TIME 2014 Election

Voters Say Events in U.S. ‘Out of Control’

Poll finds anxiety on a range of issues, from Ebola to health care costs

Call it the Freakout Election.

Two-thirds of likely voters in the most competitive states and congressional districts in the midterm election fight think events in the U.S. are “out of control,” according to a new poll. The survey by Politico found widespread anxiety about the Ebola outbreak, terrorism, health care costs and President Barack Obama’s leadership. Only 36% think the U.S. is “in a good position to meet its economic and national security” challenges.

The poll underscores how both Obama’s low approval ratings and a general sense of disarray are weighing down Democrats just weeks before voters go to the polls to decide which party will control the Senate. A majority of voters, 54%, either strongly disapprove or somewhat disapprove of Obama’s job performance.

Read more at Politico

TIME Television

Everything You Need to Know About the Simpsons-Family Guy Crossover

The cartoon crossover returns Sunday night

Homer Simpson, meet Peter Griffin.

That’s right — this Sunday night will bring another entry in a time-honored (if often lowbrow) tradition of American television: the cartoon crossover. When the 13th season of Family Guy premieres on Fox, it will do so in the form of a one-hour “Smashtacular” crossover with The Simpsons, an episode titled simply, “The Simpsons Guy.”

This episode has everything fans are likely to expect, from self-referential humor to a fight between the two shows’ oafish patriarchs. When Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly confirmed the air date a few months back, he boasted that “generations of fans will be talking about this one.”

That’s a little over-ambitious (sort of like Homer trying to spell the word “smart”), especially since, as any self-respecting Simpsons purist knows, the show that redefined animated TV hasn’t actually been good for well over a decade. Still, the wall-to-wall marathon on FXX of every Simpsons episode ever gave even fans who moved on long ago an excuse to rekindle their love of the once-great show.

Family Guy took the same never-aging, family-of-five (not counting Brian Griffin) cartoon-sitcom format and infused it with a raunchiness and unparalleled use of random-cutaway humor. So an unholy mix of both shows means more than enough reason to watch Sunday night.

Before you tune in at 9 p.m. E.T., here’s everything you need to know about the crossover to end all crossovers.

Sure, I’ll bite. What’s the premise?

Based on the trailers Fox has released and the morsels of information the show’s producers have doled out to a hungry fan base, we know that the Griffins of Family Guy fame are forced to leave their Rhode Island town of Quahog and find themselves in the Simpson family’s hometown of Springfield, State Unknown. After the relatively more normal-looking Peter Griffin observes that the yellowish characters of Springfield look “like they have hepatitis,” they strike up a relationship with the Simpson family.

Sounds promising. Tell me more!

Well, Homer and Peter bond over their love of donuts, Marge Simpson and Lois Griffin connect over their slothful husbands, and Bart Simpson and little Stewie Griffin find common cause in their taste for trouble. “It’s really about the character interaction,” Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane recently told Entertainment Weekly. “People want to see Peter interact with Homer. They want to see Bart interact with Stewie. In a way, the story in a crossover episode, while it has to be there, is never quite as important as how the characters interact with each other.”

Will there be playful cartoon violence?

Indeed, there will be. The highlight of the official trailer shows Peter offering up Homer his hometown beer, Pawtucket Patriot Ale. Homer tries it, disses it as a rip-off of his favorite beer Duff, and a bit of clever self-reference about both shows — always something each show has done well — and their shared lineage ensues.

Homer: “It’s just a lousy rip off!”

Peter: “Hey whoa,whoa, whoa, it’s not a rip-off of Duff! It may have been inspired by Duff, but I, I like to think it goes in a different direction.”

Long story short, it comes to blows — scroll to the 2:11-mark of the trailer at top to see it. Hey, at least Peter isn’t fighting a chicken this time.

What else should I know?

Well, there’s already some controversy over a rape joke depicted in the trailer. Stewie, witnessing Bart’s penchant for crank-calling Moe’s Tavern, wants to give it a try himself. But he goes, well, in a slightly different route when Moe picks up the phone: “Hello, Moe? Your sister’s being raped!”

