The Study

Today, Rod Blagojevich, one of the many disgraced former governors of Illinois, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for eighteen felony corruption convictions, including an attempt to sell President Obama’s old Senate seat. It wasn’t the harshest penalty possible—he could have been sentenced to hundreds of years in prison—but it is nonetheless a shocking fall for the former two-term governor.

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Newt Gingrich, convinced as ever of his own world-historical importance, must be grinning today as he looks at a new poll showing him up by 14 points in Iowa. After all, he had been written off by nearly everyone only a few weeks ago, and his ground operation in the state remains pretty threadbare. Does Newt’s recent surge signal the end of the GOP primary race? A 2007 paper suggests that a last-minute realignment of GOP allegiances could have outsized impact.

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Albert Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals superstar (and longtime scourge of my own Cincinnati Reds), must be feeling pretty popular this week. On Monday, the Marlins reportedly offered him a ten-year contract worth over $200 million—enough, they hope, to peel him away from St. Louis, which offered him a nine-year contract worth $195 million at the start of last season. The Cardinals are scheduled to meet with Pujols today, and it’s likely they’re preparing for a bidding war. Is a decade-long investment in Pujols worth it? Maybe not, according to a 2008 paper by two economists.

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According to new DHS data, arrests for illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border fell to just over 325,000 in FY2011. This represents a fall from a peak of 1.6 million arrests in 2000 and is, as The Washington Post notes, the lowest number since the early 1970s. To some, a low number of arrests might suggest that more illegal immigrants are successfully entering the United States, but these numbers actually suggest that the border is increasingly secure. What’s the reason for this counterintuitive interpretation? Put simply, fewer arrests indicate fewer attempts and better enforcement.

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If you have two free weeks and $60,000 to spare, The New York Times has a vacation idea to suggest: Go visit the Titanic on the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking. Visiting the wreckage is apparently popular among certain kinds of deep-pocketed tourists, but the practice is not without detractors: “Scientists and scholars worry about new damage to the famous ship,” the Times reports, resulting in large part from carelessness and clumsiness.

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Herman Cain is said to be “reassessing” his candidacy amid new allegations of infidelity—specifically, Ginger White’s claim that she carried on a 13-year affair with the candidate. Cain is already facing numerous allegations of sexual harassment and even sexual assault. Is this the final blow to his campaign? A recent paper by three political scientists provides perspective, if not hope.

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News broke this morning that AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines, has gone belly-up. The company said today that it doesn’t expect frequent flyer programs or flight schedules to be affected. But will the long-term impact be different? According to a 2003 paper by two economists, airline bankruptcies actually have a rather limited overall impact on air travel.

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After meeting in Uganda this week, the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a troubling warning: over the next several decades, “unprecedented extreme weather” will become much less unprecedented. Because global warming has continued mostly unabated, future generations can expect more floods, cyclones, and droughts—and, of course, more heat waves. A century from now, heat waves that today are once-in-a-generation events will occur every other year.

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Tim Tebow, better known in some circles as God’s son, last night led the Denver Broncos to an improbable and crushing last-minute victory over the New York Jets. In trying to reckon with Tebow’s improbable 4-1 record this season, there are two salient factors to consider. One, he runs far better than he throws—normally an impediment to success at the quarterback position (his completion percentage is at a historically low, NFL-worst 44.8 percent). Two, he is intensely spiritual: Aping “The Thinker,” Tebow periodically drops to one knee and begins praying during games.

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An Idaho man who was reported missing last month has been arrested for shooting the White House with a semiautomatic rifle. The suspect is 21-year-old Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, who has criminal records in three states and a history of drug and alcohol problems. He is believed to have fired an AK-47 at the White House last Friday night. At least one round hit the building, but it was stopped by bulletproof glass.

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