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The degree to which Americans have stopped shopping is getting almost as scary as our over-consumption used to be. Yesterday we learned that men worldwide had stopped buying underwear, a disturbing development because former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan had famously fixed upon the metric as one of the most consistent, recession-proof sales figures in retail.

But it turns out demand for men's underwear is more elastic than we thought (even if, heh, the elastic itself isn't so much anymore.) Sales are projected to drop 2.3 this year. And elsewhere in the shopping universe, the February retail sales released yesterday portended a veritable bloodbath of red ink for the nation's mall retailers. The worst pain was reserved for Nieman Marcus and Abercrombie & Fitch, whose affluent customers cut back their habits to the tune of 30 and 34%, respectively. And the four chains that managed to keep sales flat or modestly up from February 2008 were off-price or discount stores. With one exception...

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Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: Pastor Rick Warren.

• CBS, Face The Nation: Arturo Sarukhan, Mexican Ambassador to the United States.

• CNN, State Of The Union: Gen. Ray Odierno, and Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie.

• Fox News Sunday: Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).

• NBC, Meet The Press: Special holiday weekend roundtable: Jeffrey Goldberg, from The Atlantic; Michele Norris, from NPR; Robin Wright, author of Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East"; and Byron York, of the Washington Examiner.

One of the strangest aspects of the misreported defense budget story is that one network seemed to us to be doing better than the rest. That network? Fox News!

Alas, earlier today we had to downgrade them. Because of this:



I'd like to take the opportunity to direct the anchor to this post.

Yesterday we told you about the Obama Justice Department's invocation of a sweeping state secrets privilege in a warrantless wiretapping case. But that may not be the only area in which the new administration's war on terror tactics recall the worst excesses of the Bush years.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that detainees at Guantanamo had the right to appeal their detentions in federal courts. But since then, only a few cases have been completed. And in an interview with TPMmuckraker, David Cynamon -- a lawyer for four Kuwaiti Gitmo detainees who are bringing habeas corpus claims against the government -- said that the Justice Department has been consistently dragging its heels in the case, denying detainees their basic due process rights and furthering what he called the "abandonment of the rule of law."

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Michael Steele is at it again -- this time denying that there's a severe economic crisis going on, while guest-hosting Bill Bennett's radio show, and laughing about it:



After a caller said he didn't see anybody spending less money than usual, Steele replied: "I've heard a number of people say that across the country. [LAUGHTER] The malls are just as packed on Saturday. [LAUGHTER]"

In fact, according to market research, malls have been losing stores at an increased rate, as the consumer base has gone down.

You may have noticed some variations on a theme here this week, and we hope you liked it, because we'll surely have more for you next week and the week after and so on all the way until the fight over defense budget has finally ended.

Along the way, we'd like to think that we're having something of an impact. Or, less self-congratulatorily, that not everyone in the media is misportraying the story or letting the misportrayers get a pass.

So, herewith, a montage of the reporters and anchors who got it right:

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Check out this new poll from CNN:

Do you favor or oppose re-establishing U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba?

Favor 71%
Oppose 27%


If you think this is a drastic turnaround from prior opinion against relations with Cuba...you're wrong. It's only a moderate change from when this question was asked three years ago, and it came out at the time as 62% favor, 29% oppose.

Has former CNBC anchor Dylan Ratigan joined the leftist alliance lobbying the right-leaning business network to send its staff to re-education camp?

It didn't exactly seem that way when he abruptly left the channel two weeks ago over what appeared to be his contention that he deserved more money than network execs wanted to pay. In fact, after a few days off the former Fast Money host seemed downright baffled that strangers would associate his grievances with those of Tom Frank and Jon Stewart. "Ever since this started," he told CBS Marketwatch columnist Jon Friedman, "people think I'm some kind of [swear word ending in -ing] Che Guevara!"

Well, welcome to the insurgency, Dylan! Today he tells Henry Blodget of a consciousness-raising moment he experienced during the crisis...

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After digging in deeper on the numbers for the NY-20 absentee ballots, it really looks like Democratic candidate Scott Murphy could have a whole batch of votes for himself that are being kept out of the count -- but for which at least some of them could very well get back in -- due to ballot challenges from the Tedisco campaign and the GOP.

The issue here is that the campaigns have the ability to challenge the unopened ballot envelopes, claiming a problem in how they were filled out, the eligibility of the voter, etc. These envelopes are then set aside until they can be resolved later by the judge presiding over this election (Judge James V. Brands of Dutchess County).

An attorney volunteering on the Tedisco campaign told the Hudson Register-Star that the campaign is getting the most mileage out of challenging voters with multiples residencies -- specifically, folks who were registered in the 20th District, but whose driver's licenses have New York City addresses.

And as Dutchess County deputy Democratic election commissioner Dan French bluntly told us: "A lot of the campaigns have actually called these people, and sometimes they know if it's a Democratic or Republican ballot -- or they think they know."

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As you may have heard by now, Barack Obama will deliver a commencement address to the graduates of Arizona State University on May 13, but ASU won't return the favor by granting him an honorary degree.

Sharon Keeler, a spokeswoman for the university told Politico, "It's normally awarded to someone who has been in their field for some time."

"Considering that the president is at the beginning of his presidency, his body of work is just beginning," she said.

Just for fun, we pulled up ASU's list of honorary degree recipients and did some Google-ing and discovered a couple interesting things:

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