December 13th, 2013
10:48 AM ET

'Affluenza': Is it Real?

Attorneys for Texas teen Ethan Couch claimed that his "affluenza" meant he was blameless for driving drunk and causing a crash that left four people dead in June.

Simply put, Couch, 16, claims that his condition stemmed from having wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits for him, CNN's Randi Kaye reports.

Judge Jean Boyd sentenced him Tuesday to 10 years of probation but no jail time, saying she would work to find him a long-term treatment facility.

Criminal Defense Attorney Brian Wice weighed in on "New Day" Friday and said he actually agrees with the punishment.

"This is not the adult criminal justice system. This is the juvenile system where the Texas legislature has mandated that rule one in the playbook is what is in the child's best interest. And that's rehabilitation."


But we ask: Is "affluenza" real? Or is it a way for coddled children and adolescents to evade consequences for their actions?

Not surprisingly, "affluenza" does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, the "psychiatric Bible."

But the term highlights the issue of parents, particularly upper-middle-class ones, who not only refuse to discipline their children but may protest the efforts of others - school officials, law enforcement and the courts - who attempt to do so, said Suniya Luthar, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University.

"There are families where very, very few limits are set at a time when they should be," she said. By age 16, she noted, it's too late: "The horse is out of the barn."

The diagnosis for youths in such situations would be impulse control problems, said Atlanta psychologist Mary Gresham - and impulse control problems are seen across all socioeconomic levels in families where limits aren't set.

"We don't know if the rates of poor limit-setting are higher in affluent families or not," Gresham said, noting that there has not been a lot of research.

Luthar says she has studied wealthier families, however, and "we've found the level of serious adjustment problems ranging from depression, anxiety, delinquency, substance abuse higher among kids of upper-middle-class families."

She says in one of her studies, her team gave youths several different scenarios, ranging from minor to serious infractions - such as being caught for the third time with vodka at school or plagiarizing on a test - and asked them how likely their parents would be to protest any punishment for them.

"There was definitely a subgroup of kids that said, 'My parents would object (to punishment from school officials),' " she said.

However, she points out that this is not the norm. "It's a small group (of parents) but very vocal, aggressive, entitled. ... There is definitely a small subgroup that is powerful and way off the charts."

"I wouldn't say there's worse parenting in affluent families and fewer limits set," Gresham said. "That's not true."

But in wealthy families, Gresham said, "kids without limits have a lot more resources to use for their impulsive behavior. They have a lot more money and a lot more access to powerful cars that are fast; to drugs and alcohol, because those things cost money. So the extra resources that you have to live out your impulse control problems really create a problem."

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December 13th, 2013
10:41 AM ET

Think You Have Shot at $400 Million Mega Millions Pot?

It used to be a long shot, but now ... is there a word for insanely more unlikely than a long shot?

The Mega Millions jumped to $400 million, rolling over for the 20th time after no winner was picked in Tuesday's drawing, likely having a Pavlovian effect on regular lottery players, but anyone with a modicum of math proficiency knows he might as well set fire to that $1 bill as spend it on a ticket.

Your odds of getting all six numbers correct for the second-largest Mega Millions jackpot are about 1 in 259 million, according to the lottery company. You have more than 1,000 times better chance of an asteroid or comet killing you - and that's using the long odds,according to Tulane University.

Which is to say, astronomical.

The latest probability is up from the old odds, which were about 1 in 175 million.

Of course, you'd probably have a hard time telling this to the trio from Illinois, Kansas and Maryland who split the record $656 millionkitty last year.

It's worth mentioning that you have a one-in-15 chance of winningsomething, even if it's just getting your dollar back, while the odds of winning the second-place $1 million prize (that is, matching five balls but not the megaball) are about 1 in 18.5 million.

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December 13th, 2013
10:36 AM ET

A Girl's Christmas Surprise for Her Deaf Parents

In today’s edition of the "Good Stuff," a hand of applause for kindergartner Claire Koch, who shows the so-called sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial how it’s done. And she’s only five.

In the video above, she's signing for a very important reason; both of her parents are deaf.

She did it as a surprise so her folks could enjoy her Christmas concert– and, boy, were they surprised.

Mom says she's very proud of her little girl and says she's "a much better interpreter than Nelson Mandela's fake one."

If you have #GoodStuff news, let us know! Leave a comment, post on Facebook, or tweet to @ChrisCuomo & @NewDay using #NewDay and submit your story on iReport.

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December 13th, 2013
10:36 AM ET

North Korea Says Leader's Uncle Was Executed

An uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been executed for trying to overthrow the government, the Korean Central News Agency reported early Friday.

"Traitor Jang Song Thaek Executed" blared the headline posted by the state-run news agency about the man who, until recently, had been regarded as the nation's second-most powerful figure.

The story said that a special military tribunal had been held Thursday against the "traitor for all ages," who was accused of trying to overthrow the state "by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods."

It added, "All the crimes committed by the accused were proved in the course of hearing and were admitted by him."

Once his guilt was established, Jang was immediately executed, it said.

The KCNA report described Jang as "despicable human scum" and "worse than a dog," and said he had betrayed his party and leader.

"This is a stunning development," Marcus Noland, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told CNN on Thursday. "I've been following North Korea for 20 years and I do not remember them ever publicly announcing the execution of a senior leader. You hear rumors about it, but this theatrical arrest earlier in the week and now this execution are unprecedented."

He added, "The regime, I think, is trying to intimidate anyone that might have independent ideas or harbor any ambitions."

KCNA's report comes days after Jang was removed from his military post.

Jang, who was married to Kim's aunt, had served as vice chairman of North Korea's top military body and had often been pictured beside the 30-year-old leader, who has ruled North Korea since the death in 2011 of his father, Kim Jong Il.

It has previously been reported that Kim Il Sung - the late father of Kim Jong Il and the architect of the North Korean state - disapproved of Jang's marriage into the family, according to Time Magazine.

In Washington, a State Department official acknowledged having seen the report of Jang's execution. "While we cannot independently verify this development, we have no reason to doubt the official KCNA report," Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.

"If confirmed, this is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime. We are following developments in North Korea closely and consulting with our allies and partners in the region," Harf added.

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