The cause of the Korean ferry disaster is unclear, but the captain's cowardice is known the world over.
Duty and Shame as the Ship Sank
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In upholding a ban on affirmative action in Michigan, the Supreme Court failed to see, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out, that “race matters.”
Racial Equality Loses at the Court
23 Apr 2014 | 12:00 am CDTLog In - The New York Times
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Tuesday it was watching the Korean peninsula closely after reports that North Korea may be planning another nuclear test and it urged Pyongyang not to ...
U.S. urges North Korea to refrain from new nuclear test
22 Apr 2014 | 5:10 pm CDTU.S. urges North Korea to refrain from new nuclear test | Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Tuesday it was watching the Korean peninsula closely after reports that North Korea may be planning another nuclear test and it urged Pyongyang not to take any step that would threaten regional peace.
South Korean news reports quoted the South Korean government as saying on Tuesday that heightened activity had been detected at North Korea's underground nuclear test site, indicating possible preparations for another atomic test.
The reports come just before U.S. President Barack Obama is due in Japan and South Korea, where he will discuss ways to deal with North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Obama is due in Tokyo on Wednesday and in Seoul on Friday.
"We have certainly seen the press reports ... regarding possible increased activity in North Korea's nuclear test site," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "We are closely monitoring the situation on the Korean peninsula."
"We continue to urge North Korea to refrain from actions that threaten regional peace and security and to comply with its international obligations and commitments," she told a regular news briefing.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok as saying that "a lot of activity" was being seen at the Punggye-ri test site.
"So our forces are keeping in mind the possibility that North Korea may suddenly conduct a nuclear test in a short period of time, or as in previous cases, deceive us with what appears to be a nuclear test."
North Korea warned last month it would not rule out a "a new form" of nuclear test after the United Nations Security Council condemned Pyongyang for launching ballistic missiles into the sea.
On the Air Force One flight carrying Obama to Asia, White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked about the reports that North Korea may be preparing a nuclear test.
"North Korea has a history of taking provocative actions and we are always mindful of the possibility that such an action could be taken,' he told reporters.
"There is a kind of cyclical nature to the provocative actions that North Korea tends to take and we'll be watching it very closely."
TEST DURING OBAMA VISIT 'APPEARS UNLIKELY'
Recent commercial satellite imagery indicates North Korea has begun new operations at Punggye-ri, said 38 North, a North Korea monitoring website run by Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
But 38 North said there was little evidence to suggest a test would take place during Obama's visit to Seoul. This "may be possible but appears unlikely," it said.
Increased activity had been seen in a six-week period from early March to April 19, including in an area where there were two completed tunnels, 38 North said.
"In particular, there appears to be movement of crates, boxes and materials near the entrances, possibly into the tunnels," it said.
However it added: "Recent operations at Punggye-ri have not reached the high level of intensity - in terms of vehicle, personnel and equipment movement - that occurred in the weeks prior to past detonations."
The activity "could represent an early stage of preparations for a test or may be intended for a less provocative purpose, such as conducting maintenance after a long winter" 38 North concluded.
When asked what Pyongyang meant by a "new form" of nuclear test, North Korea's deputy ambassador to the United Nations said on April 4 that the world would have to "wait and see.
Nuclear expert Jeffrey Lewis, of the Monterey Institute of International Studies in the United States, said this month that the reference to a new form of test could mean simultaneous detonation of two or more devices as part of a program of more intense nuclear testing expected over the next few years.
While North Korea has detonated several nuclear devices since 2006, analysts doubt it has the technical capability to reliably mount a nuclear warhead on a missile.
Diplomats have said it is possible the U.N. Security Council will respond to last month's North Korean missile tests by expanding a sanctions blacklist to include more North Korean entities involved in Pyongyang's missile program. But they said it could take weeks to reach agreement.
The council expanded its sanctions on North Korea after its third nuclear test in February 2013.
The United States said it held "productive" talks with China on North Korea last week, part of stepped up international diplomacy after Pyongyang's nuclear test warning.
China, North Korea's main ally, has warned against any action that could lead to the escalation of tensions.
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iran complained to a United Nations committee on Tuesday about Washington's refusal to grant a visa to Tehran's proposed new U.N. envoy due to his suspected links to hostage...
Iran protests at U.N. committee on envoy ban as U.S. stands ground
22 Apr 2014 | 5:06 pm CDTIran protests at U.N. committee on envoy ban as U.S. stands ground
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iran complained to a United Nations committee on Tuesday about Washington's refusal to grant a visa to Tehran's proposed new U.N. envoy due to his suspected links to hostage-takers, even as the United States stood firm on its decision.
The United States said earlier this month that it would not grant a visa to Hamid Abutalebi because of his connection to the 1979-1981 Tehran hostage crisis when Iranian students seized the U.S. Embassy and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. Abutalebi has said he acted only as a translator.
"As far as we know this is a unique case involving a permanent representative," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday.
The U.N. Committee on Relations with the Host Country, which deals with the issues of states operating in the United States such as immigration, security, banking and parking violations, met on Tuesday at Iran's request to discuss the matter.
"Iran and the United States presented their views," said Cyprus' U.N. Ambassador Nicholas Emiliou, who chairs the 19-member committee. "There was a discussion ... with the participation of seven other delegations and the committee decided to remain seized of the issue."
Diplomats at the meeting said Belarus, Cuba, North Korea and Ecuador spoke in support of Iran's complaint.
According to the diplomats, the United States said it takes seriously the responsibility of hosting the United Nations, but said it had concerns about Abutalebi's role in the hostage crisis and that it would be intolerable for him to receive diplomatic protection that he had denied others.
The United States told the committee that its position of not granting visas to people involved in the Tehran hostage crisis was not new, diplomats said.
President Barack Obama had come under strong pressure not to allow Abutalebi into the country to take up his position. Former hostages objected to Abutalebi, and a normally divided Congress passed legislation that would ban him.
That legislation became law on Friday when Obama signed it. It bars any U.N. representative deemed to be behind acts of terrorism or espionage against the United States or considered a threat to U.S. national security.
Tehran has steadfastly stuck by its choice for U.N. ambassador, describing Abutalebi as a seasoned diplomat. He has served as ambassador to Italy, Belgium and Australia and is not known as a hardliner or for having staunch anti-Western views.
In a letter to the U.N. committee last week Iran described the U.S. decision as a dangerous precedent that could harm international diplomacy. It is not clear whether Iran plans to ask the committee to take action on the issue. The committee could ask U.N. lawyers to provide an opinion on it.
Under a 1947 "headquarters agreement," the United States is generally required to allow access to the United Nations for foreign diplomats. Washington has said it can deny visas for "security, terrorism, and foreign policy" reasons.
A 1947 Joint Resolution of Congress said nothing should be seen as "diminishing, abridging, or weakening the right of the United States to safeguard its own security and completely control the entrance of aliens" into any part of the United States aside from U.N. headquarters.
(Reuters) - General Motors Co filed a motion in a U.S. court to enforce a bar on lawsuits stemming from ignition defects in cars sold before its 2009 bankruptcy as it fights proposed class action liti...
GM seeks U.S. court protection against ignition lawsuits
22 Apr 2014 | 4:50 pm CDTGM seeks U.S. court protection against ignition lawsuits | Reuters
(Reuters) - General Motors Co filed a motion in a U.S. court to enforce a bar on lawsuits stemming from ignition defects in cars sold before its 2009 bankruptcy as it fights proposed class action litigation that seeks to set aside the restriction.
Plaintiffs suing the company also filed a proposed class action lawsuit in Manhattan bankruptcy court on Monday, seeking an order declaring that GM cannot use the bankruptcy protection to absolve itself from liabilities.
The faulty ignition switch has been linked to at least 13 deaths and the recall of 2.6 million GM vehicles.
GM emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2009 as a different legal entity from the so-called old GM. Under those terms, the "new GM" shed liability for incidents predating its exit from bankruptcy, and any lawsuit involving pre-bankruptcy issues must be brought against what remains of old GM.
"New GM's recall covenant does not create a basis for the plaintiffs to sue new GM for economic damages relating to a vehicle or part sold by old GM," the company said in a filing on Monday in the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.
The motion did not address claims stemming from accidents, including personal injury and wrongful death. GM has said it is committed to replacing the defective switches in cars.
"GM has taken responsibility for its actions and will keep doing so," spokesman Jim Cain said in an emailed statement.
The company recognizes its "civil and legal obligations relating to injuries" tied to the recall cars, Cain said, adding that GM has retained lawyer Kenneth Feinberg to advise it of its legal options.
Feinberg is known for his work in administering special payment funds for high-profile catastrophes like the September 11, 2001, attacks and the BP Plc oil spill.
Also on Tuesday, GM said it was restructuring its engineering operations to improve the quality and safety of its vehicles.
Since it began to recall vehicles in February, GM has been hit by dozens of lawsuits on behalf of individuals injured or killed in crashes involving recalled cars, as well as customers who said their vehicles had lost value as a result of the company's actions.
The plaintiffs have said they bought or leased vehicles that had the defective ignition switch and accused GM of fraudulently concealing its knowledge of the defect. As a result, they said, the company was not entitled to protection from liability.
"GM's argument suggests that the U.S. Government would have agreed to extend $40 billion of taxpayer money for GM's restructuring, and supported shielding it from liability through the sale order, had it known of GM's intentional misconduct," the plaintiffs said in their lawsuit.
In its filing, GM asked the court to direct the plaintiffs to stop suing new GM for claims that are barred by the bankruptcy sale order and the injunction, and to dismiss the earlier claims.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs declined to comment.
Last week, GM sought a stay on lawsuits involving the ignition claims until a judicial panel on multidistrict litigation decides on a motion to consolidate the case with others and the bankruptcy court rules on whether the claims violate GM's 2009 bankruptcy sale order.
(Reporting by Supriya Kurane and Arnab Sen in Bangalore; Additional reporting by Jessica Dye in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Gopakumar Warrier and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical on Tuesday about online TV service Aereo Inc's position in a copyright dispute with major broadcasters, but several raised concern...
U.S. justices show little support for Aereo TV in copyright fight
22 Apr 2014 | 4:32 pm CDTU.S. justices show little support for Aereo TV in copyright fight
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical on Tuesday about online TV service Aereo Inc's position in a copyright dispute with major broadcasters, but several raised concerns about how a ruling against the startup could affect cloud computing services.
The case is important to the future of television, for media companies and consumers alike, in part because a win for Aereo could spur innovation in the industry by paving the way to new, cheaper ways for consumers to watch shows. It could also threaten the estimated $3 billion in so-called retransmission fees that broadcasters get from cable and satellite TV systems.
Some broadcasters such as CBS Corp have even threatened to cut off their free-to-air broadcast signals or create their own low-cost Internet feeds of the channel were Aereo to win. A loss for Aereo, backed by media mogul Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp, could force it to shut down.
Aereo charges users a low monthly fee to stream live broadcasts of TV channels on mobile devices using miniature antennas that the company hosts. Aereo, which is available in 11 U.S. cities and estimated to be tiny compared to 100 million paying TV customers, says its service does nothing more than what a personal TV antenna would provide.
Introduced in 2012, Aero has not disclosed its user base and does not pay the broadcasters.
Aereo's fate was placed in the hands of the high court when Walt Disney Co's ABC network, CBS, Comcast Corp's NBCUniversal and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc appealed a decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in April 2013 that denied their request to shut down Aereo while litigation moved forward.
In court on Tuesday, several justices appeared troubled about a ruling that would deal a blow to increasingly popular cloud computing services in which personal files - including TV shows and music - are stored remotely on the Internet on servers from companies such as Google Inc, Microsoft Corp, DropBox Inc and Box Inc.
Aereo argues that cloud computing services use the Internet in the same way as it does to store and transfer copyrighted content. A ruling against Aereo could therefore raise legal questions about whether accessing material stored on a remote server such as Google Drive, could also violate copyright law.
'MAKES ME NERVOUS'
Justice Stephen Breyer told the networks' lawyer, Paul Clement, that his legal argument "makes me nervous about taking your preferred route."
Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito were among others who raised similar concerns. They cited a 2008 appeals court ruling that upheld Cablevision Systems Corp's cloud storage video recorder.
The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York was appealed to the Supreme Court but the justices declined to review the issue. The ruling therefore remains on the books, although the Supreme Court is not bound by it.
Aereo relies heavily on the Cablevision decision. Its service is no different to buying a song on iTunes and then listening to it later on a cloud storage service like Google Drive, the company says.
Alito questioned Clement about whether the Cablevision service at issue in 2008 was any different than Aereo. Clement said the court could rule narrowly and not reach the cloud computing issue.
"I don't find that very satisfying," Alito said in response.
Some justices seemed skeptical about Aereo's business model.
Chief Justice John Roberts questioned whether the technology used by the company had any purpose other than skirting copyright law. "I'm just saying your technological model is based solely on circumventing legal prohibitions that you don't want to comply with," he told Aereo's lawyer, David Frederick.
A decision is due by the end of June.
The case is American Broadcasting Companies Inc, et al, v. Aereo Inc, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-461
HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) - When Chinese naval supply vessel Qiandaohu entered Australia's Albany Port this month to replenish Chinese warships helping search for a missing Malaysian airliner, it hi...
Search for MH370 reveals a military vulnerability for China
22 Apr 2014 | 4:08 pm CDTSearch for MH370 reveals a military vulnerability for China | Reuters
HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) - When Chinese naval supply vessel Qiandaohu entered Australia's Albany Port this month to replenish Chinese warships helping search for a missing Malaysian airliner, it highlighted a strategic headache for Beijing - its lack of offshore bases and friendly ports to call on.
China's deployment for the search - 18 warships, smaller coastguard vessels, a civilian cargo ship and an Antarctic icebreaker - has stretched the supply lines and logistics of its rapidly expanding navy, Chinese analysts and regional military attaches say.
China's naval planners know they will have to fill this strategic gap to meet Beijing's desire for a fully operational blue-water navy by 2050 - especially if access around Southeast Asia or beyond is needed in times of tension.
China is determined to eventually challenge Washington's traditional naval dominance across the Asia Pacific and is keen to be able to protect its own strategic interests across the Indian Ocean and Middle East.
"As China's military presence and projection increases, it will want to have these kind of (port) arrangements in place, just as the U.S. does," said Ian Storey, a regional security expert at Singapore's Institute of South East Asian Studies.
"I am a bit surprised that there is no sign that they even started discussions about long-term access. If visits happen now they happen on an ad-hoc commercial basis. It is a glaring hole."
The United States, by contrast, has built up an extensive network of full bases - Japan, Guam and Diego Garcia - buttressed by formal security alliances and access and repair agreements with friendly countries, including strategic ports in Singapore and Malaysia.
While China is building up its fortified holdings on islands and reefs in the disputed South China Sea, its most significant southernmost base remains on Hainan Island, still some 3,000 nautical miles away from where Chinese warships have been searching for missing Malaysia airlines flight MH370.
Military attaches say foreign port access is relatively easy to arrange during peace-time humanitarian efforts - such as the search for MH370 or during anti-piracy patrols off the Horn of Africa - but moments of tension or conflict are another matter.
"If there was real tension and the risk of conflict between China and a U.S. ally in East Asia, then it is hard to imagine Chinese warships being allowed to enter Australian ports for re-supply," said one Beijing-based analyst who watches China's naval build-up.
"The Chinese know this lack of guaranteed port access is something they are going to have to broach at some point down the track," he said. "As the navy grows, this is going to be a potential strategic dilemma."
Zha Daojiong, an international relations professor at Beijing's Peking University, said the Indian Ocean search was an "exceptional" circumstance and that Chinese strategists knew they could not automatically rely on getting into the ports of U.S. allies if strategic tensions soared.
China's navy had significantly expanded friendship visits to ports from Asia and the Pacific to the Middle East and Mediterranean in recent years, but discussions over longer-term strategic access were still some way off, he said.
"At some point, we will have to create a kind of road-map to create these kind of agreements, that is for sure, but that will be for the future," Zha said.
"We are pragmatic and we know there are sensitivities surrounding these kinds of discussions, or even historic suspicions in some places, so the time is probably not right just yet," he said.
"I expect to see more friendship visits, and on-going access on a request basis. Then there is the issue of making sure the facilities can meet our needs."
Operationally, long-range deployments such as the anti-piracy patrols and the search for wreckage of MH370 have proved important logistical learning curves, he added.
Potential blue-water deployments of future air-craft carrier strike groups further complicates China's logistical outlook.
China's first carrier, the Liaoning, a Soviet-era ship bought from Ukraine in 1998 and re-built in a Chinese shipyard, is being used for training and is not yet fully operational.
Regional military attaches and analysts said it could be decades before China was able to compete with U.S. carriers, if at all.
Tai Ming Cheung, director of the U.C. Institute of Global Conflict and Co-operation at the University of California, described the MH370 search as a "major learning moment" for the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and could lead to a push from its top brass to develop global power-projection capabilities.
The PLA covers all arms of the military, including the navy.
Chinese officials and analysts have bristled at suggestions by Western and Indian counterparts that Beijing is attempting to create a so-called "string of pearls" by funding port developments across the Indian Ocean, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Chinese analysts say the ports will never develop into Chinese bases and even long-term access deals would be highly questionable, given the political uncertainties and the immense strategic trust this would require.
Storey, of Singapore's Institute of South East Asian Studies, said the "string of pearls" theory was increasingly seen as discredited among strategic analysts.
So far this decade, Chinese naval ships have visited Gulf ports and other strategic points across the Middle East, including Oman, Israel, Qatar and Kuwait, after completing piracy patrols.
But despite its rapid naval build-up, many experts believe China is a decade or more away from being able to secure key offshore shipping lanes and was still reliant on the United States to secure oil choke-points such as the Straits of Hormuz that leads to the Gulf.
Closer to home, the disputed South China Sea offers few solutions. China's eight fortified holdings on reefs and islets across the contested Spratly archipelago are not considered big enough for a significant offshore base, according to Richard Bitzinger, a regional military analyst at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
Nor is the base at Woody Island in the Paracels further north, where China is expanding a runway and harbor.
"Beyond the PLA's significant naval bases on Hainan Island, I just can't see where the Chinese will be able to get the port access they will need in Southeast Asia over the longer term," Bitzinger said. "The intensifying disputes with the likes of the Philippines and Vietnam have hardly helped."
The Philippines and Vietnam, along with Malaysia and Brunei, dispute China's claim to much of the South China Sea, one of the world's most important trade routes. Taiwan's claim mirrors that of Beijing.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan all maintain military bases across the Spratlys, which sit above a seabed rich in oil and gas potential.
"The U.S. Navy has been at this for 100 years or so," and constantly works at maintaining and nurturing its strategic network, Bitzinger said. "China's being doing it for about 15 ... China's not going to be able to catch up overnight."
TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in a tense Asian region on Wednesday, faced with the delicate task of assuring Japan and other regional allies of America's commitment to their de...
Asia tensions simmer as Obama set to arrive in Tokyo
22 Apr 2014 | 4:02 pm CDTAsia tensions simmer as Obama set to arrive in Tokyo | Reuters
TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in a tense Asian region on Wednesday, faced with the delicate task of assuring Japan and other regional allies of America's commitment to their defense without hurting Washington's vital ties with a rising China.
That difficult diplomatic balancing act was highlighted on Monday, when Japanese Prime Minister sent a ritual offering to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, seen in parts of the region as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.
The move strained Tokyo's already tense ties with China and fellow U.S. ally South Korea, another stop on his four-nation tour that will also take in Malaysia and the Philippines.
Japan, for its part, has been beset by anxiety over the degree to which reality matches rhetoric in Obama's promised "pivot" of U.S. military and diplomatic assets to Asia.
Abe and Obama will be keen to send a message that the alliance - central to America's presence in Asia and the core of Tokyo's security policy - is stronger than ever when they hold their symbolic summit on Thursday.
"The fundamental message the two leaders are trying to send is solidarity in the face of China's assertive behavior, and I expect that message to be fairly clear," said a former Western diplomat. "In that sense, an element of success is very likely."
The two leaders are also likely to discuss how to deal with North Korea at a time when the region is jittery over a possible nuclear test by an unpredictable Pyongyang.
North Korea, already subject to United Nations' sanctions over its previous atomic tests, the third and most recent of which took place in early 2013, threatened last month to conduct what it call "a new form of nuclear test".
On Monday the North's KCNA news agency quoted a foreign ministry spokesman saying Obama's trip was a "reactionary and dangerous one as it is aimed to escalate confrontation and bring dark clouds of a nuclear arms race to hang over this unstable region".
U.S.-Japan relations were strained after Abe in December visited the Yasukuni Shrine, where wartime leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal are honored along with war dead. The visit prompted a U.S. statement of "disappointment".
Abe has since sought to soothe U.S. concerns that his conservative agenda to recast wartime history with a less apologetic tone is blocking improved ties with Seoul and giving China ammunition to paint him as reviving past militarism.
Last month, Abe told parliament that he has no plans to revise a landmark 1993 apology to women, many Korean, forced to work in Japan's wartime military brothels.
And while he sent a ritual offering to Yasukuni on Monday, Abe did not join the nearly 150 lawmakers who visited in person to commemorate its spring festival.
"Abe, by declining to visit Yasukuni for the spring festival, sent the message that he has heard the U.S., that the message has been received," the ex-diplomat said. "To that degree, the situation is different from some months back."
Still, Obama - in Japan on the first full state visit by a U.S. president since Bill Clinton in 1996 - must tread carefully, both to avoid providing fodder from critics alert to the tiniest sign of cracks in the alliance, while avoiding inflaming Chinese anger.
"Obama has to assure Japan that the alliance is rock-solid but he can't do too much to alienate or provoke China, so it's a delicate situation," said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University's Japan campus.
Abe is also anxious to ease the restrictions placed on Japan's military by its pacifist, post-war constitution, a move that would be welcomed by Washington for allowing Tokyo to shoulder a greater burden in their security alliance.
Sino-Japanese relations have chilled markedly over the past two years due, in part due to a bitter dispute over rival claims to tiny, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
Japanese and Chinese patrol ships have been playing cat-and-mouse in the disputed waters and Japanese fighter jets scrambles against Chinese planes hit a record high in the year to March 31, stirring concerns that an unintended clash could escalate.
Washington says the Japanese-administered islands fall under a U.S.-Japan treaty that obligates it to defend Japan, but it takes no position on their sovereignty and is wary of being dragged into a Sino-Japanese military clash.
A joint statement to be issued at the summit will state that the two allies will not tolerate any attempt to change the status quo by force - a phrase that implicitly targets China - but not mention the islands by name, Japanese media reported.
The two leaders will also need to show progress towards a two-way trade pact seen as vital to a broader U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal.
The deal is both a pillar of Obama's Asia rebalancing and critical to Abe's growth strategy, the "Third Arrow" of his recipe to revive the Japan's moribund economy alongside hyper-easy monetary policy and increased fiscal spending.
But doubts persist over whether they can reach even the outlines of a bilateral trade agreement, given that significant gaps remain over Japan's desire to keep tariffs on politically sensitive farm products such as beef.
Failure could take the wind out of the push for a broader agreement among the 12-nation TPP group that would stretch from Asia to Latin America.
Some trade experts said that despite the hurdles, a last-minute agreement could not be ruled out. Abe and Obama will dine together on Wednesday night, a U.S. official said, and Japanese media have reported that U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari might join.
"I think there is still a chance that Japan and the U.S. will reach a broad agreement on TPP through a political decision between Prime Minister Abe and President Obama this week," said Kazuhito Yamashita, research director at the Canon Institute for Global Studies. "It will be one important symbol to show off a strengthened Japan-U.S. alliance to China."
The CEO of Europe’s second-largest social network was sacked this week as the Putin regime’s campaign to silence its internal critics went into overdrive.
Moscow’s War on Social Media
22 Apr 2014 | 3:40 pm CDTMoscow’s War on Social Media Claims a New Casualty Daily Beast
The CEO of Europe’s second-largest social network was sacked this week as the Putin regime’s campaign to silence its internal critics went into overdrive.
As the Russian military has pushed outward into Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin has stepped up its fight on a second front: against its internal opponents and the media they use to organize and spread information. The few voices of Russia’s independent press have fallen one by one in recent months: imprisoned, fired, or intimidated into self-censorship. On Monday, the founder of Russia’s largest social media company, Pavel Durov, announced that he had been fired and replaced by Putin loyalists.
At this rate, if Putin’s crackdown on independent expression succeeds, there may be nothing left for the country’s massive surveillance network to spy on.
Durov’s company, VKontakte—known as VK—is the second-largest social media company in Europe. In Russia and the former Soviet states, VK has over 100 million users. Durov expressed some surprise about the manner in which he was fired, learning from news reports that company’s board of directors terminated him for a procedural violation, but he seemed to know that the news would come eventually.
“Probably, in the Russian context, something like this was inevitable, but I’m happy we lasted seven and a half years,” Durov wrote in a statement about his firing.
“Obviously Durov’s decision to remain outside Russia means he knows what will happen to him if he returns,” an expert on social media in Russia told The Daily Beast.
Just over a month ago, the Kremlin launched a salvo against the media, the Russian government replaced the editor of a well-known independent newspaper and shut down the sites of some of the country’s leading bloggers. A message from Russia’s Prosecutor General appeared on the down sites stating that they had been banned for “incitement to illegal activity and participation in public events held in violation of the established order.”
But in a sense, this is a move that’s been years in the making. Ever since Moscow’s social media-powered protests of 2011, the Kremlin has been looking for ways to muzzle the networks. At the time, Russia’s Federal Security Service demanded VK remove some pages critical of the government—a demand the network resisted. Kremlin television began airing documentaries blaming sites like VK for all manner of societal ills. Kremlin-connected cybersecurity entrepreneur Eugene Kaspersky even faulted the network for contributing to his son’s kidnapping.
“At this rate, if Putin’s crackdown on independent expression succeeds, there may be nothing left for the country’s massive surveillance network to spy on.”
“Social networks, it’s too much freedom so people can manipulate others with the fake information,” Kaspersky told WIRED the following year. “And it’s not possible to find who they are. They are anonymous from somewhere. And that’s why I see the social networks as one of the most dangerous—I don’t know what to call it—threats. But it’s a place for very dangerous action.
The Duma bill, which forces bloggers that get more than 3,000 visitors a day and use commercial advertising to register as media outlets, would give the government a legal cover to shut down almost any site it objected to.
According to the Russian social media expert, “A Facebook page visited by more than 3,000 people today will have to register as media. It opens the Pandora’s Box. No one will be sure if something they publish becomes popular enough that they need a license. Then, if the license is taken away you have to shut down you website.”
With the establishment press in Russia already largely purged of anti-government voices, the state has turned its attention to the threat from social media. But with Durov gone, it’s the individual users of social Media who now seem to be under suspicion and threat from the government.
The attack on social media reveals the Kremlin’s fear of its own vulnerability to internal dissent. But the move also represents a growing sophistication in its approach to silencing critics. Only a few years ago, Russian journalists were being openly beaten and killed. The threat of that kind of violence still exists, but it has become more infrequent as the state has grown adept at using regulatory pressures and the threat of violence to accomplish its aims.
“Social media became another place where people can express their opinions and that’s not allowed. That’s not acceptable,” the Russian expert said.
Asked about where ordinary Russians would turn to express their views if they no longer believed they could safely use social media he said, “the Russians are very creative, I’m sure they will come out with something new.”
He also questioned whether the campaign against media signaled the government’s increasing strength or was a sign of its vulnerability. “These efforts actually don’t serve the goal of the government,” he said. “They actually stimulate alternative thinking and the development of new outlets.”
- ^ World News (feedproxy.google.com)
- ^ salvo against the media (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ message from Russia’s Prosecutor General (twitter.com)
- ^ demanded VK remove some pages (www.worldpolicy.org)
- ^ contributing to his son’s kidnapping (www.wired.com)
- ^ Kaspersky told WIRED (www.wired.com)
- ^ pass a bill (www.themoscowtimes.com)
(Reuters) - Canada's Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc said on Tuesday it and activist investor Bill Ackman made an unsolicited $47 billion bid to buy Botox maker Allergan Inc as it seeks to b...
Valeant, Ackman offer to buy Botox maker Allergan for $47 billion
22 Apr 2014 | 3:24 pm CDTValeant, Ackman offer to buy Botox maker Allergan for $47 billion
(Reuters) - Canada's Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc said on Tuesday it and activist investor Bill Ackman made an unsolicited $47 billion bid to buy Botox maker Allergan Inc as it seeks to become one of the world's five biggest drug companies.
The offer, if successful, would bring together two mid-sized pharmaceutical companies with expertise in skin care and eye care products, and is highly unusual as activist investors typically buy stakes and then agitate for strategic change.
Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management, Allergan's largest shareholder with a 9.7 percent stake, disclosed in a filing on Monday it is supporting the bid.
Allergan said in a statement that it has received the offer, and will carefully consider the proposal and "pursue the course of action that it believes is in the best interests of the company's stockholders."
Valeant offered to pay $48.30 a share in cash and 0.83 of its common share for each Allergan share, valuing Allergan at $152.88 a share, a premium of over 7 percent to the company's closing price on Monday.
The offer is 31 percent higher than Allergan's stock price on April 10, the day before Pershing Square's ownership reached 5 percent.
Shares of Allergan jumped 15.2 percent to $163.65 in New York, signaling investors expect a sweetened bid to emerge.
Valeant stock rose 7.5 percent to $135.41.
Valeant has been on a buying spree since 2010 and last year acquired contact lens maker Bausch & Lomb Holdings. Chief Executive Michael Pearson said in January the drugmaker wants to become one of the world's top five pharmaceutical companies by market capitalization by the end of 2016, largely through acquisitions.
"The big valuation driver is Botox," Pearson said, speaking about the Allergan bid to about 200 shareholders and analysts in New York.
Pearson said Allergan Chief Executive David Pyott and the company's board had been unwilling to discuss a merger with Valeant. In a letter to Allergan, Valeant said it would have preferred to negotiate a deal in private.
Pearson said Valeant would definitely not turn its bid into an all-cash offer, and suggested the company could still walk away if Allergan's price gets too high.
"We don't view this as we're going to pay whatever it takes to get Allergan, because we won't," he said. "If someone wants to come in and pay some ridiculous cash price, that's their choice."
Ackman, who also addressed shareholders, called the deal the most synergistic he has seen, and said he is already talking with Valeant about their next deal.
The Laval, Quebec-based company, whose products include antidepressant drug Wellbutrin and over-the-counter remedy Cold-FX, favors targets where it can aggressively cut costs. Valeant said it expects to realize at least $2.7 billion in annual cost synergies from a combination with Allergan.
A large-scale cost-cutting approach may not work at Allergan without damaging the business, BMO Capital Markets analyst David Maris said in a note.
But J.P.Morgan analyst Chris Schott said the potential for savings from operating expenses and Valeant's low tax rate is compelling.
Allergan, which also has a lucrative portfolio of ophthalmic drugs to treat conditions such as glaucoma and dry eye, is larger by revenue, reporting $6.3 billion in sales last year. Valeant reported $5.8 billion in revenue last year.
Pearson said he doesn't expect the offer to raise antitrust concerns.
The Federal Trade Commission, which shares the work of antitrust enforcement with the U.S. Justice Department, will likely review this proposed transaction, according to an antitrust attorney, who declined to be named for business reasons.
"It's like any of these big drug deals, if there's overlap in certain products then, like prior deals in this space, they can divest one of the products to get the deal through," the antitrust expert said.
Valeant is already in talks with potential buyers of products the new company would divest, Pearson said, naming Valeant's Botox competitor, Dysport, as well as its Restylane and Perlane product lines. Combined sales of those lines could reach about $250 million, Schott said.
(Reporting by Euan Rocha in Toronto, Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Esha Dey in Bangalore, Diane Bartz in Washington and Caroline Humer in New York; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Nick Zieminski and Meredith Mazzilli)
KIEV/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Ukraine's acting president Oleksander Turchinov called on Tuesday for government forces to relaunch an offensive against pro-Russian rebels after a local politician from his ow...
Ukraine president calls for new anti-rebel offensive as crisis deal falters
22 Apr 2014 | 3:21 pm CDTUkraine president calls for new anti-rebel offensive as crisis deal falters
KIEV/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Ukraine's acting president Oleksander Turchinov called on Tuesday for government forces to relaunch an offensive against pro-Russian rebels after a local politician from his own party was found dead with signs of torture.
Kiev's first push failed last week to retake one of the towns in the mainly Russian-speaking east occupied by the separatists, and its military has largely suspended operations since the United States, Russia, Ukraine and European Union signed a deal in Geneva last week intended to calm the crisis.
But the agreement is already in trouble, with Washington and Moscow putting the onus on each other on Tuesday to ensure that it is implemented, including a stipulation that the rebels must disarm and leave the government buildings they have occupied.
In an appeal that may complicate European efforts to mediate the crisis, Turchinov said two "brutally tortured" bodies had been found near Slaviansk, the objective of the failed Ukrainian army offensive. One was that of Volodymyr Rybak, a member of Turchinov's Batkivshchyna party, who had recently been abducted by "terrorists", he said in a statement.
"These crimes are being carried out with the full support and indulgence of the Russian Federation," he said. "I call on the security agencies to relaunch and carry out effective anti-terrorist measures, with the aim of protecting Ukrainian citizens living in eastern Ukraine from terrorists."
Police said the body of a man who had suffered a violent death had been found in a river. It resembled Rybak, a local councilor in the town of Horlivka, near the regional capital of Donetsk, but formal identification would need further work, they added.
Batkivshchyna is led by Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister who is running in a presidential election scheduled for May 25.
Ukraine's poorly resourced forces had previously shown little sign of taking on the gunmen who started occupying towns and public buildings two weeks ago. Turchinov's call may not lead to much more action but could fuel recriminations between Moscow and Kiev about who is failing to honor the deal.
TIME IS SHORT
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told Russia on Tuesday that "time is short" for action on defusing the crisis, but Moscow refused to be rushed, saying it could handle any tougher economic sanctions the West might impose.
Speaking on a visit to Kiev, Biden called on Moscow to pull back troops built up on Ukraine's borders and persuade the separatists to disarm.
"We've heard a lot from Russian officials in the past few days. But now it's time for Russia to stop talking and start acting," he told a news conference. "We will not allow this to become an open-ended process. Time is short in which to make progress."
The United States has repeatedly warned Russia it faces "mounting costs" if it fails to ensure full implementation of the Geneva agreement.
But the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, ruled out rapid progress. "Of course, it would be naive to suppose that all this could happen quickly," Churkin said in an interview on Rossiya-24 television.
Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and the eastern rebellion have deepened the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War, and Biden demanded the removal of Russian forces near Ukraine's frontier which Moscow insists are merely on exercises.
"No nation should threaten its neighbors by amassing troops along the border. We call on Russia to pull these forces," Biden said after meeting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded by telling U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone call that Ukraine itself should take urgent steps to implement the Geneva accord, his ministry said in Moscow.
The United States and NATO have made clear they will not intervene militarily in Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.
However, the Pentagon said on Tuesday that it was sending about 600 soldiers to Poland and the three Baltic states for infantry exercises, to reassure NATO allies about U.S. commitments to them following events in Ukraine.
HOSTAGES TO POLITICAL GAMES
Moscow denies it is orchestrating the militants, who say they want the chance to join Crimea in becoming part of Russia following the overthrow of Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich after months of street protests in Kiev.
But Washington has said it would decide "in days" on additional sanctions if Russia does not take steps to implement the agreement.
In Moscow, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev promised the country could deal with tougher measures if necessary.
"We shan't give up on cooperation with foreign companies, including from Western countries, but we will be ready for unfriendly steps," he told parliament.
"I am sure we can minimize their impact," he said. "We will not allow our citizens to become hostages of political games."
So far the United States and EU have imposed visa bans and asset freezes on only a limited number of Russians over the annexation of Crimea last month.
The chief mediator for Europe's OSCE security body in eastern Ukraine met separatist leaders occupying buildings in Donetsk on Tuesday. He called their talks "constructive" but gave no indication they would leave.
In Brussels, EU diplomats said the bloc was holding off from imposing further sanctions until it sees whether the Geneva deal works.
The EU has been more cautious than the United States in imposing sanctions on Russia, with some member states worried about antagonizing a country that supplies a third of Europe's gas.
Both sides stressed on Tuesday they wanted to depend less on the other over energy.
Medvedev said Russia was more interested than ever in diversifying its gas exports and described talk of Europe importing U.S. gas as a substitute as "a bluff".
Partly as a result of the Ukraine crisis, the EU is stitching together measures such as raising electricity production from coal and renewables.
Russia's top natural gas producer Gazprom, however, maintained Europe still needed its supplies. According to most scenarios, long-term gas demand would increase in the European market while production there would decline, it said in a statement issued after a board meeting.
Reuters calculations suggest that the EU steps could slash imports from Russia by around 45 billion cubic meters by 2020, worth $18 billion a year, or the equivalent of a quarter of what Russia currently supplies.
During Biden's trip, the United States offered Ukraine a new $50 million aid package to help with economic and political reform. Of this $11.4 million was earmarked for helping with the election to choose a successor to Yanukovich, the White House said in a statement.
While small in relation to Ukraine's huge needs and a $1 billion loan guarantee already signed with Washington, the package serves to show support for the new authorities following the overthrow of the Kremlin-backed Yanukovich in February.
Biden also had tough words for Kiev, saying it must deal with the endemic graft that has sapped the economy and public faith in the state. "To be very blunt ... you have to fight the cancer of corruption," he told lawmakers.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, Natalia Zinets, Alastair Macdonald and Richard Balmforth in Kiev, Nigel Stephenson in Moscow and William James in London; writing by David Stamp; editing by Giles Elgood and Will Waterman)
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Chlorine gas attacks in Syria this month, if proven, expose a major loophole in an international deal to remove chemical weapons from the war-torn country and suggest chemical warfa...
Syria's chemical weapons wild card: chlorine gas
22 Apr 2014 | 2:52 pm CDTSyria's chemical weapons wild card: chlorine gas | Reuters
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Chlorine gas attacks in Syria this month, if proven, expose a major loophole in an international deal to remove chemical weapons from the war-torn country and suggest chemical warfare could persist after the removal operation has finished.
President Bashar al-Assad agreed with the United States and Russia to dispose of his chemical weapons - an arsenal that Damascus had never previously formally acknowledged - after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack on the outskirts of the capital last August.
Washington and its Western allies said it was Assad's forces who unleashed the nerve agent, in the world's worst chemical attack in a quarter-century. The government blamed the rebel side in Syria's civil war, which is now in its fourth year.
Syria has vowed to hand over or destroy its entire arsenal by the end of this week, but still has roughly 14 percent of the chemicals it declared to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
In addition, chlorine gas that was never included on the list submitted to the OPCW is now allegedly being used on the battlefield, leading some countries to consider requesting an investigation, possibly through the United Nations.
Attacks this month in several areas of the country share characteristics that have led analysts to believe that there is a coordinated chlorine campaign, with growing evidence that it is the government side dropping the bombs.
The U.S. State Department, which is examining the allegations, said on Tuesday that if the Syrian government used chlorine with the intent to kill or harm this would violate the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which it joined as part of last September's Geneva agreement to give up its chemical weapons.
"The use of any toxic chemical with the intent to cause death or harm is a clear violation of the convention," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
In the rebel-held village of Kfar Zeita in the central province of Hama, 125 miles north of Damascus, opposition activists uploaded video of people choking and being fed oxygen following what they said were bombs dropped from helicopters on April 11 and 12.
Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the videos, and activists regularly make similar claims, but further footage of canisters provided an indication of what had happened.
One of the canisters had only partially exploded, and the marking CL2 was written along its side. CL2 is the symbol for chlorine gas. Also visible was "Norinco" - China's biggest arms maker.
Repeated calls to China North Industries Group Corporation, or Norinco, went unanswered.
Canisters pictured in three separate areas were all painted yellow - complying with international standards on industrial gas color codes indicating chlorine.
Since April 11, there have been repeated attacks on Kfar Zeita and also on the town of Al-Tamana'a in north west Idlib on Friday that shared the same characteristics.
Activists said helicopters dropped improvised barrel bombs with a chlorine canister enclosed, which led to casualties.
If inhaled, chlorine gas - a deadly agent widely used in World War One - turns to hydrochloric acid in the lungs, which can lead to internal burning and drowning through a reactionary release of water in the lungs.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, head of British-based chemical biological radiological and nuclear consultancy firm Secure Bio, said he was "reasonably satisfied that chlorine has been used".
"The evidence is pretty compelling," he said.
DOMESTIC CHEMICAL INDUSTRY
Amy Smithson, a leading American chemical weapons expert at the Monterey Institute, said that unless tests are run, it is not certain that chlorine was used or some similar agent.
"Once the Syrian government gets the remainder of the declared chemicals out, pressure should mount for Syria to revise its declaration again, to cough up the remainder of their offensive chemical program," she said, questioning whether Syria had weaponized its domestic chemical industry.
Chlorine, a so-called dual-use chemical that has industrial uses, is not on the list of chemical weapons submitted to the OPCW but was produced in Syria before the war. It should have been declared if the government has it, an OPCW spokesman said.
On Monday, opposition groups reported a further attack, this time 20 miles northeast of Kfar Zeita in the town of Telminnes. Video footage was posted on YouTube by several opposition groups of men, women and children being treated in a field hospital.
Many appeared to have trouble breathing and medics held them down. One boy who looked less than 10 years old shook as a medic poured a liquid on his eyes and in his mouth.
A Reuters photograph of another young boy who had been transferred to a hospital closer to the Turkish border showed him lying dead on a stretcher with blood around his mouth. Medics said he had been exposed to chlorine gas at Telminnes.
Videos from the site of Monday's bombing showed the same yellow canisters, this time twisted from an explosion.
Eliot Higgins, a British-based researcher who trawls daily through online videos of Syria's civil war to verify weapons in them, said that these "chlorine bombs" have similar features to improvised barrel bombs the army has used in the war.
He said one bomb from Kafr Zeita shows metal rods, consistent with other large government barrel bomb designs, to hold the impact fuse plate in place.
Another video of an exploded barrel bomb shows a canister inside the barrel, which has fins on the back and what appear to be explosives around the top of the canister with a detonation cord.
"The interesting thing about these new videos is that there's the same blue det cord you see in other DIY barrel bombs," Higgins said.
Hundreds of videos confirm barrel bombs have been dropped from helicopters. Rebels have access to large rockets and missiles but there has never been a case reported of the opposition using air-dropped munitions nor commandeering a helicopter.
A United Nations inquiry found in December that chemical weapons were likely used in five attacks in 2013, though it did not apportion blame. The nerve agent sarin was likely used in four of the five attacks, the inquiry found.
The OPCW mission to extract Assad's chemicals has been beset by delays and inconsistencies. On Thursday, Reuters reported that Syria had submitted a "more specific" list of its chemical weapons to the OPCW after discrepancies were reported by inspectors on the ground, officials said.
Although it's not public, officials have said the list includes more than 500 metric tons of highly toxic chemical weapons, such as sulfur mustard and precursors for sarin, as well as more than 700 metric tons of bulk industrial chemicals.
The OPCW, which is overseeing the destruction with the United Nations, has taken an inventory of the chemicals and facilities Syria reported to the joint mission, but has not looked into whether the list may have been incomplete.
"Chlorine has a host of commercial uses. Actually, it's not very toxic. Sarin is probably 2,000 to 3,000 times more toxic. You and I can buy chlorine in a shop," chemical weapons specialist De Bretton-Gordon said.
This makes it a grey area, he said, as industrial-use chlorine in canisters - which is what these bombs appear to be - is not strictly a chemical weapon until it is used as one.
Nevertheless, he says, "the OPCW and others have been frankly naive."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday further undermined the use of racial preferences in higher education by upholding a voter-approved Michigan law that banned the practice in decision...
U.S. top court upholds Michigan ban on college affirmative action
22 Apr 2014 | 2:45 pm CDTU.S. top court upholds Michigan ban on college affirmative action
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday further undermined the use of racial preferences in higher education by upholding a voter-approved Michigan law that banned the practice in decisions on which students to admit to state universities.
The 6-2 vote and the four opinions issued by justices in the majority revealed divisions on the court as to the legal rationale in rejecting civil rights groups' challenge to the ban. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote the sole dissenting opinion, read excerpts from the bench, calling the decision a blow to "historically marginalized groups, which rely on the federal courts to protect their constitutional rights."
The court emphasized that it was not deciding the larger and divisive question of whether affirmative action admission policies can be lawful.
But the decision made it clear that voter-approved affirmative action bans can withstand legal challenges. It could encourage other states to pass similar bans and deter challenges to existing bans in seven other states.
Civil rights groups had argued that the 2006 Michigan constitutional amendment that passed as a ballot initiative had imposed burdens on racial minorities in violation of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.
Affirmative action programs, first advocated in the 1960s to combat discrimination against racial minorities, have faced a backlash from conservatives in recent decades. Court rulings and action by states have chipped away at the practice.
In November 2012, a divided 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled Michigan's ban unconstitutional, prompting the state to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Michigan's Republican attorney general, Bill Schuette, said in an interview that the Supreme Court had provided other states with a "constitutional roadmap" if they wish to enact similar laws and had "heard the voices of voters who overwhelmingly voted to require equal treatment in admissions."
The other states with similar bans are Arizona, California, Florida, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington.
Some states that do not currently have bans - Alabama, Georgia and West Virginia - backed Michigan. Ward Connerly, a veteran affirmative action opponent who helped pass the California ban, said no states are actively pursuing similar voter-approved measures.
"These initiatives are very complicated, very expensive and very laborious," Connerly said in an interview.
The ruling was decried by civil rights activists and some Democrats.
"Our nation has come a long way in seeking to end discrimination, but our work is far from complete at a time of continued under-representation of minorities in high education and many walks of life," said Michigan Democratic Representative John Conyers, one of the senior black members of Congress.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that President Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president, continues to believe that, in the context of university admissions, "considering race, along with other factors, can be appropriate in certain circumstances."
'WHO MAY RESOLVE IT'
On Tuesday, the justices in the majority were divided three ways. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote an opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, saying the lower court that threw out the law lacked the authority to do so.
"This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved," Kennedy wrote. "It is about who may resolve it."
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a separate opinion, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, in which he said challenges to laws that rest on equal protection claims must show that the law reflects a discriminatory purpose. This law did not, he said.
Justice Stephen Breyer was the only member of the liberal wing of the court to join the majority. The dissenting votes came from two of the court's liberal members, Justices Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Elena Kagan did not take part, presumably because she worked on the case in her previous position as U.S. solicitor general.
Mark Rosenbaum, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued before the Supreme Court, said the ban "unfairly keeps students from asking universities to consider race as one factor in admissions, but allows consideration of factors like legacy status, athletic achievement and geography."
The Michigan case was argued in October 2013, just four months after the justices issued a legally narrow ruling on affirmative action in a different case involving the University of Texas at Austin.
In a lopsided 7-1 vote that few had expected, the court said
university policies that took race into account could be more vulnerable to legal challenges in the future but the court did not strike the policy down.
The Michigan case raised a different legal question, focusing not on the state's ban on affirmative action itself but rather the political process that led to its amendment being enacted.
The case is Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-682.
Joel Hodgson Wants To Resurrect Mystery Science Theater 3000 In 2014
22 Apr 2014 | 2:24 pm CDTMystery Science Theater 3000: The Definitive Oral History of a TV Masterpiece | Magazine
Released in 1966, Manos: The Hands of Fate is a D-minus of a B movie: Its plot, about desert-dwelling pagans, makes little sense. Its cast could be out-acted by the stars of a day care holiday pageant. And the film is paced with the urgency and focus of a box turtle on lithium.
Luckily, no one has to watch Manos alone. It’s just one of the nearly 200 horror flicks, teensploitation romps, and outer-space oddities to appear on Mystery Science Theater 3000, the cult-stoking comedy series that provided awful films with hilarious, sharp, high-speed detractors’ commentary. MST3K is the story of a sarcastic Earth dweller—played initially by series creator Joel Hodgson and in later years by head writer Mike Nelson—who’s exiled to a ramshackle spaceship called the Satellite of Love, where he’s forced to watch an endless supply of crapola movies. Our hero’s response to such torture, naturally, is to unleash a torrent of withering one-liners, or “riffs,” that he delivers with the help of a couple of robot pals. “It was all based on this simple idea: that people say shit when they’re watching movies,” Hodgson says.
And the shit-saying on MST3K was brilliant. The show was awash in quick, smart wisecracks, not to mention cultural references that ran the gamut from Zsa Zsa Gabor to Miles Davis to Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp. Watching MST3K was like hanging out with a trio of underachieving-genius best friends. At a time when depictions of geekery were limited mostly to Urkel and Comic Book Guy, the denizens of the Satellite of Love were brazenly brainy—which explains why MST3K’s fan base reportedly included such meganerds as Al Gore and Patton Oswalt.
As fun as MST3K was, though, life aboard the Satellite of Love wasn’t always easy: The show was never a ratings smash, and tension between Hodgson and producer Jim Mallon led to Hodgson leaving the show just a few years into its run. In later years, members of the show’s Midwestern-based, DIY-determined staff found themselves struggling with the sort of big-TV bureaucracy they’d long fought to avoid.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of MST3K’s national debut, WIRED presents an oral history of the greatest talk-back show ever made. It all begins in the late ’60s in rural Wisconsin, where there was this guy named Joel, not too different from you or me …
Joel Hodgson (creator, writer-producer,
host, 1988–1993): I was a TV junkie as a
kid. This was when there were three channels, so I’d watch the farm report or this terrible polka show called Dairyland Jubilee. If I happened to run into a Godzilla movie—or a monster movie of any kind—it was like hitting the lottery.
Sometime around seventh grade, I got into ventriloquism and magic. There were these amazing magic catalogs where you could find any trick that you would see a magician do on TV. But because my parents were really big do-it-yourselfers, I started learning to build my own stuff, like magic tables and tricks. Through high school I figured I’d be a comic magician. I thought I’d work on a cruise ship.
Instead, in 1982, after graduating college in Minneapolis, Hodgson headed to Los Angeles, where he befriended such comics as Jerry Seinfeld and Garry Shandling and where his clever, prop-filled stand-up act quickly made him a breakout star.
Hodgson: It was right when stand-ups were becoming famous. If you had chops and were original, you could move really quickly. I got on Letterman within maybe four months of relocating to LA. Then I got on HBO’s  Young Comedians special and was a guest on Saturday Night Live.
Eventually I got asked to be in a Michael J. Fox sitcom called High School U.S.A. I didn’t think it was funny and said no. They doubled the money, and that kind of offended me. I realized, oh, that’s right, my opinion means nothing in Hollywood. I’d seen other people compromise, and I felt that once you gave up on what you wanted to do, you couldn’t go back. It was selling out. So I decided to go back to Minneapolis.
Josh “J. Elvis” Weinstein (writer-performer): I met Joel after he came back to Minneapolis. I was 15 and had just started doing stand-up. He had an air of specialness about him, because he had been in the big time. He was definitely an artist among comics.
Hodgson: I had money in the bank from stand-up, and I was living off that. And I found I had more ideas when I was bored, so I got a job in a T-shirt factory putting appliqués on T-shirts. I also started collaging these robots out of objects I found at the Salvation Army. That’s what I was doing when I met Jim Mallon.
Mallon, a filmmaker and prankster, was the production manager at Channel 23 KTMA, a small Twin Cities station whose programming included network reruns and regionally produced shows. One of his first hires was crew member (and future MST3K performer) Kevin Murphy.
Jim Mallon (writer-performer, producer): The programming at KTMA was bottom- basin. Our prime-time headliner was Love, American Style paired with Hawaii 5-0, and we had the worst movie library imaginable.
Kevin Murphy (writer-performer, producer): We started seeking out people in the community who could be on TV, and one of them was Joel Hodgson.
Mallon: Joel had three or four drawings on a yellow pad, and he said, “You know how they have these hosted movies? How about instead of having the host at the commercial breaks, we have the host be in the movie?”
Hodgson: It was an idea I’d had tucked away in the back of my mind since high school: On Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, there are illustrations in the liner notes. And for the song “I’ve Seen That Movie Too,” it’s got little silhouettes watching a movie. I remember going, “Someone should do a show like that. Run a movie and have these people in silhouettes say stuff.”
Hodgson set the show in outer space and cast himself as “Joel,” a likable janitor who is blasted into orbit and forced to endure all manner of bad movies. Joel created and built three chatty pals to join him: the pseudo-suave, sarcastic Tom Servo; the bigmouthed, perpetually eye-rolling Crow T. Robot; and their sweet (but appropriately spacey) sidekick Gypsy. Though Jim Mallon would eventually play Gypsy, in the early seasons the robots would be voiced by local comedians (and MST3K costars) Josh Weinstein and Trace Beaulieu. The program debuted on KTMA on Thanksgiving Day 1988.
Hodgson: The movie in the pilot is The Green Slime, which was perfect for Mystery Science Theater: It has big, goofy monsters, guys in suits, and serious people trying to put across real emotion in an absurd situation.
Trace Beaulieu (writer-performer): In the first season on KTMA we basically went in cold without watching the films. If you look at those episodes, they’re real hit-or-miss. It was just off the top of our heads.
Weinstein: We eventually realized, hey, this might be funnier if we had some jokes in our back pocket.
Beaulieu: Our budget for the show was microscopic. I think Josh and I were pulling down $25 a show, and I think Joel’s budget was a little higher, because he had to build props. We thought, well, let’s see how far this goes. We didn’t really know how long the show would last or if anyone was even watching it.
Then we put the station’s phone number up on the screen and started getting feedback. That’s when we realized, hey, there’s more than just four or five people watching this.
Hodgson: Jim Mallon had the presence of mind to go to the station and make sure we had the rights to the show. He then said to me, “The only logical thing is for us to be 50-50 partners, so we’re not working for each other.” And I shook his hand and said, “I’ll run the creative; you run the business and the technical.”
Mallon: The show was a lot of work. By around March or April [of 1989], we were all kind of burned out. And it just happened at that time that HBO decided—based on the success of music TV—that they could create comedy TV, and they were looking for programming. We went through our tapes and pulled out seven minutes of the best material we had.
On November 18, 1989, Mystery Science Theater 3000 made its cable network premiere on the nascent Comedy Central network (then called the Comedy Channel). It was the first effort from Mallon and Hodgson’s company, which they named Best Brains.
Hodgson: We weren’t very strict about who we hired. They weren’t prebuilt writers, and that’s probably a good thing.
Frank Conniff (writer-performer): I’m from New York City. I’d moved to Minneapolis in 1985 to go into drug rehab. I ended up staying and doing stand-up comedy. Basically, I was a very unknown stand-up comedian when I got on Mystery Science Theater.
Mike Nelson (writer-producer, host, 1993–1999): At the time I was hired, I was a waiter-slash-comedian, and I was working at a TGI Friday’s so I could have a flexible schedule.
My stand-up was a little bit heady. I would do an impression of Robert Frost, which was tough in places like rural Wisconsin and Minnesota. People didn’t want experimental stuff. They wanted their dick jokes, and they wanted them now.
Though MST3K boasted a remarkably talented writing staff, its real stars were the B movies that were riffed apart in each episode. The series would skewer all manner of films, from cheapo action flicks like The Pumaman (1980) to drecky sci-fi-horror amalgams like Night of the Blood Beast (1958) to creepy kids’ fare like Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders (1996).
Hodgson: Film distributors would do this trick where they’d license you several movies. Half of them might be movies you’d heard of, and half were the movies we actually wanted, the B movies. We didn’t want the cocaine—we wanted the baby laxative they put in the cocaine.
Art Bell (Comedy Central executive, 1989–1996): We probably sent 10 films for every one they picked for the show. It seemed like we’d find the perfect movie for them, and they’d say, “No, that doesn’t work.” But the fact that they were so picky helped make the show as good as it was. They honed bad-movie selection into a fine art.
Bill Corbett (writer-performer): When we watched the movies, we were looking for a bunch of things. It couldn’t be god-awful in terms of sound and picture, although we did a bunch of them that were borderline in that regard. And the ones that were just boring and really, really talky—where we couldn’t find any space to get any jokes in—those were rejected pretty quickly. We also tended to stay away from superviolent or NC-17 stuff.
Murphy: There was one submission called Demon Rugsuckers From Mars, or maybe just Rugsuckers From Mars. [Ed. note: It’s actually titled Over-Sexed Rugsuckers From Mars.] It’s about vacuum cleaners. And there was a scene with this dorky bearded fellow making graphic love to a vacuum cleaner. That was the one time I thought, what the hell am I doing with my life?
Bridget Jones Nelson (writer-performer): When I started on the show, Mike and I were engaged. I was writing scripts at home, so Mike would come home and the movie was still on the VCR, and he’d be like, “Oh, God—please!”
Mary Jo Pehl (writer-performer): The atmosphere in the writers’ room was cacophonous. There was no pausing to say, “Let me add to that joke.” And the typist had to transcribe everything that he or she could catch. Sometimes we’d be stopped on a frame for a good 10, 15 minutes because there were so many jokes.
Hodgson: There was so much space in these movies to make jokes. And that allowed us to explore really deep references that were amusing to us.
Bridget Jones Nelson: We didn’t have the Internet when we started, so our references were from our own brains. There was no looking stuff up.
Because Comedy Central was still struggling to define its sensibility, it took a while for MST3K to find viewers.
Bell: The network had a variety of movies and some television shows, but Mystery Science Theater 3000 really got noticed. It was the Comedy Channel’s first attention-getting show, in a big way. And we really rode that to success in terms of getting better distribution and advertising sales, and keeping the network alive.
Keith Olbermann (from a December 17, 1990, review of Mystery Science Theater in the Los Angeles Times): Wrapped in the guise of a kids’ show (Joel Hodgson—the human—regularly reads mail from youngsters who send him drawings of the robots), Mystery Science Theater 3000 contains some of the hippest, deepest satire of the generation.
Mike Nelson: We rode a lot on the fact that critics really liked it. It was kind of like the way HBO makes its money on Real Sex, but then has a couple of prestige projects. We were like a prestige project, if you can call a comedy puppet show a prestige project.
Weinstein would depart the show in 1990, leaving Murphy to take over the role of Tom Servo. It was one of several staff exoduses MST3K would endure during its run—though the show’s following would continue to grow, especially with the advent of home-Internet providers in the early ’90s. Newsgroups like alt.TV.mst3k were hives of show-specific discussions and trivia, and the series’ outspoken viewers—dubbed “MSTies”—became one of the first fan bases to rally themselves via the Internet.
Mallon: Fans of Mystery Science tend to
be above-average smart—you know, B-plus students and higher.
And those are some of the people that first adopted the
Internet. They were very passionate about the show.
Later we did our first national convention, and about 2,500 people flew in from around the country. We also did the first live show, and afterward we had a party. On Monday morning somebody looked at one of these Usenet groups and there was a detailed, blow-by-blow description of who had come to the party, who they’d danced with, who had been drinking, and who hadn’t.
Murphy: We always encouraged people to share tapes of the show with each other. But the online thing was born of itself. The whole newsgroup that started was self-generated. We didn’t have anything to do with it.
In 1993 MSTies got some unwelcome news when Hodgson—the Satellite of Love’s affably goofy leader—announced he would be leaving the ship (and the series) for good. It was a departure that shocked fans but surprised few of the show’s veteran staffers ,due to long-simmering tensions between Hodgson and Mallon.
Murphy: When you have something successful, it starts to look like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Jim Mallon and Joel ran the show, and I don’t think they liked each other at all.
Mallon: I think Joel operated under the idea that this was his show, and everyone was working for him. And everyone else was into this sort of cooperative mode—that it’s all of us working together. So it would be somewhat analogous to John Cleese saying, “Oh, by the way, this is my show, and you guys work for me.” The rest of the Pythons would have probably taken exception with that.
Hodgson: I was fighting with Jim Mallon. We had decided, oh, let’s be like Star Trek: The Next Generation and do a movie. Instead of 22 movies a year, we’ll do one really good one and be rich and famous. And that’s when Jim said, “OK, well, I’m the producer and I’m the director.” And I just felt like that didn’t acknowledge my position. I’m like, I created this. Where’s my acknowledgment? I felt that was kind of a power grab on his part. We were an ensemble. We did everything as a group. So that’s when I kind of said, “If you direct this, I’m leaving.” And it all fell apart after that.
Mallon: Basically, we got to this conclusion that whatever Joel thought the show was at the beginning, it now didn’t function that way. And so Joel had a choice of what he wanted to do about it. And ultimately he chose to leave the show.
Hodgson: I wasn’t the kind of person who would have done a bad sitcom, and I also wasn’t the kind of person who would have done a crap version of the movie. I knew it was wrong. And I decided to walk away.
Hodgson’s replacement would be Mike Nelson, then the show’s head writer and a fan favorite known for his arsenal of onscreen impressions that included everyone from the Smiths’ Morrissey to A&E Biography host Jack Perkins. Nelson would host the show for more than five seasons and star in the commercially disappointing but fan-embraced 1996 MST3K film.
Mike Nelson: We knew that people really had a fondness for the show, so we tried to make it as nonjarring as possible. We said, “Let’s just go slow here and not make any radical changes.”
Hodgson: When they told me, my only objection was that he was kind of like me—a white doughy guy from the Midwest. But it worked out great. They stuck with the formula really closely. I think they did a really good job.
Beaulieu: Since Joel’s character created the robots, his relationship with them was kind of parental. Then when Mike’s character came in, it was a completely different dynamic. He had to keep those guys in line, but he was also one of the gang. The onscreen persona was like a pizza restaurant manager who’s only like maybe a couple of months older than the staff is.
Mallon: If you go through whatever’s archived on the web, you’ll see right away that the fans divided into the Joel camp versus the Mike camp. But at the end of the day, the bulk of the show was making fun of bad movies, and that didn’t change at all.
In the mid-’90s, two more beloved cast members exited the show: Conniff, who played a moronic, Joel-torturing henchman named Frank, left in 1995. Beaulieu—who played Frank’s boss, Dr. Clayton Forrester, while also voicing Crow—departed in 1996.
Beaulieu: One of the most frustrating things for me was finally realizing that all we were going to produce out of Best Brains was Mystery Science. We had such a beautiful environment, we had our own studio, our own production facility, we had a shop, we could build anything, we had the talented people. But the way it was structured, from a business standpoint, it was just impossible to produce anything else and be fair to everyone involved. Jim Mallon was going to own any new show produced. And that didn’t really sit well with a lot of us.
Conniff: I’ve never gotten any residuals or royalties from the show, or any money from merchandising. But that has never been a bone of contention with me, because Mystery Science Theater was my first TV show. I’ve always been totally cool with that.
By the mid-’90s, Comedy Central was experiencing the success of shows like Politically Incorrect, with soon-to-be hits like South Park and The Daily Show on the way. It was getting harder to figure out where MST3K fit on the network’s increasingly crowded schedule, and in 1996 the series was canceled. It was quickly picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel, where its cast and crew soon realized they no longer had the autonomy they had previously enjoyed.
Mallon: We didn’t cost Comedy Central that much money, and we got a lot of press. So for many years, we had immunity because of that. Ultimately, though, the network started getting a sense of who it wanted to be, and that didn’t include us in the formulation.
Corbett: Sci-Fi wanted the movies to be more “hard sci-fi,” which always sounded a little bit risqué to me.
Pehl: That considerably reduced our movie pool. And they were also more attentive when it came to reviewing the scripts. They went through them for standards and practices. Somebody objected to our using the word putz.
Murphy: It began getting difficult when USA Network started exercising more control over the Sci-Fi Channel. And then we picked up these fucking production executives from the network. We had these bitter, dry, humorless trolls in charge of our show. And they were giving us notes. And they were insisting on our having a story arc. What the hell do you want with a story arc? This is a puppet show.
In 1999, after 11 years, two hosts, and 198 episodes, Mystery Science Theater 3000 was canceled for good. Sci-Fi continued to air reruns of MST3K for more than four years, and later, episodes of the show were reissued and resurrected by a new generation of Internet fans—especially on YouTube, where even the most obscure installments are readily available.
Pehl: Around 2001, I went to a movie theater, and two people in front of me were talking. And the person in front of them turned around and asked them to shut up, and said, “This isn’t Mystery Science Theater, you know.” That was the first taste I got of the show’s lasting effect.
Corbett: It just keeps chugging along in a way that surprises me—and I think surprises all of us, to a degree. Maybe the artistic freedom we got for a while there actually shines. But also, we had to make so many jokes, and we could make jokes about pretty obscure things, so within the sheer raw tonnage of jokes, you’re bound to find something in there that surprises you.
Hodgson: Mystery Science Theater wasn’t considered a real show when we started. But it makes more sense now. Tweets are a lot like riffs to me.
Pehl: The idea of riffing, of mocking, of commenting on things is very prevalent nowadays. Obviously, it was happening before Mystery Science Theater codified it. But it just seems to have pervaded a lot of the way comedy is done now—it’s its own genre now. The one thing that I do find a little disheartening—and I don’t know if we started the ball rolling on this—is that nothing is sacred anymore.
Beaulieu: The younger generation is full of riffers.
Even the series’ creators kept riffing, albeit separately: In 2006, Nelson, Corbett, and Murphy launched RiffTrax, which creates downloadable commentaries for films ranging from Plan 9 From Outer Space to Twilight. The next year, Hodgson, Beaulieu, Pehl, Conniff, and Weinstein started a MST3K-like live show called Cinematic Titanic.
But this year Mystery Science Theater may finally get a long-rumored, heavily anticipated reboot. This spring Hodgson is hoping to start a new online incarnation of the show, one that will feature a fresh (and as-yet-unannounced) host and cameos from many MST3K alumni.
Hodgson: I’ve talked to a bunch of fans about their lives and what MST3K means to them. I’m overwhelmed by how people took to that show. It really affected them. I thought, if enough people still love it, maybe we can bring it back.
Even avid viewers sometimes don’t realize that every major role in the show had been swapped out over time. So in my mind, the show is built to be refreshed with new people and new ideas. It’s like Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle as it applies to MST3K: If it doesn’t change, it’s not the same show. And fortunately for us, as long as there are movies, there are always going to be cheesy movies.
Mom bites off dog’s ear to save daughter during attack
22 Apr 2014 | 2:15 pm CDTMom bites off dog’s ear to save daughter during attack | WTVR.com
ALVIN, Texas (WTVR) – A Texas mother let her animal instincts take over when a dog attacked her two-year-old daughter. “You do whatever you can,” mother Chelsi Camp told KHOU.com. “I don’t have physical strength at my side.”
The attacked happened in March at the family’s apartment. The family agreed to watch a friend’s pit bull. The dog seemed nice, Camp said, until he smelled two-year-old Kenzi.
“When he smelled her, that’s when you saw it flip because I think he smelled my dog on her,” Camp said.
When the dog started to attack the child, Camp fought back. In addition to biting off the dog’s ear, Camp shoved her fist down its throat. While she fought off the dog, Camp told Kenzi to roll over so the child did not choke on blood.
“I only know to fight so how else do you get somebody to stop,” Camp explained. “I mean I would do the same thing with a human being.”
Camp was able to call 911. An officer arrived and shot the dog. The animal was later euthanized.
Several weeks after the attack, both mother and child have nearly made a full recovery.
“I can actually hold her again. I couldn’t hold her for the first week that was the hardest part,” Camp said. “She’s a strong little girl and a fighter. She’s meant to be here.”
Story of Boston Marathon runner who collapsed and was carried across the finish line didn't actually happen.
Story of Boston Marathon runner who collapsed and was carried across the finish line didn't actually happen.
22 Apr 2014 | 2:12 pm CDTMarathon Runners Carrying Competitor Across Finish Line? Didn't Happen.
You may have heard the inspirational story yesterday about a Boston Marathon runner who collapsed just short of the finish and was unable to continue, but found himself carried across the line by four fellow runners. The story embodied a spirit of resilience and strength, and the idea of "Boston Strong": people uniting in a time of crisis to get the job done. Too bad it didn't really happen that way.
The story went viral after Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery tweeted a series of photos Monday afternoon with sentimental captions. Example:
Media outlets, bolstered by Twitter's ease of embedding media-rich tweets, quickly picked up on the story. Here's a sampling of headlines:
You'll notice not a single one of these stories provide even the most basic elements of a news story. If you've read everything in this post until now, you still don't know the name of the man who collapsed, nor the names of those who helped him up.
Adam Hurst is a 38-year-old from Massachusetts. He wore bib number 28978, and did indeed collapse a few hundred yards from the finish. He was immediately assisted by 53-year-old Texan Jim Grove and 47-year-old Minnesota resident Michael Johnson. Two other runners briefly helped out, and for a moment the four did carry Hurst toward the finish line.
Then they dropped him.
Hurst made it the rest of the way to the finish on his own two feet, with support from Grove and Johnson. The finish line video above clearly shows Hurst struggling, but he crosses the finish line under his own power—not in the arms of four Good Samaritans.
So how did a common and not-especially-rare instance of competitors helping one another become a heartbreaking and inspirational story of courage and resilience? In Wesley Lowery's defense, he never explicitly said that the fallen runner was carried across the finish line. His flowery and sentimental photo captions, however, suggest it strongly, and he asserts that five people crossed the finish line together, something the video clearly shows didn't happen. He's also done nothing to clarify that Hurst was carried only a short distance—and then, as appears in the video, dropped on the pavement.
The media went with the more inspirational story, though, for the oldest and most basic reason of all: it was, as they say, too good to check. And this brings us back to an unfortunately recurring theme. The Internet's viral hamster wheel isn't driven, as many think it is, by snark and negativity, but rather by sappy glurge that people share because it makes them feel good to do so. Time and again, media outlets report these elevating narratives, only to eventually learn they aren't actually true, by which time everyone has moved on to the next one. If you want to talk cynicism, we can start with a media that thinks we're too dumb to want anything more or better than these sloppily-reported stories on the triumph of the human spirit.
What's worst is that the prevailing narrative is an insult to Adam Hurst. He accepted help along the way, as did every runner who grabbed a water or sports drink. But he crossed the finish line on his own. Hurst dedicated his run to the Hoyt Foundation, an organization that benefits the disabled, and accounted for more than $5,000 in donations to Hoyt. That's the real story, and it's more than good enough.
Update (5:44 p.m.): Wesley Lowery has published his own (albeit already-corrected) version of the events, and taken umbrage with our own. We thus find it necessary to illustrate exactly what happened, using Wes's own photos and video and information from the Boston Marathon website.
You can see from this photo that Wes is witnessing the events from in front of the Lord & Taylor building. The video in that article shows Hurst being picked up directly in front of the building. We know from the Boston Marathon finish line video (see up top) that Hurst is let go while on top of the crosswalk nearest to the finish line. The total distance: 161 yards. Hurst is carried for roughly half of them before demanding he be released and allowed to run the rest of the course himself.
We don't know why Wesley Lowery has been so insistent about this, or why he spent all day a block from the finish line and didn't realize it. His article still insists this all went down with the finish line "blocks away"; we hope he'll make yet another correction soon.
- ^ Runner can't make it to the Boston Marathon finish line, so others carry him to the end (www.washingtonpost.com)
- ^ Boston Marathon runners carry collapsed racer across finish line (www.boston.com)
- ^ Boston marathoner falls near mile 26, four others carry him to end (www.cbssports.com)
- ^ An 'awesome moment': Boston Marathoners carry runner to the finish line (www.today.com)
- ^ Boston Marathon Runners Carry Collapsed Racer Across Finish Line (mashable.com)
- ^ Boston Marathon runners carry collapsed runner across finish line (ftw.usatoday.com)
- ^ Runner falls just before Boston Marathon finish line, others carry him across (www.sbnation.com)
- ^ Boston Marathon runners carry collapsed man across finish line (msn.foxsports.com)
- ^ Boston Marathon Runner Falls Down, Gets Carried Across The Finish Line By Four Others Runners (www.businessinsider.com)
- ^ Boston Marathon Runners Carry Collapsed Man Across Finish Line (nesn.com)
- ^ unfortunately recurring theme (deadspin.com)
- ^ snark and negativity (gawker.com)
- ^ aren't actually true (www.tampabay.com)
- ^ Hurst dedicated his run to the Hoyt Foundation (www.crowdrise.com)
- ^ has published his own (www.washingtonpost.com)
- ^ this photo (twitter.com)
- ^ email@example.com (deadspin.com)
- ^ @bubbaprog (twitter.com)
- ^ On Smarm (gawker.com)
- ^ Read… (gawker.com)
Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sees disturbing parallels between the Obama administration's current policy in Ukraine and what he sees as its failures in Syr...
GOP: Ukraine Is Obama’s New Syria
22 Apr 2014 | 2:02 pm CDTCorker: Obama Repeating Syria Mistakes in Ukraine Daily Beast
Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sees disturbing parallels between the Obama administration's current policy in Ukraine and what he sees as its failures in Syria.
The Obama adminstration is making the same mistakes in Ukraine as it did in Syria according to a top Republican senator.
Bob Corker, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is going to Kiev Wednesday to pledge support for the embattled government. The two-term senator from Tennessee travels to Ukraine as a critic of the U.S. approach to the crisis, which he sees as failing to give Ukraine the equipment it needs and failing to impose sanctions on Russia that would change Putin’s behavior. For Corker, the administration’s approach of talking tough but then not backing it up with action is a repeat of what he has seen in the administration’s policy toward Syria.
“As I prepare to go into Ukraine tonight, it feels a lot like the last trip I made to Syrian refugee camps,” Corker told The Daily Beast in an interview from Moldova, the landlocked former Soviet republic just to the west of Ukraine, where he spent Tuesday meeting with leaders there about the widening regional crisis,
“We talked to the [Ukrainian] opposition [late last year], as we did on Syria, we drew them out, we talked about getting them organized, we talked about how supportive we were, and then we did nothing. We left them hanging,” Corker said. “The West lured them out, the West encouraged them to move West, and yet we’re not doing those things that I think we should be doing to push back against Russia.”
Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev Tuesday with some additional aid and a pledge to stand by the Kiev government as it deals with expanding political unrest across eastern and southern Ukraine, supported by Russian intelligence and special forces, according to the U.S. government.
"You will not walk this road alone. We will walk it with you," Biden told Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Biden called on Russia to "stop supporting men hiding behind masks and unmarked uniforms sowing unrest in eastern Ukraine."
The administration has promised additional sanctions if Russian covert action inside Ukraine continues, but does not intend to impose broad sanctions against entire sectors of the Russian economy unless the Russian army officially invades Eastern Ukraine. Corker wants the administration to impose the sector-based sanctions now.
“We know that they are using black ops to foment problems inside Ukraine, we are stating that publicly, and yet we are not doing anything about it,” he said. “Their economy is very vulnerable right now and we were to take steps to punish them, it could change their behavior, but we’re not doing that.”
For Corker and many others in Congress, Obama’s reluctance to impose broader sanctions barring an invasion of eastern Ukraine by uniformed Russian soldiers only encourages Putin to ramp up his interference inside Ukraine by covert means.
“The administration is sending the signal to Russia, ‘Hey, you can have your way in Eastern Ukraine. Just don’t embarrass us,’” said the Tennessee senator. “Their policy continues to be a day late and a dollar short.”
Meanwhile, tensions are rising in Moldova's breakaway region of Transnistria, where 2,500 Russian troops are based. There have been reports that Russia is bolstering its force in Transnistria, which has been de facto independent since 1992, and increasing covert activity in the major Ukrainian city of Odessa, which is only 50 miles away.
“There was very much concern in Moldova about what’s happening in Odessa. That’s being fomented by Russia by non-uniformed people,” Corker said.
Corker's request to visit Transnistria was rejected by the government of the breakaway region, but he said that the Moldovans are feeling increased Russian pressure. The Moldovans are not seeing Russian special forces on their territory according to the Tennessee Republican, but Russia is trying to increase its influence there ahead of upcoming elections. Moldovans are asking for more help to secure their border, in addition to the $10 million Washington has already given them to bolster their efforts.
In Corker's opinion, the administration risks losing the faith of the Ukrainians it supports by not doing enough to push back against Putin
“I’m concerned about the message we as a nation are sending. Members of the executive branch talk tough but then really don’t do anything,” he said. “It’s having a blowback on how we are being viewed and whether we are there to stand beside them in their time of need.”
The events in Ukraine and Kansas City that occurred around Passover week offer tragic reminders of the heritage of Jewish oppression.
Passover Hell Week
22 Apr 2014 | 2:00 pm CDTPassover Week Hate Crimes Evoke Horrible History Beast
The events in Ukraine and Kansas City that occurred around Passover week offer tragic reminders of the heritage of Jewish oppression.
Even during the best of years, Passover, with all that Seder plate symbolism and forbidden grains, is usually a tough holiday for Jews. But this year was different from other years, where a subplot marred the happy ending of the Exodus story and where the bread of affliction (matzo to most people) was not the most distasteful reminder of Jewish suffering.
For Jews living in the United States and Ukraine, this year’s Passover painfully recalled the terror and relief of having the angel of death pass over them, yet again.
A day before Passover, Kansas City became the scene of a Wild West shootout, except the targets were not the customary outlaws or sheriffs. A gunman with longtime white supremacist and anti-Semitic associations opened fire at a Jewish community center. Moments later he did so again at an assisted living facility named for the Hebrew word “peace.” After killing three people and upon being captured he proclaimed, “Heil Hitler,” as if to dispel any doubt as to why he was shooting on that day and in that direction.
The tragedy was not lessened by the paradox that his victims, ultimately, were not Jews but rather Christians who never believed there was any danger in sharing these facilities with their Jewish neighbors. In the ironic spirit of the holiday, the deadly bullets passed over their intended targets and claimed the lives of innocent people.
Two days later, on the second day of Passover, this time in eastern Ukraine halfway around the world, five masked pro-Russian militants distributed leaflets to Jews leaving their synagogue. The flyers demanded that all Jews report to a government office where they were expected to pay a $50 registration fee verifying their religion and documenting their ownership of property. Failure to do so would result in the confiscation of property, the loss of citizenship and ultimate deportation. A Daily Beast reporter arriving at the designated government office the next day discovered that it was empty. No one apparently knows what group was responsible for creating and distributing this hateful message, but it was clearly intended to terrorize these Ukrainian Jews and revive old but easily reclaimed anti-Semitic feelings.
For a European or Russian Jew, any edict to register or face expulsion evokes murderous memories of cattle cars and broken glass.
The fact that the leaflet may have been inauthentic didn’t diminish the trauma to the Jewish community of Donetsk, which totals 15,000. It was, after all, the 17th incident against Jews to have taken place in Ukraine since the start of this year. And for Ukrainians, such anti-Semitic antics recall a different time that produced far more lethal outcomes. In 1941, the Jews of that same region received a similar notice requiring them to appear the next day with all of their belongings at an assigned destination. Nearly 40,000 Jews were marched through a forest to a ravine where they were stripped of their clothing and possessions, mowed down with machine guns and buried in the mass grave of Babi Yar.
If the Passover leaflet from 2014 was nothing but a joke, then it was nonetheless a sick and twisted one. Passover, after all, was always the default holiday that animated the blood libels of Jews killing Christians in order to make matzo, and the resulting retaliatory pogroms.
With the Kansas City shootings, Americans harshly realized that there are still those who happily hail Hitler and who will not hesitate to murder Jews if the mood strikes them. And Ukrainian Jews received a similarly invidious reminder that unlike other citizens, registration is always in their future, which can lead to the confiscation of their property, expulsion, and possibly murder. For a European or Russian Jew, after all, any edict to register or face expulsion packs all of the metaphorical punch, and evokes the same murderous memories, of cattle cars and broken glass.
And for some regional variety, in Iran with its nuclear ambitions, every day is Passover.
With talk of Israel being a superpower in the Middle East, it’s easy to forget that not too long ago Jews were homeless with some of their host countries rolling out welcome mats in the form of mass killings and gas chambers. Passover commemorates liberation from bondage and the exodus from ancient Egypt, but those euphoric former slaves and their descendents didn’t have it much better during later epochs in world history, whether it was the Inquisition, Czarist Russia, the Holocaust, the entrapment of Jews caught on the Soviet side of the Iron Curtain, or the hostile neighbors that still surround Israel.
Only those with pathetically short time horizons, an abysmally poor knowledge of history, or simply implacable anti-Semitic leanings will refuse to acknowledge why after two millennia of persecution a Jewish homeland was finally created and why its moral legitimacy and physical existence is simply beyond denial.
For now, however, Jews should feel relieved that they got through Passover without any further incidents. The ritual of imagining themselves as having once been slaves, this year at least, felt unnervingly all too real.
Thomas Piketty’s ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ is a not so surprising best seller—it’s rigorously researched and arrestingly written.
Capitalism by the Numbers
22 Apr 2014 | 1:20 pm CDTCapitalism by the Numbers - The Daily Beast
Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century
is a not so surprising best seller—it’s rigorously
researched and arrestingly written.
‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ by Thomas Piketty. 696 pp. Belknap Press. $39.95 hardcover.
Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a dense, data-intensive tome, clocking in at nearly 700 pages with more than 100 graphs and tables. That a book like this is a New York Times best seller speaks to the fact that the publication of Capital in the Twenty-First Century is, in some circles, an event. Rapturously received in academia and heralded as an instant classic, Piketty’s timely analysis of the dynamics of inequality is primed for a crossover into the mainstream. A professor at the Paris School of Economics, Piketty has looked at centuries of tax archives to formulate a theory of capitalism that is evidence-based and rigorously researched, but also attempts to answer the most basic questions in economic theory. His paradigm-shifting thesis is, at its most basic, that late-stage capitalist economies foster inequality and create an ever-widening gap between rich and poor. These ideas feel intuitive and elegant, and Piketty’s emphasis on data-based analysis lend even his most ambitious claims great credibility. Capital in the Twenty-First Century is already being hailed as a seminal work of economic thought, and with very good reason. Piketty is as arresting and readable a writer as he is a rigorous thinker; the former trait may end up being as responsible for the longevity of Capital in the Twenty-First Century as the latter.