That joke has drawn headlines, especially at a moment of heightened awareness of sexual violence. Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, told CBS News that he wrote to Fox, MacFarlane and Simpsons creator Matt Groening to try to get the joke taken out of the episode but got no response. “I was blown out of my shoes when I saw the scene with the rape joke in it,” Winter said. “It really troubled me.”

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, MacFarlane both anticipated and dismissed the criticism. “But in context it’s pretty funny,” he said.

Scroll to the 48-second mark in the trailer to see the controversial moment.

Sounds like pretty standard fare for Family Guy.

Right you are, and in fact, one could find more explicit sexual violence in a strange on-screen promo appeared during a different Family Guy episode. Watch it below.

Any promising cameos?

Not that we know of, unless you’re into a show called Bob’s Burgers.

Wasn’t there a Simpsons crossover before?

Yes, and since it came before the show’s downward slide, it was quite good. It featured Jay Sherman (voiced by Jon Lovitz) of the short-lived Fox show The Critic.

Thanks for all this, but I think I’ll just stick with the first nine seasons of The Simpsons.

You can’t be faulted for bad taste — it is, after all, the height of American TV comedy. Test your knowledge with this quiz and enjoy the video below.

TIME White House

Obama Falls to Bush-Level Approval Ratings

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama walks out of the Oval Office towards the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, on Aug. 29, 2014. Charles Dharapak—AP

Troubling sign as midterm elections loom

Americans’ approval of President Barack Obama has dropped to a new low rivaling even the unpopularity that saddled George W. Bush at the same point of his presidency, according to a new poll, a troublesome sign for Democrats just weeks before the midterm elections.

The New York Times/CBS News survey released Wednesday showed that 50% of Americans disapprove of Obama’s job performance, while 40% approve. By comparison, in September of 2006 56% of Americans disapproved of Bush’s job performance. Obama gets worse marks on handling the economy and foreign policy, signaling that the sluggish economic recovery hasn’t won Obama any political points and that the renewed U.S. fight against Islamist militants in Iraq is weighing down his party.

After Bush had similarly poor approval ratings in 2006, Democrats enjoyed a wave election that gave them control of Congress for the first time in over a decade. And the poll points to a promising midterm election cycle for Republicans. The GOP bests Democrats when voters are asked which party’s congressional candidate they would vote for in their district—a so-called “generic ballot” measurement that Democrats typically need to win by large margins in order to avoid losing seats. Voters trust Republicans more to handle the economy, foreign policy and terrorism, according to the poll.

The survey of 1,009 Americans, conducted Sept. 12-15, has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. See the full poll results here.

 

TIME Foreign Policy

Senate Democrat Wants Bill Allowing Anti-ISIS Strikes in Syria

Senate Committee Holds Hearing On Rising Sea Levels At Miami Beach City Hall
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) speaks as he chairs a hearing entitled, "Leading the Way: Adapting to South Florida's Changing Coastline." by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation's Subcommittee on Science and Space at Miami Beach's City Hall on April 22, 2014 in Miami Beach, Florida. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

After the apparent beheading of a second American journalist by ISIS

A Democratic senator said Tuesday that he’ll introduce legislation to give President Barack Obama “clear authority” to order U.S. airstrikes against Islamist militants in Syria.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said he’ll file the legislation when Congress returns from recess next week. It wasn’t immediately clear if Nelson, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, would introduce the measure as stand-alone legislation or as part of a larger defense spending bill. He previewed the legislative move the same day that the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) released a video purportedly showing the beheading death of American journalist Steven Sotloff—footage that, if authenticated, would be the second such video showing the group executing an American journalist in as many weeks.

“This will ensure there’s no question that the President has the legal authority he needs to use airstrikes in Syria,” Nelson said in a statement. “Let there be no doubt, we must go after ISIS right away because the U.S. is the only one that can put together a coalition to stop this group that’s intent on barbaric cruelty.”

ISIS has for months been mounting attacks and capturing territory across Iraq and along the Iraq-Syria border. American airstrikes have slowed and in some cases reversed the group’s progress in Iraq, but ISIS has continued to wreak havoc in Syria.

TIME Foreign Policy

U.S. Weighs Military Action Against ISIS in Syria

"If you come after Americans, we’re going to come after you wherever you are"

The U.S. is open to the possibility of military action against Islamist militants in Syria, a top Obama Administration official said Friday, warning that the U.S. will “do what is necessary to protect Americans.”

