A receipt floating around the Internet shows that a $1,453 pizza delivery received just a $10 tip. The person who uploaded it to Reddit said his friend delivered 85 pizzas. The Daily Mail claims, by way of Cornell Hotel School professor Mike Lynn, that pizza delivery workers should be tipped a minimum of $2 per pizza. read more
The number of anti-government "patriot" groups, including paramilitary hate organizations, reached an all-time high in 2012, fanned by President Barack Obama's reelection and talk of gun control following the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Patriot groups -- those dedicated to federal government overthrow in the belief it will confiscate weapons and impose socialism -- expanded in number and size for the fourth consecutive year, the law center said. The groups' recruiting was fueled by the sluggish economy, anxieties about the country's shifting demographics and their ability to push their ideas and conspiracy theories into the mainstream, the report said. The growth intensified at the end of 2012 with the election and the school massacre. read more
The U.S. rebuilding effort in Iraq achieved little despite $60 billion spent since the 2003 invasion, a U.S. auditor for reconstruction said. In his final report, the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction estimated the U.S. wasted at least $8 billion. Stuart Bowen put the "limited positive effects" down to corruption, poor security and insufficient consultation with Iraqi authorities. The eight-year war in Iraq cost the U.S. about $800 billion and nearly 5,000 lives.
Any baptized Roman Catholic male can be elected pope, but the last time a non-cardinal became pontiff was 1378, when archbishop Bartolomeo Prignano was elevated to the papal throne as Urban VI. The names of papabili that have come up most often in speculation are Canadian cardinal Marc Ouellet, 68; Italians Angelo Scola, 71, and Angelo Bagnasco, 70; Ghana's Peter Turkson, 64; Argentina's Leonardo Sandri, 69; Hungarian Peter Erdo, 65; and American Cardinal Timothy Dolan, 63. CNN reports on the betting favorites. read more
The bells of Moscow's Ivan the Great tower were rung 400 times Wednesday to mark the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty's ascent to power. The Romanovs ruled for three centuries until the Russian Revolution in 1917. Czar Nicholas II and all members of his immediate family were executed by Soviet agents in Yekaterinburg in July of 1918.
Small pocketknives and an array of sporting equipment -- banned from aircraft cabins in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- will once again be allowed in U.S. planes, the head of the Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday. Knives with blades that are 2.36 inches or shorter and less than a 1/2 inch wide will be permitted on U.S. airline flights as long as the blade is not fixed or locks into place. Razor blades and box cutters are still not permitted.
Alvin Lee, the guitarist and singer of Ten Years After, has died at age 68. His website stated, "With great sadness we have to announce that Alvin unexpectedly passed away early this morning after unforseen complications following a routine surgical procedure. We have lost a wonderful and much loved father and companion, the world has lost a truly great and gifted musician." Lee and Ten Years After rose to fame after performing at the 1969 Woodstock festival. Lee produced 11 studio albums with the band and another 14 solo albums, most recently with "Still on the Road to Freedom" last year. read more
One of the oldest and most storied traditions of the Senate made a sudden return to Capitol Hill on Wednesday when a junior senator seized control of the chamber with an hours-long filibuster involving rambling speeches aimed at blocking a vote on President Obama's choice to lead the CIA. Led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) with help from other junior senators, the filibuster stretched nearly 13 hours -- with the Senate adjourning at about 12:40 a.m. Thursday -- and was aimed at drawing attention to deep concern on both sides of the aisle about the administration's use of unmanned aerial drones in its fight against terrorists and whether the government would ever use them in the United States.
At a news conference Friday, President Barack Obama said that janitors at the Capitol "just got a pay cut" because of the automatic federal spending cuts imposed by the sequester deal. The Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler gave the president Four Pinocchios for that statement. He writes, "Especially after senior officials at the Architect of the Capitol (AOC), the federal agency that employ janitors on the House side, and the office of the Sergeant at Arms (SAA), which employs janitors on the Senate side, issued statements saying the president's comments were not true."
Alex Pareene, Salon: According to a working paper from two political scientists who interviewed 2,000 state legislative candidates last year, politicians all think Americans are more conservative than they actually are. Unsurprisingly, Republicans think voters are way more right-wing than they actually are. The researchers asked the candidates what they thought their constituents thought of same-sex marriage, universal healthcare and the abolition of social welfare programs. Republicans were pretty sure their constituents were basically all to the right of Louie Gohmert. Elected Republicans are more conservative than their constituents, but they think their constituents are basically all psycho Freepers. read more
Garance Franke-Ruta: Uncle Sam had a much older and classier sister named Columbia, the feminine historic personification of the United States of America, who has since the 1920s largely fallen out of view. ... Enough time has passed, it seems, that we might consider reviving her spirit, and returning her to the pantheon of America characters for the years to come. read more
The Obama administration believes it could technically use military force to kill an American on U.S. soil in an "extraordinary circumstance" but has "no intention of doing so," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter disclosed Tuesday by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). "The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront. It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States," Holder wrote.
In an open letter released today, eight former heads of the Drug Enforcement Administration, four former drug czars and assorted anti-drug groups urge the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to hear testimony from Attorney General Eric Holder tomorrow, to grill him about why he is not stopping Colorado and Washington from legalizing marijuana. Their letter asked, "What is being done to honor our international drug control treaty obligations, which require the United States as a nation to enforce the law prohibiting the distribution, sale and cultivation of marijuana?" read more
The American Civil Liberties Union has launched a nationwide campaign to assess police militarization in the United States. Starting Wednesday, ACLU affiliates in 23 states are sending open records requests to hundreds of state and local police agencies requesting information about their SWAT teams, such as how often and for what reasons they're deployed, what types of weapons they use, how often citizens are injured during SWAT raids and how they're funded. read more
Greg Grandin: I first met Hugo Chavez in New York City in September 2006, just after his infamous appearance on the floor of the UN General Assembly, where he called George W. Bush the devil. "Yesterday, the devil came here," he said, "Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of." He then made the sign of the cross, kissed his hand, winked at his audience and looked to the sky. It was vintage Chavez, an outrageous remark leavened with just the right touch of detail (the lingering sulfur!) to make it something more than bombast, cutting through soporific nostrums of diplomatese and drawing fire away from Iran, which was in the cross hairs at that meeting. read more
Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and reality TV star who helped spread birther conspiracies about President Barack Obama during the 2012 presidential race, has been offered a speaking slot at the Conservative Political Action Conference next week in the Washington, DC area. "Donald Trump is an American patriot and success story with a massive following among small government conservatives," American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas said. "Mr. Trump's previous CPAC appearance was hugely popular among our attendees and we expect it will be even more popular this year." read more