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Pop idol, Pakistan and politics plus death of reggae legend

Kevin Anderson | 14:36 UK time, Friday, 26 May 2006

dekkertopofthepopsbbc203ok.jpgAs our correspondent in Pakistan Mubashir Zaidi says, politics is considered a rich person's profession.

Yet if the recently published list of their assets is to be believed, they are living a frugal and penniless life.

But do you believe that?

And we'll hearing your memories of Desmond Dekker, the ska and reggae legend, who died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 64.

Also, as Rabiya says, we'll be talking about American Pop Idol and politics. Millions vote by SMS for an greying soul singer from Alabama, but millions can't be bothered to cast their vote for the future of their country. However, don't believe everything a Pop Idol presenter says or everything you read in the newspaper. Read on for the rest.

Lies, damn lies and quoting a reality television host

Ok, when we came in this morning and read the headline that more votes were cast in the final round of voting for American Pop Idol than any single candidate had ever received as president.

The Guardian reported in this story,
American Idol outvotes the president

Taylor Hicks, 29, emerged as the winner in the finale of the TV show on Wednesday night in which 63m votes were cast. It is the biggest single voting night in the five-season history of the show. In the 1984 US presidential election, 54.5 million voters backed Ronald Reagan - the most votes obtained by a president.

It sounded kind of right. I'm an American, and it's accepted wisdom that voter participation has been going down, with the exception of the hotly contested 2004 presidential election. But I wanted to add a bit of detail into our online debate so I started doing a little forensic Googling and found out that the story was misleading.

This quote was attributed to Pop Idol host Ryan Seacrest.

Now, Ryan seems to be saying that some 63 million people voted in total, not just 63 million for the winning contestant. It's not a one man, one vote system either. Voters can text in as many times as they want.

But making the mistake of quoting a reality TV host is only the beginning. Remember, the Guardian story says that Ronald Reagan received the most votes ever with 54.5 million in 1984. Sorry, in the last election, George Bush received 62,040,606 votes.

But that's just the vote for one candidate. The most up to date figures I could find were from the US Census, which show about 125.7 million cast a vote in the last presidential election. And, at least in terms of presidential elections, participation was higher in the 2000 and 2004 elections. So much for received wisdom.

This isn't to slag off the Guardian. Oddly, in their own News blog, they took on Fox TV for fudging the numbers. Maybe their blogger better talk to their reporter in LA.

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