“We’ve made very clear time and again that if you come after Americans, we’re going to come after you wherever you are,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters. “And that’s what’s going to guide our planning in the days to come.”

President Barack Obama has resisted pressure from both outside and inside his Administration to take a more muscular approach in Syria, where a bloody civil war has claimed 191,000 lives in recent years, according to a new U.N. estimate Friday. But the emergence of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), which released a graphic video on Tuesday depicting the beheading of American journalist James Foley, has raised the stakes — and has seemingly made American officials, already engaged in targeted military action in Iraq, more willing to consider doing so on the other side of the border.

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that any strategy against ISIS would have to include action against militants in Syria, and Rhodes didn’t disagree with that assertion Friday.

“Well, we certainly agree that any strategy to deal with the [ISIS] organization has to deal with both sides of the border, Iraq and Syria,” Rhodes said. “The strategy that we are already undertaking does address that in the sense that we are providing training and equipping and assistance to the Iraqi security forces and Kurdish security forces who are fighting them on the ground in Iraq.

“We are also providing support and military assistance to the moderate Syrian opposition,” he added. “What we would like to see is those efforts squeeze the space where [ISIS] operates.”

Rhodes cautioned that no decisions have been made.

“I don’t want to get ahead of decisions the President hasn’t been presented with, specific military options outside of those carrying out the current missions in Iraq,” he said. “But we would certainly look at what is necessary in the long term to make sure we’re protecting Americans.”

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton Is Going Back to Iowa

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at an event at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) to launch a community campaign to encourage parents to talk, sing and read to their young children in Oakland, Calif., July 23, 2014.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at an event at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) to launch a community campaign to encourage parents to talk, sing and read to their young children in Oakland, Calif., July 23, 2014. AP

A visit to a key caucus state as she mulls 2016 White House run

Hillary Clinton will travel to Iowa in September for a high-profile political gathering, according to reports Monday, her first public appearance in the key caucus state in six years, and one that will be widely seen as an attempt to begin courting voters there ahead of a possible 2016 presidential bid.

Both Clinton, the former Secretary of State, and former President Bill Clinton will appear at the Annual Harkin Steak Fry, the Des Moines Register reports, a must-visit for presidential hopefuls that is hosted by longtime Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.

Harkin is retiring from the Senate this year, and he promised in a recent note to supporters that this year’s Steak Fry, the 37th one and his last, “just might promise to be the best ever.”

The event will mark Clinton’s first public return to Iowa, which holds the country’s first nominating caucuses, since she suffered a critical loss to then-Sen. Barack Obama in their 2008 fight. Clinton placed third that year behind Obama and John Edwards, after her campaign proved indecisive about how hard to campaign for caucus voters who often reward grassroots organizing over big events and TV ads. As the overwhelming front-runner for the Democratic nomination if she chooses to run again, Clinton could be sending an early signal that she won’t write off Iowa.

“I couldn’t be happier than to share this special day with two such close friends,” Harkin told the Register of the Clintons. “They have contributed so much good, inspiring leadership to this country, and I know they will continue to do so in the years ahead.”

[Des Moines Register]

TIME Television

No, Orange Is the New Black Wasn’t Canceled

Taylor Schilling in a scene from NetflixÕs ÒOrange is the New BlackÓ Season 2. Photo credit: JoJo Whilden for Netflix.
Netflix

Don't worry, it's just a hoax

Don’t worry, Piper is coming back to TV.

Fans of the Netflix hit Orange Is the New Black were briefly taken in by a hoax this week when the satirical website Empire News posted a story blaring that Netflix had pulled the plug on the show about life in a women’s prison.

“We regret to inform Netflix members that Orange Is the New Black has been permanently cancelled,” the quoted Netflix’s CEO as saying in a statement. “Also, starting September 1st, 2014, past episodes will no longer be available for streaming on Netflix.”

Not so fast. Netflix posted a picture Sunday of the characters Crazy Eyes and Taystee on set filming Season 3 and assured fans the show is coming back:

The show’s official Twitter page also chimed in:

The clarification was surely welcomed by fans who had reacted to the initial “story” with shock and outrage.

TIME Economy

Unemployment Rate Dips to Lowest Level Since 2008

June job growth beats expectations

The U.S. economy added almost 288,000 new jobs in June, according to new government data Thursday, handily beating analysts’ expectations and sending the unemployment rate to its lowest level since September of 2008.

The pace of job creation well outpaced projects that the economy would add 215,000 jobs. The unemployment rate dipped from 6.3% to 6.1%, its lowest level since the month Lehman Brothers collapsed and the U.S. economy went into a tailspin.

Stock markets jumped on the news, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average surpassing 17,000 points for the first time ever.

The data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics signaled that the economy was healthily bouncing back from a biting cold winter that hampered growth, and relieved economy watchers who had been alarmed by an economic contraction in the first quarter. The numbers will also sure come as a relief to Democrats who have been fearful that a still-sluggish economy will hurt them against Republicans in the midterm elections. June marked the fifth consecutive month of job gains exceeding 200,000, the best clip since the tech boom of the late 1990s, the Associated Press reports.

Job growth figures for May were also revised upward. BLS described the job gains as “widespread,” powered by growth in “business services, retail trade, food services and drinking places, and health care.”

Signs that the economic recovery remains tepid still persist. While the longterm unemployed, defined as those jobless for 27 weeks or more, dropped by 293,000, 3.1 million Americans remains in that category.

But with exports hitting a record high and imports falling, the trade deficit fell 5.6%, to $44.4 billion.

TIME Fast Food

KFC Suggests Story of Scarred Girl Booted From Store Was a Hoax

But KFC will still donate $30,000 towards the girl's medical bills

Kentucky Fried Chicken suggested Tuesday that a family claiming their little girl was asked to leave a restaurant because the scars on her face from a pit bull attack were disturbing other customers actually made the story up.

The bizarre story concerns three-year-old Victoria Wilcher, who was reportedly mauled by pitbulls belonging to her family, leaving heavy scarring on her face. Her family said last month that she was asked to leave a Jackson, Miss., KFC restaurant because her appearance disturbed other customers. That claim, initially floated on a “Victoria’s Victories” Facebook page that appeared to have been taken offline Tuesday, ignited outrage on social media, prompting an apology from KFC on June 15 and a promise to spend $30,000 on Wilcher’s medical bills.

But KFC said Tuesday that it no longer believes the incident actually took place.

“Like the rest of America, the KFC family has been moved by the story of Victoria’s injuries and recovery,” KFC spokesman Rick Maynard said. “After the alleged incident was reported to us, two investigations took place, including one by an independent investigator. Neither revealed any evidence that the incident occurred and we consider the investigation closed. We are honoring our commitment to make a $30,000 donation to assist with Victoria’s medical bills. We hope everyone keeps Victoria in their thoughts and prayers. She will certainly be in ours.”

A lawyer for Victoria’s grandmother, who made the initial claim, said Tuesday that the family stands by its story. “Victoria’s family did not anticipate that the response to ‘Victoria’s Victories’ would be so widespread and generous,” lawyer Bill Kellum said in a statement. “A family member simply posted a comment on Victoria’s page regarding her experience at KFC that subsequently went viral. Victoria’s family certainly did not expect the publicity resulting from the post. However, Victoria and her family are very appreciative of the outpouring of sympathy, prayers, donations and love from individuals and entities all over the world.”

“I promise it’s not a hoax, I never thought any of this would blow up the way it has,” multiple news reports cited Victoria’s aunt as writing on the GoFundMe page where her family was raising money. Those comments preceded KFC’s statement and the page was also offline late Tuesday.

When reports that Victoria was asked to leave the restaurant ignited a firestorm of criticism on social media, KFC moved quickly to tamp the outrage.

“As soon as we were notified of this report on Friday, we immediately began an investigation, as this kind of hurtful and disrespectful action would not be tolerated by KFC,” the company said at the time. “Regardless of the outcome of our investigation, we have apologized to Victoria’s family and are committed to assisting them. The company is making a $30,000 donation to assist with her medical bills. The entire KFC family is behind Victoria.”

The Mississippi-based Laurel Leader-Call newspaper, citing unnamed sources familiar with the investigation, first reported the possibility of a hoax on Tuesday. The family has raised more than $135,000 in the wake of the initial claim, according to numerous reports.

“Please do not believe untrue media,” Victoria’s aunt Rials Bates wrote on the GoFundMe page that was no longer online Tuesday, ABC reports. “I have personally watched this family go without to provide for Victoria. They have not and would not do anything to hurt Victoria in any way.”

-Additional reporting by Joan E Greve

TIME diplomacy

U.S. May Engage Iran in Talks Over Iraq Crisis

An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of ISIS capturing dozens of Iraqi security forces members prior to transporting them to an unknown location in the Salaheddin province ahead of executing them.
An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of ISIS capturing dozens of Iraqi security forces members prior to transporting them to an unknown location in the Salaheddin province ahead of executing them. Welayat Salahuddin—AFP/Getty Images

As militants advance and American embassy hunkers down

The Obama Administration is “open” to direct talks with Iran over the exploding crisis in Iraq, Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview published Monday, as militants who say they massacred hundreds of Iraqi soldiers continued their march toward Baghdad and the U.S. embassy there evacuated some personnel.

Kerry told Yahoo News that drone strikes in the country “may well” be an option. Asked if the military cooperation with Iran might be on the table, Kerry said he wouldn’t “rule out anything that would be constructive.” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki later walked back the latter comment, saying on Twitter that the Administration is open to “political conversation with Iran” but “not military cooperation.”

U.S. diplomats may discuss the situation in Iraq with their Iranian counterparts as early as Monday while in Geneva for the so-called “P5+1″ talks about Iran’s nuclear program, a senior Administration official said. “It may be that on the margins of P5+1, but completely unconnected to it, there may be some conversation,” the official said.

Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and Jake Sullivan, a national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, were in Geneva on Monday. With the U.S. embassy in Baghdad relocating some employees, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Monday ordered another American warship to the Persian Gulf to protect “American citizens and interests in Iraq,” a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement.

“Its presence in the Gulf adds to that of other U.S. naval ships already there—including the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush—and provides the commander-in-chief additional options to protect American citizens and interests in Iraq, should he choose to use them,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

The potential outreach to Iran comes as the Islamic Republic has already offered to help Iraq battle Sunni insurgents destabilizing the country and fomenting sectarian unrest. The Guardian, citing an unnamed senior Iraqi official, reports Iran has already sent 2,000 troops across the border. Iran’s Shi’ite government is wary of the gains by Sunni militants in Iraq, while the U.S. is watching a country where it invested years, thousands of lives and more than a trillion dollars descend into chaos. That could make common cause for frequent foes already engaged in unprecedented diplomacy over the country’s nuclear program. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the possible talks Sunday.

Congressional Republicans have criticized the Obama Administration over the situation in Iraq, and Sen. John McCain said Monday that it would be the “height of folly” to work with Iran to stabilize the country.

“This is the same Iranian regime that has trained and armed the most dangerous Shia militant groups, that has consistently urged [Iraqi] Prime Minister Maliki to pursue a narrow sectarian agenda at the expense of national reconciliation, that supplies the rockets that have been fired at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, that has sponsored acts of terrorism throughout the Middle East and the world, and that continues to use Iraq’s territory and airspace to send weapons and fighters to prop up Bashar al-Assad in Syria,” McCain said in a statement. “The reality is, U.S. and Iranian interests and goals do not align in Iraq, and greater Iranian intervention would only make the situation dramatically worse.”

President Hasan Rouhani of Iran said Saturday that he was open to working with the U.S. in Iran, the Journal reports.

“When the U.S. takes action, then one can think about cooperation,” Rouhani said in Tehran. “Until today, no specific request for help has been demanded. But we are ready to help within international law.”

Secretary of State John Kerry signaled Saturday that any talks would be unconnected to the nuclear negotiations.

“Whatever dialogue may or may not be taking place [with Iran] would take place on the sideline or outside the mainstream of the nuclear talks,” Kerry said. “We don’t want that linked and mixed.”

Militants who have captured Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul, as well as Tikrit, took over the northern town of Tal Afar on Monday, the Associated Press reports, which sits along the key highway to Syria.

-Additional reporting by Zeke J Miller

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser