If the jockeying before the 2016 presidential race is a game of political chess, the most powerful queen on the board would obviously be Hillary Clinton.
So much of what will happen in 2016 hinges on Clinton's decision on whether to run, which she has said she'll announce by the end of this year.
If the former secretary of state and New York senator enters the race, she reduces the space on the board for any competitors within her own party. That would be particularly true for the Democratic women mentioned as possibilities for national office.
Vice President Biden or Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, both of whom have the presidential itch, could still decide to run with Clinton in the race. They haven't closed the door to a challenge, and might argue that a contested primary is a necessary endeavor, if only to give Democrats a choice.
What's more, says Lorena Chambers, a Democratic political consultant and principal of Chambers Lopez Strategies, told It's All Politics that someone like O'Malley might feel the need to challenge Clinton in the primaries in order to be considered for her veep spot.
It could come down to someone in O'Malley's position "thinking 'Yes, there's no way potentially I could win the primaries and caucuses. But certainly I could show my strength and be able to prove to Secretary Clinton that I'm formidable and can really help on the ticket.' It would be a very cordial debate and back and forth. Everyone on the Democratic side would be as unified as they could be considering they were ostensibly running against each other in the primary."
The most prominent other Democratic women prospects not named Clinton, on the other hand, signed a private letter last year urging the former secretary of state to run. So Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are on record encouraging the former first lady to get in the race. That doesn't preclude them from challenging Clinton, but if one of them turned around and ran, the move would risk being viewed as treachery.
In any case, they wouldn't find much running room: the shadow Clinton campaign, which has been unofficially underway since last year, is locking up fundraisers, donors and campaign operatives.
Ready for Hillary and Priorities USA have joined forces to provide Clinton with a campaign-in-waiting that sends a "don't even think about it" message to any Democrat considering contesting her for the nomination, according to a leading Democratic operative who didn't want to be identified.
A Clinton decision to run would also likely force a reaction on the Republican side.
So far, there's no evidence suggesting there's a top Republican woman candidate raising money or putting together a team for a potential presidential run.
That means a Clinton candidacy would focus attention on what, at the moment, is shaping up as an all-male GOP field. And that would increase pressure on the Republican nominee to name a woman as a running mate.
"Whether she runs or not, GOPers would be smart to have someone other than a white male on the ticket," said Becki Donatelli, a Republican consultant. "John McCain was right in his tactics by picking Sarah Palin. The strategy of the pick was sound — someone new, exciting and different. And even though you are not seeing women queue up to run for president [on the Republican side], I suspect you will see several women or people of some ethnic minority on the VP short list — seriously on the list — and not for show."
Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Govs. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Mary Fallin of Oklahoma are names that keep coming up.
(Martinez is already getting a taste of 2016-style scrutiny. A Mother Jones profile just out portrays her as vindictive and having alienated many Republicans in her state. In another 2016 touch, the Democratic National Committee made sure to email the story to journalists.)
There's the possibility that Clinton won't run, of course, as unlikely as that now seems given all the attention she's getting and her well-known ambition.
But if, for whatever reason, Clinton decides against running, that would set off a scramble on the Democratic side resembling a 19th-century land rush.
"All hell breaks loose," Chambers said. "It is just a free-for-all in a way we haven't seen in a very long time, at least not on our side, the Democratic side."
That would open the field for some of those aforementioned Democratic women. One or more could try to attract disappointed members of Clinton's Democratic base, especially women.
Chambers doesn't believe that Democratic women would necessarily rally behind another Democratic woman if Clinton chooses not to run. That's because there is no other woman who will be able to capture Democratic hearts and minds anywhere close to the way Clinton can.
Chambers can just as easily see Democrats getting behind a man, perhaps O'Malley, who might then choose a woman running mate, someone like California attorney general Kamela Harris, for instance.
"When you talk about chess, literally the queen has this virtual power," Chambers said. "And no one can replace it. Once you get the queen, it's done. So I don't think we can pull this chess piece out and put another chess piece in to take the queen's place. I don't think Secretary Clinton is replaceable as a woman."
Maybe you paint, keep a journal or knit. Or maybe you play bass in a punk rock band.
Whatever hobby you have, keep at it. A little study published this week suggests that having a creative outlet outside the office might help people perform better at work.
Psychologists from San Francisco State University found that the more people engaged in their hobbies, the more likely they were to come up with creative solutions to problems on the job. And no matter what the hobby was, these people were also more likely to go out of their way to help co-workers.
The findings were published Wednesday in Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.
"We found that in general, the more you engage in creative activities, the better you'll do," says Kevin Eschleman, an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State and the study's lead author.
The researchers surveyed about 350 people with a variety of jobs (and a variety of hobbies) about what they did in their free time and also asked about their behavior at work. Those who said they engaged fairly often in a creative activity scored 15 to 30 percent higher on performance rankings than those who only engaged in creative activities occasionally.
The researchers also surveyed a second group of 90 U.S. Air Force captains. The psychologists knew that these folks were already trained to solve tough problems, and help others — so they wanted to see if having a hobby affected their performance in any way. In addition to asking the officers about their own work performance, the researchers checked performance reviews from the captains' co-workers and bosses.
It turned out that for both groups, having a creative outlet boosted work performance. And that's after the scientists took into account other things that might influence performance — like personality.
"Some people have a personality that's more creative," Eschleman tells Shots. To judge how naturally creative participants were, the researchers asked them, for example, to rate (on a scale from one to seven) how open they are to new experiences and how much they value art.
The study only confirms that having a creative outlet and being creative at work are correlated, Eschleman says. He can't really say if one causes the other.
But, he says he suspects that behaviors at work and home reinforce each other. "It's very possible that those who are performing better at their jobs also have more energy to pursue these creative activities," he says. And, in turn, participating in creative activities may help people feel more energized and engaged at work. "You almost kind of spiral in a positive direction," he says.
And while the paper doesn't pin down exactly how or why your weekend forays into the wonderful world of soapmaking might help your professional life, Eschleman says it's likely because hobbies can help people learn more about their own strengths and weaknesses. "Creative activities really can provide you the opportunity to learn something new about yourself."
Hobbies can also provide an escape from everyday stresses. "You're using that time to recharge," he says.
So bosses should encourage employees to take up hobbies, Eschleman says. Maybe even consider hooking workers up with discount coupons for a pottery class.
We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the postage-paid crates we'll use to ship home the spring interns is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on cassette tapes and their utility in 2014.
Jennifer Spuehler writes via Facebook: "Will there be a place for cassette tapes in the future? What should I do with cassette tapes — especially those beloved mixtapes — that don't have a place to live anymore?
First, it's important to differentiate between commercially made cassettes — and their even harder-to-store cousins, cassingles — and the homemade mixtapes into which you poured your heart, soul, tears and sad, sticky hormones. When it comes to mixtapes, this depends on your own level of sentimentality, but I don't see any good reason to dispose of such tiny physical manifestations of your personal history. A shoebox full of mixtapes can give your closet just the hint of melancholy it needs! Otherwise, with the right equipment, it's reasonably easy to transfer your homemade tapes to MP3, and I'd strongly recommend doing at least that. Can't hurt, right?
As for commercially made cassettes, I'd have to split my answer between whether there is a future for the medium (yes, to a point) and whether there should be a future for the medium (no, there shouldn't be, sheesh). Next week, a band I love called Horse Feathers will release a limited-edition box set of its three wonderful albums with a bonus set of covers and rarities, and it only exists as a collection of cassettes. It's not the only modern music release to focus on the cassette as its primary means of physical distribution — which, to me, is completely and utterly bonkers.
Why? Because cassettes are, in a word, horrible. To my mind — and please feel free to craft a counterargument in the comments if you think I'm wrong — cassettes offer not a single advantage over other music media. They sound worse. The tape and its casing warp easily when exposed to excessive heat. The tape breaks, or gets wound so tightly that it causes certain players to malfunction. You can't scan easily from track to track, the way you can with CDs, MP3s or even vinyl. They're no more portable than any other format, except vinyl. The cassette boxes are wide and squat in ways that make them extremely difficult to shelve efficiently, and if you've ever had a stack of the damn things slip out of your hand and crash to the floor ... really, need I go on? Cassettes are the worst.
My advice is to upgrade from the accursed medium in any way possible and not look back — and seriously, people, feel free to defend cassettes as vigorously as you'd like in the comments. (If you need inspiration, our own Lars Gotrich gave it his best effort back in 2010.) Once you've made the decision to purge cassettes from your life, do be mindful of what is and isn't in print, whether physically or digitally, because you'll want to hold on to tapes whose music can't be easily or cheaply replaced.
But otherwise? I recommend piling the rest of your cassettes into a heap, setting that heap on fire, feeding the ashes to a large angry animal, feeding that large angry animal to a larger and angrier animal, shooting that animal full of cyanide-tipped arrows, setting the carcass on fire, loading its ashes into a rocket and shooting that rocket into the sun. Or, you know, just recycle them, whatever.
A former BP executive who led the company's cleanup of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill has agreed to pay $224,000 in penalties and restitution in a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly trading on inside information on the disaster.
SEC regulators say Keith A. Seilhan, 47, a 20-year veteran of BP plc, sold his family's $1 million portfolio of BP securities after learning that the public estimates of the extent of the Gulf of Mexico spill were grossly underestimated. The regulators say the sale of the stock and options saved Seilhan from more than $100,000 in losses.
Seilhan has agreed to pay a $105,409 civil penalty and the same amount in "ill-gotten gains" as well as more than $13,000 in prejudgment interest, Reuters says.
"In his position as Incident Commander [in Houma, Louisiana], Seilhan learned of nonpublic information relating to the seriousness of the disaster, including initial oil flow estimates from the sunken rig that were significantly greater than the public estimate of 5,000 barrels per day. Indeed, those private estimates were between 52,700 and 62,200 barrels per day - a 10x increase than that provided to the public.
"After he learned of this information, Seilhan [liquidated his portfolio.] ... By doing so, Seilhan and his family were able to avoid over $100,000 in losses as BP's share price eventually declined 48%. Later, after BP announced it had successfully capped the well, Seilhan repurchased shares of the BP Stock Fund (composed nearly entirely of BP shares) at a lower basis."
Mary McNamara, an attorney for Seilhan, said her client wanted to "avoid further distraction and protracted litigation" by settling the matter, according to Reuters.
"Mr. Seilhan is widely respected for his work helping to lead the cleanup and containment efforts in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010," McNamara added.
Jeremiah Jae and Oliver the 2nd are cousins who grew up in Chicago and Los Angeles, respectively. Already from a musical family — Oliver's father, Phil Perry, is a smooth jazz R&B singer and Jeremiah's played keys with Miles Davis and produced a few of his records — they have formed Black Jungle Squad, a collective of relatives and close friends. "Taking it back to the days when there was a lot more crews in hip-hop," says Jeremiah. "Like Native Tongues or Boogie Down Productions. Just the vibe of different people coming together and making stuff."
Last year the two of them made made a conceptual mixtape called RawHyde. This spring Jeremiah produced Oliver's first solo project, called The Kill Off. The next project from the crew, nominally Jeremiah's, builds from another iconic TV show — Good Times. It's a lot of work, but they don't plan to slow down any time soon. When asked what the end goal is, Jeremiah says "If I could just keep doing this 50 years later." "Keep doing this and, more importantly, keep control of this," adds Oliver. "That's the measure of success to me: it's when we substantiate ourselves."
Producers: Mito Habe-Evans, Frannie Kelley, Ali Shaheed Muhammed; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Olivia Merrion, A.J. Wilhelm; Editor: Olivia Merrion; Special Thanks: Friends & Neighbors, Cedric Shine; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann.