 deaths in the U.S. — including 68 in New York and 71 in New Jersey — and property damages estimated at $65 billion.


A tiny tear trickled down Edward Chaloupka’s cheek as he looked out on Long Island’s Great South Bay and reflected on the year since Sandy struck.

“I woke up with a nightmare last night,” said the marine mechanic of Babylon, N.Y., who lost his job and his home after the storm.

In the dream, Chaloupka saw boats drifting down the street. He said it has been difficult finding work as a marine mechanic because people are still fixing their homes.

“There’s not a whole heck of a lot,” he said. “You’re fixing your house before a boat.”

As for the future?

“I don’t know,” Chaloupka said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen.”


At the Staten Island Ferry building, crews of workers still labored to repair elevators and escalators knocked out by Sandy.

Across the street at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, visitors were offered special pamphlets requesting donations to complete repairs on the electrical and heating systems. Photos showing the church in disarray after the storm are misleading, said secretary Diane Ricci.

“It was 10,000 times worse,” she said.

Still, Ricci, who’s lived in lower Manhattan her whole life, scoffed at the idea that New Yorkers should brace for a repeat of Sandy.

“You can’t build a wall around Manhattan,” she said. “This was once in a blue moon. … It was the placement of the moon and the tides. That’s it.”


Angela Morabito feels like she and her husband, Philip, have been on “one roller coaster ride after another” for the past year.

But she could finally see some progress Tuesday, as two dozen volunteers from Staten Island’s Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the St. Bernard Project from New Orleans installed insulation and sheet rock in her gutted Midland Beach house on the southeastern shore of Staten Island.

Morabito is grateful for the free labor. She had flood and homeowners insurance but lost much of what she was paid to an unscrupulous contractor who abandoned the job.

“I feel like this is a start to something better,” she said. “Finally, one of my prayers is answered. I’m going to have walls! I’m going to have floors to walk on!”

The couple hopes to be back in their home in another month.


It doesn’t take much for Robert Schipf of Babylon, N.Y., to become emotional when he thinks about the recovery from Sandy, which inundated his two-story Long Island home with about 2 feet of water.

“For me, the easiest word to describe it is ‘helpless,'” Schipf said as he choked back a tear in the foyer of the recently renovated house, where new floor tiles have been laid and walls have been replaced.

The repairs cost him about $110,000.

Schipf and his family spent nearly 11 months staying with relatives as their home was fixed.

“We couldn’t get straight answers from anyone,” he said.

The frustration mounted as he dealt with local, state and federal agencies — as well as insurance underwriters — who could not provide adequate answers.

“None of the insurance companies were ready for this magnitude of storm,” he said.


Debbie Fortier, of Brick, N.J., drove to Seaside Park hoping to speak with Gov. Chris Christie, who was visiting several Sandy-ravaged towns. Walking out arm-in-arm with him after he finished speaking at the firehouse, she told Christie how her family’s house had to be torn down and how her family has yet to receive any aid.

“We’re physically, emotionally and spiritually just drained,” she said after Christie left. “Does anybody hear us?”

She said she is on a waiting list “for everything” and is particularly bitter that her family started to repair their storm-damaged house, only to have inspectors later tell them it was too badly damaged to fix. They then had to knock it down and move into a friend’s basement.

“How long am I supposed to wait?” she asked. “It’s been a year. You can’t just not move forward.”

Yet Fortier said she takes Christie at his word that help is on the way — whenever that might be.


Associated Press reporters Wayne Parry in Seaside Park, N.J., Frank Eltman in Babylon, N.Y., and Jonathan Lemire, David Caruso and Tom Hays in New York contributed to this report.

Associated PressSource: http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/386c25518f464186bf7a2ac026580ce7/Article_2013-10-29-Superstorm-Anniversary/id-97f2da451ffa4d85ae5ead0dd683437b
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Apple experiencing “pleasing growth” for iPhone in emerging markets

It’s earnings day for Apple, and beyond just numbers it’s also one of only a handful of days in the year we get to hear from such dignitaries as CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer. During the earnings conference call, Oppenheimer specifically referenced Apple’s performance with iPhone in the emerging markets, describing “pleasing growth.”

Specifically, Latin America, Russia, the Middle East and India were name dropped, while the deal with NTT Docomo over in Japan was also highlighted as a pleasing new area of growth for Apple in this past quarter. Emerging markets are the next big target for smartphones, and the likes of India has a huge number of potential iPhone owners, so it’s great news for Apple that growth is on the up in these regions.

For more, be sure to follow our highlights from the Q4 Earnings conference call!


Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/TheIphoneBlog/~3/UZZIu5P6z1Q/story01.htm
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Police: Roadside bomb kills 18 Afghan civilians

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A roadside bomb killed 18 civilians Sunday, mostly women and children, after it struck a small bus coming from a wedding in a lawless district of eastern Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, police said.

Deputy provincial police chief Col. Asadullah Ensafi said the blast occurred in the Andar district as the bus travelled from one village to another just before dusk.

He said the dead include 14 women, three men and a child. Ensafi said the blast wounded five women and two were in critical condition.

Ensafi said he had no other details, as the remote area was not easily accessible to security forces.

Andar is one of the few districts in Ghazni where the Taliban retain some measure of control and often attack security forces, mostly by laying bombs along roads.

Roadside bombs are the Taliban’s weapon of choice and are responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties.

In a statement Sunday night, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force condemned the attack, saying it would “fight against extremists whose senseless acts endanger innocent women and children.”

The U.N. said in the first six months of this year, 1,319 civilians were killed and 2,533 were wounded in the ongoing 12-year Afghan conflict, the majority of them by roadside bombs.

Earlier Sunday, a bomb apparently targeting a group of soldiers killed a civilian in a market in the capital, Kabul.

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said the bomb went off as military personnel waited for a vehicle to take them to work. He said five soldiers were wounded.

A man who identified himself as Ziaudin said his 10-year-old daughter was killed. A witness, Hashmatullah, said four civilians were wounded in addition to the soldiers. He said the bomb was placed under vegetables in a shop.

Like many Afghans, the two men only use one name.

There has been a spike in violence around Afghanistan in recent months as the insurgents try to take advantage of a security handover from foreign forces to the Afghans. The handover is the latest step in the gradual withdrawal of troops from the U.S.-led international military coalition, which will be completed at the end of 2014.


Associated Press writer Patrick Quinn contributed to this report.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/police-roadside-bomb-kills-18-afghan-civilians-140552700.html
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Would You Use a Bitcoin ATM?

Would You Use a Bitcoin ATM?

A Vancouver group is planning to put what’s thought to be the world’s first Bitcoin ATM into service next week. Putting aside the weird irony of a physical ATM accessing a strictly virtual currency, this got me wondering: would you use a Bitcoin ATM?

Read more…


Source: http://feeds.gawker.com/~r/gizmodo/full/~3/ZFdxe_N_FWs/would-you-use-a-bitcoin-atm-1452632778
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Obamacare Mugged by Reality

As  metaphors go, “train wreck” turned out to be pretty apt. That’s how retiring Democratic senator Max Baucus described his expectations for the implementation of Obamacare at a hearing last April. If anything, he could be accused of soft pedaling the fiasco that has been on full display since the beginning of October.

Source: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/2013/10/25/obamacare_mugged_by_reality_318601.html
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Oil consolidates near $97 after losses

BANGKOK (AP) — Oil dwelled near $97 a barrel Friday, consolidating after two weeks of losses sparked by high supplies and patchy global economic growth.

Benchmark U.S. crude for December delivery was up 20 cents at $97.31 a barrel at late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract, which rose 25 cents to $97.11 on Thursday, is down nearly 5 percent over the past two weeks.

One factor weighing on the price was Wednesday’s report from the Energy Information Administration that said U.S. oil inventories rose by 5.2 million barrels last week, a possible symptom of subdued demand and overproduction. The rise in stockpiles followed a 4 million barrel increase in the previous week.

“Demand isn’t looking great and it’s not anything to do with fuel efficiency in today’s cars. It’s the fact that there’s high unemployment, weak job creation,” said Carl Larry of Oil Outlooks and Opinions.

Asian stock markets were roiled Friday by doubts about the durability of recoveries in Japan and China.

Japan released inflation figures that gave a mixed signal about the effectiveness of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic revitalization strategy that aims to reverse two decades of stagnation and falling prices. In China, there are jitters that tighter central bank management of credit growth could crimp the recovery in the world’s No. 2 economy.

Brent crude was down 17 cents at $106.82 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 1.9 cents to $2.553 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 1.2 cents to $3.617 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil shed 0.4 cent to $2.895 a gallon.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/oil-consolidates-near-97-losses-091812693–finance.html
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‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ Teaser Trailer Video Starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson

Watch the first teaser trailer for ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ with Chris Evans as the title character, the iconic patriotic Marvel superhero and his alter ego Steve Rogers. Anticipation builds for the new movie which is the sequel to ‘Captain America: The First Avenger.’ It’s been kept under wraps, and in fact it’s still under wraps. Marvel Entertainment gives us a teaser of the teaser trailer. It’s the first glimpse of the movie, which you can see below. In less than a day we will see the full-length version which will be added below. Well, 10 seconds is better than zero so we can count ourselves lucky! The movie’s star, the 32-year-old Chris Evans has become a veteran of superhero movies, having portrayed Johnny Storm a.k.a. Human Torch in two of the ‘Fantastic Four’ movies, as well as Captain America in the original 2011 movie — which saw his transformation from the frail and ill Steve Rogers into the patriotic superhero. He also starred as Captain America in ‘The Avengers’ of 2012. The movie also stars Scarlett Johansson who reprises her role as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow and yes, she is in the trailer which speeds […]Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/RightCelebrity/~3/NcabURgvnGY/
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How A County Clerk Ignited The Gay Marriage Debate In N.M.

Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins (left) talks with Thom Hinks and Richard Sunman, (far right) after they obtained their marriage license at the Dona Ana County Clerk’s Office in Las Cruces, N.M. In August, Ellins’ office began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a first in the state’s history.

Juan Carlos Llorca/AP

Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins (left) talks with Thom Hinks and Richard Sunman, (far right) after they obtained their marriage license at the Dona Ana County Clerk’s Office in Las Cruces, N.M. In August, Ellins’ office began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a first in the state’s history.

Juan Carlos Llorca/AP

New Mexico law doesn’t explicitly ban or approve same-sex marriage. There were a spate of lawsuits seeking to clarify the issue, but they were tied up in the courts. Then in August, the clerk of Dona Ana County, Lynn Ellins, a long-time supporter of same-sex marriage, consulted his staff.

“And we all agreed that it was about time to bring this thing to a head, and if we did nothing, the cases would languish in the district court if we did not move to issue these licenses and try and put the ball in play,” Ellins says.

Soon state judges ordered four other county clerks to follow Ellins’ lead and together they have issued more than 900 marriage licenses. But not every county clerk was prepared to do the same in their communities. Instead, all 33 county clerks in New Mexico agreed to petition the state Supreme Court for a final say on the matter. The main opposition comes from a group of Republican lawmakers led by state Sen. William Sharer of Farmington.

“So when Lynn Ellins decided that he was the only one in New Mexico that could properly read the law and declared that same-sex marriage was legal, I stepped in and said ‘No, you’re wrong. We must stop this,’ Sharer says, adding that Ellins “far exceeded his authority.”

But the reaction from other quarters has been relatively mild. New Mexico’s three Catholic bishops said the action of the county clerks should be resolved by the legislature. And Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has said the issue should be determined by the voters.

But supporters of same-sex marriages say local polls indicate that New Mexicans are prepared to accept a state Supreme Court ruling confirming marriage equality. They are also encouraged by what’s happened in New Jersey, says Elizabeth Gill of the ACLU.

“It’s yet another court that has analyzed whether there’s any real reason to discriminate against same-sex couples in marriage and concluded that there is not,” Gill says.

Gill and others say their side has momentum.

  • In Oregon last week, state authorities said they would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Advocates are trying to get a freedom to marry initiative on Oregon’s ballot in Nov. 2014.
  • In Illinois, a same-sex marriage bill awaits action by the lower house.
  • In Pennsylvania, a federal lawsuit challenging that state’s same-sex marriage ban is in the courts and there’s a marriage equality bill in the Legislature.
  • In Hawaii, a special legislative session has been called for later this month to consider a marriage bill.
  • And in Tennessee, there’s a lawsuit challenging both state law and a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Sara Warbelow, a spokeswoman for the D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign, says in some states it appears marriage equality is inevitable.

“There’s been a fair amount of polling, and rather consistently, 80 percent of the American public says within the next 10 years, marriage equality will be the law of the land,” Warbelow says.

Back in New Mexico, the Supreme Court justices have taken the unusual step of expanding oral arguments Wednesday from 20 minutes to one hour for each side. They have not indicated when they will issue their decision. In the meantime the court is allowing marriages to continue.

Source: http://www.npr.org/2013/10/22/239790062/how-a-county-clerk-ignited-the-gay-marriage-debate-in-n-m?ft=1&f=1003
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