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October 29, 2008
We do try to keep a sense of perspective around here. Despite the media din these days, it's worth remembering that there are some other stories at least as important as presidential elections and stock market crashes. Like a cure for cancer.
No, really. I know you've heard this before. The 40-year war on one of mankind's most enduring plagues has made measurable but frustratingly slow progress. Headlines about promising studies and supposed breakthroughs have still not amounted to a comprehensive theory of how to stop cancer from killing. Amid the fear, heartbreak, and false hope that attach to the word "cancer," one would be justified in treating the latest news with skepticism.
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October 20, 2008
Facts can be slippery things, especially when it comes to politics and politicians. This campaign, with its unprecedented barrage of news coverage, video clips, bloggers, and E-mails, has also had an unprecedented collection of alleged facts flying through the ether. Policy pronouncements, position papers, numerical analyses all assertively making a case for one side or the other. And all lacking for the most part in what a reasonable person would call objective truth. How to keep up? What's real, and what's made up?
The special election guide is our attempt to freeze-frame the madness and sum up the state of play as we slide into what will surely be an unbearably intense finale to one of the most interesting and important elections in many years. We've taken a deep breath and a step back to lay out the issues and the personalities in a way that should help you make a decision. Admittedly, there's no science to this. The complexity and fluidity of the problems facing any president make it impossible to dissect proposed solutions with precision. We've been doing this for many years, and I have to tell you, it doesn't get any easier. But details aside, there are clear differences in the approach that each candidate takes, and we've laid those out as clearly as we can. We try to be skeptical but not cynical about the various promises.
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October 3, 2008
How'd we get into this mess, and how do we get out? That's something I hear a lot lately. And it's not about the election. While a raucous, entertaining, and important presidential race has been hurtling to the finish line, we've also had to deal with a financial crisis that has crept and now galloped to the top of the public's list of concerns. When Warren Buffett calls the events of the past few weeks an "economic Pearl Harbor," we'd all better pay serious attention.
Which is not to say that we haven't been writing about the unraveling housing and financial markets for quite a while. U.S. News has always been more about Main Street than Wall Street, so it came naturally to view the highfliers with a skeptical eye going back years. We took a hard look at the shaky structure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in June 2003—and concluded that meaningful reform was unlikely. In his column, Mort Zuckerman started sending up caution flares about the dangers of falling home prices and an overleveraged financial sector starting in May 2006. Since the summer of 2007, we've been all over the story, culminating in our cover this past March "Why the Housing Crisis Is Bigger Than You Think." Yet it's fair to ask if we, and our colleagues in the media, did enough soon enough. Lots of stories get written every week, but were we making it clear that something truly unusual was building? And what about reinforcing the common-sense notion that markets do not rise forever? Of course, if you give us the benefit of the doubt and think we hit the right notes, did any of the warnings even matter?