National News

Q-and-A on the News

Posted December 27, 2017 2:27 p.m. EST

Q: On an October episode of "Jeopardy!" a contestant won with a total of $1 in earnings while the other two contestants had $0 in earnings. Normally, the second-place winner receives $2,000, and the third-place winner receives $1,000. How were the earnings actually distributed for that episode?

-- Bill Zimmerman, Dacula, Ga.

A: In the event of a second-place tie, the $2,000 consolation prize is given to contestant who was leading at the end of the Double Jeopardy! round, a show spokesperson told Q-and-A on the News via email. If there had also been a tie at this point in the game, the money goes to the player who was in second at the end of the previous Jeopardy! round.

Manny Abell, who finished in first during an Oct.17 episode despite ending the game with just $1, only walked away with his earnings from the night. But Abell had won two consecutive games prior to that episode, so he added the $1 to his total earnings of $42,799 and continued playing into the next game.

Q: Can a football player insure himself in case he's injured in college before he goes to the NFL?

-- Eddie Webster, Douglasville, Ga.

A: In 1990, the NCAA began a disability insurance program for "exceptional student-athletes," with maximum coverages of $10 million to protect football and men's basketball students against future loss of income at the professional level due to disabling injury or sickness during their collegiate career.

The program has been expanded to cover baseball, men's ice hockey and women's basketball at various maximum coverage levels.

Student-athletes with the "professional potential to be selected in the first two rounds of the upcoming National Football League or National Hockey League draft" are eligible, according to the NCAA website. Only the athletes, their parents or legal guardians or institutional representatives may request the coverage, according to the NCAA.

But "players don't have to go through the NCAA to get the insurance," CBS Sports has reported.

College football players have taken out two kinds of insurance -- the total disability policy and a loss of value policy. Total disability protects them if an injury prevents them from ever playing football again, reported ESPN. Loss of value are attachments to the disability policy, which provide payments to players if an injury causes their projected draft order to fall.

"A rule of thumb is about $10,000 for every $1 million in coverage," ESPN reported. Players can pay for the premium up-front or take out a loan to cover the cost; or the schools can pay the policy premiums.

Q: George Packer was quoted in The New Yorker and The Atlantic that an estimated 8.5 million Americans voted for Obama (in 2012) and then voted for Trump in (2016). Can this number be verified, as this would be the electoral difference?

-- Don White, Atlanta

A: Rasmussen Reports, a nonpartisan electronic media company that collects and distributes public opinion polling information, examined three sources in June to get an idea of how many voters backed Obama in 2012 and then voted for Trump in 2016.

While Rasmussen said exit polls at the time did not ask that question and self-reporting of past voting behavior is not always accurate, it was made "best data-informed guesses" based on results from those three sources.

Data from the American National Election Study found 13 percent of voters -- or 8.4 million in raw numbers -- who backed Trump in 2016 also voted for Obama in 2012. The Cooperative Congressional Election Study recorded a smaller number of Obama-Trump voters -- 11 percent, or 6.7 million -- and a University of Virginia Center for Politics/Public Opinion Strategies survey found 15 percent of 2012 Obama voters chose Trump in 2016, equaling 9.2 million.

That's a wide range, Rasmussen said, but "nonetheless, these surveys offer additional evidence about a critical part of the 2016 equation: the millions of voters who switched from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. Given the extremely close margins in some states, particularly the Rust Belt trio of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, these voters played a crucial role in handing over the White House to the GOP."

Q: I have a follow-up question to the recent answer about congressional retirement. Is the formula for congressional retirement the same as for government employees?

-- Richard Criswell, Monroe, Ga.

A: Members of Congress are eligible for one of two pension systems, both of which are based on formulas like other federal government employees. Representatives and senators who were first elected in or after 1984 are automatically enrolled in the Federal Employees Retirement System. Those elected before 1984 were enrolled in the older Civil Service Retirement System and could choose to stick with that program or switch to the FERS.

"Because of the uncertain tenure of congressional service, FERS was originally designed, as CSRS had been, to provide a larger benefit for each year of service to members of Congress and congressional staff than to most other federal employees," according to the Congressional Research Service.

That meant that until the passage of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, members and congressional staff could become eligible for retirement annuities at an earlier age and with fewer years of service than most federal employees, but they also paid a higher percentage of salary for their retirement benefits than other federal employees.

Now, members and congressional staff first covered by FERS after Dec. 31, 2012, use the same benefit accrual rate and contribute the same percentage of their salary to the retirement system as other federal employees.

Today's pension benefits formula for members entering FERS after Dec. 31, 2012, equals the product of their average annual salary for the three consecutive years of highest pay, their years of service and a 1 percent accrual rate for the first 20 years of service. (Annual benefits equal High-3 salary x years of service x the .01 accrual rate). The accrual rate changes slightly after 20 years of service and is higher for those members who entered FERS before 2012 -- 1.7 percent -- and for members still using the CSRS -- 2.5 percent.

Q: Georgia does not have any hate crime law. Can you kindly define what a hate crime is and what the federal hate crime is?

-- John Grady, Lawrenceville, Ga.

A: A hate crime is defined as "a traditional offense like murder, arson or vandalism with an added element of bias," according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation website.

When categorizing crimes, the FBI defines hate crimes as those criminal offenses "against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity."

Georgia enacted a state hate crimes law in 2000, but it was unanimously struck down in 2004 by the Georgia Supreme Court for being too broad, according to media reports at the time.

"The high court said that it 'by no means' condones the 'savage attack ... or any conduct motivated by a bigoted or hate-filled point of view.' But it said the law was 'unconstitutionally vague' and so broad that it could be applied to every possible prejudice," The Washington Post reported.

Q: Why wasn't the Georgia Dome implosion sprayed with water to keep the dust cloud down, which in turn reduces pollution?

-- Alan Evans, Marietta, Ga.

A: The site was being sprayed with water before and during the implosion event to reduce dust as much as possible, a spokeswoman for the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) told Q-and-A on the News via email. This is standard protocol for all implosions.

Spraying or misting the structure with water only provides a nominal improvement on resulting dust, as the majority of that comes from the newly exposed concrete inside the structure, according to the GWCCA.

Fast Copy News Service wrote this column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Do you have a question about the news? We'll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email q&a(at) (include name, phone and city).

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